Chapter 86: Unsought Attention (1)

It was raining.

A tall, bear-like man stood proudly in the pouring rain as if he owned the world.
Even though rainwater was flowing down his huge frame and clattering heavily upon the green stone floor with a sound like beans being fried on an iron pan, the man emotionlessly stood as still as an immobile stone statue.

This man with an overwhelming presence could only be Jo Cheon-Woo.

For the longest time, Jo Cheon-Woo stared silently at the night-time landscape of Kunming City.
Where once stood a sleepless city that bustled with nightlife even after twilight, Kunming was now blanketed by a quiet, lonely, suffocating darkness.

The cause of all this were the series of devastating incidents that had occurred frequently over the last few months.
These incidents had all but crippled Yunnan’s economy, and the effects were most pronounced in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province.

Even his own Tyrant Fist Sect had been severely affected by the economic recession in Kunming.
Their dwindling finances placed them in a state of emergency, forcing them to reduce their activities greatly in order to cut operating costs.

To the Tyrant Fist Sect, which was currently vying with the Diancang Sect over control of Yunnan, this was a fatal blow.

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Suddenly, a young man braved the rain and approached Jo Cheon-Woo, saying, “Father.”

Unlike the giant Fist Demon Jo Cheon-Woo, his son Jo Un-Kyung was of ordinary height, with a slender frame.

Jo Cheon-Woo coldly glanced at his son and asked, “Why are you here?”

“The heads of the White Dragon Merchant Association have dispatched an investigation team here.”

“The White Dragon Merchant Association?”

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“Apparently, they are searching for the caravan members who went missing here six months ago.”

“And they’re asking us for help?”

“…Yes.”

“How many times have we gotten this type of request already?”

“If we include this, a total of six times.”

“In other words, more than six trading caravans have vanished in Yunnan.” Jo Cheon-Woo narrowed his eyes.

“We cannot continue ignoring this issue any longer, Father.
All of our trading partners have begun to hesitate doing business with us.”

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“Hmph!”

“We have to at least do something to placate them.”

“……”

“Father, please…”

“You take care of the matter yourself.
Also…” Jo Cheon-Woo’s voice trailed off.

Seeing that his father was about to say something, Jo Un-Kyung prompted, “…Yes?”

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However, Jo Cheon-Woo only shook his head, replying, “It’s nothing.
Just go pacify those merchants.”

“Understood.”

“Now get lost!”

“Yes!” Jo Un-Kyung gave his father a quick bow and hurriedly scrambled away.

Jo Cheon-Woo waited for the young man to run out of earshot, then called out, “Yeop Pyung.”

A red-robed middle-aged man soundlessly appeared in the rain, bowed decorously and replied, “I’m here, my lord.”

Although the man was already pretty short, him bowing his head toward Jo Cheon-Woo made him appear even smaller.
He was Yeop Pyung, the leader of the Tyrant Fist Sect’s intelligence division, the Eye of Heaven, as well as the one and only man that Jo Cheon-Woo trusted fully.

“What’s your opinion of Un-Kyung?”

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“What do you mean?”

“Do you think he would make a good successor?”

“Yes, he’s very good at his work.”

“Really?”

“He handles his duties with aplomb and is well-respected by the other sect members.
Wouldn’t that be enough to make him a good successor?”

“He’s too soft-hearted, though.
To be a good ruler, one must always be rational and keep their emotions in check.”

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“Well, isn’t that something he can learn with time? It’s not like we’re in a hurry,” Yeop Pyung said, smiling.
He was well aware of what Jo Cheon-Woo was worried about.

Just like their appearances, Jo Un-Kyung’s personality was the complete opposite of Jo Cheon-Woo’s.
While the father was fiery and arrogant, the son was calm and quiet.

“Regardless, he’s still my successor.
I’m afraid that he won’t accept the way I plan to do things.”

“I’m sure he’ll get over it, since he is my Lord’s son.
The child of a tiger must be a tiger cub, right?”

“Even so, I won’t get him involved in this affair.
If he knew the truth, that kid would definitely go against me.”

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“Understood, my lord.”

“I won’t be satisfied with just ruling over a small corner of Yunnan.
If I was that kind of easily satisfied man, then I wouldn’t have bothered betraying Jin-hyung, my former lord.”

Jo Cheon-Woo looked down at his fists.
Those huge hands of his were covered in calluses, with skin as thick and tough as the paws of a bear.
He wiggled his fingers, feeling the explosive strength within.
This was the result of training his hands to the limits.

“Having power but not using it is a sin…” he mumbled to himself.

Yeop Pyung’s smile widened.
The world they lived in revolved around the strong, but when the strongest stayed dormant, rather than bringing peace, that was when the world fell into chaos.

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Jo Cheon-Woo was a man with too much ambition and strength to remain satisfied with merely being one of the Four Pillars of the Northern Army.
Since the end of the war with the Silent Night, he had wanted to march into the Central Plains to seize power…but was stopped by the forever unbudging “Northern Wall”, Jin Kwan-Ho.

Jin Kwan-Ho was utterly faithful to the original mission of the Northern Army— to protect the Central Plains from the Silent Night’s invasion.
On the other hand, Jo Cheon-Woo simply couldn’t understand why a man with such military power could live like a monk while resisting the allure of political dominance.

As a result, Jo Cheon-Woo abandoned Jin Kwan-Ho for Heaven’s Summit, and got part of what he wanted in the form of Yunnan Province.
To this day, he had never once regretted his decision.

“My Lord is right, of course, and that is also why I follow you.
Please leave taking care of all the little things to me, so that my Lord can focus on the big picture.”

