Chapter 32: Into the Summer (3)
My mother held a banquet for the future generation in the region. She said it was a banquet for the youths who will lead San Dong in the future but her real motive was for an encounter between me and Song Hwa Rin. She must have been desperate, seeing that I haven’t interacted with Song Hwa Rin after starting my own sword sect. So, before I left for another mission she planned this meeting.
Unfortunately, I really hated banquets. When I was still the Mengju I attended so many banquets that just hearing about one makes me sick. Not only you have to smile and interact with people that you hate. But since this was a banquet full of youths it was even worse. What more will a bunch of youths do other than get into fights after getting drunk from drinking wine?
Because my mother insisted that we hold a banquet I couldn’t refuse. The invitation was sent out and the banquet was held. Song Hwa Rin, who received a special invitation, as well as other youths from San Dong’s major families were all present.
I expected there to be a higher number of arrogant and haughty individuals because of our Clan’s fall from grace, but the atmosphere was not bad. It was partly because of the good food and drinks that my mother had prepared with care but it was mainly because of the rumors about me. The part where I led my sword sect to eliminate the bandits was especially popular amongst them.
I could see the changes in their attitude towards me. No one would ignore me but rather they would show respect to me and ask me how I eliminated that group of bandits with only the Lesser Sword Sect. Among them were some faces I recognized, they were the ones who were looking down on me that day with Yang Gi Kang. Whether it was out of self-interest or their true feelings, I already know.
It wasn’t easy to raise an influential clan. You must smile at people you don’t like and say things that you might not mean. And this was the reason why I was smiling and kindly listening to these youths brag and talk about their wealth, martial arts, and weapons. If I really didn’t want to live a life like this then I didn’t have to be entangled with them. But since I am here, I might as well look out for those who had a promising future. If I wanted to expand my influence they were the ones that I had to share a couple of drinks with. So, I made note of their growth, appearance and their family situation.
The conversation that I had with elder Jong had a huge influence in my dealings with the San Dong Merchant Guild. There might be a day when having small talks and relations like this might be the key to solving a problem. So me and Song Hwa Rin were on the listening end of the conversation.
She, just like me, took a step back in this banquet.
Her stares toward me were softer than before. It seems that the last incident really changed her. But she wasn’t the type to start a conversation and she didn’t have the opportunity to do so either. There were many male youths who flocked around her and there were others who were staring from a distance because they didn’t have the confidence to do so. This banquet might be enjoyable to some but it was detestable for others.
“Miss Song please have a drink with us.”
She had one response to all those requests, “I don’t drink.”
For some strange reason she really didn’t drink a drop of alcohol. Someone asked her why she didn’t drink but she just smiled in response.
Was there a reason she was like this?
But there was another thing that really made me curious. Why does she hate the Mengju. Because this wasn’t the proper time I had to hold onto my question and ask her later.
Because she was jealous of Song Hwa Rin being the center of attention, one of the other female youths who was invited asked her a question.
“Is it true that you canceled the engagement with young master Byuk?”
Because she said it pretty loud the area surrounding them became quiet. It seemed Song Hwa Rin was a bit upset. She had already said she didn’t want to share that story with everyone here.
So I stepped in and answered for her, “Even if you put aside the rumors, don’t you think that she might be too good for me?”
The male youths who were standing around us nodded their heads but the female said, “The outer appearance isn’t everything.”
It seemed that she really wanted to make Song Hwa Rin uncomfortable. It seemed that for most women, Song Hwa Rin could only make them jealous. But I didn’t plan on lowering myself or Song Hwa Rin to her level.
“She is also smart, and talented in martial arts. She is excellent in many areas.”
The female youth’s face hardened and she left with an ugly expression. She was expecting negative comments to come out since she brought up the topic of a canceled engagement, but it backfired and I only complimented Song Hwa Rin even more.
“Now let’s all cheer.”
I lifted my glass high.
After the banquet Song Hwa Rin approached me.
“Is that what you really think?”
I nodded since it was the truth.
“But the way you glance at me doesn’t say the same thing.”
“What about my glance?”
“It seems really blunt. It makes me wonder how you can even be that blunt.”
I smiled at her words. It may seem like that to her. But after opening my meridians my glances became deeper than before.
Then I moved the conversation in another direction.
“How is your practice going?”
“I am training hard.”
I don’t know who she trained under but I could feel it. She had decent skill, better than most of the youths that were here.
“What about you?”
“I am also training hard.”
Even if our conversation seemed short and choppy it was much smoother than before. Since I don’t know what happened between these two when they were young I just had to build my relation back up and now it became smooth.
“I just want us to live casually.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“We are in our twenties now. And this is too good of a time to waste being bound by something. I just want us to enjoy our lives and live them fully.”
Her eyes shook. It seemed she could empathize with how I felt being bound.
“I don’t know what you saw in my eyes but you are so beautiful that I might just fall for you.”
“That is what everyone says…”
She couldn’t finish her sentence. There was regret in her eyes.
Yes, she was beautiful, maybe so beautiful that there were some things that she’d have to go through. She would have had to endure through the stares of men and the jealousy of women. She might even have some scar that I don’t know about.
“I know that you want to prove yourself worthy through your skills and not through your appearance. However, the more you try to show off your skill the more this world will judge you by your appearance.”
Her beauty was something that only one out of a million people have.
“Then how should I live?”
I could sense desperation in her question.
