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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!


“Captain.”

Seo Mu-Sang and Won Jeok-Shim greeted Yeop Wol and Jang Pae-San as they returned to the Northern Army Fortress.

When Seo Mu-Sang saw that the person accompanying Jang Pae-San was Yeop Wol, resentment flashed through his dead, emotionless eyes for a moment. However, Jang Pae-San failed to notice this anomaly and gleefully said, “Vice-Captain, I have a lot of things to tell you guys today, so bring everyone to my room tonight.”

Jang Pae-San patted Seo Mu-Sang on the shoulder a few times, then headed inside the fortress, followed closely by Won Jeok-Shim.

Seo Mu-Sang was just about to leave as well when Yeop Wall suddenly said, “Hey, just how long are you going to keep ignoring me? Are we supposed to pretend that we don’t know each other?”

Seo Mu-Sang shuddered like he had been struck by lightning. He haltingly raised his head to look at Yeop Wol.

“Mu-Sang, don’t say that you can’t see me even though I’m standing right in front of you.”

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“Yeop Wol.”

“Haha, finally! My old friend, how are you?”

“Friend? You still consider me a friend?”

Seo Mu-Sang did his best to maintain his poker face, but couldn’t stop himself from scowling in the end. Contrary to Seo Mu-Sang’s ugly expression, Yeop Wol wore a fake smile on his lips.

“Haven’t we been friends for ten years? To me, you’re still a friend.”

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“Is snatching away a friend’s beloved something that friends do?”

“You already know that it was an arranged marriage between our families. I didn’t have a choice.”

“You didn’t have a choice? Who are you kidding? Do you honestly think I don’t know that you used your family’s connections in order to arrange that marriage?”

Seo Mu-Sang lost his temper. As his rage boiled over, his rationality evaporated as well. He pulled out his sword and charged toward Yeop Wol like a raging bull.

SHING!

Yeop Wol effortlessly defended against Seo Mu-Sang’s surprise attack, but Seo Mu-Sang then unleashed a flurry of blows down upon him.

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“You’re still the same as before,” mumbled Yeop Wol as he countered each and every blow. However, his casual response only angered Seo Mu-Sang further.

Seo Mu-Sang unleashed the full force of the Blue Cloud Sword Style.

CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

As the blades clashed, sparks flew everywhere.

Seo Mu-Sang went all out, harboring killing intent within his every swing. However, in the end, he could not even graze Yeop Wol’s clothes.

“You haven’t improved at all.”

“SHUT THE FUCK UP! YEOP WOLLL!”

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In the face of Yeop Wol’s constant taunting, Seo Mu-Sang lost his last shred of reason. He recklessly used the strongest skill he knew, the Blue Cloud Sword Style’s “Cloud-Dividing Sword (一劍斷雲)”.

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SWISH!

Seo Mu-Sang’s blade seemed to explode like a firework, surrounding Yeop Wol with a whirlwind of slashes. Yeop Wol’s fake smile instantly vanished.

ROAR!

A sharp, blinding red light flashed from Yeop Wol’s sword. The light sliced through the air, cutting through all of Seo Mu-Sang’s attacks.

KCHAK!

“Ugh!” groaned Seo Mu-Sang as the sword he had been using for the last ten years was split into two.

Yeop Wol’s sword landed on Seo Mu-Sang’s left shoulder, the blade touching his neck. He only needed to move his blade an inch to the right to give Seo Mu-Sang a fatal injury.

Although the knowledge pained him, Seo Mu-Sang knew that this situation was not an accident. It was a result of Yeop Wol’s control over his blade.

“You can’t possibly defeat me using the Blue Cloud Sword Style that is taught to every low-level grunt hired by Heaven’s Summit. However, it’s not every day that I get to meet an old friend, so I will forget about what happened today. Your wound isn’t that serious, and you’ll probably recover fully after a few days of rest.”

“Grr!”

“Don’t be so frustrated about your loss. My starting point was far ahead of yours, after all,” consoled Yeop Wol in a mocking tone.

Unlike Seo Mu-Sang, who was an orphan, Yeop Wol came from a reputable family. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and his path in life was already fully paved for him.

From a certain point of view, it could be said that Seo Mu-Sang and Yeop Wol’s meeting was destiny, as they had come from vastly different backgrounds. They had gotten to know each other by accident, but the two men had hit it off immediately. However, everything changed a few years later, when they met a woman named Seo Yu-Ran.

Seo Yu-Ran was the highly intelligent and beautiful eldest daughter of the Jiangsu Seo Clan, a family of fallen nobles. She and Seo Mu-Sang had fallen in love with each other at first sight and had even been prepared to spend their futures together.

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Unfortunately for them, that period of bliss ended when Yeop Wol, a man who would do anything in order to get the things he wanted, decided to get between them. Just like Seo Mu-Sang, Yeop Wol had fallen in love with Seo Yu-Ran.

