Millennium Snow Ginseng (千年雪蔘)
My first duty as a guard for the Sagong courier company was to protect the transport of goods to another village. To quickly summarise it, a wealthy man purchased a house in another town, where his son would move and live. All I had to do was to escort the workers and prevent the goods from being stolen.
‘It’s an easy job.’
The escort missions I have been in charge of for many decades in my past life. So, I could start safeguarding the goods comfortably without any stress. A total of three guards were mobilized on this occasion, and any head guard did not need to accompany such a mission. Because there was not anything valuable, nor were there any threats of brigands near here.
After starting off and a few strokes later, the carriage stopped briefly. The horse seemed a little tired, so it was intended to rest in the shade. It was now the time when the guards and workers sat down to eat snacks and relax.
“Why are you working as a guard?”
One asked me such a question. His age was perceived to be in his thirties and was a typical Third Class guard. Maybe he’s also been working for a decade, since he was assigned to this industry to survive like me. I looked at his appearance, which seemed ordinary.
“I had to eat and live with some comfort.”
“If I am as strong as you are, I can aim to go to a big faction.”
There was a touch of bitterness in his words.
As he said, I could take a martial arts examination for the imperial army, or attend the martial arts' competition that is hosted by the royal family once a year. There will be many strong martial artists gathered at those events, but there will be no reason for me not to pass the exam. Obviously, it would be wasteful to do the job with my level of martial arts as he pointed out. However, it is not important for me to travel towards a government service and proceed ahead in the world.
First of all, I should consume the Millennium Snow Ginseng, then solve the secret of Heavenly Dark Secret Book. In addition, I may have to take a blood vengeance pact on the village chief. I have so many things to do that I don't have time to think about one thing after another.
I said with a chuckle.
“I don’t think it’s bad. Don’t you think if you do your job right, you’ll come out with something to live on?”
“Yes, I do.”
The guard seemed to be satisfied.
None of the courier companies in this world have carelessly treated or abused a guard. There are countless courier companies in the world, and there is bound to be fierce competition among the commercial districts. Anyway, a guard is a man with the basic martial arts. As such, it is the custom of a courier company to give the money with which the guard can live.
After the conversation, the procession started again. As a new day dawned, the morning dew still settled down on the goods which could be damaged, so we had to move as fast as possible. Fortunately, as a result of the waggish movement, we could carry the goods to our destination before eleven o'clock. All guards worked diligently with the workers and started transferring the goods into the house.
It was early in the morning when the work was done. It was so dark I could see nothing but a torch. A senior guard came out with a torch and shouted at the head of our group.
“We are tired today, so we stay in the guest house for eight hours' rest! We’ll leave tomorrow morning, so get plenty of rest.”
Although it is possible to quickly return to the company after crossing the mountain, it seems that the senior guard decided that it is too dangerous to cross the mountain path at dawn. Shortly afterward, the line workers and guards went to the guest house in the village, unpacked and began to rest. Not everyone could receive a room as it should be, and some of the workers put their sleeping bags out and slept in the building.
I couldn’t fall asleep so I stared down on the second floor of the guest house to watch that everyone was ready to sleep. Workers were seen sleeping curled up under the burdens of fatigue.
“That’s why I didn’t want to be a worker.”
Workers would not have to come out in front to fight thieves like the guards, but overall, the treatment and salary for them was much lower than the guards. Still, two other guards and I reserved separate guest rooms, but the rest of the workers slept on sleeping bags.
‘I’d rather have a drink.’
I don’t mind alcohol, but I rather like it.
When I worked as a guard, I forgot all my troubles when I drank a little and slept. However, I did not have a chance to drink alcohol after retrograding. Drinking in the body of a child is foolish because I had good sense not to do so.
Instead, I returned to my room and started to train in Neigong.
Whenever I focus on the small circulatory cycle of Thunder Dragon One Qigong, I feel relaxed and healthy even if I don’t sleep. Furthermore, the more I practice the stronger I become, and I can kill two birds with one stone. I can’t rest or play now because I have work to do.
When I returned to the courier company after finishing my first run, Sagong Pae pretended to know me. He was an executive of the Sagong board, so he could not be ignored.
“Baek Woong, did you finish the first run well?”
“It was not difficult.”
“Hahaha, you are the future prospect of our courier company.”
