The existence of the Black Rabbit Union Leader, who strikes fear in the Black Rabbit Union vermin, and my suggestion to have a life-or-death fight are slowly dictating the opinion in the courtyard. No, the more they look at the mangled body, the greater my suggestion and presence become.
Now, those who want to survive will have to be prudent.
They realize through the atmosphere that the Black Rabbit Union Leader also has to fight his own battles.
“How aggressive of you, errand boy.”
Suddenly, the gaze of the Black Rabbit Union Leader turns to the wall.
Later, a loud crackling sound can be heard ringing like a thunderbolt as cracks form from where the axe was struck.
So Gun-pyeong approaches and asks in a polite tone.
“Leader, do you need a sword?”
“Why? Aside from palm techniques, finger techniques, leg techniques, sword techniques, saber techniques, spear techniques, and sickles, I have learned many other things.”
So Gun-pyeong holds out his treasured Night Blade.
“Well, you can take my Night Blade. The leader’s sword is just as sharp.”
I glance at So Gun-pyeong’s expression at his sudden suggestion. The restless man who turned timid when I asked to look at his sword came forward to lend me his weapon first…
I only have to say a word of thanks, but I just have to answer like a crooked man, as is my nature.
“It’s better than a kitchen knife. Give it here.”
So Gun-pyeong, who is handing over his katana, peeks at me.
“Nothing. It’s better than a kitchen knife, so please handle it with care.”
While I unsheathe the Night Blade, I hear So Gun-pyeong, and his men behind me talk.
“What does he mean it’s better than a kitchen knife?”
“I’m asking you out of curiosity… Why are you angry?”
I speak to Black Rabbit Union Leader, who looks deep in thought.
“My new weapon is here, so let’s get started.”
I launch a Sword Wind at him before the Black Rabbit Union Leader can pull out any of his petty tricks.
Sword Wind is a technique used to break the opponent’s balance or block their movement during a fight, rather than making the final blow. Therefore, it is better to deal with it properly. If they do not respond accordingly, all that waits is eventual defeat.
The officials instinctively avoid getting caught up in the Sword Wind. At the same time, the Black Rabbit Union Leader splits the incoming attack upfront by pulling out the black sword from his waist.
Meanwhile, I quickly narrow the distance with a single leap to the yoke-back chair of the podium and aim for the abdomen of the Black Rabbit Union Leader.
The two of us face off as the Black Rabbit Union Leader hits the Night Blade straight on with his sword.
In a split second, he and I look into each other’s eyes.
His eyes contain myriad emotions, but the only thing we have in common is that we do not show fear.
The gaze of those who have killed many of their opponents.
The battle between the Black Rabbit Union Leader, which began on the stairs and me, continues as it moves to the centre of the spacious courtyard.
The sword and katana have already clashed more than thirty times, and the information I obtain piles slowly up in my head.
The Black Rabbit Union Leader’s sword technique is highly refined. His movement’s focus shifts exquisitely between defence and offence while leaving fake tiny openings with every technique to set a trap for his opponent.
On the other hand, my fighting style and attack patterns are indefinite. After figuring out the merits of the opponent’s mindset or martial arts, I respond accordingly. This is the main focus of the next cultivation stage after the Fire Chicken, the Fighting Chicken (鬪鷄). However, finding enlightenment in Conception (心得) before reaching the state of mental cultivation is a separate problem.
Now that we have exchanged blows…
Compared to the union leader, my sword techniques are faster and more refined, and the energy I cultivated with the help of the Heavenly Pearl is way deeper. Ultimately, it’s a fight with no chance of defeat for me.
But I memorize his sword technique for a variety of reasons.
One, it’s so I could get a taste of Dae Na-chal’s martial arts techniques.
In addition, I have a different reason why I have to learn his sword techniques by heart.
It’s all part of the plan.
I slowly enhance the katana with internal energy when I have perfectly memorized his technique.
Then, the Black Rabbit Union Leader’s complexion gradually becomes paler.
He realizes I have been fighting using only half of my internal cultivation.
I can understand his astonishment.
There is a limit to what Kangho warriors under 25 can accumulate.
Most people who reach that limit are the best disciples of the famous families, Murim Clan successors, and young warriors who had gained rare opportunities. Other than that, the depth of internal cultivation can be estimated through their age and origin.
And the Black Rabbit Union Leader looked at me with that assumption…
He can feel the growing power with each sword clash, so he can’t help but feel flustered.
How can he anticipate and cope with the power and opportunity granted by the Heavenly Pearl?
I relax my stiff expression and sneer.
“… Leader, it’s too late.”
It’s too late to run away now.
I also mean it’s too late to try and discover my true abilities. Still, the Black Rabbit Union Leader understands immediately since he’s on the brink of death. However, I can’t see the change in his expression due to the mask.
Using a mask seems to have its perks.
In the meantime, his attacks become increasingly violent, like a beast trying to escape from the hunter. Whether a Kangho warrior or a beast, they’re bound to struggle once cornered. I watch this pathetic sight and return his earlier words.
“Will you be able to lick when I tell you to lick, bite if I tell you to bite or bark if I ask you to? When you join me, of course.”
The Black Rabbit Union Leader desperately tries to dig up every last bit of internal energy in him, leaving him no room to respond.
“No reply? Is that hard for you? I thought you said that’s just how the Unorthodox Faction is.”
While mocking him, I swing my sword around to remove any escape openings. I notice the union leader’s steps are slowly turning, probably intending to flee once he spots the best opportunity.
