Chapter 1. Dream Awakening (1)

"Aigoo, this boy!"

Song Dae-Woong knew that his son was in trouble again. Hearing the sound of something shattering, he ran over to see what had happened.

As expected, his son, Song Woo-Moon, had failed at washing dishes and broken yet another bowl.

"You!" shouted Dae-Woong, the bulky owner of Deungpeyong Inn, as he dashed across the room with a broom in his hands.

One of the customers, Mr. Roh, watched in excitement.

'Such speed and precision! He moves as if he was a murim master,' Mr. Roh thought to himself.

"Ouch! Daddy!" Woo-Moon exclaimed. He was fidgeting restlessly as he stared at the broken bowl with a blank gaze. The moment his father rushed into the room, his legs gave out and he put his hands up, as if to protect his head.

"Kid! You're such a disgrace! You’re already twenty, yet you still can't wash dishes properly!"

Woo-Moon was Dae-Woong's eldest son, and also a fool. He would always walk around with his mouth agape and a blank expression on his face.

From a very young age, he had been exceptionally clever, to the surprise of many. However, as he grew up, problems left behind by minor illnesses that he had caught over the years had accumulated in him, resulting in a poor constitution. As a result, he had grown meek and resigned. Nevertheless, his intelligence had not dimmed in the slightest.

However, from a certain point onward, he had suddenly become healthier, while his mind had actually declined. In the end, he had become the way he was now—a healthy and strong fool.

‘It's all because of that damn fake immortal!’

An old sage had visited the inn when Woo-Moon was ten. Dae-Woong strongly believed that his son had become a fool due to that incident.

"It hurts! Daddy! Stop!"

"Stop? You pathetic idiot! Imbecile! A disgrace to the family! Even if you can't match up to your younger brother, you should still be better than the boy next door who wets his bed! But look at what you’re doing! You can't even wash the dishes properly! You're better off dead! Just die already!"


Woo-Moon couldn't endure the beating and ran out of the kitchen, only to crash into something on the way out.


Woo-Moon had crashed into the table occupied by Mr. Roh and his son and flipped it over.

"Woo-Moon! What the hell!" Mr. Roh burst into anger.

He was the owner of the cloth shop on the streets. The bowl of noodles he had been enjoying was now on his head, with strands of noodles peeking out from under the bowl. His young son couldn't help but explode into a fit of laughter upon seeing his comical appearance.

"Oh no! I’m so sorry, Mr. Roh! You know how my son is. Please calm down. I'll bring you another bowl of noodles." Dae-Woong panicked and tried to pacify Mr. Roh.

Meanwhile, Woo-Moon continued on his escape route, but stopped abruptly at the inn door.

"Hehe…" Woo-Moon broke into a silly smile as he stared at the landscape painting hanging on the wall. The author of the painting was the same person whom Dae-Woong had been cursing daily for being a scammer and a fake sage.

No matter what Woo-Moon was doing, the moment his eyes fell on the landscape painting, he would become mesmerized by it.

After barely soothing Mr. Roh’s anger and cleaning up the mess, Dae-Woong begrudgingly added a few more slices of meat to the new bowls of noodles and brought them to Mr. Roh and his son. His attention then shifted to his son, who was standing at the inn entrance like an idiot and staring at the sickening landscape painting again.

Infuriated, Dae-Woong grabbed the chopsticks holder from the nearest table and threw it at Woo-Moon.

"I don't want to see you! Get out, bastard!"

"Argh!" Woo-Moon came back to his senses when the object flying at him made contact with his head. He ran out furiously, without looking at the path ahead. And in a bad streak of luck, he almost crashed into a woman on his way.

"Watch your path, kid!" A warrior, seemingly in his late thirties, pushed Woo-Moon away just before he bumped into the woman.

"Oh my!" exclaimed the beautiful woman beside the warrior. She was dressed in red, with a veil over her face.

"Ouch!" Woo-Moon fell on his back. As the tall and slender woman stared at him, he rubbed his sore butt with a blank look on his face.

"Senseless idiot! You've scared our young mistress! Hurry up and apologize!" the middle-aged warrior roared in anger. The five younger warriors behind him immediately stepped forward.

"Song Woo-Moon, you bloody imbecile!"

"We'll teach him a lesson!" the five younger warriors proclaimed to the lady-in-red in an attempt to gain her favor, even though she hadn’t requested it.

In fact, the five young men knew Woo-Moon since they were kids and could be considered childhood friends. They had followed Woo-Moon around like he was the leader of their group. However, they had eventually become bullies, and he had become their target.

"Stop it." Just as Woo-Moon was about to take a hit, the beautiful woman raised her hand, gesturing to the men to stop. "Bullying the weak is not right."

Sensing the tension and fearing a beating, Song Woo-Moon jumped up and ran off. However, his day only worsened when he bumped into another group of people around the corner.

