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For the Downfall of My Beloved

18

Chapter 18

1

When the Fifth Chime grabbed Gion, his hands were so large that they completely enveloped Gion’s entire torso. The Fifth Chime would still be outside if the wall had not been destroyed.

“Follow me quietly.” Even as the Fifth Chime had Gion in his grasp, the Fifth Chime warned him to do as he said. The Fifth Chime emitted a deadly black aura surrounding him like a tornado.

The chamber became saturated with black energy, initiating its decay. Despite his massive size, the Fifth Chime moved incredibly quickly through the entire room in the blink of an eye.

Even the mere wavering of the black aura caused the scattered corpses to decay instantly.

Gion could tell at a glance that he didn’t get the title of Chime for nothing. At a glance, Gion could see that the Fifth Chime exuded murderous intent. He radiated an ominous aura, yet Gion remained stoic, his expression unfazed.

In any other situation, the mere sight of the Fifth Chime’s size would have caused someone to faint. But to Gion, the Fifth Chime wasn’t even worth the effort.

Suddenly, a hole the size of a human head appeared in the Fifth Chime’s solar plexus.

“Why…? There was clearly only one fragment of light…”

The Fifth Chime blinked dumbly, not understanding why he was being overpowered. But Gion didn’t answer the Fifth Chime’s question. He simply tied him up with a white cloth. The Fifth Chime’s right arm was severed.

Amidst the echoing screams, the chilling voice of Gion quietly resounded. “Did you create the forces that distorted history?”

“Uh, uh… No. I didn’t…”

“Then who did?”

The demon remained silent, showing an unknown fear.

Gion carelessly tore off the demon’s left arm like snapping a rotten branch. The Fifth Chime’s arm lifelessly fell to the ground.

Writhing in pain, the Fifth Chime started to scream. “I don’t know! I just did what I was told to—”

Gion broke his nose.

“Aaagh!”

Then Gion put a dagger in his eye.

“Ahhh! I r-really don’t know! Ahhhh! Really—”

Gion silently thrust the knife into more of the Fifth Chime’s body parts. The massive body of the demon, the guardian of the Seosan, began to bleed everywhere.

Once. Twice. Three times. Gion didn’t stop. Like a butcher, he kept stabbing the knife into the Fifth Chime’s legs and cutting the tendons so he couldn’t walk, slicing the muscles so he couldn’t stand up.

He didn’t ask questions or show anger. He just repeatedly stabbed and slashed, ensuring that the Fifth Chime was barely alive.

How much time had passed?

Terrified, the Fifth Chime urgently exclaimed, “I-I only know that I joined hands with the Fourth Chime and the Black Tortoise! I-I don’t know the thoughts of those above me! I-I was just following orders. I-I-I don’t know the origin of the history distortion!”

Gion put a dagger right next to the Chime’s other eye.

“Th-The Fourth Chime will eventually follow his father! How would I know what the Demon King is thinking?”

There was no lie in the terrified words of the Fifth Chime. He shouted out the information he knew he had to say to survive.

Finally, Gion spoke. “I’ll give you three days. Find out everything you claimed you didn’t know.”

The Fifth Chime was a subordinate following the Fourth Chime and the gatekeeper of Seosan. And the Fourth Chime was a loyal confidant to the Demon King.

Gion’s words were no different than telling the Fifth Chime to die. But Gion had no need to be considerate.

Gion looked at the Fifth Chime, who was showing a face as if the world had crumbled. Gion’s eyes seemed to hold a darkness more profound than all the black energy the demons possessed. After the savage attack on his body, the Fifth Chime still couldn’t discern what was lurking deep within those pitch-black eyes.

“Then bring the Demon King before my eyes,” Gion said.

***

Black Tortoise. The turtle guardian spirit lived in a sturdy cave.

Being surrounded by mountain ranges, the tribe of Black Tortoise settled in Hyunhwa Cave, called the sturdiest cave of White Flower Kingdom.

Gion slowly walked into the cave, where not even a sliver of light entered.

Drops of water fell from the ceiling, and the fog made the already dark space even murkier, blurring the visibility.

“Who’s there?” Upon Gion reaching a statue, the tribe members of Black Tortoise who were praying stood up.

A tribe member, surrounded by the sturdiest shell, approached Gion. “How did you get in here? The gatekeepers—”

“…Ugh.”

Being dragged by Gion’s hand, the gatekeeper let out a groan. Gion delivered two precise blows, shattering his legs. Despite having a robust physique as a tribe member, the gatekeeper seemed semi-conscious from the injuries inflicted by Gion.

“You madman!” the gatekeeper cried.

The other tribe members immediately started rushing toward Gion.

The gatekeeper shouted urgently to the other tribesmen. “Don’t come closer. You’ll die!” The gatekeeper, still in Gion’s grip, was the strongest tribesman at the cave entrance.

A tribe member, kneeling, pointed towards the entrance of Hyunhwa Cave. “Th-the rock has…”

The entrance that sturdy rocks should have blocked was wide open, with shattered stones scattered around.

The massive statue was so giant that even tilting one’s head back wouldn’t capture it in a single glance. The statue of the deity worshipped by the tribe of Black Tortoise showed a gentle smile with its eyes closed.

Gion walked through the crowd and stood in front of the statue. “Call Sihwan.”

“What? Ha!” The tribe members laughed incredulously at the sudden request to call the chieftain.

“Do you know who I am to summon Sihwan? I am Gion.”

Having stabbed his Chunhwa sword into the ground, Gion rested his hands on the hilt and leaned forward. In front of the massive statue, Gion’s figure was shrouded in a white aura.

