༺ The Fall of Plum Blossom Dragon (2) ༻
The people representing that metric had become rather common as we entered the Generation of Shooting Stars.
The word itself was self-explanatory.
A genius was an individual who was much better and more talented than his peers in all aspects.
They were the people that could just grab a sword and rapidly break through wall after wall that stood in their way toward martial excellence.
There wasn’t a generation where a genius didn’t exist.
For example, the Heavenly Venerables were the three geniuses of their time,
The Seven Iron and Three Fists were the ten masters of the world that were not short of being called geniuses themselves.
No matter how hard a genius tried to hide their talent, it would always find a way to shine.
Even if they didn’t want to flaunt their talent around, the world would immediately realize their talent just by looking at their movements.
This was a matter of fact, unchanged no matter how much time had passed.
And now, there were the Five Dragons and Three Phoenixes.
These young prodigies were the stars of this generation; they were all individuals worthy of being hailed as, ‘geniuses’.
Flawless since birth.
Of course, that didn’t mean they didn’t put effort into improving themselves.
It just meant that their efforts yielded far greater results compared to the efforts of an average person.
I could clearly see that fact in the Sword Dragon that stood before me, the traits of a genius.
He was the youngest ‘Plum Blossoms Swordsman’ while simultaneously being the greatest prodigy of the Mount Hua Sect. I couldn’t even begin to imagine just how much weight those two titles held.
Only people who were naturally talented to the extreme whilst also having reached a certain level would find themselves qualified for the title of Plum Blossoms Swordsman.
That was what it meant to be able to use the plum blossom Qi, and to be able to make one’s sword blossom with plum flowers.
That was what it meant to awaken the art of Mount Hua.
And Yung Pung who wasn’t even at the age of 20 yet — whilst still being a third-generation student — had already reached that point, showing just how monstrous his natural talent was.
And yet, that same Yung Pung,
Was being pushed back by a boy much younger than him in age.
Shinhyun was just unable to believe what he was seeing with his own eyes.
The heat that was being produced by the boy made it hard for him to even breathe, and he watched with wide eyes how Yung Pung’s plum blossoms were being engulfed and incinerated by the blazing fire the boy manifested.
This wasn’t just a simple matter of using his Qi efficiently and in the best way possible, or about positioning his body in a certain way.
No, it was quite simply a sheer difference in power.
…How is a little kid so powerful?
Gu Yangcheon of the Gu clan.
He wasn’t someone that was known throughout the world yet; he didn’t even have a title.
Shinhyun knew about the Gu Clan.
It was the clan of a master martial artist, the Tiger Warrior, and it was also the home of the Sword Phoenix who held the title of the greatest prodigy in the world of this generation.
And it was also the clan of his martial sister.
So Shinhyun knew a bit about the clan already.
He’d expected nothing less of the boy, considering that he shared the same blood as the Tiger Warrior and the Sword Phoenix.
Well, he could have just been a boy that didn’t meet his father’s expectations, but Shinhyun hadn’t thought that way when he first laid his eyes upon Gu Yangcheon.
…But still, for him to be this strong is still unexpected.
Flame arts were extremely hard to control.
It was a martial skill that was so destructive that oftentimes the user of the art wouldn’t be able to withstand its explosive power.
Because of how wild the Qi became, it also took a huge toll on the user’s body.
And although the art was more destructive and powerful when compared to other arts thanks to its explosiveness, it was equally hard to master and made reaching higher realms of the art a burdensome task as it slowly destroyed the martial artist’s body.
But what about the boy before him?
Cold sweat flowed down Shinhyun’s chin.
It was already impressive enough that he was able to produce so much Qi that it pressured the whole area surrounding him, but when one considered the fact that he had managed to not harm anything even as he used such a destructive art…
That only meant that he had perfect control over his flame arts.
Yung Pung tried his best to avoid the engulfing flames, but it wasn’t easy for him because Gu Yangcheon gave him no space to evade his onslaught.
One of the most important things, when it came to a duel, was the distance between two fighters.
And it applied especially in this fight as this was a fight where one fighter was a sword wielder while the other used his fists.
It was a clash between two principles;
The fist user sought to reduce the distance as much as possible,
While the sword wielder sought to gain as much distance as possible.
And Gu Yangcheon never let Yung Pung gain that distance.
He knew full well how to go against a sword user.
Yung Pung clenched his teeth and focused the flow of his Qi into his feet and suddenly rushed forward.
He who had been constantly stepping back from Gu Yangcheon was now instead charging at him.
