༺ Tournament (3) ༻
I was going to ask just what they were talking about Gu Ryunghwa behind her back like this.
But judging by their reactions, it seemed to me that I had been harboring a misunderstanding all this time.
Furthermore, it seemed like Shinhyun had something to ask of me instead.
He talked about the way Gu Ryunghwa acted ever since she came to the Mount Hua Sect all the way till now.
He asked me why would such a young girl like her come to their sect while bearing an appearance as if her soul had been snatched away.
The eldest second-generation disciple proceeded to ask me questions while explaining what had happened to my little sister over the years.
He queried if it had been actually my fault that my little sister ended up like this.
And I only had one answer to that question.
“Yes, it is my fault.”
He conveyed a rather deep story to me, considering the fact that he had spoken to me so suddenly.
This was the first time I’d heard anything concerning Gu Ryunghwa’s experiences during her time in the Mount Hua Sect.
About how she cried while looking for me.
And how she harbored a fear of men.
I didn’t really think too much into her issues before.
But it now seemed that her condition was worse than I expected.
It seemed that Gu Ryunghwa was not able to fully overcome her circumstances even to this day.
It looked plausible that she was merely enduring everything up to now.
Silence descended once Shinhyun heard my words.
However, judging from the frown on his face and the rough breaths, I was able to feel the traces of negative emotions churning inside him right now.
It looked to me that he was forcefully taking my words in.
I had harbored the thought that Gu Ryunghwa might have been getting bullied in the sect, but thankfully it didn’t seem to be the issue here, having seen this scene.
It even seemed like she was getting spoiled by them.
‘If anyone ever bullied her, then it would be me.’
I couldn’t deny that fact.
Shinhyun had yet to utter a word, so I just decided to ask him instead.
“Are you not going to ask why I did such a thing?”
He frowned visibly at my question.
“…I thought that I wouldn’t get an answer even if I asked.”
Like what he said, I was unable to answer his question.
This was my business after all and I didn’t feel the necessity to inform others about it.
“I still believe in my eyes.”
I was unable to process just what he had seen in me for him to think that way about me.
I remained silent as Shinhyun kept looking at me.
The way he looked at me wasn’t enough to decipher all his thoughts, but if there was one thing that I captured from his stare then it was,
The resentment he felt for me, which was shimmering ever so slightly in his eyes, was seemingly due to his concern for my little sister. And so I didn’t harbor bad feelings for that attitude of his.
I didn’t think that Yung Pung brought me here to show me something like this…
Speaking of the devil, Yung Pung came from behind and respectfully greeted the second-generation disciples.
“Junior Yung Pung.”
“Did you bring Young Master Gu here?”
“Yes, I did.”
“This place is explicitly reserved for the martial artists of the Mount Hua Sect and outsiders are not allowed to enter this place. You know this, don’t you?”
“…I’m sorry. He was asking about Senior Sister Gu, so I thought it’d be best for him to talk with you directly.”
“About Senior Sister Gu?”
Shinhyun looked at me.
His look right now was a bit different from before.
It was probably due to what I said earlier.
Moreover, it seemed that I wasn’t allowed in this place from what I gathered from his speech with Yung Pung.
Even while knowing that, Yung Pung still brought me to this place.
‘He really is a daring one.’
Although they weren’t as strict as the Murim Alliance, martial artists of the Mount Hua Sect were known for listening to their superiors’ orders no matter what. However, Yung Pung still ignored clear-cut orders and brought me to this location.
Leaking out a tired sigh, I spoke,
“I wanted to ask why my sister is fighting against the third-generation disciples.”
Shinhyun was about to explain in response, but someone interrupted his speech midway.
When I turned my head toward the source of that familiar voice, I saw Gu Ryunghwa standing there.
Shock colored her face when she saw me in this place.
And when she noticed the horde of the second-generation disciples standing here, she instantly frowned.
“Oh, we’ve been caught.”
“It’s all Eldest Senior Brother’s fault… What kind of person just blatantly talks to someone in the open when trying to conceal themselves?”
“Gu Ryunghwa… Eldest Senior Brother told us all to come here, we didn’t do anything of our own volition!”
“…You guys really are going to sell out your eldest senior brother here? What great people you guys are! You pieces of dog shit!”
Speaking with utter embarrassment coloring his face, Shinhyun looked like someone who was already used to these things.
Seeing this scene, Gu Ryunghwa spoke.
“I told you not to come here…”
He quickly tried to explain himself to her.
“I’m sorry, these guys were begging me so much…”
“What the…? He was the one that was talking about us selling him out just now and yet he sells us out right away…”
“What are you so surprised about? This isn’t the first time he did something like this now, is it?”
The disciples, talking behind his back, had no choice but to stop once they saw Shinhyun growl at them menacingly.
Gu Ryunghwa continued watching without saying a thing.
Seemingly, she had a lot to say about this matter but she was holding it in.
Soon, she leaked a sigh as she lowered her head.
