Kang Jin-Ho slowly gripped Azuremourne and Crimson Destiny before picking them up.
The two swords resonated and howled as if they were competing against each other.
Especially Crimson Destiny; it continued to howl at the joy of returning to its owner after centuries of being apart.
However, Kang Jin-Ho was more intrigued by Azuremourne's presence here.
He could still vividly recall the exact moment when he yanked this sword out of the stab wound on his side.
Kang Jin-Ho had killed him back then.
However, that didn't diminish the significance of the relationship he had with the one who had betrayed him.
“Whatever your reasons were...
You have done something you shouldn't have, my lord.
is the reason why you'll die today.”
Azure Demon left those words behind.
He said that Kang Jin-Ho had done something he shouldn't have done.
Kang Jin-Ho slowly shook his head.
'That's in the past.'
Reminiscing about the past could be an enjoyable pastime, but getting too obsessed with the old memories wasn’t advisable.
What he was doing right now was merely a ritual—a ritual to confirm that his premonition would become a reality and that his future would be filled with battles.
Kang Jin-Ho carefully sheathed Azuremourne, and Crimson Destiny inside their respective scabbards found next to them.
He then tied both weapons to his hips.
The weighty additions to his sides seemed to fill his heart with satisfaction.
“It's been a while, you two.”
It felt like both Azuremourne and Crimson Destiny were trying to answer him.
That was what Kang Jin-Ho wanted to believe, even though a sword wouldn't have a functioning ego.
Besides the two swords and their scabbards, nothing else of note was placed on the altar.
Kang Jin-Ho scanned the altar room one more time before turning around to leave.
A little further from this location led to the secret area of the Cave of the Heavenly Demon that only the demon cult's leader could access.
Unfortunately, Kang Jin-Ho's attainment in Records of Asura hadn't reached perfection just yet, and he couldn't enter it—for now.
However, the secret area should still retain its former glory from centuries ago since no one else could have accessed it after Kang Jin-Ho's passing.
The line of inheritance for the Records of Asura had gotten severed with his death, after all.
'In that case, it's fine.'
The past was past while he was living in the present.
There was no need to go out of his way to form a connecting point between those two eras.
These two swords alone were enough.
Kang Jin-Ho unhesitantly turned around and left the cave.
“Gimme a break...” Jo Gyu-Min quietly muttered.
It felt like his heart was shrinking with every passing second.
'Mister Jin-Ho, why did you have to leave me alone with that old man...!'
Couldn't Kang Jin-Ho be more considerate toward Jo Gyu-Min's feelings when he left behind the Jaegyeong group's elite secretary alone in the woods with a crazed-looking man Jo Gyu-Min was scared of being left behind, so he tried to chase after Kang Jin-Ho and enter the cave as well...
Only for the old man's scary glare to frighten him into sitting absolutely still on the ground.
My poor life...'
Why did it feel like something wet and sparkling was pooling near Jo Gyu-Min's eyes How did he—a young elite among elites on the road to success in a top Korean conglomerate—end up in this state
The old idiom said something about only hardships waiting for those who dared to leave home.
After recalling that idiom, Jo Gyu-Min swore to himself never to leave Korea—forever.
He continued to wait nervously and stared at the cave's entrance.
“...Ah!” Jo Gyu-Min's expression brightened considerably when Kang Jin-Ho finally emerged from the cave.
He hurriedly got up.
Kang Jin-Ho greeted Jo Gyu-Min hurriedly running up to him with a cool nod from his head.
Jo Gyu-Min looked at the young man.
“Seems like you've found what you were looking for”
Kang Jin-Ho had never revealed what his objective for coming here was, but judging from two lengthy somethings attached to his hips, he seemed to have found them.
“Yes, I've found it.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded again.
He didn't come here to find these two swords.
His aim had always been to personally confirm if the traces of the demon cult could still be found even now.
And he had done just that through the existence of Azuremourne, Crimson Destiny, and the crazed-looking old man.
“Oh, my liege.” The old man prostrated on the ground again.
Kang Jin-Ho frowned slightly.
“Yes, my liege.”
Why were you waiting for me in this place”
“Your will is my command, my liege.” The old man unhesitantly nodded.
“Mm...” Jo Gyu-Min moaned quietly while taking in the sight of the old man's 'home'.
'It's a bit...
This mud hut seemed meticulously maintained compared to the old man's attire.
