༺ The Walking Dead (1) ༻
A walking dead?
My mind blanked out after hearing the unexpected words that came from the Immortal Healer’s mouth.
He pressed on with a visibly serious expression.
“You, what the hell did you consume for this to happen?”
“What do you mean by that…?”
“There are numerous kinds of Qis inside of you, and they are all different. How are you still moving around in one piece?”
He’d nailed it dead on.
I had consumed many kinds of Qis, so I knew what he was talking about.
I believed that he was talking about my demonic power, the power I got from my time at Sichuan, and the power I’d recently consumed from the treasure of Mount Hua.
“Is it really that big of a problem?”
“There is no way that you don’t know how problematic this is as a martial artist yourself… I’m more astounded by how you are still alive even after what’s happened to you.”
Is it really that severe?
I knew that the Qi of a Taoist Clan and that of the Gu Clan’s didn’t get along well together, but I thought I was doing a good job keeping them stable.
‘Is it because of the beast that Elder Shin mentioned?’
｢It probably isn’t that. What kind of a maniac would want to put two different Qi in their body unless they want to kill themselves?｣
‘But that wasn’t my intention either…’
｢That’s why he’s astounded.｣
That was my biggest concern.
If two different Qi flowed within the same body when they were completely opposite in nature, they would definitely and unceasingly collide.
And damage my body during each and every collision that occurred.
This only got worse as the rank of the Qi increased.
If I had the body of an average human, then I would have been disabled already.
‘Maybe I took it too lightly.’
I’d taken it lightly because nothing happened to me.
But… did that mean the beast Elder Shin was suppressing was the collisions that would damage my bod-
｢That’s not the case.｣
｢Yes, to answer that healer, the beast is keeping you alive.｣
‘What does that mean?’
｢That thing is suppressing the Qi that is trying to rampage endlessly, even though it is also an explosive one itself…｣
I couldn’t understand what Elder Shin was saying at all.
…What the hell is going on in my body?
I quickly asked the Immortal Healer.
“Then what should I do?”
“What do you mean what should you do? Either take all of that thing out of your body or just continue to live like that and pray that your body doesn’t explode.”
What kind of…?
“It wouldn’t be strange if your body exploded at this moment right now. I can’t just try to take it out myself recklessly.”
Even the Immortal Healer couldn’t deal with this easily?
“I didn’t call you a walking dead for no reason, you can die any moment whether it could be when you are eating or when you are showering. You are in that kind of condition.”
A condition where it wouldn’t be weird for me to die at any moment.
It meant that the energy that was calm for now could act up any moment and kill me.
‘…I can’t believe I had a ticking bomb inside me.’
I guess I’m guilty for thinking that everything was fine even after consuming all of that?
…But even so, the fact that I hadn’t consumed them on purpose made it all the more frustrating to me.
“This is a bigger problem than I thought.”
The Immortal Healer then turned to the Celestial Plum Blossom.
“I thought you told me to check him out because you knew?”
“How was I supposed to know…?”
“You don’t even know this when you were given the title of Celestial Plum Blossom!?”
“I was able to see it briefly, so I came to you so that we could thoroughly examine it.”
While the two elderly men bickered in front of me, my mind remained a complicated mess.
What should I do?
I couldn’t even think about the Zhuge Hyuk that was in front of me or the events that would occur in the future because I was in a spot where I could die at any moment.
‘…What do I do?’
I was still alive thanks to the mysterious thing that was inside my body, but I was informed that even that would go on a rampage if I used up too much qi, so it wasn’t exactly safe either.
And to think that Elder Shin was suppressing that thing…
‘This is so goddamn complicated.’
Basically, there was a war raging inside my body.
And all of it happened because of the unwanted energy I was forced to consume.
I at least wouldn’t have felt so frustrated if I’d consumed them willingly.
While thinking so, I heard the Immortal Healer’s voice.
“There is one way that you can live.”
“No, since you are still alive, it’s more correct to say that you can continue to live.”
“May I ask what that is?”
I was a little hopeful after hearing him.
The Immortal Healer responded with a serious expression.
“If the thing inside you can explode any moment, you can just seal off your abdomen.”
