Choi Jung Soo pushed against the ground in order to stand up.
He was speaking his thoughts out loud.
Choi Jung Soo raised his head and looked forward. Choi Han was standing there with a loose grip on his sword.
‘How many times has it been?’
He had stopped counting a long time ago.
He had sparred with Choi Han too many times to count, however, he still couldn’t win.
‘Just the tip of his clothes…! I would win if I could even touch the tip of his clothes!’
The way for Choi Jung Soo to defeat Choi Han was to cut even 1 millimeter off the tip of Choi Han’s clothes.
But forget Choi Han’s clothes, Choi Jung Soo had not even been able to block Choi Han’s sword properly for the last few days.
His clenched fist was shaking.
It was because of his anger toward himself.
He heard a calm voice at that moment.
“Are you guys at least eating properly while you fight?”
Choi Jung Soo’s shoulders flinched.
He had not realized that someone had shown up. His head urgently turned toward the source of the noise.
Choi Jung Soo and Cale made eye contact.
“…You’re covered in dust.”
Choi Jung Soo looked away after hearing Cale’s emotionless voice.
Choi Jung Soo looked like a mess right now.
His clothes and body were covered in dust and he was drenched in sweat. Most importantly, his eyes were bloodshot and looked terrible.
Choi Jung Soo was aware of how terrible he looked right now.
That was why he was avoiding Cale’s calm face.
He heard Choi Han’s voice at that moment.
“We are making sure to eat every meal. I am making sure that he gets the proper nutrients for each meal as well.”
Cale’s expression turned odd.
‘Vicious bastard. He looks fine.’
Choi Han looked completely fine without even a single drop of sweat.
It made Cale recall when he watched Choi Han training the Wolf children.
The children had looked similar to Choi Jung Soo at that time.
‘But he’s not hurt anywhere.’
Cale’s gaze moved to the wall that Choi Jung Soo had crashed into.
It was not a regular stone wall but a wall with a soft cushion on it.
That wall was the only one with a dent while the other stone walls did not show any signs of damage at all.
‘He’s also feeding him on time and making sure he gets proper nutrients.’
Choi Jung Soo’s complexion was good for someone going through a difficult training schedule.
‘Well… Everything other than his bloodshot eyes that is…’
Cale’s gaze headed toward Choi Han.
Choi Han’s gaze as he looked at Choi Jung Soo was innocent and full of warmth and satisfaction.
‘He’s totally pampering him.’
Cale’s expression turned even odder.
Choi Jung Soo lowered his head after seeing Cale’s face turn even odder.
It looked as if Cale was feeling pity for him after seeing his condition.
He couldn’t even raise his head to look at Choi Han.
‘How weak must I be to……!’
How weak and easy of an opponent must he be that Choi Han could smile and defeat him without even trying?
He had gotten the chills after watching Choi Han fight before, but he could truly tell how strong Choi Han was after going up against him.
He felt like a tall and sturdy wall.
Cale looked back and forth between Choi Jung Soo, who had his head down, and Choi Han, who was looking at him with a satisfied expression, before making a comment.
“Do you just spar with each other?”
Choi Han responded to him.
“Training the body is all about the basics.”
Choi Jung Soo’s shoulders flinched at that moment.
It was because he had heard what Choi Han had just said somewhere else.
Choi Jung Soo thought for a moment before recalling some memories that he had buried deep inside.
‘Training the body is all about the basics!’
His father had said that.
‘Jung Soo. Training the body is something any martial artist in our Choi family must do.’
That was what his grandmother had said.
‘Hey. How can you defeat me when I’m older than you? I’ve been training my body for two years longer than you have. My foundation is much stronger than yours, so how can you win?’
And his older cousin.
He recalled the things that the people close to him had said over and over.
Choi Han looked at Cale and continued to speak.
“And you must build experience through sparring.”
Choi Jung Soo’s father had said the following.
‘Build your experiences through sparring!’
