༺ Nine Dragons Day (6) ༻
Peng Ah-Hee had been dealing with a headache a little before the Nine Dragons Competition started.
The Second Elder putting Peng Woojin down was good, but after he woke up, he still insisted that he wouldn’t go back to his clan just yet.
Still looking like he was about to doze off, Peng Woojin stood up with his swollen face, gave a hollow smile, and said, “I didn’t expect that one.”
Peng Woojin accepted that he would go back to his clan as promised.
But he insisted on only leaving after watching the Nine Dragons Competition, as he didn’t want to end his trip without gaining anything from it.
Peng Woojin was a Young Master.
He held the next highest position in the Peng Clan after the Lord and the elders, and would one day inherit that title.
None of the Peng Clan members present, including Peng Ah-Hee, could order him around.
“I’ll return after watching this.”
“What makes you want to watch this so badly?”
“It’s a pity… To just come here and leave with empty hands.”
“What do you mean, ‘pity!’ It’s just a process of picking new swordsmen that our Peng family also holds. Let’s just go back to the clan—”
“If you keep arguing like this, I’m gonna go complain to the Flaming Fist Second Elder. I’ll tell him, ‘isn’t this too unreasonable?’”
Peng Ah-Hee shut her mouth at Peng Woojin’s words.
She knew that this idiot would actually dare to go through with it.
In the end, because Peng Woojin promised to return after the competition, she allowed it.
‘…Fine, just one more day. One day is fine.’
Thus, she brought Peng Woojin to the arena while cooling her ire. Heaven market offered them a VIP spot as they belonged to the noble Peng Clan, but Peng Woojin refused.
He said that he didn’t deserve it, as his presence was neither expected nor called for.
So, they sat in the normal seats, receiving constant glances from the people around them.
They kept gawking at the pair of siblings since they couldn’t believe they were sitting next to people wearing the prestigious Peng Clan’s robes, but the difference in status also meant they were unable to talk to the two of them. Thus, they kept staring.
Peng Ah-Hee was feeling a bit sick from the unwanted attention, but Peng Woojin didn’t care one bit.
He also somehow had dumplings in his hands from whenever and wherever he’d bought them.
“Brother… When did you buy those?”
“Hmm? I bought them a while ago.”
“When exactly was ‘a while ago’…”
‘How the hell did he buy them when I swear he was next to me this whole time?’
Peng Woojin was simply an unpredictable person. The elders might argue back and forth over whether his talent as a martial artist was truly the greatest in history, but it was absolutely undeniable fact that he was a bizarre person.
‘He ran away so that he could have fun.’
Wrinkles formed in Peng Ah-Hee’s face when she reminded herself of that moment.
“It’s starting, Ah-Hee!”
Whether he knew of her frustrations or not, Peng Woojin cheerfully took in the festivities with dumplings in his hands.
The Nine Dragons Competition was nothing new for Peng Ah-Hee.
As someone from one of the Four Noble Clans, she had grown up along with great and famous martial artists. Therefore, she didn’t find the idea of watching people from lesser clans battling against each other particularly exciting.
Of course, there were a few individuals here and there that caught her attention, but no one was spectacular enough to hook her attention for very long.
Peng Ah-Hee stared at Peng Woojin.
He seemed to be amused by the bout, but also had an empty look in his eyes.
Peng Woojin had been like that ever since he was young.
What he was thinking, and why he would only look for fun with all his talent—Peng Ah-Hee didn’t know.
The look he had made it seem like he was always ready to leave the clan whenever he wanted, but he accepted the position of Young Master without any complaints anyways. And then, he ran away, all the way to the Gu Clan in Shanxi.
A person who could disappear at any moment. That was what she thought about Peng Woojin, and it honestly scared her.
The reason Peng Ah-Hee accepted the Lord’s request to find Peng Woojin along with the others was not only because of the guilt she felt that day.
The sunlight faded, and night gradually fell. All the fights of the Nine Dragons Competition had ended.
“Let’s return now, brother.”
However, Peng Woojin was still sitting as motionless as a rock upon hearing Peng Ah-Hee’s words.
She looked in the direction Peng Woojin was staring at and saw someone in the middle of the empty arena.
“That person is…”
She was a rather tall girl with hair tied back, and red clothing representing the Gu Clan’s lineage.
‘Gu…Yeonseo, was her name, right?’
They had met from time to time at Orthodox Faction gatherings. Needless to say, Gu Yeonseo’s elder sister Gu Huibi was quite talented, and she had heard that Gu Yeonseo possessed talent that rivaled Gu Huibi.
Gu Yangcheon also stepped into the arena shortly after.
He had an expression that suggested ‘I don’t want to be here’ written all over his face. It looked as if he just chewed on a bug.
“Why is that guy coming onto the stage?”
“They are holding a match between blood relatives.”
Confused at what Peng Woojin was saying, Peng Ah-Hee looked at him and saw a weird piece of paper in his hands.
