༺ Hua Ran (6) ༻
Grade 1 youkais1Youkai = Monster; Japanese term. They’re using a term that’s different from demonic beast. were like a disaster – a materialized form of catastrophe that always led to immense destruction even when a bunch of warriors and sages were to group up against them.
– Rip! Rippp!
– Kaduk! Crunch!
That was why Kang Ryun was deeply touched by the scene in front of him. It wasn’t an overstatement to say that he was moved by it.
In front of him was a Yaksha ripping a Grade 1 youkai to pieces as if it was a toy.
That was the greatest monster created by his younger brother, one who was praised for being a genius spiritualist. Kang Ryun was baffled by his ridiculous idea of turning a living human into a jiangshi, and wasn’t expecting him to actually create such a wondrous thing.
『Brother. We must retrieve Ran’s consciousness. I really need your help for this.』
The reason he visited was because of the letter he received from his brother but after seeing the Yaksha, Kang Ryun realized just how foolish and irrational that request of his younger brother was.
Giving up on such a remarkable weapon!? Giving up on that tool? How could he give up on that unprecedented power just because of one little girl?
A jiangshi that was barely 1-year-old was shredding a Grade 1 youkai into pieces. That Yaksha was definitely the seed of a heavenly disaster! It was one of the wonders of the world that had the potential to evolve into a ‘Hou’ after building enough Karma by being covered by the blood and flesh of others!
Thinking of that future possibility made Kang Ryun’s eyes flicker with greed.
A mighty youkai that has been told down in legends; the Great Youkai, that can contend even against the almighty dragons.
The desire to make that into his was what compelled Kang Ryun to carry out that long and thorough plan, which was finally close to being finished in this foreign land.
“Finally, we have reached the highlight of the festival! The final round of the group event will begin very soon!”
Sitting in the commentary seat, Professor Edgar shouted, as the crowd reacted with a cheer. The individual and the doubles events had all been completed the day before and the festival was due to end after this group event.
– Clomp clomp!
Kang Ryun turned after hearing the clomping sound of high-heels and saw Senior Professor Josephine of Merkarva Academy.
“Professor Kang Ryun. Are you finished with your preparations?”
“I have just finished modifying them.”
Josephine turned to the right. Next to Kang Ryun was a pattern drawn using the blood of a beast and at the center of that pattern were a bunch of stones with talismans.
“Are they the articles for this group event?”
“That is correct. They should have already been checked by Merkarva though.”
“Yes you are right, but I am not good with formations you see.”
Placing special articles in designated places, a formation required the articulate use of mana and positioning to create a partially different dimension.
“Let me check one more time; the formation that will be used for this group event is the Eight Gates Formation, yes?”
“Yes. It is a formation where eight gates go through an endless cycle of change to mesmerize the ones locked inside it. They must find the right path inside the bewildering Eight Gates and arrive at the center to retrieve the symbol.”
After sharing a few more words, Kang Ryun headed to the waiting room and was met by his disciple, Sa Jinhyuk.
“Where is the item?”
“It is here sir.”
Jinhyuk replied while tapping on a saisen2Saisen box = a box for saisen, which is money offered to the gods or bodhisattvas in Japan. box with the symbol of a dragon that was so large that it could contain a whole person inside it.
He opened the box and inside was Hua Ran crouching like a newborn baby. Light reflected off of her eyes but the soulless red eyes showed not a single response.
“Good. It’s still there.”
Kang Ryun indifferently closed the box. Inside the box that turned dark once again, Hua Ran was still tightly clasping on a small piece of wood.
Sa Jinhyuk carried the saisen box behind his shoulder. Even though he wasn’t among the participants of the group event, he was able to attend with Professor Kang Ryun under the excuse of being his assistant.
After reaching the center of the festival arena, Jinhyuk placed down the saisen box.
“Good! I believe everything has now been prepared. Everyone; please come in!”
Professor Edgar said in the commentary seat as the participants of the group event entered the arena one by one.
Kang Yuhua’s Group 1, Group 3; and Merkarva’s Group A and Group D – there should be 16 participants but that won’t be the case anymore because Group D should have been disqualified. Because after all, Korin Lork, the leader of Group D should have long become food for the demonic beasts.
