༺ Don’t Touch Him ༻
Right before I left for the Dragons and Phoenixes Tournament, I met with the second elder who came to see me.
“Leaving again so soon even though you just returned.”
“I know. I wonder how I ended up in this situation.”
In my past life, I would still be lazing around in my home around this time.
The contrast with my current life was almost enough to bring a wry smile to my face.
“I heard that this trip won’t take that long, so that’s a relief at least.”
Due to the distance, this trip indeed won’t take that long.
Then, the Second Elder broached a different topic with me.
“Around the time you return, Yangcheon, this old man won’t be in the clan.”
“Huh? Second Elder, are you going somewhere?”
“It seems like the fifth swordsmen army has run into a problem.”
“The fifth swordsmen army …”
It was the army that Gu Huibi led currently.
They were currently dispatched for a search. But why would the Second Elder need to go there?
Did something happen around this time? I couldn’t remember anything big.
“Don’t worry since it’s not that big of a problem.”
“Who in the world would worry about you?”
If anything, I’d be more worried about his opponents.
“Oh, and the upcoming Nine Dragon’s Day in winter shouldn’t pose a problem since both your sisters are here.”
“Are you talking about my second sister and the youngest one?”
The Nine Dragon’s Day came around twice a year and it seemed like Gu Ryunghwa and Gu Yeonseo were the ones that would be participating this winter.
‘I wonder if it’ll be okay for Gu Ryunghwa to participate, as she is from Mount Hua.’
I guess she is allowed to participate after all, considering the absence of objections
I also heard that Gu Yeonseo had decided not to participate in the Dragons and Phoenixes Tournament this year.
Whether her choice was due to her attendance last year or my own participation this year,, I didn’t know.
‘…Gu Ryunghwa and Gu Yeonseo huh.’
As I contemplated the dynamics between the two, concern for Gu Ryunghwa’s well-being arose due to the obvious strain in their relationship.
But I also thought that she might be able to overcome Gu Yeonseo like she did back in Mount Hua.
‘I should probably focus more on my concerns about Gu Yeonseo’’
I didn’t really have much idea of how she was doing since our last meeting wasn’t the best.
I didn’t know how much growth she gained through her in-closed training,
But Gu Ryunghwa couldn’t be looked down upon either.
When I responded to his call, the Second Elder took out something from his pocket and spoke.
“I heard that you were going to visit the Shaolin Temple, so- “
I denied him straight away when I saw the Second Elder trying to take something out.
That man, if I thought about how he made me responsible for delivering Mount Hua’s treasure,
I didn’t know what he would do now that I was going to Shaolin Temple.
“I am not going to take anything from you, Second Elder.”
“For God’s sake, how could you deny it when you don’t even know what I’m trying to give you?”
“…Whatever you say, I’m not going to take it.”
Who knows? He won over Mount Hua’s treasure through a drinking bet, so there was no guarantee that he didn’t employ a similar tactic for Shaolin Temple’s treasure.
The Second Elder then smiled and took out a purse.
“You little brat, you act like I always make you run errands. I just wanted to give you an allowan- “
“Thank you, Lord Second Elder, I really only have you.”
“…You really become more shameless as days go on. What am I going to do with you?”
The Second Elder let out a sigh, but still put the purse in my hand.
“I didn’t put much in there.”
“Then I might be a little dis-… I was joking. Lower your hand, please.”
I would’ve gotten hit if I let down my guard a little longer.
When I shook the purse, I heard the sound of silver coins hitting each other.
And, judging by how it weighed a great deal, it seemed like the Second Elder put a good amount of money in there, unlike his words.
“Yep, take the chance to cause some big trouble there.”
I thought I misheard the Second Elder since he said that it was normal.
“…Didn’t you tell me to keep a low profile on my last trip?”
Back when I went to Mount Hua or Sichuan, I remember him nagging me to not stir up trouble, considering my position in the clan and the privileges that came with it. But now, his advice was to cause a ruckus?
The Second Elder then looked at me as if I was the weird one.
“You are going to the Dragons and Phoenixes Tournament to cause trouble in the first place. That place will be filled with people vying for attention.”
