The real hidden Guardian Escort.
Unlike Guardian Ran-yeong, whose existence was at least known in the Imperial Palace, this one was totally unknown.
There had been many rumors about the existence of the Guardian Escort.
In the past, when the military rebellion had broken out, there was a rumor that this so-called Guardian Escort had protected the Emperor from more than 300 military soldiers who'd broken into the palace. He'd cut every single one of their heads off.
‘The Guardian Escort?’
Admiral Seo Tae-sik, of the Cardinal Spear, was puzzled.
Because even though he had heard about the existence of the Guardian Escort, he’d never seen him before.
What was more shocking was that this eunuch had come out of the Cardinal Spear.
[Is it someone you know?]
Seo Tae-sik asked the leader Sang, who was next to him.
Leader Sang, who directly selected and managed the eunuchs, shook his head as it was also his first time seeing this man.
[Admiral Seo. There was never such a person in our group, even when we gathered inside, he hadn’t been present.]
He wasn’t a member of the Cardinal Spear, which meant that he'd joined in secretly, by disguising himself.
‘This is such a weird day. I see two legends of the Imperial Palace at the same time.’
Ran-yeong, the Master of Guardians, responsible for protecting the underground shrine.
And the Guardian Escort, who protected the Emperor and moved like his shadow without revealing himself to anyone.
People who had never revealed themselves before.
‘He seems well.’
Ran-yeong looked at the pretty-faced eunuch who was called the Guardian Escort, with narrowed eyes.
The moment she saw him, she immediately recognized him.
However, until the moment he'd appeared, she hadn’t even been aware of his existence.
‘In the past, I was at least able to sense him…’
Although her flames looked simple, they actually weren’t.
Extinguishing the flame meant that his martial arts had developed a lot since the last time she’d met him.
A person who is totally incomparable to Admirals, the strongest swordsman Northern Commander or even the strongest warrior Supreme Commander.
The Emperor looked at the Guardian Escort, with eyes filled with trust.
“The true power of the Imperial Palace… what do you exactly mean by that?”
Chun Yeowun’s eyes narrowed after hearing the Emperor’s confident words.
It was no different from saying that the Demonic Cult members were to be suppressed by force.
The emperor spoke to the eunuch who was still kneeling.
“Yes. Your Majesty!”
As the eunuch rose, the emperor pointed to him and introduced him.
“This person is called Lim Gyu-hwa, my personal escort.”
At the introduction of the emperor, the eunuch smiled and bowed whilst looking at Chun Yeowun.
“I greet the Lord of the Demonic Cult.”
At first glance, he looked like a woman with a slender figure.
It would be more believable if someone said he was a woman disguised as a man.
‘Even the name is feminine’
Gyu-hwa meant sunflower.
It was unusual for men to use the character (hwa) in their names.
Unlike Chun Yeowun, who stared at him calmly, Great Guardian Marakim titled his head.
It was definitely his first time seeing this man, but he had heard the name somewhere before.
He was sure he had heard it somewhere, but when he tried to recall it, nothing came to mind.
The emperor continued speaking.
“I don’t know much about martial arts, but it was said that the people of Wulin would usually judge right from wrong by fighting, right? The weak bow to the strong was it?”
The weak bow to the strong.
The words which best described the world of Wulin.
Wulin was based on the ideology of ‘survival of the fittest’.
Wulin considered whoever was strongest to be the bearer of truth.
It seemed like the emperor's intentions were to use those words to turn the tables.
“Regardless of the reason, the Demonic Cult invaded my palace, harmed my servants and broke the arms of the crown prince, my son, and a member of the Imperial family.”
Chun Yeowun had accomplished a feat that no other person from Wulin had managed to achieve.
The emperor was bound to be angry.
Nevertheless, the Emperor tried to treat him respectfully considering his position as the Lord of the Demonic Cult, one of the three major powers of Wulin, and someone with whom he had signed the non-aggression treaty.
