༺ The Great Demon (3) ༻
On waking up in the morning, I drank the water that Wi Seol-Ah gave to me.
“…Ugh… I feel like I’m going to die.”
For me to feel so thirsty as soon as I’d woken up in the morning, was it because I’d sweated so much yesterday?
｢Of course you feel like this. Did you expect to feel fine after using your body so much for the past few days?｣
“…What are you scolding me for, isn’t it good that a martial artist trains a little?”
I responded to Elder Shin while massaging my aching shoulders.
Because I’d been sleeping after doing some night training for the past few days, I felt more tired than refreshed after waking up.
The annoying thing, however, was the fact that my body was actually improving because of it.
My muscles were showing more emphasis.
I got that my muscles were rapidly getting stronger thanks to my Qi… but wasn’t this a bit too fast?
I forced my aching body up and went outside.
After stepping outside, I looked up at the clear sky and saw that the weather would probably be good for the day.
‘I can’t find a cloud anywhere.’
The sky was always beautiful at the end of summer.
And since my current residence was high up on a mountain, it didn’t feel that hot; a very welcome development.
‘Did Namgung Bi-ah go somewhere?’
I couldn’t find her anywhere, so it seemed like she’d gone out.
I guessed that she’d once again gone to see Gu Ryunghwa.
I considered going to meet them, but quickly got rid of the thought.
I felt that going there would be more poisonous to Gu Ryunghwa than staying away.
“Now then… What should I do today?”
Gu Ryunghwa had already said that she didn’t want to come back home, so I could just leave without waiting for the tournament to begin, but…
The Sword Emperor still hadn’t returned yet.
It wasn’t that I was worried about one of the Heavenly Venerables… I just felt that I couldn’t just leave him here.
Maybe… I could go looking for some demonic stones since I couldn’t find any yesterday.
‘Since there are a bunch of mountains here, I feel like I can find one if I just search around.’
Or maybe I should just train more…
For some reason, I felt like I trained more in the clans and sects I visited than when I was back at home.
｢You‘re just training so much because the changes are noticeable to you.｣
“That much is true.”
I didn’t want to admit it, but the Mount Hua Sect’s training regimen was definitely helping me improve.
How should I put it… it felt like my muscles were slowly becoming larger thanks to their training.
Although it felt like my mental state was dying as a result of it.
｢So are you gonna train today too?｣
“That’s the plan… but I’ll do that after finishing my due work.”
If I was to go back home before the tournament began, I felt like I had to visit the Plum Blossom Sword first, as she’d said she wanted to see me one more time before I left.
Now was an ideal time for me, as I didn’t have much to do today, and I felt that I shouldn’t delay the matter any further.
After returning inside and changing my clothes, I stepped out once again, caught sight of Wi Seol-Ah who seemed to be passing by and spoke to her.
“I’ll be back after a bit.”
“Are you going somewhere?”
“I have some business to take care of.”
“Can I come along…?”
I didn’t think that either Gu Ryunghwa or the Immortal Healer would like it if I brought someone with me.
I wanted to seriously try to get something from Zhuge Hyuk this time around.
“I’ll be going by myself today.”
“Aw… Have a safe trip then…”
“I’ll be back with some skewers.”
“Have a safe trip!”
I felt like she became much happier after I promised to get her skewers.
Probably my mistake, right…?
* * * *
What do I do?
Namgung Bi-ah thought to herself whilst hiding her aching hand.
She wanted nothing more than to cover her nose due to the overwhelming stench that she could perceive at the moment.
But, putting aside that stench, she wondered what the nasty feeling surrounding the area was.
It felt too nasty to be called Qi, but at the same time, it felt different from killing intent.
And then there was the giant that stood before her, wielding a huge chunk of metal that she wondered whether it could even be called a sword.
And Namgung Bi-ah knew the moment she saw him,
That she couldn’t even dare to face him in a fight.
She knew that just by feeling the nasty aura he was releasing,
And the sword slash she had blocked instinctively.
She could tell how strong he was just by feeling the impact of that clash.
Her arms were still shaking from the impact, and it reinforced her speculation on how powerful he was.
He was a martial artist that was at least at the peak realm, or higher.
She wondered how long she would last if she fought him.
She wasn’t certain, but she knew that she wouldn’t last that long.
‘…This is bad.’
Namgung Bi-ah had only come here because she had seen Gu Ryunghwa walk up to this place.
She had been thinking of calling her at first, but then decided to quietly follow her because of the ominous sensation she’d felt.
But she hadn’t expected to be met with such a monstrosity.
She wondered now, just whether or not her coming here was actually a good thing.
She wasn’t sure about it.
Unlike Namgung Bi-ah whose eyes were shaking, the man continued to silently leer at her and Gu Ryunghwa.
His gaze slowly traversed their bodies, moving from head to toe on each.
As if he was observing them.
Namgung Bi-ah had to hold in the feelings of nausea that had erupted due to the way he was staring so intensely at her; observing her from her head, eyes and nose, neckline, to her chest and down to her toes.
And when he finally returned his gaze to Namgung Bi-ah’s eyes, he spoke with a smile that gave them chills.
