Despite his obvious fear of the Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade, Cha Sung-tae stays at the front and murmurs at his opponent.
"Hey, baldy. Watch your back. I'm joining in. Do you know what my nickname is? You'll know once I stab you. You don't have to know now. C'mon, bring it on."
Cha Sung-tae takes several steps as if trying to rush in with the sabre and stops.
It is obviously a bluff, but the Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade can't be sure of that.
I smirk while swinging my whip as I find Cha Sung-tae's behaviour funny.
Cha Sung-tae also keeps sneering while swinging the sabre, continuing to threaten the Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade.
"That's right, I'm joining in. Let's play fair and square. Here we go. Baldy, I'm going to split you open first. It's a surprise attack!"
Wi Sun-woo, who wields two ringed blades, swings his weapon back as I retrieve my whip.
The Blade Wind (刀風) cuts through the rain and rushes towards Cha Sung-tae.
Cha Sung-tae yells in surprise and swings his sabre.
His sabre makes contact with the Blade Wind with a loud sound, causing him to fall and roll on the ground several times before coming to a stop. Cha Sung-tae did not move as if the attack knocked him out.
Cha Sung-tae is, of course, just pretending to faint as part of his scheme, the plan being to launch a surprise attack depending on how the fight progresses.
As I am fending off the attack of Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade, I tell Cha Sung-tae.
"I'm not buying it, so get up."
Cha Sung-tae raises his head in a hurry.
Wi Sun-woo isn't putting much effort into dealing with me, though there is a warning in his moves that he will kill me even if he has to go that extra length. Still, Cha Sung-tae's actions manage to distract the Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade.
The rain I had watched with Geum Chul-yong and Jang Deuk-soo was quite picturesque. Geum Chul-yong must have been watching the rain while thinking about what kind of weapon to present to me.
Jang Deuk-soo also watched the rain while listening to our conversation.
I look at the rain, thinking about a life progressing differently from my past life.
Maybe it feels sentimental because the three of us watched the rain together.
But the rain now is different.
The rain we watched peacefully from the restaurant has become part of the fight where the enemy must be killed. Someone will die under this rain.
Of course, it won't be me.
The Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade were the ones who had died by my hands in an alternate future where they weren't rookies like they are now.
Why is it so fun to fight?
Once again, the lightning briefly cuts through the sky, highlighting our three faces' expressions.
Wi Sun-woo and Gu Yang-su see that I am still smiling.
Gu Yang-su says.
"Start from the whip."
That short sentence suggests taking action to deprive me of my whip, either by cutting or snatching it away. In response, Wi Sun-woo says.
"Sword at his waist, too."
In the ensuing fight, Gu Yang-su grabs my whip with his ringed blades, and Wi Sun-woo rushes in and cuts the middle point of the whip using his internal energy. The whip would not have been cut if it was just a fight of internal energies. Still, since there are two opponents, I retreat momentarily.
Somehow, the whip has become rather short.
After a brief lull, the confrontation continues…
I show Geum Chul-yong the broken whip and say.
"An unbreakable belief… this isn't it."
Geum Chul-yong must hear me clearly from where he is watching inside the Chunyang Restaurant. If the weapons of the Dragon Head Smithy are so easily broken, it would be expected for Geum Chul-yong to be seething.
As soon as I throw the shortened whip, I pull out the Black Dragon Sword from my waist.
As the sword is drawn, my two opponents stop as if the tables have turned.
"You're in big trouble now. I'm more skilled at using a sword than a whip."
Cha Sung-tae interrupts me.
"Then you should've used the sword. Why..."
"It's my last piece of conscience."
Cha Sung-tae swallows the curse words back into his mouth.
'What is he up to?'
The truth is, my thoughts are on the harsh fate of killing again the men who died by my hands in that different future.
Now that it has come to this, I have no choice. I have to kill them again.
When I hold the sword upright, the Fire Chicken energy covers the blade (劍身).
The sword is tinged with red.