“This alone is enough to say that you have broken the pact first. Wouldn’t it be a disgrace to me, the Emperor, if I just turned a blind eye to this?”
“Your Majesty! How could you say that”
Hearing the word ‘disgrace’ come out the emperor’s mouth, the people present began to whisper.
If it wasn’t for their Emperor’s presence, those men would definitely try to take down the arrogant infiltrators of the Demonic Cult to prove their loyalty.
The emperor raised his hand and gestured for the others to shut their mouths.
And he spoke again.
“As I said, it is unacceptable to let you go without any kind of punishment. So, here is my suggestion, my escort here is the best warrior and the strongest martial artist in the Imperial palace, I can assure you of that.”
At the emperor’s words, Yeongjo, the Northern Commander’s face turned red in embarrassment.
He was called the best swordsman in the Imperial palace, but his title was meaningless if the emperor didn’t acknowledge it.
“Even though you have been disrespectful to me and the empire, I still have no intentions of overriding the agreement that the first emperor had with you people.”
Chun Yeowun laughed to himself at how the Emperor kept saying that he held no hostility towards them.
Yet, he constantly pointed out the faults of Chun Yeowun and the Demonic Cult.
At first, it seemed like the emperor was angry and ended up revealing his secret weapon, but that didn’t seem to be the real purpose.
“I will make concessions, and I will respect Wulin laws. If you can defeat this Escort of mine, I am willing to pretend that nothing happened here today.”
Ignoring what happened, wasn’t a bad proposal.
However, that meant that the Emperor was certain that his Guardian Escort would manage well.
Chun Yeowun asked.
“What If I can’t defeat your Guardian Escort?”
“I will amend the non-aggression treaty.”
Chun Yeowun’s eyebrow rose at the words of amending the non-aggression treaty.
So this was his true goal.
He knew that there would be a price, but unexpectedly, the Emperor was asking for too much.
“The Forces of Justice faction swears allegiance to the Empire regardless of the non-aggression treaty, right?”
The emperor looked down at someone who was still bowing.
It was none other than Elder Cheong-su and his disciples, who were long time envoys of the Forces of Justice.
A confrontation between the emperor’s men and the Demonic Cult had occurred suddenly. They had remained bowing to show that they were unaware of the happenings and wanted no part.
‘We are in trouble.’
Elder Cheong-su, who had been waiting for the situation to be settled, didn’t know what to do.
The Emperor’s question was too sensitive for him to answer.
‘These kinds of things always happen when the Demonic Cult gets involved…’
Without the Demonic Cult, he would have had a chance to fall into the good graces of His Majesty and be made into an official of the empire.
However, if he said that he would side with the Emperor in front of one of the three strongest powers of Wulin, the Demonic Cult, it would be nothing less than a declaration of death once he returned back from the empire.
“Is it not?”
“Your Majesty, that… that…”
It was a situation in which he couldn’t answer.
If he answered incorrectly, he would later get criticized by the other leaders of the Forces of Justice, and even the alliance with the Demonic Cult might break.
As he continued to hesitate, the Emperor's expression hardened.
Cheong-su was beginning to break out in cold sweat.
“So if we can’t defeat this Guardian of yours, do you want the Demonic cult to become servants of the empire, and not a member of the non-aggression treaty anymore?”
Thankfully, Chun Yeowun had intervened.
To Elder Cheong-su, who was facing a dilemma, Chun Yeowun looked like his savior.
Thanks to that, the emperor's hardened face turned to Chun Yeowun.
‘What will it be?’
Elder Cheong-su looked at Chun Yeowun, who didn’t seem to fear anything.
If he had committed to the emperor’s words, he would have missed a good chance to rise in Yulin and would have found himself in an embarrassing situation.
‘Did he intervene because of the alliance we have with him?’
Elder Cheong-su’s eyes fluttered.
Even if there was an alliance, Yulin and the Demonic Cult were bound to return back to hostile relations once their goal was achieved. Yet, even in front of the emperor, he was helping a member of the Forces of Justice.
