Lee Jung-Geol felt weak and miserable as he glared at the three men standing before him.
He could endure the physical pain with no problem.
What tormented him wasn ’t physical pain but the betrayal of those he had trusted.

“Sir, please don ’t glare at us like that,” the man standing at the front of the pack chuckled bizarrely and creepily.
“This decision wasn’t easy for us to make, you know? However, this course of action was an inevitability.
That ’s how our world operates, after all.
Don ’t you agree, sir?”

Lee Jung-Geol gritted his teeth.
“Are you trying to convince me that stabbing the person trusting you in the back is the way of our world?”

”No, sir.
That ’s not it.
No, what I ’m trying to say is that the world operates on the law of the jungle. ”

Lee Jung-Geol glared at the man, wondering what kind of sophistry he was saying.

“Look here, Assembly Master.
This situation was the result of your incompetence.
Why can ’t you understand that?”

“My incompetence, you say?”

The man sneered openly.
If only you willed it, you could have destroyed the Yeongnam Group at any time during the last ten years.
If only you haven ’t been so indecisive and wishy-washy about it!”

Lee Jeong-Geol cried out.

The man didn ’t bother to wait for the Assembly Master ’s rebuttal.
“Sir, this is your punishment for spewing boomer nonsense like not wanting to shed the blood of your brothers and fellow countrymen.
While you wasted time, our organization grew weak to the point where we can no longer deal with the Yeongnam Group on our own.
And that happened under your stewardship of the Martial Assembly, sir.
So, are you still not going to admit to your incompetence?”

“Y-you bastard…!” Lee Jung-Geol ’s face reddened in anger as he glared at the man.
“Don ’t you already know the truth behind their sudden rise?!”

“Mm? Are you planning to tell me about an outside force lending their aid to the Yeongnam Group?”

“So you knew! Yet, you dare speak of incompetence?!”

“Oh, dear.
Assembly Master, why can ’t you still see it?” The man sighed in genuine lamentation.
“Failing to respond appropriately is incompetence in itself, sir.”

“Say what?”

”Regardless of what had transpired, it ’s the duty of the leader to cook up a suitable solution or a response.
Whether you resort to borrowing the strength of a different foreign faction, snip the buds of the Yeongnam Group before they can grow stronger, or you could have relied on your own often-talked-about moderate method to bring about a favorable result.
What you could have done wouldn’t have mattered for that is the sacred duty of the Assembly Master.
In other words, your job. ”


“However, you continued to cower and pull back with the excuse of avoiding a massacre.”

“But, I—”

”Sir, I’m thinking about something. ” The man suddenly declared in a loud voice.
”What would you have done if you were still around forty years old? ”

Lee Jung-Geol couldn ’t bring himself to answer.
Because his answer was what this man wanted to hear.
Lee Jung-Geol in his forties, when his blood had boiled hottest, would have tried to utterly rip the Yeongnam Group ’s throat out without a shred of hesitation.

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”No, it doesn ’t have to be you in your forties.
The story wouldn ’t be any different even if you were in your sixties.
However, you have gotten too old, Assembly Master.
And you have been stuck in one position for far too long.
The water that doesn ’t flow will only stagnate and rot, sir. ”

“Are you implying I have stagnated?”

“Well, you should ask yourself that.”

Lee Jung-Geol shuddered in anger.
Rather than the situation he was in, the words coming out of this punk ’s forked tongue made him feel even more miserable.
Hadn’t he sacrificed his entire life for the Martial Assembly ’s cause? Yet this bastard was completely and utterly disregarding what Lee Jung-Geol had done his entire life!

Lee Jung-Geol spitefully spat.
“After drugging your opponents, weakening them, and then attacking from behind, you still dare to criticize me for my incompetence?!”

The man dismissively chuckled in response.
Afterward, he growled at Lee Jung-Geol.
”Don ’t whine like a little wench, sir.
The end always justifies the means.
It ’s just that those who managed to climb to high positions are too worried about saving their faces, so they argue about keeping the means as legitimate as possible.
If someone with power wants to fight a weaker opponent fairly, isn ’t it the same thing as declaring his intentions to not lose? Sir, the coward in this situation aren’t my colleagues or me but you… ”

Lee Jung-Geol ’s eyes quaked powerfully.

