༺ The Thing I Wished To Show You (1) ༻
Once all the duels had wrapped up by nightfall, the quarterfinals came to an end without any problem.
No, could I even say that it ended without any problem?
Because the storm that crashed onto me after the duel was rather strong.
And the duels for this year’s Dragons and Phoenixes tournament had been filled with unexpected twists.
The first example being Tang Soyeol’s defeat.
No one expected the Poison Phoenix to lose in the first round.
After all, many people expected the Lightning Dragon, the Poison Phoenix, and the Snow Phoenix to hold dominance over the tournament, especially since the Sword Phoenix, Water Dragon, and the Sword Dragon were nowhere in sight.
The Poison Phoenix was eliminated in the first round.
And the Lightning Dragon couldn’t even touch his opponent’s clothes, ending up coughing up blood in defeat.
The Snow Phoenix was climbing up the ladder as expected, but she wasn’t showing anything too outstanding either.
The defeats of the prodigies that everyone assumed to be the main cast of this generation…
And the appearances of the new stars…
These new things had certainly stoked the crowd’s excitement.
– The son of the Harmonic Sword defeated the Poison Phoenix, yeah? I even heard that it wasn’t even a close match.
– The Poison Phoenix isn’t weak either… But the Alliance Leader’s son, he really showed that he is the son of a tiger.
– He’s no puppy, that’s for sure!
Rumors of Jang Seonyeon spread rather quickly.
There were a few more duels after his fight with Tang Soyeol, but Jang Seonyeon continued to shine, winning every match flawlessly.
His sword skills were unparalleled for someone his age.
His mastery of the Harmonic Sword’s Sword Art was the proving factor.
Many people started whispering about how it wouldn’t be long until a new dragon appeared in the world.
But only a day after that incident…
Just a day after Jang Seonyeon showed his excellence…
A bigger storm exploded in flames. Big enough to almost completely overshadow Jang Seonyeon’s rumors.
The Lightning Dragon, who everyone expected to win, was defeated.
To some unknown boy, no less.
– The Lightning Dragon vomited blood. I’m telling you. He couldn’t even scratch him.
– Are we really talking about that Lightning Dragon? I heard that the boy still looks like a young child.
– Yeah! Oh, the Beggar’s Sect told me to keep this a secret, but-
– …If someone like you knows the secret, is it really a secret anymore?
– You sound like you don’t want to hear it.
– …I-I’m just kidding, do continue.
The man took a deep breath and resumed speaking.
– I heard that the boy was said to have overcome his wall.
– Wall? Is he a thief…? Why would he need to overcome a wall?
– You better not go around saying stuff like that anywhere else… I can’t take you around anywhere because of how embarrassing you are.
– …What’s with the insult? I simply don’t understand.
– What do you mean you don’t know when you live in this world…! Overcoming a wall means that he has reached the Peak Realm!
When the man shouted out of frustration, those nearby burst into laughter.
– Stop with your nonsense. You idiot! Bring us rumors that at least make sense!
– Last time you were talking about some child from a noble clan reaching the Third-Rate and being a genius or whatever, but now you are talking about Peak Realm like it’s someone’s pet dog’s name.
– I, ugh you rotting piece of… I’m being serious!
The frustrated man continued to argue, saying that it was real, but those around him only chuckled.
After all, it was preposterous to think that a boy not even in his twenties had reached the Peak Realm.
– That’s not just impossible for the Heavenly Venerables, but for other great figures of the past.
– I’m telling you that it really is true…
– You are being quite funny today, fine, I’ll believe you. So stop being so pissed off and tell me what that boy’s name is.
The man wanted to explode in anger, knowing his friend didn’t believe him, but couldn’t deny that what he was saying sounded nonsensical.
Peak Realm, he said. Not even the Ten Sect Alliance had any child who had reached Peak Realm, let alone the Four Noble Clans.
The man let out a sigh and continued.
– It’s one of the blood relatives from the Gu Clan of Shanxi.
