It was towards the middle of their meal. Outside, the rain was coming down in earnest and the window was making a ruckus, like popcorn kernels bursting. The restaurant was already full of people as everyone wandered inside to get out of the rain. The place was bustling and damp.
The female waitress from earlier met eyes with San.
“If it’s okay, can I seat another party with yours?” she asked carefully.
Two men and a woman stood nearby. In every part of the restaurant, people who came in to avoid the rain were standing around.
“That’s fine. We felt a little bad taking up so many seats anyway.”
The waitress guided the three towards their seats.
“Excuse me,” an old man, who appeared to be in his 60’s, sat down and greeted them. The other two nodded their heads towards them, took off their rain-soaked coats, hung them on hangers, and found their seats. The men wore blue clothes and the woman wore a pale red outfit. All three were carrying swords. There was a graceful flow in their movement.
As they sat down, an awkward silence ensued. Sitting by the window, Biyeon glanced at them before turning her gaze to the window. Raindrops rolled down the greased cracks of the paper window. If the window was made of glass, she would be able to see outside… The light flowing from the burning oil fire in the middle of the table was projected onto everyone, dying their faces red. San’s party ate silently.
“Where have you young people come from? Looking at your outfits, it looks like you came from a distant place.”
A thick and pleasant voice broke the awkward silence. Everyone’s eyes turn to the owner of the voice. The old man was looking at them while stroking his long, soft beard.
“We come from the north. It’s a very remote and secluded place, so you probably won’t know even if we told you,” Yekin answered carefully.
Even though his clothes were relatively shabby, Yekin was dressed as a noble. If he was spoken to, it meant that the other side must also be nobles. Also, eating at a restaurant like this meant that one was a traveler. If one was a noble and traveler, one was probably a warrior from a historical clan or organization.
“The north you say… You’re from a rough place. When I was young, I traveled to the north to participate in hunts. Is it near the Marquis of Norian’s territories?”
“One would have to travel north one more day from there. It’s at the foot of the Orom Mountain Range.”
“It’s at the foot of the northern mountain ranges. It must be very dangerous since there’re so many monsters and beasts there. By the way, you’ve traveled quite far. You must be brave and adventurous young people.”
The old man looked at the party with interested eyes. In this era of war, travelers other than clan members and merchants were very rare. One wouldn’t know when or how one would get swindled when traveling alone. Even if two or three traveled outside a city, they needed to be careful. Thus, he inferred that the five must be very strong people.
The young man and woman who came with the old man ordered food. The old man’s expression was calm and relaxed. Naturally, his gaze looked at each and every person. However, after passing over Yeria, Yekin, and Yesil, his gaze strangely changed as he turned toward the two in the corner. The man in an unfamiliar style of dress was eating silently with his gaze fixed on the table, and the woman who carried a strange atmosphere about her stared out the window with blank eyes. The truth was, the two weren’t interested in the conversation the others were having.
The old man briefly made a thoughtful expression, then immediately became playful.
“So, one can say that this is fate and the start of a good relationship. Let’s get to know each other’s names first and talk comfortably. I am ‘Hanyoung’, this boy is ‘Hanjun’, and this lady is ‘Hanya’.” Hanjun and Hanya opened their eyes wide in surprise. The old man’s attitude of offering up their names and introducing themselves first was by no means common.
“Hanyoung? Are you… from the Han-Sung Clan?” Yesil asked before shutting her mouth. She was young, but she knew she wasn’t supposed to freely speak the clan’s name in front of its members. Yeria and Yekin nervously looked at Hanyoung and the others. However, Hanyoung’s gaze was on the two people in the corner.
The tip of his lips twisted up within his white beard.
The two still didn’t seem to care about their surroundings and remained silent in their thoughts.
‘Probably one of the two. One wouldn’t really care about what’s happening around them or knows but is purposefully ignoring it. Well… that could be it.’ Hanyoung thought as he smiled.
“Yes. We are Han-Sung Clan warriors. And you are?” Hanyoung asked in a low voice.
The Essen household’s three children stood up.
“Ah! Don’t stand on ceremony. It’s cumbersome! Would you introduce yourselves?”
“I am honored to meet the great ‘Iron Sword’. I am the second son of Count Essen, Yekin.”
“I am the second daughter, Yeria.”
“I am the fifth daughter, Yesil.”
“You’re from Count Essen’s estate!” Hanjun and Hanya briefly shouted. Soon after, they closed their mouths. They surprised themselves with their sudden outburst.
However, the surroundings had already become quiet. As one side became quiet, the lack of sound spread to the other areas like a disease, as if silence was contagious.
“Then… you’re the ones who’ve brought the Archon’s bones and skin, along with the water of life?” people shouted from around them.
Biyeon looked away. San stopped eating.
The restaurant started to roar tumultuously.
Choice – Chapter 2
Yesil wiped the sweat off her forehead. She felt that it was too hot here…
The restaurant fell into complete silence, but the temperature was rising quickly.
