Chapter 104: Worth More than a Life (1)
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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
“Phew!” Tang Gi-Mun sighed, straightening his back, while Tang Mi-Ryeo handed him a white towel.
“Thank you.” Tang Gi-Mun took the towel from her and wiped off the sweat on his face. In front of him lay the madman’s corpse. He had examined the body all night long without rest, using every technique he knew. As a result, the corpse was covered in dozens of silver needles and discolored by the various poisons that were used during the autopsy.
“Did you find out the cause of the madness?”
“No, I still have a long way to go. Still, there are only a few possibilities left, so as long as I keep trying, I’m confident that I’ll get to the bottom of this sooner or later.”
“That’s good news.” Tang Mi-Ryeo heaved a sigh of relief.
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“Are you okay? You look even more haggard than I do.”
“No, it’s not. Please tell me about it,” Tang Gi-Mun insisted. He had been so absorbed in his work that he had no idea what was going on outside.
Tang Mi-Ryeo was left with no choice but to tell Tang Gi-Mun about the tragedy in Yuxi which had happened during the night. As she described the incident, the blood slowly drained from Tang Gi-Mun’s face.
“Did such a thing really happen in Yuxi?”
“That’s insane! How could they have done such a thing right in the middle of Yuxi? Many innocent civilians must have died!” Tang Gi-Mun said, shaking his head sadly. Although both martial artists and ordinary people lived in the gangho, there was always an implicit understanding that martial artists would not involve civilians in their fights.
One of the reasons for that is that whoever harmed civilians would instantly be branded a public enemy, and not even the largest sects could stand up to the combined forces of the rest of the murim. In particular, the orthodox sects, including Heaven’s Summit, would do their best to prevent open conflicts which would harm their reputations.
As it is, the Tyrant Fist Sect had blatantly ignored this unwritten rule and committed mass genocide. Although they only did it to defeat their enemy who was hiding themselves among the people, their actions had crossed the line.
“When we get back to the Tang Clan, I’m going to announce their crime to the world.”
“I knew all along that Jo Cheon-Woo, the Sect Leader of the Tyrant Fist Sect, was ambitious, but I had no idea he was this ruthless. If you don’t stop him now, who knows how many more innocent lives will be sacrificed?”
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He’s really going to publicize this. I’ve never seen him so angry, Tang Mi-Ryeo thought. If Tang Gi-Mun did as he said he would, the world would soon be thrown into chaos.
I wonder what he’s doing right now? A certain person’s face suddenly appeared in her mind. Master Jin…
Jin Mu-Won saved her and her uncle when everyone else had left them for dead. Unlike the others who talked about justice but only ever made empty gestures, he was a man who took action on his beliefs when it counted. How many people could do that, especially when they themselves might be put in danger because of it? At least, Jin Mu-Won was the first such person that Tang Mi-Ryeo had met.
Just remembering his face made her heart pound.
Just then, Song Kyung, who was guarding their residence, said, “This place is off-limits. Please leave.”
However, the next thing she knew, Song Kyung seemed to have quietly discussed something with the visitor and let them pass. She could hear the sound of a man’s footsteps approaching, until finally, he opened the door.
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“Are you Master Tang?” the visitor asked, looking at Tang Gi-Mun. He was in his late thirties, with neatly tied hair that was wrapped with a white cloth and scholarly sky blue robes. Behind him stood a dozen warriors who were armed to the teeth and giving off threatening auras.
Tang Gi-Mun frowned as he replied, “That’s right, I’m Tang Gi-Mun. Who are you?”
The scholar smiled and said, “I am Dam Ju-In from Heaven’s Summit.”
“Are you the emissary who was supposed to meet us here?”
“Yes, I am a member of Heaven’s Summit’s Scarlet Fog Association (赤霧黨).”
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“The Scarlet Fog Association?”
“You’ve probably never heard of it. We’re a small group, and even within Heaven’s Summit, few people know of us,” the scholar said, but as Tang Gi-Mun was still visibly confused, he laughed, took out a letter from his chest pocket, and continued, “Master Kwan, the Head Administrator of the Administrative Division, told me to deliver this letter to you.”
