Chapter 176

Change – Chapter 7

Time flew by. The spring and summer came and went, and after the fall, they soldiered through another cold winter. The two had been in the capital, working in the imperial courts, for over a year. They had been living in this foreign world for over five years now. They had spent a year in the experimental lab sort of place, three years in the Essen estate, and one year in the capital. They were welcoming their fifth spring.

Many things had changed. The flow of politics and worldly trends dramatically changed, and much like their changing surroundings, the two had changed as well. The Damun Empire’s reforms had taken firm hold and were operating in full swing. The reforms that started within the imperial courts rushed out into all corners of the empire like a bucket of water that had sprung a leak. The changes soon ushered in a feeling of imminent, dramatic change from the past.

Additionally, wars started breaking out throughout the continent. Fiefdoms fought with other fiefdoms, republics and kingdoms fought with fiefdoms and each other. Soon, alliances and agreements started forming between organizations and entities, and these relationships started triggering additional areas to join existing wars, expanding the wars ever more. While troops moved to the battlefield, the diplomatic struggles between capitals of the various territories and the capital, Prigojin, grew heated.

All the martial clans and mercenary groups started preparing for war. The larger clans started recruiting a greater number of members and soldiers to bolster their ranks. On the other hand, the workshops, merchants, and guilds started ramping up production to take advantage of the situation. They were all seeking to take advantage of the impending wars, balancing benefits and costs.

There were also others who sought to take advantage of the many positions that were needed to conduct war, such as strategists, people who were knowledgeable about the local terrain, and even those who would be sent to the countryside to recruit others. With the Han-Sung Clan’s support at its core, the Damun Empire actively observed the movements of its surrounding principalities and territories. As of now, no surrounding principalities, kingdoms, or territories dared to confront the Damun Empire head-on. As always, the territories and other organizations would fight with each other and ultimately seek a good relationship with the empire once the dust settled.

However, this recent upheaval and warring period introduced new concepts and beliefs that spread like wildfire throughout the continent. The aristocratic humanism class, represented by Mun-Ye-Rim, started showing interest in the larger humanistic concepts of freedom and equality. Some within this academia circle were vehemently opposed to these new concepts and leanings, but many commoners and fallen nobles were pulled into these novel ideas. Furthermore, though no one knew who had spread the rumors, there was news that a ‘republic’ was being established in the southern part of the continent, a nation-state that would acknowledge one’s freedom and guarantee equality.

The number of commoners and slaves migrating to the south to seek freedom had explosively increased recently. It had gotten to the point that many territories had to send out their troops to make sure slaves didn’t escape, as there was a labor shortage in many areas due to the dramatic migration of the slaves. If the system of slaves collapsed, one’s land and economy would soon follow. Furthermore, the status quo that propped up society would also crumble and collapse.

This was the trend happening in the continent.

For the two who were collecting and analyzing information in the imperial courts, the trend was something that they had expected to happen. The impending wars would go beyond simple clashes of human ideology and desire. The impending wars would be further fueled and instigated by the gods and transcendent beings, who brought their own logic and reasoning into the overall fold.

The two had prepared relentlessly for this occasion, so now, their preparations were turning into action. They knew that they’d leave the imperial courts at a certain point. With the title and power afforded to them right now, they had gone out and prepared to the best of their abilities. What they prepared went beyond the simple avoid and escape tactics of yesteryear. This time around, they’d have to face what was coming head-on. When one large force faced off against another, a balance had to be sought with sheer force. They had been reminded of this after dealing with the gods and getting the shorter end of the stick. There was no place in this vast world for them to breathe easily.

Though they were much stronger than the time they escaped from the Pian, they were in a much more unfavorable, lopsided position this time around. Their allies and enemies were now clearly marked, and the line of demarcation had been drawn. Those transcendent beings opposed to the Creator were their enemies. Unfortunately, these beings were very strong and powerful. Moreover, they possessed the cunning intelligence to set and control the flow of information in the world. Additionally, the two’s movements and thoughts would be conveyed to their opponents in real-time, making this game even more difficult. In other words, there didn’t seem to be even a sliver of hope.

Even with these barriers, the two were planning to win. At the very least, they were planning to not lose. They’d have to stay alive for at least one hundred years, when the Creator was scheduled to arrive.

Before the impending war, they had organized their relationships with the various beings of this world. They did not like the Creator, who they presumed was the entity that brought them into this world. However, as San and Biyeon were human, and since the Creator seemed to be on the humans’ side, though it wasn’t known for sure, they planned to stand on the Creator’s side.

The mission’s objective was simple.

Live. Protect those who were important to them.

Unfortunately, there were many who were chasing after them, and there were very few who were offering their help. The two would probably be satisfied with dying in battle, but the beings chasing after them wouldn’t even allow them to die. The beings who were chasing after them wanted everything, from their physical parts to every nugget of mental thought that they possessed. Thus, San and Biyeon could not think of losing.

“Why are you kicking and screaming to live?” Apollo had once asked during their meeting.

“What are you saying? Should we just roll over and die?”

