Web Novel Translation by FoodieMonster007 and TheGreatT20
Seo Mu-Sang looked coldly at the mansion in the distance. It was the most well-preserved building in the ruins of the Northern Army Fortress as well as Jin Mu-Won’s lodgings.
“You mean to say that you’re supposed to stay here for three whole years?” asked Captain Seo.
The Second Company had lived here for two years. The Third Company would have to be here for three.
The mercenaries’ main objective was to keep watch for any movements from the Silent Night, but the possibility of that happening was very low.
The first time the Silent Night revealed themselves was a hundred and thirty years ago. Their appearance ignited the fires of war across the continent. Countless people died, to the point where cities, towns and villages started to appear lifeless. Only when the Silent Night disappeared and the war ended did the people begin to regain their vitality and prosperity.
After the end of the first war, the Silent Night staged a new invasion every five to ten years. Each invasion resulted in a huge battle that claimed countless lives. As the casualties piled up, the murim world decided to work together to defend against the Silent Night.
The Northern Army was the culmination of their efforts. It was not a sect or school but a new army comprised of martial artists from the entire murim who were united in a single purpose: To defeat the Silent Night.
The murim spared no expense in supporting the Northern Army. This resulted in the Northern Army amassing a large collection of martial arts and precious medicines, which was used to create a legion of elite martial artists. The duty of these elites was to protect the people from the Silent Night.
And then there was Heaven’s Summit.
Heaven’s Summit was originally an alliance created to financially support the Northern Army. The first leaders of Heaven’s Summit included the heads and elders of many clans, but as time passed, nine clans rose to prominence.
The leaders of these nine clans became the first-generation Nine Skies of Heaven’s Summit. Seo-moon Hwa was one of them. The Nine Skies of Heaven’s Summit created a new world order by taking advantage of the chaos that the Silent Night had sowed, effectively becoming the new rulers of the murim.
This state of affairs continued until thirty years ago, when the Silent Night suddenly disappeared. The most commonly believed reason for the disappearance was that an entire generation of the Silent Night’s members had been wiped out. To regain their strength, the Silent Night would need many years to nurture a new generation of martial artists.
With this knowledge in hand, Heaven’s Summit decided to completely eradicate the Silent Night whilst they were still weakened.
The biggest obstacle to Heaven’s Summit then became the Northern Army. Heaven’s Summit felt that the continued existence of the Silent Night had become an excuse for the Northern Army to retain its power, and that the Northern Army would oppose their plans for the complete destruction of the Silent Night.
Thus, they came up with a scheme to fake evidence of Jin Kwan-Ho’s collusion with the Silent Night, which would, in turn, bring about the disbandment of the Northern Army.
Despite the fact that everyone had left the Northern Army, leaving only a boy named Jin Mu-Won behind, Heaven’s Summit remained wary of the possibility of the Northern Army’s resurrection. The mercenaries’ true mission was to constantly monitor Jin Mu-Won’s every action.
Heaven’s Summit wanted to investigate whether Jin Mu-Won knew and practised martial arts and if he had any desire for vengeance. The moment they confirmed that he was a threat, he would be taken away by the mercenaries.
“Over the last two years, we’ve established that the boy poses no threat to Heaven’s Summit. Even so, I have to stay here for three years,” said Seo Mu-Sang, frowning.
Keeping watch for the Silent Night sounded like an honorable job, but in reality, they might as well have been exiled.
A familiar voice said, “Vice-Captain, what are you doing there all alone?”
Seo Mu-Sang turned around to see two men, one in his early-to-mid-twenties and the other just past thirty years of age. Their names were Yoo Gyung-Chun and Won Jeok-Sim, and they were the people he got along best with within the Third Company.
Seo Mu-Sang turned to face the direction of Jin Mu-Won’s mansion in reply. Won Jeok-Sim and Yoo Gyung-Chun caught onto his intentions immediately and nodded in understanding. They felt the same way as Seo Mu-Sang.
“Why not just kill the boy?” whispered Won Jeok-Sim.