｢The battle between the blood relatives will begin shortly after the end of the Nine Dragons Competition.｣
｢Your support and patronage is much appreciated.｣
“…When did you get that?”
“They gave it to me when we arrived here.”
She looked back towards the arena.
It seemed like Gu Yeonseo and Gu Yangcheon were conversing, but she was unable to hear them due to the distance.
It was the same when she tried enhancing her hearing with Qi.
Peng Woojin spoke.
“That won’t work, the arena is surrounded with a Qi barrier.”
“A barrier of this size… It was probably done by that Flaming Fist Senior.”
Peng Ah-Hee understood the facial expression on Gu Yangcheon’s face. He had no chance of winning the fight.
She knew, more than anyone, about Gu Yangcheon’s martial arts capability.
He had nothing to show compared to his blood relatives. He would only end up rolling on the ground if he faced Gu Yeonseo.
If she were in Gu Yangcheon’s place, having to go through this humiliation in front of all this crowd would probably make Peng Ah-Hee hang herself in embarrassment.
For the first time in her life, Peng Ah-Hee pitied Gu Yangcheon.
While the Gu siblings were still holding their conversation, the Second Elder let out a Qi-infused shout Qi that signaled the start of their fight.
Gu Yeonseo immediately charged at Gu Yangcheon.
Peng Ah-Hee was astounded by Gu Yeonseo’s speed.
Her footwork and swordplay were flawless, without any unnecessary movements, and her balance was truly commendable.
Attack after attack flowed forth, seamless and unceasing.
Her constant offensive, performed without an ounce of hesitation, truly showed how much effort she had put into her training.
‘…Could I beat her if we fought right now?’
She honestly wasn’t sure.
She didn’t have the confidence to cross swords and emerge victorious against the Gu Yeonseo who was elegantly wielding her blade in the arena.
She felt that her pride as a direct descendant of the Peng Clan dwindled.
“Sword Phoenix’s younger sibling, huh?”
Peng Ah-Hee noticed that Peng Woojin’s eyes were shining as he watched the bout.
His previously dim eyes were now gone.
When Peng Ah-Hee looked at that, she had to forcefully suppress a feeling that she disliked
“…Yes, a blood relative to the Gu Clan at that age can only be the younger sibling of the Sword Phoenix.”
But she couldn’t hide her emotions in her voice.
Even to the high standards of her eyes, Gu Yeonseo was great. To the point where she got jealous.
“Those elegant attacks are great, aren’t they…?”
“It’s hard to do that at such a young age.”
“Yes. It’s also impressive the way Qi is being controlled at each moment.”
“Exactly, all that dodging.”
Peng Ah-Hee found Peng Woojin’s response weird. Gu Yeonseo dodged an attack?
Gu Yangcheon was unable to attack back in the first place.
Peng Ah-Hee tracked her brother’s line of sight.
When she followed his gaze, she found that he was actually looking at Gu Yangcheon, rather than Gu Yeonseo.
‘He wasn’t looking at Gu Yeonseo?’
Why? Peng Ah-Hee couldn’t understand.
“He’s one beat faster.”
“Look closely; right before the sword moves in to hit him, he moves to dodge a beat faster. He knows where she is going to swing.”
After hearing Peng Woojin’s words, she looked carefully at Gu Yangcheon.
It was definitely strange. Gu Yangcheon’s movement was way slower than Gu Yeonseo’s.
Peng Ah-Hee was not certain about fighting with Gu Yeonseo.
But if she fought Gu Yangcheon, she had the confidence to beat him in seconds.
“You’re right… But then, how…”
Gu Yangcheon was slower than Peng Ah-Hee and Gu Yeonseo was faster than her.
The match should have ended right away based on that speed difference alone, but the two continued their exchange of moves even after Gu Yeonseo had dished out ten attacks.
“What’s going on?”
Peng Ah-Hee couldn’t understand it at all.
When the match still hadn’t ended after a while, Gu Yeonseo disengaged and assumed a battle stance, probably in order to finally finish things off.
A slight, red aura began to ignite around her sword.
It was different from the aura that first-rate sword users had.
And also different from the aura of those who had reached the peak.
Even to Peng Ah-Hee’s relatively inexperienced eyes, she noticed that high concentrations of Qi were being channeled into the sword.
“She won’t be able to use that.”
Peng Woojin made a firm statement.
“How come? That looks impressive.”
“It is impressive indeed. To infuse so much Qi at her level, even I wouldn’t be able to take that blow.”
Even Peng Woojin? Peng Ah-Hee was astonished upon hearing his claim.
“But all you need to do is just dodge it. Trying so hard to use something she isn’t used to has made her lose both her posture and breath. An attack made with this kind of impatience is about as good as trash.”
Even to Peng Ah-Hee, who was only spectating, that evaluation seemed pretty harsh. But Peng Woojin was never wrong when he talked about martial arts.
