༺ Looking for the Hint (2) ༻
The Golden Nature.
Centuries ago, they were a well-known clan, their descendants were well versed in martial arts, and the clan itself had been host to one of the best markets in the world.
When the first Gate of Demons appeared in the world, the Iron Fist, Yeon Il-Cheon—the Lord of the Golden Nature at the time—played a big part in stopping the monsters.
During that era, the Clan had complete control over the world’s economy, and all of the Zenith in the world were descended from the clan.
Although it seemed like they would continue to hold their top position in the world, their story would end soon after.
The Golden Nature fell in an instant because of a sudden blood disaster.
The blood cult’s leader at the time, the Blood King, caused a disaster that engulfed the world, making it into a bloody mess for a period of time.
Of course, in the end, the Blood King was defeated and the blood disaster was stopped, but in the process, countless clans were destroyed and erased from existence.
The Golden Nature was one of them.
The clan that was known to be the clan of Zeniths was erased without a single trace to be found.
No one knew what exactly the Blood King did or what had happened for them to be erased in such a humiliating fashion.
Not much history was written about this, and people refrained from trying to dig deep into it.
‘How would knowing about a disaster that happened centuries ago help in any way?’
Either way, the main point here was that the Golden Nature had actually managed to leave a trace behind before they were destroyed.
A secret vault.
The Tang Clan had found it in my previous life.
Many expected that the secret vault held a significant value, considering it came from the best clan known during that period of time.
There were fights and arguments about who would get possession of the vault, and in the end, it ended up in the hands of the Gaecheon clan.
They didn’t say much about what the secret vault held inside, but the lord of the clan, who was at the level of peak at the time, suddenly surged into fusion rank.
But what if there was truly nothing in the vault?
‘Then there is nothing in it, I guess.’
I didn’t expect that the vault held nothing, but it was still risky for me to do nothing about it.
I couldn’t even be sure if I could find the vault in the first place, and I only had three days to work with.
I had somehow, thankfully, avoided wasting time at the Military Exhibition, but that still didn’t mean that I had plenty of time to work with.
“…God damn, this place is huge.”
The day before, I made an excuse, saying that I could not dare show up to the event, considering I had caused a big mess.
And I ran away from the place after only leaving a letter for my escorts at midnight.
I told them I would return in approximately three to four days, so they should leave the Tang Clan and go to the town we had previously gone to.
Of course, Muyeon would be devastated after seeing the letter, but I had no choice. We decided that we’d both get into trouble after.
Well, to be precise, I decided that on my own…
After walking and running for two hours, I arrived at the spot where the Golden Nature was previously located, which was in the middle of a mountain.
The location was between the Tang Clan and the Gaecheon Clan, so it was understandable why they would get into conflicts with one another.
It was a small mountain, but to look for the secret vault by myself, it was too big.
“Sigh… I feel like a few days won’t be enough.”
“Right? It’s so huge!”
“I know, isn’t it crazy? How am I supposed to search this area all alone…?”
“I agree! I’m also hungry!”
“Yes… Maybe I should just go back and eat some dumplin-“
I turned to the voice that I knew I shouldn’t have been hearing, and in the direction that I looked, stood Wi Seol-Ah.
She was covered in leaves for some reason.
Wi Seol-Ah tilted her head in confusion as I looked dumbfoundedly at her.
A leaf that was stuck to Wi Seol-Ah’s head fell to the ground following the tilt.
“Why are you hereeee!?”
The mountain echoed with my voice.
* * * *
Dumplings are delicious.
I had always felt that way, even in my previous life. It was cheap but filled with meat on the inside, while the skin of the dumpling was nice and soft.
There was a small version of the dumpling, but I’d always preferred the larger version. It was delicious, whether hot or cold.
It’s delicious when mixed with soup, or when it’s fried.
Oh, what a perfect food it is.
I never once thought in my life that dumplings could be bad.
“Young Master, aren’t you going to eat?”
“…You, how did you follow me here?”
After all the hard work of climbing the mountain, I only ended up in the nearest town.
It was because I felt obligated to feed her because she was saying she was hungry.
My head ached more the more I watched her eat, as well as the dishes stacking.
‘…How many bowls of noodles is this?’
I’m only on my third dumpling right now, but she’s on one, two, three… four…-
‘Let’s just stop.’
I stopped counting because I was afraid of the number.
“When did you start following me?”
Wi Seol-Ah spoke while devouring the food.
“Back then~nom… I saw you~nom…”
“Never mind, you can talk after you finish…”
It looked like her cheeks were going to pop.
How is she holding all that in her mouth?
Wi Seol-Ah finally gulped down all the food.
