The Journey of Lightning Dragon (雷龍出道)
Luoyang (洛阳: an old capital from pre-Han times) was, as I heard, a very big city. The view of the city was so great that it could be seen from the hills, though I was approaching from outside the city gate. It was the first time to visit because I never had a chance to come as a guard for my life.
‘The biggest city in the world … the castle of the Emperor … ‘
I walked past the guard post, admiring myself. With just one check at the entrance gate, I became to know that this city was superior to other cities, but there was another check in the distance of just a hundred meters apart, so it was a curious moment in the outer castle. In addition, at the moment I entered the city, they said that they would inspect me inside again, so I could guess its magnitude.
The guard said while examining my luggage.
“What? Are you a Fortune-teller (易術家)?”
Already, the scroll had been sewn into the hidden parts of the bundle. The only thing I would get caught was a scroll with a map of the palace on it, but if something would not be suspected of, they could see only the book of Extraordinary Gate Disguise (奇門遁甲).
I said with a grin.
“I’m still doing it.”
“Huh … go to Juhyun street. There are a lot of people like you.”
The guard clucked his tongue and gave me some strange advice.
“You will have a bunch of costumed revelers on the entire street which is filled with, and fortune-tellers gathering at Juhyun street.”
In other cities, people secured the good location first and ran a store, but in this large city, they gathered around to attract attention from people, created the streets, and then competed. It was a novelty since I had never seen it in other cities.
I opened my mouth a little as I entered the downtown street.
How tall and big!
The streets and shops were so bright and big that they couldn’t be compared to what I had seen so far. Most of the buildings I saw ended up on the third floor, and there were so many buildings with the fifth or sixth floor. I was surprised to find that the wide streets, on which even the four carriages could pass, were full of people.
“Get out of my way…”
A wagon passed by. It seemed to be a wagon of a high-ranking official, but people were making room for the carriage in advance, as if they were familiar with this kind of work. As I went further, the city was filled with the sound of noisy chat of people.
They sold a lot of food. Strange things I had never seen before were displayed on the street stalls, and there were many restaurants that looked like they were professional. In particular, some places were eight stories tall, so I had to turn my head over a long time. There was also the sound of oil frying dumplings or fish somewhere, and the delicious smell.
Usually, when entering the city, it was easy to find the proper inn to stay, but Luoyang was not that one. There was a mass of inns and bars, and one street seemed to have dozens of them.
I heard, “if someone has money, it is best to live in Luoyang.” I didn’t think much of it because I thought every city is almost the same. But they said it for a reason. I put on a perplexed expression and took an inn first. Now it was early in the evening, so I was going to grab a room after a bite.
The inn was also different in size. As soon as I entered the first floor, waiters bowed their heads to greet each other with neat clothes and features. Usually, there were three waiters in a single
inn, but ten waiters were serving on the first floor only. It was a popular tourist destination.
I was guided to a table by a waiter. Then, to my surprise, the waiter gave a piece of wood to me.
“What about this?”
“Please choose and order the food you want!”
I was frightened. In a typical inn, the kinds of food were dumplings, thin noodles, chicken meat dishes, and at most one or two more sub-ops. So if the waiter roughly called for a kind of food, I would choose from it. But it had more than twenty dishes and drinks written on. I said in a trembling tone of voice.
“Are you saying that the chef can do all this cooking?”
“Ha ha ha! My chef is Red Heaven Chef. There is no doubt about his ability.”
Red Heaven Chef!
I’ve heard of it. Among the chefs, they are divided into four stages: Blue, Red, Black, and White, Blue is approved to the best chef in the palace cooking competition in front of the Emperor. Red is given to a chef who is recognized as a shot at least in a castle, although it is much lower than Blue. In my town, Guanzhong, Red Heaven Chef used to be a great cook who can be found by a high official only.
But it was also expensive.
‘Oh, hell, what the…’
I was a little surprised to learn that a few dishes were as expensive as a silver coin. The most expensive one cost three to four silver coins.
“Give me a dumpling.”
Prices seemed a few times higher than the average inn. I wanted to go out, but I had suspicion so I ordered dumplings.
‘Oh, dear. That’ll take a lot of money for room and board. Do I have to work here?’
The total amount of money Wangliang gave me was forty silver coins. At first, it was enough money to explore and pay for the travel. Usually, I could travel and eat for three months with the money in other places, but if I stayed in Luoyang, I would probably spend it all in less than a month. Prices were strangely high with entertainment charges.
‘I don’t need to break in the palace now. For the time being, I am going to sleep in Luoyang, refine my Neigong, plan thoroughly, and then go into the palace. If caught, I will be at least dead. There is plenty of time after all. I feel it necessary to stay here doing chores to live on during my long stay. And the details I have got from living in poverty will help me in the gradual infiltration into the palace.’
I asked the waiter when I was eating dumplings.
“Hello. What would it be like to live by martial arts here?”
There weren’t many people around yet, and the waiter I called seemed quite a bit senior. So he looked around for a moment and replied kindly to my question.
“You must be a martial artist. Well, I have seen some people break the signs of martial-arts sects from time to time, but the result was not generally good. So, if you want to do something about it, it would be practical for you to go into an honored guest of a great faction.”
“Bad result? Did you see and hear something?”
“Ha ha ha…”
He only smiled but said nothing. I soon realized he was going to ask for some extra money, so I carefully took out twenty copper coins from my pocket. But he did not turn his head in disappointment and I put thirty coins on top of it.
