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    The Storm Will Soon Blow

    After the announcement of the successful applicants in the Ascension Martial Arts Festival, which had driven many to a state of devastation!

    The night in Nanchang was now so dazzlingly bright, hot, glamorous, and ecstatic.

    Day and night, the streets overflowed with music,

    And in every alley, the sweet fragrance of alcohol permeated.

    The taverns and brothels scattered throughout the streets kept their lanterns lit inside and out, even as the sun and moon changed. They remained open for business twenty-four hours a day. Even when the sun set and the moon rose, and that moon waned again, the city’s excitement showed no signs of abating. The cyclical exchange of the sun and moon was woefully insufficient to restrain them.

    For several days, like a festival, the city of Nanchang was swept by a heatwave that completely disregarded the changes of the sun and moon. And finally, that day arrived. The day of the special entrance exam for the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy, an opportunity granted only to a select few, had dawned.

    The rising stars and promising disciples of the prominent martial arts sects gathered in groups of three or five at the academy’s designated testing site. Since those without the Seungryongpae were prohibited from entering the testing site according to the regulations, everyone gathered here was Bi Ryu-yeon’s competitor, carrying the Seungryongpae in their bosoms. Of course, Bi Ryu-yeon didn’t pay much attention to such things. In fact, Bi Ryu-yeon was more enthusiastic about touring around the academy.

    Finally, the exam began. Contrary to the general expectation that this special entrance exam would be conducted in a more challenging manner compared to the Ascension Martial Arts Festival, the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy’s special entrance exam proceeded in a surprisingly simple way.

    Unlike the Ascension Martial Arts Festival, where various stages, apparatuses, and rules were intricately designated and had to be followed, this exam was conducted in an incomparably concise and simple manner. In fact, there was no basis for comparison, so making a comparison itself was unreasonable. The method, rules, and criteria for passing the special entrance exam were easy to memorize and follow, and there was only one.

    One had to prove that they were superior to others. Demonstrating one’s excellence in front of everyone. Regardless of the means and methods…

    However, for those who were part of the martial arts world and walked the path of martial arts, the available methods were inevitably limited. It was none other than directly clashing with each other, experiencing the opponent through physical contact, and competing with weapons in hand. Actions spoke louder than words. In simple terms, it meant to prove the superiority of one’s martial arts and the degree of achievement by competing with each other.

    The numerous challenges and arduous stages given in the Ascension Martial Arts Festival were tests to select individuals from the vast crowd, to distinguish the gems from the gravel. Therefore, in the matches of the Ascension Martial Arts Festival, one had to subdue and defeat the opponent in a fight.

    However, the matches in today’s special exam were the opposite, a test of winning the battle against oneself. The opponent was merely a mirror reflecting oneself. Thus, regardless of victory or defeat, the examiner determined the applicant’s pass or fail.

    A master can gauge an opponent’s skill level by observing a single movement or half a stance. And if one is a supreme master who has reached an even higher level, they can discern a person’s potential at a glance. They can judge a person’s aptitude and level of achievement by observing their physique, character, and fighting style. Not just anyone can become a master.

    The Heavenly Martial Arts Academy, second to none in the number of masters! The only place that could rival the number of masters stationed here was the Martial Arts Alliance, considering the entire realm of the martial arts world. Therefore, the exam judges were all supreme masters, so they could sufficiently evaluate the applicants’ performances with just a glance. The evaluation was conducted by individuals who were said to have reached the realm of the Dao, where martial arts had now opened up new horizons through enlightenment. So how could it not be sufficient?

    However, the more such an exam was given, the more ambiguous, vague, and arbitrary the criteria could be, making it even more difficult. The eyes of a master were different from those of an ordinary person, seeing what others could not see and considering aspects that others could not think of, so their perspective differed greatly from that of ordinary people. Supreme masters judged people based on their own standards. So, there were often cases where the losers did not concede to their judgments and could not accept them.

    However, even they failed to properly assess Bi Ryu-yeon’s skills and potential. His true strength and the level of his martial arts were as chaotic and confusing as a divine dragon in the clouds, like a loach swimming in turbid waters, or like a violently swirling vortex of chaos, making it impossible to grasp his true nature.

    Shrouded in dense fog!

    It was as enigmatic as finding a narrow path in a misty swamp, and no one had ever seen its end. This made the judges’ decision difficult. Passing him felt like a gamble. A gamble where one might end up losing everything by holding the worst possible hand! That was precisely it.

