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Book 2: Chapter 477
(TL: Minor edit made to the previous chapter, ‘Three Bullies’ has been amended to ‘Three Tyrants’. ‘Blood Prince’ has also been changed to ‘Blood Sovereign’)
A frivolous laugh resounded.
It was Wiji Gil, who, until now, had only let out an emotionless voice. Yang In-hyun knew that what he was showing now was actually his true self.
Getting up, Wiji Gil spat on the floor.
“We made it all happen? Haha. Hey, Yang In-hyun. What do you think about that statement?”
“We didn’t. You achieved most of it on your own. In fact, you alone killed three of the Evil Factions Ten Great Masters. The three of us were only able to kill the others by rushing in without caring about our lives.”
Wiji Gil smiled coldly.
“You understand? The reason the Elder thinks this reckless plan will work. It’s all because of you. It’s because you’re here, Yang In-hyun.”
The other two seemed to agree with him. He watched them leave together with Wiji Gil as if sympathising with him.
Yang In-hyun, who had been left alone, thought about the att.i.tude they’d just displayed. Firstly, he was certain that their skewed hostility stemmed from an inferiority complex.
Their purpose for living was to satisfy Jo Sung-choo, so it was natural for them to hold some level of dissatisfaction towards Yang In-hyun, who had successfully completed one high level mission after the other and monopolised Jo Sung-choo’s favouritism.
It wasn’t that he didn’t understand, nor did he have any intention to blame them.
That was just the way they’d learned to live. That’s how they had been raised by Jo Sung-choo. Brainwashing… it might not be entirely wrong to call it that.
‘Then what about me?’
Why did he find no joy in Jo Sung-choo’s praises or encouragement? He didn’t know.
Yang In-hyun stopped questioning it. He couldn’t afford to. His attention naturally shifted to the goal of the next mission.
‘The Evil Faction’s Number Two Man, Blood Sovereign Dang Chun-geuk.’
A powerful man second only to the Heaven Breaking Sovereign, who was called the Sky of the Evil Faction. The stories of his victory despite facing a sneak attack from the masters of the righteous faction like Wudang(武當)’s Taichi True Man(太極眞人) and Shaolin(少林)’s White Crane Great Master(白鶴大師) was already a legend in the murim.
That wasn’t all.
Dang Chun-geuk led the Black Demon Alliance, one of the top three forces in the evil faction. There would definitely be distinguished masters from the evil faction there.
This time, Jo Sung-choo didn’t give a deadline for the mission. Yang In-hyun seemed to realise the reason.
This mission didn’t have a deadline.
* * *
And yet, he won.
He accomplished the mission.
Dang Chun-geuk looked at Yang In-hyun with wide eyes. He couldn’t believe that he was still alive despite his heart being pierced through. Was he really human? Yang In-hyun’s pace was slightly pale.
“The b.l.o.o.d.y Plum Group… I see. So you are the one that killed half of the Ten Great Masters.”
“…are those your last words?”
The surrounding was a sea of blood. Yang In-hyun was the only one left who could hear Dang Chun-geuk’s last words.
Coughing up another mouthful of blood, Dang Chun-geuk murmured with hazy eyes.
“To the west, there is a village called Great Virtue(太良).”
“My daughter is there. She was born on a whim. She probably doesn’t even know I exist. I too had forgotten about her until now.”
“…at the moment before death, I suddenly remembered that child for some reason. Hwa-ryun*. My only flesh and blood…” (*: 華憐- meaning ‘pitiful flower’)
Dang Chun-geuk lowered his head after saying those words.
Yang In-hyun stood there blankly.
Listening to the final words was a habit that had developed at some point. Most of Yang In-hyun’s missions were a.s.sa.s.sinations. Naturally, this meant that he was the only one who could listen to what the target said just before death.
That’s why he listened to the final words of those he killed. And he never forgot them. This wasn’t because of feelings like atonement or guilt.
Then what was it? That smallest courtesy he could give to those that faced his sword? Did it have anything to do with human morality? He didn’t know.
Yang In-hyun looked down at the corpse of Dang Chun-geuk. Most members of the evil faction usually cursed him just before they died. At the very least, Dang Chun-geuk was the first to bring up something like a blood relative.
His head ached slightly.
Yang In-hyun left with weary steps.
Not east, west.
* * *
His hair itched. It felt as if the sunlight was stroking his head. As if hearing someone’s voice through fog, Yang In-hyun slowly regained consciousness.
The moment he realised that fact, his hands wildly. The wrist in his grip was surprisingly slender, a woman’s wrist. When he forced his eyes open, he saw a puttering sight.
The figure of a woman staring at him with rather large eyes.
“Did you regain consciousness?”
“You were lying near the village. You had a fever and your entire body was covered in blood… Uh, are you already healed? I used some medicine to stop the bleeding.”
Ignoring the woman’s words, Yang In-hyun raised his upper body. Then, he looked around.
He was inside a shabby house which was rather dirty as it had all kinds of herbs and medicines scattered all over the place.
He’d lost consciousness.
Yang In-hyun couldn’t believe it. Of course, it wasn’t a surprise that he’d lost consciousness. After all, Yang In-hyun had risked his life in the fight against Dang Chun-geuk. The problem was what came after that.
‘I didn’t even know what was happening to my body.’
He had no right to be a Killing Ghost.
He’d made a blunder so great that it wouldn’t be strange if he lost his life at that moment.
So, why? Why had he done something so stupid? What had made him make such an impulsive decision?
When he heard her voice, he looked up at the woman.
And got up to bow after a brief moment.
“Uh. Wait a minute, you’re still injured…”
How long had he been unconscious? He didn’t know, but it was clear that he no longer had time to lose.
