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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
The survivors looked at the battlefield in dismay. It was a hard battle. Countless people lay scattered on the ground like garbage, dead or heavily wounded. The martial artists of the Tyrant Fist Sect, the Iron Brigade, and the White Dragon Merchant Association were all in a frenzy, especially the White Dragon escorts who had lost most of their comrades.
Three White Dragon escorts viciously ganged up on one Tyrant Fist elite. One of them held their enemy in a death grip while the other two stabbed him unhesitatingly, running their blades through their own comrade in order to kill a stronger enemy. Similarly, the Iron Brigade’s warriors fervently launched themselves at the Tyrant Fist Sect, enraged by Yong Mu-Sung’s defeat. The fury of people who had been driven into a corner was unthinkable.
Half an hour later, the brutal battle finally ended.
The cries of the five surviving escorts echoed through the hills despite all of them being heavily wounded.
“Haa… Why did things have to end up like this…” Gong Jin-Sung sighed as he looked around in despair. All of the escorts worked directly under him and had been with him for at least a few years. He knew them so well, he clearly remembered how many siblings and even how many grandchildren each of them had. However, they were now simply cold corpses on a field.
The Iron Brigade wasn’t in good condition either. All of them had survived, but they were, without exception, covered in injuries from head to toe and lay sprawled on the ground, panting.
Still, compared to the Tyrant Fist Sect, who were annihilated, at least they were alive.
Chae Yak-Ran leaned back against a rock and looked at Hwang Cheol, who was kneeling over several corpses, his shoulders trembling slightly. In front of him lay the bodies of Seo Chang-Hwe, Oh Geum-Ho, and Son Mu-Hyung. Instead of surrendering, they had chosen to fight to their deaths, but even at the end, they never blamed Hwang Cheol or cursed him.
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Ironically, that was also why Hwang Cheol was left with a huge scar in his heart.
“Master Seo, Master Oh, Master Son…” With shaking hands, Hwang Cheol closed their bloodshot eyes. He had looked up to them as a young man, but instead of feeling a sense of accomplishment from defeating them, he felt only unimaginable grief.
Ha Jin-Wol also looked at him sympathetically. He couldn’t fathom the depth of Hwang Cheol’s loss. The precious memories from the middle-aged man’s youth were shattered by none other than himself. “He destroyed his own past…” he muttered.
He tore his eyes away from the devastation and stared blankly at the sky. Although he had tried his best to hide it, he was in fact the most nervous person during the battle. The Iron Brigade and the White Dragon escorts were the ones actually fighting, but he was the one who directed them. Countless lives would have been lost if he had made a single mistake.
He’d thought that he was ready for this when he decided to return to the gangho, but it happened much sooner than he’d expected.
Have I already been swept up by that man’s fate?
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He was a strategist at heart, and in that sense, Jin Mu-Won’s ability to attract trouble made the young man the most ideal person those like him could dream of following.
His heart beat faster in excitement. The latent ambition in him was flickering back to life.
Jin Mu-Won returned to the caravan right before dusk. His clothes were tattered, and he looked on the verge of fainting.
“““Young Master.””” Hwang Cheol, Kwak Moon-Jung and Ha Jin-Wol greeted.
“I’m glad you’re safe, Uncle Hwang.”
“Too many people died though…”
Jin Mu-Won grimly surveyed the battlefield. There were still several unrecovered corpses scattered around, and the metallic scent of blood stung his nostrils. He closed his eyes in mourning, feeling the lingering resentment of those who could not rest in peace.
Ha Jin-Wol patiently waited for Jin Mu-Won to open his eyes, then said, “Please gather everyone. We can’t undo what has already happened, so we now need to think about how we should deal with the consequences.”
“There’s no such thing as an unsolvable dilemma. If there is, that can only mean that we lack the will and ability to solve it,” Ha Jin-Wol declared confidently.
