As I hover around the stiffened Yoo Sa-cheong while twirling around in my executioner dance, Hong-shin says to me.
“Big Brother, those bastards are slipping away, though.”
I halt the dance as if forgetting about it completely and turn around. As I do, some of the fleeing scumbags land on their butts, jump back up, and scatter away like a bunch of defeated soldiers.
Meanwhile, Elder Hornless Dragon is giving me a direct stare.
I ask Elder Hornless Dragon, who is faking his composure.
“Old geezer, got something to say?”
Elder Hornless Dragon answers.
“I’m just maintaining a truce as promised.”
White Tiger steps forward and says.
“Big Brother, let’s kill all of them.”
“It’s fine. A truce is a truce. A siege defence is a siege defence. The faces and atmosphere of the retreating men, the faces of the chiefs trying to keep calm. Enjoy it while you can.”
When Elder Hornless Dragon begins to retreat, Mister Su couldn’t help but follow. As the de facto fake leader, he says.
“You, we’ll meet again soon.”
I reply with a grin.
“Only those who come to me first will be treated as a defeated general. Go back and slowly think about it. Will you have a chance to survive once you get back? Think about it.”
After the enemy retreats, I look back at my subordinates.
“Tend to the wounded. It’s late at night, so let’s go inside. Wrap up the siege, and Gun-pyeong, set up the patrols and switch shifts with another official.”
I slap the frozen Yoo Sa-cheong on the face and say.
“You’ll work hard too, slave. The night air is cold. Let’s head inside.”
One of the Black Rabbit Union subordinates approaches and carries Yoo Sa-cheong. I call out to Cha Sung-tae.
I don’t really have anything to say, so I just put my arms on Cha Sung-tae’s shoulder and head toward the Black Rabbit Union.
I sit on the high seat and down a shot of alcohol. In the meantime, the officials roam freely around the hall. I let the wounded get treated, the sleepy ones sleep, and the hungry ones eat.
Watching the busy officials bustling around, Yoo Sa-cheong wordlessly sits beside me in captivity.
After a while, the generals and officials return and fill their seats.
Everyone is curious as to who Yoo Sa-cheong is.
Having to wash the blood off his face and body and appearing last, Dokgo Saeng smacks Yoo Sa-cheong in the head while passing by and sits next to him.
“Is everyone here?”
So Gun-pyeong replies to my question.
“Chief Oh had some injuries, so he went to bed first.”
Putting down his glass as if his temper is wearing thin, Dokgo Saeng suddenly slaps Yoo Sa-cheong again. With that slap, Yoo Sa-cheong turns.
I look at the Twelve Generals.
“Did any of the generals get hurt?”
“We’re all right.”
Cha Sung-tae also reports his condition.
“I’m fine, too.”
I nod my head.
“You should be.”
So Gun-pyeong asks about the grander strategy.
“What should we do about Elder Hornless Dragon and Mister Su?”
“Patience. They are suffering greater loss compared to us. They will feel uncomfortable sleeping, eating, and going to the bathroom for the next two days. Fear and anxiety will arrive after provocation, confusion, and defeat. They’ll hold out since they’re hard-headed, but their men will be shaken. And then they’ll grow weaker than before.”
Surprisingly, White Rooster utters.
“Your dance was lovely, Big Brother. I should have done the fan dance next to you.”
“Let’s do that next time.”
White Tiger glares at So Gun-pyeong and asks.
“What about him, Big Brother?”
“What do you brothers think?”
Baek-in brings up Yoo Sa-cheong’s sword technique first.
“The technique he used is not from Unorthodox Factions.”
“Explain to the others. People like Sung-tae might not be aware.”
White Tiger briefly explains.
“I feel like he had trained his posture intensely before learning the sword technique. Thinking back to when he first started to fight you, his flow was consistent. He’s not a swordsman who learned a cheap technique.”
Dokgo Saeng scowls at Yoo Sa-cheong.
“This punk is from the Orthodox Factions?”
Dokgo Saeng’s fierce palm slaps across Yoo Sa-cheong’s cheeks again. When Yoo Sa-cheong does not respond, Hongshin asks in curiosity.
