Planning – Chapter 5
“Which clan or organization wants to start off first?” San asked with a clear, ringing voice.
It was decided that Dite would stand as judge. The rules of this engagement seemed familiar and normal for everyone involved. If the affiliate warriors or groups won, they would take the same percentage of shares as last year as well as an equal proportion from the Count’s shares. However, if they were to lose, all of their shares would be handed to the Count.
Taking into consideration this year’s yield, the number of spoils would be tremendous for whichever side won. There were also the priceless Archon bones and skin included in this year’s spoils. The duel was worth doing just from this fact alone.
Of course, if one lost, one would obtain nothing. However, the affiliated warriors couldn’t let go of their shares without a fight. Their honor would take a hit, the competing clans may ridicule them, and some good warriors may fall. However, they didn’t see any other choice. They would either gain their shares through battle or die trying…
However, this form of dueling was always going to be advantageous for the affiliated clans and groups. In the specially commissioned support staff, there were only two warriors. No one else knew martial arts. Against the two warriors were 15 clans with at least 10 warriors in the Master Warrior or higher level in each clan.
The duels would be held against each affiliated clan and group in a two-out-of-three format. This meant that San and Biyeon needed to face at least 30 warriors and at most 45 warriors from the 15 clans. If they were injured at any point, it would be hard for them to overcome the sheer number of participants.
Furthermore, the affiliated clans specialized in martial arts. No matter how skilled a warrior was, it would be difficult to overcome all the challengers without being injured. Additionally, it would be difficult for any person to overcome life or death battles consecutively.
Thus, every affiliated warrior believed that the Count’s side would eventually withdraw and concede, allowing the affiliated group to automatically win. This was how they carried out the unspoken association and bond of clans. Just like modern-day gangsters…
Their entire force and power would be focused on just two people! The specially commissioned captains, San and Biyeon, would have to face everyone, one-by-one. Crazy!
The warriors shook their heads.
“They’ve completely gone psycho. I can’t believe how absurd they are…”
The Kyung-Mu clan warriors stepped forward. The first to step onto the battlefield was a brawny 30’ish-year-old warrior named Kyung-Hwe. He was over 2 meters tall and sturdily built with rock-hard muscles. He was a warrior at the Dark Warrior level (equal to 2nd Stage of Acceleration). He brought up a two-handed broadsword with one hand.
The clan decided to start with a strong opponent. It would be easier for the following warriors this way. It was also a show of respect towards the association of clans gathered as affiliates in this duel. Kyung-Hwe looked at San and smiled.
‘A captain commissioned by a country bumpkin Count. How tough can he be? An Awakener? Don’t kid me! He doesn’t even look like he knows how to properly grab a sword.’
Kyung-Hwe widened his stance and raised his broadsword. His stance was neither offensive nor defensive. A warrior would never let their guard down. If one chose to duel, there would be blood.
“He only knows how to look like a warrior. There’s no substance to his stance…” San muttered while taking a step forward. His sword was still hanging from his side.
Kyung-Hwe started expanding and rippling his muscles. He swung his broadsword, drawing a beautiful arch in the air that seemed to align with his opponent’s left neck to right shoulder line. The arch seemed to shoot straight towards this imaginary line. The combination of speed and force was quickly approaching San, who had no defensive armor on to speak of.
Kyung-Hwe had rushed forward, as if flying across the ground. The arch of his attack and his explosive speed meshed well together. The power of his attack could be seen in his rotational transitions, from his waist to shoulders, shoulders to sword, and from the point of his sword towards the target.
The ‘shortest’ path was taken. The sword seemed to follow a set path. It was a ‘cycloid’ strike.
Kyung-Hwe looked at the blue sky in the corner of his right eye. There was no clash or feedback from his strike. In his eyes, one could see a part of his body flying up into the sky. His right arm, which was connected to his shoulder just a moment ago, was cleanly cut off. The flying arm was still grabbing onto the two-handed sword firmly.
A fountain of blood gushed out belatedly from his shoulder. He raised his head. Underneath his head, a white sword was lifting his head by the chin. The white sword had already taken away his right arm a moment before. The arch of the white sword, which had slashed Kyung-Hwe’s arm, did not even have a speck of blood on it. Kyung-Hwe felt terrified and cold.
“More?” San asked in a bored voice.
Kyung-Hwe shook his head. He would never be able to grab a sword again. San looked at the receding Kyung-Hwe’s back with tight lips.
He felt a sense of deep hatred and anger from his opponent. He slipped into thought… ‘Was this one of the characteristics of warriors in this area? Why did they want to fight until death? Wasn’t it better to be alive?’
The sun was setting. The warriors started to believe that they entered hell. A few of the warriors had already urinated in their pants while shaking profusely. The high-ranking officials and warriors of the affiliated clans had pale faces drained of blood. They regretted their decision to duel.
Unfortunately, there was no way to back out now… the vow was already made and must be carried out.
The twenty-third warrior’s arm flew into the air. The atmosphere was tense and horrifying. No one could properly breathe, talk, or scream. In the light of the falling sunset against the forest’s backdrop, a mound of arms could be seen. The fishy smell of pooling blood had already reached every corner of the square, causing a heightened sense of grotesque fear and terror in everyone.
