Tae Musang stared blankly at Pyo-wol.
He was in the annex of the inn where Pyo-wol was staying.
Tae Musang had been busy spending the night trying to cover his tracks.
He disposed of the body of the Phantom Fleet’s member into the sea, retrieved the bodies of his siblings, and buried them in a good spot.
He also ordered the children in his care to go into hiding for the time being. He used up all the money he had and bought a lot of food for the children to eat while they hid.
When he had finished completing all of those tasks, Tae Musang finally made his way to the annex where Pyo-wol was staying.
The annex was surrounded by high walls, so there was no need to worry about prying eyes.
Exhausted, Tae Musang slept for half a day as if he had fainted.
His sensitive nerves had always kept him awake at night, but after experiencing such a major event, he was overwhelmed with fatigue.
When Tae Musang opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was Pyo-wol, cultivating while sitting.
The sight of Pyo-wol meditating with his eyes half closed seemed mysterious to Tae Musang.
‘If only I could be like that…’
Pyo-wol offered him a deal.
The terms of the deal were simple.
Tae Musang had to obey Pyo-wol’s orders while he was here.
In return, Pyo-wol would help him with his revenge.
Tae Musang had no reason to refuse.
That was why Tae Musang was here.
At that moment,
“Brother, are you okay?”
Someone opened the door to the annex and walked in.
It was the inn servant, Geomyeon, who worked here.
“I slept well, so I’m fine. How about you?”
“I’m fine, too.”
Geomyeon replied with an awkward expression.
There was no way he was fine.
Geomyeon suffered a significant injury from the Phantom Fleet member. Such wounds were impossible to heal in just one night.
He was only alive because Pyo-wol had given him first aid, otherwise, Geomyeon would not have been able to survive.
Even with such a serious wound, Gyeomyeon still had to work.
If he didn’t work, others might think it was strange. Without Geomyeon, the inn would not be able to run smoothly. What’s more, the inn where Geomyeon worked is a place where a lot of customers frequented.
Many people knew how dedicated Geomyeon was. He had never once missed a day of work, so if he suddenly didn’t show up for work, people would surely think something was amiss.
That’s why Geomyeon endured the pain and continued to work at the inn. It was only now did he have enough time to come and see Tae Musang.
Tae Musang wordlessly lifted Geomyeon’s clothes and examined his waist area.
This was the exact spot where Geomyeon had been so badly wounded by a member of the Phantom Fleet.
The cloth binding Geomyeon’s wound had already turned red. Working at the inn caused Geomyeon’s wound to reopen.
“What’s do you mean you’re fine? You idiot!”
Tae Musang muttered as he changed the cloth tied around Geomyeon’s wound to a clean one.
Due to the deepness of the wound, even the simple act of cutting the cloth caused him excruciating pain, but Geomyeong nonetheless endured the pain without uttering a scream
Just as Tae Musang was tending to Geomyeon’s wounds, Pyo-wol finished his martial arts exercises and stood up,
Both Tae Musang and Geomyeon involuntarily muttered exclamations at the same time.
Their eyes were filled with longing and admiration as they looked at Pyo-wol.
Tae Musang, in particular, was feeling more than just admiration, he felt reverence. He felt extremely ashamed of himself for having been so rude and disrespectful to Pyo-wol back then.
If he had known Pyo-wol was like this, Tae Musang would never have provoked him.
Tae Musang bowed his head to Pyo-wol.
“Thank you for your help.”
“What about the children?”
“They all hid.”
“Are you sure?”
“One of our hiding spots has been compromised. But as long as we make up our minds to hide, no one will be able to find us.”
Geomyeon added to Tae Musang’s words.
“I told them not to gather in one place but to hide separately. The harbor has plenty of places for us to hide. Outsiders will never be able to find where the children are hiding.”
Upon their confident words, Pyo-wol nodded. However, he didn’t believe the children’s words.
It wasn’t that he doubted them.
It was just that the children didn’t know enough about the Phantom Fleet.
They don’t know how relentless a trained martial artist expert can be, or how far they could track.
If someone with proper tracking skills were to search for the traces left by the children, the tracker would surely find them. The only good news was that Tae Musang had the children dispersed, now they were all scattered and hidden.
Pyo-wol said to Tae Musang,n𝑜𝓋𝔢(𝐿𝔅-1n
“To the place where they disembarked from the boat.”
“Why go there?”
Tae Musang looked puzzled, not understanding Pyo-wol’s intentions.
Pyo-wol didn’t bother to explain.
He wasn’t the kind of man to explain things to a child.
Pyo-wol walked out of the annex and headed straight for the harbor.
Tae Musang followed after Pyo-wol, still confused.
He was afraid that he might be tracked again, but upon further thought, he realized that no one could have seen his face so clearly in the darkness, so he felt comfortable walking around the streets, with his face completely exposed.
Tae Musang and Pyo-wol reached the secluded area in the harbor where the small fishing boats had come in yesterday.
“This is the place. This was where they got off.”
Tae Musang pointed to the exact spot where the boats had docked.
The boats that had come in last night had disappeared without a trace. They must have been hidden elsewhere.
Pyo-wol looked around.
There were far more than a hundred small fishing boats anchored in the area. If he accounts for the fishing boats currently out fishing, there would be several hundred more vessels.
It seemed practically impossible to find the boat on which the Phantom Fleet’s members had come on from among them.
Under normal circumstances, most people would have given up on tracking.
But Pyo-wol was different.
He asked Tae Musang.
“Where were you hiding?”
“Over there, in that high place.”
Tae Musang pointed his finger to where he had been hiding last night.
Pyo-wol measured the distance between Tae Musang’s hiding spot and the location where the boats had come in.