“Tell him I’m here.”

***

“Are you sure it was Gion?”

“Yes. The rocks blocking the entrance of Hyunhwa Cave have been shattered…”

Donning an emerald crown, a member of the tribe entered the cave from an adjoining area. Upon spotting Gion sitting nonchalantly on the platform amidst the mist, the man abruptly halted. He paused momentarily, inhaling deeply, before bowing his head and regaining his composure.

“Everyone, go back in.”

“What? But—”

“I said go back in.”

The praying tribe members glanced at Gion and then disappeared into the fog.

Gion was motionless. “I said bring Sihwan here.”

The man in front of Gion was different from the other tribe members. Covered in mystical scales and emitting a deep green aura, the man was armored in a shell as sturdy as armor. He said, “You’ve made a wasted trip. Sihwan is not here right now.”

“Then send a message for him to come here.”

The man, surveying the broken entrance and the dirtied interior, sighed. “Sihwan is no longer your subordinate, just like you are no longer a general.”

Gion was silent.

“One hundred years,” the man said. “A whole century. Even if you are Gion, you can’t treat the tribe of Black Tortoise like this anymore. The world has changed.”

The quietly murmuring voice resonated chillingly. “What exactly do you mean by that?”

A hundred years had passed, but Gion was still alive, draped in the white aura that protects White Flower Kingdom.

The man frowned, grasping a large spear. “Do you know where you are?”

This was the location where the five guardian tribes could unleash their greatest power in their very own dwelling. Venturing inside was akin to entering the den of a wolverine, all by oneself.

“This is the stronghold of Black Tortoise.”

“So what.”

“What?”

Gion quietly observed the man, who had been bowing his head. “I said what changes because of that?”

The man hesitated for a moment and then spoke. “Please leave while I’m asking nicely.”

As soon as the man finished speaking, tribe members armed with spears surrounded Gion.

Gion quietly observed them. Even at a glance, it was evident that the guardians of Hyunhwa Cave had grown stronger than a hundred years ago. Not just overpowering with sheer strength, their stance betrayed their training in martial arts. Despite urgent circumstances, they did not break formation, each holding their position.

“Ha…” Gion laughed. Veins throbbed in the hand gripping the Chunhwa sword. Without drawing his sword, he leaned against the statue. After all, it was a scene all too familiar to him. The formation, tactics, and soldier posture all bore a striking resemblance to the defensive tactics utilized by Gion in Biryu. Their tactics were now used to protect distorted history.

Gion looked up at the crystal ball attached to the ceiling and stood up. He slowly advanced, merely taking one step at a time. So calmly. The charging tribe members couldn’t even graze Gion with their weapons but helplessly fell, struck by the gracefully swirling Chunhwa sword.

Only screams echoed through the cave. “Wh-what the—”

Because of the sword, all the soldiers had fallen, only managing to groan.

Gion set down the Chunhwa sword and grabbed a man’s spear.

“Ugh…” The man, twice Gion’s size, exerted all his strength to hold the spear, but it was in vain. The massive spear hit the ground, producing a dull clanking sound.

Gion punched the man in the solar plexus, and a crack sounded. The man clutched his stomach, kneeling.

“Do you think it’s okay to change history just because White Flower Kingdom has fallen?”

Gion grabbed the man’s thick leg, wrapped in a sturdy shell, breaking it like a rotten branch.

“Do you know how the one who wrote the hidden books has been living?”

“Uh, ugh…”

Gion, wielding the Chunhwa sword, dragged the rock-like body of the man towards the statue.

“Y-You can’t be serious.”

Before the man could get up, Gion swung his sword at the statue. A screeching sound echoed throughout the cave. Cracks appeared on the statue.

“You can’t! Please, not the statue!”

The man clung to Gion’s leg, his expression one of utter despair.

The tribe of Black Tortoise was deeply devout. They had erected a massive statue in the cave and prayed to it daily.

“If you choose to shatter the convictions that someone devoted their life to protect, then you must be prepared to sacrifice something dear to you.”

Gion brandished his sword, striking the statue with force. A cloud of stone dust wafted through the air, causing the statue to quiver as though it might crumble in an instant.

Gion gazed at the crystal ball embedded in the ceiling. “Sihwan.”

His reflection, shown in the crystal ball, was covered in the blood of the tribesmen.

“Do I need to go and find your brother as well?”

***

The trees surrounding White Dragon Castle were twisting and decaying, their once vibrant colors now consumed by a haunting blackness.

As Rohwa sat by the tranquil lake, a figure emerged behind her. It was Doa who asked, “Are you alright?”

The black aura emanating from Rohwa’s figure spread throughout White Dragon Castle.

“What is the Demon King doing now?” Rohwa’s fists clenched so tightly that her fingernails pierced her flesh, causing blood to drip from her hand. Trembling with unrestrained anger, she struggled to find resolution.

“Currently, he’s in Snow Valley—” Doa answered.

“That’s not what I mean. What exactly is he doing there?”

The situation had turned. Gion, who should be collecting crystals of light by killing the Chimes, was instead stirring up irrelevant history. It felt like a well-built castle was collapsing.

Rohwa sank into deep thought. It’s time to make a move.

Doa, who had been looking down, shifted her gaze upwards to the stretching shadows.

Rohwa’s dark expression had changed to calm detachment until moments ago. She got up.

“Where are you going?” Doa asked with difficulty.

Rohwa didn’t answer the question. Instead, she gave a final message. “Tell Sihwan to never meet Gion.”

She disappeared into the shadows.

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