Murim Login (Novel) Chapter 309

                         


Chapter 309

Three days had passed since my departure from Luoyang, along with the Bermuda Triangle bastards.

Abruptly, I broke the silence.

“Mu-Jin.”

“Huff, huff. Yes?”

Hyuk Mu-Jin, sprawled on a nearby rock, gasped for air.

His progress over the past year was commendable, yet his physical and martial prowess had hit a ceiling.

‘Goong Gibang, is also following well, but still lacking.’

Goong Gibang, befitting of his status as a successor in his faction, possessed one of the top five skills in the world. However, he fell short of matching Cheong Pung and me.

What's the use of mastering the most powerful technique of his faction, the 18 Subduing Dragon Palms, if he only reaches 5th mastery?

“Goong Gibang.”

“Huh, why did you call?”

He panted heavily.

Though slightly better off than Hyuk Mu-Jin, he was clearly taxed.

And then there was the last of us...

“Savior, would you like some dumplings?”

“You go ahead and eat them.”

“I ate a lot on the way here. I'm full.”

“Then go relieve yourself and eat.”

“Wow! That's a method!”

“......”

Typical Cheong Pung.

He was munching on dumplings while effortlessly practicing his Qinggong. An enigma, indeed.

As for me, burdened with Jeok Cheon-Gang on my back, I was hardly in a better state than Cheong Pung.

I idly scratched my head, observing them.

‘Hmm. This won’t do as it is.’

Our trek spanned from Henan through Shaanxi to Sichuan.

A month-long journey by horse.

But time was a luxury we couldn’t afford.

We needed a bolder strategy to cut down our travel time significantly.

“Huff, Chief! Why did you call me?”

“Oh, it's nothing much.”

I asked Hyuk Mu-Jin.

“Do you still have that thing I entrusted to you last time?”

“Entrusted? What thing?”

“The chains.”

“What chains... Ah, the ones you used to have hanging all over?”

“Yes.”

Those were the Ten Thousand Year Tempered Steel chains, crafted by the Scorching Clan.

Before the Great Celestial Banquet commenced, I had removed them. Hyuk Mu-Jin, intrigued by their Ten Thousand Year Tempered Steel make, eagerly claimed them.

“Did you bring them?”

He was always sharp.

Hyuk Mu-Jin's eyes darted around, betraying his unease.

“No, I left them somewhere else.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes.”

“Then let's do this. If you end up dying because you didn’t bring them, that’s on you.”

“Ah, silly me. Now that I think about it, I did bring them.”

Clank.

He began unwrapping the chains concealed beneath his garments.

Made from Ten Thousand Year Tempered Steel, these chains were not only robust but also feather-light.

He had ingeniously used them as makeshift armor.

Given their value, it was clear why Hyuk Mu-Jin hesitated as he handed them over.

“Weren’t these given to me to use? I was saving them to make a weapon later…”

“Did I tell you to keep them, or did I tell you to take care of them?”

“But, isn’t it wrong to give something and then take it back?”

“It’s borrowed. This belongs to the Scorching Clan. I wonder how Grandfather will react when he wakes up and sees you with it.”

“…Please, just take it. Hide it so well that it doesn't even catch my eye.”

“Good thinking. Gibang!”

I called over a baffled Goong Gibang, chains in hand, ready for the next step.

Both of them, bewildered, queried in unison.

"What are you doing right now?"

"What kind of nonsense is this?"

Sshhh.

I casually replied.

"Can't you see? I'm tying knots with the chains."

"But, why are you wrapping it around my waist...?"

"Hold on. Untie this."

"There, done."

I surveyed my handiwork, feeling a surge of accomplishment.

Hyuk Mu-Jin, Goong Gibang, and I were now interconnected, akin to dried fish threaded on a line.

“Did everyone rest well?”

“Rest? We barely had a moment.”

“Untie this right now!”

I simply grinned and shook my head.

Simultaneously, my Dantian surged with energy, channeling ninety years' worth into my legs. [Note: the MC is not using all of his Qi here, hence "90 years".]

“Now, let’s run.”

Swoooosh!

“Ughhhhh! This is crazy!”

“The Chief has gone mad! He’s trying to kill us!”

Bound to me, Goong Gibang and Hyuk Mu-Jin sprinted desperately, reminiscent of panicked boars.

Alerted by the commotion, Cheong Pung, who had been squatting in a nearby bush, hurried out and followed.

“Savior! I’ll come too!”

“......”

That guy probably didn't wipe. No, he must have.

Dismissing the thought, I launched into my Qinggong, racing against the backdrop of swiftly changing landscapes.

In just two days, we arrived at the Henan-Shaanxi border.

* * *

Trudge. Trudge.

Haggard, fatigued faces. A group of individuals, all part of the escort agency, trudged onward.

The couriers and thickly-clad cart drivers all bore the weight of exhaustion.

Their fatigue stemmed from more than just the four-month trade journey.

“Hwa-Ran.”

The call caught her attention, and her sharp black eyes shifted. A firm voice responded.

“Speak, Uncle Heo.”

“Well, you see.”

The man who stepped forward was middle-aged, his beard streaked with white. He paused, then sighed deeply.

“Chief Escort Seok has passed away.”

“……!”

Ju Hwa-Ran, perched atop her horse, tensed. A quivering voice followed.

