The day of the Mount Hua-Southern Edge Sect conference had finally dawned.
Hyun Jong was quietly looking at the second and third-class disciples lined up in front of him.
Seeing the hardened and stiff expressions on the faces of these children, Hyun Jong felt his heart clench. Even the children lined up in front of him understood the weight of their burden at this conference.
Hyun Jong felt as if his heart would break.
He wasn’t sure when things had changed, but this burden should originally have been shouldered by the elders and the sect leader. However, at some time after the initiation of this conference, the responsibility of proving the sect’s worth and defending its honor passed onto the sect’s young disciples.
Hyun Jong believed that even the second-class disciples were too young to carry this duty.
Not to mention the third-class disciples.
Still, he felt infinitely grateful to the children who withheld all complaints and stepped forward despite their worries.
Hyun Young recognized the anxious atmosphere, and Hyun Jong slightly raised his head.
The sect leader had fallen into sentimental thoughts and left the children standing in silence for too long.
Hyun Jong coughed to ease himself out of his emotional thoughts and spoke with a soft voice.
“Everyone seems nervous.”
Hyun Jong looked at the children and shook his head.
“You don’t have to be so stiff. It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose. All you must do is use this as an opportunity to learn and grow.”
Hyun Jong made eye contact with everyone as he spoke with determination.
“No matter what the outcome may be, you are all the proud disciples of Mount Hua. All you need to do is remember that fact.”
It was crudely spoken.
It was a speech that didn’t rouse their morale or seek to inspire the students to defeat their opponents and bring glory to Mount Hua.
But those words eased the disciples’ tense minds, and their expressions began to soften.
Hyun Jong nodded when he saw that everyone had begun to relax.
“I will keep watching over you. So go.”
With that, Hyun Jong turned and walked away; Hyun Young quickly followed after him.
“You won’t go with them?”
“No matter how difficult this conference may be, there is no need for those who will watch and those who will fight to arrive together. The children must also have things to say between themselves. Let them have their time together.”
“Yes, sect leader.”
Hyun Young signaled to the other elders and Un disciples before they quickly followed Hyun Jong.
As the second-class and third-class disciples sighed, one person stepped forward.
He stood in front of everyone with a determined face.
“Today, we will fight the Southern Edge Sect.”
Baek Cheon’s gaze landed on Chung Myung briefly before returning.
“As the sect leader said, there is no shame in losing. What is shameful is failing to do your best. When we fight, we fight as proud disciples of Mount Hua.”
With a resolute expression, Baek Cheon led the second-class disciples. A fierce aura of determination emanated from the second-class disciples who followed behind him. Even Yu Yiseol, who was farthest back, showed a much more serious visage than usual.
Yoon Jong snuck out to the front as the second-class disciples headed off.
And the third-class disciples warmly welcomed him.
“What, does the Great Sahyung have something to say?”
“No, let’s just do this. Such days scare me.”
“Haa. Seriously, I heard fighting turns people crazy.”
“Look at you bastards, thinking that I can act like Baek Cheon sasuk!”
“I get it. Let’s move already; my legs hurt.”
“If you’re going to be like this, let’s all say something. Jo Gul Sahyung. Go ahead and stand ahead of us. It will save some time.”
Yoon Jong took a deep breath.
‘They were all such good kids in the past.’
How did things end up like this?
Yoon Jong turned his head and looked at the culprit.
Even though a massive event like the conference was happening, Chung Myung looked like he was dying from boredom.
“Do you have anything to say?”
Chung Myung laughed.
“Is there anything worth saying?”
Chung Myung turned his head and spoke calmly.
“Let’s finish this quickly and go eat. Move it.”
Yoon Jong unwittingly smiled at Chung Myung’s casual remark.
“Come, you brat.”
He didn’t know about the others, but he was sure of one thing.
Normally, Chung Myung was a madman. But in times like this, Yoon Jong felt reassured by his presence.
Yoon Jong took the lead and guided everyone to the conference.
Following him, Chung Myung’s eyes seemed to glimmer.
The Mount Hua–Southern Edge conference is an event created for both sects to exchange techniques and experience the other.
Of course, there is a deeper intent internally since it was a way for the Southern Edge Sect to intervene with Mount Hua’s growth and humiliate them. On the surface, however, both sects maintained the appearance that this event was held out of mutual respect.
Therefore, this event never entertained visitors.
Until now, only the members of both sects had gathered together to witness the exchanges.
And this event was no different.
At least, that’s what everyone thought before they arrived at the hall.
Hyun Jong stared with his eyes wide open.
After passing through Mount Hua’s gate, one would find the great training hall. Due to the nature of the event, they required a large space. Therefore, the conference was held here without exception.
Until now, all of Mount Hua’s and the Southern Edge Sect’s disciples would line up on the left and right sides of this wide area. Today, however, a rather strange scene was playing out.
“W-what are they…?”
An unknown crowd had gathered in the training hall, with more people continuing to pour in.
