“Yes… we’ve been fighting other powerful races for many years. Since mankind won the war, when all the intelligent races united to face a common enemy and for the continent’s dominance 500 years ago, we’ve successfully managed to defend this continent and administer our rule. This time won’t be an exception.”
“What are you going to do about Jungha, your first son?”
“The second will figure it out. The second, Junkyung, is quite talented in these matters. He asked for the work regarding his wife, too.”
“What can I do to help?”
“Set a path for the second. I’m no longer the same since I’ve gotten older.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
The two drank tea without talking again for a long time. Hanyoung smiled bitterly. In his mind, the words San had asked for were lingering in his mind like inescapable sounds. Actually, what San had asked for was closer to a threat than a request…
Winds of Fortune – Chapter 5
D - 170
“Please, to the best of your ability… please, just shut up. Please be patient this time around as well. I’ll take the lead and do it my way.”
San said as he rolled his eyes.
“We’ll see,” Biyeon replied.
“If you go on like this, we might have to actually fight.”
“Then I’ll be slapped around a couple of times… it’s not like I haven’t been hit once or twice…”
“If anyone were to overhear our conversation, they might think I actually hit you.”
“Isn’t it true? We’ve been arguing every night…”
The two were muttering to each other as they headed toward the imperial palace. The ten servants and maids following them were bowing their heads down while trying to contain their laughter.
San and Biyeon seemed to be evergreen in their actions. They always seemed to be the same people. The servants and maids had never seen anyone so relaxed and comfortable to joke like this before the tensest and solemn moment of their lives.
Today was the day of San and Biyeon’s award ceremony.
They were both wearing fancy clothes.
The emperor was going to ask questions to formally confirm their allegiance, and the marquis, the title that both San and Biyeon expected to receive, would be given once they consented and swore allegiance. If there were no major surprises, the award ceremony would soon begin in the afternoon.
Afterward, a great banquet would follow. Before that, they were going to meet with the emperor to go over the process and a pre-interview process.
Before entering the imperial palace’s reception room, the two paused at the same time and stood in front of the door as if they had promised to conduct this action beforehand. The maids and attendants who were following staggered as they suddenly stopped themselves from walking forward and bumping into the two.
The two turned their heads to scan the building from left to right. An outsider would think that the two were just appreciating the luxurious scenery. However, the content of their internal conversation was different.
[They’re very strong. Very…]
[Do you think they’re the emperor’s private security escorts?]
[It may be a test.]
[Three… four… I think we’ll have to experience it firsthand to find out.]
[Are you nervous?]
[A little… bit. To meet the emperor who effectively rules over this world! Is this a dream or real life…]
[Yeah, but first and foremost, he’s a businessman.]
[Relax, we have nothing to lose, right? Let’s enjoy it.]
The reception room was a cylindrical building. Along the inner wall were exquisitely carved bronze half-figures of the ancient emperors that were oriented toward the center. The emperor’s elevated seat was situated in the center of the room.
There was a large round table a short distance away from the emperor’s elevated seat. This was where those who were to be interviewed by the emperor would sit.
To the left and right of the emperor were soft armrests, and there was a small table and bookshelf where tea prepared exclusively for the emperor could be placed.
They met the emperor for the first time in this grandiose reception room, which was well-lit, giving off a relatively warm, comfortable atmosphere.
The emperor was already chatting with the empire’s military advisor and general. Hanyoung, and the head of the Han-Sung Clan, Hanhyuk. Hanhyuk was Hanyoung’s older brother and was already an Awakened warrior who had mastered four Awakened skills.
As a person with outstanding political sense, Hanhyuk was currently serving as the main political figure as well as the head of the Han-Sung Clan.
The imperial gates opened.
A maid announced San and Biyeon’s arrival. The emperor could be seen standing in the center of the area within the imperial gates. The emperor raised his hand and pointed his visitors to their designated seats. The seats were right in front of the king.
The servants look a little perplexed. Usually, the emperor’s visitors usually waited in their prepared reception areas and only exchanged a few words with the emperor.
However, now, the emperor’s orders had changed. His actions were something that was not done in their previous rehearsals. The maids guided the two visitors to the seat designated by the emperor without a sound.
The emperor slightly frowned and furrowed his brow. The two, San and Biyeon, stood in place for a moment before moving along with the maids, half-bending their backs, bowing to the emperor. The emperor’s lips twisted slightly.
‘There’s nothing off in their behavior. Anyone who encounters an unexpected situation in a very nervous state would be embarrassed or taken aback… but those two are showing no tension.’
The emperor felt strange. The etiquette the two just expressed was familiar to him.
‘They’re acting like diplomats…’
San and Biyeon sat in their assigned seats.
“I finally got to meet the two famous people of the empire. Come, sit down.”
“To his majesty, glory, and blessing be with you forever! Your loyal subject, San Kang, greets you.”
“Your loyal subject, Biyeon, greets you, your majesty.”
The emperor nodded his head lightly. However, his eyes never left the two. The interior was quiet but not peaceful. Now was the time for a terrifyingly prolonged time of discussion and exploration.
No one had piqued the emperor’s curiosity like San and Biyeon in recent years. He finally was able to meet the two today. The emperor never fully believed in rumors and reputations because he knew better than anyone how politically manipulative rumors and reputations were. Every rumor or reputation was spread with some motive of benefit.
