“Yes. Sect leader.”
Un Geom reached out and took a teacup.
Plum tea, made by drying plum petals, is one of the things that Hyun Jong is most proud of. Bringing that tea out meant there was quite a lot to talk about today.
“How is it?”
Before Un Geom answered, he glanced at Un Am. He was checking whether it was fine to speak in the presence of others. Hyun Jong, who took the tea, recognized this and said.
“It is fine.”
Un Geom opened his mouth.
“As the sect leader said, I didn’t intervene. And…”
“There seems to be a bit of a problem.”
Hyun Jong nodded at it.
“The atmosphere would have turned sour if Hyun Young sasuk hadn’t arrived when he did. As the sect leader said, there are subtle sparks flowing between the second and third-class disciples.”
Hyun Jong sighed.
This happened because of their decision.
‘I was in a hurry.’
The difference between the Un disciples and the Baek disciples was too great, and the difference between the Baek and the Chung disciples was too close. As a result, the youngest of the Baek disciples, Yu Yiseol, was almost the same age as Yoon Jong, the oldest of the Chung disciples.
Given that it was customary to have a few years difference between any group of disciples, it was apparent that this problem would explode at some point.
‘It was inevitable.’
When they received the third-class disciples, Mount Hua couldn’t actually afford to accept any new disciples. At that time, the sect’s finances were dwindling to a dangerous low. It had grown so severe that new students were barred from joining.
Then, someone suggested the idea of getting support from the disciples’ families in return for allowing their children to join the sect. That was the beginning of the problem.
With Mount Hua desperately struggling to hold together their crumbling foundations, it was necessary to gather funds by any means available to them.
However, even if they had fallen from grace, Mount Hua was still a prestigious sect. They tried to be selective of who they accepted, but for the sake of the disciples who would grow up within the sect, they took the disciples of families who offered support without question.
As a result, Chung disciples are somewhat lacking in martial arts talent.
“In the past, the Chung disciples wouldn’t have dared to act against the Baek disciples. But aren’t the Chung disciples now different from what they were?”
Did they have a central figure? Didn’t that figure change?
A seemingly meaningless change began to ripple out and influence much more than expected. A single individual’s existence was affecting not only their group but also the relations between other groups.
With Yoon Jong and Jo Gul as the center of the Chung disciples, they barely passed as third-class disciples of Mount Hua. However, now the third-class disciples were gathered around Chung Myung, who isn’t satisfied with merely passing but wants excellent results.
People who are twenty years apart don’t see each other as competition, but those who are ten years apart, or even less, have no choice but to be conscious of each other.
“It’s my fault.”
As Un Geom bowed his head, Hyun Jong firmly shook his head.
“It isn’t your fault.”
“I was the one who insisted that you be the head of the White Plum Blossom Boarding Hall. Didn’t everyone agree at the time? In the first place, this is something we all predicted when we started receiving the third-class disciples ahead of schedule.”
These words weren’t just meant to comfort Un Geom.
Mount Hua benefited a lot after creating the White Plum Blossom Dorms. But where there is something to gain, there is something to lose.
In the past, no junior would dare to skip the formalities with their seniors, regardless of the age difference.
However, the third-class disciples never received anything from the second-class disciples. They were taught by Un Geom and trained together with their comrades. Naturally, the distance between the two groups was bound to widen.
That was the biggest weakness of the White Plum Blossom Boarding Hall.
Un Geom glanced at Hyun Jong and asked.
“Sect leader. What do you believe we should do?”
Hyun Jong savored the plum tea without saying a word. It felt calming to him, smelling the subtle scent wafting through the air.
“What can we do?”
“But leaving it like this….”
“People are always like that. Would their hearts be satisfied if we intervene and forcefully lead the situation? Sometimes, it isn’t wrong to let the disciples clash with each other and learn from their disagreements.”
“Sect leader, this is about our disciples.”
“If you put your mind to it, you could even change the direction of a river. But if you force the stream to turn, even if it seems plausible at first, there will be problems that arise farther down the flow.”
Hyun Jong said with a smile.
“Yes, Sect Leader.”
“Let’s trust our children.”
Un Geom looked at Hyun Jong with a complicated expression. The expression said he had doubts about this.
At that time, Hyun Jong spoke about a different topic than Un Geom expected.
“Baek Cheon isn’t that kind of problem child.”
“Don’t you think so too?”
Un Geom’s face went stiff.
‘No, it isn’t him, sect leader!’
Baek Cheon isn’t the problem. Sect leader! The problem is Chung Myung!
Only then did Un Geom realize that there was a huge gap in the way that the other elders saw Chung Myung compared to him.
The head of the White Plum Blossom dorms, Un Geom, saw Chung Myung up close as he controlled the third-class disciples. However, Hyun Jong and other elders only saw him as an adorable little puppy that brought blessings to Mount Hua!
