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


On our way back from the Jiangxi Murim Alliance branch, Ak Yeon-Ho mumbled in a dumbfounded voice, “I can’t believe someone is using demonic arts…”

It seemed that his shock at hearing Go Ju-Yeol’s case description hadn’t gone away.

“Hyung-nim, if this story is true, isn’t this a big deal?”

“We don’t know if it’s true yet, and even if it is, I don’t see why we should make a big fuss out of it.”

Suddenly, as if he was worried that he was being too loud, Ak Yeon-Ho leaned close to me and whispered in my ear, “How can you act like it’s nothing! A group of psychopathic murderers has appeared right next to a Murim Alliance branch…and they’re demonic practitioners, at that.”

“It’s hot. Get away from me.”

I pushed Ak Yeon-Ho, who was giving off a strangely sweet scent that I hoped was perfume, away from me and asked, “What’s the big deal about demonic arts?”

Demonic Arts referred to any martial art that could be mastered quickly at the cost of damaging the body and/or mind, and not just the ones that made one emit a creepy black aura, because many orthodox martial arts also resulted in one having a black aura.

Well, there are exceptions…like the Heaven Defying Divine Art that I’m learning right now.

Only when the side effect of driving a person crazy or destroying their bodies was removed could a demonic martial art be termed a “divine art (神功)”.

In the end, the results determined the classification of a martial art.

At least, back when I was in the Blood Cult, there were many people so desperate for power that they ended up crippled or insane. For example, some people sucked on the blood of virgins, while others fed on the poisonous flesh of rotting corpses…But if there’s one thing that I’m sure of, it’s that the culprit this time is nothing like those lunatics.

Ak Yeon-Ho followed closely behind me and anxiously asked, “Hyung-nim, aren’t you worried? What if we end up having to fight those demonic experts…?”

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I shot Ak Yeon-Ho an utterly bewildered look. Even for a guy who was entering the gangho for the first time, he was far too clueless about his own strength relative to the rest of the murim.

“The only people stronger than you are the few supreme masters in the murim. Why are you so scared of fighting a few demonic experts?”

“Because demonic practitioners are evil?”

As a former member of a demonic sect, I suddenly felt the need to correct this naive punk.

“I think you’ve read too much martial arts fiction. Real demonic experts would never lower themselves to such an extent, they’ll just order their subordinates to do the killing for them.”

“Oh, is that so…”

“Also, if the situation truly was that serious, the Murim Alliance wouldn’t even think of leaving it up to us. That means that either the martial art being used is not demonic arts, or that the demonic practitioners are weak as hell.”

I recalled my earlier conversation with Go Ju-Yeol.

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“Demonic arts… Can you tell me why you think that these people used demonic arts?”

“What I’m about to tell you should never be made public, alright? Also, I’m not allowed to tell you all the details.” Go Ju-Yeol smiled slightly and continued, “Sigh, if not for the fact that we just haven’t got enough manpower these days…and a lot of trouble-making warriors have arrived in town for the start of a new school year at the Azure Dragon Academy… Anyway, you previously managed to identify demonic arts at a glance, right?”

Ah, he’s talking about the Jin Academy incident, where two unorthodox sect members impersonated the Nam-Goong Clan and tried to spread their demonic arts before I discovered them and revealed the truth.

I suppose I’m indeed an expert at spotting demonic arts.

“Well, right now, we’re not sure if the killers used demonic arts yet. Their methods were too brutal, and the corpses are badly damaged, so it’s just a suspicion…”

“Then, is it enough if I just confirm whether the killers used demonic arts?”

Go Ju-Yeol opened his eyes wide in surprise, then grinned and laughed, “If you can catch the culprits, then that’s even better. The Murim Alliance will even hand you a medal of recognition at the point!”

To a nobody like me, with no background or experience to speak of, the Murim Alliance’s medal of recognition was a very enticing prize.

“What do you think? Do you want to look into it? If you do, I’ll inform the government office about it.”

“Alright, I’ll give it a go.”

“That’s a good decision. Even if you fail to find the culprit, you’ll get a line added to your resume just for helping us in the investigation.”

“Only one line in my resume…”

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And so, we were now making our way to the local precinct to inspect the victim’s dead body.

“You don’t have to follow me, you know?” I asked Ak Yeon-Ho.

“Eh? Me?”

Unlike me, Ak Yeon-Ho was a member of the Shandong Ak Clan and a peak-level master in his own right. With his family background and martial skill, as long as he didn’t beat the examiner to a pulp during his interview, there was practically no chance of him failing.

