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Book 2: Chapter 478
“Dang Chun-geuk has a daughter.”
His heart sank.
“Her name is Dang Hwa-ryun, and she works as an apothecary in a village called Great Virtue-”
Jo Sung-choo’s voice continued, but it stopped entering his ears.
“Hyun, I know you’ve been going to that village a lot recently.”
He sucked in a breath.
How did he know? Did he track him? Or had he made a mistake and left some evidence? No, he hadn’t acted that clumsily.
How the h.e.l.l…
“You were investigating the agents left behind by Dang Chun-geuk, right? Hyun, I really admire your thoroughness.”
“However, it’s done now. I also carried out my own investigations. The Black Demon Alliance that Dang Chun-geuk left has been completely destroyed. Not even a remnant was left.”
Jo Sung-choo spoke with a calm expression.
“You can kill her now.”
His mind went blank.
Jo Sung-choo turned around.
After he finished speaking, he left without delay. But he couldn’t leave it at that.
Yang In-hyun hurriedly held him back.
“Did you mean… kill Dang Hwa-ryun?”
“That’s what I said.”
“What is the reason?”
Jo Sung-choo looked at Yang In-hyun with a puzzled expression. This was because Yang In-hyun had never expressed any doubts about a mission before.
“She… has nothing to do with the murim. She was born in Great Virtue and has never left. Naturally, she wouldn’t know that her father is the Blood Sovereign either…”
“Do you know who Dang Chun-geuk’s father is?”
“Blood Disaster Demon(血劫魔) Dang Gi-chul.”
“What does that have to do with…”
“Dang Gi-chul’s father, Dang Chun-geuk’s grandfather, was Heavenly Martial Arts Kill(武極天殺) Dang Il-lyuk, both of them were vicious people who created horrendous disasters that turned the murim into a b.l.o.o.d.y death.”
“The future generations of the Dang bloodline is something that must be cut off. Do you understand what that means? That means that not only Dang Hwa-ryun, but also any children she might someday have, have the talent to become a demon.”
“So you want me to kill her now? Even though she hasn’t done anything yet—?”
“It would be too late to do it after an incident. If she does go out of control, what will you say to the families of those that died?”
It was ridiculous logic. There was a limit to speculation.
For the first time, Yang In-hyun felt that something was horribly wrong.
“…I won’t do it.”
Then, he muttered in a firm voice.
“I will not kill Dang Hwa-ryun. Never.”
Jo Sung-choo’s face became one of surprise and anger.
Then, after a moment, it became expressionless.
Looking at Yang In-hyun with emotionless eyes, he spoke in a dry voice.
“You are refusing to do the mission, is that what you’re saying now?”
“I see, understood.”
Yang In-hyun was surprised when Jo Sung-choo accepted it so easily.
“Until now, there was never a time when you failed to follow orders. So I will respect your wishes this time.”
“…tha-, thank you.”
In comparison to Yang In-hyun, whose expression brightened at the unexpected result, Jo Sung-choo disappeared without a reply.
…Even so, he kept his head lowered in thanks.
He was glad he’d spoken up.
It was a stupid thought.
* * *
He thought he’d grown accustomed to blood. No. It was different from being accustomed to it.
Even when he’d committed his first murder, Yang In-hyun hadn’t felt anything. This was also according to Jo Sung-choo’s arrangement. He had taught them to be like that.
Therefore, Yang In-hyun wouldn’t be shaken even in front of a mountain of corpses and an ocean of blood.
But not now.
There was only one body at the scene, but Yang In-hyun’s hands and feet shook.
She was lying submerged in a pool of blood as if she had fallen asleep.
“I was a bit nervous because she was Dang Chun-geuk’s daughter.”
Together with the voice appeared a man,
It was revealed.
A face he knew.
Wiji Gil. A man who was a Killing Ghost just like Yang In-hyun.
“She wasn’t that big of a deal. No different from an ordinary person.”
“I don’t know why you had a hard time with this woman, Yang In-hyun.”
It was then that Yang In-hyun realised.
Jo Sung-choo had accepted Yang In-hyun’s refusal, but that didn’t mean he’d given up on killing Dang Hwa-ryun.
The mission that Yang In-hyun had refused had just been given to another Killing Ghost.
