A spacious hall.
A large number of people were arrayed around the topmost seat at the table. A serious atmosphere prevailed over the space.
The Abbot of Shaolin looked around at everyone and said,
“Thank you all for accepting my invitation and competing here. You must have worked very hard to come this far.”
The abbot clasped his hands and bowed his head.
Each sect leader greeted the Abbot of Shaolin and smiled,
“How can we not come when the Shaolin Sect has called us? Shouldn’t we thank you for inviting us?”
The abbot spoke with a serious face,
“The reason for holding this Worldly Martial Arts Competition here is that gatherings and meetings of sects have become scarce over the years. The wounds left by the Demonic Sect were too much, and it has taken a long time for our wounds to heal.”
When the name of the Demonic Sect was brought up, everyone became silent. Which sect that had gathered here hadn’t suffered in their hands?
“A century has passed now, and we have been able to fully recover our strength. Unfortunately, it is true that various problems are occurring partially due to that.”
At those words, a few sect leaders coughed.
When water was filled to the rim, it was bound to flow over.
In recent years, it was more common for the sects who had recovered their former power to collide with other surrounding sects. Now that they had accumulated strength, they had aimed for domination over other sects.
It was no secret, and everyone knew, but if it continued it could lead to massive problems someday.
“So, through this competition, I hope that each sect can meet and build a good relationship with one another. The responsibility of those gathered here is not small.”
It was a soft tone that didn’t show authority.
“Of course, Abbot.”
But that only served to reinforce the hidden authoritative meaning. The warm and gentle air continued, and a man who had been quiet till then spoke up,
“I would like to ask the Abbot something.”
Everyone looked at that man. A red face and a long black beard.
It was a man who depicted power, and he was the sect leader of the Wudang sect, Heo Do Jinin
“If the Wudang sect leader has something to ask, then he should.”
“Ask I shall.”
Heo Do Jinin looked around.
As two of the strongest sects were looking at each other, the air around them turned heavy.
“It is really good to have so many sects summoned. First of all, I thank you for doing something I wouldn’t have dared to think of.”
“How can we expect the sect leader of Wudang to do that? This monk understands…”
“I will not be thankful for those words. But…”
His eyes looked focused as he stared.
“I don’t think the Abbot started this competition just to organize a meeting. Maybe the reason for gathering so many of the named sects in the world in one place was for a different reason…”
The Abbot smiled, and he saw that the man hadn’t finished his words,
“Really, the heart of the Wudang sect leader is too deep. I cannot dare go against you, Amitabha Buddha.”
The Abbot nodded.
“Actually I was going to talk about this after the competition. But since it was asked I will speak about it.”
The Abbot calmed his mind. And those who saw it felt that something gloomy was going to come,
“There was news that demonic practitioners were found in the Great Mountains.”
The Great Mountains.
A range of mountains known as the Hundred Thousand Mountains.
Heo Do Jinin’s expression stiffened,
“Is that true?”
“It is said that traces of demonic practitioners were found there.”
“Umm. It means that the destructive Demonic Sect has started to move again.”
The Abbot prayed,
“As everyone here knows, the Kangho couldn’t defeat those monsters. We just cut off the head of their leader and made the rest retreat.”
Hyun Jong, who listened to this closed his eyes.
‘Are they back?’
No. It couldn’t be this.
The Demonic Sect, which had lost its Heavenly Demon, had invaded Mount Hua for revenge, their war may have ended in the Hundred Thousand Mountains, but their personal vendetta against Mount Hua hadn’t ended.
And the devastating battle which had taken place on Mount Hua was never mentioned in the history books.
Even those who were well aware of the past had closed their eyes to this.
Hyun Jong of the past wouldn’t have been able to withstand that conversation, but not now.
‘Just as we regain our lost strength, we must recover from the past too.’
Hyun Jong clenched his fists and listened to them,
“In other words, the Demonic Sect didn’t retreat after losing their power. They just bet on the future. Everyone here knows about that.”
“Umm. Right, Abbot.”
“It is a fact no one can ignore.”
The Abbot looked around with serious eyes,
“I haven’t found any signs of them moving yet. I have only witnessed a few of those demons walking around. However, it is quite a thing that they are back on their own mountain turf, which they had abandoned in the past. Perhaps they could be preparing for another war.”
This comment darkened the faces of all present.
The Demonic Sect.
If one did not feel the weight of that name, they didn’t have the right to sit here.
“You must all be prepared.”
The Abbot nodded at the words of Heo Do Jinin.
“But, this is just speculation.”
“If it is about the Demonic Sect, it cannot be taken lightly, right?”
“That is why I asked for this.”
The Abbot spoke, not liking what he had figured out.
“Maybe the time has come for Kangho to unite as one again. So, through this competition, put aside your personal grudges and build friendships. Don’t forget that although we live under different names, we are all from the same place. Please, stop it. Amitabha.”
Everyone nodded along, but their real thoughts were unknown.
Heo Do Jinin narrowed his eyes and looked at the Abbot.
‘Calling us together to give warning about the Demonic Sect.’
True, they were a dangerous group of people.
However, no one was naïve enough to think that all these things were started because of that man’s worry about the Demonic sect.
‘It means that they just want to take the initiative again.’
There was no doubt that the Abbot was intending to sit on top of all of them again, and through this competition, he would show his will.
‘What the Abbot wants will not happen,’ thought Heo Do Jinin to himself.
“From tomorrow on the competition will officially start. Everyone knows that since ancient times, it was down to one’s self to restrain themselves and to build friendships.”
