Millennium Snow Ginseng (千年雪蔘)
The journey to Huangshan was likely to take about fifteen days. Of course, it was a story when I rode on horseback. It would take more than a month if I walked without any measures of transport. Before I traveled there, I felt the necessity to exchange the silver bullion that I had procured.
'The world is not easy enough for me to stand on my own hands and knees, even if I present a large block of silver. As soon as the silver bars are exposed to the outside world, there will be a scramble for the information brokers. The crowd will begin to cling to it, and a battle of Murim practitioners will take place.'
I needed to hide this silver bullion as safely as I could, but also carrying around this amount of wealth with me was asking for trouble.
‘The silver bullion is very noticeable and it would be better to hide it in a suitable place. I will come back later for it when I become much stronger.'
It was so big that I could barely hold it or hide within my chest. I was suddenly thinking while I was walking into the deep mountains.
‘Oh, right! I will find the cave where I died in my past life.'
In the cave, I was forced to die without any reason because of the mechanical engine system!
Maybe I was brought back to the past because of the secret treasure within the cave!
‘I have to change my plan of approaching this time.’
When I thought about it, I could not afford to waste another moment.
First, I stopped by a nearby village and bought an iron chisel, a rope, and a copper shield. There was no one who knows the geography of this area as much as I do, so I could navigate my way through the rough forests easily.
I will travel to Huangshan later.
At first, it would be a good idea to reveal the secret of the cave.
It soon became dark. I broke off some dry twigs to set fire and prepare for bed. Unlike three years ago, there were sleeping bags and equipment to stay overnight, and it was possible to protect my body from the cold. If I removed just the stones or the gravels on the floor, I would be able to lie down and take a good rest.
When the fire burst into flame, I was thoughtful with warmth.
'What is the reason I returned to the past?'
I was killed by a mechanical engine device, but I managed to reach inside the box at the last moment. I remembered what I grabbed in my hand was a book. Of course, the last memory was blurred and I couldn’t make out what it was.
‘Did I come back to the past because I touched that book?'
There were many uncertainties. I shook my head and started to sleep.
First of all, it is not too late to think about it after locating the cave.
The next day I woke up at dawn and began searching the mountain side. I knew where I had been a recluse in training the sword in my previous life. It was a mountain valley with a private house nearby but not too steep. Before long I found a familiar creek and a flat area where I had built my first house.
'Now I can find the cave near here.'
I calmly traced back within my memories. As I was slowly descending down from the mountain path, I suddenly received the glare of sunlight rising over the mountain.
I quickly stopped on my way. There was a three-storied cliff in front of me that was so cleverly concealed that I would've missed it. Perhaps the large branches were too thick and carefully hid the location well enough that it was difficult to see through to the cliff.
Looking down at the hill, I saw the cave I had found before. I took hold of my pounding heart and put down the silver safe for a while. Since I had to climb down the cliff using the rope, I carefully stuck the chisel on the ground and tied the rope to my body and started to go down slowly. When I felt entrance of the cave footing, I slowly clambered inside the cave.
The inside of the cave was dark as night. I loosened the rope tied to my body and cautiously walked inside a little bit, and I saw the glimmering lights leaking out.
I studied the sight I had seen before I died, and I swallowed down saliva. The box, which appeared like a strange anomaly of destiny, was wrapped in light surrounding the walls of the cave, and the space itself was rather quite large now that I noticed it.
‘Here was a mechanical engine device. The speed of the triggered iron stake flying was so fast …’
Even if it is now, I wonder if I can easily avoid it.
I nervously watched the box and took out a dagger and threw it into the box. The dagger hit the mouth portion of the box accurately and flew sideways.
'It seems that the engine system is not working, and it may be a structure that is only triggered when a human body approaches. Perhaps there is a device on the floor or on the wall, but it is impossible to see it with my ability.'
“But people use tools!”
I slid to pick up the copper shield that I had bought from the town’s blacksmith. Rather than avoiding the iron stake with Fast-moving Technique (經身術), it was more practical to move forward quickly, protecting the vital parts of my body with a copper shield. In the face of such an apparatus, the pride of a high-grade martial artist had no meaning.
‘I did it!’
An iron stake hit the front of the copper shield and was thrown out. The speed of the iron stake was so fast that my vision could not catch it and I had no idea how fast I could handle it. All I could do was stick the copper shield at the point where it is expected to be launched. The iron shot by the engine device was several times faster than the arrow shot by a man.
I took a sigh of relief and approached the box one step closer. There seemed to be no more engine devices. I cautiously smashed the lid of the box with the sheath and opened it.
I took out a book from inside. As soon as I pulled out the book, I thought I would go back to the past, but I did not see any signs of that. I sat there and started to take a close look at the book.