To the man here, Wiji Gil.
Before he could even feel its warmth, spring…
* * *
It wasn’t like he was moving his body, it was like he was operating it. The days pa.s.sed like that.
There was a huge hole in his chest, and the sense of loss was impossible to fill.
As if his heart had disappeared, he could no longer hear it beating in his body.
He continued to carry out missions in a manner as if he would collapse at any moment. He couldn’t stand it otherwise.
Jo Sung-choo was extremely satisfied with Yang In-hyun’s att.i.tude. The form of only following missions was the ideal form that Jo Sung-choo had in mind for the Corpse Ghosts.
Yang In-hyun also had a change.
He began to grow stronger. Even at that moment, just by inhaling and exhaling, he continued to climb to a higher level.
And he killed.
He killed so much that a scent of blood that couldn’t be erased permeated his entire body.
Time pa.s.sed with each kill. But Yang In-hyun’s time had already stopped.
In the colourless world, the only thing that stood out was blood.
The time that had stopped began to flow again.
“You can’t kill him.”
It was when he heard this voice.
Yang In-hyun stared blankly at Jo Sung-choo.
It was the moment he’d defeated the Cult Leader of the Demonic Cult, the Heavenly Demon, and brought him back to Mount Hua alive.
“What is the reason?”
“You know it as well, the might of the Demonic Cult’s forces.”
“Yes. And I am well aware of the dangers.”
“Right. However, it is possible to control that danger. Because all of the followers of the Demonic Cult obey the orders of the Cult Leader unconditionally.”
“Do you still not understand? If we can control the Heavenly Demon, we will gain control of the entire Demonic Cult. With their power, it would be possible to contribute greatly to the peace of the murim. I would be able to move my plans forward.”
Jo Sung-choo spoke as if giving a speech.
But Yang In-hyun didn’t understand.
What was this guy talking about right now?
“This man is the Cult Leader of the Demonic Cult, the Heavenly Demon.”
“And the force he leads is the Demonic Cult.”
“…hundreds of martial artists have died to them. And dozens or even hundreds of times more civilians suffer because of them.”
“And you just told me to spare this man?”
“Hyun, you have to think broadly.”
Jo Sung-choo spoke.
“The standard of martial arts that the Heavenly Demon possesses. There are only a handful of martial artists in the present murim that can compete with him. If we could take control of such a person, how much would it help in raising the morality of the murim?”
“Of course, it might be hard to understand. However…”
“Then what about Dang Hwa-ryun?”
Yang In-hyun felt as if he was spitting out lava.
After the incident, he had been living like a puppet for five years, but now, he could help but spew out the heat that was building up in his throat.
Yang In-hyun asked.
“Why did Dang Hwa-ryun have to die?”
Jo Sung-choo said.
“Who is Dang Hwa-ryun?”
His mind went blank. Then, he felt his head begin to ache.
He felt sick. Dizzy. This time, his field of vision, became red…
He felt sick to his stomach.
He felt like throwing up right then.
“…what, was that-?”
Nevertheless, he forced himself to speak.
“What did you just say?”
Jo Sung-choo seemed to finally remember.
“Right. Dang Hwa-ryun. That was the name of Dang Chun-geuk’s only daughter.”
Then he spoke.
But Yang In-hyun could no longer hear Jo Sung-choo’s voice clearly.
Had he forgotten? The woman who he’d sentenced to death with his own mouth. A woman he had practically killed himself.
How could that be?
At the very least, Yang In-hyun remembered the faces of all of the people he’d cut down.
“This is a different case from that woman. Dang Hwa-ryun didn’t learn martial arts even after becoming an adult-”
A different case?
What was the difference?
“However, we cannot forget the savagery in her blood. There was still the chance of her going out of control if she learned demonic arts. On the other hand, the Cult Leader of the Demonic Cult already has a complete understanding of his martial arts, so there’s no need to worry about him losing his reason-”
He was talking about something, but he couldn’t seem to hear him properly.
Instead, Yang In-hyun looked at the old man with blank eyes.
A face covered in liver spots, hair that was falling out, turbid eyes, and yellow teeth.
He couldn’t feel any profoundness or elegance. It was like looking at a rotten tree that was giving off a stinky smell.