“I hope this will work to do the same this time. Amitabha.”
The sect leaders nodded their heads with friendly faces.
However, no one was considering this a friendly competition. It was difficult to know which sect was high and which was low.
Unless there was a real war, the true strength of the two sects that were sparring would never be found out and only could be guessed through words and rumors.
And for such sects, sparring between second-class disciples was a great help.
The ability of a teacher was measured through their disciples. Clearly, tomorrow’s competition will be a place to reorganize the ranks of the sects.
‘The winning sect will have all the glory.’
Everyone’s eyes longed for that.
Except for one.
The next morning.
The disciples of Mount Hua completed their preparations and gathered in front of their allotted residence. Hyun Jong stood there and looked at them,
“So,” He coughed.
“Are you all ready?”
“Yes, Sect Leader.”
Baek Cheon answered as a representative of the disciples. Seeing that dedication, Hyun Jong smiled,
“From today onwards, official spars will start and that will be a good experience for you. That is why I have to say something.”
Everyone listened to what he would say…
“Will it make any difference if you win?”
Everyone was shocked, not expecting such comments. Looking into their eyes, Hyun Jong calmly said,
“Is there any difference between winning and losing?”
Baek Cheon nodded, he knew where this was going.
Hyun Jong shook his head and said,
“Winning and losing doesn’t matter. It isn’t important to get results in this place. The effort you put in preparing for this competition is several times more important than the results.”
Hyun Jong continued with a deadly serious tone,
“I am not trying to say that the process is important and the result isn’t. If you win this competition it will be a huge honor. But your effort to get here is what you should be proud of. I want you to value your skills more than whatever they label the outcome.”
“We will keep that in mind, Sect Leader!”
“Right. Right. That is good.”
Hyun Jong nodded his head.
“It wouldn’t be good for this old man to hold up the kids who are about to enter a battlefield. Let us go. No matter the outcome, you are the disciples I am proud of, the proud disciples of Mount Hua. And do not ever forget that.”
Hyun Jong slowly turned his head,
“Martial Arts Head.”
“Yes, Sect Leader.”
“Please speak. You and Un Geom have the right to speak.”
Hyun Sang hesitated a bit and then looked at the kids,
“Focus on your skills. Defeat after trying your best will cheer you forward, while defeat without trying your hardest will only leave you with bitter regret.”
“We will remember that.”
“Umm. It is difficult for me, Sect leader. Un Geom, you do it.”
Un Geom stepped ahead and when he did that, the eyes of every disciple changed.
Hyun Jong and Hyun Sang were adults and elders to them, but Un Geom was different. It was Un Geom who was the real teacher of Mount Hua.
“What is a sword?”
“Sword is Tao!”
“What is Tao?”
“Tao is Tao!”
“And what is a Sword?”
“Sword is Sword!”
Un Geom smiled,
“Right. A sword is just a sword. The sword you have heard about so far is no different from the sword you will lift today. Believe in your sword and in yourself. Then your training from the past will give the answer to you.”
And Hyun Young came forward and said to the three,
“Then let’s go.”
He began to walk to the sparring hall.
“Un Geom you too, follow me.”
Hyun Sang was shocked.
“The kids? You won’t talk to the kids?”
“Well, just follow me. We can go first, is there any reason to do this with the kids?”
As they were being dragged by Hyun Young, a man walked from behind.
Everyone looked at him with sullen eyes.
It was Chung Myung.
“Sect Leader has already spoken to everyone. Uh… what did he say again?”
He tilted his head and shrugged his shoulders,
“Well, anything he said would be nice.”
And he looked at everyone.
With the exception of a few, everyone felt nervous. Seeing this, Chung Myung smiled,
‘You should feel this.’
Except for a few others with Chung Myung, the rest had little to no experience with the other sects.
They had been too scared to show their skills in front of the Southern Edge Sect, and fighting in front of so many others was bound to make them anxious.
“Who here wants to win?”
The disciples looked at each other.
“None of you?”
“Well, the win was going to be yours so why bother?”
Everyone’s eyes widened.
Chung Myung continued to speak,
“But what are you so nervous about? Idiots who cannot win the competition.”
“What, you brat?”
“Don’t worry. You can be nervous. You don’t have to relax.”
Chung Myung smiled,
“I made sure to turn you lot into people who will not lose just because you are nervous. If you want to lose, try losing. At this point, losing shouldn’t come easy.”
The disciples of Mount Hua laughed in despair.
Everyone knew that those weren’t just empty words. Because they had literally crushed their bones with training.
“See the people gathered there?”
When Chung Myung pointed, Baek Cheon answered,
“Let’s go show them.”
“What kind of sect Mount Hua was, and what they have all forgotten.”
Those words set fire to the heart of the disciples.
“Let us go reclaim the position of the best sword sect in the world!”
There was no answer.
Behind Chung Myung who took the lead, the disciples followed with resolute faces.
Today, Chung Myung wasn’t being as cheeky as usual.
The will he had been holding onto for a long time could be seen on his face.
‘You forgot, right?’
You forgot Mount Hua.
‘It is fine. I will make each one of you remember it.’
‘I will engrave the words of Mount Hua on your heads to never let you forget it.’
‘To show what kind of sect Mount Hua…’
Chung Myung glanced behind him and looked at the Baek and Chung disciples and then looked up.
‘Honestly, it is different from the past, but…’
Well, it will be fine. This much difference…
-It is too different you bastard!
Ah, be quiet!
If you are so sad, then you should have survived!
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