Haimen,1 as its name suggests, is a city that serves as a gateway to the ocean. This is because the winding Yangtze River, which crosses all across the continent, ends up in Haimen.
The river water flowing into Haimen contained vast amounts of nutrients coming from different parts of the continent. Many fish gathered there to feed on the nutrients, while fishermen set sail to catch them.
This naturally led to a large port to be built in Haimen, where trading ships from all over the world came and went. Merchants came to trade, while laborers came to find work.n./𝐨–𝒱/.𝑒/)𝗅/(𝑩..I./n
In this way, the city of Haimen prospered and grew into a large city.
Today, dozens of ships were anchored in the port. Most of them were coming from outside of the Central Plains, while some came from the southern part of the Yangtze River.
Unfamiliar languages echoed through the streets of Haimen.
With so many different people coming from other regions, they all spoke different languages. Nevertheless, they still somehow managed to understand and communicate with each other.
People with different skin and eye colors could be seen eating and drinking in the inns near the beach without any hint of awkwardness.
And at the port, young men wearing a red bandana on their heads could be seen pulling carts through the port while sweating profusely.
One of the young men asked a middle-aged man carrying a thick booklet,
“Where should we put all of this stuff?”
“You know the warehouse in the Pearl Room? Take it there.”
“The Pearl Room? Got it.”
“Time is money! Hurry up and get moving!”
The young men with red bandana on their heads rushed off, pulling a heavily loaded cart. Their bodies were burning with heat as they moved tirelessly like ants.
The sun was shining intensely, and the wind blowing from the sea was hot and salty. As a result, the young men were working with their shirts completely off.
“There’s another ship coming in!”
“Where is it from this time?”
The middle-aged man frowned as he looked out to sea.
In the distance, a large ship could be seen entering the port. Even at a glance, it was clear that it was much larger than the other ships.
One of the young men with a red bandana on his head shouted out,
“There’s a blue dragon engraved on the flag!”
“It’s the Sea Dragon Sect! Quick! Gather more workers!”
“How many more should we call?”
“Why are you even asking? Call every last one of them! You know that we can’t afford to let any of the Sea Dragon Sect’s men catch us making a mistake!”
The middle-aged man said nervously.
His name was Bang Duyeol.
He was a mid-level manager of the Red Bandana Association.2
The Red Bandana Association is an organization created to protect the rights and interests of workers at the port.
When the port was first established, the workers were exploited for cheap labor. So to stop this from happening, workers who were trained in martial arts decided to form an organization.
The Red Bandana Association protected the workers from being extorted by merchants and assigned workers to the ships entering the port.
Most of the workers in the port belonged to the Red Bandana Association, so no one dared to disrespect them.
What’s more, in recent decades, the Red Bandana Association has begun to select the strongest among its laborers and send them to nearby martial arts sects to learn martial arts. They did so for their own protection.
Thanks to their efforts, this elevated the standing of the Red Bandana Association from just a group of workers, to a powerful organization.
All the workers belonging to the Red Bandana Association wore red bandanas on their heads.
Their stature in Haimen was so high that no one dared to dismiss them as menial workers.
For without the Red Bandana Association sending its workers, the port would cease to function properly. However, there was one group that even the Red Bandana Association did not dare to ignore, and that was the Sea Dragon Sect.
The Sea Dragon Sect is a faction that had long established itself at Haimen. However, as time went on, they began to encroach on the territory of merchants. When they had grown in scale, they eventually started operating their own ships, since they realized that they could make a much bigger profit this way.
The Sea Dragon Sect and the Red Bandana Association have coexisted for a long time. While there were times that they were at odds against each other, there were also times that they found themselves working together.
There have been major disputes between the two organizations in the past, but as of now, they share a fairly good relationship. This is because they now recognize each other’s territory to a certain extent.
Whenever the Sea Dragon Sect’s ships returned, the Red Bandana Association would summon all of its workers. This was to ensure that nothing bad happens with the Sea Dragon Sect.
After a few moments, the workers gathered around Bang Duyeol.
There were more than a hundred of them, not including those who were not working at the time.
