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For the Downfall of My Beloved

1

Chapter 1

22

“…so white.”

Gion’s grasp on the hilt of his long black sword tightened.

Stained with copious amounts of blood, the long black sword emitted a crimson hue in the sunlight.

Gion walked along the White Flower Path, which stretched from the gate of White Dragon Castle to White Hall.

The avenue was made from unblemished marble-white stone.

The heavenly aura of the stone glowed with a light so strong that Gion struggled to keep his eyes open against the glare.

Looking at this scenery, Gion felt the blood in his body chillingly cool.

Despite being built on the sacrifices and blood of the people, White Dragon Castle’s grace was infuriatingly majestic.

For what reason did so many people have to die in Biryu? They willingly headed to the battlefield only for the glory of White Flower Kingdom. They firmly believed that this path would lead to the glory of White Flower Kingdom and staked their lives on it. But that is far from the truth. It was for the selfish desires of the corrupted royalty.

Those who nobly gave their lives did so with eyes wide open, while the royalty reveled in opulence in the safe confines of White Dragon Castle.

And when the returning national heroes knew their true faces, members of the royalty falsely accused them of treason. They threw them into the demon-infested Valley of Snow.

How should I console their souls?

Gion’s black eyes radiated a profound emptiness as though they had devoured all the darkness.

His hair, of the same color, was frozen stiff from the unmelting snow. The general’s uniform, once a regal gift from the king, now hung in tattered shreds from his gaunt frame.

The body that returned alive from the Valley of Snow was so battered it scarcely seemed human.

As a drawn sword moved to defend the White Flower Kingdom, Gion’s long black blade suffered damage and approached the brink of its demise.

Clutched in his other hand, opposing the weary blade, was a fistful of hair belonging to a woman. The woman was none other than the queen of White Flower Kingdom.

“Please, save me…” she cried.

Gion did not respond to her desperate voice. His steps resolutely sounded, one after the other.

Advancing with the long sword in tow, he approached the location where the king stood. The blood droplets from the blade formed a scarlet trail along White Flower Path.

The warriors guarding White Dragon Castle paced anxiously in place.

Finally, Gion reached the threshold of the White Hall, where the king stood awaiting his approach. As Gion advanced, the king, trembling with fear, thundered orders to the warriors of White Dragon Castle. His trembling voice couldn’t hide his anxiety.

“Do not attack! I command you to keep your distance! The queen’s safety is paramount!”

The queen, paralyzed with fear, scratched at Gion’s hand with her fingernails. Even as the skin on his hand tore, Gion remained motionless, gazing at the signboard of White Hall.

The sign said:

When the Black Qi of the demons spreads over the land, the beloved white dragon of the heavens will descend. Only then will the darkness lift and the white flowers fully bloom. - From Chapter 1 of White Flower Kingdom Folklore -

“The darkness lifts…”

Yes, within the White Dragon Castle’s stronghold, there is no darkness. Only light. And they manifested that light by casting the people into the darkness, for the light of White Dragon Castle, not of White Flower Kingdom.

Gion swung his sword through the air.

The signboard inscribed with White Flower Kingdom’s folklore helplessly splintered.

The warriors trembled at the sight.

“The… the White Flower tree… the signboard of White Hall...”

Legend had it that the White Flower tree was impervious to any force, which is why all the wood used in White Dragon Castle hailed from the White Flower tree.

Furthermore, the inscribed folklore on the signboard had undergone numerous jade treatments, rendering it seemingly indestructible.

However, it succumbed to Gion’s badly damaged sword, shattering unexpectedly.

Gion looked at the retreating warriors. The young warriors, still showing their naivety, wore clothes that did not fit their bodies. Their footwear was so deteriorated that the soles hung in tatters, and their hands, marred with untreated wounds, bore the harsh testament of neglect. Yet, their swords were designed to defend White Dragon Castle and crafted from exquisite white stone.

Despite this, they turned away from the king, directing their blades towards Gion instead.

