༺ Preparation (3) ༻
I returned to the lodge after having finished my afternoon training.
Originally, I had planned to return to the clan around this time…
‘But things got a bit twisted.’
I had to delay my return plans since Gu Ryunghwa told me that she would be returning to the clan with me as well.
Especially since the Sword Master also spoke of her desire to go to the Gu Clan with us.
‘So she’s going with her?’
Since the Sword Master is going to the Gu Clan, I, therefore, assumed that she will be going with Gu Ryunghwa.
Well, I can just hear it directly from her since she told me that she would be visiting me later.
I also heard that the Immortal Healer was coming as well…
So it seemed like I had to start wrapping up things here.
‘I should first go and visit the Celestial Plum Blossom.’
Even if I didn’t go to him right now, it was very likely for him to eventually come to me. However, I believed that it would be more respectful of me, as a younger person, to visit the elderly first.
I also had to make a request to him anyways.
‘For that to happen, I have to see the Sword Master first then…’
I was planning to get help from the Plum Blossom Sword herself during my visit to the Celestial Plum Blossom to make a request.
So before the visit, I had to inform the Sword Master of some things beforehand.
After organizing my thoughts, I arrived at my room and immediately saw Wi Seol-Ah coming towards me, as she had seen me coming while doing the laundry.
“What’s up? I barely got to see you in the past few days.”
I only saw her during mealtimes recently, so it felt kind of new to see her right now.
‘Does she have a lot of work to do? She looks pretty tired.’
I noticed the slight signs of exhaustion on Wi Seol-Ah’s face.
But I don’t think Wi Seol-Ah would get tired of doing work since she had a ton of energy when compared to the other workers.
“Did something happen?”
“You look really tired.”
I just asked her right away to be sure.
Something serious must have happened if Wi Seol-Ah, out of everyone, became tired over something.
Wi Seol-Ah just smiled, a wide grin that stretched all the way to her eyes, as she heard my question.
“I’m fine! Nothing happened!”
Then she stood up.
It looked to me that she was trying to show that she was, in fact, healthy and in good shape.
Seeing her do that, I just smirked and messed up her hair.
I was now able to do things like this to her when in the past I would often wonder if I could even dare to touch her.
Now that I look at myself, I have changed quite a bit too from my past self.
After playing with her hair for a while, I spoke to Wi Seol-Ah again.
“You wanna go down to the city today?”
Wi Seol-Ah responded with a stupefied expression after hearing my question.
Is it really that shocking?
I guess I didn’t usually go to places with her unless I had some business to do…
Wi Seol-Ah’s eyes soon turned into saucers, a testament to the magnitude of shock she was feeling right now.
“You busy? If you have work left—”
“No! I have none! I did it all, I don’t have any left!”
“R-Right, glad to hear that.”
She responded back with a distinct desperation in her voice when I was about to cancel the plan.
Forcefully stopping my mouth from smiling like a fool after seeing Wi Seol-Ah acting like that, I spoke to her again.
“I’ll be back quickly after showering a bit, so wake her up and bring her.”
“Kay… Huh? Bring her?”
Wi Seol-Ah looked at me as though she was not able to understand what I was saying right now.
Then she realized that I was talking about Namgung Bi-ah and started glaring at me quite intensely.
“…It’d be rude to just leave her here, right?”
I tried to make up an excuse, but it obviously didn’t work on her.
Of course, Wi Seol-Ah only glared at me for a bit and didn’t say anything afterwards due to how nice she was.
It’s just that she let out what seemed like a sigh and went on her way to wake up Namgung Bi-ah.
I felt somewhat sorry, but I didn’t really have any other choice here.
‘I can’t believe I would come across such problems.’
I was quite surprised by that realization,
Considering the fact that it was difficult for me to think about someone else in the not-so-distant past.
After I washed away the sweat I had accumulated from training, I changed into clean clothes and went out of my room. Immediately, I saw the scene of Namgung Bi-ah hanging on top of Wi Seol-Ah.
“…Ugghh… You are heavy sis…!”
“What are you guys doing?”
Namgung Bi-ah was hanging on top of Wi Seol-Ah while looking like she was still half asleep, hovering in her dreams.
And due to the physical difference between them, it looked like Wi Seol-Ah was getting covered up by Namgung Bi-ah right now.
Namgung Bi-ah has been sleeping more recently, so did something happen to her?
“Do you want to go back and sleep? Us two can just go by ourselves.”
No sooner had I said those words, Namgung Bi-ah immediately stood up on her feet.
She still looked a bit tired, but it looked like she was trying to show me that she could go with us without any problem.
Soon, I could see that she was searching for something in her pocket and immediately after, she took something out.
Surprisingly, it was a mask.
Does she just always have that with her now since I told her to cover herself up?
Well, some people still looked at her because she was attractive even with the mask on, but wearing it still reduced most of the attention she would normally receive.
It seemed like she felt uncomfortable with that many people looking at her, especially when she wasn’t used to crowded streets.
I guess that mask is satisfactory for Namgung Bi-ah.
“You are prepared.”