The title of the book was Heavenly Dark Secret Book (天暗秘書).
‘What is it?’
It was not so much a specific name as a secret book. It was not the most ambitious name of Evil Factions (邪派) and it was not like the martial arts book of United Righteous Factions (正派). As soon as I turned over the first page to look at the contents of the book, I was quite surprised.
“What is this?”
A strange language!
The first time, I read strange words which are fully written as hieroglyphs, and it appeared not to be a language of this world.
The problem was that I had never seen such a language previously. I had read the Sanskrit language of Buddhist monks and western languages when living as a guard in the past, but these letters were completely different from those letters.
Certainly, Heavenly Dark Secret Book was a book that I cannot interpret or read with my current ability. But it turns out that this book could reverse time for me.
'What should I do with this unfamiliar book?'
I read into the book for a while, but I did not know what to do. When I was sitting idly thinking of a solution, I eventually picked up the book and placed it within my bosom.
'I have no choice but to carry it with me now. In a sense, this book is much more important than the silver ingot.'
I walked back to the cliff again and left the silver bullion inside the cave. The travel expenses would probably be enough as long as I had a lump of silver to exchange it with.
I expected great adventure, but it was a frustrated and dejected expedition to the cave. Although the doubts were not properly resolved, I once risked my life. The only impression was that I have a book in my hands.
But I had a rather ominous hunch. There would be a boundless secret hidden beneath the surface of Heavenly Dark Secret Book.
'I’ll have to look for a great scholar later on. I’m sure some of the wise people in the world can interpret the manuscript or I can learn to read language from them.'
After leaving the cave, I started the trip planning to head straight for Huangshan. It was a few days since I had stormed the chief's house and whisked away the silver bullion. There was no sign of the authorities from the government making me a little bit suspicious. A document for a wanted man might not arrive in this region, but rather that the village chief did not reveal it to anyone.
All I really did was kill five or six of the village’s rogues and no one knew I was the one that did it because there were no witnesses.
In addition, if the deal with the chief is announced outside, the fact that he is rich will be revealed to the public. The countless vagabonds of Murim (武林:the world of martial artists) will come in search of the chief continuously and ask if he has more silver deposits. So, he will not chase me nor will he report it to the government office.
However, I cannot feel relieved yet, since he can hire a high-grade martial artist and hunt me down.
But this is also a possibility.
Most of the outstanding first-grade martial artists with high self-esteem are so proud of themselves that they will never accept a request for monetary gains even if he asks for it. It may cost as much as the silver bullion I took, just to hire a master who is beyond my level of skills.
In other words, there is no need to be afraid of the aftermath from the village chief right now.
Walking toward Huangshan seemed too annoying and difficult, so I borrowed a horse and rode it all the way. The horse was so fast that it shortened the distance as much as three times faster than walking.
I sat mounted on a horse…
When I perceived the cloud of mist surrounding the mountain peaks, I felt overwhelmed…
A few days later, I arrived at Huangshan and looked for a village under the mountain base. I thought that my hardship is about to end.
‘Hu… But the size of Huangshan is so tremendous that it is not easy to even see the peaks from below.’
It is a famous mountain which has a higher reputation than Five Famous Mountains (五岳) in the continent, and it is boasted of as the most remarkable scenery, coincidently termed as the saying: ‘Do not look at any other mountain after seeing Five Famous Mountains, and do not see Five Famous Mountains after seeing Huangshan.'
Moreover, Huangshan is composed of a total of seventy-two mountains, and each mountain has a high peak that easily crosses fifteen or eighteen hundred meters. The Huangshan peaks are relatively humid places, but there are so many hunting areas that adventurers have not yet visited, so it has to be explored carefully.
'I will look through all of the seventy-two mountains to find Millennium Snow Ginseng! It is quite crazy, but I have no choice but to do so. I am convinced by my humble experience that there is an elixir on Huangshan.'
I know three clues that could assist me in finding it.
Millennium Snow Ginseng does not exist in the outer twenty-four peaks. But I do recall hearing that the first discoverer, Tanmu So found a place within the forty-eight peaks. Unlike the outer peaks, within the interior, there are many secret places where peoples' hands do not burn much from discovering things. This alone can greatly reduce the search range.
It does not exist in the peaks around the Huangshan Faction. Hearing of the conflict in contention for Millennium Snow Ginseng, they participates in the struggle long afterwards. The reason for this is that the base of the Huangshan Faction is quite far from the discovery site.
Millennium Snow Ginseng was found in a place where white lotus and black lotus bloom together. I don’t know if it is a metaphor or not, but it is very clear that I could find it if I could keep this in mind.
