Chapter 81: The Swordsman from the North (3)

TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!

 

“Haa…” sighed Yong Mu-Sung, looking at the situation around him.

Only a short time had passed, but nearly thirty people were dead, blanketing the White Dragon caravan in an atmosphere of gloom and despair.
Everyone was used to living on the edge, but dealing with the deaths of people with whom one had just been talking and joking with was never easy.

Not even the Iron Brigade mercenaries were exempt from the grief and shock.
Moreover, they were mortified by not only the strength of the red-armored warriors, but the solidarity and teamwork that they had displayed when they took the effort to retrieve their comrades’ corpses before they retreated.

That was not something any normal organization would do, since it would greatly hinder their chances of a successful escape.
Looking at it from another perspective, though, it meant that the red-armored warriors were desperate not to leave any corpses, which would reveal hints to their true identities, behind.

Yong Mu-Sung scratched his head and muttered to himself, “Damn it, damn it! Those fucking crazy bastards…”

Unlike Yong Mu-Sung, the rest of the caravan did not voice it out loud, but they all felt the same way as him.
Never in their dreams had they imagined that so many of them would die on their very first day in Yunnan.
The unexpected blow had crushed their hopeful spirits.

Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan approached Yong Mu-Sung and self-deprecatingly sighed, “Haa…This is all my fault.
It was my decision that…”

“You’re not the only one at fault.
As your commander, I’m equally responsible for what happened here today.
I allowed those guys to wipe so much shit all over my face, that from now on, I won’t be able to raise my head in front of others wherever I go.”

“I’m sorry,” Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan apologized, then glanced toward the wagon where Tang Mi-Ryeo was treating her uncle.

Shortly after their enemies had retreated, Tang Mi-Ryeo had given her injured uncle, Tang Gi-Mun, emergency treatment.
As a result, Tang Gi-Mun had swiftly regained consciousness.
Tang Mi-Ryeo had then quickly brought her uncle up to speed on their current situation, including the fact that the Iron Brigade and White Dragon Merchant Association wanted to abandon them.

Well, if the two of them had been killed, no one would be the wiser, and the truth about what happened here would have been buried in the sands of time.
However, they survived, and now the resentment from being abandoned burned strongly in their hearts.

“Let’s go,” said Yong Mu-Sung.

Confused, Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan asked, “Huh? Go where…?”

“We have to apologize to those two before it’s too late.” Yong Mu-Sung marched toward the wagon.

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Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan sighed briefly, then followed him.
Yong Mu-Sung was right.
Trying to pretend that nothing had happened would not solve their problems.

The two Iron Brigade mercenaries stopped in front of the wagon, clasped their hands together in a fist salute and bowed their heads slightly.
Yong Mu-Sung said, “Greetings, Great Senior from the Tang Clan.
I am Yong Mu-Sung of the Iron Brigade, and a mere humble junior in martial arts.”

“Greetings, Elder Tang Gi-Mun.
I am Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan, also of the Iron Brigade.”1

Tang Gi-Mun wordlessly stared at the two men for a long time, leaving them sweating from the tension.
Finally, he said in a voice as cold as ice, “Nice to meet you, I am Tang Gi-Mun, the Head of the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Poisons in the Tang Clan.
I’ve already heard the entire story from my niece, and I won’t be forgetting your ‘assistance’ anytime soon.”

The two mercenaries’ faces crumpled.
Even an ordinary elder of the Tang Clan wasn’t someone they could afford to offend, much less the Head of the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Poisons, a much more revered position and one that was part of the core leadership of the Tang Clan.

Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan wanted to faint where he stood.
Only now did the sheer severity of his mistake strike him.

Fuck, if I’d known who he was, I’d have helped him regardless of the danger!

…But there’s no point crying over spilled milk now.
My best option is to attempt to patch things up so that the Tang Clan does not bring the hammer of vengeance down on us.

“I’m really sorry, but as you saw just now, with our measly strength, there was nothing we could do to help you.”

“Why are you apologizing? All you did was act like a typical warrior of the gangho.”

Under Tang Gi-Mun’s cold gaze, Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan’s heart sank.
He felt as if the old man could see right through his intentions.

Seeing this, Yong Mu-Sung took over, saying, “Elder Tang, we’re truly sorry about this.
If we had known who you were, we would definitely have risked our lives to protect you.
Also, at the time, we weren’t really in a state where we could have made any rational judgments…”

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“Do you weigh the lives of people by their status?”

“Isn’t that the way of the gangho?”

Tang Gi-Mun locked gazes with Yong Mu-Sung, who grinned back brazenly.

