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


Jin Mu-Won observed the house in front of him carefully, but no matter how hard he stared at it, it looked exactly the same as a typical commoner’s residence in Sichuan.

The only unusual thing about it is the small black flag hanging by the window. Is that some kind of sign?

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In fact, the black flag was so small, he wouldn’t have noticed it if he didn’t know that there was anything odd about this house beforehand.

After knocking on the door, the two men waited for a while before a short, middle-aged man opened it and stuck his head outside.

“What’s up?”

“I’m here to make a deal…”

“You came to the wrong place. If you want to make a deal, you should go to a shop somewhere…”

“I’m looking for something illuminated by the light of the black moon…”

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“Whatever it is you’re looking for, I don’t have it…”

“The Black Moon Spymaster said that I could visit whenever I wanted though…”

“What’s your name?”

“I am Yong Mu-Sung, the Commander of the Iron Brigade.”

The moment he heard Yong Mu-Sung’s name, the middle-aged man’s expression changed. He took a quick look around to ensure that no one else was nearby, then said, “Please come in.”

Yong Mu-Sung and Jin Mu-Won entered the house. Like the outside, the inside of the house appeared perfectly ordinary at first glance. If anything, it felt like he had entered a quiet mountain temple. However, Jin Mu-Won could sense that he was being observed.

As expected, it’s not a normal house.

The middle-aged man guided Jin Mu-Won and Yong Mu-Sung to the innermost room. The room’s design was simple, with no decorations, and the only furniture inside was a table surrounded by four chairs. It felt like an abandoned house.

“Please wait here,” said the middle-aged man as he left the room.

Jin Mu-Won turned toward Yong Mu-Sung and asked, “What is this place?”

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“It’s one of the Black Moon’s (黑月) branch offices.”

Jin Mu-Won furrowed his brows. He had never heard of the name “Black Moon” before. Yong Mu-Sung grinned, as if he could tell what Jin Mu-Won was wondering about.

“To put it simply, it’s a place that investigates and manages top-secret information.”

“That means, people can buy information here?”

“Yes, but not just anyone can do that.”

“…….”

“The Black Moon only sells information to sect leaders and those at the same level.”

The only people at the same level as a sect leader are the elders of the large sects. How many people in the whole gangho belong to this level? There can’t be many.

“They take the initiative to obtain crucial information that the murim leaders need, summarize it into an easy-to-understand form, then sell it to their customers. The role they play is so important that even Heaven’s Summit and the large sects depend on them to make decisions.

“Of course, not every leader goes to the Black Moon, only those who understand the value of getting information quickly and accurately. These people also tend to be the ones who wisely plan for the future.”

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“Is it really okay for you to reveal all this to me even though we just met for the first time today?”

“Pfft haha! Didn’t I already tell you? ‘The Black Moon only sells information to sect leaders and those at the same level.’ Even if you know about the existence of this place, you can’t buy information.”

“I see.”

“I just wanted you to know that places like this existed, and that the gangho is a much bigger, more complex place than you imagined,” Yong Mu-Sung declared confidently.

Now I know why Yong Mu-Sung brought me here. It’s related to how I ended up clashing opinions with Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan. He wanted me to learn that since there are a lot of unknown dangers in this world, I should take better care of myself and think twice before acting. At least, any normal person who learns about the existence of such a place would carefully reconsider their circumstances from here on.

“Thank you for your advice. I will keep it in mind.”

“I hope you do.” Yong Mu-Sung shot a meaningful glance at Jin Mu-Won.

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Just then, a person entered the room and said in a clear voice, “I hope I haven’t kept you two waiting for too long.”

The two men looked toward the door to see a woman wearing a veil over her face walking gracefully toward them. Every time she moved, the beautiful curves of her body would be emphasized, giving her a very seductive feel.

The woman looked at Yong Mu-Sung and asked, “I heard that you were the Commander of the Iron Brigade. Is that correct?”

“That’s right. And you are?”

“I am Mae Wol-Ryung, the Branch Head of Black Moon’s Sichuan Branch.”

Yong Mu-Sung’s eyes glittered with curiosity. From the tone and pitch of the woman’s voice, he had guessed that she was quite young, and it was quite unprecedented for someone around her age to rise to the position of branch head.

“Nice to meet you, Miss Mae.”

“Who is the person next to you?”

“He’s one of my traveling companions.”

Mae Wol-Ryung looked at Jin Mu-Won and asked, “You must be quite the outstanding person to be allowed to accompany Commander Yong here. Could you tell me your name?”

“My name is Jin Mu-Won. I’m a newcomer to the gangho, and I haven’t got any accomplishments to my name. Commander Yong only brought me along because he’s concerned for me, so please don’t mind my presence,” replied Jin Mu-Won, putting his hands together in greeting.

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Mae Wol-Ryung’s eyes, the only part of her face not hidden by her veil, immediately lit up with interest. She stared at Jin Mu-Won thoughtfully and said, “Don’t you know that we are very interested in up-and-coming newcomers, Master Jin?”

