༺ Nightmare (1) ༻
It was dark everywhere.
It wasn’t nighttime, but it also felt wrong to say that it wasn’t dead of the night. I checked if I could at least see the moon.
But I couldn’t see anything.
The clouds and the sky that should have been up there, did not exist.
‘Where am I?’
All the trees around me were burning in flames, and the houses that should have stood here had been turned into ashes.
My body was slowly moving forward. However, it wasn’t because of my own will. I tried everything to take control of my body, but none of the methods worked.
As I was about to take another step, someone grabbed my ankle. When I turned back, I saw a man drenched in blood.
Once-white cloth with an embroidered plum blossom symbol. This was the clothing of a well-known clan.
Mount Hua Sect.
Yes, so I was at Mount Hua.
All the plum blossom flowers that were supposed to be blooming beautifully had been devoured by raging flames. This venerable Sect that had held on to its influence for centuries.
All of their history was now burning into ashes.
Then I realized.
This was a dream.
An abhorrent nightmare.
｢How could you…!｣
The man spoke to me. Hatred and resentment lingered on his face.
He was holding on to my ankle with his left hand, leaving his severed right hand behind.
His red eyes made it look like he was crying tears of blood.
｢For what reason…!! Why are you doing this to us!!｣
A loud, raging wail. All around me lay bodies that wore the same white clothing as the man.
Everyone, including the little children and the elderly seniors, lay there, dead on the ground.
Lying there as if they had been ripped apart by beasts.
｢Are you even human…? How could you wear the mask of a human and do this!｣
I broke the silence and uttered. This too wasn’t in my domain of control.
｢It has become quiet.｣
｢The Celestial Plum Blossom of Hua who you worshiped with everything you had, has now perished by the hands of our leader.｣
｢Bullshit! Our leader wouldn’t fall by the hands of a demon like that…!｣
｢The Mount Hua you adored has turned into ashes. Can you still not see?｣
｢Shut up, please… Shut your mouth.｣
｢You lot can’t do anything. How pathetic of you, to hold the name of a venerable clan.｣
I bent my knees to look him in the eye. I saw only one emotion in his eyes.
It was fear.
｢Look, I have killed all of the members you cherished and admired, and all the people who cared about you also have been murdered by me.｣
I stroked the man’s cheek with my sticky hand. It was covered in the blood of his sworn brothers.
I heard something breaking inside the man’s mouth. He clenched his teeth so hard that some of them shattered.
｢The reason why Mount Hua has been reduced into ashes, the reason why you are now like this, is because of how weak and powerless you are. You, your Mount Hua Sect, and Celestial Blossom.｣
｢Shut your mouth, demon! Don’t dare utter that name through those filthy lips of yours, you who betrayed the Orthodox Faction… You who stabbed them in the back…!｣
I twisted his neck as if I had nothing else to talk about.
The last man standing on Mount Hua Sect died like that.
I felt a presence in the midst of that crimson sea of blood in Mount Hua. I knelt down and showed respect to the figure.
I couldn’t dare to look.
It felt like just the aura alone was distorting the surrounding space.
Mount Hua, just like Mount Tai, hid their existence as best as they could when they sensed the blood-curdling presence looming on the horizon.
Even just being close to them made all my senses scream ‘danger.’
So they called themself.
I couldn’t tell whether they were a man or a woman even though I heard their voice.
It sounded as deep as a man’s voice, while at the same time a faint semblance akin to a woman’s voice lingered in their tone.
Heavenly Demon flung something towards me.
The neck of an old man that had been ripped apart.
It was Celestial Plum Blossom, Mount Hua’s Lord.
｢He was nowhere near enough to satisfy me, but I was at least able to have a bit of fun with him.｣
He wasn’t a Heavenly Venerable, but he was a man who had strength on par with them.
Yet he was still slaughtered with such ease.
The Heavenly Demon, who seemed like they weren’t even battling in the first place, looked around and approached me.
｢It looks as if a beast went berserk.｣
They were right in front of me now.
I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move at all.
｢I think I need to give you a name.｣
I wanted to wake up. I wanted to run away from this nightmare as soon as possible. Why was my mind showing me this scene of carnage?
I felt that the Heavenly Demon were saying something, but I couldn’t hear their words completely.
｢—from now on.｣
I woke up to Wi Seol-Ah’s voice.
* * * * *
I was on my way back home to the Gu residence after finishing my responsibilities at the Nine Dragons Ceremony.