"Ugh!" He rolled backward when the pale-faced man he had bumped into shoved him away.

"How dare you!" the young man shouted sharply as he looked down at the muddied Woo-Moon before finally noticing the beautiful woman in red.

"Oh! I didn’t see you there, dear Si-Hyeon."

The young man licked his lips as he ogled the lady’s body.

The beautiful woman, Yeon Si-Hyeon, frowned under her veil. She was the precious young mistress of the Leebi Merchant Guild.

"You son of a bitch…" Si-Hyeon murmured under her breath. The young man could hear her saying something but couldn't figure out what it was.

"What? What did you just say?" he questioned.

"Hmm? No, I didn’t say anything," answered Si-Hyeon with an indifferent expression.

The young man’s expression distorted as he bit down on his lips.

The Leebi Merchant Guild and the Guan-Un Martial Arts School were influential organizations in this area, and their two successors were now engaged in a war of nerves.

In the midst of it, Dae-Woong came out due to the disturbance and saw his son covered in dirt. He ran forward with a heavy heart. "Oh, my! Kiddo! Are you okay? Are you hurt?"

"Heh… hehe, Daddy…"

After the young man had pushed him, Woo-Moon had rolled on the ground and ended up with a bleeding wound on his head. Yet, he was still flashing a foolish smile to his father, despite all that. Tears started to pool in Dae-Woong's eyes.

"Aigooo, aigoo. I can't live my destined life because of this guy," murmured Dae-Woong under his breath as he pulled his son into an embrace.

Meanwhile, Woo-Moon continued staring at the ground with a blank face. They started appearing, in his eyes and in his mind—each stroke of that landscape painting, each line elaborately drawn with a very thin brush. They were alive and moving fiercely.

Woo-Moon's brain cells always reached their limit whenever he thought of those complicated and difficult movements. But he couldn't stop, and he wouldn’t have stopped even if he had been able to.

As a result, as long as he used most of his brain cells on the landscape painting’s hermetic interpretation, others continued to see him as a fool.

"Heh... hehe."

The movement of the lines entranced him. Witnessing, comprehending, feeling, and learning this beautiful dance made Woo-Moon feel blissful.

Woo-Moon’s twentieth birthday passed by like that.


Dae-Woong had been very strong since he was young. Even before he was fifteen, he had arm-wrestled against all the local men and won. However, an unexpected incident left him gravely injured. He lost his memories and wound up in the village as a lone orphan. Thankfully, the kind-hearted local magistrate blessed him with food and shelter.

In the year when Dae-Woong turned fifteen, the magistrate died due to an unexpected mishap, and his family was forced to move to another place. However, Dae-Woong remained in the village.

He built a small hut at the foot of the mountain near the village and utilized his innate strength to cut down trees and gather wood for a living. Over the years, he even managed to save up some money.

Everything was going well, but he was still single at the age of twenty-five. He hadn’t been giving much thought to his situation, not to mention his standards for the opposite gender were too high.

"It’s a given. None of the girls in the village is qualified to be my wife." That was what Dae-Woong always said.

Just when he finally decided to go on an expedition to another village in search of a bride, he came across the woman who would later be the mother of his sons, Woo-Moon and Woo-Gang.

Just like Dae-Woong’s first appearance, she also arrived at the village with injuries all over. She was alone, with a sword at her waist, and the villagers avoided her, saying she might be from the murim[1]. However, Dae-Woong fell in love with the woman, Baek Jin-Jin, at first sight. He approached and proposed to her without hesitation.

Jin-Jin outrightly ignored Dae-Woong and declared that she would stay single. That same day, she sought shelter in the house of a widow in the village.

Nevertheless, Dae-Woong never gave up. He kept proposing to her, like an unwavering tree that not even storms could fell.

However, he was unable to convince Jin-Jin to marry him despite proposing thirty times. Even after a hundred tries, her answer didn’t change.

Eventually, even the villagers began to help him persuade Jin-Jin. By the 120th proposal, Dae-Woong finally won Jin-Jin's heart.

After marrying her, Dae-Woong opened an inn with the money he had saved up. After some time, Woo-Moon, the first fruit of love between them, was born.

However, Jin-Jin was physically weak, and her health only worsened after giving birth to Woo-Moon. After the birth of their second son, Woo-Gang, Jin-Jin became so weak that she couldn’t even endure the slightest cold wind.

For this reason, Song Dae-Woong spent most of the profits they earned from the inn to pay for his wife's medical bills.

Whenever his wife cried because she felt sorry for their situation, Dae-Woong pounded his chest, saying, "It's alright! How can I call myself a man if I can’t even afford my wife’s medicine? Don't worry about anything! Just take care of yourself, okay?"

Woo-Moon, Dae-Woong’s first son, looked just like his mom. He was handsome, slender, and incredibly smart. But being extremely intelligent was a double-edged sword, since it gave him an eccentric side. He had no hesitation in expressing how he felt and refused to do anything he disliked.