Yeop Wol knew what the fallen Jiangsu Seo Clan needed the most—money. And money was something that Yeop Wol’s family had in abundance. Thus, he pushed for an arranged marriage between him and Seo Yu-Ran in exchange for financial support.

Seo Mu-Sang was furious, but there was nothing a run-of-the-mill mercenary like him could do. In the end, Yeop Wol had married Seo Yu-Ran while he had been exiled to this fortress in the middle of nowhere.

In addition, Yeop Wol had been scouted by Shim Won-Ui, the young heir of Judgment Heaven, not long after his marriage. This guaranteed that he would have a bright future ahead of him. Even the martial arts that he had learned from Judgment Heaven were far superior to Seo Mu-Sang’s, so much so that there was no comparison to be made between them.

Yeop Wol pointed his sword at Seo Mu-Sang and said, “By the way, your captain has decided to serve our Lord, which means that we will be seeing each other very often from now on. We can’t be fighting every single time we meet, so I hope that you will be able to keep a rein on your temper from now on.”

“What? Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Your captain even prostrated himself in front of our lord. He left quite the impression on me.”

“Khh!” Seo Mu-Sang grit his teeth, swamped by feelings of betrayal. He had no idea that Jang Pae-San had gone to swear fealty to Shim Won-Ui. There was no way he’d be able to avoid Yeop Wol if they were working for the same person and being constantly reminded of his most painful memories was the last thing Seo Mu-Sang wanted.

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Feeling helpless, Seo Mu-Sang looked away. He was just about to leave when Yeop Wol provoked him even further, saying, “Did you know? The one who proposed our marriage wasn’t me. It was her.”

Seo Mu-Sang froze in his tracks.

“Don’t lie to me, Yeop Wol. Do you honestly think I would believe you?”

“What reason would I have to lie to you? That woman isn’t as naïve or innocent as you seem to think she is. In fact, she’s quite the ambitious lady. She was the one who wanted to use me as a stepping stone to relieve herself and her family from their burdens. Even if you don’t believe me, all you have to do is to plow through your memories of her carefully, and you’ll soon realize that I’m telling the truth.”

Yeop Wol blurted out everything that he wanted to say, then promptly spun around and left. Seo Mu-Sang remained rooted to the ground. Yeop Wol’s last line played itself back in his ears over and over again.

“You’re lying. Why would she…”

He squeezed his eyes shut, only for her to appear within his mind’s eye, her voice whispering into his ears. She might not be together with him physically, but he still believed that her heart lay with him.

Later, Seo Mu-Sang found out that Yeop Wol had at least told him the truth about Jang Pae-San’s decision to serve Shim Won-Ui. Everyone cheered at the prospect of returning home to the Central Plains. Everyone but him, that is.

sep

Ever since Shim Won-Ui and the others had moved into the Northern Army Fortress, Jin Mu-Won had avoided going out as much possible and spent his whole day cooped up inside the Tower of Shadows. He would watch the sunrise from the roof, practice the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows, and then do swordsmanship training until he was exhausted. Alternatively, whenever he ran into an obstacle during training, he would spend his time swordsmithing instead.

Many days later, a dazed Jin Mu-Won finally went outdoors. He needed to search for some answers in the Grand Library. It was something he used to do every day before he entered the first stage of the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows.

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“Haaah…” he sighed, as he opened the door to the library and saw the mess inside. It seemed as if someone had ransacked the bookshelves and thrown all the books on the floor.

“And it’s up to me to clean up the mess. Again.”

Jin Mu-Won smiled resignedly as he picked up the books on the floor and put them back on the shelves. He didn’t even have to guess to know what the people who did this were up to.

They definitely did it on Shim Won-Ui’s orders.

Everyone who came to the Northern Army Fortress for the first time would follow the exact same procedure. After ransacking the Grand Library, they would tail him in an attempt to find out if he knew any martial arts.

The moment Jin Mu-Won had stepped out of the Tower of Shadows, he knew that was being tailed. It was just like that time two years ago with Jang Pae-San. And just like back then, it wouldn’t be long before they lost their interest and simply left him to his own devices.

After cleaning up the mess, Jin Mu-Won took out a few books and began to read. He got so absorbed in reading that not only did he fail to notice the passing of time, he also wouldn’t have noticed even if the world had ended right there and then.

How many times have I read these books already?

In order to find an answer to his question, Jin Mu-Won pored through book after book. When he finally decided to look up, the sky had gotten a lot darker. In just a moment, the sun would set.

“You’re very focused.”

Suddenly, he heard the voice of a woman coming from the direction of the library entrance. Startled, Jin Mu-Won turned his head to see a thin woman standing at the doorway.

“You?”

“Mister Jin,” greeted Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung, a timid smile on her face.

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Jin Mu-Won stood up and asked, “What are you doing here?”

“You must have been surprised by our arrival, right? I felt that it was rude of us to come here without warning, so I came here to apologize.”

“There’s no need for that. It’s not like this is the first time someone has come to live here without informing me. I’ve already gotten used to it.”

“Really now?”

Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung approached Jin Mu-Won. The way she walked with light footsteps and graceful movements made her look like a regal butterfly.

Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung picked up the book that Jin Mu-Won had just been reading.

“‘The Debates of Hwang and Jeong’? Now that’s not a book I expected to see here.”

“You’re familiar with this book?” asked Jin Mu-Won, surprised.

Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung smiled graciously, saying, “Isn’t this book is a record of the debates between Hwang Heo-seonsaeng and Jeong Myeong-seonsaeng1, the two great philosophers from over two hundred years ago?”

It was just as Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung had said. Hwang Heo and Jeong Myeong were great philosophers who had lived over two hundred years ago. They were both very well-versed in Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism but did not get along at all. To prove that they were correct, the two had held many fiery debates, the ferocity of which reminded one of duels to the death between warriors.

The book called ‘The Debates of Hwang and Jeong’ contained records of their exchanges. However, now that over two hundred years had passed, very few people knew of the book’s existence.

“That’s a book I’ve always wanted to read, but even with the help of the Seo-Moon Clan, I couldn’t find it. Would it be okay if I borrowed this book from you? I will return it once I have finished reading.”

“Sure. I’ve already finished reading all of these books anyway.”

Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung’s eyes twinkled like the stars in the sky upon receiving Jin Mu-Won’s permission to borrow the book.

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“Thank you. Honestly speaking, this was unexpected.”

“What do you mean?”

“I thought that you would hate me, Mister Jin.”

“And why would you think that?”

“Because my grandfather, the ‘Ghost of Zhuge Liang’ Seo-Moon Hwa, is one of the Nine Skies of Heaven’s Summit. Wait, did you not know that?”

“I knew.”

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image

Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung appeared surprised at Jin Mu-Won’s calm response. Seo-Moon Hwa forced the Northern Army to disband and pressured Jin Mu-Won’s father into committing suicide. He must think of my grandfather as his worst enemy, right? How on earth can he remain so calm and composed even after I reminded him of this?

“Then, does this mean that you’ve forgiven him?”

“What? No! How could I possibly forgive him?”

“So how…”

“To put it precisely, I’ve given up on revenge. That’s not something I can do alone.”

“Is it because you’re not strong enough? That you don’t have enough influence?”

“Probably. As you can see, I’m broke. Everything of value in the fortress was taken away, and not even the official documents were spared. What can I do in this situation? That’s why, from now on, I want to become a scholar.”

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“If you had the ability to seek vengeance, what would you do?”

“That’s not very likely to happen, but I guess I would consider it.”

Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung was confused by Jin Mu-Won’s honest answers. The young man’s actions were the exact opposite of what she expected, making it difficult to tell what he was really thinking. On the other hand, if he had insisted that he had forgiven Heaven’s Summit for their crimes, she’d be able to glean more information about him.

She was a person who had been praised by many for her outstanding understanding and observational abilities. She could see through most people so easily that some had even said that her grandfather considered her superior to him in that aspect.

Are you really that honest, or are you just hiding your true feelings behind a mask of honesty?

Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung’s eyes glittered in the darkness as she tried to peer into the depths of Jin Mu-Won’s heart. However, even under her intense gaze, Jin Mu-Won did not waver.

She decided to continue probing him.

“Mister Jin, have you learned any martial arts before?”

“Does it look like there are any decent martial arts in this godforsaken place?”

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Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung was shocked speechless at Jin Mu-Won’s bluntness. She was aware that he hadn’t been taught any martial arts in his childhood, and Heaven’s Summit had confirmed multiple times that there were no real martial arts left inside the fortress. She had even received a report from the Third Company stating that Jin Mu-Won still hadn’t practiced any kind of martial art.

“I’m sorry,” she couldn’t help but apologize.

Unexpectedly, Jin Mu-Won smiled, saying, “Don’t worry about it. Almost everyone who comes to the Northern Army Fortress asks me the same questions. Most people suspect that I’m hiding a massive fortune somewhere in here, but the truth is, this place is just as empty as it looks.”

“I’m sorry,” apologized Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung again thoughtlessly.

This person is not normal.

Why am I apologizing to him? It’s not like I’m the one at fault for his misery.

“Anyway, I don’t have many books, but if there’s anything you want to read, feel free to borrow it. I won’t mind it as long as you put it back in the correct location on the shelf.”

“Thank you, Mister Jin.”

“Then, I’ll be leaving.”

Jin Mu-Won gave Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung a polite fist salute2. As he walked past her, she unconsciously stepped aside to let him pass.


Footnotes:

  1. Seonsaeng: Teacher, Sensei. Honorific denoting respect for an academic. The modern tl for seonsaeng in this particular case would be Professor, but that clearly doesn’t mesh right with the ancient china setting. 

  2. Fist salute: A common greeting between martial artists, see image below. Note: Left palm over right fist is a friendly greeting, whereas right palm over left fist signals a duel to the death. You don’t want to be picking death fights randomly…

    image 

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