Chapter 53 - Invalid Match List

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During the meal, I keep my eye on both Hong-shin and Geum-hae. I want to see if they are enjoying the meal and am curious if they can properly ingest their food when with me.

Hong-shin and Geum-hae are filling up their dishes and mouths as if digging into the ground.

Some people work all day to eat just one meal, and I wonder what these two, who threw themselves into Kangho, feel when they eat.

But I don’t bother to ask.

It may end up as an insignificant meal one must eat every day.

Though I’m not as much of a big eater as Geum-hae, I eat aggressively like a soldier on the battlefield while praising the maids’ excellent cooking.

“This is tasty, that is tasty, everything is tasty.”

“That’s true.”

Hong-shin’s appetite isn’t lacking either since her diarrhea has been resolved.

I don’t know what was going through their minds, but the three of us gobble down everything prepared by the maids anyway.

After a while, the three of us breathe out a sigh of satisfaction. We sit around as if we are in a lull after a round of battle has ended.

‘Damned bastards…’

Hong-shin asks curiously.

“What do you plan to do now, Brother?”

“I have to fight Baek Yu, but that’s a useless fight.”

I plan to kill Dae Na-chal anyway. What’s the point of becoming one of the Four Generals?

“Recite the evil deeds you know Dae Na-chal has committed. I feel like my martial arts skills will progress rapidly when I hear that.”

Hong-shin replies.

“Your martial arts skills will improve if you hear about his evil deeds? How come?”

Side-eyeing Hong-shin, I retort.

“You have to put your emotions into it to fight well. I’m so pissed off that I’m about to go crazy.”

“Then you might make a mistake.”

“You just need to consciously spray cold water in that state. If you get worked up, you’ll lose. Let’s calm down. Lay the feeling of anger at the bottom of your heart, and cover it with a frozen blanket. Just as ice and fire coexist in the heart, like the synergy between extreme Yin and Yang Qi.”

Geum-hae asks with a perplexed look.

“Did you master the martial arts of extreme Ying energy?”

I don’t know why I feel my stomach sink whenever this rich young master asks me a question. He is the son of a merchant group, so he has no choice but to have a wide circle of acquaintances.

I reply with hope in my voice.

“No? I really want to learn it, but I haven’t had a chance yet. Do you know a good way?”

Geum-hae says.

“Extreme Yin martial arts are rare. All I know is…”

I look at Geum-hae with my ears open.

“A woman who used to be a Holy Maiden of the Heavenly Demon Cult became independent and built the Okhwa Palace (玉化宮). It was made up of only women, but it was quite powerful because all of them had mastered the Ice Technique and the Cult Leader was especially powerful. As soon as the Heavenly Demon Cult cleared up its complicated power struggle, the independent Okhwa Palace collapsed. Okhwa Palace then asked the Orthodox factions for help. The forces that responded advanced into Okhwa Mountain, and the Okhwa Orthodox Alliance was formed. It was about 20 years ago that this alliance faced the Heavenly Demon Cult.”

Oh, would you look at that?

Coincidentally, it’s a story I have no recollection of because it happened around when I was born. No one was kind enough to teach Kangho history to an errand boy.

“But?”

“The damage on both sides was severe, but the Heavenly Demon Cult won. Okhwa Palace was engulfed in a fire, and the Orthodox factions retreated. There was a survivor. Afraid to be taken as holy maidens, all of the forces that were part of Okhwa Orthodox Union were married off. But the Okhwa Ice Technique did not end here. This is not a happy story. Some of the disciples were married off as second wives just so they could lose their status as holy maidens.”

As far as I know, the Left Hand of Illuminating Light is one such indirect descendant.

I ask the most important thing.

“Is there anyone famous who comes from that background?”

“Not yet. They’re hiding the Ice Technique very thoroughly. Not only did it cause great damage to the Orthodox faction, but their children would be branded as an apostate’s child to the Heavenly Demon Cult.”

So, the Left Hand of the Illuminating Light is the son of an apostate, and he still immersed himself into the Demon Cult?

From the Demon Cult’s point of view, the descendants of the holy maidens indicate the return of the Ice Technique, so there’s no way they would refuse his admittance.

