Chapter 162: Chapter 161: I Heard You Were Looking For Duck Duck, Part III
Gonju City, South Chungcheuong Province…
I ran straight here from Seoul. “I think I’m almost there…” I had sprinted all the way here as if I was possessed by something, but as I got closer to my destination, I began to slow down. What would I do if she really was my mother? The report said she didn’t know about me; is going to her saying that I’m her son the right thing to do?
I thought that it might be better off if I hadn’t learned about her, so that I wouldn’t have to be worrying about this. With that, I dragged my heavy feet towards a small guild known as the Sojung Guild. I soon saw it off in the distance and came to a stop. Now that I was here, I didn’t know where or how to start.
“Ha…okay. There’s no need to be afraid. It’s not like anyone’s life is on the line.” I tried to convince myself, but I couldn’t take another step forward, because I was afraid. I found myself in an unfamiliar situation that I never expected to happen.
I decided to wait for night for now. According to the report, Lee Kangchan had taken most of the Sojung Guild’s strongest members with him to the Yung Gong Guild. It was probably the most ideal situation for me. I doubted I would be able to deal with both him and my mother on the same day.
I waited until 8 PM before climbing over the guild base’s walls. The guards didn’t even notice me jump over their heads. Then again, Lee Kangchan had taken almost all of the guild’s elites with him. There were still quite a few people moving around the base, and lights on here and there, but I had no problem slipping in and out of the shadows. I headed towards the kitchens labeled on the map in the report. It wasn’t hard to find as it was the largest tiled building there. I took refuge under an alcove and took out the photo of the woman who was supposed to be my mother.
-All that’s left is to wait.-
I waited in the alcove, looking back and forth between the women walking around and the photo. After about forty minutes, the woman in the photo finally appeared. She had more wrinkles than the photo and she was very thin, almost malnourished. The clothes she had on were practically rags as well.
She obviously wasn’t well off at all. All of those TV shows and novels I’d watched and read about people finding their family after ten or twenty years all had their characters feel some profound happiness when they met up.
As for me, I felt nothing like that. Had I not had the report, I probably would have just passed by her on the street. I wondered if I was void of proper emotions, or if all those TV shows were all full of crap.
I watched the woman enter the kitchen and begin washing dishes. Not long afterwards, she left the kitchen and I followed her down a small road with no one else around and watched as she entered a small room. I stayed outside, making sure not to make my presence known and soon, the lights in the room turned off.
By four in the morning, I was still standing outside the woman’s room, thinking. I rolled the idea of whether or not I should ask if she knew of Lee Jiwon countless times in my head. Then I came to a decision; I would have her make the choice. I’d just stand next to her when she left her room and if she recognized me, we’d talk. If she didn’t…then I’d end it there.
I had to admit it; I was a coward.
-I don’t want to know…what had happened; not now.-
I didn’t want anything to do with her, to be honest. There was nothing between us from the start, although I didn’t know how she would react.
The lights came on in her room at that moment and not long afterwards, she emerged from her room. She had on the same clothes as last night, and she was probably heading back to the kitchen. I stepped out of my hiding place and acted as if I was another member of the Sojung Guild. I walked past her, and the woman did the same. As we got closer, my heart beat harder than it did when I faced off against the Blood Prince and the Predator Duke. But as the woman continued past, she did not give me a second glance, and my heart calmed down in an instant.
-What was I expecting?-
I decided that this would be as far as I went. I decided to not meddle in her life and to just focus on Lee Kangchan from here on out.
As soon as I steeled myself, I noticed the woman come to an abrupt halt behind me. I couldn’t see her, but I could tell she was trembling.
“No…that can’t be possible.” Her small voice felt like a scream. “It can’t be possible. That child…” The woman stumbled towards me, tears streaming on her face and her body trembling.
I just stood there, watching as she slowly walked back to me. I let her raise a shaky hand to cup my cheek. “My child…my child…have you come back from the dead to see your mother one last time? I couldn’t even nurse you properly…”
I could feel the wrinkles on her palm as she caressed my cheek. She thought I had died and had come back as a ghost. I embraced her in my arms as she cried. I didn’t want to create anymore of a commotion here.
“Blink 1. Blink 2.”
==[The user’s companion will receive the effects of Blink.
Blink’s original range will be lowered by 50%.]==
The message came up but I ignored it. 50% was enough to get us out of this place. I couldn’t leave her, after all. She was my mother, for crying out loud. I know I’m a coward, but I wasn’t that pathetic.
I Blinked us to a place not too far from the Sojung Guild’s base.
“Wait…you’re not dead? You’re actually him…?” She finally seemed to realize something was off, if I could hold her body and she could touch my face.
