“I like the tenacity and spirit used to develop the sword dances so far when it was just a means of directing the ritual.”
“Did you recognize the identity of my swordsmanship?”
Grid used Open Potential in the first trial and showed his five fusion sword dance. However, none of the yangbans recognized the identity of the sword dance. It was natural. Grid’s sword dance might be based on Pagma's Sword Dance, but it had too many changes and developments. Unlike Pagma's Sword Dance, Grid’s sword dance maximized actions and power, so it took a different form that was much more combat efficient.
Of course, some common points remained, but Pagma's Sword Dance remembered by the yangbans was just a single sword dance. It was virtually impossible to find common characteristics between the two sword dances. However, it was different for Chiyou.
“The fusion sword dances are what I presented to Pagma so I have to recognize it.”
“However, Pagma didn’t struggle. He overlooked the need for force. Experience the results.”
The black and white world was overlaid with all types of colors. The blue sky, clear river water, and autumn leaves beside the river gained a picturesque harmony. Was the world so beautiful? Grid was admiring it when he woke up from his thoughts.
Time started again and peace ended. Garam’s sword was just about to reach Grid’s heart. Grid had drawn simulations in his mind several times and quickly activated the White Tiger’s Breath.
[The protection of the White Tiger safeguards you.]
[Once attacked, fatal damage can be avoided a minimum of one time and a maximum of three times. The target who attacked you will also be repelled.]
[Health and stamina are slightly restored.]
A silver-white energy surrounded Grid’s body as he blocked Garam’s sword. Garam’s sword shook. It was unable to withstand the repulsion and soared into the air.
Grid tilted his upper body and pushed Garam’s chest with his shoulders. It was intended to drop Garam into the river. He was determined to stun all the fish and Garam in the huge river using the Blue Dragon’s Breath. However, Garam didn’t step back. Despite his imperfect posture, he endured Grid’s push and grabbed Grid’s neck in reverse.
“A man with no ability is hoping for good luck. Reading the narratives written by human beings in order to understand humans. Becoming a potter in order to help humans. Wanting to become a priest to become a bridgehead between the gods and humans... what power do you have when you use all types of excuses to neglect training?”
“Keok...! Cough cough!”
It was physically impossible to crush Garam with Pagma’s body when Garam’s level and stats were clearly much higher. It happened as Garam was staring at Grid, who couldn’t breathe after being grabbed by the neck... Blue Tiger, who had been trembling with fear the moment Garam appeared, rushed forward with her eyes closed. Although she was still small, she had sharp fangs and she bit hard on Garam’s calf.
Garam just scoffed. “Bah, you are a good pair.”
Grid’s neck was gripped tighter and he gradually lost consciousness.
Garam once said that Pagma was the shame of the Hwan Kingdom. Based on his many comments, Grid was able to discover that Pagma was isolated in the Hwan Kingdom. However, he didn’t expect it to be this much.
Grid was suffocated and fainted. By the time he opened his eyes again, he was in a large iron cage. There was something heavy. He looked back and found the blue tiger hanging from his forearm. She was looking over here with eyes so wet that it wouldn’t be strange if she shed tears straight away. The moment she met his gaze, she licked his cheek with her tongue.
“I spared your life. Even so, you have a long life because you are a yangban.” There was ridiculing laughter from outside the iron cage. It was Garam.The man pulled over a chair covered with tiger skin and sat there laughing. “I’m glad you didn’t die. I was in trouble because I thought it would be boring if you died too easily.”
“How is your place to sleep? Don’t you like it because living with beasts is your wish?”
Grid was deeply aware of what Pagma was feeling at this time. It was because he had been in a similar position.
Grrung! The blue tiger on the floor roared. She would claw at Garam right away if there weren’t the iron bars. Garam shrugged. He was too relaxed to respond to the beast’s attitude. “Your betrayal by trying to release the white tiger’s cub will be known to the Five Seniors sooner or later. You are going to be punished. Until then, hang out with the beast for a while.”
It wasn’t Grid asking, but Pagma of the past. Grid didn’t say anything, but his mouth opened. It was a reenactment of the past.
“You know that this is the child of the white tiger. Why treat her like this?”
“What if I didn’t know? If she was an ordinary tiger then I would’ve killed her, skinned her, and cooked her meat.”
His heart trembled with anger. Pagma’s feelings were conveyed to Grid.