Jin Mu-Won nodded in approval and gestured for all of the weary survivors to gather around them. When everyone was assembled, Ha Jin-Wol looked at Jin Mu-Won and said, “You want him to come too, right?”
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“The Black Moon spy.”
Jin Mu-Won nodded, turned toward a seemingly empty shaded spot, and said, “Come out.”
“I know you’re there.”
“Fuck!” An unfamiliar middle-aged man shouted profanities and grimaced as he came out of hiding and joined the group.
“How the hell did you figure out where I was?”
“I just know it.”
“That’s bullshit!” Cheong-In sat down, shaking his head in disbelief.
Now that everyone was gathered, Ha Jin-Wol stood in front of the group and announced, “Okay everyone, we are in deep shit.”
“Since we’ve defeated the Tyrant Fist Sect, shouldn’t we be out of danger?” Gongson Chang of the Iron Brigade asked, looking at Jongri Mu-Hwan for agreement as the strategist was the most intelligent person he knew.
However, Jongri Mu-Hwan’s expression was just as grave as Ha Jin-Wol’s. He looked at Jin Mu-Won and asked, “What happened with Jo Cheon-Woo?”
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“He has left for the next world.”
“I knew it!” Ha Jin-Wol’s eyes glittered darkly. Jo Cheon-Woo suddenly disappeared during the battle, and Jin Mu-Won appeared after it ended. Even though everyone knew what it meant, Jin Mu-Won’s confirmation still left them in a state of shock and awe.
Jo Cheon-Woo is dead…
That great pillar has fallen…
Not even Yong Mu-Sung, the commander of the Iron Brigade, was exempt. As someone who had fought with Jo Cheon-Woo, he was well aware of the unsurpassable gulf between himself and the giant.
Jin Mu-Won isn’t just a powerful gangho newcomer, he’s already entered the realm of the absolute.
Yong Mu-Sung shuddered, realizing that he was witnessing the birth of a new legend.
Cheong-In gave Yong Mu-Sung a sympathetic look. He too had been stunned by the sight of Jin Mu-Won killing Jo Cheon-Woo, and the memory was still fresh in his mind.
With glazed eyes, Ha Jin-Wol stared at Jin Mu-Won for a long time before finally asking, “Jin Mu-Won, are you the Lord of the Northern Army?”
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“……” Silence fell over the group. Everyone looked like they had been hit over the head with a hammer, especially the Iron Brigade mercenaries. Although they suspected all along that Jin Mu-Won was no ordinary wanderer, they hadn’t expected him to be the current leader of the Northern Army.
“Haa…” Someone sighed, breaking the silence.
“How did you know that?” Jin Mu-Won asked.
“I couldn’t be sure of it at first. After all, the Northern Army Fortress was destroyed ten years ago, and it was rumored that the last successor had died in the chaos.”
Even though Ha Jin-Wol hadn’t fully believed the rumor, it was enough for him to initially dismiss Jin Mu-Won’s association with the Northern Army. Such was the nature of rumors; they made it near impossible to think without bias. However, once he put together the pieces of the puzzle and cleared his mind, it wasn’t hard to guess Jin Mu-Won’s identity.
“The problem is, if the fact that you defeated Jo Cheon-Woo gets out, I’m sure that I won’t be the only one who suspects that.” Ha Jin-Wol explained.
Hwang Cheol frowned. Only now did he realize the gravity of the situation. As soon as it became known that Jin Mu-Won was the Lord of the Northern Army, Heaven’s Summit would surely move to eliminate him, and even though Jin Mu-Won was just as strong as the other absolute masters, in the end, he was just one person. No matter how good he was at martial arts, it was humanly impossible to defeat the overwhelming numbers of the super-organization that ruled the Central Plains.
Suddenly, Ha Jin-Wol grinned slyly and turned toward Hwang Cheol.
Hwang Cheol’s heart sank.
Ha Jin-Wol asked, “Since Mu-Won calls you Uncle Hwang, is it okay if I call you that too?”