As soon as I woke up, I quickly stopped the carriage and went outside.
I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I hunched over to the ground and puked.
I kept heaving, even though I hadn’t eaten anything today.
My body was shaking. Why did I suddenly have this nightmare?
It was something I had forced myself to forget. Something I wanted to rip out and discard from my memories.
I felt a hand on my back. I turned around and grabbed it.
The hand I grabbed with my trembling hands belonged to Wi Seol-Ah.
Wi Seol-Ah was looking at me with an astonished expression. Her trembling eyes reminded me of that man’s eyes, quaking in fear.
What sort of expression am I even making right now?
I didn’t have to see it for myself to know. It was definitely a mess.
I couldn’t control my facial expression.
I slowly let go of the hand I was grabbing. Wi Seol-Ah hid her fear and calmly patted my back.
Muyeon, who was also in the carriage, rushed toward me.
“Young Master! Are you alright…? Quickly, medic—”
“I’m fine, so calm down… How are you even supposed to get a medic in this place.”
We were in the middle of a mountain range. There was no way we would be able to call a medic out here.
I tried to calm my breath, but it wasn’t easy.
The memory of Mount Hua Sect’s destruction by the Demonic Cult.
When one of the Ten-Sect Alliance was destroyed in only a day.
It was something I wanted to forget, but I became so pathetic when I only faced it in a dream.
‘…It’s something that never happened, and it’s something that won’t ever happen.’
This was something I would repeat to myself hundreds of times in a day. Even while I was walking, eating, or even when I was just breathing, I would tell myself this.
“…God damn it.”
It was said that humans were creatures that easily forgot their memories.
But then, why couldn’t I forget those sinful deeds, even after dying once?
I wasn’t calming down as time passed, so I forcefully tried to stay still by swathing my body in Qi.
It wasn’t the healthiest thing I could have done, but in order to quickly set off again, I had no choice.
Flame Qi warmed my body up.
I had barely any Qi to spare, and then I went and used it to calm myself down after a nightmare.
That was a feeling I couldn’t explain in words.
“I’m quite pathetic…”
I stood up after I had settled down a little. Wi Seol-Ah tried to support me, but I lightly stopped her, saying that I was fine.
Why did I dream of that?
Was it because of my fear that, even after coming back to the past, the future would still be the same?
‘It’s just a nightmare. Let’s not worry about it.’
But getting it all out did make me feel a little refreshed.
Feeling sick could be easily resolved with Qi or just by resting, so it wasn’t a big deal.
And then, I felt something with my five senses that were enhanced with Qi, and that unpleasant feeling could only make me laugh in vain.
‘What a crap luck.’
My nightmare was already bad enough, but then this had to happen.
I walked towards Muyeon, who didn’t know what to do with my sickness, and spoke to him.
“Yes, Young Master…! Should I look for a medic after all?”
“Stop talking nonsense and take a look at the demonic charm.”
Muyeon, who picked up that something serious was happening, took out a charm from his pocket.
The demonic charm was an essential item that signaled to its users whether there were any Gates of Demons nearby. The only usage requirement was infusing a bit of Qi into the charm.
When he took the charm out from his pocket, there was no reaction.
Muyeon returned the charm back into his pocket with a sigh of relief.
“Whew… Young Master, you suddenly talking so seriously scared me for a second. Thankfully, nothing—”
As Muyeon was about to finish speaking, the charm shone brightly in red and burned away.
There was no hesitation. Muyeon immediately shouted at all the other escorts nearby.
“A Gate has appeared! Everyone prepare for battle!”
All escorts drew their swords upon hearing Muyeon’s words. The tension skyrocketed.
Of course this had to happen on our way back home. The fast rate at which the charm disintegrated meant that the Gate of Demons was too close to us.
If it was a little bit farther away, we probably would have been able to get away safely without engaging in combat.
It was all because the carriage stopped for me.
Muyeon desperately grabbed my shoulder.
“Young Master, you must go back inside the carriage. It will be dangerous out here.”
At Muyeon’s words, I crammed Wi Seol-Ah and other servants back into the carriage.
Then I closed the door and stood next to Muyeon.
“Young Master, you also need to go back in, it’s really too dangerous here…”
I would have waited inside the carriage if it was any other day, but I couldn’t this time since it was my fault we got caught up in it.
If it was something where I wasn’t to blame, then it would be a different story. But I had already resolved to live while cleaning up my own mess in this life.
I had to do so to ensure that what happened in my previous life wouldn’t repeat itself.