He had gone ‘missing’ and he had also been disqualified from the doubles event yesterday for not making it there in time. That won’t be much different for the group event either.
“Hoh. Finally, Big Sister is… coming?”
Kang Yuhua was walking into the arena under the cheers of the Purple Hawk students but the disgruntled look on Yuhua’s face puzzled Jinhyuk.
But soon, he realized why.
The boy with the sparkling silver spear and the unique wild appearance of his, who had been showing off an incredible presence the whole time over the group event, was also entering the stage.
“This is our moment of victory! I shall lead you personally to the gates of Valhalla! You shall shine with me forever!!”
“Immortan Lork! Immortan Lork!”
“Immortan Lork! Immortan Lork!”
“…That madman. He’s still alive.”
Korin Lork entered the stage with the passionate cries of the bandits before giving a ferocious smile in front of Kang Ryun.
Seeing that, Kang Ryun didn’t say anything. He had no idea how Korin returned alive but he would be paying for his actions soon anyway.
“The test will now begin. I am sure you have heard the contents already.”
However, Kang Ryun couldn’t help but find him annoying – even Kang Ryun had to admit that Korin Lork had an extraordinary presence to him.
His fan opened at a rapid speed as the arena immediately started to shift.
That flick of his fan trembled the ground. The articles placed all around in the cardinal and ordinal directions as well as the yellow dragon in the middle heeded to his call.
“T, the ground is cracking open!”
Something enormous was soaring up from the crack created in the ground. Even though the students had already experienced the mysterious nature of formations, they were still baffled by how it could shift the actual ground itself.
However, Korin was still full of leisure, and seeing that, Kang Ryun scoffed.
The four gods; the Azure Dragon of the East, the Vermillion Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West and the Black Tortoise of the North. In the middle of them all was the Yellow Dragon.
Kang Ryun was the only one who knew how to reverse the formation; even Yuhua and Jinhyuk were clueless.
The deployed formation altered the arena as it divided all the participants. Making the inside of the formation into another world, Kang Ryun added the rules he wanted.
Everything was over as soon as he activated the formation.
No matter what Korin Lork was planning on doing, the completion of the ‘Great Evil’ was already inevitable.
At the central platform of the deployed formation were Kang Ryun, Yuhua, and Jinhyuk.
“I will now start the ritual for separating Ran from Hua. Yuhua and Hyuk – protect the Black Tortoise of the North.”
“Is it okay to leave all the other ones unprotected?”
“The Black Tortoise is the most important symbol of this formation. As long as that is protected, it will not matter even if everything else is to be broken.”
Jinhyuk couldn’t seem to hide his expectation, and seemed overwhelmed by emotions after finally reaching this moment. Yuhua was the same – she carefully raised a request to her uncle.
“Uncle… Please. I will leave Ran in your hands.”
In order to regain her family that she lost 3 years ago, Yuhua put everything she had on the line.
Yuhua felt a peace of mind after hearing that directly from Kang Ryun, who was also Ran’s uncle, and calmly headed north.
Seeing how desperate the two of them were…
“Kuhuhuhu, idiots. Although they’re my family… each and every one of them is so foolish and naive.”
He couldn’t help but scoff at them.
Both Kang Yuhua and Kang Yu were way too ignorant of how priceless this was.
That was why she would be doomed to the same future as Kang Yu, his foolish and stupid brother.
“Huh? What happened to the broadcast video?”
“What? Why aren’t the screens showing anything?”
“Umm… I believe there were too many mana ripples at the activation of the formation, which was what affected the video-sending tools inside the formation.”
“Damn it! What kind of newbie mistake is that!”
After forming a different world inside, the formation severed every connection it had with the outside world and imprisoned its prey.
The world modified by the formation was slowly becoming a different world.
Four guardian deities and the yellow dragon. The yellow dragon, sitting in the middle of the 4 guardians, symbolized the emperor and the trespassers of the formation of the 5 gods were the rebels.
