“Did the vegetable wrap went down the wrong way? I’ll let those crazy words pass this time and consider it as never having been spoken. What the… that doesn’t even make sense.
San lifted his jacket and brushed off the dust. A sense of frustration and anger could be felt through his rough action of brushing off the dust.
“I’m serious. This would be for us. It’s good for Rain as well.”
“So, we should use Rain?” San asked in a slightly elevated voice.
“You know me better than that. Don’t I know that you would never do such a thing to another person?”
San couldn’t help but stare at Biyeon with his mouth firmly shut. Biyeon continued calmly, “What happened at that last event, Rain’s birthday… Was that something you planned to happen?”
“I don’t want to answer.”
“That might be the optimum approach. For her and for us. Also, it may be best for the emperor as well. You know best about this, right?”
San chose not to answer and swung his jacket as he put it on. Biyeon took a step forward in his direction. Biyeon was so close that San could feel her breath on his skin. However, he didn’t react.
“Rain needs to be helped and kept safe. Furthermore, we need political power and authority. We also need that territory that comes along with the titles.”
“Do you think I like saying this? My insides are burning up just having to say this!”
“You’ve watched way too many dramas. Do you think you’re some sort of angel who is willing to sacrifice everything for another person? It’s we and us! Our fate rests in the upcoming battle. It’s hard enough just taking care of myself, don’t you know this?” San shouted out in frustration.
“Do you think I’m a person who frets over the little things if I know what is good for us in the long term?” Biyeon sharply retorted.
“Then why are you acting like this? You should know better…”
“Do you want to live a life where we always have to look behind our back and be nervous about what comes next? Didn’t you say that we’d live in the light and not hide anymore? That means that we’ll also have to accept and follow the rules that exist in this world.”
“We’ve decided on increasing our influence and political power in this world. That’s why we decided to convert slaves into citizens, right?”
“What does that have to do with this?”
“The southern regions were first in taking this approach of converting slaves into citizens. With all the slaves that they’ve been able to accumulate and recruit, they’re planning on dominating the world through warfare. Furthermore, they’re using the guise of freedom and equality as a front to conduct their subversive actions. You know this, right?”
“If we start bringing in and recruiting slaves, do you think the world will look kindly upon us? We’ll become humanity's number one public enemy. Whoever those sly bastards are, don’t you think they took the initiative to conduct operations before us?”
“Hmm, I still don’t understand what you’re trying to get to. So, what does all this have to do with Rain?”
“Along with the slaves, even the moderately wealthy middle-class are starting to gather their wealth and move down south. You know who’s spurring all this on, right? All those slaves and citizens will become vampires. Unfortunately, only we know this to be true… they’ve been able to properly utilize money and people to successfully gather people. If they ever become as strong as a nation-state, or even as strong as the empire, we won’t be able to contend against them. We’ll be entrapped within a circle and left to die.”
“So, the answer you came up with was…”
“The only person that could properly communicate this circumstance and reality to the emperor is Rain.”
San kept his eyes on Biyeon. His eyes had become sharper and filled with greater anger. He understood what she was getting at. This was also the reason why he didn’t want to continue hearing what she had to say.
‘You’re planning to die alone while I live happily ever after with the empire’s princess? Is that what you’re imagining in your mind?’
San extended his hand and pushed in Biyeon’s nose. Biyeon took a few steps backwards from the push. San extended his other hand and smiled brightly. However, his smile had a strong tinge of anger within it.
“I’ll never do that… you little rascal.”
San forcibly pushed open the door and stomped out of the room.
It seemed that their staff would be in for quite a long day today.
“Your majesty’s plans are unfolding well, and your future is bright.”
“Is that how it looks? It must seem like that since one of our largest headaches is starting to be resolved, since we can see an end in sight.”
“I never thought that things would progress so seamlessly.”
“Yes… I need to reevaluate Rain. I was expecting a chaotic storm and a blood-filled progression of subversive acts. She really went above and beyond my expectations.”
“The two that she brought in have done exceptionally well.”
“Yes. We’ll see them very soon. I believe it’s tomorrow…”
In the past year, the emperor had never sought out San and Biyeon. However, this didn’t mean that he was uninterested in the two. On the contrary, he had followed their progress closely. He watched so closely that he was at the end of his patience. He wanted to meet with the two.
Whenever he spoke with Rain, more than half the conversation revolved around San and Biyeon. He considered their news the most entertaining and fruitful amongst all the direct reports he received from the imperial staff who directly reported to him.
“They resolved the imperial court’s issue with a novel solution, something we would have never considered as an avenue. I’m certain that those two were the ones who offered and executed the plan. I’m surprised by their ingenuity and wisdom,” the emperor stated with a growing smile. Across from the emperor was another man who seemed to wield the same stature as the emperor. He was one of two individuals that the emperor could express his thoughts to as a confidante.
One person was Hanhyuk, the leader of the continent’s greatest and most powerful clan, the Han-Sung Clan. The other was the person who was now in front of him and the empire’s military leader. It was Hanhyuk’s brother, Hanyoung.
Whenever any of the two came to speak with the emperor, the other court officials and servants would quickly vacate the emperor’s quarters. This recognition reflected the deep relationship between the emperor of the Damoon Empire and the Han-Sung Clan. Furthermore, Hanyoung had a long relationship with the emperor.
“All these good things are warranted based on your wise outlook and decisions, your majesty,” Hanyoung commented with a smile.