At one point, Dae-Woong sighed at his son's personality. "He resembles you in most aspects, but why didn’t he inherit your personality?"

Jin-Jin replied with a soft smile, "I was like that as well before I got sick. Personalities change when healthy people become ill."

As Woo-Moon grew up, his physical constitution weakened like his mother's, and he began to turn meek.

On the other hand, Woo-Gang inherited the strengths of both his father and his mother. He was born strong and made other boys three or four years older than him cry, while his intelligence was by no means inferior to his older brother’s.

When Woo-Moon was ten and Woo-Gang was seven, members of the Mount Hua Sect boarded at the inn and coincidentally saw the two of them.

* * *

"Hey, kid! What are you doing? Let's go," the man instructed Woo-Gang.

Though his body was fragile, Woo-Moon was always cheerful. However, at this moment, he was radiating a deep sadness unfit for his age as he stared blankly at the back of his younger brother, who was departing.

Despite the immense hardships in life, Woo-Moon never complained and accepted himself for who he was. No matter how sick he was, he didn't express his feelings and thoughts to avoid making his parents worry. He couldn’t help but be concerned about his mother even though he was sick as well. Tears welled up around his eyes.

Dae-Woong felt so sorry for Woo-Moon, who watched his younger brother leave to become a disciple of the Mount Hua Sect. Before he knew it, his eyes were filled with tears as well. His heart ached.

‘How disappointed and sad could he be? The world is so unfair to him just because he’s weak.’

From a very young age, his two sons had the same interests. Whether the story was about a chivalrous murim hero, or the life of an unknown martial artist, such tales would fascinate them. Well, any child at that age envied the fascinating adventures that were associated with the murim, but it was far more so for his two sons.

And soon, an opportunity finally presented itself. A group of travelers from the Mount Hua Sect, famous for their swordsmanship, arrived in this small town.

As soon as he saw the swordsmen, Dae-Woong was as excited as a child, even though he was already a married man, and pride filled him up when they recognized his sons’ intelligence.

However, he felt uneasy when they seemed disappointed after checking Woo-Moon's body a few times and then announcing they only wanted Woo-Gang as their disciple. Even though his eldest son pretended to be unaffected in front of his younger brother, there was no way Dae-Woong couldn’t feel his sorrow. How could he smile in satisfaction when one of his children was like that?

"Are you disappointed?" Dae-Woong asked.

There was a deeper meaning to that question.

Woo-Moon, staring at the back of his younger brother and the members of the Mount Hua Sect blankly, soon smiled brightly. He looked to his father and answered, "No, Daddy. It's okay. It doesn't matter."

At that moment, a slender, thin hand grabbed Woo-Moon's hand.

"Mother..." Woo-Moon called out.

Before they knew it, Jin-Jin had come out and was now holding her son's hand tightly. She didn't say anything, but her eyes shone with warmth.

"Why did you come all the way here? You’ll start coughing all day once you’re exposed to the cold air. Go back inside! Hurry!"

Led by Dae-Woong, Jin-Jin followed him as she weakly said, "I'm still worried, honey. The murim isn't just a splendid dream... It's a lonely and heartless place..."

"Let him be, honey. I couldn’t dissuade him when he desired that opportunity so dearly."

The family went back into the inn, and the cook whipped up a sumptuous dinner for them.

After the meal, Woo-Moon said goodnight to his parents and returned to his room calmly. As soon as the door was closed, tears flowed from his eyes. He cried, covering his mouth with a blanket out of fear of his parents hearing him. It was an unfair, miserable, and sad day.

‘I can do it too. Even if I'm weaker than others, I can join the murim. I'm confident I can learn martial arts and become a great warrior, one better than anyone else!’

The innate weakness that had plagued him since he was young hampered him again.

‘Why am I weaker than others? Why is my life harder than others? Why wasn't I chosen by the people of Mount Hua?’

Woo-Moon cried for a long time.


"Huh?! Whaaaat?!"

Woo-Moon suddenly heard his father gasping in surprise. Hurriedly opening the window and looking downward, he witnessed an unbelievable scene.

The streets were completely empty. But there was an old daoist floating in the air right in front of the inn. He had silvery hair and a beard encompassed his gracious and solemn face, making him look like the legendary Jade Emperor. The daoist slowly walked down what looked like invisible stairs, finally stepping onto the ground in front of the inn.

"Wow, wow…" Woo-Moon's jaw dropped.

In no time, Woo-Moon ran down at an incredible speed, hurriedly opened the door of the inn, and glared outside.

The old man was real. He was not an illusion.

Now standing on flat ground, the old daoist smiled kindly.

"I’m quite hungry, child. Will you give me a bowl of noodles?" he asked Dae-Woong, who was standing next to Woo-Moon.

1. Commonly known as wulin in Chinese novels, it refers to the world of martial organizations, e.g. sects and martial arts schools.


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