Hyun Jong softly sighed as he watched the sunlight peering through the window.
For some, that sunlight may be the start of a pleasant day. But for those living on borrowed time, there was nothing more resentful than the sunlight which brings forth another day.
‘It’s morning again.’
Yet again, a new day has started.
Two days have already passed. And five more days were left to pay back the enormous debt.
Five. Just five more days.
Hyun Jong quietly closed his eyes.
If he could not prepare 100,000 nyang within this short period, then Mount Hua would fall into their hands.
There are three things essential in life: food, clothing, and finally, shelter.
Although they could live even if they lost their residence, those who stayed in Mount Hua would need to try and find a different way to lead their lives. Mount Hua could no longer be called Mount Hua.
There may be some who wish to carry its name and succeed the will of Mount Hua. For many years, Mount Hua was considered a prestigious sect; surely, some would wish to hold onto it.
If a towering sect with thousands of disciples one day crumbles and can only shelter a few dozen students, and if it then loses its home and is exiled, can we not say that it has been thoroughly destroyed?
Those who can’t stay here will have no choice but to disperse. There will be people who follow him for a time, but as their lives grow more difficult, wouldn’t they simply find other work?
Hyun Jong shook his head violently.
‘This isn’t the time to think so weakly.’
He still had five days left. He could protect Mount Hua if he found some way to raise the amount needed.
He is the sect leader. And he will not give up until the day Mount Hua disappears. Everyone else has the luxury to give up, but he cannot falter.
Hyun Jong raised his hand and rubbed his face.
Perhaps he could reach out to everyone who had so much as a needle-thin relationship with Mount Hua. Stories of Mount Hua’s decline have circulated throughout the world. He only needed to find one capable person who would be willing to help them.
Just one person…
Hyun Jong chuckled softly in derision.
If someone wanted to help, they would have done it already. Even when Mount Hua had higher hopes than now, not one person helped them.
And now, who would come and lend a vast sum of 100,000 nyang to a ruined sect?
‘It’s so burdensome.’
It couldn’t be avoided or ignored. But Hyun Jong had to feel the weight each day as it grew on him.
The ever-present fear that Mount Hua’s life would be cut short with his generation. He prayed and prayed that the sun would fail to rise each morning as he struggled through another sleepless night.
It was then.
Hyun Jong adjusted his expression. No matter how depressed he was, he couldn’t show that to his disciples. Even if Mount Hua collapses tomorrow, he must be remembered as the noble sect leader who carried the woes of his students as he stood by their side.
“What is it?”
“I-I think you need to come out and see.”
Hyun Jong tilted his head.
He moved right away and went outside. Right outside, Un Geom stood there waiting with a blank face.
Hyun Jong frowned.
It wasn’t Un Am but Un Geom. Wasn’t Un Geom in charge of the White Plum Blossom Boarding House? If he came here, it meant that something had happened in the dorms.
But what could happen in the dorms which required the sect leader’s direct attention?
Isn’t it still so early in the morning?
Un Geom had a strange face. He seemed surprised, yet a bit exhausted too.
‘Just what could have happened?’
He knew that gathering children and disciplining them was exhausting and required patience. Being chosen for this task, Un Geom was generally a very calm and composed person.
However, if even Un Geom struggled to keep his composure, he couldn’t understand what happened.
“I will tell you about the details on the way. Sect leader! You need to see this for yourself!”
“… guide me.”
Hyun Jong followed without question.
He was curious; however, since Un Geom asked in such a serious manner, he decided to simply follow him first.
“Yes, sect leader!”
Un Geom moved quickly, and Hyun Jong followed him without delay.
‘Where are we going?’
Hyun Jong frowned as he looked around. The place they were heading wasn’t the dorms. It was a place behind the dorms, the Lotus Peak.
However, Un Geom kept climbing up with all his might without saying a word.
‘I’ll know once I see it.’
Halfway up the path with Un Geom, he saw third-class disciples sitting, scattered, on the side.
Why were those kids here? And why were they all over the place…?
Hyun Jong’s eyes widened.
Kids were lying left and right as they kept climbing. Even though their sect leader came, they couldn’t even raise their heads to greet him and kept gasping for air sprawled out on the ground.
“W-what is this?”
Un Geom, who came to a realization, yelled out.
“You lot! The sect leader is here; can’t you show manners!”
“Leave them be.”
“But sect leader!”
“Rather, why are the children in this condition?”
