Episode 101

Okcheon Express Agency (3)
1 month ago
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It had already been two days since the Okcheon Express Courier Service was unable to pass through the Black Tiger Tollgate.

“Drawing a sword just because they refuse to pay five times the toll fee! Where does it say that this is acceptable!”

“Shut up! Docheok Express Courier! You guys are up next!”

As the days passed, the number of comrades began to swell.

“Huh? It’s not just our Docheok Express that’s been dragged into this. Hapyo Master, isn’t that the Okpyo Master of Okcheon Express over there?”

“It appears so.”

“Okpyo Master! Were you also dragged here, Okpyo Master?”

“……”

Although a courier from Docheon Express attempted to strike up a friendly conversation, the Okpyo Master ignored him with a displeased expression.

The Hapyo Master from Docheon Express then raised his hand and spoke up.

“Hey, Okcheon Heobu, Okpyo Master.”

“So, you’re the Hapyo Master of abnormal delivery?”

Was this exchange supposed to be a critical hit just by skimming the surface?

With just a few words exchanged, the faces of the two men began to turn fierce.

“This bastard!”

“How dare you call a senior ‘Okcheon Heobu’!”

“We’re not even different in age, what senior!”

How notorious must an express courier service be to earn such nicknames? Everyone looked disheveled, yet here they were, brawling with a competing company in such a place.

But was it always like this, express courier services clashing with the Green Forest so frequently? It seemed like too many were being caught.

“Hey. Isn’t this too many being caught?”

I wasn’t the only one thinking this. One Green Forest bandit expressed his concern to another about the current situation.

“What can we do? This Chief sent the other Chief to an early retirement in the underworld with a stab. With the stronghold changing hands, there’s a lot of money going out, so these incidents happen.”

So that’s what happened.

Listening closely to the conversation between the Green Forest bandits, I was able to grasp the situation.

Originally, Black Tiger had one Chief and two Vice Chiefs.

The Chief possessed strong martial arts skills, one Vice Chief had high martial skills but was temperamental, and the other Vice Chief was smart and eloquent. Together, these three managed Black Tiger efficiently.

One day, the Chief of Black Tiger decided it was time to retire, having earned enough money. It’s understandable to want to spend a comfortable retirement with ample funds, but the issue was succession.

The Chief handed over the position to the smart Vice Chief without discussion, thinking the intelligent individual would manage the business well.

However, this was not just any business but also a violent organization.

Upon hearing the news, the temperamental Vice Chief immediately revolted, ousting the Chief’s forces and those loyal to the other Vice Chief.

In the process, valuable members were lost to the underworld, and a financial crisis ensued, leading to the current desperate measures.

In the end, this mess wasn’t just the express courier services digging their own graves but was also caused by Black Tiger’s financial troubles.

“We’ve been trading well for 10 years, how can this happen!”

“Wonsam Express Courier! You guys are in too!”

As time passed, the number of express courier services being caught increased.

As expected of the Green Forest. Even though the caught express courier services were all black courier services, they excelled at overpowering and bringing them in.

“Hey! Isn’t there not enough space to put these guys?”

“Just leave it. If it gets full, we’ll just ‘clean up’ a bit. Hahaha.”

The Green Forest bandits threw the couriers in and disappeared with a sinister laugh.

‘Having many hostages means getting rid of unnecessary people.’

The situation was dire. The cage holding the couriers was so packed that lying down, let alone sitting properly, had become impossible.

If they couldn’t fit more people in here, the chances of being disposed of increased.

‘The first to go will naturally be the barbarians who don’t belong to any express courier service and have no money coming in.’

Tang Hwarin was too far away to converse with, but it seemed she’s being treated quite well, lying on a blanket and receiving some kind of treatment, while we’re on the dirt floor.

The problem was me.

As a black-haired barbarian with no prospects of money coming, I was likely to be sent straight to the underworld once this place was full.

‘I need to find a way to survive before looking for a way to escape.’

The people of Okcheon Express Courier Service must find a way to stay alive until they came to negotiate or until they found a way to escape.


A few days later.

A feast for the Black Tiger bandits took place in the open space directly visible from the cage where the couriers were trapped.

“Everyone has worked hard these past few days! Once we deal with those bastards, everyone will get a bag of money! So eat and drink today!”

The Chief raised his drink cup on the prepared stage to signal the start of the feast to his subordinates.

“Yes! Vice Chief!”

“It’s Chief now, you bastards!”