“Apostles have died numerous times, hundreds of times in fact. But we’ve always been brought back to life. Why are you both so stuck on staying alive?”

“Was it fun to be reborn?”

“Of course! The memories I had as a human have faded, but I am much happier with my life than ever before. Isn’t it the eternal life that everyone dreams about? That’s why I don’t understand how you two, who possess so much, are so fearful of dying.”

“I don’t trust your words,” San stated with a smile.

“You don’t trust what I’m saying? Don’t you know that a god’s Apostle cannot tell a lie?”

“I know you believe it, but I don’t trust your interpretation of your past.”

“Are you saying that my past is a lie? That the happiness the god has bestowed upon me is based on a faulty foundation?”

“You can choose to believe whatever you want… in my eyes, I don’t think the gods truly know that much about humans. We know more about ourselves than others, right?”

“Why… what did you see?”

“Hell…”

“What kind of… hell?”

“A hell that cannot inspire. A terrible hell. You’ll experience it soon.”

“?”

***

[Jiwoon?]

[Yes! I’m here. Please speak freely.]

Jiwoon’s shoulders momentarily shuddered, but he soon returned to normal. He only knew of four existences that could speak to him in this non-verbalized, mental form. Though he knew the four, the four had never officially stated their existence to the world, as far as Jiwoon knew…

[Are you busy these days?]

Jiwoon smiled after hearing the question. Though he was only hearing the voice in his head, he could tell that the speaker was speaking with a tinge of playfulness.

[I’m so busy I feel like I might collapse and die at any moment. No one has approached the old man with any ill intent so far. There have been a few kids who dropped by to see what was going on. The secretary general, the third deputy secretary general, and the fifth deputy secretary general seemed to have been influenced by our enemy. There were also a few lower wrung people as well.]

[Where were the kids from?]

[They’re not from the Dark Guild or Shadow Guild. I heard they’re foreigners. They’re being interrogated now.]

[What about Princess Rain?]

[Her side has been quiet. Also, I’ve submitted my report on the two who work under her to you…]

[That’s why we came.]

[How many of you?]

[All of us.]

[All four of you?]

Jiwoon’s eyes grew wide. From the time he started serving the emperor, the four Outsiders hadn’t shown any interest and never showed themselves. Even when the emperor was in danger at the early part of his reign, the four had turned a blind eye…

[Are you planning to meet with the two?]

[Yes.]

[Are they that dangerous?]

[We’ll have to see from this point forward. Is there anything else we should know?]

[The two have been moving around at night and hunting very often.]

[What are they hunting?]

[I heard they’re hunting beings called Councilors. I think they’ve already captured a few. Is it something that you’re aware of… the Councilors?]

[Hmm… not yet.]

The conversation stopped for a moment.

[Is the emperor healthy?]

[He’s well, but he’s very nervous these days.]

[What about the Sages? Any movement there?]

[About fifteen days ago, Senun secretly came to visit the emperor. I couldn’t listen in on their conversation.]

[Senun, one of the King of Sages… well, he’s probably scared witless as well.]

[Huh?]

[Nothing. I’m going to take off. Make sure to keep the house safe.]

The line disconnected. Jiwoon smacked his lips. He was the main guard for the emperor. He was also one of the highest officials within the Outsider organization. Jiwoon calmed his beating heart. Ever since he joined the Outsider, this was the first time he felt so nervous and on edge. He grew curious. Everything was progressing the way the emperor wanted. But why was he feeling so nervous…

‘It was ever since Princess Rain re-entered the capital and retook her seat…’

***

They were inside, where the air was a little stuffy. San handed over the documents that Biyeon had created. A large pile of documents was piled on San’s side.

“The gods will present an issue. They have probably already analyzed our brain waves and patterns, so they’ll be able to read our thoughts. Even right now,” Biyeon said as she handed over a stack of documents and chuckled.

“Hmm… to have our thoughts read… it’s not like we can pull one over them like we did to Nil and Null… well, at least we know we’re in a shitty situation.”

San smiled bitterly.

“We’ll have to fight with all our cards shown. At the critical moment, I have no doubt that the gods will betray and throw us away. That’s probably why they declined to sign our contract. It’s troublesome. There doesn’t seem to be a solution,” Biyeon said before she let out a long sigh.

“They’re probably listening in on us right now, right?”

“Probably? They probably already know what we’re going to speak about next. Since they can read our minds…”

“Hmm, you really think so?”

Biyeon looked over at San. San had stood up. San’s expression was hard to read. San seemed to be smiling but also extremely angry at the same time. Biyeon’s lips slightly twisted. San smiled.

“I’ve just thought of a good idea right now. what do you think I thought?”

“…”

Biyeon slowly shook her head. San took a step towards her.

“I thought you looked pretty just now.”

“Hehehe…”

“What was I thinking now?”

“Don’t play around.”

“I was thinking you were being petty.”

“…”

Biyeon’s expression hardened for a moment. Wrinkles formed at the corner of San’s eyes as he smiled.

“Do you really think what I’m stating is true?”

“What are you talking about…”

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