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For the Downfall of My Beloved

15

Chapter 15

11

“Humanity’s problem lies right here.”

In front of the ruined Hwayang Palace, a man revealed himself.

Gion just quietly watched the approaching man. The man’s black robe fluttered, and his hair was as fine as silk threads. He wasn’t exuding any particular energy, but…

The Chunhwa Sword and the White Qi resonated deeply.

The White Qi started to ripple through Gion’s body involuntarily. Instinctively, it knew only one being of that caliber: the Demon King.

The Demon King, quietly observing Gion, suddenly burst into laughter, covering his mouth. “Ah, sorry. I tend to laugh a lot.”

The Demon King looked at the collapsed Hwayang Palace all around him. “Right. This is what we were talking about. Why do humans engage in unnecessary endeavors and bring hardships upon themselves?”

As he made his delicate steps across the floor, shadows gathered around his feet, following him like a trail. “What could the problem be…”

The Demon King licked his lips and rested his chin on his hand as if genuinely contemplating. “I just can’t understand.”

Gion and Rohwa, standing at a distance, both bloodstained, stared back at the Demon King.

The Demon King said, “Is it affection that’s the problem? Hmm… But isn’t it also because of your affection for each other that you find yourselves in this state right now?”

The Demon King, rubbing his temples, tilted his head in annoyance. “Well… let’s leave that aside for now…” He clapped his hands together. “Why did you destroy my chamber? It was quite a nice place.”

Gion just glared back at him.

“No answer, I see,” the Demon King said. He stepped back and then flashed a genuinely cheerful smile as if struck by a sudden realization. “Ah, this will do.”

The Demon King’s expression hardened instantly as he spoke. “General Gion of the White Flower Kingdom, listen.” His tone was heavy with displeasure.

Rohwa’s nostrils flared at the Demon King’s voice. She knew all too well the implications of that tone.

“I am the king of this nation.”

The Demon King now spoke the exact words once uttered by the former king. “Will you obey my command?”

Gion looked at Rohwa. “Princess. Speak your piece.”

The Chunhwa Sword gleamed with a bright light.

Gion said to the princess, “Am I, in your eyes, someone who would obey that man’s command?”

For the killer of the former king to ask such a question to his heir!

Rohwa let out a hollow laugh. “Ha.” Her expression quickly hardened. Would the one who killed the king in White Dragon Castle obey the Demon King’s command? She said, “I don’t think he would. Not at all.”

Gion took a step forward, closing the distance the Demon King had created. “There’s only one reason I stand still now.”

The shadows attempting to blend into Gion’s White Qi started to fade. The Demon King looked on, amused.

“I have too many questions right now. Once I learn everything, I will come looking for you myself.”

“Let’s meet again then.”

Gion turned around. Rohwa was in sight, covered in blood and gripping the long black sword. “I will find the Sixth Chime,” Gion said.

Rohwa didn’t respond immediately and then said, “You are also merely human. How can you be so stubborn?”

The Demon King looked at Gion with a smirk as if intrigued.

A book fell at Gion’s feet. The Demon King said, “Read this. It should contain much of what you want to know.” The Demon King nonchalantly passed by Gion, saying, “Perhaps then we can meet a little sooner.”

***

A murmuring voice resonated inside Gion’s head. Impressive.

Gion stepped outside the fortress and looked at the Chunhwa Sword. That one and this one… It’s going to be bothersome for a while.

As Gion firmly gripped the Chunhwa Sword, it flashed brightly. Gion thought, What now?

Hwaran, residing in the sword, revealed her proper form, speaking sharply as if annoyed. “You can communicate with me even when I’m inside the sword. Why bother taking me out and saying nothing?”

She had been silent all this while.

Hwayang Palace, the residence of the descendants of the White Dragon, had been ruined, and now the Demon King had shown up before Gion. Although Rohwa might have been the Demon King’s master at some point, Hwaran decided to remain silent, which was strange behavior for her.

“Hwaran. I have something to ask,” Gion said.

“What is it?”

“Do you know why White Flower Kingdom ended up like this?”

Hwaran didn’t say a word, but her silence was as good as an answer to Gion.

Gion said, “You know, but choose not to tell me. Am I right?”

“Yes. You are right.” Hwaran wore a grave expression, unbecoming of her youthful face.

While talking to Hwaran, Gion was naturally curious about Rohwa’s activities. She seems eager to encourage me to share what happened with her…

But defying expectations, Gion simply nodded. “I understand.”

“Huh?” Hwaran seemed stunned momentarily, then retorted, “Is that it? Aren’t you curious?”

“I am curious. I’m just holding back.”

“My point is, why hold back your curiosity?”

Gion was the current master of the Chunhwa Sword. This meant that even though Hwaran was the king of the spring spirits, she couldn’t defy Gion’s word. She could have threatened or negotiated for some benefit but chose restraint.

