“Haha. Thanks to Elder Hwang, I’ll get to see such an interesting event.”
Hwang Mun-Yak smiled at the praise pouring in from the people around him.
“I have to thank you for accepting the invitation. I hope you didn’t have a hard time coming all the way out here.”
“Hahaha. I couldn’t afford to miss this rare opportunity.”
Blessings and cheers came and went. However, Hwang Mun-Yak didn’t ignore that many of the people here were carefully examining the situation and trying to determine who would rise to the occasion at this conference.
There was no way that the people gathered here were simply there for idle entertainment.
Their interest was in the next generation of the two factions. Among them, most were there for the Southern Edge Sect.
The merchants and sects often seemed to be close yet distant at the same time. Considering how quickly a faction can rise or fall, everyone was sensitive to information concerning the strength of a sect. They were all hoping to invest in the next strong sect.
After all, power attracts wealth.
They are trying to estimate the future of the Southern Edge Sect by evaluating the younger generations’ performance here.
“A fight between Mount Hua and the Southern Edge Sect. Isn’t the opponent a bit disappointing, though?”
“You’re right. If they were trying to display their strength, they should have called for a strong sect. Will they really be able to display their best against Mount Hua?”
The public spoke in hushed tones.
‘This would be an objective evaluation.’
Hwang Mun-Yak didn’t believe their assessments were wrong.
Mount Hua now seemed like a joke compared to its past a hundred years ago. There was a time when the Southern Edge Sect could do nothing compared to Mount Hua, which held one of the top positions among the Nine Great Sects. However, Mount Hua lost its place and collapsed, while the Southern Edge Sect grew to attain a position as one of the Ten Great Sects.
Hwang Mun-Yak’s gaze fell upon the disciples of Mount Hua gathered at one side. Hwang Mun-Yak frowned as he struggled to see Chung Myung.
‘I don’t think he’s the type to lose.’
So, is that child hiding some kind of clever trick?
Hwang Mun-Yak smiled.
‘It’s a bit unpleasant to see others rushing into Mount Hua, but Mount Hua’s reputation needs to spread for it to recover. So, this time, I cooperated with the young disciple without another thought.’
Hwang Mun-Yak’s heart swelled with anticipation at what might soon unfold.
Standing in the center, Un Am looked at both sides of the hall, where the disciples of Mount Hua and the Southern Edge Sect stood opposing one another and spoke. It was a bit flustering since an audience had suddenly appeared, but there was no difficulty leading it since the conference had become a tradition.
“First, the representatives of each faction’s disciples will engage each other one-on-one. Ten representatives of the second-class disciples will perform.”
Un Am spoke resolutely.
As soon as his words ended, one person from each side stood up.
Jin Geum-Ryong and Baek Cheon.
Each of them was the leader of their sect’s second-class disciples.
“Sahyung! Do your best!”
“You must win!”
At the cheers of his juniors, Baek Cheon took a deep breath. His hardened face could show how nervous he was.
He turned his head, gave a final glance at his juniors, and proceeded to the center of the arena. Across from him, Jin Geum-Ryong strode forward in a relaxed manner.
The two men came face-to-face with one another.
Along with the Eunha Guild, there was another large figure present. The head of the Daebung Merchant Guild, Wei Zikae, smiled upon seeing Jin Geum-Ryong.
“Jin Geum-Ryong is said to be a remarkably talented disciple that will one day lead the Southern Edge Sect. He has a truly fantastic presence.”
“That’s how a young hero should be.”
Jin Geum-Ryong, donning a white robe and wielding a wooden sword in one hand, captured the crowd’s attention.
“But doesn’t the one across from him also look great?”
“When you say that, well, they seem to look alike. Like black and white, two contrasting sides of a painting.”
Baek Cheon, wearing a black uniform, stood tall against his foe.
“It feels like anticipation is rising in the air, but will Mount Hua’s disciple really be able to match Jin Geum-Ryong?”
“I don’t know. Mount Hua has indeed been weathering the storm for quite a while, but recently it feels like something about the sect has changed. If you think about the sect’s impressive legacy…there may be some unexpected results.”
Although that was said, no one genuinely thought Baek Cheon could defeat Jin Geum-Ryong.
The Mount Hua of today couldn’t be compared to their past glory. Hasn’t the crowd’s lack of faith been proven by how they had already severed their ties with the sect long ago? If they believed there was still any hope left for Mount Hua, they would never have burned their bridges so completely.
What the audience expected was to see how strong the Southern Edge Sect had become.
Sama Seung’s expression stiffened as he overheard the crowd’s idle banter. He understood that they were only speaking empty pleasantries to save Mount Hua’s dignity, but it left him feeling dirty.
‘Show them. Geum-Ryong.’
The reality was that Mount Hua was in no position to even be mentioned alongside the Southern Edge Sect.
Hyun Jong bit his lip and looked at Baek Cheon.
‘Show them everything you’ve got.’
So that there are no regrets.
While everyone had their own expectations and concerns, Jin Geum-Ryong and Baek Cheon faced off against each other.
And Jin Geum-Ryong spoke first.
“You came without running away.”
Baek Cheon answered with a determined face.
“I am the Great Sahyung of Mount Hua’s second-class disciples. There’s no way that I could run.”
“Big words, coming from you.”
Jin Geum-Ryong raised his sword and pointed at Baek Cheon.
“Well, the smallest dogs are known to bark the loudest.”
“Are you going to be bitten by a dog then?”
“I made a mistake. You aren’t even a dog.”
