Chapter 117 - Mercenary (1)

Yeon-woo smirked. He didn’t need to leave the eleventh floor for the time being because of the war, but there was a big difference between clearing it and not clearing it. He stroked Chirpy, who was staring at him openly. “No, I should be the one thanking you. You might be a good-luck charm.”

Chirpy bounced under Yeon-woo’s hand as though Yeon-woo’s words had delighted him. 『No. I’m still thankful to you.』

“OK, let’s wait to say that after we catch the Saber God.”

『OK, OK! I’ll do that.』 Chirpy nodded. Now that he was stronger, he wanted to start doing more things. He flapped down slowly and sat on Yeon-woo’s shoulder, his claws digging into his skin. Strangely, it didn’t hurt.

“Let’s go back now. We have a lot of things to do.”

『Sure.』

But just as Yeon-woo was about to turn back, Chirpy spoke up again. 『But, Master...』

“Hm?”

『Can I ask something of you before we go?』

Yeon-woo tilted his head as Chirpy asked in a desperate voice, 『Can you change my name?』

***

‘Why isn’t he here yet?’ As she waited for Yeon-woo, Edora grew worried that the Saber God and Madodan had taken him. However, she couldn’t hear anything, so she waited, hoping that something else was holding him back. If he didn’t appear in ten minutes, she would go look for him.

Thankfully, Yeon-woo returned with a falcon she’d never seen before. “Oraboni, who’s that?”

“Chirpy.”

『Tsk. I asked you to change my name. It’s so unfair.』 The falcon complained, but Edora couldn’t understand him properly.

“What?” Edora’s eyes widened. This was the tiny baby Phoenix? It had grown so much and was even emanating an aura that could hunt most superior Mythical Beasts.

『Why can’t you give me another name?』Chirpy continued to complain.

Edora smiled awkwardly, thinking that Chirpy had a point. However, Yeon-woo only turned away as though it had nothing to do with him. “Let’s go back to Kuram.”

***

Edora and Yeon-woo sped back to Kuram. As soon as they saw the ruined castle walls, Yeon-woo said, “Edora.”

“Yes.”

“I’m thankful for everything you’ve done. Go back now.”

“What are you talking about?” Edora turned to look at Yeon-woo, but he only stared straight ahead with an impassive attitude.

“I’m going to be fighting against the Cheonghwado now, and I might also fight against the One-horned tribe. I don’t think it’s right to get you involved.”

Edora pressed her lips together, and after a short silence, she said, “Do you really not know the reason I’m following you?”

At this, Yeon-woo shut his mouth. Only fools wouldn’t know her meaning, and he’d already dated before, so he recognized the expression on her face when she looked at him. However, Yeon-woo only thought of her as a close friend or little sister, and so he’d been pretending that he didn’t understand. However, now that she’d brought it up so directly, an uncomfortable silence grew between them.

『Are the two of you going to mate?』 Chirpy shattered the silence, and Edora whipped around to look at Chirpy.

Yeon-woo glared. “Where did you learn that?”

『Hm? Mom told me that there are things a male and a female do together, and that I’ll do them too when I find my mate!』

Yeon-woo put his face in his hands. He didn’t even know why he was discussing a topic like this with a bird. However, at least the awkward silence was gone.

When they entered Kuram, he noticed a large group of people passing through the ruined castle walls carrying the banner of the Cheonghwado.

***

“Were we supposed to meet with the Cheonghwado today?” Yeon-woo frowned.

Edora remembered and nodded. “They did say Uncle was coming today.”

“The Spear God?”

“Yes.”

“Is that so?” Yeon-woo nodded. In fact, it was strange that the One-horned tribe hadn’t had too many meetings with the Cheonghwado yet. ‘If I could observe the Spear God before I leave, that would be nice.’

Yeon-woo waved at Edora, who was looking at him with a worried expression, and passed through the castle walls along with the large crowd. It wasn’t too difficult to tell people apart; the Cheonghwado wore blue armor, and the tribe members wore their traditional clothes.

The expressions of tribe members were stiff, but whenever they made eye contact with a Cheonghwado member, they would snort or laugh coldly. The Cheonghwado didn’t react to that provocation because they’d been ordered not to make any trouble with their allies, but their lack of response only annoyed the tribe members even more.

Yeon-woo was finally witnessing the fabled arrogance of the tribe which he hadn’t experienced for himself because he was with Phante and Edora.

“Hm? My lady and Cain-nim, you’re here?” Yanu ran towards them with a bright face. The Cheonghwado players’ eyes turned to Yeon-woo, full of surprise. They hadn’t expected to see both the Hoarder and the next Psychic Medium. Some looked at Yeon-woo with sharp expressions. His name had spread past the eleventh floor, and now both the Cheonghwado and Red Dragon knew of him.

