༺ The Iron Maiden (1) ༻
The road to the Tang Clan was easily one of the most comfortable paths we’d traveled through on our journey.
It was probably well maintained due to the fact that it was a road that led to a town.
Either way, thanks to that, the escorts who always seemed nervous looked to be a bit calmer.
Or maybe they were calmer because we were traveling alongside people from the Namgung Clan.
The point was that the road to the Tang Clan gave us no issues whatsoever.
“So the first time after I ate a yakgwa, the potato I was holding didn’t look appetizing at all.”
“The yakgwa was so good… I feel bad for potatoes, but I think that yakgwa is tastier.”
“Why is a potato a potato?”
While the road gave us no issues, it didn’t mean we couldn’t get trouble from elsewhere. For example;
‘Why is this Namgung Bi-ah lunatic always coming here?’
My head ached every time I looked at her.
‘Why… Why are you always here!?’
There was a blue carriage ready and waiting for her, so why did she insist on traveling with us?
Wi Seol-Ah did nothing to help this matter as she continuously chirped to Namgung Bi-ah… even after I’d specifically told her not to.
‘I need to scold her seriously…’
It was also weird how the other Namgung lunatic suddenly seemed indifferent to everything that was happening.
I had been half-expecting Namgung Cheonjun to follow me around judging by how he had acted towards me up until this point, but instead, he was just sitting quietly in his carriage.
“So he’s fine with things staying like this?”
I could not understand the thought process of these lunatics.
Some time had passed since we left, and the sun was now setting.
I could understand Namgung Bi-ah since she was a martial artist and all, but the fact that Wi Seol-Ah had been tirelessly talking to her through the day thoroughly impressed me—particularly since we still needed to travel a part of the route on foot.
I guess she has been ‘built different’ ever since birth…?
“…Then again, it’d be weird for her to be tired considering how much she ate.”
Wi Seol-Ah was someone who ate a lot but, even if she was going to walk for a little while, it would just burn off everything she just consumed.
I think that she had a truly blessed body.
Meanwhile, I ate less than Wi Seol-Ah, but this stupid hip of mine was already showing signs of fat.
Life is so unfair…
After staring at the sky for a long period of time, someone in the crowd shouted.
“I can see the flag of Tang Clan!”
Just like what he said, I could see the green flag that had the word ‘Tang’ written on it in the distance.
Their numbers looked to be a little less than our currently mixed crew of Gu Clan and Namgung Clan.
As soon as I caught sight of the flag, I began to quickly straighten my clothes.
Sigh, my hair had gotten messed up back when I took a nap.
This is why it’s such a hassle to meet folks from the noble clans…
At least I didn’t have to treat the Namgung Clan this way because of what Namgung Cheonjun and Namgung Bi-ah did, so I was sort of thankful for that.
I prepared to get off the carriage once it slowed down.
When I went out, I saw Namgung Cheonjun already greeting the people of Tang.
“It’s been a while, Cheonjun.”
“I hope you have been well, Brother Tang?”
“Is there something bothering you these days? Your face doesn’t look too well.”
“It’s probably because of the long trip.”
“Right, since you guys came from far away. I honestly didn’t expect for you to come here as well.”
“My sister promised to come here, and I felt nervous about sending her alone.”
“Oh, Lady Bi-ah. Hmm, yeah, that makes sense. I always feel this, but you Namgung siblings always look like you have a good relationship, meanwhile our Soyeol is getting fiercer as the days pass by.”
After sharing a laugh with the person Namgung Cheonjun was speaking to, he then turned around and looked at me.
“Oh, Young Master Gu! Come on over!”
Since when did we get close enough for him to call me with such a smile?
I felt a bit sick at the appearance I saw him display after seeing his true self.
As I went closer to them, I could clearly see the face of the man that was talking to Namgung Cheonjun.
The man looked to be around 30 years of age, and had a rather innocent-looking face, despite the fact that he had the blood of Tang.
He was the Young Lord of Tang Clan, Tang Jooyeok.
I didn’t know what his current title was, but in my past life he had been called the Poison Lord when the Demonic Cult appeared.
Tang Jooyeok looked at me and came towards me with calm steps to greet me.
“So you are the Young Master from the Gu Clan. I heard that people from the Gu Clan was also coming to our clan. Thank you for coming all the way here. I am Tang Jooyeok.”
I was able to get a grasp on his character because he was being courteous to me, even though I was much younger than him.
I showed respect back to him.
“I am Gu’s-“
I was about to introduce myself, but I quickly remembered that I had told these Namgung guys that I was Gu Jeolyub.
Why did I do that?
This Gu Jeolyub kid never helps, I never liked him, ever since the first time I met him.
“I came here in place of the Lord of Gu Clan. He told me to tell you that he apologizes for not being able to participate in the event.”
I tried to make up a fake excuse.
Thankfully, Tang Jooyeok didn’t seem to care and had a smile on his face.
“It’s understandable considering Lord Gu is busy with his work. It’s only a small festival for the Tang Clan, so we are thankful that you came here.”
When the bullshittery greeting was about to end, Namgung Bi-ah reached us.
She slightly bowed her head to Tang Jooyeok and greeted him.
“It’s been a while, Bi-ah.”
“Bi-ah becomes prettier as days pass by, I couldn’t tell it was you.”
“Oh right, our Soyeol caused you trouble, right? I’m sorry about that. The kid still hasn’t matured yet and caused trouble for you.”
“No it’s all good… It was a promise.”
“Thank you for understanding. Soyeol seemed to have been waiting for a while. Cheonjun and Young Master Gu as well, you should start going before it becomes nighttime; we will guide you.”
