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


The Old Matriarch raised a cup of tea to her lips and observed the young man and woman seated across from her.

The young man dressed in sky blue clothing wore a faint smile on his face. Rather than a warrior, he looked more like a scholar. His name was Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan1, otherwise known as the “Methodical Strategist (一步一計)2”. His martial arts was inferior to the “Seven Young Skies (七小天)3”, the seven strongest young martial artists recognized by the gangho, but his intelligence was higher than most.

Every year, a few young prodigies would appear in the gangho. That meant that there were hundreds, even thousands of these young prodigies wandering the gangho dreaming of becoming heroes.

Most of them aimed to become the new Nine Skies of Heaven’s Summit. However, doing that was as difficult as plucking stars out of the night sky.

Among the promising young heroes, there were seven whom people thought were most likely to succeed the Nine Skies. They were:

  • Shim Won-Ui, the “Jade Qilin (玉麒麟)”4
  • Woo Tae-Cheon, the “Free-Spirited Gentleman (逍遙公子)”
  • Hyun Gong-Hwi, the “Fighting Maniac (狂鬪鬼)”
  • Bi Jung-Yeon, the “Vanishing Dragon (無影神龍)”
  • Nam Soo-Ryun, the “Saint of Mount Mu (巫山神女)”
  • Yeon So-So, the “Flower of the West (西天一花)”
  • Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung, the “Celestial of the Crimson Primrose (赤花仙子)”

The Seven Young Skies was made up of four men and three women, and every single one of them was a martial arts expert who would not lose to a master of the old generation.

Although not to the extent of the Seven Young Skies, Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan was still a well-known prodigy in the gangho. Like his title, the “Methodical Strategist”, he was a careful strategist who planned out his schemes in great detail, one step at a time.

Most importantly, he was the Vice-Commander of the Iron Brigade (鐵技黨), a small mercenary group made up of a few dozen autonomous martial artists. However, their fame far exceeded their small size.

The Iron Brigade often took on missions assigned to them by other murim sects. They were a group who would do just about anything as long as the price was right. They possessed both clever strategists as well as powerful warriors and had a reputation of never betraying their employers.

The leader and Commander of the Iron Brigade was a man named Yong Mu-Sung.5 He was stubborn, resilient, and an extremely strong fighter.

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It was said that if Yong Mu-Sung represented the brawn of the Iron Brigade, then Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan was its brain. The person who decided whether the group would accept a mission or not was not the commander, but the chief strategist, Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan.

The Old Matriarch’s gaze shifted to the beautiful woman in her twenties elegantly sipping tea next to Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan. The woman wore simple clothing made of snow leopard skin, and she made no effort to hide the horrific scars which stretched from her neck down toward her chest. The stark contrast between her cultured mannerisms and rough appearance left a strong impression on the Old Matriarch.

Her name was Chae Yak-Ran.6 Like Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan, she was also Vice-Commander of the Iron Brigade, but while he was a strategist, she was a warrior.

For the whole duration of Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan and the Old Matriarch’s discussion, she hadn’t said a single word. From her silence, the Old Matriarch could tell that she wasn’t a talkative person.

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The Old Matriarch turned back to face Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan, who smiled and said, “As long as you’re willing to meet all of our conditions, we will gladly accept your request.”

“Of course, Vice-Commander Jong-Ri. Upon completion of the mission, the White Dragon Merchant Association will pay you the full sum, and not a copper less.”

“Then we have an agreement.”

Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan placed the contract he had prepared beforehand on the table. All of the details of their discussion until now were written down clearly on the contract.

I’ve heard that Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan was a very shrewd man, and the rumors were not exaggerated. He already anticipated what I would agree to ahead of time.

The Old Matriarch had hired the Iron Brigade to rescue her son, Yoon Ja-Myung. If he was alive, they were to escort him back, and if he was dead, they’d have to retrieve his corpse. Depending on the situation, the promised reward would be different. All these details were included in the contract.

In other words, Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan had played her, the Old Matriarch, for a fool. Their entire discussion had proceeded exactly as he planned it.

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Even so, the Old Matriarch did not feel upset. On the contrary, she was glad that the person she’d hired to find her son was this competent. That was because the more competent Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan was, the greater the chances of her son being brought home alive.

The Old Matriarch stamped her seal on the contract, and Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan folded it up and kept it in his chest pocket.

“The procedures for us taking on your request are complete. Tomorrow morning, we will set off for Yunnan.”

“Thank you!”

“You can thank us after we rescue Mister Yoon.”

“Pardon me for asking this, but how many of your people will be going on this mission?”