What the h.e.l.l was this ugly old man?
Where was the Red Void?
The Jo Sung-choo who had taken him by the hand when he was suffering from hunger and guided him, where was he…?
“…so you have to understand. Got it?”
After finis.h.i.+ng his story, Jo Sung-choo’s eyes s.h.i.+fted towards him.
And at that moment, he saw something s.h.i.+mmering in those eyes.
Yang In-hyun suddenly realised.
He was wrong.
It was his fault.
The day Dang Hwa-ryun died.
What Yang In-hyun should have cut with his sword wasn’t the target of his next mission.
The person that he really should have cut that day.
Jo Sung-choo’s neck was cut.
The old man’s neck, which was already hard for him to control, was weaker than a rotten tree branch. Blood rushed out like a waterfall. It was surprising. A human like this had red blood.
Yang In-hyun then cut down the Cult Leader that he had captured and dragged here.
He also cut down the three remaining Killing Ghosts that rushed in.
* * *
Severe regret could drive a person mad. At that time, the strong willpower developed through training was useless.
Even if he were to cut down the Righteous Faction’s Great One, or the Evil Faction’s Sky like he cut down the Cult Leader of the Demonic Cult, there was no way to turn back the past.
What was once lost could not be regained.
He had cut down Jo Sung-choo, but he would never meet Dang Hwa-ryun again.
‘Then what is the purpose of my sword?’
If it was now, there was nothing that he couldn’t cut.
Whether it be a mountain, sea, or even the sky, he could cut it.
However, at the moment when he should cut, Yang In-hyun had cut the wrong thing.
He could have prevented it. He could have done that much.
If he had been a bit faster, he could have saved Dang Hwa-ryun’s smile.
Then… what exactly had he done until now?
-The men of refined taste no longer sing about chivalry.
He recalled Jo Sung-choo’s voice.
What the h.e.l.l was chivalry?
-Get used to the pain.
He was used to it.
-Whenever you’re struggling, think about your roles and a better world.
He always thought about it.
The important role given to him, and a better world.
However… Jo Sung-choo’s training was wrong.
Yang In-hyun didn’t know the world. He didn’t even know what the world contained.
How could he dream about a better world when he didn’t even know what the original world was like?
-Then, you will all become the heroes of this era.
So, had he become a hero?
Before erasing Mount Hua, when he’d still faithfully followed Jo Sung-choo’s words, was what he’d done heroic?
If he had really walked the path of a hero.
It might have been painful. He might have strayed. He might have given up. It might have been an arduous and lonely road.
However… at least it would have been honourable. He would have been able to puff up his chest and admit it openly.
He couldn’t do that.
Yang In-hyun was so ashamed of himself that he couldn’t take it.
If his actions had benefited the world even a little bit. If that was the case…
He walked down the street to find out.
Hiding himself, he walked around Shaanxi.
He recalled the scene he’d seen in Great Virtue.
Children playing beneath the sunset, elderly people watching the scene with bent backs. And young people clinking gla.s.ses beneath the moonlight… The memories were faded now, but when he thought back to that time, he felt his empty heart fill ever so slightly.
“P-, please spare me some change. I haven’t eaten in three days.”
“Well, what do we have here? You’re dressed up so nicely.”
He saw starving people.
Children picking up dumplings that fell to the floor, elderly people begging for money with bent backs. And young people trying to extort money and valuables from others.
Was this what the original world looked like?
Was this a better world?
Or was it… deteriorating?
No. That didn’t matter.
This place was Shaanxi. The breath of Mount Hua.
If Jo Sung-choo’s change for a ‘better world’ were to occur, the first wave would certainly have started here.
His molars clenched so tightly that blood seeped out. His fists clenched as if they would shatter.
Jo Sung-choo’s goal.
From the beginning, it was never to establish righteousness and chivalry.
All he wanted to do was raise the name of Mount Hua.
To just put the name of Mount Hua at the top.
He just wanted something so trivial.
‘Mount Hua, Mount Hua…!”
Yang In-hyun’s burning gaze turned to one place.
Towards the highest peak in the Shaanxi region.
* * *
The Supreme Council Meeting of the Mount Hua Sect was held on Yeonhwabong peak.