“…Thank you for worrying about me. But I hope that you guys wouldn’t worry so much.”
Her voice was cold and rigid as she delivered that statement.
Her behavior toward her seniors could’ve been seen as nothing but disrespectful.
And due to that, I glanced toward the other disciple’s face.
However, they didn’t seem angry or displeased.
Instead, how should I say this… Shock? Touched? Something like that…?
“W… Woah, she thanked us.”
“She didn’t look away, nor did she step back even once.”
“Huh? What’s going on? Am I going to die tomorrow or something…?”
…It more or less started to look scary at this point.
What is up with their insane reactions?
Shinhyun kicked away the disciples, who seemed to have lost their minds, and walked toward Gu Ryunghwa.
“…Will you be fine?”
She just nodded her head in response.
“As always, I will respect whatever choice my family makes.”
“Yes… Thank you.”
“I think this is the first time I’m getting a thanks from you, what a strange feeling.”
“No need for an apology. Whether it is you thanking us or apologizing to us, we didn’t do anything for you to deserve any of that from you.”
A light and thin smile graced his lips as he looked at Gu Ryunghwa.
She had to turn her head away, unwilling to bear his gaze any longer.
“I’ll take those idiots away now as it seems like there isn’t too much time left, I hope you get a satisfactory outcome for yourself.”
The other disciples started to once again talk behind Shinhyun’s back after hearing their conversation. However, the moment Shinhyun made a fierce face, almost akin to a ferocious tiger, they immediately shut their mouths and ceased all speech.
I didn’t know that he was capable of making such a face…
Even I got a little scared after seeing him make that face.
“What are you doing here, brother?”
Immediately, I looked at Gu Ryunghwa when I heard her question.
It seemed that she had gotten used to calling me brother by now.
And that fact… was problematic for me.
‘Do I really deserve to be called that?’
That was the only thought I had in my mind.
Immediately erasing such thoughts, I spoke to Gu Ryunghwa.
“I heard that you are fighting against the third-generation disciples.”
“I was wondering why, but I somehow ended up all the way here.”
Shinhyun had already departed from this place along with the others.
And seeing that Yung Pung was nowhere to be found, it seemed that he was brought along with them.
Gu Ryunghwa responded after some time.
“You know, I just thought that I should fight where I belong.”
I understood the reason behind those words.
The current Gu Ryunghwa was nowhere near the skill level of the other second-generation disciples.
Most of the Mount Hua Sect’s fighting force consisted of second-generation disciples, and Gu Ryunghwa definitely didn’t belong in that category.
‘Though even the third-generation disciples might give her a pretty hard time.’
Gu Ryunghwa may have consistently trained hard, but that didn’t change the fact that the other third-generation disciples might’ve done the same as well.
Though I didn’t really have any idea if they really did since I had only ever seen Yung Pung among the third-generation disciples…
Anyways, if she really did decide to fight against the third-generation disciples for such a reason,
There was nothing left for me to ask.
Moreover, Gu Ryunghwa had already been given approval from the higher-ups of the sect, which was basically why she was able to participate with the third-generation disciples in the first place.
‘Yung Pung against the second-generation disciples and Gu Ryunghwa against the third-generation disciples, huh…’
It looked like they had switched places.
Similarly to how Yung Pung used force to go through his circumstances, Gu Ryunghwa was someone to rely on her determination to do the same.
Immediately, her head lifted as she heard my words.
A sliver of surprise seemed to have marked her face.
“Why are you making that face?”
“I… didn’t expect to hear those words from you, brother.”
“And I expect that you hear those words a lot, don’t you? It seems like you get spoiled a little.”
I was referring to the seniors of the second-generation disciples cheering Gu Rhyunghwa on, almost constantly, as I mentioned those words.
“…They are just weirdos.”
It seemed that she was feeling a bit pressured by those muscular men.
Thinking about it, even I would feel the same if a horde of muscular dudes suddenly started saying ‘Our Yangcheon is the best!’ on a daily basis. I was sure that I would be so weirded out that I would constantly hide from them.
Still, it didn’t seem that she disliked such behavior.
She was just feeling a bit pressured by their kindness.
“Anyways, I’m done here now. I’ll be going now.”
I had to stop my steps, as I was about to leave, at Gu Ryunghwa’s words.
When I looked at her, wondering why she said that, she came closer to me and even grabbed my clothes.
I couldn’t help but feel a sliver of shock pass through my mind at her act.
Since she used to have a hard time even looking in my general direction before.
“The tournament, are you coming to watch it?”
“That’s why I’m here after all.”
“Is Sis… also here?”
I assumed that she was speaking about Namgung Bi-ah when she said Sis.
Namgung Bi-ah was probably sitting on the stands along with Wi Seol-Ah by now.
I quickly responded to Gu Ryunghwa’s question.
“Yeah she’s here, I think they are in the spectator seats right about now.”
“What about you, brother?”