A trembling young warrior managed to voice his confusion:

“General… why are you doing this… why…”

Another warrior beside him shouted:

“General? Silence if you value your life. Though once a general, he now stands accused of treachery! Even at this moment—”

Gion looked at them.

Fear silenced the young, trembling warrior discussing treason. Just Gion’s gaze was enough to freeze them.

Gion, the esteemed hero of White Flower Kingdom, the seasoned general who had consistently secured victories in battles, said, “Step back. I do not wish to harm you.”

The warriors froze at Gion’s dignified voice, unsure of what to do as he approached the king.

Gion said to him, “You seem well.”

Gion’s gaze rested on the king, who had turned pale with fright.

The king wore his golden crown, sleek silk attire, and opulent adornments.

Gion’s grip on the queen’s hair tightened, her veins bulging.

“Ahh!” The queen screamed in pain as Gion forcibly pulled her head back.

Overwhelmed by desperation, the king collapsed to his knees. “Forgive me! I beseech you. Show mercy just this once. The queen is innocent!”

“Innocent?”

He cast his gaze downwards, scrutinizing the queen’s head, a lavish display adorned with extravagant ornaments. The wealth spent on her adornments alone could sustain a family of six in opulence for no less than twenty years. This was in an era where the widows of war struggled to subsist on mere gruel.

“How can you claim that the queen, the closest confidant to the king of a nation, was truly oblivious to White Flower Kingdom’s predicament?”

“She is at fault for knowing all your wrongs but staying silent. Her guilt comes from enjoying luxury by not speaking up.”

The king, hearing this, only fixed his gaze on Gion’s hand holding the queen, not responding to his words. Gion clenched his teeth.

“Are you afraid of

“Are you afraid of losing your beloved?”

“…What?”

“Is the king, blessed by the White Dragon, so consumed by fear that he prostrates himself at the first sign of adversity?”

Gion looked up to the sky as if searching for someone, then gazed down at the throne room…

“For the sake of White Flower Kingdom alone, for you, the people and their families joined the battlefield.”

The king’s pulse quickened, and his breathing labored.

“Every day, every moment, they endured for White Flower Kingdom, bearing the same fear you feel right now.”

Watching Gion recite his transgressions like a madman, the king trembled in fear.

“I’ll kneel anytime. I’ll bow down. Please, show her mercy–”

With the sound of something being cut, the king’s words stopped. The sound of squirting liquid echoed in the large hall.

The queen’s decapitated head fell to the ground, followed by her body crumpling to the once immaculate palatial floor.

“Aah!”

The king wailed at the sight of the queen’s lifeless body.

“What you’re feeling now is the agony of seeing a loved one die before your eyes.”

“Huh?”

“Does it wrench your heart?”

Spitting on the queen’s remains, Gion then seized the king by the scruff of his neck. “This is what I felt when you annihilated my family.”

That day was still vivid in his memory. The day he found his beloved parents and siblings hanging dead at the gates of White Dragon Castle. On that day, he was slandered, labeled a demon kin and traitor, and deprived of any moment to grieve.

The day he was cast into the Valley of Snow with his comrades, he was denied the chance to grant his family a dignified burial. The day he stood as the lone survivor, his comrades succumbing to the brutal assault of the demons.

Gion’s eyes flashed with a manic sense of delight.

“When the royal family, capable of defeating demons with the White Qi, feared the demons, the people and I went to the battlefield, risking our lives. And yet, you called us the demon clan?”

“That was a-a m-misunderstanding-”

“Were you so afraid that I would covet the throne?”

Gion knew. He knew the king had feared him because the White Qi’s power had gradually faded from the king. Yet, Gion still served the king. Willingly went to the battlefield, fought off invasions, and slayed demons.

All for the glory of White Flower Kingdom.

But now, he couldn’t feel even a trace of the White Qi’s power from the king. Instead of the White Qi, he could only sense the king’s vile greed.

Seeing Gion’s pitch-black eyes, the king trembled in fear and then lost all semblance of his reason.

