༺ Way Back (3) ༻
“…So what brings you guys here?”
I cringed at the sight that greeted me as I entered the building.
I had hoped that my senses had somehow picked up wrong presences, but of course, they hadn’t.
Tang Soyeol who was carefully eating her meal turned into a statue upon seeing me.
While Namgung Bi-ah simply continued to eat with a dumb face, pretending that she hadn’t noticed me.
Then there was Wi Seol-Ah who just naturally moved to sit next to them, and started eating as well.
‘…Okay okay, understandable.’
I could understand Wi Seol-Ah’s actions.
I could also—to an extent—understand Namgung Bi-ah’s actions, as I was used to her taking unexpected albeit irritating actions.
However, Tang Soyeol.
Why is she here?
She even seemed to be avoiding eye contact with me.
All I did was call her name, so what is she so startled for?
“What brings you here?”
“…I- I just happened to coincidentally pass by.”
What were the odds that the Lady of the Tang clan, who never traveled outside of her clan, would suddenly choose to step out of her clan and then end up here with everyone?
Plus, I had only just arrived.
I asked Tang Soyeol just in case.
“Were you waiting for me?”
“N-No! What reasons would I have for me to wait for you!?”
She was denying it even with her hands, and I agreed, feeling like there was no other possible answer.
“You’re right, but then I wonder why you are here.”
Tang Soyeol became silent at this point, as she didn’t have another excuse.
Why are they acting like this? I never was able to understand Tang Soyeol even in my previous life.
‘Maybe she has a crush on me?’
I quickly put that thought away as soon as it came up.
Unlike Gu Jeolyub and Namgung Cheonjun, I didn’t have a face that would set me up for life. Not to mention, I don’t think I was Tang Soyeol’s type.
And in the off chance, even if she did have a crush on me…
I suddenly recalled a memory of her torturing someone with a small poisonous nail, the size of a pinky nail.
I hadn’t been directly tortured by her, but I remembered Tang Soyeol’s expression during it.
It was too much for me to handle.
Yeah, she definitely came here for some sort of business…
I hoped that she would be done with it already and leave soon.
I turned my attention to the crazy bitch from the Namgung Clan after speaking to Tang Soyeol.
“What brings you here?”
Why is she making that face?
Namgung Bi-ah’s face was telling me, ‘Why are you asking such an obvious question?’
I hoped that I had read it wrong.
As always, Namgung Bi-ah’s brief response irritated me.
It was the same right now. What does she mean by farewell? Does she want to say ‘bye’ or something?
Or was it code word for hunting humans just like in my previous life?
In my eyes, Namgung Bi-ah still fit the image of a woman who hunted humans.
Of course, I was trying my best to look at her differently.
Which was why I am asking her again.
“I… never said bye.”
“Oh, uh, I’m also here because of that!”
Tang Soyeol quickly chipped in after Namgung Bi-ah’s response.
Oh, I see, so they are here because they never bid me farewell huh?
“I explained my situation to the Tang Clan’s Young Lord, you didn’t hear about it?”
Tang Soyoel responded with a faint voice while Namgung Bi-ah continued to stare at me, the look on her face telling me that she thought there was nothing wrong with it.
‘…Yeah, I don’t see this as a big problem.’
I guess I didn’t have to look for any ill intents from them since everything had gone well.
In the end, they were just here because they couldn’t give me a farewell.
‘…Right, good things are good things.’
I was also admittedly being rude to the people that came here because they couldn’t give me a farewell.
But I didn’t want to involve myself with these crazy women.
I couldn’t emphasize that enough.
“Thank you for coming all the way here. It was good to see you all, and I hope you have a great rest of your lives.”
I answered back with the utmost respect, hoping that they would accept it and leave right away.
Instead, both their faces showed strange expressions as they looked at me.
I guess that wasn’t the reply they wanted…
But then, what exactly did they want from me?
I put that thought aside and asked Namgung Bi-ah. Something had been bothering me since the moment I noticed her presence;
“Why are you still here even after the Military Exhibition of Tang Clan has ended? What about the other people from your clan?”
“Cheonjun said he had something to do… he said he was waiting for someone.”
Namgung Cheonjun has something to do in Sichuan? I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
Even I had something to do here, so I guess he must have had his own objectives.
What I was surprised about was something else.
“But he allowed you to just come here? He didn’t even follow you?”
It was very surprising to see Namgung Bi-ah here all by herself without Namgung Cheonjun following her.
“Hmm…? He allowed it… he said that you wouldn’t be here anyways…”
I thought a maniac like him would never allow her to come here, so it was shocking for me to hear that he had personally granted her permission.
And he even said he wouldn’t come? What did he mean by that?
“But, Lady Namgung…”
“Did you forget about the deal we made last time…?”
We made a deal of her leaving me alone in exchange for telling her my real name.
