Chapter 22. A Teacher’s Affection
“Why do you like me? Because I’m smart? Because I’m able to understand everything you teach me?”
“……..Where in hell did you hear something so stupid?”
Young Gongson Chun Gi looked up at the man sitting on the top of the tree.
“Then why’d you choose me? You had disciples other than me.”
“You think I chose you?”
The man with the red hair. He, who was the previous pope of the church, the Hellfire Demon, made a dumbfounded face.
He then replied to his disciple with a smirk.
“A teacher doesn’t choose his student. The student is the one that chooses his teacher.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’ll see when you get a disciple.”
Young Gongson Chun Gi tilted his head in curiosity.
Looking at that, the pope spoke.
“By the way, you know what I wish the most these days?”
“I wish a guy like you becomes your disciple. A person as idiotic as you. Seriously, I’ve never seen a person as dumb as you during the seventy years of my life.”
“Is that a compliment?”
When young Gongson Chun Gi asked this with a happy face, the pope just muttered something while looking up at the sky.
“…….I wish I could see my teacher nowadays. I’ve probably sinned too much for that to ever happen, though.”
“You should be a good person, teach.”
When the pope heard Gongson Chun Gi’s comment from below, he just laughed.
“I should. It’s a little too late, though……”
“Hey, what was teacher’s teacher like?”
“Yeah. Teacher’s teacher.”
“My teacher……. hehe, he was a dense old man.”
Young Gongson Chun Gi made a surprised face.
He then asked a question.
“…….Sometimes, I just can’t tell if you’re just joking or telling the truth. That just drives me crazy.”
“I’m always truthful, teach.”
“That just makes me angrier, damned disciple.”
“Don’t get angry, teach. It’s bad for your health. That’s what the medicine guy said. He even gave you pills for it last time, remember?”
“Damn it……. who do you think made me eat those pills in the first place? Hah… The fact that there’s no one talented as this idiot makes me sad.”
That’s how the pope passed on his martial arts techniques to young Gongson Chun Gi, all the while complaining about his own circumstance.
After several decades, Gongson Chun Gi was looking up into the sky at the same place where he held the conversation with his teacher.
“I was actually messing with you a little back then, teach. Your reactions were just too funny.”
Gongson Chun Gi grinned, and stroked the the same tree the previous pope sat on.
“I thought you were joking back then, but I guess it was actually true, huh. A disciple really was the one that chose the teacher. I kind of understand what you were talking about now.”
Touching the rough bark of the tree with his palm, Gongson Chun Gi kept muttering to himself.
“It doesn’t happen often, but I want to see you at times like this. I was kind of jealous of your straightforwardness. Especially when this kind of stuff happens.”
The person who chooses the disciple isn’t the teacher. The teacher merely provides a chance for the disciple to take him, but the final decision is always made by the disciple himself.
“Cho Ryu Hyang, was it? I wish he would be one of those cheeky people you wanted me to take in. I don’t really want to take in an indecisive person. I’d rather take a ferocious one.”
Gongson Chun Gi stared up at the sky, and jumped up to the tree branch his teacher liked to sit on. He spoke again while lying down on the branch.
“Come to think of it, I think I thought that you were going to be my teacher from the start. That’s probably why I didn’t refuse you when you said that I would be your heir.”
Gongson Chun Gi looked up at the sky, which was obstructed by several leaves and branches, and smiled.
“The view here’s actually pretty good. It’s indeed a place that teacher would’ve liked.”
In the beginning.
Gongson Chun Gi met the pope at Gansu, and not the main headquarters of the church.
That’s why Gongson Chun Gi believed that his meeting with Cho Ryu Hyang might’ve actually been fate.
* * *
“I should go meet the boy.”
“Oh! You finally decided?”
“Decide? I’m not the one to decide. The kid is the one that’ll decide. I’m just afraid that the kid would refuse.”
Guardian Wu smiled a little as he followed Gongson Chun Gi.
There was no way that was the case. The pope’s the one that makes decisions. And the child would definitely not refuse.
Think about it. How could you refuse, when a person offered you money and fame?
‘Hehe, if there’s a person like that, he’d have to be either crazy or insane.’
Unfortunately, the boy they were meeting seemed to be either one of those two.
“I find you quite interesting, how about you?”
Cho Ryu Hyang was unable to figure out what the pope meant. When he made a confused expression, Gongson Chun Gi scratched his cheeks and talked.
“Well? Do you want to try being my disciple? I’m Gongson Chun Gi, the pope of the Heavenly Demon Church, by the way.”
Cho Ryu Hyang answered Gongson Chun Gi without even a hint of hesitation.
“……..Why? Why don’t you want to?”
Guardian Wu left the pope behind and grabbed onto Cho Ryu Hyang’s hands. He looked into the boy’s face with a desperate expression.