“Isn’t Baek Cheon a careful and upright child? Even if his pride gets damaged and he loses himself to a moment of anger, he isn’t the sort of person to harm a child because of it.”
Who will hurt whom?
Baek Cheon will hurt Chung Myung?
‘This is crazy.’
Somehow, the sect leader was too naïve!
However, explaining it seemed impossible. No, even if he could explain, the sect leader wouldn’t believe it.
In fact, Un Geom doesn’t fully understand Chung Myung himself. The way that the sect leader saw Chung Myung was miles apart from how Un Geom viewed him; how could he possibly convince Hyun Jong?
“… yes, I understand. Sect leader.”
In the end, Un Geom had no choice but to silently leave.
“Yes, Sect Leader.”
“There isn’t much time left before the conference.”
As soon as the word ‘conference’ came out, Un Geom’s face darkened.
To be honest, the disciples of Mount Hua didn’t have any negative feelings towards the Southern Edge Sect in the past. In the first place, Mount Hua’s feelings for the Southern Edge sect had stemmed from a competitive spirit.
But isn’t competition inherently between people who are similar and not too different? The gap between Mount Hua and the Southern Edge Sect was like Heaven and Earth. No one had the burning spirit necessary to take down the Southern Edge Sect.
But, even if there was no motivation in this competition, who would want to see their disciples get beat up by the other side?
For the youngest children, the difference between them isn’t too great, and the loss is not too humiliating. However, the difference more than doubles when the older disciples take center stage, and it only grows farther when those who trained directly under an elder appear.
“We’ve solved many problems. But the most important problem hasn’t been solved yet. We are only at the beginning, and we need to recreate the splendid glory of Mount Hua.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, Sect Leader.”
“Right. Both of you can leave.”
As Un Geom and Un Am left, Hyun Jong got up from his seat and opened the window at the back of his room, so he could see the peaks with melted snow.
There were small flower buds on the plum tree that had grown fast. By the time the conference begins, spring plum blossoms would likely bloom all over the mountain.
‘Plum Blossom… Plum Blossoms.’
The Seven Sages Sword is back.
However, Hyun Jong was keenly aware of the fact that it was impossible to reproduce their past glory with just one sword art.
‘Perhaps if we still had the Plum Blossom Sword technique.’
Hyun Jong tightly shut his eyes.
He knew that dwelling on what was lost in the past wouldn’t bring about a change. This wasn’t the time to search for what they lacked; it was time to reinforce what they had.
Even so, regret lingered in the corner of his heart.
“Oh ancestors. Look down on Mount Hua.”
Hyun Jong was still unaware that an ancestor had already descended on Mount Hua.
Unfortunately, Hyun Jong made two mistakes.
One was that he thought Chung Myung was a good child.
But from Mount Hua’s point of view, it wasn’t a large issue. Chung Myung’s ultimate goal was to help grow Mount Hua. The more Hyun Jong favored Chung Myung, the wider his activities could be.
It wasn’t intentional, but thanks to Hyun Jong giving preferential treatment to Chung Myung, Mount Hua was developing faster.
But the other mistake was more fatal…
Baek Cheon was not as mild-mannered or gentle as Hyun Jong thought.
“… Need food.”
The third-class disciples huddled together in their boarding hall had shocking faces.
Chung Myung’s practice left the disciples completely drained. He could somehow gauge the strength remaining in each and every disciple and would cruelly use that information to push them to their absolute limits, squeezing out every last drop of sweat from their bodies.
Therefore, after everyone was done training, they would come back with stiff faces and sunken cheeks.
Surprisingly, however, no third-class disciples expressed dissatisfaction from the harsh training.
Of course, they felt like they would die each time they practiced under him, but weren’t humans known to be adaptable?
After this terrible training was repeated for over a week, it somehow became more bearable. They’ve developed so much that even when they stumble into the underworld and lock eyes with that villainous Death, they turn their backs on the Grim Reaper and return on their own.
- The more that iron is beaten, the stronger it becomes, and the more a man gets beaten, the stronger he returns! Moss doesn’t gather on a man that’s been beaten.
‘Moss doesn’t normally grow on people anyway! You madman!’
Even worse was that the third-class disciples could see that Chung Myung was right. They could feel their bodies changing day by day.
Now they understood what it meant to have a ‘fit body.’
The problem was that a new calamity struck the third-class disciples, who believed that they could overcome anything if they just followed Chung Myung’s training routine.
“…I think I’m going to die.”
“Uh… the sasuks are seriously….”
“Isn’t it getting worse each time?”
The Baek disciples were tormenting them.
After Chung Myung and Baek Cheon confronted each other, they began skillfully bullying the third-class disciples. It was clear that they were deliberately harassing them on each occasion.
“Why are they doing that?”
“Do you even need to ask?”
All eyes turned to the same location, and the one at the end of the gaze was,
Chung Myung, who received their gazes, just tilted his head.
“Why are you looking at me?”
This bastard was definitely born without a conscience.
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