“Oh my, this is tough.”
Yu Jong-San, clearly suffering, groaned aloud.
The mountain leading up to Mount Hua was so steep that even people living in the village below couldn’t climb it with ease.
Fortunately, they had escorts to help them climb the mountain; but ordinary people wouldn’t dare it.
The fact that they were climbing the mountain again less than a week after their last trek was making him uncomfortable both physically and mentally.
“Owner Yu. Be strong!”
“I am trying to be strong!”
Yu Jong-San was annoyed. Despite the escorts encouraging him, he struggled greatly to climb each step. He was being asked to climb a sheer cliff, which no ordinary person could pass through, by relying on a worn-out old rope. This was why Mount Hua didn’t develop!
‘Once I get the money back, I will never come to this place again.’
Because he didn’t want to see Mount Hua ever again.
As they climbed the cliff, a smooth and flat area greeted them. Owner Kong, who confirmed that everyone had come up, opened his mouth.
“We will take a break here.”
“Oh my. Owner Kong. That’s a good idea. My legs are shaking….”
“Owner Yu needs to work out more often.”
“Huhuhu. I am no stranger to exercise, but I don’t think my body will ever get used to climbing this mountain.”
“It isn’t that bad.”
Owner Yu shook his head and sat down on a rock.
“But owner Kong.”
Owner Pang approached Owner Kong.
“What is it?”
“Why is the sect leader suddenly asking us to come to Mount Hua?”
Those who were rubbing their aching legs all turned their focus toward the man.
“Maybe he came up with some money?”
Owner Kong smiled softly.
“Is that possible? One hundred thousand isn’t a small amount.”
Owner Kong spoke bluntly.
“But if it is borrowed….”
“There is no one in the world who would willingly lend a hundred thousand to a dying sect. A person with such a kind heart could never become rich.”
Yu Jong-San shrugged his shoulders.
“Then what does Owner Kong think? Why do you think the sect leader has called us?”
“To give up.”
Owner Kong looked at the summit, where Mount Hua stood.
“Likely, he must have tried to reach out for assistance and been denied at every turn. It would be distasteful to drag out the suffering until the last moment, so he called us ahead of time to concede.”
Yu Jong-San clicked his tongue at it.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of someone calling their debt collectors to their door, without anything to pay, just to get rid of them more quickly. What a stiff debtor.”
“Well, he is in a difficult situation because of the debt. Still, he is the sect leader of Mount Hua; don’t speak too rashly about him.”
“Owner Kong is such a kindhearted person. How can you think so well about someone who borrowed money and hasn’t paid it back for decades?”
Owner Kong smiled.
“What I meant was for us to keep our manners. The name of Mount Hua will soon disappear; why make it more painful for them than it needs to be?”
“The whole world should know of Owner Kong’s benevolence.”
“We have such different attitudes.”
“It was nothing.”
Seeing that, Yu Jong-San clicked his tongue and thought to himself.
‘Spouting pleasantries while sitting around doing nothing.’
They were planning to confiscate the sect and kick them out of their homes; who would care about your courtesy?
Yu Jong-San looked at the summit.
‘Will we really get the money?’
He was always worried whether the sect would be sold for a reasonable price. Indeed Owner Kong spoke quite confidently, but any merchant would be worried when money was on the line.
But Yu Jong-San wasn’t worried about that.
‘If a member of the Southern Edge sect came here, doesn’t that mean they are interested in this?’
In the past, the entire world knew what kind of relationship existed between Mount Hua and the Southern Edge sect.
It was now a faded story since Mount Hua’s name vanished and the Southern Edge Sect ascended too high up for the others to reach.
However, the Southern Edge Sect leaders would certainly remember their rivalry with Mount Hua, right? If they continued to hold onto their resentment, then it was evident that they wouldn’t want even a fragment of Mount Hua to remain in the world.
‘Owner Kong must be thinking of selling it to the Southern Edge sect.’
Out of the total debt of 100,000 nyang, Yu Jong-San was due to receive 5,000 nyang.
How much was 5,000 nyang? Even if the money was squandered and spent frivolously, it was an enormous sum that would still be enough to leave for the next generation to live comfortably.
The long tug-of-war is finally coming to an end. Yu Jong-San’s heart began to flutter at the thought of finally getting his hands on such wealth.
‘I wonder what the sect leader’s face would look like.’