“Muyeon, save your words for later. Look in front of you, it’s coming.”
When Muyeon turned to look in front of him, the empty space distorted as if it was waiting for him.
A Gate letting out green light emerged from the void.
Muyeon whispered quietly.
Green, blue, red, black. That was the order of the threat level for Gates of Demons. Thankfully, green-colored Gates were the least severe of the four.
The sound of a beast.
The monster that came out of the gate this time was a huge dog. To put it correctly, it was a demon in the form of a dog.
The huge dog had a horn protruding from the middle of its head.
“This one is a bit of a hassle to deal with.”
A demon that was both fast and had enough power to crush rocks with its fangs. It was also a test subject for the Murim Alliance to try raising as a pet back in the past.
Of course, that experiment ended in failure.
‘A bit more than ten, huh.’
The number of demons that emerged from this gate was just about average. Not too many for a green Gate, but not too little, either.
Demons had little intelligence. They also had no hesitation.
The green-horned hounds sensed our presence and immediately charged at us.
Muyeon also rushed toward them, dodging their attacks and moving to cut their horns off with his sword.
The aura on his blade proved that he was already a first-rate martial artist.
A demon that had its horn cut off collapsed. For green-horned hounds, their horns were their weakness.
The other escorts also started to work on getting rid of the demons.
While they were duking it out, I grabbed some dirt from the ground.
Just when Muyeon was dealing with other hounds, one of the hounds rushed towards to me.
The beast drooled, seemingly thinking that it had found prey.
I looked younger and weaker compared to the escorts, which meant that I was a juicy target for them.
The green-horned hound “barked” and rushed at me. I circulated my flame Qi around my body faster than before.
I felt myself heating up.
My body became faster with my Qi, and I was able to dodge the attack.
Then, I quickly threw my handful of dirt at the hound.
Its vision blocked, the beast attacked empty air.
Even while it was blinded, though, it was still dangerous due to its big size.
I picked up a rock and threw it near the beast. It reacted to the sound of the rock as it hit the ground.
I concentrated all my flame Qi into my arm.
‘I’ll die if I hesitate.’
While the hound was still distracted by the sound of the rock, I quickly stabbed into its ribs with my arm.
The species-specific weakness for green-horned hounds was their horn, but they had another weak point that all demons had.
It was the demonic stone contained within their bodies.
The demonic stone which basically acted as the “heart” for the demons who had no actual heart.
I couldn’t break its horn with my weak power, so I instead stabbed at the hound with my Qi-reinforced arm to pull out its demonic stone.
I felt resistance from the rough sensation of its body, but the Qi enhancing my arm made it easy enough to stab through the hound anyway and locate its demonic stone.
I pulled out my hand and blood came gushing out of its body. The blue color marked it as the blood of a demon.
The hound collapsed, just like it would have if its horn had been cut off.
As I turned around with the demonic stone in my hand, I saw another hound charge at me.
“Um, I don’t know about this one…!”
I tried refocusing my Qi, but I didn’t have enough time.
Just as the beast’s fangs were about to rip me apart, I saw a flare of light and a blade cut through its horn. It was Muyeon’s sword.
“Young master! Are you alr—”
Muyeon stopped talking when he noticed the beast lying next to me with a hole in its ribs.
“Thanks, I thought I was gonna die.”
“Right… Thank goodness.”
I felt him looking at me strangely. It was the same look he gave me on my first day of regression.
‘What kind of look is that…’
The hunting of the demons ended rather quickly.
The escorts for the Gu family members weren’t ones to struggle with the lowest stage of the Gates of Demons.
They had already encountered many Gates while traveling before.
This was no big deal in the world that was already used to the existence of the Gates of Demons.
The Gate disappeared after all the demons that emerged from it were killed. However, the corpses of the demons remained behind.
“Now the only thing left to do is to report it to Gu—”
I stopped talking to Muyeon.
A static sensation coursed through my palm.
It was the same feeling I had felt countless times in my previous life. There was no mistake.
“What’s wrong, Young Master?”
I looked at my hand that was holding onto the demonic stone.
The stone that was letting out a faint green hue slowly lost its color and shine, then became transparent.
It was a small change, but I felt a bit of Qi enter my body.
My lips quivered. I had experienced this so many times in my last life.
This method of absorbing Qi from demonic stones.
“f*ck, what kind of sorcery is this…!”
This was an art that belonged to the Heavenly Demon.
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༺ Nightmare (1) ༻