In a large conference hall where only the Sect Leader, Elders, and a few leaders with special permission were allowed to partic.i.p.ate.
“With this, even the Demonic Cult has been brought down.”
“I really can’t help but admire Elder Jo’s mind.”
“But where is Elder Jo…?”
“I heard he wouldn’t be able to attend the meeting today.”
“Mm. That’s a shame.”
Yang In-hyun eavesdropped on the meeting.
“Then, let’s proceed.”
“First of all, the Merchant Union that sprouted in the Shaanxi region has decided to rely on Mount Hua. From the next month, 70% of the dojos and drinking shops will be doing business under the name of Mount Hua.”
“Won’t there be a lot of resistance from Zhongnan?”
“Haha. They have already been warned. They won’t act foolishly. They know about the red plum blossoms, so they will accept it.”
The Zhongnan Sect was also a part of the Nine Righteous Sects.
In the words of Jo Sung-choo, a comrade to rise up together with.
And yet, they were discussing ways to keep them in check, humiliate them, and suppress them.
Was this how they treated their comrades?
He felt like vomiting.
He bore it.
“It seems we have been receiving a lot of requests from Sanseo and Hanam. Haha. We don’t have enough students to send.”
“Wouldn’t it be a good idea to send the second generation disciples? Even if the martial arts of those kids are lacking, there is no force left who dares to challenge Mount Hua head on.”
“Hmm. That’s a clever idea.”
“Ah. The Evil Faction’s Dark Flower Group(暗華黨) and Truth Piercing Gate(眞㓤門) have expressed their intention to surrender. They seem to be planning on handing over the control of the entire region to Mount Hua…”
“That’s not even worth considering. Hasn’t history proven that righteous and evil aren’t compatible?”
“Why don’t we publicly execute the heads of each school? Right here in Shaanxi. Wouldn’t that be an opportunity to raise the name of Mount Hua and win the support of the public?”
“Hoh! And we can subjugate the remnants that remain.”
Was this really the way a meeting between prominent members of a sect established in the murim was carried on?
Yang In-hyun could no longer suppress his nausea.
He revealed himself.
“Wh-, what fool is this?!”
“To dare come to this place…”
Their reactions made him suddenly want to burst into laughter.
Right. So that was it.
They didn’t even know his face.
Where the h.e.l.l was the scene he was painting?
Was this the law of murim that he’d mentioned?
“This crazy b.a.s.t.a.r.d…”
“I don’t know how you managed to infiltrate so deeply, but we’ll make you spit out everything you know.”
In the meantime, the elders surrounding him drew their swords.
With poor posture, and contemptible internal energy.
“You all, when last did you swing a sword?”
“What was that?”
“Kuku. No. Nevermind. There is something else I’d like to ask instead.”
Soon, Yang In-hyun asked with a calm smile.
“The scent of plum blossoms, is it fragrant?”
* * *
He wiped out Mount Hua.
He literally erased it.
He exterminated the Sect Leader and the Elders, and then the disciples. He knew there were innocents among them. He knew that what he’d done was a ma.s.sacre.
He knew it, but he couldn’t stop himself.
Mount Hua disappeared.
And yet, the world didn’t change.
Zhongnan filled the vacancy, their behaviour not much different from those from Mount Hua. They used their power to beat down and intimidate, and eventually, they began to look down on the weak and dominate the region.
Then, he realised.
In the end, the strong didn’t care about the lives of the weak.
They, after all, were martial artists.
While chasing demons who killed dozens of people, they overlooked disasters that killed tens of thousands of people.
No one lowered themselves to do the field work for the sake of the famine stricken commoners. They didn’t catch fish. They didn’t cut firewood for the orphans who froze to death on the cold nights after the firewood ran out.
Because to the strong, to the martial artists, such things were trivial.
Those things couldn’t help them raise their name.
Even if he were to wipe out Zhongnan, he was certain it would be the same.
The various factions simply slandered each other as they all fought to take the position of overlord.
Yang In-hyun drew his sword.
At one point, he’d mistakenly believed he simply had to swing his sword at his opponents. That was the most miserable mistake in Yang In-hyun’s life.
Not this time.
What Yang In-hyun knew wasn’t what to cut.
He knew what to do.
(TL: Here is the ill.u.s.tration for Yang In-hyun.)