Ak Yeon-Ho giggled, “There’s still quite a bit of time before the job interview, and following Hyung-nim around seems like it’ll be fun.”

“Fun? Is this really a statement coming from the guy who just got scared shitless at the mere mention of ‘demonic experts’?”

“As expected, I’m never bored with you around, Hyung-nim.”

“Perhaps it’s because you’re a child of a great clan, you’ve been educated very well. So well, in fact, that you pretend you didn’t say or hear anything when you yourself slipped up.”

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“WOW! Does that building actually have FIVE whole floors?”

As we conversed, we arrived at the precinct. Thanks to Go Ju-Yeol sending out a messenger pigeon informing them of our arrival, it wasn’t long before we were greeted by an expressionless young constable.

“Ah, so you’re the people the Murim Alliance informed us about. I am Constable Cheong-Cheon1, the inspector in charge of this case.”

“My name is Baek Su-Ryong. I’m new to the murim, so I don’t have a title yet.”

“I’m Ak Yeon-Ho! Please take good care of me!”

Constable Cheong-Cheon stared suspiciously at us for a while, but quickly returned to being expressionless.

“I heard that you’d like to first take a look at the body?”

sep

The Murim Alliance and the government were generally on friendly terms. As long as the Murim Alliance sent them backup when civilians were hurt or injured by martial arts, the government agreed not to meddle in the affairs of murim (i.e. the fighting and killing).

This was also the case for what was happening right now.

“The corpse is not in very good condition,” Constable Cheong-Cheon said as he removed the giant straw mat covering the corpse, revealing the dismembered body of an old man that had been chopped apart like a pig at the butcher’s.

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“Bleargh…” Ak Yeon-Ho furrowed his brows and retreated backward. Although he was a martial artist, and it wasn’t his first time seeing a corpse, this was too gruesome even for him.

Naturally, I, on the other hand, was completely unaffected. I approached the body without hesitation and asked, “May I take a closer look at the body?”

“…Please do so,” Constable Cheong-Cheon replied, looking at me with surprise.

With the constable’s permission, I put on a pair of gloves and began to inspect the old man’s wounds.

With this kind of damage, I’m not surprised the investigation suspected that the old man was killed using demonic arts.

It was hard to even recognize that these chunks of flesh once belonged to a living human being. I didn’t know who the perpetrator was, but they definitely hated this old man with a passion.

However, this…

As I examined the body, I frowned, lost in thought.

Hmm? No way.

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The appearance of the wounds gave me a sense of deja vu, like they were caused by a technique I was familiar with.

The technique that did this might be…

There were just too many similarities, to the point where I couldn’t help but feel uneasy.

Unfortunately, I can’t confirm it until we catch the perpetrator.

I organized my thoughts, then took off my gloves and turned toward Constable Cheong-Cheon, saying, “I’m done examining the corpse.”

“Did you discover anything unusual?”

I shook my head. Although I did notice something, I wouldn’t be able to explain how I knew what I knew, so I kept my mouth shut.

“I’m sorry, but there isn’t enough evidence for me to say anything conclusive.”

“Is that so?”

“I heard that Master Go Ju-Yeol also took a look at the corpse a few days ago. What did he say about it?”

“Something similar to you.”

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The old man’s body was put back in the morgue.

Ak Yeon-Ho, who had stood far in the back with his face pale as a sheet during the entire autopsy, approached me and poked me in the side.

“Hyung-nim, why do you seem so used to touching corpses even though you look like a scholar? You sent shivers running down my spine, you know?”

“Should I fondle you with these hands that have just touched a corpse?” I said mischievously.

“HIIIEEEEEK!” Ak Yeon-Ho ran away, frightened.

Meanwhile, Constable Cheong-Cheon stared at us expressionlessly.

I cleared my throat awkwardly and asked him, “Ahem, could you tell me more about the case?”

“Alright.”

This was the case as summarized by Constable Cheong-Cheon:

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  • A few days ago, a big-name moneylender in Nanchang, Old Man Heo, was found murdered in his house.
  • The estimated time of the crime was between the Hae Hour (9 pm, 亥時) and the In Hour (5 am, 寅時).
  • When Old Man Heo failed to show up at mealtime, the servant who went to call him discovered his dismembered body and immediately reported the crime to the government bureau.

“Is there a suspect?”

