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    Frozen Sword Gwan Cheol-su!

    One of the five most renowned swordsmen in the martial world, acclaimed alongside the five great swordsmen, and the current martial Arts Master of the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy. Martial Arts Master was a crucial position that oversaw and managed the martial arts department within the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy. In other words, Frozen Sword was currently the person responsible for managing the martial arts department within the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy. In short, he held a tremendous position. Moreover, Frozen Sword was a perfect martial artist who was respected by the people of the martial world, with impeccable character, personality, and martial arts skills. He was also known as the martial artist who had come closest to attaining the Mind Sword[1], the ultimate mastery of the sword.

    Some even claimed that he had already achieved Mind Sword. That’s how amazing Frozen Sword’s level was, solidly acknowledged by himself and others. There were even rumors that Frozen Sword Gwan Cheol-su was the de facto leader of the five great swordsmen. Even he had a relationship with Blazing Blade Gwak Yeonghui that was like water and fire, or rather, ice and fire. Even his noble character didn’t seem to manifest in front of Blazing Blade. They were mortal enemies, like water and fire, water and oil, cats and mice, and dogs and monkeys. No one knew what had happened between them in the past. Only the two of them knew…

    They were two people who were in opposition to each other in every aspect. And they were each other’s first choice to avoid encountering if possible.

    “Has it been ten years?”

    Frozen Sword’s frozen lips opened. His voice was as cold as the glaciers of the northern sea. A cold and frigid voice without a trace of emotion. With an unwavering, upright attitude, his blue-tinged silver hair, and his elegantly grown beard of the same color. If Blazing Blade was entirely red, he was entirely blue. Particularly, his hair was not a deep blue but closer to a transparent silver-blue.

    His blue-silver eyebrows, beard, hair, his martial arts uniform made of silver-blue silk with a blue tint, and finally, the chillingly cold blue divine sword hanging at his waist! It was his beloved sword, Icy Tears, which could be considered a part of him.

    “Kuk kuk kuk. So it was you? The one who allowed a mere Tiger Fang Manor to brazenly occupy a spot in the middle of Nanchang, the front yard of Heavenly Martial Arts Academy? That’s right, if it’s you, that’s possible.”

    Blazing Blade said with a strange laugh.

    “I’ve had a connection with him since long ago, so I just provided a little help. The rest is all his own effort. I’m just an advisor, nothing more, nothing less.”

    “Hmph, you’ve always been like that. Pretending to be aloof and acting all high and mighty…”

    Blazing Blade seemed to dislike every single action and gesture of his. His words and actions were filled with discontent and hostility towards Frozen Sword.

    Contrary to his usual self, Blazing Blade, who had been spewing his discontent and hostility towards Frozen Sword without filtering, paused for a moment and then spat out something with difficulty. His tone was small and serious, quite different from when he was mocking Frozen Sword.

    “How… how is she?”

    Finally, Blazing Blade asked about it. He had touched upon the powder keg between them. Even knowing that it was a dangerous object that could explode and hurt those around them with the slightest touch, he had to bring it up. Immediately, a strange light flowed from Frozen Sword’s eyes. He knew Blazing Blade would eventually bring up this topic. But he didn’t want to touch upon that at all.

    “She’s doing well!”

    Still, his tone was cold, without any trace of emotion. Blazing Blade’s eyebrows twitched. Had his inner turmoil shown? Perhaps reading his expression, Frozen Sword also paused for a moment.

    “Eighteen years ago, when we parted ways, you also only asked about her well-being. She was pregnant then…”

    “Three months in. You bastard!”

    A fleeting pain crossed Blazing Blade’s face. The old wounds of his heart that he had tried to forget throbbed with pain again.

    “Ten years ago, when we met by chance, you again only asked about her well-being.”

    “Hmph, you mean that time when we fought for three days and nights without rest? I shouldn’t have let you live then, I should have finished you off. You should know that thanks to the child in her womb, you narrowly escaped death by sheer luck.”

    “Look who’s talking. If she hadn’t appeared then, you wouldn’t be standing here unscathed either. You were the one who had a narrow escape. Eighteen years ago, and ten years ago. And even at this moment, there’s only one thing I can say. She’s doing well!”

    “Your words haven’t changed in eighteen years. They’re still lacking in credibility. Don’t you have anything else to say?”

