Teeth clenched hard enough to shatter any moment.
Fists tight enough to draw dark red blood.
Trembling and convulsions that couldn’t be controlled.
Anger enough to turn his hair white1
Red. Everything was red. Everything before his eyes was stained scarlet with blood.
The lush green mountain peak was stained blood-red; its very nature was swept away in a single day.
Death. All that was left was death.
What purpose did all this bloodshed serve?
Chung Myung clawed at the hilt of the sword embedded in his shoulder, drawing out the broken length of the Plum Blossom Sword.
His left arm was gone—only the torn scraps of his sleeve flapped in the wind. His legs were unwounded, yet he could barely move. His stomach gaped open with a hole the size of an infant’s head.
And yet, Chung Myung couldn’t feel the pain.
The pain of his body was nothing compared to the turmoil in his heart.
“…Sahyung2 Jang Mun.” He discovered the discarded corpse of Jang Mun of Mount Hua Sect.
Why was it so unfair? Why were the dead unable to even close their eyes?
“Sajae3…” Sajae Chung Gong’s bisected body haunted him.
Everyone was dead.
All of Mount Hua Sect’s best and brightest, who had promised to climb the mountain together, to safeguard their territory, to spread their names far and wide, had departed to a place from which they could not return.
And their Sajils followed them.
Chung Myung clenched his teeth.
Theirs was a noble sacrifice. Their death was just and glorious.
But who would dare praise their deaths? Who would dare!?
Chung Myung’s gaze locked on to the perpetrator, the one who had roused his unfathomable rage.
The Demon from the skies, the leader of the Heavenly Demon Sect: the Heavenly Demon5.
The sight of this despicable man sat cross-legged in the sea of blood and gore evoked strange emotions in Chung Myung. Even in this hellish scene, the Heavenly Demon appeared supremely serene.
No, “serenity” didn’t suit him now. Dozens of swords pierced his body, and two spears pierced his stomach. Everyone had spent their lives to topple that demon.
The battle between the final squad, consisting only of the elite of the sects, and the Heavenly Demon ended in annihilation.
Was it satisfactory? Would the dead rest peacefully?
They would not.
Even if they did, Chung Myung couldn’t. It took everything he had left to stop the rage from stealing his rationality.
The Heavenly Demon’s pale, empty eyes opened to gaze into the blue sky.
“…Mount Hua Sect.” Three words spilled from his lips.
The words eternally inscribed on Chung Myung’s heart now emerged from the demon’s mouth.
“How unfortunate, disciple of Mount Hua Sect. If only you could get out of here, you could boast of your achievements.”
“…Shut your disgusting mouth.”
“You can still be proud of your actions. With the help of countless people, your sword finally reached my body.”
“Shut up!” Chung Myung’s stomach churned just from hearing the name of his sect from that wretched mouth.
“How unfortunate.” The Heavenly Demon was dying. Even as the greatest demon in all of time, he cannot survive his dantian breaking and his organs being ruined.
Terminal lucidity—his appearance was nothing more than his last gasps of life.
But why? Why did a dying man seem so relaxed!? Chun Ma was incomprehensible to Chung Myung.
“If I were given just one more day, I would have truly become a being worthy of the name “Heavenly Demon”. This is fate as well.”
Chung Myung gripped the sword he’d pulled out of his shoulder. The sharply forged blade cut his palm.
At the end of a long and terrible war, Chung Myung limped towards the Heavenly Demon.
“Remember this, disciple of Mount Hua Sect.” Chun Ma’s eyes seemed devoid of emotion, even as Chung Myung approached. “This is not the end. The Demons will return. And when that happens, the world will be conquered by the Demons. The Demons can never be stoppe—”
The Heavenly Demon’s head fell to the ground.
Chung Myung crushed the head of the Heavenly Demon, eyes still open.
The war was over. The world would remember their victory. But Chung Myung knew: there was no victory here. No one won this war.
Finally, Chung Myung no longer had the strength to stand. His inevitable death was coming.
Chung Myung raised his head to the sky. Even after such bloodshed, the sky was still blue, as if indifferent to the happenings of earth.
What will happen to the Mount Hua Sect? Everyone who climbed the mountain was dead. Even if anyone had survived, they were probably on their last breaths. No clan had suffered as much as Mount Hua Sect.
“Sahyung Jang Mun… I told you.”
“Don’t give your all in every task,” he’d said. Now Mount Hua Sect would be buried on this mountain. All the disciples had followed their masters to death. All that was left were the children, who knew nothing about Mount Hua Sect.
And… regret. It was regret.
Was there any meaning to what happened? Did the spilled blood of Mount Hua Sect mean anything?
“I don’t know anymore. Sahyung Jang…” Chung Myung fell onto his side.
His pure white robes, painted with a five-leaf plum blossom, splayed out before his eyes.
A lonely end, with no witnesses. The great Plum Blossom Sword Saint of Mount Hua Sect was dying like a dog.
