So Gun-pyeong stares at the messenger of the Bajian Society and then speaks as if asking for permission.
“He’s not worthy.”
“All right, you can go.”
While eyeing my subordinates from the Black Rabbit Union and the men from the Nanming Society on the platform, I make eye contact with Cha Sung-tae.
“Cha Sung-tae, fight him. Your opponent is a damn messenger from the Bajian Society.”
Cha Sung-tae mutters in reply.
Cha Sung-tae walks out to the center and cracks his neck. The messenger of the Bajian Society glares at me.
“Is this how you’re going to treat a mere messenger?”
“Was I rude?”
“Please understand, I’m just here to deliver a message.”
I stare at the messenger and speak blandly.
“Then I shall fight with you in honor of the Bajian Society.”
The messenger turns around and draws his sword against Cha Sung-tae.
“Let’s do this.”
When Cha Sung-tae pulls out his sword, the messenger speaks as if he is trying to give him information.
“Let’s compete without getting hurt.”
Cha Sung-tae replies.
“Shut up, you idiot! There’s no such thing.”
Contrary to his confident scream, Cha Sung-tae is clearly nervous. It is inevitable since it’s his first match against a warrior from another faction.
Nam Garak asks from beside me.
“What’s his rank in the faction?”
Veins pop up on Cha Sung-tae’s forehead upon hearing my words, and soon the two face off in earnest.
Nam Garak watches the fight for a few moments and tilts his head.
“He’s good, though?”
From my perspective, Cha Sung-tae has improved a lot. There’s no real reason behind it. In Ilyang, Cha Sung-tae was the second-best fighter after the Cho brothers with their sloppy skills. Now, he has actual experience and an Orthodox Faction’s steady Sword Technique. Furthermore, he is also amassing internal Qi. Above all, I think Hoyeon Cheong has done well in teaching him.
After exchanging 20 or more attacks while wielding their swords fiercely, they both extend their left hands toward each other’s opening as if they have planned it beforehand.
With a pop, Cha Sung-tae, exchanging internal Qi for the first time, staggers and takes a step back. The messenger of the Bajian Society stumbles for some reason and falls flat on his butt.
Advancing quickly at that moment, Cha Sung-tae holds his sword on the messenger’s neck.
The messenger looks nervously at the sword attached to his neck. Cha Sung-tae then asks me.
“Shall I continue?”
Cha Sung-tae grins after retrieving his sword with a proud expression.
“The Bajian Society isn’t such a big deal, huh.”
I correct Cha Sung-tae’s misconception.
“No, that guy is not a big deal. Don’t be mistaken. I didn’t arrange this duel to create this delusion. Everyone saw it, right? This is the skill of a messenger. The Bajian Society tried to make the Black Rabbit Union out to be a mercenary force, but as you can see, we refused. Messenger of the Bajian Society, get out. If you act arrogant again next time, it won’t end with just two slaps.”
The messenger then says.
“Thank you for saving me. I’ll see you again.”
As soon as the messenger finishes, he touches his ear in a hurry. Blood is dripping down his ears. The messenger scurries out of the courtyard while hitting his left ear several times as if he can no longer hear.
Cha Sung-tae tilts his head and asks.
“Blood… Was my palm force that strong?”
I ignore Cha Sung-tae’s blabbering and say.
“Officials, let’s have a talk.”
As I take a seat at the top, the group of officials from the Nanming Society and the Black Rabbit Union settles in their respective seats.
Cha Sung-tae, seated as a manager, asks again from the end row.
“He’s bleeding, though? Is it because of my palm force?”
Nam Garak answers him as he can no longer stand the questions.
“He got slapped by the Leader before the fight. His eardrums must have exploded.
Cha Sung-tae mutters in disappointment.
“Ah, I see.”
The atmosphere has settled slightly.
I briefly summarize the messenger’s words to the officials.
“The Bajian Society is at war with the South Horizon Sect. If we join, we will be given 3 silver per person daily. The Bajian Society thinks your lives are only worth 3 silver.”
The faces of the Black Rabbit Union members turn murderous.
“Preposterous! Those morons”
Even the quiet So Gun-pyeong is swearing.
“This is how it’s done now that they’re earned some money with blackmail, trashy bastards.”
This time, I decided to correct what So Gun-pyeong just said.
“Take back the last word. We’re trashy too.”
I scan the officials and their faces.
