༺ Nice to Meet You, Kid (1) ༻
The first day of the tournament had come to a close, and the sun was already setting beyond the horizon.
Despite most of them being quite likely to be exhausted and hungry, the crowd didn’t stop cheering.
After a long time, the last duel of the day finally ended, and the last person still standing in the arena was a man named Yung Sung.
I had seen this man before with Yung Pung.
I heard that he was one of the best third-generation students, one of the most skilled among his peers, excluding Yung Pung.
After her initial win, Gu Ryunghwa did not go further in the tournament.
Her victory was achieved due to her opponent letting his guard down, and although Gu Ryunghwa showed a sudden and explosive spurt of strength, she still had clear limits to her strength.
Despite losing, however, she looked somewhat refreshed when coming down from the stage after the fight.
It seemed that, despite her loss, she gained even more from this experience.
“That second-generation girl from earlier…”
“Oh, yeah, that pretty girl…”
“This is the first time I’ve seen her. What was her name again?”
The crowd began to develop an interest in Gu Ryunghwa, which was understandable, given the insanely impressive movements she had shown despite her small stature.
After the last duel, the two fighters on the stage paid respect to each other, their heads lowered, and other disciples came up the stage to clean things up.
The spectators began to take their leave since Mount Hua was located at such an altitude that it would be dangerous for them to walk back home at night.
Wi Seol-Ah lifted up Namgung Bi-ah, who was half-asleep, having been defeated by boredom, and I walked toward the people cleaning up the arena.
The reason for that was because I noticed a familiar face.
“Master Yung Pung.”
“Oh, Young Master Gu…?”
The man working hard along with other students was none other than Yung Pung.
For me to witness the Sword Dragon cleaning some chairs… This world really is a mysterious place.
Yung Pung looked at me, the corners of his mouth curling into a bright smile.
“Oh, were you watching the tournament?”
“Yeah, I somehow ended up watching the entire thing.”
It was somewhat outside of my control.
I was planning to leave after I had seen Gu Ryunghwa get eliminated, but Wi Seol-Ah begged that we leave after watching a bit more.
Subsequently, Namgung Bi-ah fell asleep, which was how I ended up in this cumbersome situation.
As I chatted with Yung Pung, the young man suddenly jerked as a sudden thought sprang into his mind.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Young Master.”
“Huh? Sorry for what?”
“I don’t think I can do night training with you today as I have to go to bed early…”
“I never suggested that, though…?”
What was he even thinking, and what’s even worse, did I just get rejected? By this guy?
Strangely enough, I felt a bit offended by that.
“Then what brought you here…?”
Hearing Yung Pung’s question, I put on a serious face.
Clearly, I wanted to talk to him about something important. Seeing the change in my expression, Yung Pung also donned a somber expression.
Careful not to be overheard, I whispered into Yung Pung’s ear,
“Can I get the name of that suc— the person that fought my sister?”
Yung Pung frowned after hearing my question.
He was looking at me as if I were a lunatic.
* * * *
Around 1 AM at night.
Most people were asleep around this time.
Namgung Bi-ah had most likely fallen asleep as soon as we got here, as she had already been tired during the tournament, and it was the same for the Sword Emperor and Wi Seol-Ah.
Taking advantage of that, I snuck out and took a look around. There were some escorts on a night watch, but thankfully, Muyeon wasn’t among them.
That was my reason for choosing such a late hour, and luckily, it worked out.
I hid myself as best as I could and looked around. After I made sure it was safe, I jumped over the wall.
Even if I was caught, I could still use the excuse that I was out because I wanted to go for a walk, but ultimately, I didn’t need to; no one noticed me.
I may have gotten better, but still, I didn’t expect my night stroll to go this smoothly…
‘I should tell Muyeon to scold them later.’
Were they just being careless because they were at the Mount Hua Sect right now?
Whatever it was, it allowed me to sneak out in the end.
I used my Qi to go down the mountain swiftly.
If I didn’t want to run into any problems, I had to come back before the early hours of the morning. Therefore, I had to be quick.
‘I heard it was the west forest.’
I had briefly heard about its location, but it wasn’t like I had a map, so I remained vigilant of my surroundings.
I was going to one of the Black Palace’s hideouts that the Mount Hua Sect had taken over. To be more specific, I was going to the place Ya Hyeoljeok lived in.
Originally, I had wanted to go there after watching Gu Ryunghwa’s duel, but since my plans were delayed, I decided to do it under the cover of the night.
‘I’m glad Yung Pung knew about this place.’
This was also the reason I approached Yung Pung after the tournament.
I was merely jesting when I asked him about the disciple who had fought Gu Ryunghwa.
‘Yung Jin, if I remember correctly.’
I clearly remembered his name.
And that stupid face of his.
If Yung Pung couldn’t tell me because it was the affairs of his sect, then I was planning to approach either the Beggars Sect or the Hao Clan to get this information.
Nonetheless, after his initial shock, Yung Pung gave me the answer right away.
He responded so quickly, in fact, that it made me wonder why he didn’t ask why I was curious about this information.
– Since you’re the one asking, you must have a good reason.
Just thinking about it made me smirk.
What made him trust me so much?
I felt almost bothered by his faith in me.
Recently, I’ve been noticing more and more people trusting me. While I knew it was not a bad thing, I still couldn’t help but have some doubts.
‘Is it because I’m just not used to this?’
It might be the case, since I had never experienced such things in my past life, and I still couldn’t get used to this feeling.