“If the target of our mission dies, we won’t have to live here for three years. We’ll definitely be summoned back to the Central Plains.”
Seo Mu-Sang and Yoo Gyung-Chun shook their heads at Won Jeok-Sim’s joke. Although it was in bad taste, they could see why he would think that way.
Seo Mu-Sang coldly and firmly said, “Our job is to keep watch for any movements from the Silent Night, and nothing else.”
“But Hyung, you agree with me, right?”
“What I think isn’t important. I’m just obeying orders from above.”
“If you dare repeat what you just suggested, then I’m no longer your hyung.”
Won Jeok-Sim lowered his head, sulking. Yoo Gyung-Chun noticed him and clicked his tongue.
“You’re always like this. Someday, you’re going to have to pay for that uncontrollable tongue of yours.”
“I get it already! This is all my mouth’s fault, so from now on I’ll just have to keep it shut.”
Yoo Gyung-Chun smiled. You say that, but a few minutes later you’ll start chattering away again. Won Jeok-Sim was a talkative man who loved to make jokes. He wouldn’t stop talking even if he got scolded for it.
As expected, Won Jeok-Sim couldn’t stay quiet for long, and had the three men roaring with laughter not long later.
Elsewhere, Jang Pae-San and Captain Seo were drinking together.
For Captain Seo, tonight was his last night at the Northern Army Fortress. For Jang Pae-San, tonight would be his first night here. Each had their own feelings about this big change in their life.
Jang Pae-San poured a drink for Captain Seo and asked, “Got any plans after returning to the Central Plains?”
“Do I have a choice? I just do whatever my superiors order me to.”
“You should be receiving a huge reward for staying here for two whole years, right?”
“Right…” mumbled Captain Seo. Just as Jang Pae-San had mentioned, he would be receiving a large reward for his service, but he hadn’t been informed what that reward would be yet.
The two continued pouring drinks for each other. A few rounds later, both of them had gotten slightly drunk. Only then did Jang Pae-San reveal his true intentions.
“So, how much did you take?”
“Are you going to keep acting stupid? We’re friends, right? Didn’t all of the most precious resources in the world get sent here during the war? Don’t tell me that you didn’t take any of that for yourself, and are surviving on the pittance that we get for work.”
Captain Seo did not reply immediately. He first finished a cup of wine and then chewed on a piece of pork.
“The Northern Army used up all the consumable resources themselves. The rest of the treasure has already been taken away by Heaven’s Summit and the former generals. As for me, I received nothing.”
“Really? Are you sure you’re not hiding something from me?”
“Trust me, I spent two years searching every nook and cranny of this ruin, but I found nothing.”
Jang Pae-San scowled. This was not the answer he was expecting.
“If everything was taken, then how is the penniless boy still alive?”
“He’s got a servant. A man who took it upon himself to feed the kid.”
“What about martial arts? Did you manage to force any martial art techniques out of him?”
“No, the kid has never practiced any martial art before.”
“Even if he didn’t practice it, he could have still memorized it, right?”
“I thought the same way at first, but the kid was only thirteen at that time. How much could he have memorized at that age? I even heard that the martial arts of the Northern Army are unusually complex and that it’s not possible for one person to remember it all, much less master everything. In addition, the Four Pillars who literally raised the boy gave testimony that he had never learned nor practiced any form of martial art.”
In truth, Jin Mu-Won was only alive today because of the testimony from the Four Pillars. They could tell at a glance that Jin Kwan-Ho had not taught his son martial arts.
If Jin Kwan-Ho had indeed taught his martial art to his son, Jin Mu-Won would have already been executed.
Jang Pae-San was clearly upset after his conversation with Captain Seo, but the dark glint in his eyes strongly hinted that he was not a man who would give up easily.
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The next morning, Captain Seo and the Second Company departed the Northern Army Fortress. Jang Pae-San and the Third Company watched them leave.
At that moment, the relaxed smiles on the faces of the Second Company stood in stark contrast to the frowning, gloomy Third Company.
“Fuck!” cursed someone.
