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


Chang Woon’s body was a horrific sight. Half his face had rotted away, and his flesh was savagely mutilated.

“No!” The Seven Star Sage let out a guttural groan, raw and animalistic. “Who was it? Who found Chang Woon first?”

“It was me, Junior Uncle.” Chang Gong, a disciple of Mount Hua Sect, stepped forward, his anguished expression a mirror image of the Sage’s.

“What happened?”

“I thought it strange that Senior Brother hadn’t risen from bed, so I checked his cabin and… kuheuk!” Overcome by emotion, Chang Gong crumbled into tears.

His grief seemed to spread like wildfire, and soon, the other disciples nearby were also weeping.

“Senior Brother!”

“Junior Uncle! Uwaaaah!”

In an instant, the Mount Hua Sect disciples filled the deck with their sobs and wails.

Above the noise, the Seven Star Sage commanded, “Silence! We can’t afford to cry before we catch the one responsible for Chang Woon’s death. We must find and avenge him!”

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His words, charged with fierce determination, quieted the disciples. The shared killing intent in their bloodshot eyes sent a chill through everyone on the ship, causing civilians to instinctively step back.

Just then, Jin Mu-Won and his party approached the grieving disciples.

“What in the world happened?” Tang Gi-Mun asked, his eyes widening at the sight of Chang Woon’s mangled corpse.

“Huh?” Jin Mu-Won choked, instantly recognizing Chang Woon despite the severe disfigurement. Captivated by each other’s sincerity, they had shared drinks until dawn, and even when they parted, Chang Woon had insisted on continuing their sessions the next day and the day after that.

“Just who…” he murmured, eyes darkening with restrained anger. Despite knowing Chang Woon for less than a day, the man had made a deep impression on him, and while he found the Taoist’s quick familiarity overwhelming, he had accepted it, feeling a genuine sense of camaraderie.

Tang Gi-Mun stepped forward to conduct an autopsy as the Seven Star Sage looked on silently, his bloodshot eyes filled with unimaginable sorrow. Suddenly, Tang Gi-Mun’s expression grew stern, and he murmured, “Could it be?”

The Seven Star Sage immediately caught on. “Is it aqua regia?” he asked.

“You suspected it already?”

“How could I not? Ten years ago, five Mount Hua Sect disciples lost their lives to aqua regia.”

A decade earlier, the Seven Star Sage had watched his disciples die in agony after being poisoned by aqua regia. Although the culprit, the Thousand-Faced Rapist, was long dead, the cruel and painful memory remained fresh in his mind as if it had happened just yesterday.

As such, he knew the symptoms better than anyone.

“Who dared use aqua regia against a disciple of the Mount Hua Sect?” he roared, his voice booming across the Yunmeng Marsh Riverboat’s deck.

The onlookers shuddered, realizing the gravity of the situation. A disciple of the Mount Hua Sect had been murdered, and the transgression would surely not go unpunished. Trapped on the same boat, they feared the repercussions that might follow.

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Suddenly, Chang Gong pointed at Jin Mu-Won and shouted, “Junior Uncle, it’s him! He was the last one seen with Senior Brother last night.”

The Seven Star Sage’s gaze shifted to Jin Mu-Won. “Is it true? Were you with Chang Woon until the end?”

“Yes,” Jin Mu-Won replied calmly, seeing no reason to lie.

The Seven Star Sage’s eyes flared with suspicion. “You dare…”

“He was a good man. We shared drinks until dawn, and he promised we would drink together tomorrow and the day after. He didn’t deserve to die like this,” Jin Mu-Won whispered softly.

A shiver ran down the Seven Star Sage’s spine, as if he had been doused with cold water. This man…?! He’s a lot stronger than I thought!

Nevertheless, he did not back down. “Are you saying you had nothing to do with Chang Woon’s death?” he pressed.

“Yes.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“I will vouch for him,” Tang Gi-Mun declared, straightening himself and meeting the Seven Star Sage’s furious gaze without flinching. “I vouch for him in the name of the Tang Clan. He is trustworthy.”

“I asked him, not you. How can I trust your words?”

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“You don’t need to trust me,” Jin Mu-Won replied coolly.

“What?” The Seven Star Sage’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, feeling slighted by Jin Mu-Won’s indifference.

“I will find the culprit,” Jin Mu-Won continued, unperturbed.

“Do you know who it is?”

“Not yet, but I will soon.”

“How?”

“May I examine the body?”

The Seven Star Sage hesitated, his expression conflicted.

Beside him, Chang Gong urgently whispered, “Elder, we cannot let him desecrate Senior Brother’s body any further.”

“He’s right, Junior Uncle. We can’t let a suspect touch the body,” added Chang Hye.

Their fellow disciples chimed in, their voices a chorus of pleas, urging the Seven Star Sage to deny the request.

Uncertain, he carefully observed Jin Mu-Won. There’s no fear in his eyes, he realized.

Sighing, he gave a reluctant nod. “Fine. You can examine Chang Woon’s body. But if you fail to find the culprit, I will deem you guilty of his murder.”

“That’s absurd!” Tang Gi-Mun protested, but the Seven Star Sage was unmoved.

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“I have given him the choice. If he is uncertain, he need not proceed.”

“I will do it.”

“You should know that lying in the murim usually leads to death,” the Seven Star Sage warned, his voice stern as he stepped back to allow Jin Mu-Won access to the body.

