‘What is going on?’
Cale thought about it for a moment.
‘How did things end up like this?’
The path heading to Namgung Manor, which was like a castle…
Cale peeked out the carriage window.
Outside the right side window was the Namgung Clan’s Heavenly Guardians.
Out the left window was the Anhui Province Lord’s cavalry.
These two groups were guarding Cale’s golden carriage on either side.
Martial artists and a government army.
Cale, who was surrounded by these two similar groups that were on completely different paths, could see the people of Anhui Province whispering behind them.
Cale didn’t have the courage to even think about what they were whispering.
Instead, he asked a question.
“Chief Eunuch Wi.”
“Yes, young master-nim?”
“…I’m certain that I asked for the Embroidered Uniform Guard to be sent quietly, didn’t I?”
“You did. I’m not sure what happened… Hahaha.”
Chief Eunuch Wi avoided Cale’s gaze.
“…I definitely wrote it like that, so I do not know why the territory lord has shown up.”
The Fist King chimed in.
“It seems as if His Majesty had a hand in this.”
Cale clenched his mouth shut.
How could he say anything if the Emperor did something?
‘Crown prince Alberu truly is easy to communicate with.’
If it was Alberu, he would have stealthily sent the Embroidered Uniform Guard and…
He would have definitely hidden himself in the Embroidered Uniform Guard to come confirm the faces of those Blood Cult bastards before heading back.
‘…That’s a bit undesired too.’
Cale quickly erased Alberu’s way of handling things from his mind.
Whether it was the Central Plains or the Roan Kingdom… The leaders were quite peculiar.
‘How am I supposed to act around the Anhui Lord?’
For now, Cale had not gotten off the carriage and had told the territory lord that they should chat inside the Namgung Manor.
‘He’s a Duke-level administrator by the Roan Kingdom’s standards.’
The territory lord.
Although it was an administrative position with no hereditary succession… The level of influence he had should be equivalent to a Roan Kingdom Duke or Marquis.
‘I should just…’
Cale had made up his mind.
‘Do whatever makes things easiest for me.’
He would leave the Central Plains anyway.
He might as well make things as easy as possible.
It wasn’t like any of them would follow him to Roan if he acted a bit cheeky. He would never see them again.
The carriage stopped.
Cale got off in front of the Namgung Manor.
This large wooden door that showed off the long period of time it had been standing from its appearance…
The tall walls to its sides…
Cale could not see the end of the wall. That was how vast the Namgung Manor was.
‘Based on what I heard, they have another manor on the outskirts as well. These scarily rich bastards!’
A calm smile appeared on Cale’s face.
‘It looked as if they would give me a lot of things.’
His heart started beating faster.
“Welcome. Young master Kim-nim.”
Namgung Ma Hyuk.
The Namgung Clan’s patriarch approached Cale and greeted him.
Cale had never put his hands together in this martial artist’s manner before.
That was why he debated for a bit before offering his hand.
“Nice to meet you. Patriarch-nim.”
Namgung Ma Hyuk was currently extremely tense.
‘The Nature Realm. Someone at that level with the power to purify living jiangshis.’
That was why he had been tense before meeting young master Kim.
They had no way of knowing what an expert at that level would do if they became upset.
Honestly speaking, Namgung Ma Hyuk was the person who was most worried about things among the Namgung Clan’s top executives, including the former patriarch, the Sword Saint.
That was why he had been quite concerned prior to meeting Cale.
His senses were even more alert because the young master Kim he saw through the carriage window looked feeble but gave off a slightly cold and stoic aura.
‘…It is as father said.’
However, in person, young master Kim had a gentle smile on his face as he looked toward the Namgung Clan.
He then offered his hand to Namgung Ma Hyuk first, despite being the eldest senior of the Imperial family.
“Ah. I’m sorry.”
Namgung Ma Hyuk shook young master Kim’s hand.
It was at that moment.
“N, nice to meet you, sir! My name is Sorae Hak, the Lord of Anhui Province.”
He approached Cale.
Cale flinched for a moment after seeing the territory lord’s face.