“There are three suspects, namely, Old Man Heo’s son, a middle-aged woman named Madam Son who manages all of Old Man Heo’s brothels, and Old Man Heo’s personal bodyguard.”

According to Constable Cheong-Cheon, all of these three people could freely enter Old Man Heo’s residence, and all had convincing motives for murder.

“Old Man Heo hasn’t gotten along with his son for years, and disowned him not long ago. Madam Son has an illicit affair with Old Man Heo, but they recently had a big argument over the running of the brothels. Finally, the bodyguard used to be a wanderer, and doesn’t have a clean past.”

As the deceased Old Man Heo was a loan shark, there was likely a mountain of people with grudges against him, but judging by the circumstances of his death, these three people were the most likely suspects.

I asked Constable Cheong-Cheon, “Can I meet those three? I’ll need to observe them with my own eyes to know what kind of martial art they learned.”

“Certainly, I’ll take you to them.”

We followed the stoic Constable Cheong-Cheon to meet the first suspect.

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sep

“This is a false accusation!” cried Madam Son, a beautiful middle-aged woman. She looked like she was in her early forties, but according to Constable Cheong-Cheon, she was actually well over fifty.

“While it’s true that I did argue with him that night, that kind of thing was a common occurrence.”

We were currently listening to Madam Son’s testimony in the Scarlet Palace, one of the brothels owned by Old Man Heo. The table in front of us was laden with so many dishes and jugs of wine, it looked like it would collapse at any moment. However, none of us touched the food.

Next to me, Constable Cheong-Cheon’s face was still as expressionless as ever, but Ak Yeon-Ho’s eyes were darting around here and there, all over the place.

Is this your first time in a brothel!?

Even though this guy was technically the son of a noble clan, the more I got to know him, the more he seemed like a country bumpkin…

Anyway, Madam Son repeatedly insisted on her innocence.

“I don’t know any martial arts, and I’m too scared to even catch a chicken. As for murder…”

If I let things keep going like this, all I would hear were pathetic excuses, so I interrupted her, asking, “I heard that you were having an affair with Old Man Heo?”

“……”

I didn’t know whether it was out of anger or shame, but Madam Son’s face quickly flushed red. However, that only lasted for a moment before she snorted and glared at me, “Yes, I was, and everyone knows about my relationship with him, so I have nothing to be ashamed of. By the way, do you find it fun teasing an old woman?”

“If that’s how you want to take it, then I apologize. All I want to do is to get the facts right.”

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Well, the truth was, I wanted to anger her on purpose to see if she her aura would change, thereby revealing what kind of martial art she practiced.

“Excuse me, but could you tell me the reasons why you and Old Man Heo argued so often?”

“Do I have to answer that…” Madam Son grumbled, but when she saw the expressionless look on Constable Cheong-Cheon’s face, she relented and answered, “…He wanted me to leave running the business to another woman and become his mistress. I refused. Although he owns this Scarlet Palace, I’m the one who built it into what it is today.”

Understandably, Madam Son was very attached to the Scarlet Palace. After all, it was one of the top ten businesses in Nanchang, and earned a considerable profit.

“I loved him, you know. To the world, he was an evil loan shark, but he had an unexpectedly kind side to him…”

At some point, we ended up just listening to Madam Son voice her grief.

“……”

I gestured toward Constable Cheong-Cheon, but he just sat there expressionlessly like a block of wood, as if he planned on leaving everything up to me.

“Yes yes, thank you for telling us your life story.”

At any rate, I was sick and tired of hearing the old woman’s sob story, and I was done observing her as well.

She did not know any martial arts, and it was impossible for her to be the murderer.

However, that did not mean that she was innocent, as she could have hired an assassin.

“We have to go meet the next person now…”

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The three of us stood up from our seats, and Madam Son escorted us out of the room.

CRASH!

Suddenly, with the sound of something crashing and breaking, a drunken man hollered, “Get the fuck out of my face, bastards! Do you know who I am? Oi, Grandma, get your ass over here right this instant!”

Madam Son’s face darkened.

Constable Cheong-Cheon, who had been quiet all this time, finally opened his mouth and said, “Looks like we won’t have to go looking for our second suspect.”


Footnotes:

  1. Cheong-Cheon: This character is named after a famous Chinese civil servant, Bao Qingtian, a legendary historical figure who fought injustice and corruption, and protected the peasants from being taken advantage of, even to the point of sentencing his own uncle and punishing powerful people related to the Imperial family. 

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