The residence of the Order’s leader was one of the biggest buildings in the Beloong City.
A middle aged man with his hands over to his back was looking at fishes in the pond. He said,
Ho-Gwang stayed silent.
He didn’t look like an unwieldy little son rebelling against his father. His silence was just that he was choking on fear and could not speak.
“… Y … Yes.”
Ho-Gwang stuttered because he was nervous. Ho-Gyeong, the leader of the Order, said with a dry voice,
“I always thought the world of you ever since we were in the lower dimension.”
At least to his son, Ho-Gyeong always had a kind tone of voice, but it was different this time. Ho-Gwang’s body shivered. Regardless, Ho-Gyoung continued,
“Back in those days, your so called big brothers were such embarrassments for me. They were born into my bloodline, yet their talents in martial arts were at pathetic levels. Even when they were criticized by others right in front of me, I couldn’t say anything back. It was such a shame.”
Actually, back in those days, Ho-Gwang’s other brothers did have growth rates not far behind the rates of rising talents in other factions, but that was all they could accomplish.
To Ho-Gyoung’s standard, they were ordinary and unacceptable talents.
“On the other hand, you were different. In the lower dimension, there was no body that could even be compared to you. Even when you arrived here, you did not disappoint me. You worked more diligently and harder through excruciating trainings. You grew and reached the Zenith-Rate at a rapid pace. It was enough to make people say you are a prodigy. It was enough that I would have acknowledged you even if you were not my son.”
“As much as I acknowledged you and cared for you, I did not limit your behaviors. Many said that you are too arrogant or that you rely on your father’s influence too much, but I didn’t care about such complaints. It was because you are a Zenith-Rate swordsman. Also, you achieved that title at a young age before even reaching 150. You had the right to be arrogant. I always believed that you would only bring more honor to my name. I have never thought that you would taint it.”
Having said as much, Ho-Gyoung kept silent for a moment.
The pressure felt greater than facing animosities from several tens of Zenith-Rate warriors. It was making Ho-Gwang break cold sweat all over the body like rain.
The moment was not even one-minute-long, but for Ho-Gwang, it felt as long as one year.
Ho-Gyoung eventually opened his mouth and spoke.
“This isn’t even being defeated in a duel. You got smacked on the back of your head?”
“That … that is!”
The aura rising from the Order’s leader was strong enough to be visible. Ho-Gwang was about to say something, but he could not.
Having seen Ho-Gyoung’s enraged face, Ho-Gwang realized there is no excuse that would work in this situation.
Ho-Gwang swallowed a dry gulp. His entire body was shivering like a fragile tree in the wind.
His father was not showing his usual fatherly demeanor. Instead, the man standing before Ho-Gwang was the other side of Ho-Gyoung, the most powerful warrior who has the Beloong City in his grasp.
All Ho-Gwang could do was to make apologetic face and seek forgiveness.
“… Get going.”
“Go. Go to the south mountain and train in isolation for five years. Tell the general assembly to get it prepared and depart right away.”
“… Yes. I understand.”
As Ho-Gyoung watched his son stepping away quietly, he fell in to a deep thought.
‘He suffered a disgrace by a rookie who had been in here for less than 5 years.’
Part of Ho-Gyoung’s face between his eyebrows wrinkled.
Ho-Gwang had an incredible talent. His talent was incomparable to anyone in the Beloong City.
Ho-Gwang reached Zenith-Rate in less than 100 years when Ho-Gyoung took 150 years to get that far. Not counting The Six, nobody would have questioned if Ho-Gwang was to be claimed as the best talent in Beloong City.
Despite his long years of experience in Asgard, and despite having seen all sorts of things throughout those years, Ho-Gyoung still could not believe that Ho-Gwang was defeated by a total newbie that just got his name listed on the Rookie Ranking.
He could only imagine how shocked Ho-Gwang must have been considering that he had not been in Asgard as long.
‘So, have they appeared? Graduate candidates…’
These demonstrated feats that even prodigies were not allowed to achieve.
Instead of going up thousands of steps through a hard work over several hundred years, these reached Act 2 in devilish growth rate with a few giant-like leaps.
Once in a long while, these beings, as if they are of different species, appeared in Beloong City. They possessed amazing talents that could not be contained inside Act 1.
For those that were definitely talented enough to leave Act 1, people called them graduate candidates.
Also, looking at what has happened so far, it became apparent that Dokgo Hoo and Vulcan were graduate candidates.
