Episode 161

The Nine Spear King, So Jin-gong
1 week ago
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The Murim Alliance was the center of the orthodox Murim.

With the Nine Sects One Gang, the Azure Forest, and the Seven Great Clans combined, who would dare doubt the prestige of the Murim Alliance?

However, the Murim Alliance was not the absolute strongest.

The nature of the Murim Alliance was more of a coalition. With many formidable sects among its members, its unity was somewhat lacking.

Even with a small number of martial masters, the Unorthodox Union was superior in terms of unity. They gathered under Seomun Jae, one of the Ten Grandmasters and the leader of the Unorthodox Union.

There are also many other notable martial masters and forces.

The Central Plains were vast, with countless martial artists, and masters were as common as dirt. The sects they belonged to were no different.

Among them was a faction known as West Sky Castle.

It’s not always black and white with martial artists being divided into orthodox and unorthodox. There are demons feared even by the unorthodox, and rogues who would draw their swords for anyone if it meant getting money or proper martial arts.

West Sky Castle was uniquely composed of martial artists from the military.

One of the Ten Grandmasters and the lord of West Sky Castle, the Nine Spear King, So Jin-gong, had gathered them under him.

Born into the distinguished military family of the So Clan of Yueyang, So Jin-gong passed the military examination with the highest honors at a young age.

However, his illustrious career became even more pronounced after his appointment.

Appointed as a military officer, So Jin-gong was immediately dispatched to the north. The nomads of the north, including the remnants of the Yuan dynasty, were the greatest enemies of the Great Ming.

Heroes emerged in times of war.

Before even ten years had passed, So Jin-gong was appointed as martial general.

And then he suddenly resigned from his position. The emperor tried to retain him several times, but the renowned general established a sect called West Sky Castle in the north, where he had battled.

Retired military officers and heirs of military families were absorbed into West Sky Castle.

Naturally, the Murim Alliance sent an offer for membership, but So Jin-gong’s response was a masterpiece.

‘A subject of the emperor who rules over all under heaven, how could he submit to the authority of a mere commoner?’

He referred to the leader of the Murim Alliance as a mere commoner.

The chosen successor laughed it off with a hearty “Euhaha,” but the martial artists of the Murim Alliance found it distasteful.

Still, it couldn’t be helped. It meant that So Jin-gong still pledged his loyalty to the emperor.

It was a surprise that the prideful So Jin-gong visited the Murim Alliance in person.

“So So-woon, it is.”

“Pardon?”

Yi-gang raised his eyebrows at Peng Gu-in’s words.

Peng Gu-in elaborated, “The kid’s name is So So-woon. It wasn’t a pseudonym.”

“Ah, I see. That’s a somewhat funny name.”

“Maybe that’s why he just goes by So-woon. Hehe.”

No one expected So-woon to be the child of the Nine Spear King.

Just because someone was a So, one couldn’t immediately think of one of the Ten Grandmasters. It was also surprising that the Nine Spear King sent his son to learn the ways of men in Jianghu.

Above all, their martial arts were different. The Nine Spear King was a unique martial artist who used nine spears.

What So-woon used were two short spears.

“Come to think of it, using two short spears is also not ordinary.”

“It’s hard to imagine someone like that just by their appearance. The Nine Spear King, of all people.”

“So-woon does seem a bit frail.”

“Hmm, I also made a mistake based on his appearance at first.”

“Actually, the Nine Spear King might have had a similar appearance to So-woon…”

“Hehe.”

Peng Gu-in burst into laughter at Yi-gang’s speculation.

“See for yourself.”

Yi-gang could see for himself.

In the outer yard, giant horses were being exercised.

Around these horses, unlike typical martial artists, were West Sky Castle’s martial artists wearing armor.

So-woon was also standing awkwardly, and behind him, a truly giant man was mounted on a horse.

He was wearing dark red armor, and nine spears of different sizes were strapped to his saddle and back.

The horse carrying him was equally massive. The horse, with its glossy, blood-red fur, must be the Nine Spear King’s beloved steed, the Ferghana horse.

