Cho Yi-gyul speaks as if he is revealing a secret.
"The Black Rabbit Union Leader is part of a group called the Twelve Generals. Very few know exactly where he ranks in that group. Additionally, I heard that a mad master leads them."
Cho Yi-gyul is talking about something that I already knew about.
Cho Yi-gyul thumps his chest.
"If you touch me, you'll step into a terrifying world..."
I stab the Sky Dragon Dagger into the palm of the hand that Cho Yi-gyul is holding against his chest.
The Sky Dragon Dagger pierces through his hand and into his chest. I reply to Cho Yi-gyul's last words in an aloof voice.
"You talk too much. You came here with threats when you should've begged me to spare you instead."
Cho Yi-gyul looks at me with incredulous eyes as I say this.
When the Sky Dragon Dagger is pulled out, Cho Yi-gyul collapses in his own pool of blood.
Blood splashes from the table. I whisper a hint of the future's truth to Cho Yi-gyul's corpse.
"I was the craziest person in that terrifying world."
I then speak to Cho Yi-gyul's underlings, who are still digging.
The subordinates comply, thinking they were orders from Cho Yi-gyul.
"Come and clean this up."
As soon as three black-clad men approach, their expressions changes.
The corpse that awaited them, to their shock, was not that of the errand boy but was Cho Yi-gyul's instead.
I look at the three of them and say.
"Why are you so surprised? He played with a knife and died on his own."
One of the men tried to pull out a knife before the one next to him persuaded against it. It was a good move because Cho Yi-gyul's martial arts skills were superior to theirs.
I look at the guy who had tried to pull out a knife and say.
"Why did you stop? Go ahead and pull it out."
"No, it was just a reflex."
"Are you stronger than Cho Yi-gyul?"
"No, I'm not."
"If you were stronger, Cho Yi-gyul would've been the one digging. Otherwise, why were you digging, you dog? Open your eyes."
"Take off your masks. Let me see if I know any of you."
When the three take off their masks, their sweaty faces are revealed. I have never seen them before, but they must have been rookies not much older than twenty.
"I've never seen you guys around Ilyang Prefecture. Are you from the Black Rabbit Union?
"No, sir. We come from outside the region and are currently working in the Pear Blossom Pavilion."
Since I didn't know their faces, these guys might die soon.
"Is that so? You are ordinary workers in the Pear Blossom Pavilion. Cho Yi-gyul ordered a body to be buried today, so ordinary mindless dudes were just here to dig like moles. Will all three of you die here, or will you bury the corpse and return to your hometowns?"
One of them answers first.
"We will go back to our hometowns if you let us live."
"I can't go back to my hometown due to personal reasons, but I won't step foot into the Pear Blossom Pavilion ever again."
"I won't show my face again if you let me live."
I nod my head.
"Then take care of the corpse and scram."
Wavering before their escape, one of them asks the wrong question
"Sorry, but who are you?"
I wonder why he would ask that question.
"Who am I?"
"I'm an errand boy from Zaha Inn, of course."
"I don't believe that."
They must be thinking a countryside inn's errand boy would never be able to kill Cho Yi-gyul.
I order the guy that asked the stupid question to wipe the blood off the floor and table and the other two to move the body.
The young man found the mop himself, brought an empty bucket, wiped the blood, and squeezed the mop repeatedly.
I ask the guy who was squeezing blood out of the mop.
"Where's the youngest owner?"
"I haven't seen him lately."
"Do you know what the youngest owner does?"
The man stops his actions and looks at me.
"Yes, I know."
"He kidnaps young and poor women from far away. You can say that he supplies and trains entertainers for the pavilions."
"What an evil asshole."
The man says after swallowing his saliva.
"Am I going to die, too?"
"You'll die one day. If you meet someone like me again."
"What about today?"
"Thank you. I'll serve you from today on, sir."
"I'm not gonna keep a dumbass like you as a brother."
I mean it. To be my brother, you need to be distinguished, whether in martial arts or whatever.
"For being a dumbass."
I burst out laughing at the reply. His expression did not change at all even as he said something so self-deprecating.
"Oh, that came from nowhere."
I smile and say to the young brat.
"If you're done cleaning, scram."
"Do you happen to need any kitchen staff? I have no way to make a living if I don't work at the Pear Blossom Pavilion."
The biggest problem for young people here has always been to make ends meet. I tilt my head and ask.
"Are you good at cooking?"
"Can you make chicken noodle soup?"
"Isn't chicken noodle soup the most basic of basic dishes?"
Suddenly I became a guy who couldn't even do the basics. I do need someone skilled, but not now.
"I do need one, but not now. You'll get killed by the Cho brothers' guys if you stay here."
I speak with a serious look and tone.
"That's your destiny. After all, the three of you conspired to kill and bury Cho Yi-gyul."
