༺ Not Yours (2) ༻
Having arrived in Huayin City where Mount Hua is located, I more or less expected us to immediately climb the great mountain to reach the sect,
However, it was already nightfall by the time we reached the vicinity of the mountain, so, we had no choice but to find a place to stay the night.
Thanks to Huayin being the center of the Mount Hua Sect, there were many people there who welcomed us with open arms.
We were easily able to find lodgings thanks to that too.
After Shinhyun’s crew helped us in finding a place to stay the night, he left for the Mount Hua Sect, leaving some second-generation students behind to accompany us, informing us that he would return tomorrow to take us with him.
Just in case, I asked if it would be better for us to climb the mountain now since we could deliver the treasure sooner. However, he replied that the current arrangement was safer for us.
I didn’t really understand what he meant by those words, but I just decided to follow his instructions nevertheless.
To begin with, I was feeling quite a bit exhausted and didn’t feel like climbing the huge mountain. So, I just kept my mouth shut.
“Here are your dumplings~!”
After waiting for a bit at the dining table, the food we had ordered came in one after another.
Without any hesitation whatsoever, I filled my stomach to the brim with the food that was served.
As I was quite literally stuffing myself with dumplings at a crazy speed, Wi Seol-Ah, sitting beside me, passed over a cup of water to me.
She was really trying her best for the past few days.
“Thanks, but you should eat some too.”
As I was looking at Wi Seol-Ah with clear doubt on my face, she puffed her cheeks in anger.
The appearance she made was really, really funny, and just as I pressed those bulging cheeks of hers with my hands,
It made a funny ‘Pffft-!’ sound while deflating.
That whole scene was so funny that it made me laugh out loud. However, Wi Seol-Ah instantly became sulky due to that act of mine.
“Sorry, sorry, I won’t do it again.”
That was a lie.
I’m definitely going to do it again, it’s just so funny.
While I was teasing Wi Seol-Ah like that, someone sat next to me with their food.
It was none other than Yung Pung who had come to the table while holding a bowl of noodles in his hands.
“…I’m disappointed in myself. I should have recommended a more delicious restaurant to you, Young Master.”
Is he referring to the best dumpling restaurant in all of Shaanxi that he had mentioned before?
That honestly was a little bit disappointing, but I didn’t really care, to be honest, as long as I was able to finish the work I had come here to do as fast as possible.
“Is it fine for you to not go with them?”
While Shinhyun and the others departed for the Mount Hua Sect, Yung Pung was left behind to stay here with us.
I thought that maybe it was because of the treasure I had with me, but the more I thought about it the less likely that seemed to be the reason he was told to stay here.
“It’s not a problem…”
Yung Pung seemed to be disappointed for some reason.
I didn’t feel like asking about the reason behind that expression, so I ignored it altogether.
When I glanced toward Wi Seol-Ah, having filled my stomach already, I saw her shoving more and more food in her mouth.
Then, as Namgung Bi-ah placed some food on her plate, Wi Seol-Ah made a ‘Hmph!’ sound in response.
This scene had been recurring for the past few days.
The problem with all of this was that… after behaving with Namgung Bi-ah like that, Wi Seol-Ah would always feel guilty for her actions.
Then why is she doing it in the first place…?
Wi Seol-Ah always acted like she didn’t want the food Namgung Bi-ah gave her but moments later, she would eat it nonetheless.
It was like looking at a bird that was indecisive and didn’t know what or how to act.
It seemed she was trying her best to pretend that she didn’t like Namgung Bi-ah.
However, seemingly due to being so young, she wasn’t very good at doing that.
｢Isn’t it rather cute, for it to be so blatantly noticeable?｣
After watching her for a while, wondering why she was acting like that with Namgung Bi-ah, I placed my hand on Wi Seol-Ah’s head subconsciously.
…That was a lie. I just wanted to pat her head right now.
When I placed my hand on her small and round head, Wi Seol-Ah’s body flinched instantly.
Immediately, I tried to take my hand away from her head as I thought she didn’t like me touching her like that,
However, Wi Seol-Ah grabbed my hand before I could take it away.
…This means she wants me to pat her more, right?
I kept patting her head like that, thinking that she didn’t hate my touch.
As I brushed her smooth silky hair, I could see that Wi Seol-Ah’s lips curled into a smile.
