After washing up and getting changed, I sit at the main hall table and look at Cha Sung-tae and Hoyeon Cheong again.
“Sung-tae, go get some booze in the back. Three glasses.”
As Cha Sung-tae puts down the alcohol and places the glass in front of us.
I look at Hoyeon Cheong.
“Listen carefully, Hoyeon Cheong.”
“I don’t care if you’re Yoo Sa-cheong or Hoyeon Cheong. I also have no interest if you’re from the Hoyeon Clan or another clan’s swordsman plotting a conspiracy. You’re just a prisoner held captive due to shitty luck. From now on, you have to do as I say. Got it?”
Hoyeon Cheong answers briefly.
I take out the Moonlight Blade and plunge it into the table between the three of us.
Cha Sung-tae and Hoyeon Cheong look at me, curious about what this means.
I point at Moonlight Dagger.
“This is how my neighborhood conducts a duel. From now on, if you guys can’t talk it out, use this to stab each other.”
Cha Sung-tae smiles and tries to say something but immediately closes his mouth once he sees my face.
I reveal my intentions.
“I’ll give you 108 days. Hoyeon Cheong, you shall pass all your martial art knowledge except for sword, footwork, and internal Qi techniques to Cha Sung-tae.”
Hoyeon Cheong’s eyes widen, and Cha Sung-tae snaps his head at me.
Of course, Hoyeon Cheong will have a lot to say about this. It’s probably some nonsense that the techniques are only exclusive to his clan members. However, he cannot open his mouth easily after seeing the Moonlight Dagger stuck to the table.
Instead, Cha Sung-tae is the one who responds with a dumbfounded look.
“How can I learn his martial arts in 108 days, Leader?”
I glance at Cha Sung-tae.
“Do you have a death wish? I just said this is a death duel.”
“No, it’s nothing.”
I explain my daily routine to the quiet Hoyeon Cheong.
“Since we’re in the Black Rabbit Union, the both of you will wake up by Myo-si (卯時, 5AM). Breakfast, training, lunch, training, dinner, and rest. Rest includes free time, but if you leave, escape, or run away, you will die by my hands through a deathmatch. If you have any objections, pick up the Moonlight Dagger right now and stab me.”
“Since Hoyeon Cheong had lost some of his internal Qi to me, it is up to you to rest up and recover your internal Qi. Once again, you have 108 days. A long yet short timespan. I’m not asking you to master them in a short time. However, Cha Sung-tae should be stronger than he was 108 days ago.”
“How do you determine if he got stronger in 108 days?”
I answer Cha Sung-tae’s question.
“If you have any objections, pick up the dagger and stab me.”
“That was a question.”
Hoyeon Cheong finally asks me this.
“Teaching him one sword technique will be tough in 108 days.”
“That’s none of my concern. Cha Sung-tae may be a freeloader, but he’s not a fool. Whether you teach him generalities or other things once he’d adapted to the sword technique, it’s entirely up to you. Figure it out yourself.”
Hoyeon Cheong then says unintentionally.
“Us Hoyeon Clan….”
“I don’t care what your clan is like. If you hate it, pick up the dagger and kill yourself.”
Only then did Hoyeon Cheong shut his mouth and close his eyes.
I then say to both of them.
“There are way better things in life than merely dying. If you don’t want to teach him, die. Sung-tae, if you don’t want to learn, just die. Stop mooching around. If you don’t like this or that, pick that up and come at me. I’ll kill you.”
This time, Cha Sung-tae also tilts his head and closes his eyes.
Leading the awkward atmosphere caused by the two, I say to them.
“No, just say the word. I’ll pick the dagger first.”
Cha Sung-tae raises his hand.
I look at Hoyeon Cheong. Hoyeon Cheong’s lips twitch before he finally responds.
“I will teach you everything.”
I stare at two and nod.
“Now we’re talking.”
I pluck Moonlight Dagger, slice my finger, and drop blood into the liquor bottle. Then, I extend the dagger to Cha Sung-tae.
Cha Sung-tae also drops his blood into the bottle.
