Fortunately for Kwak Du-Yong, the Headmaster intervened before the situation spiraled out of control. He glared at the students in the dorms and furiously shouted, “ENOUGH! From now on, everyone who throws anything will receive a penalty!”
The throwing of objects abruptly stopped as if nothing had ever happened to begin with.
Wow, he turned those unruly students into obedient mice in a heartbeat… What on earth did he do for them to be so terrified of him?
The Headmaster’s stern eyes then focused on us. “You two as well! If you cause any more of a ruckus, I’ll revoke your interview rights!”
With pained expressions, Ak Yeon-Ho and I innocently pleaded at the same time.
“What? We didn’t do anything.”
“All I did was stand still. The one who started it is…”
As if he knew that we were telling the truth, the Headmaster trained his fury down upon Kwak Du-Yong and scolded, “If you’re done with the interview, then GO HOME!”
“Do you want me to throw you out by force?”
A shiver ran down Kwak Du-Yong’s spine as he saw the killing intent in the old man’s eyes. Without hesitation, he turned tail and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him.
Without directly threatening him or using his qi, the old man had easily intimidated his quarry into running. I’d seen lot of martial masters in my previous life, but this was my first time meeting someone who scared people off with his face…
Suddenly, I had an epiphany. Just through one morning’s events, I’d learned a simple fact that I’d never even considered before.
“Aha, so there was such a method… Hahaha…” I smiled gently like a monk attaining enlightenment.
Ak Yeon-Ho opened his eyes wide and incredulously asked, “Are you okay? Do you know what you’re saying?”
I was happy to convey my shocking revelation to his ignorant self. “I’m super excited. This is a brand new experience. Being handsome rocks!”
“……?” Ak Yeon-Ho shot me an indescribably concerned look and asked, “Just who was it that said ‘fuck lookism’ not too long ago?”
“Those are the words of an ugly person. However, what can I do about being born with this face? From now on, I will humbly accept my true self.”
I grinned vainly, while Ak Yeon-Ho sighed in exasperation, mumbling, “I wanted him to be self-aware, but he went and jumped off the deep end…”
Some time later, we were finally called to enter the interview room.
“I feel like I’ve seen him somewhere before…” The Azure Dragon Academy Headmaster, Mae Geuk-Lyom, furrowed his brows as he looked at the two pretty boys walking into the interview room.
Normally, he only judged new instructors by their teaching ability and not their appearances, but something about the tall young man nagged at him… and he was fairly sure that it had nothing to do with the commotion he had just stopped.
Whenever people gather, there will be conflicts. So why…does that tall punk annoy me so much?
“Is he the child of a graduate?” Mae Geuk-Lyom recalled the Azure Dragon Academy graduates who had left a strong impression on him, but within the last twenty years at least, he couldn’t match the tall young man’s appearance with anyone.
Although there were a lot of handsome young men, none of them made the girls go crazy like that, even after dressing up…
Mae Geuk-Lyom’s thoughts delved deeper into the past, until a face he never wanted to see again unpleasantly popped up in his mind.
“Don’t tell me…”
Once upon a time, there was a Young Lady-Killer who had kept countless girls awake at night from the moment he first stepped into the school.
The Number 1 Delinquent that he always had to keep an eye on for fear of dormitory chaos.
The Playboy who was famous not only within the Academy, but throughout the entire city of Nanchang.
The Fucking Bastard who had kidnapped his only daughter and ran away.
The Root Cause of his daughter cutting off their father-child relationship!
THE ACCURSED “HANDSOME PRINCE”, BAEK MU-HEUN!!!
“They look similar, very similar…”
All of a sudden, he couldn’t wait to find out the tall young man’s name.
The interview room was spacious and undecorated, and the only furniture inside were tables and chairs for the interview panel and the interviewees.
“Sit down. We’re starting the sixteenth interview now,” the tired-looking middle-aged interviewer on the left said.
