As soon as I heard what Yoo Sa-cheong said, I became offended. I can’t help but feel so.
Until now, I felt like a general leading an army, but Yoo Sa-cheong’s words downgraded my status to that of a Horse in Korean chess.
I fight if you tell me to stop, and stop if you tell me to continue.
That is a consistent mindset of mine.
I follow that mindset exactly in reply to what Yoo Sa-cheong said.
“Fight until a winner is decided… how dare you order me?”
I raise one hand up slightly and say.
“I propose a truce.”
Both enemies and allies all look at me together.
I lower my voice gradually.
“Good, we’ve now confirmed that Yoo Sa-cheong is the one behind this. Should I say we’re all deceived by Yoo Sa-cheong? It’s fine that you’re a gambler. But I won’t let a gambling house owner slide under my nose. The owner of the gambling house makes the most money, after all. We don’t even know how much he makes. My proposal is simple. A temporary truce.”
Yoo Sa-cheong replies with a smile.
“You’re not making any sense.”
“Fair point. However, Elder Hornless Dragon and Mister Su will suffer the most losses if we continue this fight.”
Elder Hornless Dragon asks me with a pale expression.
Mister Su also replies.
“I’ve never suffered losses in my life.”
I nod while looking at the two.
“Of course, you won’t suffer losses if you divide the southern region. You’ve probably counted your odds from your perspective, but I am different. Most importantly, that guy Yoo Sa-cheong isn’t the one leading the troops. That’s the key. I guarantee that more than half of you will die in my hands if this fight continues. Of course, my men will also die. But only one person has nothing to lose from the start. And that’s Yoo Sa-cheong who started all this.”
Yoo Sa-cheong intervenes.
“What’s your point?”
“Yoo Sa-cheong must’ve convinced you two that taking control of the South is beneficial. In the process, most of your men will die at my hands. But I won’t die. In the end, our subordinates are the ones dying in this fight.”
Yoo Sa-cheong interrupts.
“So what are you trying to say? Get to the point.”
“The point is no one will face losses with a truce. The money received from Yoo Sa-cheong is still intact, right?”
Hong-shin raises her hand.
“I’m sorry, Big Brother, what do you mean by the money received from Yoo Sa-cheong is still intact?”
“This is a fake trade of giving and taking. Elder Hornless Dragon and Mister Su received a large sum of money from Yoo Sa-cheong to their respective factions. If they want to pay him back, they will have to replace it with the wealth earned from reigning over the South. It’s a waste to return the money you received, but it’s not a waste to pay off your debt by stealing from someone else. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Yoo Sa-cheong is taking advantage of this. Give a lump sum of money, and tell them to invade the South to pay him back. Kill two birds with stone… But the point is, I repeat, Yoo Sa-cheong loses nothing. He didn’t bring in troops today, fight, nor did he come with his fellow masters. What is the cost of losing their subordinates? Elder Hornless Dragon and Mister Su failed to consider the cost of losing their troops. All right, that’s it for analyzing the status quo.”
I ramble on while staring at my surroundings.
“The person I’m targeting is neither Elder Hornless Dragon nor Mister Su. Fellow enemies and allies, all you must do are stay still.”
I grin from under my mask.
“First of all, let me have Yoo Sa-cheong. I’m a man of my word. If you accept my proposal, I’ll take off my mask right now. I might be disadvantaged, but I’ll sacrifice at least that much to catch Yoo Sa-cheong. Just so you know, Yoo Sa-cheong will continue to persuade you to fight. Now let’s listen to what he has to say.”
Yoo Sa-cheong is clearly about to provoke and threaten Elder Hornless Dragon and Mister Su to go on with the battle but is stopped by my words.
In the end, Elder Hornless Dragon and Mister Su look at Yoo Sa-cheong with grim faces. Then Yoo Sa-cheong frowns and says,
“You’re going to listen to him?”
I burst into laughter at once.
I giggle for a long time and point my finger at Yoo Sa-cheong.
“See? Told you.”
I immediately stop laughing and order.
“Let me catch Yoo Sa-cheong. It’s not too late to fight after that.”
