How many bodies are buried in this pit?
With such a massive trap, Elder Hornless Dragon has no need to align his forces with the Cloud Rain Society or send off his men elsewhere.
Elder Hornless Dragon presses his teacup again and turns his wrist. The teacup spins with a clicking sound.
Then, with the screeching sound of friction, parts of the garden sink while some pillars soar up.
The entire garden is transformed into something similar to a baduk chessboard used to play with black and white go pieces.
White areas are places with tiles that you can step on, while the black areas are deep, dark pits. The areas where you can land and where the pitfalls are located are randomized. As soon as I see them, I predict that there will be hidden traps in places that are made to look ‘white.’
And the old man is the only one who knows which piece to step safely on.
Elder Hornless Dragon then says.
“This looks about right. Let’s begin.”
I step back once again and smile.
“Now I get why you’re not as famous as Dae Na-chal, you sick bastard.”
Elder Hornless Dragon looks at me.
“What’s the point of fame?”
“For 40 years, you’ve buried people in the pits, so no one knows you. You eat, drink tea, and sleep above all the bodies you have killed. Now I understand why your face is so pale. Is Kangho always this scary?”
Elder Hornless Dragon smiles.
“You’re talking nonsense.”
“I’ve seen a lot of guys like you. Snobs who dig traps and can’t live far from them. You don’t hunt like a beast. You don’t travel the world and compete with the strong. You spend all your life rotting away, burying your men, burying friends, and burying anyone who gets on your nerves. Every time the pit opens and closes, it reeks of bodies rotting. I feel sorry for Dae Na-chal.”
“For a dead man?”
I glance around the cabin and say.
“He probably has been researching this mountain cabin to kill you. I guess you never let him catch any of your weaknesses.”
Elder Hornless Dragon laughs creepily at my words. He is already pale, so it looks like a ghost is smiling.
Elder Hornless Dragon says.
“Indeed, Dae Na-chal also never showed me his flaws.”
“Birds of a feather, it happens.”
As I keep stepping back, Elder Hornless Dragon flashes his row of sparsely missing teeth.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m at a disadvantage here, so I’m running away. Son of a bitch. Asking about something obvious.”
Elder Hornless Dragon reaches out his hand with a pleased expression.
“The exit is not that way.”
When I turn around, only vines are visible where a path is supposed to be. It’s a simple hallucination spell, but as Elder Hornless Dragon says, there is no exit. If I had invaded with my troops, more than half of them would’ve died here.
“What an interesting geezer. Did you learn spell casting? Don’t tell me you’re copying the old Guiguzi (鬼谷子)?”
“How does a young man like you know of Master Guigu?”
I might look young in appearance, but I’m older than I look.
In summary, I’m a baby face (童顏) that descended from the heavens. I don’t say it aloud because it sounds so stupid.
Guiguzi is a figure from the Warring States Period; in Kangho terms, he is an eccentric master. And for some Kangho warriors, he’s the founder of mechanism spells and arrays. In fact, his nickname was also derived from the secluded Ghost Valley (鬼谷山莊).
There is a fact that only I know about Guiguzi.
Guiguzi is precisely the type of person the founder of the Strolling Golden Turtle Technique, Ki Sung-ja (記性子), despises the most.
Guiguzi wrote the book of the same name, ‘Guiguzi.’
There is a saying in that book.
Gain the trust of your opponent and keep a close relationship.
Seize the weakness of your intimate opponent, and hold onto them so they can’t escape.
At first glance, it may seem like savoir-faire or simple know-how, but in the twisted psyche of Kangho warriors, it is nothing like that but is instead perfectly in line with what Elder Hornless Dragon is doing right now.
There’s no way this old geezer is the direct descendant of Guiguzi.
In Kangho, many people are influenced by out-of-date actions, words, books, and ideas.
I reveal my secret to Elder Hornless Dragon.
“Look, you trashy geezer who’s still a long way from being Guiguzi’s descendent. Unfortunately, one of my masters hates the Ghost Valley people who live in seclusion like you.”
