Baek Cheon stared in stupefaction while Hyun Young looked at him with dissatisfaction.
‘Did I say something wrong?’
Baek Cheon rushed to clarify and repair this situation.
“It’s wrong for a third-class disciple to go down to Hua-Um village and drink alcohol. Although the child was given the authority, by the sect leader, to descend at will, was he given permission to drink alcohol too? I don’t think he understands what he did.”
Hyun Young’s face twisted again.
‘He seems to have understood it clearly this time.’
“You’re someone who doesn’t understand words.”
Hyun Young spoke without even trying to hide his anger.
“Did you set the rules for Mount Hua?”
“H-How could I?”
“Then was there any rule in Mount Hua that prohibits one from drinking when they’re outside the sect?”
Baek Cheon couldn’t bring himself to answer that question.
No, there was no such rule.
After all, what kind of sect would create a rule that forbids drinking?
But a Taoist should have a sense of propriety!
Hyun Young looked at Baek Cheon.
“What about it?”
“What’s wrong with having a couple drinks?”
Why did it seem like Hyun Young’s face kept growing redder and angrier?
That wasn’t all.
Eventually, Hyun Young’s face turned beet red as he pointed at Baek Cheon.
“There are so many bastards who can’t even pay for what they eat here! But the guy who feeds you, goes out and has some alcohol with his own money!? Huh? What do you think you are!? Do you think you can abuse your privilege as sasuk to torment him!?”
“You’re eating meat with the money he earned! Now, he goes down and wants to have a drink with the money he saved up! But you can’t stand it, so you come to me to snitch on him!?”
Baek Cheon floundered with a stiff face.
It was difficult to understand; why was Hyun Young cursing at him? Was this really just for saying that he saw a third-class disciple drinking?
Is this really elder Hyun Young? Supposedly, he was meant to join the North Sea Ice Palace but ended up in Mount Hua, unable to fully demonstrate his skills. However, he was always known to be calm and cold; is this really the same man?
Seeing Hyung Young, wide-eyed and yelling, it was hard to tell if this was a dream or not.
“If you’re really so bothered by it, go down to Hua-Um and make some money… but no! You sit around gaining a reputation just for being a disciple and use your privilege as sasuk to bully him! Swinging swords and meditating all day isn’t going to bring any money or food to the table! Your mind! Use your mind and do something worthwhile! Should I open that head of yours and make something useful out of you!? What did you people even do to earn the meat on the tabl—”
At that moment, someone violently slammed the door and entered.
“Hahaha! Here you are!”
A very strangely smiling face appeared as Hyun Sang covered the mouth of Hyun Young from behind.
“Eup! Eup! Eup!… let go of… eup!”
“Haha. Let’s go outside for a while. To a place away from the kids. Ah, stay still!”
The sound of the door closing left the dining hall with a strange silence. No one could open their mouths.
In that awkward silence, there was only one sound they could hear, the sound of something being eaten.
Baek Cheon mumbled.
“Just what happened here?”
It was a statement that represented the feelings of all the second-class disciples.
“Isn’t it too strange? Sahyung?”
Despite the question being directed at him, Baek Cheon just silently set down the teacup in his hand. It was an old teacup that he had been using for a long time. Before he went into closed-door training, he thought that this cup had its own charm. But looking at it now, it seemed more pathetic than elegant.
After all, this was the true state of Mount Hua.
Old furniture, old buildings, and old people.
The only hope of the worn-out sect were the disciples, and among them, their greatest hope was Baek Cheon.
However, Baek Cheon returned after a year away, and now his ‘hope’ seemed irrelevant to them.
“It’s strange that new buildings were suddenly built, and it’s strange that areas of the sect which were neglected for over a decade are repaired, no… I mean, that’s a good thing. We couldn’t do any of it before because the sect didn’t have the funds. But!”
Baek Sang spoke in a strong tone, unable to hold back his anger.
“Isn’t the behavior of the elders too strange? We came back from such a long and arduous training, but the sect leader didn’t say much.”
“Didn’t the sect leader praise you enough for your effort?”
“Still, it’s been a year since we’ve been away….”
“He is a man who is eager for change.”
Baek Sang bowed his head slightly. Thinking about it, the sect leader really didn’t say much. But it didn’t make sense to call him out like that.
“Sect leader could be fine, but wasn’t Elder Hyun Young or even Un Geom Sasuk acting the same?”
Baek Cheon didn’t respond. No matter what anyone said, it was truly bizarre. It wasn’t like they were dissatisfied with their elders, but their treatment was strange.
“Didn’t you feel it? The elders were all taking that child’s side.”
“I am not that ignorant.”
How could he not understand when he was cursed and yelled at, right to his face?
“Sahyung. That kid, he is quite cocky, isn’t he?”