Even as he moved with urgency, Yung Pung’s sword retained its elegance.
His strikes were precise and heavy while also being fast and accurate.
The Mount Hua Sect had very complicated movements in their sword arts, so you needed at least a few years to learn those movements.
But Yung Pung had been able to master those movements not too long after he first saw them.
That had been the day when everyone acknowledged that Yung Pung was the greatest prodigy of the Mount Hua Sect.
The end of his sword was light and sharp and with every step Yung Pung took, the mark of a plum flower appeared on the ground he tread.
The Mark of Plum Flowers.
There was a certain level that martial artists of Mount Hua had to reach in order for them to form the mark of plum flowers wherever they touched.
It was also the standard required for one to become a Plum Blossoms Swordsman, and was the symbol of becoming a true martial artist of the Mount Hua Sect.
Shinhyun nodded his head following the mark’s appearance.
It may have looked like he was getting pushed back by Gu Yangcheon’s flames, but Yung Pung was finding his way back into the fight and was starting to fight back.
His sword strikes formed many images of plum flowers.
The plum blossoms were now pressing down the raging flames that were once pushing back Yung Pung.
The quintessential sword art of the Mount Hua Sect was being beautifully displayed through Yung Pung’s hand.
His movements were elegant, the Qi his sword held was sharp, and the blooming of plum flowers followed his sword strikes.
To win against the Sword Dragon is—
Shinhyun’s eyes widened.
It was due to the scream that leaked out of Yung Pung’s mouth.
All of a sudden, he thought that he saw Gu Yangcheon’s fist digging into Yung Pung’s ribs.
Shinhyun tried harder to enhance his vision by focusing more of his Qi into his eyes, but the flames blocked his vision and made it hard for him to see clearly through them.
This, in turn, meant that Shinhyun, a second-generation student of the Mount Hua Sect, was struggling to see through the flames that were made by a mere boy in his youth.
…How dense does his Qi have to be for it to be like this?
He had thought at first that the flames were being pressed down by the blooming plum flowers produced by Yung Pung, but Shinhyun realized quickly that his assumption had been incorrect.
It wasn’t that the flames were being pressed down by the ever-blooming plum blossoms, but instead, the raging flames rampaging all over were being reduced on purpose.
The flames definitely covered less area now, but the power behind them had become much denser than before.
The blooming plum blossoms were slowly starting to burn away.
Then, all of a sudden, something flew out from the dome of blazing flames.
It was the wooden sword that Yung Pung had been using in this fight.
Not long after, Yung Pung himself was sent flying out of the flames, the sound of an explosion accompanying his flight.
After rolling on the ground and coming to a stop sometime after, Yung Pung groaned under his breath and struggled to move his body.
The flames that covered the area slowly shrank down until what remained of them had now circled around the now-visible figure of Gu Yangcheon.
As he had been in the heat for so long, a lot of steam could be seen visibly emanating from his body.
The flowers that were about to blossom around him were being rapidly engulfed and incinerated by the destructive flames.
It showed that the flower that just bloomed from a tree was powerless when faced against the power of flames.
Yung Pung’s plum blossoms didn’t even get the chance to bloom as they slowly burnt to ashes.
In the face of the groaning Yung Pung as he was looking at the blazing figure of Gu Yangcheon, one could see a visible mix of myriads of emotions, ranging from fear and confusion to even doubt.
The click of a tongue broke the silence that had engulfed the surroundings.
Yung Pung who was looking at Gu Yangcheon with shaky eyes, couldn’t take it anymore and turned his head away.
Shinhyun didn’t know why Yung Pung was acting like that, so, he had no choice but to turn his gaze toward Gu Yangcheon to understand the reason behind his junior brother’s actions.
And then, he was able to realize the reason why Yung Pung had avoided looking at Gu Yangcheon.
In Gu Yangcheon’s eyes as he looked down at Yung Pung,
Was present the emotions of utter disappointment that were visible for everyone to see.
* * *
There were many things one could list when it came to the strengths of a talented individual,
But, it was inevitable that they had weaknesses as well.
Even if they were talented, they would need to have something more than just talent or else they would eventually get blocked by a wall they couldn’t surpass at one point in their lives.
And because the previous walls had all been so easy for them to overcome, when they came face to face with a real wall that they weren’t able to overcome easily like the others, they would eventually opt to just give up.
Yung Pung was a genius; there was no doubt about that fact.
I was more certain about that fact than anyone as I had seen what heights he was able to reach in my previous life.
But he ultimately wasn’t able to overcome the wall.