“If someone with authority and power fights ’fairly ’ with someone weaker, the victory would be theirs, guaranteed.
Sir, you shouldn ’t try to repackage that authority and power as playing fair. ”

Lee Jung-Geol slowly closed his eyes.
It was…
No matter what he said, this situation could not be salvaged.
”…What is your name? ”

“Is that important? Well, if you ’re curious…
It ’s Cheon Tae-Hun.
That is my name.”

“And you ’re one of Bang Jin-Hun ’s people, aren ’t you?”

“I see that you have already made your guesses, sir.”

“Bang Jin-Hun is known to be in an antagonistic relationship with the Yeongnam Group.
So, why is that group backing you?”

The man named Cheon Tae-Hun loudly cackled; he was clearly ridiculing Lee Jung-Geol.
”Didn ’t I already say this, sir? The end justifies the means.
This event? It ’s all my doing.
And no one will ever find out about my ties to Director Bang.
In the end, the Yeongnam Group will be blamed for this matter, and Director Bang will take control of the leaderless Martial Assembly.
As for me? I ’ll just stay under the radar for a few years afterward.
I don ’t know, maybe the Maldives before coming home with a new identity? ”

Lee Jung-Geol let out a low growl.
“Do you really believe your plan will work out as you think?”

“Dear Assembly Master, sir.” Cheon Tae-Hun tutted loudly.
“That ’s not something you should be worried about.
You ’re just a relic of the past, anyway.
So leave the future to us, the future generation.
Even if we ruin things badly, it can ’t be as bad as what you have done, sir.
Am I right?”

Lee Jung-Geol ’s regret-filled glare locked on Cheon Tae-Hun.
Young people overflowing in spirit and vigor might be rash and foolhardy, but they would sometimes succeed in things no older generation would dare to even try.
Was this Cheon Tae-Hun ’s recklessness indeed—that recklessness? Or had an aging warrior ’s common sense failed to keep up with the times? Lee Jung-Geol couldn ’t tell.

’Should I have retired sooner? ’

He wasn ’t being a greedy old man.
He didn ’t try to stay as the Assembly Master out of some stubbornness, either.
He simply couldn ’t find anyone trustworthy or capable enough to be his successor.

As for this Bang Jin-Hun… He was certainly capable, but he could also be too violent.
If only his short fuse grew a little longer…
Even if Bang Jin-Hun didn ’t want it, Lee Jung-Geol would have still given him the Assembly Master position.

“Anyway, sir? We ’ve wasted too much time.
Now, please talk.
Where are you keeping the secret items?”


”Sir, we ’ll find them sooner or later.
If you don ’t tell us now, it ’ll only plunge the Assembly into further chaos and confusion later, ultimately weakening it.
So I ask you to show us your love and deep affection for the Martial Assembly in your final moments.
Demonstrate to us what you often speak of.
And let us not make your final moments any more unseemly than this, shall we? ”

Lee Jung-Geol slowly closed his eyes, realizing that everything was over.
Cheon Tae-Hun was right.
Holding out any further at this point would only fuel the confusion within the Martial Assembly.

His death was already carved in stone.
So it could be better to divulge everything before heading to the netherworld instead of allowing internal strife to beset the Martial Assembly.

“Those items are—”

However, just as he started…

Cheon Tae-Hun suddenly spun his head to look behind him.
His glare was locked on the firmly-shut doorway.
“…What was that noise?”

He heard a faint little noise coming from the outside.
That, in itself, shouldn ’t be too strange.
Noise could be heard literally at all times, after all.
Even an ordinary breeze could force this ancient building to creak and groan loudly.

Of course, Cheon Tae-Hun wouldn ’t drop everything and look behind him for any odd noises.
The reason he turned around was that the noise he had heard wasn ’t ordinary at all.

The noise he had heard couldn ’t have been produced by the house but from a person ’s mouth.
It was the sound made by a person at the height of terror, the kind you would hear in horror movies.
Although it came from so far away, and its volume was rather low, so Cheon Tae-Hun couldn ’t be sure, but—it had to be someone’s screams.