Right now, the world inside the formation was under an imaginary civil war with stone warriors actively fighting against their enemies. They were the imperial military, whereas the participating students of the group event were the rebels.
Despite being attacked by countless stone warriors from all around, the students were still under the impression that this was a part of the test.
“Uahhk…! I, isn’t this too much?!”
“This is completely different from last time! What is wrong with these guys?”
Lark and Jaeger shouted in confusion while breaking the stone warriors. They had heard about this beforehand, but the stone warriors were still a lot more powerful than expected.
“Ugh, where are the others?”
“I don’t know! I don’t see Korin nor Alicia!”
Korin had told them to destroy as many articles of the formation as possible but…
They were only 2, fighting against hundreds of stone warriors. The only conclusion they could think of was their own defeat.
– Kung! Kung!
It was then. Jaeger and Lark widened their eyes. While they were in the middle of trying to destroy the stone warriors, a giant suddenly appeared from a distance as it then started trampling its way towards them.
“Wait wait wait. What the hell is that?”
“I, I don’t know!”
The giant stone warrior was the stone centurion. It was as strong as a semi-Grade 1 demonic beast inside the formation but…
A dog suddenly penetrated through it in the blink of an eye.
The red dog rampaged and destroyed every section of the stone giant. That torrent of violence was an overkill no matter how they saw it.
After that, the red beast crushed all the nearby stone warriors, and each of its swings demolished everything nearby including the walls and the ground.
It was no surprise that even Jaeger was appalled by it. That was no longer even an ally – it was just a catastrophe that destroyed everything nearby.
A familiar voice reached their ears. Knowing how the owner of that voice was another person who was far from the realms of common sense, the two of them quickly threw themselves onto the ground.
– Kururung! Kwagang!!
Following that was a squall; or rather, a hail. Arrows of ice fell from the sky and wiped out an entire section of stone warriors.
“Are you guys okay?”
“S, Senior Marie.”
The one who literally wiped hundreds of stone warriors off the face of the ground was Marie Dunareff; the Alliance-approved semi-Unique Grade mage and an unofficial Unique Grade vampire.
“It’s dangerous so be careful! Doggo, let’s go!”
Marie started advancing while literally deleting the hordes of stone warriors. She probably got requested by Korin to destroy the stone giants and the articles.
There was no doubt that anything would be destroyed as long as she went there; Jaeger and Lark gulped while seeing her back.
“Aiya~. So that’s the person we somehow beat, huh?”
“It’s our lifetime achievement…”
As alpha men who fought for glory and honor, they had something to brag about for the rest of their life.
Out of the four guardian deities, the Black Tortoise of the North was in the most special position. From times immemorial, it was the job of the Black Tortoise to protect the emperor in the middle. Because it was always standing behind the emperor, it was at a position where it could both protect and attack the emperor at any given moment.
That was why the Black Tortoise of the North was always very important.
Northern True Martial Heavenly Highest Deity.3北極眞武玄天上帝 = Northern True Martial Heavenly Highest Deity; apparently another name for Black Tortoise.
For a long time, the sages had been calling this Black Tortoise with the name, Heavenly Highest Deity and had been honoring it as a martial god.
That was why the best method to deal with formations that had the four guardian deities as the basis was to attack from the North. It was because the Black Tortoise of the North was the guardian deity of the Yellow Dragon of the center, who could also pierce the heart of the emperor with a dagger at any time.
“You came straight here without even losing your bearings. You… how do you know everything?”
“…That was very fast.”
On the north of the formation near the article of the Black Tortoise, Sa Jinhyuk and Kang Yuhua had to stand off against the rebels.
“Mr. Korin… Is it really going to be okay with just the two of us? Shouldn’t we call Senior Marie…”
“I’m telling you, it’s fine. Senior Marie needs to break all the remaining 3 for us.”
Alicia Arden and Korin Lork arrived after defeating the stone warriors with ease.
‘This is weird. How did they arrive here so fast through the illusions of the Eight Gates?’
‘Uncle’s Eight Gates got solved already? Is that even possible?’
