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


Poison! Shadow held her breath the moment she felt the poisonous gas filling the room, but it was too late. Some of it had already seeped into her body. Despite her resistance to most poisons, beads of cold sweat formed on her forehead and her fingers began to tremble.

Shadowless watched her coolly. “Quite potent, isn’t it? Even you won’t last long without the antidote.”

“Why…?” Shadow forced out a whisper.

Shadowless grinned. “As I said, you’ve become careless. The old you would have noticed and acted before the poison spread. Were you that glad to see me?”

“……” Shadow struggled to regain her composure. As Shadowless had once taught her, an assassin must never show emotion. First, I need time to assess the situation and purge the poison from my body. Luckily, since he hasn’t killed me yet, he must want to negotiate.

“Treason… is it?” she asked.

It’s so obvious that she’s trying to stall for time. Shadowless laughed, “Treason? Why use such a blasphemous word? Murdering the Prime Minister is not treason.”

“Elder Gongson is His Majesty’s mentor, and His Majesty considers him akin to a father,” Shadow argued.

“That is precisely the problem,” Shadowless said, sipping his tea leisurely.

His relaxed demeanor seemed full of openings, but Shadow knew better than to attack him recklessly.

“Prime Minister Gongson has wielded immense power since His Majesty’s childhood, serving as his eyes and ears. He’s even killed countless virtuous officials to secure his own power,” he continued.

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“Why are you spouting such nonsense?” Shadow shot back. Gongson Su had dedicated his life to the country and the Emperor. If he were truly power hungry, he wouldn’t have chosen to retire to his hometown after years of dominating the Imperial Palace.

“Nonsense?”

“Elder Gongson has never ordered the execution of an innocent person! You of all people should know that!” Shadow shouted.

The Royal Guard’s intelligence network, Skyshadow, knew all of the palace’s dirty secrets, including the power struggles and unspeakable incidents that were never brought to light. There was no way Shadowless didn’t know the truth.

“Shadow, the Prime Minister may be fearsome, but he deserves respect.”

Years ago, Shadowless had expressed his admiration for Gongson Su, but now he was portraying the Prime Minister as a corrupt official.

Shadow couldn’t make any sense of it.

“Hahahaha!” Shadowless burst out laughing. “Well, if he had just spent his last days in peace and quiet, none of this would be happening.”

A shiver ran down Shadow’s spine. This was the first time she had ever seen her former master laugh for real. “What do you mean…?” she blurted out.

Shadowless set down his teacup with a decisive clink. “When Prime Minister Gongson retired due to illness, His Majesty finally came to his senses. However, as soon as the news of the Prime Minister’s recovery spread, His Majesty acted quickly to recall him, alarming his most loyal subjects.”

“No way…” Shadow’s eyes widened, sensing the intense lust for power in Shadowless’s gaze.

Shadowless narrowed his eyes and a wicked smile formed on his lips. “Fearing that His Majesty would once again become the Prime Minister’s puppet, the royalists begged me to take action.”

“As the Emperor’s shadow, how dare you ally yourself with traitors to seize power? If that’s not treason, then what is?” Shadow growled through gritted teeth as she secretly concentrated the poison in her body. It was a temporary solution, but at least she could move more freely now.

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Shadowless grinned wickedly. “I’ve been a puppet of power all my life. Why shouldn’t I enjoy that power?”

He’s gone mad, Shadow shuddered. She had always thought of Shadowless as the perfect, emotionless assassin. Now she realized how wrong she had been.

Suddenly, a frightening thought crossed her mind. Wait, if the entire Royal Guard is involved in this…

She chose her words carefully, trying to extract the information she needed. “Did Sir Skykiller approve?”

Shadowless’ smile faltered slightly, and a wave of killing intent swept over her.

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“Approve? Do you think Skykiller is above me?” he snarled.

Shadow inwardly heaved a sigh of relief. Phew, so Skykiller doesn’t know about this. The Royal Guard hasn’t been compromised.

Skykiller was the captain and the strongest member of the Royal Guard. Ten years ago, two notorious villains, the sworn brothers known as the Illusion Demon and the One-Eyed Demon, wreaked havoc throughout the world, repeatedly raiding government facilities and leaving messages mocking the Emperor. The Murim Alliance was called upon to eliminate them, but the two villains were too powerful and ended up slaughtering all the masters of the orthodox sects.

One day, a man dressed in the robes of an imperial official appeared in front of the two villains and said, “By imperial decree, I shall execute you here and now.”

Ten seconds later, both the Illusion Demon and the One-Eyed Demon were beheaded, and their heads were taken to the imperial capital and put on public display for a month.

From then on, the man called Skykiller was recognized as one of the Ten Kings of the murim.

I must inform Sir Skykiller. He can turn this situation around, Shadow decided, quietly gathering her inner qi. She had to escape this place, even if it meant losing a limb or two.

Before she could move, however, Shadowless pulled a small wooden box from his robes and opened it, revealing medicinal herbs with a subtle scent. “Shadow, I’m going to give you a chance to live. I’ve heard that you personally prepare the Prime Minister’s decoction every day. Use this instead,” he offered.

Even a fool can tell these herbs aren’t medicine. Shadow replied icily, “You want me to poison Elder Gongson? You want me to kill him with my own hands?”

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“This is the cleanest way. Given his age, it’s not like he has much longer to live. No one would suspect anything if he died in his sleep.”

“……” Shadow stared at the box in silence.

Shadowless’ harsh expression softened and his voice took on a persuasive tone. “His Majesty knows how much the Prime Minister cherishes you. You will not be blamed for his death.”