“Dealing with talented people… niceties are not what I want to hear from you, you know that right? Anyway, what do you think of the two?”
“If your majesty were to have his way, your majesty would gain the power and force of over ten million soldiers in your corner by recruiting San and Biyeon. They are the epitome of upright and talented people. However, in this case, I do not foresee that your majesty will gain what is wanted.”
“Why do you think that?”
The emperor’s expression hardened. Hanyoung gave off a tired expression as he answered, “When you meet them, you’ll realize that they’re much different people than your majesty or me. I believe your majesty has once mentioned that you’ve come across such people before…”
The emperor’s eyes momentarily grew large before settling back down and narrowing as he pondered deeply on Hanyoung’s last words.
“Outsiders… are you speaking about them?”
“I’m not certain yet. However, I get the sense that they’re the same type of people as the Outsiders. There’s a high likelihood that they originate from the same or similar place.”
Hanyoung looked straight into the emperor’s eyes as he spoke. The emperor started stroking his beard.
“And why do you think that?”
“The way they think, the way they dress, how they act, and the speed by which they advance in their martial prowess and awakening… are similar in all of these areas with those in the Outsiders. The only thing that I’m hesitating about…”
The emperor remained silent as he waited for Hanyoung to continue.
“The two are acting entirely independently. They do not seem to have any affiliate associations with other groups. The members of Outsiders mentioned that they originated from a place called the A-Pian. However, these two didn’t even seem to know what that place was…”
“Isn’t there a chance that they just share some similarities?”
“That’s a possibility. However, I know that they’re trying to find a way to enter A-Pian. Furthermore, the only people who know of the name ‘A-Pian’ and its significance are your majesty, me, and the leader of the Han-Sung Clan. As of now, the name ‘A-Pian’ seems to be limited in knowledge to just a very few people.”
“You’re saying they were looking for A-Pian?”
“I’m certain of it. It was also one of the main reasons they decided to enter the imperial courts. When I sent Rain to first meet them, I told her to ask them about A-Pian. As I suspected, they readily recognized the name. After arriving here, they voraciously read everything that our royal libraries have to offer within a year. I also know that we provided access for them to peruse any of the documents within the Han-Sung Clan’s possession. The reason for them making the empire’s detailed mapping was probably also due to their pursuits of A-Pian.”
The emperor started rubbing his eyes.
“Hmm… what about their relationship with the Outsiders?”
“I believe they have not crossed paths yet.”
“What would happen if the two clashed with the Outsiders?”
“I cannot guarantee that we or the Outsiders would come out on top.”
The emperor’s jaw dropped at Hanyoung’s words.
“Their power is to that extent? The leadership of the Outsiders were the ones who helped develop mankind’s ability to Awaken and to become Awakened Warriors, right? Furthermore, those four that comprise the Outsiders have lived for over five hundred years.”
“I understand that the four members of the Outsiders have tremendous abilities. No one can deny that. However, none of them are skilled in actual combat. This is also the reason why the Han-Sung Clan exists. These are the reasons why I was hoping to join in the meeting between your majesty and the two tomorrow.”
“You’re saying that they’re experts in the field of combat? Not even experts in organization and administration?”
“Not only in combat, but they’re also skilled in strategy, tactics, weaponry, understanding of organizational structure, analysis, computation, data gathering, and analysis… they’ve pretty much reached the pinnacle of expert status in all of these realms. The problem is… they’re becoming more and more powerful with each passing day.”
The emperor exclaimed with a pleasant expression on his face. If Hanyoung was waxing poetic about the two, then the emperor thought that the two must really be talented people. The emperor started to reconfigure how he should approach the two in tomorrow’s meeting.
“Then how do you recommend I should proceed?” the emperor asked Hanyoung in a serious tone of voice.
“Your majesty should not make enemies of them. If the Outsiders and Han-Sung Clan were to act, we could probably suppress them, but the repercussions would be immense. Even if you need to give up some crucial concessions, it would be best to keep them happy and in your corner. They’ll become invaluable allies.”
“What do you think about Rain?”
“What does the 2nd Seat of the Office of the Interior think of herself?”
“Would she ever tell me? However, I do get a sense of what she’s thinking when I see her expression during our conversations. I also have a grasp of what she wants from me, too.”
“So, you’ve never asked her directly, your majesty?’
“I have, but her face turns bright red, and she refuses to speak further. As her father, I’m very concerned about her. I have a lot of sons and daughters, but I especially want to take care of her. I couldn’t do that for her mother. Phew… There are so many things I can’t do or control. Even with this seat as emperor of an empire…”
“However, your majesty should not do anything by force toward the two, or things will become much more serious. Leave the decision to them. Even if the results are not to your majesty’s liking, the trust you’ll be able to require will spring advantages in the future. Don’t you think so?”
“What about the territories?”
“As we discussed, your majesty, it would be best to award them the territories in the south. That would be the strategic place that would act as the buffer and first front between the growing powers of the south and the capital. The southern powers would have to go through their territories before coming to our doorstep. Furthermore, it’s a territory that needs to be run by talented individuals.”
“Will things really progress as how that sage, Senun, prophesied?” the emperor said aloud while sighing deeply.
“The number of the foreign species, vampires, have been exponentially growing, and their influence has been expanding. If we don’t prepare to confront them now, humanity may crumble within the next generation. Although we’re still unsure about who is behind all this, there have always been challenges to humanity throughout our history.”