Since Ho-Gwang never had encountered such beings in his life, the situation was just that he was unlucky. Considering the unusual situation, it would be wrong to fault Ho-Gwang for challenging Vulcan since he had no way of knowing the consequence.
Because Ho-Gyoung was aware of this, he didn’t scold Ho-Gwang too harshly.
He blew steams out at his son because there was no way to recover from the embarrassment.
‘When it comes to graduate candidates … handling them faster would be good, but the better way is to not buy grudge from them in the first place …’
The graduate candidates were not going to be in this place for long anyway.
If Ho-Gyoung tried to kill them because he considered them seeds of threat, and if by a bad luck they gained enlightening in middle of the battle, graduate candidates could turn into invincible beings at an instant, the kind of warrior never seen in Act 1.
To exaggerate a little, these bastards were the kind that could reach a new height by just watching leaves fall.
It was best to forego the thoughts about pestering them and just send them to the next Act.
‘However, we already had a bad incident.’
The Order lost face from the incident. In order to reclaim it, he had to punish the graduate candidates.
However, even with possibilities in one in ten thousand, various possible ways where things could go wrong concerned Ho-Gyoung.
This caused his worries to deepen.
At that moment, a voice could be heard, which woke Ho-Gyoung from his thoughts.
“My lord, it’s Lee Jung-yup.”
“Ah, senior officer.”
Ho-Gyoung nodded and welcomed Lee Jung-yup. Ho-Gyoung asked him in a quiet voice,
“So, is the preparation for the proxy duel going well?”
“Yes. It’s going without any problems.”
“That’s good. At least I won’t have to worry about being humiliated in the duel.”
Looking at Lee Jung-yup made Ho-Gyoung feel he could really depend on the man. Ho-Gyoung smiled faintly.
Even a year ago, Ho-Gyoung had a quarrel with Bellon and had to do a proxy duel. The outcome was an overwhelming victory for the Order of Virtue who sent out Lee Jung-yup as the fighter.
He was not in the Golden Ranking back then only because people were not aware of his ascension to a new height after an enlightenment. Back then, Lee Jung-yup was actually powerful enough to be in top ten of the Golden Ranking.
This time, the Order was planning on sending out a hidden talent as well.
‘Since he is above Ho-Gwang, nobody from outside of the Golden Rankiing would be a match for our fighter.’
Ho-Gyoung was enduring headache until now, but it felt like the pain was subsiding a little.
Satisfied, Ho-Gyoung smiled. Lee Jung-yup said to him,
“I have one more thing to inform you about …”
“What is it?”
“The ones that the Young Master had an ill incident with … Vulcan and Dokgo Hoo joined the denomination.”
“Hm … I got it. You may go.”
Lee Jung-yup disappeared as if he was never there in the first place. Putting his conversation with Lee Jung-yup behind him, Ho-Gyoung fell into a deep thought.
‘Perhaps that’s actually a good thing …’
If the Order left Vulcan and Dokgo Hoo alone, people would have started to talk and make mockery of the Order. It was because the move could be viewed as the Order, a large organization, fearing a few individuals.
If he left things be like that for a long time, he would not be able to avoid losing face and letting it plummet to the floor.
However, now that Vulcan and Dokgo Hoo joined the denomination, the situation was different. It was no longer between the Order and two individuals. It was now between two factions.
Therefore, now the situation was fitting enough that people would have understood if the Order took a step back without taking any drastic measures.
‘There shouldn’t be a problem even if I just sent someone later and got a proper apology from them.’
Ho-Gyoung wanted to say no to the idea of getting tangled up with monsters like them and making the problem bigger.
If there was another incident in the future where the Order suffered an even bigger humiliation, then that would be a different story, but for now, Ho-Gyoung was finding it acceptable to look the other way.
Of course, if another incident similar to this was to happen …
‘Then I don’t care about their potentials or whatever. I will kill them.’
By Ho-Gyoung’s powerful aura, a boulder near by crumbled like a cookie.
Time went by and the sun rose on the day of the proxy duel.
The duel was between the Holy Denomination of War, those who worshiped Powell, and the Order of Virtue, an alliance of martial artists from Murim.
Because it was a battle between two factions that represented Beloong City, there was a big interest about the duel.
However, there were not that many spectators. It was because the two factions set a limit on who could come to watch. This was out of concern that allowing a bunch of nobodies to come and watch may interfere with the duel.
The limit was Zenith-Rate and above.