Master Kwan? He must be talking about Kwan Dae-Seung of the Administrative Division. I’ve met him a few times before.
The Nine Skies did not reside within Heaven’s Summit. They lived in their sects and only went there during special occasions. Thus, the daily affairs of Heaven’s Summit were left to the Administrative Division, led by the Head Administrator Kwan Dae-Seung.
Tang Gi-Mun observed the letter that Dam Ju-In handed to him and noticed Kwan Dae-Seung’s seal along with a statement proving his identity.
“Fine, I’ll trust in Master Kwan’s recommendation,” Tang Gi-Mun concluded with a nod of approval as he took a closer look at Dam Ju-In. At first glance, the emissary appeared to be a run-of-the-mill scholar, as he was unarmed and showed no signs of having practiced martial arts before. Still, Tang Gi-Mun couldn’t shake off the feeling that there was something oddly repulsive about the man, though he hid his distaste as he had no reason to suspect the man.
“Now then, would you mind helping us with the investigation? I’ve already started the autopsy of one of the madmen’s corpses, and with your aid, we’ll know the cause of madness much sooner than if I did it alone.”
“There’s no longer any need to continue the investigation.”
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“We’ve already identified the cause of insanity.”
Tang Gi-Mun widened his eyes in surprise. “When did you do that? Didn’t you just arrive here in Yunnan…?”
“Actually, we’ve already been here for quite some time, and I apologize for concealing that fact from you, Master Tang.”
“What? Why did you do that?” Tang Gi-Mun raised his voice, clearly upset.
However, Dam Ju-In remained expressionless as he replied, “I needed someone to distract our enemies while we conducted our investigation.”
Tang Gi-Mun and Tang Mi-Ryeo blinked in confusion for a moment, but the true meaning of Dam Ju-In’s statement soon sunk in.
“So you used us as bait?”
“Thanks to you, Master Tang, we of the Scarlet Fog Association could complete our investigation swiftly and without being noticed. Rest assured that Heaven’s Summit will greatly reward you for your contribution to our success,” Dam Ju-In laughed.
However, his mirth echoed strikingly in the otherwise silent room, which was instantly blanketed in a heavy atmosphere.
Jin Mu-Won looked like he had taken a shower in blood. Every step he took, more corpses fell to the ground around him. He was exhausted, not physically due to his extreme training, but mentally.
“Huff! Huff!” he panted. His legs felt like they were weighed down by the souls of the dead clutching at his feet and desperately hanging on for fear of being dragged into the underworld.
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He had never been surrounded by so much death before, not even ten years ago. Moreover, many of these deaths had been at his own hands. Although he understood that it was kill or be killed, the thought of taking so many lives tormented him.
The blood of countless people now stained Snow Flower, even though it seemed spotless and clean on the surface. The weight of all those lives piled up like a mountain, slowly crushing him.
He felt like he was trudging through a deep swamp, and yet, he did not stop. Geum Dan-Yeop was standing right in front of him, still playing his flute with his eyes closed as he concentrated on the climax of his piece and focused his sound on Jin Mu-Won alone.
The notes he was playing were now so high-pitched that it could not be heard by human ears. Regardless, the sound pierced Jin Mu-Won’s eardrums, shaking up his innards despite the shadow qi protecting his heart and ears.
If Jin Mu-Won had been a normal person, his body would have already exploded from the sonic waves, especially since he was Geum Dan-Yeop’s only target. Even with his strength, blood still spurted out from his nose as the sound overwhelmed his defenses. Ripples appeared on his skin, and his face contorted in pain.
Not only is the Serenade to the Apocalypse more powerful than I’d imagined, its power has been amplified several times over by the acoustics of the underground hall. The longer I stall, the more disadvantageous it will be for me. I need to take him down as quickly as I can.
Once his mind was made up, Jin Mu-Won burst into action. He took his left hand off Snow Flower’s hilt, holding it with only his right hand, then concentrated his qi in his left index finger and struck Snow Flower’s blade.
CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!
The sound of Snow Flower’s blade ringing interfered with Geum Dan-Yeop’s music, breaking Geum Dan-Yeop’s concentration. Sensing the momentary opening, Jin Mu-Won immediately closed in with the Flowing Stream Steps.
Geum Dan-Yeop snorted. Jin Mu-Won’s unexpected move had taken him by surprise, but it wasn’t enough to interrupt his playing. He took a deep breath and blew the last note of the Serenade with all his might.
The sound attack at a frequency beyond human hearing swallowed up Jin Mu-Won, and Geum Dan-Yeop’s confidence surged. He did not doubt for a moment that he would kill Jin Mu-Won with this one move.
However, the moment the attack hit him, Jin Mu-Won kicked off the ground and leapt a dozen meters into the air, then hurtled down toward Geum Dan-Yeop. As he fell, he unleashed the Shadow Blade of Destruction, including techniques such as Meteor Soul, Dividing the Heavenly Seas, and Storm Forest, filling the hall with Snow Flower’s afterimages.
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Dozens, no, hundreds of swords rained down on Geum Dan-Yeop who, overwhelmed by the magnificent sight, forgot that he was still playing his flute.
“So this is the Northern Army’s sword technique?”
BOOM! CRACK! BANG!
The sound of fireworks exploding echoed throughout the underground hall, scattering dust and broken stone fragments in every direction. Cheong-In and Kwak Moon-Jung, who were hiding outside the entrance, hurriedly crouched down to protect themselves.
When the explosions quieted down, the two of them stuck their heads into the hall, but couldn’t see anything through the dust cloud.
“Hyung?!” Kwak Moon-Jung cried out in a trembling voice, but didn’t dare enter the hall.
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A few minutes later, the dust finally settled, revealing the state of the two men inside. Both Jin Mu-Won and Geum Dan-Yeop were kneeling down on one knee, facing each other.
Geum Dan-Yeop asked, “Was that one of the Northern Army’s ultimate techniques?”
“It’s called the Shadow Blade of Destruction.”
“Haha! To think that the Northern Army successfully kept everyone in the dark about such a powerful martial art. Amazing, truly amazing… Kuheok!” Suddenly, Geum Dan-Yeop coughed out blood mixed with bits and pieces of internal organs, then almost immediately after, cut wounds appeared all over his body, drenching him in blood.
In contrast, Jin Mu-Won appeared unharmed on the surface, but the Serenade to the Apocalypse was still ringing in his brain and giving him a headache like he was being hit repeatedly on the head with a hammer. His vision doubled, his lungs struggled to take in air, and nausea threatened to overcome him.
Still, Jin Mu-Won did not take his eyes off Geum Dan-Yeop. Although Geum Dan-Yeop was a descendant of the Silent Night, he could not bring himself to hate the man. Instead, he felt like he could sympathize with him, as a person who was also “forgotten by the world”.
Geum Dan-Yeop slowly raised his blood-stained face and looked back at Jin Mu-Won, only to see the sad expression on the young man’s face. “You don’t have to…be sad about my death. I’ve already achieved my goal. The seeds I sowed…will wake the Silent Night from its slumber. That’s why…I have no regrets.”
“I know. You’re not a person who would die with regrets.”
“Haha! As expected, you… Ailao Mountains… Death Valley… Go there…” Geum Dan-Yeop’s voice trailed off as life faded from his eyes.
Jin Mu-Won silently observed Geum Dan-Yeop’s final expression. Although his face is bloodied, he seems at peace. Just why is he so desperate? What drove him to such extremes? What does he value more than his own life? I still have a lot of questions to ask him, but he will never answer me again.
“You…” Jin Mu-Won began, but he was interrupted by a sudden windstorm.
Translator’s Note: When your in-laws make your life a literal hell…sigh…
Proofreader’s Note: Hopefully back to more regular updates. Pray 🙏 for Translator Nim’s well deserved break.
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