“I saw the Young Master sneak out in the morning!”
I avoided the sight of the escorts that were active during the morning, and I repeated the process of walking and running for many hours.
I even used my Qion the way here from time to time.
Let’s put aside the fact that I somehow failed to notice her following me…
How the hell did she follow me!?
Even though I am panting on the way here because of my poor stamina…
“Young Master, you looked like you were going to die on the way, but I thought it was funny so I kept watching!”
“…Uh yeah, thanks.”
Even though I had a pathetic amount of Qi and my body wasn’t trained yet,
I was still a martial artist who possessed qi.
It was impossible for an average person like the current Wi Seol-Ah to follow me all the way here.
But then how?
I’d seen Wi Seol-Ah become tired after doing a lot of housework,
And I’d seen Wi Seol-Ah carry heavy things that even men would struggle with,
‘…Wait, maybe that’s abnormal in the first place.’
Has the future Zenith been built differently since her birth?
But even so, this is too strange.
“You really ran here?”
Wi Seol-Ah looked back upon hearing my question.
I followed her gaze, but there was nothing but empty chairs and a table.
“I just followed you!”
Wi Seol-Ah’s response made me massage my temple; I could feel my headache worsening…
How would I send her back?
There was no guarantee that she knew the way back, and even if she arrived back in the Tang Clan, there was no guarantee that our crew would still be there.
But I couldn’t afford to bring her back with my own hands.
It was also dangerous to send her back alone because of her beauty; I feared that something might happen.
Sichuan wasn’t really a peaceful place, after all.
‘Not that I have any right to judge, since I ran away.’
“But why would you follow me here!? It’s dangerous!”
Wi Seol-Ah flinched at my yelling.
“I’m sorry… Young Master, you looked like you were going far away… So I followed you here because I was nervous.”
In all honesty, I was also being pathetic here.
Even with my pathetic amount of qi, I should have noticed Wi Seol-Ah following me.
‘I deserved to get stabbed in the back.’
Did I let my guard down too much since the world was currently at peace?
I thought I had been on guard since I was in Sichuan, but apparently it wasn’t enough.
Haa… What can I do? I don’t have a lot of time.
Can I look for the vault with her? I feel like that would be going too far.
I could barely take care of myself, so could I really bring Wi Seol-Ah with me?
…Maybe I should just go back to the Tang Clan after all? Maybe it will be better if I just go back and tell Muyeon, ‘I coincidentally found some info about the secret vault.’
Though I don’t think he’d believe me…
‘Fuck, what should I do?’
Wi Seol-Ah asked a question while I was engrossed in my thoughts.
“Young Master, why are you here anyways?”
“I’m here to find something.”
“A yummy dumpling?”
“What makes you say dumplings all of a sudden?”
“But the Young Master always eats dumplings.”
“No…? Wait, you’re right.”
I had indeed only been eating dumplings for the past few days.
‘But dumplings are delicious…’
I heaved a deep sigh.
Can I really find the vault in my current situation?
I had heard vague information about the secret vault’s location, but it probably wasn’t accurate information.
“A white maple tree in the middle of summer… What kind of nonsense is that?”
Underneath the white maple tree, the entrance to the secret vault was found.
Those were the words of the Tang Clan at the time. It was honestly nonsensical.
It had been summer when the Tang Clan discovered the vault.
Maple trees were already hard enough to grow in the summer, but on top of that, this one was white?
“Were they not being truthful when giving their information? Or was it edited?”
I would have to assume that it was the latter.
The story was about history’s greatest clan once upon a time, after all, so it was possible for it to be edited so it sounded like a fantasy.
I was the one in trouble for believing that story and coming here in the first place.
‘…Sigh, I’m such an idiot.’
I was tempted to just give up and go back.
Wi Seol-Ah spoke when I was starting to get tired of it all.
“White maple tree?”
“Yeah, white maple tree… I came here to find that.”
It would sound weird to Wi Seol-Ah as well.
Come to think of it, it was just weird that no clans were able to find such a unique sounding tree.
“A maple tree in the summer? Weird, right?”
“Yeah, it was super pretty when I saw it earlier!”
“…Yeah, I agree-“
What did Wi Seol-Ah say just now?
“What did you say just now?”
Wi Seol-Ah looked at me, visibly confused, after I asked her with my own dumbfounded face.
“What’s wrong, Young Master?”
“Uh, you said you saw it. The white maple tree.”
“…W-Where did you see it?”
Wi Seol-Ah tilted her head.
“We were looking at it earlier together!”
“Looking at what…?”
“Me…? With you?”
I went numb, unable to find out why I hadn’t noticed it before.
