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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!


After calming down Myeong Ryu-San, Tang Gi-Mun stepped back out onto the deck. However, the moment he caught sight of a middle-aged Taoist, his expression soured. He knew this man.

“Seven Star?” he asked pointedly.

The Seven Star Sage glared at Tang Gi-Mun. “Hmph! So even the Tang Clan is here?”

Even to onlookers, it was obvious that the two men were not on good terms. The sparks of animosity flying between them were almost visible.

The Seven Star Sage approached Tang Gi-Mun, his presence as sharp as a blade. “It’s been a while, Gi-Mun.”

“About ten years, I guess.”

“You disappeared for so long, I thought you were dead, but here you are, still alive.”

“So you’re leading the disciples of the Mount Hua Sect now? I hope you won’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

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“How dare you!” the Seven Star Sage shouted. His face darkened with anger, and his aura intensified.

The Mount Hua Sect disciples were confused, but they quickly stood behind the Seven Star Sage. They didn’t know why he was upset, but he was their elder and leader. They had to support him.

Under the combined aura of several expert martial artists, Tang Gi-Mun’s face paled. Although he was a master of poisons and medicine, he wasn’t skilled in martial arts, so physically, he was no different from an ordinary man.

All of a sudden, someone placed a hand on Tang Gi-Mun’s shoulder and sent a wave of soothing energy through him, relieving him of the pressure.

“Thank you, Mu-Won.” Tang Gi-Mun said.

Without alerting anyone, Jin Mu-Won had quietly approached Tang Gi-Mun and helped him.

The Seven Star Sage’s eyes gleamed. The pressure he exerted wasn’t something ordinary martial artists could withstand, yet Jin Mu-Won had effortlessly helped Tang Gi-Mun overcome it. This was no small feat. “Who are you?” he asked.

“I’m his companion,” Jin Mu-Won replied.

“Hmph!” The Seven Star Sage didn’t hide his displeasure at Jin Mu-Won’s curt answer. Proper introductions in the martial world required one to state one’s sect and name, especially when addressing an elder of higher stature.

“Gi-Mun, it seems that your companion doesn’t know what manners are.”

“Pfft! Who do you think you are to deserve respect?”

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“I guess birds of a feather flock together. I’ll be on my way to the cabin now. If you see me again, we don’t know each other.” With a cold expression, the Seven Star Sage turned and left for the lower decks, his disciples following.

Tang Gi-Mun clicked his tongue in annoyance, “Tsk tsk! That shitty temper of his hasn’t changed at all.”

“Do you know him from before?” Jin Mu-Won asked.

“Who? Seven Star? Yes, somewhat. We spent some time together about ten years ago. Even then, his personality wasn’t exactly pleasant, and it seems like nothing has changed,” Tang Gi-Mun grumbled. He highly doubted that his mood would improve anytime soon.

Just then, Ha Jin-Wol, who had been watching from a distance, approached Tang Gi-Mun. “If it’s the Mount Hua Sect, then does it have something to do with the incident you mentioned earlier…”

“Yes, it does. About ten years ago, Tang Clan and Mount Hua Sect cooperated, but because of Seven Stars, everything got messy.

“At that time, there was a notorious villain known as the Thousand-Faced Sex Maniac who raped hundreds of women. Many martial artists tried to catch him, but with his disguise skills and cunning tactics, he got away with raping over a hundred women.

“One day, the Mount Hua Sect learned that the Thousand-Faced Sex Maniac had entered Shaanxi Province and sought help from the Tang Clan. As a result, several elite members of the Tang Clan, including myself, joined forces with them. Together, we pursued the guy relentlessly until we cornered him on the outskirts of Shaanxi Province.

“However, that Thousand-Faced Sex Maniac held a civilian family hostage and used toxic gas as a last resort. I suggested we take a cautious approach and retreat until we could identify the poison, but the Mount Hua Sect disregarded my opinion and urged swift action to prevent further casualties.

“The result was, well, not good. We ultimately defeated the Thousand-Faced Sex Maniac, but at the cost of the lives of the hostages and five Mount Hua Sect masters.”

“Was it the Seven Star Sage who made the decision?” Ha Jin-Wol asked.

Tang Gi-Mun explained, “Yes, and because of his unilateral decision back then, an entire family of innocents was wiped out. Men, women, and children… all of them succumbed to the poison. I and the other Tang Clan physicians tried to treat them, but it was in vain. The toxic gas released by the Thousand-Faced Sex Maniac was a highly corrosive acid. Once a person comes in contact with it, death comes quickly, leaving no time to get treated. Fortunately, most of the martial artists from Mount Hua Sect were able to suppress the acid with their internal qi long enough for us to save them, otherwise the death toll would have been even higher.

“Anyway, after the incident, I demanded that the Seven Star Sage be held accountable for the tragedy, and in response, the Mount Hua Sect issued a hundred-day penance for the Seven Star Sage. Naturally, I was livid. An entire family was wiped out, and that guy was only sentenced to a hundred days in prison? So many lives, worth only a hundred days of staring at a wall…

“As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Mount Hua Sect hid the truth and only announced the capture of the Thousand-Faced Sex Maniac to boost their reputation. Since then, the relationship between the Tang Clan and the Mount Hua Sect has become distant, and a deep rift formed between me and Seven Star.”

