Frowning at the bright light peering through the window, Un Geom reluctantly woke himself from bed.
The laws of Mount Hua were strict. In the past, when the students would share their teacher’s residence, the disciple was bound to rise earlier and wake up their teacher then prepare breakfast for him.
Although, the times had changed, and such doctrines had fallen from standards. Nonetheless, it was customary for a disciple to come, wake them, and greet them.
But today, no one came.
“Haaaa. These kids.”
Let them go for a while, and they turn lazy.
Un Geom frowned as he got up.
If any of the disciples were awake, they should have come to wake him up. That means that all the kids inside the White Plum Blossom Dorms were still asleep. No, just because they didn’t come to wake him up doesn’t mean that they must be sleeping.
‘Come to think of it.’
He remembered a new child joining the dormitory yesterday.
“Are those brats doing it again…”
He already knew that these young disciples of his would put new recruits through some form of hazing and that they were hellbent on seeing it through. As a teacher, he felt that he should put an end to it, but Un Geom was conflicted as he also believed it helped them bond together.
Jo Gul might take it too far but, knowing that Yoon Jong was there, he was confident that no problems would arise.
However, the fact that no one came over to greet and wake him meant that things had gone sour yesterday.
Un Geom furrowed his brows as he quickly changed his clothes. Putting on his robe and sword at the waist, he went out.
‘First, I’ll have to check.’
Determined, he took long strides towards the White Plum Blossom Boarding house.
Thinking that he would have to wake the kids with a huge scare, it happened the moment he turned the corner.
Un Geom, who was about to yell, took a deep breath and choked back his words. His eyes widened at what he saw.
‘W-what is this?’
He rubbed his eyes in disbelief at the strange sight unfolding before him.
‘What? Am I in hell?’
Such a strange thought briefly flashed through his mind before he came back to his senses.
This is Mount Hua! The scene unfolding in front of him was happening in Mount Hua. But he
couldn’t understand why this was happening.
Had he gone delirious, or was he looking at something wrong?
Un Geom, who found himself rubbing his eyes once more to clear his sight, looked at what was happening again. However, nothing changed.
A despairing chorus echoed within his ears as Un Geom stifled back a groan, unsure of how to react.
“Ah… I’m going to die. Ugh!”
“Mother…take me home.”
Un Geom stared blankly at the kids who were moaning pitifully.
Were these the same young disciples he knew?
Although their ignorance would sometimes cause anger, and their wickedness would lead to disappointment, the children he knew were still innocent kids. He always felt warmth from them.
But from the kids right now in front of him, there was no warmth of life.
‘Who are these ragged kids?’
Were these the kids he knew? No matter what he thought, these kids looked like worn-out beggars.
Un Geom peered around.
“I am done… I am really going to die.”
Un Geom looked at the faces of the kids who were sprawled across the area.
‘Are these my disciples?’
A little rough…no, their condition was horrible, but those lying around in a beggar-like state were indeed his disciples.
‘What have they done?’
Why were the kids who were so soft yesterday in such a dire condition?
Wooden swords and strange pouches lay scattered around the ragged children.
Un Geom knew what he had to do. There was a limit to what his mind could guess, and what’s more, there were more than a hundred mouths here that could answer his questions.
“What the hell has happened here?”
As soon as he asked, the kids, who were lying on the floor groaning, looked at him.
The eyes of the half-dead disciples came to life!
“Oh, Heavenly Lord!”
They all were speaking strangely, but it was clear that these kids were welcoming him warmly. They were even shedding tears.
It was unusual for him, whose mission was keeping the youth controlled, to see them greet him with such enthusiasm. No, it wasn’t uncommon, but this was his first time it seemed so genuine and heartfelt.
“Why are you here so late! Why!”
“I missed Sasuk so much!”
What were they saying?
Strangely, every corner of his heart was proud looking at these kids who were always ignorant, welcoming him so fiercely. An unknown emotion flooded in.
But Un Geom soon shook his head and collected his thoughts.
