Hyun Jong silently poured tea into a cup without responding. The fragrant aroma of tea permeated throughout the room.
Whenever he felt angry, Hyun Jong made tea like this. There was nothing like this tea to stabilize his body and calm his mind.
“They will arrive today, Sect Leader.”
“Are the preparations complete?”
“Yes. Sect leader. Nothing will go wrong while welcoming the Southern Edge Sect.”
“That’s good to hear.”
Hyun Jong let out a low sigh.
‘At least this time, I don’t have to feel embarrassed.’
It was shameful to be left behind in martial arts, but what was even more embarrassing was Hyun Jong’s inability to properly treat the Southern Edge Sect disciples last time.
How would Hyun Jong feel if they had no choice but to show the ruined buildings, poor meals, and devastated training halls to Mount Hua’s most bitter rival?
It was a sensitive issue, especially for Hyun Jong, the sect leader of Mount Hua.
It wasn’t easy to tolerate the piercing gazes of the Southern Edge Sect disciples, who looked at him in mockery and disdain. He had no choice but to bite his lip and endure the ridicule in the past.
“The more I think about it, the more I believe Chung Myung has done a great job.”
Un Am said.
It was well known that Hyun Jong cared deeply for Chung Myung, but Un Am truly understood the heart behind those actions. From Hyun Jong and Un Am’s perspective, Chung Myung was nothing less than a benefactor who helped seal the leaks on their sinking ship and pulled it up from the depths.
This wasn’t just about being able to feed people.
It was a sect with a long history. At the very least, it should have a dignified appearance which makes its history seem plausible to outsiders. Although appearance is nothing more than empty courtesy, the world still evaluates others based on what could be seen.
People would listen to a scholar before they listened to a beggar.
Chung Myung not only solved Mount Hua’s financial woes but also restored the sect’s face.
How could Hyun Jong not favor the child?
Un Am’s smiling gaze made Hyun Jong feel slightly embarrassed. He lightly coughed before recommending that Un Am have some tea.
“Yes, Sect leader.”
Un Am took a light sip from his cup and nodded quietly.
“How is it?”
“It seems to have gotten stronger. It’s been dried for a long time, and the taste seems to have faded a bit.”
Hyun Jong nodded, pleased with Un Am’s analysis.
“Well-dried plum blossom leaves actually become more fragrant. This is something I only realized after decades of drying plum blossoms.”
Hyun Jong looked at the teacup and spoke.
“It is the same with Mount Hua. We merely endured. We vowed to recreate the glory of the past, but the reality is that it was difficult to even survive each day.”
“… Sect Leader.”
Hyun Jong smiled as if to soothe Un Am’s worried tone.
“But we persevered and held on. Finally, this day has come to us. Sometimes, the correct answer is to wait rather than move in haste.”
It was spoken with a strange feeling inside.
Un Am looked at Hyun Jong with renewed vigor.
‘We aren’t the only ones moving forward.’
Occasionally, sect leaders fall under the illusion that their sect has already gone as far as it can. But a man can evolve until the day they die. Hyun Jong, who was walking on the path of a Taoist, would not stop refining himself till the day he stopped breathing.
How could one not trust him?
“Mount Hua’s sect leader will bring back the glory of the past.”
“I would like that, but the credit won’t go to me even if that happens. It will be a result of the disciples’ efforts.”
“How can you say that it’s not your credit, Sect leader?”
“Yes, sect leader.”
“I am a man who understands his own shortcomings. If Mount Hua hadn’t collapsed, would I have ever been asked to be the sect leader? If my Sahyungs hadn’t left Mount Hua, I would have spent my time studying scriptures.”
Un Am answered in a serious tone.
“By leaving Mount Hua, they proved that they were unworthy of being the sect leader. The sect leader is the most decent and honorable person in Mount Hua.”
Hyun Jong smiled without answering.
It’s a sad story. So, the conversation needed to be changed.
“So, what do you think about the second-class disciples?”
“Now that they’ve finished with their training. They are trying to stabilize their minds and bodies.”
Un Am’s face slightly darkened when the topic shifted to the second-class disciples.
“Honestly, I feel a bit worried.”
With a low sigh, Un Am continued.
“As I said before, Mount Hua’s momentum right now is excellent. But, whether or not we lose momentum, doesn’t it all come down to the conference’s outcome?”
“Do you believe that the second-class disciples will be unable to handle Southern Edge’s disciples?”
“I want to believe in the children. But… as you know….”
Un Am didn’t try to say more.
He knew that Hyun Jong understood the difference between Mount Hua and the Southern Edge Sect.
Mount Hua was barely surviving through the dark history which haunted them for years, while the Southern Edge Sect had been shining and advancing in recent times. It was natural for a significant difference to exist between them.
No matter how hard the second-class disciples tried, it would be difficult to overcome that gap.
Un Am was worried that the disciples, who had only just found new hope, would once again be captivated by a sense of defeat.
“How about the third-class disciples?”
“Aren’t the third-class disciples also going to participate? Are they all well prepared?”
Un Am was a bit puzzled when Hyun Jong suddenly asked about them, but he had no choice except to answer the sect leader.
“The preparations… seem to be going well.”