“What are you trying to blame? Are you trying to condemn the behavior of locking up and harassing the white tiger’s child? Or do you want to condemn me for saying that I’ll easily kill a young beast?”
“Of course, all of it. Don’t you know that all life is equal? Why do you only think about harming creatures weaker than you?”
“Even the humans you love so much abuse, hunt, and eat beasts lower than themselves. You need to be aware that your standards are out of order.”
"The reason most humans hunt animals is for survival. Very few humans abuse animals just for fun and they are also condemned by fellow human beings. On the other hand, we are perfect because we are created by God himself. Why do we need to follow the bad things about humans? Why should we use the excuse of human sin to also commit sins?”
Pagma fiercely denounced Garam and Garam scoffed.
“Humans hunt animals purely for survival? That is sophistry. Humans also hunt for the pursuit of pleasure. Pleasure is God’s grace that is applied equally to all beings. I am just pursuing pleasure and using inferior creatures to pursue pleasure. Isn’t it too much to blame me for this? I’m not killing humans, right?”
Pagma shut his mouth. He realized it wasn’t meaningful to talk any longer. After that, the abuse of Garam and the yangbans continued. Every day, new wounds appeared on Blue Tiger’s small body. Every time it happened, Pagma’s heart and mind suffered greater pain.
One day, the blue tiger’s small body trembled like a quaking aspen tree. Blue Tiger suffered from nightmares every night, but today’s situation was particularly serious.
Pagma tried to hug the blue tiger to comfort her only to stiffen with fright. It was because Blue Tiger’s body was as hot as a fireball.
“W-What is wrong?”
Pagma realized that Blue Tiger was in danger and used the Red Phoenix’s Breath. He prayed that the warm breath of the red phoenix would energize the dying Blue Tiger. However, Pagma had already consumed the Red Phoenix’s Breath. It had a cooldown just like players. He had used it every day for the past fortnight. Tonight, he had previously used the Red Phoenix’s Breath to help the blue tiger sleep comfortably.
“Oh god! God Red Phoenix!”
In the end, Pagma prayed. It was just that no matter how much he prayed, there was no response. The sealed gods couldn’t respond to his prayers.
“No! Wake up!”
Pagma became even more anxious once Blue Tiger lost consciousness.
“Five Seniors! Hanul! Please....! Please have mercy to this poor child who is in need!”
Deep in the night, a hollow cry echoed through the empty great hall. Garam and the yangbans were gone and only empty wine bottles were left. There was no answer. The Five Seniors ignored Pagma’s prayer despite clearly hearing it. The child of the white tiger—the Five Seniors judged that it was better to extinguish any variables that might cause anger if the white tiger returned to the world.
“Ah! Wake up! Be strong!”
A crumpled and stained dopo—the only thing Pagma had been relying on in the past fortnight was wound around Blue Tiger’s body. As a result, cold air stabbed Pagma’s lungs, but he was unaware of it. He was only committed to saving Blue Tiger.
“Endure it. The world is too beautiful to leave after suffering. Please... please survive and enjoy happiness. I will help,” Pagma whispered to the blue tiger held in his arms.
No matter his efforts, Blue Tiger’s body started to cool down. Pagma was desperate. He blamed himself for being weak and unable to do anything. He realized that in order to persuade or stop someone, he needed strength rather than appealing to reason and emotions.
The sound of bells echoed in the cold, empty hall.
“Do you now understand why I told you to hone your strength?” The martial god appeared—Chiyou, a god born from the aspirations of human beings, not the will of the gods. “I understand why you wanted to become a priest, not a god, and why you wanted to be a potter. Perhaps the same is true of Hanul.”
“At the very least, I think your heart is commendable.”
“This is why I told you to arm yourself.”
The martial god was the ideal of human beings. Humanity had been enlightened since ancient times that they needed strength to survive in this troubled world. They gave birth to the martial god, worshipped him, and prayed they would be stronger. Chiyou wanted Pagma to be aware of the need for strength. It was the only attachment he had to the child with a deep sense of affection among the yangbans.
“Look.” Chiyou pulled out the sword from his waist. It was the first time in a thousand years. “Remember this moment.”
Two halves with a single cut. No other expression was needed. Chiyou just swung his sword and the iron bars locking up Pagma and Blue Tiger were cut. However, Pagma ushered in a new understanding.
