Just as Yu Jeong-shin had anticipated, Yi-gang was using a bronze pot. However, he was not practicing for the fourth stage of the honor flower disciple’s test.
What was vigorously boiling in Yi-gang’s cauldron was none other than the bulbs of the Three-Element Sacred Flower. He simmered various medicinal ingredients together, using the knowledge he had learned directly from the Grass Flower Hall Head. The content that had filled the large cauldron was reduced to about a ladleful.
The cauldron was empty. Yi-gang had consumed it all.
Yi-gang sighed and grimaced. It wasn’t because his stomach was full.
A warmth spread tingling from his stomach. The bulb of Three-Element Sacred Flower was a spiritual herb imbued with Yang energy.
For Yi-gang, who had an excess of Yin energy due to his Great Yin Meridian Blockage, it was a beneficial spiritual herb.
However, the problem was that the bulb of Three-Element Sacred Flower was not an ordinary spiritual herb. Had he not heard the method of pill refinement and important considerations for consumption from the Grass Flower Hall Head, it would have been dangerous just to consume it as is.
「Focus your mind. You say you can’t do the Lesser Zhoutian and Greater Zhoutian, but you’re not devoid of Qi perception, right?」
The advice of the Immortal Divine Sword was also helpful.
「Tsk tsk, it would have been fine if you calmed your body and mind first, then observed the mystics before consuming it.」
‘There’s no... time, isn’t there?’
There was a reason Yi-gang had to consume the bulb of the Three-Element Sacred Flower right away. Once he became an official disciple, he would have to live at the main mountain of the Azure Forest.
Now, while he was staying alone in the guest annex, was the only opportunity to refine and consume the bulb.
Yi-gang concentrated for a long time.
Feeling the heat and spiritual energy in his body was already beneficial.
The Yang energy, which seemed to scorch his insides, gradually melted into his entire body. Although it was regrettable that he couldn’t accumulate internal energy in his dantian, the power of the Three-Element Sacred Flower would seep into every part of Yi-gang’s body.
「It might feel like filling a bottomless pot right now, but like fertile soil, your body will become enriched.」
‘Eating this elixir only seems to improve my health for now.’
「Someday, you will be able to utilize the internal energy that has permeated your entire meridian system.」
It might be possible if he could connect multiple major meridians. But for now, that still seemed like a distant goal.
Yet, there was something even more exciting at the moment.
‘I wonder what they meant by spiritual herb of transcendence.’
The Grass Flower Hall Head had mentioned that the Three-Element Sacred Flower possessed the effect of “Transcendence.” It seemed like this effect would be in the bulb, not the flower or stem. Yi-gang secretly hoped for it.
「Transcendence, huh? Only charlatans and quacks spout such nonsense.」
But the Immortal Divine Sword only scoffed in derision.
「No matter how much elixir you consume, it’s impossible to break your own limits and become something else entirely.」
The Immortal Divine Sword, who had once held the position of an absolute master, knew better than anyone about human limits and denied the existence of such transcendence.
Despite this, Yi-gang secretly hoped for a change.
He moved his body, trying various motions, and even struck the air with martial moves.
Indeed, after consuming the elixir, Yi-gang felt lighter. However, something was lacking.
「...So, how does your body feel?」
It seemed the Immortal Divine Sword was also curious deep down.
“...It doesn’t seem to have much effect.”
The touted effects of transcendence were not felt at all. His body did feel lighter, but compared to other elixirs, it wasn’t overwhelmingly superior. If forced to compare, it was somewhat similar to combining Cave Red Fruit and five others.
Thinking back to the discovery of the Three-Element Sacred Flower and the fuss made by the Grass Flower Hall Head, it was disappointing.
‘Is it just a flashy but useless thing?’
「It shouldn’t be...」
While Yi-gang and the Immortal Divine Sword were deep in thought—
Yi-gang suddenly turned his head.
「What is it?」
‘Someone is coming.’
The soul of the Immortal Divine Sword, even in his lifetime, had dulled senses compared to his living days. Perhaps that was why, he noticed someone’s approach later than Yi-gang did.
「You always had keen senses, but this time you noticed exceptionally fast.」
“Is that so? Ah... I should clean up first.”
Yi-gang hurriedly got up and began tidying up his chamber.
He opened the windows wide for ventilation and hid the bronze cauldron under the bed. Thanks to his bustling movements, he managed to finish tidying up before the visitor arrived.
The person who appeared at the window was Yu Su-rin.
Yi-gang greeted her as casually as possible, propping his chin on his hand.
“I came because there’s something urgent... But you, um.”
Yu Su-rin, who was about to say something from the window, suddenly froze.
She stared intently at Yi-gang and then asked in a puzzled tone, “Did something... change about you?”
Yi-gang touched his face. There was nothing that he could tell had changed.