It was at that moment that Gu Yangcheon’s expression changed.
Gu Yeonseo charged in aggressively after she finished preparing her attack.
Gu Yangcheon didn’t do anything special to dodge it.
He just took a step back, and tilted his head a little.
That was it. But even with such small movements, he completely evaded Gu Yeonseo’s attack.
Peng Ah-Hee hadn’t ever turned away from the fight in front of her. However, an incongruous cracking sound pierced her ear, and soon she witnessed Gu Yeonseo collapse on the ground.
“What… What happened?”
Peng Ah-Hee turned to the voice. Peng Woojin was making a face she hadn’t seen in years.
“Gu Clan aren’t just sheltering the Sword Phoenix.”
He had the expression of a kid who had just discovered something awesome.
* * * *
– Elder sister should have been born a man.
Such a thought lingered in Gu Yeonseo’s mind soon after she turned 10..
Not only did Gu Huibi have amazing talent as a martial artist, but she also had the dignity befitting someone of such high standing and ability.
At only 15 years of age, her elder sister had earned the vaunted title of ｢Sword Phoenix｣. Gu Yeonseo was at the same age now, but still wasn’t able to earn a title.
Even among all the other rising stars within the Four Noble Clans and the Ten Sect Alliance, that legendary title was passed down to her elder sister alone.
Gu Yeonseo found her elder sister to be extremely cool and was very proud of her.
After her elder sister graduated from Heavenly Dragon Academy, she was promoted to Leader of the fifth Gu swordsman squadron at around 20 years old.
It wasn’t an easy task, but everyone admitted she had talent.
She had to be accepted because of the talent she had.
She was an amazing person, who could only become more capable as time passed.
However, she couldn’t become the Gu Lord.
Gu Yeonseo then thought about her little brother, Gu Yangcheon.
Gu Yeonseo and her elder sister were both direct children of the clan, while Gu Yangcheon was the child of a concubine.
But Gu Yeonseo liked Gu Yangcheon’s mother. She was a kind person.
Therefore, Gu Yeonseo had also liked Gu Yangcheon. She didn’t care whether he was a child of a concubine or not at that age.
But then one day, his mother disappeared. It happened in an instant. Gu Yeonseo tried to search for her, but her father ordered her not to.
No one in the clan looked for her.
It was then, that Gu Yangcheon started to change.
He became violent with his servants and whoever he talked to.
He grew lazy and arrogant. There were even rumors about him harassing the pretty servants.
He only got worse and worse.
Men almost always succeeded the position of Lord.
Gu Yeonseo’s father never got involved with any more concubines after that, which meant that his only son, Gu Yangcheon, would become the Lord.
Not her outstanding sister.
Not her, who put in so much effort.
‘My sister should have been born a man.’
‘Or at least, I should have been.’
She hated Gu Yangcheon, who had everything without doing anything.
She despised Gu Yangcheon, who got worse and worse without knowing the privilege he had.
She came back to her senses.
She remembered up to the point where she infused her sword with flame Qi.
In front of her stood Gu Yangcheon. The same Gu Yangcheon, who should have been much smaller than her, seemed so much bigger right now.
‘Is this a dream?’
Something dripped down her nose, so she wiped it with her hands to check.
It was blood.
‘Why am I bleeding right now? Is this not a dream?’
‘Then why does Gu Yangcheon seem so much bigger now.’
When her vision became clearer, the realization dawned upon her.
It was not that Gu Yangcheon got bigger—
But her line of vision that had lowered.
Gu Yeonseo was sitting on the ground of the arena, defeated.
“I understand where you are coming from, sister.”
Gu Yeonseo turned to the voice she heard.
“You don’t like me, I get it. It’s fine if you hate me. That won’t change anything for me.”
It was hard to see Gu Yangcheon’s face because of the lighting that cast shadows onto it.
But Gu Yeonseo definitely saw Gu Yangcheon’s eyes.
Gu Yangcheon’s eyes were hollow.
He seemed to feel nothing.
He had no rage.
No emotions dwelled in his eyes
He was simply looking down at Gu Yeonseo.
Gu Yeonseo wanted to run away from those eyes that gave her the chills, but her trembling body was unable to move.
“The words you threw at me were extremely rotten, but I can understand even that.”
‘What did I say to him?’ Gu Yeonseo recalled what she said to Gu Yangcheon.
‘You should have just disappeared, just like your mother.’
Her heart chilled and sank.
That was something she should never have said, no matter how enraged she was at the time.
‘What should I do? Should I apologize to him?’
Even still, with her rash pride as a fifteen-year-old kid, the thought of her apologizing to Gu Yangcheon made her nauseous.
Gu Yangcheon continued to speak, without giving regard to what Gu Yeonseo was thinking.
“I understand it all, so please understand what I’m about to do.”
She couldn’t ask what he was talking about.
The last thing Gu Yeonseo saw was Gu Yangcheon’s palm.
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