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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, was located at the confluence of the Yangtze River and the Han River, making it an ideal location for a major trade hub. With a spider’s web of lakes and rivers, including East Lake and Hong Lake, countless people travelled to Wuhan by boat every day. In recent years, however, one place had become even more popular than Wuhan: Hanchuan City.
Located about a hundred miles north-west of Wuhan, Hanchuan was home to the headquarters of the most famous organization in the world: Heaven’s Summit. This superpower that ruled the gangho sat on a small island in the middle of a lake. The island, more than forty miles in circumference, was densely populated with dozens of buildings, large and small.
The only way to enter Heaven’s Summit was by crossing a bridge leading to a heavily guarded main gate. No one was allowed in without permission or identification, not even the most famous people in the world. Even then, Heaven’s Summit was always crowded with martial artists sent by the various sects, as well as martial artists who were stationed there permanently.
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Naturally, the thousands of martial artists living on an isolated island required an enormous amount of supplies, and dozens of supply wagons and hundreds of merchants traveled in and out of Heaven’s Summit every day. To make transportation more convenient, a large village almost the size of a county sprouted up around the only bridge leading to Heaven’s Summit.
The name of this village was Heaven’s Village, and the villagers were so proud of Heaven’s Summit that they called themselves the Chosen People.
However, Heaven’s Village was not just an ordinary village. It was a “miniature gangho” where young martial artists seeking their fortune, spies from small and medium-sized sects, and people with various ambitions gathered.
With the gathering of people came the gathering of money, with the flow of money came the merchants and courtesans, and with the flourishing of businesses came the gathering and spreading of information. Under these circumstances, there were very few ordinary civilians living in Heaven’s Village.
The Spotless Inn was a shabby inn on the outskirts of Heaven’s Village. It was cheaper and more affordable than the other inns in the village, so it was a popular destination for poor young martial artists.
The restaurant on the first floor of the Spotless Inn was filled to the brim with aspiring young martial artists looking for a chance to enter Heaven’s Summit. Although the inn was normally quite busy, the number of customers had more than doubled recently, following rumors of a new organization for young martial artists.
Suddenly, the doors to the Spotless Inn swung open and a young martial artist walked in. No one inside paid him any attention, as too many people went in and out of the inn every day. Rather than take note of every stranger, people were generally more interested in the latest news and rumors about Heaven’s Summit.
The young martial artist looked around for a moment, then approached the innkeeper at the registration counter and whispered something to him. After hearing his words, the innkeeper discreetly pointed at the stairs.
The young martial artist climbed up the stairs to the third floor. At the end of the corridor on the third floor was a room guarded by two muscled warriors. The warriors exchanged a few words with the young man, then let him into the room.
The inside of the room was undecorated and minimalist, with only a table, a chair, and some rustic furniture. A man sat at the table, scribbling something furiously, with his back to the young martial artist.
He was an average-sized man whose back was stiff with age and experience. As if he didn’t care whether the young man was there or not, he continued working without pause.
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The young martial artist stared at the man’s back for a long time, holding his breath to avoid disturbing him.
The room was so quiet, the sound of the man’s brushstrokes could be heard. However, to the young man, every stroke sounded like a sword slicing through the air.
After what seemed like an eternity, the man put his brush down and flipped the document around. He then rolled it up until it was no bigger than a child’s finger, inserted it into a small barrel and whistled loudly.
The young martial artist blinked at the man, puzzled, but his unspoken question was almost immediately answered as a bird flew into the window.
Is that a messenger bird?
The bird was a small eagle commonly known as a gyrfalcon. Despite its size, it was agile, fierce, and difficult to tame. However, once tamed, it could carry messages faster and more accurately than any other bird in the world.
The man tied a small barrel to the gyrfalcon’s leg and sent her flying. Only when she was out of sight did he finally turn to look at the young martial artist.
He was in his late thirties, with an icy expression and piercing eyes that sent shivers down the spine of anyone he faced. A small and strange leather pouch hung around his neck like a necklace.
He looked at the young martial artist and asked, “What are you here for?”
“I have a report from Yunnan. The importance of the message is Earth-grade.”
“Yunnan?” The man’s eyes lit up with interest.
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The young martial artist took a sealed letter out of his chest pocket and respectfully handed it to the man, who immediately unsealed it and read it.
“Jo Cheon-Woo is missing?” The man’s eyes widened slightly with surprise. “Can you confirm the truth of this?”
“This letter came from the Scarlet Fog Association in Yunnan Province.”
“The Scarlet Fog Association? If I remember right, their leader was a guy named Dam Ju-In?”
The man put down the letter and stroked his chin, while the young martial artist looked at him nervously.
This man was no ordinary man. He was part of the Inquisition, one of the many secret organizations in Heaven’s Summit and one that was tasked with identifying, searching out, and monitoring potential enemies of Heaven’s Summit. The information they gathered was then passed on to every intelligence organization within Heaven’s Summit, including the General Administration.
In other words, to offend the Inquisition was to offend the whole of Heaven’s Summit. It was no wonder that no one wanted to get on their bad side.