Indeed, I had come here to watch Gu Ryunghwa’s fight. However, I felt quite a bit of embarrassment to directly say that I had just come here to watch her fight. In the end, I just leaked out a fake cough and spoke in a soft tone.
“…I’ll be watching.”
She immediately released my clothes from her grasp as she heard those words.
It seemed that she was still having a hard time being near me since I could notice her slightly trembling hands even as she distanced them away from me.
Why did she go as far as to grab my clothes when she has such a hard being near me?
She held onto her trembling hands and smiled a bitter smile.
“It seems like I still have a hard time huh.”
I’m sorry. Don’t do it if you have a hard time with it. You don’t need to go that far.
Those were the words that I had to desperately hold off from leaking out.
The young Gu Ryunghwa was trying to overcome her traumas by herself.
Her story had already become far different from the one I knew of in my past life.
“…Right. I’ll be watching.”
Every time I saw her act like that, I only felt guilt and regret.
The type of regret that made me think that I shouldn’t have done those things to her and that I should be treating her differently from now on.
She soon left after informing me that she had to start preparing for her fight now.
I, too, walked away after watching her back, as she drifted away into the building, for some time.
I returned to the crowded streets, a plethora of complicated thoughts tagging along with me in the process, and reunited with my party.
It was rather easy to find them since I just had to look for Namgung Bi-ah.
Expectedly, she was in a location where many eyes were trained on her.
She was still wearing the cover over her face, but many people still looked at her due to her unique presence and overall atmosphere.
Namgung Bi-ah was leaning on Wi Seol-Ah with a somewhat exhausted face, however, she immediately lifted her tired face and started moving.
It looked to me that she was searching for something.
Her eyes that were drifting on the surroundings were now targeted toward me.
Once she affirmed my presence, she waved her hand.
Sitting next to her, Wi Seol-Ah also waved her hand toward me as well.
‘How did she find me when I’m this far away?’
Perhaps she used her Qi?
I don’t think she would do that, so is it just a coincidence?
‘Probably a coincidence.’
With those pointless thoughts, I walked over to them and noticed that there was an empty seat just next to theirs. It seemed that they had saved a seat for me.
Wi Seol-Ah soon looked at me and asked,
“Young Master, where were you?”
“I went to go see my sister, I heard that she’s fighting today.”
Namgung Bi-ah immediately reacted after hearing my words.
“She’s… fighting today?”
“That’s what I heard.”
Her lips immediately flinched at my words, seemingly trying to say something to me. In the end, however, she just turned her head around without speaking.
Her gaze was directed toward the fighting arena.
I didn’t need to ask why she was looking there.
The noisy crowd also started to quiet down soon enough.
Everyone’s eyes were trained on the arena.
In the arena quiet and desolate arena, a sliver of light pink leaves started to manifest into the air not too high above the ground.
The leaf, shining with an odd light, soon fell on the ground as though blown away by an unknown breeze.
And as soon as the leaf touched the ground,
A light pink aura instantly swept over and covered the entire arena.
At a glance, I was immediately able to tell that an immense amount of Qi was billowing in the arena.
The aura that stormed inside the arena like a raging tempest, exploded in an instant and disappeared, merely leaving behind slight traces of its havoc.
When the aura disappeared, the leader of the Mount Hua Sect, Celestial Plum Blossom was seen standing at the front line of the arena,
And behind him, stood the third-generation disciples that would be participating today.
The moment the crowd witnessed their appearance, they started cheering with loud noises.
The Celestial Plum Blossom probably made an appearance for all the people who trekked all the way up the great Mount Hua to see this tournament,
However, it was still shocking that he didn’t seem the least bit tired even after using that staggering amount of Qi just for an appearance.
When the Celestial Plum Blossom raised his hand, everyone became quiet as if their silence had been planned beforehand.
“Every year, you people come all the way up this tall mountain for this little event… I thank you all immensely for your participation.”
With every step the Celestial Plum Blossom took, it seemed like there was an unknown wind blowing from who knows where.
Is he also using his Qi?
“There’s nothing more boring than some old man talking for no reason, so I’ll be taking my leave now. Please watch how our children put their all into this humble festival of swords.”
The Celestial Plum Blossom then came off the arena and went somewhere after delivering those short and concise words.
The Sword Dragon, Yung Pung may have been a young prodigy. However, since the Celestial Plum Blossom was a master that was famous throughout the world,
Many seemed to be disappointed that they weren’t able to hear more of his words.
But it was better for me since that meant that the tournament would proceed faster as a result.
When the Celestial Plum Blossom sat in the elders’ seating area, the third-generation disciples on stage started their preparations.
Two disciples walked out of their formation and soon stood opposing each other with wooden swords.
‘Wooden swords huh.’
I heard that the second-generation disciples would be using real swords.
The man, seemingly the judge of this match, looked at both of the disciples, checking if they were fully prepared for what was to come.
Along with that shout, enhanced with Qi, the two charged at each other, swords drawn.
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༺ Tournament (3) ༻