The hallway within the stone corridor was brighter than expected.
Hong Dae-Kwang looked up with narrowed eyes.
‘There are Night Stone Lamps1 being used.’
This wasn’t a place that was designed for people to casually access. Yet, the owner lavishly placed Night Stone Lamps around. Clearly, the person who made this place had vast wealth.
“It wouldn’t be strange for Yak Seon to have such a fortune. He was known to trade his pills for gold….”
“But what is that sound?”
Hong Dae-Kwang turned his head back, only to become overwhelmed with shock.
Clinging to walls like a spider, Chung Myung was extracting the Night Stone Lamps that were stuck in the ceiling.
“Wh-What are you doing!?’
“Can’t you see? I’m making money.”
“… Ah, no.”
Hong Dae-Kwang, whose mind was cluttered with a thousand questions, pointed at Chung Myung.
‘I was just supposed to follow while this guy led the way. What the hell is he doing!?’
“Are you really doing this right now?”
“Do you know how much this stuff costs!? That’s why you’re a beggar because you don’t care about such things.”
“You think I’m a beggar because I don’t have money?”
‘… well. That is right. I am a beggar because I don’t have money.’
Chung Myung took down the lamp and put it into his arms. Judging from his bulging chest, it was clear that he had constantly been collecting the lamps until now.
“You seem to want to make a lot of money.”
“I need to live well. Do you know how many mouths there are to feed in Mount Hua?”
Hong Dae-Kwang shook his head. The more he learned about Chung Myung, the more horrible he felt.
“Maybe the Wudang at the forefront have already found the pill, right?”
“I don’t think so.”
“How do you know?”
“Because they’re still moving.”
Hong Dae-Kwang’s face hardened in an instant.
‘Can he feel their qi?’
Hong Dae-Kwang didn’t feel anything. He thought that he could feel a crowd moving ahead of them, but the sense was vague, and he couldn’t be sure.
But Chung Myung said that he could clearly feel their presence and track their movements.
‘How strong must his senses be to follow their qi with such clarity?’
Hong Dae-Kwang re-evaluated how he looked at Chung Myung. Ever since he met this man, he continued to be surprised and kept seeing different sides of him.
“But isn’t it still true that they’re going to arrive first?”
Chung Myung didn’t seem to care.
“That’ll make things more comfortable for us.”
“You’ll understand once we get there. Oh, my god! There are night stone lamps here too!”
Hong Dae-Kwang covered his face as he witnessed Chung Myung sprint forward and collect another lamp.
‘Can I really trust this brat?’
Perhaps this was going to become a gamble with his life on the line.
Hong Dae-Kwang was beginning to regret his hasty decision.
“Doesn’t it seem like the hallway is getting narrower?”
Hearing Yoon Jong’s words, Baek Cheon nodded.
“I think the same.”
The hallway was wide enough for five people to walk side by side when they first entered. But now, it had shrunk so that three people would need to walk shoulder-to-shoulder to fit.
“I don’t see the need to make it like this on purpose.”
Baek Cheon frowned. But his doubts soon disappeared as a more significant problem arose.
Everyone’s faces hardened.
A thick lingering scent of blood began to permeate the area from ahead.
“Hmm, shall we check it out?”
Chung Myung moved forward while the disciples of Mount Hua and the Beggars Union followed.
It didn’t take long for the group to face the identity of the grisly stench.
Baek Cheon and Yoon Jong fell silent upon seeing the pile of corpses that towered in front of Chung Myung. Several people were lying on the floor and bleeding.
What was especially strange about the situation was that the blood pouring from the mouths of the deceased was not red but an unnatural black instead.
“Poison? Were any of the people that entered before us proficient with poisons?”
Hong Dae-Kwang asked with a stiff expression.
The Tang family was naturally the first place that would come to mind when it came to poison, but apart from them, there were many people and organizations that utilized poisons.
“No. This was organ puncturing.”
“Huh? Organ puncturing?”
Hong Dae-Kwang narrowed his eyes and looked at the corpse Chung Myung was pointing to.
Inconspicuous needles were embedded in the body, and unless one looked closely, they were virtually unseeable. The corpse seemed to have been struck from all directions, not just one.
‘Did it come out of the walls?’
It was nerve-wracking.
At first glance, no one would have expected organ puncturing needles to have been installed here. Only upon careful observation could anyone spot the tiny holes drilled into the walls.
That meant that if Hong Dae-Kwang had passed through this location first, he would have fallen.
