Embroidered Uniform Guard (錦衣衛)
Was this monster painted on the Nameless Ceremonial Book?
We both looked at each other with astonishment. We had a lot to say, but we were at a loss what to say. It was I who started the conversation.
"I went to the village before the fire broke out, and I saw this monster there."
“Did you actually see this? Nonsense…”
“If I haven't seen it in the real life, then I am making it up?”
Mang-Liang seemed to deny it, but he could not. There was almost no possibility that it coincidentally matched with the drawing of the Nameless Ceremonial Book. It was even less likely that I came to make fun of him after seeing the Nameless Ceremonial Book. He could not help believing my words to be true.
"Tell me what happened then."
One by one, I explained to Mang-Liang about the human sacrifice, the encounter with the fanatics, and the monster. Of course, I had to talk about Hyun Chun-Daoist, too. Then, I changed the ending of my story that I had been lucky enough to get out alive. After listening to my story for a long time, he sighed.
“Well, I can’t help believing it… But it’s so hard to believe.”
“What do you think? ”
I wanted to draw wisdom from Mang-Liang.
"Please wait a moment. I want to organize my thoughts. ”
Unfolding a fan.
Mang-Liang said so, and then spread out his fan, put it on his temples, and gave a sullen look. It was like the old men were going to pee in their face. My face was constantly breaking, and I couldn't talk to him until half an hour passed.
“Baek Woong. So, what are you going to do now?”
"I will be on Embroidered Uniform Guard this time. If I had the chance, I would get the Nameless Ceremonial Book, but it's not a good idea. I don’t have to rush anyway.”
"It’s funny … I like you for some reason.”
Mang-Liang mumbled something before he continued.
“If I’m right, the fire, human offering, and the monster… There’s a great conspiracy in it. Maybe it’ll shake the whole central continent…”
“Do you know something?”
"It is not the stage yet to talk. This is absurd, and you and I might be in danger of being destroyed. Now is not the time to make a definite decision, but to think more carefully to get more clues.”
Mang-Liang’s face was more serious than before. As a matter of fact, when I worked together to get the Nameless Ceremonial Book in the past, I felt that a bright light was shining over my dull life. However, this time, his expression had a look of determination. He must have just come to realize something important in my talk. But he was not sure, so he was just trying not to be flippant.
After a while, said Mang-Liang.
“Do you have an assistant in Luoyang?”
“One or two people.”
The Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect, one of two sects in Luoyang, may help me out. He will certainly help me since he is a friend of my master’s and he even gave me the recommendation from Embroidered Uniform Guard after exchanging letters with Lee Kwang. Of course, if they were in a dangerous situation, they would throw me away, but if I did not show any abnormal symptoms, I could get some help of Tai Sword Sect.
Mang-Liang shook his head.
“Not one or two people is not enough. I’ll go along with you.”
"I will persuade the best talented man to help you out in the dark. Otherwise, you’ll surely die.”
“Die? I’m not about to get the Nameless Ceremonial Book. I plan on seeing the chance for years, but it’s too negative.”
Mang-Liang showed a feigned smile.
"Haha… That’s not such a matter. Do you know what it means to have a connection between the monster and the Nameless Ceremonial Book? The Imperial Family is already involved in this matter deeply.”
“I guess so, too.”
“Guess what? Don’t you know what it means?”
My lips were sealed by the words of Mang-Liang.
“It means that the Imperial Family has already interpreted the Nameless Ceremonial Book.”
I felt awkward about something, but was it something like that? I was embarrassed at the moment so that my thoughts could not reach there.
“Make your lips sealed.”
As I tried to open my mouth slightly, Mang-Liang popped his index finger into my mouth.
“No more thinking, no more speculation. We need a more conclusive clue. Before that, consider that every single move will lead to death. It’s a big conspiracy.”
Mang-Liang was certainly wiser than I was. In that brief moment, he had insight into the situation and firmly established what was to be done. I had one idea or another, but it was certain that the Imperial Family could be an enemy. It was not just the matter of stealing the Nameless Ceremonial Book, but the possibility that the Nameless Ceremonial Book might be at the center of the plot.
No wonder each step is the way to death. If I show any suspicious behavior, the Imperial Palace will be my grave at once.
When I thought about it, the gloomy, heavy mind overwhelmed me. And I said after a while.
“Do you think it's necessary to find out what is going on even though it’s so dangerous?”
He looked at me with a stunned look.
I talked slowly, with my arms folded.
“There is no need for you and I have to figure it out.”
“You don’t have to risk your life going into Luoyang if you want to live in seclusion; you will still be able to play free as Mang-Liang Immortal. If I am not greedy for the Nameless Ceremonial Book, I’ll also be able to spend a comfortable life as an Embroidered Uniform Guard. Don’t you think so?”