– Hmm? I think I’ve heard about that clan once.
– Of course, you did, that’s where the famous Tiger Warrior and Sword Phoenix are from.
– Oh, right! It’s starting to ring a bell now.
– They had a male child there? Why didn’t I know that?
– It’s obvious that you didn’t, since this tournament marks his first appearance in this world.
– While the rumor of him reaching the Peak Realm might be far-fetched, it seems he’s living up to the reputation of being a son of a tiger, just like the Alliance Leader’s son.
– If he really did reach the Peak Realm like the rumor suggests, then he’s more like a son of a dragon than a tiger.
– Right, right! Hahaha!
The sound of laughter filled the area around them.
The man who had initiated the conversation was about to die of frustration as his friends wouldn’t believe him,
Nevertheless, the rumor about Gu Yangcheon was slowly but surely spreading, just like so.
And the boy, who didn’t pay much heed to the rumors about himself…
“Down in just a blow? Can you really call yourself a Gu after that? Maybe you should change your surname, eh? I can’t lift my face due to embarrassment, seriously.”
Was busy scolding someone.
I could clearly see the top of his head as he crouched down.
As I stared at his black hair, I could feel his sorrow.
Fair enough, really. How could he not be sad?
“Hey, are you crying? Are you?”
“At least say that after you wipe your nose.”
Gu Jeolyub’s sobbing voice was rather hard for me to listen to.
Why was he crying like a wimp when he was a grown man?
“What good thing did you even do for you to cry?”
When I spoke with annoyance, Gu Jeolyub shouted back.
“I’m crying because I didn’t do anything good…!”
“How dare you shout! When you did nothing good!”
I went out of my way to visit him in the morning, but Gu Jeolyub was sitting in a corner with a tearful expression.
I could empathize with him.
Gu Jeolyub lost to Namgung Bi-ah in yesterday’s duel.
He must be embarrassed as he was knocked out in a single blow.
Someone might ask why I was scolding him when he was likely already feeling down about his defeat. But I had my reasons.
Gu Jeolyub’s shoulders flinched after hearing my words.
I could not feel any more absurd after hearing what happened during last night’s duel.
I expected Gu Jeolyub to lose.
Which meant that it wasn’t surprising for Namgung Bi-ah to return to my barrack after easily beating him.
But the problem was, she beat him way too easily.
Even if Namgung Bi-ah was more skilled than Gu Jeolyub,
It wasn’t enough of a difference for her to beat him in a single blow.
If Gu Jeolyub had been focused, he would have at least clashed with her a few times.
He also couldn’t use the excuse of letting his guard down.
After all, it wasn’t the first time Gu Jeolyub fought Namgung Bi-ah and should have been well aware of her formidable abilities.
‘But he tripped?’
Gu Jeolyub was way too tense, freezing up before the duel even began…
And he tripped midway in his attack.
That was what I heard from Namgung Bi-ah.
“How can I face anyone after such humiliation?”
“…Just like last time, it’s something I did, but why does Young Master-“
“You idiot, I told you it’s because we have the same surname! Do you think our clan is that big? Do you think we have hundreds of martial artists like Mount Hua?”
“…Do we not?”
“Then how many martial artists with the Gu surname do we have? Do you think they all have that surname?”
“You know that, and yet you still lost because you tripped!?”
For a martial artist, a complete defeat was a crushing humiliation.
As it signified their inability to put up any resistance in the fight.
And it was probably worse for Gu Jeolyub as his loss was due to his own mistake.
“I didn’t do it because I wanted to- “
“Are you trying to give an excuse?”
“Do you even have one?”
Gu Jeolyub shut his mouth after I pierced him with facts.
Of course, he didn’t have anything to say.
His loss was entirely his fault.
His lips stopped moving…
And Gu Jeolyub hung his head in shame once again.
Seeing that, I let out a sigh.
‘Thankfully he’s not giving any more excuses.’
If he said something like he was destined to lose from the start, I would’ve destroyed his ass right here.
