Return of Mount Hua Sect (Novel) Chapter 1642

Chapter 1642: Are You Happy? (Part 1)

Ho Gakmyung blinked, covering his face with his hand.

Was it a dream?

It was an old story, already forgotten.

Vivid memories, tinged with faded edges from the passage of time.

The cold air brushed against his nose. It was still dawn, a familiar hour for Ho Gakmyung to wake up. He had strived not to waste a single day since then.

As he quietly sat up, the blanket slid down his chest.

His gaze fell on his chest. A body that could be described as somewhat thin, adorned with numerous scars.

Though they were not comparable to the scars etched into Jang Ilso's body, the scars on Ho Gakmyung's chest vividly testified to the life he had lived since that day.

Surviving beyond all those times, Ho Gakmyung was now preparing for one final battle to seize control beyond Gangnam, extending to Gangbuk.

Therefore, he had to ask himself.

'Am I still... ruthless?'

It was a mantra for Ho Gakmyung. Something he had to adhere to even if his life came to an end.

A means to achieve his goals, but in a way, the main rule that preceded those goals.

Ho Gakmyung remained motionless, eyes closed. The room was quieter than when he slept.

How much time had passed?

When Ho Gakmyung slowly opened his eyes again, they were dark.

A dull noise.

When he got out of bed and opened the door, his assistant approached.

"For breakfast..."

"No. Prepare my attire."

Ho Gakmyung's cold gaze turned to the assistant. No, it wasn't directed at the assistant in front of him, but at someone else.

"I must see Ryeonju-nim."

His voice was firmer than ever.

The mansion wasn't large, especially compared to the headquarters of the Evil Tyrant Alliance, so it was easy for Ho Gakmyung to reach Jang Ilso's residence.

But upon arriving at Jang Ilso's residence, Ho Gakmyung suddenly stopped.

Then, in silence, he looked at the sky.

It was still far from dawn. The night sky remained unchanged since "that time." But what about the people? Were those under this sky the same as back then?

Countless memories passed through his mind.

Facing formidable enemies, fighting fiercely, enduring life-threatening injuries, and wandering through adversity, desperate moments fleeing pursuers, the day he first proclaimed the name of the House...

Growing in the midst of those times, Ho Gakmyung, once a young man from Hongan, was now a middle-aged man, and the insignificant White Ghost Sect, which barely dominated a small alley in Guizhou, had become the ruler of Gangnam, the Evil Tyrant Alliance.

No one believed it. Not even Ho Gakmyung himself.

But they... Jang Ilso achieved that miraculous feat. That's why Ho Gakmyung had no regrets.

It wasn't because of his remarkable achievements.

It was because Jang Ilso was still Jang Ilso. If that remained, even if he had continued being a mere beggar wandering the alleys of Guizhou until now, Ho Gakmyung would have no regrets.

Because Jang Ilso was still Jang Ilso, Ho Gakmyung could continue being Ho Gakmyung.

Therefore...

A faint sigh escaped Ho Gakmyung's lips. Yet, even as he silently looked at the chamber, he finally advanced.

The guards stationed in front of the residence bowed deeply upon seeing Ho Gakmyung. Although they should have pretended to hinder him at least once.

His complexion hardened in response, Ho Gakmyung stood silently in front of the door.

"Ryeonju-nim. It's Gakmyung."

There was no response.

However, without waiting, Ho Gakmyung grasped the doorknob. The guards trembled but did not try to stop him.

Entering Ryeonju's quarters without permission was an act punished by immediate death. However, within the vast Evil Tyrant Alliance, only one person, Ho Gakmyung, was exempt from that rule. Naturally, the guards understood this fact.

Click.

The firmly closed door opened, and the cold night air entered the room. Ho Gakmyung entered without hesitation and closed the door behind him.

The air inside was so laden with darkness it felt oppressive, illuminated only by the flickering flames of the candles.

The scene matched the moment when he met Jang Ilso in his dreams. Although the atmosphere was much cleaner than back then, the room's air eerily reminded him of that feeling of dryness and desolation.

Ho Gakmyung's gaze reflexively focused on one place.

In the deep darkness where the small lamp did not reach, among the deepest and thickest shadows.

Soon, among the flickering lanterns tinged with a crimson hue, a ghostly blue light emerged.

Even Ho Gakmyung momentarily caught his breath. It was an eerie flame, intertwined with inexplicable emotions, as if burning chaotically.

"Ryeonju-nim."

Jang Ilso was there. In a place not much different from where Ho Gakmyung had seen him in the past.

"Is that you?"

"Yes."

Ho Gakmyung nodded.

"What brings you here at this hour?"

Ho Gakmyung did not respond immediately.

Soon, the ghostly light swayed gently.

Accompanied by footsteps, Jang Ilso emerged from the dim light. He wore a simple white attire, without makeup. It was familiar to Ho Gakmyung... But now, Jang Ilso seemed somewhat unknown.

