I look at the boxes of White Flame Herbs with my hand propping my chin.
The tiny boxes contain 100-year-old White Flame Herbs, and the two large boxes contain regular White Flame Herbs.
Having stayed for quite some time in his carriage, Geum-hae strides back into the hall.
“Brother, you should at least check the quality.”
Geum-hae sits across from me and opens the large box first.
“Oh, these herbs are hard to come by as of recently.”
Geum-hae fans his hands to smell the herbs.
“Ah, you can smell the blazing heat. It’s tricky to preserve them, so it would be best to finish up as soon as possible.”
I glance at the regular White Flame Herbs.
They don’t stand out as anything special for a tonic. Like wild ginseng, they look just like the veggies you serve as side dishes on the table. The place where the herbs are found is more important than the shape.
Just as how people change depending on what environment they grew up in.
Instead of the western regions, the White Flame Herbs is a herb that can only be retrieved from the Nammok Forest of Tibet. It is a tonic that helps improve internal cultivation without any side effects. Hence the older it gets, the more expensive it becomes.
I pick up a regular White Flame Herb, tuck it under my mask, and chew it slowly.
Assuming I will buy them all, Geum-hae asks.
“What do you think?”
I nod my head.
“I see. Has brother tried White Flame Herbs in the past?”
My period of learning martial arts was relatively short compared to the top masters of Kangho in my previous life. So, of course, I have tried a good majority of herbs and tonics. Obviously, I have never tried an extreme Yin type of drug such as Snow Ginseng (雪蔘).
However, I was dragged up to the Nammok Forrest to try the White Flame Herb, so there’s no way I would forget the taste.
This White Flame Herb is genuine.
But the problem is the 100-year-old White Flame Herb…
When I try to open the box containing century-old White Flame Herb, Geum-hae presses the box with his fingers.
“Brother, though we’re close, shouldn’t you leave some money before checking? Not that I don’t trust you, but that’s just the basics of doing business.”
“Manager Byuk, bring the money.”
Always keep things clear and simple. While Manager Byuk is hauling a box filled with gold, I say.
“Still, we have to check the quality. Manager Byuk, you examine it.”
Manager Byuk answers as he places a box of gold on the table.
Geum-hae glances at Manager Byuk.
“You know how to examine herbs?”
“Well yes, of course.”
I point at Manager Byuk and say.
“He is a veteran of Kangho who has dedicated over 30 years of his life to Kangho. He’s a legendary tonic taster, tonic expert, wizard of tonics, the know-it-all master (萬博老師) of the tonic field, tonic genius, a man who can discover tonics 100 miles above the sky and smell them a 100 miles away. A man who became a Kangho warrior just to appraise tonics. That man is Manager Byuk.”
Manager Byuk answers as he bows with a fist and palm salute.
“Thank you for the high praise.”
That is indeed high praise.
Geum-hae smiles and looks at Manager Byuk.
“Really? That’s formidable of you, Manager Byuk. Please take a look.”
Manager Byuk opens the box and flares his nostrils.
“I see. It has three roots. The smell is accurate. But if you look right here, this part of the root is awkwardly cut, as if someone had bit it off.”
Manager Byuk finishes speaking and looks at Geum-hae.
“I told you to appraise, but what are you spouting? Just evaluate if the product is genuine. I’m being generous to handle over three roots for 50 gold. Why do you keep ticking me off? Now I have more reasons to give this to Brother Baek Yu.”
As Geum-hae throws a dramatic fit, Manager Byuk bows his head slightly.
Manager Byuk then tells me.
“Still, the decision is still our leader’s to make. This is indeed high-quality White Flame Herb. Even if he’d sent someone to Nammok Forest, getting so many herbs of this quality wouldn’t be easy. Most of all, the transport would’ve been difficult, so General Geum-hae is right. If there were five or six roots, he would have asked for 100 gold.”
I nod my head.
“Is that so?”
Geum-hae guffaws as if he is feeling better.
“I thought you were just some perverted artist, Manager Byuk, but you have profound knowledge of tonics.”
I point to the box.
“Confirm the money and take it.”
Opening the box of gold, Geum-hae carefully inspects the pieces by fumbling them with his hands.
“I’m sure it’s right. Brother Rabbit is going to win this round, but that’s such a bummer.”
“No, it’s nothing.”
Geum-hae tilts his head and says.
“I mean, you know. If a sparring gamble takes place, isn’t the crowd going to mostly bet on Brother Baek Yu? And you’ll be the reverse bet. If you take this, you’ll at least get a draw and win in the end. If this fight garners attention, the 50 gold pieces will be nothing to you… You get what I mean, right?”
“Turning a fight between the Twelve Generals into a sparring gamble?”
Geum-hae points at me with his finger.
“That’s why it’s a big deal. You understand, right? Besides, Brother Baek Yu is one of the Four Generals. I can’t think of a way right now, so let me think about it. Ah, it’s a shame that this fight will be a major event. If you win, you’ll get 50 gold, no, at least 500 gold pieces. That’s equivalent to Brother having these tonics for free.”
I express slight interest.
“How’s our master?”
“Master? What do you mean by how? I’m still taking good care of him as usual. Hahaha.”
When Geum-hae laughs, Manager Byuk also laughs along beside him.
“Hahaha, so it was true that General Geum-hae is the most contentious among the Twelve Generals. I am surprised.”
Geum-hae eyes Manager Byuk.
“Who told you to flatter yourself like that?”
Manager Byuk puts his hands together politely.
“I’m very sorry for the many errors today. I have crossed the line.”
I speak in a low voice as I think Geum-hae is about to act out of line.
“Brother, you should also watch out.”
Geum-hae answers as he stands up.
“Then I’ll be on my way. Brother, it would be ideal to eat them now. The tonic won’t be as effective after being exposed to air. Manager Byuk.”
