Mount Hua hadn’t changed much. The wind blowing into it was the same; the old buildings were the same.
What changed wasn’t Mount Hua but the people who lived there.
Jo Gul took off his uniform. The sweat was pouring down from the uniform as he threw it off. After morning training, his entire body was steeped in sweat, and he couldn’t stay without changing clothes.
“Man, today’s training was really hard.”
“Really, it’s so much to do right at dawn….”
As he heard that, Jo Gul smiled bitterly. The people around him were also hoping to get a clean bath. Together, they washed their bodies and sweaty clothes in the ice-cold stream.
Jo Gul, who put on a new uniform, packed his laundry and said.
“Let’s get going.”
The others picked up their robes and started going up. Looking at the people walking ahead, Jo Gul had no choice but to think about it.
‘A lot has changed.’
In the past, such a sight couldn’t be dreamed of. Although the other third-class disciples were training, they weren’t passionate about martial arts. Even Yoon Jong and Jo Gul were the same.
But now, everyone was voluntarily coming out for practice at dawn. There was no end to their complaints, but they never rebelled against it.
What would one call this scene?
‘It feels like a martial arts sect.’
Jo Gul smiled bitterly. Looking at the disciples walking up, they all looked like martial artists disciples. Did that mean that Mount Hua was nothing until now?
“Why are you smiling like that?”
At the voice next to him, Jo Gul turned his head and looked at great Sahyung Yoon Jong.
“Ah, Sahyung… it is a bit embarrassing to say, but I was thinking about how everyone seems so much like true martial artists now.”
“Is that so?”
“It’s a bit of a strange thought, though.”
“No. I was thinking the same.”
Jo Gul finally laughed out loud.
Not long ago, Jo Gul had never imagined that he would train to this extent on Mount Hua. He did everything instructed in his dorm, but it was half-heartedly done so he could finish and go back to resting.
Jo Gul’s goal was to pass the time and then descend and return home. No, it was everyone’s goal in Mount Hua.
Could he genuinely feel passionate about this?
Lately, it felt like something had changed. Not only him, but the eyes of the other disciples had changed too.
‘It has to be because of him.’
Jo Gul thought of Chung Myung’s weird behavior. Chung Myung was changing Mount Hua. It was clearly a small wind that most people couldn’t even feel, but it was bound to turn into a strong wind or a typhoon that would shake Mount Hua.
The result of these changes will be evident in the future.
Walking up the mountain, Jo Gul, who reached Mount Hua, straightened his shoulders and touched his chest. A faint feeling of pride began to swell inside his chest.
But then, the pride he felt flew away into the open sky.
“Hey! You shouldn’t touch that!”
“Move, move, move! We’re going to push all the materials inside and then start working! Are you deaf or something!?”
“You! If you fall there, you won’t get any pay for a month! If just the climb up here is tough, then what are you worth!?”
Jo Gul blankly stared at the figures in front of Mount Hua.
His gaze shifted from left to right.
‘What? Who are those people?’
People he had never met were walking up. Everyone had tools and materials which he had never seen before.
“You! No, not there! This way!”
It was comforting to see someone he recognized in the group of strangers. Un Am was standing among the crowd giving instructions.
Yoon Jong, who received Jo Gul’s gaze, walked towards Un Am with a blank expression.
“Huh? Yoon Jong?”
“What is all this?”
Un Am smiled brightly. He usually wasn’t the kind to explain such things, even to Yoon Jong, the eldest of the third-class disciples, but now Un Am was in a good mood.
“Yes. You know that many of our buildings are a bit old, right?”
Not old; ancient would be the right word.
Even Mount Hua’s nameplate on the front gate was crumbling, and if a strong wind blew, it seemed many buildings could collapse. At least, the place where the disciples stayed and trained was constantly repaired and maintained. But the other buildings were left without management due to a lack of manpower.
“With our current opportunity, we plan on repairing the area. We’ll re-establish the place.”
“Don’t just keep looking; go and help carry the materials. It seems like all the workers are having difficulty bringing the materials up here. Most of the wood can be acquired by cutting trees nearby, but it seems they have some wood that they can’t find nearby.
“Move fast! Move already! Hurry!”
Looking at Un Am shouting with a smile, Jo Gul had a blank expression. Maybe the change was faster than he expected.
“What is going on?”
Jo Gul looked at the dining table in shock.
His hunger-soaked stomach was rumbling after carrying the materials up, but looking at the food on the table, he was more flustered than hungry.
“What is all this?”
“… am I dreaming?”
“No matter how I try to look at it, isn’t this ‘meat’?”
The other sahyungs wore the same skeptical expression. All eyes in the hall were fixed on the table. Something extraordinary was on the table.
There was meat being served.
“They really served us meat?”
“To kill a living being, cook, and serve it to us, sacred Martial artists! What a windfall!”
“Something must be wrong!”
Jo Gul smiled grandly.
In Mount Hua, there was no prohibition on the consumption of meat. Mount Hua did have a rule that condemned eating meat in the long past, but it had changed as Mount Hua developed. Vegetarianism was recommended, but meat wasn’t prohibited.
But allowing them to eat meat and actively putting meat on the table were two different things. It had been years since the disciples entered Mount Hua, and it was their first time seeing meat on the table.
“Can I eat this?”
“They put it on the table so that it would be eaten.”
Everyone looked at Yoon Jong. If that Sasuks were not there, the decision-maker would be the great Sahyung, Yoon Jong.
Yoon Jong smiled and said,
“Let’s eat. The food is getting cold.”
Jo Gul sat down at a loss for words and felt a piercing gaze. All the sahyungs were looking at Jo Gul… no, to be precise, they were looking at Yoon Jong, who was next to Jo Gul, with fiery eyes.
Yoon Jong, who understood it, grabbed his chopsticks and picked up a piece of meat. And the moment he put it in his mouth.
Chopsticks came flying into the meat bowl from all directions!
Some were directly throwing it into their mouths too. When Jo Gul saw that, it seemed so absurd that he wanted to scream, but then he didn’t. Jo Gul’s chopsticks also flew like lightning.
‘If I am late, I won’t get any!’
‘Out of the way! My meat!’
Seeing the fragments of meat scattered everywhere, Yoon Jong closed his eyes.
The Mount Hua he knew was becoming strange.
“Well, the longer you live, the more changes you’ll experience.”
“They started construction all of a sudden, and now meat is being served for our meals. We even got two new uniforms, right?”
Yoon Jong narrowed his eyes as if thinking about something. Seeing that, Jo Gul asked.
“What are you thinking?”
“I think that money is quite good.”
Jo Gul laughed.
Even if others didn’t hear it, it felt weird hearing such things from Yoon Jong.
“No matter how much money we have, I didn’t expect the seniors to change so quickly.”
“Did you think they would purposefully keep their disciples poor? They just couldn’t help it in the past.”
It wasn’t that meat was prohibited; it was because meat was expensive.
“It was something that couldn’t be done because of the lack of money, so they are doing it now that they have money. But isn’t it weird?”
Jo Gul nodded his head.
“… didn’t you see sasuk Un Am who couldn’t hide the smile on his lips?”
They all saw it.
Jo Gul could swear that it was his first time seeing Un Am smile so brightly. Who could have even imagined that Un Am could smile like that?
What was certain was that Mount Hua had clearly entered a path of change.
“What do you think will happen now?’
It was a broad question, but Yoon Jong understood Jo Gul’s question.
“You should know it too, right? Mount Hua is changing.”
“So, we need to be prepared.”
“It isn’t just about money. You saw it too. In that chest.”
“Yes. There were books.”
The scene where the sect leader yelled the name of some martial arts and almost fainted.
“Mount Hua is changing. We won’t be able to avoid the change. So, we need to strengthen ourselves. Then, won’t we be able to see something different from what we originally expected?”
Jo Gul nodded his head.
‘Is all of this because of him?’
Jo Gul couldn’t shake the suspicion that Chung Myung’s manipulation was what caused this whole situation. That obviously bad acting in front of the chest, Jo Gul shook his head.
“What did he do?”
“Can we know?”
Even though no names were mentioned, they both knew who he referred to.
“What’s certain is that there’s no way to predict that jerk’s actions ahead of time. We need to remain alert. If we approach this with clumsy determination, we might end up being swept away in the storm he creates.”
“Don’t worry, sahyung! I’m Jo Gul.”
Yoon Jong smiled and headed back to the dorm. A slightly different thought lingered on Jo Gul’s mind.
‘No way to predict.’
Jo Gul had a different idea. Maybe Chung Myung wasn’t someone that only disciples, but even the sasuks and sect leader couldn’t handle.
“By the way.”
“Where is he? I haven’t seen him since this morning.”
“Didn’t you hear? The sect leader was looking for him today. He’s probably at the sect leader’s place.”
“Sect leader? Why was the sect leader looking for him?”
“How could I know?”
As Yoon Jong shrugged his shoulders, Jo Gul sighed.
‘I really can’t understand him.’
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