༺ Oops (1) ༻
By the time we started returning to the clan, the seasons had changed.
The boiling summer heat disappeared and the green leaves already started to change their colors.
Fall came along with a calm, cool breeze that lingered in the air.
It was spring on the day of my resurrection, so it would mean that two seasons had already passed since then.
“Finally, we arrived…”
My back hurt because of how long I was in the sitting position when riding in the carriage.
I only moved a little bit, but I heard all my bones cracking.
Since we were in the streets, many people were crowding the area.
｢So this is Shanxi?｣
‘Is it your first time here?’
｢Of course not, it’s just that it’s much different from what I remember.｣
Was it really different from when Elder Shin was alive? I only asked him because he was talking as if this was the first time he had come to this place.
‘A lot of time has passed since then.’
When Namgung Bi-ah, who was once again sleeping while leaning on Wi Seol-Ah’s shoulder, noticed that we arrived, she slightly opened her eyes. I was going to wake her up myself, so she saved me the trouble.
The girl stretched her arms and twisted her body a few times. Watching her stretch, I said,
“You must have had a good sleep, are you refreshed?”
I asked her half-jokingly, but she answered seriously.
I smirked at her reaction and looked toward the carriage’s window.
Wi Seol-Ah. who was also sleeping, would also wake up soon.
“I think we’ll arrive soon.”
Hearing Muyeon who was walking next to the carriage, I looked far into the distance and saw the wall that surrounded the Gu Clan’s headquarters.
It was only when I saw the huge fortification that I truly felt at home.
“I really came back.”
I finally returned to my home after a few months.
* * * *
As the carriage entered the clan gate, I saw that a good amount of people had already gathered up.
I did expect that something like this would happen since I had sent a letter to the clan beforehand.
Gu Ryunghwa’s return to the clan was already big enough news, but it was even bigger because of the arrival of the Sword Master and the Immortal Healer.
When I got off the carriage, I saw a middle-aged man with a fierce expression in front of the crowd. The Tiger Warrior and my father, Gu Cheolun, were waiting for us.
｢That man must be your father.｣
‘You already noticed?’
｢It’d be weird for me not to, considering you guys look the same…｣
Do we really look that much alike? To be fair, I did hear that I looked like him ever since I was young.
And I heard it increasingly often as I grew up.
｢You look even fiercer than him. That’s honestly impressive.｣
‘That’s not much of a compliment.’
I walked forward and looked at my father.
Our eyes met. I still felt a bit uncomfortable looking into his eyes which emitted dense red light.
Father’s eyebrow flinched for a second after he looked at me without a word.
The eyes that emitted red light passed by me.
I supposed he noticed the change in me.
‘Even though I tried to hide it.’
It wasn’t that long, but it was enough time for me to calm down all the energy that was inside me.
I already purified all the demonic Qi I had absorbed from Nachal, and I was able to calm down the Qi that was flowing around my middle abdomen.
I had basically reached a state where I could essentially hide my martial art level, but it seemed like I still couldn’t escape my father’s eyes.
After looking at me for a bit, he said, “I received the things you sent from Mount Hua, as well as the letter. It seems like a lot has happened there.”
“…There were some incidents there.”
Father nodded to my response. His reaction couldn’t be more mundane.
I had only gone there to return the treasure and to bring back Gu Ryunghwa, but a lot more had happened. How was I supposed to know that all of that stuff would happen?
“Since you just returned from your trip, rest for today and come to my room tomorrow.”
Our conversation ended there, despite us seeing each other for the first time in a while. Father then passed by me and went toward the Sword Master and the Immortal Healer.
Then, he lowered his head to the Immortal Healer.
“Long time no see, Senior Immortal Healer.”
“Indeed, it’s been a long time, Lord Gu. It’s been decades.”
“Have your health been good all this time?”
“You think being old makes me healthy? I’m just living because I can’t die, but I’m glad that you don’t look half as bad.”
It seemed like my father and the Immortal Healer knew each other.
To be fair, it wasn’t that weird for them to know each other considering Father had been active for a while.
“We prepared everything for you.”
“What did you prepare?”
“Since you said you didn’t want anything grand, we prepared a building for you to stay in.”
“Tsk, I already don’t like how you’re giving me this kind of treatment. I recall saying that a small room would be enough for me.”
The Immortal Healer spoke in an unsatisfied tone, but my father’s expression stayed the same.
Then, he looked at the Sword Master. Gu Ryunghwa was right behind the woman, so when the imposing man looked toward them, Gu Ryunghwa’s shoulder flinched a little.
The Sword Master looked at the Gu Clan Lord and lowered her head to show respect.
