༺ Looking for the Hint (5) ༻
— Before Macheol followed Gu Yangcheon to the secret vault.
Namgung Cheonjun, the Lightning Dragon, was currently screaming in rage, his hair disheveled, and one of his arms wrapped up in a bandage.
Every time Namgung Cheonjun screamed, items close to him would break, and his servants would subsequently flinch in fear.
He had been raging ever since the moment he woke up.
“That piece of shit… He definitely used some sort of magic!”
That Gu Cheonyub or Gu Jeolyub motherfucker—whatever his name was.
There was no other way to explain his current situation.
Only the main family members had been invited to the Tang’s Military Exhibition.
If main family members weren’t available, then they didn’t need to come at all.
There was no way proxies could be sent in place of direct descendants.
Those were the rules set by the Tang Clan.
The Gu clan was the clan of the Tiger Warrior and the Sword Phoenix.
Namgung Cheonjun had heard that the Gu Clan had a son, so the Gu fucker had to be him.
Namgung Cheonjun gritted his teeth.
What kind of magic did he use?
At first, I just didn’t like him.
I didn’t like how he’d traveled alongside my sister, and I didn’t like how he got attention from her either.
And I hated how that kid had dared to look down at me.
A kid that came from the same bloodline as the Tiger Warrior and the Sword Phoenix had nothing to show for it aside from a pathetic amount of Qi.
That was why he’d just wanted to play with him a little.
To make him realize where he stood.
Did I let my guard down? I’d thought that I wouldn’t have to be serious against a kid like him.
That was why I let my guard down.
But that still didn’t mean that I could lose.
He couldn’t believe he ended up like this.
He couldn’t hold in my anger.
Namgung Cheonjun assured himself;
“It’s definitely some sort of magic…”
What kind of magic? And how did he use it?
None of that mattered to him.
Even if it wasn’t magic, I will make it look like it was magic.
His crotch, which was still in pain, only worsened Namgung Cheonjun’s anger.
“Yes, Young Master.”
Macheol knew what he had to do the instant Namgung Cheonjun called him.
With the way he’d been called, he already knew what he would task him with.
It was an order that he had gotten hundreds of times already, so it wouldn’t be any different now.
Namgung Cheonjun asked.
“What is your plan?”
A short but meaningful question.
And one Macheol couldn’t easily answer.
They weren’t in a good situation.
The escorts from the Gu Clan were quite skillful.
And one of them looked especially skilled; Macheol assumed that he was the direct escort.
He seemed like someone who wouldn’t fall short even when compared to Namgung Cheonjun, the Lightning Dragon himself.
Macheol wondered how a martial artist of his caliber hadn’t spread his name to the world yet.
Then again, the Gu Clan had always been a secretive one.
If I had to compare him to someone like me who has already reached the peak level, I would probably lose 20 times out of 100 if we fought.
And to get rid of Gu Yangcheon after going through all those guards? It was pretty much an impossible mission.
Namgung Cheonjun didn’t know or care about any of that, however, and was pressuring
Macheol to answer.
Macheol knew his master well; he was one who would usually keep his mature facade outside, but if things didn’t go his way, he would reveal his spoilt, childish appearance.
Just like right now.
Macheol felt a strange feeling of suffocation as his master’s mood worsened.
It was because of the brace around his chest, one that every martial artist got once they signed up to work for the Namgung Clan.
It was the price they had to pay in order to obtain martial skills under the name of Namgung. It was how they showed their loyalty.
And it was one of the reasons why Macheol was working as the direct escort of Namgung Cheonjun even though he was at the level of a peak martial artist.
As the feeling of tightening and the pain it brought gradually worsened, Macheol was forced to answer.
“…I will look for him.”
The tightening stopped instantly.
Namgung Cheonjun smiled ominously at Macheol’s response.
Then he tapped Macheol’s shoulder.
“I’ve always believed in you, and I believe that you will once again bring me good news.”
“…Yes My Lord.”
This isn’t good.
Macheol thought to himself as he set out to accomplish his master’s goal.
He had answered that he would do it, but was it even possible?
