༺ Let’s Make a Bet (2) ༻
After relaying everything I needed to say to Tang Soyeol, we separated and went our own ways.
Specifically, I went to go look for the Immortal Healer. Tang Soyeol had asked me if I wanted to eat lunch with her,
However, since I had something scheduled as per the words of my father, I had no choice but to reject her.
I felt a bit bad in rejecting her.
The despondent and sullen look on her face as I rejected her bothered me quite a bit, however, there was nothing I could do about it.
I trudged towards the small compound inside the clan.
It was the place the Immortal Healer was currently residing in and was quite close to the medical rooms— but it was smaller than the other places for guests that were inside the Gu Clan.
Originally, the biggest guesthouse of the clan was prepared for his accommodation, but I heard that he had gotten excessively angry at that sight and even shouted that he would not be sleeping in such lavish places.
I was able to learn more about the Immortal Healer’s personality owing to the fact that we had traveled all the way here, to the Gu Clan in Shanxi, from the Mount Hua Sect which took months for us to finish the whole journey back.
He may seem like an old man with a nasty personality and someone who always complained no matter what, but he was inwardly a person that cared for sick people more than anyone else in the world.
One day, in the midst of our travels, there was a time when one of the servants’ hands had become bloody due to being scratched by thorns during their usual work routine.
The servant didn’t care too much about it, saying that this happened to him often, but the Immortal Healer roared back at him while shouting that leaving it as is would only lead to fatally dangerous scenarios.
It seemed that he didn’t like seeing people being injured or contracting a sickness as he always had some pills and bandages ready on himself and readily gave them to the ones in need.
He also had a sharp tongue and his nagging never stopped till the moment the servant’s injuries finally healed.
Considering how the world’s greatest healer had been so candid to a mere servant, who only had a small injury, I wonder just how much pressure said servant must have felt for being treated by such an important personage.
I only heard about this later, but it seemed that the Immortal Healer was being so candid because he had been given a free ride with a carriage of his own by us.
And due to something similar to the servant incident happening over and over again throughout the journey, the count of the people that started venerating the Immortal Healer spiked up a lot by the time the trip came to an end.
The Immortal Healer told them all to just screw off, hinting that they were bothering him by doing these things, but it seemed to have not worked since many people still found him fond for his actions.
Though the stubbornness that was ingrained in his bones never went away.
I arrived inside the house that the Immortal Healer was residing in with quick strides. Upon my arrival, I was greeted with the scene of the Immortal Healer sitting outside, seemingly drying some herbs that he had collected through his travels.
Upon noticing my presence, he asked.
“What is it.”
“I just came here with no particular reason in mind.”
“What a weirdo… Aren’t you even busy?”
“How could I be busy at home? All I do is eat and poop.”
“Then why come here when all you do is eat and poop?”
Just hearing the tone and content of our conversation— it made me realize how close I had gotten to the Immortal Healer. It was different from the first time we had met. We hadn’t been particularly close or talked with each other like we did now at that time.
The Immortal Healer stared at me for some time and then proceeded to speak with a frown on his face.
“What the hell did you eat during the night?”
“…How did you know?”
“What do you mean by ‘How do I know?’ huh? How could I not know when the Qi inside your body changed so drastically.”
But not knowing is the normal thing…
It is usually impossible to notice another person’s Qi if the person observing the Qi was a low-ranked martial artist, but the Immortal Healer was somehow capable of doing so.
Of course, I didn’t have an estimate of how much he could read into my current state, but if it was probably safe to assume that it would have been impossible for him to figure it out if it were to be a slightly higher-ranked martial artist than me.
‘Though it seems that he can’t feel the Demonic Qi.’
Seemingly, he had noticed that my overall Qi had increased after consuming the flower, but he still looked clueless about the presence of the Demonic Qi.
“…What, you want me to check your body?”
Hearing him speak, I couldn’t help but smirk at the kindness that was present in his tone.
“Are you asking me that because it’ll be good for me?”
“Huh? Of course, I’m asking it since it’ll be good for you. You think it’ll be good for me or something?”
“You should at least say that after erasing the curiosity that’s evident in your eyes.”
After learning that I was still living a healthy life despite having all the different forms of Qi inside my body, the Immortal Healer tried to observe and analyze my body whenever he got the chance. It was as though he had discovered a completely new type of species.
I let him check my body from time to time as I believed it would be beneficial for me since it was the Immortal Healer who was observing my body,
But I soon got tired of it at some point since he was basically treating me like a test subject, leading me to keep my distance from him in recent times.
