༺ Treatment (1) ༻
After staying inside my room for two hours, I eventually stepped outside.
I’d been tired and also had some things I needed to mull over.
After I’d finished organizing my thoughts and left my room, I found Wi Seol-Ah outside.
She was sitting on the floor for some reason, so I settled down next to her.
“What are you- What’s wrong?”
When I tried to speak to her, I noticed that her expression wasn’t the best.
Her eyes were swollen, as if she’d been crying, and her visage just seemed generally sad.
“Did something happen?”
“Don’t you think that’d have been more convincing if you spoke to me with a normal expression?”
She already had eyes that made her seem sad if she put on a poker face,
And so the sad expression visible on her face now made it seem like she had just lost the world.
Wi Seol-Ah eventually responded to me, her tone expectedly sad.
“…I fought with grandpa.”
“…With Elder Wi?”
Wi Seol-Ah had an argument with the Sword Emperor? That was unexpected.
Usually, no matter what she did, the Sword Emperor spoiled her without really scolding her. So to see that he’d scolded her to the point that she’d cried was surprising.
‘I don’t think I’ve seen Wi Seol-Ah get scolded besides that one time when she secretly followed me to Sichuan.’
For Wi Seol-Ah to cry after getting scolded…
I wondered what could’ve happened.
I asked as calmly as possible.
You really don’t look okay.
Wi Seol-Ah glanced at me with her eyes that had reddened from crying.
It looked like she wanted to say something to me,
But she didn’t say anything at the end.
Instead, she quietly stood up, saying that she had to go do some work that Hongwa told her to do.
“I’ll work super hard.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah… work hard.”
I didn’t know what she was talking about, but I cheered her on anyway.
After saying that, Wi Seol-Ah ran away.
I wondered about what she’d meant when she said that she would work hard.
Since she was going to meet Hongwa, could it be that she was talking about work?
Well, whatever it was, I decided that I would buy her some yakgwa later to change her sobbing face.
I went outside the lodge.
I still felt a bit of pain, but I was able to move around.
And so I eventually found myself walking around the mountain of Mount Hua that I’d recently gotten used to – looking for someone.
I headed towards the training area, but didn’t manage to find the person I was looking for.
Not long after walking around the mountain, I found the person; noticing them climbing up a cliff from afar.
“Master Yung Pung!”
Yung Pung turned towards me when I called him, and then jumped off the cliff without hesitation before moving towards me.
“Young Master Gu.”
‘This guy’s expression is also down.’
When I looked at Yung Pung, I noticed that he also seemed to not be in his best mood.
Yung Pung, who usually looked fine even after training for a whole day, was drenched in sweat even though the sun hadn’t even set yet.
That showed that he was training much harder than usual.
As if to prove it, the sandbags that were hanging on his arms and legs were visibly much heavier than usual.
“Did something happen?”
Yung Pung smiled bitterly at my question.
Ever since I’d woken up, I noticed that all of the martial artists of Mount Hua had similar expressions.
I would usually ignore it so that I didn’t get involved with it, but I suppressed that thought and asked again.
“I was going to ask the Celestial Plum Blossom about it, but I couldn’t because of how gloomy he looked.”
“If it’s something that you can’t tell outsiders, then I won’t ask any further.”
For the tournament to get delayed, that meant that it was realistically a big problem,
And considering all of the martial artists of Mount Hua were like this, it certainly wasn’t good.
Yung Pung, after thinking for a while, carefully spoke.
“…Do you remember how I told you about how some of our people have been disappearing lately?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“…We found the people that disappeared a few days ago.”
‘I knew it…’
My guess had been correct.
I had been thinking to myself, wondering about whether they had found success in their search.
They hadn’t been successful previously even when the swordsmen of Mount Hua joined the search party, but it seemed like they had now managed to make some headway.
However, while it was a good thing that they’d found them, judging by their reactions, it didn’t seem like the states they’d been found in could be considered good.
Yung Pung’s gradually darkening expression and his following words cemented that thought.
“…When we found them, the seniors were already dead.”
“Were you with them when they were found?”
“Yes, since there aren’t that many swordsmen of Mount Hua left anymore.”
For them to bring someone as young as Yung Pung along… they must have been really desperate.
But at the end of the day, they were found dead, huh.
It was possible that the perpetrators had some sort of grudge against Mount Hua, or that, considering how they only captured the swordsmen of Mount Hua, they trying to weaken the clan’s forces.
‘Whatever the answer is… I never heard of such a thing happening.’