“This… is comfortable.”
“Young Master! Should I call brother Muyeon?”
I thought that he was ready to depart with us by now since I already told the escorts that I would be going out.
‘A rare moment for Muyeon to not be prepared.’
Realistically speaking, I could opt to just leave him behind, but Muyeon would definitely scold me later if I didn’t go with him tagging along.
I already got scolded once because of the injury I had received from that ominous incident before.
They kept asking me why I keep going alone without any escorts.
‘I had no other choice because of how urgent it was back then.’
That’s how worried Muyeon usually was, so did something happen to him?
Surprisingly, Namgung Bi-ah was the one to answer the questions I had.
“He went to attend a duel.”
“Against a disciple of the Mount Hua Sect.”
“A disciple? Who?”
Since Namgung Bi-ah could only know so many students of the Mount Hua Sect… and I doubted that it would be Gu Ryunghwa, there was only one person left who fit the bill.
“Are you talking about Master Yung Pung?”
Muyeon went to duel against Yung Pung?
What is this random occurrence?
He always rejected challenges from Namgung Bi-ah and others because of his job as an escort.
“He did it with me too.”
I had no choice but to ask that question after hearing Namgung Bi-ah’s words.
Did he duel with Namgung Bi-ah too? This is the first time I heard such a thing.
I didn’t know how Namgung Bi-ah felt about my reaction, but she quietly leaked out some words afterward.
I didn’t ask who lost.
I felt like I could tell who lost the duel just by looking at her gloomy expression.
‘If someone wants to give Muyeon a challenge…’
Even after absorbing all the energies I did in this life, Muyeon was still at a higher martial rank than I was.
I still remember the time when a bunch of swordsmen were asking Muyeon to return to their group back when I was in the clan.
‘Muyeon is certainly not your average martial artist.’
His talent probably couldn’t hold a candle against someone like Yung Pung, but that certainly didn’t mean that Muyeon lacked talent.
It wasn’t common at all for a man who was barely over the age of twenty to be at that level of martial attainment unless they were a young prodigy who came from a noble clan.
“A duel huh… I wonder if something triggered him.”
Namgung Bi-ah stared at me for some time when I said those words. I asked wondering why she directed that gaze at me.
“I can… understand him a little.”
She went back to her usual indifferent expression after mumbling those words.
Hugging Namgung Bi-ah’s waist Wi Seol-Ah was also seemingly asking me when we were going to leave with her eyes.
I doubt that Muyeon heard about us going out since I informed the escorts so suddenly.
So I guess I can just go without him then, right?
Since there were other escorts around after all…
While I was finishing my preparations to leave, Namgung Bi-ah suddenly spoke to me.
“When we return… let’s duel…”
I stopped on my tracks after hearing Namgung Bi-ah’s words.
I totally forgot that I had promised to duel with her.
It should be fine since I already dueled with Yung Pung.
‘Though it’s a bit bothersome how I keep getting reminded of the past.’
But it wasn’t like I could reject her forever, so I should just accept her invitation.
“After we return, let’s do it if I’m free.”
A rare expression of shock bloomed on Namgung Bi-ah’s face due to what I said to her.
Moreover, that smile…
I smirked after seeing her mouth slowly curving into a small smile and started to walk.
Is this really something that should be enough to make her happy?
It would be more or less nighttime by the time we arrive back at the lodge,
But it should be fine to spare some time for her as long as I didn’t have anything to do.
‘I should be fine as I didn’t have any problem with dueling Yung Pung last time.’
Unless I use up a ton of Qi, as I did against Ya Hyeoljeok, I thought that it’d be fine to duel with anyone.
After we looked around the city streets and filled up our stomachs with various delicacies, we returned to the lodge.
But we were unable to do the duel that Namgung Bi-ah had been so excitedly waiting for.
Some work came up for me.
“You finally came.”
When I returned to the lodge I could see the Immortal Healer seated inside my room, waiting for me.
* * * *
It felt like I’ve been having a lot of guests recently.
Which of course included Yung Pung, Gu Ryunghwa, the Sword Master, and now even the Immortal Healer.
‘I did hear that he would come to visit me…’
I remember the Sword Master telling me that sometime ago. It’s just that he came by himself when I heard that he would be coming with the Sword Master.
“What brings you here…?”
“I came to check your body. Why are you so surprised?”
“I’m not sir. I was just a bit puzzled.”
I could feel Namgung Bi-ah glaring at me with a sharp intensity, unlike anything she had done before, but there was nothing I could do about it…
He came to check up on my body after all.
I gazed at Namgung Bi-ah, signaling to her that we would duel some other time, and disappeared with a slightly sulky expression on her face.
“Hmm… Maybe I came at the wrong time?”
The Immortal Healer leaked out a fake cough, noticing the little gestures we made to communicate.
“Not a problem sir. You came here after freeing your schedule.”
“I appreciate you saying that, now come sit.”
The checkup didn’t take too long.
There was no problem with my body besides the fact that it was overwhelmed with Demonic Qi at the moment.