“This is the matter of your body exploding which occurs starting from your abdomen, so if we seal it off now when a problem still hasn’t occurred yet, you will be able to maintain your body.”
The Immortal Healer wasn’t wrong.
If I sealed my lower abdomen, the things inside my body would be destroyed with it which would solve the problem. And I would be able to keep my life.
However, I would die as a martial artist.
‘I can’t do that.’
It wasn’t because I felt greedy for the Qi and power I’d built up until now.
But because I would die anyways if I sealed off my abdomen.
Whether it was to the Heavenly Demon,
Or to the Murim Alliance.
Why couldn’t I ever get an easy option? Couldn’t I ever get a safe option?
｢You still don’t have any intention to give up huh, I guess it’s fair considering martial artists value their abdomen more than their lives.｣
It sounded stupid in some ways, but that was the case for most martial artists.
The Immortal Healer looked at my expression and spoke.
“Judging by your expression, it seems like you have no intention of giving up your abdomen.”
“If that is the case then I have no other solutions for you asides from praying that you get lucky and your body continues to hold on like it has up until now.”
“You told me that you would only check, but you already came up with a solution, Tae!”
“You rotting piece of shit, I told you to screw off already!”
What a hassle…
The Immortal Healer signaled with his hand pointing towards the door, telling us to get out if we were done listening.
“There is a patient here, if you are done, screw off.”
“Still as cold as ever…”
“You especially, Dohwa, fuck off.”
The Celestial Plum Blossom put on a smile on his face and stood up.
The Plum Blossom Sword also tried to stand up to bow, but the Celestial Plum Blossom signaled her not to with his hand.
“Rest well, I’ll visit from time to time.”
“It’s rowdy when you come, so don’t-”
“I’ll come next time, Tae.”
The Celestial Plum Blossom went outside the door, and just as I was about to follow him,
I turned around at the voice and came face to face with Gu Ryunghwa.
She was looking at me with a visible tremble in her eyes.
“…You… are dying?”
“What did you say?”
“Are you dying I said!?”
Gu Ryunghwa shouted.
What was she suddenly on about?
It’d been so long since I’d seen her, so I didn’t really know how to talk to her.
Did she ask because she wanted me to die? Was our relationship really that bad—
– Get out of my sight, your presence alone disgusts me.
…Perhaps it really was that bad.
I let out a sigh after being reminded of a memory that suddenly passed through my mind. It was something I’d definitely said.
I looked at Gu Ryunghwa and spoke.
“I think so.”
“Why are you so calm…?”
“Should I be scared? I’m not dead yet.”
“But they said you can die even tomorrow!”
“But I’m still alive now.”
Gu Ryunghwa’s expression changed weirdly after hearing my words.
Was it really that weird? Plus, why did Gu Ryunghwa become so serious about it?
I didn’t think she had any affection left for me.
｢It is indeed weird, since a kid that has never experienced death is saying all of this with a calm face.｣
｢I know that you sometimes act like an adult, but this is particularly severe. I’m hoping I can hear something related to this later.｣
‘How can you be so sure that I have a story related to this?’
｢If not, then never mind.｣
Because of this pointless conversation, I even felt more tired.
I let out a deep sigh and turned my focus and gaze back to Gu Ryunghwa.
“I’m going back to the clan in a few days, and you have to come as well.”
“I’m… not going.”
“That shitty place, there’s no way I’d want to go back!”
“Alright, do what you want.”
After telling her that she can do whatever she wants, Gu Ryunghwa’s expression became even weirder.
I already knew that she didn’t want to go just by looking at her expression.
“You really aren’t going to force me to go?”
“You said you don’t want to.”
“What do you think father would say if I told him I couldn’t bring you because you so stubbornly refused?”
“Yeah, just like your thoughts, he wouldn’t say anything about it.”
It would probably just end with him saying something like ‘I see’.
But the Heavenly Pill I would get as a reward though… Oh, I’d forgotten about that.
‘Then again, if I got that now and consumed it, my body would probably be under more stress.’
There were already firecrackers inside my body, so wouldn’t it be worse to add more to it?
That was my first concern.
And looking at Gu Ryunghwa in the arms of the Plum Blossom Sword made me think that there was no need for her to return to the clan.