'I don’t want to die any more.
I don’t want to stick to the Nameless Ceremonial Book anymore, if there is a huge danger.
I just want to get the book if I have the opportunity by chance.'
I was held by a conservative desire not to lose my life again as a martial artist.
He looked a little confused. Then he spoke in a gloomy tone.
"You know one thing, but you don't know the other. Do you think it’s because I am just unhappy with the misery of the villagers who I’ve never seen before? Do you think I want to reveal the secret by putting my life to protect the justice of Moorim?”
“Baek Woong, the tragedy you saw, will someday strike an unspecified number of people. The scale is so great that it cannot be compared to the tragedy of the village. And are you going to run away with luck, or are you going to be a dog of those in power and do all the dirty work?”
Mang-Liang’s speech was desperate and full of burning appeals. It's because I was the only one to prevent tragedy, from his point of view.
“Nobody in this world knows more about Imperial Family than I do. I knew it from working as an Astrologist (天文館). They think the world is a lid. If they were to preside over this event, then someday there would be a great tribulation. Isn't it natural that we should stop it when we can prevent it?”
Mang-Liang’s words were so arranged that I was speechless. His words reminded me of everything I had not thought of. But even so, there was something that did not reach to me when I thought about my life right now.
I shook my head after a while.
“I don’t want to be hurt unnecessarily.”
"… You are like my teacher. I’m disappointed.”
Mang-Liang snapped out his tongue and made a blatant expression.
"Well, then, I have nothing more to say. It’s good to know that I’m going to end my journey to Luoyang. Is there anything else you’d like to hear from me?”
After thinking for a while, I asked, “If you were me five years ago, how would you prevent that tragedy? No, what would you have done if I had come to you five years ago and asked for help?”
Mang-Liang smiled coldly.
“If I had been asked, I would have sneaked in and poisoned the well.”
“Poison the well?”
Mang-Liang nodded his head.
"Whether they are a fanatic or something, they must drink as a human being, and if they are living in a closed space, the only way to get drinking water is a well or a stream or a river. But as far as I know, the village was quite far from the river and had no stream inside.
After all, it means that they have lived in a well that was drawn through the waterway from a distance. If I had poisoned the well, their plans would have been easily thwarted; even if they lived for a few days by the vitality of the fanatic, they would die if there is no water. Moreover, the large-scale human sacrifice would have been essential for their plot, so it would have been difficult to choose another village in that situation.”
“Since the black-clothed men and the great sorcerer, the subject of the conspiracy you have said, are human beings, won't they be drinking water for living in that village?”
I opened my mouth to the plot of Mang-Liang. Hyun-Chun Daoist and I were just martial artists in Moorim that we could only think of hiding and assassinating them, but if we had followed the plot of Mang-Liang, we could have killed two birds with one stone (一擧兩得). Maybe, we would have blocked the main offering of human sacrifice, the fanatic, as well as we could have eliminated the executioners of the plan, with good luck. In addition, there is no need to directly fight the men in black.
“Of course, those who have such obsession will not give up their plan because of the poison, but if we keep reporting to the government office and spreading rumors to the Moorim people while they are staggering, they will eventually have to resign. It doesn't need the martial arts much.”
He sighed a short pause.
“But this was already over in the past, even if I came back and told you what to do now. The people of the village went mad, they created the monsters, and then they got exterminated. There is no human being who can change the past, but now what are you going to say about this?”
"And you must keep in mind that if they have created the monsters, where they are now.”
I took a deep breath.
'So, where did all the monsters go? There is no place to breed such large, violent creatures. Even if they burned the village to the ground and covered up their activities, it was quite noticeable that they were moving around with the monsters. They had apparently disappeared without any traces, and people had not even heard of the monsters.'
I was under the impulse of finding a way to explore the plot of the Imperial Palace with the help of Mang-Liang. The thought of the monsters crawling around the world made me sick.
But I held my tongue.
'Even if his words are right and the great tribulation is coming to the world in the future, there is a high possibility that I will die if I try to stop it. Rather than risking my life for justice, I want to turn my head away from the fact that I did see it. At least, this time, I want to live a peaceful life as a martial artist in Moorim.'
Therefore, I changed the subject.
“You said that you would use poison, but what kind of poison would you use?”
“Did you say that the fanatics have only the little reason left, which is necessary in the real life and do not feel pain? Then, the poison that causes strong pain or stimulates their five senses will not be of great use. We need neurotoxin that stops movement and leads to death regardless of human will. Neurotoxin can paralyze the muscles of the whole body and cause to death from breathing difficulties and heart attacks.”