‘Oh, god. Heavenly god.’
Elder Cheong-su couldn’t help but admire Chun Yeowun.
To help a person, who would be of no use to him in any situation, meant that Chun Yeowun sincerely respected the alliance.
‘So this is the current Lord of the Demonic Cult? I thought he was just reckless, but he has courage, tolerance and the qualities of a true warrior.’
In the beginning, Elder Cheong-su had only thought of him as a dangerous man.
However, the way he looked at Yeowun had changed.
Actually, he had misunderstood something.
‘You must be out of your mind to try and take the Forces of Justice under the control of the Imperial Palace.’
Chun Yeowun’s intervention wasn’t to help the Forces of Justice.
Looking at the bewildered expression on Elder Cheong-su’s face, he knew that he would sooner or later make a decision favourable to the Imperial Palace.
However, if Cheong-su, a man from the Forces of Justice swore allegiance to the Imperial family, then they would fall under its control.
The people of the Forces of Justice would reprimand this Elder for a long time because of his decision, but even so they wouldn’t be able to undo what had already been agreed upon.
If that happened, the Emperor would surely try to take the Yulin under his governance.
The Emperor’s eyes held a look of regret.
If Chun Yeowun hadn't been involved, the Emperor would have naturally brought the forces of justice under him, but he had failed.
‘I didn’t think he would have political or diplomatic skills yet, but he is already pretty good.’
The envoy from Yulin, was currently there as a representative of the Forces of Justice.
The Emperor could have gotten what he wanted from that person himself, such a pity.
However, it wasn’t like this was the last opportunity.
“Yes. Because your cult had been instrumental at the time of hounding, the first emperor had signed the non-aggression treaty out of goodwill and gave you freedom. When a favor continues, it gets mistaken for a privilege. Trusting the non-aggression between Wulin and the Empire only disturbed the peace in the Imperial Palace, shouldn’t you then pay the price?”
He spoke for so long giving out sensible reasons, but there was only one conclusion.
If they lost, the Demonic Cult would have to swear allegiance to the empire.
He may appear as a dignified emperor, but he was resourceful and quick in making use of opportunities.
He wasn’t the kind to let go of something once he knew that he had it in his hand.
Both Marakim and Lee Hameng were puzzled.
They'd guessed that the Emperor was planning something, but they hadn't thought that he would use the situation to his benefit, in such a mischievous way.
At that time, Ran-yeong’s words entered Marakim’s ears.
[The Great Guardian right? We need to stop this offer right now.]
[What do you mean?]
[The emperor is making this offer because he is confident that he will win.]
[Confident in winning?]
[I don’t know everything as I always stayed in the shrine, but I heard that there is not a single person in Wulin who wouldn’t know the name Lim Gyu-hwa…]
Great Guardian Marakim’s eyes widened.
He knew that he'd heard the name somewhere, but when Ran-yeong said it, something striked.
‘Wave Sword Lim Gyu-hwa!’
Lim Gyu-hwa, the Wave Sword.
He was once one of the five strongest warriors of the Middle East, and was called the Sword Emperor.
Like a comet in Wulin, he was an absolute figure with his unique swordsmanship.
He was a great man, and everyone hoped that he would turn into the best swordsman in the entire world after he defeated the King of Destroying Sword, who was the top of the five great warriors and skilled swordsmen of that time.
‘But I heard that he only worked in Wulin for one year and disappeared after that.’
It was in the past, more than 90 years ago.
It was something Marakim couldn’t recall at once because it was a story he'd heard as a child.
Which meant that the eunuch was currently one hundred and twenty years old, even considering him undergoing metamorphosis, his current appearance made no sense.
[He has survived for many years by drinking the Qilin’s blood!]
Lim Gyu-hwa, Wave Sword.
He was a native from the city of eunuchs, and he was the only man who survived the experiment of taking in Qilin’s Blood.