“Is it because of the rumors about the church in the martial world? Don’t trust them, young lord. They’re all fake.”
Cho Ryu Hyang made a troubled face. He didn’t know why this bearlike elder was being so lively here, but the old man’s actions here was just bothering him.
Right when he was about to speak, Guardian Wu started talking again.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. If you become the heir to the church, you’ll be able to control 100,000 followers of the church with the tip of your hands. If you want, you can have a giant feast for yourself every day, and you can acquire anything you ever wished for. How is it?”
When Cho Ryu Hyang was about to speak, Guardian Wu yet again cut the boy off.
“It seems that the young lord hasn’t seen the tremendous power of the church yet, but…….”
“Stop, you idiotic fool. You’re starting to say some inappropriate stuff. To a child.”
Gongson Chun Gi pulled back the old man, who was talking non-stop in front of Cho Ryu Hyang., and apologized.
“Sorry. This old man’s quite immature. He troubled you quite a bit. Please understand.”
“Please reconsider. Something like this won’t ever happen again in your lifetime.”
“I told you before, don’t you remember? You can take a cattle to the river, but you can’t force it to drink. A person mustn’t try to create a relationship that’s bound to not work out. Don’t you think so?”
Cho Ryu Hyang nodded. Looking at that, Gongson Chun Gi made a regretful face, but soon shook his head.
“I respect your decision. Since unlike this old man, I’m a responsible adult. But I do have to leave you with an offer.”
Gongson Chun Gi spoke whilst looking at Cho Ryu Hyang.
“If your mind ever changes, just tell me. You can tell me while you are here, or even after you leave this place. I’m a patient person, so I can wait.”
Guardian Wu thought that that last part was just a big fat lie, but he didn’t say it out loud. He just started punching his chest in frustration.
Cho Ryu Hyang, who was looking at the old man, spoke. It seemed that he finally got a chance to speak up.
“It’s a proposal I am thankful for, but I already have a teacher.”
Gongson Chun Gi’s eyes widened.
“You refused me because of that?”
“Yes. A person must never take on two teachers, after all.”
When Cho Ryu Hyang said this, Guardian Wu’s face brightened considerably. He looked at the pope with eyes filled with respect.
“Your holiness is indeed amazing. You were able to predict all this. This is really amazing.”
“It’s good that you know.”
“Isn’t this case closed, then?”
Cho Ryu Hyang made a confused face when he heard this conversation. He didn’t understand what was going on.
While Gongson Chun Gi was trying to think about what he should say next, Guardian Wu spoke to Cho Ryu Hyang with a smile.
“We already got permission from your teacher. The young lord doesn’t have to worry about that, hoho.”
Gongson Chun Gi’s face twisted a little when he saw Cho Ryu Hyang’s face change. It was too late to fix anything now.
‘This darned old man…….’
Gongson Chun Gi glared at Guardian Wu with murderous eyes, then spoke.
“We’ve made a mistake. You should’ve heard this from your teacher first, but it seems that the order got reversed. We got too rushed on our side.”
Cho Ryu Hyang’s face shook noticably. Gongson Chun gi, who was observing the boy’s face, kept talking.
“Don’t go on thinking that your teacher abandoned you. He treasured you so much, that he made this painful decision, believing that it would be good for you. That’s why he agreed to all this.”
It felt like he was hit was a jackhammer. Cho Ryu hyang rubbed his eyes a little. What did they just say? Did he listen correctly?
“It looks like we really came at a bad time. How about talking again after you go meet up with your teacher?”
He had to talk with his teacher first. It felt like he could be able to accept all this after talking about why his teacher made this decision.
* * *
“Well, things ended up like this because of that. I apologize.”
Jo Gi Chun looked at Gongson Chun Gi, who had visited him while he was observing the formation, and sighed. It seemed that it was an accident. And he was apologizing, too. After listening to everything, it seemed that he too, had to take some responsibility.
“I’ll go talk to the boy.”
Jo Gi Chun nodded, and went to the room that his disciple was in. Cho Ryu Hyang was waiting for him. The boy, who had prepared some tea on a small table, stood up when he saw his teacher enter and proceeded with the formalities.
“Yes. Let’s sit.”
Jo Gi Chun sat down on the spot where Cho Ryu Hyang was sitting, and poured some tea for himself.
“I heard that the order of events have been switched. Even so, the end result shouldn’t be too different.”
This felt ominous. When Cho Ryu Hyang made a dark face, Jo Gi Chun spoke.
“I’ve been thinking since a long time back. If something good happened to you in the future, I would let you go. And that just happened to happen here.”
“But it seemed that human greed was really a scary thing.”
Jo Gi Chun finished pouring tea for himself, and looked at Cho Ryu Hyang. A while later, he spoke.
