The difference was known from the start.
Jin Geum-Ryong has been recognized for his talent since childhood. Among the people Baek Cheon knew, the one most suited to being called a genius was Jin Geum-Ryong.
He had already experienced defeat.
In the last conference, and even before that, Baek Cheon had never won against Jin Geum-Ryong. He was only ever left with the bitter taste of defeat.
‘I thought I could narrow the gap this time.’
Because he worked so hard.
Chung Myung criticized his efforts as misguided, but Baek Cheon endured a bone-cutting ordeal for that training. At least, he was confident that he trained twice as much as Jin Geum-Ryong.
He believed that even if he couldn’t win, he would have at least slightly bridged the divide between them.
But the reality was worse than he’d imagined.
Jin Geum-Ryong’s sword struck Baek Cheon’s ankle. As he staggered back, he desperately clenched his teeth to sober himself enough to regain balance.
Baek Cheon’s ankle would have been severed if this was a real sword. Thankfully, it wasn’t a real sword but a wooden one.
But conversely, since this wasn’t a real sword, he couldn’t even accept defeat so easily.
‘Why can’t I reach you?’
‘I tried so hard!’
Jin Geum-Ryong’s sword flew again and hit Baek Cheon’s other thigh.
The impact almost broke the bone. For a moment, Baek Cheon’s distraught mind was lost to pain, but he neither groaned nor screamed. He slapped the floor with his wooden sword and tried to attack again.
His sword aimed for Jin Geum-Ryong’s head. A simple blow, but it was fast and sharp.
However, Jin Geum-Ryong took a step back and twisted his body to negate the attack.
And Jin Geum-Ryong’s sword struck Baek Cheon’s left shoulder.
His flesh burst from the impact, and blood began to drip from the wound.
It would only take one more attack for Jin Geum-Ryong to perfectly finish this match. However, he didn’t end it and stepped back instead.
He looked down at Baek Cheon with an arrogant expression.
Baek Cheon, with one hand, pressed heavily on the ground and tried to raise himself up again.
Despite the pain, he glared at Jin Geum-Ryong with a fierce will.
Jin Geum-Ryong looked at Baek Cheon, a bit surprised.
“You’re struggling so hard just to stand, but your spirit is still alive.”
Jin Geum-Ryong raised his sword at Baek Cheon.
“But that spirit is all you have. You will remain unable to even touch the hem of my clothes for the rest of your life.”
“You must really lack a brain. I already told you.”
Taking a look around, Jin Geum-Ryong spoke.
“That’s how great the difference between Mount Hua and the Southern Edge Sect is. The martial arts of Mount Hua cannot compare to the martial arts of the Southern Edge Sect. A hundred years may pass! Even if you had a thousand years! Nothing would change!”
An arrogant declaration.
But no one could refute Jin Geum-Ryong. Even the elders of Mount Hua could only listen and bite their lips, but they could not bring themselves to decry his remark.
Hyun Jong shut his eyes tightly.
‘How long must we endure this? How far does he intend to go?’
Who could understand this situation? The elders of the sect were unable to condemn or punish a second-class disciple despite him uttering such humiliating words.
But Jin Geum-Ryong’s arrogance didn’t end there.
He smiled at Baek Cheon.
“If you still want to catch up to me even after this, then you’d better leave Mount Hua. There’s no future here. The only thing left for this ruined sect is ridicule.”
Baek Cheon clenched his teeth.
“I… am a disciple of Mount Hua.”
“Well, that’s fine. Then if that’s the case….”
Jin Geum-Ryong took his sword in hand and rushed at Baek Cheon.
Baek Cheon tried to somehow defend himself, but his arm failed to respond.
A vicious sound rang out as Baek Cheon was struck another dozen times before he collapsed.
Jin Geum-Ryong glanced at Baek Cheon, who fell unconscious and grinned.
“I need to show you. Ah, my bad. It’s a little too late now.”
With a sly smirk, he retrieved his sword and stepped over the body of Baek Cheon. Steadily walking, he returned to his group.
A complete defeat.
At that moment, all of Mount Hua’s disciples ran to the center of the hall.
“D-Don’t mess with me!”
Baek Sang, who carefully held the unconscious Baek Cheon, was silent for a moment as he bowed his head. Then, he turned his head to glare with a grim expression.
“Isn’t this too much!?”
Jin Geum-Ryong, who was walking back to his sect, turned and looked at Baek Sang.
“What’s too much?”
“This is just a spar! How can you injure your opponent so harshly!?”
“Spar… isn’t that exactly why he ended up like that?”
Jin Geum-Ryong smiled.
“If this had been a battle with real swords, do you think he would simply be unconscious?”
“It’s because this was a spar that he’s able to stay alive. Am I wrong?”
“How dare you….”
“Don’t get too angry.”
Jin Geum-Ryong spoke with a grin.
“Even I’m a bit flustered here. I didn’t think he would be so weak. I thought he could at least defend himself. Maybe I expected too much; I apologize.”
Baek Sang bit his lip so hard he nearly drew blood.
A perfect defeat.
And over-the-top mockery afterward.
Baek Sang wanted to drag that guy out and tear him apart if he could.
But there was nothing Baek Sang could do about it.