“Oh stop pretending like you don’t want this, you know you came here since you wanted this.”
“You are quite keen…”
“Just stop talking nonsense and come sit here.”
I carefully sat down on the floor and reached my arm out toward the Immortal Healer when he told me that he wanted to check my condition.
He felt the veins on my arms with his hands. It didn’t take long for him to do the small checkup.
“I get fascinated every time I see this body, there is no way something like this should be possible…”
As always, the Immortal Healer went into deep thought after the checkup was completed.
From the Immortal Healer’s perspective, it was fascinating how the explosive and violent Qi of the Gu Clan was able to coexist with the calm and serene Qi of the Taoists.
‘I wonder how he’ll react if he found out that I also had Demonic Qi within me which made the Qis in my body round up to being three.’
If he found out about that, then he would probably become more heated and obsessed with my body than ever.
I wonder if this curiosity was due to him being a healer or if there was something else behind it.
“How is it?”
“The amount of Qi you possess has increased by a huge amount. I don’t think there are any problems as the instability you used to have when I first saw you is now gone without a trace.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I was worried that I was gonna get called a ticking bomb again.”
“What did you eat again for your body to become like this? Did that bastard, Dohwa, give you some items?”
“…Something like that.”
I did obtain the item from near the Mount Hua Sect, so it wasn’t completely wrong.
I constantly did checkups of my Qi and the state of my body, but a healer was able to do a more thorough checkup than someone like me, in the end.
Thankfully, I had the world’s greatest healer near me. Meanwhile, the Immortal Healer also seemed to be interested in the state of my body, so it was a win-win situation for us
When the checkup was about to end, I asked the Immortal Healer a question that I had in mind.
“Is there anything making you uncomfortable during your stay in this place?”
“How could I feel uncomfortable here? Compared to the hut that always had bugs coming out of it, this is much better and I’m already thankful enough.”
“But I heard that you asked them to change the guesthouse.”
“I’m not even working, so how does it make sense for me and Hyuk to stay in such a big building?”
“You say that, but the rumor of you going to the medical rooms and helping out the other healers from time to time has already spread throughout the clan.”
“…Which bastard was it?”
I held in the laughter that was about to leak out when I saw the Immortal Healer’s expression morph into a frown of anger and annoyance. He does always seem to have that nasty look and personality on him, but he was an old man that was more kind than anyone I knew.
I wonder how such a man ended up leaving the world of medicine. As though he had read through the Immortal Healer’s mind, Elder Shin spoke at that moment.
｢It’s probably because he values his own belief more than honor.｣
‘That’s some hard words.’
｢To be honest, one’s beliefs are the most important to martial artists as well, it is not limited to the healers alone.｣
It probably differed from person to person, but there was conviction in what Elder Shin said.
Belief over honor. I understood Elder Shin’s ideology, but something like that was practically impossible in the current world of martial arts.
People learned martial arts for honor and said honor followed behind them as they reached higher ranks as martial artists,
However, there were also people who learned martial arts just to chase honor.
“Please eat more often too. You are at that age, after all.”
“Who the hell worries about a healer, stop your weird worries since I take care of myself better than anyone.”
“What do you mean that you take care of yourself when you are skipping meals?”
“You little? You always only eat dumplings, do you want me to nag you on that?”
“Tsk. The checkup is done, so go leave after you go and see Hyuk.”
Hearing the Immortal Healer’s words, I couldn’t help but as with confusion covering my face. Then the Immortal healer responded while collecting the dried herbs one by one.
“He seemed to be disappointed that he doesn’t get to see you often after we got here— in the Gu Clan, I mean.”
“Who’s disappointed for who now?”
If he was referring to Zhuge Hyuk, then the Immortal Healer’s words felt a bit weird to me.
Another person that I got close to, just like I did with the Immortal Healer, was Zhuge Hyuk. It was understandable since I was forthcoming in trying to get closer to him.
Zhuge Hyuk was also someone who had the most dissimilarity to the person he was in my past life. He had been a man that donned a huge burn scar on his face and was also a man that seemingly never stopped talking with his variety of annoying expressions,
However, the Zhuge Hyuk I now knew was completely different from that alternate self of his.
He was emotionless just like Namgung Bi-ah, and couldn’t speak at all as he was seemingly a mute. We were able to have a short talk with each other since he was able to write on the dirt ground at least, but we were unable to converse for long periods of time using that method.