The leaders of the Han-Sung Clan, Hanyoung and Hanhyuk, looked at the emperor rather than the two. Judgment about others depended on one’s point of view. What would be the difference between the perspectives of martial artists and politicians?
“Yes… I’ve heard about you two from Rain. Many people have stated that you both have a straightforward personality and a very outstanding constitution, and I see no doubt in the truthfulness of that statement. This majesty understands the two of you have done great works for the empire. Now, I want to congratulate you both on your hard work.”
As San and Biyeon sat down, the emperor immediately spoke.
“Without his majesty’s support and determination, all of our achievements would not have been possible. We just faithfully conducted our given missions. We are regretful that many members of the imperial family suffered from our actions,” San respectfully answered. His tone was concise, discreet, and avoided excessive humility.
San and Biyeon’s gazes were fixed on the area between the emperor’s nose and lips, and their hands rested naturally on their knees. The emperor shook his head.
“This majesty does not like excessive humility. Who in the world would have come up with such a vast and meticulous plan, and could have carried out the plan flawlessly despite all kinds of opposition and resistance from the opposition imperial court factions? There were many royal officials before you came, but they couldn’t do what you did. There’s a clear difference between them and you both, right?”
The emperor narrowed his eyes and looked at San and Biyeon in succession. Some of his exploratory questionings was now over. They’d soon enter the main discussion. Saliva pooled in the emperor’s mouth.
In his mind, Rain’s face momentarily appeared and then quickly disappeared.
“You will have to suffer a lot for the empire in the future. In that sense, I called you to congratulate you both on your hard work and to give you a reward. I would like you to do something larger in the future… Are you up to the task?”
“Something larger, your majesty…?”
“Now, I want you to solve the problems outside the capital. To defend the empire from its foreign enemies. I would like for you to take over the southern provinces and accept Gijan as your territory.”
“Are you talking about taking over and leading the empire’s military efforts in the Gijan region?”
“No, it would be more appropriate to state that you’d be ruling over Gijan as a nation-state. I am hoping that you both can develop the territory and raise an army. So, I’ve decided to bestow a befitting title to both of you. This majesty believes that the title of duke is commensurate with the job that I am expecting from both of you. What do you think?”
The emperor threw them a curveball. Biyeon looked at San, who had a bitter smile on his face.
‘The rank of the title is much higher than we expected. Moreover… The emperor is not asking about the status of the title, but only about the rank of the title. Since it has already been decided, it must be an unspoken warning not to decline his offering…’
“Please excuse your subjects, but we would like to confirm a few things before making our decision, your majesty,” San respectfully stated.
The emperor widened his eyes. The Han-Sung Clan’s two old men let out muffled groans and gulped. A sharp foreboding aura seemed to be screaming from every corner of the ceiling, floor, and circular space.
San kept his eyes on the emperor. There was no sense of backing down from San’s eyes. The emperor remained silent for a moment as he stared at the two.
Both San and Biyeon were acting very naturally. Moreover, the emperor would tell that their ease wasn’t forced but something that truly expressed their confidence.
The emperor stroked his white beard slowly. He was starting to enjoy these two novel subjects in front of him. He thought that they sure had guts.
The emperor was certain that these two didn’t wax poetic in front of him only to try and sneak something by him. So, he was willing to listen to their questions and concerns.
However, the aura surrounding him was becoming more and more violent. Even goosebumps started forming on the emperor’s skin…
“This majesty will allow questions,” the emperor stated as he granted them permission to speak further.
“I have heard that Gijan is a barren land but a military strategic point to the south of Prigojin. However, both of us are from a foreign country, so we have no formal affiliation with the empire. Now then, this subject dares to ask your majesty, what has led your majesty to entrust two foreigners with the ruling and administration of land so close and important for the empire? What if we build up our power or join the rebels and start a larger war?” San asked as he continued eye contact with the emperor.
A small smile appeared on the emperor’s face. His clasped fingers were starting to busily move about.
“You seem to have a lot of questions, go ahead and ask all that you have.”
“We have been dealing with important information from the imperial court. It wouldn’t be good for any of this information to escape outside the confines of the imperial court. Some could even be considered fatal to your future endeavors. However, your majesty is planning to send the two of us out of the imperial palace and largely outside of your vision. How should we interpret this?”
“Yes. The information you possess is of paramount importance. So, what should this majesty do? Do you want more power here in the imperial court?”
The emperor tilted his back slightly. San withheld an immediate answer. Instead, he slowly turned his head around.
The act of looking elsewhere in front of the emperor was considered a dangerous and blasphemous act.
Indeed… as soon as San had made the motion, the atmosphere of the reception room began to oscillate as auras started spreading out from all directions. However, San’s gaze remained steady.
San first moved his eyes toward the two Han-Sung clansmen, then up at the ceiling, to a corner of the circular room, and finally, back at the emperor.
The emperor furrowed his eyebrows. His heart was starting to pound from the oppressive aura that San was letting out. San opened his mouth to speak. His heavy bass voice rang out.
“I don’t think power is as important as a meal. We can make a living no matter where we serve as mercenaries. Only one thing is important to us right now. So, I will ask you once more, your majesty. We are people. Furthermore, your majesty is the representative of the people. Are the two of us safe as your ‘people’ right now? And afterward? That is our question.”