How to explain this…
He had the typical opportunistic or politician’s smile.
Sorae Hak had that kind of smile on his face as he approached Cale. Cale recalled what Chief Eunuch Wi had said on the carriage.
‘Young master-nim. Lord Sorae Hak is… Seen as an extremely flexible and affable person. That was how he ended up in charge of Anhui Province, where the Namgung Clan is located, despite his strength lacking a bit.’
Basically, he knew how to tactfully go back and forth between legal and illegal means.
In addition, he was easy to talk to.
Basically, he had a foot in both administration and the Martial Arts world and was good in politics.
This was why the Imperial family was full of expectations for him to create a cooperative relationship with the Namgung Clan, which basically monopolized the Anhui Province.
That was how Cale had analyzed what Chief Eunuch Wi said.
“Nice to meet you, territory lord-nim.”
Cale smiled gently as he spoke.
“Yes, sir! I am truly touched to be able to serve such a revered sir of the Imperial family.”
Cale gasped in admiration at this well-oiled tongue of the territory lord, despite it not being at Alberu’s level.
“A revered person of the Imperial family? I am nothing. I am simply Kim Hae-il.”
Sorae Hak flinched.
“Ahem. Ahem. I almost made a grave mistake. Nice to meet you, young master Kim-nim.”
Cale let go of Namgung Ma Hyuk’s hand and extended his hand toward Sorae Hak.
Sorae Hak quickly grabbed his hand.
‘…This is driving me crazy!’
Although he was smiling, Sorae Hak’s mind was quite a convoluted mess right now such that he felt as if his head would explode.
‘A member of the Imperial family that the Emperor would even send the Embroidered Uniform Guard to look after?’
The Emperor and the Empress Dowager…
The two of them were people who barely survived the late Emperor’s oppression and made it to the top spot of the Central Plains.
That was why it was rare for there to be a member of the Imperial family close to them.
Most of them were killed by the late Emperor.
Furthermore, all members of the late Emperor’s bloodline were sent out to the border regions to live in poverty.
‘But he suddenly gives an Imperial Decree to guard the person with a golden plaque? That inhumane Emperor ordered such a thing? He even sent the Embroidered Uniform Guard?’
That wasn’t all.
< Treat him without lacking in any aspect, just as if you were treating me. >
The Emperor had said to treat this person the way they would treat him.
‘Is he a hidden younger brother or something?’
Sorae Hak’s heart was beating wildly while looking at Cale.
‘Based on what I heard, he is the Namgung Clan’s benefactor. What the hell was this person’s true identity?’
However, Sorae Hak used the years of experience he had gained from being an administrator for a long time.
“Young master Kim-nim, how long will you be staying in the Anhui Province?”
He calmly addressed the man.
‘This sir is hiding his identity.’
He was using the identity of young master Kim Hae-il to hide his true identity.
‘Then I should play along.’
Sorae Hak waited for Cale’s response.
“Mm. I will probably leave in the near future.”
“Is that so?”
Cale felt quite unsettled dealing with Sorae Hak, who was tightly holding his hand with both hands and not letting go.
Sorae Hak gently asked without knowing how Cale was feeling.
“In that case, please stay and relax in the place we have prepared for you, young master Kim-nim.”
Namgung Ma Hyuk flinched and tried to interject.
However, Sorae Hak ignored him and quickly added on.
“His Majesty informed us to take care of you without any aspect lacking in any way. So please, give us that chance to serve you like this.”
Both Namgung Ma Hyuk and even the Sword Saint couldn’t say anything about that.
In fact, some of the nearby Elders had their pupils shaking.
‘The Emperor said that?’
They could feel how the Emperor felt toward young master Kim.
On the other hand, Cale’s face stiffened a bit.
‘Based on the Emperor’s personality, I don’t think he would have said anything to the territory Lord with good intentions.’
The Emperor that Cale saw was not such an affectionate person.
‘In fact, he’s the type who would benefit from my being closer to the government than the Martial Arts world and would tell this guy to serve me for that reason.’
