༺ Little Monster ༻
I walked toward the center. I should’ve let the butler know and gotten the permission to enter the lord’s room, but I entered anyway.
There wasn’t anyone to stop me, even though I entered without an appointment.
When I arrived at the lord’s room, I didn’t knock before waltzing in.
“What is it?”
Father greeted me in the usual way. His attention was on a bunch of letters, and his eyes did not even look at me.
I then asked, looking at my father.
“I heard that there was a problem.”
It was only then that my father finally looked toward me.
“Yes. Who did you hear it from?”
“Lord Namgung came to me.”
It seemed like he didn’t expect to hear that the lord of the Namgung Clan would have come to me directly.
“Did you have a problem with him?”
“Nothing of the sort. He only found me to give me some intel.”
“That Namgung Jin bothered to meet you just for that?”
Namgung Jin seemed to have been mistaken about me being associated with some mysterious group, but I didn’t mention that part.
I had something more urgent to talk about, after all.
“I heard that it wasn’t the people of Namgung that hurt my servant.”
Father looked at me, pausing for a bit before giving me a reply.
“They did say that.”
“…Did you not check yet?”
“What is it that you want to say?”
“I just think that you should at least check on it.”
Father put down the letter he was reading on his table. I was able to notice how his mood had worsened, as evident from the look in his eyes.
“Do you not know your place?”
“If you are going to say something like that to me, don’t you need to know your place first?”
Cold sweat flowed down my cheek. Despite him not using any Qi, his overpowering presence filled the entire room, making the atmosphere heavy.
Father was telling me to become the young lord of the clan if I wanted to involve myself in the clan’s affairs.
Like he said, I did not know my place. In this life, I was still a nobody in the clan.
“Namgung already admitted that it was their fault.”
The people of Namgung continuously said that it wasn’t them that had beaten up my servant, but they still admitted fault to my father.
This was what Namgung Jin meant when he said no trouble would come to me.
“The one healing the fighters of the Namgung Clan that you destroyed is none other than the Immortal Healer. Fortunately, he said there wasn’t any problem with their injuries.”
I had done that on purpose. Just because I was blinded by anger didn’t mean I would kill them recklessly.
“But even so, can you say you had no fault in this?”
I had to admit that I had indeed played a part in this incident.
“Even if the Namgung Clan said it was their fault, that doesn’t mean I can let this pass without taking responsibility for it.”
Even if they had taken the blame for this incident, this didn’t mean that the problem had gone away.
I believed that was what my father meant to say to me.
“We have to give them enough compensation for them to be satisfied, and you also have to take some responsibility for this.”
I couldn’t argue with that.
｢Unlike the shameful you, he’s much more of a normal person—your father, that is.｣
We then talked about compensation that would leave the Namgung Clan satisfied and how we should take responsibility for this.
“Don’t worry about the problem that popped up in your head. It’s not something you should be thinking about.”
Father didn’t say a word about the fact that Namgung Jin and I had a duel or the events that happened afterward.
“I’ll make sure I visit the servants and fighters of the Namgung Clan that were injured as soon as I can.”
Father nodded at my words.
‘I should’ve already done this beforehand, without my father telling me.’
｢You admit it quite easily.｣
‘How could I not?’
I didn’t know who it was or what it was that they wanted for them to capture my servant like that, but it was indeed me that had triggered the whole incident to happen. Even if the others took the blame for my actions, that didn’t mean my involvement was negligible. I had to take part of the blame for it.
｢Also, the Immortal Healer said he could heal them, but you broke their teeth and arms…｣
｢Can you not do that?｣
｢How the hell could I do such a thing?
‘It’s not as hard as you think.’
To make it so that it was easy to heal any injury, no matter how severe it looked, and to leave no traces despite giving them immeasurable pain.
It was something that was pretty easily achievable when done hundreds and thousands of times.
Considering how I still used these skills of mine in this life, I guessed it was a good thing that I had learned them in my past life, ironically enough.
‘Though I do need to rein in my emotions when doing it.’
I had gotten better at that compared to my past life, but I didn’t think complete control of my urges would come easy.
“Is this all?” Father said, signaling for me to leave. However, I didn’t even get to the main reason for why I had come there.
｢You did get scolded as soon as you came in, after all.｣
“I still have more to say.”
“The Heavenly Pill that you promised last time, you said you could change that into a different reward.”
“Then I’d like to request something else.”
Father slightly frowned at my words. Without avoiding his eyes, I said, “I’d like to visit the basement.”