In the confined space, thick moisture and people’s breaths were mixed in. Eyes filled with curiosity and greed were focusing on one place like a magnifying glass on a subject.
“Are you finished eating? I’m done now…” Biyeon asked Yesil.
Her voice was as soft and natural as that of a mother. Yesil looked towards her.
Biyeon put her spoon on her plate and wiped her mouth with a towel. Yesil’s next glance was towards San. San was also starting to stand up slowly. He had already pulled his chair back to get up.
“Since it seems you’ve finished your introductions, shall we go back to the hotel? The air here is too stuffy. It seems to be a bit dangerous too, and…”
He turned his body slowly, leaning his arms behind his back like a stretch while straightening his back. His slow-turning gaze calmly swept the crowd. The crowd fluttered as his glance passed every one of them. Beside him, Biyeon stood up while putting her hand down on the table.
To her left, Hanjun and Hanya were looking at the two alternately in a seated position.
Yekin looked at San. His expression was one of embarrassment.
“Why? Do you want to wait until the rain stops? Doesn’t it seem like it won’t stop anytime soon?”
The three siblings awkwardly started getting up. They had already finished eating, but wasn’t it awkward to just get up like this in this atmosphere? It may have been because the captains didn’t know the manners and customs around these parts, but they should have realized that the ‘very noble’ person nearby may be insulted by their actions.
Also, interest started pouring in from everywhere. People around them were still looking at them openly. Sweat flowed down their backs. Their faces were already covered in sweat.
San gazed at the old man. Hanyoung narrowed his eyes. The smile at the corner of his mouth grew even wider. The eyes of the two met. It was an explicit search. They stared at each other for quite some time. It was long enough to make the people next to them feel anxious and uncomfortable.
After some time, San lowered his head a little, expressing his regards like a modern office worker to his superior. Hanyoung scratched the back of his head awkwardly and bowed his head to return the greeting.
“I am San and this person is Yeon. As you just heard, the people here are from Count Essen’s estate, and we’re responsible for transporting and selling the Count’s goods.”
“Wow, such a coincidence. In fact, I’m also interested in your goods, so I came to Porato City myself… How lucky am I to meet you here? Should I say I’m too lucky? Anyway, nice to meet you.”
The younger Han-Sung Clan nobles held their breath. Their ‘Grandpa’ was speaking a little awkwardly… a little too respectfully…
“Anyone can be a customer if the price is reasonable,” Biyeon responded with a smile.
“Of course, we sometimes teach others a lesson if they try to cheat us,” San followed.
“Now I recall! I heard a lot of rumors about you two. I didn’t believe that you’d both be second-level Awakened Warriors, but now that I see you both with my own eyes, the rumors seem true. You both possess a great spirit.”
Hanyoung slowly got up from his seat. When he got up, Hanjun and Hanya also got up nervously. Those who watched the unfolding scene took a few steps backward. No one intended to move, but the gentle pressure, as if pushing a hand against their chests, made them step back. There was now a large cleared space around the table where they were standing.
“I can’t believe that the ‘Philosopher’s Sword’, Hanyoung, appeared here…” someone muttered from the back corner. This was a really rare event.
Hanyoung was the younger brother of Han-Sung Clan’s leader, Hanhyeok, a martial artist who was close to becoming a ‘Legend.’
‘Legend’ referred to the three people who became fifth-level Awakened Warriors. The ‘Legends’ were all produced from the Absolute Clans. No case of a Legend had been produced yet in the martial world outside of the Absolute Clans. The power of an Absolute Clan came from the existence of these ‘Legends.’
For human beings, it was accurate to say that they were the absolute strongest people in the martial arts world. They had already reached the peak of martial arts.
Hanyoung was known as a man of mystical abilities, and although he was an honorary leader, he was one of the prominent figures who made a name for himself with the imperial family. He was a fanatic who spent his entire life traveling and exploring, and for him, martial arts and combat force were his main exploration activities in this world. This was how he had come to possess a wide range of experience and wisdom. He was a ‘Renaissance Man’ of sorts.
In addition, in the past, Hanyoung and his elder brother Hanhyeok crossed the continent and defeated fourteen warrior clans and splendidly dismantled twenty large mercenary guilds. In particular, they annihilated the five-hundred-warrior strong ‘Yasran Mercenary Guild’, known to be one of the strongest mercenary guilds at that time, by themselves. Over the course of two days and two nights, they had defeated the entire group. Their achievement was still talked about to this day and was considered a legendary tale on the continent.
Hanyoung looked like he was in his 60’s, but he was actually over 80 years old.
“Which of our goods are you interested in Gramps?” asked San.
“Gramps… no one has ever said that to me,” Hanyoung retorted while digging into his ears as if he was annoyed. He didn’t particularly like the expression.
“Then what shall I call you? Old elder?”
San laughed. Unlike the comfortable conversation happening between the two, the people around them were watching the two tensely with their mouths closed. No matter how hard they clenched their jaw, they couldn’t stop their shaking bodies…Previous Chapter Next Chapter