“……”

“If you do this one thing, I promise you complete freedom. Prime Minister Gongson may have promised you wealth and honor, but he’s not the only one who can make such promises,” Shadowless said, then produced another box, this one containing a dark-colored pill. “Swallow this, then go back and prepare the decoction tonight. I’ll give you the antidote as soon as we confirm his death.”

“……” Lies. All lies. The moment I swallow this pill, I’ll become his dog, incapable of ever defying him, Shadow thought.

“Or would you rather die here?” Shadowless added casually, confident that she had no other choice. She was already poisoned, and after serving as Gongson Su’s personal guard for so long, she had become complacent.

She was no longer the hardworking and ruthless assassin he once knew.

An assassin who begins to feel emotions begins to value their life. She can’t refuse my offer.

Alas, he was mistaken. Shadow had no interest in wealth or honor. Over the years, she had never neglected her training, and she always carried out every mission with the utmost diligence.

Most importantly, she had grown deeply fond of Gongson Su. To her, Gongson Su was no longer just the Prime Minister she served, but the only family she had.

“I… I would rather die than betray the Elder!” she screamed.

“Are you sure you won’t regret it?”

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“Absolutely,” Shadow said, springing to her feet and swiftly flinging the throwing knives hidden in her sleeves.

THUD! THUD! THUD!

The projectiles embedded themselves deep into the table which Shadowless flipped over to shield himself from the sudden attack.

As if expecting this to happen, Shadow continued to attack, unperturbed.

Seeing her steely resolve, Shadowless clicked his tongue, “Tsk. So this is your answer. How disappointing.”

Four assassins jumped down from the ceiling, and two more emerged from the floor. Surrounded, Shadow drew her daggers and activated Skyshadow’s secret martial art, Dark Shadow Flow.

SSSSSS…

Her form blurred and vanished into a mist, but so did those of the other assassins. They were all experts in the same martial art.

He brought all of Skyshadow’s elite with him, Shadow thought, but this was no time to be shocked. She quickly dodged and parried the onslaught of blades from all directions.

CLANG, CLANG, CLANG!

Before she became Gongson Su’s personal bodyguard, she had been the best in Skyshadow, aside from Shadowless. Unfortunately, her opponents were no pushovers either. Outnumbered, poisoned, and trapped, she was soon covered in wounds.

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Watching from afar, Shadowless commanded, “Do not kill her. I want to try ‘persuading’ her again.”

Of course, this second persuasion would involve torture and drugs.

“Keuk…” Shadow coughed. She was still fighting hard, but the increasing blood loss was making her dizzy, and the poison had begun to spread again. Still, she gritted her teeth and scanned the battlefield for a way out. Not yet. I’m not finished yet!

“…So stubborn,” Shadowless complained, frowning. Shadow had killed three of the six assassins, and the rest were still fearless and relentless, but she still showed no signs of relenting. He’d thought she’d grown complacent since becoming the Prime Minister’s bodyguard, but she was definitely stronger than she was five years ago.

If she hadn’t been caught off guard… Shadowless shivered at the haunting thought, then dismissed it. A possibility was a possibility, nothing more. “This is the end,” he said.

CRASH!

Shadow’s knees buckled and she fell to the ground. Her body had reached its limit. For every assassin she killed, a new one appeared to replace them. It was never-ending.

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Still, her mind remained sharp. My right arm is useless and their numbers are overwhelming. Rather than continue to fight, I should…

Shadow went limp to save the last of her strength. She had only one chance to succeed. The moment Shadowless dropped his guard and entered her attack range, she would sacrifice her right arm to deliver a fatal blow to his neck.

I don’t know if this will work, but… No, it has to work!

If she could at least kill Shadowless, the traitors’ plan would be disrupted, and the Elder’s chances of survival would increase.

“You haven’t given up yet, have you?” Shadowless said, standing just out of reach. His assassin’s instincts had warned him of the danger she posed, and he wasn’t about to take any risks. “Seal her acupuncture points,” he said.

At his command, the assassins immediately fired qi needles at Shadow from all directions, completely paralyzing her. One of the assassins then approached her and restrained her from behind.

Damn it, Elder… Unable to even open her mouth, she glared at Shadowless through clenched teeth. She wasn’t afraid of death, but she regretted not being able to protect the Elder, who had just begun to find happiness. She also hated the fact that she would never know more about the emotions she had just begun to feel.

“Hohoho, I’m going to be very sad when you get married.”

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Perhaps such a day would have come. She had thought to ask him to play the role of a father on that day.

“Are you crying, Shadow? It’s a good thing I decided to follow you,” a man said.

That’s not Shadowless’s voice. Who…? Shadow looked in the direction of the speaker, but she couldn’t see his face clearly through the haze of tears in her eyes.

”!!” At the unfamiliar voice, all the assassins turned their heads simultaneously, but before they could react, the man attacked.

SLASH!

A powerful wave of sword qi sliced the assassin holding Shadow in half and scattered the other assassins.

“Are you okay?” the man asked.

Shadow stared blankly at the back of the man standing before her.

“Who are you?” Shadowless shouted. The man had a handsome face, pale skin, and wore extravagant bright blue robes, but his frigid aura and the blood dripping from his sword stood in disturbing contrast to his clean appearance.

The man sneered, “Would you know if I told you?”

“…There were guards outside. How did you get in?”

Baek Suryong casually pointed his sword at Shadowless as if he was taking a leisurely stroll. “How else? Obviously, I killed them all.”

The scattered assassins regrouped and began to close in on him, but Baek Suryong was unfazed. Instead, he turned around and said to Shadow behind him, “Whatever you’re about to see, pretend you didn’t see it. Actually, just close your eyes.”

“……” Shadow squeezed her eyes shut, feeling it was the right thing to do.

At that moment, a blood-red sword qi enveloped Baek Suryong’s sword.


Translator’s Note: I swear, these codenames are driving me nuts.

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