“Judging from your tone and intonation, I think you are a person from Anhui castle. Unlike Anhui castle, Zhongnan Faction (終南派) and Huashan Faction (華山派) among Nine Factions & Gaibang (九派一幇) are very strong in Luoyang, but they are also weak inside the castle. Inside the castle, some Extreme (絕頂) martial artists run the martial arts hall.”
“Are they as good as Nine Factions & Gaibang?”
I was surprised.
Only four members of Huangshan Faction, which occupied the last seat of Nine Factions & Gaibang, were Extreme martial artists. It was very difficult to find such Extreme people. However, there were a lot of them in Luoyang.
The martial arts of Nine Factions & Gaibang, mostly based on the distinguished martial arts of Daoism and the developed tactics of fighting for a long time, were very strong. Therefore, it was hard to imagine that the owners of the martial arts hall were not inferior to the experts from Nine Factions & Gaibang.
The waiter nodded.
“The largest and toughest sects in Luoyang are called Two Sects Four Clans (雙門四家). It is referring to two great sects and four prestigious clans.”
“Hmm … Tell me more about it.”
I told him furtively, giving him an extra silver coin. It was a large expenditure but it worked. The waiter quickly picked up the silver coin and started to throw up the information in an eloquent tone.
“The six sects are responsible for the appointment of the Imperial Army and the Embroidered Uniform Guard (錦衣衛: the imperial secret police that served the emperors of the Ming dynasty in China.), and the passing in the military service examination every year. People who come from the provincial areas cannot easily beat the men from Two Sects Four Clans, unless they are really talented. The men from Two Sects Four Clans don’t use bribes or money, but they are known for their bravery and martial arts. Two Sects refer to Iron Blood Sect (鐵血門) and Tai Sword Sect (太劍門). Four Clans are Chang Clan, Xu Clan, Lee Clan, and Han Clan. People in Luoyang usually call them Iron Blood Tai Sword and Chang Xu Lee Han in short.”
Two Sects Four Clans!
Iron Blood Tai Sword and Chang Xu Lee Han!
I had to memorize them to work in Luoyang. After repeating the same words unpleasantly, I asked an additional question.
“So, were all the Murim (武林) people, who tried to break the signs of the sects at Luoyang, defeated by the Two Sects Four Clans?”
“Even a senior member of Huashan Faction was beaten by the Lord of Tai Sword Sect in hundred moves. As Huashan Faction went around having a Duel (對鍊) and trying to expand its power within Luoyang, it happened …”
When I realized that the capacity of Two Sects Four Clans was better than I expected, I murmured.
‘People can think that the Lord of Tai Sword Sect is a member of Two Sects Four Clans, and the elder of Huashan Faction is on the lower class, but it is not that simple. The elder of Huashan Faction is an Extreme martial artist, who has trained his sword for decades and has looked down on the central continent. Even though the Lord of Tai Sword Sect is the best of a sect, it is not something to be taken lightly, as the Lord of Tai Sword Sect beats the elder of Huashan Faction in hundred moves.’
The waiter said with a double face.
“Ah, please don’t just talk about it. If the disciples of Huashan Faction hear it from you, you will be beaten.”
“I understand. So, first of all, talk about it in detail.”
My eyes lit up.
“Where are the Two Sects Four Clans located?”
I ordered another pot while the waiter gave me an explanation. And I thought about it while I organized the information in my mind.
‘That’s perfect. That will be a good match.’
For the past three years, my ability was stagnant because I haven’t practiced Neigong much during the time. But it did not mean that it was receding. Rather, I became highly focused and energetic through Brain Essence Sutra (雷精經), and I could still experience a surge in the Martial-arts Contest, if I had a chance.
‘In other words, what I need now is a process to incorporate the strong Neigong into my martial arts. The actual fighting is necessary.’
Since there was no one to fight with after winning the Neigong of Millennium Snow Ginseng, I felt that this performance would be of great help to me. I decided to stay in the inn just after I had finished eating. If I tried to eat here for a few weeks, I would run out of money, but I could steal the book before that.
‘The way I’ll try is to break the sign!’
I would like to do Martial-arts Contest (比武) with Two Sects Four Clans, the great sects in Luoyang, and to compete with the leading figures of the sects one by one. They would do their best for their honor, but in a sense, I could die. But, if I could see the skills of their leaders, I could measure the skills of the senior experts working inside the palace, the Imperial Army, and the Embroidered Uniform Guard (錦衣位).
There was a remark made by Wangliang.
[The ability of the Embroidered Uniform Guard? If ten guards of the Embroidered Uniform Guard attack together, even a senior member of a major faction cannot avoid death. The inside palace is full of at least thirty martial artists of the Embroidered Uniform Guard, so never fight head to head.]
I made up my mind.
If I am not capable of winning all the battles with Two Sects Four Clans, then I won’t try to penetrate the palace. If there is a shortage of martial arts, I will face years of training under cover. It is worth noting that I can become crippled or killed during the fight with them. But I am not afraid of death because of the Heavenly Dark Secret Book (天暗秘書).
However, since the future looks bleak without knowing the identity of the book, for me, the plan to steal Anonymous Ceremonial Book (無名祭事書) from the palace is a prerequisite for success.
Let’s be careful. Nevertheless, I will avoid death if possible, and improve my skills to the maximum.
I started the project when I felt I was at the bottom of the ladder.
I decided to spend ten years in Luoyang.