“Ah…” Chung Myung turned his head. There are people! After a month of travel, this was good news: someone lived in the supposedly-ruined Mount Hua.
The heavy, damaged wooden door squealed open on its abused hinges. A man in a black uniform stuck his head through the half-open gate.
“What, a child?”
Chung Myung was immediately convinced this man was a martial artist. In the last month, he had hardly ever been called a child.
“What, a beggar?”
“The beggar is traveling alone?”
“He’s a beggar.”
People didn’t care if a beggar was old or young. They were beggars just the same—but this man ignored his ragged clothes and dripping sweat and saw him as a “child”.
“You came here alone?” The middle-aged man looked around, puzzled. “How did you manage to get up here alone?”
“Uh… that…” Chung Myung stumbled over his words.
I just walked up? He wanted to say that nothing was impossible with persistence, but it didn’t seem like that would go down well in the current situation. With his skinny body, he would raise suspicion no matter what he said. There was no need to make excuses—the important thing wasn’t to explain himself but to take the lead in the conversation.
“More importantly, I need to ask you something.”
“Huh?” The man rolled his eyes. It was absurd for a child to come here all alone, much less start asking questions.
“Are you a martial artist of Mount Hua?”
“…You know about Mount Hua?”
“Am I right?”
“I am, for now?”
It isn’t too late! Chung Myung heaved a sigh of relief. It must be on the verge of ruins; he could tell that from just a glance—but it wasn’t entirely ruined, and that was the critical part.
Anyway, the legacy continues. Chung Myung resolved himself. First of all, Mount Hua is—
“Come in for now.”
“Huh?” Chung Myung was surprised by the man’s kind smile.
“The sun is going down.”
“…Oh?” Right, it was already getting dark.
“The nights are cold on Mount Hua. You’ve already had a long day—if you risk a night outside, you’re likely to freeze to death. Going down the mountain right now is unreasonable. This place doesn’t accept guests right now, but I can’t let someone who knows of Mount Hua go back alone.
Chung Myung’s eyes spun. Wasn’t this too easy?
…Come to think of it, there really was no reason for Chung Myung to be wary of him. What could a frail beggar like himself need to be on guard for?
“If no one came with you and you don’t have other plans, come in. We’ll listen to what you have to say later.”
Chung Myung was a little dazed, like something was swelling inside him.
Right. This is it. What was the meaning of making a name for yourself with a sword? Even before they took up the sword, Mount Hua Sect was famous. Hardly any traces of Mount Hua lingered, but the fires of the mighty sect were yet to be extinguished.
“Then I will trouble you tonight.” Chung Myung bowed his head.
“Come in.” The man ushered him in with a smile.
“Yes. Before that, I…” Chung Myung paused. How should he introduce himself?
I don’t know. He wouldn’t question it, would he?
“I am Chung Myung. If it isn’t too rude, may I know the name of the master?”
“Chung Myung, huh. Such a good name. I am Un Am.”
The Un family. Chung Myung’s eyes twinkled. Maybe the family changed? If it is the Un family, then this man must be the great-grandson?
Mount Hua’s Chung Myung and Un family were mutually exclusive. Neither family would exist simultaneously; at one time, it would be Chung, and at another time it would be the Uns. And since it had to have been four generations by now, this had to be the Un family.
Then he would have never seen me. The last disciples of Mount Hua to see Chung Myung were of other families, so this man named Un Am wouldn’t have known about him.
It felt like so many years had passed since he’d walked through these gates. Chung Myung had been brought to Mount Hua by Sahyung when he couldn’t even climb the mountain on his own, and now he’d come back of his own accord.
He had to take a deep breath. Considering what they’d left behind on Mount Hua and the circumstances of his return, it wasn’t strange for Mount Hua to be bare. No, on the contrary, it was expected—and it wasn’t the fault of the current people. It wasn’t their fault their seniors had been wiped out while they were still children.
In other words, Chung Myung had no right to direct his anger at these people. He should be sorry, if anything. If Chung Myung had been in the same situation, would he have struggled to protect Mount Hua? He would have left it behind and gone to the Wudang Sect. Wasn’t that just common sense?
Right. By what qualifications can I chastise these children? He was ashamed. No matter what else happened, he had to take responsibility.
“Phew.” Chung Myung finally walked inside.
Ahhh. Chung Myung had nurtured his sword in this vast hall. The cracked floor, the bluish-white stone…
“…Huh?” He rubbed his eyes. Bluish-white… no, where did it go? Why was the ground covered in mud?
Sahyung was dissatisfied by the muddy floor just beyond the main gate and decorated it with expensive blue stone. Despite being damaged by their constant practice, he never removed it.