He used to say he wouldn’t exchange his horse even for a castle.

So-woon recognized Yi-gang and raised his hand.

“Brother!”

“Oh!”

As his son greeted Yi-gang, the Nine Spear King jumped down from his horse.

The clanking sound of armor was loud.

“My name is Baek Yi-gang. I have heard much about the great reputation of the Nine Spear King.”

“Ha-ha, I was curious about what So-woon’s sworn brothers would be like.”

Yi-gang rolled his eyes at the mention of sworn brothers.

Peng Gu-in pretended not to notice, and So-woon had a face full of emotion.

“You can feel the spirit from his expression. It seems So-woon has made good connections.”

Hearing So-woon’s story, Yi-gang thought his father was a cold-hearted man who disapproved of his weak son.

But it didn’t seem to be entirely the case.

“I sent So-woon out to learn about the world, but I hurried here upon hearing that the Five Elements Tomb had collapsed.”

Such a cold-hearted father wouldn’t have come all the way to the heart of the Murim Alliance with just a few subordinates for his son.

“Fortunately, my son was fine. But I’ve heard all about what happened in the meantime.”

The Nine Spear King stood in front of Yi-gang, clanking in his armor.

Yi-gang had to look up to meet his gaze.

He placed his thick hand on Yi-gang’s shoulder.

“You’ve saved my son several times, risking your own life.”

Yi-gang remembered.

It was true when he was trapped in the All-knowing High Formation.

But at other times, it wasn’t specifically for So-woon that he acted.

“I haven’t done anything remarkable.”

“No, you have done something remarkable. It’s not just about saving my son’s life. After all, life and death aren’t something people can decide.”

If saving a life isn’t important, then what is?

A flash of light appeared in the Nine Spear King’s eyes. It was as if the battlefields he had crossed were reflected beyond his pupils.

“It seems you’ve heard I told So-woon to return as a worthy man.”

“I have.”

“Do you know what it means?”

Internally, Yi-gang had guessed the Nine Spear King to be similar to Peng Gu-in. Because the idea of being a man seemed to resonate with them.

But the man before Yi-gang now wasn’t speaking in such simple terms.

“It means to become someone who can risk their own life for something.”

“Life?”

“Yes, the readiness to face death. Whatever the reason may be. Be it for wealth, honor, or loyalty.”

Martial artists were a breed that hung their lives on the tip of a sword.

Therefore, such words might not evoke much emotion, but Yi-gang felt his heart stir for some reason.

“Isn’t it rare for those in the martial world not to risk their lives?”

“Thinking that one might die and being prepared to die are different things.”

“…”

“It seems you don’t quite understand.”

No, his expression hardened because he did understand.

The successors who entered the Five Elements Tomb must have all thought about the possibility of death.

But, truly being prepared for death was different.

Perhaps Namgung Shin was like that. Or Sohwa, who was stabbed instead of Yi-gang in the past.

“Yes, I don’t quite understand.”

“I wished for So-woon to become a man who could face death.”

“Are you talking about sacrifice?”

“I don’t want to simplify it with such a small word. You’ve risked your life to save So-woon several times. And have you achieved what you wished for?”

When he saved So-woon in the All-knowing High Formation and when he saved the successors, and Namgung Shin, inside the Five Elements Tomb.

Had Yi-gang been prepared for death?

No matter how much he thought about it, he didn’t have the special resolve that the Nine Spear King spoke of.

So, Yi-gang spoke sincerely, “I am not the remarkable person you speak of.”

“Hm, how so?”

“I absolutely do not want to die. My life is more important than anything else.”

“Euhaha!”

Despite the blunt statement, the Nine Spear King laughed instead of being dismayed.

“How could someone who values his life so much act without regard for it?”

“…”

“If you yourself are the priority, then you must have had the resolve to risk something so important.”

Perhaps.

Yi-gang never did things halfway, whether it was saving So-woon or gathering the successors in the darkness of the Five Elements Tomb.

Wouldn’t that be shameful to those who owe their lives up to now?

