“Finally!” Chung Myung leaned against the stick he was using as his cane. Finally, the magnificent Mount Hua lay before his eyes.
“Finallllllyyyyy!” Tears flowed freely. How hard was it to get here? He’d brushed shoulders with death so many times and arrived using a child’s body, no different from an ordinary—no, less than an ordinary person’s body.
Of course, it wasn’t anything people usually didn’t face on their travels—mostly starvation and exhaustion. But that was dangerous too, right?
…After his terrible ordeals, Chung Myung had finally reached Mount Hua!
“…Finally.” If he wrote down his hardships, it would become a hero’s epic. Or a beggar’s epic.
Of course, Chung Myung couldn’t ignore the wear and tear on his body. Although he’d accumulated qi, the energy that should have been used to develop his body was spent walking and running. His body had not gotten stronger at all—the constant grating of his bones made Chung Myung grimace in pain.
Even his already-ragged clothes had been reduced to scraps on his body. And the dust stuck to them?
But that wasn’t important. Chung Myung had reached Mount Hua.
I’ll smash the head of anyone who says being reborn would grant a wonderful life. Chung Myung unconsciously squeezed his eyes shut.
Who you were reborn as was important. If he was reborn as a beggar without parents or a temple to take him in, he’d rather not be reincarnated.
But the suffering ends now! He’d finally reached Mount Hua! So, now he would see with his own eyes: what the hell happened to Mount Hua?
“Let’s go!” Chung Myung vigorously pushed on his stick and started climbing Mount Hua.
After a while…
“Huaaak! Huaaak!” Chung Myung, clinging to the cliff slopes, heaved like his lungs were going to burst.
“What test is this?” On this mountain? On this all-important mountain? Did it make sense for the path to be like this? He could remember the Shaolin and Wudang Sect paths overflowing with incense, but he couldn’t see a single person visiting Mount Hua.
Chung Myung stared mournfully downward. Endless cliffs stretched before his sight. Was that an exaggeration? Obviously. Nothing was endless. But he was above the clouds! This crazy mountain was so tall, he’d passed the clouds and he still had to walk!
This wasn’t a road anymore. If this was a road, then a sparrow was a phoenix. Can you call it a road if you can’t plant both feet on the ground and have to scrabble forward on your hands and knees?
“Damn it! What were they thinking, building the Sect on top of this mountain?” Chung Myung wanted to run up and investigate as soon as he’d reached Mount Hua, but it didn’t seem like he’d get the chance.
“Sahyung. Isn’t Mount Hua such an auspicious place? Isn’t that peak over there shaped like a sword? It seems like the sect established itself in a good place.”
“…Shit. Damn it.”
What? Sword-like peaks? Very sword-like. The paths to the sect cut his feet like swords.
It was said that Mount Hua was the steepest of the five mountains. It was only when he could not use martial arts that Chung Myung really understood.
“I’m really going to die.” It wasn’t a joke—he was fully convinced his life was at risk. His limbs were already trembling, and he had such a long way to go. And seeing how empty it was, he understood just how badly Mount Hua had suffered.
“Ackk.” Chung Myung groaned and propped himself against the wall.
But he couldn’t give up! What was the point if he gave up after all this way? If there’s a mountain, it’s a man’s job to climb it! Climb it, and rise again with persistence and courage!
…The truth was, going down was more dangerous.
A hand clawed at the top of the cliff’s edge.
“Accckkkkkk!” The dusty white fingertips were frail, yet they lifted the rest of the body.
“Ahh! I’m going to die!” Chung Myung flopped onto his back, having barely managed to lift his body up.
“Hahh, hahh, hahh! Almost fell!”
He could see the clouds he’d put far below him. Coming this far, as a child, deserved a compliment from himself.
It didn’t go easily. It really didn’t go easily.
The good news was, he didn’t have to go down the mountain. All that was left was finding the sect.
Let’s see. Chung Myung struggled to his feet and looked around. That way—in front of him was a road leading towards the summit. From a little way along the road, he could see Mount Hua. Chung Myung’s small legs pumped. His heart shook. After a hundred years, he finally returned to Mount Hua.