Elder Hornless Dragon replies.
“Is there a person like that?”
“He’s called Ki Sung-ja. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him. You ignorant geezer.”
“Never heard of him.”
“I have learned the martial arts specially curated to deal with people like you. Use Magic Fire (三昧眞火) to go against cunning rabbits with three burrows (狡兔三窟) ruthlessly. Too bad you had to meet a guy like me. How fascinating.”
A clever rabbit digs up three burrows.
Ki Sung-ja says to burn down all three burrows completely.
And thus, the martial art he created is the Fire Chicken (炎鷄).
I grin and prepare the Fiery Fragrance in my left palm.
Sensing something ominous, Elder Hornless Dragon steps on white stones here and there, jumping around like a rabbit.
After being lured by Elder Hornless Dragon to the table, I cancel the Fiery Fragrance and shift my body while observing the garden.
“Isn’t it the way of Kangho to wait while preparing…”
‘…a deadly attack?’ I couldn’t finish the sentence because I became busy. Elder Hornless Dragon is chasing after me with a snake head cane. Where on earth did that weapon come from?
And of all things, it just has to be a snake’s head.
Snakes are not scary. However, when a Kangho warrior attaches the head of a snake to the cane handle, you shouldn’t take them lightly.
Or maybe the snake head on the cane has poison, so it was a warning not to mess with them.
Therefore, it is right to be on guard at times like this.
I step on various places like stepping stones and eventually unsheathe Black Hare’s Tooth to strike Elder Hornless Dragon’s staff.
However, the cane and knife did not clash as often as they usually would. Probably because there are pits under us at all times.
Stepping on the white stones, I brace myself. Sure enough, a hidden weapon targeting me pops out of nowhere when I step on a normal-looking white stone.
The cane plunges at the back of my head as I deflect the hidden weapon with Black Hare’s Tooth. Eventually, I jump over three or four white stones and try to land on flat ground, but this time, my right foot plummets.
A trap that is posing as a white stone.
I soar into the air as I shoot palm wind attacks on the floor.
When Elder Hornless Dragon whirls out his fluttering jangsam, dozens of steel needles shoot from under it.
No wonder people say the older, the wiser…
I grab my own jangsam in my left hand as if I had ripped it off and whirl away. The hidden weapons soaring towards me tear through the innocent jangsam before falling gloriously into the pit.
In your next life, meet a good owner and be reborn as pretty clothes people wear on a date. Suddenly, burning anger swirls in my heart, and the Black Fire Chicken (黑炎鷄) twitches inside me.
I can’t think of any particularly sharp attacks.
‘You’ll be dead a little later.’
I have memorized the normal white stones I had stepped on. I don’t have an excellent memory, but I can remember well enough when my life is on the line.
The human psyche is mysterious, so getting beaten up a little can help improve one’s memory.
I don’t know why either.
It’s pathetic to see myself running away against this old geezer, but I am trying to eliminate the variables in advance with a calm mind.
The pillar has already sunk down three times, and the hidden weapons have been triggered twice. I wander around beforehand to take some hits first because it’d be problematic if Elder Hornless Dragon, who is trying to figure out which of my moves is the trap, ends up cornering me in this fight.
After a while, I allow a short sneaky chase before turning around to face Elder Hornless Dragon head-on. I have already figured out the pitfall locations around us.
Now, the next thing to watch out for is poison (毒).
I suddenly feel like a Kangho veteran.
Perhaps he trains regularly since he is swinging that heavy-looking iron cane skillfully. To be honest, even if I wasn’t fighting in this mountain cabin, none of my subordinates would be able to defeat Elder Hornless Dragon.
I intentionally inject Fire Chicken energy to envelop Black Hare’s Tooth and release the Fire Demon (火魔) here and there in the cabin whenever Elder Hornless Dragon dodges.
It is a thought that comes up when no other strategies come to mind.
‘It’ll work out somehow.’
Elder Hornless Dragon can not hide his anxiousness as I begin to burn the corners of the cabin with the Magic Fire Method.