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“It seems like you hold a grudge from that incident.”

“Since ten years have passed, I thought that time would have mellowed him out, but I was wrong. He hasn’t changed at all.”

“People don’t change easily.”

“Yes, that seems to be true.” Tang Gi-Mun’s mood soured even more. They were still several days away from Heaven’s Summit by boat, and the fact that he had to spend that time in the same place as the Seven Star Sage irked him to no end.

“I’m going to go inside and rest for a while,” he sighed, then headed towards the cabin where Myeong Ryu-San was.

Jin Mu-Won and Ha Jin-Wol watched his retreating figure in silence.

“The gangho is more like a swamp with quicksand than a river or a lake.1 Once you step in, you can never get out,” Ha Jin-Wol lamented.

“Still, lots of people willingly jump into that swamp,” Jin Mu-Won replied.

“Yeah, because even though it’s disgustingly murky, it has a fatally attractive quality that makes people ignore their better judgment and roll around in the mud. Hoo, no wonder all gangho people smell of decay.” Ha Jin-Wol sniffed at his clothes. “Oh man, this smell, it’s awful!”

Jin Mu-Won smiled bitterly. He, too, was a man of the gangho, and by Ha Jin-Wol’s standards, he was probably a pretty stinky fellow. After all, he had built a temple of victory atop a mountain of corpses and filled the moat with their blood.

Murder. No matter how much he tried to justify it, that was the truth of what he had done.

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He was no different from any other stereotypical martial artist in the gangho.

Ha Jin-Wol slapped Jin Mu-Won on the back of the shoulder. “Don’t make that face. At least you’re self-aware. Most people in this world live without knowing why they do what they do.”

“That’s not much comfort.”

“Is it? Anyway, I was just spouting random nonsense. Don’t take it to heart. Ahaha!” Ha Jin-Wol’s raucous cackle echoed across the deck.

As the sun began to set and darkness enveloped them, the Yunmeng Marsh Riverboat continued to sail, with torches hanging from its bow to light the way ahead. The people who had laughed and chatted on the deck during the day retired to their cabins and fell into a deep sleep.

Jin Mu-Won sat alone on the deserted deck, watching the moonlight reflecting off the turbulent river.

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Suddenly, a cloaked man opened the cabin door and stepped onto the deck. He was Chang Woon, a first-class disciple of the Mount Hua Sect

After looking around for a moment, Chang Woon spotted Jin Mu-Won and approached him, saying, “Looks like someone’s enjoying the moonlight alone. Mind if I join you?”

“Please, go ahead. It’s not like I own the moon.”

“Haha! Thank you.” Chang Woon plopped down in front of Jin Mu-Won and took out a small bottle. When he saw Jin Mu-Won looking at it, he grinned. “What? Never seen a Taoist drink wine before?”

Jin Mu-Won nodded.

“Nothing strange about it. We Taoists are human too.” Chang Woon opened the bottle. A strong aroma wafted out and stimulated Jin Mu-Won’s senses. He took a sip and offered it to Jin Mu-Won.

Jin Mu-Won was surprised but accepted the wine and drank a mouthful. It was cheap hard liquor and felt like a firestorm in his throat, but curiously, the unique aroma felt strangely satisfying.

He passed the bottle back to Chang Woon, and for a while they took turns sipping the wine. Both of them were inner art masters who could suppress the effects of alcohol, but they chose not to, so it didn’t take long for their faces to turn red.

“Hey, have you heard of the Thousand-Faced Sex Maniac?” Chang Woon asked.

“Yes, I have.”

“Figures.” With a bitter expression, Chang Woon took another sip of the booze. He looked at the moonlight reflected on the surface of the water for a moment and continued, “Ever since that incident, Junior Uncle has lived a guilt-ridden life. In addition, although outsiders might see it differently, he was severely ostracized within the Mount Hua Sect, to the point that he lived in seclusion for a very long time, almost never showing himself.”

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“What are you trying to say?”

“I just hope that you won’t resent Junior Uncle too much.”

“I don’t know him well, so I have no reason to resent him.”

Chang Woon’s eyes widened in surprise. “I guess I got ahead of myself. Since you’re traveling with Master Tang, I assumed you were of the same mind as him.”

“Master Tang never mentioned the Seven Star Sage until we met him today. I don’t think his grudge is personal either. It’s more like cynicism towards the gangho in general.”

Chang Woon stared blankly at Jin Mu-Won for a while. Suddenly, he clasped his hands and said, “I am Chang Woon of the Mount Hua Sect.”

“I am Jin Mu-Won.”

“Haha! It feels great to meet someone worth having a drink with after so long.”

Jin Mu-Won smiled. Chang Woon’s cheerful personality was contagious.

“I’ve been agonizing over a lot of things these past few days, Master Jin, but today I’m going to let it all go and enjoy spending time with you. Drink to your heart’s content. Even if it’s cheap liquor, I have plenty of it. Quantity over quality, right?”

Passing the wine bottle back and forth, the two men chatted into the night.

sep

The next morning, Chang Woon was found dead.


Footnotes:

  1. The gangho is more like a swamp with quicksand than a river or a lake: This is a word pun as “gangho” literally means “rivers and lakes”. 

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