Chapter 154

“I suppose a normal test subject who is not an Awakened individual would have a big margin of error?” 

“Hence, we need their prototype. It’s data obtained from the field itself and not the lab. An opportunity like this is hard to come by, even for the dragons who have lived for thousands of years.”

“How did you calculate the possibility of 50%?” 

“We have extracted a few interesting connections from the data we’ve accumulated over the years. We analyzed that it was highly possible that they put it there intentionally.”  

“Are you saying that it is possible that they made those noises to confuse us?”

“They are very clever, so they must be suspicious of our intentions. Nonetheless, it’s still just a conjecture. We have to gather more data and observe. Removing those noises can greatly reduce the number of instances. Furthermore, apart from the deadline, there were many unexpected results.” 

“There are more? That...will be interesting. Ye who devours the wisdom of the world!” 

Satan still had a cold look on her face. 

“The paths to awakening for the sages have been increased to more than ten. Shall I tell you more? Until we get their experimental data, the sages’ abilities were limited by three things. It is exciting...when you think about how it might be akin to dissecting the Original One. Are you still going to get rid of them? They are much rarer of a specimen than the Fallen thought.”

Nakun looked at Satan with a stern face.

“They are that...rare?”

This time, Satan nodded slowly too. What she did not know was the ‘path to acceleration’. Just because she was the incarnation of the Original One, it did not mean that she had all the abilities given by him. Hence, she reassembled all the Fallen ones with deadlines, and compared and referred to their paths to awakening along with hers before making the councilors. They would be able to make up for what they lacked. 

However, even if everything went wrong, it would still be a pretty good deal if they could possess the strength to stand against the Original One. And what if they also had the freedom to eradicate the restraints of the deadline?

“There’s still one more thing. Perhaps, it’s the most important part of today’s conversation,” Nakun lowered his voice. 

“...”

“‘He’ had announced when he would come."  

Nakun held up a finger.

"Ah!-"

Satan exclaimed and staggered for a brief moment. Even though she had already expected it, she was still stunned when she heard it. 

“100 years…flew by so fast…” 

They could not continue their conversation any more that day. Satan wanted more time, while Nakun wanted other measures. They had a hunch that it was highly likely that the course of action would be agonizing… 

***

The midwinter winds were very cold, causing the mountains and rivers to be frozen. Right now, it was as though they were in the midst of launching an all-out attack on all living creatures, trying to freeze them. The palace was a bright place. However, darkness had to be present in order to create light. There would always be people who would have to touch things that nobles would never touch, and there would always be people who would have to clear things that distinguished people had thrown away. 

There was a very large village that was situated about half an hour away from the palace. It was the size of a small town that could accommodate up to 5,000 people. Its residents were commoners. They were people who were referred to as maids and servants in the palace. They were people who knew all about the movements within the palace, as well as the secrets. They were always listening in on the conversations going on within the palace. Hence, their residence was isolated from the outside world. 

Maids and servants who had quit their jobs would have to be isolated once again at a different place adjacent to that village. After spending five years there, they would then be able to be in contact with the outside world. This was an institutional strategy to ensure that the secrets pertaining to the palace and its people were protected.  

The maids and servants were people who did all kinds of chores and dirty work within the palace. They were separated from the outside world, and live in groups. Even if they got married, they would still have to live in this town. While they were essential people within the palace, they were treated as expendables, whose names were not even remembered. However, there was always something behind the scenes that nobody knew about, and these people were most afraid of those we knew about it. 

Facing the cold evening winds head-on, there were very unusual people heading to that place in groups of twos and threes. The servants and maids who were off duty tilted their heads to the side and scrutinized them. Still, they remained vigilant. A bizarre incident was about to happen for the first time since the village was built 500 years ago. 

“It’s disgustingly cold… What happened to this warm southern country?” grumbled Yuren, one of the Essen warriors, who was still feeling very cold despite wearing layers of leather coats. 

“Your speech is so refined. Regardless, this place is also a part of the imperial palace. You’re from the north and yet you can’t handle the cold here?” said Jihan, who was also from Essen. 

They were assigned to a special task force. The special task force worked on separate missions from the second deputy’s intelligence units, but from a certain point onwards, they started traveling together with the existing agents, acting as assistants. There were 150 intelligence agents moving in groups behind them. Each of them was given a task… 

“Can you make a guess? Why the hell are we sleeping in a place like this?” 

“Ask five people the three questions that were prepared, and visit three people’s houses. Ask each of them for food, and sleep in one of their houses. In return, give them something that has your names on it. This looks very fun… It’s not even a game. What does this mean?” 