I sat down in a row with Ak Yeon-Ho and three other interviewees, then observed the interviewers. Judging by the dao beside him, the one who just talked is the “Blazing Blade” Kwak Cheol-Woo, the Vice Principal of the Azure Dragon Academy. Next to him is the Thousand-Armed Bodhisattva, followed by the Three Absolutes Sword on the right.
“Please take turns introducing yourself,” he continued.
A short, smart-looking man sitting on the far left instantly leapt to his feet and yelled, “Good morning! I hail from the Shandong Myeong Family Manor…”
One by one, the interviewees introduced themselves, until finally, it was Ak Yeon-Ho’s turn.
As was natural for the son of a prestigious family, Ak Yeon-Ho politely said, “Greetings, good seniors. I am Ak Yeon-Ho from the Shandong Ak Clan. I applied as a spear arts instructor here on my family’s recommendation.”
Kwak Cheol-Woo and Nam-Goong Su’s expressions changed immediately upon hearing that Ak Yeon-Ho was from a powerful clan.
Kwak Cheol-Woo, the main questioner for the interviews, asked, “How are you related to the Spear King?”
“…He’s my uncle.”
“Have you seen him recently?”
“Right before I left home…”
Ak Yeon-Ho’s interview lasted longer than the rest of the previous applicants, and the interviewers were obviously biased toward him.
Finally, it was my turn. The instant I introduced myself, their attitudes made a complete 180.
“I am Baek Su-Ryong from Huichang County, and I taught martial arts to children for 10 years in an academy run by my father. I’m applying to the Azure Dragon Academy as an external arts instructor.”
“Hmph.” Kwak Cheol-Woo coughed dismissively at my humble self-introduction. He then read my recommendation letter from the Murim Alliance and said, “Your recommendation was written by the Flying Eagle, a well-known warrior in the gangho. Not long ago, you investigated and helped solve a case involving the murder of a civilian… Can you describe the case in detail to us?”
“The victim, Old Man Heo, was a notorious loan shark…”
As I started talking, I observed the interviewers’ reactions. Kwak Cheol-Woo pretended to be listening, while Nam-Goong Su seemed openly uninterested. Surprisingly though, the Academy Principal Noh Gun-Sang paid close attention to my story, his eyes glittering with interest.
“Hohoho, what an interesting story,” Noh Gun-Sang said, smiling gently like a Bodhisattva.
This nice-looking old man is the infamous Thousand-Armed Bodhisattva…? For a moment, I doubted my eyes. The Thousand-Armed Bodhisattva that I had heard of was a Crazy Hound with a temper like a lion and the stubbornness to pursue his enemies to the very end.
This person gives me the feeling a neighborhood old grandpa!
Normally, a martial artist would only undergo a drastic change of personality in two conditions: 1) They gained enlightenment and broke through to the next level; 2) They lost all hope and gave up.
I couldn’t tell which of the two had caused the change in Noh Gun-Sang.
“Principal, we’re running out of time. Shall we move on to the next person?” Kwak Cheol-Woo nagged.
“Oh dear, it seems that I got too engrossed. Please continue what you were doing.” Noh Gun-Sang nodded and turned away from me.
…Just like that, my turn ended.
When all the introductions were done, Kwak Cheol-woo announced to the panel, “From now on, you are free to pose questions to any of the applicants.”
Seeing the silent panel, Kwak Cheol-Woo turned toward Ak Yeon-Ho and continued questioning him, “Did the Spear King ever mention visiting the Azure Dragon Academy?”
“Uh, about that…” Kwak Cheol-Woo’s favoritism was so blatant that Ak Yeon-Ho hesitated and sneakily glanced at the other interviewees.
This is bad. I had no qualities worth mentioning, neither background nor outstanding martial arts. It was clear as day that the interviewers had no interest in me. Unless I did something right away, I would unquestionably fail the interview.
Just as I was fretting about how to attract attention, the “Three Absolutes Sword” Nam-Goong Su suddenly said, “Mr. Baek Su-Ryong.”
“Here,” I answered with a smile that would make any girl swoon.
However, all I received was a harsh, cold reply.
“Why did you apply to be an external arts instructor?”
Nam-Goong Su was a tall, intelligent, slim, and handsome man. For some unknown reason though, he seemed outright hostile toward me.
What the hell is wrong with this guy? I was annoyed, but I still answered him as politely as I could, “Right now, I’m most confident in my external arts. Of course, I can also teach swordsmanship, bladesmanship, hidden weapons, and combination techniques.”
In truth, I can teach most martial arts. Not only that, I’m also familiar with scholarly works and formation arts. However, if I admitted to all this, wouldn’t it be too presumptuous of me? I should be humble.
“You’re most confident in your outer arts…?” Nam-Goong Su began, and not with the best of intentions.
“Pfft!” Someone snorted.
Nam-Goong Su continued, “I don’t think you’re fit to be an external arts instructor. It might be because of my inexperience, but I don’t see many signs that you have mastered the external arts…” He glanced at Noh Gun-Sang, the strongest martial artist among the interviewers for confirmation.
Noh Gun-Sang smiled at me and said, “I’m quite sure that our friend here has learned a very unique kind of martial art, but I don’t think he’s at the level of Origin Return (返璞歸真).1 Of course, I won’t be so bold as to think that I am capable of judging a master beyond my skill…”
Although Noh Gun-Sang said that, everyone knew that what he said was impossible. After all, several decades ago, he was already one of the greatest masters in the world.
I nodded modestly, replying, “While it’s true that I don’t have much qi, that doesn’t mean that I am not accomplished in the external arts.”
However, my answer did not satisfy Nam-Goong Su in the least.
“Aren’t you just making excuses because you’re not confident in your inner arts?”
“No, it’s not like that…”
“Mr. Baek Su-Ryong, does the Azure Dragon Academy look like a joke to you? Do you think that the skills required to work here and that to teach children in the countryside are comparable?”
Is this the so-called stress interview?2 The fact that Nam-Goong Su did not like me was plain as day. However, to the me who was used to even more degrading treatment in the Blood Cult, this was nothing.
On the contrary, it was Ak Yeon-Ho who lost his patience. “Aren’t you being a bit too much?” he choked.
“I am simply chiding someone who applied to be an instructor at the Azure Dragon Academy without the required ability.”
“But prematurely judging people is…!”
“It’s all right,” I interrupted Ak Yeon-Ho mid-sentence, knowing that he was getting angry on my behalf. I then smiled gently, looked at Nam-Goong Su, and said, “Master Nam-Goong Su, do you doubt my skills? Or do you just hate me?”
“…I’m being impartial here.”
“I don’t think so.”
I think I know why he’s so mean to me. Likes repel and opposites attract. He and I, we’re too similar. We’re both cool, tall, thin, young, and handsome.
Frowning, Nam-Goong Su argued, “The Azure Dragon Academy is one of the Murim’s Five Great Academies. I take pride in being an instructor here, and I don’t want people who don’t meet the minimal requirements to look down on my work.”
“Then the solution is simple.”
Since we’re similar, we’ll definitely be compared. Nam-Goong Su instinctively feels threatened by my existence, and fears that I might replace him in the future.
I stood up from my seat and walked toward Nam-Goong Su.
This is exactly what I wanted, anyway.
I stood in front of Nam-Goong Su, looked down at him, and smiled. “Allow me to prove my skills,” I suggested.
He stared up at me dourly. “You’re going to prove it? How?”
Look at this guy, he’s so upset. However, a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye. I always repay my debts, good or bad.
I slammed my hands on the table, glared straight into his eyes, and said, “How about I just beat you to a pulp right now?”
Translator’s Note: Master Baek’s “How I Met My Worst Rival/Best Buddy/Wife(?)”. Happy Lunar New Year!
Origin Return (返璞歸真): When a master is so high-level that he/she seems like an ordinary person. ↩
Stress Interview: An interview designed to determine how a job applicant reacts under pressure. ↩