After running in the direction Yung Pung had told me about, I stopped.
He didn’t tell me the exact location, so I had to use my Qi to find it.
‘I assume this place is under the Murim Alliance’s jurisdiction now.’
Mount Hua Sect served under the Murim Alliance, and despite being the first to find that place and its traces, the Murim Alliance swiftly took over jurisdiction of this matter.
“I hope that they are done with their search…”
I assumed they would have been done searching and should’ve begun cleaning up by now.
If that wasn’t the case, it would be for the best if I just returned instead of trying to force the issue, as it was already a gamble for me to come there in the first place.
I ran for a long time before finally reaching my destination.
I noticed a large cave covered in leaves. Not only was the area remote – hardly anyone ever walked there – but since it was also covered by a lot of trees, it was also not easy to find amid the darkness of night.
‘They also set up locational magic around it, which made it even harder.’
No one would be able to find this place solely by relying on Yung Pung’s brief instructions.
Except for me, of course.
‘It’s slight, but there’s still some traces left over.’
I was able to feel a hint of Demonic Qi coming from the cave.
This strand of Qi was all I needed, so even if it was hidden very well, it wasn’t particularly hard for me.
‘Did everyone from the Murim Alliance leave?’
I searched around the area with Qi, but I felt no other presence.
Remaining careful and alert, I walked into the cave.
The cave was filled with darkness and ominous sounds. I summoned flames in my hands so that it could give me some much-needed light in this dark abode.
As I walked further into the cave, I realized that it was much bigger and deeper than I expected.
I spent a lot of time walking through it.
Following a path, I finally found an open area.
It wasn’t particularly big, as it was still within the cave.
‘This was their branch office?’
I couldn’t understand, even when seeing it with my own eyes. It looked way too lacking for this to be used as a branch office.
Despite Mount Hua Sect and the Murim Alliance cleaning up the whole place, I could still see some traces of its denizens left over.
Not only did this place look lacking, but it looked as if they purposely made it so that it looked like there was nothing there.
‘What purpose did they have in staying at a place like this?’
When I walked around a little more, I ended up in a chamber that was slightly bigger than others— the only area big enough for humans to stand upright thus far.
Judging by the gigantic chair that was leaning against the wall, it seemed to be Ya Hyeoljeok’s room.
‘It’s honestly strange to call this a room too.’
There were no vestiges of it left. Did they take everything that could be considered a trace?
This place was also empty, just like the others. As I was about to conclude that it might be better to get help from the Beggars Sect or the Hao Clan—
I stopped in my tracks when I caught a whiff of a certain stench— the metallic stench of blood was still lingering in the air.
The stench was so dense that it felt almost weird.
The smell is bad enough to make me feel sick, yet the Murim Alliance just left a place like this without any guards?
I stepped back after I felt an ominous sensation that gave me chills down to my very bones.
It was then that I realized…
‘This isn’t just any smell.’
Neither was it a stench or anything of the sort. It was closer to Qi.
Then I was able to realize.
Where? Where is this Qi coming from?
‘And despite this being some sort of energy, why didn’t the other people notice this?’
After all, had they noticed, they wouldn’t have left this place.
‘Where is this coming from?’
I conjured up a bigger flame in my hand to light up the room even more. As expected, the room only had one way out, which was the entrance I had used, and the rest was surrounded by walls of stone.
The Qi I was feeling was certainly coming from one of the walls, though…
Is it locational magic?
Despite thinking that, I knew that was incorrect, as I couldn’t feel anything from it even when I focused.
‘Is it some sort of contraption?’
I had my doubts that they would invest that much into a mere branch, and I didn’t believe that the Black Palace had the necessary skills to do so.
However, if they really had some sort of relationship with the Demonic Cult, their actions wouldn’t be that hard to believe.
I touched the wall of the cave, thinking that there would be some traces of the device left.
‘I’m not a professional when it comes to things like this, but considering this place belonged to Ya Hyeoljeok…’
The device wouldn’t be hard to solve, as he wasn’t the type to use his head.
Still, all of this was purely my speculation.
I walked away from the wall and started to look around the chair.
This spot also doesn’t look that strange…
– Tap, tap.
I felt some sort of sensation underneath the chair’s armrest.
The difference between it and the right arm was very slight, but something was definitely added to it.
I pressed on the bump and easily pushed it into the insides of the arm.
Contrary to my expectations, the room didn’t change at all; nothing seemed to have happened.
There was no way the search team wouldn’t have found it, considering its location.
Thinking the chair wasn’t it, I was about to go look elsewhere, but a sudden thought struck me and stopped me in my tracks.
Just in case…
I circulated the little strand of Demonic Qi that was inside my body.
I had to circulate it separately from the other types of Qi because they couldn’t be mixed with one another.
I felt the demonic Qi that was sleeping in my body react ever so slightly.
Subsequently, I once again pressed the button under the armrest.
– Creak… Creeeaaak…!
The thing I had hoped would be wrong turned out to be right.
I now understood why the Murim Alliance and the Mount Hua Sect hadn’t been able to find this.
The devices that were built by the Ferocious Beast were to be used by future branches of the Demonic Cult.
The chair I had found was the same and could only be activated by injecting it with a hint of Demonic Qi.
Along with the sound that echoed throughout the cave, dust spread everywhere as the walls began to shake.
Soon, the wall behind the chair opened up to reveal a huge door.
The disgusting stench of blood I had smelled earlier promptly followed…
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