｢I guess you are a man, after all.｣
What are you saying all of a sudden?
｢Are you just pretending to not know? Your heart is being pretty honest though.｣
After hearing Elder Shin’s words, I tried focusing on the state of my heart and I realized that it was actually beating noticeably faster than usual.
Did my body and head have their separate minds or something?
I ignored that nonsensical thought and continued brushing her soft hair. Soon, however, I felt someone’s gaze on me.
Sitting next to Wi Seol-Ah, I could see Namgung Bi-ah leaning her head toward me while staring at me with a blank gaze.
Specifically, her gaze was directed toward the hand I was patting Wi Seol-Ah’s head with.
“Why are you staring at me so intently?”
Namgung Bi-ah didn’t respond to my question.
Her gaze simply never shifted from my hands as though she was in a trance.
That gaze of hers felt really uncomfortable.
Slowly, I saw Namgung Bi-ah gazing downwards.
And after her eyes were now fixed on the floor below, the top of her head was facing toward me as a result.
For reasons unknown, Elder Shin looked quite surprised by her actions.
“What are you…”
Then the thought that maybe she was telling me to pat her head came to mind.
I told myself that there was no way that was the case, but I found no other reason for her to act like that.
Nah, no way.
However, to be sure, I took my hand away from Wi Seol-Ah’s head and reached toward Namgung Bi-ah.
I hesitated to do something like that to her, but I still wanted to make sure if my guess was right or not.
Wi Seol-Ah leaked a disappointed sound from her mouth.
When my hand was just about to touch Namgung Bi-ah’s head,
“Someone is on the 2nd floor?”
I heard the footsteps of some people coming from the staircase. They were climbing up the stairs to the floor we were on.
“This voice is…”
Yung Pung, sitting next to me, started trembling when he heard that voice.
I retracted my hand as soon as I heard them coming up to this floor, while Namgung Bi-ah moved her head toward the staircase.
Considering his reaction, was Yung Pung aware of the identities of the people who were coming up to this floor?
The people that had arrived upstairs seemed a bit familiar.
This was primarily due to the uniform that was identical to Yung Pungs.
People from the Mount Hua Sect?
Is it alright for martial artists of Mount Hua to descend the mountain this late at night?
I didn’t know much about the proceedings of their clan, but I thought that perhaps this action of theirs was quite inappropriate nonetheless.
“…Huh? Who else besides us—”
The man in front of the newcomers stopped in his tracks when he saw us.
Specifically, he halted when his gaze landed on Yung Pung, sitting next to me.
Yung Pung stood up when he saw the man.
Judging by the way Yung Pung addressed the man, it seemed that the newcomers were also third-generation students.
It was my first time witnessing the third-generation students of the Mount Hua Sect besides Yung Pung.
Now that I looked at them clearly, they really did look younger than the second-generation students.
The young man seemed to be a little shocked when he gazed at Yung Pung. Why was he reacting like that?
“Senior, what’s wrong?”
“Who is it that—”
When the martial artists standing behind the young man gazed at Yung Pung, they were also stunned for a while.
What’s going on here?
While the awkward atmosphere still lingered in the room, the young man gathered his bearings and asked Yung Pung.
“…Did you finish the work you were assigned?”
“Where are the rest of your crew?”
“They had some business to take care of, so they went ahead, while senior Shinbyuk and senior Shinsuk are now resting on a different floor.”
The conversation came to a halt with that.
Even with my poor senses, I was able to understand that this situation had taken a really uncomfortable turn.
｢…My lord, at least you are aware that you have no sense.｣
After being silent for some time, Yung Pung came to his senses when he glanced toward me.
“Oh, this is Young Master Gu from the Gu clan of Shanxi. He is a very important guest of our Mount Hua Sect.”
Only after hearing those words from Yung Pung did the young man turn his gaze toward me.
Well, to be more specific, he only looked at me after glancing at Namgung Bi-ah first and then at Wi Seol-Ah second.
This piece of shit…?
“Uh, yes… I am a third-generation student of the Mount Hua Sect, Yung Sung.”
Yung Sung’s voice trembled as he spoke those words.
Seeing him glancing toward Namgung Bi-ah repeatedly like that, I felt like I saw the visage of Yung Pung in Yung Sung.