Yi-gang wanted to ask something more.

“So, then…”

“Enough. Answering questions isn’t my nature. My intention in meeting you was to repay the favor of saving my son.”

The Nine Spear King raised his hand to stop Yi-gang’s words.

He didn’t come all this way just to praise Yi-gang.

“Repay, you say?”

“Yes, as recompense for saving the child of So Jin-gong. Tell me, I will grant you anything.”

“You needn’t do that.”

At this, the previously benevolent demeanor of the Nine Spear King changed dramatically.

He widened his eyes and spoke in a growling tone, “Do not refuse. If you understand the weight of my name, you wouldn’t make such a pitiful choice.”

“…”

Refusing the offer seemed almost like incurring his wrath.

Yet, nothing specific came to mind.

Asking for a medicine of immortality felt inappropriate, and requesting money seemed trivial.

Fortunately, the Nine Spear King didn’t seem to expect an answer right away.

“I will return in three days. Think about it until then.”

“…Yes.”

As soon as Yi-gang responded, the Nine Spear King mounted his horse.

His subordinates, truly as if they were soldiers, escorted the Nine Spear King away.

So-woon bowed several times in farewell before following his father.

Watching them leave, Yi-gang murmured to himself, ‘A tough person, indeed. Are all masters like that?’

Normally, there should have been some response, but none came.

It was then Yi-gang realized that the Blue-Eyed Mad Demon was with Namgung Shin.

‘Should I go see them?’

With that thought, Yi-gang headed towards the medical hall. He wondered if Namgung Shin might have made some progress by now.

After killing Namgung Yu-baek, the Blue-Eyed Mad Demon, who had become depressed, might have regained some of her spirit.

When Yi-gang arrived at the front of the medical hall, he happened to run into Moyong Jin coming out.

“Oh!”

“…Brother.”

Moyong Jin’s face was pale to the point of causing concern.

Yi-gang’s expression also hardened.

“What happened?”

“That… Namgung Shin.”

Moyong Jin had harbored an obsession with Namgung Shin that bordered on hatred.

But that obsession disappeared after the Five Elements Tomb incident.

When Namgung Shin was on the brink of death, Moyong Jin’s face had turned as white as it was now.

“Why, has he awakened?”

“No… he seems like he’s going to die soon.”

Yi-gang stopped dead in his tracks.

About to die soon, the reason was unclear.

Wasn’t his body stabilized after receiving Namgung Yu-baek’s Blue Eye Gem?

“The physician is looking after him, but there has been no improvement, and it seems to be the end.”

“I’ll go see him.”

Yi-gang strode into the interior of the medical hall.

Moyong Jin followed behind him.

It was clear where Namgung Shin was without asking.

Because Namgung Yeo-sang was kneeling and sitting in front of him. Moyong Tak was beside her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder.

“Yeo-sang, calm down.”

“If Shin dies…”

Namgung Yeo-sang was one of the few survivors of the fallen Namgung Clan.

With the existing power holders being displaced by the Murim Alliance, their clan was to be reestablished around Namgung Yeo-sang and Namgung Shin.

Namgung Shin would likely become the Clan Head.

“Look at me, Yeo-sang.”

Moyong Tak’s face bore a long scar.

Yet, it did not look ugly at all.

It seemed there had been some bad blood between him and Namgung Yeo-sang. However, their interaction and address to each other appeared quite close.

There seemed to have been a change in their relationship.

“Yeo-sang, you need to stay strong, then Shin, that child, will also regain his strength.”

“…”

Namgung Yeo-sang dropped her head, shedding tears.

Yi-gang exchanged greetings with them.

Moyong Tak gave a bitter smile and patted Yi-gang’s shoulder.

Then, the sliding doors opened, and a physician emerged, sweating profusely.

“…I have tried everything within my capacity as a physician.”

Everyone looked at the physician.

“It seems unlikely he will make it through today.”

“Why?”

Yi-gang immediately asked for the reason.

