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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
As the White Dragon caravan traveled through Yunnan, the number of corpses they found on the sides of the road increased. The corpses were all dressed in either red armor or green uniforms, proof that they belonged to only two factions.
The more bodies they saw, the grimmer the faces of the Iron Brigade mercenaries became.
Only members of the Tang Clan wore green uniforms like that. Furthermore, these were uniforms that the Tang Clan only put on when they were prepared for battle, not what they usually wore in the Tang Hill Village.
At this point, there was no denying the Tang Clan’s involvement any more. Everyone, from the White Dragon escorts to the Iron Brigade mercenaries, trudged forward with heavy hearts.
There were numerous murim sects and clans in the world, but there was no faction that defined as clear a boundary between “friend” and “enemy” as the Tang Clan. Those who treated the Tang Clan with kindness would be repaid tenfold, and those who offended them would be repaid a hundredfold.
Most importantly, anyone who hurt a member of the Tang Clan out on official clan business would be blacklisted by the entire clan.
I fucked up. When we found the first body, we should have immediately turned around and headed back.
The exact same thought ran through both Gong Jin-Sung and Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan’s minds.
So far, they had already found several dozen dead bodies. It was clear that the Tang Clan was having a drawn-out fight with a formidable enemy.
Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan turned toward Yong Mu-Sung and said, “It’s best if this conflict ends before we catch up, but if it doesn’t, we need to be ready for a fight at any time.”
“Tsk! This is crazy. I can’t believe that we’re running into such a situation right after entering Yunnan. Still, this is a mission that we absolutely cannot fail.”
“It’s my fault. I should have been more cautious.” Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan’s face darkened.
The Iron Brigade’s modus operandi was to avoid potentially dangerous situations as much as they could, and if they couldn’t avoid it, they would take the initiative to get rid of the threat. When selecting missions, they would only accept the ones they were certain to succeed at, being careful to never take any risks that could wipe them out.
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“Well, there’s nothing we can do about that now. Everyone, remain on high alert. We have no idea what we might be facing. Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan, you give the orders from here on.”
“Yes Sir!” cried the mercenaries, readying their weapons.
Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan looked at Im Jin-Yeop and said, “Jin-Yeop-hyung, you take the lead.”
Im Jin-Yeop, who used to be a hunter, was the most suitable person to scout the way forward.
“Commander, you and Vice-Commander Chae should follow right behind him.”
The two mercenary leaders nodded in acknowledgement.
“Jin-Hong-hyung, please prepare your bow and arrow to shoot at a moment’s notice.”
“Gong-Son-hyung, you’re in the middle. Man-hyung and Ji-hyung, you two support him.”
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Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan ordered the mercenaries around without hesitation. He was the Iron Brigade’s strategist, a fact that even the unruly Ji Sung-Yul understood, so no one disobeyed him or argued with him.
After placing the mercenaries in strategic positions, Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan said to Gong Jin-Sung, “Finance Head Gong, please instruct the escorts to be prepared to abandon the caravan at any time. In the worst case scenario, we’ll have to give up the wagons and luggage.”
“Survival is our highest priority.”
“…Okay.” Gong Jin-Sung gave up and accepted Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan’s opinion.
Finally, Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan turned toward Jin Mu-Won. He opened his mouth as if he was about to say something, but then shut it again.
Yong Mu-Sung looked at him incredulously, asking, “Aren’t you going to give him instructions like you did to everyone else?”
“No. He’s not a person I can control, and if I can’t be sure he’ll do what I say, I might as well just exclude him from my plans.”
“Right now, having even one more warrior would be…”
“I get your point, but I’ve already made my decision.”
Gong-Son Chang, who had just had his duel request rejected by Jin Mu-Won not too long ago, nodded in agreement. Seeing that even one of his most trusted subordinates was being like this, Yong Mu-Sung furrowed his brows a little, but did not continue pursuing the issue.
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If leaving Jin Mu-Won be was Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan’s final decision, then so be it. He believed in his vice-commander’s wisdom that had protected the Iron Brigade from all sorts of dangers so far.
Tsk! Looks like we can’t avoid souring our relationship with him after all.
The nasty comments that Jin Mu-Won had made regarding the Neung Family affair had truly damaged their relations with him beyond repair.
If they couldn’t trust each other enough to leave their backs to each other, then they might as well simply exclude Jin Mu-Won from their formation. It was a waste of a powerful fighting force, but not even Yong Mu-Sung could be sure that the young man would follow orders without question.
I wanted to invite him to work under me, but since that isn’t possible anymore, I’ll have to draw a line between us and him. If I force the guys to work with him now, it would bring down their morale.
In the end, the Iron Brigade’s wishes took priority over everything else. From the way Jin Mu-Won had acted during this entire journey, he didn’t seem like the type who would quietly follow orders to run away so that they wouldn’t get tangled up in the Tang Clan’s business. On the other hand, even if they had to do something cowardly, the Iron Brigade always survived. As long as this difference in principles existed, they could not work together with Jin Mu-Won.