Un Geom looked around and then asked.
“Chung Myung! Where is Chung Myung?”
Chung Myung? Why was that name coming out here?
Hyun Jong looked at Un Geom with a face that said he couldn’t understand at all. Chung Myung referred to the child who recently entered the sect, so why was he called?
“I’m over here.”
The answer came before his questions were answered.
Hyun Jong’s eyes widened when he turned to see where the voice had come from.
“You, why? Huh?”
A bizarre, almost grotesque young child walked out from behind a tree.
Face whiter than a blank sheet of paper with bluish lips like a corpse. The shadows under his eyes seemed to stretch down to his chin.
He didn’t seem like a human.
It wouldn’t seem strange if that child collapsed and died on the spot.
“Ah, I am sorry. I trained a little too much….’
What was that?
If a person could take on such an appearance simply by training, no disciples would have survived until now! Training should make you stronger, not weaker. Make excuses that are believable!
At that moment, Un Geom spoke.
“That’s not the point right now.”
Hyun Jong blinked his eyes for a moment.
“What are you talking about!”
The man in charge of looking after the children says such a ridiculous thing!
The White Plum Blossom Boarding House is the future of Mount Hua. Weren’t they the disciples who would lead Mount Hua into a new future? How could someone who was training the kids say that…
“You need to see this. This one, Chung Myung, has found something strange.”
Un Geom seemed serious.
If it had been someone else showing such an attitude, Hyun Jong would have yelled and cursed them right away, but he had a deep understanding of Un Geom’s character. If such a calm individual behaved in such a way, it must be serious.
Hyun Jong finally followed Chung Myung and Un Geom and went into the forest.
“What the hell is he….”
Hyun Jong couldn’t continue.
A small section of the earth came into his view; it had been dug out and held an old box within. The box was halfway open.
Hyun Jong’s eyes nearly burst from their sockets.
He could see it.
Inside the box was a shining gold light. And there was only one metal that could emit such a golden light.
But it wasn’t simply the gold that caught his attention. It was the books next to gold.
The title of the books seemed to pull his soul from his body.
[Great Mount Hua’s Hua-Um village ledgers]
A long title.
“This, this, this…?”
Hyun Jong couldn’t come to his senses. Where did it come from? Why was gold here?
He was too scared to approach this unbelievable reality. He was afraid that the items would disappear like a mirage if he reached out to grasp them.
“H-how did you find them?”
“That child found them”
Hyun Jong turned his head to the corpse-like figure. With a half-dying face, Chung Myung opened his mouth.
“I-I was… training at dawn….”
Listening to the mosquito-like voice, Hyun Jong titled his head. Un Geom decided to help him out.
“He seems to have come to Lotus Peak at dawn to train.”
“Training at dawn? When did you start that?”
“We started it a while back. From the day that child entered.”
From the day the child entered?
How long has it been since he joined?
‘Ah, no. I shouldn’t be thinking about such a thing now.’
He could ask for the details later.
“So, you mean you found this while climbing the Lotus peak for morning training?
“To be precise, I was too tired and decided to take a rest inside the bushes, but the place I sat on was strangely hard, and when I looked more intensely, something was sticking out. So, I dug it out just in case….”
“But… the stuff inside was so…. unusual, so I thought that I had to inform the elders… rather than check it myself.”
“T-take your time. What kind of kid even trains so hard that they can barely speak?”
“Training… is the root….”
“I-I get it. You should go back and rest. I will check it myself.”
Hyun Jong swallowed back dry saliva as he approached the box. Trembling, he placed his hand on the box. However, what he touched wasn’t the gold, but the books next to it.
“Great Mount Hua’s Hua-Um Village ledgers.”
Hyun Jong murmured to himself as if he had lost his mind as he took the books out one at a time. His trembling hands clearly spoke to the state of his turbulent mind.
He didn’t even open the books. He was terrified that if he opened the book clumsily, it would crumble to dust before his eyes.
“Great Mount Hua Records.”
It was a book dealing with the history of Mount Hua. Although it may not play a functional role, it was still significant.
Hyun Jong carefully laid down the books and gazed at each of their titles.
His eyes twitched.
“Seven Sages Sword….”
His whole body shook.
“This is, is, is…. This….”
Hyun Jong felt himself losing consciousness.
“Sect leader, calm down!”
Hearing the people call for him, Hyun Jong smiled as he closed his eyes.
What came out of the box wasn’t just some wealth and books.
It was hope.
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