If so, the Left Hand of Illuminating Light must be the son of a concubine, a child of an apostate, or a descendant of the Okhwa Palace that has greatly damaged the Orthodox faction.

He would be treated like an eyesore by the Orthodox factions and an apostate by the demonic factions.

He must have been treated as a bastard at home, so he had to grow up in an environment where his personality inevitably became twisted and perverted.

He was a problematic person whose situation involved isolation.

Whether he’ll become twisted or not, I will not let him commit any deviancy this time. He was in his mid-to-late 20s when he was denounced as the public enemy for harassing young women, so he has yet to enact his perversions.

Kill Dae Na-chal, stop the perversions, and avoid the past generation’s Crazy Demon.

I think that it is a very exciting and busy day.

This is why Kangho people need to grow stronger.

If I was weak, I wouldn’t be able to kill Dae Na-chal. A pervert would also go around harassing young women, and the former Crazy Demon would drag me to go see the fish in Zhejiang again.

Damned fish, turtles, and sea fishing.

If you see a monk fishing by the sea, you’ll end up contemplating how heaven and Earth were created. If said monk is curious about the fishes in Zhejiang, desires to smell the flowers in a volcano, or wants to go look for the mythical *Peng[^n1], I would instead ask them to memorize the Buddhist scriptures. Every time, the former Gwangma will repeatedly say that he had forgotten the Buddhist scriptures because he was an apostate monk.

“Sister, Brother.”

“Yes, Brother.”

“You must become stronger. There’s nothing more miserable than being weak in Kangho. Do you know what kind of fish live off the coast of Zhejiang?”

“We don’t know.”

“Is there a difference?”

I am about to tell a story that the two of them wouldn’t believe, but then the hall door opens, and So Gun-pyeong appears.

“Leader, General Hwang-oh, Baek-ja, Hyun-chuk (玄丑) and Ju-mi (朱未) are outside.”

“All of a sudden? Have I been discovered?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

“What about their forces?”

“The generals are alone.”

I ask Geum-hae for his opinion on why this is happening now.

“Why did they gather here?”

Geum-hae answers.

“Perhaps General White Rooster is on his way. The rest must be here to witness the match between the top four heavenly generals.”

“Let’s go.”

I tell Geum-hae and Hong-shin while they are standing up.

“You don’t have your masks with you, so mix in with my subordinates and watch.”

“We understand.”

---

The sight of Yellow Horse, Black Ox, White Rat and Red Goat gathering and chatting is like watching a masquerade.

When I appear wearing the Black Rabbit mask, the crowd of four simultaneously salutes with their fist and palm.

“Brother Rabbit.”

“Long time no see.”

There is no tension in the voice of the four. That makes me think that Baek Yu must be really coming. Then, one of the guys remarks sarcastically out of the blue.

“Is it finally time for one of the Four Generals to step down today? I’m looking forward to it.”

I speak to So Gun-pyeong without replying to his nonsense.

“Don’t be hasty and stand by like a mountain (山).”

“Isn’t the leader stronger than General Baek Yu?”

A comment that indicates that they won’t stand a chance.

I look at the carefree scumbags and reply.

“It doesn’t look like it now. Anyhow, just keep that in mind.”

“Yes.”

Everyone has their masks on, so I can’t see their expressions. A while later, a general with a white mask engraved with the chicken crest leaps on the wall.

Those who had greeted me without sincerity showed respect to Baek Yu politely.

“Greetings, Brother Baek Yu.”

Baek Yu shakes his hand once and orders the four.

“Clear out the space in the middle.”

As the people disperse, the space for the sparring match is secured.

Baek Yu sits on the wall and asks me.

“How have you been, Brother Rabbit?”

I reply briefly.

“I’m all the same. And you, Brother Chicken?”

“Nothing much.”

I was sure when I saw Baek Yu sitting on the wall. We have more visitors.

Behind me stood the officials of the Black Rabbit Union, and around the courtyard walls stand all the scumbag generals.

It seems like someone else has taken over the seat on the other walls.

So Gun-pyeong must have noticed as well.

“I think all of the Four Generals are present.”

“I know, right.”

