Chapter 189

“I guess they don’t like rock-paper-scissors…” San said in a low voice to Biyeon as they were walking out. Someone was staggering from behind.

Afterward, San and Biyeon conversed with the members of the Outsiders, which was very helpful and useful. All four members of the Outsiders stood at the border between myth and history, magic and science, fantasy and reality.

Namjoon, who was recognized as the first among them to enter this world, possessed the skill of architecture. He designed the layout of the capital, Prigojin, and the imperial palace. However, unbefitting his role in this world, his previous occupation on Earth was as a modern dance street performer.

Miri was a mechanical engineering genius who appeared to be in her thirties. She was the actual brains behind the Outsiders. Her skill set revolved around statistical modeling and mathematical calculations. She stated that she was a former elementary school teacher. She seemed to want to be friends with Biyeon.

Ogi, who was in his forties, possessed the skill of flow. He could mix and match different wavelengths and fluid dynamic motion properties to create the desired effect. Formerly, on Earth, he was an environmental engineer, and his second job was as a pop musician.

Lee-Kang, the last Outsider member, was a former analyst who analyzed situations and provided viable options and alternative strategies in uncertain situations. His main skill was analysis. His former job on Earth was as a market analyst, but his side hustle was as a gambler.

The four members had questioned many aspects regarding this world for an astonishingly long time, and they were able to come up with many answers on their own. 

Starting from what they were curious about, San and Biyeon asked the members of the Outsiders why the common sense of this world’s people differed so much from that on Earth, what it meant to be human, and many other questions that had puzzled them up to now.

Even after their long conversation was over, San and Biyeon stayed quiet for a long time as they tried to absorb all the new information and process what it meant for their future endeavors.

They were initially struck by a profound and powerful shock, then a new mental construct of common sense was reconstructed from the broken pieces of common sense that they had unknowingly held on to. San and Biyeon had to accept a completely different worldview.

What happened to Earth (Episode 285) after they left? What was the relationship between Episode 285 and Episode 314, where they were now? Who and what were the gods and the Devil. Episode 314 was a reformed world where science met imagination. Its birth and development unfolded like a panorama as the members of the Outsiders shared their knowledge and insight, illuminating San and Biyeon’s understanding of this new place.

All of this provided San and Biyeon with a strong suggestion regarding the path they should choose when moving forward.

D-160

The simply decorated garden was full of blooming flowers. Even in the morning, rather warm wind gently blew in.

In the spacious yard, a group of people sat and rested in a natural manner.

Sweat dripped from their foreheads and their bodies were drenched. They seemed to have just finished a competitive game. These were the Essen crew members.

“Is it worth it?” Yuren asked.

“Is what worth it?” Raron asked.

“What the Han-Sung Clan is teaching you.”

“It’s not that special. Even the nobles who were said to be highly educated didn’t seem all that knowledgeable about many things.”

“Yeah, right? I thought I was an idiot when I couldn’t understand our captains’ instructions, but having learned what I have from them, I now understand how amazing the captains’ way of approaching knowledge is.”

“Yeah. I was initially worried about the difficulty of the Han-Sung Clan test, but it was nothing special.”

“All of our Essen crew members made a good impression and scored in the top of our classes. Did you see the faces of the Han-Sung Clan nobles yesterday?”

“Of course, I saw it. Everyone looked at us with eyes wide open. We took the 1st-20th ranking in the test, which was out of 150 people… Their surprised expressions were truly worth seeing. I wish our captains could have seen it.”

“It was refreshing.”

“It was so refreshing…” 

A moment of silence ensued.

“What are you going to do now?”

“What?”

“I heard the captains are planning to leave soon.”

“Is that even a question? No matter what happens, I’ll follow them to the end of the world,” Raron answered with a chuckle.

“Isn’t it a little unfortunate?”

“What’s unfortunate?”

“If you finish your martial arts class at the Han-Sung Clan, your future path to success will be open, right?”

“If commoners like us succeed, how far can we really go? At best, I’d probably serve as guardian escort at some large organization.”

“A guardian escort officer? Dang, you really grew up, haven’t you? Was that something you could dream of just a couple of years ago?”