’What is going on outside? ’

Did someone show up to rescue the Assembly Master? But that couldn ’t be right…
Bang Jin-Hun was ’perfectly ’ monitoring the relevant individuals of the Assembly right now.
And he would have already stopped anyone from trying to do something.
Even if he failed to do that, Cheon Tae-Hun would have received a phone call alerting him about the deviation in the plan, at the very least.

In that case, had Cheon Tae-Hun heard it wrongly?

But then, his expression crumpled hideously.
He heard another scream, and it was a little closer than before.
It was truly a scream, and there was no need to even confirm it.

And then…

There was another one, and then another one.

The vivid sounds of tragic screams were gradually getting closer and closer.

‘Outside the door, we have twenty cultivators affiliated with the Yeongnam Group, so…
What is going on? ’

The Martial Assembly hadn ’t made a move.
In that case, who was responsible for creating all the screaming outside? Could the cultivators of the Yeongnam Group be fighting each other for some reason?

If that was also wrong, what was going on then…?

Cheon Tae-Hun ’s confusion didn ’t last for long.
That was because…

The screaming had stopped.
Such loud screams should have led to more commotion outside even after stopping, but everything was eerily still…


Someone swallowing their saliva sounded like a loud thunderclap.
That sound sobered Cheon Tae-Hun up, and he realized that something was weird about this situation.

the hell are we doing right now? ’

The normal reaction after hearing someone ’s scream would be to rush outside and find out what was happening.
Putting aside how that would have been a rational reaction, for now, didn ’t humans have this primal urge to check out what was happening with their own two eyes regardless of the event?

However, not a single person in this room budged an inch after the first scream reached their ears.
How strange.
It was so strange that even Cheon Tae-Hun couldn ’t comprehend his own inaction as well.


But then, a low but distinct noise dug into his ears.
It was someone ’s footsteps.

Clomp, clomp…

Someone was walking closer and closer to them, which made Cheon Tae-Hun ’s body shudder faintly.
Not a single thing about this situation made sense to him.

The folks outside guarding this place were all martial artists.
And one of the basics a martial artist had to remember was to lighten their body.
A martial artist making footsteps was like announcing to the world that they were some third-rate nobody.
So if the ones guarding outside were to approach this room, they wouldn ’t have made any footsteps.

However, it also made no sense that an individual making such a ruckus would be strong enough to break through the cordon of the guards outside.
In that case, what could all this mean?

Just as confusion and frustration threatened to get into a messy tangle inside Cheon Tae-Hun ’s head, the doorknob slowly turned.
The door hadn ’t been locked since there was no need to do so, and it issued a clicking noise as it opened wide.

And then Cheon Tae-Hun saw it…

He saw a lone man standing in the open doorway.

How should Cheon Tae-Hun describe it? He was not smart enough to verbalize the chilling emotion freezing up his chest right now.

The sight of the person beyond the open doorway was more than enough to drop the hearts of all witnesses to the pits of their stomachs.
Because he…
he was covered from head to toe in crimson blood.
A figure…
literally bathed in blood!

His hair was soaked in blood.
The weight of the blood made his hair strands droop low, and below those bloodied hair strands were a pair of chillingly-white eyes and irises darker than darkness itself.

And finally…

The man’s lips parted like a chasm in the crimson face to reveal his white teeth.

“So, this was where you were…”

The moment the blood-covered individual uttered those words, the temperature in the room rapidly cooled down.
Cheon Tae-Hun immediately realized something.
The emotion he felt right at that moment had to be similar to what a regular person would feel after running into a starving predator in an enclosed space with no escape.

The despair of knowing he couldn ’t escape at all!

When those vivid eyes on the blood-soaked face looked straight at Cheon Tae-Hun, he nearly lost all strength in his legs and fell on his butt.

Throughout his life, Cheon Tae-Hun met countless other martial artists like him.
Among them were many individuals incomparably stronger than Cheon Tae-Hun himself.
However, this blood-soaked man was different.
The man emitted this absolute and overwhelming presence that couldn ’t be chalked down to something as simple as having a high cultivation realm.

Cheon Tae-Hun swore that he had never met anyone capable of scaring him to the point of nearly stopping his heart with just a single glare.

The man raised his hand and slowly wiped away the fresh blood running down his face.
After ’cleaning ’ himself up a little, he addressed the trio while a smile infused with bizarre madness remained etched on his lips.

Come at me.”

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