While Macheol nervously wondered, he was given a chance.
The target he had been secretly inspecting suddenly left the Tang Clan by himself.
Before Macheol became an escort, he had been a martial artist experienced in the ways of the assassin, so he was quite confident in his abilities.
All he had to do was get rid of one young kid.
But why is he traveling all by himself at this time?
That was Macheol’s biggest question.
Perhaps this is a trap?
But then who or what was this trap for?
The only presence Macheol felt was that of the son of the Gu Clan—Gu Yangcheon himself.
Why was the kid running even when he was so out of breath during such a late hour at night?
Where was he headed?
Macheol decided to watch for a little longer.
It was an easy assassination that he could achieve at any time he wanted, so he decided to watch for a little longer and sate his curiosity.
Then the place he’d arrived at after two hours of walking and running was a cliff that was some distance from the Tang Clan.
This is the end.
There was nothing here, even though he had made so much effort to come all the way here.
A place like this…
It was a good place for kidnapping.
Macheol knew his master well, and knew that he would prefer that to straight up illing him.
Since he is all alone, I guess I will-
“Why are you hereeee!?”
Just as Macheol prepared to make his move, he stopped at the boy’s yelling.
In front of the boy stood some girl.
He had been on guard throughout the journey here and had never felt a presence asides that of the boy.
Another pursuer? But I still should have noticed.
Especially when it was such a seemingly average girl
Regardless of her presence, however, there was still a chance to easily get rid of him. After all,
Even though he had the skills to beat my master, the son of Gu is at most a first-rate martial artist.
And adding that servant-looking girl wouldn’t have meant anything.
But even then, for some reason, Macheol found that he couldn’t initiate his plan.
It was strange.
His instincts were preventing him from doing anything.
The two eventually made their way down to a restaurant.
Macheol overheard their conversation while they were enjoying their meal.
It seemed like the Gu boy was looking for a white maple tree.
A white maple tree in the middle of summer… What could that possibly mean?
Then suddenly, the girl looked behind her while she was eating.
Macheol flinched because of that.
Was it just my imagination?
It was a very slight instance, but Macheol felt like the girl had glanced at him.
It has to be my imagination…
Just like he’d done with Gu Yangcheon, Macheol observed the girl’s body; she was an average girl with no qi.
It was just a coincidence.
That was what Macheol had thought, so he ignored the strange feeling that had given him goosebumps.
The girl told the Gu boy that she had seen the tree he was looking for.
He then asked,
“Do you remember where?”
It seemed like they had found what it was that they were looking for.
After that, Macheol couldn’t believe his eyes.
The tree they discovered after climbing the mountain at night, the staircase that led down, and the moonlight marbles installed on the wall.
And, of course, the mysterious secret vault.
Macheol couldn’t understand what exactly was going on. It had all happened too suddenly for him to process.
He didn’t know why the Gu boy knew all about this, but in the end,
I must thank him for delivering all of this to me.
Everything would go into his master’s hands, but at least Macheol would get a good pay thanks to this.
Nothing that happened after that made sense.
Macheol used his Qi to stop the blood from escaping him after his shoulder was cleanly cut off. Well, he attempted to.
The bleeding isn’t stopping…
He couldn’t control his blood even with his peak level qi.
The blood continued to escape his body as if there was a hole that he couldn’t block.
When? And how?
Macheol couldn’t understand how she had been able to strike such a blow with such a small dagger.
He hadn’t even gotten a glimpse of how the girl had swung her dagger.
This is dangerous; I need to run.
“You’re going somewhere?”
The voice that stabbed into Macheol’s heart made his eyes shake in fear.
Then he slowly lifted his head.
The shadow that was visible in front of him made it hard for Macheol to breathe.
“I gave you many chances.”
Said the girl.
Then Macheol’s shoulder was heavily pressed down.
The black hair was all but gone, replaced by resplendent golden hair.
What… in the world…?
“You didn’t get the message the first time, so I even helped your instincts become more sensitive so that you would realize that you should back out.”
What is she?
The overpowering presence that was easily pressuring down a martial artist at the peak level.
How do I even describe this?