The man’s eyes widened after hearing my request. It was the biggest reaction I had seen from my father this year.
It did make sense, since there was no way that he’d expect me to say that I wanted to go to the basement.
“I’d like to check something.”
I had to check. Whether it was the “him” I was thinking of when Namgung Jin mentioned it
“What made you request such a thing when you are the one who said you never wanted to go back there ever again?”
Father, who would usually give me an answer by this point, was instead asking me a second question already.
That damned basement of the Gu Clan was just that important.
“Just 15 minutes is enough.”
I didn’t even need that long, to be honest. I didn’t want to be in there for that long anyway.
How crazy I was for wanting to go back there of my own accord.
‘Still, I have to check.’
There wasn’t any point in asking my father about it. I didn’t think Father even knew his name.
Or rather, he couldn’t know. Among the two of us, I was the one more knowledgeable about the basement.
Father responded after contemplating a bit.
“Did you say that knowing that you couldn’t run away this time?”
His words hid many different meanings.
“Not like I could’ve run away in the first place.”
There was nothing I could do but accept my fate. Even if I tried to twist the course of events, I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
‘Although there is one thing.’
It was a method I had used in my past life, and a method that I would never attempt again.
“I did think that you changed quite a bit… but it would be insufficient to say that you’ve matured.”
“Trust me. I haven’t yet.”
‘That’s why I still cause trouble. It seems like one regression wasn’t enough to fix me.’
Normally, there were no second chances, so I had to work hard in this life to make the most of my situation. Even if it was shit.
“Are you planning to go right away?”
“The sooner, the better.”
Father then took something out of his pocket and threw it at me. When I checked what it was, it was a red seal. ‘It’s been a while since I last saw this.’
It was a key to open that door, and the symbol that I would get when I accepted the position of the young lord.
“You have 15 minutes, starting at around 7 p.m. today.”
“I’ll let the butler know. Do visit him later.”
Contrary to my expectations of father coming along with me, it seemed like he was letting me in there alone.
‘Why is that?’
It was more comfortable for me to go alone, but I couldn’t help but wonder why he had so much trust in me.
That was the biggest wonder I had while leaving the lord’s room and closing its door.
｢What is the basement for you to give it so much thought?｣
‘You didn’t get to see it?’
｢I told you, I couldn’t see all of your memories.｣
It seemed like Elder Shin couldn’t see the part of my memory that was about the basement.
‘You don’t need to be so curious about it.’
｢Bullshit, you’re telling me not to be that curious about it when you guys were so serious back there? You think I’d be convinced by that?｣
It was the dark side of the Gu Clan. It was better that people didn’t know about it.
｢Did you guys hide treasure down there or something?｣
‘Treasure? No way.’
Something like that would’ve been much nicer. But unfortunately, the Gu Clan’s basement had nothing of the sort. The things that belonged down there weren’t anything fancy.
‘I believe many words were said, but I only remember one part of it.’
It was none other than the Heavenly Demon who said this after seeing the place.
-This place seems as if you’ve put hell inside it.
I remembered the Heavenly Demon saying those exact words with a smile on its face. Hell. Yes, the Heavenly Demon referred to the basement as hell.
Those words couldn’t ring any more true.
* * * *
As the sun set, the evening came.
I hadn’t met or talked with anyone before the designated time. I needed some time alone.
When it was time, I went to see the butler, as my father had ordered me to do so.
The basement wasn’t too far away. It was underneath the lord’s room, which was located in the center of the clan.
With the butler’s guidance, I slowly climbed down the stairs.
– Creak! Creak!
With every step, I heard noises around me, which made me feel uneasy.
It didn’t take long for us to climb down the short flight of stairs.
Evidently, the basement didn’t even run that deep.
“I’ll wait here.”
When we reached the end of the stairs, the butler said that he couldn’t proceed any further.
Leaving the man behind, I continued on my way.
After walking through the long path, I heard a ringing sound. A barrier should be present around this spot.
This was another reason why the butler hadn’t come with me here.
The only ones that could go through this barrier were the ones that had the Gu Clan’s blood in them.
And even with the blood of Gu, only father and I were capable of entering.
Even the Heavenly Demon, who desired to raze the world to the ground and stand above the sky, couldn’t completely erase this barrier.
It was ultimately successful in entering through the barrier with great injuries, but still failed to completely destroy it.
That just showed how damned this place was, considering even a creature like that couldn’t do much about its fortifications
It also made me feel helpless, as if nothing would work out for me here, no matter what I tried.
After walking through the path, I finally arrived at the gigantic door, in which a tiny space had been carved.
