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


The headquarters of the Tang Clan, which was also known as the Sichuan Tang Clan or the Chivalrous Tang Clan, was located in the Tang Hill Village (唐家陀)1, Sichuan, and was one of the most famous landmarks in the world.

The Tang Hill Village housed over a thousand people, even more than an average village. Moreover, most of the people living there were martial artists and craftsmen of the Tang Clan. However, at first glance, the Tang Hill Village looked just like any other ordinary village in the region. This was quite different from the other members of the Five Great Clans, who often built fancy mansions and residences to show off their power.

Only when one visited the Tang Hill Village itself would one realize that it was structured quite differently from other villages.

The Clan Head’s main residence was placed smack in the middle of the village, and was only a little larger than the other residences. The houses directly surrounding the main residence were for the Clan Head’s immediate family members.

Right behind the houses where the immediate family members lived, there was a large mansion for the Tang Clan elders, the Hall of Elders. The Hall of Elders was one of the most important buildings in the Tang Clan Village, as it was the place where the elders passed down their knowledge and martial arts to their descendants.

Next to the Hall of Elders, there was a building called the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Poisons (萬毒閣). This was the most important facility in the Tang Hill Village, where all the research on poisons and crafts were conducted. The reason it was placed so close to the Hall of Elders, was because that was where the top experts of the Tang Clan lived, and was therefore the safest place in the village.

All of these important buildings were then surrounded by ordinary residences. However, even these ordinary residences were not arranged randomly. Their placement followed the balance of the five elements in a giant, village-wide formation meant to trap invaders.

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In addition, these normal houses belonged to the warriors of the Tang Clan, who were specialists in the poison arts and hidden weapons. Most of these people were blood-related, so whenever they found a stranger in the village, they would quickly raise the alarm and form the clan’s first line of defense against intruders.

Pull all these security measures together, and the Tang Hill Village was probably one of the safest, most secretive places in the world.

sep

In the deepest part of the Tang Hill Village, inside the Clan Head’s residence, three people sat around a table. An old villager in his sixties, a middle-aged man in his forties and a young lady in her early twenties.

The old man, who wore clothes made of rough linen, occupied the position at the head of the table. His name was Tang Kwan-Ho,2 and he was the current Head of the Tang Clan.

Traditionally, the Tang Clan Heads would inherit the same title from their predecessors: the Emperor of Ten Thousand Poisons (萬毒帝). However, because Tang Kwan-Ho had never left the Tang Hill Village ever since he was born, few knew that the man with such a fearsome title looked like nothing more than an ordinary old villager.

Tang Kwan-Ho closely observed the two people seated to his left and right.

The middle-aged man, Tang Gi-Mun, was both his nephew and the Head of the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Poisons. Within the Tang Clan, not only was Tang Gi-Mun a master of poisons second only to himself, he was an excellent doctor who could even use poisons as medicine. However, because he adamantly refused to learn any hidden weapons techniques, preferring to spend his whole life researching poisons, Tang Gi-Mun became well-known in the gangho for being the Tang Clan’s eccentric.

As for the young lady, Tang Mi-Ryeo, she was his granddaughter and a genius with senses so sharp, she had already mastered one of the Tang Clan’s ten best Hidden Weapons Arts at a young age. This was unprecedented as the Tang Clan was a highly traditional family that rarely taught martial arts to women. Furthermore, because of her great beauty, she was known to many as the “Flower of Sichuan”.

Tang Kwan-Ho asked, “Have you finished the preparations for your departure?”

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“What is there to prepare? All we have to do is walk out,” replied Tang Gi-Mun.

“Hohoho! The Head of the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Poisons is personally moving at the request of Heaven’s Summit. I think you need to be more aware of how important you are.”

“Why did Heaven’s Summit request for me?”

Tang Kwan-Ho’s expression unconsciously darkened. He said, “I’m not sure either, but it probably has something to do with poison being used in Yunnan.”