Despite the hefty limit, over 300 people came to watch. They were keeping their places in the audience section in anticipation of the duel that was about to unfold soon.
And, the beings that shined brighter than everyone, the Order’s Blade King Ho-Gyoung and the Denomination’s Archbishop Battle King Bellon, arrived at the scene.
As if everyone had planned it together, as soon as they saw the two men making the entrance, they all fell silent. Over two-thirds of the spectators belonged to the factions, and the others knew better to not ignore their influence, hence it was obvious why everyone became quiet.
In silence, only the sound of wind could be heard occasionally.
The one that broke that silence was Bellon, the Battle King.
“It’s been a while seeing you like this.”
“Indeed. Has it been … about one year since our senior officer had his victory?”
“Don’t you think you are too old for petty manipulative provocations?”
“Those that are vulnerable for it fall for it even when they are over a thousand years old. I figured you are one of those kinds. Are you not?”
Having heard what Ho-Gyoung said, Bellon laughed with confidence and said,
“Haha. You sure talk big. You seem pretty confident … By chance, do you have another Lee Jung-yup?”
“Although they may not be up to our senior officer’s height, but I do have many useful talents. The Order provides full support to those with talents.”
‘This bastard, so there was someone he prepared.’
Bellon felt confidence in Ho-Gyoung’s tone of voice. Bellon made a bitter smile.
By the look on Ho-Gyoung’s face, Bellon figured that it probably would not have gone well if he sent out the warrior that he originally intended to send.
‘But … it is your turn to be surprised this time.’
Having watched Vulcan train for a month, Bellon became certain of his victory. Bellon was certain that nobody, unless if it was someone in top ten of the Golden Ranking, could beat that greenhorn rookie.
Although Bellon never saw Vulcan fighting with all of his might, Bellon could feel that Vulcan was a monster.
‘Vulcan is definitely a graduate candidate who would either go to Act 2 or go back home within ten years. Or perhaps he might ascend to the realm of gods.’
Regardless, Vulcan was going to bring him victory, and with this, Bellon would be able to maintain a good relation with him. Based on Vulcan’s reaction when Bellon promised a safe hunting ground, Bellon was certain of this.
Bellon felt great, so he said to Ho-Gyoung,
“If you are that confident, let’s cut the chit-chat and get started, shall we?”
“Really? Fine. I will introduce ours first.”
Ho-Gyoung snapped his finger. From the Order’s side, a man wielding a spear slowly walked toward the front.
The proxy duel fighter’s eyes were exuding cold aura.
Watching his steady aura, some of the spectators murmured.
“This … is incredible.”
“Aren’t they suppose to choose the fighter from someone outside of the Golden Ranking? It looks like he could be within the lower half of the ranking.”
“I can’t be certain, but … I think it will be difficult for the Denomination. If we had a Player here, we would be able to determine his stats accurately. It’s too bad.”
Everyone was speaking highly of the fighter.
Ho-Gyoung was listening to the spectators’ reactions quietly. He didn’t bother hiding the tip of his lips tilting upward. With a grin, Ho-Gyoung said to Bellon,
“Now, our fighter is waiting. How about you introduce your hidden fighter as well?”
“I was going to anyway.”
Bellon smirked right back at him.
Watching Bellon, Ho-Gyoung could feel a sense of uneasiness coming up inside.
‘What’s this? Why is he so relaxed? Why all this confidence?’
Ho-Gyoung was sure that even Bellon could see how powerful the Order’s fighter was.
‘Is Bellon putting up a face and pretending to be confident?’
It did not appear to be the case.
Ho-Gyoung have known Bellon for several hundred years. He knew Bellon’s face well. He could at least tell if the expression on Bellon was genuine or not.
‘By chance, the Denomination also had a top-notch warrior that they have been raising in secret? No. If that was the case, they would have sent that fighter during the last year’s proxy duel. Just what is he …’
Ho-Gyoung the leader of the Order was in deep thoughts. He was troubled by it to the point he was making wrinkles on his forehead. As he agonized over his thoughts, Ho-Gyoung, for a moment, made a face as if he lost his mind when he saw the Denomination’s fighter.
The man had dark hair with a faint expression.
His face looked young, not even close to 30.
He was swinging a blade with lightning sparks surrounding his entire body.
‘Vulcan! The reason you joined the Denomination was …! Instead of avoiding the Order’s wraith, was it to make mockery out of me?!’
Ho-Gyoung, the Blade King of the Order of Virtue, grinded his teeth hard enough to break them.