    Moreover, the participants in the special entrance exam were fundamentally different from other ordinary martial artists. The martial arts sects, and not just any sects but those considered to be of the highest caliber, sent out their carefully nurtured disciples, on whom they had poured their hearts and souls for over a decade. They were individuals who had already undergone an initial verification, like promissory notes from each sect. The Heavenly Martial Arts Academy also acknowledged this.

    Therefore, almost everyone was considered a shoo-in for acceptance, and failures were virtually nonexistent, except in exceptional cases. After a simple match between the participants, the applicant’s pass or fail was determined, and it was all up to the examiner’s discretion. There was no clear limit on the number of admissions, so everything was left to the examiner’s judgment. So, this special exam was an exam in name only, and in reality, it was just a simple evaluation of skill classification. That is, except for the fact that the evaluation and classification team consisted of supreme masters. However, among supreme masters, there were many who were peculiar, eccentric, and capricious, so unexpected judgments sometimes occurred.

    Nevertheless, in the history of this exam, most of the recommended individuals had never disappointed the examiners’ expectations. The number of bounced promissory notes was very rare. Last year and the year before, no one had failed this special entrance exam. It was because the top-tier martial arts sects carefully selected and recommended the most outstanding talents each year.

    If a disciple, who was recommended as the greatest talent, failed not because they lost in a match but because their aptitude and potential were unclear, that martial arts sect would have to close its doors for ten years out of shame.

    However, today was an exception. It would probably go down in history as the exam with the most failures in the history of the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy’s special entrance exam. This record would be difficult to break for some time. Moreover, it was an unprecedented record of failures that were not voluntary but imposed by others.

    Even those who failed did not want to fail. Who would want to fail this important exam, where the honor of their martial arts sect was entirely at stake? Their hearts were eager to soar, but their bodies, barely able to crawl, did not cooperate, so they had no choice but to declare a forfeit. One needed a sound body to enter the academy and diligently cultivate martial arts. How could one enter the academy with all four limbs completely broken?

    The person responsible for causing this situation was none other than the troublemaker Bi Ryu-yeon, without the need to look around or point fingers. Bi Ryu-yeon, who fully demonstrated his specialty of constantly causing problems even before the sacred exam.

    Initially, even Bi Ryu-yeon had no intention of going this far. He had solemnly intended to take it easy and finish quickly. However, some participants began to boast and act presumptuously, claiming to be from renowned orthodox sects, lacking dignity and manners, and this decisively touched Bi Ryu-yeon’s delicate(?) nerves. Bi Ryu-yeon found it utterly unpleasant to look at them. So, he went a bit overboard with his actions.

    The first opponent was someone who claimed to be from the Hua Sect, one of the Five Elements, and a descendant of a falling flower bud from some mountain. He boasted that their sword was the best among the Five Elements and even the best in the martial arts world, flapping his mouth arrogantly. His face was pale, and he wore a shimmering silk robe with five red plum blossom patterns embroidered on the left chest.

    This proved that he held a high position within the Huashan Sect and was someone who carried the sect’s expectations on his shoulders, but Bi Ryu-yeon, who was ignorant of the martial arts world’s affairs, had no way of knowing that. Even if someone were to inform him, he had no desire to know such things.

    This fellow received a single strike to the chin and suffered a comminuted fracture of the mandible (a condition where the lower jaw bone is continuously broken into multiple pieces), along with his teeth being knocked out. For the time being, and possibly for the rest of his life if he was unlucky, he might have to survive on only porridge and water. Poor fellow!

    The second fellow used the sword techniques of the Qingcheng Sect, and he was also a scoundrel of the same ilk as the previous one. If his sect was a renowned sword sect, why was he the one making a fuss? This guy ended up with his limbs pointing in directions they shouldn’t, forcing him to forfeit. It would take quite some time—probably about a year or so—for his dislocated bones and twisted muscles to properly recover.

    The third fellow was the second son of the Martial Arts Hall Master of a place called Geumbok[1] Mountain Villa or something. It seemed that this Geumbok Mountain Villa was a place with an exorbitant amount of wealth. He was covered in gold and precious jewels from head to toe, and grease flowed from his face. He had a repulsive appearance that deserved to be shunned, someone who looked truly unlucky and disgusting even in a dream. Moreover, he kept boasting about things that were not befitting of a martial artist, such as how he had consumed precious medicinal herbs since childhood to the point of bursting, how his virility—formed through the power of drugs—was like a vast ocean, and how he had so many women at his service for the night that he couldn’t count them all with both hands and feet. It was spine-chilling and revolting to even breathe the same air and be in the same place as him for a single day and hour. So, with eyes tightly closed and a sense of self-sacrifice, Bi Ryu-yeon resolutely dealt with him for the sake of waste disposal, environmental beautification, and nature conservation.