“Brother Rabbit would have to cultivate all day, so make sure to tighten the security. Not even an ant can get out of this place.”
“I will keep that in mind.”
As Geum-hae turns around and walks toward the main door, I call him.
Geum-hae turns his head and looks at me.
I place the 100 years old three-rooted White Flame Herb under my mask and chew on it right away.
In fact, I don’t have to use the Qi breathing technique right away because of the Heavenly Pearl. The Heavenly Pearl will absorb the tonic’s energy. Whenever I have time, I can suck Qi out of the Heavenly Pearl through the breathing technique to help amass internal Qi.
I might be the only Kangho warrior in the world to build internal Qi this way.
I say with a nod.
“Indeed. This is White Flame Herb is authentic.”
Geum-hae says farewell with an eye smile.
“Congratulations in advance, Brother. I’ll see you next time.”
As soon as Geum-hae disappears, Manager Byuk asks.
“Is this really okay? For you not to begin cultivation right away.”
I answer after taking off my mask.
“It’s fine. Where are the rest of the officials?”
“They are all on standby at different parts of the route. Even if you took off the mask to go deal with him, won’t Geum-hae see your real face?”
“He’s a smart pig, so he’ll probably remember.”
“Wouldn’t that be an issue? General Geum-hae also has sufficient manpower in his merchant group.”
Putting down the Black Hare’s Tooth, I change out of my clothes and say.
“Manager Byuk, I’m not a calculating guy. But what’s more important….”
“It’s about having the courage to steal the money back. The will to steal it back no matter what. Courage and spirit, bravery, aggression, and confidence. The plan isn’t that important. The mind is always more important. And worries are useless thoughts that have a lower priority than planning. Remember that.”
When a servant brings me a fresh set of clothes, he lowers his head as soon as he spots me naked.
Changing into neat, white clothes, I order Manager Byuk.
“Be on your guard. Because the leader has just officially begun his cultivation.”
“Roger that. Ah, are you not bringing a sword along?”
“Why would a lowly servant have a sword?”
As soon as Geum-hae boards his carriage and removes his mask, he tells the guard sitting opposite him.
“Moron, he had so many suspicions. How annoying.”
A guard with a sword against his chest replies with a smile.
“Well done, sir. Where would you like to go?”
“Let’s head for birdbrain brother. It’s a busy day.”
The guard raises his voice slightly as he looks at the coach box seat.
“Let’s head to General Baek Yu.”
In the rattling carriage, Geum-hae suddenly tilts his head.
“I feel like the atmosphere is strange.”
“What’s the matter?”
“This is not a lame joke. I think my head’s gotten weird.”
Geum-hae rolls his temple with his fingers.
“Competing with Brother Baek Yu must have made you anxious and sensitive.”
“Is that so?”
“Did he say he’ll participate in the sparring match?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
As if he likes what Geum-hae has planned, the guard makes a slip of the tongue.
“Selling three roots to Black Rabbit and four roots to White Rooster. If we successfully create the sparring gamble and raise the stakes… as always, our young master’s plans are flawless.”
“If I had to pick a side, of course, I’d choose the Four Generals. The rabbit won’t even know why he was defeated again. Once he’s hurt badly, I’ll bribe the master. Do you think I should compete in the ranking match?”
“If so, will you jump rank to 5th place all at once?”
“Will things be different if I get up to 5th place?”
The guard shakes his head.
“Young master, how are you satisfied coming in 5th? If you get rid of one of the Four Generals, you can be promoted to one of the Four Generals.”
Geum-hae points his finger at the guard and says.
“You are too impatient. The Four Generals aren’t an easy mark. We have to see the big picture. How much money have I lost to Dae Na-chal? There is no need to rush. My family has never lived at a loss. In the end, everything can be recovered.”
Then, the coachman yells woah— woah— and the carriage shakes vigorously. On top of that, the sound of galloping hooves echoes outside, and the horses neigh sorrowfully along with a rattle.
As soon as Geum-hae looks out of the small window, he shouts.
“Are they nuts!?”
Geum-hae gets out of the carriage with a flustered look on his face.
They almost bump into a wagon that suddenly pops out on the right. The surprised horses are running wild. It is an accident that would never happen unless the coachman is drunk.
The guard comforts the angry Geum-hae.
“Young master, please put your mask on. I’ll take care of it.”
“I mean, what the hell are they doing on this wide road? Go check if the coachman was drunk.”
“If he’s drunk, give him 20 slaps.”
I confirm their location as I watch the fireworks burst in the air.
Whether Geum-hae is returning home or on his way to a brothel to spend the money he just earned, the officials hiding on every important street will block his carriage by any means to stop him and buy time.
I will catch up by checking the direction of the fireworks while the officials buy me time.
However, looking at the firecrackers’ position, Geum-hae hasn’t gone very far.
I start picking up the pace and sprint toward where my brother is.
There are so many things I want to say.
First, my money.
When he asked me to bring him water, it was so annoying to answer with honorifics that it weighed on my mind.
Come to think of it, he didn’t pay for his food either.
It was a grand feast. He can’t do that to me.
I would also like to ask him to shed some weight for better health.
And most of all, the fact that he was being too arrogant for a brother.
As I sprint fiercely, I realize I’m not wearing a mask at the moment.
Then I’m now…
The errand boy of Ilyang, the leader of the Low-Down Sect, a liberator of the Black Hurricane Castle, a servant of the Black Rabbit Union, and Lee Zaha of the Zaha Guest Inn.
What does this mean?
Whatever this is, I look forward to meeting the young master.
Is it because I am running?
Suddenly, anger is boiling inside me.
I run as I tear through the wind.
Wait for me, Brother.
Here… I.… come.
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