Chapter 18: The Wind is Cold Even in Spring (4)

Seo Mu-Sang closed his eyes and stood unmoving.
He was currently in the backyard where he had been training for the last two years.
Ever since he had started training there, the place had been trampled and smashed up to the point where not even weeds would grow there anymore.

“I did not expect to meet you here of all places, Yeop Wol,” sighed Seo Mu-Sang with pursed lips.

I had hoped that I wouldn’t have to see your face again for the rest of my life.
Even in my dreams, I never thought that I would meet you here and now.

Suddenly, Seo Mu-Sang drew his sword and broke into a sword dance.

It was the sword dance of the Blue Cloud Sword Style.

The swordsmanship of the Blue Cloud Sword Style was one that embodied the spirit of freedom.
One’s blade would drift like the clouds and flow with the wind.
However, Seo Mu-Sang’s Blue Cloud Sword Style was different.
His sword tore into his surroundings like a raging tempest.

It was a sword style that had deviated significantly from the original, and was a result of the stress he’d built up over the last two years.

Seo Mu-Sang had desperately tried to improve the Blue Cloud Sword Style, but had turned it into something unrecognizable instead.
His sweat dripped down his face to his chin as he savagely swung his blade, but that was not enough to make him stop his sword dance.

“Huff! Huff!” he panted, collapsing onto the ground from exhaustion.

“It seems like this is the limit for someone like me.”

He was acutely aware that he was neither smart nor talented.
Even so, he felt that he would be able to overcome his limits as long as he bet his life on it.
Though the harsh reality said otherwise.

He had remained stuck at his current level of strength despite training insanely hard over the last two years.
He hadn’t truly surpassed the limits of the Blue Cloud Sword Style, only added a different element to it.

I suppose there’s a reason behind the enormous strength of the disciples of prestigious martial arts schools.
Their martial arts have been refined continuously for hundreds of years, so how could an ordinary man like me even hope to compete with the likes of them?

They even set ridiculously high walls to protect their secret hereditary martial arts from being leaked, further cementing their elevated status over other people.

Seo Mu-Sang had made many attempts to obtain better martial arts techniques, but all his efforts had ended in failure.
No sect would teach anything to someone who wasn’t one of their own disciples.

In the end, it was because there was a limit to the type of martial arts that a nobody like him could obtain.
The Blue Cloud Sword Style was already the best technique he could ever wish for.
Once again, he felt the crushing weight of his own limits.

“Yeop Wol.”

That was the name of a person who he had once felt was no different from him.
Right now, though, he couldn’t even lift his head to meet the man’s eyes.

Overcome by shame and discontent, Seo Mu-Sang closed his eyes.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Eun Ha-Seol sat on a chair, shaking her legs as she watched Jin Mu-Won prepare dinner.
Shim Won-Ui and the other outsiders had arrived the day before, but Jin Mu-Won hadn’t said anything about it.
He simply went about his day as if it had nothing to do with him.

He had taken a walk in the morning, only stopping to read in the Grand Library.
After that, he had gone to the smithy to practice swordsmithing for a while, then spent the rest of his day in the basement.

Eun Ha-Seol had never been to the basement, and had no idea what he was doing in there.
Still, she had a hunch that he was practicing martial arts in secret.

The odd thing is, there’s no sign of him possessing any chi.

She couldn’t be sure if it was because he didn’t have any chi at all, or if he had somehow hidden his chi from her senses.

She had searched the whole of the Grand Library, so she knew exactly how inadequate it was.
There were so few books, and the books of such poor quality, that continuing to call it the Grand Library made her feel awkward.
Although one could always improve upon their foundations of martial arts, without the proper resources, it was impossible to reach the highest levels of mastery.
Therefore, Eun Ha-Seol felt that even if Jin Mu-Won had learned some martial arts, he wouldn’t be very strong.

Under these cruel circumstances, several outsiders had intruded upon the Northern Army Fortress.
She couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for Jin Mu-Won, having to watch as his home was trampled over by these people gleefully unpacking their luggage and treating the place like a hotel.

It seemed that forcefully disbanding the Northern Army and making his father commit suicide wasn’t enough for them.
They had to go and add insult to injury.
Even so, Jin Mu-Won acted like all this was normal to him, never revealing his true feelings.

It’s probably because revealing his true feelings would place him in danger.

Eun Ha-Seol shifted her senses away from Jin Mu-Won and to her own body.