The Second Elder might have been exaggerating a little bit, but he wasn’t wrong.
Fame might be just an extra for a martial artist, but it was pretty important as well.
In fact, it held considerable weight.
The reason why kids my age go to the Dragons and Phoenixes Tournament is to establish their names,
And why they were jealous of whether it was the Lightning Dragon, the Sword Dragon, the Poison Phoenix, the Sword Phoenix, or any titles that were given to highly ranked prodigies was because it was the symbol of them getting acknowledged as a martial artist, and that they would be the ones that’d lead the future.
“Though I probably don’t need to tell you that.”
“Where did you get such a firm conviction from?
“Even if I told you not to cause trouble, history suggests you’d do the exact opposite. So you would cause more trouble if I told you to.”
It was sad because I couldn’t argue with him.
The Second Elder and I continued our conversation for a bit after that, then Gu Jeolyub came towards us while covered in sweat.
“Y-Young Master, we are done loading the carriages.”
That’s disappointing, it seemed like there was less baggage than I thought.
Despite his heavy breathing, Gu Jeolyub respectfully lowered his head upon noticing the Second Elder by my side.
“Good day, Lord Second Elder.”
“Oh, It’s Jeolyub. Seems like you’ve grown quite a bit since our last meeting.”
Gu Jeolyub put on an embarrassed smile on his face. He did indeed seem taller than the last time we met.
I too, also grew a little this year, but not as much as him… which I didn’t particularly appreciate.
The Second Elder then spoke to me while looking at Gu Jeolyub.
– Go a little easy on this child since he’s a poor one.
– That might be a little hard, but I’ll try.
He spoke to me telepathically, so I did the same.
The Second Elder seemed a little surprised by that, but he let it pass since he already knew what martial realm I was in.
“Anyways, have a good trip.”
After those words, the Second Elder started to walk away.
It seemed like he was busy after all.
The last thing I saw was Gu Ryunghwa with a sullen look from far away.
I got in the carriage, and we departed for Hanam, where the Murim Alliance was.
And yes, Gu Jeolyub was mounted on a horse.
* * * * *
The season changed right away after we left for the trip.
Fall swiftly gave way to winter’s embrace.
And to prove that, the beautiful maple leaves on the trees gracefully drifted into slumber, promising to return in the coming year.
And I, too, felt a little excited as I faced my first winter after resurrection.
As I was watching the snow outside, I responded to Wi Seol-Ah when she spoke to me while offering me dumplings.
“Young Master… are you not cold?”
“Hmm? I quite relish the chill. ”
“Sir Gu… normally you would say it’s cold while dressed like this. .”
Tang Soyeol also commented.
Even with them saying that, I didn’t feel much cold after I reached the 5th rank of flame arts.
Thanks to that, my attire now hasn’t changed much from my summer clothing.
Because of that though, others did probably think that I was feeling extremely cold.
“Young Master, do you want me to give you my clothes?”
“If I take your clothing, then I might get a lot of backlash.”
Wi Seol-Ah had herself covered in fur clothing.
I heard that it was made with a beast’s fur and leather.
And it was surprisingly made by the Sword Emperor. Judging by how he had a hobby of sculpting, it seemed like he was skilled with his hands.
In Tang Soyeol’s case, she had lots of people to take care of her since she was from a noble clan after all, and it seemed like Tang Soyeol was taking good care of Namgung Bi-ah as well.
Even now, she was sleeping peacefully in between Tang Soyeol and Wi Seol-Ah.
“What is she, a bear? It’s like she’s hibernating.”
It seemed like her duration of sleep had increased recently.
As if Tang Soyeol was responding in her place, she spoke with a smile.
“Sis does sleep a lot when it’s cold.”
“You sure it’s just because of the cold? She slept a lot when it was warmer, too.”
“That is true…”
Tang Soyeol avoided eye contact as she couldn’t argue with that.
“…Do you want tea by any chance?”
“I’ll have to refuse if it’s that same poisonous tea from last time.”
During our last encounter, she graciously offered me tea which I accepted, only to later discover that it was infused with a kind of poison that heightened body temperature.