    “Ah, the daughter has become very pretty. She has grown into a beauty, taking after her mother. Even prettier than when she was young.”

    He sure knows how to spit out words with a face and tone that suggest he doesn’t possess anything like emotions, that bastard, Blazing Blade thought. That one remark from Frozen Sword was like rubbing salt into Blazing Blade’s wounds. Salt pickling (yeomjang) refers to the process of thoroughly wounding meat and rubbing salt into it for long-term preservation. But what would the pain be like if one were to undergo salt pickling while still alive? It would be a pain that cannot be expressed in words. Even after enduring the salt pickling, Blazing Blade mustered the end of his patience and spoke calmly.

    “Is that so? Good for her. Then I won’t refuse now.”

    “Srrng.”

    The beloved saber Crimson Flame naturally unsheathed itself and landed in Blazing Blade’s hand. It must have read its master’s heart. Frozen Sword’s beloved sword Icy Tears also slid out of its sheath with a clear ring and was grasped in Frozen Sword’s hand. The two were in a relationship where coexistence was absolutely impossible. There could be no compromise between them. They were two people who found it repulsive to even share the same sky and breathe the same air.

    They swung their beloved swords and sabers simultaneously, not a single second apart. A single second without any yielding. From Blazing Blade’s Crimson Flame, a fearsome red rainbow tinged with fierce energy shot out like a beam of light. As if not wanting to be outdone, a blue-white rainbow imbued with a cold energy that could freeze even the moonlight slashed through the air from Frozen Sword’s beloved sword Icy Tears.

    The blade energy of the red light that shot out, leaving behind the afterimage of flames, carried a powerful heat that could be clearly felt even by Bi Ryu-yeon and the Tiger Fang Manor warriors who were watching the situation with interest from afar. Even Bi Ryu-yeon, who was observing from the side, couldn’t help but exclaim in admiration at Blazing Blade’s strike. It was a terrifying single slash with a fierce momentum that surged like an exploding volcano. The momentum was so terrifying that everyone thought it would be absolutely impossible to block. Anyway, if the blade energy emanating from Blazing Blade’s saber was like a scorching heat wave, the sword energy emanating from Frozen Sword’s sword evoked the image of a fiercely swirling, merciless northern wind and cold snow. It seemed as if even the moonlight would instantly freeze and shatter upon contact with Icy Tears’s sword energy.

    “Kwang!”

    The opposing forces of energies collided head-on in midair. The clash of scorching heat and the northern wind’s cold! When true energy flies in the form of sword energy and entangles in the air, the victor is determined by the practitioners’ skill. The two were fellow disciples who had learned from the same master. Distinguishing the level of their skills had always been a distant task. Both of them concentrated all their true energy into this one strike. However, the outcome remained undecided. The two colliding forces had canceled each other out and vanished in midair. The level of internal energy they had accumulated over time was evenly matched. It was a perfect neutralization.

    “Swoosh!”

    The dust generated by the collision of forces enveloped the surroundings, obscuring the spectators’ vision. Amidst the dust accompanied by a tremendous whirlwind, they couldn’t properly open their eyes. Everyone tried to assess the situation while covering their faces with their sleeves, but it was all in vain.

    After a moment, as the dust settled, visibility was restored, and the confrontation between the two became clear. However, Frozen Sword completely ignored the public’s expectations. There were no signs of injury anywhere on his body. The blue-white rainbow-like sword energy of extreme yin that had emanated from his sword had easily blocked the terrifying attack of the saber.

    “Hmph, as expected, you rotten bastard, your skills haven’t rusted yet!”

    Blazing Blade spat out the words. He seemed extremely displeased. Of course, no wounds were found on Blazing Blade’s body either. Therefore, the taste in the mouths of the two, who had devoted themselves to martial arts solely to surpass each other, couldn’t help but be extremely bitter. Even though they hadn’t used their full strength, the two could clearly see that their powers were not unbalanced. They didn’t want to admit it, but…

    “The same goes for you!”

    Frozen Sword still had a cold expression, not moving a single facial muscle.

    ***

    The Greatest Humiliation Incident of Tiger Fang Manor

     

    This time, it was just a simple greeting.

    A simple greeting between old rivals who hadn’t met in a long time!

    It was no different from a simple “hello.”