Seeing Jang Ilso emerge from a distant corner of the bed, Ho Gakmyung asked.

"Didn't you sleep?"

"I just woke up a bit early."

"...Is that so?"

"What's the matter?"

There was a growl in Jang Ilso's voice. Such harshness was familiar to Ho Gakmyung, but also unknown.

Ho Gakmyung simply kept his gaze fixed on where Jang Ilso stood. A corner of the room devoid of furniture. The most desolate place in this space.

"Why don't you rest a bit?"

Jang Ilso closed his mouth and looked at Ho Gakmyung. It was only a moment of silence, but the pause was enough for Ho Gakmyung to realize that Jang Ilso's voice had softened noticeably.

"It's just that I had a lot on my mind."

It was the familiar voice and gestures Ho Gakmyung knew.

"I just needed some time to sort things out. But more importantly... What was it? I asked, didn't I? How many more times do I have to ask before you answer?"

"I came only to ensure Ryeonju-nim's well-being."

"Well-being?"

"Yes."

Jang Ilso pierced Ho Gakmyung with his gaze and then burst into laughter.

"...Am I being immature, or are you acting like an old man? Constantly worrying about every little thing."

Jang Ilso slowly walked and sat in a chair.

"Do you want some tea? Or maybe some alcohol?"

"No, thank you."

"How boring. Sit down. Looking up strains my neck."

But Ho Gakmyung simply kept looking silently at Jang Ilso instead of taking the indicated seat. Jang Ilso narrowed his eyes.

"...It seems you didn't come just to check on how I'm doing."

"..."

"If you have something to say, say it. Or should I keep waiting?"

Ho Gakmyung tried to fully decipher the look Jang Ilso was giving him. Soft affection and firm trust. And...

"Ryeonju-nim. Do you remember?"

Jang Ilso slightly frowned, as if questioning the sudden comment.

Ho Gakmyung continued calmly.

"I had a dream."

"A dream?"

"Yes. The time I met Ryeonju-nim."

At that, Jang Ilso let out a small laugh.

"Even dreaming of good memories."

"At that time, Ryeonju-nim entrusted me. Always remain ruthless. At any moment."

Ho Gakmyung closed and opened his eyes almost imperceptibly.

"That statement has been my first principle. Although sometimes I couldn't maintain it due to my lack of skill, I have always strived to keep that ruthlessness."

Jang Ilso slightly nodded in response.

"Indeed."

"Now I understand. Why Ryeonju-nim gave me that instruction. What he wanted from me. So, I have a question. Did I live up to Ryeonju-nim's expectations?"

Jang Ilso looked at Ho Gakmyung with a slightly more suspicious look.

"It seems unexpected. Why do you ask?"

"Is it difficult to answer?"

Jang Ilso let out a deep sigh and rubbed his temples.

"Very well. You have... exceeded my expectations. If it weren't for you, I would have become a forgotten skeleton, rotting somewhere in Guizhou. Well, it wouldn't have been such a bad life."

Ho Gakmyung nodded calmly.

"Today, I woke up and reflected on myself. Am I still ruthless?"

"..."

"The answer was 'no.'"

Ho Gakmyung's eyes sank deeply.

"Although I should be ruthless, I couldn't. That's why I am now determined to be ruthless. It's the first thing you demanded of me and, above all, what must prevail."

Jang Ilso showed a hint of fatigue.

"The preamble seems especially long today. So, what do you want to say?"

"Then, what about you, Ryeonju-nim?"

"...What?"

Ho Gakmyung looked at him intently.

"What I demanded of you, Ryeon

ju-nim, was not relentless dedication, unwavering will, or overwhelming strength. Just one thing: that you have some leisure."

Jang Ilso's expression slightly stiffened.

"Then, I ask you. Do you have leisure now? Do you behave like someone who already possesses it, rather than striving to obtain it?"

At Ho Gakmyung's chilling question, Jang Ilso's eyes faintly flickered.

"Answer, Gakmyung. What do you mean?"

His voice filtered raw, unfiltered emotions, like the first time Ho Gakmyung had seen Jang Ilso.

Ho Gakmyung took a deep breath and looked directly at Jang Ilso.

"Why do you think I consider myself incapable of being ruthless?"

"...I told you to answer, didn't I?"

"I'll ignore the first question."

"What?"

Ho Gakmyung's face was completely rigid, almost looking at Jang Ilso.

"Does Ryeonju have leisure?"

"..."

"...No. That's fine too. I'll ask again, Ryeonju."

Ho Gakmyung's eyes overlapped with Jang Ilso's.

The ruler of Gangnam, Paegun, who had everything, and the young Jang Ilso, who was still growing.

Two seemingly similar but different individuals.

Although time had passed and they seemed unchanged, there was one thing that was unmistakably different.

"Then, are you happy?"

Jang Ilso's face momentarily changed, his pupils turning an intense blue. It was a clear hostility he had never shown Ho Gakmyung before.

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