“Take Sahyung to the treatment hall! Right now!”
The sajaes holding Baek Cheon quickly carried him away while Baek Sang pulled out his wooden sword.
“Let’s see what this Southern Edge bastard’s sword is worth!”
“There’s no need to refuse. Seo-Han.”
Jong Seo-Han entered the arena with a grin.
Seeing him walk so leisurely, Baek Sang tightly grasped his sword.
Contrary to the oppressive atmosphere forming between the disciples, the audience was enthused and deeply interested.
“Baek Cheon was stronger than I thought, but Jin Geum-Ryong’s achievements exceed my expectations.”
“He is truly a man worthy of the praise he’s received. With such a fine disciple, wouldn’t the Southern Edge Sect be eligible to compete with the top sects?”
“I know. Hahaha.”
Hwang Mun-Yak’s expression went stiff.
‘This is why they are merchants.’
A man was being carried away in a miserable condition, but no one paid any attention to that.
The crowd was only interested in Jin Geum-Ryong, and how they could grasp onto the Southern Edge Sect in order to grow their wealth.
Hwang Mun-Yak isn’t much different from them, but he couldn’t hide his disgust at their actions in such moments.
‘This is a disastrous defeat.’
Baek Cheon and Jin Geum-Ryong.
Even if the representatives of two sects faced off, such a one-sided defeat was normally not possible. Mount Hua’s momentum would halt with such embarrassing results, and morale would sink.
Until the end, Baek Cheon never managed to land a single blow on Jin Geum-Ryong.
If the conference continued like this, Mount Hua would never be able to regain its past glory.
No, most likely, the sect’s downfall would accelerate. Because no one would be willing to acknowledge them.
No matter how heavily Hwang Mun-Yak supported them, reviving the sect would be impossible. This would be a death sentence.
‘Ugh. What the hell are you thinking?’
He thought that Chung Myung would have some plan, so he gathered the most influential people he could. But this was starting to go horribly wrong.
‘Was I overestimating the young disciple?’
Hwang Mun-Yak looked at Chung Myung.
“… is Sasuk fine?”
“There’s no way he’s fine.”
“Is he seriously hurt?”
Chung Myung’s dispassionate response evoked a serious and angered reaction from Yoon Jong.
“No matter how bad our relationship is, that man is still our Sasuk! Are you seriously fine with our senior receiving such horrible treatment!?”
“Calm down, Sahyung.”
“I told you to calm down.”
Yoon Jong was shaken at how calm Chung Myung was. This was different from Chung Myung’s usual nature.
“You never thought he could win?”
Yoon Jong bit his lip.
He didn’t expect Sasuk to win. But… just the bare minimum at least. Baek Cheon was someone that carried the expectations of everyone in Mount Hua.
Perhaps the reason Yoon Jong was angry now wasn’t because of Baek Cheon’s injuries but because of his horrible defeat.
‘Is the gap between the Southern Edge Sect and us this big?’
The Ten Great Sects. The Ten Great Sects are incredibly powerful. But the disciples of Mount Hua never cared much about it. Probably because Mount Hua once belonged to that same group.
Although the sect had fallen, Yoon Jong believed that they could one day compete amongst the Ten Great Sects again with enough effort and luck.
However, it seemed like those sects were much stronger than he imagined.
Chung Myung smiled bitterly.
“If everything could be solved by effort alone, then everyone in this world could become a master. What matters isn’t how hard we try; it’s about how you apply your effort.”
“Watch. Take a good look from now on. All the second-class disciples will lose.”
“All of them?”
“There is not even one here who can defeat them. No, there is one, but I don’t think that person will fight.”
Yoon Jong’s face went stiff.
In the last conference, there were two draws and eight losses.
That itself was a disaster, and this time there won’t even be a draw?
“… if we lose like this…”
It’ll be miserable.
But Chung Myung stared at Yoon Jong with wide eyes.
“Lose? Who’s going to lose?”
“What? You just said….”
“That’s just the second-class disciples!”
Chung Myung blinked.
“Who’s going to let those Southern Edge bastards return from Mount Hua with a victory? Who will let them!? As long as my two eyes are open, I will never see that happen! Even if my eyes get dirt in them, I refuse to see that sight!”
“So, relax your body. Maybe we should try and do something flashy.”
It was then.
Yoon Jong quickly turned his head only for the sight of Baek Sang, lying brutally beaten on the floor, to flood his vision.
Jong Seo-Han kicked the fallen man while he was down.
“Think you can still put up a fight?”
“It seems you’re all talk.”
Jong Seo-Han looked at Baek Sang and then at the disciples of Mount Hua. Then he made an arrogant gesture as if looking down on them.
Chung Myung’s mouth opened.
“No, but that bastard, what’s with him?”
“Catch him again!”
The third-class disciples rushed in and grabbed Chung Myung, who was ready to charge in.
Seeing that, Jong Seo-Han was dumbfounded and laughed.
“I get to see all kinds of things here. Well, you are just an unknown sect, so it’s understandable.”
Chung Myung’s eyes widened.
“Let’s see how long you can keep smiling!”
‘You were the one who called for me!’
‘Now it’s too late to regret it!’
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