Choi Jung Soo’s lowered head slowly started to rise.
Cale looked toward Choi Han and asked at that moment.
“It looks like a real fight rather than a spar.”
Choi Jung Soo had a response to that in his mind.
It was something that his mother had said at some point.
Choi Jung Soo looked toward Choi Han.
His pupils were slightly shaking.
Choi Han looked at Cale and responded to the question at that moment.
“The intensity of the sparring might seem too much, but a real battle is a place full of death. You can’t compare the weight of such battles with this spar.”
Choi Jung Soo could hear his mother’s voice in his mind.
‘Son. The weight of a real battle cannot even compare to a spar like this. Real battles are situations where you may be close to death at any time.’
Choi Han continued to speak.
“In a real battle… You are fighting for your life and the lives of your allies on the battlefield. In order to save everyone…”
‘Jung Soo, in order to protect yourself and your people at that time…’
Choi Jung Soo started to speak.
‘For yourself and your people…’
“…You have to work your ass off while you train.”
Both Choi Han and Cale looked toward Choi Jung Soo.
Choi Jung Soo smiled after seeing their gazes.
Choi Han quietly looked at him before starting to speak.
“That is correct.”
His mother and father, as well as everybody who had taught Choi Jung Soo, had said the following.
‘You must work your ass off and train in order to protect yourself and your people.’
Choi Jung Soo realized something at this moment.
Choi Han’s sword art and his family’s sword art had the same foundation.
Although the foundation was the same, Choi Han’s sword art had been developed further for real battles.
Choi Jung Soo looked directly at Choi Han who had the same family name as him and became more certain about something.
‘There’s definitely some type of relationship between this person and me.’
His eyes clouded over as he quietly observed Choi Han.
Choi Han avoided his gaze at that moment.
Choi Jung Soo started to smile.
Cale, who was watching this, started to smile as well.
‘Looks like Choi Jung Soo is sharper than Choi Han.’
Would the innocent Choi Han be able to keep the two of their relationship a secret from the sly and smart Choi Jung Soo?
‘Well, I’m sure he’ll take care of it.’
It was only right for Cale to just watch what happened between these two people without getting involved.
“Choi Han already knows about this, but we are planning on leaving at noon tomorrow.”
Choi Han had a stoic expression while Choi Jung Soo looked toward Cale with a slightly nervous expression.
“Do what you need to do to prepare.”
Cale then walked back out of the training ground after saying that.
But he saw someone open the training ground door and come out before he could even let go of the doorknob.
The person groaning was Lee Chul Min.
Cale looked at him and calmly started to speak.
“You look like shit.”
Lee Chul Min bit down on his lips.
Someone started to speak from behind him at that moment.
“Are you not going to move?”
The person sounded quite tired.
Lee Chul Min flinched and quickly walked out of the doorway and the person behind him appeared as well.
It was Park Jin Tae.
“…Kim Rok Soo.”
Cale and Park Jin Tae made eye contact and both of them let go of the door.
The door of both training grounds closed.
The two of them stood with the doors to the two training grounds behind them as they quietly observed each other.
Eventually, Park Jin Tae looked away and started to walk.
Lee Chul Min peeked for a bit before quickly following behind Park Jin Tae.
Cale just watched Park Jin Tae and Lee Chul Min walk away.
‘They look terrible.’
Lee Chul Min and Park Jin Tae looked much worse than Choi Jung Soo.
Park Jin Tae looked much worse than Lee Chul Min.
Both of Park Jin Tae’s hands were covered in bandages and those bandages were bloody.
It was at that moment.
They heard a loud noise that filled the hallway.
Cale looked toward the wall right next to the door from where Park Jin Tae had come out.
The wall was sticking out and starting to crack.
Cale started to speak.
“The training ground wall is going to be destroyed.”
Park Jin Tae stopped walking.
But Cale was still looking at the cracked training ground wall.