“If you look at it that way, our status as agents in the imperial secretary office was a much higher social standing level. Isn’t the imperial secretary’s office where only the chosen amongst nobility can work? Though, it was only a temporary position for us. If you feel you’re losing out, you should stay. Are you worried about what others will say?”

“Hey! Do you want to die? When did I ever say such stupid things?”

“Then, let’s go. Why are you even asking me these dumb questions?”

The two were smiling brightly. The other crew members had similar conversations and stories.

“Are you ready for this evening’s event? Captain San seemed to be keen on it.”

“Yeah! But why are we doing this?”

“Isn’t it because we haven’t been together for a long time? Maybe it’s some team-building event. Also, we haven’t been doing much these days.”

“I wonder if everyone’s got a date.”

“I’m pretty sure everyone has. I guess you haven’t?”

“Then… Yuren! You… you have a date, too?!”

“Don’t be disappointed. There are a lot of people invited today. You might get lucky and find someone.”

“But they’re all great people with crazy backgrounds!”

“You never know… there might be some beautiful women who have bad eyesight…” 

“Damn it…!”

***

“What are you going to do?” Yekin asked.

“I don’t know yet. What are you going to do, brother?” Yeria replied with a tired face. 

“I intend to follow them. After all, our older brother will inherit father’s estate, so there’s nothing to worry about in terms of family succession.”

“I… what would you like me to do?”

Yekin looked at Yeria. She was now a twenty-six-year-old mature lady. Normally, women of her age would have already had at least two children.

Even when she came to this splendid imperial court, her beauty and talent weren’t inferior to any women of the noble families. Additionally, Yeria had taken the top place in the recent Han-Sung Clan’s exam. 

Yekin didn’t know what thoughts she truly had in her heart, but he knew she lived life with unyielding passion and pursuit. In the beginning, she pursued everything screaming and crying because of their father’s will, but later on, she pursued everything for her own enjoyment, always with laughter and a positive outlook.

If she so desired, she’d be able to live a fulfilling, lavish life in the capital. Her daily life would be vibrant and colorful. Although her background wasn’t the best, she would be able to overcome any obstacle with the talent and skill that she had accumulated up to now. She was confident of that herself. It was just that…

“Would I truly be happy if I stayed?”

Yeria shook her head as she already knew the answer to her own question. She had already recognized the pleasure of working with these people and wallowing in rough places together with them with absolute trust and respect. How could she give that up?

Every day with the captains gave her opportunities to see and do refreshing things that women of this era would never have been allowed to do otherwise. A constant cycle of excitement and happiness…

What more could she wish for, except for something that hurts her heart? The two captain’s warning that the future travel would be the most dangerous of all their travels didn’t really matter to her.

Even if it was dangerous, what about it? There was no other alternative…

“Wouldn’t it be less regretful if you followed the opinion of your heart and not your head?”

“Even if I regret it for the rest of my life…?”

“You’ll regret it if you don’t go…”

Having handled the most sensitive information in the imperial courts, the crew members and the captains had a good handle on what was transpiring in the world outside the capital.

They would now start on the path of creating a new nation. They knew that it would be difficult to live in a barren and dangerous place with many slaves. In short…

They would have to give up everything and move to a place where struggle and hardship were 100% ensured.

The two got up slowly. Today was the day that everyone had to state their decisions. It had always been like this.

Ask oneself questions and find one’s own answer. No one would force another. All decisions were respected. Now was the time to make their decisions.

***

The interior area grew noisy. This was a place where people gathered to wash off the accumulated fatigue after a long day’s work. There were always rich stories to tell and hear along with a few glasses of bitter beer.

The times were increasingly becoming ferocious, and the dark shadows of war were sweeping over the continent, but the chaotic developments also meant that places like this would be filled with people who wanted to gather and talk about current affairs.

The names of various heroes and warriors were circulated, and incidents and accidents were passed on from mouth to mouth.

“I’ve always felt it whenever I saw it, but I truly admire the name of this place, ‘Sleeping Place for Soldiers and Ladies’. I guess this is one last goodbye to this place as well.”

“I’ve grown quite fond of this place, too.”

The two walked into a large dining room. The clerk, who recognized their mark, quickly guided them to the gathered party.