Hwaran couldn’t fathom the person before her either.

Acknowledging Hwaran’s thoughts, Gion continued, pulling out the book. “There are many ways to find out, so I won’t pry.”

After a brief moment of flickering her eyes, Hwaran bit her lip. In silence, Gion began to infuse the White Qi into the book. Letters slowly appeared inside.

“What’s written there that has you making such a dazed face?”

Despite Hwaran’s question, Gion remained motionless, staring intently at the first sentence.

Hwaran glanced at the book herself, and her expression hardened as well.

“In the beginning, the White Qi and Black Qi were one.”

No history book recorded this tale: the White Qi could extinguish the Black Qi. Could the energies of life and death have been one?

Moreover, “The celestial deity split the single energy.

There was something even more crucial.

“Can you help me understand this passage?” Hwaran asked, quickly snatching the book. The book was supposed to be perfectly preserved in the throne room, but now it seemed to be damaged. The torn pages clearly showed that someone had deliberately damaged it.

“The ways to make trouble are indeed varied…” Hwaran clicked her tongue in frustration as she examined the book.

Gion, who was unfazed, reassured her, “It’s fine. There are others who know the contents of this book.”

Hwaran’s eyes widened as if she realized something. “You’re right,” she said.

Gion added, “I will seek the historian and see if we can do anything.”

Hwaran nodded in agreement, and Gion turned and walked out of the room to find the historian. The Halls of Record chronicled all of White Flower Kingdom’s history. One family was responsible for this office.

Gion took the book while immediately grasping the Chunhwa Sword. “We’ll head to Seosan.”

Hwaran shot back, “Are you determined to go there?” Her tone had its reasons.

Seosan was a highland area adjoining Biryu. It was also where the Snowy Valley was located, and by going there, Gion would essentially be walking into an area swarming with demons.

“We must go. The descendants of Jeokmungwan reside there.”

If Rohwa effaced the book, there must be a reason.

Gion was asleep, so he could not fully understand what had happened during the hundred years. It was crucial to meet the historian to turn the demonized citizens back into humans and understand why the White Flower Kingdom ended this way.

“Gion, listen to me. Even if you go to Seosan right now, you won’t meet the descendants of Jeokmungwan. Seosan is now the private property of the Fourth Chime.”

“What does that mean?”

“Like the barrier of White Qi around Snowy Valley, the Fourth Chime has created a barrier of black energy around Seosan. You can’t enter Seosan now. And it’s the Fifth Chime guarding the entrance.”

Many parts of the White Flower Kingdom were demon strongholds. Moreover, when only the Seventh Chime was dead, the Fourth Chime owned a mountain in the White Flower Kingdom.

In the current state of the White Flower Kingdom, where demons owned the land, Gion couldn’t help but snort. “It doesn’t matter.”

Gion knew the truth: If you don’t know the way, find it. If it doesn’t exist, create it. To gather the pieces of light, he had to face these beings anyway. Perhaps this would even quicken the discovery of what happened during the past hundred years.

“Barriers can be broken.”

Thanks to Rohwa breaking the barrier of Snowy Valley, it was known. Ultimately, White Qi was of the same nature as Black Qi. If a barrier made of White Qi could be broken, there must be a way to break one made of Black Qi.

Hwaran sighed, although her words hinted at her support for Gion’s determination. “Before heading to Seosan, there’s a place we must visit. We need something to shatter the barrier.”

From within the Chunhwa Sword, Hwaran suggested, “Make your way to the Nameless Temple in the capital.”

***

The small hut was barely large enough for a person to lie down in. Although it was called the Nameless Temple, many people passed by it without a thought. Schoolchildren who cut class would hide there, and animals would also rest there.

In front of the temple, Gion held a painting.

Hwaran stepped out of the Chunhwa Sword, exhaling sharply. She said, “Tough guy. You’re infuriating.”

Gion cut his collar to use it as a makeshift bandage to stop the bleeding from a new wound.

The Nameless Temple harbors numerous demons. Initially a resting place for the people, it was now covered in dense black energy, making it hard for people to see the entrance. But Gion went straight inside, swept away all the demons, and emerged. Others would have taken at least half a day to accomplish such a task, but Gion defeated all of them in merely an hour.

“Wouldn’t it be better to recover before heading to Seosan?” Hwaran suggested.

Gion simply shook his head. “No. Someone will come looking for me.”

“What do you mean by—”

“Did you know I would come?” A demon sitting on the roof looked down at Gion.

Gion frowned, recognizing Mujun, the general of Jiyeon Kingdom. He was the demon who had confronted Gion in Biryu.

Gion said to the demon, “Wasn’t it obvious that I would come holding this painting, knowing I carried the White Qi?”

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