“And another thing…”
Yung Pung seemed like he had something more to say, but seemed very hesitant to share it.
Eventually, though, he took in a deep breath, let it out, and then continued speaking.
“…When we found the bodies, all of their blood had been drained out… Not a single drop remained.”
My eyes widened as I heard Yung Pung’s words.
The corpses had no blood in them?
All of them, at that?
Just imagining it painted a brutal image in my head.
After considering how the students they had been so intensely searching for had been found dead, and with their bodies in such horrible states;
It was understandable why everyone was depressed.
However, one thing made me curious.
Why was it that not just one but all of the bodies of Mount Hua’s swordsmen had their blood drained…?
“Master Yung Pung…”
I asked Yung Pung, just in case.
“Is it possible that you found the bodies in the area that belonged to the Black Palace?”
Yung Pung gasped after hearing my question.
“How do you know that…?”
Judging by Yung Pung’s reaction, I was certain that it was the Black Palace’s doing.
I had asked just in case, as I had been running into them frequently in recent times.
“I asked because the person from the Unorthodox Faction I ran into before was a member of the Black Palace.”
Yung Pung seemed like he knew about my fight against Ya Hyeoljeok.
It seemed like a lot of filthy things were happening behind the scenes.
‘…What is the Black Palace planning?’
I only knew them as a group that would disappear after the Murim Alliance decided to take care of them a few years from now.
But… Come to think of it, Ya Hyeoljeok who once belonged to the Black Palace was someone who was meant to turn into a demonic human in the future.
And the guys from the Black Palace already possessed demonic qi…
‘Is the Black Palace related to the Demon Cult somehow? Then how?’
Ya Hyeoljeok’s main goal had been the hut where the Immortal Healer was staying in.
Furthermore, the Black Palace captured Mount Hua’s swordsmen and drained out their blood after killing them.
Considering how they killed them and then used the corpses, it seemed like they hadn’t ever planned on using them as hostages.
‘What are they planning?’
It was clear that, whatever it was that they were planning, it was complicated and could only end badly.
After looking at all that happened, my head was telling me to just ignore it since I knew that the problem would be solved in the future…
But after telling myself that I couldn’t remain drunk on peace and run away from my fears;
‘Don’t run away.’
I felt like I had to do something about it.
“Is that why you increased your training amount by this much?”
I asked while looking at Yung Pung’s sandbags.
And Yung Pung who noticed the reason behind my question, responded with a weak voice.
“…It’s just that, after seeing the seniors who looked so strong end up in such a state, I can’t sleep well anymore.”
He seemed exhausted and drenched in sweat, but Yung Pung was stretching his body with the intent of continuing.
“I lived my whole life thinking I was special because of all the compliments I got, but thanks to this my eyes have been opened.”
“I was too carefree. If I had just focused on becoming a stronger martial artist, things like this could’ve been prevented.”
As Yung Pung spoke in a serious but calm tone, I simply continued looking at him.
After hearing Yung Pung, I felt like his thoughts were absurd.
Wi Seol-Ah killed the Heavenly Demon and saved the world in my previous life, but even she couldn’t save everyone.
Yung Pung was the greatest prodigy of Mount Hua, that was true, but when the Heavenly Demon appeared in a few years’ time, he would inevitably lose more people than he could save.
But… I can’t tell him that.
Because I wasn’t worthy enough to say those words to him.
I had never had to walk the path he’d traveled.
I wonder what Elder Shin would have said to Yung Pung if he was here right now…
Would he have scolded him for having such depressing thoughts?
Or would he have complimented him, saying that it was a good mindset to have?
In my eyes, it would probably have been neither of those options.
He would have chosen to say nothing.
He… would’ve probably just sighed bitterly.
That was what I thought.
Yung Pung smiled awkwardly after looking at my face.
Was I making a weird expression again?
“I came to realize many things this year.”
After saying those words, Yung Pung hid his emotions and told me that he was going to train more, so I told him to take care and went on my way.
After the conversation, I made my way to the top of the Lotus Peak.
I couldn’t believe that I had to climb to the top of the absurdly tall mountain… Was there anything worse than this?
‘…I honestly think going to the hut outside the clan is better than this.’
After grumbling to myself, I continued to move.
I was on my way to see the Plum Blossom Sword.
I had heard from the Celestial Plum Blossom that she was now being treated in the place she originally stayed in, instead of the hut.
‘Why did they have to build it all the way up there…?’