    Despite claiming to have consumed all the things that were good for the body, when put to the test, contrary to his boastful tongue, he turned out to be so frail that a single strike to the belly immediately twisted his intestines. After having his arms and legs kneaded a couple of times, his bones shattered into pieces. It seemed that he had overconsumed substandard medicinal drugs in his childhood. Otherwise, how could his bones be so brittle? It was likely that he had become such a frail weakling due to the side effects. This was why it was said that one should be selective when consuming medicines. It was the consequence of not heeding the ancient proverb.

    The last fellow was a master from the renowned fist technique sect of Jinju[2]. With a single punch thrown by Bi Ryu-yeon, the fist he had thrown was crushed, and he rolled on the ground, clutching his pulverized fist, before being hurriedly carried away by his attendants to the physician. This fellow was the one who had caught Bi Ryu-yeon’s attention and earned his displeasure earlier by leading a large group of attendants to the entrance of the testing site, claiming to be a descendant of a renowned family.

    The fates of the four individuals who had provoked Bi Ryu-yeon and made him displeased were nothing short of shocking and miserable. Perhaps they had taken this entrance exam too lightly. They lacked humility and manners, overestimated their abilities, and, most crucially, were too careless. And they overlooked the fact that there could be someone as ill-tempered and eccentric as Bi Ryu-yeon in the world, acting too arrogantly and recklessly.

    They neglected the eternal truth that the reputation of their martial arts sect and family was not a shield to protect their bodies, and only their own skills were the source of strength to survive in the martial arts world. So, perhaps the occurrence of such an outcome was inevitable.

    For these reasons, the four individuals were reduced to a state where they could not cultivate martial arts for the time being and had no choice but to give up their qualification to enter the academy and return to their respective sects. Since all four of them were in a condition where they could not return on their own, they had to be carried like luggage on stretchers or palanquins by other fellow disciples or attendants.

    With this, it was all but confirmed that Bi Ryu-yeon had established an awkward relationship with four major top-tier martial arts sects. However, he himself was blissfully unconcerned, not giving it a single thought.

    Although Bi Ryu-yeon’s skills, which had driven four promising young disciples to a state of devastation with seemingly simple and playful gestures, were considered cruel, the power he displayed could not help but elicit admiration.

    The examiners had significant doubts and deliberations about his character and personality but could not raise any objections regarding his skills. Thus, Bi Ryu-yeon passed. It was a natural outcome. In this way, Bi Ryu-yeon easily passed the exam and secured his admission to the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy, but his aggressive and cruel actions became a subject of caution for the examiners. Upon admission, he was branded as a person of interest and classified as a special case, subjecting him to the academy’s thorough surveillance and management. The day when all the members of the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy would keep a close eye on him was not far off.

    However, at this point, no one knew that Bi Ryu-yeon’s admission was a harbinger of a storm that would shake the roots of the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy and the entire martial arts world. The wind had begun to blow. But for now, it was still a gentle breeze.

    ***

    It’s So Boring Here

     

    The lush green forest, dense enough to split even the sun in the sky, seemed somehow familiar.

    A thick sea of trees, where even light struggled to penetrate!

    After much contemplation, he was able to figure out where he was.

    (Huh? Where is this… Ah, Mount Emei!)

    As a faint memory began to surface, he realized it was the back forest of the Mount Emei Training Center. Amidst the deep green space surrounded by the dense forest, two figures could be faintly seen.

    (Oh, who are they?)

    (…)

    (Oh, that’s Goongsang[3] ! Ah, Ryeong-ah[4] is there too!)

    Two people came into view. They were both faces he knew very well. In the verdant forest, at the peak of twilight, there was a timid, pathetic young man who didn’t know what to do in front of the girl he liked, fidgeting restlessly, and a girl standing in front of him with a deliberately beautiful posture. The girl might have been intentionally inducing a heart attack in the young man. The young man on the verge of death from a heart attack caused by her enchanting appearance, and the beautiful girl constantly threatening his life. A smile he couldn’t understand appeared on his lips as he watched the two of them.