It isn’t hard to figure out since I have gotten used to his movement and sword techniques.
As I wield my sword to block the Black Rabbit Union Leader’s movements, the keen-eyed So Gun-pyeong intervenes.
“Leader, you told me to kill myself if I fail. And yet you’re acting so petty? Don’t tell me you’re escaping..?”
At So Gun-pyeong’s words, the union leader loses his composure. He swings his sword in a large movement and shoots sword energies forward as he orders his subordinates in a haggard voice.
When the officials are about to follow his orders, So Gun-pyeong quickly interrupts.
“Everyone, stand down. This is a one-on-one battle, but if you want to interrupt, I have no choice but to intervene. If you ignore orders and stay still, I’ll make sure no one will die. If you’re scared, look at the body split on the ax. Like the Low-Down Sect Leader said, you will die if you butt in.”
Hearing So Gun-pyeong’s warning, the eyes of officials goes to the grotesquely bisected body.
It is a horrifying corpse to look at.
The body is a warning to those alive that tells them to not die like him.
Trying to clutch at straws when a person is in a corner is natural. The Black Rabbit Union Leader dodges the katana and retreats hastily, saying.
“Sect Leader… Wait…!”
I can see three or four openings through the union leader’s shaky breath through my eyes. It is also funny that the way he addresses me changes from errand boy to Sect Leader.
After initiating non-stop sword attacks, I wield the Fire Chicken with the Night Blade and smash into Black Rabbit Union Leader’s sword. As the loud clash rings throughout the courtyard, the face of the Black Rabbit Union Leader turns distorted. Blood is already flowing from the grasp of the union leader, who hasn’t noticed his hands are injured.
Growing desperate, the Black Rabbit Union Leader clenches his sword with both hands and shoots his Sword Energy (刀氣), putting all his energy into one blow.
The intention is quite blatant.
If I dodge it, Gun-pyeong and his men will be hit by the energy coming from the sword. It is a wicked move to kill me with this final blow or take out Gun-pyeong and his subordinates.
I have no intention of avoiding it, so I wield the katana and launch the Fiery Fragrance to block it.
A strangely shaped sword energy that is too vague to describe collides with a streak of blazing flame.
If our skills are on par, then the explosive sound will spread out in a circular manner…
The Fiery Fragrance I shoot rips through the Black Rabbit Union Leader’s sword energy and blows his body to the wall with just the remaining energy.
Engulfed in hot energy that chars his skin, the union leader crashes into the wall with his limbs extended like a star and vomits blood from his mouth.
His body is half-buried in the wall. The blood he vomits out is dripping down his mask.
When I once hit a wall with many internal injuries, I could not extricate myself from its surface. The Black Rabbit Union Leader similarly is stuck to the wall, like a character in a wall-carved painting.
So Gun-pyeong and his men will be happy with this outcome.
And the men who stood down from So Gun-pyeong’s words will breathe a sigh of relief…
I wasn’t particularly happy since I already knew the results of this fight.
I announce the results while looking around the Black Rabbit Union warriors watching the fight.
“The errand boy won.”
From the Unorthodox Faction’s perspective, it is a truly insulting victory declaration.
Forget about the victory; I haven’t even started what I originally came here to do.
So Gun-pyeong meets my eyes and uses honorifics for the first time.
“What a wicked bastard. He saved many with that sharp tongue of his.”
“Thanks to your forewarning, I was able to save my men. I am utterly grateful, Leader.”
Waving my blade at the Black Rabbit officials, who are suddenly mute, I say.
“I’ve got energy left if any of you guys want to challenge me. So, what’s the plan? I can respect a man’s need for revenge. Step up if you feel wronged about your leader’s death. I will humbly send you to the afterlife. But I won’t go easy this time. None of your sword techniques are worth watching anyway.”
The observant ones can conclude that I didn’t go all out in killing the Black Rabbit Union Leader.
I scratch my skin and say.
“Oh, no one wants to ascend, praying that it’s the perfect day to die? It’s not like you get a chance to take on an errand boy every day.”
No one comes forward even if I give them a slight provocation. I laugh as I watch some of the officials’ faces flush red.
“This is your last chance to take on an errand boy. What a shame.”
While no one seems to understand my words, I approach the dying Black Rabbit Union Leader and look at him. He is barely breathing.
I grab the Black Rabbit Union Leader’s mask and pull it off. I see his face as he is about to die, and only then did he finally convey his words with moving lips.
“Help? That’s unexpected. If you’re going to live the rest of your life as an Ilyang Prefecture errand boy, I’ll save you. In exchange, you must abandon martial arts. One day, you might get killed accidentally by a Kangho warrior while cooking noodles, organizing tables, or mopping. That’s the essence of Kangho, so you better brace yourself. You have no options. You must have the courage to live as an errand boy…”
The Black Rabbit Union Leader dies while listening to me.
“…you don’t have it.”
I wasn’t planning to save him anyway. As I said earlier, I have no sympathy for trained monkeys fighting and dying among themselves.
“That’s too bad now that you’re dead. You think anyone can become an errand boy? Anyways…”
I turn around with the Black Rabbit Union Leader’s mask in my hand and stare at the group of silent men. This situation is where the foundation is fairly well laid out now that a few are dead. I place the rabbit mask, still wet with the previous leader’s blood, on my face and declare.
“From now on, I’m the leader of Black Rabbit Union.”
I declare as I wear the black rabbit mask.
“Whether you like it or not. That’s what I decided.”
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