Chapter 139

Up until now, they had been cleverly sabotaging and getting in the way without leaving any evidence. They had been very smart in their own way but right now, it was impossible for them to work for both sides. A choice had to be made - either cut the other side off or quit working here. Either choice would antagonize one side. There was no way of winning. 

“What are you going to do?” asked the second captain, Fey. She had a vexed look on her face. 

“Don’t make a big fuss out of it. Country bumpkins, who don’t know how terrifying the world is, tend to be overly ambitious.”

The third captain, Pioh, looked at the garden with his arms folded. A gentle wind blew by, sweeping away the fallen leaves on the ground. 

Pioh continued, “Today, the third deputy secretary general’s subordinates are going to make a move. What happened yesterday was certainly a big issue. We simply have to sit back, behave properly in a dignified manner, and observe. Tightening discipline right after she comes back after a year would be such a shallow trick. A rather extreme and unconventional move, though.”

***

Meanwhile, Rain was meeting with the chief criminal officer in the third deputy secretary general’s office. His name was Hanwha, a man in his early 50s. He was a relative of the Han-Sung Clan, and was known for attaining the second rank. As a person who dealt with feud, assassinations and power struggles within the palace, he was cold, wise and powerful. 

The third deputy secretary general, Ryuin, was a powerful figure, who was in charge of discipline and armed forces. Her backers were unknown. However, there was speculation that she had some sort of relationship with the Han-Sung Clan. Officially, the Han-Sung Clan was abiding by their pledge to not be involved in the politics of the empire, but the outstanding individuals from that clan might have taken a  different stance. 

The next day after the incident happened, Ryuin sent Hanwha to meet with Rain. That showed that she was particularly interested in Rain’s actions, which suggested that somebody from the Han-Sung Clan, who was supporting them, was interested too. Needless to say, Rain was very anxious. Although she had expected it, it was still a very strong response.

“In conclusion, it was regarded as a mutiny...” muttered Hanwha as he stood up. 

He had a slight frown on his face - it was a habit of his that he did whenever things did not go the way he thought it would. 

“Mutiny is an unforgivable act, isn’t it?” 

Rain looked at him with expressionless eyes. Instead of avoiding her gaze, he narrowed his eyes. Eventually, he nodded his head. 

“The disposition of the agents lies with the head of the organization, hence, there is nothing more I have to say with regards to that. However, I would like to remind you that the third deputy secretary general is very vigilant against unjust corporal punishment carried out on valued agents. Each of them underwent a stringent selection process and all of them are from powerful families. The emperor would not want the relationship between the royal family and nobles to be negatively affected by ‘trivial’ things like that.”

“In other words, in order to maintain the ‘good relationships’, mutiny should be tolerated. Is my understanding of what you’re saying correct?” asked Rain in a calm manner, touching the seam on her shoulder. 

“All I’m saying is that overdoing things always leads to unnecessary misunderstandings and disputes. I’m sure you already know that,” retorted Hanwha.

That was the final warning. He looked irritated. 

“You’re right. I went too far. That’s because I don’t have courage…” muttered Rain. 

“......?”

Hanwha cocked his head sideways. 

“I’m not going to let this go. I will never back down either.” 

“What do you mean by that?” Hanwha’s face froze. 

The slim lady in front of him was smiling very brightly. 

“In the worst case scenario, is there something better than death?” 

***

The second and third captain, Fey and Pioh, stood there dumbfounded. There was a man loitering in front of them. This time, it was a young man. The man entered the room slowly and raised his hand slightly to greet them, without saying a word. Thereafter, he approached the two people, who were standing together, and showed them his identification.

Name: San

Job position: Chief Commander under the Second Deputy Secretary General

Jurisdiction: Authority over the three Intelligence Units

“Let’s get along with one another.” San grinned. 

He tapped the shoulders of the two older people and walked towards the other agents, who were already mentally preparing themselves. They were the intelligence specialists of the empire, They were the elites amongst elites, who dealt with the best intel. All of them were nobles and true elites, whose future was guaranteed as they had secured the rank of a viscount or higher. 

San casually walked between the people who were already standing. They felt a chill run down their spine. He was the person who beat up the First Intelligence Unit’s agents and sent them to the physician’s clinic in the palace. To be exact, his colleague did that, but to these people, he was no different from Biyeon. Yesterday’s incident was the most shocking thing that had happened ever since the secretarial office was established. 

San slowly examined the room, which was dead silent, with his hands clasped behind his back. The office was very spacious. It was also very different from a modern office. Each desk and workspace was in a separate space. The agents carried out their own tasks thoroughly and independently. They were nobles, who were carefully selected. Approximately 60% of them were men, and 40% of them were women. The men to women ratio was far more balanced than any other country on Earth that claimed to be a supporter of gender equality. 

Each agent was accompanied by a servant from their family, who would mainly run small errands for them. Fieldwork was carried out in a vast suborganization managed by the agents. In other words, each agent was the head of the suborganization. Since their family members worked in the suborganization, it was inevitable for the affairs of the royal palace to be revealed to them early on. All the agent had to do here was to verify the information collected by the suborganization and concise it for the superiors to refer to and make a judgment. 

“The elites of the place where information comes from…”

San was curious about what their thoughts were. How did they carry out their work? San stood in front of an agent. She was a woman in her late 20s. She looked intelligent, but somehow, she had an air of arrogance. It was like some kind of strange sense of privilege that only people who handled information had, similar to the feeling of mocking dumb military officers whose only assets were their muscles. She was a smart woman, and hence, she was deserving of it. 

San smiled and asked,  “What’s your name?”

“Gazelle. My last name is Jungha.” Gazelle emphasized the last name ‘Jungha’.

“How long have you worked here?”

“It’s been seven years.”

“What do you do here?”

“I categorize the information that we have collected, and verify its authenticity before reporting it.”

“Information… That sounds difficult…  But what exactly is information?” San scratched the back of his head. Thereafter, he looked at his fingers and blew his hair and some strange powder-like substance out of them.

“I’m sorry?”

Gazelle frowned. What kind of silly question was that? However, when she tried to answer him, she could not seem to organize her thoughts. What was information? What was it? She could see the man staring at her, smirking. Her pride was severely wounded..

“Was it a difficult question? In that case, let me phrase it differently. How is intel different from information?” 

“From what I've learned, intel is made up of unconfirmed ‘rumors’, and information is made up of confirmed ‘facts’ for the most part,” answered Gazelle immediately as she grimaced. 

“So, when you’re collecting information, does that mean that you only gather confirmed facts?”

“No, sir. We collect intel too. We will check separately to verify its validity.”

“Do you confirm its validity yourself?”

“I will confirm it with my subordinates and receive the report of the results. “

San cocked his head to the side, and stared at Gazelle. 

“Do you trust the report?”

“Of course.”

“What if the report and the facts are different? Or what if somebody deliberately distorts the truth?” 

Gazelle stared blankly at San. Her face was filled with shame and anger. 

“I think it’s highly unlikely, but if it ever happens, I will severely punish them.”

The corners of San’s mouth curled up slightly. 

“But… What about this - what if there is too much information that it’s impossible to display all the facts?”

“Well… I would then write a report of a clear summary of it.”

“Ah! That's a good way of doing it. However…” San paused for a moment. 

Gazelle’s face was red from all the tension. This man…contrary to his appearance, was not that ignorant. His questions were rather tricky. 

“Please continue.”

“The original information that was collected may be credible, but in the process of summarizing the information, the sequence may change depending on the person who writes it, right? For example, the importance, priorities, impact assessment, etc. Things like that…”

“There’s always a possibility of that happening.”

“If that’s the case, the summarized information would be greatly influenced by the writer’s thoughts, right?” 

“I think it’s inevitable.”

“Then, could that summary affect the judgment of the superiors? In other words, you’re telling the truth so to speak, but in truth, you are only revealing what you want to reveal. What do you think? Is there a chance of that happening?”

“That…” Gazelle was speechless. 

Alarm bells were going off in her head, warning her not to admit it, but she could not deny or retreat. Gazelle looked him in the eye. She could not guess what he was thinking. She felt a sense of danger, as if she had fallen into a deep swamp.  

“Do you think that you have handled the information fairly?”

“It was fair...I’d say,” Gazelle managed to utter.

“That’s good. But how do you guarantee it was fair?”

“......”

“There is some information. Let’s say that it can be interpreted in favor of your family, the Jungha’s, but it can also be in favor of the emperor. Let’s also say that it can only be advantageous to one side, meaning it’s disadvantageous to the other. Now, you have three choices. 1 - report in favor of either side. 2 - not reporting at all. 3 - Laying out only the ‘summarized’ facts. For the second and third choices, you do not have to do anything. What do you think is fair?” 

“None of them...are fair.” 

“So, what will you do in that situation?”

“......”

Gazelle trembled slightly and her face was red. She looked like she was going to cry. She shook her head. The man cocked his head to the side. 

He asked softly once again, “What do you call a situation where the truth is not properly conveyed?”

“......”

“You look smart but...you don’t know the answer? I call it ‘fraud’. That’s what scumbags who sell their pride and soul do.” 

“Oh...” 

“What do you call a situation where you know it is a lie but you don’t correct it?” 

“......”

“It’s difficult for you to answer that question too huh? I call it ‘cowardice’. That’s what scumbags who are a waste of salary do.” 

Geuk-

Deep groans were heard from all over the place,

“Who pays for your salary? The empire, or your family?” 

“The...empire.”

“In that case, whose interests should the information you attain serve? 

“The...empire.”

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