    Blazing Blade and Frozen Sword had merely gauged each other’s current skills by exchanging a single sword strike. In other words, this single strike was nothing more than a touchstone, and neither of them seemed to have any intention of continuing. If one of the five great swordsmen and one of the five great sword masters were to clash, it would undoubtedly become an unprecedented and unparalleled battle that would go down in martial arts history. It wouldn’t be a fight that would end in just a day or two.

    The two were fellow disciples who already knew each other’s moves thoroughly. That’s why even in their fight ten years ago, they had fought for three days and nights without being able to determine the victor. Although it raises doubts about how two people who wield opposing sword energies can be fellow disciples, the fact remains that Cheol-su and Yeonghui are fellow disciples, unfortunately.

    After all, the match was not something that could be decided by a sudden clash, so both of them were hesitant to engage rashly. How long did this hollow confrontation last? Suddenly, Frozen Sword Gwan Cheol-su’s gaze turned towards Bi Ryu-yeon, who was standing next to Blazing Blade.

    “Who is the child next to you? Is he your disciple?”

    “Twitch!”

    At the word “child,” one of Bi Ryu-yeon’s eyebrows, which were as straight and upright as his renowned sword, twitched in anger. However, this movement was not clearly visible to Frozen Sword, hidden by Bi Ryu-yeon’s long bangs. Calling him a child, wasn’t it an unpleasant remark that completely ignored his existence? It was an unforgivable remark that hotly touched upon Bi Ryu-yeon’s pride. In the world, this is what people call a gaffe. However, Frozen Sword Gwan Cheol-su failed to notice Bi Ryu-yeon’s reaction.

    From a normal, common-sense perspective, it was nearly impossible to guess his inner thoughts, which were as complex and unpredictable as a pond of chaos. It might have been easier to pluck a star from the night sky. But for some reason, this time, Bi Ryu-yeon remained silent and did not step forward. For Bi Ryu-yeon, who liked to act on his own and do as he pleased, this was an unusual occurrence.

    “Hmph, it doesn’t matter. He’s not my disciple.”

    Blazing Blade, who knew Bi Ryu-yeon’s unpredictable personality well-having suffered from it a lot-observed Bi Ryu-yeon’s reaction for a moment before answering. As Bi Ryu-yeon unexpectedly remained quiet, Blazing Blade felt relieved inwardly.

    “Is that so? I thought it was strange, wondering what wind had blown for you, who prefers to be alone, to take on a disciple. I thought perhaps the Jade Emperor had made a mistake and the wind had blown in the wrong direction.”

    “Tsk, who wouldn’t say your nickname is Frozen Sword? Your words are so bland, they could put the glaciers of the northern sea to shame. What wind are you talking about, you frozen bastard? Mind your own business. What does it matter if the wind blows east or west?”

    Blazing Blade continued to provoke, as if overflowing with pent-up ill feelings. Compared to this ruffian-like Blazing Blade, Frozen Sword could be considered a gentleman. A ruffian and a gentleman, quite a good contrast. However, the malicious wordplay was not at all fitting for his usual character and dignity. Considering his coldness, which was acknowledged to be colder than ice, it was a very unusual occurrence. If someone were to go out into the martial world and claim that Frozen Sword Gwan Cheol-su had engaged in wordplay, that person would immediately be labeled as a madman.

    “Putting that aside, what brings you here?”

    Frozen Sword asked. It was the most important question amidst their ongoing conversation that had come out of nowhere.

    “Hmph, that’s my line. Don’t interrupt. Why are you here, bastard?”

    Blazing Blade’s curiosity was immense, as the person he thought would never be here had suddenly appeared at Tiger Fang Manor. There was no causal relationship or connection of gratitude for Frozen Sword to be here at Tiger Fang Manor.

    “Didn’t I tell you earlier? I am the patron of this school. So it’s only natural for me to be here, isn’t it?”

    His expression remained unchanged as he spoke calmly. Frozen Sword was calmly dealing with Blazing Blade without showing any signs of agitation. Judging from his ability to maintain this level of composure and coolness even in the presence of his greatest rival, whom he had reunited with after eighteen years, it was clear that he was a very cold-minded and deep-hearted person.

    “Hmph, it seems you’ve changed professions and become a godfather of the underworld while I wasn’t looking. I apologize for not recognizing you. Hmph, so it was all because of you that a mere martial arts school like Tiger Fang Manor could brazenly operate its business in the front yard of Heavenly Martial Arts Academy. If people knew, they would be shocked and faint.”