“Do you have neurotoxin?”
"I know how to manufacture it. I can make it in a day, if I add some special chemicals to the snake poison. If I make it for water solubility, it’ll take a little more time, but it won’t take more than two days.”
Indeed, he was a man of great knowledge.
It is the poison technique that is secretly passed on in the very small number of clans, including Sichuan Dang Sect (四川唐門) in Moorim. He has read so many books that he has acquired a great deal of knowledge.
I was much concerned and said, “Mang-Liang. How about this?”
“I’m not ready to fight off the plot as you say. I am not willing to block it.”
"But I definitely want to learn how to make neurotoxin. So why not exchange the information I get from being on Embroidered Uniform Guard with the neurotoxin recipe? Whatever you do with the information, it may be hard to help you, but if you want to get some information, I will surely deliver it.”
My life wouldn’t be in danger at this rate. And Mang-Liang was so disappointed with me now that he wouldn’t be willing to teach me how to manufacture the neurotoxin. So, I came up with a compromise plan on my own.
“… Okay! Of course, I’ll teach you.”
Mang-Liang readily consented. He seemed to be eager to help me out though I passively expressed my intention. At any rate, he was a man of chivalry.
Fortunately, there was enough time left to arrive at Luoyang. Being able to reschedule for at least seven days, I learned how to make special neurotoxin and a basic poison technique (毒術) from Mang-Liang. I had to memorize all the recipes without being wrong, and study it without thinking about going out of the thatched house.
The reason why I learned the poison technique was simple. It could be useful later, if I went back to the past, and if I would not have time to visit Mang-Liang, I would have to make it myself.
‘I have learned all about…’
Four days have passed since the manufacturing method of neurotoxin was taught. I have studied all night long, and he has constantly muttered from the side, and both of us collapsed with fatigue, because mental fatigue was too strong.
Mang-Liang, who didn’t move at all for about half a day, saw me off.
“If you change your mind later, go to the Lu Dongbin Shrine (呂洞賓), which is located five miles southwest of Luoyang. And if you have this new Trust Mark (信標), you’ll be saved there when your life is in danger.”
It was a small curved bead (曲玉) that Mang-Liang passed on as a new Trust Mark. I gazed at it down before leaving.
"Don’t go with no purpose. You’ll be in trouble then.”
“Thank you anyway.”
I parted from Mang-Liang and headed for Luoyang.
It was about eight days later that I came into Luoyang castle. I rode a horse through Luoyang’s outer gate and slowly headed to Tai Sword Sect. As it was daytime, Tai Sword Sect was crowded with the disciples as many as the Iron Blood Sect. Overall, the numbers looked smaller than the Iron Blood Sect, but the average level of the disciples seemed to be higher.
I went to the entrance door and the gatekeepers blocked me.
“Stop. What brings you here?
"My name is Baek Woong from Blue Dragon Martial Club. Please deliver this letter to the Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect.”
They went inside and came out after a while.
“Come along with me, please.”
It was a neat living room that I arrived along the gatekeepers. Looking at the gorgeous but simple decoration of the room, I could see that this sect was the most prosperous one in Luoyang. There were few luxurious things to look at, but the internal atmosphere alone revealed the personality of the owner.
A moment later, a man walked into the living room.
"I have heard about you. Are you Baek Woong, the teacher of Blue Dragon Martial Club?”
I got up and expressed my manner.
“Yes, sir. It’s an honor to meet you, the Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect.”
The man who was wearing neat white clothes, and who is standing in front of me, was the Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect; he was one of the top experts of Two Sects Four Clans which were dominating over Luoyang, and defeated the elder of Huashan Sect in hundred Moves.
“Let’s sit down for a while.”
Sound of pouring tea.
The maid standing next to me carefully poured tea into his tecup and mine. The appearance of the Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect, who was drinking tea with dignity, reminded me of Lee Kwang of Blue Dragon Martial Club, and I thought that they had become friends with similar characters. Both were gentle and peaceful, but the Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect would be also a tiger-like scary person in the actual battle.
The Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect said.
“You have come after hearing the recommendation for Embroidered Uniform Guard, haven't you?”
“I would keep it confidential, but unfortunately some of my disciples heard about it. Of course, I never intend to overturn my words, but they want to test your skills.”
As the position of Embroidered Uniform Guard, which could have become their seat, was transferred to a teacher of the other sect, they would lose their temper. The disciples seemed to be ready to take the anger out on me, for the Sect Leader had such a strong authority and reputation.
“Is it the martial-arts contest?”
“Just call it "duel" rather than “the martial-arts contest”.
I felt something complicated was entangled, the moment I arrived. But as I expected this much, I nodded confidently.
“Sure, I'll do it.”
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