“Hahaha! Yes! Chief!”

The feast of Black Tiger had an atmosphere akin to playtime, as if middle school students were on a school trip after their midterms, trying to forget the hardships of the past few days.

“Tha, that woman, you see. Shaking her hips like this and that!”

“Hehe. Like this, you mean.”

I needed to correct that. The sight of bearded uncles dancing and shaking their hips, pretending to be girls, was not the freshness of high school boys but rather a sight that made for sore eyes.

“Smells really good.”

“I’m hungry.”

It had already been three days since we were last provided a meal. The couriers could only drool over the food the Green Forest bandits were eating and blankly stared.

I was hungry too.

While I blankly watched the feast, the Chief of Black Tiger suddenly stood up.

“Where’s the rat? A feast without a storyteller is useless! Come out quickly and tell us something interesting!”

The Chief, drunk on alcohol, yelled at the bandits.

So, Black Tiger had its own designated storyteller.

“Chief. That guy. He was part of the defeated Vice Chief faction. Haha.”

“Shit, really? The rat. Got killed after sticking with someone similar. Don’t we have any rat-like guys? If I like it, I’ll give a reward!”

The Chief pulled out a money bag and scattered the money inside in front of his drink table.

“Then I’ll give it a try…”

“But if I don’t like it, your skull’s going to be smashed!”

“…I’ll offer a drink instead.”

A green-haired officer nearby immediately switched his stance and offered a drink.

“Anyone! Really, no one?!”

The Chief, with an angry voice, took a sip of his drink and looked around the feast for someone to tell a story. However, the Green Forest bandits were too busy avoiding the Chief’s gaze, not wanting their skulls to be crushed.

“Shit! Balls shrivel up at the mention of skull crushing! You idiots! Your lives are about splitting skulls or getting yours split! Are you scared of that? Huh?!”

It seemed like a different matter.

Though risking your life for bandit work might have been mentioned in the employment contract, risking it at a company dinner probably wasn’t.

Whether it’s the Central Plains or Joseon, the drinking culture was a problem.

The Chief started preaching, looking disdainfully at the staff like a drunk 50 year old manager saying, ‘These days, kids lack spirit. Back in my day, we worked six days a week and went hiking with company managers on weekends! Get it?“’

“Shit! Anyway, the guys I liked! All stuck with that dead Vice Chief! Now I’m left with these scraps!”

Angered, the Chief picked up a liquor bottle nearby and threw it.

The feast, which had been as warm-hearted as a company dinner with a tipsy 50 year old manager, suddenly turned cold as if the manager had declared, ‘Our department’s performance is poor, and I’m getting scolded. If we have fun tonight, prepare for full overtime starting tomorrow.’

Not the manager, but the Chief would become the subject of backtalk once he left.

The Green Forest bandits looked at the Chief with barely concealed disdain, to the extent where even he would notice.

In such situations, opportunity arose for someone.

“I’ll give it a try!”

I used the martial technique I learned from Seo-hee to amplify my voice and spoke loudly enough for the Chief across the frozen feast hall to hear.

All eyes in the feast hall turned towards me at my words.

‘Now, I need to prove my worth.’

I must show that I was worth keeping alive.

If I could catch the eye of the Chief and prove my worth, there’s a chance to stay alive and maybe even find a chance to escape.

“What are you!”

“I am a storyteller traveling the land!”

Regardless of the attention on me, I spoke with confidence.

“What, what? A storyteller?”

“Wouldn’t it be a waste not to have a storyteller on a feast day! If you open our cage, I will offer you an impressively entertaining story.”

Black Tiger Chief. You need me. Hurry up and let me out.

“Hey! Barbarian! Can’t you see the Chief is angry? Want to die?”

“What does a barbarian know about being a storyteller?”

“Chief! Looks like this guy has lost his senses from hunger.”

“What interesting story could a barbarian possibly know, nonsense.”

Then you do it. The Green Forest bandits, eager to make me a scapegoat in the awkward atmosphere, started to insult me.

“Silence! Barbarian. Are you really a storyteller?”

The feast hall froze again at the Chief’s words.

“I was so famous as the black-haired storyteller in Chilgok County that if you didn’t know me, you were considered an outsider!”

I spoke with confidence emanating from my entire being.

“……Chilgok County? Black-haired storyteller? Eh? Isn’t this guy Kang Mo?”

“Who’s Kang Mo?”

“Kang Mo? You mean the story about the Ha Family or the Sung Family?”

