Chapter 41 - Selection Ceremony (3)

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I looked at Hae Ack-chun. Honestly, no matter how great his pride was, making an effort to look good was difficult.

However, wasn’t it more burdensome when someone else did it?

‘And it isn’t just one or two…’

But to bring in 6 people. This was a tricky scenario.

-Is it challenging?

‘So you think it is easy?’

Giving them choices was the primary variable. Since I had to bring in 6 of them, especially with competition from commanders of the other factions, it was honestly too much.

-It is like the first meeting between a man and woman who are excited.

… Sometimes, Short Sword feels more human than a sword. Well, how do I convince them?

-Paint the package in gold.

‘What?’

-Pack it nicely. If you were in that position, wouldn’t you come if you heard the words you wanted to hear?

If I was them?

As Short Sword said, approaching it that way might be better. If I was given a choice, then what would I hope for?

While I was thinking about this, Hae Ack-chun said,

“The selection of the upper-rank candidates will be left to this disciple of mine.”

At those words, the faces of the commanders brightened. It seemed that they had been worried that he would speak directly.

Then the eyes of the commanders looked at me.

-They think you’ll likely be sloppy.

Right.

They were those kinds of eyes.

To them, I was nothing but a child who was just granted the position of leader. I could feel that kind of sentiment from them. That was probably why I wanted to slap back.

“Then who will start?”

At Gu Sang-woong’s question, one person stood up.

“After all, there are seniors and juniors. Wouldn’t it be better to call this an experience?”

He nodded, and the rest responded.

“You are right.”

“Do we have to argue to speak too?”

“Right.”

“Then Commander Song can do it.”

Looking at this, there was no difference between them or Hae Ack-chun.

They were adhering to a ranking based on position and experience, so I was last. It was clear they wouldn’t give me a chance.

[What are you doing?]

Hae Ack-chun was yelling at me in my head. It was clear pressure to act, but my thoughts were different.

Since there wasn’t an immediate selection by the candidates, this order wouldn’t mean much. Instead, I thought that I should listen to all of them first and then adapt my speech to them.

Honestly, it wasn’t really possible to say to the commanders, ‘My teacher is waiting. I want to go first.’

[Last isn’t bad. I will do my best.]

Hae Ack-chun raised his eyebrows at my response.

[Be prepared if you let go of even one.]

…Ahh.

Trying to meet the standards of this old man was so difficult. In the meantime, a middle-aged man with short stature and a protruding chin walked up first.

“Nice to meet you. You new talents who will lead the cult.”

A good start.

Since the kids were given options, they needed to be buttered up to lure them to your side.

“I am called Song Pil-chung, a commander of the Five Poison group, which honors Gu Jae-yang, the Blood Killing King.”

The Blood Killing King, Gu Jae-yang.

He was also called the most powerful of the Four Venerable Dignitaries.

As his hobby was raising thousands of poisonous snakes, people were reluctant to approach him. He was feared for his own name as much as Hae Ack-chun, who was called the Ghastly Monster.

“Elder Gu Jae-yang…”

Commander Song Pil-chung, began to speak about his leader. He listed various achievements, such as victories in the past against different prominent and famous warriors.

I made sure to remember all of them as I had forgotten a couple of things when I returned back in time.

I do not remember everything exactly, but I was confident I would remember things about people if I saw them. In any case, all the commanders seemed to have come prepared.

“… about that much. And our Elder also cares for the talented….”

The man held out his hand while speaking before suddenly slamming the palm on the ground.

Phat!

The ground, mostly dirt, became stained black in the shape of a palm and looked burned.

The candidates all watched this with shock and admiration.

“He is doing this again.”

The other commanders were clicking their tongues.

They must be thinking about their own speeches. However, since they dared to say such a thing about another commander, then this wasn’t something that’s just happening now.

What Song Pil-chung was demonstrating was Poison Arts.

Upon the blackened ground, he sprinkled something that looked like white powder.