“But we’re different. We are trash the size of leaves fallen from a plum blossom tree, and those fellows are trash like the smell of shit after consuming laxatives.”
The atmosphere becomes awkward after my absurd metaphor.
“Was it too much?”
Cha Seong-tae tries to sweet-talk me.
“No, it was a fitting metaphor.”
“Shut up. That was too much.”
I introduce Nam Garak to my officials.
“This is Sect Leader Nam Garak of the Nanming Society. He received the same threats from the Bajian Society and the South Horizon Sect, but he rejected them. Regardless of my skills, I acknowledge a brave man, which applies to Leader Nam. No matter who we’re fighting this time, note that the Nanming Society and the Black Rabbit Union are joining hands.”
The officials of the Black Rabbit Union answer in unison.
This time, Nam Garak addresses the officials of the Black Rabbit Union.
“The truth is, I was defeated by your leader the other day. If he’d humiliated me then, I wouldn’t be here. Even if we combine our forces, we are no match for the South Horizon Sect or the Bajian Society, but I promise that the Nanming Society, including me, will not fight with our heads down.”
The officials of the Black Rabbit Union bow slightly to Nam Garak.
“We’ll be in your care.”
This time I slightly corrected what Nam Garak said.
“I have more men. If we come together and I stand at the forefront, we can turn either of them into ashes. I’ve been holding back because that means casualties will appear. Let’s discuss our strategies for now. To achieve the greatest victory with minimal damage.”
Hoyeon Cheong, who is listening, then says.
“Leader, I can gather some troops, too.”
I make eye contact with Hoyeon Cheong for the first time in a long time and address him using his other nickname.
“Master Hoyeon, you have done well teaching Cha Sung-tae.”
Hoyeon Cheong’s eyes grow wide.
“Thanks to you, he wasn’t humiliated. But you don’t have to gather troops. You have a knack for teaching, so feel free to come and go freely in the Black Rabbit Union and guide my men.”
It is no different than freeing Hoyeon Cheong. He also understands what my words mean and replies with a flushed face.
“Thank you, Leader.”
I look around at my officials.
“If you have any good ideas, let’s hear them. Let’s start with Black Rabbit Union’s brain and great general, Manager Byuk.”
Manager Byuk immediately says.
“Overall, this is a period where both sides are gathering troops. But they don’t know what the other side is up to. In fact, if we were to join one side, our forces are just as large as their certainty of gaining victory.”
“So wouldn’t it be better to let both sides know this now?”
“We will join under the names of the Low-Down Sect, Black Hurricane Castle, Black Rabbit Union, Twelve Heavenly Generals, General Geum-hae’s merchants, and even the Nanming Society if Leader Nam agrees. If we all participate, one of us is bound to win. They won’t get to act as arrogant as they did today.”
Strategist So Gun-pyeong also expresses his opinion.
“Manager Byuk is right, but why don’t we conceal our powers and aim for the fish in troubled waters? We continue to watch as the two sides face off. When the dreadful war is ending, we then sweep in. They were the ones who provoked first anyway.”
So Gun-pyeong’s plan is a little more realistic and ruthless.
Manager Byuk, who likes to paint, is somewhat amicable, and So Gun-pyeong, who survived by wielding a sword, has smelled the heartlessness of the battlefield.
I ask Nam Garak.
“What about Leader Nam?”
Nam Garak, who recalls So Gun-pyeong’s face and name, replies.
“I like Chief So’s idea. If there aren’t any opinions, the Leader can decide.”
I nod and reveal my reasons first.
“Our main enemy is the Bajian Society. Let’s not focus on the South Horizon Sect for now.”
So Gun-pyeong asks.
“Is there a reason?”
“From what I’ve heard, South Horizon Sect sounds like an innately Unorthodox Faction built from one sword. If the leaders were asked to decide, they were likely to agree. On the other hand, the rich Bajian Society will hire killers for assassination. A more cowardly type.”
As I look at Nam Garak, he nods in agreement.
I reply to Nam Garak’s words in my mind.
‘You’re still a baby, bastard.’
Hearing what the messenger said, I am convinced the one who hired his killers in my past life was the Bajian Society.
“Ignore the South Horizon Sect for now and write a letter to the Bajian Society.”
Manager Byuk replies.
“Okay, sir. Tell me the crucial points, and I’ll organize it.”