Its surprising cleanliness just didn't match the image of the crazed-looking old man who had the intimidating air of a barbarian capable of ripping apart and devouring a living boar.
Would Jo Gyu-Min be able to stay in this place until his appearance became that...
No way I can do that.'
He could tell how much hardship the old man had to have gone through to protect this place.
My name is Chang Min,” said the old man as he presented tea brewed from unknown grass to Kang Jin-Ho and Jo Gyu-Min.
His explanation was unhurried, but he still remained respectful.
“I'm a descendant of Ming Cult's Azure Faction, my liege.
My father had been guarding the Cave of the Heavenly Demon even before I was born.”
Kang Jin-Ho contemplatively nodded.
“Azure Faction, is it...”
He sensed a trace of Azure Flame Art from Chang Min earlier, and it seemed that this old man was carrying on the legacy of the Azure Faction, to which Azure Demon belonged.
Kang Jin-Ho's Crimson Flame Art and Azure Demon's Azure Flame Art were not exclusive cultivation techniques meant only for them and no one else.
Traditionally, only those acknowledged as the strongest in the Crimson and Azure factions had the right to be called Crimson Demon and Azure Demon, respectively.
Only after reaching the seat of Crimson Demon and engaging in countless battles did Kang Jin-Ho gain the 'famous' title of Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor, while his Records of Asura gained notoriety.
As such, someone else other than Azure Demon could have potentially inherited the Azure Flame Art.
Failing to inherit Azure Demon's True Body Ultimate Technique would mean that the inherited Azure Flame Art was incomplete.
Kang Jin-Ho guessed that this incomplete version had degraded even further over time before ending up in this lowly state.
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes.
“Who ordered you to guard the Cave of the Heavenly Demon And who left behind Azuremourne and Crimson Destiny”
“My apologies, but I do not know, my liege.”
“You don't know” Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow.
“Oh, Lord Demon Emperor...
It has been too long, my liege.
My family line simply continued to guard the Cave as our life's mission until the inevitable advent of the new Demon Emperor.”
“Hmm...” Kang Jin-Ho sucked in a deep breath.
'The inevitable advent of Demon Emperor'
Just who could have left behind that prophecy It could very well be nothing more than a myth cooked up to give hope to the descendants of the crumbling demon cult.
Just like the belief in the advent of Maitreya, a prophecy of a future savior always seemed to accompany the death of a once-powerful dynasty or a group, did it not So, this could be one of those cases.
However, the presence of Azuremourne and Crimson Destiny made that line of logic difficult to swallow.
These swords were undoubtedly Kang Jin-Ho's treasured weapons, but that wasn't the case with the previous demon cult leaders as they didn't use them.
That was why Kang Jin-Ho couldn't help but wonder—were these two swords stored in the Cave of the Heavenly Demon in anticipation of Kang Jin-Ho's eventual return Or, could the reason be as simple as no other items worthy of representing the demon cult leader's position had been left behind after the fall of the cult
Kang Jin-Ho shook his head as confusion ruled his mind.
'I can't figure it out...'
The purpose of this trip was to undo the knot in his heart and finally put it to rest, but it felt like more questions had sprung up in his head instead.
Kang Jin-Ho stared at Chang Min again.
“You said your ancestors also protected this place”
“Yes, my liege.” Chang Min nodded before prostrating on the floor after realizing that Kang Jin-Ho had begun mulling over something.
“We are fully aware how Azure Demon and the Azure Faction had committed an unspeakable, unforgivable crime against the Ming Cult, my liege.
I humbly request your punishment to wash away our sins!”
“...Arise, Chang Min.”
“But, this sin is an everlasting—”
“I said, arise, Chang Min.”
Chang Min shuddered before urgently standing back up.
He could not defy the authority and dignity contained in Kang Jin-Ho's voice.
“You are a fool.
If the crimes of fathers must be paid for by their sons, then no one in this world will be free from sins,” said Kang Jin-Ho in a rebuking tone.
“Regardless of how deep your guilty conscience is, your crime has already been forgiven.
In other words, you are now free.”
“M-my liege! O-oh...!” Warm tears began trickling down Chang Min's eyes.
This conversation is going rather smoothly, isn't it'
Kang Jin-Ho quietly scratched his cheek.
Now that he thought about it, Kang Jin-Ho realized it was easier to talk to this old man than to other Chinese he had run into during this trip.
To be more specific, it wasn't about getting the meaning across, but more like...
