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For the Downfall of My Beloved

19

Chapter 19

1

Rohwa emerged from the shadows and addressed a man. “Now is not the time for divination or casting spells.”

The man behind the dark green hood removed the headgear. He sighed deeply, looking at the images spread out in front of him. Putting back on his hood, he kneeled and began praying softly as the dim flickering light flickered. Darkness was all around. The man gritted his teeth, remaining still.

He said, “Is that all you have to say? The situation is worsening. What are you doing about it?”

Tremors reverberated through the cave, and the candles quivered and flickered weakly.

“That’s my line, Sihwan.”

The man, Sihwan, was performing a spell to track Gion, but Rohwa instantly obliterated it with her dark energy. Lowering his voice in pitch, he incanted a protective spell around his brother’s vicinity before inquiring, “What are you doing?”

Sihwan, with a body as strong as a statue, seemed to be triple the size of an average adult male. His eyes, gazing intently at the crystal ball, twinkled mysteriously through his green shroud.

Rohwa approached Sihwan and said, “I clearly instructed you not to contact Gion, yet here you are, tracking his movements. You failed. So, I have no intention of letting you be.”

“So you want me to sit still while that man threatens my brother?”

Sihwan pressed his palm against the ground, and the cave floor trembled, cracks forming on the stone. “He mentioned my brother. That’s enough for me.”

He stood up, face-to-face with Rohwa. “Am I the one who failed? Is it my fault that Hyunhwa Cave is in this state?”

Sihwan’s energy manifested as though he could pounce on Rohwa at any moment. However, Rohwa remained unfazed, her chin raised in defiance.

“All I asked of you was to ensure that no intruders breached Hyunhwa Cave. But look at the situation now. You couldn’t even protect the cave as instructed.”

Rohwa, shrouding the cave with her dark energy, retorted angrily. “And yet you dare to blame someone else?”

Sihwan frowned. “Is it even plausible that Gion, with only one fragment of light, could enter?”

Hyunhwa Cave was not just any cave—it was the stronghold of the Black Tortoise.

The stones blocking the cave’s entrance, placed by Sihwan, were so sturdy that not even the tribe of Black Tortoise could penetrate them. Only Sihwan could break the rocks with his spell. Even Rohwa or the Demon King himself couldn’t remove the weighty blockage—yet Gion did. For Gion, wrapped in the white aura, breaking the rock with only one fragment of light should have been nearly impossible.

“Did you give him more crystals of light?” asked Sihwan.

Rohwa laughed scornfully at Sihwan’s words. “With the Chimes still alive and well, how could I give Gion the light crystals? You just stay here, praying to your silent god and casting your divinations.”

Rohwa took another step closer to him. “And what concern is your brother of mine?”

“What?”

“In this situation where I’m sparing your life, you expect me to protect your brother from Gion as well?”

Sihwan began to show his fury, but Rohwa didn’t stop. “Fifty years ago, did you not foresee this day coming? That you, who harmed the dear ones of people and stole the everyday life of White Flower Kingdom, could end up like those people?”

Rohwa laughed. “You’re merely facing the consequences of your actions.”

Sihwan grabbed Rohwa by the collar, glaring at her. “Isn’t that the same for you? Do you think you’re the only one who will face the consequences?”

“That’s why I’m telling you not to meet him. If the historical records become known to the world, Gion will start to act. Can you handle that?”

At Rohwa’s words, Sihwan loosened his grip. “So you’re saying I just shouldn’t meet him? What can you do anyway?”

Sihwan sat back down and stared at the patterned cards.

“You couldn’t have been doing nothing in Hyunhwa Cave,” Rohwa said.

A droplet from the ceiling fell onto one of the cards. The lantern light flickered a deep green, illuminating the splattered moisture on the card.

After a moment of thought, Sihwan spoke to Rohwa. “You need to find out how he could shatter the rock with just one piece of light. You act as if you know everything about Gion, but it seems you’re not so different.”

Rohwa stared at Sihwan and murmured, inaudible to him, “…Exactly. I didn’t realize….”

A fragment of memory flickered through Rohwa’s mind. Reflecting on it, she thought of Gion as someone who made the impossible possible.

During the three-year war in Biryu.

A soldier rushed into Gion’s tent. “General! The… The Grand General has been…!”

Jiyeon Kingdom had captured a commander crucial for a large-scale military strategy. Initially, everyone said he should be rescued, but as they traced the route of the capture, their resolve waned.

“General… We’ll all die trying to save the life of just one person.”

This was because they discovered the commander was at the heart of Jiyeon Kingdom’s forward base. The casualties would undoubtedly be great even if they mobilized an overwhelmingly powerful force to raid the base.

At that time, Gion’s army was using special tactics to strengthen defenses against the enemy’s offensive at the front. But the defensive strategy would undoubtedly collapse when the forces engaged in a scheme to rescue the prisoner.

With casualties already high and the situation fluctuating between counterattack and retreat, the repeated advances and retreats wore down the forces, resulting in mounting casualties.

A soldier said, “Maybe… it’s best to give up…”

A soldier added, “Yes. If we report to the king that the Grand General has perished, there won’t be any issues…”

“It’s… it’s a lost cause… If the Grand General has been taken captive…”

For those who had endured three years of war, the army’s sense of self had eroded, making it hard to remember what life was like before the conflict. Their sole desire was to return home. For those who had survived on that single hope, risking their lives to save an individual, no matter how important, was not an easy decision.

“I understand your opinions,” Gion simply said.