Jin Mu-Won knelt beside Chang Woon’s corpse, his face etched with grief. Chang Woon…

Chang Woon’s face was contorted in agony, a testament to the suffering he had endured before his death. Jin Mu-Won gently closed his eyes and meticulously examined the body, checking the clothes, hands, feet, and every wound without missing even the slightest detail. After a thorough inspection, he stood up.

“Did you find anything?” Tang Gi-Mun asked.

Jin Mu-Won nodded, causing the Seven Star Sage’s expression to waver.

“What did you…?”

“May I inspect the disciples who came with you?” Jin Mu-Won interrupted.

“You dare suspect the Mount Hua Sect disciples?” the Seven Star Sage boomed, outrage coloring his voice as his bloodshot eyes once again flashed with killing intent.

Jin Mu-Won remained unfazed. “I just need to take a quick look.”

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“Fine. But if you don’t deliver, be prepared for the consequences.”

“One more thing. Did anyone touch Chang Woon’s body?”

“Only we moved Senior Brother’s body. No other disciples came near it,” Chang Gong and Chang Hye confirmed.

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. We found Senior Brother’s body first. No one else touched it.”

Satisfied, Jin Mu-Won walked over to the Mount Hua Sect disciples. Some of them looked uncomfortable, instinctively resenting the intrusive scrutiny of an outsider, while others glared at him with hostility, their pride as martial artists from a prestigious sect wounded.

Ignoring their wary gazes, Jin Mu-Won slowly circled around the disciples. Suddenly, his face darkened and he stopped abruptly. “Why did you do it?” he asked, staring at one of the second-class disciples.

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“What?” Il Won, the person in question and a promising young talent of his sect, snapped back irritably.

Chang Gong immediately protested, “What nonsense is this?”

“Are you accusing one of us?” Chang Hye echoed.

The Seven Star Sage stepped forward. “Accusing a disciple of the Mount Hua Sect without evidence is a serious offense. Unless you can provide solid evidence, we will not forgive this affront to our honor.”

Tang Gi-Mun squirmed with worry. “Why is he doing this?” he muttered.

“Let’s wait and see, hyung-nim. The Mu-Won I know wouldn’t step forward without good reason,” Ha Jin-Wol quietly reassured.

“True, but still…”

“Just trust him and keep watching.”

Reluctantly, Tang Gi-Mun nodded, though his anxiety was still palpable.

“What nonsense are you spouting? How dare you accuse me! If you cannot provide evidence, I will personally behead you!” Il Won shouted, placing a hand on his sword.

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As if on cue, the other Mount Hua Sect disciples also readied their weapons, their killing intent heavy in the air.

“Fucking bastards…” Myeong Ryu-San, who had been quiet until now, cursed under his breath. While he had gained some self-confidence after learning inner arts, he knew he wasn’t yet a match for the Mount Hua Sect disciples.

Tang Mi-Ryeo and Nam Soo-Ryun reached out to calm him, their faces also marked with worry. They didn’t doubt Jin Mu-Won’s skills, but the Mount Hua Sect was one of the Nine Great Sects, a formidable opponent even for Heaven’s Summit. Provoking them could lead to serious consequences.

If Jin Mu-Won failed to uncover the culprit, he would make an enemy out of the Mount Hua Sect. If he succeeded, their pride would be severely wounded. There was no favorable outcome for him.

Why is he doing this? Tang Mi-Ryeo wondered, her eyes shaking with uncertainty. Is his bond with Chang Woon that strong even though they’ve barely known each other for a day?

Seeing the approaching Jin Mu-Won, Il Won retaliated aggressively, threatening, “Accusing me without proof? Don’t you realize that you are also a suspect? Do you think being with the Tang Clan Elder automatically exonerates you?”

“Why did you kill him?” Jin Mu-Won asked again.

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“Even now you insist? If you cannot provide evidence, I will punish you in the name of the Mount Hua Sect!”

“Evidence?”

“Yes, evidence!”

“Did you see the wounds on Chang Woon’s body?”

“Of course, I did.”

“At first glance, they appear randomly inflicted, but if you look closely, they are all inflicted at a consistent angle. Most of the sword wounds are slashed from left to right.”

“So what?”

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“The perpetrator is probably left-handed, and among us, only you are left-handed.”

Il Won, the only Mount Hua Sect disciple who wore his sword on his right hip, suddenly became the center of attention.

The Seven Star Sage exploded in rage. “Accusing a Mount Hua Sect disciple just because he’s left-handed? You must have a death wish! Provide more evidence, or I will tear you apart!”

Jin Mu-Won smiled, a cold and calculating smile. “As you know, Chang Woon and I drank together last night. Though it was cheap liquor, its strong scent still lingers on me.”

“So what?”

“To my knowledge, only Chang Gong, Chang Hye, and Master Tang touched Chang Woon’s body. Observe closely, and you’ll notice that they all have a faint smell of alcohol.”

Chang Gong, Chang Hye, and Tang Gi-Mun sniffed themselves and indeed detected the faint scent of alcohol. Jin Mu-Won then fixed his gaze on Il Won. “But why do you smell of alcohol when you claim you didn’t touch his body?”

Looking panicked, Il Won stammered, “T-That’s because…”

The Seven Star Sage scowled. “Explain yourself, Il Won!”

“C-Come to think of it, I did briefly talk to Senior Brother Chang Woon last night. The smell must have gotten on me then.”

“Chang Woon first opened the bottle of alcohol when he drank with me. Are you saying you met him after that?”

“Well…” Unable to come up with a plausible excuse, Il Won grimaced in despair.

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