Two days ago, the Tang Clan had received an urgent summons from Heaven’s Summit, requesting their cooperation to dispatch a person familiar with poisons to Kunming City, the capital of Yunnan Province. They had then immediately convened a meeting to discuss who they would send, finally deciding on Tang Gi-Mun, the Head of the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Poisons. To protect Tang Gi-Mun, who did not know martial arts, they would also send along Tang Mi-Ryeo and about a dozen other warriors.

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“Technically, I should be the one going, but I need to prioritize managing our clan’s internal affairs.”

“The Tang Clan’s reputation would be ruined if our Clan Head himself had to obey Heaven’s Summit’s command. I think you guys made the right decision. Also, I have Mi-Ryeo protecting me, so don’t worry.”

“If you think that things are getting too dangerous, feel free to retreat. Remember, your safety comes first.”

“And if Heaven’s Summit comes after us for that?”

“Hohoho! So what if they do?”

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Tang Gi-Mun grinned. This was the pride of the Chivalrous Tang Clan. As for Heaven’s Summit? Hah, let them come! The Tang Clan wasn’t afraid.

Tang Kwan-Ho might not be a member of the Nine Skies, but that wasn’t because he wasn’t strong enough. It was because he was a recluse who had no desire to leave the Tang Hill Village, and was satisfied with just the title, “Emperor of Ten Thousand Poisons”.

Finally, Tang Kwan-Ho turned toward Tang Mi-Ryeo and said, “Mi-Ryeo, please make sure to take good care of yourself and return here safely.”

“Don’t worry, Clan Head. I’ll be fine,” Tang Mi-Ryeo replied, smiling gently. She had chosen to accompany Tang Gi-Mun as she was very interested in his “Living Poison Arts”, despite being more talented in hidden weapons than the poison arts.

Tang Gi-Mun knew about this, and would teach her whenever he had some time to spare. One reason was naturally because he loved his cute niece, but he also truly believed that she was the future of the Tang Clan.

If there was anything that Tang Mi-Ryeo currently lacked, it was experience. With her naivety, it was hard to see her as a leader. However, this was a problem that could only be fixed by actually letting her experience many things, so Tang Gi-Mun agreed to let her accompany him to Yunnan.

Tang Kwan-Ho was worried about his granddaughter, but even he understood that he could not coddle her forever. A day would surely come when she had to grow up and leave the nest.

“Well then, we’ll be setting off now.”

“Okay.”

The three people left the Clan Head’s Residence. Outside, a dozen young warriors dressed in the Tang Clan’s signature light green uniform greeted them. They were the warriors who were tasked with protecting Tang Gi-Mun and Tang Mi-Ryeo on the Yunnan mission.

"”Clan Head!””

“This is an important mission. All of you, be sure to protect the Pavilion Head,3 Mi-Ryeo, and yourselves! I will be awaiting your return!”

“Leave it to us, Clan Head!” replied Tang Yun-Ho, confidently thumping his chest. He was the leader of the young warriors assembled here, and the most outstanding member of these elites. With their strength, annihilating even a medium-sized sect would be a piece of cake. Thus, they weren’t really worried for their safety. To them, this was nothing more than an ordinary leisure trip.

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Tang Kwan-Ho looked at these young elites worriedly. He had a feeling that they were taking this mission too lightly. For a moment, he thought about giving them a few words of warning, but decided to hold back in the end. Young people like them did not take well to nagging, and would only learn things the hard way. This trip to Yunnan would serve as a good lesson for them.

“Alright then, you may leave now.”

"”Yes Sir!””

Tang Gi-Mun and the young warriors marched out of the village. As they walked, many of the villagers recognized them immediately and waved their hands in greeting, as if they were ordinary villagers praying for the safe return of their village’s young folks.

“Have a safe trip!”

“Come back safely.”

When they reached the village entrance, they mounted the horses that were already prepared for them.

Tang Gi-Mun ordered, “We’ll have to travel quickly.”

“Yes Sir!”

The Tang Clan warriors rode south briskly. Unknown to them, a pair of eyes watched them leave from far away.

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sep

“Slurp!”

