Chapter 108: The Gathering Storm (2)
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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
“What is this place?” Yong Mu-Sung and the Iron Brigade warriors exclaimed in astonishment.
The moment they broke through the fog, an incredibly beautiful landscape was revealed in front of them. Dozens of large and small pavilions dotted the valley like a painting, while a large waterfall cascaded spectacularly in the background. The picturesque view, complete with blossoming flowers blowing in the breeze, was so calm and serene that it made one wonder if this place had been built by humans.
Jin Mu-Won frowned. The scenery was certainly beautiful, but it also felt a bit desolate.
He slowly led the Iron Brigade forward while Yong Mu-Sung warned his men, “Everyone, stay on high alert. We don’t know what might happen.”
“Yes Sir!” The Iron Brigade warriors drew their weapons and watched their surroundings warily.
As Jin Mu-Won walked through the unfamiliar landscape, he had a strange feeling of déjà vu, as if he had been here before. He looked around in confusion. What is this place…?
He could sense signs of activity around all the pavilions. One of them seemed to be particularly crowded with living things, so he decided to go there first.
The inside of the pavilion turned out to be pitch black, but all of those present were skilled martial artists and unaffected by the darkness.
Suddenly, something hidden in the darkness growled. Jin Mu-Won cautiously approached the source of the sound and without hesitation opened the door to the room it was in. There he saw a man cowering in a corner of the room.
The man’s eyes were red and bloodshot, typical of a madman. However, unlike the madman he had met in Yuxi, this person didn’t jump at him right away. This could only mean that he hadn’t completely lost his mind yet.
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Leaving the madman behind, Jin Mu-Won checked the other rooms one by one, only to find more people in a similar state.
“What the hell is going on here?” Yong Mu-Sung muttered.
Although they didn’t say it, the other members of the Iron Brigade felt the same way. The pavilion was full of madmen with no one to watch over them. The good news was that they weren’t violent, so there was no need to kill them to protect themselves. The bad news was that they hadn’t found a cure for the disease yet.
It wasn’t the worst possible situation, but it was still wise to be on guard.
Jin Mu-Won continued his search with his All-Encompassing Cognition. After searching the largest pavilion, he moved on to the second largest, and then the next. Finally, he found himself alone and separated from Yong Mu-Sung’s group.
He entered the smallest pavilion, which was the shabbiest and most isolated of all the buildings. Feeling the unusually cold temperatures in the corridor, he unconsciously picked up his pace until he finally reached a doorway in the deepest part of the pavilion.
He took a moment to catch his breath, then opened the door and saw a man sitting cross-legged in the middle of the room. The man’s bushy hair and beard made it impossible to distinguish his features, but Jin Mu-Won recognized him immediately.
“Uncle Hwang!” Jin Mu-Won shouted, his heart pounding so hard that it threatened to jump out of his chest.
Hwang Cheol was dressed in the same shabby clothes as when he left the Northern Army Fortress, and silver chains were wrapped around his emaciated wrists and ankles. The man was a shadow of his former self, but Jin Mu-Won knew who he was at a glance.
At the sound of Jin Mu-Won’s voice, Hwang Cheol muttered, “Heh, since I’m hearing voices again, I must be going crazy.
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“Uncle Hwang!” Jin Mu-Won called out again.
Hwang Cheol finally realized that something was wrong and carefully opened his eyes. As if he couldn’t believe what he saw, the corners of his eyes twitched. “Eh… Huh…?”
” Uncle Hwang, it’s me, Mu-Won. I’m here.”
“Are you really the young master?” Hwang Cheol’s voice trembled, his eyes watering.
Jin Mu-Won hugged Hwang Cheol tightly. The warmth of his hug made Hwang Cheol realize that what he was seeing and feeling was not a hallucination.
“Why are you here, Young Master…?”
“To find you, of course.” Jin Mu-Won’s eyes teared up as well. Fortunately, unlike the other madmen, Hwang Cheol still seemed to be rational.
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“Please wait a moment.”
Jin Mu-Won took out Snow Flower and cut the chains binding Hwang Cheol, who was immediately overwhelmed by his newfound freedom. He hadn’t expected that the chains, which were unyielding no matter how much he struggled, would break so easily.
“I never expected to see you here, Young Master. I feel like I’m dreaming.”
“How could I possibly sit still when my Uncle Hwang went missing?”
Seeing the tears welling in Hwang Cheol’s eyes, Jin Mu-Won wiped them away. “What happened, Uncle Hwang? Everyone else here has gone crazy, but you alone seem fine.”
“I think my condition is related to the Three Origins Meditation Technique, but I’m not sure why.” Uncle Hwang shook his head.
Five months ago, the Crimson Ghost Squad kidnapped him and brought him to this place. At first, he was imprisoned with the other members of the White Dragon Merchant Association, but as time passed, more and more of them began to lose their minds.
The sight of his closest companions going insane was terrifying. No one knew who would go crazy the next day. It could be someone else, or it could be himself.
“That’s when I started concentrating on the Three Origins Meditation Technique.”