Jang Pae-San yelled back, “What are all of you still doing here? Get back to work!”
The Third Company immediately started returning to their posts.
“Vice-Captain Seo, stay behind.”
“I have a mission for you.”
Seo Mu-Sang looked at Jang Pae-San quietly. Jang Pae-San suddenly broke into a huge grin, revealing his yellowed teeth.
“Vice-Captain, don’t you feel bad about spending three years here rotting away?”
“Then, since you can’t get away from this place, you might as well profit from it, yeah?”
“But didn’t the Second Company say that all the treasure was gone? There’s nothing left for us to take.”
“That’s what they said. Think carefully, do you trust them? What if there was a little bit of hidden treasure left?”
“You want me to search for hidden treasure?”
“The Northern Army has existed for a hundred years. Why wouldn’t they have hidden treasure? Why do you think the boy is being kept alive? He must know something.”
“The Second Company observed the boy for two years. They discovered nothing.”
“That’s where you, my smart Vice-Captain, come into play. I can’t trust what the others say, because they’re all idiots. I need you to get close to the boy.”
Jang Pae-San knew how cold and emotionless Seo Mu-Sang was. It was hard to get along with him, but he was the best man for the job.
“The boy will definitely talk once he considers you an ally.”
“What if he still doesn’t reveal anything?”
Jang Pae-San grinned cruelly, sending a shiver down Seo Mu-Sang’s spine.
“Then we’ll simply have to torture him.”
“But we were specifically ordered not to mess with the boy…”
“How would those guys living on the other side of the continent know the truth of what happened here? We just have to report that the boy went out of the fortress for a walk and came back injured. Heaven’s Summit will accept any excuse as long as it’s plausible. We could also kill him afterwards to shut him up, and then say he died in an accident,” laughed Jang Pae-San.
Seo Mu-Sang finally nodded, even though he felt utterly disgusted by Jang Pae-San’s greed and depravity.
As a mercenary, he had been demoted again and again until finally, he ended up at the very bottom of the hierarchy, the Third Company. He had already been backed into a corner and had nothing left to lose. He didn’t know if a hidden treasure truly existed, but at least it would help him kill some time.
Seo Mu-Sang couldn’t help but look toward the mansion where Jin Mu-Won lived.
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Jin Mu-Won went for a walk.
It was part of his daily routine. Every morning, he would take a walk around the Northern Army Fortress, strolling around leisurely like a tourist.
Seo Mu-Sang secretly tailed Jin Mu-Won. All was as Jang Pae-San had said, the boy showed no sign of ever having practiced martial arts. The walking gait of a martial artist was different from that of a normal person.
Jin Mu-Won’s breathing was light and his footsteps heavy, typical of a person who didn’t possess any chi. After walking for a short while, Jin Mu-Won would stop to rest and catch his breath. It seemed that he wasn’t very fit. Regardless, he had a well-proportioned body with unusually long limbs—a good build for a martial artist.
“It’s far too late for him to start learning martial arts now.”
Jin Mu-Won was already fifteen. He was at the age where most children of large martial clans began to shine.
These children would have started learning martial arts around the age of six or seven, but only around age fifteen when they were allowed to do muscle training would they be able to match adults in strength. They also would have been taking medication and receiving treatment since they were born to make their bodies more suited to chi cultivation.
Jin Mu-Won, being the son of a criminal, was at a huge disadvantage compared to these kids. Even if he started learning martial arts now, he would probably never catch up to them.
Jin Mu-Won suddenly sat down in the ruins of a pavilion near the northside entrance.
“Who are you waiting for?” muttered Seo Mu-Sang to himself, hiding in the shadow of the trees where Jin Mu-Won couldn’t see him.
After what seemed like hours, Seo Mu-Sang thought, how long have I been hiding here?
Finally, he saw a man approaching the entrance.
The man appeared to be in his thirties, although his slightly hunched back and tanned skin might have made him look older than he really was.
Jin Mu-Won broke into a welcoming smile.
 Hyung: The honorific that a younger male uses to call an older male friend or sibling, same as Bro/Brother.