"What do you plan to do from now on?"
"Cho Il-sum is very cruel. A guy with no blood or tears. He'll find you even if you hide yourselves in the Demon Cult's lavatories."
The young men's faces turned pale.
"But all we did was dig a grave."
"Oh, it was for you guys."
"Cho Yi-gyul didn't die because of the three of us."
"You think it's easy to survive in Kangho? All you did was bury his corpse after doing nothing to help him. You don't think that's enough to put all the blame on you? If you don't want to die then go. And take your friends."
"We're not friends. What will you do if they report back to the Pear Blossom Pavilion?"
I point at the weapons on the table.
"What do you think that is?"
"A sword and a whip. There's also a bloody sickle."
"What do you think that means?"
"I don't know."
"It means I'm ready for war. You bastard."
The young man looks at me like I have gone mad.
"If you three are itching for revenge, come back with the Cho brothers' men. We'll settle our scores when the time comes. Then I will show you Kangho's true merciless nature."
The aspiring cook says.
"I'll pass on that. By the way, boss, I haven't introduced myself."
"Shut up and scram."
Despite being told to get lost, the aspiring cook lowers his head in front of the inn after returning and organizing the cleaning supplies.
"I'll try to make chicken noodle soup next time."
"Just worry about your life for now."
"Ah, I understand. Then please have a good rest, sir."
The aspiring cook then runs into the darkness.
After a while, the men who buried Cho Yi-gyul in the pit disappeared, and the Zaha inn was left silent.
A night like this is perfect for eating chicken noodle soup.
Looking at the darkness outside the inn, I say.
"Are you a rat?"
In the dark, a rat with an eye patch over one eye walks out and replies.
"What are you going to do now?"
I look at Cha Sung-tae's eye patch.
"I thought your eyes were fine?"
Cha Sung-tae points to his eye patch.
"It's just for mind games."
"And not just to look cool?"
"It's part of my plan. After reporting an eye injury, I rushed to the doctors and watched the situation from there. Otherwise, I'd also be digging here. That's how resourceful I am. You know?"
"Yeah, well done."
"Thank you. I have no choice unless I want to survive. By the way, what are you going to do now? Are you going to fight Cho Il-sum right away? Or will you wait here."
"Did you tell him my words exactly?"
"What did you say? I may have heard it wrong."
"I said I'll spare him if he came under me, but Cho Yi-gyul came with a knife."
"I know, right."
"He ordered his men arrogantly only to dig his own grave. That's how he ended up. Will Cho Il-sum be any different?"
"Isn't Cho Il-sum the most wicked? Look at how he assigned the worst job to the youngest and all the fighting to the second. He hides whenever something bad happens and reports to the Black Rabbit Union. That's why he could live after opening three pavilions. He's the worst villain in Ilyang Prefecture."
I say, looking at the darkened street.
"Buy me some sweet and sour pork."
"We've got liquor but no side dishes to pair with it."
"All of a sudden? We were just talking about Cho Il-sum..."
"Just think of him as dead already."
"Isn't he still alive and well?"
"He's out of my sight, so he's dead already. How is Cho Il-sum any different? If I let him be, Ilyang Prefecture will suffer. I'm going to kill him."
He orders the youngest to traffick women and the second to murder, so the only outcome is to kill him. They are bastards who presented the Ilyang Prefecture to the Black Rabbit Union on a silver platter.
Cha Sung-tae asks with a puzzled look.
"Are there no side dishes in the inn? What a funny inn. I'll be back, so give me some money."
I shook my head.
"I don't have that either."
Cha Sung-tae looks around with a bitter look and sighs.
"Do you have anything here?"
"There's nothing. I made bibimbap with the leftover side dishes."
"This place used to be famous for having delicious chicken noodle soup, but how did it fall to this extent? Such as ugly downfall. What else do you need?"
His words stung. Still, it must have been unpleasant for the manager of Plum Blossom Pavilion to run an errand for an errand boy.
I reply in respect of Cha Sung-tae.
"All I need to do is sweet and sour pork. Buy the side dishes you like. Buy enough. If we have any leftovers, we'll eat them tomorrow."
See how considerate I am?
"I'll buy plenty."
As soon as I see Cha Sung-tae grumbling along, I speak in a cold tone.
"Why are you walking so slowly? Are you going for a walk? Are you crawling? Are you a turtle?"
"Ugh, damn it!"
Cha Sung-tae began running as he swallowed the urge to curse at me.
'That fucking bastard.'
Cha Sung-tae's face turns red. He never imagined going on an errand for an errand boy in his life.
I say again to Cha Sung-tae, who is disappearing into the darkness of the night.
"...I asked if you're going for a walk?"
In the dark, an angry expletive breaks the silence.
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