“Of course, it’s only been a month since I got here.” But let’s use a hundred years, ’cause it sounds cooler.
Climbing the hill wasn’t difficult at all. His body was completely exhausted, but the thought of reaching Mount Hua gave him strength.
“Ahhh…” The sight of the roof tiles of the main gate filled his eyes with sentiment. River and mountains had changed, but these tiles didn’t; the gentle curves still capture the spirit of Mount Hua.
Right, on those old tiles—
A tile was missing?
Chung Myung rubbed his eyes.
Was he mistaken?
No matter how much he rubbed, the scenery didn’t change. With each step closer, the half-destroyed gate became clearer and clearer.
Chung Myung ground to a halt.
The main gate was the first thing visitors saw. Even if the interior was damaged, the front gate was always kept grand and neat.
But this was the gate of Mount Hua. Its frugal and pragmatic construction exuded the atmosphere of Mount Hua. And it was at least kept neat.
What am I looking at? The tiles were scattered here and there and graffitied all over. They needed to be replaced, and badly—but the cracked, blackened, unpainted pillars were even more horrifying!
S-Spider webs… They had to be removed frequently, so he could understand that. However, it was impossible to understand why they were left where they were so visible.
And the Fire Dragon Point…
“Where did the sign go? The signboard—where did it go?” Didn’t the signboard symbolize the Sect itself? Where the hell did it go?! This gate did not read “Great Mount Hua Sect”!
That was the signboard Sahyung cleaned every morning! Where did it go? Where?
Chung Myung’s legs lost strength. He barely staggered to the main gate, but he had no words left.
“From what I heard, it’s ruined?”
“Mount Hua Sect? I think I’ve heard of it. Weren’t they famous in the past? From what I heard, they slew the Heavenly Demon and then collapsed. Are they still there?”
“…Ruined?” Mount Hua? Chung Myung’s eyes shook.
“No—What kind of dog shit is this?” Others may despair, but Chung Myung struggled to contain his growing irritation.
Mount Hua, destroyed! Damn it, not something else, but Mount Hua? Mount Hua?
“Oh my. Mount Hua is ruined. Mount Hua…” No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t deny reality. Chung Myung, battered and shaken, finally had to admit it.
“Sahyung Jang Mun! Why did this happen? Why! Why did this happen? Ah, this suffocating silence! Ughhhhh!”
Mount Hua could actually be destroyed. No matter what he heard on the way here, he didn’t hear a single thing about Mount Hua. He occasionally heard about Wudang Sect, Shaolin Sect, or even the smaller sects, but not a single word about Mount Hua.
“This is why I told you to act in moderation, Sahyung.”
“Yah. You bastard. Mount Hua is a sect. What is the meaning of warriors stuck in the mountains prettying themselves up and acting like big people? Those who ignore the difficulties of others have no right to speak about their troubles…”
“Even then, you should have held back!” The elders, disciples, and even the other great disciples were all killed in that battle. Numerous sects said they sent their very best, but there was no sect as invested as Mount Hua.
The elders who were supposed to lead the sect died, and the disciples who were supposed to succeed them… died. All that remained were the youngest disciples, who had much to learn and hadn’t even mastered their martial arts. Who, then, was supposed to carry the name of Great Mount Hua?
“…Right.” He could feel his hope shatter. He could feel it crumbling like the front gate.
Mount Hua was destroyed.
“Sahyung, sahyung! This is why I said that! Didn’t I tell you nothing would be left if we blindly followed the rules of the sect? Do you see what happened? How can you face the rest of the Sect in the underworld? Ahhh! You frustrating man!”
Chung Myung’s resentment echoed across the empty mountain.
“This is crazy. Really.”
He returned to life after a hundred years, and found Mount Hua ruined. He fought to protect this, but… if this was the result, what were they fighting for, really?
He felt the despair creeping over him.
It was then—
—A voice touched his ears.
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