Tang Gunak looked at Tang Zhan with a blank expression.
“It has only been an hour since we received the report that the disciples of Mount Hua returned to Yunnan. But you are saying they have already set off for Shaanxi?”
“…I am flustered about it as well.”
Tang Gunak sighed as he heard that. He was disappointed as well.
“What could be the reason? They moved in such a hurry that they didn’t even stop for a cup of tea?”
Regardless of how busy they were, he had assumed that they would stop by the Tang Family estate at least once. But for them to go away without even looking for them even once…
‘It is like him.’
Tang Gunak let out a small sigh.
As he thought about it further, he realized that there was no reason for them to come here. Since Mount Hua and the Tang Family were friends rather than people who had to report their situation.
‘Nevertheless, being saddened by their absence means they are special to me.’
Tang Gunak had a bitter smile on his face.
‘What is it I’m feeling?’
It feels like the friend he had planned to play together with for a long time had suddenly canceled on him.
“And this hasn’t been confirmed, but…”
“It seems like the disciples of Mount Hua have obtained the sole rights on Yunnan tea.”
“Yes, but we might have to get more confirmation.”
“There is nothing to check.”
Tang Zhan was slightly shocked as he heard what the Patriarch said.
“If it is him, he might not have just gotten the sole rights for the trade but has probably robbed the Beast Palace as well. Even we were robbed of what we had hidden in our Tang family, so what difference does the Beast Palace make?”
Tang Zhan, who remembered the face of Chung Myung, nodded as if he understood.
“Anyway, they have left.”
It was the moment Tang Gunak expressed a little regret…
A slightly muffled voice came from outside.
“What is it?”
“The head of the Four Seas Merchant Chamber is asking to see the Lord.”
Tang Gunak frowned.
‘The Four Seas Merchant Chamber.’
“Bring them in.”
Not long after, the door opened, and Jo Pyung entered the vast room.
“I greet you, Lord.”
“It has been a while. But what is the purpose of your visit?”
“I have come to deliver a letter.”
Tang Gunak titled his head.
‘If it was a letter that the head of the Four Seas Merchant Chamber was giving him then…’
“Mount Hua’s Divine Dragon?”
Tang Gunak smiled.
Seeing that smile, Jo Pyung was a bit shocked.
“I have been rude.”
“Not at all. I smiled because it was funny.”
“May I ask what was funny?”
“Think about it. There are people who amass forces and aim for the necks of others in Sichuan. However, a young one is making the Lord of the Four Seas Merchant Chamber deliver a letter to me… it makes no sense.”
Jo Pyung smiled brightly.
“Age isn’t all that matters.”
“I realize that again. The letter…”
As soon as Tang Gunak received it, he opened the envelope and began to read its contents with interest.
After carefully reading through it, he put it down with an expressionless face. And then stared intently at Jo Pyung.
“Did you read the contents of this letter?”
“I was told to just hand it over and wait for the Lord to decide what has to be done.”
“It is crazy.”
Tang Gunak smiled.
“If the contents of this letter are true, I think the Four Seas Merchant Chamber will monopolize the tea trade with Yunnan in the future.”
“Actually, it is Mount Hua who has the rights. We just do their work for them after taking a small fee.”
“Even just a little will be a huge gain.”
Tang Gunak slowly brushed his chin.
“Mount Hua’s Divine Dragon wants our Tang family to participate in the tea trade as well. If we are able to safely protect the merchants from the bandits as they travel from Sichuan to Yunnan and vice versa, I think the reward will be very high.”
Jo Pyung was silent as he heard the unexpected contents of the letter. He looked at Tang Gunak.
‘He is really someone who wouldn’t back down.’
This was what Chung Myung thought of him.
Actually, the proposal itself wasn’t bad. It was something that could be achieved without much effort.
The problem now was that it was none other than the Tang family to whom Chung Myung had made this proposal.
The idea of entrusting the Tang Family with the duties of escorts for other merchants was something no one other than Chung Myung could do.
Tang Gunak gently scratched his chin.
“What do you think?”
It was a question directed to Tang Zhan.
Tang Zhan bowed his head as he had nothing else but one thing to say.
“Lord, accept it.”
At Tang Gunak’s question, Tang Zhan cleared his throat.
“Of course, it isn’t easy to make this decision, but it isn’t too difficult either. What’s more, this isn’t something we should hesitate to do. Since we are getting benefits…”
“How much money do you think we would get?”
“It will not be a monetary gain.”
Tang Gunak looked at Tang Zhan. His eyes looked certain.
“The financial gain is meaningless here. The important thing is that we would be able to enter Yunnan under the pretense of being their guardians.”
“…is that possible?”
Tang Gunak asked in doubt, and Tang Zhan glanced at Jo Pyung.
Jo Pyung, who had been silent until then, opened his mouth.
“I heard that Mount Hua has a close relationship with the Beast Palace, and that all the disciples of Mount Hua were treated as equals in Yunnan. If you are part of the Tang family, which is in alliance with Mount Hua, you might be given fair treatment.”
‘The same treatment as the people of Yunnan.’
Tang Gunak began to think.
Tang Zhan continued as soon as Jo Pyung finished speaking.
“If we go to Yunnan, doesn’t that mean that we can establish a good relationship with the Beast Palace? We cannot miss this chance.”
“…it is true.”
Tang Gunak shook his head.
But there was no sign of displeasure on his face. Rather, the corners of his lips were twitching, threatening to break into a smile.
“Four Seas Merchant Chamber Lord.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“From this moment on, any ascent to Yunnan will be protected in the name of the Sichuan Tang Family. To those who try to interfere with the ascent, we will take it as a means of going against Sichuan Tang.”
“Thank you, my Lord!”
Jo Pyung bowed his head.
Now the pieces were all together. Both the merchants who had been dissatisfied with the Four Seas Merchant Chamber getting the sole rights to trade with Yunnan and the bandits aiming for profit would be careful now.
At least within Sichuan, the Tang family was King. And now, the trade between Sichuan and Yunnan was protected by the Sichuan Tang family and the Beast Palace on either side. Who would dare try to make a mess now?
“Then… would you like a cup of tea?”
“No, my Lord. There is too much work for me to do. I will come to get you as soon as the first ascent commences.”
“You would probably be busy. Don’t bother coming in person and just send someone.”
“Thank you for the consideration.”
As Jo Pyung bowed his head and left, Tang Gunak tapped the desk with his finger. After thinking for a while, he looked at Tang Zhan.
“What do you think?”
“This is better than I thought.”
Tang Zhan nodded his head.
“Someone like Mount Hua’s Divine Dragon wouldn’t simply intend for us to act like escorts. Perhaps he means for us to use our position as an ally of Mount Hua and make a link with the Nanman Beast Palace.”
“If the Beast Palace, Tang family, and Mount Hua form a friendship with each other, a line connecting Shaanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan will get created. This way, these three places will have enormous influence in the western region.”
“This is a new alliance that is very much unlike the Nine Great Sects or the Five Great Families. Three completely unique places entering into an alliance…”
Plum blossoms began to bloom to the west of the map of Kangho.
“Are you saying that he wants to redraw the power flow in Kangho?”
“I don’t know how far the Divine Dragon is thinking this. But he managed to obtain so much with just one trip to Yunnan.”
“Yes… he is certainly capable.”
He smiled as he thought of the new ties that kept building up.
‘He is indeed like an untouchable ghost.’
What the Sichuan Tang family had been pondering over for decades was solved in a couple of months.
‘This isn’t the end, right, Mount Hua’s Divine Dragon?’
Tang Gunak wondered what the future was going to be like.
“This deal will give the Tang family a huge profit. If I had known something like this would happen, I would have given a bigger present to Mount Hua.”
“It isn’t too late. Let’s send one now.”
“If the gift makes its way to Mount Hua before the Divine Dragon returns, it will give him little strength, and he would be more compassionate to us.”
“Tch. They aren’t people who should be dealt with through such political moves. You are still far from reality.”
“…I apologize. Then without the gift…”
“Prepare it in my name.”
Tang Zhan lowered his head. Tang Gunak finally looked away from his son with a subtle smile.
‘The entire Central Plains will be in his arms.’
But strangely, he felt glad about it.
“Mount Hua, Mount Hua. We need to see how far it will go. No… I will gladly become one of its wings.”
Tang Gunak’s eyes held passion in them.
Huk! Huk! Huk!
“Chung Myung! I will die like this!”
“You won’t die! You won’t die! I never heard of someone saying they died from running.”
“Yah, you idiot! Still… in what world does it make sense to run from Sichuan to Shanxi? Let’s take a horse!”
“We are faster than horses.”
“…w-well, that is true!”
At the protests that erupted from everyone, Chung Myung frowned.
“Instead of complaining, take another step forward! Our Sect Leader might die before we lose strength in our legs! We will go there and then rest! Move! As long as we haven’t reached Mount Hua, we cannot rest! We rest only once we reach the mountain peak!”
Even though they stopped by Jo Gul’s house, they couldn’t even get a glass of water before they began to run back. It was making them sick to the core.
How much more was there to run? They had already been running for 4 days. Now, there seemed to be some sort of sweet smell in their mouths.
Jo Gul, heaving his shaky legs, pushed forward Yoon Jong, who had been falling behind.
“Sahyung! Get yourself together!”
“…I thought we were being nice to the bandits. I didn’t realize that they had it this hard.”
‘No, this person is really trying to be nice to everyone in the world. Get yourself together!’
At the same time, Baek Cheon, who was exhaling like his life depended on it, looked at Chung Myung with suspicious eyes.
“But Chung Myung…”
“Uh? What is it, sasuk?”
“Why did you bring in the Tang family? No matter how much I think about it, you’re not one to share profits with someone else.”
Chung Myung smiled.
“It’s not the money.”
“Surely, a lot of money will go to the Merchant Chamber.”
“Of course, it will be huge, but what about the money to find escorts if not for the Tang family?”
‘Was this all?’
As if on cue, Chung Myung continued.
“The place has too many bandits. And when it comes to grains and tea, wouldn’t they run over like dogs? But if people of the Tang family are there, wouldn’t the merchant group feel at ease?”
“…that is an obvious reason.”
Jo Gul, who had been silently listening to the conversation, ran towards Chung Myung.
“Yah! What do you mean! Does this mean you are using my house?”
Chung Myung clicked his tongue as he looked at Jo Gul, who had run to him, forgetting the pain in his legs. And then he kicked him on the butt.
“No, how did someone like you come from a merchant family? The merchant chamber stays safe, and the Tang family is also satisfied. Since both of them stay on good terms, things go good for us as well! How is it a scam when everything works out!”
‘No one called it a scam, Chung Myung.’
‘That’s what you were thinking…’
Chung Myung started running again in excitement.
“Now, we won’t be going to Sichuan or Yunnan for a while, but they shouldn’t have a problem with us being absent. And the money! Clack clack clack clack! Money will roll in like crazy for us! We don’t have to do anything, and money will keep coming to us! What can be more perfect than this? Hahahah!”
Baek Cheon looked at him and shook his head. For a moment, it was as if Chung Myung’s eyes had turned into a half-moon-like smile.
‘Weirdly, I feel bad for Yunnan and Sichuan.’
‘However, it isn’t like you are the only ones suffering, so please understand. Mount Hua has it hard too…’
It was that moment.
Yu Yiseol, who had been running without saying anything, pointed to a distant place on the horizon.
They could finally see it.
A cliff surrounded by clouds. A gigantic mountain peak standing high.
“…we are here.”
After a long journey, they had finally reached Mount Hua.
The disciples of Mount Hua started to run towards Mount Hua without delay.
All of them had ever-bright and light steps.
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