“The Black Rabbit Union, Mister Su’s scums, Twelve Heavenly Generals, Gold Mountain Guild, Ilyang, and the Black Hurricane Castle all belong to the Low Down Sect. And the unprotected merchants, business owners, food sellers, and farmers belong to the Low Down Sect. If the Bajian Society is ever caught coercing, kidnapping, threatening, murdering, and assaulting them, it is war with the Low Down Sect. Write this down and send it to them.”
Nam Garak intervenes.
“Leader, you left out the Nanming Society.”
I nod my head as my eyes meet Nam Garak’s.
“Add the Nanming Society.”
Manager Byuk replies.
“I got it. I’ll organize it and send the letter out.”
“Not just the Bajian Society, Send it to the nearby Orthodox Factions, Unorthodox Faction, martial art academies, bandits, pirates, merchants, banks, assassin organizations, brothels, guest inns, restaurants, caves, and temples. Make hundreds of copies, stick them in your room, send them out to various factions, and give them out to families, single families, and the streets. If they mess with the working class, I’ll come forward, whether it’s slapping them, kicking their butt, or killing them. Do you all understand?”
“Yes, Union Leader.”
“Yes, Sect Leader.”
I was in a bad mood for a few days, and now I am declaring war in the name of the Low Down Sect Leader.
“Tell all those who hold grudges, who wish to fight with me, and think I’m a joke, to find Lee Zaha of the Low Down Sect.”
Perhaps he thinks that it is too far off, Manager Byuk replies with a smile.
“Wouldn’t you be too busy, Leader? I’ll sort it out first.”
I reply while looking at Manager Byuk.
“It seems no one is aware that Dae Na-chal is dead. Add in that I killed him. This news should be widespread.”
“Why do we… Should I put it in?”
“Then, add that I killed Mister Su, Elder Hornless Dragon, smashed the Black Hurricane Castle Leader’s head because I dislike him, and the man who committed fraud gambling named Bang Dong-yeon was also burned and killed by me.”
As the contents of the announcement grow bigger and bigger, Manager Byuk keeps his silence.
“Manager Byuk, write it all down. Okay?”
“Yes, I understand.”
“Go to Ilyang now and bring Deuk-soo over with a carriage. On your way back, stop by the market with Deuk-soo and buy plenty of ingredients of pork ribs, various meat, vegetables, and lots of alcohol. Make sure to pay it all in cash. Go with 10 of the Black Rabbit Union men. We will treat our Nanming Society brothers to delicious food with the help of the chef of the Low Down Sect. Manager Byuk, ensure you pass on a generous amount of money to Cha Sung-tae.”
“Yes, I will.”
I look at Nam Garak.
“You came all the way here. We should at least have a meal together.”
Nam Garak grins.
As I think about calling Deuk-soo over and serving the Nanming Society delicious food, my anger calms down a little.
“Now, is there anything else I forgot? Anything else to discuss? Did I leave out anyone on my hit list? No?”
At this time, outside the main hall becomes noisy, and someone kicks open the main hall door and appears. Three men I am seeing for the first time push off the Black Rabbit Union subordinates and let out a demand while looking at me in my upper seat.
“The South Horizon Sect is here. Where is your leader?”
Everyone in the main hall turns their heads together and glances nervously at me.
Bewildered, I look at these scum from the South Horizon Sect.
A cold silence fills the hall for a moment.
Feeling like something is going on, the messengers avert their gazes and observe the tense atmosphere.
So Gun-pyeong stands up, swears, and insults the South Horizon Sect’s messengers.
“Kneel, you assholes. Where do you think you are!”
At the same time, the Black Rabbit Union officials grab the South Horizon Sect’s messengers, knock them down, and assault them recklessly, swinging their fists and feet.
There was no time for me to intervene.
While the three messengers sprawled on the floor are stomped on by the officials’ feet, even Manager Byuk stands up and yells. He then joins in the stomping, even with his bad joints.
“You scoundrels, scoundrels, bastards, assholes…”
Beaten up to a pulp, the messengers fall to their knees.
Manager Byuk looks at me.
“Leader, as expected, we should publicize the letter as you said. That way, the opponent will also be polite.”
“Hm, all right, let’s do that.”
I hadn’t been able to eat pork ribs in a long time, and already I almost rushed into the South Horizon Sect, but my anger quickly subsided due to my subordinates’ proper response. I spot the messengers sporting looks of being treated unfairly and order my men.
“Keep stepping on them.”
My men answer my demands loudly.
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