“Nice, nice… Where did such a pretty girl come from?”
Namgung Bi-ah felt goosebumps appear all over her after hearing his words,
Because she knew exactly what he was thinking of.
“If I had the time, I would taste you right here and now… but it’s a shame, isn’t it? That I’m a bit busy right now.”
He lifted the sword that had been stabbed into the ground and hefted it unto his shoulder.
Even with the little movement he made, Namgung Bi-ah felt threatened and bit her lips.
The man then spoke after looking at her.
“Even your scared expression makes you look absurdly beautiful. Seriously, where did such a beauty come from, I’m starting to feel hot because of it.”
“You… who are you?”
“Woah… even your voice is nice… Would you know who I am if I told you? This brother is called Ya Hyeoljeok.”
Namgung Bi-ah slowly got into her battle stance whilst watching him chuckle.
Then Ya Hyeoljeok slowly frowned.
“I don’t want to see a beauty get hurt. I’d rather you stay pretty.”
So Ya Hyeoljeok said, solely so that he could get a taste of her after he was done with his business.
And after she heard Ya Hyeoljeok say those words, Namgung Bi-ah lifted her sword up.
When Namgung Bi-ah heard Gu Ryunghwa call her nervously, she quietly whispered to her,
“No! Let’s run together!”
Gu Ryunghwa, who had also felt how powerful their opponent was, responded nervously to Namgung Bi-ah.
But Namgung Bi-ah’s expression was bleak.
Because she knew that she couldn’t run away.
She knew that while the man hadn’t initially come for her, his plan had most likely changed.
‘…What should I do?’
After asking herself this, Namgung Bi-ah focused her breathing and wrapped her Qi around herself.
She had told Gu Ryunghwa to run away, but she wondered if that man would actually allow that.
After putting Qi around her body, she spoke to Gu Ryunghwa once again,
“Hurry… Go tell the people of Mount Hua.”
Gu Ryunghwa glanced at the spot behind her with shaky eyes.
Not too far away from them was the hut her master was staying in.
Her master was in a state where she could barely walk, let alone run.
So if… if that man got to the hut…
Gu Ryunghwa was surprised after hearing Namgung Bi-ah’s words.
“Take a good look at the situation right now, you are no help here. If you have something to protect, think about what you should do first.”
It wasn’t the short words that would usually come from Namgung Bi-ah.
Namgung Bi-ah didn’t know what Gu Ryunghwa was worried about, she had simply told her those words because Gu Ryunghwa was having a hard time deciding what she should do.
Even as she spoke, Namgung Bi-ah kept her gaze locked on the man.
The sound came from Namgung Bi-ah’s mouth.
A breathing sound that was deep and heavy.
Instead of the wooden sword, she pulled out her real sword and pointed it towards the man.
“Are you really going to do it? This brother here is busy and won’t go easy on you, so think carefully, sweetheart.”
Ya Hyeoljeok was speaking with a playful tone, and Gu Ryunghwa clenched her teeth to hide the fact that her lips that were shaking in fear.
Her breathing didn’t manage to become as calm as Namgung Bi-ah’s, but Gu Ryunghwa still tried her best to calm herself.
She did her best, but after imagining the possibility of that huge sword aiming for her, she couldn’t completely calm down.
Right then, when Ya Hyeoljeok took a step forward, Namgung Bi-ah shot at him like an arrow as if she had been waiting for that moment.
The sound of a sword violently slashing through the air echoed out.
Namgung Bi-ah’s sword was fast and accurate.
So fast that Gu Ryunghwa couldn’t even clearly see it.
But even then, Ya Hyeoljeok dodged it like it was nothing.
It was unbelievable, how he was able to move so quickly with such a large figure.
But Namgung Bi-ah continued her strikes as if she’d expected that to happen.
Because of the Qi that she’d put into her sword, visible sword trails followed after every swing.
It looked absurdly beautiful, but Gu Ryunghwa had no time to think about such things.
– Hurry… Go tell the people of the Mount Hua Sect.
She remembered what Namgung Bi-ah had said to her.
And as Ya Hyeoljeok tilted his body to dodge, Gu Ryunghwa started to run away.
Ya Hyeoljeok clicked his tongue on noticing her movement.
The sword he hadn’t used because he had been busy dodging, was suddenly aimed at the girl that was running away.
He’d expected this to happen because he knew that the girls wouldn’t be capable of doing much in their current situation.
He had been surprised a little when the sword being swung by the pretty azure-white-haired girl was fiercer than he thought,
But that was it.
He knew that she was at most in her early twenties and wouldn’t be a threat to him.
‘So I don’t want to scar her face.’
He glanced at the girl that was striking at him.
He had never seen such a pretty girl since he was born.
He thought about how she would feel when she was put in bed.
Just imagining it made his blood boil and he couldn’t prevent the lecherous smile that crept into is face in the wake of that.
In order to do that, however…
‘I gotta get rid of anything annoying.’
He couldn’t afford to do anything to her right at this moment, so he planned to just knock her out for now and take her to the cave after finishing his business here.
Along with the Immortal Healer, if he was here.
And, in order to do that, he had to get rid of anything that could come back to haunt him in the future.