I listened to the Immortal Healer and went outside the compound grounds and immediately found Zhuge Hyuk. It wasn’t too hard to find him, to be honest,
As I had heard that his dream was to become a chef, I just had to look for places that were related to cooking.
As expected, I was able to find Zhuge Hyuk— chopping some vegetables in a house outside.
“What are you doing here?”
Zhuge Hyuk quickly turned his head after hearing my voice. Immediately, he put down the knife he was holding onto and showed some gestures with his hands.
I immediately knew what they meant since I had seen those gestures a few times already.
It meant something like, ‘Hello, bro.’
It was true that Zhuge Hyuk had told me he had fun cooking. He had also cooked with the servants during our trip back.
Furthermore, he was talented as well, so everyone enjoyed the food he made. Zhuge Hyuk showed more hand gestures to me, trying to relay something, but he still picked up a stick in the end.
It wasn’t a floor that he could really write on, but I was able to see the letters he wanted to write and convey to me if I just focused on the stick’s movements.
– It’s fun.
“…I figured. What are you making?”
– I’m not sure. But this is also tasty.
“Did you come up with another recipe again in your head?”
From time to time, Zhuge Hyuk would go freestyle when making food, not following the recipe at all. There were many times when he ruined food due to that nature of his, but on the flip side, there were also times when he succeeded and created something unique and tasty.
I spoke after remembering the food that he had made during the trip which had been a favorite of everyone.
“The fish you made last time was pretty decent.”
– The fried one? Or the boiled one?
“The fried one.”
– Do you want me to make you that dish right now?
“Nah it’s fine, I just remember it being good. I have to go somewhere during lunch anyway.”
– Then I’ll make it for you next time.
“…Uh, hmm… Sure, I’ll visit you again next time.”
I would’ve usually denied such a request, but Zhuge Hyuk enjoyed making food for people.
Besides, it seemed like he wanted to make something for me again, so I didn’t reject him this time.
｢Do you trust that child now?｣
Elder Shin suddenly asked that question.
He’s probably being careful in asking me that since he was aware of my past.
I responded candidly.
My tone was firm. Probably, I would never be able to trust this guy completely.
However, there were parts of him that I had faith in.
I also had hopes that the child would turn out differently from his destined path if he decided to live a different life.
That was the only reason I hadn’t touched him yet.
I had hopes in my mind that there won’t ever come a time when I would have to think otherwise.
I spoke out.
“I asked Ryunghwa to eat with me sometime soon, so how about you make me something then?”
Zhuge Hyuk was about to write something again but soon stopped. I clearly saw it. Saw that he had stopped writing when he heard Ryunghwa’s name being mentioned.
“You little… Hyuk I mean, your ears seem a bit red, don’t they?”
Zhuge Hyuk quickly hid his ears after hearing my words. His eyes had also started to tremble ever so slightly. That’s probably an act too, right? It had to be another act.
Zhuge Hyuk then carefully wrote something on the floor.
I was mistaken after all. This guy really was dangerous all along.
* * * *
After teasing Zhuge Hyuk for some time, I said my farewell to the Immortal Healer and went to the central region of our clan. It was the most likely venue for the engagement ceremony since it was quite an important event.
Expectedly so, I noticed that people whose identity I was unaware of had walked into the central compound.
It was probably people from the Namgung Clan.
When I arrived at the entrance of the central region, the people from the Gu Clan lowered their heads in deference to my presence and opened the road for me to walk in.
I even got caught by a servant midway and was forced to change my clothing.
I just wanted to go there with comfy clothes, but I guess that was impossible.
‘It doesn’t seem like I’m the last one to get here.’
Namgung Jin and my father still didn’t seem to be here and I was only able to spot Namgung Bi-ah sitting down there by herself. It was better for me with only her present, so I opened the door and went inside the building.
“How long have you been her—“
However, my body immediately stopped in its tracks as though it had ceased functioning.
A white flower was sitting down at that spot.
I wasn’t the only one who had broken down since Elder Shin also spoke to me with a noticeable quiver in his voice.
｢…You could dare to call this witchcraft with just that appearance of hers.｣
Witchcraft, huh? To men, it probably had that much of an effect.
She had to wear a mask or a veil whenever she went outside— even when she had the look of someone who had just woken up from sleep. It was only evident just how high her destructive power would become when she dressed up and dolled herself for the occasion.
Even I was shocked to see her current appearance. It was despite the fact that I had gotten used to her face since she was practically around me every day in recent times.
When I stared at her, Namgung Bi-ah’s eyes shifted toward me.
Even as I looked at her with a quiver in my eyes, my pupils could only stay affixed to her luscious lips.
