༺ True Dragon (1) ༻
She closed the windows so that a cold breeze wouldn’t enter and drank some spicy hot tea made with dried round herbs of spice to warm herself.
This spicy tea would make an ordinary person feel extreme heat, but for Moyong Hi-ah, it only had a minor effect.
It would only make her feel slightly warmer.
Yet one small leaf of this herb sold for an amount that could feed a farmer for a whole month.
There was no extravagance more extreme than this.
The clan gave it to her, but it was still way too expensive for it to be used for a mere tea and not even medicine.
“…Funny, isn’t it?”
Moyong Hi-ah spoke in a bitter tone, as she sipped her tea little by little.
“I don’t even know why I even get to drink this, even though I was defeated without being able to do anything.”
“There is no need for you to look at me that way.”
When Moyong Hi-ah saw that her guest’s teacup was empty, she filled it back up.
“What made you visit me?”
“I expected you to be very busy around this time. Are you sure you don’t need to go?”
The final match of the tournament was probably starting about now.
The fight had garnered so much attention that it even reached the ears of Moyong Hi-ah, who was enduring the cold while sitting in the corner of the room.
‘And it’s probably especially important to this guest of mine, Tang Soyeol.’
Because it was that boy’s fight.
“Young Lady Tang.”
Moyong Hi-ah stared at Tang Soyeol’s face.
She had a cute face that complemented her green hair nicely.
It was the face of a small cute animal unlike her own face, one that exuded coldness.
Moyong Hi-ah read Tang Soyeol’s emotions seemingly written inside her big eyes, then spoke.
“I know that Young Lady Tang feels guilt towards me.”
“And because I’m a shrewd person, I know how to take advantage of that.”
“And I believe that Young Lady Tang knows this as well because you are no fool either.”
Tang Soyeol didn’t say anything to Moyong Hi-ah’s words, but her silence was an acknowledgment of what Moyong Hi-ah had said.
The guilt that Tang Soyeol felt towards Moyong Hi-ah.
It was something she honestly couldn’t understand.
Because, to be more accurate, the only sin Tang Soyeol posessed was that she shared the surname of the Tang Clan; that was all she did to her.
“Is what happened that day still serving as a burden to you?”
“It is a burden I’ll have to carry even until the end of time.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I am a person of the Tang Clan in the end, and the suffering Young Lady Moyong has to go through will last forever.”
“A mere scar on my back?”
‘The scar that’s left on my back is easily hidden as long as I wear clothes.’
‘Furthermore, besides my servant, no one else has seen the scar on my back for close to 10 years.’
“I don’t just think it’s just a mere scar.”
‘That’s what Tang Soyeol is saying, but the Tang Clan has already given me enough compensation.’
‘Even the tea I am drinking right now,’
‘And the fact that I’m able to research and do experiments to find a cure for my disease is all thanks to the compensation that Tang Clan gave me.’
‘Well, the outcome of the experiment was the scar on my back and the worsening of my coldness.’
‘But even if I didn’t go through with that experiment, I wouldn’t feel that much different.’
It was fine for Moyong Hi-ah since her clan was compensated for the outcome.
Though, it seemed that only Moyong Hi-ah was fine with it, as no one else seemed to feel that way.
Especially the Lord of the clan, her father.
“So what brings you here on a day as important as this?”
“Especially when you don’t even know what this would mean to me. You only came here for the sake of it and not to apologize.”
“Would my apology even mean anything to you…?”
“To be honest, it won’t be very effective.”
It actually could be seen as a negative thing, as it could seem like a cheap apology to Moyong Hi-ah.
Which was why even though Tang Soyeol came here every time, she didn’t apologize.
‘Still, it’s uncomfortable.’
Moyong Hi-ah simply felt uncomfortable.
Tang Soyeol wrote her a letter every year from Tang Clan,
And the fact that Tang Soyeol always seemed to be cautious around her, made Moyong Hi-ah feel uncomfortable.
It would be beneficial if she chose to take advantage of Tang Soyeol feeling this way…
But because Moyong Hi-ah knew that Tang Soyeol wasn’t lying about her feelings towards her…
She found it hard to do that.
Even though she wasn’t really in a position to be picky about things.
“…I understand your feelings, but you need not be bothered to do this.”
The Poison Phoenix was famous for being ferocious to others, which didn’t seem to complement her cute appearance.
Moyong Hi-ah thought that Tang Soyeol had a personality that would drive others away if came to know her true nature.
After all, her own self was like that as well.
However, the Tang Soyeol she was seeing right now seemed like a very gentle person.
‘Her appearance that I’ve seen recently…seemed rather different from the appearance she showed back then.’
Back then, Tang Soyeol used to look like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, yet now she seemed as gentle as a lamb.
‘Though it seemed like she still had the same personality as before, judging by how she handled Hwangbo Cheolwi back at the guesthouse.’
‘But the personality she showed whenever she was around them, is probably closer to her true self.’
‘To be more accurate, maybe she started to show her true self around them.’
She opened the window and looked outside.
It was still winter.
There was still a long while left before the end of winter.