Not too much.
Un Am only briefly saw the third-class disciples training when he would pass by the training grounds on occasion, so he had no choice but to express his opinion so hazily.
Since the children’s training was entirely left to Un Geom, Un Am didn’t feel the need to know or interfere with them and simply thought that they were training normally.
“They’ve only recently begun training….”
Hyun Jong nodded quietly.
He fully understood Un Am’s concerns.
“What would you do if there was a mountain in front of you?”
Un Am couldn’t easily speak.
“Suppose that there is a mountain in front of you that you must cross. If there is a path around it, then you could travel that road. If you have time, then you can rest and climb at your own pace. However, what if neither option is available and you need to cross it despite that?”
“I am afraid that I wouldn’t be able to overcome that mountain.”
“Even so, you would still gain experience. Next time, wouldn’t we be able to cross the mountain more easily?”
Un Am let out a deep sigh.
He didn’t feel like everything the sect leader said was convincing, but he couldn’t ask anymore because the sect leader said it.
Hyun Jong smiled and spoke when Un Am’s worried expression didn’t fade.
“The Mount Hua and Southern Edge Conference is a venue for such exchanges.”
“It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose. What’s most important is who can develop further by using it as a stepping stone.”
“What the Sect Leader said is correct.”
“These guests are coming from far away. Make every effort not to neglect them.”
“I will keep that in mind.”
Un Am nodded.
“There will be no problems with Elder Hwang of the Eunha Guild either.”
“Elder Hwang… right. I need to meet with Elder Hwang once.”
“Isn’t the sect leader quite busy? I’m sure he will understand.”
“Right. Thank you.”
Since the day Elder Hwang and Eunha came to Mount Hua, they have been pouring funds into the sect. Looking at the scale of investment, it seemed as if they intended to make Hua-Um stand on par with the capital.
“Won’t this cause problems with the Southern Edge Sect?”
“Everything will go smoothly.”
As usual, it will be calm.
Un Am bowed his head and stood up.
“Then, I will go for a final check.”
“You’ve been through a lot.”
“Please, don’t mention it.”
Un Am took a step back.
As he quietly closed the door and went outside, Hyun Jong looked down at the teacup in front of where Un Am sat.
The half-empty teacup had light steam drifting from the surface, seemingly conveying how Un Am felt.
“Winning isn’t important….”
Hyun Jong frowned.
“Despite being a Taoist, I can lie so casually.”
Hyun Jong was well aware that winning wasn’t important. But this conference was a battle that couldn’t be won, and he was forced to push his disciples into these unwinnable matches.
They couldn’t win without a miracle.
Unless a miracle happens…
Hyun Jong suppressed his heavy heart and closed his eyes.
“It’s still such a small place.”
The disciples of the Southern Edge Sect glanced around at Hua-Um and spoke with a smirk.
Although they had been to this place in the past, this Hua-Um village was very small. Compared to Xi’an, where they usually went, this was no better than the empty countryside.
“Sahyung. Did Mount Hua really used to be in the Ten Great Sects?”
“But isn’t this village too small and shabby for a sect that used to be great?”
Jin Geum-Ryong said with a smile.
“You’ve got it backward. This village was only able to form because Mount Hua was here. In the past, Mount Hua was strong enough that this village developed so that the people coming to visit the sect would have somewhere to live.”
Jong Seo-Han nodded as if he finally understood.
“But aren’t they utterly ruined now?”
“That’s true too.”
Jin Geum-Ryong nodded.
Jong Seo-Han looked around and opened his mouth.
“I honestly don’t know why this pointless event is being held. What’s the point in clashing swords with Mount Hua when the results are obvious? Wouldn’t it be better for us to simply swing our swords on our own?”
“This has been decided by the elders; they have their own plans. Be mindful of what you say.”
Jong Seo-Han slowly turned his head back.
Looking at the person following behind him, he smiled.
“But this time, the conference is quite meaningful. It’s worthwhile to take revenge for those who have been disgraced.”
It was a provocative remark.
However, the one receiving the provocation, Lee Song-Baek, continued walking in silence.
‘That’s no fun.’
Jong Seo-Han narrowed his eyes.
Thanks to Chung Myung’s actions at Elder Hwang’s residence, it became common knowledge within the Southern Edge Sect that the Eunha Guild had chosen to support Mount Hua over themselves.
Of course, despite his actions to repent, Lee Song-Baek drew unfavorable gazes for his role in beating Chung Myung and damaging the sect’s reputation.
‘There’s no reaction, no use teasing him.’
Since that day, Lee Song-Baek has changed as a person. He used to be quite serious, but now he is more reticent and stoic.
“We were disgraced by Mount Hua for the first time in 100 years, so we need to repay this debt, Great Sahyung.”
While Jin Geum-Ryong and Jong Seo-Han were walking, Lee Song-Baek walked along without wanting to get involved in their conversation.
His gaze turned toward the towering Mount Hua.
When he visited this place in the past, he felt light-hearted. But now, the shadow of one person overlapping Mount Hua could be seen.
‘We may be walking straight into the tiger’s den.’
Lee Song-Baek seemed to see the smiling face of Chung Myung.
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