“I don’t think I need to say much.”
Bang Duyeol wrinkled his nose.
After a while, the Sea Dragon Sect’s merchant ships slowly entered the port.
The merchant ships were enormous as they sailed through the rough seas. It was so big that it almost looked like a small island floating on the sea.
The ship finally docked with a dull sound.
Immediately, the gangplank was lowered, and a middle-aged man dressed in colorful clothing came down from the front.
Bang Duyeol immediately recognized the man and approached him.
“You’ve traveled a long way, my lord.”
The man’s name was Lee Seong-hak, a captain of the Sea Dragon Sect.
Not only is he bright, but he is also strong in martial arts, so he was highly valued by the Sea Dragon Sect.
However, his eccentric personality and self-righteous tendencies made it difficult for him to get along with others. He was completely closed off to anyone’s opinions except for Jang Hamun, the sect leader of the Sea Dragon Sect.
Lee Seong-hak looked over at Bang Duyeol and said,
“I see that you’re in charge of the port today.”
“Yes, so if you need anything, just let me know.”
“These are items brought from Ryukyu Kingdom. Most of them are precious, so you must handle them with extreme care. Be sure to emphasize this to your subordinates.”
“Understood. Should we move the goods to the Sea Dragon Sect’s warehouse?”
“Then please give me the list of items. I’ll take care of the transportation myself.”
When Lee Seong-hak waved his hand, a young man wearing a robe approached and handed him a yellow booklet.
It was a list of items that had been shipped over from Ryukyu Kingdom.
Bang Duyeol carefully took the booklet.
His role was to check each item listed in the booklet and distribute them to the laborers. His assistant and Lee Seong-hak’s men, would check everything as well.
Bang Duyeol shouted to the workers,
“Get moving, you slowpokes! We need to transport all of these items into the Sea Dragon Sect’s warehouse by tonight!”
Over a hundred workers replied in unison.
Under Bang Duyeol’s command, the workers boarded the Sea Dragon Sect’s ship.
The deck of the ship had a strong smell of salt, as if proving that it had been spending a long time sailing in the ocean.
Just then, a few warriors belonging to the Sea Dragon Sect came out carrying the corners of a large box.
Bang Duyeol said to them,
“Oh! You don’t have to do that. We can move it for you.”
“We’ll carry it ourselves, so don’t worry about it.”
Lee Seong-hak said from the bottom of the boat.
Bang Duyeol slightly frowned.
What Lee Seong-hak just said was almost unheard of. It was customary for the Red Bandana Association to be the ones to move every goods on the ship, no matter how heavy or important it was.
Lee Seong-hak’s words just now were enough to give the impression that he didn’t trust them.
But Bang Duyeol did not pursue the matter further. He just decided to let it go. He didn’t want to insist on letting the Red Bandana Association move the goods for no reason and risk offending the Sea Dragon Sect and the merchants.
“Then we’ll exclude that item from the list.”
“We didn’t even write it down. Don’t worry about it.”
Bang Duyeol nodded, then began to inspect the other items one by one and started to distribute them to the laborers.
“You take this on the cart.”
“It’s an important item, so be careful with it.”
“What are you doing?! Hurry up and come back here!”
Bang Duyeol’s voice echoed loudly over the ship.
Lee Seong-hak smiled coldly and kept walking.
He was confident that the goods would not be damaged, knowing Bang Duyeol’s meticulous nature.
Despite Bang Duyeol’s crude appearance, he was actually a meticulous man, which was why the merchants sent him to manage the Red Bandana Association at the port.
The large box carried by Lee Seong-hak’s men was finally loaded onto the cart.
There was a faint movement inside the box for a moment, but no one noticed.
Lee Seong-hak spoke to the workers,
“We will return to the Sea Dragon Sect immediately. Everyone, move quickly.”
The workers replied, pulling their carts and following behind Lee Seong-hak.
The road leading to the Sea Dragon Sect was full of brothels and inns.
“Hoho, come here~”
“Welcome. How about enjoying some refreshments here today? We’ll treat you well.”
The courtesans, who seemed to smell money like ghosts, stretched out their white hands, seducing Lee Seong-hak and his men.