“The way of the gangho, huh…” Tang Gi-Mun couldn’t refute Yong Mu-Sung’s statement, because it was the truth.

In the end, he could only cynically conclude, “I see.
Thank you, I learned a lot of things today, and this is one lesson I will never forget.”

“Aigoo! I didn’t teach you anything, you know?”

“In return, I will not pursue what you did today.”

“Thank you.”

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“I don’t owe you anything, either.
After all, this is ‘the way of the gangho’, right?”

“Hahaha! I’m satisfied as long as you don’t lay the blame on us,” Yong Mu-Sung laughed unabashedly.

So this is Yong Mu-Sung, the Commander of the Iron Brigade.
He’s quite the cocky, audacious man.
Most martial artists would tremble at the mention of my title, but this guy didn’t even bat an eyelid.
Our Tang Clan will have to be wary of this man from now on.
He’s not normal.

Tang Gi-Mun tried to stand up, but almost immediately fell back down on his butt, reeling from pain.
His internal injuries were much more severe than he had thought, and all of his organs felt like they had been displaced.
Thankfully, he’d avoided death due to Tang Mi-Ryeo’s emergency treatment, but he still badly needed proper medical care.

He turned toward Tang Mi-Ryeo and ordered, “From now on, don’t let anyone come near me.”

“Yes, Uncle.”2

Once again, under the curious gazes of Yong Mu-Sung, Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan and the rest of the caravan members, Tang Gi-Mun forced himself to his feet, clambered off the wagon, and hobbled over to a small clearing.
He then sat down cross-legged and took two tiny ceramic bottles out from his chest pocket.

Tang Mi-Ryeo’s face turned as white as a sheet.

“Uncle…?” she exclaimed.

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“Don’t worry, these are for treating my injuries.”

Tang Gi-Mun opened the cap of the bottle on the right, releasing a terrible stench that made one dizzy just by smelling it.

Is that poison!? Yong Mu-Sung immediately held his breath and unconsciously retreated several steps backward.
Any poison that Tang Gi-Mun carried could not possibly be something mild or relatively harmless.

However, Tang Gi-Mun unhesitatingly poured a drop of the poison into his mouth and swallowed.
His face quickly paled, and his entire body started trembling uncontrollably.

The name of the poison that he had just taken was the “White Frog’s Acid”, named that way because it was extracted from the skin of the Blood White Frog (血白蛙),3 a poisonous frog native to the remote parts of Qinghai Province.
Unlike other frogs, the Blood White Frog did not hibernate in winter, instead, it became more and more energetic as the weather got colder.
This unusual behavior was the result of its body producing a poison so potent, one drop of it was enough to take down more than ten healthy bulls.

In the past, Tang Gi-Mun had spent two whole months searching every nook and cranny of Qinghai Province just to find the frog and obtain this poison.

The way the poison worked was that the moment it entered the body, it would stimulate the entire nervous system to continuously fire off signals indicating “pain” to the brain, and the indescribable agony that followed would send most people to their deaths.

However, Tang Gi-Mun was no ordinary person.
He was a poison master, and possessed resistance to most poisons.
The White Frog’s Acid was indeed potent, but for him, the pain was still bearable.

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With trembling hands, Tang Gi-Mun opened the bottle in his left hand, brought it to his mouth, and gulped it down.

This bottle was filled with another potent poison called the “Crane’s Red Crown (鶴頂紅)”, and like the White Frog’s Acid, one drop of it was enough to kill several dozen people.
It was obtained from the red crowns on the heads of old cranes who had lived for several hundred years, and the difficulty of obtaining this poison was so high it was like trying to pluck stars from the sky.4

If anyone who knew about poisons had seen what Tang Gi-Mun just did, they would have freaked out and called him “insane”.
One drop of each type of poison was enough to kill dozens of men, and yet he swallowed not just one, but both poisons!

“Keuk!” The instant the Crane’s Red Crown’s entered his stomach, Tang Gi-Mun bit his lip in pain.
His poison resistance might be outstanding, but the combined effects from two different poisons was unbearable even for him.

Surprisingly though, the two poisons only clashed violently for a while before they began cooperating and healing Tang Gi-Mun’s body.
As time passed, his face that was twisted from pain began to relax and some semblance of color returned to it.

PSHHHH…

Suddenly, poisonous fumes gushed out from the pores of his skin.

Yong Mu-Sung hurriedly shouted, “Everyone, get away from him!”

At Yong Mu-Sung’s reminder, everyone who had been watching Tang Gi-Mun curiously quickly stepped back, although Yong Mu-Sung continued observing the old man closely.