It wasn’t the time for him to be impressed like this. Upon examining the youth before him, it seemed like they had fought some fierce battle; they were battered in dirt and sweat. Un Geom’s heart ached as he saw their pitifully trembling limbs and desired the truth of the situation.
“Just what happened here?”
The children, who looked like they were about to cry, hesitated and didn’t say anything when the question came—just a glance to the back.
‘Are they concerned about speaking up?’
Un Geom’s gaze followed their line of sight. There was another kid who was working hard.
“…No. The other one.”
From Jo Gul, he looked even further back.
Un Geom’s eyes seemed to widen beyond their limits at what he saw.
‘The new kid?’
What was his name? Chung Myung? What is he doing?
Un Geom tilted his head. Chung Myung was doing something bizarre. He had a wooden rod on
his shoulder with several large pouches hanging from either side.
“What is in those pouches?”
“Those are dirt bags.”
“… why dirt bags?”
He asked despite knowing why.
Among the unrivalled ancestors, there were people who would do this.
Un Geom, who was watching, could tell that the kid’s body was getting stronger.
Despite trembling as if he would collapse at any moment, he stands up, shaking until he regains balance, and squats again.
Beads of sweat poured down his chin. His whole body was drenched in sweat.
‘Will he die like this?’
Un Geom worried about his condition as he watched the child’s face, which turned a blazing red with veins popping and his expression twisted like a devil freshly escaped from hell.
There was no word more fitting than “difficult” to describe this kid, Chung Myung, as he groaned and continued to work out despite the apparent pressure he felt.
‘You’ll die like that, you brat!’
Un Geom wasn’t a generous man. In fact, he firmly believed the more rigorous the training, the better the results. Like a blacksmith hammers a sword to remove impurities, diamonds can only emerge from coal under pressure. This mindset allows him to push his disciples and strengthen their will alongside their bodies.
However, even he would say that the training of Chung Myung was harsh beyond the limits.
‘Wait, then the reason why these kids are here…?’
Was it because they were training together?
“S-sasuk! Save me!”
“We will die this way!”
The children’s bodies were drenched in sweat. The clothes they had on were soaked through and dripping with water. It gave Un Geom goosebumps to think that this was all sweat.
‘Then, they weren’t sleeping?’
Did that mean the kids were training since dawn?
“…when did you begin training?”
Have they been doing this for over an hour?
A simple question, yet no one answered it.
‘We’ll die if we tell you.’
Everyone present was making a desperate face.
No, it couldn’t be. As if that could happen.
Does that even make sense?
The kids there were the disciples of Mount Hua. Even if the sect wasn’t what it used to be, they still practiced martial arts. Among them, some kids have been here for more than five years.
Did that mean the young disciples were suffering here like this because they couldn’t handle the little new kid?
Jo Gul was known for his outstanding skills among the children, yet even he was on the ground struggling to catch his breath.
‘What about Yoon Jong?’
He quickly scanned the area looking for Yoon Jong.
Yoon Jong was on the floor.
‘Why is he like that?’
Jo Gul was fine, but Yoon Jong looked as though his soul had escaped his body. Yoon Jong was gasping for air with his face on the ground and hips slightly raised, and tears could be seen forming in the corners of his eyes as he struggled on the ground.
Un Geom opened his mouth and shut it again.
‘No, training is good…but.’
Wasn’t it clear what happened? The kids must have woken up early to do strength training.
Although Mount Hua is a sect that focuses on speed and finesse, basic strength training is also taught. All martial arts begin with the body as a foundation.
‘But what the hell does it mean that only one hour of training made everyone like this?’
Un Geom wiped the cold sweat from his brow.
When he glanced back, the kids were all looking at him with dazzling eyes—all with the hope that this man would solve the situation.
‘Don’t look at me with those eyes.’
It was seriously embarrassing.
Un Geom coughed as he changed his mind and looked at Chung Myung. First, he had to figure out what was happening. He would determine how to react once he knew the situation.
“Bring that kid.”
At that moment, Un Geom had firmly imprinted the name Chung Myung into his mind.
Un Geom had no idea that this would be the most important name he would learn in this life.
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