Chapter 52: Sometimes, Coincidences Do Happen (2)
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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
Jin Mu-Won raised his head and looked at a signboard that read, “White Dragon Merchant Association”. Like its name, the characters were written powerfully and impactfully, probably by a master of calligraphy.
Suddenly, he was jolted out of his reverie by a voice asking, “Who are you?”
The two guards guarding the door to the Association placed a hand on the swords at their waists and glared at him warily.
Only then did Jin Mu-Won realize that he had forgotten his manners. He clasped his hands together in greeting and said, “I apologize for my rude behavior. My name is Jin Mu-Won, and I am looking for a child called Kwak Moon-Jung.”
“Kwak Moon-Jung? Of the escort team?” exclaimed one of the guards. He was a man in his early forties, with a very well-groomed beard, and appeared to be the senior-most warrior among the guards.
He approached Jin Mu-Won and questioned him, saying, “How do you know Kwak Moon-Jung?”
“I don’t know him, but I’ve heard that he was rather close to my uncle, whom I haven’t heard from in nearly half a year. That is why I wish to speak with him.”
“That’s right. My uncle’s name is Hwang Cheol, and he works here as an armed escort.”
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“Huh? You’re Hwang-hyung’s nephew?” The guard’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Do you know Uncle Hwang?”
“Of course I do! I used to drink with him every three days. However, recently, Hyung-nim has…” The guard’s words trailed off. He hadn’t heard from Hwang Cheol in the last six months, either.
“…In that case, I suppose you’re here to inquire about Hwang-hyung’s whereabouts.”
Jin Mu-Won nodded silently.
“Sigh! Follow me. I’ll take you to Moon-Jung.”
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Jin Mu-Won followed the guard into the White Dragon Merchant Association. The interior was huge, even larger than the Northern Army Fortress had been at its peak.
“Is this your first time in the White Dragon Merchant Association?”
“Unlike most people, you don’t seem very surprised or awed by the fancy buildings.”
“That’s not true, I was just shocked speechless.”
“Haha, the Association is one of the Ten Great Companies, after all! Hwang-hyung has always been very proud of being able to work for such a big company. However, that is still nothing compared to how proud he is of you. Every time he gets drunk, you’re all he talks about. I’ve heard him boast about you so many times that I’m getting sick of it.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. We always drink at the Dark Moon Inn right across the road. Once Hwang-hyung gets drunk, he’ll start repeating himself over and over again, saying that he has an amazing nephew who will one day bring glory back to his clan.”
“Uncle Hwang often tells me that too. Unfortunately, I’m not as great a person as he seems to think I am.”
“Well, only time will tell. Regardless, since Hwang-hyung praised you so highly, I’m looking forward to what you will accomplish.”
His voice is filled with concern for Uncle Hwang. These two might be closer than I initially thought.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Jin Mu-Won noticed a group of workers busy loading more than twenty horse wagons with various cargo and traveling supplies. Seeing as how the caravan was surrounded by vigilant-looking guards, the cargo on the wagons was probably extremely valuable.
“It seems that those people there are preparing for a long journey.”
“I heard that they were assigned a special mission by the Old Matriarch herself, but I wasn’t informed of the specifics.”
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Jin Mu-Won’s eyes lit up. So that’s why those guards are unusually alert. I’d thought that they were too wary, even for professionals that were trained by the White Dragon Merchant Association.
“We’re almost there,” the guard continued.
Jin Mu-Won turned away from the caravan, only to see that they were approaching a large training plaza where many escorts were training. The guard went up to a man who looked like the escort leader and whispered something into his ear.
The escort leader’s expression instantly changed, and he walked up to Jin Mu-Won.
“I heard that you’re Escort Hwang’s nephew? I am the Head of the Finance Department, Gong Jin-Sung. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
Jin Mu-Won clasped his hands in a fist salute and bowed slightly, greeting, “I’m pleased to meet you, too. My name is Jin Mu-Won.”
“Take a seat. Moon-Jung will be here shortly,” said Gong Jin-Sung, pointing to a chair in the shade.
Jin Mu-Won nodded and sat down.
“Have a good chat. I have to go now.”
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The door guard smiled and returned to his post.
Suddenly, Gong Jin-Sung asked, “You’re here to ask about Escort Hwang’s whereabouts, am I right?”
“Yes. Do you know something about it?”
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know that much about it either. I only know that some problems cropped up in Yunnan and that the Third Young Master and the Security Squad went there to solve said problems. Also, at the Old Matriarch’s behest, Escort Hwang was ordered to join the mission as well.”
Jin Mu-Won’s eyes narrowed. “Why did the Old Matriarch force Uncle Hwang to join such a dangerous mission?”