“It wasn’t easy to let you go. Even now, I can’t really accept it. But I know that’s just a product of my greed.”
“I can’t turn back from the path of mathematics now, but you’re different. You still have plenty of chances.”
Cho Ryu Hyang stared at his teacher’s face. Jo Gi Chun too, gazed upon the boy.
How long did they look at each other? Cho Ryu Hyang’s face changed quite a bit during that span of time. At first, a surprised face, then a regretful one. And the face at last settled on an emotionless expression.
Cho Ryu Hyang began talking slowly.
“Teacher is……. very selfish.”
“Even when you say that you are doing this for me, it still sounds selfish. Teacher knows what I want, and what I want to do, more so than anyone else in the world, don’t you?”
More than anyone.
But that’s why he felt that he had to give up on the boy. He couldn’t have a boy with this much talent tied down by math. That would make him truly selfish.
“Yes, like you said, I am a selfish man. I’ve lived that way till now. I have never regretted any of decisions, nor have I ever looked back at anything.”
He even ignored his family out of selfishness.
When he thought that much, Jo Gi Chun made a bitter face.
“But the moment I said that I would give you up to the pope of the church, I’ve regretted my decision. Even now, I regret saying that.”
Jo Gi Chun put the teacup to his mouth. His trembling hand clearly showed how much he regretted his decision.
“I don’t know if you believe me, but I think I will continue regretting this. But even if I do, I won’t think that I’ve done a bad thing. Indeed, like you said, I must be quite selfish.”
Cho Ryu Hyang stayed silent when he saw his teacher’s trembling hand. He was able to see that his teacher didn’t make this choice easily.
Because he was his teacher. Because he knew what his teacher was like. As they talked with each other, Cho Ryu Hyang was able to realize that his teacher made a difficult decision.
But so what?
Just what does that change?
His teacher was trying to send him away. Even though his teacher doesn’t want it, he is trying to push away his only disciple. Since his teacher treasured Cho Ryu Hyang very much, the teacher’s mind wouldn’t change.
‘What should I do?’
Cho Ryu Hyang asked himself a question.
But he didn’t really need to do so. He didn’t want to leave his teacher. How should he make it so that he didn’t have to leave his teacher, then?
As much as Jo Gi Chun loved his disciple, Cho Ryu Hyang respected his teacher. Cho Ryu Hyang also knew that there was no one else like his teacher in the world, a person who understood Cho Ryu Hyang to that degree.
‘I like math.’
No, to be specific, he liked studying mathematics with his teacher. It was like that in the past, the present, and it wouldn’t ever change in the future.
He couldn’t abandon his teacher, who he could learn from, and share discoveries with.
That was his conclusion.
Cho Ryu Hyang looked at his teacher again. He could see his teacher, who possessed eyes eyes of firm determination. Cho Ryu Hyang’s face slowly wrinkled when he saw it.
‘This won’t do.’
His teacher wouldn’t take it. His teacher had a look of determination in his eyes, and through it, one could see that the man didn’t make this choice for mere comfort. The man made this choice, firmly believing that Cho Ryu Hyang would benefit from this.
That just served to make Cho Ryu Hyang want to stay with his teacher more. It was because
he could feel how much his teacher cared for Cho Ryu Hyang’s future. What kind of a disciple would leave a teacher like that?
Cho Ryu Hyang organized his thoughts, and spoke.
“Teacher said that you were a selfish man. I don’t know if that’s true, but teacher can continue living the way you did. I too, will live selfishly from now.”
Jo Gi Chun closed his eyes. Good. It seemed that his disciple understood his intentions, one way or the other.
It hurt him to see the cold eyes of his disciple, but didn’t he brace himself for that already? There was no need for him to be sad, or regretful about all this.
When he set his mind on this, his disciple opened his mouth.
“I know you’re trying to give me up for my sake. Since I understand your purpose, I will comply with your wishes.”
“Will you listen to the choice I’ve made, then?”
“Don’t you already know what I want you to do?”
Cho Ryu Hyang fixed his glasses.
“I want to follow your decision, and my wishes as well. As you know, I am a realist.”
Jo Gi Chun stared at his disciple.
Cho Ryu Hyang smiled.
“And I’m quite greedy as well.”
Humans can’t live greedily, doing whatever they want. But Cho Ryu Hyang right now was going to be greedy.
“I’m going to take on two teachers now. I hope you would agree with my wishes.”
It was a foolish request. But this was the best Cho Ryu Hyang could come up with at the time.
“Do you truly believe that the pope will agree to this?”
“I’ll make him.”
Cho Ryu Hyang smiled.
After having Jo Gi Chun agree to his plan somewhat, Cho Ryu Hyang began thinking. He had to get the pope to agree to this. Otherwise, his beloved teacher might leave him. Cho Ryu Hyang wanted to avoid that at all costs.