Not only had he broken the alliance of clans, rumors were circulating that he had killed Shanon, as well. People said the Martial King and the tribe had helped, but it was still shocking for a novice to defeat a semi-ranker. A new player with a lot of potential had appeared. Also, the fact that Yeon-woo had become the Martial King’s third disciple was already well-known, as well, and everyone had been instructed to dig up more information on Yeon-woo.

However, Yeon-woo ignored them all and asked Yanu, “Is Seseung-nim inside?”

“He’s conversing with guests. Oh, here he comes.” Yanu nodded towards the people exiting the fortress. There were about thirty of them, and the Cheonghwado players all bowed at seeing them. One of the people was really noticeable. He was three meters tall, and his horn and purple eyes clearly indicated which tribe he’d come from.

‘Spear God.’

The strongest individual among the Martial Gods is the Saber God, but the Spear God is tricky. He has the typical physique of the One-horned tribe, and his sword is unbreakable. A few of my comrades had a difficult time dealing with him.

People considered the Spear God the second most powerful individual in the Cheonghwado, and he was truly strong enough to defeat many high rankers. His aura alone was terrifying, but Yeon-woo had become used to it after spending time with the Martial King. The Spear God read Yeon-woo’s attitude and stroked his chin. “Hoho.”

His reaction contained layers of meanings, and the players that followed him looked surprised. The Spear God rarely took an interest in people. Yeon-woo merely paid his respects to the Spear God and walked off.

“Hyung-nim has picked up something good again. I don’t get how he manages to attract people like this. I’m jealous.”

The Spear God continued watching Yeon-woo disappear inside the fortress, his lips curling up in a smile.

***

The Martial King snickered at Yeon-woo when he came in. “Did you eat something good? How? Hm? You didn’t even offer it to your godlike teacher but ate it all up yourself?”

Yeon-woo had tried to hide it as much as possible, but the Martial King still saw through him. He clucked his tongue. The Martial King truly was someone you couldn’t hide things from.

“Why do you look so serious? You look like you’re about to die. Do you have something to say?” The Martial King’s brother had left after saying things like “We can relax a bit thanks to you” and “I hope you continue to help us in the future”. The Martial King felt like punching his brother. However, Yeon-woo’s appearance made his dissatisfaction vanish, and he felt like doing something mischievous again. He couldn’t see Yeon-woo’s face behind the mask, but his eyes looked serious. It was the same expression he’d had when he first started learning Mugong.

“I’ve come to apologize.”

“Apologize? Did you do something?”

“I can no longer be a guest of the One-horned tribe.”

At that, the Martial King’s joking manner disappeared, and the serious expression on his face made him look like a different person. The corner of his lips twitched as a murderous aura swept around Yeon-woo. Yeon-woo’s eyes trembled behind the mask as the Martial King bared his teeth like a dangerous beast. “You’ve got everything you need, so you’re going to leave now that it’s getting dangerous, is that it?”

“No, sir.”

“What is it, then? Do we look like a neighborhood playground where you can come and go as you please?”

“That’s not it, either.”

“Then?”

For a moment, Yeon-woo wondered if it was OK to tell the Martial King. Unlike Edora or Phante, there were many things he didn’t know about the Martial King, and it was difficult to read what lurked behind his smile. He hesitated. He’d thought it was only right to say goodbye properly before leaving, but the Martial King was looking at him as though he were an open book.

Yeon-woo didn’t know how the Martial King would respond if he told him the truth, but perhaps it didn’t even matter. ‘It’ll be hard to hide it because of the Psychic Medium.’ Although it made him uncomfortable, he had to admit that the Psychic Medium could read anyone’s fate without lifting a finger. Besides, the Martial King knew he’d come from the Phoenix’s territory.

He would find out that the Saber God had hunted all the Legendary Beasts sooner or later, so it was best to just address the issue now. Yeon-woo told the Martial King everything that had happened, just as he had explained to Edora, describing the relationship he had with Phoenix and Chirpy.

However, he didn’t tell the Martial King that he had made contracts with the Beasts or that he was the successor. There was no need to spill all his secrets, and besides, the information he was sharing was clearly enough because the aura that had been pressing down on him suddenly melted like snow. The Martial King’s expression became strange as though he were feeling wary of something. “That.” He cursed under his breath and pointed at Chirpy with his chin. Chirpy glared at him. “Is that the kid of the Phoenix you just told me about?”

“Yes.”

