The warrior’s Rebirth Chapter 18

Chapter 8. I’ve Come Myself After All. -04(Revised)

As Seok Jin-ho caressed his companion, the creature Heukhwi pricked up his ears, a sign that despite its magical nature, it still retained animalistic sensitivities—especially when it came to treats.

“Little one.”

Chuckling at the continuous twitching of ears and nose, Seok Jin-ho couldn’t help but find humor in the primal instincts of the creature.

“Bring it here.”

“Yes, miss.”

With graceful movements, the servant Sibi placed a small tray next to Seok Miryong’s teacup. The immediate effect was evident in Heukhwi, whose eyes snapped open with interest.

“Hahaha!”

Seok Miryong couldn’t help but wear a smug expression as Heukhwi now seemed more focused on the tray of treats, a difference night and day compared to its attitude earlier.

Animals would be animals, regardless of their intelligence.

She planned to use these treats to bridge a connection with Heukhwi.

“You’ve prepared quite a bit in such a short time.”

“A job worth doing, is worth doing well. It’s the little things that make the difference. But what’s the name?”

“Heukhwi.”

“A male, I presume?”

“Yes. Typically favors females, but…”

Seok Jin-ho trailed off, his voice fading.

Heukhwi hadn’t rejected human touch when he was brought down from the mountains; it allowed stroking and petting as long as people weren’t too bothersome. However, Heukhwi’s sudden hostility toward Seok Miryong had puzzled Seok Jin-ho, blurring the parameters of the creature’s acceptance.

“Heukhwi, what shall I give you first? A fresh fish? Or perhaps semi-dried?”

Seok Miryong wiggled the two options enticingly between her fingers, and Heukhwi’s gaze followed the swaying fish from side to side.

Her tactics seemed to be working.

“Or perhaps some jerky? These here are quite special: there’s chicken, pork, beef, rabbit, and even horse.”

Sniffing loudly, Heukhwi’s nose flared with each new scent, understanding without words these were not ordinary treats.

Curiosity piqued, it inched closer to Seok Miryong.

“Which do you want first? What are you craving?”

Seok Miryong spread an assortment of snacks across the table, and Heukhwi’s pupils darted about, quivering as if touched by an earthquake.

Though taken care of by Sohajeong, the spread before Seok Miryong was surely a feast.

Heukhwi swallowed, visibly tempted.

“You may eat. There’s no harm.”

Doubt clouded Heukhwi’s face, a striking expression for a cat.

Even its indecisiveness charmed Seok Miryong.

Noiselessly, and perhaps feeling permitted by Seok Jin-ho, Heukhwi crept onto the table.

It moved closer to Seok Miryong, glancing back and forth between the jerky and her.

“Feel free. It’s all yours.”

Seok Miryong leaned back in her chair.

She had no intention of touching Heukhwi right away; even though her instincts yelled to hug and nuzzle the creature, she knew patience would pay off.

Only by easing Heukhwi’s wariness could a longer embrace be possible later on.

With a quick motion, Heukhwi snatched a strip of rabbit jerky and returned to Seok Jin-ho, contentedly tearing into it with deft paws.

“So adorable…”

“Why don’t you keep pets?”

“Call me ‘older sister,’ not ‘miss.’”

“I prefer ‘miss.’ It’s easier.”

Seok Miryong rolled her eyes, a sign of mild annoyance at Seok Jin-ho’s refusal to breach their formal distance.

“But what brings you here all of a sudden?”

“I told you we should get comfortable. Just curious to see how you’re doing after your trip, not because of any conversation with the patriarch.”

“Not at all. I didn’t even know Grandfather had called you.”

Seok Miryong shrugged, genuine curiosity notwithstanding.

There were things she truly wanted to know.

“That’s so?”

“Would it benefit me to doubt you?”

“That’s a fair point. But why’d you head out suddenly? Grandfather’s been discreetly digging around Beijing. Did you know?”

“Was he?”

Seok Jin-ho was unfazed by the patriarch Seokbigang’s actions or any insinuations about their lack of a close bond.

“Surprised you’re not more shocked. It was quite startling for me. You see, it’s not without reason I said I was favored. Nothing like it has ever happened before.”

“If you’ve come back safe, isn’t that what matters?”

“Did you say the same to Grandfather?”

“There’s no need to report every detail of my life. I do have a personal life, you know.”

His tone was assertive, resolute, leaving Seok Miryong chuckling, even as she found it unsurprising.

“Don’t your brothers want to meet? The elder might be uninterested but the younger…”

“Don’t worry. I’ll leave shortly after my eighteenth birthday.”

Cutting to the core of Seok Miryong’s intentions, Seok Jin-ho declared it confidently, her cheeks coloring with slight embarrassment at his directness.

