“The second-class disciples are coming back.”
Hyung Jong sighed heavily.
It was good to hear that the children who left for closed room training were returning, but it was unpleasant to think about what would happen soon afterward.
“How far away are they?”
“Some seem to have already reached Hua-Um village, and some are yet to arrive.”
Hyun Jong raised his head and looked at Un Am.
“Why was the conference being held so soon? Wasn’t it originally scheduled to be held in half a year?”
“The Southern Edge Sect sent us a letter requesting it. This time they wanted to hold it earlier.”
“Can’t we ask them to postpone it?”
“That’ll be difficult.”
Un Am sighed.
“Mount Hua is in high spirits right now. Everything is going well, and we can live without worrying about food or our stability. Everyone is smiling brightly. Compared to a few months ago, it’s a remarkable change.”
Hyun Jong agreed.
The most significant difference was that Mount Hua was full of energy now.
Those who once lived without knowing what tomorrow would bring finally saw the faintest glimmer of hope. The children’s smiling faces brought warmth to the hearts of the sect leader and other elders.
“But, we are still a martial arts sect.”
“We did recently rediscover some of our lost martial arts from the books that were found, but it isn’t yet the time to see results.”
Hyun Jong nodded without saying anything. What Un Am was saying was correct.
Mount Hua could overwhelm the Southern Edge Sect in the past, but now Mount Hua wasn’t great. Only recently did they find their lost martial arts and gain new hope.
‘That too, just a small glimmer of hope.’
They had a long way to go.
Now, they were able to survive and solve their financial woes. However, to regain their former fame and glory, they would need to regain their former martial might.
But could martial arts be learned overnight?
“If the conference ends in the same result as before, I’m worried that the disciples will lose their newfound hope and turn into defeatists with no motivation.”
“… yes. Sect leader.”
“Do you think I don’t know that?”
Hyun Jong shook his head and continued.
“Would avoiding it or pushing it away make any difference? If we avoid it, will it quell the disciples’ doubts and produce positive results? This would have to happen one way or the other. If I ask to postpone it, then wouldn’t the disciples believe that their own sect leader lacks faith in them?”
Un Am bowed his head.
“There is no shame in losing. If you lose despite your best efforts, it is unavoidable. They will simply have to work harder next time. But delaying the conference to avoid a loss is something we should never do.”
“I was short-sighted, sect leader.”
“I fully understand your concern. But… it would be difficult to postpone this conference for many reasons.”
Un Am sighed.
‘I ended up saying something useless and disturbed the sect leader’s mind.’
In such times, Un Am always wanted to be of help to the sect leader.
“Really, wouldn’t it be nice if the second-class disciples can achieve good results?”
Both Un Am and Hyun Jong knew that wasn’t an easy task.
The Southern Edge Sect was once under their feet, but now the gap between the two sects is unimaginably wide. The weight of being second-class disciples from the Southern Edge Sect compared to those of Mount Hua was as different as a large boulder compared to a feather.
The disciples did their best during closed-door training but winning would be difficult.
‘At least, it would be nice if they don’t fall too easily.’
Hyun Jong’s heavy heart sank.
“These children are returning after a long period of hard work. Make sure to prepare some good food and alcohol.”
“It’ll be okay for the children to have one day of rest after all their training. Shouldn’t those children also get to experience how Mount Hua’s circumstances have changed?”
“That is true. I will prepare them without fail.”
“I will leave then.”
Un Am got up and was ready to leave.
As Un Am left the room, Hyun Jong quietly got up and opened the window. Looking out, he sighed.
‘The Southern Edge sect.’
It was like a thorn was stuck in his heart. He took a breath and hoped that thorn would be cut off before it pierced in further.
“It is difficult. Difficult.”
The Winter was long, and Mount Hua’s spring still seemed far away.
“We can win?”
Yoon Jong and Jo Gul gathered in Chung Myung’s room.
If someone else had said something like this, they would have ignored it, but Chung Myung’s words held a different weight to them.
Both Yoon Jong and Jo Gul knew. Chung Myung would never speak in vain. No matter how absurd it was, he accomplished the things he said he would.
Chung Myung clicked his tongue, looked at the two, and answered.
“Huh? Even if we are this strong?”
“Sahyungs have gotten stronger.”
Chung Myung raised his thumb and index with a minuscule gap between them and said,
“About this much?”
“Ah. Joking. It isn’t that much.”
“I knew it!”
Chung Myung doubled the size of the small gap from before.
“About this much.”
Jo Gul’s face, which turned red, unable to hold it, yelled.
“Hey! We’ve been pushing ourselves to the verge of death to change so much. Does it make sense to say we only grew that much!? I can feel it in my body!”