Ya Hyeoljeok put Qi into his sword and was about to swing it…
The sword slash released was one Gu Ryunghwa would be unable to dodge, and would unfailingly chop her head off.
But at that moment, just as Ya Hyeoljeok was about to swing his sword-
Namgung Bi-ah’s sword pierced into that small opening.
Ya Hyeoljeok suddenly felt a heavy sensation surround the area and felt his body grow sluggish.
He tried to respond in time but couldn’t and as a result, fell prey to Namgung Bi-ah’s sword slash which cut a wound into Ya Hyeoljeok’s stomach.
He was impressed.
After his interjection, Ya Hyeoljeok rubbed his belly.
He noticed that some blood was coming out.
It hadn’t cut him deeply, so it wasn’t a big problem for him, but his mind went back to the sudden appearance of the heavy aura from Namgung Bi-Ah.
He realized then that she had hidden her skill for such a moment.
A wry smile appeared on his face at the realization that he had found something entertaining.
Because of that, he’d let Gu Ryunghwa escape, but Ya Hyeoljeok’s mood only brightened as he had found something that could entertain him.
He wondered for a second if he should just go after her and kill her,
But felt more concerned about the sweetheart that was standing in front of him.
“Sweetheart… What’s your relationship with Namgung?”
The heavy aura he felt just now was definitely the Master of Swords.
It couldn’t be his mistake because he had felt that same sensation from battles he had gone through in the past.
He finally noticed after being distracted by her beauty,
Her bluish-white hair, along with the blue eyes and the sharp aura she was putting out.
They were features unique to the descendants of the Namgung Clan.
“…Along with the Gu Clan, a girl from the Namgung Clan is also here in Mount Hua. What’s going on?”
Ya Hyeoljeok smiled creepily and thought of Baechong.
Because he never heard anything about there being a member of the Namgung Clan from Baechong.
‘Useless piece of shit, I’m going to seriously kill him when I get back.’
He had already been thinking of killing him after this because he didn’t like how useless he was,
But Ya Hyeoljeok thought that maybe it was better to delay that.
Along with her breathing, Namgung Bi-ah’s aura became denser.
Because the one attack she had been hiding couldn’t hit him accurately, she had to focus harder.
She had to become even more serious now that she had been found out.
‘How long can I last against him?’
While hiding her inner nervousness, she had been thinking of striking again, but felt an ominous sensation and instinctively held her sword up to block.
She knew that it was too late for her to dodge.
Following the huge impact, Namgung Bi-ah’s body flew up in the air.
She was sent flying to a tree and when she collided with it in full force, she groaned and fell to the ground.
“Oops, I didn’t control my power there.”
Namgung Bi-ah vomited blood while Ya Hyeoljeok spoke, barely managing to retain consciousness.
‘What was that…?’
She hadn’t even been able to see how he attacked.
Judging by how Ya Hyeoljeok was shaking his hand, it seemed like he had attacked with his fist.
She hadn’t thought that he was a fist fighter judging by the fact that he carried a sword around and was now shocked that such an impact had come from just a fist.
Namgung Bi-ah groaned because of the sharp pain she suddenly felt in her left arm.
It seemed like the arm was broken.
Regardless, she struggled to rise to her feet the instant she felt Ya Hyeoljeok slowly closing the distance between them.
Ya Hyeoljeok then asked whilst looking at her.
“Your face is still okay, right?”
Namgung Bi-ah bit her lips tightly on hearing Ya Hyeoljeok’s voice that didn’t come from far.
* * * *
I walked through the streets with my mind at ease.
I had asked about demonic stones again to no avail, and then asked when the delicious skewer store closes.
I asked so that I wouldn’t be late in case I wanted to buy them again.
Thankfully, they said they worked until night.
I bought a skewer to fill my stomach and made my way to the hut the Plum Blossom Sword and the Immortal Healer were staying in.
As I moved, I eventually left the streets and progressed into the forest.
The way there was a bit hard to find, but I could recall the path, owing to the fact that I’d been there a couple of times already.
‘The Immortal Healer will probably glare at me again if I go there…’
I was a bit hesitant about going because he always had an annoyed expression whenever I went there.
｢…I can’t believe that you of all people are the one talking about annoyed expressions.｣
‘You always butt in at times like these, huh.’
｢Why wouldn’t I when you’re thinking such absurd thoughts?｣
While I was conversing with Elder Shin, I saw someone desperately running my way from far away.
It was surprisingly Gu Ryunghwa, someone whom I’d thought was in the mountains of the Mount Hua Sect at the moment.
I’d thought she would be with Namgung Bi-ah…
Did she already visit the hut then?
‘But then, where is Namgung Bi-ah…?’
While I thought to myself, Gu Ryunghwa kept running at full speed, struggling to catch her breath as she ran.
Just as her consciousness started to wane, our eyes met,
And then Gu Ryunghwa shouted as if she sounded like she was about to burst into tears.
I felt like my mind had momentarily frozen the instant I heard her call me that.
It was a word that I was hearing for the first time in decades from Gu Ryunghwa.
Why is she like this all of a sudden, is she sick…?
“Hey, what’s going-”
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