Macheol didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand.
The only thing that he could understand and be sure of, was that the aura the girl was releasing was not Qi.
But then, what is it?
“You should’ve just run away.”
Macheol struggled to breathe but managed to gasp out a question.
“Who are you?”
“A person you don’t need to know.”
“If you knew the whole time that I was following you, why did you leave me alone?”
“I never left you alone. I was just being kind.”
At that point, it all clicked. The strange feeling he had been getting throughout the time he had spent following them… It was all a result of this girl.
“How come a person like you…”
Macheol bit down on his lips.
The ultimate enlightenment of a martial artist: eternal youth.
Perhaps the one standing in front of him had already reached that status.
But then how come she was just acting as the direct servant of that boy?
The girl spoke.
“I won’t be answering any more questions… I don’t really have that much time, you see.”
I would still like to pat him a bit more.
The girl responded with a small voice.
“I was being generous with you because this is the first time that this body will kill someone.”
“…What are you talking about?”
Macheol had been certain after her first strike—deadly and without hesitation—that she had killed many people. But she was saying that she’d never killed anyone? That was impossible.
The girl continued to speak, ignoring Macheol’s thoughts.
“I at least wanted to let you decide, but it had to be this way. Sorry.”
A sudden apology, but Macheol felt like the apology wasn’t directed at him.
How can I get out of here alive?
He racked his brains, but the girl’s steps were faster.
He had already erased the thought of fighting back.
He had to run away.
While the girl was speaking to herself, he collected all of the Qi he had left in his body.
The sudden usage of Qi would ruin his body, but now was not the time to worry about that.
I just have to run away.
And then explain everything that had just happened.
Macheol turned around and explosively sprinted away, planning to burn all of his Qi to ensure that he made it to the Tang Clan.
But something was strange.
His line of sight, which should have been focused on the exit, was now facing the floor, and no amount of effort allowed his gaze to rise.
Instead, the view of the ground seemed to get bigger and bigger…
Those were Macheol’s last thoughts.
The head of a peak martial artist from the Namgung Clan rolled across the earth.
A single strike from Wi Seol-Ah had killed him.
Following Macheol’s death, Wi Seol-Ah—expressionless—sheathed her dagger and waved her hand, Macheol’s body catching on fire the instant the wave was completed.
Some time later, nothing remained of Macheol; not a single trace of him was left—it was as if he’d never existed.
– …Please… Please give it back now!
A voice reached Wi Seol-Ah’s ears, and a small smile appeared on her face after it.
“Sorry, can you watch for a little longer?”
– But it’s my body…
“Yes, it is yours… and it will be for the rest of your time.”
Wi Seol-Ah then walked over to the still-asleep Gu Yangcheon—it seemed like nothing that had transpired had managed to pierce the veil of his deep slumber—and started to pat his head once again.
“…I’ll give it back for real now. I think I’m satisfied with this.”
Bitterness oozed from her words.
That was what Wi Seol-Ah felt every time.
They say that nothing hurts more than regretting something that has happened after it’s too late.
They were right.
Wi Seol-Ah poked Gu Yangcheon’s cheek and smiled.
And retracted her hand immediately after the unhappy voice.
– You’re leaving now?
Even though no visible trace of the snake remained, it seemed its spirit still hadn’t completely dissipated.
“Yes, I need some sleep. I went a bit too far.”
How long would it be until she could resurface? It would take a very long time.
– You… Do you know what you are?
Wi Seol-Ah smiled upon hearing the snake’s question.
“Yeah, a little.”
Wi Seol-Ah knew a bit about herself, but she’d found out that little, too late.
– It’ll be quite the arduous task.
– I see… I wish you good luck in your future endeavors.
“…Thanks; you should also sleep now.”
Following Wi Seol-Ah’s words, a small wind blew about the large hall.
Wi Seol-ah then slowly laid down next to Gu Yangcheon.
After poking Gu Yangcheon’s frowning face,
She closed her eyes as well.
* * * *
After a while, Gu Yangcheon finally opened his eyes.
“…Where am I?”
It was an unfamiliar ceiling.
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