“Yeah, it’s me. I’m really Lee Jiwon. And I’m no ghost.” I wanted to say something cooler, but those were the only words that I could think of. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care. She began to wail at my answer and held me tighter. I didn’t try to free myself, either.
“So that’s why you thought I was dead?”
My mother began to tell me everything while she tightly held my hand, as if she were afraid that I would disappear if she let go.
On that fateful day, thirteen people had died in a building fire. I, my mother, father, and grandparents on my mother’s side were among the people trapped in the fire. My father had gotten my mother out of the fire first. He had then ran back inside the burning building to save the newborn me, but that was last my mother had seen him.
I didn’t remember anything like that, of course, but what was strange was that I had no burn marks on my body, no evidence that said that I was stuck in a burning building. My mother had lost her parents, her husband and her only child in an instant; that was all that had happened. She had become a sinner and lived the rest of her life in guilt, especially when she had no choice but to return to her in-laws… the in-laws who ran the Sojung Company.
She took out a photo from her pocket and showed it to me. It was a photo of a couple holding a newborn child. I couldn’t tell if that child was me, but one thing was for sure, I looked just like my father.
“That’s right. The guild master of the Sojung Guild is your grandfather. He’ll be happy to see you.”
“Then…do you know someone named Lee Kangchan?”
“Lee Kangchan? If I remember correctly, he’s a descendant of your grandfather’s grand aunt or uncle. He’s basically a distant relative. But how do you know about him? Then again, he is pretty successful these days. He’s currently the strongest heir of Sojung.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. My mother didn’t seem to know that her own son was known throughout the entire world. Then again, she had thought I wasn’t part of this world.
-But to think we’re related…-
From my mother’s explanation, Lee Kangchan was at least my third cousin; in other words, we might as well have been complete strangers. The pieces began to fall together. I could see why Lee Kangchan did that to me.
I had never heard of the Sojung Guild in this life or in the past. It was just one of the many smaller guilds out there and only controlled a small part of South Chuncheong Province. The Sojung Guild was nothing compared to the current me, even if Lee Kangchan and the elites he took with him remained.
However, in the past, Lee Kangchan must have just not liked me at all. To him, I was a threat to his place as heir, as I was my grandfather’s only grandson.
“Let’s go. Let’s go see your grandfather right now,” my mother said, as she stood up while still holding my hand.
I held on, however, and stopped her. That wasn’t important right now. “You’re supposed to be the guild master’s only daughter-in-law…why are they treating you like that?”
“That’s…” My mother looked down at the clothes she was wearing, and couldn’t find the words to answer my question.
She was supposed to be his only daughter-in-law. Even if the Sojung Guild is small, he should have been at least been able to make her a deva. But there she was, a mortal working the kitchens.
“The Sojung Guild hasn’t been doing well these days.” She was lying.
I inwardly sighed. My emotions were all over the place. It hasn’t been more than a day since we finally met, but obviously her treatment didn’t sit well with me, especially since I get the royal treatment wherever I go. For the first time in my life, I wanted someone I knew to get the same respect. She was my mother; she deserved it.
“Will you come with me and leave the Sojung Guild?” The Sojung Guild would receive none of my influence; not after what they did.
“Sojung’s guild master is your grandfather. You should also…”
I gave a small chuckle. I understood where she was coming from. She just wanted what was best for her child and but she really didn’t know who I was. The Sojung Guild could do nothing more for me if the Sunbin Guild had a hard time doing so. “I’ll come back soon, then. Just wait for me a little longer. We’ll make that decision later together.”
I didn’t want to deal with everything right now, since I could always decide what to do after I dealt with Lee Kangchan. I didn’t care that he was a distant relative. It was obvious that that line of my family had taken over the guild de facto and my grandfather and mother had been pushed off to the side.
I brought my mother, who was crying again for having to separate once more, back to the Sojung Guild. I promised her that I would return soon and when she hugged me tightly, I didn’t push away.
I left the Sojung Guild’s base and headed for Seoul; specifically, the Sunbin Guild.
“So…he’s at the Yung Gong Guild, is he?” The four entities I hated had gathered in one spot. “It’s about time to deal with them all.”
While I had told myself I wouldn’t fight for the sake of others, I had killed Oh Hyungjae, the man who was going to the Yung Gong Guild’s human trafficker. I at least had the ability to do that. It wasn’t to make the world a better place; no, I wanted to show my mother who I really was. I wasn’t ready to give her everything I had since we had just met, but I wanted to show her what I could do.