Jinhyuk and Yuhua couldn’t believe that the formation of the strongest formation expert of the east, Kang Ryun, had been breached this easily.
But their doubt was justified. The Eight Gates Illusionary Formation had mazes, layers of fog and stone warriors placed inside with the paths having the ability to change in 365 different ways.
Even a formation prodigy would have trouble leaving one after entering it and yet…
“A ceramic pot with an Azure Dragon, a necklace made with the fangs of a White Tiger, a painting of the Vermillion Bird, and a carapace with a painting of the Black Tortoise; out of these, you bought two very recently, right?”
“You… How did you…?”
They originally didn’t need to buy any articles for the Eight Gates Formation, but they had to once the articles that they were trying to smuggle without reporting to Merkarva Academy had been stolen by mounted bandits.
Items with drawings of symbolic creatures and special materials might have been common in the east, but here, they were very rare.
That was why it was hard for them to look for similar ones again but…
“Don’t tell me…!”
“That’s correct! I was that mounted bandit.”
Yuhua and Jinhyuk glared at Korin Lork with burning eyes.
“I see. So even the Brite Corporation…”
“That was also from me. It was way too perfect of a timing for them to appear, wasn’t it?”
Yuhua gasped. If it was he who had stolen the smuggled articles and sold similar ones… then it was natural that he would have done something to the articles in secret.
“I added some tracking runes to the articles. It would have been hard to detect those because of the innate mana within them.”
An ancient letter of the past that was hard to even see these days – it would have been hard for them to find a tiny letter of that language system.
“They did us dirty, Big Sister.”
“…Shut up, Hyuk.”
As expected, even the gentle and kind student council president of Purple Hawk gritted her teeth after being played this hard.
“That doesn’t change anything. We will protect the Black Tortoise.”
“Simple is the best.”
Yuhua and Jinhyuk readied themselves for battle as Korin and Alicia stepped forward in response.
“Alicia. You deal with Kang Yuhua.”
“…Honestly, I am not very confident though.”
“They are idiots who can’t even look after their own belongings. I’m sure you will beat them in no time.”
The two glared back with a cold gaze after being provoked. Alicia was flustered by the coldness of their eyes.
“Umm, M, Mr. Korin… I… don’t think… a provocation like that is very good.”
“Ohh~. Look, look. They’re mad. By the way, Yuhua is about two times stronger than you, so good luck surviving.”
The leg and the spear crashed into each other.
Without even the time for a breather, the silver spear and the leg were shot at their opponents. It was a desperate battle with neither pauses nor intervals. They were as vigorous as the boiling steam that threatened to burn the opponent even at the cost of turning themselves into gas.
It was definitely Sa Jinhyuk who was being pushed back in that fight. The silver spear was eccentrically fast and was becoming even faster over time. Each and every one of those menacing attacks were suppressing the area around Sa Jinhyuk and limiting his movement.
The pointy stab of the spear was aiming at the center. The moment Sa Jinhyuk tried to defend himself from the stab, Korin’s hands twisted and suddenly changed the direction of the spear.
It then led to another sharp stab that aimed at his vitals, but Jinhyuk rotated his body like the turbulent waves and dodged it.
That was when Jinhyuk’s eyes stopped in bewilderment.
The spear was pulled back faster than Jinhyuk could re-stabilize his posture after the dodge… and was now speeding at a speed that was incomparably faster than the previous stabs.
Jinhyuk swung his leg in response but it was flung away like it was nothing. Even his left leg that was firmly rooted on the ground wobbled as his body turned numb.
An agonized sigh left his mouth. Even though he was confident in his dynamic vision and reflex skills, Korin’s spear was difficult for him to see through.
He couldn’t help but lament after being pushed back by the incomprehensible 2-strike and 3-strike combos of the divine spear. The owner of the spear gazed at him like a predator looking at its prey.
“A bit different from before, right? I couldn’t use everything I had back then, you see.”
“…You mean you were going easy on me or something?”
“No. This is not something I can use that often either. I can’t even get any support against you, so I’m going full-on from the start.”