Fortunately for Hwang Cheol, his meridians hadn’t been sealed. That meant that he could wholeheartedly devote himself to the Three Origins Meditation Technique, hence delaying the onset of madness. When the Silent Night found out about his unusual condition, however, they restrained him with iron chains and quarantined him.
Since Jin Mu-Won hadn’t learned the Three Origin Meditation Technique himself, he could only guess at its effects. It seems that the Three Origins Meditation Technique, like other conventional orthodox martial arts, has the side effect of improving one’s resistance to sinister energies, thereby protecting one from whatever caused the madness.
Jin Mu-Won studied Hwang Cheol closely, only to find that his uncle’s eyes were more serene than they had been before, a sign that he had overcome some sort of training obstacle, though he wasn’t sure exactly what that obstacle was.
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“I’m so glad you’re okay,” he murmured to himself.
“I apologize for bothering you at this moment, Young Master, but I’m afraid I need to show you something.”
Hwang Cheol shuffled toward the back of the hall, and Jin Mu-Won followed him with a puzzled look on his face. The two men eventually ended up in the backyard, which was surprisingly bare and in disrepair in contrast to the other places in this hidden paradise.
“Why did you bring me here?” Jin Mu-Won asked.
In response, Hwang Cheol dug a hole in the ground, revealing a black box buried under the dirt. “Please take a look at this, Young Master.”
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Jin Mu-Won observed the box. There was a large amount of sinister energy and poisonous gas coming out of it. “What is it?”
“I don’t know, but after our kidnappers buried it here, people started going crazy one by one.” Hwang Cheol replied, shuddering at the memory.
Jin Mu-Won used the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows to strengthen his respiratory system and opened the box. Immediately, despite his efforts to protect himself, a poison so potent that it made him feel dizzy washed over him. Had he been an ordinary person, his nerves would have been paralyzed and he would have suffocated within seconds.
“Hmm?” As he looked into the box, he found that the source of the poison gas were several gray poison pills.
Is this the cause of the madness? Were all those madmen we saw in Yuxi… poisoned here? Jin Mu-Won crushed some of the pills and examined them. Unfortunately, there was a limit to what he, an amateur in the study of medicine and poisons, could determine.
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Although he was happy that he was able to save Hwang Cheol, he also wanted to solve the mystery behind the Yuxi Massacre, which meant that his next step would be to give the pills to an expert for a detailed analysis. He searched the pavilion for a small deerskin bag, placed the pills inside, and sealed it.
Why did Geum Dan-Yeop drive people mad with poison? He must know that even though they’re strong, they’re still no match for the average martial artist. Jin Mu-Won vaguely felt that Geun Dan-Yeop was trying to convey a message to him through the contradiction between the breathtaking scenery and the macabre cruelty of this place.
Suddenly, Hwang Cheol said, “This place reminds me of the stories I heard about the Silent Night’s headquarters.”
“Yes. I was really surprised when I was first captured and brought here. A long time ago, when I was a child, there was a prisoner of war who escaped from Silent Night, and to this day I remember his description of Silent Night’s headquarters.”
So this is why I had that feeling of déjà vu before! When I was a kid in the Northern Army Fortress, I used to hear stories like that too. Wait, does this mean that Geum Dan-Yeop was trying to create an imitation of the old Silent Night? Something clicked in Jin Mu-Won’s mind, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Nevertheless, he knew that he was one step closer to the truth.
“I’ve finally found you,” a deep voice boomed. It was Yong Mu-Sung.
Jin Mu-Won and Hwang Cheol turned around to see Yong Mu-Sung and the Iron Brigade warriors approaching them with a bound madman in tow.
“KEUAAAAAAK!” the madman shouted with bloodshot eyes.
“Third Young Master!” Hwang Cheol shouted in alarm, recognizing the madman as Yoon Ja-Myeong, the Third Young Master of White Dragon Merchant Association. Since he had been locked up in isolation shortly after being kidnapped, this was the first time he had seen Yoon Ja-Myeong in this state.
“Phew! It looks like I got the right man after all. Thank goodness he’s still alive, even if he’s deranged,” Yong Mu Sung said with a slight frown. He was really happy to have found his rescue target, but something about all this irked him, like when one comes out of the restroom after taking a big shit without wiping one’s butt.
He turned to Jin Mu-Won and continued, “Let’s get out of here. We can send someone else to pick up the rest of the victims. There’s something really disturbing about this place and I can’t stand it any longer.”
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“I agree.” Jin Mu-Won nodded. Although he didn’t say it, the longer he stayed here, the more uncomfortable he felt. He supported Hwang Cheol with one arm and together they made their way out of Death Valley.
However, it wasn’t long before he was forced to stop.
“Hey… What the hell?” Yong Mu-Sung was about to ask Jin Mu-Won why he suddenly stopped, but he immediately realized the answer. Right in front of them was a blockade formed by numerous martial artists led by a man in his late thirties.
The man, who was wearing a light blue robe with his hair neatly tied in a white hero’s bun, smiled at them gently.
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