    The young man, who blushed and looked embarrassed, not knowing what to do even in front of the girl he had feelings for, was Nam Gung-sang, a fellow he knew very well, the epitome of pathetic. Despite having quite a talent for the sword, for some reason, whenever he stood in front of a girl, he would fidget and not know what to do with himself, which was truly pathetic beyond words. The girl flaunting her beautiful appearance in front of such a fellow was undoubtedly the culprit who kept Gung-sang up at night, the true spirit of Mount Emei.

    (What’s going on?)

    As curiosity surged and he tried to take a closer look at the two, his vision suddenly blurred.

    (Huh?)

    Just as he thought the surrounding objects and scenery were shimmering like a mirage, the scene changed like an illusion, and a group of familiar children appeared. Of course, it was a stretch to call them children when they were almost twenty years old, but in his eyes, they were still just simple kids. There was Hua Seol-ok from the Huashan Sect, who burned rice and didn’t know what to do. Yeon-hwa from the Hwangbo family, who could never eat roasted snake and tried to lose weight. Moyong Chwi, who was so quiet that he seemed like a mute. Damnok Su-su, who had more talent for turning laundry into rags than washing it. She had to endure the painful task of sewing to turn the rags back into laundry, as it was their only set of clothing.

    And there was Tang Mun-hye, who didn’t seem gentle at all. No man had the guts to provoke her fiery temper, despite her being a woman. Even Tang Chul-yeong, the third son of the Tang family, more commonly known as Tang Three, couldn’t move an inch in front of Tang Mun-hye. And in complete contrast to her, there was Namgoong Sansan, who was extremely feminine and particularly fond of cooking. Without her, maintaining a proper diet during the group training period would have been a serious crisis, forgetting the basic human standards. That’s why she was a very precious existence to them. They were all faces he couldn’t help but miss.

    The boys?

    Come to think of it, my memory of the boys is a bit hazy. Naturally, compared to the pretty and cute girls, the allocation of brain memory capacity for the rough and rebellious boys had to be relatively lower. Isn’t that obvious?

    What’s the point of using a lot of space in the brain to remember boys? If there’s useless space left over, it would be much more beneficial to study math and science for the future. Still, piecing together fragments of memory brings back some thoughts. Hyun-woon from the Wudang Sect, who loved stargazing, later preferred living in the water. The monk, Il-gong, who secretly loved eating meat. The reason for calling him “monk” is because he doesn’t even deserve to be called a monk, being a complete good-for-nothing.

    There’s no reason to give the honorific “-nim” to a good-for-nothing who devours alcohol like water and meat like rice. So, Il-gong simply became “monk.” But despite his actions, he was too quiet and taciturn. Dang Chul-yeong, who had an inexplicably strong pride despite not being able to throw a single hidden weapon properly. Still, as time passed, he at least learned to make a necklace properly… Come to think of it, he was the one who got beaten up and came back looking miserable.

    Cheong Mun, who claimed to be a disciple of the sword sect on Mount Qingcheng but couldn’t even handle a sword properly. Yi Ja Ryong from Mount Kunlun, who had a talent for dancing on water. Noh-hak, a beggar who got beaten up for being picky about food. How can a beggar complain about not being able to eat roasted snake or fried maggots? Still, he was the one I touched the most among the boys, so he’s particularly memorable. He was also the most rebellious.

    And Cheon Woo from the Huashan Sect, who boasted about making plum blossoms bloom with an ax. Later, it seemed that his useless efforts paid off, and surprisingly, a single plum blossom did bloom. And Geum Yeong-ho, who only had money and only knew about money. It’s worrying how effective the martial arts he learned on the side will be. Still, he wasn’t hateful since he brought in the most profit. But what did this fellow know how to do? I can’t think of anything besides money.

    Those boys should consider it a lifetime honor that I remember them to this extent, despite their sweaty smell. They all gather and call out to me in unison.

    “Master!”

    Snap! Bi Ryu-yeon’s eyes opened.

    The sudden influx of sunlight blinded him. But only for a moment, as his eyelids, carrying the weight of a thousand pounds, slowly closed again. It seemed that they had been called up before fully completing their task. Bi Ryu-yeon displayed an astonishingly immense willpower to barely prevent his eyelids from fully closing. If the intensity of his willpower had been even slightly lacking, he would have been in danger. He would have headed straight to dreamland.

    [TL/N: If anyone wants to know more about MC’s students, refer to Wiki link above.]

    1. Golden Blessing, 금복(金福)[]
    2. Don’t know whether I should tl this as ‘pearl’ or not. Pearl Sect? That sounds weird to me 😂[]
    3. MC is referring to Namgoong Sang[]
    4. Jin Ryeong[]

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