It seems that I’ve recovered about six-tenths of my chi.

After she had expelled the poison with the aid of Sa-Ryung, her chi had recovered extremely quickly.
At this rate, she would be fully healed before the start of summer.
Before that though, she planned to keep staying in the Northern Army Fortress.
That was because there was no better hiding place for her than right here.

Just then, Jin Mu-Won said, “Food’s ready.”

He set the rice and dishes down in front of Eun Ha-Seol.

She placed a hand under her chin and scrutinized the dishes, saying, “We’re having beef hotpot today too?”

Seeing Eun Ha-Seol’s dissatisfaction, Jin Mu-Won smiled.

“Uncle Hwang gave it to me not long ago, but I have to finish it before it goes bad.”

“At least the mutton tasted good even though I got tired of eating it.”

“That was a luxury food that you wouldn’t normally get to enjoy…”

“I know that already.”

Eun Ha-Seol ended the conversation and eagerly started moving her spoon.
Jin Mu-Won sat down and picked up his chopsticks.

Jin Mu-Won raised his head to look at Eun Ha-Seol, the weird girl who had suddenly barged into his life one day and disturbed his peace.
He had gotten used to preparing an extra spoon every evening at dinnertime, and could no longer imagine going back to evenings without her.

He asked, “How’s the food?”

“It’s edible.”

“I shouldn’t have bothered asking.
It must be good if you’re eating it.”

“That’s why I said it’s edible.”

“Sheesh!” exclaimed Jin Mu-Won, exasperated.

Contrary to her comments, though, Eun Ha-Seol seemed to be enjoying her meal.
When he saw that, the corners of Jin Mu-Won’s lips turned upwards again.

“By the way, do you find today’s hotpot a little too salty?”

“I haven’t had beef in a long time, but shouldn’t beef hotpot be kind of salty?”

“Really?”

Jin Mu-Won shook his head but handed Eun Ha-Seol a cup of water anyway.
He felt that it was about time she would ask for a drink.

“Have some water.”

“Mmhm.”

Suddenly, they heard the voice of a stranger outside the door saying, “May I enter?”

Jin Mu-Won and Eun Ha-Seol put down their spoons and exchanged gazes.

“Come in,” replied Jin Mu-Won.

Immediately after he had finished talking, a muscular man with a pointed goatee, sharp eyes like blades, and a black uniform entered the room.
It was the Warden Captain, Mok Eun-Pyeong.

Mok Eun-Pyeong glanced at Eun Ha-Seol for a moment, then turned to Jin Mu-Won.

“Are you the rumored successor of the Northern Army, Jin Mu-Won?”

Jin Mu-Won shook his head silently.

“Are you trying to say that you’re not him?”

“I am not the successor.
Even though there isn’t a single soldier left, I am still the Lord of the Northern Army.”

Jin Mu-Won’s response made Mok Eun-Pyeong’s eyebrows twitch.
However, he quickly composed himself and said, “I am Warden Captain Mok Eun-Pyeong of Judgment Heaven.
I come bringing a message from the Young Master.”

“A message?”

“The Young Master said, ‘It’s a little late, but I owe you a greeting.
You are thereby invited to dinner with me tomorrow at the Lofty Sky Manor.’”

Jin Mu-Won scowled, infuriated.
The Northern Army might have fallen, but nonetheless, he was its Lord.
The fact that a guest was inviting him, the owner, to a banquet in his own house was ridiculous.

“You must be joking, right?”

“The Young Master never tells jokes.”

“A guest inviting the owner? Interesting.
Fine, I’ll accept his invitation.”

“The banquet will be held tomorrow evening at the Lofty Sky Manor.
If you’re worried about being alone, you can bring her along.”

Mok Eun-Pyeong looked at Eun Ha-Seol, who was sitting across the table from Jin Mu-Won, with razor-sharp eyes that seemed as if he could see right through her.
In response, she stared back at him unflinchingly.

“I’ll be going there alone tomorrow…”

“I’m going too,” interrupted Eun Ha-Seol all of a sudden.

Having accomplished his mission, Mok Eun-Pyeong said nothing more and arrogantly strode out of the room.

Jin Mu-Won turned back to face Eun Ha-Seol, an impressed look on his face.

“I hope you do know that nothing good is going to happen.”

“If it’s an invitation to a banquet, there must be good food, right?”

“Haah…” sighed Jin Mu-Won.

The breeze from the window felt a little chilly as if time had become frozen between winter and spring.

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