Etranger - chapter 97
“Aren’t those people bored? They’re still following us, right? Are they going to seek revenge?”
“If they had thoughts of revenge, we would have already been attacked. Their intention is probably to find the Count’s goods by following us. They’re probably hoping for us to lead them to where the Dark Guild is hiding our goods,” Biyeon softly replied.
“Isn’t Han-Sung one of the best clans in the world? They couldn’t find the hiding place of a single guild?”
“They’re noble people from birth. I don’t think they’ve ever dealt with life at the bottom. They’ve probably always had someone else to send in their stead to do these types of lowly transactions, so they’ve probably never come here before, no?”
“Hmm… But the situation is different this time? So, they’ve decided to follow us themselves directly?”
“Because, in their minds, dangerous items are likely to be handed over to a rival clan. They’ve come personally even if they hate this kind of place. It’s not like they could spread a rumor about us either since they’re also trying to keep this transaction secret.”
“What should we do?” San asked.
“If we can’t separate from them, we’ll have to use them,” Biyeon replied with a smile.
“Hmm,” the old man, Hanyoung, made a low, contemplative noise.
“They’re going to the left?”
Hanya, a slim-looking woman in her twenties, commented anxiously.
“Isn’t their purpose to buy horses? Why are they going into the general livestock market rather than the horse market?” the man next to her, Hanjun, muttered resentfully while grinding his teeth. He swallowed his dry saliva. Some grounded tooth powder mixed with his saliva as it passed down his throat.
The two looked towards Hanyoung. The messy, odorous mix of manure and blood was definitely not to their taste. In addition, they’d stick out like a sore thumb if they went in with their expensive bright red clothes on. They didn’t want to put themselves in a situation where they would be easily recognized.
However, Hanyoung stood up, looking at the place where the two had disappeared into, and stroked his beard. It was a habit when he pondered something deeply. His mouth trembled for a moment. Something bitter arose from his chest area, but he forcefully pushed it down and swallowed it.
Previously, these three Han-Sung Clan members followed San and Biyeon for ten days. The two seemed to be leisurely traveling. Their pace was very slow. They also looked around like country bumpkins who had never been inside a city before. They could be seen writing things down and sometimes pulling out a strange box the size of their palm, looking at something within.
One day was spent looking at people in the middle of the city square, and on another day, they seemed to waste time at the highest point of the city looking down upon the city. They seemed to move from place to place without any sense of purpose. They had covered a wide swath of area within the city.
“At first, they went into a metal workshop, then they stopped at a cloth shop, and then they stopped at a perfume shop, and then a carpentry shop, to a pharmacy, a book shop, an antique shop, a medicinal herb room… they stopped at every shop that had a signboard. It’s a livestock market now… what are you going to show us this time?” Hanyoung murmured to himself. A laugh suddenly emerged from Hanyoung’s mouth. This excursion was fun. Very interesting! Suddenly, he saw Hanya and Hanjun huffing and puffing beside him.
While following the two for the past ten days, they had constantly entered into the stores and places that the two had exited from. Of course, they asked the store owner about the two people who had exited. Hanya and Hanjun would ask the store owners about what San and Biyeon bought or what they asked for.
Most of the store owners greeted Hanya and Hanjun kindly. The two soon grew to become embarrassed by the store owners’ warm hospitality. In one interaction…
“Ah! You’re the noble Han-Sung Clan warriors! I was waiting for you three.”
“Did you know we’d come?” Hanjun asked with his eyes wide open.
“Yes, of course! I received your request and have the stuff prepared here.”
The shopkeeper held up a small box.
“What is that?” asked Hanjun as he reached out his hand.
“That… it’s… not free…” the owner hesitated while responding.
Hanya, who was next to him, fiercely shouted, “You want compensation?”
“Yes. They said that I must receive compensation from you first…”
Hanjun’s mouth dropped open. Hanya’s face became completely red. 100 Tongbo was their half-year salary.
“Are you kidding us? Isn’t this a scam?” Hanya screamed out.
“Aren’t you curious about what’s inside of the box?” Hanyoung, who was standing behind, asked quietly.
There was a moment of silence. In fact, the high price made them more curious.
“Can I just open it? Can’t we see what it contains before paying the price?” asked Hanjun.
“Then… just take it.”
The owner lady held the box up for them to take. Her face was full of disappointment.
“This… What does this mean? Are you joking around with us?”
