Chapter 146

“Did you call for me?” asked the head maid in an aloof manner, as she looked down at Biyeon. 

She was a woman in her 50s. She had an access panel in one hand, and her other hand was fiddling with her apron. She looked slightly annoyed. I’m so busy, though. I’ve never seen such a horrible person in my life… 

“Do you want to die?”

“I’m sorry?” 

“This is very different from the imperial etiquette that I have learned. Is this the new etiquette?” 

“I’m not sure I understand…”

“This is...getting more and more ridiculous. You only deal with high-ranking people, is that why you have forgotten who you are and act so rudely towards me?” 

“What do you mean…?”

The head maid suddenly felt a chill down her spine. Alarm bells went off in her head. She hurriedly straightened her posture and stood respectfully. Come to think of it, the other party was one of the two people assigned to the famous second deputy, Rain. 

The maid rolled her eyes. Even though there were instructions from a ‘certain’ princess, if she were to make an issue out of this, ultimately, she would be the one hurting herself. The head maid widened her eyes. The woman was moving her finger instead of her lips. The maid’s eyes slowly followed Biyeon’s finger and looked at where she was pointing at. Biyeon’s hand stopped. 

“Who do you see?”

“I can see the second deputy."

“Does she look comfortable?” 

“N…no.”

“What is your task?” 

“To attend to the nobles and make them feel comfortable.” 

“In that case, you must be failing in your mission right now, am I right?” 

“As for that, the maid…”

“The 3-month maid? What do you think that child knows?” 

“We’re short-handed…”

“You’re short-handed… Do you think that’s a good enough reason to use against the second deputy? Are you...serious?”

Biyeon gave a vacuous smile. Nonetheless, the air in the surroundings was freezing. 

“It’s not…”

“Is this…something you came up with?” 

“I’m sorry?”

The head maid was now trembling. Biyeon did not have a sword or anything at all,, but when she glared at her, the head maid felt as though a sharp sword had horrifyingly penetrated through her neck. In reality, warm blood was flowing through her neck and down her chest. The head maid seemed to have collapsed from the huge horror. 

“If it was your doing, I’ll even strike you in the neck. Just answer straight to the point. Yes? No?” 

“I am sorry. I was merely following orders…”

“Whose orders?” 

“Please spare me.”

“Have you ever treated anyone this awfully? Couldn’t you have offered drinks, refreshments, and at the very least a table that allowed her to comfortably watch the performance like everyone else? And now you’re going to put the blame on a clueless maid and use her as a scapegoat? Is that right? This...cowardly and shameful…”

“Hur- Please forgive…”

“If you cry, you’re going to die.”

“Hup-”

“I will give you ten minutes, starting from now. Provide the second deputy with a much better treatment as compared to all the other deputies. See you in ten minutes.” 

“There aren’t enough maids. If you give me a little more time…”

“That’s your problem. Also, are you not a maid?” 

“Yes, ma’am. I will take care of it personally.”

The head maid ran frantically. She would never let her guard down ever again. Even right now, the rumors were spreading as fast as an arrow. From now on, all the maids who would be serving Rain in the future were contemplating how they should change their attitude towards her. 

The performance was in full swing. San was still trying to hold back his yawn, and Biyeon was staring absentmindedly at the ceiling. What a circus. Rain was sitting comfortably on a high chair, enjoying the refreshments while watching the performance. 

Investigation - Chapter 7

The banquet was coming to a close. The show proceeded with the next performance that could be said to be the highlight of the night. The warriors that were carefully selected from the Sa-Myung Clan performed their splendid group dance, as well as contradance. They were dedicated to the third empress, but at the same time, it served as a symbolic display of power and strength of the Sa-Myung Clan as a backer.

The group dance was filled with strength and vigor; the warriors from the great Han-Sung Clan, who lived up to their reputation, continued to perform a series of brilliant feats that were beyond the special class. Their skills were truly worth watching. People cheered and showered the third empress with high praises. Even if it was just lip service, the third empress was still extremely pleased. 

Before the night came to an end, there was one final event - it was time for the people to socialize. It was what the well-dressed men and women had been looking forward to, and it was also what all the families and powerful people had been waiting for. 

“Starting from now, it’s time to socialize. I hope that everyone is able to move around and have a pleasant conversation with one another.” 

After the emcee’s voice resounded through the hall, the ambiance had changed completely. The band started playing lower-pitched music with a seductive melody. People were meeting one another. Powerful beings were mingling with one another. Diplomacy and exploration had just begun. People were divided into two sides. Conversations flowed. They were formed in some places and cut off in others. In that way, new relationships and systems were created. 

This was the true purpose of the banquet. There were no foolish politicians who would be willing to spend such a huge amount of money on a party just to eat and have fun. Regardless of the era and system, a banquet would always be a ‘political and diplomatic event’ with the most important purpose behind it. People were meeting and parting with one another, moving all over the place. They looked for people they wanted to talk to before moving on to other people. The grand banquet hall was not suitable for this purpose. Everybody got up and moved to places that were more appropriate on the second and third floor. The people who wanted to have a more private conversation looked for balconies and secret rooms. Just like that, the crowd quickly dispersed and left the banquet hall. Needless to say, albeit rare, there were a few families outside that were left out. 

“We are ‘outcasts’ right?” asked San, as he sat at the stepped seating, munching on dried jerky… 

“We call it ‘noble solitude’, no?” replied Biyeon, who had a comical expression on her face. 

