༺ Cold in the Midst of Summer (3) ༻
It was around 1 am in the dead of the night.
I had already laid down to sleep.
｢If one wants to become a true Taoist, one must throw away all desires including lust.｣
Elder Shin’s voice, in the dead of the night, sounded really serious for reasons that I was not aware of.
I think this was probably the most serious I have heard him speak since the day I have met the Elder.
｢If one gets distracted by every small thing, one will never be able to reach their goal both as a martial artist and a Taoist.｣
He spoke rapidly without stuttering a single word.
｢Did you know? That high ranking people of the Mount Hua Sect don’t marry anyone throughout their lives? It’s all to further enhance their chance of gaining enlightenment.｣
The one who would become the lord and the face of the Mount Hua Sect usually refrained from getting married, although there were a few instances when the Taoists within the sect still chose to marry.
Though I could care less if they married or not, to be honest.
After briefly listening to Elder Shin’s nagging words, I replied to him with clear disinterest in my face.
‘…So what’s your point?’
｢…I hope you go die, you little brat!｣
Elder Shin shouted out loud inside my head.
｢I don’t see how you are attracting all these flowers when you look like an ugly mantis. What has the world come to…｣
‘So what you are saying is, that you died never having a single relationship with anyone, while I’m getting all these girls at a young age, right?’
‘You’re not actually angry at me for something like that, right?’
Though I couldn’t see his face, I could vividly imagine him trembling with unimaginable anger and agony right about now.
So he was just recounting his sob story, huh?
Now I was able to understand why he got so angry at me whenever things like this tended to happen.
‘…So you really never met any—’
｢…! …!! …!!! …!｣
“Jeez what are you screaming for—”
I quickly shut myself up when I heard the sounds that came from either of my sides.
Earlier, the exhaustion I felt from every inch of my body made me feel like I was about to faint at any moment,
But now, I was wide awake because of the scenario that I was facing right now.
In the dark room, I found myself sandwiched between Wi Seol-Ah and Namgung Bi-ah who were respectively on my right and left.
Namgung Bi-ah fell asleep right away like yesterday, while Wi Seol-Ah eventually fell asleep after chatting with me for some time.
I was extremely surprised and shocked when I first opened the door and saw the scene of them waving at me with all the blankets already set up.
I thought I was dreaming for a second there.
If you are wondering how this all happened,
It was because I didn’t really have the time to ask for a new room for Namgung Bi-ah because of everything that happened earlier in the day,
And I couldn’t just kick out Wi Seol-Ah who seemed like she was about to cry at any second the moment I told her she couldn’t sleep with me.
“…Why is sis allowed but not me…?”
Was what she asked me with an indignant voice while she started crying the next moment. Hence, I was not able to really say anything to her after that.
I could’ve just said that it was because she was just a servant,
But I knew that I couldn’t take back those words once they leaked out of my mouth.
I could just imagine what kind of face Wi Seol-Ah would make if I actually said that, and I couldn’t bring myself to say such a thing and live through the consequence of my action.
Also, since the Sword Emperor wasn’t here, I just decided to let her stay in the room since I didn’t have the necessary energy to deal with her in the first place.
I was already aware of the phenomenon called summer snow.
However, snow and summer did not belong in the same sentence, the logic I had built up did not dictate the existence of such a scenario.
How could it be so cold in the summer for it to snow?
Was my thoughts about this nonsensical matter at first, but now I felt like I kind of knew what was meant by those words.
With the breathing sounds that came from Namgung Bi-ah and Wi Seol-Ah,
And their scent that I was able to smell wafting in the air and filling this entire room, it was impossible for me to fall asleep, no matter how hard I tried to.
I didn’t even feel the heat of the summer any longer. I honestly felt like I was about to go crazy at this point as I felt cold rather than hot in this summer weather. My senses were a haywire.
I usually sleep in a shrimp position, putting my head to the side, but I couldn’t do that right now since no matter which side I chose to put my head on… there was a face there waiting for me.
｢Smell their scent? How perverted of you.｣
‘…Please just sleep already.’
｢Have you ever seen a ghost sleep?｣
I lifted up my severely exhausted body,
And immediately my shoulders ached from the uncomfortable position I had been in.
I thought I had moved carefully just now, but Wi Seol-Ah, who was right next to my arm, started to make some uncomfortable noises when I moved my body.
She was chewing her hair in her sleep.