I smiled joyfully and anticipated the future searches.
‘If I change a silver bar at a nearby bank, it will be at least a hundred silver coins. Then I will be able to find it within a year. The range will be narrowed after subtracting the places near the base of the Huangshan Faction. If I search through each peak in a week, I will be able to find it in a year.'
Just when I was hungry, I walked to a nearby hotel to order a meal. It was about time I felt something ominous.
“Hello, young man! Nice to meet you!”
At the entrance of the hotel, a man dressed in black, was pretending to be welcoming of me.
‘What is that?’
I tried to ignore him because it was the first time noticing him, but I could not ignore what he said.
“What is it… Your name is Baek Woong, right?"
"You have about five hundred silver coins hanging around your head. Please stick out your neck.”
At that moment, as if to make a promise, there was a roar of swords unsheathing from the rooms of the first and second floors. From the sound of many swords, I sensed the number of warriors was at least roughly about twenty to thirty.
“What’s wrong with your expression?”
The black clothed man chuckled and continued.
“Don’t worry. We don’t hold any hobbies of torturing you, so we’ll just cut your head off and finish it.”
It was not so comforting at all.
‘I… I can’t win this!’
I was able to see at a glance the level of the martial artists who surround me, and I felt that my whole body froze and became nauseous. There was no one who can live through this encounter, considering the power of the enemy. They were all well-trained people.
If they rush me at once, my whole body will be like a skewered chicken kebab without any hesitation. They are very strong! The question is why a faction that can mobilize such high-grade people is looking for my head.
I asked in a quivering voice.
“Who are you? Trying to kill me..”
“Of course, I have to let you know, because killing a young man is quite uncomfortable.”
The leader in black clothes said, sitting with his chin on his hand.
"We are an assassin unit of Black Night Faction. Do you know of us?”
"Devil Tao Eight Factions (魔道八門)…!"
“Oh, so you know.”
I screamed out in astonishment.
Devil Tao Eight Factions.
It is a word that refers to United Eight Factions of Evil Factions (邪派) and Devil Tao(魔道), which have the same proportions as Five Families (五大世家) and Nine Factions and Gaibang (九派一幇) of United Righteous Factions (正派). Among them, Black Night Faction professionally specializes in assassination works. They are like death gods because they are so scary that even United Righteous Factions fear them.
Even if a man is a first-grade martial artist, he will not be able to survive if he is chased down by the assassin unit of Black Night Faction.
Such a rumor was spread throughout Murim.
I was caught within the darkness, but I resolved to learn who ordered this with a listless spirit.
“For your information, I am the captain of the assassin unit. Nice to meet you, Baek Woong.”
The man in black clothes laughed and introduced himself. Of course, it was an unpleasant self-introduction.
“Who ordered you?”
The captain shrugged his shoulders.
“You should know that there’s only one person who’s ever wanted you dead.”
“The village chief….”
“That’s the way it is.”
I glanced at him.
“Spare me and I’ll double the money. I’m serious.”
Then, the captain roared out with laughter.
“Hahaha… We cannot accept it even if it is true. Who would trust us to commit to future contracts if we were to betray our clients for our target who is willing to pay more?”
When he tried to give an order, I became impatient and exclaimed again.
“Then I have another suggestion!”
“What is it?”
“If I win against you in one-on-one, please stop following me.”
Black Night Faction is irrefutably one of the best, which no one dares to trifle with. They behave in a certain characteristic; they do not refuse a request for a duel or challenges of other groups because they nominally claim to be fair. Among the assassins, the captain is by far the strongest person.
“Ho… How ambitious!”
When they heard my words, they looked at me with an insane look. As if it was funny, the captain just laughed and smiled.
“Well, if you wish… I’ll save you the trouble since I am about to cut off your head myself anyway.”
Sound of unsheathing sword.
He slowly pulled out a long sword that he is carrying on his back, while he stood opposite me. The assassins seemed to surround us and also to prevent me from running. I clenched my teeth to stimulate speculation, holding my iron sword in my hand.
I must survive… Somehow, I must survive with what I have learned so far. I can’t die in a place like this even I don't begin to look for Millennium Snow Ginseng properly yet!
"Then let’s do it.”
The captain smiled merrily and rushed towards me with his sword pointing at me.
I flew into the sky right after I broke my sword in ten seconds and received a heavy blow in the pit of my stomach. I did not understand why there is such an immense discrepancy.
The next moment I saw the blue aura of a sword, and I could quickly understand it. The captain was a master who is higher than Jin So Chung.
Soon my head was parted from my body.
I felt this feeling somewhere…
The memory burst out overflowing me with breathtaking pain…
This was my second death…
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Editors: T0ngan, Calvis