If that meant cleaning up Lee Kangchan and all of those mercenaries Cheng Long and Nayuta sent, all the better. It would be tough for me to do that on my own, but that was why I was heading for the Sunbin Guild; to stand in the middle of the conflict.
The next day…
I stood in front of the entrance to the Sunbin Guild’s building. “Hmm…should I say I want to help them deal with the Yung Gong Guild?”
On the way here, all everyone was talking about was how the Sunbin Guild would react to the foreign guilds’ actions. Sure, the attacks were done in Yung Gong Guild’s name, but just about everyone knew that the foreign guilds were behind it all.
What I wanted was a full-on battle. If the Sunbin Guild was for some reason thinking about negotiating, I would have come for no reason, but that didn’t matter. Sunbin was only a part of my plan.
No one stopped me as I entered the building. All of the guild members here knew who I was and the Sunbin Guild was completely open to me. Furthermore, they all seemed too busy to care. It was then I noticed Song Haechang in the front lobby.
A small meeting room on the seventh floor…
“It’s good to see you again, Mr. Lee.”
“Yes, it’s good to see you, too.”
It hadn’t been long since we were throwing insults at each other. I had even killed him twice. It was pretty awkward between us, but Song Haechang greeted me politely and I greeted him in kind.
“I want to thank you for that day.”
“Oh…don’t mention it.” It seemed he had awakened to something. He was definitely different from before.
“I’m sure you’re busy so I’ll get straight to the point. I don’t know if you have heard, but the Cheng Long and Nayuta Guilds are using the Yung Gong Guild to launch a series of surprise attacks.”
“Yes, I’ve heard about that.”
“We’re currently struggling to come up with the proper recourse to deal with them.”
Of course, the Sunbin Guild would have a difficult time against the two foreign guilds, even if the Sunbin Guild was only going up against mercenaries and not the full might of the two guilds.
“I believe we should retaliate straight on. If we give them any leeway, if we let ourselves be pushed back just once, we’ll continue to lose ground,” Song Haechang said so bluntly that it was actually refreshing to hear. “From what I know, you don’t think highly of the Yung Gong Guild as well. Enough people already know that you are Duck Duck.”
“…” Now that was a name I’d not heard in a long time. I even knew about how the Yung Gong Guild had searched all over to find Duck Duck.
“Shouldn’t we join forces against a common enemy?”
I could leave here and now. I didn’t know if Song Haechang was planning to do away with me and the Yung Gong Guild at once, but there was also a good chance Song Haechang’s suggestion was the same as the rest of the Sunbin Guild. There was no need to be political, especially with Lee Kangchan within my grasp.
“Sounds good,” I said, nodding. It was better for me since they proposed the alliance first.
“Thank you!” Song Haechang said, beaming. I followed Song Haechang out of the meeting room to where Song Daechul and his officers were gathered.
Song Daechul and his officers were having a serious discussion about how to react when Song Haechang and I entered. Everyone fell silent as they turned their attention to us. Unfazed, I quickly took my seat next to Song Haechang.
“May I say something to the chairman and the officers here?” Song Haechang said.
“Thank you, sir.” Song Haechang looked around at the people gathered before continuing, “We are Sunbin. We have never bent a knee to anyone. I’ll admit, if Cheng Long, Nayuta, and Yung Gong attack us with their full force, we won’t stand a chance. However, would Cheng Long and Nayuta bring their full army over against Sunbin?”
“…” No one replied.
“Sunbin has amassed quite the strength and pride over the years. So as you all know, Cheng Long and Nayuta are just trying to get a rise out of us, to see what we’ll do by using Yung Gong. Giving in to their petty attacks is not what we should be doing. We should be punishing them for having the fucking audacity to actually bother us! That is what I believe we should do,” Song Haechang said strongly. The conviction in his voice told me that it wasn’t arrogance; it was what he should do as a member of the Sunbin Guild.
Just then, Song Daechul burst out laughing. “Good, I like that. Then what do you propose we do?”
“We should crush them at once with our overwhelming strength by using everything we have in our arsenal. Mr. Lee has agreed to help us, as well.”
Everyone in the room turned to look at me. I sat forward and spoke. “The Yung Gong Guild has been looking for Duck Duck…I guess I should pay them a visit. I do have something to care of over there as well,” I said as if it wasn’t a big deal, but everyone here knew what I was talking about.
And so, the Sunbin Guild decided to act on Song Haechang’s proposal. I wasn’t going to just tag along, either. I decided that I would aid the Sunbin Guild completely from here on out in this war. It was the best way to get my revenge on Lee Kangchan. I would show him true hopelessness.
After the meeting with the Sunbin Guild, I decided to call first, even though I hadn’t yet asked for a favor myself yet.