Subsequently, Hoyeon Cheong also uses the same method to bleed.
I take the bottle containing our blood and fill up their respective glasses.
“This bottle contains the blood of three men risking their lives in a death match. Master Hoyeon Cheong will teach his disciple Cha Sung-tae with sincerity, integrity, soul, and effort following the blood oath. His disciple Cha Sung-tae will learn his master’s teachings by devoting his heart and soul for 108 days. I, Lee Zaha, swear I will use Moonlight Dagger to end their lives if they shall take this matter lightly or show any instances of unfaithful attitude.”
Cha Sung-tae turns pale as I swear my oath.
Hoyeon Cheong swallows his saliva.
I hold up my drink as I watch the two of them.
“Do you swear to the oath?”
I give a big nod.
The three of us down the shot of blood-infused alcohol. I put down my glass and say with a happy face.
“Great. The intense training will begin tomorrow, so let’s have the final supper together today.”
Cha Sung-tae replies.
“There’s no one to cook right now.”
The servants have already left for Ilyang, and the majority of my subordinates are still in Cloud Rain Society. I agonize with my chin propped in my hand.
Mister Su is already dead, and I’ve also killed Elder Hornless Dragon, so how will we settle the dinner issue right away?
Cha Sung-tae says.
“Should I go out and buy some?”
“Why bother? Are you trying to run away?”
At that moment, the main hall door swings open at Hong-shin’s sudden arrival. But instead of focusing on her expression, I look at what my Sister is holding in her hands.
Holding up the things she is carrying with a calm expression, she says.
“Have some dumplings, Big Brother. I bought it on the way here.”
After making a “Tsk…!” voice, I applaud Hong-shin. As I applaud her with a serious expression, Cha Sung-tae also nods and claps.
Looking alternately at us, Hong-shin replies.
“What’s with you guys?”
I reach out to Hong-shin.
“Excellent timing. Come and sit down.”
When Hong-shin unpacks the cloth on the table, the white appearance of the dumplings is revealed.
Hong-shin jabbers on.
“I didn’t know what you like, so I ordered both meat and vegetable dumplings. They sell sweet and sour pork next door, so I bought it as a side dish to pair with drinks.”
Wiping my tears with one hand, I reply.
“Great. From now on, I’ll appoint White Tiger, Blue Dragon, White Rooster, and Red Monkey as the Four Generals.”
“All of a sudden?”
I munch on a dumpling and say to Hoyeon Cheong, who is sitting still and doing nothing.
“You should eat too.”
“Yes, thank you.”
Hoyeon Cheong answers timidly and reaches for the dumplings.
I speak naturally while eating the dumplings.
“Just know that both of you are fated to die in my hands if I don’t see satisfactory results.”
Cha Sung-tae replies while eating dumplings.
“Yes, I understand.”
Hoyeon Cheong also replies.
As I gobble down dumplings like a beggar who lives in a cave, I say to Hong-shin.
“Can you make noodles? The ingredients should be in the kitchen.”
Hong-shin responds leisurely like Guan Yu, who would cut the head of the enemy before the alcohol goes cold.
“Should I make some? I’ll make it after I eat this.”
I nod several times since I am afraid Hong-shin might change her mind.
“I’d appreciate it if you do.”
Cha Sung-tae slightly lowers his head toward Hong-shin and says.
“Then I hope you can also make me some…”
“Since you’re cooking, you should make more, including the manager’s.”
Suddenly, Hong-shin, Cha Sung-tae, and I look at Hoyeon Cheong. As a prisoner, Hoyeon Cheong has no right to ask Hong-shin to do it. Despite that, the three of us are anticipating Hoyeon Cheong’s response. It is an unspoken pressure that if he doesn’t request it out loud, he won’t get any.
Eventually, Hoyeon Cheong replies in a nonchalant voice.
“I think I will pass.”
I click my tongue.
“Nonsense. Red Sister, please make enough so we can have it together.
With a dumpling in her hand, Hong-shin smiles and gets up from her seat.