｢Stop looking at that child and turn your gaze over to your fiancée.｣
Hearing Elder Shin’s words, I turned my gaze over to Namgung Bi-ah, only to find that she was directing a sharp glare toward Yung Sung.
…Glare? This bland girl is glaring at someone?
It was very slight.
I was only able to notice that since I had known her for a long time. However, if people who had met her for the first time were to see her, they wouldn’t be able to notice that detail as I did.
However, she was indeed glaring at him right now.
Noticing the indecent behavior of Yung Sung, Yung Pung coughed slightly… Upon fixing his demeanor, Yung Sung then said,
“There must be a reason why you were given the task of taking care of the guests… Okay, we shall go greet them as well since they are here.”
“I will be going now, rest well.”
I responded back to Yung Sung’s bow with one of my own.
It seemed like there was something going on behind the scenes as the martial artists started to leave immediately after delivering their greetings and bidding their farewells.
I was also able to notice the incongruity due to the repressed look that Yung Pung was giving off.
Watching that scene reminded me of what Yung Pung once told me.
– Other students don’t really enjoy sparring with me.
I remembered the memory of Yung Pung telling me those words with a gloomy look on his face.
Is he getting bullied or something? The Sword Dragon himself…? Bullied?
Having read my mind, Elder Shin spoke out.
｢…This happens when someone has an abundance of talent.｣
｢There’s no way that a dragon can fit into a pond made for carp.｣
I was able to understand the reasoning behind his words.
A student with monstrous talent, and considering Yung Pung’s age, he was most probably the youngest of the group.
Moreover, since he was able to become a Plum Blossom Swordsman even though he was much younger than them, it was inevitable that they felt jealous of him and just didn’t like him.
So that’s why he’s getting bullied, huh?
I heard Elder Shin make tsk tsk sounds.
｢Even so, for it to be this blatant… There’s no way that the upper echelon of the clan is not aware of this… The clan really is being run poorly. Back in my days, it wasn’t like this…!｣
‘Why does it always end up with you comparing yourself with them?’
｢Sigh… Tsk, tsk…｣
Even with him clicking his tongue, Elder Shin’s voice was definitely tinged with disappointment.
With that, I just heaved a sigh and secretly peeked toward Yung Pung.
Expectedly, his face had gotten darker than before.
Noticing my look, Yung Pung’s lips curled to form an awkward smile…
“Let us finish our meal!”
He tried his best to sound as bright as possible, however, the meal ended soon after.
As I was already full already,
While Namgung Bi-ah didn’t eat much, to begin with.
And noticing the awkward atmosphere, Wi Seol-Ah stopped eating as well.
After finishing his meal, Yung Pung went to where the second-generation students were currently staying in the inn.
I also stood up from my seat to go to my room, but Namgung Bi-ah blocked my way.
Wondering what was up with her, I called out her name as it seemed like she had something she wanted to tell me. However, she just fidgeted on the spot and didn’t speak.
｢You little shit, just reach out your arm already.｣
｢Stop trying to use your head that doesn’t even function, to begin with, and just reach out your arm toward her head.｣
I just listened to Elder Shin and reached my arm out to her.
I felt that he was going to get really mad at me if I didn’t listen to him right now, so I deemed it wise to just follow his orders.
When I slowly reached my arm out towards her, Namgung Bi-ah widened her eyes.
When my hand reached closer to her, Namgung Bi-ah leaned her head toward my hand.
When it was about to make contact with Namgung Bi-ah’s head, a different hand came out of nowhere and started to pat her head instead.
It was the small white hand of Wi Seol-Ah.
Namgung Bi-ah seemed dumbfounded at first, as it had been a hand other than mine that was patting her head, but after realizing that it was Wi Seol-Ah, she lowered her knees to adjust her height.
I guess she felt bad for Wi Seol-Ah because she was on her tiptoes to reach her head. This was due to the fact that Namgung Bi-ah was pretty tall for a woman while Wi Seol-Ah was still quite short due to her age.
After patting her head for a while, Wi Seol-Ah stopped her actions.
After she had stopped patting her, Namgung Bi-ah raised her head once more.
Wi Seol-Ah spoke in a rather proud voice…
“I did it!”
Seeing her behave like that, Namgung Bi-ah softly stroked Wi Seol-Ah’s cheek.
But then, she looked at me with a blank look on her face once again.