Wi Seol-Ah was also getting frustrated with me, so she tried to take one of my dumplings, which I slapped her hands away for.
“…You said we saw it together, the tree.”
I asked Wi Seol-Ah who was glowering at me for slapping her hand.
“Do you remember where?”
I asked Wi Seol-Ah, carefully pushing a dish of dumplings towards her.
* * * *
– Chirp chirp
Sunset had passed, and it was now nighttime.
How did it become night time when we only climbed the mountain a few times…?
‘The time passes by unnecessarily fast.’
We were climbing up the mountain, and so far we hadn’t found anything.
No matter how great a martial artist you become, could one really do nothing about time?
Of course, it was a bit greedy of me to say that, considering the fact that I’d literally gone back in time.
I looked at Wi Seol-Ah, who was panting powerfully while following me.
Her clothes were covered in dust and leaves since we’d gone through numerous trees and rocks.
But even then, Wi Seol-Ah still had a bright smile on her face.
“What are you so happy about?”
“It’s always fun to go with you, Young Master!”
Maybe I shouldn’t have asked.
My heart kept trying to act up, so I turned away from her.
Wi Seol-Ah was following me well even though the mountains were rough for the average girl her age.
‘…Her stamina is over the top.’
I guess the bones of the future Zenith are also different.
“A bit more, and we’ll arrive at the spot where we previously went.”
The middle point of the mountain we went to during the day, Wi Seol-Ah said that she had seen the white maple tree here.
Even though all I saw was a cliff with the average trees and rocks.
What did Wi Seol-Ah see here?
As long as it’s worth it, I didn’t mind going through danger during the night.
‘Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be any demons around here.’
It was almost too strange how I felt no presence of demons here.
I didn’t even feel any animals around here.
I only heard the sound of bugs chirping.
Not long after, we arrived at the spot where we had previously been.
Of course, I saw nothing special here.
“Where are you saying it’s at?”
Wi Seol-Ah responded with confusion to my question.
“It’s right there!”
I looked in the direction she was pointing, but there was nothing.
There’s only a cliff there?
“What are you talking about? I only see a cliff.”
I felt like I shouldn’t go there.
I tried to go there to see it closer, but for some reason, my feet didn’t move.
“That’s weird…? It’s really there.”
Wi Seol-Ah, who didn’t seem to feel anything weird about the place, walked towards the cliff without any effort.
“Wait! I told you it’s dangerous!”
Although I screamed, my feet were still not moving.
Why am I acting like this!?
Wi Seol-Ah kept pointing at the empty air.
She was at a dangerous spot where if she moved even a slight step, she would fall.
“…Fuck… Please, move!”
I clenched my teeth and used all of my qi.
Heat emanated from my body as I wrapped myself in fire Qi.
I forced the Qi to flow into the legs that had been refusing to move and felt myself starting to regain control.
The instant I realized this, I ignored my hesitation and ran towards Wi Seol-Ah to hug her.
Wi Seol-Ah was startled, which made her scream, but I didn’t care.
“Are you crazy!? If you fall here, you’re going to die-“
I stopped my words when I was in the middle of scolding her.
Something was strange.
The empty air started to crack.
Little by little, the crack started to form something.
‘A Gate of Demons…!?’
I took out the demonic charm I had brought just in case.
The charm didn’t show any signs of a gate of demons being around.
But back then, it worked properly… So why?
The crack that formed in the air resembled the appearance of the gate of demons.
I got goosebumps at the idea of it actually being a gate of demons.
Because if it was truly a gate, then it was far too late for us to run away.
“I should have just sent her back…”
This was an emergency.
Even if we were lucky and a green gate of demons appeared, I couldn’t protect both myself and Wi Seol-Ah with my current state of power.
Maybe I should just send Wi Seol-Ah away and hold them off by myself? Since I had to act in a hurry, I had to act and not just think.
“It’s dangerous here, so quick-“
“See!? Young Master!”
Wi Seol-Ah was still smiling, even in our current situation.
“I told you I wasn’t lying! See!?”
“What are you saying!? I told you it’s dangerous!”
Wi Seol-Ah didn’t seem to notice my desperation and only pointed in a direction with her finger.
The crack in the air at the end of the cliff widened more and more.
‘What the heck is that?’
The crack, which now looked like a spider’s web, let out a shining light.
I hugged Wi Seol-Ah, protecting her just in case it was dangerous.
Wi Seol-Ah made a suffocating sound.
After about 30 seconds, it seemed like the light had faded out, so I slowly opened my eyes.
“…What the hell?”
I was at a loss for words at the sight.
The area where the cliff was supposed to be was now flat land.
And in the middle of it stood the giant white maple tree that the Tang Clan had mentioned.
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