When it came to natural talent, he was at the same level as Gu Huibi or perhaps even surpassed her in that regard.
And even now, even in this life, that was still the case.
Not everyone was capable of becoming a Plum Blossoms Swordsman. It was a level, a bar, that was only achievable by going through endless training and enlightenments.
It meant that he was, at the very least, a first-rate martial artist.
He was a first-rate martial artist before reaching the age of 20.
So it was understandable why he was so confident about himself.
｢It’s funnier since this is coming from you.｣
I was an exception in this regard as I had the help of miracles that also included the mysterious regression itself.
Not that anyone else including Elder Shin knew about that.
Anyways, geniuses were very full of themselves and it was an inevitable fact.
Gu Jeolyub, Namgung Cheonjun, and even Gu Huibi.
They were all different compared to average human beings, were all better than them in more or less all aspects, and that sense of superiority they received from that fact easily made them prideful.
But this also served as one of the biggest poisons for them.
Yung Pung, as a person, wasn’t bad.
He was respectful and had some sense in him that was absent in most geniuses.
He’d let his emotions get to him because of his young age, but that might be fixed as he grew older.
However, even that Yung Pung was full of himself because of his talent.
And because of that, he eventually faced a wall that he couldn’t overcome… and ultimately chose to give up.
That was what had happened in my previous life.
“What are you doing?”
At my forceful question, Yung Pung’s shoulder trembled subconsciously.
“Why aren’t you picking up your sword again?”
I saw his wooden sword that lay flat on the ground.
He may have caused plum blossoms to bloom with his sword,
But it was just a hollow blooming with no density within it.
That meant that it hadn’t been a long time since he’d learned the art.
｢…What a monster.｣
That was probably the biggest reason why Yung Pung was defeated right now.
｢You say it like it’s easy. You think it’s possible to use such a weak sword to break through an opening and attack?｣
It certainly wasn’t easy, as it required him to have no nervousness or fear for it to be possible in the first place.
This was more of a matter of experience rather than talent.
Experience that you would only be able to get when you were in the middle of a battlefield that required you to break through many opponents and attacks that would unceasingly come your way.
I slowly walked towards Yung Pung.
Yung Pung’s eyes still harbored doubts about the result of the duel.
Why did every genius show those exact same eyes when I beat them in a duel?
“You insisted that you really wanted to duel, so I had high expectations… but I’m disappointed, Master Yung Pung.”
…High expectations my ass.
I felt like I was going to puke because of my absurd lies.
The way to overcome one’s self-pride is in fact pretty simple.
If they couldn’t overcome it themselves, someone else would need to destroy it for them.
Once they realized that there would always be someone else that reigned over their talent, they would naturally learn their lesson.
Of course, during the process, they would fall into despair, and had to decide whether to wallow in it, to ignore it, to continue to live with that same sense of pride…. Or to clench their teeth and stand back up.
I would have preferred it if Namgung Bi-ah sparred with him instead of me.
But since she sulked and became grouchy…
｢It’s true that you didn’t have to fight him yourself.｣
Why say this now when you wanted me to do it the whole time?
｢You were the one that volunteered because of the guilt you feel towards Mount Hua. I’m still curious as to why you feel this way.｣
You told me you weren’t going to ask about it, didn’t you?
｢…You really are a rotting piece of shit, you know that?｣
Namgung Cheonjun was someone who continued to live with his arrogance.
But Yung Pung was surely different.
Even if he’d grown up while being called a genius his whole life in Mount Hua, he still wasn’t very spoiled.
Yung Pung who’d been on the floor struggled to stand up.
He picked up the wooden sword next to him.
Then the limping Yung Pung slowly positioned his hands.
It was a sign of defeat.
Unlike the others, he didn’t make any excuses for his loss.
He just admitted his defeat with a weak and pitiful voice.
This guy really was as clean as a sheet.
I wondered if I should say anything more, but I thought that he would struggle to speak anymore, so I showed the same gesture to him and turned around.
This much is enough.
｢Maybe it’s because of the way you look, but that kinda fits you.｣
You realize you are pretty much talking shit, right Elder Shin?
｢Of course, I am, you little brat. You thought I was complimenting you?｣
. . .
I didn’t know how Yung Pung would think of this, but I felt pretty refreshed since it’d been a while since I’d dueled someone.
They would clean up the mess, so I was just going to go to sleep… or so I’d thought.
Namgung Bi-ah blocked my way, and after looking at me for a while, spoke out loud.
“Now do it with me.”
…Do what, you lunatic?
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