Still, the man was quite a bit more important and powerful than the young martial artist thought. He wasn’t simply a member of the Inquisition, he was their leader, and the Spotless Inn was the headquarters of the Inquisition.
The young man didn’t need to know this though, as the identity of the Chief Inquisitor and the location of the headquarters were closely guarded secrets, known by only a few of Heaven’s Summit’s top officials.
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“So Jo Cheon-Woo really is missing?”
The man stroked his chin and mumbled incoherently to himself for a long time, and the young martial artist watched him in silence.
“Tell your men to keep a close eye on the Scarlet Fog Association,” the man finally commanded.
“Yes, sir.” The young martial artist didn’t question the man’s unusual orders; he had absolute trust in him. His mission completed, he quickly bowed to the man and left the room.
Meanwhile, the man lit the letter with a candle and watched as the ashes were blown away by the wind. He then took out a large, detailed, scaled map of the Central Plains from a drawer and spread it out on the table. The map clearly showed the terrain of China, including the provinces of Hubei, Yunnan, and Gansu.
Heaven’s Summit had spent decades and heaps of gold on the making of such an accurate map, to the point where even within Heaven’s Summit, few were allowed to use it.
The man took out several markers and placed them on the map. The white markers formed a path from Gansu Province to Yunnan via Sichuan, while the black markers were scattered all around Yunnan.
“This is the path ‘he’ took, and these are the traces of the Silent Night that we are aware of.”
The man stroked his chin and stared at the Central Plains map for a long time, before adding several blue markers around the heart of Yunnan.
“The Tyrant Fist Sect and Jo Cheon-Woo,” the man mumbled, furrowing his brows as if the mere mention of those names irritated him. He then took out red markers and placed them at several strategic locations around Yunnan.
“The Scarlet Fog Association.”
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Now, the image he wanted was complete. The current situation in Yunnan was clearly visible. In the man’s mind, he began to organize all the information he had.
“The last survivor of the Iron Sword Sect? Hah.”
As the man recalled the name of an up-and-coming martial artist, his heart beat wildly in excitement, his shoulders trembled in anticipation, and his palms sweat with elation.
“That’s a lie. That person must be my lord.”
From the moment the man had first heard the name, he knew. His lord was the only person who could cause such a stir in his emotions.
As for the identity of his lord? Well…
The man’s name was Seo Mu-Sang. Although he was now the Chief Inquisitor of Heaven’s Summit, seven years ago, he had been sent to the Northern Army Fortress as the vice-captain of the Third Company. Unfortunately, due to a certain incident, the Northern Army Fortress was set alight and burned down.
That was also when Seo Mu-Sang was summoned back to Heaven’s Summit. As the only survivor and witness of the entire incident, he endured torture and all sorts of unspeakable hardships from those who claimed to be “information collecting experts”.
However, even though their torture wore him down both physically and mentally, he never confessed that Jin Mu-Won was still alive. In fact, he was so adamant about it that Heaven’s Summit had given up torturing him after a year, let him go and accepted his words as truth.
That meant that not only had he succeeded in faking Jin Mu-Won’s death, he had also survived the ordeal and regained his freedom.
However, that wasn’t enough to satisfy Jin Mu-Won’s First Sword.
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Seo Mu-Sang gritted his teeth and started over from scratch, re-joining Heaven’s Summit as a grunt. He devoted himself exclusively to improving his martial arts, mastering Jin Mu-Won’s teachings and making them his own. This enabled him to slowly work his way up the organization ladder, despite having no strings to pull.
Also, he had deliberately avoided contacting Jin Mu-Won, aware that his every move was likely to be monitored, and he was right. Heaven’s Summit’s secret surveillance continued for another three years.
His innocence finally proven, Seo Mu-Sang quickly rose to prominence, securing his position at the top of the Inquisition.
As Chief Inquisitor, Seo Mu-Sang did his best. Only by consolidating his place in Heaven’s Summit would he be of help to Jin Mu-Won.
And now, after many years of toiling under Heaven’s Summit, he noticed the appearance of the Northern Blade, Jin Mu-Won. Right away, he was sure that this was the same Jin Mu-Won as the Jin Mu-Won of the Northern Army.
Part of him wanted to throw away everything he had worked for and run to Jin Mu-Won’s side right away, but he couldn’t.
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“My Lord may be one of the strongest individuals, but he hasn’t yet gained a footing in this world. I need to keep Heaven’s Summit distracted until he can find allies and build a group of his own.”
A new era of chaos would begin soon, and it wasn’t just a prediction. As the leader of the Inquisition, he had enough information to know it for certain.
“Both Silent Night and Heaven’s Summit are gathering their forces. When they’re done, there will be all-out war.”
It was a clash of giants that had been building up for decades. Seo Mu-Sang couldn’t even begin to imagine the extent of the destruction that would be unleashed. All he knew was that the future of the Central Plains was bleak.
“I serve one and only one Lord. For him, I’ll wait here patiently until the perfect time comes to strike back,” Seo Mu-Sang whispered determinedly.
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