It seemed like even in her dreams, she was probably eating something.
‘What is she eating?’
Maybe some noodles?
After wondering about such a pointless thought, I placed Wi Seol-Ah’s hair, which was covering her face, to the sides.
When I placed her hair to the sides like that, her pale skin and pink lips came into view.
Even though she didn’t have a fully grown-up face yet, her face still had an otherworldly charm to it.
‘She probably needs to put on a veil as well.’
A veil didn’t really suit a servant, but there was no other choice when it came to her. She wasn’t just your average pretty girl, after all. Moreover, thinking of the stuff that happened in my past life, it was almost mandatory to put a veil over her face.
In 1 or 2 years, I’ll probably have to cover her face up with a veil.
‘If… I’m still with her by then that is.’
It was a bitter thought.
The gnawing thought that I would not be able to stay with Wi Seol-Ah never left my mind.
Since it wasn’t too weird for me to leave it all anyways.
I was blessed with the care and affection that Wi Seol-Ah showered me with every day,
But the notion that I probably didn’t deserve such a thing never left my mind…
I couldn’t help but constantly think like that.
Suddenly, Wi Seol-Ah grabbed my hand in her sleep.
Her hand was soft and warm.
It seemed like she was dreaming about the Sword Emperor. I patted Wi Seol-Ah’s head lightly with my other hand and carefully, with utmost quietness, got up from my bed as I was sure that I would not be able to sleep in the current state I was in.
I brought one pillow with me and went into a corner of the room.
｢You are making a sad decision, you know….｣
‘Not a sad decision.’
If I was not able to sleep tonight then, being a martial artist or not didn’t matter, I was more or less sure that I would die of exhaustion.
I laid down after putting down the pillow on the hard wooden floor.
Since I couldn’t hear their breathing or smell their lingering scent any longer, I was able to thankfully fall asleep rather quickly.
* * * *
– Chirp, chirp… Chirp—!–
I woke up to the sound of the chirping of birds.
Just hearing that was enough for me to be certain that it was already morning.
I wanted to sleep until it was at least noon. Why did I wake up so suddenly then?
I tried my best to ignore the progressively growing sense of annoyance that was plaguing my mind and tried to get up, however, I soon found out that I was not able to move at all as though someone had pinned me down to the ground.
‘…Is this sleep paralysis?’
I moved my head around and checked the surroundings,
And, almost immediately, noticed the bluish-white hair that was slightly placed above my chest.
When I finally woke up for real, I found that both my arms had been taken hostage in my sleep.
Namgung Bi-ah and Wi Seol-Ah were grabbing onto them from both sides as they slept.
‘…What are they doing here when I went out of my way to sleep in a corner of the room.’
Just what happened during the night?
｢Don’t call for me.｣
“What are you… Uh, did something happen last night?”
｢I saw nothing…｣
What is he even saying…?
Putting aside Elder Shin’s weird reaction, I wanted to really get up right about now, but my arms weren’t able to easily escape their grasp.
“…Seriously, what are they doing. What if someone sees—”
As soon as I spoke those words, the door abruptly opened and my eyes met with the newcomer’s.
There weren’t any servants who could just bluntly open the door without asking for permission first,
And it was even less likely for it to be a martial artist from the Mount Hua Sect,
So there were only a few options left that came to my mind.
When I finally checked to see who had barged into my room, I couldn’t help but start sweating all over.
It was someone who had the least possibility among the few options that had come to my mind.
It was none other than Gu Ryunghwa, my little sister, who had opened the door and barged inside.
The face of my little sister gradually morphed into a deep frown as she looked at the two girls that were next to me.
I get that it was bad timing, but how should I explain myself to her now?
How should I even begin to make her understand that this isn’t what it looks like? That we only slept while holding our hands?
‘…Wow, how persuasive.’
I could not just blurt those silly words out when she saw me in the floor with two girls sleeping beside me in the morning.
While I was wondering what I should say to her now to solve this misunderstanding, Gu Ryunghwa, who seemed like she was about to say something to me, suddenly close the door with a chilly frown on her face.
“…I’ll wait outside.”
I reminded myself that it was already too late for me to mend this misunderstanding once I heard the chilly edge in her voice coming from outside.
I tried my best to escape the two annoying girls’ grasp, and in the end, I was barely able to release one of my hands after tickling Wi Seol-Ah’s hips.