Those who had just returned from their journeys had a lot of money in their pockets. Courtesan’s knew this well, which was why they were aiming for Lee Seong-hak and his men. However, Seonghak Lee and his men didn’t even give them as much as a glance.
“Tch! Pretending to be so serious—”
The courtesans cursed and sneered at Lee Seong-hak and his group.
The courtesans here were different from those elsewhere.
Dealing with the rough seafarers made them stronger in nature. They were more tough than most men, and they were not easily intimidated.
Lee Seong-hak and his subordinates knew this, so they didn’t even bother to pay attention to the courtesan’s complaints. Arguing with them would only put them at a disadvantage.
Ignoring the courtesans was the best option.
As Lee Seong-hak and his men walked past the inns and brothels, they suddenly stopped dead in their tracks.
They could see a man approaching them from the front.
“That guy’s face—”
Across from them, a man passed by on horseback.
There was no doubt that he was a man. His biceps, visible between his wide shoulders and sleeves, looked thick and hard compared to those of a fragile woman.
The problem was the man’s face.
His face was even more beautiful than the courtesans they had had just passed by, and his eyes were deeply mesmerizing.
He had the appearance that could captivate anyone, even from someone of the same gender.
If the man was a woman, Lee Seong-hak and his men could easily look away, but the man’s beauty was so striking that they could not take their eyes off him.
The man’s hair and shoulders were covered in dust, as if he had traveled a long way. But even then, they could not detract from his beauty.
The man walked past them without a care.
Then suddenly, Lee Seong-hak felt a chill run down his spine making his shoulders involuntarily tense.
He looked at the man’s back with a flustered expression.
“What’s the matter?”
His subordinates looked at him questioningly.
They didn’t seem to sense the creepy feeling Lee Seong-hak was getting from the man, so they didn’t understand his reaction at all.
Lee Seong-hak shook his head,
“It’s nothing. I think I was a bit oversensitive.”
“Well, that’s understandable. I’ve never seen a pretty guy like that before.”
“That guy is going to be in big trouble.”
His men each said something.
Lee Seong-hak looked puzzled.
“What do you mean?”
“He’s not here, is he? His taste is so messy—”
Although his subordinate’s words were vague, Lee Seong-hak quickly realized what he was talking about.
“We should warn him now—”
“Forget it. We’re in a hurry. He’ll find his way there himself. We don’t have time to worry about it. We need to get back to the Sea Dragon Sect as soon as possible and deliver this.”
His men nodded in response to Lee Seong-hak’s cold words.
It was a situation where their own safety was at risk.
They currently don’t have the luxury of considering other people’s safety.
Lee Seong-hak turned his attention away from the man who had just passed by them, and resumed his walk towards the Sea Dragon Sect.
Someone had apparently sent word ahead of time, so the sect leader was waiting for them outside the Sea Dragon Sect.
Lee Seong-hak approached an elderly man exuding a unique aura and greeted him,
“I, Lee Seong-hak, greet the sect leader.”
“You’ve worked hard. Has it been six months?”
The elderly man smiled as he received Lee Seong-hak’s greeting.
The elder with a strong and impressive presence like a water dragon, was none other than Jang Hamun, the sect leader of the Sea Dragon Sect.
“Yes, that’s about right.”
“How was it? Have you made any progress?”
“Oh about that, I have something important to tell you.”
Lee Seong-hak’s voice became even lower. At the same time, Jang Hamun’s eyes turned sharp.
Lee Seong-hak pointed to the box he had brought and whispered something to Jang Hamun.
Then Jang Hamun’s pupils suddenly shook.
“Is that true?”
Jang Hamun’s voice rose without him realizing it.
Thank you for reading!
Haimen. Raws: 해문(海門). 海 hǎi – sea, ocean; maritime 門 mén – gate, door, entrance, opening Red Bandana Association. Raws: 적건회(赤巾會). 赤 chì – red; communist, ‘red’; bare 巾 jīn – kerchief; towel; turban; KangXi radical number 50 會 huì, kuài, guì – to assemble, meet together; a meeting; an organization