Her eyes curved at the edges, as if she were smiling underneath the veil.

sep

No one in the gangho knew who the leader of the Black Moon was, or when and why such an organization was founded. Even the number of members they had, and the identities of the members were complete mysteries. The only thing most people could be certain of was that the Black Moon’s ability to obtain information was terrifying. Somehow, they were always the first ones to find things out.

Heaven’s Summit and the large factions understood that information was power, and as such, they all badly desired the Black Moon’s resources. They felt that if they could take over the spy organization, they’d be able to gain an overwhelming advantage over their competitors.

In fact, one of those factions, the Hwang-Bo Clan1 of the Five Great Clans, had indeed made such an attempt before. Among the Five Clans, they had the worst information network, and they wished to supplement their weakness so that they could become the new leader of the Five Clans.

Once their decision was made, the Hwang-Bo Clan had moved swiftly and without hesitation in order to avoid alerting the Black Moon spies. They mobilized not only their own elites, but also borrowed warriors from their allies, and launched an attack on one of the Black Moon’s branches.

Unexpectedly, the Black Moon branch showed no resistance against the Hwang-Bo Clan’s surprise attack. None of the members there fought back, and the branch fell within minutes. The captured members were then interrogated, tortured and killed, however, none of them revealed the identity and location of their leader, the Spymaster of the Black Moon.

Several of the tortured Black Moon members had indeed talked, but they were also the ones who knew nothing about the higher-ups. In the end, the Hwang-Bo Clan were forced to retreat after getting none of the information that they wanted.

However, things did not simply end with just that. The Hwang-Bo Clan’s retreat only marked the beginning of the Black Moon’s counterattack.

The counterattack began by isolating the Hwang-Bo Clan from the outside world. Not only did the Black Moon cut off all of the Hwang-Bo Clan’s information and communication channels, they used it against them by spreading fake news and rumors.

Next, the Black Moon used large sums of money to commission assassins targeting the clan leadership. Dozens of those targets wound up killed or gravely injured, nearly resulting in the destruction of the clan.

Eventually, the Hwang-Bo Clan were forced to surrender to the Black Moon. However, by that time, they had already lost most of their leaders and elites. The clan quickly fell into decline and were humiliatingly kicked out of the Five Great Clans.

It would be decades more before the Hwang-Bo Clan once again rose back to the ranks of the Five Great Clans.

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Through this series of events, the large factions came to the realization that no good would come from aggravating the Black Moon, and to this very day, the legend of the Black Moon’s viciousness continues.

As part of expanding its information network, one of the objectives that the Black Moon was most concerned about was the identification and tracking of newcomers in the gangho. From experience, the Black Moon knew very well that the balance in the gangho was often easily swayed by the appearance of yet unknown talents.

Mae Wol-Ryung carefully observed Jin Mu-Won from head-to-toe.

They may be a small group, but the Iron Brigade is still one of the more influential factions in the gangho. In particular, their leader, Commander Yong Mu-Sung, is one of the strongest martial artists in the world. Not only that, unlike his vulgar appearance, he’s actually incredibly intelligent and has a good eye for people.

A man like that would never allow a random person to accompany them. In other words, although he looks normal, Yong Mu-Sung has already recognized Jin Mu-Won’s talent.

To conclude, Jin Mu-Won is definitely a warrior worth paying attention to.

Without knowing it, Jin Mu-Won had become a subject of the Black Moon’s observation. This was something that not even Yong Mu-Sung had expected.

Finally, Mae Wol-Ryung turned to face Yong Mu-Sung, asking, “So, for what purpose are you visiting the Black Moon, Commander Yong?”

“I want to know what’s happening in Yunnan.”

“Hmm! That’s not an easy question to answer.”

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“Knowing the Black Moon’s abilities, it shouldn’t be too hard, right?”

“You overestimate us. Even our information network has limits.”

Despite what she said, Mae Wol-Ryung’s voice was brimming with confidence. Yong Mu-Sung sensed this and grinned, adding, “I’ll pay you guys as much as you want, so please tell me about the current events in Yunnan. I accepted a request from the White Dragon Merchant Association related to the unusual happenings there, and I’m at a loss because I can’t get any information on it.”

“I see…”

“Please help me.”

Mae Wol-Ryung closed her eyes as she organized her thoughts. As a branch manager, it was her job to memorize all the information. The reason for that was because the Black Moon did not keep any written records, as they wished to avoid a repeat of the Hwang-Bo Clan tragedy.

After some time, Mae Wol-Ryung said, “I’m not sure if you’re aware of how complicated the situation in Yunnan is right now. Most people think that it’s just a simple clash between the Tyrant Fist Sect and the Diancang Sect, but in truth, it’s more like some kind of holy war.”

“Are you trying to say that there’s more to the conflict than a fight over territory between the two sects?”

“Yes. The two sects are indeed waging war, but…” Mae Wol-Ryung’s voice trailed off.

Sensing that she was about to reveal a big secret, Yong Mu-Sung and Jin Mu-Won perked up their ears.

