Embroidered Uniform Guard (錦衣衛)
It was the fifth year since I had entered Blue Dragon Martial Club, and the second year from that day.
My body was fully grown up.
I was teaching the students in the morning as a teacher, and at the same time, I was spurring up my personal training. The more I dug into martial arts, the more I realized my lack. Nevertheless, I have never felt less passionate, because I was aiming for the masters who were at the high stage. Although it was difficult to receive direct teaching from Three-Absolute, Lee Kwang, it was very fun to train martial arts like now.
‘For eight more years… Shall I go to challenge the elder of the Iron Blood Sect?’
By then, it will be whatever.
If I am enough to win the first elder of Iron Blood Sect one-to-one, there will be few people to fear in the future! Moreover, given that I am from the Blue Dragon Martial Club, he is unlikely to try to cut my neck in the same way as before.
I will live comfortably with honor and wealth after defeating him, because I know that my talent is weak enough to aim for more force. So, I was training day and night for ten years.
But my ten-year resolution was suddenly blocked.
After the training of the day, Three-Absolute, Lee Kwang, called me to the Waryong Hall. Then he said.
“Baek Woong, you have been recommended to Embroidered Uniform Guard with the help of my friend.”
I asked, if I had heard something wrong, but Lee Kwang turned the next page of the book, which he was reading quietly without saying anything. It was the conversation method of Three-Absolute, Lee Kwang, that he did not give an additional explanation. So, I was able to realize the reality soon.
“Isn’t the Embroidered Uniform Guard the highest martial arts department to protect the Imperial Palace and the Imperial Family? I heard that only the best of the people who passed the Imperial Military Examination could be a member of Embroidered Uniform Guard, and then…”
‘Only about one hundred people are recruited for the Imperial Military Examination once a year; among them, ten people are selected for the Embroidered Uniform Guard and trained separately, so there is no need to mention their ability.
In Two Sects Four Clans, the prestigious martial-arts sects of Luoyang, only one student who passes through their own fierce competition, can take another competition to be a member of Embroidered Uniform Guard.’
From Mang-Liang, I heard that even high-ranking officers could not let their sons enter the Embroidered Uniform Guard with the bribes. And the Embroidered Uniform Guard would not select any incompetent person to defend the Imperial Family.
Therefore, it was very unusual that I was recommended to the Embroidered Uniform Guard, who had a job at Blue Dragon Martial Club in the province of Guanzhong, far away from Luoyang.
“You are good enough, but not enough to inherit my martial arts; your ability is equivalent to the vice-chief of the Embroidered Uniform Guard. You will be able to show more competence than anyone else in Embroidered Uniform Guard working there.”
Surprisingly, the evaluation of me by Lee Kwang was good.
The vice-chief of the Embroidered Uniform Guard was second in the four major positions of chief (總領), vice-chief (副總領), captain (千戶), and guard (衛士). I heard of the system of the Embroidered Uniform Guard from Mang-Liang when I planned to infiltrate the Imperial Palace. Now I seemed to have grown up to a degree that compared to the senior officer of the Embroidered Uniform Guard.
Originally, I was careful in front of Three-Absolute, Lee Kwang, but I asked again because I did not understand what the reason was.
“But, isn’t it too sudden to hear about Embroidered Uniform Guard? Why am I…?”
Then, Three-Absolute, Lee Kwang did not get angry and grinned.
“To make your Senior Brother, Jin So-Chung, independent.”
What was that supposed to mean?
When I looked at him with an absurd eye, he calmly continued.
“You know that your Senior Brother is enough to be a teacher in a single martial club. He has grown up to the extent that he could get fame in Moorim.”
“… Yes, that’s right.”
I admitted Lee Kwang’s words. In retrospect, Jin So-Chung seemed to have surpassed the Peak-class, when I first met him five years ago. It was a tremendous achievement compared to his age, and five years later, now, his status was not measured.
It is certain that if he wanders around the Moorim right now and does the righteous activities, it will be possible to build a sect by a group of followers within a year.
“but, he’s not used to dealing with organizations or other persons’ power tricks, and he will often face with some serious matters and will be in trouble, because he’s too much clean and upright. It cannot be easily overcome by the wisdom of an individual, but it will be possible when someone helps and leads him from the side.”
I noticed the hidden meaning of Lee Kwang’s words, and said.
“Do you want me to go to the Embroidered Uniform Guard and help Senior Brother?”
“Yes, you may be a captain soon. The Embroidered Uniform Guard is a group that focuses on the ability itself unlike other military departments. If you take a solid seat in the Imperial Palace, you can help him when he is in trouble later.”
“In addition, we have to check them out because they’re suspicious.”