With his success, the Imperial palace had forced dozens of eunuchs to drink the blood, but they had all burned to death, making him the only one who could take it.
‘Lord of the Demonic Cult. You have no choice but to accept my offer.’
The emperor had given enough reasons.
If he refused, it meant that Chun Yeowun was acknowledging that he and his subordinates couldn't defeat the Guardian Escort.
If that happened, the Imperial Palace could spread a rumor, stating that they had the power to subdue the Demonic Cult.
‘My escort was the first Admiral of the East Spear, he was very skilled even before consuming the Qilin’s Blood. His skills are well known throughout the entirety of Wulin too.’
The emperor was confident in winning his bet.
Whatever the situation, he would never lose.
At that time, Chun Yeowun passed by Ran-yeong and walked forward.
He had come to a decision.
“Nice. To accept my…”
Before the emperor could finish his words, a jet black flame rose from Chun Yeowun’s right hand, and soon formed into a sword.
It was the Sky Demon Sword imbued with the Qilin's Flame, the invisible sword.
There were times when the Emperor invited masters from various factions of Wulin to learn about qi and internal energy, but never once had he felt such an eerie energy.
‘What is that?’
The Emperor was puzzled by the unknown energy he was feeling for the first time, that was when Lim Gyu-hwa, who was standing proudly for a moment, spoke in a voice of urgency.
“Your-your Majesty! Please hold off the fight for a moment…”
It was then.
In the blink of an eye, Chun Yeowun appeared in front of Lim Gyu-hwa.
Even he, who was considered the strongest by the Emperor, a Supreme Master level warrior, was quick to know something was off.
‘What is he?’
Flustered, Lim Gyu-hwa, drew his golden Wave sword from his waist.
The Wave Sword moved around like a whip, and then formed air like waves in the sky, creating high-quality shields.
‘I had to make it in a hurry!’
It was a sword shield which was made from the technique of the Wave Sword.
This sword contained the techniques of the Flower Rain from Sky, which makes that shield stronger with every attack it received.
Chik! Phut! Phut! Phut!
Chun Yeowun’s black flame sword hit the Wave Sword Shield.
With each hit, another Wave shield would form, making it impossible for the black flame to penetrate the shield.
He had defended the emperor urgently, but he knew that the attack could be prevented.
Lim Gyu-hwa’s eyes widened.
The Wave Sword Shield, which was supposed to get stronger with every attack, was suddenly pierced.
It was a natural thing to happen, as Chun Yeowun was using the Invisible sword.
However, he didn’t know that the black flame sword in Chun Yeowun’s hand was the Invisible Sword.
‘No, this is the invisible sword!’
Shocked by the crack in his shield, Lim Gyu-hwa tried to widen the distance, but the black flaming sword had already brushed past his right arm.
Lim Gyu-hwa’s right arm, which was supposed to be holding the Wave Sword, fell to the ground.
The arm which had fallen to the ground, immediately started burning with black smoke.
Aside from the pain, he knew that his life was at risk.
‘N-no, he can’t be trying to kill me in here?’
He was in front of the Emperor and the other officials.
Lim Gyu-hwa, who felt his life being threatened, was taken aback and stabbed towards Chun Yeowun's chest with the sword in his left hand.
A sword of black flames, which was too fast for the naked eye to see, slashed his throat.
Feeling the pain of being cut and the pain of burning at the same time was the worst pain he had ever felt, a pain he couldn’t describe.
Lim Gyu-hwa muttered under his breath with blood stained, fear-filled eyes.
“In… indeed… Div… Divine…. Mas…”
Unfortunately, he couldn’t complete what he wanted to say before he fell to the ground.
“H-how is this possible?”
The Emperor, who was flustered by what had happened in the blink of an eye, was approached by Chun Yeowun, as he walked away from Lim Gyu-hwa's body.
With the most cynical smile on his face he said.
“Your Majesty is right. When a favor continues, it gets mistaken for a privilege, right?”
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