“…But your death was better than mine.” Because there was someone to weep for you. Chung Myung weeped for them.
I’m sorry, Sahyung Jang Mun. Chung Myung’s vision faded.
If he had devoted a little more of his time to training, would he have been able to save at least one person?
If he had listened to his teachers and their scolding…?
If he had truly obtained the Mount Hua Sword instead of the Plum Blossom Sword?
No regrets… But it was all regret. All he had left was regrets.
And worries for the sect.
Plum blossoms are meant to fall, and after the cold winter comes spring.
The thirteenth disciple of the Great Mount Hua Sect, the Plum Blossom Sword Saint, Chung Myung, who slayed the Heavenly Demon at the summit of the Hundred Thousand Mountains of the heavenly Demon Sect, drifted into eternal sleep.
This short anecdote was his only legacy.
The 13th disciple of the Mount Hua Sect, one of the greatest third generation swordsmen, the Plum Blossom Sword Saint: Chung Myung. After defeating the Heavenly Demon and ending his reign of chaos, Chung Myung breathed his last on the summit of the Heavenly Demon Sect’s mountain.
Hundreds of years passed, and he was revived as a child.
But… What was that? Mount Hua Sect has fallen? What kind of bullshit is that!?
Was he supposed to just live his life knowing that?
“Fallen? Who said that? That doesn’t matter!”
The plum blossoms fall? After a cold winter, spring comes and the plum blossoms come into full bloom once again.
“But before the Mount Hua Sect returns, I need to be there first! Even if it’s in ruins, there has to be something left there—Ugh, those people in there!”
And so began the struggle of the Plum Blossom Sword Saint, Chung Myung, to save the fallen Mount Hua Sect.
A dream. No, he didn’t know if it was a dream or a memory or a hallucination as he danced on the edge of death. He didn’t know if he was already dead, dying, or still alive.
All he could see was the past.
Childhood memories: his appearance from when he first entered the Mount Hua Sect; the scenes of training with Sahyung; the time he’d fled the strict sect rules and gone to see the world.
“Before a warrior, you are a practitioner. You must realize that power without ethics is just violence.”
It bored him. While he was a disciple of Mount Hua Sect, he didn’t fully follow the teaching. Despite his natural talent, which earned him the title of “Plum Blossom Sword Saint”, he was but a mere beginner in the Mount Hua Sect.
Why didn’t he realize earlier? Even when the teachings didn’t make sense, even when he felt out of place… everything that made him him he owed solely to the Mount Hua Sect. That was why he admired the sect so much.
He realized too late. Too late for regrets.
If only he’d paid a little more attention to the teachings, if only he was a little bit stronger, he might have been able to change that bitter ending. If only he…
“Do you regret your decisions?” Chung Myung heard the soft voice of Sahyung Jang Mun. His father, his older brother, his family—this man was Chung Myung’s goal. He wanted to follow him until the very end, but it was too late for that too.
Yes, I regret it. I regret it so, so much, Sahyung.
“There is no need for regret.” His voice exuded warmth. “It is the Mount Hua Sect after all.”
…Sahyung. It seemed to Chung Myung that Sahyung was chuckling. Forever warm and benevolent.
“Because it is the Mount Hua Sect.”
“Aggggggggggggghhh!” It hurts! My head! I don’t get it! What kind of pain is this? Is this what it feels like when your limbs are cut off?
“H-Heavenly Demon?” Is that bastard not dead yet? Chung Myung instinctively raised his hand to protect his head. If he wasn’t dead yet, these attacks would finish him off for good.
“Heavenly Demon?” But the voice that answered him wasn’t the Heavenly Demon, but a thick, sniveling voice he didn’t recognize.
“Huh?” When he opened his eyes, the face was equally unfamiliar.
A beggar? Beggar. A beginner—judging by the knot tied around his waist, he’d just started. A beggar among beggars.
The beggar with the grumpy, scruffy face eyed Chung Myung.
What is it? He couldn’t understand what was happening.
“‘Heavenly Demon’ – yeah right!” The beggar’s face flushed red with irritation. “You lazy bum, still sleep talking! Everyone else has gone off to beg, but you’re still here sleeping like you did something great! Yah! Do I make you laugh, huh?” The beggar hefted his bamboo stick.
Hold on… Is this kid threatening me right now? So that’s how it is.
“Huh?” The beggar was startled by Chung Myung’s sudden smirk.
It was an odd situation, but he didn’t feel like he needed to bother with context. Just who was Chung Myung, after all? He handily ranked among the top three of all the numerous swordsmen in the world. People praised his sword style as the true essence of Mount Hua Sect and dubbed him the Plum Blossom Sword Saint – the two other Great Swordsmen weren’t worthy of being his opponents. Even the Heavenly Demon, in his final moments, acknowledged Chung Myung’s swordsmanship. Disciples and sect leaders alike bowed before him.
But this beggar was making a threat? A threaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?
“Huh? Ungh? Are you laughing now?”
“Look here, kid.”