It was harmless to the body, but it was still crazily bitter as it was a poisonous herb.
‘This is why I can’t let my guard down.’
Our time together wasn’t lengthy, but thanks to being around her for some amount of time, I didn’t feel uncomfortable being with Tang Soyeol anymore.
She also did leave her carriage and come into mine to spend some time together.
I took a bite of the dumpling that Wi Seol-Ah gave me.
“When did you bring this anyway?”
“Bgack wghen we wgent hu duh tohwn lasht thime.”
“Sorry. You can tell me after you’re done eating.”
I didn’t know what Wi Seol-Ah was saying since she had food in her mouth,
But I think she was saying she got them when we stopped by a town.
‘She eats that much but doesn’t gain any weight.’
Initially, I had been concerned about Wi Seol-Ah’s slender frame, but thanks to her eating an absurd amount every time, her cheek was puffing up again, which was nice to see.
Now, Wi Seol-Ah wasn’t really skinny anymore, but looked healthy and was starting to look more like her past self,
But I was still a bit sad that her soft cheek fat had gone away.
When I touched Wi Seol-Ah’s cheek in disappointment, it was still soft like jelly.
‘She still seems to have some baby fat left.’
If she got rid of those too, then I would feel really disappointed.
My warm hand seemed to provide her comfort, as Wi Seol-Ah rubbed her face more into my hand.
“Is it warm?”
“Young Master’s hand is always warm…!”
I still radiated a lot of body heat despite it being the season of winter.
When I looked outside the window, the snow was slowly falling down, but surely making a pile.
After watching the snow for a bit, I asked the guy on the horse.
“How much longer?”
“We should be arriving shortly, I believe.”
I heard an exhausted voice replying to me.
The person on the horse was none other than Gu Jeolyub.
The Sword Emperor was on horse duty before, but he didn’t come along on this trip.
It was weird, and it made me think a lot.
Because it meant that while he didn’t come along, he let Wi Seol-Ah on the trip.
‘I wonder what he’s thinking.’
I didn’t know much about the Sword Emperor, and that made me nervous.
｢ …Couldn’t you simply admit that you don’t trust him?｣
‘It’s been a while since you came out.’
It was the voice of Elder Shin that sounded like he was drowning in exhaustion.
As the season changed, Elder Shin said that he didn’t like the cold, and started to talk less.
Even though he said spirits can’t feel anything.
｢I may not feel the cold… but winter feels difficult.｣
What was the difference? Both Elder Shin and I couldn’t understand.
Anyways, other escorts or Muyeon could have easily led my horse,
But I made Gu Jeolyub do it instead since I heard about his capabilities..
Gu Jeolyub, who grew up pretty spoiled, looked annoyed when I ordered him to do such a thing, but he didn’t say anything back. He did use a martial art technique that involved heat, so I had to make him do something.
‘Considering how he’s taking all my orders, he really seems to have gotten his weakness exploited by either the First Elder or father.’
Though it’s probably the First Elder, since I don’t think father would do anything.
And it didn’t seem like Gu Jeolyub was doing anything else in the meantime.
‘Besides that one time, he got rejected when he tried to start a conversation with Tang Soyeol.’
Very cold and sharply at that.
– Apologies, but your face is too ugly for me to handle, so please stop talking to me.
It probably wasn’t the weather that made him feel colder after hearing those words.
Thanks to that, Gu Jeolyub lost all his words that day and didn’t even eat.
‘He didn’t seem to go after that hibernating bear, or Wi Seol-Ah.’
It probably wasn’t because Namgung Bi-ah and Wi Seol-Ah weren’t pretty.
Objectively speaking, Tang Soyeol was indeed pretty, but those two were in a league of their own.
The reason, I suspect, is that he was holding himself back because Namgung Bi-ah was engaged with me, and he got beat up the last time when he tried to go after Wi Seol-Ah.
‘Is that why his target is Tang Soyeol?’
However, it doesn’t seem like he’s putting much effort into it.
Could he truly be here as a mere pawn?