The actual spoken language was familiar to Kang Jin-Ho.
Chang Min's reactions were a bit odd, as well.
Even if the sins of his ancient predecessor were forgiven, was it necessary for him to become so...
emotional That was when a certain foreboding flitted in and out of his mind.
Kang Jin-Ho cautiously asked, “By the way, how long have you been guarding this area”
“For the eventual arrival of the Demon Emperor's descendant, I've been waiting for one hundred and fifty years, my liege.”
“...Mm” Kang Jin-Ho blinked his eyes.
many years did you say”
“My liege It's one hundred and fifty.”
“Mm” Kang Jin-Ho's head slowly tilted to the side.
‘Okay, so, if he's been waiting for 150 years, then, uh…’
“...What is your age”
“I'll soon be one hundred and eighty, my liege.”
Kang Jin-Ho politely brought his hands together.
“R-really I had no idea, sir.”
It was now Chang Min's turn to tilt his head at Kang Jin-Ho's weird reaction.
“Is there something wrong, my liege”
“N-no, sir...” Kang Jin-Ho muttered as cold sweat trickled down his forehead.
'If only Chang Min were around the same age as Hwang Jeong-Hu, I wouldn't have minded acting rudely, but...'
If all the years Kang Jin-Ho had lived during his three lives were tallied, the total would easily shoot past a century, so he could have acted a bit more arrogantly, but...
One hundred and eighty years old Now that was a number he couldn't look down on.
“A-are you really 180 years old, sir”
“My liege, the name of this nation was still Qing when I was born.”
ha...” Kang Jin-Ho chuckled awkwardly, having failed to regain his former dignity.
“All those years waiting for the arrival of the Demon Emperor's descendant have been painful and arduous, my liege.
But I am grateful for this opportunity to fulfill our family's wish before old age claims my life.” Chang Min's wrinkled face grew increasingly wetter from his thick teardrops.
The outpouring of such intense emotions made Kang Jin-Ho feel guilty inside for some reason.
As Azure Demon's descendant, Chang Min's station was far, far lower.
The problem Kang Jin-Ho had with this situation was Chang Min's age.
Since the descendant was so much older than Azure Demon, Kang Jin-Ho found himself unable to overcome the disharmony making a mockery of his common sense.
Kang Jin-Ho quickly gathered himself.
In any case, you're free now, sir.”
“...Am I really free, my liege”
“But Lord Demon Emperor, I...! If my duty is no more, I no longer have a reason to continue living, my liege.
However, I'm still a descendant of the demon cult.
Please grant me the honor of following and serving the inheritor of Demon Emperor's will!” Chang Min earnestly cried out.
Kang Jin-Ho groaned under his breath.
Obviously, he was happy about encountering a surviving descendant from his old demon cult.
However, staying with an old man like Chang Min might...
Rather than Chang Min serving Kang Jin-Ho, it might end up the other way around, with Kang Jin-Ho taking care of a very, very old man!
“For now, let's discuss that at another time…” Kang Jin-Ho muttered.
“Forgive me, but I don't follow, my liege.”
Kang Jin-Ho didn't explain himself, instead choosing to raise the hilts of Azuremourne and Crimson Destiny into the air.
The two swords suddenly started to vibrate.
Chang Min's reverential expression suddenly changed at this sight, and he deeply scowled.
It seemed that he had finally sensed the presence of intruders.
Kang Jin-Ho fixed the swords to his hips.
“They must be searching for me, so I should go and say hello.
Please wait here.”
“But, my liege! Allow me to deal with them!”
“...Didn't I tell you to wait here”
Chang Min sensed the subtle shift in Kang Jin-Ho's tone and hurriedly prostrated on the floor again.
“Your will is my command, my liege!”
Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly stared at Chang Min before leisurely stepping outside the hut.
The sun was setting to welcome the incoming night.
Kang Jin-Ho closed his eyes.
'I am still not a fan of the nights, huh...'
The night sky here was the same as in Zhongyuan.
The ocean of stars sparkling in the dark only served as a reminder of all those painful moments.
However, a grin still crept up on Kang Jin-Ho's lips after sensing his hidden dark side slowly rousing up from its forced slumber.
“You picked the wrong timing.”
At the very least, his opponents should have known this.
They should have known that trying to fight him in the darkness was akin to fighting off a shark underwater while completely exposed and unarmed.
Kang Jin-Ho leisurely strolled into the forest now blanketed by the darkness of the night.