“Just accept that fact that you are beautiful and say something like this. Yeah, I am breathtakingly beautiful. So, what? Isn’t is better to be beautiful than not? Something like that.”
“I… can’t do that.”
Yes, I knew that she wasn’t that type to do that. But this was something that she had to do to move on.
“I understand how you feel. But there are times when you have to completely accept something in order to move on.”
She was just blankly staring at me. She wasn’t in a bad mood but rather she had a thankful look since I understood how she felt.
“I really… don’t understand you.”
She probably wouldn’t. Ever since her return I was nothing more than a lowlife. My time was filled with gambling, chasing girls, being drunk and wasting money. On top of that I made a fit at her house drunk. But now that I was completely a different person, she probably was very confused.
I said with a smile, “Aren’t twenties the time when the most changes happen?”
My mother who was further away waved her hand at us. Song Hwa Rin respectfully bowed and I gave a big smile.
With that today’s banquet came to a close.
It seemed Kong Su Chan was so busy these days that it was pretty hard to catch a glimpse of his face. Even after the banquet ended and it was deep into the night he was still buried under mountain of paperwork.
Yes, this was one of the reasons why I needed a financial officer. Another was because I was very bad at dealing with money. I could calculate how to kill dozens of people in the shortest amount of time but I could never deal with money. To be honest I get confused trying to figure out how to feed the sword sect.
When I arrived at his office he respectfully got up his seat and greeted me, “Welcome sir?”
“I don’t know if I am being rude coming this late?”
“No it’s fine. As you can see I was still working. Ah, please have a seat here.”
Kong Su Chan offered me some cold tea from the pot, “It’s a tea that clears your mind.”
“So the reason why manager Kong is so smart is because you always drink this sort of thing.”
“Ha ha. You praise me too much.”
The person who I had to pay the most attention to was Kong Su Chan. Since he dealt with money he was one of the most crucial components in raising our Clan.
“How is it going these days?”
“It is going well for the most part.”
“How much money do we currently have?”
He didn’t go around the bush and answered me immediately as if he had everything calculated in his head, “We have eighteen thousand Nyang.”
He had made quite an investment. This showed how hard he worked.
“But most of it is tied with merchants as investments. Do you need money right away?”
“Not right now. But I plan on increasing the size of the sword sect around next spring.”
“How many members are you adding?”
“Around forty people. Is it possible?”
After calculating something in his head, Kong Su Chan replied smiling, “It is possible.”
“Good. Then please operate with that in mind.”
“Yes, I understand.”
With the addition of forty members we will be sixty strong. I plan I dividing them into three groups with twenty members each. Having around sixty members would mean that we were a pretty sound sword sect. But seeing that Kong Su Chan didn’t immediately answer when I said we were going to raise our numbers meant that there wasn’t any room for relaxation in regard to the financial situation.
So in order for the sect to run more smoothly, I must take on more missions and make more money while raising our strength.
“If a mission comes please contact me right away.”
The next day when I went to find Kwang Du, I found him sitting and looking all dazed in the backyard which was his normal training spot. Although I had some clues I asked him ignorantly, “Why are you like this? Is training hard?”
Kwang Du Answered me with his head down and without any energy, “No, training is fun.”
“If you already know then why are you asking?”
“Did she say she doesn’t like you?”
“She said it herself?”
She didn’t seem like the type of person who would do something like that.
“Then how do you know?”
“She didn’t put on the string I gave her.”
“Ha ha ha.”
I finally couldn’t hold back my laughter. I never thought it was something like this.
“How can you laugh at a situation like this?”
“And she didn’t put it on because it was too precious?”
Kwang Du’s eyes became filled with light. It looked as if he found what he had lost.
“Ah, that could be it. I never thought of it like that. Stupid, stupid! I am really stupid. Thank you young master. Thank you very much.”
He quickly jumped up and grabbed my hand. Then I poured cold water over him who was getting fired up, “But you know it could just be that she didn’t put it on because she doesn’t like you.”
“Eh, don’t be like that. Why are you being so fickle.”
“It just means that we can never know what is in the heart of a woman.”
This was the area that I had the least confidence in even though I have over seventy years of experience.
“Well, you are right.”
Kwang Du sat back down with a sigh and I sat down next to him.
“What part about Do Soon-ee do you like?”
“You didn’t like her to this degree?”
“It’s really weird. When she gave me the gift the other day, my heart was racing. This sort of experience was the first. I also want to say it but this was the first time I got so anxious because of some gifts. I am being serious.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
I became a bit jealous of Kwang Du because I never experienced love that made my heart beat that way. Would my heart really beat like he said if I meet someone that I truly liked?
Then I changed the topic, “I think Song He likes you too.”
“She is still a child.”
I said it since he might not know it but it seemed he already knew. Of course, he wasn’t that ignorant.
“She is like a close sister to me.”
But the problem was Song He didn’t think like that.
It seemed that I, who was once the Strongest Under Heaven, as well Kwang Du, who just began his journey in martial arts, were having relationship problems. It was hard being in a relationship but it was also hard not being in a relationship.
“I am leaving. Just find your lost heart. Who knows if you might need to give it to someone else.”
“Truth always hurts.”
Kwang Du stopped me as I was trying to leave.
“Wait, young master.”
He said with a serious face, “Teach me the art of throwing weapons as well.”
He didn’t want to lose out to Kwan He; it seemed he was still very competitive.