Despite making a bothered face every time, he does everything I tell him to. And he didn’t do anything else besides sparring with Muyeon from time to time.
Though I did take jabs at him with my words every time I saw him.
– You, bring me water.
– I did earlier.
– Did you clean the carriages?
– I did in the morning. Like you told me to yesterday.
– …Did you eat yet?
– Not yet.
– …Let’s eat.
He was surprisingly better at working than I expected.
Why is he good at it?
“I don’t understand.”
“Just everything, whether it’s him, him, or that guy, I don’t get it.”
“Young Master, grandpa always told me that the world is beyond complete understanding..”
“…Elder Wi taught you many things, huh.”
Early education in life is rather scary.
I spoke to Muyeon, who was walking along the carriages.
“Yes, Young Master.”
He responded while looking ahead, yet his Qi emanated from his body, and was surrounding the near area.
It seems like,
‘…He’s overcoming his barriers .’
Whatever transpired, it seemed like it wouldn’t be too long until Muyeon overcame the wall of peak realm.
Which meant that he was putting in that much effort.
“Do we have to go to the Murim Alliance right away upon our arrival?”
“No. We can go after we rest at the lodge that they provided us.”
“They even provided us a lodge?”
They normally wouldn’t do such a thing.
It seemed like the Murim Alliance was concerned about something.
‘I’d know if I ever participated in one.’
The one time I participated after I became the young lord, the day turned into a mess.
The incident that occurred in the Dragons and Phoenixes Tournament at that time.
I would’ve learned a good number of things if that damned thing didn’t happen.
‘I just have to… make sure something like that doesn’t happen this time.’
It was a disaster of an incident.
Because all of the young prodigies in the area at that time, met their untimely demise.
No casualties occurred that day, but I knew.
That everyone, excluding me, died.
‘…Can I call that resurrection?’
As written in the Murim Alliance’s record, everyone survived, including me.
However, the problem was that no one besides me had any memories of the Abyss.
I’ve experienced a considerable expanse of time, including my current life, but the ache in my heart remained the same if I thought about what happened back then.
It was in the past.
And it was something I needed to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.
I focused my senses on the voice of Gu Jeolyub.
“The palace is now within sight…”
“Is that so? Could you wake that bear up?”
In response to my words, Wi Seol-Ah shook Namgung Bi-ah, who fell asleep while leaning on Tang Soyeol.
“Sis! You need to wake up!”
“Agh! You drooled, sis…!”
I’ll pretend I didn’t see what I just saw.
Drawing in and releasing a breath, I savored the chilly air.
The heart of the Orthodox Faction that was the root of every problem.
I arrived at Hanam, where the Murim Alliance and Shaolin Temple were, after a pretty long ride.
* * * *
Bacheonmaru, the lodge that the Murim Alliance provided us.
In the room where the baggage was unpacked, a beautiful woman was frowning.
Though her expression conveyed a hint of displeasure, it failed to diminish her remarkable beauty.
“Maybe we arrived too early, My Lady.’
The woman smiled slightly after hearing her servant.
“…What can we do about it? That person is said to arrive around this time.”
Within the woman’s eyes gleamed a hue reminiscent of the sky on a clear day.
While staring into those eyes, the servant carefully asked,
“Should I prepare a drink?”
“…I’m tempted but it’s fine, It wouldn’t go unnoticed if I have some right now.”
The woman started to think while staring at the snow outside the window.
“Yes, My Lady.”
“Isn’t life really a drag?”
After hearing the sudden harsh words from the woman, the servant tripped while unpacking their baggage.
Then the servant quickly shouted.
“Mistress please…! Exercise caution with your words!”
“Who cares, no one’s here.”
“What would you do if the lord heard you…”
“Father? Would he fly from Yoryung to all the way here?”
“…If it’s the Lord, then he might.”
The woman then chuckled after hearing her servant.
She admitted that her father might actually do such a thing.
After watching the snow outside for a long time, the woman closed the window.
She didn’t like the snow, regardless of where it fell.
While calming down the body that was shivering due to the cold, the Ice Phoenix, Moyong Hi-ah thought to herself.
That winter was a drag of a season.
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