The ground then returned back to normal. It was a form of detoxification.

“See that? This is the Venom Hand technique that was handed down by our elder. The elder cares for his subordinates, so he passes down his own unique skills. I hope you consider this.”

This man’s method worked.

Two of six seemed to show interest in what was being said. Before my second life, I didn’t notice this, but being in front of them, I came to notice even the smallest changes in front of me.

Song Pil-chung looked satisfied as he ended his speech.

-Pretty good. He seemed to have prepared in advance.

Obviously, he did. If not, he couldn’t have said something like this.

The second one was Hak Jeong-gyeom, who almost had his hair ripped out by Hae Ack-chun.

“Nice to meet you. I am Hak Jeong-gyeom, a commander who serves Elder Lee Jun.”

And in the same process, he spoke about famous things his elder did and the benefits of joining their side.

“Hap!”

Papapak!

Unlike Song Pil-chung, he showed off martial arts skills and even promised to provide guidance, but only 1 of the 6 showed interest.

The previous presentation seemed flashier as it involved both poison and detoxification.

“Tch.”

Realizing this, Hak Jeong-gyeom returned to his seat with an annoyed face. He might be a skilled warrior, but his words didn’t have the same power.

In this way, nine of them finished their presentations.

‘Hmm.’

However, what was unusual was that while they gave their speeches, the kids should have shown interest, but there was one who was expressionless throughout.

It was Cho Sung-won, the spy.

Perhaps, because of that, the commanders were also conscious of him.

-Most popular too.

‘Right.’

Cho Sung-won had a position different from the other 5 candidates. He was close to being a first-rate warrior already, and his talent was evident to anyone who had eyes.

Naturally, all of the commanders were focused on him.

Puak!

Finally, the last one came out.

‘Someone from the First Blood Star’s group?’

The only person who didn’t give a presentation yet was from that side. Surprisingly, the one with the lowest experience among the commanders was from the First Blood Star.

Yet, when the commander of the First Blood Star came forward, Cho Sung-won’s eyes showed interest when they hadn’t before.

‘Why?’

He didn’t show too much, but he looked quite interested. The commander of the First Blood Star held a long sword at their waist and had long flowing hair. The atmosphere was markedly better than the other commanders who walked before.

“I am Na Shim-hyung, commander of the White Blood troops. I serve under the First Blood Star, Jang Ryong.”

The slightly hoarse voice suited him. It felt like the words had weight when he spoke instead of just being annoying sounds.

Even the 5 other candidates couldn’t take their eyes off this man.

“I will not talk about sir Jang Ryong.”

However, unlike the others, Na Shim-hyung didn’t use the usual method. He didn’t speak about his lord.

“Well, as the other commanders mentioned earlier, the Four Dignitaries and the Seven Blood Stars are people who deserve respect. So I don’t think it is necessary to showcase them.”

-It sucks.

As Short Sword said, my ears were turning itchy. But it made this interesting.

The man scanned all 6 of the candidates and said.

“I can only tell you this. We, including First Blood Star, have fought and will continue to do so in the forefront against the Beggars Union.”

Cho Sung-won’s eyes narrowed at the mention of the Beggars Union. He was clearly reacting.

Why did he react? Well, it was obviously because he knew about it.

-What?

‘Kaifeng is the foundation of the Beggars Union.’

The Beggars Union was the one who developed Kaifeng as much as it had as a capital.

There were a lot of sects like the Beggars Union, but they were the only ones in that city. Strictly speaking, the Beggars Union was spread throughout the Central Plains while their sect leader was in that city.

‘Right.’

I could understand why he chose to go under the First Blood Star. As information was the center of the Beggars Union, joining the First Blood Star would make it easy to contact them directly. The more time he spent with the First Blood Star probably would give him more time to think about an opportunity to strike.

Before my regression, Cho Sung-won was assassinated before he could do much, so I didn’t think much about it now.