The seal that my father had given me fit perfectly.
I heard something activate, and the door slowly began to open.
Unlike the door’s huge size, there wasn’t much space behind the door for it to fully open. Nonetheless, it was enough for a person to leave and enter if they so wished.
I hesitated for a moment after seeing the darkness inside, but I clenched my eyes shut and entered.
As I entered the room, the door behind me closed, as if it had been waiting for me to clear the path.
Unlike its slow opening, the door moved much faster when it closed.
I couldn’t see anything at first, but soon, multiple braziers and torches were lit around me.
I hadn’t used any flame arts. The space turned on the lights by itself.
Around the time half of the lights had come on…
｢What the hell is that…｣
…I heard Elder Shin’s shaky voice in my head. I slightly opened my eyes, which had gotten used to the darkness.
The large space I remembered was the same. It was so large, in fact, that it made one wonder how a space that big could be a basement.
It might not have taken me long to come down there, but unlike its depth, it was vast beyond belief. It felt like another realm of its own.
– Slam! Slam!
I heard noises coming from everywhere around me after the lights had come on. The sound of slamming the wall, smashing steel, or scratching something with nails surrounded me from all sides. I heard many noises, as if they were trying to harass my ears, but that wasn’t the only thing I was able to hear.
I heard a voice. Not just one voice at that, but multiple.
– Who? Who is it? Who is it? Who is it?
– It’s not a very big monster, but a small one? It’s ugly! It’s ugly!!!
-Let me out… LET ME OUUUTTT!! I’M GOING TO KILL EVERYONE ONCE I LEEEEAAVE!!
-Child… Come here little child… Here… Heeeerrreee!
｢What… is this… What is this place…｣
– Slam slam! Slam!
The basement served almost exclusively as a jail.
Just looking at it made my mind ache. It wasn’t that my head was aching, but more so that something was trying to get a grasp of it.
– Not working… Not working… Not working? Is he one of them?
– I, I, If you let me out, I’ll at least let you liiiiiive…
｢Kid…! This is…｣
‘Wait a moment. I won’t be long.’
My head was already aching like crazy, so I couldn’t afford to deal with Elder Shin talking to me at the same time.
This was why I didn’t want to come here. Not to mention, it was this bad at the entrance; I hadn’t even reached the center of this space.
‘This place still feels shitty as ever.’
The entrance door, and another door that was facing me, closed.
That door was the real one. The other wasn’t too important.
I didn’t need to go there yet, though. I achieved my goal in coming here.
I was still able to hear many voices in my head, but I started to feel better as my body got used to it.
I let out a sigh and whispered quietly, “¦¦¦”
｢Hm? Hey kid, what did you just…｣
Elder Shin stopped talking. Once I spoke, the voices that were coming from everywhere around us stopped, as if they had been mere hallucinations.
A short silence came afterward, which was promptly broken by a voice that came from nearby.
– What are you?
I referred to this place as a jail, but there weren’t any real cells here. It was just a thin barrier that kept them behind it.
From the darkness that held no light, a hand was placed on the invisible barrier from the other side.
– Little monster, do repeat what you said just now.
I then walked toward the voice as if I were waiting for its call.
– I wonder how you were able to say my name. Where did you hear it? How did you end up knowing it? What method did you use?
When I went closer, the owner of the voice also started to reveal itself.
I heard Elder Shin gasp when he saw the creature’s appearance.
It made sense. The creature had a face and body that were identical to mine.
Besides the fact that the creature was wearing nothing, there was no difference between us.
The creature asked me a question.
– When, when was it? When was the last time we saw each other?
“I believe it’s been around four years.”
‘That sounded about right. At least if we mean this lifetime, and not both of my lives combined.’
– Yes! Right, right. I have no sense of time since I’m trapped here. But isn’t it strange? I was able to look at you, but you weren’t able to look at me back then, so I can’t help but wonder; why aren’t you scared?
I checked the creature’s face emotionlessly, causing it to frown at my complete lack of reaction.
– Not scared, huh? Then what about this?
– Craack! The creature’s face’s features turned stern and scary, its body changing in a similar fashion. Its whole appearance had completely changed.
This time, he looked just like my father.
– Oh…! Huh…! Not scared by this either?
Just looking at that was enough for me. He hadn’t escaped the basement after all.
After checking up on him, I turned around. I didn’t want to stay here any longer.
– Huh? You’re already leaving? Little monster, little monster, wait!
I turned my head and looked at him.
He waved his hand at me, its face adorned with a bright smile.