There was a loud noise coming from inside the training ground even after Lee Chul Min and Park Jin Tae had left.
The person responsible for this was Lee Soo Hyuk.
Lee Soo Hyuk was currently training Lee Chul Min and Park Jin Tae.
‘Of course, Lee Chul Min probably thinks it is torture rather than training.’
Lee Chul Min just completely avoided Cale’s gaze.
Cale looked toward Park Jin Tae who had turned around and nonchalantly commented.
“Having more training is always good.”
Park Jin Tae’s shoulders stiffened a bit after hearing what Cale said next.
“But it’s bad if it is going to affect you in the real battle.”
Park Jin Tae’s expression sank while Lee Chul Min who saw this quickly looked back at Cale before not knowing where to look after seeing Cale’s even colder gaze.
Park Jin Tae soon started to speak.
“…I am taking care of my body.”
Park Jin Tae could see Kim Rok Soo walk past him.
He was looking at Kim Rok Soo’s back as he had quickly passed by him when Cale started to speak again.
“Good, that’s how it should be.”
He then made one last comment.
“See you tomorrow.”
Cale then didn’t even look at Park Jin Tae and Lee Chul Min before opening the door and walking into the third training ground.
There were some people waiting for him there.
“Sir, you’re here?”
Bae Puh Rum, the man who rides the wind, and Kim Min Ah, the woman with Herculean Strength.
“Rok Soo, you’re here?”
“Mr. Rok Soo, you’re here.”
Jang Man Soo, the defensive wall, and Joo Ho-Shik, the man with the power of faith.
Cale headed toward the middle of these four people who were training.
He started to speak to the four people who were looking at him.
“We are heading out tomorrow, so let’s only train for about two hours today. Training is-”
Bae Puh Rum and Kim Min Ah cut Cale off and finished his sentence.
“Is all about efficiency!”
“Is all about efficiency?”
“…Yes, you are correct.”
Cale chuckled and stretched out his arms.
A current and water.
Those two powers started to come out of Cale’s body.
“I’ll keep it light today.”
He flicked his hand toward the four people.
“Come at me.”
The day before they headed out.
The final training was happening throughout the entire shelter.
* * *
The large castle gate slowly opened.
Early November. The air that was cold even though it was the middle of the day spread out to the outside of the castle gate.
And once the castle gate was completely opened…
“Hyung-nim, let’s go.”
“Of course, my dongsaeng.”
The large tiger whose black mane was majestically fluttering revealed itself.
There was a young man wearing a black military uniform on top of the tiger.
This man was between a boy and a young man.
Cale, this man who was in between those two ages, looked toward the castle wall.
And on top of the castle wall…
Heo Sook Ja, who would be responsible for the defense of the Seomyeon shelter while they went to fight against the unranked monster, was standing there.
Cale nodded his head and Heo Sook Ja blew into the horn flute in her hand.
A large bird shot up into the air from inside the castle walls.
The Hawk with steel feathers flew in the sky with some people on her back as she cast her shadow down at the castle.
The Steel Feather Hawk was looking somewhere.
At the end of her gaze was…
The Dark Tiger who slowly turned around.
Cale could now see the numerous people gathered behind him.
These people had followed behind Cale with Choi Han at the front.
There were the Seomyeon shelter’s people standing behind Lee Soo Hyuk.
There were also the representatives from around the country who had agreed to participate in this battle.
Cale looked down toward them and caressed the tiger’s mane.
The Dark Tiger slowly looked forward again.
Cale could feel the nervousness and excitement in the people behind him as he closed his eyes.
‘It starts now.’
He would change one more thing just as he had already done.
‘I will completely change the future.’
No, he would destroy his despair.
Cale opened his eyes again.
The ruined city was in front of him. However, he could clearly see the path he needed to take.
He opened his mouth to speak.
“Everybody, to your positions.”
Numerous people quickly started to move out of the Seomyeon shelter and toward their respective positions for the operation.