Since she had to be treated, that meant the Immortal Healer also had to climb up and down.
I wondered how the Immortal Healer climbed the mountain. It should’ve been tiring for him considering that he was an old man and wasn’t a martial artist…
‘Maybe the Immortal Healer is secretly a martial artist?’
It didn’t seem like he was, but anything was possible.
After struggling, I finally arrived at my destination.
The house that appeared in front of my sight seemed bigger than the previous hut.
I carefully went towards the door and knocked on it.
The person I saw after the door slowly opened was the grandson of the Immortal Healer, Zhuge Hyuk.
As soon as he saw me, Zhuge Hyuk lowered his head.
It seemed like he was greeting me.
I wondered about how to respond to it and decided to just go straight to the point.
“I came here to see the Plum Blossom Sword… but where is the Immortal Healer?”
Zhuge Hyuk gave me some sort of a hand sign as an answer to my question; it seemed like he was saying that the Immortal Healer wasn’t around at the moment.
Then he pointed his hand towards the inside of the house. Was he telling me to come in?
When I went inside, I saw the Plum Blossom Sword lying down, seemingly asleep.
So as I was about to carefully walk inside the room,
I saw something emanating from the Plum Blossom Sword’s body.
I definitely didn’t see it last time, so how can I clearly see it now?
As soon as I saw what it was, my eyes shook.
There was demonic qi wriggling inside the Plum Blossom’s Body.
Not the murky and nasty demonic qi I felt from the guys from the Black Palace,
But the pure demonic qi that the Heavenly Demon had.
At the same time that Gu Yangcheon saw the Plum Blossom Sword,
The Immortal Healer could be seen standing and thinking by himself before Mount Hua’s huge tree.
He hadn’t known that there was such a tall tree in Mount Hua.
While he ruminated over the existence of the tree, he continued to stand with his hands behind his back.
He was waiting for someone.
The Immortal Healer turned towards the voice and looked at the person that called him.
“…I’ve been looking for you for a long time, Immortal Healer.”
“Right, even though I’ve avoided you many times. Why are you so persistent?”
The person that was looking for the Immortal Healer was the Sword Emperor.
After seeing him, the Immortal Healer’s expression sported a slight frown.
“It’s been a while, Alliance Leader.”
The Sword Emperor shook his head after hearing the Immortal Healer.
“I… am no longer the leader of Murim Alliance.”
It had been a long time since the Sword Emperor passed down the position of ‘Leader’ and left the Murim Alliance.
But the Immortal Healer responded to his words with a serious tone.
“To me, you are still the same person as before. And when I say this, I mean that I won’t forget about the things you did back when you were the leader of the Murim Alliance.”
The Sword Emperor couldn’t open his mouth after hearing the Immortal Healer’s words.
“I prayed, that you would be the last person to look for me.”
The Sword Emperor parted his lips at this point, trying to find a response to the Immortal Healer after hearing his words… But in the end, he remained silent.
He had nothing that he could say to his words.
The Immortal Healer then glanced at the Sword Emperor who seemed like he was avoiding eye contact and let out a sigh.
He wasn’t even sure if the man before him was the same Sword Emperor he once knew.
The almighty man who was known as the sky of the Orthodox Faction, was now in a state where he was mentally lost.
‘…Dohwa wasn’t wrong.’
The Immortal Healer had cussed at the Celestial Plum Blossom when he heard who he wanted him to see.
But even while receiving his harsh words, the Celestial Plum Blossom had stubbornly continued to beg him to see the Sword Emperor.
Saying that even someone like him deserved atonement.
But the Immortal Healer thought that too much time had passed for that to happen.
The hatred and the grudge he felt for him was already buried in the past.
To forgive him was too hard to do.
But to continue holding a grudge against him was also hard since he somewhat understood him.
So, as he looked at the Sky that was slowly fading away, the Immortal Healer found that he didn’t feel joy.
Even though he had wished with every fiber of his being that it be destroyed in the past.
The Immortal Healer looked at the Sword Emperor and spoke after letting out a deep sigh,
“Why did you come here?”
And the Sword Emperor showed visible surprise after hearing the Immortal Healer’s question.
It seemed like he hadn’t expected the Immortal Healer to ask him this so easily.
Frowning at the Sword Emperor’s reaction to his question, the Immortal Healer continued.
“…Don’t take it as if there’s a big meaning behind it. I only asked because I was curious.”
After thanking the Immortal Healer, the Sword Emperor slowly started to let out all of the things he had been holding in for a long time.