Relieved by Gion’s words, everyone went to bed that late night, thinking they wouldn’t have to risk their lives for just one person. However, Gion left those words behind and alone entered the heart of Jiyeon Kingdom’s forward base.

As if he knew everyone would try to stop him, he left alone before dawn. It was akin to walking to one’s death.

The soldiers began to stir, but the chieftains of the Five Guardian Tribes seemed to know something. Managing the troops and defending the White Flower Kingdom’s forward base gave him special intuition.

In the dead of night, an enemy general entered the forward base armed only with a single weapon.

Soldiers guarding the barracks where prisoners were held confronted Gion. A soldier said to him, “So, you came alone?”

Initially wary, the soldiers laughed when they realized Gion was alone. Someone said, “You walk into death’s jaws willingly.”

The soldiers had endured countless brushes with death on the battlefield over three years. They stepped on the corpses of their enemies to continue to live. Filled with murderous intent, they didn’t bother to hide their desire to kill the intruder.

But Gion came, armed with only his general’s armor and sword. This was no different than waving a white flag of surrender.

For the soldiers, a glimmer of hope flickered. Killing the enemy general and taking his head would bring immense honor. Considering his foolish act, no matter how formidable the enemy general was, it seemed like an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

The soldiers drew their weapons. Without a word, Gion grabbed one soldier’s head and sliced off his ear.

“Aaah!”

“What the!”

A panicked soldier attempted to call for help, but Gion murmured. “Thinking of blowing the horn?”

Gion did his work. He methodically sliced off the soldier’s remaining ear and nose, and then, one by one, he severed the arms and legs.

The soldiers charged at Gion, but Gion’s sword effortlessly beheaded them.

Even while sustaining injuries, Gion ignored his own defense, continuously ripping apart the limbs of the soldier he held.

Gion threw the soldier’s torso to the ground before scanning the area. Once the soldiers had scattered, he spotted the prison entrance.

While this was happening, the remaining soldiers stifled their breath and froze in their place, not wanting to catch Gion’s wrath. They just stared blankly at Gion. If the soldiers charged at him all at once, they would undoubtedly be at a disadvantage. One or more of them would end up like the dismembered torso on the ground.

Hoping someone else would take the lead, the soldiers just grimaced and did nothing. This inaction gave Gion the opportunity he needed. Dealing with the disorganized soldiers was not difficult for him. In an instant, many lost their lives.

Afterward, Gion, sitting on the ground, looked down at a soldier who stared back at him with a terrified expression.

Gion simply said, “…The keys.” He fixed his gaze on the soldier’s belt.

The soldier didn’t hand over the keys fast enough. It was only a matter of time before Gion took care of the stubborn soldier and had the keys in his grasp. Gion opened the prison door, rescuing the Grand General.

***

Rohwa fell sick for a while after reading the report detailing the entire event. Yes, that’s the kind of person he is.

A wry smile escaped Rohwa. Turning situations to his advantage and instilling fear in everyone—that was Gion’s forte.

Everyone in White Flower Kingdom referred to Gion as the one who made the impossible possible. Even after a hundred years, Gion was still Gion.

Sihwan said, “He must have used some trick…”

If Gion had only one fragment of light, he couldn’t have shattered the stones in the mouth of Hyunhwa Cave. There was something Rohwa didn’t know that Gion did.

Lost in thought for a moment, Rohwa then disappeared into the shadows.

***

“Master! Look at him!”

Children of the Black Tortoise tribe gazed at a man with shining eyes. The man offered the children a gentle smile.

“So, how did you do this time?” The man had attentively observed the students writing in their notebooks. Though they made mistakes in their sentences, the man didn’t show the slightest annoyance and patiently explained each one.

Gion entered the classroom and watched the man surrounded by students. A figure that wasn’t making a fist but rather holding a pen. A hand that wasn’t examining a crystal ball but gently patting children’s heads. For Gion, it would take some time to adjust to this new and unexpected sight.

Sihwan’s brother, similar in size to Sihwan, had a completely different demeanor.

The students, blinking their clear eyes, gazed at Gion.

Gion removed his blood-stained clothes and sat down, turning away from the students.

The man looked momentarily startled but then said to the students, smiling, “You all did very well.”

A child, looking at the blood-stained Gion, grasped the man’s clothes with tiny hands. “Who are you?”

Without losing his smile, the man gently patted the child’s head. “Don’t be afraid. He’s a guest of mine.”

The man resumed the lesson.

The sound of children’s laughter echoed in the classroom. In the midst of it, Gion seemed to be in a different world, staring blankly into the void with an empty gaze.

How much time had passed?

The class was finished. The man told the students, “Since you all have been working hard, let’s skip homework today.”

“Really?” the children said.

“Yes, but don’t take advantage and neglect your studies because of that.”

Upon hearing there would be no homework, the children smiled brightly.

“… Bye, take care!” the man said to the leaving children.

Gion did not acknowledge the children’s greetings or exit. How could one warmly wave back when about to kill the man they cherished? He rose quietly from his seat and approached the man.

In Mundang, once filled with children’s laughter, now there would only be the stench of blood.

The man greeted Gion with a bright smile. But it was the smile on the face of a man resigned to death. He had known this moment would come for a long time.

As the strength slowly left his hand gripping the hilt, Gion battled against his own resistance. He addressed the man, “I hold no grudge against you,” and unsheathed his sword.

Gion’s words showed no sadness, resentment, or longing. “Believe me when I say if I restore the glory of White Flower Kingdom, I, too, will pay my dues.”

There was no guilt or thrill when he killed someone beloved. He had stated the truth in a detached manner, as if devoid of any ability to feel emotions.

The man quietly closed his eyes.

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