“Big Brother, did you also shut his vocal cords?”
“Should I undo it?”
“You can’t. And I can’t undo it either. I’ve done a lot of jabbing, but I didn’t practice much because I was too lazy to undo it. I didn’t inject much Qi, so it’ll wear off soon.”
Truth is, I didn’t memorize the pressure points properly. I just know roughly what effects it has after tapping a spot. I learned how to do it for attacking, so I didn’t try to learn how to undo it.
Hong-shin speaks out without much thought.
“Sealing the vocal cords can be quite dangerous. He might become a mute if we don’t release it soon.”
I answer Red Monkey’s words after a short pause.
“It’s none of my business.”
I chat with my subordinates without much thought. We share some leftover food from the kitchen and drink together, laughing and giggling to pass the time.
As an hour flies past…
My men report from outside the main hall.
“Leader, the Green Mount Sect Leader has surrendered his weapons in front of the gate. What shall we do?”
“What do you mean? If he’s here, let him in.”
As the officials and generals look at each other with puzzled expressions, the Green Mount Sect Leader enters the hall with two disciples.
Green Mount Sect Leader bows with a fist salute and says.
“Hello Leader. I’m Yang Jae-kyung.”
I nod slightly and reply.
“Welcome, Leader Yang.”
The Green Mount Sect Leader then speaks with an awkward smile.
“I don’t know where to start…”
“Please, feel free to speak.”
“The Green Mount Sect will never see you as an enemy. We made a mistake due to a lack of information. If possible…”
The leader is stuttering so much, so I just nod my head.
“Let’s do that.”
“Thank you for your generosity.”
When the Sect Leader beckons his disciples, the two disciples put down boxes at my feet and open the cover. Inside the large boxes, gold and silver that occupy half the space each are shining.
I click my tongue and say.
“You don’t have to. Between us, tsk. No, how much is all this? That’s amazing. I should’ve brought some from the Black Hurricane Castle. Isn’t this too much, Leader?”
I close the cover with my foot and stand up.
“It’s no good to go overboard on the first meeting. An apology is sufficient. That’s how people live. Don’t you think so, Leader?”
When I tap him on the shoulder, the startled Green Mount Sect Leader jumps in slight surprise and nods.
“Yes, you’re right.”
“Sometimes enemies become allies, and allies become enemies in Kangho. If you’re unlucky, you get beaten to death, so don’t take it personally.”
“Ah, yes. I’ll keep that in mind. We will not answer to Elder Hornless Dragon and Mister Su ever again.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“This is just a small gift, but we arrived here a little late to prepare this. It’s already late at night, so I will take my leave.”
“Take care. You brought all this in the middle of the night. Thank you.”
The Green Mount Sect Leader hurriedly salutes and turns around with his disciples. I call out to him as soon as he steps out of the main hall.
“Let’s have a meal together next time.”
“Ahaha, sure. See you then, Leader.”
When Green Mount Sect Leader leaves, and the main hall door is closed once again, silence falls in the room.
Dokgo Saeng, who has been watching all this time, looks at me.
It feels like he has something to say, so I ask.
Dokgo Saeng replies with a deadpan.
“That’s fucking hilarious.”
I have no idea what Dokgo Saeng is thinking about, so he might think it’s funny or find the Green Mount Sect Leader’s action hilarious. But when Dokgo Saeng says that this is funny with a straight face, the generals and officials also burst into laughter.
I end up laughing too.
“Yeah, that was funny.”
While everyone is busy laughing, Yoo Sa-cheong has a grim expression on his face. Naturally, everyone’s eyes fell on Yoo Sa-cheong.
Dokgo Saeng watches Yoo Sa-cheong.
“Why aren’t you laughing? You can’t move your face?”
When Dokgo Saeng raises his hand as if he is going to slap him again, Yoo Sa-cheong’s face trembles.
Dokgo Saeng pretends to put his hand down but then slaps him relentlessly.
I don’t really care how Dokgo Saeng treats the slave. He has the right to do so since he brought his men here and fought for his life.