It seemed like winter had ended for Tang Soyeol…
Yet it was still winter for Moyong Hi-ah, the same as ever.
‘Even if the seasons and temperature change, I will still be alone in the cold.’
‘Because that is what had been planned for my life.’
‘Will it be different if I try to struggle?’
That’s what came to Moyong Hi-ah’s mind.
‘Or maybe struggling is pointless.’
‘It may be that I was only born so that I could disappear along with the cold wind.’
“Young Lady Moyong?”
Moyong Hi-ah wondered if her expression seemed strange because Tang Soyeol had called Moyong Hi-ah in a worrying tone.
Tang Soyeol also probably had such a reaction because she was one of the few people that knew about Moyong Hi-ah’s condition.
“Is it perhaps…that you were injured from your fight?”
Moyong Hi-ah smiled slightly after hearing Tang Soyeol’s question.
“No, I was not hurt anywhere.”
She wasn’t lying.
She really hadn’t been injured anywhere.
Despite having been swept away by that giant flame, there were no injuries anywhere on her.
‘This means that he had full control of that attack.’
‘Hah. Could I even call that an attack?’
‘I was completely powerless against that boy.’
‘I knew that I wouldn’t be able to win against him, but I at least expected to exchange a few attacks.’
‘He was way out of my league.’
Last year, the person that shocked Moyong Hi-ah the most, was the Sword Dragon.
The young man, who made plum flowers blossom, showed the overpowering sword art that truly proved Mount Hua’s legacy.
Thus, Moyong Hi-ah thought that no more young prodigies would appear with talent greater than his.
The Sword Phoenix, the Sword Dragon, and the Water Dragon.
And if one were to go even further, Peng Woojin who used to be the Heavenly Dragon.
Even just one of them had enough genius in them to give a new name to the current generation of the world, so Moyong Hi-ah naturally didn’t expect that someone greater than even them could appear.
Yet there was a person that had completely broken her expectation.
Gu Yangcheon from the Gu Clan of Shanxi.
Moyong Hi-ah thought about the boy that had come from Shanxi, but she did not have much to say about him.
Because even the grand title of ‘Genius’ wasn’t enough to describe his existence.
‘I just thought that he was a unique person.’
When she first saw him, the girls around him had such radiant presences that his own presence was obscured.
All that Moyong Hi-ah had thought was that he was a guy who had luck with women, despite his looks.
He was a person with a talent for charming people, and that was about it.
‘And the strange manner in which he treated me and the way he looked at me reluctantly.’
‘I thought he was only doing that to attract me.’
‘Yet, I still noticed myself looking at him more than I would want to admit.’
‘However, it wasn’t long until I realized that my thoughts about him were a mistake.’
‘Hwangbo Cheolwi and the Gu Clan’s…’
‘What was his name again?’
‘He was from the same clan as Gu Yangcheon, so it was Gu something.’
‘Well if I can’t really remember his name, then he’s not that important after all.’
‘Anyway, when the conflict popped up for a short moment back in the guesthouse…’
‘I was able to see.’
‘Everyone in Gu Yangcheon’s party was eyeing him.’
‘The one that was going against Hwangbo Cheolwi was a different person, but everyone had become wary of Gu Yangcheon instead.’
‘It really showed me who the center of the group was.’
And as more time passed…
‘I was able to know the truth.’
‘It wasn’t that Gu Yangcheon’s presence was being covered by the others around him.’
‘It was that he was hiding his presence voluntarily.’
‘He shone so brightly, that he had to conceal it to the extent that he wasn’t visible.’
Moyong Hi-ah rubbed her chest while reminiscing about the flame she had seen yesterday.
It was because she was reminded of the sensation she had felt at that moment.
Back when she was facing Gu Yangcheon’s flames in the arena, the warmth she had felt.
‘…Was it…a mistake?’
The moment when heat filled up her whole chest, as the Ice Qi that seemingly froze her body, disappeared.
When she had regained consciousness, she concluded that she was simply mistaken.
‘Does that even make any sense?’
‘If my Ice Qi could be dispersed by simply standing in front of hot flames, then my life wouldn’t be this cold and lonely.’
‘I was just mistaking it because of how giant that flame was.’
‘That’s what I thought.’
A person’s hope is bound to sprout even for the smallest of things.
It was a desolate land, so even a tiny stream of water could easily permeate through the soil.
But Moyong Hi-ah’s emotions were already frozen for her to have any faith in her hopes.
“Young Lady Moyong, are you really okay? Should I call someone?”
Tang Soyeol continued to ask Moyong Hi-ah about her well-being due to her strange reaction.
Moyong Hi-ah remained silent for a bit as if pondering about something, then she looked at Tang Soyeol and spoke.
“Young Lady Tang.”
“May I…make a reque-“
Right as Moyong Hi-ah was about to say something, she felt a presence outside.
The owner of the voice was Tang Soyeol’s servant.
“What is it? I’m still talking with Young Lady Moyong.”
Tang Soyeol frowned, seemingly bothered by her servant’s interference.