As soon as I finish speaking, I take off the Black Rabbit mask and hand it to Red Monkey. Hong-shin then addresses me as she puts on the Black Rabbit’s mask.
“Thank you, Big Brother.”
I reveal my face and ask the crowd.
“Anyone here seen me before?”
Would anyone recognize the errand boy of Ilyang? Definitely not.
“I have already borne the losses. I have to tell you that if I walked around concealing my face, I’m confident I can assassinate half of your forces. Elder Hornless Dragon and Mister Su. You decide.”
Yoo Sa-cheong looks at Elder Hornless Dragon.
“Can you handle it, Elder-sunbae?”
Elder Hornless Dragon responds.
“Did you really think of me as a jol (卒) in Korean chess, Yoo Sa-cheong?”
“Of course not.”
Elder Hornless Dragon looks around and says.
“I’ll make a counteroffer. I won’t accept a truce immediately. We’ll have the Southern Region Unorthodox Faction, the Ihwa Unorthodox Faction, and all my troops encircle this place. Let that talkative fellow and Yoo Sa-cheong have a duel.”
Elder Hornless Dragon then looks at me.
“Whichever one of you dies, I will fall back. Once you bear the sin of killing Yoo Sa-cheong, a real temporary truce will fall in place. What do you think, Mister Su?”
Mister Su replies briefly with a smile.
“You’re right, sunbae.”
If Yoo Sa-cheong wins, they will infiltrate and conquer the South.
But they’ll pull a scheme and pull back if I am the one who wins instead.
As expected, veterans of Kangho never have any intention of incurring losses.
But there’s something that these guys are mistaken about.
I was never the Horse[^n1] (馬) in chess. Even if Elder Hornless Dragon plots this way, I have my own plan.
“Let’s do it. 1 on 1 duels are always welcomed.”
White Tiger approaches to stop me.
“Big Brother, it looks like they want to analyze your skills through the duel.”
I lock eyes with Baek-in.
“Really? They’re pretty smart.”
As I smile faintly, White Tiger backs off after seeing my expression.
Elder Hornless Dragon gives out orders to all the troops.
“Spread out widely. Form a circle so no one can escape. Don’t fight rashly, and make sure you and your opponent aren’t standing too close. Start the duel.”
Mister Su adds.
“Spread it wider. Whoever runs away will be killed.”
Yoo Sa-cheong turns around briefly and looks at the officials of the Cloud Rain Society and Lady Iron Toad. Elder Hornless Dragon also steps forward as if he will be the one to block any escape route.
Yoo Sa-cheong grins.
“Have you all gone insane?”
Elder Hornless Dragon answers.
“Why? You just have to win. Nothing has changed. Will you step up or hide? That’s the only difference. If you’re so powerful, you should prove it with action, not words.”
I don’t really care whether they are having an argument as I approach Yoo Sa-cheong openly from the back, moving in like a cat.
Yoo Sa-cheong scratches his chin and turns around as he pulls his sword from his waist.
As I lower my posture, the tip of my hair is cut off by a sword and flutters in the air. I extend Black Hare’s Tooth out in a straight line.
After deflecting Black Hare’s Tooth, Yoo Sa-cheong uses a Quick Sword (快劍) and rushes to me.
With lips in a tight line, Yoo Sa-cheong fends off my moonlight-reflecting sword and stabs forward in a flash, launching an Illusion Sword (幻影劍) which makes his sword look like it is split into three.
It is an attack method that utilizes sword energy (劍氣) and an afterimage (殘像).
His swordsmanship is stable, the sword is swift, and his waist remains firm despite moving smoothly.
I flick the sword away with Black Hare’s Tooth and think.
‘He used to be in an Orthodox Faction.’
This isn’t some sword technique he picked up in the streets. There are traces that he intensely trained in this specific swordsmanship for at least a decade.
He acts like a bystander who flaunts his money, but his concealed skills are decent.
Even I can’t fight back hastily until I observe the technique from start to finish. As this happens, I admire the ancestors and founders of Orthodox Factions who created this martial arts system.