“How would I know? I still can’t read their minds. We’ll only find out once we do it… I am frustrated with myself. Sometimes I feel like a fool.” 

“I don’t think that way. Look at the Essen people over there. Would you have ever thought that they could not read up until three years ago? Their judgment and calculation skills have never fallen behind ours. In my opinion, this seems like a different learning experience. Like what they have said, if we have to do it, then let’s do it well.” 

“That’s right. There are astonishing prizes too, so we cannot lose.” 

The maids and servants were very nervous. Apparently, these were the agents under the famous second deputy, who were throwing the palace into disarray. It was the organization that was at the origin of all the rumors, and the center of all topics. It was what they were most afraid of, and yet it was also the place where the people they grew to like the most were at. 

“Service is the trend…” muttered Biyeon, who paused abruptly as she was knitting by the fireplace… 

“Huh?”

San was dozing off. He looked around with his eyes half closed. Just like that, their winter night passed by without a hitch. 

Reform — Chapter 3

The maids and servants did not know what to do about what was happening in this special place. Even the old head servant was welcoming the visitors with a troubled face. They were people who managed to pass through the tight inspections of the chief guard that was guarding this vast area, so they were not in a position to make any protest. The head servant and head maid looked very nervous. But still, they had curiosity written all over their faces too. 

It was a place where no one could enter. Hence, contact with outsiders would put everyone in danger. Firstly, it must have been surprising for them to see a group of eccentric people visiting them. The servants here had the right to refuse to be interviewed by outsiders. Their rights could not be infringed upon by the empresses or princesses without the emperor’s consent. It was safe to say that those people would be rejected as well. 

However, the situation this time was a little more delicate. They were not ordinary nobles, but people from the imperial palace, who ate the same food. In other words, they were people they came face to face with all the time. Indeed, there was no reason for them to have a proper conversation ever. Nonetheless, if the nobles were to fuss over every little thing, their daily lives would be very agonizing. This was because the servants themselves were commoners, who were right at the bottom of the class hierarchy within the palace. Hence, it was hard to be heartless towards these people, who came all the way here on a cold day. 

“Pardon me for asking, but may I know what brings you here this evening?” asked the head maid cautiously.

Even though she was an experienced maid in her 50s, her voice was trembling. The group of noblemen and women who were standing in front of her were trembling too. Needless to say, it was because it was cold. 

“Umm...We…”

“Say something!”

“Me?”

“Aren’t you the team leader?”

“Me? What are you talking about? I wasn’t chosen.” 

“Yes, you were.”

“When?"

“Just now.”

“Why me?”

Laron looked at the person he was talking to with his eyes wide open.

The man answered with a serious look on his face, “You don’t have to know.”

“...”

Laron turned around and looked at the people behind him with his eyes wide open, pointing a finger at himself… Contrary to his expectations, the other agents were nodding their heads vigorously. They waved at him with a cheerful look on their faces. Laron smiled. He was in a better mood for no reason. He shrugged.

“Is there a reason why we should avoid this place? It’s not that big of a deal, right? I heard that the imperial palace was a place where people with common sense live, but well…”

Laron, who was from Essen, was the first merchant who became an agent within the palace. He boldly took a step forward. He had also learned a lot by observing, listening, and analyzing what the commanders were doing at times. One of the principles he lived by was that even if he would be beaten to death, he would not withdraw or run away from his mission. The people behind him were observing him with limpid eyes. 

Their mission this time would never be successful if they were to use intimidation or coercion. This was the most unfamiliar and difficult task for these stiff-necked agents, who were nobles with a lot of pride. Hence, Laron was their team’s only hope. 

“Ah! Are you the head maid on duty? Ah! The weather is very cold, right?” said Laron with a smile, taking off his hat and putting it to his chest. 

He had a very cheerful look on his face, and his voice was kind and approachable. 

“That’s...right. It has been very cold these days,” replied the maid, who was caught by surprise. 

The abrupt weather, the unexpected use of honorifics, coupled with a series of three questions that only needed short and easy answers hit her. She could not stop herself from answering him. Hence, the time for her rejection speech that she had prepared kept slowly pushing back. 

“The moon is very beautiful tonight. Is it windy today? Is it warm where you live?” 

Laron shivered and adjusted his collar before asking once again. He looked like he was freezing. He managed to get a little sympathy from her.

“Yes… It’s warm…”

“By the way, what is your name?”

“Sharen…”

“Ah! Head Maid Sharen. That is a very fitting name for a beautiful person like you. But...it seems unusually colder tonight.” 

“But…”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter