Chapter 71. <The World of Dead Constellations. (3) >
Translator: thursdays Editor: Sasha
So Baek-hyang entered the mountain.
She was 11 years old.
-No one will force you to do anything.
The headquarters of the Demonic Cult.
The place that the old man took her to was like heaven. Even when she didn’t do anything, she was still given food in the morning and evening. She was given a warm futon. There wasn’t even anybody to discipline them.
-Eat when you want to. Sleep when you want to sleep. Play when you want to play.
-Baek-hyang. Just live the way you want to live.
Sobaekhyang was dazed.
This place might have been the Paradise she heard of in the legends.
-All the adults here are so nice!
Children her age grinned broadly.
-They don’t make us do anything.
-Are they trying to raise us as slaves?
-Idiot! It’s been a year since I’ve been here, and they haven’t done anything like that.
There were many orphans in heaven besides her. Very many. Even at a glance, there were more than 2,000 of them. Furthermore, one or two children entered the mountain every day. Once, during a famine, dozens of them had entered in one day.
Were there so many orphans in the world?
So Baek-hyang parted her lips.
-How did you guys get here?
There was silence.
The children stared at her.
Then, in an instant, they opened their mouths.
-The farming was too bad!
-My mother worked in the Red Light district…
-I don’t want to talk about it. Why do I have to tell you?
-Mm. At night, thieves with swords attacked the town!
-The villagers all suddenly got sick.
-They kept hitting me. I ran away.
Hunger. Mission. Illegitimate child. Bandits. Pandemics. Abuse.
Each time the children opened their mouths, poison flowed.
So Baek-hyang was dizzy. The poison drenched with hunger was bitter. The poison with resentment for one’s calling was burning. The poison of an illegitimate child was fierce. The poison of being stabbed by bandits was cold. The poison that grew from the plague was nasty. The poison salted with abuse and beatings was rotten.
Were there so many poisons in the world? Have all the bitterness, heat, pain, and rot from the world gathered here? Then, what was this place? How could this be heaven?
So Baek-hyang remembered.
-Are you guys happy now?
It was a Jar of Solitude.
-Are you okay now?
Put toads, vipers, tarantulas, centipedes, fire ants, wasps, and all kinds of poisonous insects into the jar. Then, seal the lid. The viper bites the toad, the toad eats the tarantula, and the venom eats each other until finally, only one survives.
Let it rest.
To make the ultimate poison.
The children laughed brightly.
-Because I can eat rice every day.
-I don’t have to work for my mother.
-I’m always fine.
-Yup. There are no thieves here, right?
-Even if it hurts, the doctor will fix it.
-Nobody hits me. I like it.
Toad. Viper. Tarantula. Centipede. Fire ant. Wasp.
The children opened their mouths and laughed, but in So Baek-hyang’s eyes, her peers looked just like poisonous beasts and bugs. That was right. This place wasn’t like heaven. It was just a jar to nurture the loneliness of one person.
So Baek-hyang quietly put her hand on her chest.
It was cold.
It wasn’t something that could be warmed with a warm morning’s porridge, evening’s soup, or a thick blanket. Ice that would never heat up was buried in the middle of her heart. That was her heart.
Her mother was leaving.
The snow was drifting down.
Her mother didn’t stop walking away.
Like her, the snow did not stop.
From that day on.
So Baek-hyang didn’t get along with her peers.
「Eat when you want to.」
Every morning and evening, the food she ate lessened.
「Sleep when you want to sleep.」
She went to bed early and got up even earlier.
「Play when you want to play.」
She didn’t play. While the children laughed and played around, neutralizing their poison with laughter, So Baek-hyang did not socialize with them.
The children murmured.
-Baek-hyang is strange…
-She’s always playing with the farmers!
-Yup. She didn’t eat rice—on purpose!
-Why does she hang out with the farmers?
-I don’t know.
She ignored it.
「Just live the way you want to live.」
One day, an old man came. It was the old master of the Demonic Sect who had brought her here. Although time had passed, the old man had not changed from that winter day.
-It’s been a long time since we saw each other, Baek-hyang.
-Yes. It’s been a while.
-I have something to ask you.
The old master hit the ground with his staff.
-I hear you don’t fit in with children your age.
-I hear you help the farmers grow the food you eat and harvest it.
-I hear that you make all the clothes you wear and the blankets you use.
The old man tilted his head.
-If you want, you can live in abundance, even if it is not luxurious. This is a Peach Blossom Spring. Grown-ups farm and pick fruits for you. You are just a child, so why do you work so hard?
So Baek-hyang parted her lips.
-The Mo family, who farms on the lower part of the mountain, had their two daughters taken away by the governor.
-Mr. Choi, who works in the orchard, was called to build a wall, and his second son died while he was gone. He brought up this unfairness to the governor, but he was accused of conspiracy, and even his firstborn was killed. After burying the bodies of their two sons in their hometown, Choi and his wife devoted themselves to this place.
So Baek-hyang listed all these out, one by one.
The farmers who bring crops to the orphans were all injured by the world. There isn’t a single person among them who doesn’t have a painful story. Not even one.
-This is not heaven.
So Baek-hyang said after scrutinizing the farmers’ circumstances.
-They don’t feed and dress us for free because they’re dumb.
The old man asked back.
-Why do you think you eat and sleep for free?
-Because they want us to take revenge for them.
-Because of regret and resentment. Because they could not forgive the governor and towns that ruined their lives. They want to get revenge, but they don’t have the power to get revenge.
So Baek-hyang said.
-I heard it. They say you have to learn and master martial arts from a very young age to succeed. Those farmers, the people who feed us and dress us, are too old to deepen their understanding of martial arts.
-But, they can farm for [children who can learn martial arts].
-We don’t eat and sleep for free.
That was what paradise was.
-It is to take revenge on the world on their behalf.
It was the headquarters of the Demonic Cult.
The old man was silent.
After being silent for a while, the old master asked.
-Do you have anything to say to the world?
So Baek-hyang nodded.
About the cold.
About a winter’s blizzard. About that day, following a mother and crossing a snowy field. About the mother who continued to walk away while hearing her child scream. About the child left behind. About the cold.
About someone’s heart.
About hunger. About a child born in the Red Light district. About illegitimate children. About the child who lost his family to the thieves. About a child whose village disappeared due to the plague. About a child who was abused and beaten.
About their poison.
-I have a lot to say.
The world was wide.
-Very many things.
What had to be said was infinite.
The old master quietly closed his eyes.
-Is that so… I suppose you do.
It was quiet.
-If so, the world will have to listen to you.
The old man opened his eyes.
-I am one of the Demonic Sect’s Seven Elders. I am known as the Demonic Buddha.
-Is there a Buddha in hell?
-If there is no Buddha in hell, what use does he have?
Even though So Baek-hyang called this place hell, the old man did not reproach her. Rather, he responded as if it were natural. Only then did So Baek-hyang know that she had chosen the right path.
-Baek-hyang, you passed the admission test. You did not lose your self even with the abundance of food and a comfortable bed. Thus, your poison will be sharp. Take me as your teacher, and call me Master.
-In the future, your sword will ring in place of countless screams.
The old man raised his cane.
Then, he placed it on the shoulders of the young Heavenly Demon.
-Bow. You are my disciple from now on.
So Baek-hyang entered the sect.
She was 13 years old.
It was early dawn when I woke up.
There was a voice that seemed to whisper in my ear.
When I opened my eyes, the Heavenly Demon’s face was right in front of my nose.
“Oho. You already can’t stand up?”
She was really right in front of me. She was so close that I could see each of her eyelashes. When she blinked, her eyelashes opened and closed like black curtains.
I was lying on the floor. The Heavenly Demon stared down at me in that position.
“There. Heavenly Demon-nim.”
Was it because I just woke up? My mouth felt so stuffy that I couldn’t speak properly.
“If you’re still there… I want to get up, but I can’t. It feels like my head will bump into you?”
“Hmm. Seeing how you’re so eloquent after waking up, your body must be fine.
The Heavenly Demon straightened her back.
“Go into the hot spring and take a bath. Wash your mind and body with all your heart.”
“I shall be waiting at the entrance of the cave.”
The Heavenly Demon swung around and walked away. I had nothing to say. The small back of the Heavenly Demon disappeared to the other side.
I stayed in the cave, dumbstruck.
The other sleeping party members were also there.
“Uh huh, hmm…”
Were they immersed in the virus research until late at night? Tools were scattered around the sleeping forms of the Alchemist and the Medicine King. The Venomous Snake was crossing his arms with a big smile, as if he was in a very pleasant dream.
What kind of dream did he have to be able to sleep so sweetly?
I opened up three psychological status windows at once.
「Yes, I am right. No, why should I even explain this simple thing? You wouldn’t understand it even if I did explain it. Anyway, I’m right, so do what I tell you to do. You’re driving me nuts. You’re as dumb as a water flea, you idiots… N, no, that wasn’t what I meant, but… If you just mull it over in your noggin, if you just think a little more, you can understand this simple logic… Ah, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…」
「Ha, this is my 100th victory, Marcus… Also, I won 999,999 times against that youngster who’s an alchemist of something. Oho, is there really no one standing in the way of Sean McCallister’s road to victory? It’s sad to realize just how much superior I am in this world…」
「Mwahahahaha! Pfft hee hee hee sjfklasjklfsjd huhaha!」
‘I shouldn’t wake them up.’
I especially thought that I shouldn’t touch the last one.
I washed my body carefully and went out. Shiny and Bae Hu-ryeong were holding their breaths the whole time. The white sky loomed over us as the dawn mixed with the snow on the horizon…
Upon exiting the cave, I saw a snow-covered world.
The Heavenly Demon stood in the middle of a snowy field. Arms crossed, she looked at me up and down from head to toe.
“Did you wash up everywhere?”
“Yes. I cleaned until I felt that even my mind was cleansed.”
“I hate people who speak well.”
The woman frowned, furrowing her eyebrows as if she found me dissatisfactory.
“And you are too good at talking. Your tongue is much too light. I worry if your temperament is more of a scammer than that of a good man.”
Was that so?
I’ve never really thought that I had a talent for speaking. However, the Witch, who was second place in the rankings, also told me off, saying that I was ‘good at talking.’ Was I born with a talent that I hadn’t known about?
As I was locked in these thoughts, the Heavenly Demon narrowed her eyes at me, displeased.
I also opened her psychological status window.
「Despite his silver tongue, his face is still dumb after he washed up, so he’s not cute at all. He’s the very picture of a member of the Hao Munju.」
What was Hao Munju?
I followed the Heavenly Demon, keeping her in my sight.
As we crossed the snowfield, the Heavenly Demon said,
“If you want to wear the clothes of the Demonic Cult, you have to pass numerous tests. Although you have proved your qualifications, that doesn’t mean you have passed the test. Our first exam is…”
“Is it [the test of comfort]?”
Maybe I was imagining it, but the Heavenly Demon’s steps seemed to falter.
“You take in children, raise them, and feed them for free. Children who settle and are complacent with this are raised by the farmers, craftsmen, and others on the auxiliary side of the sect. They would grow up and support the Demonic Cult.
“But it’s different if you pass [test of comfort]. Then, you are recognized as a disciple of the cult. These are the children who officially learn the demonic arts. At this time, they say that they have truly entered the Demonic Cult.”
“……How do you know that?”
I was killed by you in the last run-through, and I saw your trauma.
I couldn’t say that though, so I just smiled.
“I know quite a lot.”
“Ah. How indifferent the heavens are! The last connection that I’ll make, and they brought me a sly thing like you. Must I really accept this Hao Mun-like wretch into the sect…?”
Bae Hu-ryeong nodded from the side.
-Yup. Zombie does look like a Hao Mun scrub! Because it’s the Heavenly Demon, she has a good eye for people.
‘Uh. What are you talking about…?’
-Well, if you were just a scrub, you’d lose interest in things too quickly. But when you’re being weird, you just don’t quit. So it’s even worse!
Was this a compliment? Or was it an insult? Whenever I wondered if someone was complimenting me or cursing me, I would just interpret it as a compliment.
There were desolate times. Today, people are too stingy with praise. Shouldn’t I, at least, receive people’s words in good faith? That’s right. Even if the other person was a weird, eccentric, and negative ghost like Bae Hu-ryeong…
-I’m saying that that part of you is like a scrub! You crow-tit!
I had no idea what he meant. Really.
“—This place should be good enough.”
There was a pit in the place that the Heavenly Demon led me to. A huge pit. The center was hollow, shaped a little like the Colosseum, but it was as dark as midnight because the dawn’s light could not reach it.
The Heavenly Demon turned and looked at me.
“This great self is willing to accept you as a disciple. The world of the Demonic Sect! The heavens won’t reject a member if he is well qualified.”
“But, I can’t accept you as a formal disciple yet.”
“No. Heavenly Demon-nim, you’re too much! I came from far away to become your disciple. I also showed you that I was qualified. But what do you mean that I’m still not good enough to be your formal disciple?!”
“……First of all, your words are very suspicious.”
The Heavenly Demon stared at my face.
“It’s really suspicious that you came from beyond the Great Wall. I also doubt that you admired the great me for a long time. According to my senses, everything seems like a lie… But your nature does not seem too vile, so I’m letting you go.”
How does this person have such strong senses?
“Honestly, it’s weird because you actually have a good heart. That’s right. You are truly a freak. It’s difficult to determine right now whether you will be an opportunity for me or if I will be an opportunity for you.”
“……What is the test?”
The Heavenly Demon pointed to the bottom of the pit.
“I threw a Jiangshi down there. He was once a well-known master in Gangho, one of the most promising people of our cult. Defeat that Jiangshi. Then, I will accept you as a disciple of the cult. But.”
The Heavenly Demon gave me a clue, arms crossed.
“Fight while you are hungry.”
“Just as I said. Fight the Jiangshi, but with only hunger in your heart. Only the pain of hunger must be in that place. Do not let any other emotions or thoughts other penetrate your psyche.”
The Heavenly Demon’s voice echoed.
“Can you do it?”
Then, I realized.
She already considered me her [disciple].
Saying that I was not a formal disciple or a disciple at all, all of those words were nothing more than hot air. In the heart of the Heavenly Demon, I was a disciple who will be taught according to the teachings of the Demonic Cult. I was the one who would inherit the Infernal Heavens Demonic Art.
“All of your sword’s movements must stem from hunger,” the Heavenly Demon said.
“Think of the hungry voices and groans, the arm movements, and footsteps of starving people. Everything. Think about it and plant it in your mind. Make it into your will. By this will, crafted only from hunger, swing your sword.”
“Only then will the Infernal Heavens Demonic Art reveal its true power.”
I looked down the pit.
A zombie was howling at the very bottom. A black uniform. It was old and worn out, but the zombie certainly wore the uniform of the Demonic Cult.
A pit resembling hell.
You could call that zombie my senior apprentice.
I opened my mouth.
“If I swing my sword only out of hunger, what will happen?”
“You will be able to cut a man who has never starved in one blow,”
The Heavenly Demon spoke calmly.
“Therefore, you can fight half of the Righteous Sect members with one maneuver.”
Thus, that was why this was said.
Nails that scratch the world.
“First, learn the way of Asa, death by starvation. Then learn the way of Galsa, death by dehydration. Only by understanding thirst can you wield a sword to strike those who have never been parched and twisted. Next is death by drowning. You will master all nine sword techniques, and through these, you will overturn the world.”
I squeezed the hilt tightly.
My heart was beating.
“That’s quite appealing.”
The end of the Heavenly Demon’s mouth rose.
I think it was the first time I saw her smile in this life.
Perhaps she liked my fighting spirit.
“If so, why are you hesitating? Hurry up, and don’t fall into hell.”
With that, I jumped into the zombie pit.
 Peach Blossom Spring: Like Shangri-La, a hidden utopia on Earth, untouched by the politics of the outside world.
 Hao Munju: A group of thieves, pickpockets, low lives, etc., mostly without honor.
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