What was more bizarre was that they each held some kind of item in their hands. Every one of them was carrying either chairs or tables.
Hyun Jong was taken aback by the unexpected situation. Un Am quickly approached him with an urgent face.
“What happened here?”
“A massive swarm of people flocked to the front gate and demanded to see the conference for themselves. There were too many people gathered for us to refuse.”
Hyun Jong shook his head.
“Did the Southern Edge Sect call them here?”
If so, the purpose was obvious.
Their goal must be to show how horribly they crush Mount Hua.
He didn’t notice at first, but upon closer inspection, there were many colorfully dressed middle-aged men. Among them were some familiar faces to Hyun Jong; he could tell that many of the people here were Shaanxi’s officials.
Even local celebrities were called, and all around them were people in official uniforms.
Considering their influence, once they witnessed the events here, they would spread the news all over Shaanxi.
‘This is bad!’
Hyun Jong, who felt a bit anxious at that concerning thought, spoke in a lower voice.
“Don’t you know that strangers aren’t allowed inside without permission?”
“But sect leader.”
“Aren’t their intentions clear?”
“I-it is true, but….”
A low voice was heard in Hyun Jong’s ears.
“Sect leader, I don’t believe this is something we coordinated before, is it?”
Hyun Jong turned his head.
The Southern Edge Sect elder, Sama Seung, approached them with a slightly embarrassed face.
Hyun Jong paid particular attention to his ‘embarrassed’ expression.
‘Did the Southern Edge Sect really not do this?’
If Sama Seung had gathered everyone here, there was no reason for him to be so bewildered. He would have leisurely walked in with a grin.
Hyun Jong snuck a glance at Un Am.
“I tried to stop them, but the person who brought them—”
“Is me, Sect Leader.”
Both Hyun Jong and Sama Seung shifted their sights to the new arrival and witnessed a familiar smiling face approach them.
Hwang Mun-Yak of the Eunha Merchant Guild.
“It’s quite exhilarating.”
Elder Hwang arrived, and the two representatives greeted him. Still, they each had their own doubts.
With a bright smile, Hwang Mun-Yak said.
“Since the conference is being held, I thought there should be some excitement, so I invited an audience.”
Hyung Jong frowned and was about to refute when Sama Seung’s response beat him to the punch.
“I don’t think it’s a bad idea. Since this will be the last conference, it should be alright to make it a grand event.”
Sama Seung held the power of the Southern Edge Sect.
Hyun Jong sighed.
If Elder Hwang had invited this crowd, and the Southern Edge sect agreed to it, it would be difficult for Mount Hua to oppose the decision. Was he going to tell those who just climbed Mount Hua to return with nothing to show for it?
‘I can’t do that.’
Word would spread that Mount Hua was too harsh to their guests. It would be even worse when considering the influence of the officials here.
‘It will be difficult.’
It would be difficult to deal with them.
In the end, Hyun Jong had to sigh and smile.
“Sure. Since you’re here, please enjoy yourselves.”
“Thanks for your understanding, Sect Leader. Well then.”
Elder Hwang smiled and turned around. The others who gathered also smiled and headed to the audience seats prepared by Elder Hwang.
Elder Hwang, who led the crowd, raised his head and looked at Chung Myung.
‘Will this be fine?’
Chung Myung nodded.
Exchanging glances, Elder Hwang was left with an awkward feeling.
‘This young disciple always surprises me. What is he going to do this time?’
It was none other than Chung Myung who requested that Elder Hwang gather the influential people of Shaanxi. Chung Myung secretly visited Elder Hwang and spoke to him in Hua-Um.
- First, I need you to gather all the famous people you can.
‘I did what I was told. I don’t know what will happen next, young disciple.’
Looking at Hwang Mun-Yak’s gaze, Chung Myung smiled.
‘The best way to taste success is with others watching!’
What’s the point of fighting each other when there’s no one around?
Even if they produced good results, no one would believe it, and the Southern Edge Sect can simply deny anything Mount Hua says. Therefore, he had to make sure that everyone could see the results with their own eyes.
“The preparations are done.”
How could anyone else know what he had planned?
‘My Sahyung! I’m using my head! Hurry and take back what you said about me being stupid!’
- Right, I suppose a small brain is still a brain.
“Can’t you compliment me!? How great would it be if you could praise me to my face?”
Jo Gul frowned and leered at Chung Myung.
“Why do you keep talking to yourself? Are you nervous?”
While Chung Myung sighed, the preparations were finished.
The chairs and tables were neatly arranged, the audience was seated, and the servants brought everyone refreshments too.
“It looks like it’s starting.”
Someone’s nervous voice could be heard.
Un Am walked to the middle of the training hall. Standing in the center, he looked around and clapped his hands.
Straightening his chest, he took a deep breath and loosed a solemn and hoarse voice.
“Then, let’s begin the Mount Hua-Southern Edge Sect conference.”
The atmosphere grew heated in an instant.
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