In my thoughts, I can admire his martial arts.
But there’s no chance that he can recognize my martial arts.
Because my martial arts have no foundation.
There are many martial arts that I created while mixing the martial arts of third-rate blade techniques, third-rate swordsmanship, scything graves, real battles, sparring gambles, secretly learned martial arts peeked over shoulders, third-rate and second-rate manuals, Strolling Golden Turtle Technique, and the Crazy Monk’s martial arts. The martial arts I learned while running away, the stabbing movements realized as my body was slashed here and there, and the process I struggled through to escape from Qi Deviation were all parts of me.
With no source, the entire process of survival has become my foundation.
As I deflect all of Yoo Sa-cheong’s attacks, I watch the process of his sword technique flowing like water from the first to the last. Later in the movement, he merges the initial tactics with the latter ones, transforming and restructuring them as he attacks me.
I deliberately back away and push towards my allies’ side. I then stand in place, blocking all of Yoo Sa-cheong’s attacks.
A man who holds out against aggressive, offensive attacks made by a swordsman from the Orthodox Factions by using an iron wall defense, that’s me.
If he’s not stupid, he’ll soon realize…
As I stay on defense this whole time, I address him with a grin.
“Faster, faster, swing faster. Too slow, faster, faster. You’ve already used that sword technique three times.”
There are cases where you can’t run away from attacking as if you are possessed. That’s precisely Yoo Sa-cheong’s predicament now.
Instantly, I generate a Fiery Fowl Great Handprint using my left hand.
Yoo Sa-cheong, swinging his sword at a tremendous speed, instantly cuts the palm-shaped force into three pieces.
At the moment when I shoot out the Fiery Fowl Great Handprint…
There are times when real power is compressed and spread out as an attack.
Deceive your opponent by creating only a false illusion like a cloud. Of course, it is difficult to create an illusion with Qi (氣).
But just as Yoo Sa-cheong created phantom swords, I can also create a false image with Qi. Then, as Yoo Sa-cheong cuts down the big afterimage 3 times…
I dash in like the wind, covering the short distance, throw Black Hare’s Tooth, and surge obliquely inside his guard when he raises his sword.
I use the Great Absorption Method with my left hand (左手) and the Wooden Fowl Finger Technique with my right hand (右手).
Yoo Sa-cheong is sucked in and forcefully bound by the Great Absorption Method as he has lost his balance. I then use the Wooden Fowl Finger Technique on his shoulders.
When his arm holding the sword becomes stiff, I let go of him and jab Yoo Sa-cheong’s pressure points with my thumb and index finger.
Rigid shoulders, a stiffened neck, his mouth sealed shut, and every connecting vein from the waist down, I inject Wooden Fowl Energy in that order.
Tak, tak, tak, tak!
I look at Yoo Sa-cheong, who is now standing rigid, before turning to Elder Hornless Dragon and saying.
“From now on, this guy is my prisoner. He is my puppet, my slave, and also my men’s prisoner. Whether I torture or kill him, it’s up to me, so don’t tell me what to do.”
I use the Great Absorption Method to pick up Black Hare’s Tooth on the floor and continue.
“How cocky, fucking assholes.”
As I am talking, I feel the urge to tease him more, so I let my mouth run.
“Since you’re so prideful, you’re gonna get handed over like this as the ringleader. This is Elder Hornless Dragon’s fault, foolishness, ego, a judgment gone wrong while trying to rebuild his pride as a veteran of Kangho, and an old geezer’s senile choice.”
I pretend to spit water out like an executioner on Black Hare’s Tooth blade and dance around the frozen Yoo Sa-cheong.
As I dance around with my sword, Hong-shin asks.
“Big Brother, are you gonna kill him?”
“Dunno. I wanna try being an executioner. A sword dance under the night moon, an executioner in the moonlight, an errand boy of Ilyang, an emancipator of the Black Hurricane Castle, leader of the Black Rabbit Union… that’s who I am.”
I seriously engage in the sword dance in front of Yoo Sa-cheong, who can only keep his eyes open.
The clouds part, letting the moonlight shine on me.
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