I give her a thumbs up while watching Hong-shin go to the kitchen. As expected, the male-dominant Kang-ho is like hell on earth.
I whip my head towards Hoyeon Cheong, and, as if the dumpling is stuck in his throat, he hurriedly downs a shot of alcohol and suddenly weeps like a madman.
I shake my head and look at Cha Sung-tae.
“What a fucking mess. Geez. Are you crying because the dumplings taste so good?”
Cha Sung-tae tries to tease Hoyeon Cheong with me, but he only wordlessly puts on a solemn face. Perhaps it feels weird to be teasing his supposed master.
Hoyeon Cheong says.
“It’s not like that. Anyway, I’ll teach you well.”
I make fun of Cha Sung-tae and Hoyeon Cheong to my heart’s content while waiting for the hot bowl of noodles. I even wonder if a devil is living inside me. Well, if I had been such a nice guy in my previous life, I would’ve gained the nickname Sword Saint (劍仙) or something. But my nickname was Crazy Demon.
“Your prime days have passed. Poor you. Bahahahahaha.”
Afterward, the four of us eat the noodles. After filling our stomachs with dumplings and noodles, we gradually feel sleepy. I stand up after finishing the soup broth.
“I’ll go get some sleep.”
As I head outside the main hall, Cha Sung-tae asks.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to sleep.”
“Out here? Why?”
“Cause I want to.”
I leave the inner courtyard and lay down with my arm under my head below the plum tree, where the petals are falling.
The sun is setting in the sky, and the night has not yet come.
Purple mists (紫霞) fill the sky for a moment.
A sky that is neither bright nor dark.
Time quietly passes as the sky is illuminated with the same meaning as my name. I close my eyes before the sky gets too dark.
I said hello in advance to those who wanted to hear it.
My heart aches if I meet them in my dream.
Otherwise, anyone else is fine.
Those I’d beaten to death, those I want to bully, Crazy Monk, Left Hand of Illuminating Light, sect leaders, the masters of Three Disasters, those scumbags who won against me in sparring gambles… I fall into slumber, thinking it’s okay for them to appear in my dreams as much as they want.
I fell asleep and thought of those I miss as people who must not appear in my dreams. Miscellaneous thoughts that are a blur between dreams or memories pass briefly like the sunset.
“I’ll hand this over to you.”
“I don’t need anymore.”
I look at the khakkhara (禪杖) Crazy Monk is giving to me.
“I’m not a monk. How am I supposed to use this?”
A crescent-shaped blade is attached to the tip of the khakkhara used by Crazy Monk. He turns the blade and removes the iron.
“You should’ve just given me the whole thing. Why are you removing it?”
“You’re too ruthless, so I’m confiscating the sharp ends. This is a superb weapon. You can say this is a weapon of unbreakable will.”
“Are you sure it won’t break?”
“You’re dead if your will is broken, so you don’t have to worry.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like what I just said.”
I grab the metal staff (棒) Crazy Monk gave to me in puzzlement. It’s a weapon weighing over 36 kilograms. No one can use it freely other than Kangho warriors.
I look at Crazy Monk’s expression and ask.
“Where are you going?”
“I have to go back.”
“You’re suddenly leaving?”
“There’s somewhere I need to be, so this is just a round trip. Now that I’ve filled it up a lot, it’s time to empty it out again.”
“What if you don’t have a place to go back? Like me.”
“Why don’t you have a place to go back? Come find me, and I’ll shave your ugly hair off. You hate that too, don’t you? Don’t run your mouth and get killed. Come whenever you feel stuffy. I’m off, idiot.”
The Crazy Monk disappears with the gush of wind.
He’s unpredictable, so I’m not surprised at the sudden departure.
As the person who used to drag me around disappears, the feeling of emptiness from freedom is also massive.
When I look around, only the lump of iron that had been naked as the unbreakable will remain next to me.
Carrying that iron stick on my shoulder, I look around for a long time, but there is nowhere to go.
My heart is no different from a wasteland, so I head back to Kangho. Since I have no place to go, there are still people I need to beat up back in Kangho.
The sky is getting darker and darker.
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