“It wasn’t like that. But what are you planning? Doesn’t seem like you’re training in martial arts just to wander the martial world.”

“I have a few things in mind. Definitely not business-related.”

“So why the martial arts training?”

“Hobby, partly. And to protect my family.”

“So we’re not family?”

Seok Miryong posed the question with a significant look, half-joking, half-serious.

“Blood ties don’t make a family.”

“That’s cold.”

“I believe you feel the same.”

“Maybe, but I don’t say it outright.”

Seok Miryong showed a twinge of hurt, knowing too well her previous indifference toward Seok Jin-ho.

“Rather be honest than create false hope.”

“A valid point, but moderation is needed. You can be too blunt.”

“I’ll try to be better next time.”

“Empty words. Your face says it all.”

Seok Jin-ho grinned, an unspoken affirmation.

Their conversation turned to casual subjects, and though Seok Miryong tried using snacks to break down Heukhwi’s guards, it ultimately failed.

Approaching the impressive gates of the Seok family, large enough to be a village in their own right, a tall man and woman arrived, drawing the attention of merchants and passerby alike. The woman’s beauty was so striking that all took notice, regardless of gender.

“The scale is certainly impressive.”

“Given their influence in the central plains, even martial sects like the Shaolin, Wudang, or Nangong clans pale in comparison.”

“Indeed.”

The tall beauty appeared taken aback, aware of the Seok family but never having paid close attention.

“I heard that you, not being a direct descendent, wield limited influence within Seok’s estate.”

“With such prowess?”

“It seems they may be deliberately hiding their abilities.”

“Of course. They left without a word that day. I thought it might be their deep involvement with the upper class, but…”

Peng Na-yeon reflected, her staff on her back seeming too heavy for her slender figure.

She remembered being saved from bandits, the image embedded like a painting in her mind. The movements while fending off the two-colored ghost were particularly vivid.

“I thought the same until I inquired about our benefactor. It seems they’re underplaying their skills. Though known for martial arts, no one truly knows their level.”

“Is it alright to come unannounced?”

Peng Na-yeon hesitated, her confidence waning upon arrival.

“Miss, if they’ve let you come this far, surely they won’t turn you away. They might be surprised, but they won’t send us off.”

“Right?”

“Yes. Besides, we’ve come to express gratitude, not ill intention. There’s no need to worry.”

Bai Shang-gun’s assurance eased some of the stiffness from Peng Na-yeon’s tense expression. Having done nothing wrong, she saw little reason for concern.

“Let’s go inside, Miss.”

“Yes.”

“Where are you from?”

Challenged by the gatekeeper amidst a sea of comers and goers, Bai Shang-gun was taken aback by the vigilance due to their intimidating stature.

“We hail from the northern Peng clan.”

“The northern Peng clan? To meet Seok Jin-ho?”

“Yes. Would you mind sending a message?”

“Northern Peng clan…” the gatekeeper exclaimed, the name carrying enormous weight, for even someone unfamiliar with the Five Great Families would recognize this prominent one.

Yet, a problem lingered.

“Seok Jin-ho, you said?”

“Is there such a person?”

“Don’t tell me a bastard son?”

“It has to be, right?”

Bai Shang-gun crinkled his brows. The level of respect for a formidable martial artist within Seok’s household became clear from this exchange, a realization shared by Peng Na-yeon beside him who couldn’t help but snicker.

“Not familiar?”

“Wait, please! I’ll send word immediately!”

One of the gatekeepers hastily retreated inside to deliver the message, leaving his colleague to guard. The fact of unfamiliarity with Jin-ho among the gatekeepers contrasted sharply with what Bai Shang-gun knew of Seok’s hierarchy. It was bemusing at least.

“How long might that be?”

“Just a moment, esteemed sir.”

“Hmm!”

A stern look crossed Bai Shang-gun’s face. The gatekeeper gulped, feeling an odd pressure, as if witnessing the stature of a true martial arts master.

‘”Is this the aura of an actual martial arts master?’ he wondered, the overwhelming presence exceeding even that of the Seok houseguards.

As he contemplated the gravitas of the northern Peng clan, a group arrived hurriedly from within.

Accompanying his own escort was a young man, beaming and recognizable to Bai Shang-gun whose reaction, however, was less than enthusiastic.

“Looks like things might get complicated.”

“Look on the bright side. The gatekeepers may not know, but the brothers do, right?”

“That’s true.”

A tight frown marked Bai Shang-gun’s concern as he surveyed the youth grinning ear to ear, foreseeing that resolution wouldn’t come easily.

“Miss Peng, long time no see!”

“Ah, hello.”

“What brings you to our home? You should have sent word…”

“I’ve come to see Seok Jin-ho.”

End of Chapter 8. I’ve Come Myself After All. -04(Revised)



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *