“What is it?”
“You see, there’s a proper order to these things.”
“Isn’t this the most urgent matter?”
“I’ve come from so far away, and I’m hungry.”
“When the treatment is done, I will prepare a feast.”
“… I have no power to move.”
“You can sit.”
Chung Myung glanced at Hwang Jongi. His eyes were burning.
Hwang Jongi finally caught hold of a rope while he was drowning, and that rope was Chung Myung. If he couldn’t fix elder Hwang, he wasn’t going to let Chung Myung go.
Chung Myung lost his appetite.
“Then, let’s go and see—”
“… okay, okay! Don’t rush me.”
Chung Myung turned his head and looked at the bed. Lying on the bed was a man covered in a thick silk blanket.
Checking the man’s face, Chung Myung narrowed his eyes as his forehead creased.
‘It certainly is the symptoms of the demon flower.’
He would have to take a closer look to be sure. Chung Myung moved closer and removed the blanket.
Seeing the scene before him, he frowned subconsciously.
Hwang Mun-Yak’s withered and skinny appearance couldn’t be hidden despite the loose clothing on his body.
The old man’s throat had dried up, as each ragged breath he took seemed to walk a tightrope between life and death.
‘The situation is more serious than I thought.’
Chung Myung rubbed his chin.
‘The demon flower is one thing, but this wasn’t done properly.’
If he had been subjected to a highly trained demonic art, then he wouldn’t have lasted a year. Even those who rigorously trained all their lives would be unable to survive for three days.
These are not symptoms an elderly man could endure.
“I’m going to check his pulse.”
Chung Myung reached out and grabbed elder Hwang’s wrist.
He then inserted a little bit of qi. As Chung Myung’s pure qi left his body and entered elder Hwang through his wrist, the blackened veins and red tint on his skin began to retreat.
Chung Myung frowned.
The symptoms were clearly that of the demon flower. However, they were awkward symptoms that would never come from properly trained Demonic sect members.
Chung Myung released the old man’s hand and touched his chin as if he was in trouble.
Hwang Jongi couldn’t hide his nervousness as he saw Chung Myung’s strained expression looking like that. Anyone would struggle to remain calm if their last hope showed such a serious reaction when examining a patient.
Finally, unable to bear it, Hwang Jongi opened his mouth.
“… how is it?”
Chung Myung scratched the back of his head.
“Is it tough?”
“No. I don’t think that treating it would be difficult.”
“Right. It is fine. Everyone has be—huh?”
Hwang Jongi’s body trembled.
“What was that…?”
“Treating this shouldn’t be too difficult.”
“Really? Are you sure?”
“Yes. But I can’t rush into it right away. Some preparations will need to be done.”
“First of all!”
Chung Myung had a sly smile.
Chung Myung was cutting and chewing everything around him to shreds. Hwang Jongi was aghast at the absurd sight unfolding before him.
He had met many Taoists in his life while building relationships with others, but this was the first time he had seen a Taoist so obsessed with eating meat.
Even now, the long-torn leg of the duck which entered Chung Myung’s mouth re-emerged as a desiccated bone robbed of all its flesh.
Not just that.
As soon as the glass was filled, expensive Yeontae liquor disappeared down his throat.
“Kuaaah! Euu! This is it! This is life!”
It was the first time Chung Myung had tasted such delicious alcohol.
Hwang Jongi would have normally laughed, saying that he’d met an interesting person today, but the current situation kept him from enjoying himself.
“That… young Taoist?”
Chung Myung asked with meat filling his mouth, Hwang Jongi, taking a deep breath to calm himself, continued.
“The preparations… when will they be done?”
“I’m preparing now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ah, nothing serious.”
Chung Myung put down his chopsticks.
“The treatment requires a lot of stamina, so it is important to be well fed. Plus, the chef here is really great.”
Obviously, he is.
Because the chef was the best in Xian.
“I only got to eat small meals and rice in Mount Hua; this is so good.”
Chung Myung patted his stomach.
“Are you done?”
“No. This is just the beginning.”
Was there a tapeworm in his stomach?
It was said that Mount Hua was going through difficult times, but this one seemed too hungry… no, even if he was starving, wouldn’t his stomach get full after a while? Surely, there must be a limit to what a human’s stomach can hold?
This was a Taoist who surprised people in many ways.
“You didn’t come here just to eat, right?”
“What are you saying?”
“Well, Taoists are people who move with a purpose.”
“Those who cultivate the way of Dao live according to the flow.”
“Well, the flow here is too fast….”
“This is a moderated flow.”
Hwang Jongi sighed, knowing he couldn’t win over this child.
“Young man. I understand that it’s rude to rush you when you are here to help us, especially after a long journey. But shouldn’t you also consider the feelings of a son whose father has been bedridden for over a year?”
“I am already considering it.”
Hwang Jongi jumped out of his seat!
“Look here! Young one! My father—!”
“—what did you say?”
“He isn’t dying. So, sit down.”
Chung Myung casually poured another glass of alcohol and drank it down.
Seeing Hwang Jongi’s angry and confused expression, Chung Myung decided to speak.
“I’ve already taken some measures to ensure he won’t die, so there’s no problem. It will take some time to cure him completely, but we’ve already overcome the first important hurdle.”
He’s been treated?
“There is a saying that the faster we move ahead, the more we need to think back. Healing your father now is not that important. What’s really important is to understand why he fell ill in the first place.”
“… you really treated him?”
“Did you think I was scamming you?”
Chung Myung shrugged his shoulders and continued.
“If you have any doubts, go and check. I’m sure the dark qi on his forehead will have dissipated by now.”
Hwang Jongi stared intently at Chung Myung and nodded his head.
“I do not doubt you. However, I think it’s good to be certain, so I will check right away.”
Hwang Jongi quickly went outside. A short while later, he burst through the door, slamming it open as he stared at Chung Myung with incredulous eyes.
“W-what did you do?”
“I treated him.”
Chung Myung didn’t reply and casually pointed to the seat opposite him.
“Aren’t you going to sit?”
Hwang Jongi looked at Chung Myung suspiciously.
While living as a merchant, he’d met an uncountable number of people, but this was his first time meeting such a person.
He’d met many children, but this child seemed more like a seasoned old man.
‘As if an old man’s soul resided within a child’s body.’
That’s impossible. Instead, this child must have experienced countless events unsuited for his age. Otherwise, it was unlikely for a child to handle such situations with ease.
‘Can I trust him?’
But there is no reason to not believe. As he confirmed, his father did show signs of recovery.
Whether or not he knew what Hwang Jongi was thinking, Chung Myung continued to pour another glass of liquor and spoke.
“If you don’t want to sit, then stand and answer. I have a few questions for you….”
Hwang Jongi sat down.
“Who is the person closest to your father?”
“Yes. A person who guards Elder Hwang. A person who follows him dawn till dusk. Otherwise, someone well trusted, the last person to be suspected of anything untoward.”
“… why are you asking that?”
“Let’s just say that it’ll be necessary for the treatment.”
Hwang Jongi tilted his head.
“Of course, it is me. It is my job to serve my father.”
Hwang Jongi, who thought deeply, shook his head.
“I don’t know. Father was a man who worked a lot. So, of course, several people were around him or looked after him. There are at least five people who meet your standards and often stay around him.”
“A lot more than I thought. Hmm.”
Chung Myung scratched his cheek.
But then shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
“If there are five of them, finding out which one it is won’t be easy.”
“Find out what?”
“Are you really asking because you can’t understand? Eh. No, right?”
Hwang Jongi’s face went stiff. He didn’t ask because he was unaware of the truth. It was because he didn’t want to admit it.
“You mean, someone did this from inside?”
“At first, I thought that it was from outside, but looking at Elder Hwang, I don’t think that was the case. From my point of view, this was a betrayal from the inside.”
Hwang Jongi’s face went stiff.
“Please refrain from such words, Young Taoist! All members of the Eunha Merchants are like family! They have been together with us their entire lives, and they all respect my father! They—”
Chung Myung patted his full stomach.
“If we suspect them and they’re truly innocent, then it’ll all be fine anyway, right?”
“… that is true.”
Chung Myung yawned.
“So don’t worry. We will investigate and find out.”
Hwang Jongi just nodded his head.
Seeing that, Chung Myung clicked his tongue and thought.
‘He is pretty naïve for a merchant.’
Chung Myung knew just how poisonous humans can be.
He’d seen monks who preached mercy give into a rage and go mad and watched innocent Taoists plot the most efficient way to slit a person’s throat.
Human beings are two-sided.
You can be an angel to someone and the devil to another.
‘Well, that’s beside the point.’
The important thing was that a person wanted to kill Hwang Mun-Yak.
Judging from his condition, the culprit clearly has poor comprehension of the Demon Sect’s technique. The problem was that, even though it couldn’t do much damage to Hwang Mun-Yak at first, over time and prolonged exposure, he became gravely afflicted.
Even if someone had knowledge of the demon flower, they wouldn’t be able to tell how the symptoms originated unless they had seen it with their own eyes, like Chung Myung.
‘The culprit must be well hidden.’
Luck was on his side.
If Chung Myung had never seen the contents of that letter… no, if he hadn’t even heard of this Elder Hwang earlier that day, then Hwang Mun-Yak would have been destined to die.
‘Kua. This is a good deed.’
Save people and make money.
“How do you plan on investigating?”
“I am already doing it.”
Hwang Jongi asked with a blank face.
“You are doing it?”
“You’re eating food, but you say you are investigating?”
“Ah. Not that. The fact that I am in a room with the young master is enough for the investigation.”
Hwang Jongi couldn’t figure it out.
“Just watch. Soon a lot of fun things will happen. Young master, be sure to keep your eyes open. Ah, there is one more thing you need to do.”
“What is it? I’ll try my best.”
Chung Myung picked up the bottle next to him.
“One more bottle.”
A flood of tears was concealed within Hwang Jongi’s heart.
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