“Aren’t you afraid of the White Dragon’s wrath! The White Dragon chosen by the supreme heavens chose me. Me!”

Gion swung his sword, the blade whistling through the air, and pierced the king’s shoulder.

“Aaaah!”

A light glimmered on Gion’s black long sword.

“The White Dragon chose you, but why can’t I see the White Qi’s light in you anymore?”

“That, that’s because…”

“I haven’t received the White Dragon’s grace, nor do I possess the energy of the five guardians, yet why can’t you even block my sword?”

The king had used the power of the White Qi to extend his life. While the White Qi was supposed to shield the populace, it only served to fortify White Dragon Castle’s walls.

Gion’s grip tightened on the sword’s hilt. Dark energy flickered on the long black blade, piercing the king’s other shoulder.

“Aaaah…”

“Do you know? The sword you bestowed upon me used to radiate a white glow.”

“Gasp…”

“It turned black as I sealed the demons you feared so much.”

Gion plunged the sword deeper into his shoulder.

“Aaaah!”

Gion’s sword swung lower, this time finding the king’s ankle. A mocking sneer escaped Gion’s lips. “Little did I know I would be accused of being a demon kin because of this.”

The king crawled towards the inside of White Hall towards the luxurious throne placed on the dais at the end of the fine silk path. This was where meetings with ministers were held.

Even on the brink of death, the king crawled towards the throne, grasping one of its jeweled feet.

Gion grabbed the king by the back of his neck and flung him to the ground.

The king began to scream.

“Where are the five guardian families? Hoyeong! Sihwan! Juya! What are all of you doing…”

Gion observed him in silence so profound that it swallowed the king’s desperate pleas. Confusion and terror flickered across his face as he stared back at Gion.

“Ah, aah…”

Now, they were visible in the light. The scars etched on Gion’s body. Scars from saw-like swords, wounds from whips and maces, burned skin, flesh rotting from poison, misshapen limbs from broken bones forcibly realigned…

“Even after throwing them into Biryu, now you desperately seek them.”

“This can’t be. The five guardian families… they!”

“The White Dragon has abandoned you.”

Gion’s sword impaled the king’s chest.

The king gasped for breath. Unable to thrash in his extreme pain, he could only spew blood.

Looking at the king, Gion said, “You won’t die instantly. You’ll breathe in pain several times and then die in despair, unable to close your eyes.”

Gion stared into the void with lifeless eyes and said, “Just like they did.”

Gion pierced a spot where the king wouldn’t die instantly. The demonic energy sealed in the black long sword began to consume the king’s body. The king, sensing this instinctively, groaned in terror.

“Back then, I shouldn’t have... accepted Rohwa’s request…” The king’s gaze was not on Gion but on the empty air. “Rohwa… Just once more for Rohwa...”

Perhaps it was because the king had never known true suffering within the sheltered walls of White Dragon Castle that he faltered, his last words unspoken, before succumbing swiftly.

In that solemn moment, a frantic cry pierced the air.

“Princess! You mustn’t! Please…!”

The voice was laced with desperation. The footsteps that followed it drew steadily closer to Gion. The cadence was distinct, markedly different from the times they had walked side by side.

Gion stood with his back to the approaching sound, shielding the lifeless king.

How could she hasten so with those delicate steps?

Without turning, Gion knew who was coming. How could he not know?

It was the voice he longed for and remembered every day.

“…Gion?”  said a voice as if containing all the beautiful melodies of the world. The crisp and elegant voice trembled faintly.

Hearing his name called with such a sound, Gion couldn’t help but turn around.

“Be careful.”

His words were a plea not to witness this scene.

He faced the face he longed to see.

Her hair shone like polished ivory, and her skin glowed with the flush of life. Her blue eyes were not just clear; they blazed like brilliant jewels.

If the white flowers became human, surely they would look like this.

She was the 17th and only royal descendant of White Flower Kingdom, the king’s noble only daughter.

Her name was Princess Rohwa.

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