Obviously, the authority of the high-ranking official of the Embroidered Uniform Guard is considerable. Even other high-ranking officers make a flattery not to be disliked by the Embroidered Uniform Guard, because they have the power to unilaterally mobilize all the patrol troops in the Imperial Palace. Therefore, it is a dream to be a member of the Embroidered Uniform Guard.
“When I first accepted you, I intended to raise you as an excellent teacher to bring prosperity to our martial club. However, your ability was very vague. It was a waste of time to leave you as a teacher, but it was not enough to be an inheritor of Lightning God’s Flow.”
Lee Kwang stroked his beard.
“So, after much consideration, I used my connections to recommend you to the Embroidered Uniform Guard. You can open up the world and it is a way to help your Senior Brother.”
I let my voice sink in…
To Lee Kwang, I would look to be embarrassed by the sudden offer, but actually I was concerned about the sudden choice.
‘I have such a sudden opportunity.’
‘So far, I have put other things aside as I have been aiming to improve my martial arts skills in this life, but I need to interpret Heavenly Dark Secret Book.
For that interpretation, I must obtain the Nameless Ceremonial Book kept in the Imperial Palace, so that I could unravel the secret of my retrograde.’
However, it was impossible for me to penetrate the palace where the Emperor was, and I was just forgetting that.
‘Now, this is a golden opportunity for me. It is a really unexpected opportunity.
If I become a member of Embroidered Uniform Guard and enter the Imperial Guard, it will be possible to get the Nameless Ceremonial Book. And I am confident that my martial arts skills have more than doubled from the time I died in the Iron Blood Sect.
… maybe it will be possible.’
Three-Absolute, Lee Kwang looked at me with calm eyes.
“But if you don’t want to, I’ll leave this offer out. As for me, I respect your opinion as much as possible, if you want to continue working as a teacher.”
I answered, giving up all my hesitation, because it was a really great opportunity.
“No. I’d like to try it.”
“Do you really want to try it?”
Three-Absolute, Lee Kwang seemed to elicit my reply. He nodded and handed me a stiffly sealed letter.
“Then go to Luoyang tomorrow, and you will show this letter to the Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect there.”
“The Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect?”
“Yes, he is my old friend.”
I was speechless for a moment.
Two Sects Four Clans (雙門四家) in Luoyang!
Among them, the Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect was an expert of the highest quality who defeated the elder of Huashan Sect (華山派) in hundred Moves. It was not adaptable that the Super Peak-class expert who I had heard only by the rumors and Three-Absolute Lee Kwang were friends.
But somehow, I thought it was worth. The external reputation was of course compared to the sun and a firefly, but the ability of Three-Absolute Lee Kwang has surpassed the Peak-class long ago. There was no stronger one of the Moorim people I have seen since I was born. If the Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect was aware of the essence of Three-Absolute Lee Kwang, he would surely welcome him as an equal friend.
Lee Kwang said calmly.
“You will borrow a seat from Tai Sword Sect and make your way in the world. However, you should be especially careful of words and actions in the sect.”
I realized what happened. Three-Absolute Lee Kwang asked his friend, the Sect Leader of Tai Sword Sect, and the Sect Leader decided to give me a seat in the Imperial Palace. I did not know what happened in detail, but it seemed obvious that Lee Kwang was so sure that I would never look good to the people in the Tai Sword Sect.
‘Oh, my God, they are going to kill me.’
But that was the sort of thing I had to take care of. I spoke in a dignified tone.
“Yes, I’ll make sure that I have good results.”
“I’ll say hello to Senior Brother before I leave.”
I then went to Jin So-Chung and informed him that I was attached to the Embroidered Uniform Guard. He smiled and congratulated me on the fact that he had already known.
“Good! You may become the chief of the Embroidered Uniform Guard in the future.”
“Not that much.”
“Haha. It’s not a joke. You really have that much ability.”
I was delighted to hear the encouragement of Jin So-Chung. In fact, I had the overwhelming martial arts achieved in Blue Dragon Martial Club and enormous Internal Energy. It was obvious that most martial artists were not my rivals.
He said, when I couldn’t manage my facial expression and forced my mouth not to rise.
“Just be careful. I heard that the Embroidered Uniform Guard should be good at dealing with politics as well as defeating the outsiders. No one will protect you unless you are careful of yourself.”
“Don’t worry. I’m taking everything into account.”
‘Maybe that’s why Lee Kwang sends me to the Embroidered Uniform Guard. He has always told that I have a disposition of Evil Factions; I used to that ugly mud fight. He may think that my strong temper and disposition are helpful for the success in Embroidered Uniform Guard.’
I left for Luoyang the next day. Three-Absolute Lee Kwang was so modest that he gave me eighty silver coins for the travel expenses and I could comfortably travel without worrying about the money.
‘Ah, there are two places to visit.’