His spearmanship and his strength were on completely different levels from before – the identity of that jump in power was the Sixth Style, Shura, that Korin was using. It was the final resort of the Sixth Style that consumed a tremendous amount of aura in exchange for power and speed.
It was thus normal for even Jinhyuk, a Grade 1 Knight, to be pushed back due to that ability.
“Sorry, but I can’t waste my time going against someone like you either. So—”
Korin’s body suddenly vanished from his sight. Like a black leopard pouncing after a short preparation, he easily and naturally disappeared from his sight before reappearing with a daring frontal stab.
It was a bold attack that took advantage of Jinhyuk’s breathing pace. Korin skillfully aimed for the moment between his breaths; his most volatile moment.
The only reason Jinhyuk was able to respond to that in time, although barely, was because of his innate instincts that allowed him to notice that cold killing intent.
The sharp silver spear gleamed and flickered before Jinhyuk as his eyes desperately alerted the brain of the incoming danger.
Jinhyuk barely dodged it as the stab grazed past his cheeks. His excessive dodge messed up his posture, and taking advantage of that gap, Korin trampled down with his right foot.
Korin literally trampled on Jinhyuk’s chest. On his shadow-cast face, his crimson eyes were gazing down at Jinhyuk.
“It’ll be over in no time.”
The spear in his right arm pierced down. Right before Jinhyuk was about to be impaled by the spear, he kicked Korin’s back with his right foot.
It was a kick from an unstable position, and was thus less effective than planned, but created enough gap for Jinhyuk to escape. After desperately escaping from that predicament, he wiped the blood flowing down his cheeks.
‘Should I try to buy time?’
He wasn’t sure what trickery Korin was using, but his strength had taken a massive leap compared to the one he had in the forest. It was probably a skill that required a large sum of aura for a momentary enhancement. Even if he couldn’t beat him, Jinhyuk thought that Yuhua should be done in a breeze and that she would be coming to his help as long as he could buy some time.
“Kang Yuhua can’t help you,” said Korin.
“If it’s just a simple duel, she’s half-assed and clumsy, but when it comes to a fight for life and death, Alicia Arden…
is a real ‘fiend’.”
That was when a groan echoed from behind. Hearing the rushed voice of his martial sister which he had never heard before, he subconsciously turned around.
Instant Slash, Advancing Fang, Reverse Kill, Soaring Heavens, Lightning.
The Demon-Slaying Sword raged on the double-sided sword of the sword fairy. The one carrying out the attacks was so relentless and fierce that it reminded one more of a fiend than a human.
“Big Sister… is being pushed back?”
Unfolding there was a beautiful combination of sword moves. Even Yuhua, who was praised as the Sword Lord, couldn’t do anything but focus on defense the whole time.
It gave Jinhyuk the illusion that he was looking at the Sword Fiend. Drenched in sweat, Yuhua took a large leap to the back.
Korin and Alicia began a stand-off against Jinhyuk and Yuhua.
Alicia focused on limiting her breath to the bare minimum. Her eyes were solely focused on Yuhua and her extreme concentration made her lips turn crooked as if she was an evil villain.
She was smiling.
Despite the fight for life and death with her own life on the line, the Sword Fiend was instead floating a crooked smile on her lips.
“We’ll finish it in one strike… I guess she can’t even hear me.”
Canceling Shura, Korin tightened his grip on the spear. What did that mean? Alicia was the only one who knew what that meant apart from him in this place, but even Alicia was completely indulged in her own world that she couldn’t even spare him a glance.
“They’re coming. Hyuk.”
Realizing that their next move would be the finisher, Yuhua and Jinhyuk each prepared their strongest moves.
Their bodies were the first to shoot across the ground. Jinhyuk accelerated using his fastest and strongest skill.
❰Storming Wheels Final Move: Trampling Kick of Destruction❱
At the same time, Yuhua also used the strongest move of her Void Dragon Slaying Swordsmanship.
❰Dragon Slaying Swordsmanship, 7th Form: Light Dragon Slayer❱
Their attacks marched forward but their targets, Alicia and Korin, were calm and still as if nothing was happening in front of them.
From utmost concentration came tranquility and calmness.
The world stopped.