Water droplets evaporate with a sizzling sound every time raindrops fall upon my blade.
Both Cha Sung-tae and the Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade look at my blade in surprise.
To be honest, this was a little troubling for me as this level of martial arts is clearly too advanced for someone who was just a simple errand boy not too long ago.
I need to come up with a reason.
"Can you see it? My sword..."
Cha Sung-tae responds in a rapt tone.
"I see it. It is glowing red..."
I nod and come up with an excuse.
"This is why my name is Zaha (紫霞, purple sunset)."
In truth, my sword is shining like the glow of the sunset. Raindrops that hit the blade change into a strange colour of smoke, dispersing like hazy clouds in front of the setting sun.
Even though this is all a lie, I briefly wonder if this is the reason why my name is Zaha.
Anyways, Zaha of the Zaha Inn, that's me.
"It's time to die you fucking morons."
My curse signals the restart of the conflict. The Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade and I rush at each other. Their ringed blades are a type of large knife weapon (大刀) and have a wide range of trajectories in their swings.
Saying that, this two-on-one fight does not just put me at a disadvantage.
Because of their wide range, the blade they wield can also hurt each other depending on my movements.
This is possible because I have a good grasp of their technique.
Wielding my crimson-dyed sword, I launch a sword wind attack containing the energy of the Fire Chicken in their faces.
Sword Wind is basically just wind, but it contains heat transferred from inner energy.
When the concentration of the energy is further compressed, Sword Wind (劍風) becomes Sword Energy (劍氣).
Although Sword Energy is a higher ranking skill, there are times when Sword Wind is useful.
Sword Energy, which uses more internal energy, can be the more practical choice depending on the situation. In situations where it's necessary to conserve internal strength, sometimes the accurate answer is to just wield a sword without using either attack.
Of course, there are more advanced types of attacks above Sword Energy, but those specialities vary depending on the faction.
For that reason, many decisions have to be made during a fight. Since it's also a factor in victory or defeat, it is essential to build both practical skills and martial arts.
I plan with this in mind while blocking the Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade's twin pair of swords.
At this time, Cha Sung-tae takes a stance as if he is about to pull out a knife again. He only raises his killing intent with his mouth firmly shut this time.
He is going to make a surprise attack.
The Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade have no awareness of Cha Sung-tae's skills.
With a twisted face, Wi Sun-woo takes a step back and swings the ringed blade in his right hand toward Cha Sung-tae.
I immediately notice why Wi Sun-woo is moving back as I block Gu Yang-su's blade. I also move slightly and swing my sword.
As soon as Wi Sun-woo's shoots a Sword Wind toward Cha Sung-tae, I swing my sword out simultaneously and cut off his forearm.
Cha Sung-tae rushes fiercely through the rain puddles with his sabre held low in his right hand. The momentum shows that he plans to finish off Wi Sun-woo, so I turn to face Gu Yang-su one-on-one.
Cha Sung-tae deals with Wi Sun-woo, who only has one arm left.
I dodge Gu Yang-su's twin blades and counter with a Flicking Technique (彈指功) by injecting the Fire Chicken's Energy (炎鷄氣).
The moment Gu Yang-soo uses his blade to evade Fire Chicken Flicking Technique, both he and his weapons shake from the impact.
I relax my arms as I become engrossed in only stabbing. I avoid Gu Yang-su's twin swords and stab at him, aiming at his neck and arms.
The Phantom Sword is a technique that exists across multiple factions and has the principle of leaving weak Qi (氣) around the sword like an afterimage. When these afterimages increase in number from three to four, warriors in Kangho usually refer to it as the Three Phantom Swords (幻影三劍). Naturally, the number increases as the speed of the blade goes up.
In other words, the Phantom Sword is a technique often seen multiple times across all the martial factions.
I use my Phantom Sword to create nine afterimages in the rain, three at a time with each movement, as I attack Gu Yang-su with the Black Dragon Sword and finish him off with a stab through the neck.