“How should I know what those higher-ups are thinking? It’s just, knowing the Old Matriarch, she would never have asked Escort Hwang to join the mission if she didn’t think he could bring some benefit to it.”
From the respectful way Gong Jin-Sung spoke, Jin Mu-Won could tell that the man regarded the Old Matriarch very highly.
Suddenly, Gong Jin-Sung’s gaze shifted toward the long, cloth-wrapped object in Jin Mu-Won’s hands. Although he couldn’t see the interior, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that it was a sword.
“Are you a swordmaster?”
“No, but I’m strong enough to protect myself.”
“Hmm, is that so?” Gong Jin-Sung didn’t think much of Jin Mu-Won’s answer.
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As another one of Hwang Cheol’s drinking buddies, he was familiar with how Hwang Cheol would start praising Jin Mu-Won every time he got drunk. He had never met Jin Mu-Won before, but Hwang Cheol had described this young man in so much detail that it was pretty easy to figure out who he was.
Like the door guard, he did not regard Jin Mu-Won particularly highly. People tended to exaggerate things when they were drunk, especially when they were talking about their family members.
After a few drinks, every minor strength would become a specialty, and even the most normal child would be called a genius. Gong Jin-Sung didn’t feel that Jin Mu-Won would be any different from the other escorts’ kids.
Even so, simply based on the fact that Jin Mu-Won was Hwang Cheol’s nephew, they would at least treat him with basic respect. That was how much they appreciated Hwang Cheol, who got along well with everyone and had treated all of them to drinks at some point or other.
Hwang Cheol was a kind man, as well as a man who knew how to care for others. To the younger escorts, he was their beloved hyung-nim.
“Is the White Dragon Merchant Association not going to send out a search party to look for the missing Uncle Hwang?”
“The problem is, Escort Hwang is not the only person who has gone missing. Everyone in the Yunnan group, including the Third Young Master and all the members of the Security Squad, have disappeared as well.
“To make things worse, ever since we lost contact with the Third Young Master’s group six months ago, the Old Matriarch has already dispatched three search parties after them. However, none of the search parties have returned after leaving for Yunnan either.
“Therefore, never mind searching for one person, the White Dragon Merchant Association is already going crazy searching for all the missing people.”
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“At the end, when the Old Matriarch realized that normal methods weren’t going to work, she hired a powerful mercenary group to help us out. Right now, the higher-ups are in the middle of finishing up the final discussions with the mercenaries before setting off for Yunnan.”
“Then, the caravan we just saw…”
“…contains the supplies and rewards for the mercenaries. We also loaded it with gifts for the Tyrant Fist Sect, in the hope that they will help us find the missing people.”
Yunnan’s current most powerful faction was the Tyrant Fist Sect led by the Fist Demon, Jo Cheon-Woo. The only way to get anything done in Yunnan would be to first obtain the approval of the Tyrant Fist Sect.
However, that was not the way of the White Dragon Merchant Association. They were merchants who would never bow down to another’s authority, instead carving out their own independent trade routes in Yunnan. Therefore, it was unlikely that the Tyrant Fist Sect would be willing to help the Association locate the missing people.
However, because the Third Young Master was among the people that had vanished this time, the Association had no choice but to give up on their own routes and depend on the Tyrant Fist Sect.
“In other words, they plan on bribing the Tyrant Fist Sect.”
“What choice do we have? The White Dragon Merchant Association is just that desperate,” Gong Jin-Sung replied, smiling bitterly.
This was the White Dragon Merchant Association he was talking about. The same White Dragon Merchant Association that was one of the Ten Great Companies, and wielded even more power and influence in the gangho than the Tyrant Fist Sect. The fact that they had to swallow their pride and beg the Tyrant Fist Sect for help showed just how desperate they were.
Jin Mu-Won now understood that the Association hadn’t abandoned Hwang Cheol and done nothing all this time. Even though they hadn’t accomplished anything, at the very least, he appreciated the fact that they had tried their best.
“Ah, Moon-Jung’s here,” said Gong Jin-Sung, pointing at a boy running toward the two of them.
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“You two have a good chat. I have to go meet the Old Matriarch now.”
“Can I join the Yunnan search party?”
“As long as I can go to Yunnan and search for Uncle Hwang, I’m fine with doing hard labor.”
Gong Jin-Sung locked gazes with Jin Mu-Won. He had an exceptionally fierce glare that would frighten most people, but Jin Mu-Won was unmoved. The young man neither avoided his gaze nor wavered, only stared straight back at him.
Knowing that he wouldn’t be able to persuade Jin Mu-Won otherwise, Gong Jin-Sung sighed.
“Alright, I’ll inform the Old Matriarch about this.”
Gong Jin-Sung stood up to leave, and at the same time, Kwak Moon-Jung arrived.
With sparkling eyes, the boy observed Jin Mu-Won curiously.
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