Namgung Bi-ah confidently replied, seemingly proud that she remembered the deal.
But… if you do remember, why are you still here…?
“Then why are you still here?”
“You said you wouldn’t annoy me.”
“I never annoyed you…?”
Oh, for fucks sake.
Namgung Bi-ah genuinely didn’t seem to realize that her being here was enough to annoy me.
I guess it’s my fault for not being specific during our deal…
I’m really retarded for not specifying such a key detail.
“But what about speaking formally to me then?”
Namgung Bi-ah paused at my comment, then spoke after rolling her eyes.
Should I punch her?
I really considered this thought.
At this point, Namgung Bi-ah was practically pulling her sword out and challenging me to a fight.
I always got a headache whenever I talked to her.
How did I manage to deal with her in my previous life?
Oh yeah… I just never spoke to her.
‘…How clever I was.’
I think that was the answer.
While I was massaging my temple because of my headache, Tang Soyeol, who had been quietly listening all this time, visibly hesitated.
It looked like she wanted to say something, but I didn’t care enough to ask her about it.
She would probably say it anyways if I just pretended not to notice her.
As I expected, Tang Soyeol spoke to me hesitantly.
“If you return to your clan… H-How long will it be till you come back to Sichuan?”
“I’m not sure…?”
Would I ever return all the way here…?
I mean, I probably would, but I don’t think it’s any time soon.
It would probably be at least a few years.
I told Tang Soyeol my answer.
“T-That’s not good… That’s too long.”
Tang Soyeol visibly argued with her own thoughts for a few seconds after hearing my response. Eventually, she seemed to have arrived at a conclusion and said.
“Do you… have any poison you like?”
“Or, what about some dagger art…?”
Did I hear wrong?
I swear she just said poison.
Tang Soyeol seemed stunned upon seeing my reaction.
“I-I knew this wasn’t it. Brother said this would work though…”
“Lady Tang… Are you feeling sick?”
It looked like she was having a headache… A severe one at that.
At this moment, a hand that was targeting the dumplings between us broke the awkward exchange as it snuck forward.
I slapped the hand right away, causing the owner to yell.
I didn’t even have to check who it was.
“Are you done with yours?”
Wi Seol-Ah answered while rubbing her hand.
Then just order another dish. Why are you always targeting mine…?
I let out a sigh and pushed a dish of dumplings towards Wi Seol-Ah.
I didn’t mind, as I didn’t have a good appetite.
Wi Seol-Ah happily started to enjoy more dumplings.
Then from the side, Namgung Bi-ah’s chopsticks aimed for the dumplings, which I stopped right away.
“Please order another dish, don’t take others’.”
Namgung Bi-ah stares at me with a dumb face.
It looked like her pupils came alive again once I started looking at her.
“I… have a question, sir.”
“You’re speaking formally to me…?”
“That… What happened…?”
The direction Namgung Bi-ah slowly pointed to was my lower abdomen.
Namgung Bi-ah, just like Muyeon, noticed the change in me.
Tang Soyeol didn’t really seem to care about such things, but Namgung Bi-ah was different.
“I had something come up.”
That was the best response I could think of.
Even if I tell her that I found the Golden Nature’s hidden secret treasure, and the giant snake that gave me the power…
She might actually believe me…
I felt like she would be one of the few people who would believe my tale, but there was no point in telling her.
Namgung Bi-ah simply nodded her head at my response.
Then her eyes lit up.
That was not a good sign at all.
There was usually only one follow-up when Namgung Bi-ah showed such a reaction.
“Then what about a duel-”
Namgung Bi-ah’s eyes widened following my instant rejection.
That was a rare moment for Namgung Bi-ah speaking out loud.
What is she even doing…?
Why is she suddenly challenging me to a duel when she usually only bothered sword-wielders?
I really don’t like this attention.
“I’ve already used up much of my time, so I can’t stay here much longer. Therefore, I cannot have a duel with you.”
After saying that, I felt Muyeon staring at me with a grudge from behind me.
Yeah, I know it’s my fault that we are late, please stop looking at me like that…
I let out a fake cough and stood up.
Now that I had finished eating, I had to start moving before sunset.
It took a long time to come here, so it would be another long trip on the way back.
…Just the thought of it made me bored.
Just as I was about to leave, Tang Soyeol suddenly took out something from her pocket.
“This, please take it…!”
The thing Tang Soyeol took out was some unknown small bottle and a letter.
“What is this?”
“It’s the invitation for next year’s Military Exhibition…”
“And… you are offering it to me for…?”
“I-I want to keep a good relationship with the clans! There isn’t anything else to it…”
We got the invitation every year, but it had a whole different meaning when it was an invitation from the family members of the main clan.
It meant that they really wanted me to come.
I didn’t know what to do in this situation.
