Looking at the sword on his chin, Cha Sung-tae answers.
“What’s with you? I have nothing to do with these guys. They were always hanging out with U-geum and Jun-gu. You saw me kill them with my own hands. I didn’t know this would happen so suddenly.”
“Think it over. If you’re not at fault….”
Cha Sung-tae contemplates the situation with a serious look before replying in a subdued tone.
“I don’t think so… Wait, there is something.”
“What is it?”
Cha Sung-tae says honestly.
“…That errand boy bastard suddenly became stronger. Be careful. I think I said this a few times to them. I was really careful, but I don’t think these guys took it very seriously. Come to think of it, it was my fault.”
Cha Sung-tae seems well aware.
“What’s your plan? I don’t think this will stop until I kill half of the guys in the Ilyang Prefecture at this rate. Do you want me to do that?”
“You don’t have to. What should I do? Please tell me.”
“I told you before. Don’t speak informally to me. Not just me, but the others as well. All the Ilyang Prefecture men know me as the errand boy of the Zaha Inn. I will build the Low-Down Sect in the future, but if you keep this up, we won’t be able to make it, and I’ll have to keep killing. I don’t mind. There’s no way I’ll get killed. But you kept regarding me so lightly that the ones who didn’t have to die ended up dying.”
“You’re right. I admit it.”
“From now on, let me set the tone. I’m terrifying…… and those who’ve seen me all died anyway.”
“Exaggerate it. Be more dramatic. Make me even more evil than people think, that I’m a relentless, crazy bastard. Stronger than anyone even suspects. And make that the truth.”
“You should be scared of me first so your underlings would follow. In the present, and in the future.”
“I don’t have to demonstrate all my skills in this kind of town. If you don’t want to live your whole life cleaning up dead bodies, do a good job.”
“I said do a good job this time.”
“I will do a good job.”
I finally retrieve the sword and tell Cha Sung-tae.
“Give me some outerwear.”
Cha Sung-tae’s veins pop up on his forehead.
At the moment, Cha Sung-tae, who thought this mistake had caused this situation, hurriedly adds.
“Ah, alright. I’ll take my robe off for you. I keep saying the wrong things.”
Cha Seong-tae slaps himself in the face and hands me his robe. I look at the bodies as I put on his robe.
“… They’re all amateurs. Who knows what will happen in a fight.”
Cha Sung-tae asks.
“What happened to U-geum and Jun-gu?”
“They had some business in the afterworld and left in a hurry.”
“Ah, I see. They’re busy.”
Cha Sung-tae is mourning the death of his acquaintances.
“U-geum and Jun-gu once told me to gather a group to kill the three Cho brothers. If I hadn’t stopped them, they would have died.”
“Yes, they started this crap without telling me this time. This is proof that I wasn’t close to them.”
“Good for you.”
We arrive at the Plum Blossom Pavilion moments later, and Cha Sung-tae says.
“Go in and take a rest. I’ll send people to dispose of the bodies. At this rate, a plague will spread with so many bodies around.”
I go up the stairs and look around the messy Plum Blossom Pavilion. Fights kept breaking out, and hence the customers had stopped visiting.
It’s partly my fault, too.
However, it is a pain I have to go through.
All the people cleaning or dealing with the bodies pause and look at me as I walk up the stairs.
I stop at the railing and speak to them.
“Tell everyone you know. You’ll end up like this if you come at me again. At least don’t even try to in Ilyang Prefecture. As you can see, this is the result. Close the pavilion today. Don’t even sell alcohol. We should mourn in peace.”
“Got it, sir.”
The Plum Blossom Pavilion falls silent.
I wash up again before entering Cho Yi-gyul’s room. I still think of this as his room as I plan to return to the Zaha Inn once it is restored anyway.
Sitting in a lotus position with my eyes closed, I hear a song from somewhere within the Plum Blossom Pavilion.
The voice is lovely.
I’ve heard this song before, and the voice belongs to Chae-hyang.
The title of the song is Green, Green, Grass on the Riverbank (淸淸河畔草).
A beautiful woman sitting in a pavilion applies red powder and holds her pale hand by the moonlit window. The woman used to be an entertainer and is now the wife of a wanderer… The song portrays the difficulty of sleeping in an empty bed alone because even the wanderer has not returned.
In the lyrics, there are expressions such as Green (淸淸), Lush (鬱鬱), Full (盈盈), Bright (皎皎), Beautiful (娥娥), Delicate (纖纖).1
These are not easy concepts to communicate.
With the right tone, a woman’s subtle characteristics are expressed vividly, allowing the listener to imagine her curves and private places. The song also communicates the atmosphere of the night, the delicate tension, and a woman’s subtle seduction.
Of course, this is not the only interpretation.
However, the phrase ‘an empty bed is hard to bear alone’ (空床難獨守) is the highlight of the song.
Suppose it is difficult to sleep on an empty bed alone after singing Green, Lush, Full, Bright, Beautiful, Delicate in a beautiful voice. What’s the meaning behind that?