A moment later, White Tiger, Blue Dragon, and Red Snake, who has a greater presence than White Rooster, arrive almost simultaneously and also leap on the wall.

It seems like they have occupied a good place to spectate that also serves as an angle to ensure no one could escape.

In any case, all of the Twelve Generals who are still alive are gathered here.

The low-ranking scumbags are busy greeting each of the Four Generals as they appear. However, all the Four Generals do is either blatantly ignore it or reply with a brief nod.

I keep my eyes on the front without greeting the Four Generals.

The sound of the main gate to the Black Rabbit Union opening wide is followed by the main entrance of the courtyard swinging open. Then, as soon as the inner courtyard door opens, I keep my gaze staring ahead. Perhaps the entourage came first and opened the door ahead of the main guest.

A skinny, black-haired man makes an abrupt entrance at the gate.

His hair is dangling, and the sleeves on his right arm flap in the wind. It looks like his forearm is missing.

There are many tiny bumps on his face.

His lips are thick, his cheekbones protrude outward, and his bulging forehead stands out along with his carp-like eyes.

A piercing gaze (眼光) along the greasy-looking face.

I can’t tell whether he is a wise person or a foolish person at first glance, but anyone could tell that he seems extremely stubborn.

He looks to be at least 50 years old.

Overall, it looks like a rhinoceros beetle is walking toward me.

Once Dae Na-chal enters the inner courtyard, all Twelve Generals greet him.

“Greetings, Master.”

I am a man of manners, so I also bow in a fist and palm salute.

When an accompanying servant holds out a chair, Dae Na-chal plops down without looking.

As he keeps an intent eye on me, Dae Na-chal says.

“I came here because I was bored. Fight.”

“Yes.”

After responding, I descend down the steps of the platform. Then, General Baek Yu, who is scheduled to be in the match, also rises from the wall.

Dae Na-chal says to Baek Yu.

“Fourth.”

“Yes, Master.”

Dae Na-chal shakes his head and says.

“He’s not someone you can handle, sit down.”

Baek Yu coughs and sits back down on the wall.

In the meantime, I stand in the center of the courtyard and stare at Dae Na-chal. Dae Na-chal points his finger at me and says.

“The match list is mistaken. Baek In.”

“Yes.”

“Cheong Jin.”

“Yes, Master.”

“And Jeok Sa… the three of you, face him all at once. That’ll be worth watching.”

The three men who receive their orders from Dae Na-chal step down to the center of the courtyard without question.

Dae Na-chal says hoarsely.

“Today, three of the Four Heavenly Generals will take on the fifth, who has made rapid progress in his martial arts skills, all at once. The sparring match today is a death match, kill or be killed. No disciples shall interfere in the battle.”

I can’t help but admire the words of Dae Na-chal.

Look at this cunning Kangho veteran.

I don’t know how he caught wind of the mishap, but it seems like he’s here to clean up internal problems publicly. It is a strategic move for the general to rush in, surround the perimeter instantly, and come forward personally since he doesn’t trust anyone. The only coincidence is that I also used the word ‘rapid progress,’ so Dae Na-chal mentioning it is rather memorable.

I raise my hand to oppose his suggestion.

“Master?”

In fact, Dae Na-chal does not dismiss my words.

“Yes, fifth. Is there something you would like to add shamelessly?”

I answer with my hands in a polite sault.

“I think the match list is faulty.”

“Really? Do you want me to take one out? Or do you want me to add White Rooster? Suit yourself.”

I raise my voice.

“Damn. Tsk.”

“…….”

This time I speak in an admonishing voice.

“That’s not it. In a deathmatch, the master should come forward. You’re so annoyingly absurd, old geezer.”

Silence falls.

The atmosphere is so calm that it makes me look around behind my Black Rabbit mask.

No one dares to open their mouths.

My shoulders shake as I burst into laughter. It is awkward because no one is laughing with me, but I laugh as long as I can with the mentality that I should laugh whenever I want. Later, after letting out a few mirroring laughs, Dae Na-chal says.

“You caught me. It was going so well.”

I send an eye smile toward Dae Na-chal.

[^n1] : Peng is a giant bird that transforms from a Kun (giant fish) in Chinese mythology

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