The servant’s tone also changed into a more careful one as she noticed Tang Soyeol’s annoyance.
However, it seemed like she had come for an important business.
-It’s not a pressing matter…but Lady had ordered us to notify you when the battle concluded.
As soon as her servant finished talking, Tang Soyeol promptly rose and opened the door.
Moyong Hi-ah’s eyes widened seeing Tang Soyeol’s sudden movement.
“W-What’s the result?”
She seemed rather curious judging by how she asked her servant.
It looked like she was lying when she had said that she was fine even if she wasn’t able to see the battle.
“Oh…uh, I heard that Young Master Gu had won…”
Hearing her servant, Tang Soyeol reached her arms out to the sky and screamed.
‘How happy was she to scream like that?’
It seemed like Tang Soyeol had also realized that reaction was overly loud, as soon after she shrunk back while covering her mouth with her hand.
After seeing that appearance of hers, Moyong Hi-ah laughed out loud, which was a rare sight.
Tang Soyeol then blushed slightly, thinking that was being laughed at mockingly.
‘How can she change that much.’
‘And was it really something that made her that happy?’
Moyong Hi-ah couldn’t understand.
“Oh…Young Lady Moyong, you said you wanted to make a request to me earlier?”
“No, it’s fine.”
Moyong Hi-ah swallowed her words.
It wasn’t something she could say right now.
“I’ll come visit later myself.”
“Huh? Young Lady Moyong will?”
“I think I found something for me to visit.”
Instead of making a request to Tang Soyeol, Moyong Hi-ah believed that it’d be better for her to go herself.
Taking advantage of Tang Soyeol’s guilt made Moyong Hi-ah uneasy, especially considering how genuinely happy Tang Soyeol’s smile appeared.
“You should leave now, or you might be late.”
Tang Soyeol hesitated for a bit after hearing Moyong Hi-ah.
But eventually, she lowered her head and hurriedly went outside the door.
Moyong Hi-ah, who watched her leave, closed her eyes and lied down once again.
For some reason, she wanted to sleep for now.
After leaving Moyong Hi-ah’s room, Tang Soyeol quickly hastened her steps.
If she didn’t, she would feel frustrated.
‘She said that Young Master Gu had won.’
Tang Soyeol had believed that Gu Yangcheon would win.
She was captivated not only by his sharp, fierce gaze, but also his outstanding martial prowess that matched his striking appearance.
While she thought that it was obvious that he won since he seemed stronger than any young prodigies of the world even in the eyes of the Poison Phoenix herself.
Yet for some reason, she felt extremely excited.
One may ask what made her so happy when it was someone else’s victory, but Tang Soyeol couldn’t hold back her excitement.
“I need to quickly go and congratulate him.”
‘Wait can I only congratulate him?’
‘Shouldn’t I prepare a gift?’
‘If I remember correctly, he said this is his first Dragons and Phoenixes tournament.’
‘Hmm… Do I have any poisonous herbs left?’
Tang Soyeol had plenty of herbs that helped the flow of Qi and cured exhaustion.
She had saved them so that she could have them later, but she was very much willing to give it up for Gu Yangcheon.
Though it was a little problematic that the poison within the herb is a bit strong.
‘Well since I’m here, I should be able to detoxify him.’
As she was about to reach Gu Yangcheon’s barrack with excited steps…
-Oh, so you’re saying that he isn’t here right now?
She heard voices from around Gu Yangcheon’s barrack.
When Tang Soyeol followed the voice to see what was happening, she saw two familiar faces.
One of them was the precious servant of Gu Yangcheon, Wi Seol-Ah, who Tang Soyeol found difficult to get close to for some reason.
And the other one was…
It was Chuwong of the Beggar’s Sect who always appeared in every year’s tournament.
Chuwong was an individual that Tang Soyeol had met many times as well.
He didn’t really leave the best impression on Tang Soyeol as he appeared way too many times while concealing himself, but she regarded him as someone who had good talent in gathering information.
‘But why is such a person talking to Wi Seol-Ah?’
As Tang Soyeol was wondering, Wi Seol-Ah responded to Chuwong.
“Young Master isn’t here right now!”
“…Damn, around now would have been a good time. Then, you don’t even know when he’s coming back?”
Just by hearing the conversation, it seemed evident that he came here after hearing about Gu Yangcheon’s victory.
Tang Soyeol couldn’t help but admit that the Beggar’s Sect was fast when it came to things like this.
After watching that, Tang Soyeol walked towards that direction with calm steps.
She wanted to speak in place of Wi Seol-Ah, thinking that she might handle things related to this better, considering Wi Seol-Ah was only a servant.
“Hngh, was I too impatient? I could’ve sworn he promised to have a conversation after the tournament ends…”
It seemed like he had already spoken to Gu Yangcheon before.
Tang Soyeol fixed her throat as she was approached Chuwong.
“Then could you please deliver these words to the True Dragon? That Chuwong from Beggar’s Sect had visited.”
Tang Soyeol halted her steps upon hearing Chuwong’s words.
She rolled her eyes in confusion, questioning if she had misheard him.
‘What did he just say?’
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