“It’s been a while.”
“Yes, indeed it has.”
“I heard that you’re staying here with my daughter.”
“If you’d be so kind as to allow me.”
“There’s no reason for me to deny you, since I already know. I hope you’ll have a pleasant stay.”
“Thank you for your consideration.”
He then looked at Gu Ryunghwa, but didn’t say much.
That was all he said.
I felt that he was being a little too cold to his daughter whom he hadn’t seen in a long time, but Gu Ryunghwa looked like she preferred that kind of response as her expression became more relieved.
Just when I thought it would be okay to head inside now that the greetings were over, someone stepped out of the crowd and approached my father.
It was Namgung Bi-ah, who had just gotten off the carriage.
“I greet the Lord of Gu Clan of Shanxi. I am Bi-ah of the Namgung Clan.”
She spoke respectfully with her head lowered, but her tone was somewhat different.
I never heard Namgung Bi-ah speak that clearly, ever.
She felt like an entirely different person that I didn’t know. Her dumb look went away, and she was standing there with her back straight and her hair all tidied up.
Namgung Bi-ah’s unique, concise manner of speech was also nowhere to be seen. She looked and sounded like a mature, elegant woman.
“Who is that girl?”
｢I could barely tell it’s the same girl that was sleeping in the carriage while drooling all over…｣
It was honestly shocking how different she looked.
After giving Namgung Bi-ah a quick once-over, he nodded.
“I am Gu Cheolun. I was already informed that you were traveling with my son.”
“Thanks to Young Master Gu’s kindness, I was able to tag along.”
“I understand. I have to inform you, however, that the Namgung Clan is looking for you, so I will have to contact them now that I’ve confirmed your location.”
Namgung Bi-ah nodded at my father’s words.
After exchanging a few more words with him, she came over to my side.
As soon as I asked her, she was immediately back to her usual expression and her manner of speech.
‘What the, this is a little, no, this is really scary…’
I didn’t know she was capable of talking like that.
“What in the, no, what did you talk about?”
“He told me to stay here… until my clan sends someone.”
I felt like I had been hallucinating when she conversed with my father because she was right back to her usual self.
It seemed they were going to contact Namgung Clan about this, as the circumstances of her traveling with me were anything but normal.
I honestly expected that people from Namgung Clan would already be waiting for her at the Gu Clan, but, thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
“Will you be okay?”
I asked Namgung Bi-ah on reflex.
I wasn’t sure what I even meant by the question—whether it was okay for her to go back, or if it was okay for her to stay here.
The words just came out on their own.
Namgung Bi-ah looked slightly shocked hearing my question, but she smiled right after.
Her smile shocked me in return…
“I’m okay,” she replied calmly.
“Since there’s nothing I’m scared of anymore.”
Before I could understand the meaning behind her words, she walked away with one of the servants that was assigned to guide her.
‘I wonder what she meant by that just now.’
I felt like there was a lot of meaning in her words, but Namgung Bi-ah’s smile was really stuck in my mind.
｢That girl really knows how to charm people.｣
I knew he wasn’t talking about her appearance when he said that.
The more I stayed with her, I noticed that there were lots of sides to Namgung Bi-ah that I didn’t know about.
To be more specific, she looked different compared to her time as the Demonic Sword.
They were certainly the same person, but at the same time, so different.
The empty eyes she had always used to have were different from the eyes she had now, and her recent smiles made me think of her as a completely different person.
｢You seem disappointed.｣
I nodded at Elder Shin’s words. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I was disappointed. I honestly was. It took me way too long to realize that she was a person capable of such a smile.
While I was looking into empty space vacantly, someone grabbed my hand. Their skin was warm and soft.
“Young Master! Let’s go in!”
It was Wi Seol-Ah.
“Right, we should go inside now.”
Father also led the guests into the clan as they were also done talking.
‘He told me to rest for the day.’
It was why he had told me to come to his room the following day. I really needed some time to rest as it was a long trip.
‘But the problem is the flower.’
I still hadn’t consumed the flower that I had gotten from the Black Palace’s hideout after killing Nachal, even though it had been months.
I had thought a week would be enough, but getting my body used to a new realm took way longer.
｢You also delayed it yourself as you said you weren’t used to the sensation yet.｣
I wanted to learn and master the sensation that Elder Shin had shown me. It was the result of mixing calm Taoist Qi with my explosive energies, allowing me to use them more efficiently.
‘I just thought it would do me more harm than good if I added more Qi into myself.’
It would have been easy to consume the flower during the trip, but I decided that getting my body used to a new realm was more of a priority.