“Fine, do as you please,” Yong Mu-Sung concluded.
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Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan glanced at Jin Mu-Won out of the corner of his eye, however, the young man was staring blankly ahead of him as if their conversation didn’t concern him.
As I thought, I can’t figure out what’s going on in that man’s head at all!
Like Yong Mu-Sung, Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan was aware that leaving Jin Mu-Won out of their plans was probably the wrong thing to do. Even so, he couldn’t acknowledge the man. Their personal values were just too different.
One day, you’ll also learn that the gangho is not a place where you can survive alone.
He gritted his teeth and ordered the caravan to resume their travels.
While driving his wagon, Jin Mu-Won observed Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan, who was standing at the forefront and leading the White Dragon caravan formation. He could sense that the strategist was avoiding him on purpose, and had built up an unsurmountable wall between them.
That wall was a crystallization of the contrasting morals and values they each held. A person’s conviction wasn’t something that could be changed easily, and most certainly not because someone else disagreed with them.
Suddenly, two people, a man and a woman, dashed through the grass toward the caravan, their clothes stained with blood.
Yong Mu-Sung shouted, “Stop right there!”
The Iron Brigade mercenaries and the White Dragon escorts immediately pulled out their weapons.
Seeing this, the bloodied woman, Tang Mi-Ryeo, cried, “Wait! We belong to the Tang Clan, and we’re currently being chased by thugs! Please help us!”
Yong Mu-Sung stood in front of the woman, who was supporting a barely conscious older man while bleeding like crazy from her open wounds, and asked, “You’re from the Tang Clan?”
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“Yes! This person here is my uncle, Master Tang Gi-Moon! We were ambushed and my uncle was severely injured! Please help us, we will definitely repay you for your kindness!”
Yong Mu-Sung was conflicted. The Iron Brigade stood to benefit if they aided the Tang Clan, but at the same time, they would also make an enemy out of whoever ambushed them. Without knowing the details, he couldn’t decide whose side he should be on.
He threw a glance at Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan, who shook his head gently.
Tang Mi-Ryeo was neither a blind nor tactless person. Yong Mu-Sung and the White Dragon Merchant Association were clearly unwilling to help her, but that still didn’t mean that she could give up.
“Please, I beg you. If you help me this time, the Tang Clan will reward you handsomely.”
“I’m sorry, young miss. We are merely an ordinary merchant caravan, and do not wish to get involved in the gangho’s chaotic affairs,” Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan replied firmly. He did not feel good about abandoning someone in need, but he didn’t have the freedom to choose this time around.
An enemy that not even the Tang Clan can stand up to is most definitely one that we should not be getting involved with.
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Tang Mi-Ryeo bit her lip. If she weren’t in such a desperate situation, she would never have lowered her head and begged another person for help. However, unidentified enemies had laid traps and ambushed the Tang Clan. Going by the fact that they had targeted Tang Gi-Moon, a master of poison, first, their attack had been carefully planned out beforehand.
The Tang Clan warriors had fought back valiantly, but the hidden weapons they were so well-versed in could not pierce through their enemies’ red armor. Tang Yun-Ho, their strongest warrior, had bravely charged head-first toward the enemies, but was sliced in half in one slash of the enemy’s blade.
The Tang Clan warriors had then quickly located the red armor’s weak points between the joints and taken down several of them, but by then, it was too late. In the end, all of the Tang Clan’s young elites were annihilated.
Those young warriors had been Tang Mi-Ryeo’s relatives and friends. If she hadn’t been tasked with protecting Tang Gi-Moon, she would much rather have fought to the very end with the rest of them instead of running away while crying tears of blood.
The enemies’ preparations for fighting the Tang Clan were frighteningly thorough. However, the most terrifying one among them had to be their leader, the giant…
Just thinking about that man made the goosebumps on her skin rise up.
Tang Mi-Ryeo looked at Yong Mu-Sung again and pleaded, “Please…”
“I’m sorry, young miss,” he said, beckoning the caravan to resume moving.
As they passed by, the Iron Brigade mercenaries and the White Dragon escorts looked at Tang Mi-Ryeo with complicated feelings, knowing full well how heartless they were being, but none of them said anything that would tick off Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan.
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Tang Mi-Ryeo despairingly met eyes with each and every one of them, even as she supported her injured uncle. She understood that there was no meaning in her begging to them again. If she was in their position, she might have done the same. Still, she never imagined that the Tang Clan would be treated so harshly in such a remote part of the world.
The world is a cruel place after all, huh?
She felt like she was standing in the middle of a pit of despair, slowly sinking deeper into its depths every time a wagon wordlessly drove past her.
However, just as she felt that the entire caravan was going to leave, a dark shadow blotted out the light in front of her.
She lifted up her head, only to see one of the wagon drivers looking down at her. He reached out his hand and said, “Get on.”
Tang Mi-Ryeo’s eyes trembled with surprise and gratitude.
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