Etranger - Chapter 181

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“…”

“Is it too loud?”

San asked again. A slight crinkle started to form around his eyes as he smiled. However, he still had a serious expression on his face. He wasn’t joking around.

“Hahaha- It’s not loud at all…”

Rain gave out a small laugh. As if shocked by her sudden laugh, another tear dropped down from her eyes. She felt that his warmth was transmitted from the palm of his hands, which was still grasping firmly to her hand.

She could feel the strong pulsation of his heart from his chest.

San took his hand off of his chest. Rain’s hand slipped out of his grasp like falling sand. As if resolute to maintain a connection, Rain grasped San’s retreating hand.

“??”

With a raised eyebrow, San looked toward Rain. A few of the guests who were looking in their direction showed wide-eyed, surprised expressions. One of the guests raised his hand to his mouth before a sound could come out.

“Do you not hear? This loud sound…”

Rain looked straight into San’s eyes. With his hand firmly in her grasp, Rain had placed their hands atop her left chest. 

“Once you leave… this sound will stop as well, right?”

Everyone’s gaze soon turned to Biyeon. However, Biyeon was nowhere to be found.

‘The early evening wind is so pleasant…’

Biyeon placed her hand on the balcony’s railing and took in the outside scenery with a slight smile on her lips.

She looked upon the evening scenery with the thought that it was exactly 180 days before the start of their final operation.

Winds of Fortune – Chapter 3

After Rain’s birthday party, some of the guests gathered together once more the next day. This time around, they met at a specific location with only a few members from the party.

The atmosphere was drastically different from yesterday. There were large maps affixed to the walls and scaled models of various areas and battlefields.

Rain was not present for today’s meeting.

“Great! Truly great!”

Gibin couldn’t help but constantly exclaim. The others within the room had reddened faces.

“I’ve never seen a map like this. It’s so detailed with only the most necessary information present,” the merchant, Dobel, commented while taking a gulp. The map detailed the borders between the empire and the smaller kingdoms, nations, and other surrounding powers. There were also clear lines that denoted the travel routes, the specialties produced in each area, the number of various resources stored in certain locations, population and household data, and the location and names of important landmarks and markets.

Furthermore, there was information of foreign troop movements, base locations, time distance calculations, the average climate during certain seasons… for merchants, this sort of map would be more than its weight in gold. The map would be priceless.

“This is only a part, right?” Dongha asked Biyeon. Next to Dongha, Giyoung also awaited Biyeon’s answer. They were both talented information specialists. 

Biyeon briefly answered, “We created different versions based on their use.”

“You have one for military purposes as well, I presume?”

Biyeon nodded her head.

“We created maps based on clans, military movement for defense and offense, mercenary and other organization locations, commerce, and even those that detail where the different beings, non-humans, are located. I can’t show you them right now, but we also have maps that detail the number of resources in each area. We collected, organized, and analyzed a large amount of data to pinpoint how many horses, slaves, temples, and other items are located in each area.”

“Then, not only the empire, but everything that goes on in this continent… you know…”

“This is just the start.”

“Oh my goodness! This sort of thing could only be seen in fictional stories or in temple museum’s…”

Giyoung exclaimed out loud before covering her mouth. The others within the room must have had the same thought as they turned their heads towards San at the same time.

“Is this all true?” Gibin asked. Unlike his usual self, he was very serious.

“Yes.”

“Is someone planning to revolt? The empire’s feudal regions?”

“We believe so. There are other reasons as well.”

“We’ve heard that the southern cities are gathering a large number of mercenaries right now, does that have something to do with all this?”

“This revolt is widespread. It touches a lot of people, from the feudal princes to the capital’s nobility.”

“Hmm…”

One could hear exasperated sighs coming out here and there within the gathered room. What San and Biyeon were alluding to was clear.

The start of a period of chaos!

The empire’s rule allowed peace and order to exist for the past five hundred years. Though there were minor skirmishes and battles at the border regions, issues were often resolved by cooler heads of state from the leading empires. 

When Biyeon first arrived in the imperial courts, she felt that this time period mirrored the period in Chinese history when the Han ruled. The system of regional provinces submitting themselves to the more powerful central empire was exactly what happened during the Han period. 

With a firm, central power, the relatively free border regions could be kept in check by each other. However, this form of power division would soon see a tumultuous period unfold.

‘The only difference is that the imperial court here seems more powerful than the Han’s…’

“If the regional princes and nobility revolt, what would be the reason? It’s not like they’re allied with each other… They actually dislike each other very much. What would be the reason for them to join hands and revolt?” Dobel cautiously asked. He was a merchant who often dealt with information. No matter how much he thought, he couldn’t figure out how the feudal princes and their people would benefit in revolting against the central government.

The empire was still powerful and relatively wealthy. Only merchants like him knew this to be the case. However, why was such a rich and powerful empire preparing for an all-out war if everything seemed to be going their way?

The invited members to this meeting were nervously awaiting San and Biyeon to speak. They wondered why Rain and these two sought them out. They wanted to know what the context was in sharing this information with them. Opportunity and emergency often looked the same.

“What you see isn’t everything. I’m curious about what you’ll think after I lay down a few cases for you to consider,” Biyeon stated first. The constant murmuring settled down as everyone focused their attention on Biyeon. Once everyone was paying attention, Biyeon continued,

“What if the five families who have maintained the empire’s finances and human resources were taken over by a singular enemy? Or if a foreign influence were to affect all five families in some way?”

“…”

The room fell completely quiet. Biyeon spoke in a lower voice,

“What if the southern cities are gathering mercenaries because they’re planning for more than a land grab?”

“…”

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“What if the idea of transferring slave labor to other avenues of production are quickly spreading amongst the cities' masses and intelligentsia?”

“I heard something along those lines in passing, too. Something along the lines of freedom and equality…” someone commented.

“What if the beasts and monsters coming down from the northern Orom Mountains become more fierce and greater in number?”

“…”

“What if there are those among us who look like us and live within our walls but are not like us at all? What if their numbers are exponentially growing even right now? And, what if their prey are humans?”

Biyeon stopped speaking to let what she said sink in.

The room was completely quiet. There was a dry cough here and there, but for the most part, everyone was trapped in their own thoughts. San added his thoughts at this moment.

“And, what if all of this is someone’s plan?”

Gulp-

Someone could be heard audibly gulping within the room. Gibin opened his mouth to speak, “So, what you’re saying is… there’s something or someone huge that’s looking to take over human society? And those things are not human?”

“That’s what we’ve concluded. However, it’ll all start as a human versus human war. Once war starts, amidst the chaos and hatred, everyone will forget why the war even started. Once everyone becomes exhausted and thoroughly run down, those outside influencers will come swooping in to take care of what’s left.”

“Is it a new foreign race?”

Gibin felt as though he wasn’t seeing the complete picture. During humanity's long history of rule on this planet, humans were able to overcome over thirty-six different attacks from foreign, intelligent races.

With the advent of Awakened Warriors, the enlightened human race has been in control of humanity. No foreign race had been able to, in any large scale, compete against the contemporary enlightened human race.

“Do you have proof or any evidence?” Dongyoung asked.

“Everyone here will see it soon.”

“Does the Emperor know?”

“No, we haven’t submitted our final report yet. We’re contending against sly, tricky opponents. We’re still gathering more information and evidence to prove our case. We’re also asking all of you to help out.”

“What does the imperial court request of us? It seems the court wants the assistance of the Absolute Clans…” Dongye stated with a nervous expression.

“Rather than the imperial court, this has more to do with our ongoing business partnerships and joint ventures. This will benefit both of us. We’ll be properly compensated for saving the world,” Biyeon remarked.

Soon…

Everyone within the room began to mentally prepare for a different discussion. They would now hear the current state of humanity and its greatest threat. They would soon see the possibilities and could plan proper countermeasures to ensure their safety and play their part in the overall effort.

However…

Hidden behind everything was a war that they would not be a part of or even know about.

The vampires in the world were still few in number. However, the war with the gods and dragons, with the Devil and the Fallen, and the rest of the Original Beings… it would be a lonely war fought by only San and Biyeon…

***

The advancement of the empire was starting a new chapter. The Emperor started commencing work at a breakneck pace. The somewhat lazy, easy-going nature of people seemed to change overnight. Over the course of a year, thousands of people were sent out to the surrounding provinces to gather information and reaffirm political relations with the empire’s neighbors. 

The Emperor’s many secret forces started mobilizing, seemingly without a chance to take a breath. What lit a fire under the Emperor?

Various different types of maps were made, and an entire hall was converted into an information strategy room where various simulations were being run. Within the room were many novel and original tools used to aid the simulations.

Information regarding the feudal princes, nobility, religious organizations, merchants, mercenaries, military troops, and many other variables were collected, organized, and analyzed.

All of this benefited the Emperor. He would soon be able to obtain the complete picture he desired. Furthermore, San and Biyeon would obtain what they wanted as well. What they would obtain would provide the basis for their life of freedom in this world.

Due to these recent developments, the empire’s communication system was also bolstered.

Offices and patrols for the movement of government officials were established throughout the empire, and a small army was stationed at the various posts.

A lot of horses were needed in serving these great numbers of people and moving parts. The imperial office offered to lease large numbers of horses and slaves from the great families who resided adjacent to the newly established offices and posts. 

Some families agreed and some refused.

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