“Even if the elders take his side, shouldn’t he at least bow his head when we, his direct seniors, come back? But that one….”
Baek Sang went silent after that.
If only that child had sneered or laughed at them, they could have called him out properly, but they couldn’t do anything about his indifference.
Baek Cheon narrowed his eyes.
“And I don’t understand why Yu Samae is so interested in him. Why, just why….”
A small ripple occurred in Baek Cheon’s teacup as his hand lightly trembled.
“It could be that Yu Samae had some reason.”
“But she barely speaks with us. I’ve never seen her talk so actively with anyone until now, and it isn’t like we’ve only spent one or two days with her, right?”
“Leaving us aside, at least Sahyung—”
“Don’t get too angry.”
Baek Sang bowed his head and glanced at Baek Cheon’s eyes.
Baek Cheon tried to manage his expression, but it was inevitable that he would show a bit of how uncomfortable he felt. His eyes kept twitching, and he struggled to hold back a frown.
‘I lost to that young boy.’
Not even a full saint or an elder?
The difference of level between disciples within sects like Mount Hua is akin to heaven and earth. Just like how the Baek disciples couldn’t speak against the Un disciples, Chung Myung also shouldn’t be able to speak against them.
Baek Cheon bit his lip.
At that moment, Baek Sang, who bowed, continued.
“I apologize. It’s just unfair. We returned after such difficult training, but the elders didn’t recognize our efforts; and that snake-like bastard, who appeared out of nowhere, is taking over the sect by playing cute with the elders, right?”
“The time where we could play cute with the elders has already passed.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.”
He knew. He knew it too well.
Baek Cheon let out a low sigh.
‘It’s a feeling of subtly being taken over.’
Were they away for too long?
In the past, as soon as they returned, the adults would have greeted them warmly and then come to visit Baek Cheon later. Now, they barely showed interest in him.
Instead, they were all looking for Chung Myung.
Baek Cheon was unhappy over the sudden change in status.
He didn’t know what Chung Myung did to have such great expectations from the elders and receive their protection, but Mount Hua was his sect.
Baek Cheon was the only one who received the expectations of Mount Hua’s elders, and he had to be the guiding light that would return the sect to brilliance.
“Are you going to leave him like this?”
“What more can we do?”
“… shouldn’t we at least beat it into him or discipline him? If we leave it as it is, Mount Hua will be a mess. Sahyung should establish order and set him right.”
Baek Cheon smiled bitterly.
He didn’t like when his juniors talked back to him, but he wasn’t the kind to beat sense into others.
“Calm down for now.”
Baek Sang raised his voice which made Baek Cheon frown. Seeing that, Baek Sang sighed and lowered his eyes.
Seeing that reaction, Baek Cheon nodded with a satisfied face.
“It’s not that I don’t want to.”
“There are things we need to know first.”
Baek Cheon shook his head and set the teacup down.
“There is a proper order we must follow. Don’t you think it’s necessary to know why the elders are all fawning over that child?”
“Ah, right. We should do that.”
As soon as Baek Cheon finished, someone knocked on the door.
With the sound of the door opening, the person who entered bowed.
“Disciple Yoon Jong is here.”
Baek Cheon pointed ahead of him.
Yoon Jong cautiously sat down. He couldn’t be sure if he should sit or not despite the offer.
Baek Cheon liked Yoon Jong’s attitude.
‘This is how things should be.’
Not behaving like that other bastard.
Baek Cheon, who was relaxed, spoke in a soft voice.
“While I was away, you must have had a hard time trying to serve the elders and handle the disciples.”
“I just did what I was supposed to do as a disciple of Mount Hua.”
“Yes, you’re right. That is a natural action. But…”
Baek Cheon paused for a moment, which made Yoon Jong lift his head to examine his expression, and then the expected words followed.
“It seems like strange things are happening in Mount Hua right now.”
“… are you talking about Chung Myung?”
Baek Cheon didn’t respond, but Yoon Jong knew what he aimed for.
“It is my fault for not leading that sajae properly. If you are angry, please punish me, sasuk.”
“No, it’s not something you could handle. What I am saying is…”
Baek Cheon smiled.
“Tell me all of what happened while I was away. I’ll listen to your story and decide what to do next.”
Yoon Jong sighed deeply.
‘It’s natural for me to explain this to Sasuk, but it feels like I’m betraying Chung Myung.’
Before coming here, Yoon Jong had already told Chung Myung. He asked if he could tell everything to the sasuk who called him. And Chung Myung’s answer was simple.
It would have been nice if he had given some instructions.
Yoon Jong glanced at Baek Cheon for a moment and then spoke.
“First, I think I should begin from the time Chung Myung entered Mount Hua.”
As Yoon Jong began to slowly unravel his story, the disciples listened to him with bated breath.
And as the story continued, Baek Cheon’s face gradually distorted more and more.
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