Finally… I was able to finish this long trip and arrive at the Tang Clan of Sichuan.
It would have been a nicer trip if Namgung Bi-ah, who was always next to me, and that Namgung Cheonjun, who continued to give me a death stare, didn’t behave in this manner for seemingly no reason…
‘Sigh… I just want a dumpling.’
What a shitty experience this trip turned out to be.
* * * *
The Tang Clan of Sichuan.
A noble clan that had spread their name throughout Sichuan, known to possess the most knowledge in the field of poison and blacksmithing.
‘Sword Art’ for the Namgung clan,
‘Spirit’ for the Peng clan,
And ‘Keen Eye’ for the Moyong clan.
Compared to the other mentioned clans, the Tang Clan was probably a step behind, but they had something great that the other three clans didn’t.
The Military Exhibition of Tang Clan was created for that reason as well.
Their martial art was famous for the use of poison, but their skills in the forge were also incomparable to others.
The weapons crafted by the clan’s greatest blacksmiths were widely regarded as masterpieces and works of art.
The Tang clan was responsible for making most of the weapons that the Murim Alliance utilized, and they were particularly respected as they had forged the Sword Emperor’s weapon.
Many clans would gladly line up for a chance to receive weapons made by the Tang clan.
“It’s just that they don’t hand out these weapons lightly.”
I don’t know whether it was because of their noble name or not, but they didn’t give their weapons easily to outsiders.
Even if they were offered money. Then again, it’s not like they were lacking in money anyway.
Anyways, the Military Exhibition of Tang Clan basically existed to brag to others about their weapons, which had reached near perfection.
My guess on why they were holding this exhibit was something along the lines of:
“We are great at crafting weapons. If you treat us nicely, then we can offer you these weapons.”
Well, something like that.
I did hear something about the Tang Clan giving out one of the weapons in the Military Exhibition of Tang Clan,
But it wasn’t something I cared about. Of course, if I were to get it, I could sell it for a high price.
I didn’t know what intentions the Tang Clan had for them to show off their weapons, but that wasn’t what I came here for in the first place.
‘I have to be ready to find the secret vault.’
I couldn’t forget the real reason why I’d come here: Geumyeonchun, and their secret vault.
Three days after the Military Exhibition of Tang—I only had three days. And the only info I had on the secret vault was a vague location of it.
And even that information wasn’t something I wasn’t entirely sure about.
If I didn’t find the secret vault in the three days I had, I would need to go to Beggar’s Sect and spread the information about the Golden Nature Clan’s secret vault.
“What are you thinking about so deeply, Young Master?”
Wi Seol-Ah spoke to me when she saw me struggling with my thoughts.
With Tang Jooyeok’s guidance, I finally arrived at the Tang clan of Sichuan.
I had come here in my previous life as well, but seeing the clan again after only having a faint memory of it was astounding.
The Tang clan looked to be bigger than the Heaven market I had gone to for the Nine Dragons Ceremony.
‘When all is said and done, they are indeed a noble clan.’
The roots of the Orthodox factions were different, even in size.
After arriving and unpacking my belongings, I planned to take a look around the place.
They didn’t tell me not to wander around, so I felt like I could at least do that much.
I told them that I was going for a walk, and with Wi Seol-Ah quickly tagging along, we went for the walk together.
After following the road for a while, a forest filled with trees appeared. How big does a clan have to be for it to have a forest within it?
Crick, crick. With each step, I heard the sound of crickets.
I moved my steps after the sound of the crickets which filled up the forest, and when I noticed some fireflies along the way, I realized that it would soon be summer.
After walking for a bit, I ran into an artificial lake. It wasn’t a large lake and instead seemed to have been intricately designed—the delicate decorations were something that even I had to applaud.
The sight of fireflies hovering above the lake as well as the lotus flower floating on its surface made for an undeniably beautiful sight.
When even someone like me could appreciate its beauty, Wi Seol-Ah was understandably mesmerized by the lake before her. A large smile adorned her face as she looked on with glittering eyes.
I wondered if I should pat her head at that moment.
I didn’t, in the end.
“It’s so pretty, Young Master!”
Wi Seol-Ah started following the fireflies, dancing with them. At that sight, I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand.
Sometimes, I would look for signs of the Wi Seol-Ah I knew in my previous life.
The Wi Seol-Ah now didn’t have her moonlight hair, nor did she have her sharp cold eyes.
She instead had black hair that resembled the sky at night, and a face that was always brimming with joy.
She was so different from the girl from my previous life.
‘So, why am I always looking for that Wi Seol-Ah in the current Wi Seol-Ah?’
I smirked at the thought I had.
“Why am I even thinking about this? It’s just a passing thought.”
“It’s nothing; let’s start going back, it’s almost bedtime.”
We’d spent enough time admiring the scenery.
Just as I turned around, already envisioning the good night’s sleep I would finally be able to enjoy after arriving at the clan…
“Who are you?”
A sharp voice pierced through my ears.
I turned towards the direction the voice had come from and saw Namgung Bi-ah looking at me with an astonished expression and someone else standing alongside her.
The mysterious newcomer was the owner of the voice. And she soon spoke to me once again.
“This is a place outsiders aren’t allowed to enter. Who are you?”
As the moonlight beamed upon her, I was able to see her face.
Then I recalled exactly who this woman was.
The green eyes that were blatantly noticeable even at night time were already a dead giveaway.
The Poison Queen, Tang Soyeol.
She was the first person in history to be immune to any kind of poison.
She was the ‘Iron Maiden’ who fought against thousands of demons that would appear in Sichuan in the near future, all by herself.
In my past life, she was one of the people who I’d personally killed with my own hands.
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