“Frankly, it’s a miracle he’s still alive at all. It’s like there’s a crack in his body’s vessel. His vital energy continues to deplete. We’ve tried various medicines, but…”

Vital energy referred to Innate True Qi.

If Innate True Qi was depleted, a person died. Saying that the vessel has broken means the middle dantian has shattered.

Then, truly, not even a great immortal could save him.

Yi-gang was silent for a moment before speaking, “Just a moment, I’ll go in alone.”

No one stopped Yi-gang.

Opening the sliding doors and entering the room, the scent of medicinal herbs was overwhelming. Mixed in was the acrid smell of death.

Namgung Shin, lying under a cotton blanket, had a face as pale as a corpse.

Beside his pillow was a bronze fox figurine.

And next to it, the spirit of the Blue-Eyed Mad Demon, with its knees hugged to its chest, looked up at Yi-gang.

「I thought he would survive…」

‘What happened?’

Such a gloomy voice was something Yi-gang was hearing for the first time.

「It was me who killed him. Because of my Blue Eye Gem, his body was already ruined.」

‘Wasn’t Namgung Yu-baek the one who saved him?’

「I thought he would survive. But that bastard’s Blue Eye Gem’s energy had already weakened. It was too faint to save this child, not enough yokai energy.」

‘I see.’

「The fool… living so old only to end like this…」

Life didn’t always go as one wished.

Despite severing ties with life, the tangled problems remained unresolved.

Yi-gang sat beside the Blue-Eyed Mad Demon.

Silence passed for a moment.

He couldn’t help but recall the face of Namgung Shin, confessing at the end that he truly wanted to live.

The Blue-Eyed Mad Demon cautiously opened her mouth, 「Can I ask you for one favor?」

‘No.’

Reflexively, Yi-gang answered.

He didn’t know what the Blue-Eyed Mad Demon was going to say, but he felt uneasy anyway.

「I can’t let this child die too. Because of me, all my other family members are dead.」

‘It’s not my concern. I promised to take you to the Kunlun Mountains.’

Namgung Shin’s breathing was so faint it could hardly be heard if one wasn’t listening closely.

「I promise. The Heavenly Thunder White-Tailed Fox will cure your meridian blockage. That’s certain, regardless of my request.」

She spoke with a gentle smile, as if trying to entice Yi-gang.

However, Yi-gang felt the sorrow hidden behind her voice.

Did she take his silence as a sign of her persuasion being successful? She then said something unexpected.

「It was a secret. In truth, whether I become a yokai or not, it has no bearing on healing your body.」

‘…What do you mean?’

「You know that the spiritual energy or yokai energy I possess is insufficient to heal your body, right?」

Yi-gang nodded.

Unlike the Immortal Divine Sword, the Blue-Eyed Mad Demon did not have enough spiritual energy to mend Yi-gang’s major meridian.

That’s why she intended to take the Blue Eye Gem to the Heavenly Thunder White-Tailed Fox to fulfill her wish and, in return, have them heal Yi-gang’s body.

「Regardless of me, just taking the Blue Eye Gem, those yokai will grant your request.」

“What exactly is the Blue Eye Gem…”

「It’s a token. A token given by them to my ancestor who married a Heavenly Thunder White-Tailed Fox in ancient times.」

It meant that the Blue Eye Gem was more important than Namgung Seo-ryeon, the person herself.

Yi-gang kept his mouth shut and listened to what she had to say next.

「So, I don’t need to become a yokai.」

‘But you wanted to become one.’

「I’d rather save this child.」

She was willing to give up what she had long desired.

「I will give you everything I have. Spiritual energy, yokai energy. So…」

Yokai energy was no trivial matter. Even if it’s not enough to mend the major meridian, it’s equivalent to all the achievements of a Supreme Peak master born with the blood of a great yokai.

Above all, it’s the power that allowed her to remain in the form of a spirit, like fuel.

「With it, repair this child’s vessel, and the rest you can take all for yourself. Then go to the Kunlun Mountains to heal your body…」

Yi-gang was unable to respond.

His head felt dizzy.

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