An old Kangho veteran called Dae Na-chal has died.
He died at the hands of an errand boy of Ilyang, leader of the Low-Down Sect, Emancipator of the Black Hurricane Castle, the Black Rabbit Union Leader, a regular of the Chunyang Inn, and a patient of Moyong Baek.
This can be considered a considerable improvement.
I think I am doing a good job.
It isn’t easy to refrain from killing his disciples. I would’ve already dragged those who had lost their morale by the hair and beaten them to death in my past life. If I do the same thing again in this life, I will probably acquire the nickname Crazy Demon in no time.
I can’t do that.
I intend to delay that as much as possible.
This is because the Crazy Monk, who is said to be the former Crazy Demon, has yet to arrive in the central district.
Suppose rumors start circulating that I am the Crazy Demon. In that case, there is a high possibility that the Crazy Monk would come looking for me.
I don’t want to get dragged to Zhejiang to see fishes before I can find my footing around Ilyang.
Though I’m strong enough to kill Dae Na-chal, the Crazy Monk wouldn’t even notice the difference in me.
Because I know better than anyone the power of that man.
I suddenly look at White Tiger, Blue Dragon, and White Rooster, who still remain without running away. The three seem to be waiting with the thought of recovering Dae Na-chal’s body and holding a funeral. But they can’t move a muscle as I am still looking at Dae Na-chal.
I speak to the three.
“You guys recover the body.”
Only then did the three of them jump down from the wall and walk up to where I was standing.
Anyway, having known the extent of my movement skills, the three have no intention of running away.
“Take off your masks as per your master’s will.”
Giving up, Baek-jin nods and takes off his mask. Cheong-jin and Baek-yu also comply.
Remembering the faces of the three men, I tell Manager Byuk.
“Manager Byuk, if any of the generals go against their master’s will, put up their wanted posters everywhere. Can you draw them?”
Manager Byuk nods while looking at the three unmasked generals.
“That won’t be difficult.”
I also make orders to clear the in-house disorganization.
“Black Rabbit Union, organize the interior of the black grave and take care of the corpses lying on the streets. As for the Twelve Generals, let’s have a chat. Once we’re done talking, you can recover the body. Manager Byuk, Hong-shin, Geum-hae, you may join as well.”
I take the seat of honor as I look at the disciples also taking their seats to my left and right and say.
“From now on, I’m the Big Brother.”
“If there is anything you want to learn from me, I’ll be your master, but as you can see, I am visibly younger, so being the Big Brother is just right. Any objections?”
Perhaps because Dae Na-chal just passed, the atmosphere is somber.
White Tiger, who appears to be around 26-27 years of age, replies alone.
“Since it was the master’s will, I shall comply.”
Hong-shin and Geum-hae, who almost fell into a state of Qi Deviation while eating and talking with me, understand my nature more.
In other words, the setup I am talking about now will work well for Hong-shin and Geum-hae, and it will sound like a madman’s ramblings to the other Generals.
But that’s okay.
This is how I do things; it takes time for people to understand each other.
The only thing that matters is that Dae Na-chal is dead, and these guys can now take off their masks.
“Now, I will tell my fellow disciples what you need to do. If you make me repeat it twice, I’ll challenge you to a duel, so open your ears and listen carefully.”
Red Monkey replies bravely on her own.
“Yes, Big Brother.”
People who have shared a bowl of pork ribs indeed share a deep bond.
Geum-hae fears me; perhaps he was always afraid of Baek-in, so he remains silent.
“Brother Baek-in, do you respect Dae Na-chal?”
“It was more love and hate than respect.”
“Which aspect of it is love, not hate?”
White Tiger then says.
“Other Unorthodox Factions do not dare to cross over to the southern sea. Even though there were more powerful factions around us, our master had a reputation as a valiant leader. That’s what the masks mean, too. ‘Don’t touch me because I have raised my disciples and may send them as assassins.’ Hence, despite all our shortcomings, no Unorthodox Factions are permitted to cross over the south.”
“In short, although his private life was a mess, he did a good job as the leader of an Unorthodox Faction. Is that what you mean?”