“It’s only been a few months since you all started, and you were already on the verge of death?”
“No, but we are definitely stronger than before….”
“Even if an acorn grew three times in size, would it compare to a full-grown tree?”
Chung Myung made an honest evaluation.
The growth of the third-class disciples was terrifying. Growing at this rate was something Chung Myung never expected. They were forced into this training and still managed to achieve great results. Imagine what kind of growth they would have if they trained whole-heartedly!
‘They aren’t there yet.’
Compared to the third-class disciples of the past, these guys had a long way to go. But the Southern Edge Sect was the same as before.
Mount Hua may have lorded over the Southern Edge Sect in the past, but their skills had waned compared to their days of glory. On the other hand, the Southern Edge Sect hadn’t changed. Even if their abilities were similar to the past, it was still too much for Mount Hua. Even defeating a third-class disciple would prove problematic in the coming conference.
‘But maybe these two?’
As for Jo Gul, it seemed like he would have a chance to win. Yoon Jong needs to be a bit more refined.
Only two of the third-class disciples. Still, this was good.
“Then, how do we win?”
“It will be fine.”
Yoon Jong frowned.
“The conference will begin in just a few days. If we couldn’t win after months of training, what could we possibly do to catch up before they get here?”
“Which is why I asked.”
“… asked what?”
Chung Myung chuckled.
“If you are prepared to die.”
“Did you hear what you said?”
“Does that matter? What’s important is if you are prepared.”
The moment Jo Gul was about to say something, Yoon Jong interrupted him and said,
“I am resolute.”
Jo Gul raised his voice, but Yoon Jong didn’t even look in his direction.
“I don’t know about the other Sahyungs, but I am ready. I am sure most of the others are willing as well.”
“Sahyung, do you know what you’re saying…?”
Yoon Jong seemed determined.
“It doesn’t matter. If I die right now, at least I’ll never have to see that situation again. I can still see those disgusting bastards standing over us and laughing in my dreams.”
“… that’s true.”
These two experienced the tragedy of the conference two years ago. It wasn’t simply a defeat but a disastrous experience.
How could they put their feelings into words?
“If I could return that humiliation, I would be willing to risk death. It isn’t something that I want to live with. I’d rather turn around and go down the mountain than go through that again.”
Jo Gul nodded his head.
Yoon Jong’s words roused Jo Gul’s memories of their previous humiliation. He also felt that he would do anything to avoid repeating that experience.
“Well, yes. Then I’ll stand with you, Sahyung.”
“I believe you.”
Chung Myung smiled.
However, Jo Gul felt uncomfortable.
“But Chung Myung.”
“How will we do it?”
“Ah, it is nothing. I am just going to change the way that we practice.”
Chung Myung replied.
“What you’ve been learning, you should be able to apply it. I will show you how to use your body.”
Jo Gul’s eyes shook slightly.
“Uh… how to use it?”
Chung Myung shrugged his shoulders.
“You know that all martial arts are learned with the body. Get ready. We’ll start right away this evening.”
The two disciples felt a hunch that something was going wrong.
Late at night.
The third-class disciples gathered in the training hall.
“No, do we really have to gather at night like this?”
Jo Gul pouted and grumbled.
Now, there were no elders unaware that the third-class disciples trained at dawn.
At first, some expressed their concerns about the practice, and some were skeptical. Now that it had been ongoing for months, though, everyone just accepted it.
Un Geom even recognized the effect and informed the other elders to prevent interference.
They could practice freely in the morning, but now Chung Myung even wants to train at night?
“What the hell is he trying to do, Sahyung?”
“I don’t know.”
Yoon Jong shrugged.
Everyone complained, but not a single person walked away.
Everyone understood. Although Chung Myung’s training was radical, it was the most effective.
If Chung Myung said he would make them stronger, then he would do that.
“Is everyone here?”
At that moment, Chung Myung approached the hall.
The third-class disciples looked at him with a mixture of excitement and anxiousness.
They were sure that something crazy would come at them again, but they knew that it would lead to further growth if they could persevere.
The third-class disciples had all come to trust Chung Myung.
“Chung Myung. But this time, the training is….”
It was then.
Chung Myung unsheathed the sword at his waist.
A real sword?
It looked like a real sword.
Even if an ordinary person was holding a real sword, that was enough to make one feel frightened.
However, seeing a crazy younger disciple with a sword gave their pounding hearts a sinking feeling.
Chung Mung asked calmly and slowly approached them with the real sword.
“It is nothing much. Just that…”
His lips twisted into a smile.
“All you have to do is die once. It isn’t much, right?”
… what!? That crazy bastard!
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