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


“The Skyshadows have failed,” a man in a black martial arts outfit reported, his voice devoid of emotion as he knelt.

“Failed?” the listener replied with a frown and a click of his tongue. As the captain of the third unit of the Black Forest, one of the three major assassins’ guilds in the murim, he went by only his code name, the Third Captain.

He roughly estimated the extent of Shadowless’s failure, then asked, “Shadowless confidently declared that we wouldn’t have to intervene, but it seems like he’s all talk. Hmph, just as one would expect from a spoiled palace upstart. So did the bodyguard named Shadow escape? What’s the target’s status?”

The subordinate’s response far exceeded his expectations.

“The Skyshadows were annihilated, and we lost track of the bodyguard. Fortunately, we didn’t detect any unusual activity from the target.”

“…What?” the Third Captain exclaimed, suspecting there might be an error in the report. The Skyshadows were annihilated? While they were not on par with the Black Forest, they weren’t entirely incompetent.

“Where is Shadowless now?”

“He was found dead along with the other assassins.”

“…Did the bodyguard called Shadow do this alone?”

“We can’t be certain, but judging by the state of the bodies, it seems like the work of a single person.”

“……” The Third Captain scowled. The Skyshadows, who had been so confident of their success, had not only failed spectacularly but even got themselves wiped out.

Is the one called Shadow stronger than we imagined, or was there another bodyguard we didn’t know about…?

The gap in his information was problematic, but the critical situation they were in was more important.

I had a bad feeling about this mission from the start.

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The assassination of a former prime minister was a dangerous business. One mistake and they would become the enemies of the nation. When they’d received the request, he had even begged the Forest Lord, the master and owner of the Black Forest, to reject it, but the Forest Lord had refused.

“Forest Lord, this mission is too risky.”

“…Both Deathshroud and Bloodletter accepted. We can’t be the only ones to decline.”

In the end, the three major assassins’ guilds, Deathshroud, Black Forest, and Bloodletter, all accepted the mission. However, because the Skyshadows exhibited a confident demeanor, none of the guilds had mobilized in full.

Still, their forces weren’t exactly weak, either.

“Third Captain, don’t be such a worrywart. Look on the bright side. If the Skyshadows’ plan goes smoothly, we’ll get a reward for doing nothing.”

I hoped it would be that easy too, but…not this time, I guess. With the Skyshadows’ failure, the other assassins had no choice but to step in.

The Third Captain sighed and asked his subordinate, “Are we ready to go?”

“Yes. All forty members have been split into ten teams and are ready for deployment.”

“Any updates on what Deathshroud and Bloodletter are doing?”

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“Bloodletter has already made their move. They likely received the same information as us.”

The Third Captain scoffed, “Ignore them. Those Bloodletter guys may be many, but individually they’re weak.”

Historically, Bloodletter was founded by a motley crew of freelancers who accepted reckless assassination contracts driven by their lust for killing. Although they were now recognized as one of the three major assassins’ guilds due to their large numbers, the Black Forest had never considered them as equals.

The Third Captain was more concerned with the other group. “Who did Deathshroud send?”

“Reportedly, it’s the Seventh Shroud.”

“The Seventh Shroud… that’s a big name,” the Third Captain sighed. Although Deathshroud had less than thirty members, it was the undisputed strongest assassins’ guild in the murim. It was even rumored that their best assassins, known as the Ten Shrouds, were capable of assassinating the most formidable masters.

If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the Forest Lord, the current leader of the Black Forest, was once a Deathshroud assassin himself.

“Keep me updated on Deathshroud’s movements.”

“Yes, sir.”

The Third Captain rose from his chair. Deathshroud, Black Forest, Bloodletter. They were collectively known as the three major assassins’ guilds, but most martial artists ranked them in that exact order.

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This might be our chance.

The ultimate goal of the Black Forest was to surpass Deathshroud and become the top assassins’ guild.

The Third Captain recalled the Forest Lord’s instructions.

“If the Skyshadows succeed, quietly take the payment and return, but if they fail, the Black Forest must be the one to take the Prime Minister’s head.”

We can’t let anyone else steal our prize.

The reward for this mission went beyond mere financial gain. Influential individuals within the Imperial Palace had pledged to annul all existing warrants against Black Forest assassins and provide them with credible false identities as long as they succeeded. Moreover, with the Skyshadows gone, someone had to fill the void they left behind.

The greater the risk, the greater the reward.

Having settled his thoughts, the Third Captain turned to the waiting assassins and commanded, “Bring me the Prime Minister’s head. As quickly as possible.”

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The assassins nodded and dispersed in all directions.

Little did the Third Captain know, the assassins of Deathshroud and Bloodletter were all thinking along the same lines.

sep

[This is Number Two. Target confirmed.]

[This is Number Three. Target confirmed.]

[This is Number Four. Target confirmed.]

Telepathic messages arrived in quick succession to the assassin known as Number One. After confirming his team’s positions, he replied to each of them, [This is Number One. Target confirmed. Hold your positions.]