I first visited the village where the tragedy of human sacrifice had taken place. Unsurprisingly, the village was burnt down to the ground after the fire, and only the traces of human offerings were left in the mountains. There was no sign of a cruel body. The black-clothed men must have made a thorough background check. Even the secret passages and the wells were covered with earth.
I searched for Taizheng Hall nearby, but it also disappeared. I asked the local residents about the whereabouts.
“Hyun-Chun Daoist of Taizheng Hall? Ah, there was such a man here.”
“What happened to the Daoist and the disciples of Wudang Sect?”
“Five years ago, the village suddenly burned down after a big fire, and at that time, the Daoist had gone somewhere else…”
In other words, the whereabouts of Hyun-Chun Daoist and his disciples in Taizheng Hall were unknown. He might have evacuated to the headquarter of Wudang Sect, or he might have died while trying to prevent the human sacrifice. Either way, it left a bitter taste in my mouth, so I shook my head.
‘I couldn’t help it; I had no power at that time. I couldn’t choose to rescue them at the cost of my life. I might be selfish and wicked, but that was the reality.’
I continued my journey for Luoyang, hoping that he would survive.
There was another place to drop by.
I stopped by Jinrang valley and went up to the place where Mang-Liang lived. Perhaps, he would be still working as Mang-Liang Immortal in the village at this time. I could not feel his Net Cloud Formations (網雲陣), but it was broken. I could easily come to the house of Mang-Liang.
This time, Mang-Liang did not make love with a woman. Instead, he lay on the table under the shade of a tree, taking a nap.
“Hey, Mang-Liang, wake up.”
By shaking the shoulder of Mang-Liang who was sleeping with his mouth open, I woke him up. He woke up with the blank eyes, and was surprised to find me.
“Hmm? Who are you?”
“Calm down. I am here to ask you a question, and I don’t intend to harm you.”
It took some time to calm his mind and refine his judgment. He lifted his fan to create a sense of mystery.
A black cloud came over him.
[I am Mang-Liang Immortal given the supernatural powers of Jinmu The Great… you… you tell me… What’s going on…?]
I had a chuckle.
“It’s the Voice Change Technique (變聲術) of Extraordinary Gate Disguise (奇門遁甲) and the Dark Cloud Technique (黑雲術). You don’t have to work so hard, so let’s speak freely.”
He took a gaunt face as I knew the Extraordinary Gate Disguise.
‘There are simple techniques that can be used without supernatural powers in the Extraordinary Gate Disguise; they are the Voice Change Technique and the Dark Cloud Technique.’
When I studied for three years with Mang-Liang, he used to do his job to make a living, and they were often used to create a sense of mystery against people.
Mang-Liang said, brusquely.
“Apparently, you’re one of the people who learned the Extraordinary Gate Disguise. What are you doing here? I’m in business in this Jinrang valley, so I can’t give in easily.”
“I don’t mean to interrupt your business. I just need to ask you a few questions.”
“What are they?”
I slipped out the Heavenly Dark Secret Book which has always been in my arms. Then I held it out to Mang-Liang.
“I want you to interpret this.”
The subsequent developments were almost identical according to the laws of the previous life.
He was surprised at the strange language of the Heavenly Dark Secret Book and reached the conclusion that he could interpret this with the Nameless Ceremonial Book.
‘That’s what I heard.’
After hearing that, I decided to obtain another tip from Mang-Liang.
“Mang-Liang. Do you think this Heavenly Dark Secret Book or Nameless Ceremonial Book has a special ability itself?”
This was a question I had never asked.
Mang-Liang then opened his eyes a little round and said.
“This is not a Technique Law Book (術法書). Unlike the law books in which the Technique Daoist (術道師) of the Left Dao Side Sect (左道方門) can perform supernatural powers (神通力), these books themselves have no power. I held the Nameless Ceremonial Book a lot of times in my days in the Imperial Palace, but nothing happened.”
‘Yeah, that’s weird.’
I picked up the Heavenly Dark Secret Book just before death and got a new life. I was thinking that the time reversal itself was the ability of the Heavenly Dark Secret Book. However, Mang-Liang who countlessly touched the Nameless Ceremonial Book written by the same language as the Heavenly Dark Secret Book had not gain any ability.
Were the Heavenly Dark Secret Book and the Nameless Ceremonial Book made for other purposes?
Or is the way the ability is triggered different?
“Have you ever heard of a village near the Kyonghai River that was burned down five years ago?”
“Of course, I was doing the business here at that time.”
“Well, have you ever seen a monster like this?”
After a while, I brought a piece of paper, a pen and ink, and drew a picture. It was the monster that had killed me for the fourth time. Mang-Liang was startled when he saw the monster with hundreds of eyes and tentacles all over its body.
“Where… Where did you see this?”
I was horrified by the following words.
“The picture in chapter three of the Nameless Ceremonial Book was just this monster (魔物).”
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