So where did all those stones disappear to? Was the current sect leader just more pragmatic than Sahyung Jang Mun?
“Ughhh.” He could feel a headache coming.
Let’s stay calm. Calm. And calmer. What was the point of getting worked up over some blue stones?
Right. Just stones. No matter how expensive they were, they were just blue chunks of rock. Even if Sahyung Jang Mun harassed the disciples for scarring it, it was still just a stone… People are born, and so are stones; stones are born, and so are people… Ah, people and stones come and go.
Maybe it was sold. It was more important for Mount Hua to survive than protect the stones. Yeah, that was more important…
Let’s just calm down.
“Whew. Whew.” Chung Myung took slow, deep breaths. Thanks to those who kept the name of Mount Hua alive by selling those stones—
Where did the Heavenly Golden Palace go?
Ah, I can’t see it. What the hell? The Heavenly Golden Palace was a building, not a living thing. It couldn’t just run away, right? But no matter how hard he looked, the Heavenly Golden Palace was replaced by barren ground.
“Th-there.” Chung Myung raised his trembling finger to where the Heavenly Golden Palace should have been. “T-the land there seems strange… was anything over there?”
“Ah, it seems you have good eyes. There was originally a palace in that space.”
There “was”? Where did it go?
“Haha. It isn’t a story a young one like you should hear.”
Tell me! I know this place better than you!
“I guess it’s a wound of glory. It’s embarrassing to say it, as a martial artist.”
“…Glory, my ass.”
Chung Myung was at a loss. The blue stones were gone, the signboard was gone, and the best place in the sect was gone. Wherever the wind blew, it found dust.
This is Mount Hua? This? He would have believed it if you told him it belonged to those rotten bastards in the Demonic Cult.
“Are you okay?”
“Ah, no. It’s nothing. Nothing at all.” Every time he inhaled, however, he seemed to catch mouthfuls of dust.
“It’s a little…”
“It seems a little… desolate.”
Un Am smiled sadly, a bittersweet expression that hurt Chung Myung.
Right… of course it would be like that. The people who protected Mount Hua, like Un Am, were the ones who suffered the most after its collapse. If they had the ability, they wouldn’t have let Mount Hua decline like this; if they hadn’t been loyal, would they have stayed even as it fell to ruin?
You must have suffered a lot. Just the thought of it weighed heavily in his heart. No matter how hard Chung Myung was taking it, it was nothing compared to the sorrow of those who protected it all this time.
“When a guest comes, it is right to give them a place to rest. However, Mount Hua is a sect, and there is a law that guests must follow. I understand you might want to rest, but you must first pay your respects.”
Chung Myung nodded obediently. Un Am brought him to a place similar to a shrine. Although there were several temples of significance on Mount Hua, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Okcheon Temple was the most important. Chung Myung didn’t abandon the teachings of Mount Hua, so it was only right to enter and pray. In these trying times, he was grateful that Un Am had proposed.
And yet, he wasn’t ready to see the inside of the temple. The entirety of Mount Hua was in ruins—could the temple be any different?
Let’s not be too shocked. He took a bracing breath.
Chung Myung gathered himself and stepped into the temple.
—And then stopped. Okcheon was cut. All he could see was a portrait, an incense burner, and some small objects.
So frugal. Frugal… Chung Myung groaned and shook.
“W-where…” Where were the golden candlesticks gifted from the Jin emperor? Where were golden scrolls inscribed with the ancestor’s words?
But that wasn’t what surprised Chung Myung the most.
“T… this.” No way. No. Where did it go?
Chung Myung barely managed to raise his trembling finger towards the front.
“T-there should be a flower, right?”
“…Yes. A flower!”
“How did you know that?”
“I-it was there, right? Where did the flower go?”
Un Am tilted his head quizzically. There were many things he wanted to ask this child, but his contorted face begged him to answer.
“Right, there was one there. A plum blossom made of a strange white metal.”
“Yes! That flower! Where did it go?”
“It wasn’t particularly useful and didn’t fit well with the sect atmosphere, and there was a merchant who wanted to buy it. So we sold it for a good price.”
“Right. But you—”
“Ugh! Ugh! What?!” Chung Myung’s eyes rolled crazily. “Ugh…”
The White Fragrant Plum Blossom—along with the Divine Sword of Violet Dawn, it was one of the two sacred items of the sect. It didn’t glitter like gold or shine like silver, yet it was said to contain the very essence of Mount Hua.
And these crazy people sold it.
“Th-there are other things to sell! You sold it! You idiots…”
The combination of shock and fatigue finally won over him, sending Chung Myung toppling to the ground.
He could almost see Sahyung Jang Mun’s terrified figure.
Ruined. Mount Hua was ruined. Completely ruined.
Chung Myung passed out.
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