“Get your candied hawthorn! Sweet and delicious candied hawthorn!” he shouted in a high-pitched voice. Although he was a man, he was currently disguised as a plump, middle-aged woman to lower others’ suspicions and to conceal numerous hidden weapons in his baggy dress.

[The target is moving. Maintain your distance.]

“Get your candied hawthorn!”

Number One discreetly narrowed the distance to his target, pushing a small cart, while directing his four-man assassin team’s movements. The nature of an assassin’s work required extreme patience, especially when the mark was a prominent person. Since they were aiming for the former Prime Minister, he was bound to be on constant alert and surrounded by vigilant bodyguards…

“Hohoho! It’s nice to be outside!” the target laughed.

…Or not. But even if he seemed careless, approaching directly would be foolish. Normally, Number One would be more cautious, but he recalled the Third Captain’s order: “Bring me the Prime Minister’s head. As quickly as possible.”

Judging the crowded marketplace to be good cover, Number One moved his team faster than usual.

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[This is Number Two. Will be within striking distance in five minutes.]

[This is Number Three. Reached sniping position.]

[This is Number Four. Encountered an unexpected troublesome guest. Will deal with him and resume moving within seven minutes.]

After confirming the telepathic reports, Number One gave the order, [We’ll start the hunt in seven minutes. From this point forward, I’ll communicate using bird calls.]

Since Thought Transmission could only be used on one person at a time, simple group commands were communicated much more efficiently through audio signals. In addition, the sounds they used were inaudible to civilians, and although martial artists might hear it, most of them would simply dismiss it as an annoying background noise.

No martial artist would pay attention to faint bird calls in a noisy place like this.

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“Chirp!” Number One whistled.

“Chirp! “Chirp! “Chirp!” His team members replied, indicating their acknowledgement.

Seven minutes passed quickly. With the target in sight, Number One blew another whistle to give the command to hold position, “Chirrp!”

He then began slowly pushing his cart toward the target. “Get your candied hawthorn! Sweet and delicious candied hawthorn!”

As anticipated, the target looked toward Number One. At the same time, Number Two, disguised as a busker, pulled out a sword from his mouth, and Number Three, standing by a window across the street, discreetly took aim with a specially designed miniature crossbow. Number Four, however, was nowhere to be seen.

He hasn’t shaken off the pest, Number One thought. Well, there’s no need to panic. Assassinations rarely go according to plan.

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Smiling warmly, he locked eyes with the target and said, “Elder, try some candied hawthorn. It’s very sweet and delicious. Your grandchildren will love it too.”

“Hoho. Candied hawthorn. I used to enjoy it when I was young,” Gongson Su said gleefully, pulling out his wallet.

Number One pursed his lips and whistled a long note, signaling to prepare to strike, “Cheeeeeeep!”

At his command, Number Two and Number Three tensed, ready to move at any moment.

Number One, still smiling, pulled out some candied hawthorn from his cart and added, “I have hawthorn berries and chinese quince. Which would you like?”

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“Of course, I’ll have to try both. Give me two of each.”

“Thank you so much.”

“Here you go…”

Number One approached Gongson Su, holding candied hawthorn in both hands. At the same time, he subtly activated his inner arts, readying himself to whistle again. Although candied hawthorn was a simple snack made by skewering fruits on a bamboo stick and coating them with malt syrup, even a thin bamboo skewer was a deadly weapon in the hands of an assassin.

The moment he whistled, Number Two would leap forward and distract the larger boy, while Number Three would shoot the smaller boy with his crossbow. While the two bodyguards were occupied, the thin bamboo skewer would pierce Gongson Su’s throat.

However, just as Number One was about to take action, a beautiful, extremely tall and pale-skinned woman suddenly stepped between him and Gongson Su.

“Oh my! If it isn’t Boksoon-unnie!”

“Who…?” Number One was confused. He couldn’t remember ever seeing this woman before, and he certainly had never used a name as rustic as Boksoon.

The woman immediately hugged Number One and lamented, “Unnie! It’s me, Oak! Don’t you remember? Ten years ago, you left our hometown to make money, and now you’re here…”

TAP! TAP! TAP!

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In an instant, the woman sealed the acupoints on Number One’s back, paralyzing him and causing his eyes to widen in shock. The candied hawthorn fell to the ground, covered in dirt.

Gongson Su, who had been approaching, stepped back, watching the reunion of the two ‘women’ with a pleased expression. “Hoho. It seems you’ve met an old friend. Please, don’t mind me and catch up.”

“Oh, thank you, Elder. It’s been ten years since I’ve seen my hometown Unnie. Unnie! Let’s go to that tea house over there!”

“……” Unable to move or speak, Number One could only blink in disbelief at the sudden turn of events.

Wait, where are Number Two and Number Three? He searched for his teammates but couldn’t see them.

Instead, the woman claiming to be his hometown sister linked arms with him and whispered softly in his ear, “Black Forest or Bloodletter? You’re definitely not Deathshroud.”

”!!” A shiver ran down Number One’s spine at the deep voice. This is no woman…it’s a man…!


Translator’s Note: A friendly reminder not to fall for the “Hey! It’s me, your old friend, remember?” scam.

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