On the exact replica of my father’s face…
– It was nice seeing ya. Here’s to hoping we see each other again.
I frowned at his comment. After all, I was fated to see him again.
I didn’t say a word. I just walked toward the exit.
As soon as I left, the flames on the wall immediately disappeared, as if they had been waiting for me to leave. The only thing remaining in the empty space was silence and darkness.
In the darkness, the creature whispered quietly, “Little monster is different this time, right?”
There was no answer.
* * * *
As soon as I left the door, I started to retch. I had been able to barely hold it in, but the sickness remained inside me.
After retching a few more times, I faltered and leaned against the wall.
“Did you not feel anything inside that place?”
｢Feel what, those horrendous voices?｣
“Good for you, it seems like you weren’t affected.”
Elder Shin didn’t feel anything, but it wasn’t the same for me.
My mind started to spin as soon as I took one step inside that place. How long was I in there for? It felt like I had been there for way more than 15 minutes, but in reality, it hadn’t even been half that time
‘For f*ck’s sake…’
Whether it was because I carried over the side effects from my past life, it felt much worse compared to my past life.
I wiped my nose as I felt something drip down from it. I had a nosebleed.
I wiped the blood with my clothes.
“Geez, I’m already this exhausted.”
I was so exhausted that I no longer had the will to do anything. While I was leaning against the wall, Elder Shin suddenly spoke words that I couldn’t understand.
｢I felt wind in there.｣
Wind? There’s no way there was wind in a place that was completely blocked from the outside.
Elder Shin then continued to speak, trying to address my wonder.
｢I am incapable of feeling anything. It seems that I cannot feel any sensation as a spirit.｣
｢However, I was able to feel wind from the opposing door.｣
“Wind, you say?”
｢Is this something you could explain?｣
I put on a bitter smile after hearing Elder Shin’s question. Could I explain, he asked. That was a very difficult question.
Elder Shin was considerate like this from time to time.
He sounded like an old man with a nasty personality, but he was considerate when serious matters arose.
Because of that, I couldn’t help but feel bad for not answering him.
｢It seems like you aren’t ready yet, judging by your reaction.｣
“I can tell you everything that I can say.”
There were probably more things that I couldn’t say, but I decided that I’d tell him everything I could, since there was no way that he wouldn’t be curious after seeing this basement.
“However, first I need some rest. I’m a bit tired.”
Elder Shin didn’t say a word in response. He was letting me rest.
With exhausted steps, I met up with the butler from earlier and returned to ground level. I gave the man the seal and headed for my house.
I had originally planned to report this to my father, but I couldn’t meet him in my current state.
Walking alongside the night road, I continued to think.
‘It wasn’t him. Then who was it?’
The only one I knew who had such an ability was him.
If it wasn’t him, then was it a spy that had a facial mask? But that would be even weirder. Not only would I have noticed it, it didn’t explain how everyone’s memories had been altered.
More and more thoughts came into my head.
My headache was bad enough, but now even my shoulders felt heavy.
It felt like something was pressing down on me, and the weight kept increasing by the day.
What was it that was on my shoulders? Why did it feel like I had so much to deal with?
｢Keep your focus; your breathing is unstable.｣
‘I am focused, I have to be.’
‘So that I don’t lose myself.’
I saw steam come out of my mouth. It was a cold fall night.
Because my mind was exhausted, I was able to feel the chills even though I shouldn’t be able to.
I finally arrived at my place with slow steps.
As soon as I entered, I thought I heard servants talking to me, but I had to go to my room right away after a brief acknowledgement. When I opened the door, however…
I saw two familiar faces.
“Oh, he’s here.”
It was Wi Seol-Ah and Namgung Bi-ah.
‘Why? Why are they here?’
“Umm, uh, father… He said I should come here…”
Namgung Bi-ah preemptively gave me an excuse before I could ask what they were doing in my room. She didn’t think I would like her presence here.
It seemed like Namgung Jin had done something. After Namgung Bi-ah, Wi Seol-ah also started to give me excuses while hugging a pillow in her arms.
“W-Well, since sis said she was sleeping here…”
I could’ve sworn I had seen this exact image back at Mount Hua. What did I say back then? I couldn’t remember.
The two seemed like they were saying more, but I no longer had any energy in me to listen. I collapsed into their arms as my exhausted body gave way to tiredness, feeling the softness of their skin.
｢Motherf*cker! I went out of my way to worry for you, but you…｣
I heard a few more voices saying something, but I couldn’t win against the deluge of drowsiness and fell asleep.
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༺ Little Monster ༻