n the inn, causing the mercenaries’ faces to darken in displeasure.
Kwak Moon-Jung’s face paled, as he had the weakest chi among those present and was the most adversely affected person.

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“Did someone call for me?” asked a middle-aged man who looked to be Ham Seo-Ryung’s father, running out of the kitchen.
He desperately wiped his oily hands on his apron to clean them, but the instant he saw the Taoists, the color drained from his face and his movements froze.

“S-Senior Brother?”

“Hmph! I knew it was you, Ham Ji-Pyung!”

“Senior Brother, why are you here…?” said Ham Ji-Pyung, visibly confused.

The Taoist glared at Ham Ji-Pyung coldly, saying, “So the rumors were true.
I heard that you were working as a chef here.”

“I have already cut all my ties to the Kongtong Sect.
You’re the one who should know that best, right? Senior Brother?”

Ham Ji-Pyung’s rude reply seemed to only make the Taoist angrier.
He growled, “Okay, let’s say I take your word for it and what just happened has nothing to do with you being excommunicated from the sect.
If that’s the case, then how are you going to explain this?”

The Taoist pointed at the young man next to him, who spat something out into his hand.
It was the fragments of a broken tooth, covered in saliva.
The Taoist continued, “While eating the food you cooked, Seol-Goong’s tooth broke when he bit into a rock.
Although he’s just a first-class disciple right now, he’s a genius who was chosen for personal training by Grandmaster Uncle.[2] In other words, he’s the person who is entrusted with the future of the Kongtong Sect.
Such a person broke their tooth while eating the food you cooked.
How are you going to take responsibility for this, huh?”

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“W-What…?” Ham Ji-Pyung’s shoulders trembled.

All the ingredients used in the dishes of the South Sea Inn had been specially selected, prepared, and cooked by him.
He knew that he always checked the quality of the food before serving it to customers.
That was the reason he had gained the trust of the locals despite only working at the inn for a year.
And now, this man was telling him that there were rocks in his cooking? That was impossible!

“Senior Brother!” Ham Ji-Pyung looked at the middle-aged Taoist with sorrow in his eyes.

The Taoist’s name was Mu-Hae,[3] and Ham Ji-Pyung had once trained together with him as a fellow disciple of the Kongtong Sect.
If his chi center hadn’t been destroyed, ruining his martial arts and leading to his excommunication, then he would definitely have become a first-class disciple of the sect as well.

“Are you still hung up on the events of that day? Is that why you’re doing this to me now?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Senior Brother, that day, I lost the ability to use martial arts forever.
On the other hand, all you lost was some dignity.
Did you really have to go this far?”

Mu-Hae’s eyes flashed with killing intent as he bellowed, “You sound like you’re accusing me of framing you.
Look, old fool, Seol-Goong’s tooth is broken, and that’s a fact you can’t deny!”

Fifteen years ago, Mu-Hae had been one of the top disciples of the Kongtong Sect.
However, there was always one man above him: Ham Ji-Pyung.

As long as Ham Ji-Pyung existed, Mu-Hae would always be number two.
Back then, Ham Ji-Pyung had carried the expectations and envy of the entire sect on his shoulders.
Mu-Hae knew that Ham Ji-Pyung disliked the attention, and felt that it was a burden, but to him, that didn’t change anything.

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Every three years, the Kongtong Sect would invite their civilian disciples[4] and financial supporters to a friendly martial arts tournament.
The purpose of such an event was to foster and reinforce relationships and also serve as a test for the disciples’ martial arts skills.

The winner of the tournament would be awarded the title of “Elite of Kongtong (崆峒一秀)”, meaning that they were the most promising disciple of the Kongtong Sect.

In the past, Mu-Hae had fought his way through the tournament and challenged Ham Ji-Pyung in the finals for that very title.
However, he lost that battle in a very embarrassing way, right in front of everyone in the Kongtong Sect.

That experience had left a terrible scar in his heart.
To rid himself of his inner demons, Mu-Hae planned on challenging Ham Ji-Pyung again in the tournament three years later, but unfortunately for him, that was not meant to be.

Just a few months after winning the tournament, Ham Ji-Pyung somehow got himself involved in something unsavory.
As punishment, his chi center was destroyed and he was excommunicated from Kongtong Sect.
Everyone in the gangho had been curious as to why he was punished so severely, but the higher-ups in the sect had adamantly refused to explain the reasons for their decision.

As time passed, the man called Ham Ji-Pyung was forgotten by the world.
However, there was one person who still remembered him.


And now, Mu-Hae had found him as well.
The him who had become nothing more than an ordinary cook.

Seol-Goong stood to the side and watched the drama unfold with relish, as if it had nothing to do with him.
He was the rising star of the Kongtong Sect, like Ham Ji-Pyung once was.

No, he was even better.
He had been raised to the position of a first-class disciple at the tender age of fifteen, and the Sage of Red Snow (紅雪眞人), his Grandmaster Uncle as well as the strongest swordsman in the sect, had declared that he would personally train him.

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Although he still hadn’t received his Taoist name and was using the name his parents gave him, he could tell how much the Kongtong Sect treasured his genius.

Huhuhu! This is getting interesting! Seol-Goong grinned to himself.

The truth was, he didn’t give a crap about Mu-Hae’s hatred toward Ham Ji-Pyung.
He was only using the older man to fulfill his ambition.
He didn’t plan to remain a mere first-class disciple forever, so he had to start building his political network as early as possible.

As long as he helped Mu-Hae with his revenge, he’d be able to obtain his recommendation and support to become the next Sect Leader of Kongtong.
From there, he’d work toward becoming one of the next “Nine Skies”.

Seol-Goong was familiar with the internal politics of the Kongtong Sect, and understood that without Mu-Hae’s recommendation, it’d be impossible for him to become the official successor.
Thus, he approached Mu-Hae and offered his help.
He figured that one tooth was a small price to pay for obtaining Mu-Hae’s undivided support, and with Mu-Hae’s influence, he’d also be able to get most of the other first-class disciples on his side.

Now that his part in the play was over, all he had left to do was watch the show.

Ham Ji-Pyung locked gazes with Mu-Hae and asked, “Did he really break his tooth while eating the food I made?”

“The proof is right here.” Seol-Goong held out his hand, showing Ham Ji-Pyung the broken fragments of his tooth.

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“Is that what really happened?”

“Are you calling me a liar?” snapped Seol-Goong fiercely, furrowing his brows.

Ham Ji-Pyung sighed, saying, “Haa…To think that the genius chosen by Grandmaster Uncle would lie without batting an eyelid.
The future of Kongtong Sect is bleak.”

Mu-Hae immediately roared, “What was that!? How dare you insult the Kongtong Sect?”


Before he could even scream, Ham Ji-Pyung was sent flying into a wall.

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[1] Oppa: Honorific for “older brother”, used by females.
Less formal and more endearing than “Orabeoni”, but they mean the same thing.

[2] Grandmaster Uncle: The junior brother of one’s master’s master…It’s complicated.

[3] Mu-Hae: This dude’s name sounds the same as “harmless (無害)”, ROFL.
Though I’m guessing it actually means “martial sea (武海)”.
Methinks it’s an intentional pun.

[4] Civilian Disciples: Disciples of a religious sect (Taoism/Buddhism) who have chosen not to enter the priesthood/monkhood and return to regular civilian life, for example Yoon Seo-In of the White Dragon Merchant Association.
Unlike regular disciples, civilian disciples are free to eat meat and get married, but they will not be allowed to learn the strongest martial arts or have any official position within the sect.

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