The affiliated warriors understood that something was amiss after the third warrior went up to duel and had his arm chopped off. All of their arms were cut with one motion. The motion showcased movement that was economically compact and an attack speed that was difficult to follow. It was a one-shot type of strike.
However, the strike wasn’t to the level of an Awakened. It was just fast and powerful. The warriors felt that they could go against that strike. However, no one succeeded.
The warriors started bending the rules. They started putting two warriors into the duel. Though it was frowned upon and unseemly, some clans and organizations even put three warriors together into the dueling ring. If they won, that would be the end anyway. If they were to kill San, everything would be acceptable. However, San always nodded his head. The result was no different. More arms were being deposited into the mound of arms.
Warriors who lost their arms would become useless people. Their entire life would change in an instant. Their life would be worse than death. San’s consideration was actually the most terrifying result for a warrior in this martial world. Though he didn’t set out with anything particular in mind, he had instilled a sense of barbaric terror in their hearts.
He stood tall in the dueling arena and awaited his next opponent. The setting sun shone brightly behind him. He looked like a heavenly giant, as imposing as a stone cliff face. The affiliated clan officers were at a loss for words. Almost half of their top-flight warriors had already been defeated by him. He didn’t seem to tire at all either. He had no injuries. He was stepping ankle-deep in the blood of his enemies.
The next warrior up looked behind him in a fit of terror. His clan’s reputation and standing… he wouldn’t be able to fulfill any of it.
Should he concede defeat and surrender? Others may say that he gave up without a fight… It would leave the dirtiest of records for a warrior and would follow him until the day he died. His eyes turned forward to the two Awakened Warriors. If he didn’t give up, today would be the end of his life as a warrior. There was no avoiding it.
‘How… how did things go this far?’ He wanted to cry. Who started this house of cards? Did they, the affiliate clans and groups, start it themselves? There was no one to blame but themselves.
San stood standing in place. He didn’t taunt his challengers or make a move forward. He just stared at them with dead eyes. These bored eyes stared at the next challenger. It was sheer terror for the challenger.
The decision to duel was made by the affiliated warriors themselves and was accepted by the Count’s specially commissioned captains. They didn’t oppose the affiliated warriors’ decisions at all. He now knew that San and Biyeon did all this with confidence, not naivety.
He turned to gaze at Dongye. ‘Why did Dongye stay out of this? Did he already know what would happen?’ He started to regret his decision all over again.
Dongye was staring elsewhere. He was staring straight at San. Furthermore… he was smiling. The warrior atop the ring had nothing more to consider after seeing Dongye’s expression.
He let go of his sword. San’s expression slightly changed.
“Our clan will withdraw from this duel and admit our defeat.”
“Does that mean that you’ll withdraw your claim to any share in this year’s hunt? You’ll also acknowledge losing face for your clan?” asked San.
“I concede. I want to continue living as a warrior. Though it pains me, I acknowledge that I’m no match for you. I don’t want my clan to suffer from any further loss either.”
San looked towards Biyeon. She nodded her head. He cracked his neck and then walked toward the clan representative warrior.
“I respect and accept your surrender. However…”
He bent down and picked up the sword that had been let go by the warrior. He placed the sword in the other’s hand. The warrior lifted his head to look at San. He had trouble looking into San’s eyes, but he did see a small smile spread on San’s lips.
“What is your name?”
“Yegun from the Ye-Sung Clan.”
“A warrior should never relinquish one’s sword. Isn’t it a part of you? Take care of it for the rest of your life.”
“Why… why are you doing this?” he said with wide-opened eyes.
“The crazy ones are the officials who let their clansmen get their arms chopped off. I feel like you’re much braver than them,” San stated. He then continued, “Let me ask you a question. Did you participate in this year’s hunt as the Count’s friend? Or did you participate to see bloodshed?”
“I came as the Count’s friend.”
San walked back with a large smile. He then exclaimed with a roaring voice,
“You and the Ye-Sung Clan will be welcomed and properly treated as a friend by the House of Essen.”
His voice rang out clearly. Each word was enunciated for dramatic effect. He then continued,
“Our clan will surrender and concede.”
“Our clan as well.”
San had a small smile on his face during the proceeding surrenders. The first occasion was always the hardest. However, once one gave in, the entire situation would collapse like a house of cards. That’s the rule amongst gangsters.
He looked at Biyeon once more. She had a tired expression. It was tiring for San as well. It wasn’t an issue of physical stamina but mental will. Taking up a sword to cut into human flesh… not for survival but to carry out a duty… this was more tiring than a normal battle.
Their responsibilities in the forest had come to a conclusion.
Planning – Chapter 6
“Did you see?” Dongye asked his clansmen.
“I think so,” Jahan answered. However, there wasn’t any confidence in his voice.
“Tell me what you saw.”
“There’s no formal movements in his attacks. Excuse me for saying this, but it seems like he was just swinging his sword without much thought,” Jahan honestly answered. He didn’t understand what he saw.
“Then that mindlessly swinging sword with no form or thought was able to cut through 30 warriors without a response from their enemies and without causing harm to the user? Then… Jahan, would you be able to face him?”