“… I never would have expected Yak Seon to set up such a cruel trap.”
Hong Dae-Kwang realized that his thoughts until now had been horribly wrong.
Of course, this is the Sword Tomb.
However, Hong Dae-Kwang was someone who knew that the Untraceable Seizing Sword’s true identity was Yak Seon. He never anticipated that Yak Seon, who dedicated his life to saving others, would set up such a brutal device in his tomb.
“If he intended to make it easy, he wouldn’t have built his tomb in such a place.”
“That is true.”
Hong Dae-Kwang alternated his gaze between the wall and the corpses as his expression filled with disgust.
‘Maybe this is worse than the path clearing.’
While Hong Dae-Kwang hesitated, Chung Myung nonchalantly walked forward as if everything that happened was insignificant.
When Chung Myung looked back with an unnatural calm, it was actually the disciple of Mount Hua that felt bewildered.
‘There are corpses.’
It was true that they lived as martial artists, but this was their first time seeing corpses this close and personal.
Even Baek Cheon, who had the chance to see death during his occasional work outside the sect, was unable to deal with this gloomy situation.
But for Chung Myung, this was a common occurrence.
He had fought a war with the Heavenly Demon Sect in his previous life and witnessed so many corpses until he’d grown tired of it all. After all, hadn’t it even become normal for them to eat their meals surrounded by corpses after every battle?
So, there was no need for Chung Myung to make a fuss over this.
“If you stay here, your chances of getting hit will increase, so let’s move on. And don’t touch anything around you; it’s dangerous.”
“Ah, I see.”
Baek Cheon gulped as he followed Chung Myung. Still, he was unable to withdraw his gaze from the corpses piled around.
‘This is Kangho.’
He felt like he was starting to realize what that meant.
This place was far outside the protection offered by Mount Hua. Anything could happen; if they weren’t careful, they might find their heads severed from their necks.
With renewed vigor, Baek Cheon closely followed Chung Myung as they carefully moved ahead.
“Are there any more needles left to come?”
“We don’t know.”
Chung Myung just shrugged.
“I don’t know what kind of man this Yak Seon is, but one thing is certain.”
“What is that?”
“This isn’t just a treasure trove.”
Chung Myung spoke with a serious expression.
There was no need to install such traps if this was merely a tomb that hid some knowledge. The tomb’s creator must have had some other intentions hidden here.
‘The level of risk will vary depending on the creator of this place’s intentions.’
At this moment, Chung Myung decided to behave a bit more cautiously.
“Oh, that one?”
Hong Dae-Kwang suddenly pointed to the ceiling.
“Isn’t that different from what we saw till now?”
Chung Myung nodded.
Until now, all the Night Stone Lamps that Chung Myung pilfered had a blue color, but the one Hong Dae-Kwang was pointing out now was red.
Without saying anything more or giving the others time to react, Hong Dae-Kwang flew up and removed the lamp from the ceiling.
Hong Dae-Kwang landed on the floor and looked at the lamp with curious eyes.
“I think this is the first time I’ve heard of a red one, but maybe this is a teasur—”
“—What have you done now?”
Hong Dae-Kwang smiled at Chung Myung,
“If I don’t want to continue living as a beggar, I need to diligently make money. Don’t tell me all the night stone lamps here are yours? Surely, I can take at least one….”
Chung Myung’s eyes shone.
“…Definitely told you to not touch anything strange, didn’t I?”
Hong Dae-Kwang’s looked around with a slightly embarrassed expression.
“Well, this thing isn’t too strange….”
It was then.
A very small sound reverberated.
It was heavy and dull but not loud.
Shortly after, the sound grew louder. A cold sweat began to drip from Hong Dae-Kwang’s forehead.
The sound was getting closer. Everyone’s eyes were drawn to where the sound came from.
The hallway they had passed before.
There was a loud noise coming from there. At the same time, the area they were in began to tremble and quake beneath them.
Chung Myung sighed and smiled.
“What are you all doing?”
“If you don’t want to die, then run!”
With those final words, Chung Myung ran ahead at lightspeed. Quickly grasping the situation, Mount Hua’s disciples rushed to follow and charged at full strength.
“R-Run! Run! Beggars run! Hurry!”
Hong Dae-Kwang shouted, even without knowing why the beggars had already begun running.
The reason for everyone’s quick escape was quickly revealed.