But Gu Jeolyub knew that it was all his own mistakes and didn’t point fingers at others.
‘He’s really not that bad, no matter how you look at him.’
If I excluded the fact that the bastard’s grandpa was the First Elder, he really wasn’t that bad.
I even became curious about what happened to Gu Jeolyub after the First Elder met his end in my past life.
His talent wasn’t bad and the same applied to his character.
‘Should I make him my minion?’
I even thought about bringing him with me to places if circumstances allowed.
Although I knew I had neither the time nor the peace of mind to do so.
He responded in a sob. Hearing this, I adopted a gentler tone.
“She told me to deliver her words to you.”
“’I want to fight you for real next time.’ Was what she said.”
Upon hearing my words, Gu Jeolyub raised his head and locked eyes with me.
Gu Jeolyub’s eyes were completely swollen and when he lifted his head from its previously crouched position, snot trailed upward from his nose.
“…Wow, you look really pathetic right now.”
I didn’t have to tell him who told me to deliver those words.
As Gu Jeolyub was well aware that Namgung Bi-ah was the one who said these words.
“Instead of crying, you should be swinging your sword to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen next time.”
This probably didn’t make him feel that much better, but even that side of him wasn’t too bad. His disappointment indicated that he hadn’t given up, even while knowing he would lose.
“If something like this happens again next time, I’m going to burn your leg off.”
Even after saying this, I still felt frustrated, so I delivered one more hit to the crying guy’s head before leaving.
When I left the barrack, I spotted Namgung Bi-ah waiting outside.
I hadn’t come here with her, so was she waiting for me outside after arriving later?
And the way she looked at me seemed strange.
“Why are you staring at me like that?”
When I asked with irritation, Namgung Bi-ah’s lips curled into a slight smile as she responded.
“… I didn’t say any of those words, you know…?”
She heard that.
It was my mistake for not putting up a barrier, assuming everything would be fine. Like she said, Namgung Bi-ah never said that she wanted a real fight next time.
I just made it all up.
‘But she really heard that.’
I was embarrassed. I was caught doing such a pointless thing.
“…I never said that you were the one who said it.”
In the end, I chose the option of running away.
It’s true, right? I never said that Namgung Bi-ah was the one who said those words.
Of course, it wasn’t going to convince her though.
After hearing my poor excuse, Namgung Bi-ah’s smile only grew wider.
“…It’s not completely… a lie.”
The way she spoke, with that smile on her face, made her look like a flower.
‘Did she not come for me?’
It felt embarrassing to assume that she had clearly come here looking for me. I was so sure that was the case.
But it seemed like Namgung Bi-ah came here for Gu Jeolyub.
“Are you going in now?”
When I asked Namgung Bi-ah if she was going to visit Gu Jeolyub, she shook her head.
“…No, there is no need anymore.”
After those words, she went back to her usual absent-minded expression.
Since I was done here, I was about to make my way back to my barrack.
But Namgung Bi-ah, who followed me naturally, suddenly spoke.
“…That was unexpected.”
“…I thought you didn’t care about such things…”
“That’s what I want to say.”
It was what I wanted to say to her.
Since it didn’t make any sense for Namgung Bi-ah to be concerned about someone to the extent of seeking them out.
And the fact that Namgung Bi-ah woke up this early in the morning to visit Gu Jeolyub, especially when she usually woke up at noon…
It was quite fascinating.
After hearing my words, Namgung Bi-ah tilted her head in confusion.
“Is it strange?”
“Wouldn’t it look strange?”
Her inability to understand the situation was rather amusing.
To be fair, she had always been like this.
Though she did change a lot by this point in time…
We continued to walk at a leisurely pace, but Namgung Bi-ah seemed like she had more to say.
I perked up my ears after hearing Namgung Bi-ah’s voice. It’s been a while since I heard her speak so clearly.
“Were you… planning on doing something for Soyeol?”
I frowned slightly as I didn’t know what she was talking about.