This song of temptation is known in Kangho as a Hypnotizing Technique (迷魂術). Pretty monkeys belonging to the Unorthodox factions often sing Green, Green, Grass on the Riverbank after putting on makeup and rob innocent men from the Orthodox factions. They’d be lucky if they were only robbed, but they are also almost always killed.
Either way, I focus on my breathing again, knowing that honey traps don’t work on me.
And by my standards, Chae-hyang is not a beauty.
Only a lady with a kind heart can be considered beautiful.
I thought the singing would end with just Green, Green, Grass on the Riverbank, but it continues.
After becoming distracted, I open my eyes and yell.
The singing stops as the shout mixed with internal energy rings throughout the Plum Blossom Pavilion. I order everyone in the building with the same voice so that everyone hears me.
“Take down the blue lanterns and hang the red lanterns.”
Cha Sung-tae, who just got back after relaying orders, shouts again when he hears me from the first floor.
“Take down the blue lanterns and hang the red lanterns.”
He gives the order again.
“Entertainers can stay, but women who worked as prostitutes (娼婦) will have to find another job. The Plum Blossom Pavilion, Pear Blossom Pavilion, and Cherry Blossom Pavilion will operate as Red Pavilions (紅樓). If any guests come in looking for prostitutes, report to me.”
Cha Sung-tae only repeats the last part.
“We will operate as a red pavilion from now on.”
Although the meaning differs from region to region, red pavilions typically adhere strictly to the principle of Sell Art, Not Body (賣藝不賣身).
I may be a crazy bastard, but I’ve never been crazy about money. There is no need for women to work as prostitutes (娼妓) in my places.
Cha Sung-tae, who answers briefly from downstairs, runs up the stairs. Cha Sung-tae, who reaches the top in four steps, says in front of the door.
“Did you call for me?”
“What about the bodies?”
“I ordered them to be disposed of before returning.”
“The Pear Blossom Pavilion and the Cherry Blossom Pavilion will also operate as red pavilions.”
“Give those people who have places to return to generous severance pay from the Cho brothers’ fortune. Especially those who worked as prostitutes. Only women who want to learn to be entertainers or do chores can stay.”
“I got it.”
“Tell the men working on the construction. I will kill them if they get in trouble. I repeat, rebuild the Zaha Inn quickly. This room smells weird, and the expensive bedding is uncomfortable to sleep on.”
“I will relay the message.”
“Now buzz off.”
“Yes, I will disappear from your sight.”
As soon as I send Cha Sung-tae back, I resume my Qi Breathing Technique.
Everything leaves my mind in a flash.
The Black Rabbit Union, the Black Hurricane Castle, the Master of Twelve Generals, the deceased three Cho brothers, and the Twin Ghosts come to mind, but I soon tear them apart with an imaginary sword and erase their presence.
I repeat multiple full circuits of meditation until dawn breaks, and only when the sun rises do I lie down in my bed and fall asleep.
I thought maybe I could get a good night’s sleep today.
Perhaps the saying ‘an empty bed is hard to bear alone’ (空床難獨守) is useless in the face of fatigue. I sleep until noon.
I met a mysterious man in my dream, and he was locked up.
I can’t remember the conversation, but one thing’s for sure.
That man must be locked up for a long time because of me.
I feel sorry for the man and wake up from the dream.
It took more than thirty days before the new foundational structure of the Zaha Inn was complete. The land is wide, so the scale of the inn is becoming rather large.
In the meantime, the architectural head was replaced, but I haven’t met him yet.
However, just looking at the groundwork of the newly divided sections, the structure of the building is so delicately done that you can picture it in your head.
It feels like they’d finally found talent.
The Zaha Inn that used to smell like mold everywhere had disappeared, and now the largest inn in Ilyang Prefecture is being built.
An inn originally serves as accommodation.
The Zaha Inn only had cheap rooms that were sometimes given to merchants, but the new Zaha Inn is being expanded up to the point where a large group of soldiers could stay.
In addition, this place will be the temporary headquarters of the Low-Down Sect.
I can imagine this even while standing on this still-vacant lot. The sight of Low-Down Sect members gathering and sharing alcohol and food. There will be a rival from my past life, an opponent, and even old enemies among the members.
I will catch all these crazy monkeys and make them stay as members of the Low-Down Sect.
All to change the fate of the monkeys and turn Kangho upside down.
“What are you thinking so deeply about?”
Cha Sung-tae approaches from behind me and looks at the vacant lot.
“When will it be completed?”
“The scale is much larger, so it could take up a year. Is it too slow?”
“What if we add more people?”
“Randomly adding more men won’t speed up the process. The construction might speed up depending on who the architectural head is. You should meet the new head.”
Cha Sung-tae calls out to a man standing with the construction workers.
“The leader is here. Come and say hello.”
I smile as soon as I see the approaching man’s face.
‘Yeon Ja-seong (延孜星), it’s been a while since I’ve seen him.’
The famous architect from when I was the Low-Down Sect Leader is approaching with a younger face.
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