Wi Seol-Ah instantly woke up after I tickled her like that and started rolling on the floor in shock and surprise.
And no sooner had one of my hands gotten free, I used it to bonk Namgung Bi-ah on the head.
Namgung Bi-ah finally woke up when she felt a hit on her forehead.
When her grasp over my other hand got loose, I quickly pulled my arm out and hastily exited the room.
When I came out, I was able to see Gu Ryunghwa sitting on the floor outside.
No matter how I spun my head, I was still not able to decide what to say to her and kept rolling my eyes here and there in a fluster, however, it seemed like I didn’t need to say anything as she decided to speak to me first.
“Master wants to see you.”
I was utterly dumbfounded since I had never expected to hear something like that.
“She was disappointed that she didn’t get to see you the last time you came.”
When she spoke of the last time, did she mean the time that I had went over to the hut to deliver a letter for the Immortal Healer?
“The Plum Blossom Sword herself?”
She did tell me that she was friends with my mother, so perhaps she wanted to see me as I was the son of her friend or something like that?
“She asked you to visit her once last time before you return to the clan.”
“…Okay, is that why you came all the way here? This early in the morning?”
“Are you crazy? Of course, I had other things to do too when I decided to come here.”
She spoke with clear annoyance on her face.
“But if I knew that I’d see such a sight first thing in the morning, I would’ve decided to come a bit later.”
“…Why did you come to the Sect anyway?”
“Is it weird for a sect member to come to their own sect?”
“In your case, yes, it is.”
I spoke these words as I knew that she spent most of her time in the hut taking care of the Plum Blossom Sword— her master.
Gu Ryunghwa just leaked out a deep, almost tired, sigh with a disgusted expression that made her look like she had just chewed down a bug.
“…I just came here for the tournament, mind your own business.”
“I was minding my own business, but you’re the one that came here.”
“Are you also going to participate in the tournament?”
“Isn’t that obvious?”
I was originally planning on going back to the Gu clan once the tournament ended, but since I already returned the treasure and Gu Ryunghwa already revealed her intentions to not return to the clan,
‘I think I can just leave without waiting for the tournament to end?’
I saw no problem in leaving early as long as I was able to dig up some more information about Zhuge Hyuk and the Black Palace.
While I was trapped in such thoughts, Gu Ryunghwa stood up and went on her way to leave as her work here was now done.
“I’m done here. You can go back to playing with those ugly girls of yours once again.”
“Yeah, since all girls that will ever be with you are—”
She abruptly stopped without finishing her words.
Immediately, I noticed that Gu Ryunghwa had suddenly gotten extremely shocked by something, judging by the severe trembling of her pupils.
She was still looking in my direction, but I was sure that she wasn’t looking at me.
It was more like… behind me?
I turned my head, wondering what could get her so shocked all of a sudden, and I immediately saw Namgung Bi-ah standing there with a sleepy look on her face while staring at Gu Ryunghwa.
Moreover, Wi Seol-Ah was also there half asleep.
Gu Ryunghwa had become frozen on her spot as she had seen both of them at the same time.
Perhaps she had become so shocked because even one of these beauties was already devastating enough but there were actually two such girls here at the same time?
Gu Ryunghwa seemed like she was trying to say something with those quivering lips of hers.
But she just quickly left this place, disappearing from our sight and didn’t manage to say anything in the end.
…What’s up with her?
* * * * *
After I was done having breakfast with the two sleepyheads.
Wi Seol-Ah, as always, had been taken away by Hongwa while Namgung Bi-ah just went on her way to train on the mountain.
Meanwhile, I was called to discuss about the guys from the Black Palace at around 12 pm.
“Not a single clean body.”
There were three corpses laid about in the room.
I believe there were about 5 or more bodies there when I left, but some of them had become utterly ruined by the wild beasts, so they were not able to bring them here.
One of them had died by getting their neck twisted beyond belief while the others were burned to death.
That was more or less everything I did to them, so I had nothing to say in this situation.
But there was one thing I was certain of,
‘Thankfully, they don’t seem to be demonic humans.’
The humans that were converted into Demonic Humans by the Heavenly Demons would have their bodies turn completely black once they met their demise.
But the guys I had killed in the forest didn’t have their bodies change color to black, although it seemed like they did because of being burnt alive by me.
A man who was thoroughly observing the corpse suddenly spoke to the Celestial Plum Blossom.