Beyond that, he was probably trying to get some evaluation or information about Cale through the territory lord.
‘…His expression is getting worse?’
On the other hand, Sorae Hak realized from Cale’s faint but stiffening expression that something was not right.
Sorae Hak was extremely sharp.
‘What do I do?’
However, he could not take back things he had already said.
He could not withdraw, especially since he mentioned the Emperor.
Cale started to speak at that moment.
“That will be a bit of an issue.”
Cale declined the territory lord’s offer.
Sorae Hak’s eyes opened wide.
‘He rejected it even though I mentioned the Emperor!’
This young master Kim seemed friendlier or closer to the Emperor than he thought.
Cale had no idea about Sorae Hak’s thoughts as he calmly commented.
“I have already agreed to stay with the Namgung Clan. Promises should be kept.”
Cale started to think.
‘Yes, this is the Martial Arts world where justice and cooperation are considered the best.’
They should just accept it if he said something decent.
“Thank you for your generosity, territory lord-nim. However, I am not a member of the government nor am I doing the government’s work right now. I do not think that it is good for me to stay in a government building.”
Cale looked toward the Sword Saint and smiled gently.
“It should be fine for me to stay at Senior Sword Saint’s house. Isn’t that right, Sword Saint-nim?”
“Ahem, hem. That is correct!”
The corners of the Sword Saint’s lips twitched and curled up as he let out some fake coughs and responded.
Sorae Hak realized that this uptight old man was smiling and was shocked.
‘This person, young master Kim, he’s amazing! He made that old man speak formally and smile!’
He also used proper etiquette to easily decline the Emperor’s offer.
‘…I should be careful.’
Sorae Hak quickly responded.
“I will take your words to heart.”
The territory lord gently stepped back and Cale was finally able to enter the Namgung Clan.
Of course, the process was a bit odd.
The large gate opened and…
Cale felt as if he was experiencing déjà vu.
“Welcome. Young master-nim!”
“We greet our benefactor!”
All blood members of the Namgung Clan were standing in two lines, bowing toward Cale.
Cale subconsciously turned to look at the Sword Saint.
The Sword Saint spoke with a look of satisfaction.
“Our Namgung Clan does not lack in any way in treating our benefactor. Our Namgung Clan must be the best in everything.”
Cale gasped at seeing an old man, who seemed to be over ninety years old, bowing toward him.
He then got chills seeing a five-year-old child looking at him with a sparkling gaze.
– Human, something is weird.
Raon finally realized that something was weird as well.
However, Cale could only be dragged around in this suppressing mood.
Of course, it looked as if he was leisurely following the patriarch to the patriarch’s residence.
“Mm. First, ask the Namgung Clan if a few people can stay here. If they say yes, leave a few people to serve and protect the young master-nim.”
“Yes, sir. Will you be heading out now?”
The territory lord watched as Cale walked off in the distance as he responded.
“I will have to do so for today.”
“…What do you mean?”
“I’ll have to come tomorrow as well. I will come every day until the young master-nim leaves.”
He then started to smile.
‘I’ll need to find a way to connect with him.’
This mysterious person under a veil…
This young master Kim Hae-il…
It wouldn’t be bad to get close to him.
“It looks like I’ll be busy for a while.”
The territory lord looked at the people of Anhui Province, who were peeking at the Namgung Clan, and firmed his resolve while thinking about the stories of this young master Kim that would soon spread throughout Anhui Province and the entire Central Plains in the near future.
‘I need to get in his good graces before other bastards can do so! Since he seems to value justice and cooperation, I don’t think bribes will work very well. What will be good…’
The territory lord watched Cale enter the patriarch’s residence before quietly returning to Anhui Castle.
* * *
“Advisor. What do you mean by that?”
“…Alliance leader-nim. Something seems weird with the Namgung Clan.”
Ko Seh Bum, the leader of the Martial Arts Alliance, looked at the report from the Chief Advisor of the Martial Arts Alliance, Zhuge Mi Ryeo, and scowled.