In this place, even the strongest of storms lost its vigor and even the thunderous roars lost their sounds. It was a blessing that was only permitted to the ones that were aware of this place; a silence permitted only to the ones with preposterous talents.
Trampling Warhound, Sa Jinhyuk. Sword Lord Kang Yuhua.
In some ways, they were stronger than Korin Lork and Alicia Arden, but those that had been to the Domain even at least once, were in a different timeline to the average warriors.
The sword left its scabbard.
The spear traveled forward.
Singular Sword of Arden: Domain Severance
Ominous Snake: Extreme Arts
Soaring Snake, Rearing Head of the Venomous Dragon
The magic sword and the demonic spear overwhelmed their two prey.
Yuhua and Jinhyuk weren’t dead. However, Alicia’s Demon-Slaying Sword and Korin’s Silver Spear respectively destroyed Yuhua’s double-edged sword and Jinhyuk’s prosthetic leg.
Despite that, the two of them didn’t give up. Even though their defeat was already set in stone, they continued because their lifelong aspirations had nothing to do with the outcome of their fight.
“Let me tell you the truth.”
If not for Korin saying that to them, they would have proceeded on even if they had to crawl with their nails and teeth.
Korin threw the spear as it destroyed the carapace with a painting of the Black Tortoise. When the crumbled pieces fell to the ground, it revealed something inside it.
Yuhua, who was the most comprehensive when it came to formations out of the group, gasped in utter confusion.
Carapace with the Black Tortoise. Inside that was something symbolic that completely went against the nature of ‘Evil Extermination Formation’ which was supposed to consist of the four guardian deities.
“…Taotie?”4Taotie: One of the 4 perils (4 monsters representing chaos): Taotie, Qiongqi, Taowu and Hundun. Originally it was Dochul because Taotie is called ‘Dochul’ in Korea.
A strange monster with the fangs of a tiger, horns of a ram, and the face of a boar. Taotie, one of the four perils in line with Qiongqi, Taowu and Hundun.
In stark contrast to the four gods that symbolized order and protection, they were the four great monsters that were symbolic of chaos and destruction.
“Why… is there an armor with Taotie…?”
Did Korin Lork do this? No; that can’t be. There was no way someone at his level could have done something so immaculate and besides, there was no way that Kang Ryun wouldn’t have noticed it as the one using these articles.
“Kang Yuhua, Sa Jinhyuk. You guys must be thinking that this Evil Extermination Formation is to separate Hua from Ran’s body, but it’s the opposite.”
This wasn’t a ritual to separate Ran from Hua. It was the ritual to completely eradicate Ran and have Hua take complete control over the body.
“Kang Ryun wasn’t interested in Ran in the first place. From the very start, all he wanted was Hua.”
In the middle platform where the ritual was taking place,
Kang Ryun looked at the talisman on Hua. Yuhua and Jinhyuk must be thinking that it was a talisman to seal Hua but in fact…
“Don’t blame your uncle too much, Ran. Small sacrifices are inevitable for the greater good.”
It was a talisman that sealed Ran and not Hua. Besides, the ultimate objective of this formation was the complete eradication of Ran.
“Ao Guang, Ao Qin, Ao Run, Ao Shun!”5Dragon Kings of the four seas in China.
Eight Gates and four guardian deities – those were nothing but supplementary. The real one was the jiangshi locked in this saisen box.
“Accept it. Take the challenge. Accept the completion of the Black Dragon that shall steal the throne of the Yellow Dragon.”
The birth of ‘Hou’ was drawing near.
- 1Youkai = Monster; Japanese term. They’re using a term that’s different from demonic beast.
- 2Saisen box = a box for saisen, which is money offered to the gods or bodhisattvas in Japan.
- 3北極眞武玄天上帝 = Northern True Martial Heavenly Highest Deity; apparently another name for Black Tortoise.
- 4Taotie: One of the 4 perils (4 monsters representing chaos): Taotie, Qiongqi, Taowu and Hundun. Originally it was Dochul because Taotie is called ‘Dochul’ in Korea.
- 5Dragon Kings of the four seas in China.
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