“Let’s drink together.” 

Rain smiled bashfully. In the past, she would have returned to her quarters in shame and humiliation. However, the extreme experiences she had undergone over the past year had boldly broadened her mind. An inconvenience as such would not even be on her list of things to worry about. On the contrary, she might have come to enjoy this deviation from her daily life. 

How embarrassing and rough it was for her back then! The prestige and authority of a princess…what bullshit… They did their business together and took a bath together. When things went south, they were in it together. It was like that for everything. It was difficult the first time around, but after that, it became very easy. There was a strange sense of connection, as well as a secret sense of liberation. There was also the infinite freedom that she could clutch in her hands, after breaking all the established ideas and bonds on her own… A new authority arose after the old one was abandoned. Thus, she gained true comrades via trust, instead of subordinates via power and authority. 

“Let’s have fun our own way…” 

Biyeon called the maids over and ordered her to do a couple of things.

“Can you bring us enough alcohol and refreshments? Also…”

The maids started moving. Their actions were now fast and efficient. They instinctively felt that they were different from other people. They were very scary and demanding. However, there was something else hidden within the facial expressions of the maids who were busy moving around. After serving them, they realized that there was something more to these people; something that could not be felt within the palace. A strange composure, a little joke, the warmth that flowed through it, the hidden consideration. It was hard to put it into words. 

The three people, who had nowhere to go and no one to meet, decided not to move from where they were seated. People left, and so did the band. The candles in the chandelier that lit up the central square slowly went out. The eight doors that led to the outer hall closed one by one. The square suddenly went dark. 

Instead of a sofa, a rather neat drinking area was set up in the area where everyone had left. There was a beautiful lamp that was made of wax in the center of the small round table; the small cone-shaped decorations were handmade by Biyeon. Simple food and fruit wine were placed on the table.

The four maids, who were sent by the head maid, quietly stood next to them. Biyeon called beckoned to the head maid. 

“Can you prepare a similar setup on the other side? I need a divider too…”

“Yes, ma’am.”

After a while, Biyeon asked again, “Is it done?”

“Yes, do you want the same food and drinks to be prepared here?” 

“Yeah, that would be good.”

“I’m sorry?”

“That area is for you to rest. Don’t your legs hurt? ‘Three months’ over there looks like she’s going to collapse, no?” 

“I’m sorry?”

The head maid stood there and stared blankly at Biyeon.

“Also, from now on, don’t worry about our side. Set up the divider and allow everyone to rest comfortably, be it sitting or lying down. It’ll be hard to rest tonight if you’re going to clean up. Last but not least, don’t do any work until someone here calls for you. This is an order, not a request. Run along. Great job.”

“Y- yes…”

“It looks pretty nice, huh? It feels as though we’ve booked a top-notch restaurant all to ourselves,” said San as he smiled widely. 

“It’s too big, but it’s good enough.”

“Somehow it gives me year-end vibes.” 

The soft melody played by the band outside could be heard again. It was a Korean-style drinking party. After a few rounds of drinks, everyone’s faces turned slightly red. Rain smiled brightly. She felt so carefree and light, as if something heavy had been removed from her chest. 

***

“What are they doing over there?” asked a nobleman, who was staring down at the plaza through a window on the third floor. 

Below, there were three people talking in the dark at a table with two lit lamps. 

“I wonder. They probably had no choice. They have no one to talk to and nowhere to go. It happens once or twice, I guess?”

The woman he was talking to glanced down. 

“But still, previously they headed straight to their quarters, and now they seem to have subordinates with them, and are comforting each other though?” 

“I don’t think anybody will be picking a fight this time.” 

“From what I’ve heard earlier, apparently, the Han-Sung Clan is backing the second deputy, Rain.”

“I heard about that too, but I don’t think it was that credible.”

“Why?”

“The Chief Intelligence Officer and Chief of Staff aren’t from the Han-Sung Clan. You know what that means, right? The man looks ignorant, and the woman looks pretty, but repulsive.” 

“Ho-”

“I heard that the warrior and them were only acquaintances. Warrior Han has many unique friends, doesn’t he? Everyone thinks that they are just one of those friends of his.” 

“Now that you’ve mentioned it, it makes sense I guess. He’s famous for not getting involved in politics.” 

The man looked down once again and changed the subject. The woman was sipping on her wine while getting immersed in their private conversation. On the second and third floor, there were many noble men and women sitting together, engaging in a pleasant conversation with one another. Perhaps, there were also several people looking down while having a conversation with others like this man. The impressive and magnificent skills displayed by the warriors earlier on were certainly the hottest topic. 

***

“What do you think?” asked a woman in her 40s, who was indulging in a chocolate-like purple drink. 

Judging from the fancy and exquisitely designed outerwear that she took off, she must have been a noblewoman. 

“It’s hard to tell, but one thing for sure is that they will be a huge pain in the neck,” answered the two men in a faint languid voice. 

Contrary to their crude way of speaking, they were dignified noblemen in their 40s. Apart from them, several men and women were mingling with one another in the huge secret room. The huge area was separated into smaller spaces like a maze, and it was filled with the sweet subtle smell of chocolate. 

“How strong are they?” 

A man looked down.

“Probably very strong? The Fallen ones are especially interested in those children. Ugh….” 

“They are on the second deputy’s side, right? Are they going to look into our work?” 

“We’ll see. It depends on what they are looking for.”

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