Chapter 35

“The overall form of the outer wall is in a square shape. The distance between the left and right is approximately 700 to 800 meters. There are two gates on opposite sides, and they’re both open now. It seems that there’s a market on the left, as I can see people coming and going. The layout is much better divided and planned than I thought… It could even be called a small city. There seems to be a standing army as well. Based on how this side looks, the other side must be quite a large farmland…”

They sat down in a relaxed position and analyzed their observations. Taking their professional characteristics into account, this work of data collection and information processing would probably take a long time.

At least a week or more would be needed to properly conduct in-depth observation and reconnaissance during the day. Night reconnaissance and infiltration would be conducted at night. That’s how they worked. They never moved without proper preparation.

On a dark night, they started to move.

It was night infiltration, an operation they hadn’t done in a long time. Despite being in complete darkness, they moved naturally.

Dressed in simple clothes with one sword on their backs, they lightly jumped over the twenty-meter-long moat and then quickly climbed up the rough stone wall. It was much easier scaling a wall than the slippery trees they climbed up and down last year.

The first day’s reconnaissance area was the space between the castle’s outer and inner wall.

Guards were standing or patrolling, but San and Biyeon’s movements were well hidden in the darkness of the night. As they were fast and stealthy, it would have been difficult for even an experienced warrior to find them. Besides, they weren’t impatient like intruders, who often made mistakes.

[There’s no light, so it’s definitely easy to penetrate.]

[It’s not common sense to penetrate through such a confined, guarded space at night. Standing guard is just a formality. It’s just about maintaining the minimum amount of security.]

They walked around the castle for about three hours. They stopped by all the important places they pre-selected. They also borrowed (?) some clothes and other items. Of course, they didn’t intend to return it to the original owners.

Four days passed.

They still didn’t rush. As they moved from mountaintop to mountaintop, they constantly observed the castle and its surroundings through different angles and perspectives. Every night, they searched every nook and cranny in and out of the castle and the access road leading to the estate. For them, the city’s complexity seemed very simple.

Compared to Korean cities, this place was the size of a medium neighborhood. There was no great difficulty in getting acquainted with all the features and topography of the castle, including the overall layout of all the buildings within the walls.

The two never forget their goals. If their goal was to simply destroy or occupy the castle, they wouldn’t have prepared so carefully. They would have just grasped the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy. However, their goal was different. They wanted to seep in and become normal beings living in this world. To do that, there was a lot of information that they must collect and know.

Before making contact with the people here, Biyeon saw the need for a context-specific scenario to refer to. They not only needed to memorize facts but theorize and logically come to conclusions from a full understanding of that scenario.

She didn’t know how much of a shock or reaction they would receive if they entered in as strangers right now. From the moment one meets and mixes with people, things will flow out of one’s control.

Surely, they would stand out.

Their goal was to blend naturally without these natural inhabitants taking them to be ‘too’ special. Though it sounded very simple, it was difficult to be ordinary. They needed to find the right compromise. They persistently assessed and reassessed their analysis. They also had to understand the logic of this unfamiliar space.

Much later in the future, Biyeon recalled this period and their thought process in this way,

‘The basics of information and data collection is to pick out what is repeated and what isn’t. We started by figuring out the cycles and patterns of that place. A ‘cycle’ is something repeated over time, and a ‘pattern’ is a repeated action within a defined space. Cycles and patterns always exist in everything, especially communal life. If one can understand and discern between the big and small cycles and between the small and big patterns, then the overall situation is somewhat ‘understood’.’

San retold it in this way.

‘What we had to discover were ‘rules’. What rules are in this place and how those rules are followed? Based on the observed rules, we can come to a conclusion about the people and place. Is the place heavy-handed? Is it light? Should I be in a hurry or should I go slowly? If you decide to act, what’s the best case and what’s the worst case? Is your action going to create a small or large impact?

I always look at things under the condition of 10 categories: large, small, total, part, top, bottom, left, right, before, and after. All situations have specific conditions in these ten categories. This method of judgment is very informative and familiar. I think of this standard, like instinct, in all matters. Because of this habit, I didn’t panic even in an unfamiliar situation.’

It was the 10th day since they started scouting the site. The season had fully entered into spring. The sun hung in the middle of the sky.

San was observing the city with his eyes wide open. Biyeon was also watching a situation unfold in the city. Her eyes twinkled.

“The situation is pretty good for us, right?”

“I think so. We might be able to try something today.”

“All of the hunting groups are starting to go into the city.”

“Is it because of the ‘event’ that the security guards talked about yesterday? I think it was something like a hunting party…”

“Based on the diversity of people I see, I wouldn’t think we would look unique. Let’s go now!”