“Try it once. As I said yesterday, I will show you. How insignificant you truly are.”
Baek Cheon didn’t bother responding. Instead, he briefly glanced at where Hyun Jong was sitting.
‘Sect leader is watching.’
Now was the time to set aside his personal grudges and selfishness.
‘I am the second-class disciple, Baek Cheon.’
Baek Cheon locked eyes with Jin Geum-Ryong. He, too, raised his wooden sword and squared off with his opponent.
Everyone watched as tension ignited the air.
One was the representative of Mount Hua, and the other was the Southern Edge Sect’s pride.
Normally, it would make sense for these two to face off against each other at the end and close the event. However, according to the conference’s tradition, these two will be the ones to open the event’s proceedings.
In a way, this battle would potentially determine the conference’s outcome entirely on its own. How could the audience not be bursting with anticipation?
The moment someone was about to speak, Baek Cheon moved.
The dull sound of the floor being struck clearly reverberated.
Continuing to sprint forward, Baek Cheon attempted to stab at Jin Geum-Ryong’s neck with efficient moves lacking unnecessary flair.
Instead of facing the incoming blade directly, Jin Geum-Ryong deftly side-stepped and avoided the strike.
Baek Cheon’s sword quickly pursued Jin Geum-Ryong. His wrist seemed to shake slightly, and soon an illusory sword technique was unleashed; it appeared as though dozens of strikes were being unleashed.
Mount Hua’s colorful sword arts enveloped the training hall.
“The children of Mount Hua seem to have great skills.”
It was a splendid technique that made the people watching admire it.
Although the sword technique was displayed through a wooden sword, its sharpness matched that of a real blade. Yet, Jin Geum-Ryong stayed facing it. It was a wonder whether there was any way to deal with this onslaught.
The second and third-class disciples of Mount Hua could not help but clench their fists as they watched.
Jo Gul excitedly exclaimed.
“As expected of Baek Cheon sasuk! Sasuk’s Cheong Yang Fierce Tiger Sword is truly the best!”
Mount Hua’s disciples couldn’t hide their excitement.
How much Baek Cheon had trained until his bones gave way. After being humiliated at the last conference, Baek Cheon hadn’t forgotten the disgrace he felt as he fully devoted himself to training.
It was Baek Cheon who volunteered for the closed-door training. The person capable of living the most pleasant life on Mount Hua chose to lock himself away and focus solely on the sword.
How could the disciples not support such a man?
Baek Cheon’s sword shadow splendidly pursued Jin Geum-Ryong as it keenly sliced the air. Each and every movement was sharp enough to wound. It was hard to tell what was real or fake as the illusory blade mixed in complex movements.
Hyun Jong, who carefully observed every detail, clenched his fist.
‘When did that child reach such a level?’
At that level, he wasn’t far behind the Un disciples. He knew Baek Cheon was talented, but this was astonishing!
The eyes of Mount Hua’s martial artists were colored with hope as they proudly watched Baek Cheon’s display.
It might be different this time.
Even Yoon Jong couldn’t hide his shock and awe.
“Chung Myung! Sasuk is pushing him back!”
“Maybe we can win!”
Yoon Jong looked back at Chun Myung. Chung Myung was leaning back on his chair with a sullen face.
“If you want to win, you need to hit your enemy, but he can’t even land a single blow.”
“Still, we can win….”
“Does Sahyung’s face look like someone that’s sure of their victory?”
Yoon Jong turned his head and looked at Baek Cheon again. Soon, he had no choice but to harden his expression.
Baek Cheon’s face seemed to crumble as he appeared to be struggling.
Baek Cheon was swinging his sword with all his might.
The first step is intensely taken at the correct angle. Qi is raised and flows through the firm lower body through to the fingertips. Eventually, his sword is brandished with qi and swung with every fiber of his being.
Lightly, and lightly.
Light as a butterfly but sharp as a knife!
However, the light, yet sharp, sword never reached Jin Geum-Ryong’s body.
‘Why won’t it reach!? Why!?’
So far away.
The opponent standing in front of Baek Cheon seemed too far away. It was like standing in front of a cliff that pierced high into the sky.
A cliff he couldn’t dare to climb or cross.
Soaked in fear and perspiration, Baek Cheon screamed, unable to even wipe the sweat on his face.
One devastating blow.
Baek Cheon’s final strike displayed an illusion of several swords, all piercing at Jin Geum-Ryong.
It was then.
Jin Geum-Ryong wielded his sword for the first time and deflected Baek Cheon’s technique.
With the sword stopped, the qi covering the field disappeared. Only then could Baek Cheon clearly see Jin Geum-Ryong’s face.
Unlike Baek Cheon, who was sweating and drenched in sweat, Jin Geum-Ryong had neither shed a single drop of sweat nor had any difficulty breathing. Instead, he simply observed Baek Cheon with a cheeky smile covering his face.
“Have you had your fun?”
“Stupid brat. No matter how hard you struggle to learn Mount Hua’s martial arts, do you really think you could even touch the hair on my head?”
Jin Geum-Ryong’s sword pierced Baek Cheon at an imperceptible speed.
Baek Cheon fell to the floor with a gasp, unable to scream, as he was struck in the shoulder.
Groaning, he forced himself to stand. When he raised his head, he saw Jin Geum-Ryong approaching him with a leisurely smile.
“You’ll soon understand with your body. Just how much of an idiot you are.”
Without mercy, Jin Geum-Ryong’s sword fell on Baek Cheon.
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