Dang Chun-geuk’s death would soon be known to the entire evil faction, and Yang In-hyun had left a red plum at the scene this time as well.
In other words, the news would soon reach Mount Hua. So before that, he needed to go to the village called Great Virtue…
‘Go to the village?’
Yang In-hyun’s thoughts suddenly stopped.
After going to the village, what would he do?
Even if he did find a woman named Hwa-ryun. Was he going to take care of her?
That was impossible. In the life of a Killing Ghost, there was no need for the humane part.
In fact, it should be cut out entirely. It would be absurd for him to create a relationship with his own hands. He existed only to straighten the fallen righteousness and chivalry.
It suddenly felt futile. This entire act made him feel like a fool. Dang Chun-geuk’s last words had shaken his heart for a while, but no longer.
It felt like his mind had now returned to normal.
‘…let’s head back.’
To where he was supposed to go,
To Mount Hua.
“I will pay for the medicine.”
At that, the woman let out a laugh.
“You, are from the murim?”
“What’s the point of being surprised? You have a well trained body, a single sword, there is a lot of power in your gaze, and you are inflexible.”
Instead of listening to more, Yang In-hyun got to his feet. Then, he pulled a bag of silver coins from his pocket and placed it on a desk.
“With that much, you could buy all of the herbs on the desk.”
“I’m paying for my life.”
“…well, fine. I’m always in need of money anyway.”
With a sn.o.bbish expression, she stuck her tongue out and took the money. Just before he left the house, he heard her voice again.
“You can come again if you’re hurt. Since you paid this much, I’ll waive the fee a few times. I’m pretty good at this kind of thing.”
He could have just left after that.
But Yang In-hyun paused at her next question.
“By the way, what’s your name?”
“…why do you ask?”
“So that if I’m not here the next time you come, you can write your name in a letter? That way I won’t be confused.”
“That’s fine. I won’t be coming here again.”
“Ah. Is that so? Then I’ll ask as the one who saved your life.”
“You make funny faces.”
Looking at Yang In-hyun’s frowning face, the woman burst into laughter. Did this woman know? That he could smash her head with a finger if he wanted to.
“…you can call me Yang In-hyun.”
As soon as he answered, Yang In-hyun felt a strange emotion. Now that he thought about it, he couldn’t remember when last he’d introduced himself to someone.
“I’ll call you Young Sir Yang.”
The woman smiled brightly and said.
“My name is Dang Hwa-ryun.”
* * *
After that day, Yang In-hyun occasionally visited Great Virtue.
In order to fulfil Dang Chun-geuk’s will, because Dang Hwa-ryun was a pretty good apothecary, because he didn’t want to waste silver.
…He had many excuses if someone were to ask him why, but none of them could convince himself. In other words, Yang In-hyun didn’t know why he kept going to Great Virtue.
Dang Hwa-ryun was a proud, ambitious woman. Even though she hadn’t learnt martial arts.
In the village of Great Virtue, there were many elderly people and children, and a few young people. And yet, in Yang In-hyuns’ eyes, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Dang Hwa-ryun was solely responsible for the vitality of this village.
There came a time when Yang In-hyun found that he enjoyed watching Dang Hwa-ryun play with the children beneath the sunset.
“Where did you roll from this time?”
It was always nice to hear Dang Hwa-ryun’s worried voice,
Her strangely strong but precise touch,
Her soft but distinctly pure gaze,
As well as the foolish appearance that he sometimes saw.
“Have some of the hundred flowers wine I made.”
Dang Hwa-ryun smiled and said.
“I used a lot of herbs that are good for your health.”
The moon was unusually bright on that summer night.
Like the pleasant song of a gra.s.shopper, Dang Hwa-ryun’s voice tickled his ears.
“Where else would you be able to taste something like this?”
She handed over a gla.s.s and slowly filled it with the hundred flower wine. As a result, the bitter scent dug deeply into his nostrils. It certainly smelled like medicinal herbs.
As he quietly looked down at the starlight in the gla.s.s, Dang Hwa-ryun interrupted.
“When the moon is bright, you can catch the starlight like this. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“Pour for me too.”
Yang In-hyun filled her outstretched gla.s.s.
Then they drank it down at the same time. Without snacks*. (*: appetisers you eat while drinking.)
It was certainly bitter. However, the sweet aftertaste was a bit addictive.
For a while, they emptied one gla.s.s after another. Gradually, the bottles of alcohol created a pile. Usually, Dang Hwa-ryun was the one leading the conversation, but that day, she was exceptionally quiet.
After emptying two more bottles.
“Young Sir Yang.”
Dang Hwa-ryun spoke.
“Today will be the last day.”
“What do you mean?”
“The free treatment. Do you remember the silver coins you gave me the first time? It was the perfect amount to finish with today’s treatment.”
Had she been counting it? Yang In-hyun suddenly felt bitter.
“Don’t worry. I can pay.”
“No. That’s not it. I’m saying…”
Mumbling her words a few times, Dang Hwa-ryun looked up at the sky before saying.
“…from now on, you don’t have to pay.”
The always confident Dang Hwa-ryun now had a red face that he’d never seen before.
It wasn’t because of drunkenness. As soon as he realised that, Yang In-hyun could not remove his gaze from her face.
“Just come. Anytime. Y-, you don’t have to pay.”
“Does Young Sir Yang dislike it?”
“…I don’t dislike it.”
Dang Hwa-ryun smiled.
The moment he saw that smile, his heart began to beat uncontrollably. Yang In-hyun’s eyes were so dazzled that he couldn’t see her face.
27 years old,
Spring, which seemed like it would never come, had arrived.
And the spring,