“So it has come to this, after all.”

“The poison had reached his marrow; there was nothing more we could do. I'm sorry.”

“It's not your fault, Uncle. The death of Chief Escort Seok, no, Brother Seok, is my fault.”

Under her veil, Ju Hwa-Ran’s lips trembled.

Her missteps had led to this tragedy.

Chief Escort Seok's death, and the loss of thirty-two others, were consequences of her errors.

‘Father. What should I do?’

Her eyes lifted to the heavens.

The night sky, speckled with stars, conjured the image of a man. Her father, Ju Ho-Gun, had been grappling with Qi Deviation, teetering on the brink of death.

‘Having such a beautiful and talented daughter, I couldn't ask for more. Ha ha!’

Ju Ho-Gun would often say that.

While others might have adopted a son, he cherished his gifted and beautiful sole daughter, taking immense pride in her.

‘The only one to succeed me is you. The last fifty years of Dragon Pheonix Armed Escort Agency pale in comparison to what you will achieve.’

Ju Ho-Gun's pride in his daughter was renowned across Shaanxi.

But Ju Hwa-Ran was not just a doting father's fancy.

Even as a youth, she demonstrated a keen grasp of the agency's finances and was lauded as one of Northern Jiangbei's Three Beauties.

Her martial prowess placed her among the Ten Dragons and Phoenixes, the elite of the righteous martial artists.

Yet...

‘Where did it all go wrong?’

Ju Hwa-Ran swallowed a sigh welling up from deep within her heart.

Her world was crumbling. Only two years had passed since she took the reins of the Dragon Phoenix Armed Escort Agency after her father's demise. [Note: it seems like her father actually died shortly after falling into Qi Deviation.]

“Hwa-Ran, are you alright?”

The only constant was her people.

The five-decade legacy of trust and goodwill her grandfather and father had built was her sole pillar of strength.

Ju Hwa-Ran offered a faint smile to Heo Jun, the chief courier, who inquired with evident concern.

“You don’t need to worry about me, Uncle Heo.”

“If that’s the case, I’m relieved.”

Heo Jun nodded with a somber face.

Ju Hwa-Ran was just twenty-one.

She had much to shoulder, perhaps too much for her young heart.

Heo Jun, laden with guilt, could only offer his silent support.

Sensing his sentiments, Ju Hwa-Ran steadied herself and commanded.

“It’s getting dark; we should camp here for tonight. Please make the arrangements.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“And... prepare for the funeral as well.”

The thirty-third casualty of this mission. It was time to bid farewell to Chief Escort Seok, a lifelong companion.

They might stall the decomposition with salt, but once their journey ended, the residual poison would devastate his remains.

“I understand, take a break for now.”

“How can I rest while everyone is working hard? Don’t worry and go ahead.”

With a brief nod, Heo Jun gestured, and the caravan came to a stop.

The cool, spacious land was ideal for camping. Ju Hwa-Ran planned to recuperate here before tackling the mountain at dawn.

‘We’re almost there.’

Her gaze fixed on the dark silhouette of Mount Heukseok, or Black Stone Mountain.

Crossing it marked the final leg of their journey.

Success here could offer the Dragon Phoenix Armed Escort Agency a much-needed respite.

‘Seven days to Mount Zhongnan. Not ideal, but crossing Black Stone Mountain will buy us time.’

The real challenge was the attitude of Black Stone Mountain's master.

Black Stone Fortress, a bastion of the Green Forest Alliance within the Eighteen Fortresses, was led by a peak master renowned for his acumen in wealth. [Note: the Green Forest Alliance is a historical slang for a group of thieves and bandits, so that may hold true for this novel as well.]

A clash with the Black Stone Fortress might bring more suffering to the already beleaguered Dragon Phoenix Armed Escort Agency.

‘I hope nothing goes wrong.’

Engulfed in her thoughts, Ju Hwa-Ran’s focus was abruptly shattered.

Rustle.

The sound was subtle, not that of wild animals, but more akin to dry leaves being tread upon.

A surge of alarm coursed through Ju Hwa-Ran.

‘Enemy!’

Swoosh!

With lightning speed, Ju Hwa-Ran unsheathed her soft sword, her voice cutting through the stillness.

“Identify yourself!”

Her command resonated in the darkness.

Heo Jun, the chief courier, instantly grasped the gravity of the situation and mobilized the couriers to form a protective circle.

“Protect the young mistress of the agency!”

“Yes!”

Clash!

The moonlight caught the shimmer of their drawn weapons.

Then, the rustling intensified, emanating from the bushes some fifty yards distant.

“Who is it, you ask? The brave couriers of the Dragon Pheonix Armed Escort Agency, I see.”

A towering figure emerged, an eight-foot-tall behemoth with a massive axe slung across his back. Heo Jun’s voice dropped to a whisper.

“Thousand Strength Axe…”

“Oh, isn’t that you, Brother Heo? I heard you’ve been busy cleaning up after a young girl.”

“How dare you!”

Beside the tense Heo Jun, a poised figure stepped forth with boldness.

“It’s good timing. We were about to pay the toll.”

“Well, well.”

Thousand Strength Axe smirked and brandished his axe.

“Show me the goods first, then we can talk.”

Ssssssh!

In his wake, hundreds from the Green Forest Alliance emerged, ready for confrontation.

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