“Hmm… You indeed have a fascinating body. I wonder what happened for all these energies to calm down like this…”
The Immortal Healer may have told me that this was a checkup, but to me, it looked more like he was doing research on my body.
I could just see it in those eyes of his.
‘…What do I do if he really tries to cut my belly open?’
He was just joking when he said to me previously.
He had to be…
I answered every question that he asked me with coherence and precision.
The Immortal Healer seemed very interested in the Gu Clan’s ability to get rid of the turbid energy inside one’s body, but I told him that it was very hard to explain it to him… as he wasn’t a martial artist himself.
That was the excuse I made up to tackle this situation.
In reality, I had no way to explain it.
Saying things like ‘I guess our clan just has that ability! But I don’t know much!’ should be enough for now.
Although it would be problematic if the Immortal Healer came to our clan to ask about the ability though.
‘But I doubt that he would visit our clan just because of this.’
The Immortal Healer was a doctor who was requested to visit in numerous places all over the world.
So it wouldn’t be a no-brainer for him to visit the Gu Clan when they had not even invited him to come.
The Immortal Healer leaked out a sigh full of disappointment after not being able to find anything else about my abilities.
“Well… It seems like you are healthy.”
“…Why are you saying that in such a disappointed tone?”
Is it just me or does he just not seem satisfied that I’m healthy?
“You really think I’m disappointed?”
“It must be my mistake then, right?”
The Immortal Healer didn’t answer my question. He just quietly took out a wooden pass from his pocket.
“What is this?”
“Can you not tell by just looking? It’s a wooden pass.”
“I can see that at least, but I was asking what this is used for.”
“Since I’m just a wandering doctor, I don’t have much to give you.”
The Immortal Healer was trying to give me something. I was already satisfied with just the free treatment he gave me, so why was he trying to give me more now?
“I don’t have anything big to give to you, but you should be able to get good treatment from the Beggar’s Sect when you bring this pass to them.”
“How come you are giving me something like this?”
I could see that this was a valuable item even at first glance.
Furthermore, if this had relations to the Beggar’s Sect then…
I was suddenly reminded of the black wooden pass that Peng Woojin gave to me last time.
“I originally wanted to give this to someone I was looking for, but I couldn’t find him which is why I’m giving it to you. Just take it as a payment for a commission.”
“A payment for… a commission?”
“Yes, I have something to ask of you after all.”
I knew it, something like this was too big to just give to me for free…
He had a different intention behind giving me this pass.
‘He isn’t going to ask me if he could really open up my stomach, right?’
If that was the case, I would have to run away immediately.
“I heard that the Sword Master is going too by the time you leave.”
“…Oh, I heard that as well, but I’m not certain yet.”
I was the leader of our crew, so if the Sword Master wanted to go with us, then she would need my approval to tag along.
And I wasn’t sure if I could allow her to leave the Mount Hua Sect when she just recovered from her sickness.
The problem though, was what the Immortal Healer told me afterwards.
“I’m also going to the Gu Clan as I have some business there as well.”
“I already told Dohwa, and it should be fine since there are no places in the world where I’m unwelcomed.”
The Immortal Healer informed me that he had already mentioned about his departure to the Celestial Plum Blossom. It was as though he had assumed that I would definitely approve of his intentions of tagging along with us.
I couldn’t help but say that.
It was just too absurd.
Why is everyone trying to go to my house when there are other better towns around…?
‘Is our house covered in honey or something?’
I even had nonsensical thoughts like these at this point.
* * * *
– I understand what you want, but do you really think I could achieve something like that?
– I also saw something in that girl, but I didn’t thoroughly check her as Dohwa told me not to.
– I can’t heal everyone just because of my name being the Immortal Healer.
After hearing the Immortal Healer’s cold words, the Sword Emperor spoke after standing there in silence for a long time.
– Then, this is impossible even for you…?
The Immortal Healer never lied when it came to healing someone.
The Sword Emperor, of course, knew of that fact.
That was the reason why he was able to guess the answer just by reading the Immortal Healer’s expression and silence.
The Immortal Healer only heaved a sigh of relief in response as he knew that the Sword Emperor had noticed already.
– It’s a very hard task for me to just rashly go through one’s energy when that person isn’t actually human, nor a martial artist.
– Not only do I need an immense amount of time, but the ingredients needed for that may require destroying the root of a clan.
– …I can take—
– Alliance leader.
The Immortal Healer cut off the Sword Emperor’s words.
– Before you bring that to me, please fulfill my request first. I believe that takes priority.
– Until then, I won’t give my answer.
It was a short and strict response.
It would all end if the Sword Emperor didn’t want to go through with what was asked of him.
However, he wasn’t in a position where he could let go of such an opportunity.
It was a thread of light that came down into a hole of never-ending darkness.
The Sword Emperor determined himself once he was reminded of his granddaughter, smiling at him brightly and happily.
He then swiftly wrote a letter.
Carefully, he wrote down on the blank white surface, filling it all up with words.
‘Murim’ was written on the front cover of the letter.
This letter was for none other than the current leader of the Murim Alliance— the Harmonic Sword, Jang Cheon.
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