I converse with the disciples to identify their personalities.
White Tiger is calm at all times, and Blue Dragon seems to be a soldier (武骨) of a few words.
At least White Rooster seems to be the quick-witted type, but he is much lacking compared to White Tiger and Blue Dragon in terms of skills.
Due to the tension of a long-standing hierarchy, the atmosphere right now is too awkward. Even Hong-shin, who’s typically cheeky and playful, prefers to remain silent.
Feeling this awkward atmosphere, I blab on.
“Disciples, now that Master Dae Na-chal is gone, let’s get comfortable with each other.”
Now that the master is dead and they are suddenly being asked to get comfortable, naturally, the generals’ faces turn grim. But I’m not a tactful person, so I say it again with a straight face.
“I said let’s get com.for.ta.ble.”
“I don’t know how big each of your factions is, nor how many subordinates you have. After Dae Na-chal’s funeral, clear up all your dirty work. An Unorthodox Faction cannot become an Orthodox Faction overnight. But let’s wash our hands from the dirty name of the Unorthodox Faction.”
Geum-hae, who has been quiet all this while, replies.
“Is there such a way?”
“All you have to do is join the Low-Down Sect. It’s not an Orthodox nor an Unorthodox Faction. It is not in the past and will always stay that way. It’s just the Low-Down Sect. A sect that houses workers. A secretive, lousy, complicated, and chaotic organization. The forces under the Four Generals will be transferred to my disposal. Since it’s a faction for working people, what should you do first?”
No one responds right away.
There are so many things to do, so they don’t know where to start.
Actually, I don’t know either.
I have no choice but to leave it to them.
“You can report your visits often. You can also come to me when a problem arises. I’m going to let you guys take over, for now, so do as you see fit. However, wrap up all your Unorthodox Faction doings. I didn’t even bring any of my direct subordinates when I infiltrated the Black Rabbit Union.”
For example, Cha Sung-tae is my direct subordinate.
I think about it for a while, but I decide to swallow my words since there is nothing left to discuss.
“Anyway, if I don’t like something, I’ll bring all the troops of the Low-Down Sect and destroy you and then leave your businesses to the local errand boys. Now that I have given you a chance to live, I hope you don’t make me your enemy again.”
At least the calm Baek-in replies alone.
“We’ll sort it out.”
I don’t like the answer, so I nod half-heartedly and threaten them.
“Well, it’s pointless to order grown adults around. Since you’ve taken off your mask, change on your own. I’m not a good person. Neither am I a man of great patience. I had to repeat it dozens of times to myself to spare someone. Just like when I kept you three alive, White Tiger, Blue Dragon, White Rooster.”
“We can just throw away the things we did along with the mask.”
“That’s right. Is it that hard?”
This time, Baek-yu replies.
“Not that there weren’t any.”
“Tell me, which part is difficult?”
“Master has enemies and allies. The Elder Hornless Dragon (螭龍老君) is a particularly close friend of his. He’d received both money and women often from master. So Elder Hornless Dragon might be the most furious.”
“There’s the Cloud Rain League (雲雨會). They were on the worst terms with the master. Overall, their forces were similar to ours, and our master’s right arm was cut off by their leader. The league leader will be happy to hear that the master has fallen. In addition, many others hold a grudge against our old master, and we can’t predict how they’ll react.”
I am relieved for a moment.
“Phew, that’s a relief.”
Hong-shin responds instantly.
“Big Brother, what’s a relief?”
I reply in an indifferent voice.
“I have more people to kill. Also, could the ‘Cloud Rain’ of Cloud Rain League refer to the term copulation (雲雨之樂) that I know of?”
I tilt my head slightly. ‘Joy of Cloud and Rain’ refers to the joyous copulation between a man and woman.
I have never heard the name of such a blatant and perverted faction, not even in my past life. Suddenly remembering something, I ask the generals.
“What’s the leader’s name?”
“It’s Seomun Su-kyung (西門水鏡).”
I recall his nickname first.
“Is Mister Su (水先生) perhaps his nickname?”
“Yes, do you know him?”
“I’ve only heard of his name.”