Is he treating poison with poison (以毒制毒)? No, if I remember right, that phenomenon should be the one called “harmony of poisons (以毒相生)”…

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It was commonly known that some poisons could be used as antidotes for other poisons.
However, what Tang Gi-Mun did was different.
He was not simply canceling the effects of one poison using another, but combining two different poisons to create medicine.

The White Frog’s Acid would stimulate his nervous system, causing pain yet triggering his body’s natural healing response.
On the other hand, the Crane’s Red Crown damaged the internal organs while protecting the nervous system.
On its own, the destructive effects of each poison overwhelmed its healing effects, but together, only the negative effects were canceled out.

Well, this crude method only worked because he was Tang Gi-Mun, and could resist the worst side effects of each poison.
For anyone else, if the amount and concentration of each poison was even slightly off, the result would be certain death.

Soon, Tang Gi-Moon’s displaced organs returned to their rightful positions, and his torn muscles came back together.

As expected of the Head of the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Poisons, thought Yong Mu-Sung bitterly.
If only he had chosen to save Tang Gi-Mun, he and the Iron Brigade would have benefited greatly from the master who had surpassed the stage of poisoning people to death, and reached the realm where he could turn poison into precious elixirs.

As more and more poisonous fumes came out from Tang Gi-Mun’s body, his immediate surroundings quickly transformed into a circle of death where plants that had been lush and green just a few moments ago became gray and barren.
In contrast, Tang Gi-Mun himself seemed livelier and livelier.

Finally, with a soft sigh, Tang Gi-Mun opened his eyes, got to his feet, and walked toward Tang Mi-Ryeo.

“Uncle, are you feeling better now?”

“Yes, thanks to you, I’ve mostly recovered.
Also, I’m sorry, I couldn’t help you at all during the battle.
I was just a burden.”

“Phew…” Tang Mi-Ryeo heaved a sigh of relief.

Suddenly, she heard the sound of rustling grass.
Jin Mu-Won had returned.

She immediately cried out with delight, “Savior!”

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Like his niece, Tang Gi-Mun also turned to face Jin Mu-Won, and the two men’s gazes met.

Jin Mu-Won’s eyes lit up with interest.
Until right before he’d left to chase after Nam-Goong Wi, Tang Gi-Mun had been in a near-death state, and yet, the man was now standing up straight as if he’d never gotten injured.

“So you’re the young man who saved my life.
Thank you, and please allow me to introduce myself, I am Tang Gi-Mun.”

“My name is Jin Mu-Won.
Also, you don’t need to thank me, I just did what anyone would have done in that situation.”

“Even so, I am a member of the Tang Clan.
Both animosity and kindness are things that we will never forget, so in the name of Tang Gi-Mun, I swear that I will return this favor,” Tang Gi-Mun adamantly insisted.

Those who treated the Tang Clan with kindness would be repaid tenfold, and those who offended them would be repaid a hundredfold.
That was the Tang Clan’s Creed, and out of everyone in the clan, Tang Gi-Mun was the one who abided most firmly to their family’s principles.
His word was worth more than the weight of a thousand gold coins.

While all this was happening, Yong Mu-Sung and Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan could only watch on the sidelines with expressions like they had just eaten sour grapes.

To their chagrin, that promise was only between Jin Mu-Won and Tang Gi-Mun.

Footnotes:

Senior/Elder: Yong Mu-Sung says “sunbae” (and refers to himself as a humble hoobae) while Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan says “janglo”, so I’m differentiating the two honorifics. ↩

Uncle: Tang Mi-Ryeo uses “sukbu (숙부, 叔父)”, yet another word for “Uncle”, although it more literally translates to “Uncle Father” and proves how close the two are.
Remember, Jin Mu-Won calls Hwang Cheol “Hwang-suk”, and Kwak Moon-Jung calls him “Hwang-ahjussi”, both also meaning “Uncle Hwang”.
Sigh, honorifics… ↩

Blood White Frog (血白蛙): This is a purely fictional frog species, probably a borrowed idea from Jin Yong’s novel, “The Heavenly Sword and Dragon-Slaying Saber”, where the protagonist Zhang Wuji eats a Blood Frog (which contains pure Yang energy) to neutralize the cold (Yin) poison from his enemy’s technique, the Divine Palm of Frigid Darkness. ↩

Crane’s Red Crown (鶴頂紅): The Red-crowned crane most certainly exists, but although it is one of the longest-lived bird species (with a lifespan of up to 75 years), it most definitely does not live for several hundred years and is also not poisonous. ↩

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