    Blazing Blade seemed to want to criticize Frozen Sword with all his passion. He was openly mocking Frozen Sword to the fullest. Although it was unknown what had happened between them in the past, they seemed like mortal enemies to the point where it was doubtful that they were fellow disciples. However, the exchanges between them were too childish to be considered mortal enemies.

    While the two were engaged in a childish quarrel mixed with a nervous battle, their swords and sabers had already found their way back to their original places. But no one had noticed this. However, while everyone, including the mice and birds, was watching with their eyes wide open, only Bi Ryu-yeon was aware of this fact.

    “I don’t want to talk for long. Just state your business. Dragging it out any longer won’t benefit either of us. It’s just a waste of time.”

    As if he didn’t want to face Blazing Blade any longer, Frozen Sword wanted to hurry up and end the matter. If he continued to confront Blazing Blade, it seemed like his self-proclaimed cold reason would melt away, leaving no trace behind. If reason melted away, all that would be left was the imminent disaster and the corpse of one of them. Because Blazing Blade’s reason had already burned away and was no longer there.

    “We have only one purpose. It’s very simple. It’s the transfer of the Ascending Dragon Badge. Just hand over the Ascending Dragon Badge that Tiger Fang Manor possesses to us. It seems it won’t be of any use here anyway.”

    “That’s not possible. Then what about our senior brother? That Ascending Dragon Badge is prepared for our senior brother.”

    Ahn Hu-gang, the third disciple who had been watching from the side, fearlessly shouted at Blazing Blade in protest. He seemed to have quite a thick skin. Just the fact that he had boldly expressed his opinion in front of Blazing Blade, who was famous for his hot temper, was enough to make his courage and guts worthy of admiration. Bi Ryu-yeon was also impressed. Bi Ryu-yeon wanted to recommend this third fellow over the incompetent and immature second disciple named Gam Oon-su. At a glance, he seemed to be a much bigger vessel than Gam Oon-su. It was because talking back to Blazing Blade and provoking his temper was something that ordinary courage could not achieve.

    “Senior brother? Ah, that fool from earlier! He only mastered the form of the sword, but couldn’t properly grasp the essence of the sword. The unity of the sword and the body was his limit. My eyes are accurate. He couldn’t even reach the level of infusing meaning into the sword. In short, his skills are terrible. You weren’t seriously thinking of dressing up such a fellow and sending him to Heavenly Martial Arts Academy, were you? If you did that, it would be an immediate disgrace! I had no idea that your discernment had deteriorated to the point of being treated as rotten fish eyes. Please forgive me. If you send such a fellow, not only Tiger Fang Manor but also your own face will be smeared with excrement. Everyone might be so embarrassed that they remove your name from the list of the five great swordsmen. Of course, I would greatly welcome that, but you wouldn’t, right? Your perfectionism wouldn’t tolerate such humiliation. Your hard-earned, petty reputation would come crashing down to the ground, wouldn’t it? Of course, that’s assuming you have a reputation to fall from in the first place. Anyway, it would be a sight to behold.”

    Contrary to his usual self, Blazing Blade didn’t hesitate to spit out vicious remarks that relentlessly criticized his opponent. Blazing Blade, who was originally known for his actions being faster than his words, making it difficult for him to utter more than three sentences, seemed to have changed a lot after spending time with Bi Ryu-yeon, as if he had been contaminated by him. Moreover, after meeting Frozen Sword Gwan Cheol-su, perhaps due to his excitement, he became even more talkative than usual. Blazing Blade Gwak Yeonghui was not a person whose words came before his fists… Bi Ryu-yeon’s ability to contaminate him to this extent was truly terrifyingly chilling. However, even though Blazing Blade’s words had increased, what he said were all truths, not empty words.

    His words were true, and there was no falsehood in what he said. There was nothing more humiliating and embarrassing than being recommended with mediocre skills and failing the special selection test. It was because the discernment and ability of the recommending sect would be disregarded.

    “What did you say?!”

    The disciples were enraged. They were ready to rush at Blazing Blade and Bi Ryu-yeon at any moment, trusting in their numbers, and even kill them.

    1. Mind Sword, 心劍 = refers to the highest level of swordsmanship or martial arts mastery, where the practitioner’s mind, body, and sword become one.[]

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