“It’s hard to say with one of the bodies being already ruined so much, but judging from the other two bodies, it does seem like they belonged to Western Dragon.”
The scar they had on all of their shoulders seemed to be the symbol of the organization they belonged to.
The scar seemed to be quite old, so they were surely not made in recent times.
“…Isn’t ‘Western Dragon’ the group that’s been disbanded by the Murim Alliance a few years ago?”
Bandits were very rare existences at this time period, but there were still some groups that existed out there.
“I believe some of them… that had escaped at the time of their disbandment were taken in by another group.”
People joining a new group after losing their former ones happened quite frequently in the Martial World.
As just because they lost their former group, didn’t mean that they would suddenly turn into nice people.
And there was usually one place people like them gathered and merged with.
‘The Black Palace.’
The fact that the Celestial Plum Blossom along with other elders were frowning right now was most likely because they were able to identify these people as members of the Black Palace.
Or maybe it was because they were trying to connect their existence with the disappearances of the people of the Mount Hua Sect?
“…Lord should we increase the scouting range?”
One of the elders spoke up, breaking the unsettling silence.
He wanted to further their scouting range since they had already found a clue pertaining to the disappearance of their people.
Though some seemed to be disagreeing with this suggestion.
“Senior, then we might lose more of our students.”
“Then are you saying we should just do nothing in fear? We already lost enough of our students…!”
With just one word from the clan leader, the scent of plum flowers instantly permeated the whole area. After overpowering this place with his aura and existence, he once again spoke with a calm smile.
“An outsider is here with us, I get that you are desperate, but keep calm and gather your bearings.”
“My apologies… Lord.”
I kept watching their exchange with a dumb look on my face. Thankfully, no one blamed me for this incident.
“I do have a plan for scouting.”
“You made a plan?”
“…The way you look at me with such doubt is making me really sad, you know…”
He apologized but didn’t deny it, huh….
To get such treatment even from his own people when he was literally the sect leader… Just how much trouble did he cause to the clan and its members…?
“…Ahem, anyways, I apologize to you once again for getting tangled with the business of Mount Hua Sect, kid.”
“It’s not a problem.”
“Once I finish talking with the elders, I’ll prepare the reward I had mentioned to you before.”
I wanted to say that there was no need for that since I just did what I had to do, but I had a nagging feeling that if I said something like that, the Celestial Plum Blossom would just bite back at me.
As expected, the Celestial Plum Blossom was looking at me with weird eyes.
But it looked like he couldn’t joke around since there were other elders of the clan here right now.
I left the place as it seemed like they wanted to talk about something amongst themselves. Something that an outsider should not be privy to.
｢It looks like it went well.｣
“Yeah, I even prepared some things to say just in case… but there was no need for that it seems.”
｢The Taoist clans are very understanding after all.｣
“Ironic coming from you…”
Now that I look at it, Elder Shin didn’t seem to care too much about the Mount Hua Sect of the current times.
For instance, how he wasn’t much fazed even when the people of the Mount Hua Sect kept disappearing.
He just looked satisfied that the sect was able to remain standing even to this day.
The current people of the sect were responsible for what was happening in the present times.
Or something like that… was what he told me.
I guess this can be a form of retirement…?
With this bundle of thoughts churning in my head, I headed to the mountain I had trained in before.
I knew that I would only sleep more if I returned to the lodge, so I came here thinking that I would do some much needed training.
“What is she doing here…?”
I already knew that Namgung Bi-ah was here because of the razor sharp intent I had sensed, smothering the atmosphere all around, as I climbed the mountain,
It was slightly less intense than yesterday but I was still sure that it was definitely Namgung Bi-ah who was emitting this intent.
However, I soon felt another presence near her.
– Arghh…! Why won’t you get hit once…!
The other presence, a girl, could be seen aggressively swinging her wooden sword and fell to the ground after being tripped by Namgung Bi-ah’s foot.
Unlike yesterday, there was no one spectating this time around. I assumed that was because they were immersed in individual training.
The girl who fell rolled on the dirt for quite some time.
It looked like this wasn’t the first time she had rolled like that because her uniform was stained with copious amounts of dirt already.
“…Why is she here?”
Namgung Bi-ah was looking at her opponent with her usual apathetic face.
And the girl, rolling on the ground with clear anger on her face, was shockingly Gu Ryunghwa.
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