Mae Wol-Ryung whispered, “The Black Moon believes that a third faction may be involved in the conflict. We haven’t yet managed to obtain absolute proof of this, but if we consider the circumstances, it must be true.”

“Hmm…!”

“We have another convincing piece of evidence that a third faction is involved. Heaven’s Summit has dispatched an investigation squad to Yunnan.”

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All details regarding the investigation squads of Heaven’s Summit were top secret. However, the fact that the Black Moon had knowledge of their movements went to show just how far their reach was.

“Then, did the third faction target the merchant associations in order to fuel the war between the Tyrant Fist Sect and Diancang Sect?”

“That’s what we think.”

“In that case, there is a very high likelihood that the people with the caravans which disappeared in Yunnan were either detained or killed.”

“If they had been killed, I’m sure that we would have already found their corpses, as it is impossible to quietly dispose of that many bodies.”

When he heard that there was a good chance Hwang Cheol was still alive, Jin Mu-Won’s eyes sparkled with the light of hope.

“What is the identity of this third faction?”

“We don’t know yet. However, once we pool our resources together, I’m sure we would be able to find that out pretty quickly.”

Jin Mu-Won could hear the pride in Mae Wol-Ryung’s voice as she talked about the Black Moon’s capabilities. It was clear how much she believed in the organization.

“One more thing. Can you give me some details about the investigation squad that Heaven’s Summit sent to Yunnan?”

“Heaven’s Summit is rather good at keeping secrets, so we don’t know much about it yet. The only thing we can be sure of is that the people in the squad are carefully selected elites specialized in navigating the chaos of Yunnan.”

“Ugh…” Yong Mu-Sung groaned.

Heaven’s Summit is an unexpected variable that could change things greatly. Regardless, we absolutely cannot fail this mission. Also, if we break the contract, the reputation that we’ve worked so hard to build up will crumble into pieces.

Sigh, I have no choice but to go to Yunnan and do my best to complete the mission with minimal losses.

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“Tsk! Looks like we’re in for tough times ahead.”

“You said that you accepted a mission from the White Dragon Merchant Association, right? Your goal must be to search for the missing third son.”

“That’s right.”

“It’s not going to be easy. Like I said, even we don’t know everything that’s going on in Yunnan, and without information, it will be impossible to predict what could happen.”

Mae Wol-Ryung looked at Yong Mu-Sung regretfully. Contrary to her appearance, she had worked for the Black Moon for a long time. Long enough to understand that sometimes, the only way to get through a windstorm was to lower one’s head.

To make things worse, the storm currently brewing in Yunnan was no ordinary windstorm, but a raging hurricane. No one knew how bad things would get.

Yong Mu-Sung rose from his seat. Although it wasn’t much, he had indeed obtained some useful information during this conversation. In fact, simply knowing about the existence of a third faction made the visit worth it. Armed with this new information, he was soon going to get very busy with the preparations for the entry into Yunnan.

He took out two gold yuanbao2 the size of a child’s fist and placed them on the table.

“I hope that this is enough for the information.”

“It’s more than enough. As thanks for the extra tip, I’ll add in one more piece of information.”

“Go on.”

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“Commander Yong, you are being targeted by the Deathshroud.”

“……”

Yong Mu-Sung shuddered. That was not a name he expected to hear. After all, the Deathshroud (無影殺幕)3 was an assassin organization. It wasn’t the best assassin organization in the gangho, but it was certainly the most vicious and unrelenting one of them all. Not a single one of their targets had been met with a quick, painless death.

Yong Mu-Sung did not bother asking why he had been targeted. The reason was obvious.

“Looks like information about me accepting this current mission has been leaked.”

“Don’t you want to know who leaked it?”

“Will you tell me if I ask?”

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Mae Wol-Ryung’s eyes glittered oddly as she answered, “Would you believe me if I said that it was Neung Won-Pyong?”

“Aha! As expected, it was him. Haa… No wonder I kept having a bad feeling about this mission.” Yong Mu-Sung sighed.

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Translator’s Note: Welcome to the new site! Please comment if you find anything broken, or if the color/design displeases you and you have better ideas.


Footnotes:

  1. Hwang-Bo (皇甫): Yet another 2-word family name, the same as Seo-Moon and Jong-Ri. Other 2-word family names include Nam-Goong, Je-Gal, Sun-Woo, Sa-Gong, Dok-Go. 

  2. Yuanbao (元宝): A type of gold and silver ingot currency used in imperial China from its founding under the Qin dynasty until the fall of the Qing in the 20th century. The name “yuanbao” is the pinyin romanization of the Mandarin pronunciation of the characters for “inaugural treasures”. Under China’s Tang dynasty, coins were inscribed “kai yuan tong bao” (開元通寶, “Circulating Treasure of the Beginning of an Era”), later abbreviated to just “yuanbao”. 

  3. Deathshroud (無影殺幕): Literal translation – Hidden Curtains of Death. “Curtain” as in the curtains that close at the end of a stage play. I figured I could just combine “hidden curtains” together into one word like “shrouded” or “veiled”…unless anyone has any better ideas? 

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