“I’m struggling to understand the situation, but for starters you can put that thing down.”
“Ha. Hahahahaha. Hahahahahahahaha!” The beggar could only laugh.
Chung Myung scowled. How dare he react to him like this?
And then the beggar smacked Chung Myung with his bamboo stick.
Huh. Chung Myung was dumbfounded. How dare a mere beggar do something like this, knowing who Chung Myung was? No matter what happened, he was going to fix this beggar’s attitude before the day was up.
First, he had to stop that baton! Chung Myung raised his right arm…
Slow? Why were his arms so slow?
The baton was fast, but why were his arms reaching for it so slowly? It made no sense—with his speed, he should already be holding that stick.
Ah! Maybe it was because of his injuries? Then all he had to do was move on to his guts…
Uh? What’s that? On the edge of his vision, he saw a small hand appear, moving towards the baton at a snail’s pace.
Too slow and…
Huh? Hands that small couldn’t stop it! This wasn’t going to work!
The stick landed squarely on Chung Myung’s head.
Chung Myung collapsed to the ground, convulsing. All of his thoughts were driven away by the skull-splitting pain.
“Kuaaaaaa!” Chung Myung clutched his head and rolled over. Even his arm being ripped off hadn’t hurt like this!
“You bastard!” The beggar laid into him in earnest. “Situation? Understand the situation? I’ll do that! But I’ll make sure you understand the situation first! If you go crazy, you go crazy! Stupid bastard! Did the heat rot your brain? The medicine for heat is getting hit, you bastard!”
“Ack! Ack! Ack! You crazy beggar! Stop right now, if not… ack!”
“Ah—it hurts! Ack!” Chung Myung’s cries changed little by little as he was beaten.
“—You bastard! I won’t let this go! I’ll make sure to rip you—”
“—Stop! Stop it now, please, you jerk!”
“—Ack! Accckk! Why are you hitting me! Ack!”
“You– beggar– ah, ack! Sorry!”
The whipping continued with no remorse.
As if to tell him there were no free second chances, Chung Myung was immediately beaten to a pulp.
“…Ack. He hurt my pride.” Chung Myung pulled out the piece of cloth he’d jammed into his nose.
“Ah, ahhh.” The moment he saw the red stains, Chung Myung’s face fell.
A nosebleed! Not even a nosebleed from internal injuries, but a nosebleed from being beaten! How did that even make sense? It wasn’t just the nosebleed—nothing had made sense since he’d opened his eyes.
To say nothing of his bruised eyelids, it felt like nowhere on his body was left untouched; beating someone that thoroughly had to be something of an art form. If someone hadn’t stopped him, he would have just kept goin!
Had he ever been hit like this in his entire life? Despite all the pranks he’d pulled off in the famously strict Mount Hua Sect, he had never been beaten this badly.
To suffer such humiliation for the first time at the hands of a beggar…!
“I am going to mess him up… That bastard! I’ll tear him down.” The anger and irritation roiled inside him.
Chung Myung laid on the ground. If he acted on a whim, he would only hurt his battered body.
“No, rather than that…” Chung Myung heaved himself up and stared into the river.
An unfamiliar young face greeted him. When Chung Myung contorted his face, the young man did too; when Chung Myung sighed, the young man did too.
“…How did this happen?” Why was there a different kid’s face in the water?
No, it was a nice face. The change in his face didn’t bother him—after all, the younger the better no? But it was too young. Although, better younger than older.
Besides, no matter how much he compared them, this face was a lot more charming and handsome than the old Chung Myung. He had no complaints about this new face.
But he was dissatisfied with the fact that his body was younger too.
Short. The limbs were short – not because he was naturally short or something, but because he was a child. Even worse, he was all skin and bones. Even now, he was too tired and hungry to lift a hand.
“This means I’m alive.”
Maybe “I” wasn’t appropriate. No matter how hard he looked, this kid looked nothing like the Plum Blossom Sword Saint, Chung Myung. The Sword Saint was gone: his soul, and all of his memories, now resided in the body of a child beggar.
“This must be a devil’s work.”
Or maybe it was Buddhist reincarnation? Had he known this beforehand, he would have joined the Shaolin instead of the Mount Hua Sect.
He wondered if the Heavenly Demon had used some kind of disgusting magic on him. But if he could perform such feats, he would already be ruling the entire world.
Chung Myung didn’t really care what had happened, but he had to admit that everything around him was real. This was neither dream nor fantasy. His entire body throbbed with pain – the more he thought about it, the angrier he became.
“Nothing will change if I keep sitting around and thinking about it. First, I need to figure out what’s happening, and what exactly happened. Chung Myung hopped up and ran to the beggars tent.
Or he tried to run, at least.
“Kuk!” Within a couple of steps, he fell.
“You beat me hard, you bastard!” Chung Myung’s eyes rolled angrily. “No matter what happens, I’ll make sure to pay you back for this.”
Death wasn’t about to fix his dirty personality.
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