“Thank you.”

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“If that is all, then I’ll be on my way, my Lord.”

“Are you setting off now?”

“Yes.
Fortunately, we managed to finish all our preparations on time.
However, we’re still cutting it rather close, so we’ll have to hurry.”

“Make sure you finish everything before Heaven’s Summit can interfere.”

“Don’t worry.
If there’s anything I’m worried about, it’s that we might be seeing a lot more bloodshed that we originally thought.”

“Bah! There is no success without sacrifice.
If we were afraid of a little sin, we wouldn’t be walking down this path.”

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“Still, the repercussions will likely be a lot bigger than expected.
We need to minimize the backlash.”

“How much worse do you think things will get?”

“At least a few hundred people, maybe even a thousand, will die.”

“Well, it hasn’t rained in Yunnan for quite a while.
A rain of blood, that is.” Jo Cheon-Woo stood proudly and looked down at the world below him as the rain continued to pour incessantly.

Yeop Pyung bowed deeply to Jo Cheon-Woo, then vanished as silently as he had appeared.

As Jo Un-Kyung entered the main hall of the Tyrant Fist Sect, the four people waiting there— Gong Jin-Sung, Yoon Seo-In, Yong Mu-Sung, and Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan stood up to greet him.

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On behalf of the group, Yong Mu-Sung said, “I’m really sorry for barging in on you like this.
I am Commander Yong Mu-Sung of the Iron Brigade, and this man is my vice-commander, Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan.
With us are Finance Director Gong Jin-Sung and Miss Yoon Seo-In of the White Dragon Merchant Association.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you all.
Take a seat.”

“Thank you.”

When Yong Mu-Sung and the rest of the group had settled down, Jo Un-Kyung sat down on his father’s throne.1

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Wow! Yong Mu-Sung couldn’t help bursting into admiration at the sight of Jo Un-Kyung’s arrogance.
Although the young man wasn’t outwardly brash like his father, his speech and mannerisms gave off an aura that he had everything under control.
Was this the pedigree of the successor of a prestigious family?

“I’ve heard a lot about the Iron Brigade.
Since you’re here with people from the White Dragon Merchant Association, I assume you’ve accepted a mission from them?”

“Yes.
Our mission is to search for the caravan members who went missing here.”

“Just hearing that you’re here to help makes me feel reassured.” Jo Un-Kyung locked gazes with Yong Mu-Sung, who did not shy away from him.

Yong Mu-Sung gave him a similar feeling as his father, piquing his interest.
Not only did the two men bear a physical resemblance in the form of a large build, they also had very bossy, dominating personalities.

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Jo Un-Kyung asked, “Have you found any clues to track down the missing people?”

“That’s the problem, we haven’t found anything so far.
We came to the Tyrant Fist Sect in hopes that you had information,” Yong Mu-Sung confessed.

The truth was, if not for the battle with the red-armored warriors, he would never have thought to visit the Tyrant Fist Sect this soon.
However, if there were more enemies like that inside Yunnan, then things would undoubtedly get dangerous if they started investigating without prior knowledge.

They’re only saying that because the only way for them to minimize their losses is to work together with the Tyrant Fist Sect. Unfortunately for Yong Mu-Sung, Jo Un-Kyung saw through him almost instantly.
Still, getting the White Dragon Merchant Association, one of the Ten Great Companies, to owe them wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Tyrant Fist Sect.

The problem now was the conditions for their collaboration.

Jo Un-Kyung asked, “Is information all you want? If that’s the case, then I’m sorry but we can’t help you.”

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“No, we came here for a more important reason,” Gong Jin-Sung replied.
He then pointed to Yoon Seo-In, who was sitting beside him, and continued, “My Lady here is the one in charge of this search party, and she’s looking for her missing elder brother, Yoon Ja-Myung.
This much information should be enough for you to understand how much we’re willing to give you for your help, right?”

“I see.”

Jo Un-Kyung looked at Yoon Seo-In, who bowed her head slightly in acknowledgement.
However, for some reason, her heart wouldn’t stop pounding in his presence and she couldn’t lift her head to look him straight in the eyes.

“In that case, please rest assured that our Tyrant Fist Sect will spare no effort in the search for your brother, Miss Yoon.”

“T-Thank you.”

Jo Un-Kyung smiled, then turned back toward Yong Mu-Sung and Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan.
Yoon Seo-In was merely a figurehead, and these two were the true negotiators that he had to deal with from now on.

“Well, we’re probably in for a very long talk now, and I hope that we can decide on a win-win situation in the end.”

“So do we.”

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“Then, shall we get started?”

The moment Jo Un-Kyung finished speaking, two men dressed in scholar’s robes entered the parlor.
They were the Tyrant Fist Sect’s strategists, and their arrival could only mean that they were now the ones in charge of negotiations with the Iron Brigade.

That also meant that Jo Un-Kyung’s job was simply to watch and observe, and he wasn’t happy about it.

There is no more justice and loyalty in this shitty gangho, only a struggle for survival and authority.
Now that it has come to this, I find myself rather missing life in the North…

His time in the Northern Army had undoubtedly been the happiest in his life.
Back then, he enjoyed a lot more freedom than he did now.

Jo Un-Kyung looked out the window.
It was still raining cats and dogs.

I feel truly sorry for you, Mu-Won.
However, since I’ve already opened Pandora’s box, there’s no turning back for me, even if what awaits me are the blazing fires of hell.

Footnotes:

Ancient Chinese parlors would have a raised platform with a decorated throne for the head of the house, and regular chairs placed along the sides of the room.
The empty space in the middle of the room serves as a “stage” of sorts. ↩

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