The twin blades, which arrive half a beat slower than my sword, stop near my chest and fall to the ground.
When I pull out my bloody sword, the sky thunders loudly.
As I turn my head, I see Cha Sung-tae piercing through Wi Sun-woo's limp body with his sabre.
A strange feeling flashes through me as I see that Wi Sun-woo had been killed by Cha Sung-tae rather than by my own sword. This moment makes me see clearly that both mine and Cha Sung-tae's fates have changed.
Until this moment, I had thought that both of the Twin Ghosts of the Ringed blade would die at my hands.
Cha Sung-tae points at the body with his sabre and asks.
"Who were these guys?"
"They're bastards from the Black Hurrican Castle."
"The Black Hurricane Castle..."
Cha Sung-tae sighs and barks at the scum spectating the fight.
"Why did you bring these guys here? Do you want to die?"
As Cha Sung-tae approaches them with his bloody sabre, the scum steps back. One guy tries to make an excuse as if he feels the accusation is unfair.
"We were threatened, so we brought them here. Otherwise, we'd all be dead."
Cha Sung-tae looks back at me.
"You're going to take these guys and run the Low-Down Sect? Do you think it'll work?"
I snort at Cha Sung-tae's words.
"Why are you asking me that?"
"What? You're the leader."
"You take care of those who need rehabilitation. You're the leader of the Rebirth Sect, Sung-tae, you punk. Why don't you educate the guys down there? Do you want to die?"
Cha Sung-tae looks at me with his mouth agape.
Cha Sung-tae shakes his head several times before bowing it slightly and saying.
"I'll sort this out. Let's talk. Mister Geum is inside the restaurant."
I enter the Chunyang Restaurant while Cha Sung-tae orders the scum to clean up the bodies.
Jang Deuk-soo and Geum Chul-yong, who are still watching comfortably from the store, greet me.
"Welcome back. You did a great job."
Geum Chul-yong raises his thumb.
"Leader, you're extremely skilled, but it was great that you hid your skills and lured out his accomplice. How did you know there was another person nearby?"
I tilt my head.
'Why is he so observant?'
I answer roughly.
"I just had a hunch."
My clothes are too wet. As the water drips on the restaurant floor, I tell Geum Chul-yong.
"I'll be waiting for the Crazy Blade. If anything happens in the meantime, please reach out to Cha Sung-tae or me."
Geum Chul-yong nods and says.
I look down at my wet state and bid the two goodbye.
"I'm going to go wash the blood off."
Jang Deuk-soo tilts his head when he hears my words because there is no blood on me.
As I return to the Plum Blossom Pavilion, I suddenly remember the treasure map that the Twin Ghosts of the Ringed Blade had once wanted. I don't have the treasure map right now, but I haven't forgotten the location on the map.
However, the place is quite far from here, so I have to think more about the timing of departure and collection. The map's discovery is still far in the future, so it doesn't matter much when I decide to go.
Now the number of enemies I need to deal with immediately has increased by one, with both the Black Rabbit Union and the Black Hurricane Castle now coming, but this is not a big deal. This barely qualifies as a warm-up compared to my suffering under the Demon Cult's Heaven and Earth Net.
I open the main gate of the Plum Blossom Pavilion and then turn around to look at the panoramic view of the Ilyang Prefecture as it is being covered by the pouring rain.
Not only me, but it feels like the whole of Ilyang Prefecture was soaked in the rain.
It is late at night, so the number of lights on the streets is reduced.
It is an indifferent scene as if the streets have no interest in the death of two Kangho martial artists who had wielded twin-ringed blades.
After all, martial artists of Kangho simply repeat the cycle of killing each other over and over again.
Just another common occurrence on a rainy day
I stand in front of the Plum Blossom Pavilion's front door for a moment longer and watch the pouring rain.
After coming back stronger, everything looks beautiful.
I suddenly have a thought.
Am I half-crazy like I was in my past life? Or did I turn back to normal after going insane?
The answer eludes me.
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