Doing something for her? Did I tell her that I’d do something for her?
“She told me that you would accept her request if you face her in the tournament.”
I remembered now.
I guessed Namgung Bi-ah was talking about back when Tang Soyeol asked me to speak informally to her.
Did Tang Soyeol tell Namgung Bi-ah that?
“She simply asked me to speak to her comfortably.”
Could anyone even call that a request?
It sounded more like a casual question in my eyes.
However, Namgung Bi-ah appeared somewhat dissatisfied.
After all, the faint smile that had graced her lips earlier had vanished.
It definitely didn’t seem like nothing.
“Do you want something too?”
I asked, just in case.
Just in case Namgung Bi-ah wanted to ask something from me, just like Tang Soyeol did.
Thankfully, that didn’t seem to be the case as Namgung Bi-ah shook her head.
“That’s… unfair, so I won’t.”
What made her say that it was unfair, just like how Tang Soyeol did?
It seemed like they just decided everything on their own without asking for my opinion.
Though it was partly my fault for being reticent.
“But… maybe I might want something.”
After hearing her words, I responded incredulously.
“Just say you want something… that’d be better.”
When someone said they might want something, it usually meant they did want something.
Namgung Bi-ah appeared a bit childish in that moment, her embarrassment evident in her flushed face.
Then, she started to complain, as if reminded of something.
“…You… don’t even duel with me…”
I couldn’t really argue with that.
I told her that I would, but I almost never did. I didn’t have a particularly good reason for this either.
It was just that the thought of me dueling Namgung Bi-ah bothered me a little.
‘…Is it because of my memories of the past, or the emotions I’m currently feeling?’
Perhaps it was the guilt that gnawed at me.
In the end, it was completely understandable for Namgung Bi-ah to be disappointed.
Which was why she was speaking to me with such an expression.
“I’m so- “
“It doesn’t matter…”
I tried to give her a late apology, but she cut me off midway.
“Whether it’s a request… or a duel…”
Namgung Bi-ah’s gaze bore into me more clearly than usual.
Her diamond-like blue eyes gleamed brilliantly. Those were also the eyes that I found challenging to look at.
As those eyes were similar to the ones who looked at me in my arms back then.
So I didn’t really want to look at them for too long.
Whether Namgung Bi-ah knew that or not, she didn’t look away and continued to speak with determination.
“You won’t be able to dodge it this time.”
My breathing became rougher after hearing her speak so clearly.
Now I felt like I knew why Namgung Bi-ah went out of her way to participate in the tournament, even though she disliked being in front of large crowds.
Without waiting for my response, Namgung Bi-ah finished speaking and began to walk ahead.
After a few steps, she turned around and stared at me once more.
I gasped after seeing Namgung Bi-ah suddenly turn around.
Namgung Bi-ah had a proud smile on her face as if she knew that she just one-upped me.
Now she was capable of making such a playful expression.
With so many changes happening all at once, my heart raced.
Namgung Bi-ah, whose smile disappeared immediately after, whispered quietly.
Her reaching her hand out toward me was a cherry on top.
Her beautiful white hand.
I found myself gazing at her hand for a moment before slowly closing the distance and taking hold of it.
Namgung Bi-ah’s eyes widened as she didn’t expect me to actually grab her hand.
Only after that did my previously frozen expression gradually begin to thaw.
I didn’t really have any particular reason for holding her hand.
I just thought she might be cold.
I reassured myself with that thought.
After returning to my barrack, some time passed and it was now noon.
And the brackets for the semifinals were announced.
When I went outside to check the bracket, I saw Tang Soyeol looking at it before me, as I expected.
However, Tang Soyeol’s expression was frozen.
And just by looking at her, I could sense the situation.
Just as I expected…
– Gu Yangcheon of Shanxi’s Gu Clan vs. Moyong Hi-ah of Moyong Clan.
– Namgung Bi-ah of Namgung Clan vs. Jang Seonyeon of Taeryung clan.
The bracket had been laid out like this, after all.
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