“If you are a true warrior, it would be the most honorable thing to fight in the front lines. This is what I want to say.”

He ended the speech with that.

The shortest yet the most impressive.

I spotted the eyes of 2 other candidates that trembled at his speech, probably because it stirred a desire to go to war in them.

‘Just like that.’

If my memory was correct, three candidates actually chose to serve under the First Blood Star. Thinking about it now, they must have felt attracted to this speech.

-It is too strong.

Well, whatever happened now, I had to go out.

When Na Shin-hyung was done, the other commanders looked at me. Finally, it’s my turn!

I moved to the front and walked to the candidates. In my head, I could hear Hae Ack-chun.

[You cannot miss a single one. Do well.]

Seeing as his voice was heavy, he seemed aware of the effect Na Shim-hyung’s speech had, and he looked concerned.

[Teacher. Can I ask for something?]

[What?]

I made the request, causing the man to frown before he nodded in agreement.

-Wouldn’t it be counterproductive?

Short Sword asked worriedly. I’m not even sure if it would work either.

Still, the only person they would look at was me when I was speaking, so why not use that to my advantage?

-What will you do?

‘I have to go with a strategy that hasn’t been used before.’

Looking at the faces of the candidates, they looked like they were already sure about which group to join. To tempt them away will not be an easy feat.

I needed to bring something unique to sway them. I licked my lips.

“Nice to meet you. I am a candidate who came in at the same time as you, Seolhwi, who recently got the position of leader.”

When I said I came in at the same time as them, they looked around with interest. This seemed to have a better effect than showing things off.

I was grabbing their attention.

“As you all know, I am the disciple of the elder called the Ghastly Monster, Hae Ack-chun. In a way, I can say that I am luckier than you.”

Instead, the candidates in the back reacted more to it.

It was jealousy and envy. I continued my speech to do what I had to do.

“I am lucky. Since we are all candidates here, I don’t think anyone understands your heart as much as I did.”

If I talked for too long, they would lose interest, so I took a short pause, looked at all 6 of them, and continued.

“As commander Na Shim-hyung said, it is meaningless to speak about my teacher.”

Actually, there was nothing I could say about him. From what I know, his deeds were already known around here. As I started to speak again, 2 people began to focus on me.

“No. Rather, I think it has been proven.”

“Proven?”

Even Hae Ack-chun frowned. He didn’t like how I didn’t speak like the others. Ignoring that, I continued to talk.

“Look at those other two who came in at the same time as you.”

Upon hearing my words, everyone looked at the twins. As they were unaware of what I had planned, Song Jwa-baek clearly looked shocked.

“Even they became leaders in one year’s time.”

Whisper!

The kids began speaking in whispers as soon as my words were heard.

-Looks good.

Right. Show clear objectives. There was clear proof that they could become first-rate warriors within one year. However, one of the kids who stood in the back spoke clearly enough for the 6 candidates to hear.

“That was because the elder taught them himself.”

He must have felt a sense of crisis and tried to interfere, but it didn’t matter as Hae Ack-chun glared at him.

“Well. I think it was because we are the disciples. But there is one thing which is important that I have yet to say.”

“…?”

Everyone was attentive to me.

“That is because it was just the four of us, me, the twins, and our teacher.”

At that, the six looked puzzled. I could even hear a snort. Right. Perhaps it came out like I was proud of the close-knit group. Not giving a care to the reaction, I continue.

“Right now, we start with a few, but soon many members will come under the teacher. At that time, you can become part of a core group in founding a new power.”

‘…!?’

The ridicule stopped. Everyone understood what I was saying.

Their eyes showed obvious shock as they wondered if the 6 candidates were tilting towards me.

And now is the time to throw out the bait.

“The other groups are good, but wherever you go, you will, of course, start at the bottom.”

I heard loud breathing. Everyone wanted to intervene, but no one could as Hae Ack-chun would kill them.