He regaled me about his achievements. He asked about my personal goals or past history, and he was just forever talking about how wonderful he was doing these days. I was so embarrassed that I did not know what to say to this. Perhaps he thought I was so young and impressionable..
“I'll see you later then.”
I could discern that Sagong Pae truly favored me. Perhaps it would be a kindness to be friends with someone who can be useful within the courier company. I had a rather strange sensation, but I felt as if I had come to the conclusion with it.
“A lot of things change when I have strength.”
I felt it when I retaliated with the village chief.
The world is very different when I have power. In other words, having no power is that much more tragic.
It’s a new start from now on. Waiting for my body to grow, come anyway; I will look at the opportunity to find the Millennium Snow Ginseng in Huangshan.
For the next three years or so, I continued my life as a guard without a hitch. Although peers were always suspicious of me because I was too young at first, after having saved more than a dozen lives or so, they’ve started giving me credit as a co-worker.
It was more than twenty times that I fought bandits, thugs, and water creatures during the accomplishment. Though not as many as I expected, I fought them with my sword. I did not hesitate to quickly kill the bandits, as it was not a crime to kill them if I were threatened during the runs.
It seemed I had killed at least thirty people in three years. If I didn’t have to kill, then I couldn’t help but refrain from killing.
Before I knew it, I was quite a big strapping young man and now had a body capable of rising up and venturing forward towards my goals. I thought as I stared out of the window, enjoying the fire from inside during the snowy winter.
This courier company is a merger with the Sagong Clan. So, unlike the ordinary courier companies, the level of members’ martial arts is very high, and it has a family-like atmosphere.
The fact that the executives of this courier company are the relatives of Sagong Clan. Rather than a contract relationship, the guards could be called “the inferior warriors of the Sagong Clan." Maybe Sagong Pae keeps pretending to be close to me because he thinks I’m floating towards this goal on the same boat.
What’s hard to understand is why the Sagong Clan which has excellent martial arts, are compelled to lower one’s standards into directly entering the transportation business. They would raise the government officers of martial arts department, and with managing in the commercial field or the battlefield, they would earn payment of prize money from the authorities.
It is a way to accumulate wealth much more easily, but why do they instead run this courier company?
Sagong Lin is on my mind. It is a problem that I have fallen in love with her, but the real problem lies in the fact that I don’t know of her. What nonsense is this? But it is a big problem.
In all my memories of the previous decades, I’ve never heard the name of Sagong, or the name of Sagong Lin, in Wulin though.
In the case of Sagong Lin, it is obviously something very wrong.
She has even been a disciple of one of the most influential figures, Taishan Old Man, in the Righteous Factions. She is a masterpiece of uncommonness within a century and is not at all inferior to Jin So Chung. Then, why is she not a known master in the future?
It was hard to understand considering the atmosphere of Wulin, even if she was a female martial artist, she should have held a great reputation in the future, but it was not so.
'Before I leave, I should find an answer to my curiosity.'
I was thinking of soon leaving the courier company any day now.
The accomplishment of Thunder Dragon One Qigong has increased considerably. I have had more experience, and my skills in martial arts have also progressed.
Even if I am unsure exactly, I will be able to stand on my own against a First Class martial artist. There is also money that I saved up, and it seems that I can now start exploring the Millennium Snow Ginseng in Huangshan.
Who should I go to find out what I’m curious about?
I was worried for a moment and then headed out to Sagong Lin. I thought I would like to see her once more.
“Ms. Sagong Lin, may I have a minute?”
“Come in. ”
Sagong Lin was quietly reading a book in her private room, which was only assigned to the head guard. She is breathtakingly beautiful like a master painting, while reading her book calmly as the snow slowly falls from the window behind her.
I stood for a moment in a world-like illusion and said with as much concentration as I could fathom.
“I came here because I wanted to ask of you something.”
“What is it?”
“Why is the Sagong Clan running a courier company?”
She closed the book and stared at me. With her eyes blinking briefly as if they were plucked from a deer, she grinned softly.
“Hahaha, have you been curious about that for three years?”
“Well, in a way, I have been.”
“It’s not really a secret. We don't want to clash with Huangshan Faction."
It was a new rising faction that took the last seat of Nine Factions & Gaibang of Righteous Factions. It was well known for its outstanding swordsmanship. Originally, there was Kongtong Faction on the site of Huangshan Faction, which suffered from a sudden breakdown in the public when the elders and the faction leader went missing. And a new volcanic faction was in place, as they were rapidly expanding into Huangshan.