The hallway was collapsing. Soil and rocks poured down like flowing water as the ceiling collapsed.
Hong Dae-Kwang, who was terrified, flinched and ran as fast as he could.
If he got caught, he would die! There would be no chance of survival!
“Arggghhh! Run! Beggars! Run for your life! If you don’t run, you’ll die! Ahhhh!”
“This is why I don’t like dealing with beggars!”
Chung Myung yelled while running.
“Did you boil and eat a tree frog or something? I definitely told you to be careful, but you decided that you just had to go and touch things! Are you really someone that lives in Kangho!?”
Of course, Hong Dae-Kwang had nothing to say about that.
“Ahhhh! It’s falling! It’s collapsing!”
“Run, beggars! If you fall behind, you get left behind!”
“Ahh! This is all because of the branch leader!”
The resentment of the beggars was brought to the open air, and the culprit that caused this situation could do nothing except bow his head and run for his dear life.
‘How could I have known?’
The heavens were indifferent.
There was nothing Hong Dae-Kwang could say when the others put it like that. He only touched one thing, but it made sense for the others to blame him. Right now, there was no time for him to chastise others or curse the heavens. Any time wasted could leave him dead, especially since the ceiling seemed to be collapsing faster and was catching up to their group.
To make matters worse, the hallway was becoming narrower and narrower. Now they were forced to run in a single-file line!
Chung Myung groaned and fell back.
“Do not look back and run! Keep running!”
“Mount Hua’s Divine—”
Hong Dae-Kwang, who choked back tears and instinctively tried to look back, firmly fixed his gaze ahead of himself after receiving a swift kick in the ass from Chung Myung.
‘To hit me.’
He said not to look back, was that why Hong Dae-Kwang wanted to look back?
‘Why am I like this? Why do such things happen to me?’
Hong Dae-Kwang could hear the ceiling collapsing right behind him. The dust that rose from the collapse tickled the back of his neck as he hastened away.
“Ahhhh! Everyone will die! Runnn!”
Hong Dae-Kwang did everything he could to move as fast as possible. When he felt pain in his legs, he decided to run on all four limbs and then back to two as needed.
“There’s light ahead!”
“Get there! hurry!”
Everyone’s eyes looked at the newfound goal. Those that confirmed the existence of the light coming from the end of the hallway squeezed out every bit of strength remaining and carried their weary legs to the finish line.
As all the others escaped, Hong Dae-Kwang also ran for the light.
Seeing the rubble at his feet, he fell to the floor and turned back.
‘I did it!’
He didn’t fully understand what happened, but this place didn’t seem to be collapsing. The trap ended with the previous hallway.
Hong Dae-Kwang jumped to his feet.
His feet were white with dust from the rubble, showing that he was the last person to make it out of the hallway.
“Mount Hua’s Divine Dragon!”
Hong Dae-Kwang freaked out and looked back. There was no one behind him. This could only mean that Chung Myung failed to leave the hallway.
Hong Dae-Kwang’s eyes trembled as he realized what had happened.
No matter how talented the child was, it was impossible to survive such a structural collapse.
“Because of me….”
Guilt rushed over Hong Dae-Kwang. A young genius who was supposed to be without equal, who should have gained fame and fortune, had just lost everything due to his mistake. He wanted to bite his tongue and die when he thought about what he had done.
It was then.
Suddenly, the collapsed rubble broke open with dust scattering all around.
“Damn it! You had us worried for nothing! Brat!”
Hong Dae-Kwang was shocked.
‘He is alive!’
Right. There’s no way Mount Hua’s Divine Dragon would die in such a way in a place like this!
Hong Dae-Kwang was so glad that he wanted to run over and hug Chung Myung.
But that joy soon disappeared into the distance.
“… Where’s the beggar?”
The dust settled.
Chung Myung, covered in dust all over, was rubbing his eyes as they shot a fierce glare that looked like he wanted to kill several people at once.
His lips twisted into a smile as soon as he found Hong Dae-Kwang, and Hong Dae-Kwang went pale right away.
“Ah, No. Divine Dragon. The thing is….”
“You must have a lot to say to me.”
Chung Myung relaxed his stiff neck muscles and walked toward him.
“But do you know?”
“If everything could be resolved with words, there would have been no need for wars!”
“Let’s get hit a few times, and then we can start again.
Hong Dae-Kwang was frozen by the visage of an angry devil as he watched Chung Myung rush toward him.
Also called Noctilucent stone ↩️
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