Did she really stop me just for this?
Namgung Bi-ah didn’t finish what she was going to say.
It seemed like she wanted to say something to me, but she opted to go back to her room instead.
I wondered just what was up with her.
｢Did you see her ears?｣
Elder Shin randomly asked.
｢Your fiancée’s ears were red.｣
Namgung Bi-ah’s ears?
I wasn’t really able to notice it due to the fast pace with which she had returned to her room.
Anyway, while I was standing there, still wondering why she had stopped me like this,
“…I like sis…”
I heard Wi Seol-Ah mumble something to herself.
“But I’m not going to let her have it.”
She sounded quite serious as she uttered those words.
I was going to ask what she was muttering since she was also acting a bit weird right now,
But Wi Seol-Ah quickly said, ‘Have a good night, Young Master!’ and swiftly hopped away from my side.
It seemed like she was heading toward the room where the servants took residence.
And due to that, I was left standing here by my lonesome.
I couldn’t get used to these weird acts they were doing for some reason.
After zoning out for a while, I also went toward my room.
My head wasn’t functioning correctly due to the tiredness I was feeling.
As soon as I entered my room, I buried my face in the soft bed.
I somehow managed to come all the way to this place.
Now all I had to do is leave after taking care of all my business in this place.
I was entrusted with the task of climbing the great mountain to return the treasure and bring back my little sister home,
I just decided to think about all the procedures tomorrow.
I’m just going to sleep for now.
I heard Elder Shin’s sighs, but I didn’t have any energy to ask what that was for.
I’ll just see to it tomorrow morning…
After thinking like that, I fell asleep right away.
* * * *
– Chirp-! Chirp-!
I woke up to the sounds of the birds chirping outside and the traces of sunlight that was permeating through the window.
I was in such a deep state of slumber that I didn’t even have the nightmares I would usually have when sleeping.
Thanks to that, I was able to wake up more refreshed than usual.
How long has it been since I had such a good sleep?
Getting out of bed, I started stretching my body; the sounds of the bones cracking with loud popping noises emanated from every part of my body.
“…Oof, that was refreshing.”
“Did you sleep well?”
I heard a voice just then.
Obviously, I thought that it was just Elder Shin talking in my head.
“Yes, did you also have a good night’s sleep?”
“Yes, I don’t know if it’s because I’m old, but I always feel so sleepy.”
“What are you talking about, what kind of ghost—”
I stopped the rest of my words before they could come out of my lips.
Something was strange here.
Was Elder Shin’s voice always this clear?
I usually heard his voice directly inside my head rather than through my ears.
However, today, his voice was very clear and it even sounded different from usual.
…What’s going on?
While I was still struggling to uncover the incongruence I was feeling due to still being half-asleep, Elder Shin’s voice resounded in my head.
｢…That’s not me.｣
Cold sweat began trickling down my face at Elder Shin’s words.
With goosebumps trailing throughout my body, I turned my head toward the source of that sound.
Some old man with a smile was sitting down in that place.
…In a room that was none other than mine.
“Who… are you?”
The old man smiled at my question.
“I did live a long life, but this is the first time I’m being treated as a ghost…”
With each word and movement of the old man, something in my lower abdomen started to stir and move around.
Then I heard Elder Shin’s voice tinged with surprise. It felt like the Qi of plum blossoms he had been suppressing till now had begun leaking out.
My mind must be playing tricks on me, right?
The sunlight that entered through the window seemed to have a slight scent of plum flowers mixed into it.
The old man calmly began brushing his beard with his hand.
I was soon able to feel it clearly as I began sobering up from my sleep.
The scent wasn’t coming in from the window.
The scent that filled up the whole room was coming from that old man.
“Child, I heard that Gu Ryoon sent you here.”
The old man mentioned the Second Elder’s name.
I hid the feeling of cold sweat in my body and gulped.
The man looked at me and smiled lightly.
And put down the hand that was calmly brushing his beard.
It was then that I was able to see the symbol of plum blossom on his chest.
After seeing that, my eyes shook violently; as though an earthquake was taking place inside them.
Ignoring my trembling eyes, the old man calmly introduced himself.
“Nice to meet you, I’m the Lord of the Mount Hua Sect, Dohwa.”
My heart skipped a beat at the old man’s words.
…Why is this man in my room?
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