They brought out their outfits. They changed from their military uniforms to the clothes they borrowed (?) while on recon. The clothes were completely altered, combining the clothing that they borrowed and the inner skins of animals that they caught. Their rifles were rolled up in leather and placed over their shoulders. Only their sword was put in a leather sheath and attached to their belts.

Episode 2. Book 1: Exploration – Chapter 4

Batis, a third-class warrior guarding the gates of Count Essen’s castle, tilted his head. He closely scanned the man and woman standing in front of him.

‘They’re young people… their style of dress is pretty interesting. In terms of size, he must be a hunter from the north, but his looks are like those from the mid-land area… Hmm- They both have pretty handsome faces. Are they the descendants of the people who were said to have migrated north of the Orom Mountain Range during the last war? By the way, they’re sure carrying a lot of luggage. Are they all hunting tools?’

“Are you here for the hunt?” asked Batis, unable to bear his curiosity.

“Yes?”

“I said, did you come to hunt?”

“Exactly,” San answered.

He felt that understanding this guard’s question was tremendously difficult. It was like a Seoul citizen listening to a regional dialect.

“Are there only two of you?”

“Yes.”

This time, Biyeon replied. Batis opened his eyes wide in surprise while turning to her.

A woman with such a short haircut. She also said that she was a hunter… Looking closer, he saw a beautiful woman with a clear, attractive facial line. He couldn’t understand what weapon, amongst the ones visible, was suitable for her. His eyes fell on a short dagger hanging from her belt.

‘That must be her main weapon,’ he thought. Was she trying to catch rabbits?

“Go over there. That’s where people who are unaffiliated with a clan are gathering.”

There were already many people gathered in the direction Batis pointed at. Most of them were people from outside the country who came specifically for this hunt.

“They all have rough impressions and are holding long weapons. What are they hunting? We’re here because we’re unaffiliated, but I still don’t understand,” he murmured with a smile on his face.

“Let’s join them. I don’t think there’s anything particularly interesting to observe yet.”

Biyeon also looked around with a smile. They started walking towards their assigned unaffiliated group meeting area. It was an area where they came countless times on night reconnaissance. However, seeing the area during the day, many other aspects started standing out.

The class differences separating people, their specific ways of thinking and behaving… everything felt unfamiliar.

‘It’s a class society. That’s why even if the hardware looks the same, if the software is different, it becomes a completely different world…’

The two went through the outer gates of the castle and made their way to the left square. Small, open squares and buildings could be seen on both sides of the main street.

On their right, a rather large group of people were seated together, enjoying their food and conversation. They were probably high-ranking officials or people belonging to an organization called warriors. The atmosphere was neat, and everything looked luxurious.

On their left, a variety of people dressed in distinctive clothes made up an eclectic, diverse group. It was as if they were looking at a museum exhibition that detailed the various ethnicities of the world.

The smell of horses, livestock, poultry, and people mixed with the newly formed mud created an overpowering smell.

The square became a chaotic frenzy of activity. Seats were spread out all over the square and people were busy selling and buying things worth money.

Fur, dried meat, teeth, bones, medicinal herbs, etc. were scattered throughout. The specialties from these foreign hunters and merchants attracted the attention of rich buyers.

For citizens during this period, moving from place to place was dangerous, so the incoming of all these foreign wares was an enjoyable sight to see.

All of the children were happy since it was their opportunity to see foreign products.

The two looked around with curious eyes. Every place where people live is similar. San and Biyeon walked slowly through the crowd but kept their ears wide open. They focused on listening to all the sounds and conversations spoken in the square.

They collected a tremendous amount of information. Throughout the morning, they had snooped around and listened to people’s conversations. Now their speech sounded pretty familiar to the natives.

“Where did you young people come from?”

A man who was completely wrapped in fur asked from his seat inside a stall. He seemed to be in his late 50’s. Next to him was a young man in his twenties, most likely his son, and a young man and woman.

Based on first impressions, they seemed like typical hunters -- people who were tough and strong but innocent in their own way. These types of people were good towards those who were willing to cooperate and fierce against hostile people. The woman with dark skin and large eyes seemed to have come with this group for business rather than hunting purposes.

“I come from the north,” answered San naturally.

“Hmm… the north. You came from a very rough place. The north is so barren that it’s hard to see people. But the way you speak reminds me of those from the midlands. Are you descended from people who moved up north thirty years ago?”

“I do not know. I’ve been hunting since I was young and grew up in the mountains. I learned to speak from a midland person for about a year. Even now, I’m not good at talking and don’t know much about the world.”

“I see. Then this is the first time you’ve come out into the world?”

“…”

Instead of answering, San looked at Biyeon. She was looking down at the stall’s wares with an interested expression. She was probably thinking of ways to convert their wares into currency.

Currency is the absolute necessity to survive in any society. What could be converted to currency in this world?

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