“Are you trying to drag me to your grave?”
Seizing the gap when Elder Hornless Dragon is talking, I vigorously swing Black Hare’s Tooth. If the amount of internal Qi injected into Black Hare’s Tooth was 50%, it has now increased to 70% by the time Elder Hornless Dragon opens his mouth. Still, 30% remains as a reserve.
Nevertheless, Elder Hornless Dragon’s staff gradually slows down.
Elder Hornless Dragon will be forced to use his next trick if I fight solidly while stepping on one white stone.
It is probably poison.
I am forcing the opponent to use poison and am mentally prepared to accept it.
The moment Elder Hornless Dragon thinks it is becoming difficult to fend off Black Hare’s Tooth, he presses a spot on his cane and swings it forward.
A greenish poisonous mist (毒霧) appears before my eyes.
At the same time, Elder Hornless Dragon retreats to where the table is…
I stretch out my left palm, unleash the Great Absorption Method, and pull the scattered poison into a spiral.
Meanwhile, I wield sword wind using Black Hare’s Tooth and shoot the ball of compressed poison toward the pit as if I am parrying an onion’s peel.
At the same time, as Elder Hornless Dragon hits the table…
Surprisingly, large harpoon-shaped awls pop out of all the pits and shoot up into the air.
A continuation of his tactics to use mechanical traps to end me if I managed to avoid his poison mist.
I watch the harpoons shoot into the air in unison with a startled look on my face and mutter.
“How vicious. You deserve a compliment.”
Elder Hornless Dragon must be thinking that his continuous attacks are a satisfying trick as he seems to lose focus for the first time in our fight.
I naturally put Black Hare’s Tooth back into its sheath, looking like a man who has finished fighting. I then pull it out like a thunderbolt and shoot out blade energy.
Elder Hornless Dragon grabs the cane with both hands in surprise, blocking the blade energy.
I lift Black Hare’s Tooth and launch another blade energy vertically at the same place. Elder Hornless Dragon’s old pale face trembles vigorously every time he is hit by my blade energy.
Raising Black Hare’s Tooth up again, I say.
“That’s it? No more? Think fast. You’re dying soon.”
“Bring it on. Come at me.”
“That’s not true. From what I can tell, this is the safest spot.”
I send forth another wave of blade energy. I launch my blade energy 13 consecutive times in the same place, and Elder Hornless Dragon, who does not have time to even turn around, manages to block all of them.
Elder Hornless Dragon beckons me to come at him, asking me to fight him head-on, provoking and spitting curses, but I ignore all of them and simply keep swinging my sword.
Having blocked 17 blade energy attacks in a row, Elder Hornless Dragon finally loses his balance while holding his cane. I then simply shoot another attack of blade energy toward Elder Hornless Dragon, making him scramble to his feet.
At last, I see a spurt of blood.
This time, the hand holding onto the cane also falls to the floor. Then his arm flies away, and the other arm is also severed by blade energy.
As Elder Hornless Dragon falls to his knees upon losing both arms, I send another blade energy to his knees.
I watch Elder Hornless Dragon’s face and, after sheathing Black Hare’s Tooth, wrap Fiery Fragrance around my index finger.
I put some effort into making the Magic Fire take the shape of a real flame. Then I compress the Fire Chicken energy as much as I can.
Elder Hornless Dragon is saying something to me with despair on his face, but I can’t hear him since I am concentrating fully.
I shoot the completed flame from the tip of my finger toward Elder Hornless Dragon as lightly as possible. Then, I look at Elder Hornless Dragon’s expression, whose face changes comically every second.
That’s the face of someone facing their death.
As soon as the flickering and dancing flame clashes with the body of the Elder Hornless Dragon, who is attempting to escape, a fire pillar launches itself vertically into the sky, ascending as if it is a Fire Dragon (火龍).
I watch the shower of fire dragon sparks momentarily with my arms crossed. The flame is stunningly beautiful.
I murmur softly as I watch Elder Hornless Dragon struggling while on fire.
“…… He’s on fire.”
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