‘So his faction is the Cloud Rain League.’
There was an incident where members of the Murim Alliance were heavily criticized for the killing of a dozen people downtown, including Mister Su. Later, it was found out that the Murim Alliance had laid no such order. Instead, it was the doings of one of the members who staged a revenge play alone due to a personal vendetta.
I call out to Manager Byuk, who is seated quietly beside me while making illustrations of the generals.
“Manager Byuk, look for Elder Hornless Dragon first.”
“And write up a personal letter in the name of the Black Rabbit Union to the Cloud Rain League.”
“What should I write in the letter?”
I can’t think of anything, so I leave the contents of that letter to Manager Byuk.
“Well, tell them to stop messing around and live nobly. Manager Byuk, you’re more proficient than me, so figure it out yourself.”
Manager Byuk nods while holding his brush.
“So, should I include a declaration of war under the guise of a personal letter?”
Manager Byuk smiles bashfully and resumes drawing the generals’ portraits seriously.
Baek-yu opens his mouth again.
“The Cloud Rain League isn’t a small faction. Do you have to go out of our way to provoke…”
“Shut up. Their faction name is so offensive, I’m not going to just let it slide.”
White Rooster shuts his mouth grimly.
I look around at their faces and say.
“Plus, if they’d severed our master’s arm, isn’t it only natural to get revenge?”
White Tiger narrows his brows slightly and nods as he looks at me.
This guy was the oldest disciple of Dae Na-chal, so he seems to hold some past grudge towards the leader of the Cloud Rain League.
Considering the concerns of the generals, Manager Byuk answers cleverly.
“Can I send the letter after the situation calms down to some extent? For now, I’ll focus on finding the Elder Hornless Dragon.”
“And, Brother Baek-in, Cheong-jin, Baek-yu, make sure the funeral goes well. The three of you correct our master’s unethical actions. If your anger or hatred towards me grows in the process, you can leave me and join the Elder Hornless Dragon or the Cloud Rain League.”
I convey my innermost thoughts to my fellow disciples, including Hong-shin and Geum-hae.
“By then, you don’t have to treat me as your brother. The three of you can leave first.”
The three of them stand up and glance at the mask on the table.
Looking at the mask as well, I say.
“Leave it behind. Let’s use it when we do something bad.”
“Big Brother, I’ll be leaving first.”
“We’re leaving too.”
When the trio finally leave the room, Geum-hae speaks to me.
“Can we trust the Four Generals?”
“It doesn’t matter if we can trust them or not. All I believe in is martial arts. If you become stronger daily, all the plotting, conspiracy, betrayal, and rebellion becomes moot. For the Low-Down Sect to improve, I’d rather have a traitor gather a bunch of disgruntled followers against me. Let’s go with the flow. Cheerfully….”
“Let’s do this cheerfully.”
Only then am I reminded of what I need to ask of Hong-shin.
“Was it Il-pyeong Inn? Anyway, Red Sister, go there and pay for my tab. Manager Byuk will take care of the money. And there is a house in front of it where a weaver grandma lives. Ask her politely and find the Black Hare’s Tooth and my mask in the woman’s room. I placed it under the drawer and the bed. Don’t forget to give them some pocket money.”
I look at Geum-hae.
“Gold Brother, you don’t have to offer money as you did to Dae Na-chal anymore.”
Geum-hae swallows once and says something he didn’t mean.
“Do I pass it to Big Brother from now on?”
“No, you don’t have to.”
“Use all the money you’ve given to Dae Na-chal and make yourself stronger. If you were strong, your family wouldn’t have to hand over their hard-earned money in the first place. Brother Baek-in is much stronger than you. Do some training.”
“Don’t mention it. And your internal Qi…”
I regret it as soon as I say it.
“Uhm, I’m sorry about that.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t return it back to you. Strangely, the martial arts I learned can take but can’t give. I just can’t. At least you didn’t die like Dae Na-chal. Accept it cheerfully.”
As soon as I throw those words, it feels like I am becoming a Small Na-chal (小羅刹)[^n1].
[^n1]: Dae means big, So means small
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