[The new sword dance Transcend has been learnt.]
[The new sword dance Restraint has been learnt.]
[The new sword dance Pinnacle has been learnt.]
“To protect something, you need to be prepared to fight. To carry out your beliefs, you need strength. In a struggle, it is right to take a life.”
[The new sword dance Kill has been learnt.]
“Definitely... I will definitely repay your grace!” Pagma exclaimed.
“If your pledge is true, escape the eyes of the Five Seniors and leave for the western land. Then return with the qualifications of a God Killer.”
Pagma picked up Blue Tiger and nodded. He bowed deeply to Chiyou and hurriedly left.
“You! It is you again!”
By the time Pagma arrived at the dock and was searching for the path among the peach trees, Garam and the yangbans caught up to him. There were no particular problems. Grid, who had been in an observer position for the past fortnight, was finally back in possession of Pagma’s body. His power exceeded the standards of the old yangbans.
“Linked Kill Wave.”
Was it possible to predict that a cat could exert the power of a tiger? It was absolutely impossible. Garam and the yangbans were amazed by Pagma’s different skills. They weren’t able to cope and were seriously injured.
“Cough, cough...! What did you do?”
The reason why Garam and the yangbans hated Pagma was that firstly, he had different ideas and secondly, he was weak because he didn’t try hard. He was someone who only knew how to talk theory and rattle public opinion. He didn’t even have decent basic skills. The man who didn’t have the basics suddenly became stronger in a day.
He also showed excellent combat skills like he was one of the best among the yangbans. Grid originally wanted to deal the final blows to the flustered Garam and the yangbans, but he immediately stopped acting and boarded the ship. The urgent priority was to save Blue Tiger. Grid ignored the frightened captain as he chewed on the white peach and fed it to the blue tiger.
Blue Tiger painfully opened her eyes. The body that cooled down started to warm up again. It was a moment of reassurance for Grid.
Silence fell in a world that once again turned black and white.
Jingle, jingle. The sound of bells could be heard from the deck covered in fog. The Chiyou of the present, not the Chiyou of the past who helped Pagma, approached Grid.
“Unlike you, Pagma barely survived. It was no different from a miracle.”
“Many things would’ve been different if that child had been determined from the moment he was born.”
“...Do you think the Five Seniors and the yangbans are wrong?”
Chiyou didn’t answer. He watched Grid with an indifferent expression and changed the subject. “Now there is only the fifth trial left.”
Grid was puzzled. “Wasn’t that the third trial?”
He had passed the third trial so it was right to go to the fourth trial. Yet the fifth?
“You have already gone through the third and fourth trials so there is only one left.”
“Show your combat skills.”
Time once again moved. The faded world regained its color. Garam and the yangbans, who had fallen near the dock, stood up one by one. Then they gradually regained their original form. It was Haejin and the yangbans who participated in the test. Just as Grid had experienced the past as Pagma, Haejin and the yangban had experienced the roles of Garam and the yangbans.
“What’s going on?”
Haejin and the yangbans were making a fuss. Unlike Grid, they seemed to have been trapped in a world with stopped time. They hadn’t heard Chiyou’s words and couldn’t accurately grasp the progress of the trials.
Jingle. Chiyou stood on the deck and declared, “The final trial will now start.”
There was a roar as the river and mountains swirled before disappearing. Only the ships and the dock where the yangbans were located soared above the transformed world like drawing paper. It was the stage of the battlefield.
“Fight, win, defend, and win. This is why combat power exists.”
The bell sound fading was a signal. Haejin released the soft sword that was tied around her waist like a belt and leapt up onto the ship. “It is great that a human has reached the final trial, but it ends here!”
The sword stretched out like a snake and aimed at Grid’s waist. Then it bent sharply and aimed at his neck. It was an anomalous swordsmanship that maximized the characteristics of the soft sword. Those who saw it for the first time would only be beaten.
Unfortunately, Grid was familiar with the yangbans’ swordsmanship. It was also the swordsmanship of Garam, one of the strongest.
Haejin’s surprise attack was easily blocked by Grid. The Fire Dragon Sword that contained the essence of Pinnacle cut through one of her frightened eyes.
“How does it feel when your eyeball is pulled out?”
Grid’s eyes in Irene’s appearance were as cold as ice.
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