If the front of the bar had a noisy atmosphere for the public, the back room was a social space for high-level warriors.

As a space for warriors, the space contained a simple match-up area in the center.

There were already quite a few people sitting here and there, chatting amongst themselves. There were many ladies among the gathered crowd, so the general atmosphere wasn’t rowdy.

If writers and intellectuals mainly enjoy the university’s atmosphere, warriors show off their youthful exuberance and spirit in these places.

The heroes of Essen were welcoming guests at the door. Everyone had a neat and dignified appearance, dressed in full formal wear, as commanded by their two captains.

As if they were the hosts of the banquet…

Those invited to this unusual banquet were exploring each other’s faces. There were nobles, there were influential merchants, and people from the many different workshops.

They went around the room and exchanged greetings with each other.

The paper lanterns projected a red tint on everyone’s face. Everyone had on a smile, as if they were all proud to be associated with the banquet and proud that they were part of the invited

“What event is this? This is the first time I’ve been invited to an event without knowing anything about it,” a man whispered to the woman next to him.

“I agree. Did you come after reading the invitation?” the woman said as she giggled.

“The invitation stated that it was written and given out as a courtesy, so one didn’t have to feel pressured to come. I wonder if I’m going crazy. Can I really leave?”

“Did you check out who around you were invited?”

“There were surprisingly many people I know who didn’t get an invitation. They didn’t show it outwardly, but they all seemed quite anxious about not receiving an invitation.”

“So, you came here to find out. You don’t know what this is about, and you haven’t been able to gather any info either.”

“That’s the gist of it.”

“It’s the same for me as well.”

The conversation stopped for a moment. Large processions of people were passing them by. The man spoke up again first.

“Everyone invited seemed to be the most exceptionally skilled in their respective fields.”

“Yes, they’re all the cream of the crop.”

The woman narrowed her eyes and continued looking around the banquet hall.

“It’s weird though, there’s a wide variety of social classes represented here. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen such an event where so many different class members have gathered in one place. They don’t seem to have anything in common. There must be a purpose, but I have no idea what it may be.”

“It definitely is an eclectic bunch. I wonder what they’re going to show us this time?”

“I was really surprised at the previous banquet’s theme, ‘Masked Ball’. The one held last winter. I wonder how they could have thought of that…”

“There’s no one who doesn’t know about that banquet. The theme spread like a pandemic, even becoming the banquet theme of choice for commoners.”

“Because it’s really fun. It was the first time I knew there was such an informal and secret freedom one could enjoy at a formal gathering.”

The man drenched his parched neck with a drink and spoke in a low voice, “By the way… the last title conferment ceremony and banquet was canceled, right? Is today’s meeting regarding that? Like an apology or make-up for that time…?”

“I heard earlier that the title conferment ceremony was postponed and not canceled. Also, their title…”

The woman carefully looked around her before continuing in a whisper, “… I heard that they’d be conferred the Grand Duke title.”

“What? Grand Duke? Surely not! They would be allowed to establish their own dynasty? Their own nation-state?”

The man looked at the woman with a surprised face. Grand Duke was a higher title than Duke. However, Grand Duke was more than just a title.

It was a title that represented the oath with the emperor and signified the emperor’s absolute trust in the title’s receiver. It had only been given out to imperial family members and officials who had founded the empire. Naturally, the title ‘Grand Duke of the Empire’ was very rare.

Grand Dukes and Princes were allowed to have independent military units and separate political systems. They could form military, political, and economic alliances with the imperial family but could not deny the emperor’s request.

“The Grand Duke is a completely different level of a title, right? There are rumors circulating that the emperor may even entrust the two with the Imperial Legion. Rumors abound, but nothing is for certain.”

“Surely! What would his majesty the emperor confer on these people with the titles of Grand Duke? Also, wouldn’t there be an uprising from the other nobles?”

“It’s strange, but no one seems to be objecting. And, taking a closer look at who these people are, have you ever seen such a wide variety of nobles gather like this with such a weird invitation?”

The woman glanced here and there and then pointed her chin to one side.

“Aren’t the outfits of those people over there representing the Essen estate?”

“Hmm… yes, it is the Essen estate people.”

“If the two become Grand Dukes, they will also…”

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