I was worried since that was where she had gotten hurt recently, but the injury seemed to have faded, making me believe it wasn’t that big of an injury after all.
Namgung Bi-ah spoke while I was lost in observing her face.
“Seol-Ah was looking for you.”
“Oh, right. I went out without telling her.”
It seemed that Wi Seol-Ah was looking for me since I had gone out without informing her. I had gone to Tang Soyeol’s compound, then went to visit the Immortal Healer as well, then I was now here without returning back to my residence.
‘I should go look for her later.’
With that thought, I sat across Namgung Bi-ah. However, I was still unable to look at her face and only fixed my eyes on the teacup in front.
‘I’m going to go crazy.’
What am I doing here? Not looking at her because she’s too pretty. Even while cursing at myself for my childish behavior, it wasn’t easy for me to lift my head up and look at her.
Namgung Bi-ah noticed my hesitation as well and spoke in a slightly subdued tone.
“Is it weird…?”
“…Do I… look weird?”
A voice that held a little bit of disappointment within it. After hearing that, I finally lifted my head up and looked into Namgung Bi-ah’s eyes. Her eyes held a hint of nervousness within them.
That girl who always looked dull and careless was nervous at the mere action of me not gazing at her.
While I couldn’t understand why she felt that way about me, I also felt warm due to that subtle thought of hers which was a direct contradiction to what was going on in my mind.
“…It’s not weird.”
A faint hint of excitement held within her voice.
Namgung Bi-ah’s eyes sparked with the tiniest embers of excitement. I felt like I knew what she was asking without me having to confirm it with her.
She always seemed to live without knowing how pretty she was, but I guess she now had a change of mind and was able to understand just how great her appearance was.
To be fair, it was weirder that she didn’t know how pretty she was herself.
I couldn’t win against Namgung Bi-ah’s persistent stare, so I responded with a sigh.
“You look… beautiful. Not bad.”
Not being able to hold it in any longer, Elder Shin spoke in an enraged tone.
｢Did you have to add the last part like a total loser?｣
｢This is not fine. For a guy that uses flame arts to be this wimpy. You resemble the very definition of flames when you beat people up, but did someone pour water on you right now? Did the flames go out already, huh?｣
‘Please stop beating me up right now. It hurts.’
I properly looked at Namgung Bi-ah after I said those words. Even I myself knew that what I said was in no way appropriate at the moment.
But contrary to my expectations, Namgung Bi-ah donned a happy smile on her face at my words.
“I wanted to hear those words.”
A bright and incandescent smile bloomed on her face at the end of those words.
She smiled at me— in a way that seemed like she had gotten used to smiling already.
And funnily enough, all my damned memories and complex emotions seemed to have been washed away with that small act of hers.
But they would never be completely washed.
I would never be able to forget her past self.
Very suddenly, I was reminded of what I had said to her in the past.
– You resemble the moon.
There wasn’t any meaning in the words that I had spoken.
The Demonic Sword Queen had white skin and the bluish tints in her pristine white hair seemed like the glowing moon during night time.
It was simply for that reason that I had spoken those words to her. She simply seemed that way at that moment, so I relayed my feelings to her.
I remember that you stood still for a long while after hearing me.
I wonder what you were thinking of at that time.
I wanted to ask her now. Ask her just what you were thinking of for so long back then.
There were so many things that I wanted to ask her. Though, I ended up coming to a point in life where I could never ask her anything again.
I also tried to not get my filthy self involved with you again. I really tried. But somehow, way too many things got twisted along the way.
“This is all your fault.”
I blamed her for the pain I felt. And just responded with a confused expression on her face, not knowing what I meant.
I couldn’t help but giggle seeing the confusion on her face.
After chatting with her for a bit, a servant informed me that Father and Namgung Jin had arrived at the compound.
Hearing that, I fixed my posture accordingly.
This was quite an important event, after all, my performance needed to be impeccable.
‘…I was going to run away at first.’
I was shocked myself after thinking of what I was doing right now. Did I give up?
｢You just happily took the offer since she’s pretty, it’s not that deep.｣
I hated how I was unable to argue back against Elder Shin’s brazen words.
And just like that, the engagement ceremony tying the Namgung Clan and the Gu Clan in the bonds of marriage had commenced.
And this occasion made me learn something afterward.
Something that I had expected already.
Father was silent when I asked him, but I was now certain about my guess.
That father and Namgung Jin really had a very shitty relationship.
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༺ Let’s Make a Bet (2) ༻