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“Let’s talk frankly.”
“You still have a lot of contacts, right?”
“What are you talking about?”
“The Northern Army.”
“……” Hwang Cheol’s eyebrows twitched.
Ha Jin-Wol didn’t miss it. “So it’s true. No wonder the numbers don’t add up.”
Most people thought that the martial artists of the Northern Army were split up between the Four Northern Pillars, but according to Ha Jin-Wol’s calculations, the vast majority of them actually ended up as wanderers.
“Even though the Northern Army was forcibly disbanded by Heaven’s Summit and the Four Northern Pillars, there’s no soldier who doesn’t long for their hometown, so I’m not surprised that quite a lot of them chose to return home instead of joining another faction. Also, I guessed that they would keep in touch with each other, and it seems I was right.”
Ha Jin-Wol’s cold, hard logic left Hwang Cheol speechless.
“Is he right?” Jin Mu-Won asked Hwang Cheol.
“Sigh! I’m sorry for hiding this from you, Young Master, but I’m indeed still in touch with some people.”
Jin Mu-Won face lit up a little. “They haven’t forgotten about the Northern Army, have they?”
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“I don’t think anyone can forget the Northern Army, Young Master. Later, when there’s time, I’ll bring them together. I’m sure they’ll be happy to see you.”
“Oh, save that for later. I don’t need them yet. It’s enough that I know they exist. Now that we’ve settled one problem, it’s your turn…” Ha Jin-Wol’s gaze shifted to the Cheong-In, who flinched under his intense gaze.
“…Are you talking about me?”
“I need you to get the Black Moon involved.”
“Why should I?”
“Because our destinies are now intertwined, and there’s no way we can let the Black Moon walk away unscathed, is there?”
Cheong-In’s face crumpled like a sheet of paper.
Ha Jin-Wol ignored him and continued, “It’s not yet time for this guy’s existence to go public. We have a lot more work to do before we’re ready to turn the world upside down, so I need your help until then.”
“Who are you to say that, when you’ve only been with us a few days?” Cheong-In whined.
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However, Ha Jin-Wol didn’t take his rudeness to heart. He glanced at Jin Mu-Won and replied confidently, “He trusts me. Isn’t that enough?”
Jin Mu-Won furrowed his brows at Ha Jin-Wol’s utter shamelessness, but he did not refute the scholar’s claim and nodded wordlessly. As Ha Jin-Wol said, he did trust the man. There was no rationale behind why he did so, he just felt that Ha Jin-Wol could be trusted.
Cheong-In’s face fell as he said exasperatedly, “What exactly is it you want? The fact that this guy killed Jo Cheon-Woo will soon be known throughout the world.”
“I’m going to fish in troubled waters.”
Cheong-In shook his head. “Fishing in Troubled Waters” was one of the Thirty-Six Stratagems,1 and it involved reaping benefits from chaos and confusion. However, there was no chaos?
Ha Jin-Wol grinned. “An overabundance of information leads to mass confusion.”
“Luckily, we have a good excuse, don’t we?”
“Can you stop talking in riddles?”
“The Silent Night!”
“The Silent Night?”
“Yes, the Silent Night. The conflict between the Tyrant Fist Sect and the Silent Night. What do you think? Doesn’t it make a pretty picture?”
“Ah!” Everyone exclaimed in realization.
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Jin Mu-Won asked, “Is it possible to do it? The opponent is Heaven’s Summit, they won’t believe it so easily.”
“You’re asking me if it’s possible? Don’t forget, I am the one and only Ha Jin-Wol,” Ha Jin-Wol replied in a voice that oozed pride and confidence.
Translator’s Note: I need to stop playing Diablo…
Thirty-Six Stratagems: A Chinese essay used to illustrate a series of stratagems used in politics, war, and civil interaction. Its focus on the use of cunning and deception both on the battlefield and in court have drawn comparisons to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. ↩
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