‘At least fifty meters, and it’s pitch black.’
From where Tae Musang had hidden, the place where the fishing boat have entered was clearly visible, but from down below, Tae Musang’s location was hardly visible.
The fact that the white-haired man manage to detect Tae Musang’s presence meant that that person’s martial arts skills and senses were beyond his imagination.
There were countless footprints scattered on the ground.
Countless people had already passed through this place after the Phantom Fleet martial artists arrived.
It would be impossible for Pyo-wol or anyone else for that matter, to isolate and identify only the footprints of the Phantom Fleet’s martial artists in the midst of all of this.
They need to change their approach.
“You said there were twenty people who got off the boat, right?”
“That’s right. That’s about the number I saw.”
Even on the darkest of nights, if that many people moved together, they would undoubtedly attract attention.
They were meticulous enough to relentlessly pursue Tae Musang based solely on witnessing him disembark from the boat.
The very fact that they had entered Haimen meant that they were on an extremely sensitive secret mission that must not be exposed.
‘The Phantom Fleet…’
It was a name Pyo-wol had never heard before.
Pyo-wol was no longer the ignorant person he once was.
Most martial arts sects were stored in his mind. However, he had never heard of the Phantom Fleet before.
Something about it smelled fishy.
Pyo-wol’s involvement in this matter was not simply out of curiosity or his shallow connection with Tae Musang and Geomyeon.
It was because the Phantom Fleet reminded him of Lee Yul.
Lee Yul seamlessly blended into the Snow Sword Manor and had taken control of everything. Furthermore, his previous whereabouts remained completely unknown.
It was as if he had suddenly fallen down from the sky.
Pyo-wol could smell Lee Yul’s scent on the Phantom Fleet. Just like Lee Yul, the group had also appeared out of nowhere.
That was the only thing they had in common.
Pyo-wol had no other evidence, but he had a feeling that those two might be related.
That was why Pyo-wol decided to get involved in the matter.
Pyo-wol scanned his surroundings sharply.
He was searching for a path where twenty people could move without attracting the attention of others.
He finally spotted a viable route.
It was a narrow alleyway lined with high walls. Because of the wall, people inside the houses wouldn’t be able to see and detect the presence of those passing by outside.
Pyo-wol casually entered the alleyway.
Tae Musang followed Pyo-wol, unaware of what was happening.
The alleyway quickly ended, revealing a new landscape.
This time, there were no walls to block hide from people’s sight. Windows were open here and there, and people had their faces leaned out, enjoying the breeze.
If a group of around twenty people passed through here, they would undoubtedly have caught someone’s eye.
Pyo-wol climbed onto the roof of a nearby mansion.
There was no other place to move while avoiding people’s sight except on the rooftops.
Among the rooftops, he avoided those with dilapidated and poorly constructed roofs. After all, one wrong step and the roof could collapse.
As Pyo-wol narrowed down his options, there was only one route left.
That path led to the residential area west of Haimen.
Pyo-wol asked Tae Musang.
“Who usually lives there?”
“Oh, that’s the neighborhood where many people who work at the port live. The people there are slightly higher-ranking than the laborers.”
“Are you referring to the middle managers?”
“That’s right, those bastards! You don’t know how much they look down on laborers and orphans like me. That’s why we don’t usually go over there.”
“They’re such assholes.”
Sparks seemed to fly out of Tae Musang’s eyes as he glared at the residential area. Judging by his reaction, he had probably been humiliated or beaten up there before.
‘If it’s that place, then they can move around without attracting people’s attention anywhere in Haimen.’
Although Pyo-wol didn’t know much about the people living in the residential areas, from his perspective, that location appeared to be in the center of everything.
If he were to carry out any activities in Haimen, he would undoubtedly utilize that place as a base.
Seizing the opportunity, Pyo-wol moved towards the residential area.
Even in broad daylight, the residential area was quiet.
Tae Musang quickly explained the reason for such an atmosphere,
“It’s because they stay and work at the harbor a lot.”
It’s hard for a single individual to make a living here alone, so men working at the port would assign household chores to their wives. It was a convenient job that required less effort but provided ample income.
As a result, there were hardly any people at home during this time.
Pyo-wol thought it was just as well.
He walked around with his senses heightened, thinking that if there were any movement, even the slightest, he would surely notice it.
However, despite thoroughly searching through the entire residential area, he didn’t sense any significant activity.
‘They are either completely inactive and resting or hiding underground where they can’t be detected.’
Pyo-wol glanced around at the residential area once again.
The residential area was quite large. It would require considerable effort to search it properly.
It was then.
Unfamiliar people emerged from the other side of the alleyway.
They appeared to be residents of the residential area.
Drawing attention from them would not bid them well, so,
“Let’s call it a day.”
Tae Musang immediately realized why Pyo-wol had said that.
If word got out that a stranger was roaming around, then members of the Phantom Fleet would retreat further into hiding.
Tae Musang followed Pyo-wol into a nearby alleyway.
Immediately after they disappeared, someone opened the door of the mansion and stepped out.
A white-haired man.
He was none other than Jin Yoo-gun.
Jin Yoo-gun looked around with a puzzled expression.
A group of people who seemed to be locals of the neighborhood were passing by the mansion where he stood.
Jin Yoo-gun didn’t even give them a second glance and muttered,
“I definitely sensed someone’s presence.”
The sharp pain, as if being pricked by a needle, transmitted through his temples, was undoubtedly not an illusion.
Jin Yoo-gun climbed up to the roof of the mansion and surveyed the area.
But, he couldn’t see anyone else in sight other than the locals passing by.
“Was it an illusion?”