The thought of seeing that old man’s solemn face being distorted made Yu Jong-San feel a bit bitter, but he quickly suppressed the rising feelings of sympathy. After all, isn’t it true that there are no friends or family when it comes to matters of money?
“Let’s start climbing now.”
All of them got up with a push, despite having a hard time, they didn’t say anything.
With their eyes blinded by money, they started to climb again.
“Each time I see it, it feels strange.”
Someone in the crowd voiced their thoughts.
“It’s just a building barely holding itself together.”
A sense of reluctance could be heard in the voice.
Falling buildings and walls and the front gate where the door had been broken through already.
An obviously ruined sect appeared before them, either destroyed by someone else or neglected for years due to bankruptcy. Still, something was captivating about it.
The weight of Mount Hua protected the Shaanxi for years.
Despite not saying a word, they all shared similar feelings.
Now, they were here to suffocate Mount Hua’s final breath. Today, the sect leader was going to finally give in.
Mount Hua, which protected this land for hundreds of years, was finally coming to an end.
Did everyone feel the weight of their actions? Everyone coughed in silence.
They had no intention of turning away from so much money, but still, they were people born in Hua-Um village. So, they couldn’t help but feel bad that they were killing their guardians with their own hands.
“Let’s go in.”
Only owner Kong seemed fine. When he took the lead, everyone hesitated and then followed him.
“Is everyone here?”
As they entered, Un Am greeted them.
“Elder Un Am. Nice to see you.”
“I am still not good enough to be called an elder. Please, just call me Un Am.”
“As you wish.”
Un Am smiled and spoke.
“The sect leader is waiting. This way.”
Owner Kong frowned.
‘Are they able to pay it back?’
When they arrived the other day, the others stopped them. But now, they were asking them to come in with casual expressions.
Even if the sect leader had informed them that these merchants would come, wasn’t it strange how much their attitude had changed?
Owner Kong looked cautiously at Un Am’s back and followed behind him.
‘We’ll know soon enough. Maybe this is the true nature of Mount Hua.’
Perhaps, they acknowledged their fate and decided to meet the end in peace. Rather than look like cowards begging for more time, they’ve chosen to die standing with their heads held high.
‘I feel worried.’
Perhaps, it was because the moment he had waited so long for was finally coming true. Ordinary people tend to let their guard down as soon as their goal is within sight, but Kong Mun-Yeon is a shrewd man who becomes more nervous at these times.
As they quietly walked, they reached the residence of the sect leader. Standing in front of it was Hyun Jong waiting for them.
“We greet the sect leader.”
When owner Kong issued his greetings, the others followed.
It was the last step; he wanted to be as polite as possible.
“Welcome. You must have gone through a lot while coming up here.”
Hyun Jong smiled softly and greeted everyone.
“I am sorry to take your time. I hope you understand that I had to ask you to come up here instead of me coming down to meet you all.”
“It’s no issue at all. We are busy but not busier than the sect leader. So, it is obvious that we should come.”
Owner Kong responded with a smile.
“Rather than that, what…?”
“Haha. Such a hurry? You must have had a hard time climbing the mountain, so maybe a cup of tea—”
Owner Kong cut the sect leader’s words off with a resolute tone.
“It is good to have a cup of tea and talk. But we are merchants, so we would like to discuss the business affairs first.”
“We merchants are people who deal with problems first and then eat or drink later. I hope the sect leader understands that.”
“Of course. I see I was only thinking of myself.”
Hyun Jong smiled and then said.
“Then, let’s get to the point without wasting time.”
Owner Kong smiled.
“I have brought you all here today to convey the position of Mount Hua.”
“Position of Mount Hua?”
Hyun Jong looked at Owner Kong.
Owner Kong was already playing out the situation in his head.
“I have tried every method available, but I haven’t been able to find anyone willing to lend money to Mount Hua. In other words, it doesn’t seem like I can repay the money within the given date.”
Owner Kong frowned at those words.
“Sect leader. We have given you enough time. We also need to earn enough to make a living. We can’t extend your deadline any further.”
“Which is why I am saying this.”
Hyun Jong made eye contact with each person.
“I know that it cannot be delayed any longer. But it is impossible for Mount Hua to make the full payment before the due date. Please understand.”
Hyun Jong bowed.
“I can’t pay back all of that money, but I can pay a portion of it. So, if anyone here would be fine with personally delaying their repayment date, it would help us greatly.
As the sect leader lowered his head toward them, everyone was shocked and embarrassed.
A strange atmosphere began to flow amidst the crowd.
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