“Ha! The Cheonghwado bastards are going around doing weird things again. Geez.” He muttered some indecipherable words before reaching out for a short pipe on a table. Crack! He brought it down on Yeon-woo’s head before Yeon-woo could avoid it.

“Ugh!” Yeon-woo groaned in pain and covered his head. His world was spinning.

“You little shit.”

Yeon-woo looked at him with bewildered eyes.

“Are you going to keep on looking at me like that? Do you want to get beaten up again?”

As the Martial King threatened him with the pipe again, Yeon-woo flinched. His head still hurt, and he was also annoyed because he didn’t know why the Martial King had hit him. The Martial King glowered at Yeon-woo, then he sighed. “What do you think the relationship between a teacher and a disciple is?”

Those words were so unexpected that Yeon-woo’s eyes widened. “What are you—”

“I’m asking you what the relationship between a teacher and a disciple is, you damned stupid disciple. Do you think it’s nothing more than learning?”

For a second, Yeon-woo couldn’t think of anything to say. He felt as though he’d received a bigger blow than when he’d been hit with the pipe.

“Even though it’s only been a few days, I taught you to the best of my abilities, with complete sincerity. I taught you with everything I had, as if you were my own kid. But, I guess that wasn’t the same for you?”

Yeon-woo couldn’t reply.

“I get that you’re frustrated. However, if you’re involved in something urgent, isn’t it your responsibility to run as quickly as possible to your godlike teacher and explain what’s going on? I’d help you or nag you or whatever you needed. But instead, you’re coming to me to say that you want to leave and that you’re sorry?”

Yeon-woo was still speechless.

“Where did this damned bastard come from? I thought you had basic manners when I saw you taking care of Phante and Edora. Was I wrong? Did you only see me as someone you could take things from? What? Am I wrong?"

Yeon-woo couldn’t say anything. His mind had gone blank at the Martial King’s scolding. The Martial King sounded annoyed and perhaps even a little hurt. When was the last time Yeon-woo had been scolded and nagged? He couldn’t remember. On Earth, his squad leader had occasionally disciplined him, but that was different.

Yeon-woo had tried to hide his problems and solve them by himself, which upset the Martial King because it was as though he was little more than a stranger to Yeon-woo. However, the truth was, Yeon-woo was starting to see a father figure in the Martial King.

“You ungrateful disciple, the relationship between a teacher and a disciple is different from the relationship between a parent and their kid. Parents and kids have a relationship set by heaven, but the relationship between a teacher and a disciple is set up by the individuals themselves.” The Martial King continued to look annoyed. “So let me ask you: what am I to you?”

Yeon-woo recalled all of his time he’d spent with the Martial King. Although the Martial King was always joking around, he had taught Yeon-woo wholeheartedly. Whenever Yeon-woo learned something successfully, the Martial King wore a proud look on his face, just like a teacher.

As for Yeon-woo, he’d been wary of the Martial King and kept his distance even as he’d learned from him. He was suspicious and always on the lookout for any danger or evil intentions. Yeon-woo realized what he’d been doing wrong. He thought he had gotten better with Yul, Khan and Doyle, and Phante and Edora, but clearly not. Although it was reasonable for him to behave this way, it also hurt other people’s feelings.

It was only after a long silence that Yeon-woo finally responded. “You’re my teacher.”

“Is that what you think? Really?” The Martial King asked with an irked expression.

Yeon-woo laughed and nodded. “And I will think of you as my teacher.”

“So you mean that you didn’t think of me as your teacher before? You crazy bastard!’ The Martial King shook his head with an expression of disbelief. For some reason, he saw himself in Yeon-woo. Bang! Since he didn’t need it anymore, the Martial King placed the pipe back on the table. “OK. That’s enough. Go.”

Yeon-woo nodded. The truth was that there was nothing the Martial King could do to help him. The Martial King wasn’t just his teacher, he was the leader of the One-horned tribe. He couldn’t flip sides as though he were flipping pancakes. He couldn’t fight with Yeon-woo, but he could let him roam freely and quietly cheer him on from the side in his own way.

“And take this.”

Yeon-woo caught the books the Martial King tossed to him. They were the middle and last sections of Eight Extreme Fists.

“Thank you.”

“Ugh. Whatever. Take them and leave. When I see you again, I’m going to punch you first even though you’re my disciple. And don’t worry about the egg. It’ll be safe.”

If they met again during the war, they wouldn’t meet as teacher and disciple. As enemies, they would try to kill each other using their full strength. But Yeon-woo understood the warmth behind those words. He made a low bow, and after staying in that position for a while, he quietly left the room. ‘Thank you.’ He endlessly repeated these words in his head, knowing he could never say them enough.

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