A huge man sat at a roadside stall and slurped down his noodles. To his left, there was a huge stack of more than ten empty bowls. The old woman who ran the stall watched him eat with an expression of disbelief.

The man, whose name was Jang Han, wore a thick beard on his face, making it impossible to determine his exact age. A giant sky piercer halberd (方天畫戟)4 lay next to him, scaring off anyone who approached him carelessly.

The old woman carefully asked the man, “Will your stomach be okay if you eat that much?”

“Hahaha! The reason I can’t stop eating is because your noodles are delicious, old grandma! …And make me another bowl.”

“Another one?”

The old woman tiredly cooked up yet another bowl of noodles and brought it to the man, who stared at the steaming noodles with pleasure.

“Mmm! I just can’t get enough of this.”

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When Jang Han finally finished his meal and was patting his stomach in satisfaction, he noticed a large merchant caravan drive past him along the main road.

“Hmm! So that’s the White Dragon Merchant Association’s caravan, huh?” he muttered, curiously looking at the caravan waving a flag with a white dragon symbol and observing its members as they marched by.

The first ones to catch his eye were the mercenaries of the Iron Brigade, especially Yong Mu-Sung.

“Woah! These guys look really strong!”

Jang Han snapped his wooden chopsticks in half and used them as toothpicks while openly staring at the mercenaries, but none of them noticed his gaze.

“…Huh?”

Suddenly, his eyes fell upon the last wagon in the caravan. To be precise, it was the driver of that wagon. He didn’t know if it was just a coincidence, but the wagon driver dressed in red and brown was staring right back at him.

There were countless people in the crowd, but that man had chosen to look at him out of all the other people. His instincts were telling him that it couldn’t be a coincidence.

Did that punk pick out my aura from among all these people?

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The two men’s gazes met.

“Squad Leader.”

Jang Han turned around to face the person who had called out to him. It was a young man in his twenties with a very commonplace appearance. The young man bowed his head to Jang Han and said, “The Tang Clan has made their move.”

“Then we move, too. Tell the kids to get ready.”

“Yes Sir!” The young man energetically replied, giving Jang Han a fist salute.

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Jang Han looked back toward the main road, but the White Dragon caravan had already vanished from view, taking with them the mysterious wagon driver who had made eye contact with him.

“That guy…”

sep

That man…

Jin Mu-Won frowned, thinking of the man he had just exchanged glances with. He couldn’t see the man’s facial features because of his massive beard, but the arrogant look in those eyes and the aura like a raging storm remained clear in his mind.

Even in this highly-populated Sichuan Province filled with martial arts experts from the Qingcheng Sect, the Emei Sect, and the Tang Clan, the man’s aura stood out from the rest. Unfortunately, no one else, not even Commander Yong Mu-Sung of the Iron Brigade, noticed this man’s presence.

I pray that it’s nothing big…

Suddenly, he was jerked out of his musings by Kwak Moon-Jung’s voice.

“What are you thinking so hard about?”

“Nothing much. Is something the matter?”

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“I was told to pass on the message that we won’t be stopping here in Chengdu5 because we need to hurry on to Yunnan.”

“Got it.”

This was exactly what Jin Mu-Won wanted. The faster he reached Yunnan, the higher the probability of Hwang Cheol’s rescue.

Kwak Moon-Jung rode next to Jin Mu-Won’s wagon for a while, before worriedly asking, “Are you okay? Did something happen?”

“…What?”

“You know, between you and them…” Kwak Moon-Jung glanced toward the Iron Brigade.

Ever since Jin Mu-Won had made that derogatory remark against the Iron Brigade, they had given him the cold-shoulder. Everyone, even the weakest among the escorts, could tell that tensions between the two were running high. Not even Yong Mu-Sung, with his friendly and sociable personality, talked to Jin Mu-Won.

In this situation, Gong Jin-Sung and Yoon Seo-In, who had ultimately chosen to believe in the famous Iron Brigade over the mysterious Jin Mu-Won, decided to look the other way. The escorts could not defy their leaders, and so avoided Jin Mu-Won as well.

…Not that Jin Mu-Won cared for the situation one bit.