“Yeah, um. How should I put it?”
“What has changed?”
“The atmosphere...? No, it’s not just that.”
Yu Su-rin also seemed to struggle to explain clearly.
Then, with a sudden realization, she leaned closer.
“That’s not what’s important!”
“...Okay.”This chapter's initial release occurred on the n0vell--Bjjn site.
“Really. I came all this way because of the exam the day after tomorrow.”
Yi-gang’s quarters were slightly away from the main base of the Azure Forest. It wasn’t a place someone would visit without a reason.
“You know the next test is a martial arts spar, right?”
It wasn’t Yi-gang but a fox yokai who had knocked out Son Hee-il in Spirit Spring Valley. Still, the thought of that time sent shivers down his spine.
‘Surely, he dodged my martial moves.’
Son Hee-il aimed for swift sword, which also influenced his martial arts techniques.
Even in a situation where he lost his senses to anger, Yi-gang clearly avoided the first strike.
“I’m not underestimating him at all.”
“...Alright, do your best.”
Jun Myung nodded at Son Hee-il’s serious tone.
Soon, the examiner in charge, Wisdom Sword Pavilion Master Do Gang, spoke up.
“Next. Come forward.”
At his blunt command, Son Hee-il sprang to his feet.
Jin Mu, assisting the examiner, gestured.
Son Hee-il stepped onto the practice stage and placed his hand on a wooden sword tied with a blue ribbon. As always before a martial arts contest, his heart was pounding.
Jin Mu announced the names of the contestants.
“Sixth martial arts spar, blue side Son Hee-il, red side Baek Yi-gang.”
Yi-gang stepped up on the opposite side, his wooden sword wrapped in a red cloth.
The solemn command of the Wisdom Sword Pavilion Master fell.
Son Hee-il glared at Yi-gang.
Yi-gang’s expression was calm. He quietly faced Son Hee-il, his gaze cool and devoid of heat.
Yi-gang’s composed demeanor also influenced Son Hee-il.
His racing heartbeat calmed down. He sharply honed the sword in his mind.
Tension tightly gripped the sparring stage.
The third-generation disciples watching below were equally tense.
Jun Myung, alternating his gaze between Yi-gang and Son Hee-il with complex emotions, felt the same.
Though it was forbidden to synchronize moves with the martial arts spar opponent in advance, practicing sparring with other disciples was allowed.
Jun Myung had a practice sparring session with Son Hee-il last night.
It seemed like they had sparred sincerely after a long time, and the result was...
Someone tapped Jun Myung on the back. It was Yuk Su-chan, who was also watching the contest.
And Jun Myung winced, curling up slightly.
Yuk Su-chan, who had tapped Jun Myung’s back, was startled.
“Are, are you okay?”
“Yeah... I’m fine.”
He wasn’t fine.
Hidden under his clothes, there were snake-like bruise marks trailing along Jun Myung’s back.
“I got this bruise from a wooden sword spar.”
“On your back...? Who?”
Jun Myung gestured towards the sparring stage with his chin. It was Son Hee-il who had left a dark bruise on his back, not on his abdomen.
“...Hee-il’s swordsmanship has improved even more.”
Although their skills had been similar, Son Hee-il’s swift sword had easily overpowered Jun Myung the previous night.
“Who do you think will win this spar?”
Jun Myung glanced at Yuk Su-chan and then smiled bitterly.
“I think it’s going to be a close match.”
Most of the third-generation disciples predicted an overwhelming victory for Son Hee-il. Only Jun Myung and Yuk Su-chan, who had experienced Yi-gang’s skills firsthand, could consider it a close match.
Despite this, Jun Myung declared, “Hee-il has about a 60% chance of winning.”
Son Hee-il, who would not be complacent and would give his best, was deemed to have the advantage.
“Begin the martial arts spar!”
With Jin Mu’s command, Son Hee-il and Yi-gang’s wooden swords collided in the air.
The etiquette of striking each other’s swords three times before the spar.
After the third clash—
Son Hee-il’s wooden sword blurred.
Jun Myung exclaimed involuntarily. Son Hee-il really hadn’t been complacent. Skipping the unnecessary formalities, he used his best move right at the start of the spar.
The blurred wooden sword produced a delayed sound of breaking the air.
The end of the wooden sword struck Yi-gang’s Adam’s apple.
Or so it seemed.
“No, he didn’t get hit...!”
Yi-gang had twisted his head, deflecting the wooden sword.
Then his foot blurred, and he kicked Son Hee-il’s chin.
Son Hee-il was sent flying into the air.
Jun Myung and Yuk Su-chan’s eyes followed Son Hee-il’s trajectory.
Their mouths were agape as if they could swallow a fly.
Son Hee-il rolled across the sparring stage in a terrible state, seemingly unconscious.