Does she really have a crush on me?
“Then… What is this bottle?”
Is it some sort of medicine?
Tang Soyeol smiled when I asked about the bottle.
“It’s a poison that I like… It’s a gift, so please feel free to use it if you ever come across training with poison.”
I nodded my head to Tang Soyeol’s response.
…This girl also isn’t normal.
I was sure.
It was hard for me to reject her gift, so I first put it in my pocket.
I was sure that I would be able to come up with some excuse so that I wouldn’t go to next year’s exhibition.
I will make sure I don’t go…
“Anyways… I shall take my leave. I hope that you two have a good time together.”
“Let’s see each other again.”
Namgung Bi-ah slightly shakes her hand and gives me a farewell.
My visage shifted a bit at her words, reluctance flashing through it as I accepted her farewell.
“Uh, yes… We shall meet again.”
I started walking after accepting her farewell. I really didn’t like it.
Tang Soyeol also gave me a farewell which I accepted, although she was frozen like a stone.
Wi Seol-Ah followed me with a ton of food in her mouth.
How did all that fit into her mouth…?
‘Is it finally over?’
Can I finally return to my clan?
My body wasn’t feeling tired physically, thanks to the increase in my Qi, but I felt exhausted mentally.
I walked to the carriage, half limping.
* * * *
Namgung Bi-ah looked at Gu Yangcheon fading back.
Then she was reminded of what he had said to her.
– Why are you speaking informally to me?
Come to think of it… Why did I do that?
In the end, Gu Yangcheon was younger than her own brother, Namgung Cheonjun.
But that still didn’t mean that she could just speak to him without respect.
But even then, it felt comfortable speaking to him like that.
What was the reason behind that?
Namgung Bi-ah couldn’t even understand herself, which made her tilt her head in confusion.
Tang Soyeol called out to her.
“…Do you perhaps like Young Master Gu?”
Namgung Bi-ah couldn’t understand Tang Soyeol’s question.
“Eh? Uh, what I mean is that, uh…”
Tang Soyeol looked startled upon hearing her question.
Her face turned red, and she gradually turned silent.
I guess even Tang Soyeol didn’t know the answer as she couldn’t answer easily.
I wonder what that meant.
‘Does she mean from girl liking a boy?’
If I asked myself if I liked Gu Yangcheon as a man, I felt like I didn’t.
But I was interested in him as a martial artist.
‘He was completely different.’
The Gu Yangcheon I met at first.
And the Gu Yangcheon that broke my younger brother’s arm.
Were they even the same person?
I didn’t know the answer.
That was the sad truth.
So I wanted to spar with him, but I was rejected instantly…
If someone asked me right now if I could beat Gu Yangcheon in a duel, I felt like I could say yes.
That, however, would only be my answer for right now.
It was shocking, the fact that even someone at Namgung Bi-ah’s level wasn’t sure how to assess Gu Yangcheon.
Even putting aside that matter, the fact alone that Gu Yangcheon didn’t produce a horrible smell;
He’s a person that occupies a space in my mind…
“…Maybe I do like him?”
The words Namgung Bi-ah subconsciously said made Tang Soyeol look like she was going to cry.
Tang Soyeol quietly mumbled to herself, ‘There is nothing I can do if she is the one I’m against…’
What does she mean by ‘there’s nothing she can do’?
“What about Soyeol?”
“That thing, you were supposed to give it to me.”
The invitation letter that Tang Soyeol gave to Gu Yangcheon, was originally for me.
Ever since I met Tang Soyeol for the first time, it’d always been like that.
However, Tang Soyeol gave it to someone else this time around.
That made Namgung Bi-ah ask Tang Soyeol, as she had become curious.
Tang Soyeol stuttered as she was startled by the question.
I felt like her stuttering had increased recently.
‘What’s the matter with her? Is she sick?’
The stench that Tang Soyeol gave out was quite slight.
I could almost ignore it if I didn’t actively try to smell it.
That made Tang Soyeol a person comfortable to be around.
Which was why I prayed that she wasn’t sick.
“I… wanted to become closer to him.”
“I’m sorry… You’re disappointed right?”
“Hmm? I’m fine.”
It was possible for her to attend it even without a direct invitation from a direct family member.
Namgung Bi-ah felt like there was no need to be disappointed for such a thing.
“Shall we go back…?”
Tang Soyeol asked, disappointment lacing her tone.
What is she so disappointed about?
I had many questions.
Namgung Bi-ah moved along with Tang Soyeol.
Without Gu Yangcheon being here, she would have to return to the place with the horrendous stench,
But she was used to such a life.
So Namgung Bi-ah didn’t become disappointed.
‘I feel like we’ll meet again soon.’
That was what she felt for some reason.
And Namgung Bi-ah’s predictions were something that came true most of the time.