“Don’t worry, I’m fine.”

“But…”

“We’re fine as long as my relationship with them does not get any worse than it is right now, and I highly doubt that it will.”

Kwak Moon-Jung nodded. He was good at reading the situation, and could sense the truth in Jin Mu-Won’s words. The Iron Brigade clearly did not want to make an enemy out of Jin Mu-Won. Instead, they recognized his strength and usefulness in their upcoming mission.

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However, although Jin Mu-Won understood how the Iron Brigade thought, that didn’t mean that he agreed with them. They were pragmatic people, but it was this same pragmatism that had led them to massacre seventy-eight people in the Neung Family Mansion within one night. If he included the hired warriors, that number would add up to over a hundred.

If the one-sided massacre wasn’t bad enough, many of the people who died were innocent bystanders who weren’t even part of the gangho. They were simply normal business partners of the Neung Family and wedding guests. However, they were still killed for the purpose of eliminating evidence.

Thus, even though he knew that the Iron Brigade only did it to protect themselves from the Deathshroud, and that the Neung Family Head was at fault, he could not bring himself to accept it. Now, every time he talked to the mercenaries, there would be a certain sharpness in his voice; and every time he looked at them, there would undoubtedly be a harshness in his gaze.

Jin Mu-Won believed that there was a line.

A line in the sand6 created by humans for humans.

A line which determined the minimum acceptable ethics and morality that all human beings should always adhere to.

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A line that must never be crossed, because the instant one did so, they’d lose their humanity and become a beast.

The Iron Brigade had most certainly crossed that line, and not only had they crossed it, they did not regret doing it in the least.

To them, their own safety was their top priority. If someone or something was a threat to them, they’d do anything to get rid of it, even at the cost of their humanity and morality. That was the true secret behind the Iron Brigade’s survival and their perfect track record.

Jin Mu-Won understood very well that the path the Iron Brigade had chosen was efficient and logical. Still, he couldn’t acknowledge them, because that would mean denying his own beliefs. Although he currently shared the same ultimate goal and was walking along a parallel path with them, he was certain that these two paths would not cross.

It was a fragile alliance, and no one knew when it would break down.

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Both Jin Mu-Won and the Iron Brigade were painfully aware of that fact.

Even so, the ones who had crossed the line, and the one who hadn’t would remain traveling companions for now.


Translator’s Note: Sorry about the delay, the infodump in this chapter was so severely boring that I couldn’t summon the motivation to work on it…along with the arrival of the most hated season of Spring and Allergies… Now, by the law of the conservation of suffering, YOU WILL HAVE TO SUFFER WITH ME! AH-CHOO! SNIFF SNIFF…


Footnotes:

  1. Tang Hill Village (唐家陀): I mistranslated this as Tang Tower in C68 before, but that has been fixed now. Author-nim used a rather unconventional word for “village on a hill” which sounds exactly the same as “tower”, so I didn’t realize it until I saw the hanja in this chapter… 

  2. Tang Kwan-Ho: In case anyone was wondering, YES, this old man has the SAME NAME as our MC’s dad, Jin Kwan-Ho, just different last names. His name was changed to Tang Geon-Woo in the manhwa to avoid confusion. 

  3. Pavilion Head: I’m not going to type “Head of the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Poisons” over and over again, and you probably don’t want to read that either. Therefore, I will shorten Tang Gi-Mun’s title to “Poison Pavilion Head” or just “Pavilion Head” when it is suitable. 

  4. Sky piercer halberd (方天畫戟): A type of Chinese polearm that became popular as it was used by the famed general Lu Bu in the novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. However, even though Lu Bu is a real historical character, he lived in an era before such polearms were even invented. Here is an image:

    halberd 

  5. Chengdu: The capital city of Sichuan Province. 

  6. Line in the sand: Author-nim literally wrote “Maginot Line (마지노선)” here, for the colloquial meaning “a line that shouldn’t be crossed”, not the WW2 fortification that ended up being useless. I’m taking the liberty to replace it to avoid confusion. 

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