Although the martial arts of Sagong Clan are also superb, the reality is that it is one step behind Huangshan Faction, which has a number of high class martial artists in the Righteous Factions. If armed clashes broke out, Sagong Clan would have pulled out of the battlefield or be confronted with dwindling finances, eventually forced to make its own money through the courier company.
I had asked because I didn’t understand.
“If the Sagong Clan avoided territorial conflicts, would it still be okay to react so passively? Huangshan Faction would eventually reach out to Guanzhong. Then, there would be only a choice of submission or disappearance."
Her eyes glittered strangely.
“It sounds as if a certain young righteous man, I'm referring to yourself, are quite confident it will.”
Gosh, I inadvertently said what happens in the future without any consideration.
As I said, in the next few decades, Huangshan Faction will gain rapid expansion, insisting on dominance over the areas of Huangshan and Guanzhong. All of the small factions that were in those areas knelt in submission towards Huangshan Faction. So, Zhongnan Faction and Huashan Faction joined hands and confronted the Huangshan Faction in Daeryun mountains. It was a tremendous battle which was forever called the 'Blood Battle of the Five Famous Mountains'.
There were no winners in that battle, and all three of the forces fighting were severely damaged and became reduced. Because of this, I remember that many martial artists of Evil Factions (邪派) and Devil Dao (魔道) went wild in the surrounding areas around Guanzhong and Five Famous Mountains, and these areas soon became leaderless.
It was in the middle of the chaos that my Plum Blossom courier company was also attacked by Hyul Lin Shou.
Perhaps in the future, the Sagong Clan would be swallowed up by Huangshan Faction. That is why her name was not ever known.
No matter how much power Huangshan Faction have amalgamated, they grew large enough to fight two-to-one against any force.
If Sagong Clan responds negatively to such a huge faction, it will only be gobbled up eventually. If possible, they could avoid such a future by tying themselves together with the surrounding factions.
“Huh… I know what you, as a young righteous man, are talking about. My father and my brother are always worried too. But there is no other way to solve this matter. Without power, no matter how hard we know what’s going on, we can’t do anything.”
That’s true. I can understand the fact that the Sagong Hwan or Sagong clans are not fools, and that they should be careful to check up on Huangshan Faction. However, it is only to be noted that it is unrealistic to resist Huangshan Faction which has a number of Peak Class people.
“Is there anything else to say?”
“It looks like you are on the verge of becoming a Peak Class martial artist, but don't you intend to make a name for yourself in Wulin? It’s too much for you to be only a head guard in a place like this…”
“Is it such a waste?”
Sagong Lin laughed with joy. Her laughter was suffused with bitterness. I thought that even this appearance was just as beautiful, probably because my eyes were already covered with love…
“If I go out into the world of Wulin, I can attain my own reputation and I can even enjoy my life with a little compromise. But it places too much pressure on my other clan members. I can’t live my life just for my own desires.”
“A young righteous man, there are different ways of living for each person.”
I know that her words are not sincere.
She was interested in martial arts, and because she wanted to be active in Wulin, she went into discipleship of Taishan Old Man. However, since the situation of her clan was not so good, she seemed to live only with carrying the burden of helping out the clan by suppressing her own desires. Even though she was old enough to be married off a long time ago, that's why she is still unmarried.
I felt the second question unravel before me.
‘So, the name of Sagong Lin was silently buried even after decades.’
She will soon reach the pinnacle of the Peak Class, and in the future, she may become the Super Peak Class (超絕頂 Chāo Juédǐng). But she spent all that energy in her duties to the clan for decades and she did not venture out into the world.
Everyone lives differently.
Even if it wasn’t her choice, wouldn’t it be okay if she could live in content?
I said goodbye to her after finishing my thoughts.
“I want to leave from the company today. Thank you.”
“…I thought so.”
She said as she looked out the window, and her eyes were still shining.
“A young righteous man, you still has a dream. Dream of the wide and big world beyond…”
“I just want to fill my desires.”
“Dreams and desires are not so different. I envy you…”
She laughed grimly.
“Good-bye, Baek Woong, a young righteous man.”
Then I resigned and left Sagong courier company.
This time, I promised myself that I would find the Millennium Snow Ginseng at Huangshan.
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Editors: T0ngan, Calvis