“Besides myself and Vice-Commander Chae, the “Soul-Summoning Hunter (招魂獵夫)” Im Jin-Yeop, the “Seven Skills Swordsman (七巧劍士)” Gong-Son Chang, and the “Twilight Iron Bowman (落日鐵弓)” Dam Jin-Hong will be going on this mission. The rest of our members, including our commander, will be meeting us in Sichuan.”

The Old Matriarch was taken aback by Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan’s answer. The three people that Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan had mentioned were also famous members of the Iron Brigade. In particular, these three were known for their tracking and rescuing skills. She asked, “Wait, did you just say that you’re meeting up with your commander in Sichuan?”

“That’s right. We’ll have to pass by Sichuan on our way to Yunnan anyway, and several of our members have just completed a mission there, so it’s not really much of a detour. I’ve already informed them of our imminent arrival, and they will be waiting for us there.”

“I see…” The Old Matriarch sighed. She was usually super calm and collected when it came to business, but whenever her children’s lives were involved, she would get extremely emotional.

The Iron Brigade was her best bet at finding her missing son.

At first, she’d thought about requesting help from Heaven’s Summit, but she quickly gave up on that idea. It would take too long to get her request processed through the bureaucracy that was Heaven’s Summit, and she had no idea if they would even accept it or not.

Even if Heaven’s Summit approved her request, they might not send warriors that met her standards, and they would absolutely charge her ridiculously exorbitant rates.

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She was quite happy with the offer that the Iron Brigade had proposed to her. If even they failed to save her son, then she would have no choice but to acknowledge that he was dead and give up the search. Although it pained her, this was a decision that she had to make as Head of the White Dragon Merchant Association.

The Old Matriarch looked toward the door and shouted, “Department Head Gong, are you there?”

“Yes, Madam!”

“Please come in.”

Gong Jin-Sung, the Head of the Finance Department, entered the room and bowed, saying, “What can I do for you, Madam?”

“The Iron Brigade has accepted our request.”

“Really?” Gong Jin-Sung beamed. He recognized the name of the Iron Brigade. With their help, our chances of finding the Third Young Master have increased by leaps and bounds.

Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan looked at Gong Jin-Sung and greeted him with a polite fist salute, saying, “Please take good care of us, Department Head.”

“No no, we’re the ones who are grateful for your help,” Gon Jin-Sung hurriedly replied, returning the greeting.

“They will be setting off tomorrow. Department Head, I’d appreciate it if you would introduce them to the escort team.”

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“Yes, Madam!”

Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan and Chae Yak-Ran stood up from their seats. However, Gong Jin-Sung did not immediately show them out. Instead, he asked, “Madam, would it be possible for us to add another person to the search party?”

A hopeful expression appeared on the Old Matriarch’s face, but Gong Jin-Sung quickly clarified, “The nephew of Escort Hwang, who went missing together with the Third Young Master, is here. He wishes to join the Yunnan search party.”

The Old Matriarch’s eyes glittered. She felt guilty for having gotten Hwang Cheol into trouble, as the only reason she had sent him to Yunnan with Yoon Ja-Myung was because of his good luck and survivability. If there was something she could do for him now…

“Hmm? Did Escort Hwang have a nephew?”

“Yes. He’d boast about his nephew every time he got drunk.”

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“Is that so? It seems I have been too negligent, dispatching Escort Hwang on such a dangerous mission without knowing much about his personal affairs. Okay, if bringing Escort Hwang’s nephew won’t cause much of a problem, then please feel free to do so.”

The Old Matriarch did not think twice about adding Jin Mu-Won to the search party. Normally, she would never do something so careless without conducting a thorough background check on him, but she was too stressed out and anxious right now to bother.


Footnotes:

  1. Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan: Jong-Ri (鍾離) is a two-word last name, same as Seo-Moon (西门), though far more uncommon. Mu-Hwan (無患) is his first name, meaning “never in trouble”. 

  2. Methodical Strategist (一步一計): Literal translation – One step one strategy.  

  3. Seven Young Skies (七小天): Literal translation – Seven small/little/young skies. I like “young” or “junior” more than “lesser”, which sounds plain rude to me. 

  4. Jade Qilin (玉麒麟): A Qilin is a mythical Chinese giraffe with scales and a dragon’s head, and is said to appear with the imminent arrival or passing of a sage or illustrious ruler. 

  5. Yong Mu-Sung: The name Mu-Sung (武聖) means “martial sage”. 

  6. Chae Yak-Ran: The name Yak-Ran (若蘭) means “like an orchid”. 

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