“Ah! I’ve heard about him too! If you go to Chilgok County, you should definitely listen to this storyteller!”

Fortunately, there was someone who knew my name.

After all, even in Daehung County, where the Sung Family resided, my fame had spread. Since Black Tiger wasn’t far from Chilgok County, it’s plausible someone would recognize me.

“Bring that storyteller out!”

I stepped out of the cage and into the feast hall.

“Are you Kang Mo? I heard rumors that you had gone to be a guest in some rich family’s house.”

“So, was that a lie?”

“You. Are you really the storyteller Kang Mo these guys are talking about?”

Standing before the Black Tiger Chief, he questioned me with a skeptical look.

“Yes. I am both the storyteller that was talked about in Chilgok County, and also the one who preferred wandering the nine provinces to tell stories over living as a guest in a rich family’s house.”

“Really? Since you’re willing to tell a story and came out so confidently, you must be prepared for your skull to be smashed if it’s not interesting?”

The Chief, flushed from alcohol, looked at me disdainfully while caressing the knife at his waist.

Don’t be scared.

If I stayed like this, I’d die anyway.

“Haha. That won’t be necessary. In fact, you’ll find my stories so entertaining that you might clutch your head in amusement. So, be careful with your skulls.”

I smiled cheekily, brushing off the Chief’s malice and looked at the people around the stronghold.

“Khuhuhu. This guy seems a bit like that dead rat. Exactly what a storyteller should be. Alright! Then let’s hear your story!”

“I can’t do it right away.”

I flatly refused the Chief’s command.

“What? Is this guy joking?”

The Chief furrowed his brows, openly displaying his anger.

If I showed fear and agreed to do it right away, I was just a fool.

If I simply complied, in the Chief’s mind, I’d be just another prisoner who told good stories. That’s all I’d amount to.

Contradict his expectations.

Convince him with my stance.

Through this process, I could leave a lasting impression in his mind and maybe even gain his favor.

“Chief! Just as you never go to work without the knife at your waist, I too have my tools for storytelling: a black bamboo hat and a folding fan. But now, I don’t have them with me.”

I showed my empty palms to the Chief, indicating that I couldn’t perform the storytelling without my items.

“Khuhuhuhu. This guy’s audacious. Asking for his fan and hat? Aren’t you afraid of getting your skull smashed?”

“No Green Forest bandit shows up naked in front of an approaching courier service.”

“Khuhuhu. You’re right. This guy! I like him better than those with shrunken balls who can’t say a word! Hey, you idiots standing there looking dumbfounded. Bring this guy’s gear!”

“Yes, understood.”

Thank goodness. It worked. I calmed my trembling heart internally as I waited for my battle gear.

“Here it is!”

I climbed onto the stage wearing the black bamboo hat returned by the Green Forest bandit and holding the folding fan in my hand.

“Khuhuhu. Now that we’ve provided your equipment, know that if it’s really boring, your skull will be split open all the way to your balls.”

The Chief looked at me climbing onto the stage and commented from behind.

“Feel free to have high expectations.”

Unlike Hwarinho, my body couldn’t be disassembled and reassembled. I better do my best.

“Hello! I am a storyteller from Joseon! My name is Kang Mo!”

Snap! As always, I introduced myself in front of the Green Forest bandits, unfolding my folding fan.

“Barbarian storyteller!!! So, what story will you tell!!!”

“Even if you were popular in Chilgok County! You’re still a barbarian! Let’s see!”

“If it’s boring, know that I can stab you too!”

I surveyed the bandits from the stage, drenched in the essence of murder, violence, and alcohol.

What tale should I weave?

Even the most captivating story must be carefully selected based on the time and situation.

The air was charged with tension yet filled with anticipation.

In such a moment, I must cater to their tastes.

The most thrilling tale for this scenario. A story that the Green Forest bandits of the Black Tigers could connect with.

There was only one story apt for this moment.

“The story from Joseon that I’m about to share! About a legendary figure of Joseon!”

A piece of popular literature that has traversed hundreds of years from Joseon to become widely celebrated in Korea today.

“A bandit who seized a nation! A righteous outlaw who became the beacon of hope for the people! A hero who ushered in a new era!”

A man who triumphed over the world’s hardships to herald a new age.

A character cherished by everyone, from the commoners of Joseon to the nobles, and as time progressed, by the citizens of the Republic of Korea.

The story I was going to narrate today was.

“The Tale of Hong Gildong!!!”

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