And since this flower didn’t wither away, nor did it lose any Qi over time, I could postpone consuming it indefinitely.
Another thing I learned was…
‘You can’t feel the energy of this flower if you don’t possess demonic Qi.’
This was more of an assumption, but I was basically certain.
Both the Sword Emperor and Muyeon didn’t notice this flower during our long trip. It may have been wrapped up in cloth, but if this was a flower with normal Qi, there was no way that they wouldn’t have noticed it.
Namgung Bi-ah looked like she might have noticed a slight smell, but it didn’t seem like she noticed it came from the flower either, which was good news for me.
｢Do you think you’re ready now?｣
Elder Shin asked if I could consume the flower now.
‘Yes, at this point, I think I’ve prepared enough.’
I couldn’t really say that I was certain that I was ready, but I believed that I was in a satisfactory state.
‘I’m planning to consume it tonight.’
Elder Shin didn’t offer much further comment. He was basically telling me to do whatever I wanted.
My place which I hadn’t seen for a long time looked about the same. Though that much was obvious, since even when I was gone, I had servants to take care of the place.
The servants that had gone with me to Shaanxi were probably just as tired as I was, but they began working as soon as they put away their belongings.
I was very impressed by their dedication.
I washed my exhausted body and changed my clothes. I was thinking of relaxing for a bit since there was still some time left before sunset.
And then, a servant came to disrupt my peace and quiet.
“A guest has come. They’re waiting in the guest house.”
“A guest all of sudden? Did they come to meet me?”
“A guest is here even though I just got back?” I asked while standing up.
“Who is it?”
When I heard the servant’s answer, I knew I had to move quickly.
* * * *
The guest had been waiting in the Gu Clan for ten whole days.
It was way too long of a time for a guest to stay in a foreign place, especially since the person the guest was looking for was not here.
At that point, she could’ve just accepted the fact that she was unlucky and come back at a later date.
Furthermore, a girl from a noble clan would certainly feel uncomfortable staying at a place like this.
Despite all that, she spent ten days here despite that.
“…Why are you here?” I asked while looking at the girl.
I tried to look into her eyes, but she kept avoiding eye contact and continued to sip tea in silence with a slightly blushed face.
The girl flinched when I called her name.
“I heard that you came here looking for me.”
The precious daughter of the Tang Clan I had run into back when I went to the military exhibition was sitting right in front of me.
The girl that was currently called the Poison Lady, and the girl that would be called the Poison Queen in the future.
Tang Soyeol took a deep breath and finally spoke up.
“Y…Yes! I came for… you.”
It seemed like she tried to speak as confidently as she could, but her words faded away at the end.
“From Sichuan, all the way here? It’s pretty far away, no?”
“It probably isn’t that… far?”
Her tone sounded like she was questioning herself when speaking. Of course it was far, I had taken that trip myself!
‘I only went there for the secret vault; what’s this girl here for?’
When I was first informed of her presence, I honestly thought that she had come here for Namgung Bi-ah and not me.
Of course, that didn’t make sense since we were in the Gu Clan after all, but her presence was so weird, that even such a wild prospect wasn’t out of the question.
｢…You piece of shit.｣
I thought I misheard him for a second.
I called out to Elder Shin once again after his harsh words, but I was met with pure silence.
I put the old man’s comments aside for now and decided to focus on Tang Soyeol that was right in front of me.
“So it’s true that you came here for me?”
“Y, Yes! I came here to see you…”
“Because I wanted to see y… Blahhh!”
She suddenly stopped talking and bit her tongue. Then she started to gulp down tea with her face a vibrant shade of red.
‘Isn’t the tea too hot for her to drink it like this?’
Even I couldn’t drink hot things like that despite my body being tempered with flame arts of my clan. I supposed this much wasn’t a problem for Tang Soyeol, though.
When she finished her tea, Tang Soyeol opened her mouth again, steam coming out from her mouth.
“Young Master Gu…”
“I came here because I wanted to ask you something.”
Someone from the Tang Clan came from Sichuan all the way to Shanxi.
‘I wonder how important this matter is for her to come all the way here personally.’
I pushed Tang Soyeol for an answer, still wondering what could have possibly warranted her presence at my place.
“Um… Before that, I want to ask you something…”
“What do you want to ask…?”
Tang Soyeol seemed to have calmed down, but it seemed like there was some resentment in the eyes that were looking at me.
I wondered what she was going to ask me for her to look at me like that. The question mark that formed above my head quickly went away when I heard Tang Soyeol’s question.
“You told me that your name was Gu Jeolyub… What was that about?”
I had completely forgotten about that.
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