With my hand propping up my chin, I think.
‘Did the Green Mount Sect Leader come to test the waters?’
My subordinate continues their announcement as if the Green Mount Sect Leader is taking turns with someone.
“Leader, Lady Iron Toad is here.”
I scold my subordinate in a slightly raised voice.
“The night air is cold. You should let her in without asking me. Hurry, go invite her in.”
With a stiff expression on her face, Lady Iron Toad enters the hall. She looks more troubled than Leader Yang, but her words seem stuck in her throat.
I take the initiative and say.
“Lady Iron Toad, I almost didn’t manage to say my lines due to the fierce hidden weapon you threw. You’re really skilled at throwing.”
At last, Lady Iron Toad speaks.
“Yes, Leader. I apologize. I mean…”
“Please go on.”
“My disciples and I will part from Elder Hornless Dragon’s side and head back to the Yuhwa Valley (榴花谷). I will spread the word to those around me to be careful not to interfere with the Black Rabbit Union. I hope you can overlook my mistakes today.”
I nod my head.
“Well, it can happen in fights. Sure. Is the Yuhwa Valley Leader well?”
“Yes, he is busy with martial arts training.”
“As his wife, you must be busy making money instead. Now that we know each other, I hope Yuhwa Valley will not be enemies with me in the future.”
Lady Iron Toad nods.
“It’s already late, be careful on your way back.”
Hesitating, Lady Iron Toad takes something out and puts it on the table.
“Leader, I’ll gift you the Moonlight Dagger (蟾光匕首) that I’ve cherished since my younger days as a token of my words.”
“Eyyy, you don’t have to… Tsk, I’ll use it well. I have always wanted to carry a dagger with me. This is perfect for self-defence. It looks sharp.”
“Although it is short, this is a fine item that can cut through long swords like they are dumplings. It’s perfect for assassination.”
“Kangho people like us have expensive tastes. I’ll use it well. Please send my regards to the Valley Leader.”
“Yes, then I’ll be off.”
When Lady Iron Toad leaves, Hong-shin asks curiously.
“Is anyone still coming?”
I look at So Gun-pyeong.
“Go check outside if any of those scumbags are around, send them away with threats or something. I don’t want to deal with them. Oh, you can also take all the bribes.”
So Gun-pyeong stands up.
As soon as So Gun-pyeong goes out, I have another glass and slap Yoo Sa-cheong, who is sitting next to me, on the cheek. Being tied to the chair, Yoo Sa-cheong falls over with the slapping sound.
One of the officials near the end seat rushes up and props the chair back up.
I speak to my men.
“It’s late. Go find an empty room and rest. The servants are not here, so there will be a lot of empty rooms. I’ll consider whether I want to kill him or torture him.”
My subordinates rise from their seats.
After a while, only Yoo Sa-cheong, myself, and the Moonlight Dagger remain in the spacious hall.
I tap the flashy dagger with my finger and say to myself.
“The Doctor said I should go easy sometimes, but it’s not easy after trying. It’s awkward. The guys who came to apologize were awkward. I felt awkward, too.”
I’ve been thinking about Moyong Baek’s request while drinking since a while ago. It’s not easy to turn over a new leaf and live a different life from my past.
“But my doctor said that for my own good, so I’ll try. Don’t you think so?”
“Wow, I’ve changed a lot, too. I used to only beat to death, crush, and kill my enemies. What’s going on here? What happened to me? Is this what they call ‘the night changes fast’ (隔世之感)? Or is it the change of fate (桑田碧海)? Did I get both wrong?”
I look into Yoo Sa-cheong’s eyes and ask coldly.
“What’s with your eyes? Do I look uneducated? You think I’m stupid?”
Yoo Sa-cheong’s mouth wriggles. Are the pressure points wearing off? Sweat is dripping on the bridge of his nose as Yoo Sa-cheong squirms continuously.
Downing a glass, I sigh with a serious look.
“Problem is whether I should spare or kill you.”
I unsheathe the Moonlight Dagger and put it on the table for now.
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