“That fact can not be denied. I want to ask you this instead. Will you start as the tail of the dragon or the head of the dragon?”

-Kuk!

Short Sword groaned

I said it, but it felt like a decent statement.

The candidates, who had been looking at the other commanders now, couldn’t take their eyes off me.

As I sent him a signal, Hae Ack-chun and I said together,

“As you can see, we have a very small number of people in our group, so it is like a family.”

At those words, the candidates glanced over. Standing there, Hae Ack-chun was smiling with the twins, and the twins were doing their best, smiling hard. It was awkward, but it was fine.

Short Sword groaned.

-You scammers! It is nothing like a family!

Just unsee that.

Then do I tell them it was going to be hell that they were walking into?

Now that all the speeches by the commanders and I were completed, it was time for the candidates to choose. I wondered if my speech would have a lasting effect, though it was clear the other commanders did not have good feelings for me now.

What can I even do even if you look at me like that?

If I don’t bring them all, I die!

Gu Sang-woong exclaimed.

“Now. If the candidates have decided, choose the place you will go to. Trainee Lee Gyu.”

“Yes!”

Lee Gyu got up from his seat and walked to the front.

All the commanders stood in a line, all with anticipation in their eyes. It was the same as everyone watching.

Puk!

Lee Gyu walked to the middle and headed to the left. The commanders on the right sighed in disappointment.

A smile crept onto the ones on the left as Lee Gyu walked to their side.

And with each step, more faces were turning dark.

Lee Gyu walked up to Na Shim-hyung and hesitated. I could see the man’s lips rising upwards.

-I don’t think it worked.

Short Sword said it sadly but Lee Gyu suddenly stepped further left. He knelt down on one knee when he reached me, bowed, and shouted.

“Leader So. I would like to receive a position under the Elder!”

Na Shim-hyung’s lips descended as slowly as they had risen.

“Kuahahahah! Good!”

Hae Ack-chun laughed out loud at this. A good start.

I sighed in relief. How mad would that crazy old man be if I had lost the first candidate to another commander?

When the first candidate was done, our commander called for the second.

“Candidate Ha Mun-chan!”

“Yes!”

Ha Mun-chan got up and stepped to the front quickly before stopping suddenly.

Getting a strange feeling, I glanced to the side, and the lips of a few commanders were trembling,

-He’s in a hurry!

It seemed like they were all anxious. Ha Mun-chan, who stopped, moved again before stopping in front of me.

“Leader So. I also want to receive a position under the Elder!”

Hae Ack-chun smiled at this.

“I like him! Hahaha!”

I, on the other hand, was stunned. I delivered the speech, but people’s feelings were unknown variables, yet two of them came to me from the start.

Something felt strange to me

Clench!

I could hear the sound of teeth grinding beside me. I felt a bit sad for them. Then the commander called for the third.

“Candidate Cho Sung-won!”

Now everyone was focused on this child. Although called third, everyone wanted him in their own faction,

-But doesn’t he have a purpose?

Short Sword was right.

The other commanders didn’t know he was a spy with a purpose.

Prrr!

Everyone clenched their hands. Even Na Shim-hyung, next to me, was doing the same.

They all wanted to get this man to try for a reversal.

[He cannot be missed!]

Hae Ack-chun yelled in my head. He said he liked this guy a lot during the test and seemed eager to have him.

‘Hmm.’

I just stared at him.

What would his choice be?

He took a step, and everyone focused on him.

Soon the faces of commanders looked disappointed. He headed for one person alone, and it was Na Shim-hyung.

-He is faithful to the purpose.

There is no way a spy would fall for my words. As he approached the Na Shim-hyung, the commander’s eyes were smiling like he was sure of the outcome.

Three more steps, and it will be confirmed. Then I sent a message to Cho Sung-won.

[Hey! Beggar]

Flinch!

At that moment, his steps, which were moving fluidly, stopped, and he looked at me with bewildered eyes.

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