Mount Hua definitely felt more like a home to Gu Ryunghwa than the Gu Clan.
｢Is that the heart of an older brother or something?｣
‘Don’t say things that’ll give me goosebumps.’
I already had to worry about dying, the heart of a brother my ass…
Just like my previous life, I decided not to care about it.
｢You always say the opposite of what your heart feels.｣
I lightly ignored Elder Shin and bowed to the Immortal Healer and the Swordmaster.
I locked gazes with Zhuge Hyuk in the process, but I decided to let him go for now.
For now, that is.
After coming outside the hut…
The Celestial Plum Blossom seemed to have already left because he wasn’t here.
Did he leave without me…?
I thought that I should also start leaving because it was going to become night soon, so I focused Qi into my feet, but,
“Wait, I don’t know the way…”
* * *
Those words came from the Immortal Healer after Gu Yangcheon left the hut.
It was strange.
It was very strange.
To see all those different kinds of Qi in a boy’s body when he wasn’t even at the age of 20.
Alongside the fact that the Qi weren’t exploding even though they were certainly roaring at each other. And even his behavior when he was listening to the Immortal Healer.
‘I feel like I’ve seen those eyes before.’
His eyes had remained calm even after he was told that he could die at any moment.
It was understandable for him to tremble in fear, but those eyes of his seemed to just calmly accept that fact.
They were eyes that the Immortal Healer had definitely seen somewhere.
But he couldn’t remember where. Perhaps he really was getting old.
The Immortal Healer turned to Gu Ryunghwa.
“Child, what kind of person is your brother?”
At the sudden question from the Immortal Healer, Gu Ryunghwa was dumbfounded.
What kind of person was he…?
He was an older brother that was one year older.
Gu Ryunghwa had felt proud of her kind brother at first, but he’d suddenly changed.
He was the person that saw the last moments of her mother.
It happened when she was very young, so her memory was very faint, but she knew that Gu Yangcheon was definitely there when it happened.
With her father, Gu Cheolun.
Gu Ryunghwa grabbed the Swordmaster’s hand firmly, feeling nervous.
The Immortal Healer turned his head away after seeing that.
He felt like he had asked something he shouldn’t have.
“Then when and where did I see those eyes-”
The Immortal Healer remembered the people that had the same eyes as the boy did.
It happened so long ago that he’d forgotten about it.
Very long ago, before he became famous for his healing abilities, he had been given the task of healing some people.
The eyes of those people showed no emotions.
They had seemed to have transcended the fear of death as they didn’t seem to be affected by anything.
And as if to prove that, they ended their own lives with those same eyes not long after.
“…But why does that boy have the same eyes…?”
Those eyes were similar to the eyes of the people that survived the abyss.
* * *
When I finally managed to make my way back to Mount Hua, the sun had already set.
“It’s nighttime already, I didn’t even get to eat dinner yet.”
When the Celestial Plum Blossom found me, he apologized to me with a face that showed that he only just realized that he left me.
He really forgot about me…
Plus, when I asked about what to do with the qi of Mount Hua that was inside me,
– It’s not like I can take the Qi… So how about you just keep it pretending not to know about it since there doesn’t seem to be another way around it?
Was his sloppy response.
Why even take me there in the first place then…?
The only thing I got from following him was that Zhuge Hyuk was the grandson of the Immortal Healer,
And that I was a ticking bomb.
There was never anything easy for me, ever.
Did I commit that many sins in my previous-
‘Oh I did, like a lot…’
I tried to use karma as an excuse to cope with my current situation, but some things just never went how I wanted them to.
Like right now.
“…What could possibly be going on right now?”
I was in a guest room that had been offered by Mount Hua.
The escorts were probably nearby to keep watch, and the servants were probably also nearby.
“But what about you?”
It was an average-sized room that was neither small nor big.
And in the middle of that room was someone who was setting up a blanket.
I thought that it was a servant at first, but I couldn’t mistake her for anyone else after noticing her unique hair color.
“What are you doing here?”
The person looked at me after hearing my voice.
Then she tilted her head in confusion, wondering why I’d asked her that question.
The one setting up a blanket was Namgung Bi-ah.
“Why are you setting it up…?”
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