“Young master Kim? Who is he that the Namgung Clan would bow down to him?”
“…He is suspected of being a member of the Imperial family, however, we are still looking into the details.”
Zhuge Mi Ryeo… She opened her fan and quietly mumbled.
“However, it seems that this young master Kim is headed toward our Martial Arts Alliance.”
Ko Seh Bum tapped the name, young master Kim, on the report.
“You don’t know why he is heading here?”
“No, sir. However, we should have information soon because the Beggars’ Gang’s Elder Ho was there.”
Ko Seh Bum smiled.
“To make that proud Sword Saint bow his head… I am curious about him.”
* * *
Cale worked hard to calm down.
“Young master-nim. This is a small gesture of our Namgung Clan’s gratitude.”
“I heard from the Ancestral Patriarch-nim. He told us about how hurt you got in order to save Tae Wi.”
The patriarch gulped while looking at the silently sitting Cale.
‘He’s so stoic.’
It was shocking.
He couldn’t believe that Cale could remain calm and collected in the current situation without being shocked at all.
‘No wonder he reached the Nature Realm.’
Namgung Ma Hyuk looked at Cale and calmed himself.
He calmly started speaking again.
“Sir, you should know what this is. It is a thousand-year-old snow ginseng.”
It was a precious ginseng procured from the snow-covered North Sea.
This one was not a hundred-year-old one, but one that had survived for a thousand years.
This held the highest value as an elixir.
However, the Namgung Clan had not used this and had kept it until now.
‘…Because it is a snow ginseng.’
Most of the Namgung Clan’s martial arts held yang energy.
That was why an item like the snow ginseng, which held yin energy, was dangerous and could cause Ki Deviation.
Of course, it wouldn’t matter for someone at the patriarch or the Sword Saint’s level, but at their level, it was more efficient to eat other elixirs that had yang energy.
“Young master-nim, I heard that you use the aura of fire. That must be why you had those blood clots after the aura of fire went berserk. We thought that the snow ginseng might be good to control that reaction.”
Furthermore, potentially because of the attributes of where it grows, unlike regular ginsengs, snow ginsengs also had the aura of wood.
That was why even with the yin energy going in during consumption to cool and protect the veins as it suppresses the aura of fire…
The aura of wood would wrap around the aura of fire to let warmth fill the body once again.
Of course, patriarch Namgung Ma Hyuk knew that this thousand-year-old snow ginseng was lacking to be called a healing item. As someone in the Nature Realm, young master Kim should know that as well.
They were just giving the best thing they had to young master Kim.
‘Father! You want to give him the thousand-year-old snow ginseng? Even if he is our benefactor-’
‘You bastard! Our young master Kim is the eldest senior of the Imperial family! How many precious things do you think someone like that has eaten? I’m sure mere thousand-year-old snow ginsengs are all over the Imperial Palace!’
‘No! Even the Imperial Palace doesn’t have something like a thousand-year-old snow ginseng!’
‘I don’t know! Just give it to him! The Namgung Clan can’t give him something cheap! Don’t you think so? What is it? Do you want people to say that the Namgung Clan gave their benefactor scraps?’
‘No! I don’t want that!’
‘Then give it to him!’
The patriarch erased the conversation he had with the Sword Saint earlier from his mind.
Instead, he tensed up looking at the silent Cale.
‘Why is he like this?’
Cale was silently sitting there, looking at the thousand-year-old snow ginseng in the sealed box.
‘…Does he not like it? Was this elixir perhaps not to his standards as a sign of gratitude?’
As the patriarch had that thought…
The crybaby was speaking in Cale’s mind.
– …I think noonim’s seal might loosen a bit if you eat that.
Cale’s heart was beating wildly.
– Mm. Shield noonim and water noonim… I think the two of them will wake up. No. Water noonim is quite strong, so maybe only half of her seal will be released?
Cale asked the crybaby.
‘The seal will be released if I eat the elixir? Then what about balance? Central Plains never mentioned such a thing?’
It was at that moment.
The mirror in Cale’s pocket received a message.
What perfect timing.
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