“The lady who just left said that the great and mighty Han-Sung Clan members would never make such an underhanded request without paying the full price. It seems they were mistaken.”
The sound of Hanjun gulping was loudly heard. What was going on?
“But, if you want, I was told to hand this to you and receive my commission of 1 Tongbo in the off chance that you’re unwilling to pay the full fee. However, I won’t ask you for the 1 Tongbo commission. And…”
Hanjun’s voice was now trembling. He felt shame and humiliation…
“They said they wouldn’t sell their goods to you even if they had it. They said I had to say this to you. Now, take the box.”
The owner handed over the box. Hanjun stood with the box in his hands and looked at Hanyoung. Hanyoung smiled bitterly and nodded. Hanya took a check out of her pocket. It was a check that was guaranteed by the Han-Sung Clan. Hanya wrote ‘100 Tongbo’, and stamped it with her clan seal, which couldn’t be forged, on both sides of the check. Then she handed the check to the store owner.
“Were there any other words you needed to convey to us?” Hanyoung asked as he received the box being handed over to him from Hanjun.
“If the payment is done, they told me to pass this word on to the elderly gentleman. Since the Count’s children have good medicine, they said that all injured Han-Sung Clan members should join the Count’s people. However, the Count’s children probably don’t know what kind of medicine they have. I don’t know what this means, but I hope you understand.”
Hanyoung opened his eyes wide. Goosebumps started breaking out on his back.
“Not telling us what medicine it is… Hu-Hum! This… they’ve entrusted the Count’s children and crew’s protection to the Han-Sung Clan. For as long as they want, too. If they really have the medicine, money is not a problem.”
Hanyoung opened the small box. There was nothing in it. Hanyoung nodded. The content of this negotiation was to ‘trust’ each other.
‘100 Tongbo is very cheap for what it’s worth…’
Of course, in the series of ‘homework’, ‘landmines’, and ‘legwork’ that followed, the three ground their teeth at San and Biyeon’s vain and roundabout requests…
Hanyoung and his two grandchildren arrived at the fork in the road and were gazing ahead, pacing in front of the fork.
“What should we do?” Hanjun asked his grandfather.
“What do you mean? We have to follow. First of all, let’s change our clothes. Our clothes stand out too much,” Hanyoung simply replied.
“Why did they come here? They’re heading to the animal and horse hospital in the corner of the general market. What’s going on?” Hanya asked.
“I don’t know yet. However, I’m sure they didn’t come to buy meat. After coming here though, I think I’m starting to understand their movements,” Hanyoung said with his eyes narrowed. It was also his first time visiting such a place. However, his head was spinning brilliantly when he arrived at the market. He was admiring the two’s reasoning while recollecting the trajectory of their journey in the past ten days.
‘Because it’s a horse market… horse traders have the mobility to move around the country quickly.’
‘Especially, the nationwide cooperation network of the horse trader’s union is very powerful.’
‘If one follows the supply and demand of horses, one will be able to predict signs of war or the increase or decrease in a territory’s troops…’
‘Slaughterhouses and veterinary hospitals… can legally use drugs such as knives and weapons and anesthetics…’
‘Crucially, no one goes into a place like this if one has status. Yes… yes… it was like that.’
Hanyoung raised his head. He looked at Hanya and Hanjun and said quietly, “If I’m right, the two’s approach seems very wise. In this kind of environment, I would have no choice but to frequent these types of areas if I were part of the Dark Guilds.”
“Hu-Uk! Who, who are you?”
“Once you know, you’ll die. Do you still want to know?”
Yesil trembled at the feeling of something sharp and deadly approaching her throat. However, the eerie feeling disappeared as she started falling unconscious. This all happened while her sister and brother went out for a while to greet someone who came to them.
“May I ask what this is?” Yekin asked, looking at the object delivered by an unexpected visitor.
Yeria’s eyes brightened as she stood beside him. It was something she knew very well. It was a small leather handicraft engraved with Count Essen’s crest.
The problem was that it was an item contained in a box that was stolen 15 days ago. Yekin was staring at the visitor with sharp eyes. He was a man in a normal merchant outfit. There was nothing unusual about the visitor.
“I don’t know either. I’m a store owner in the corner of that alley, and I came on an errand for someone who came by my stall during the day. He told me to deliver the goods to you two at this time. He handed over this object and left the following statement, ‘The deal will be in three days, so please wait.’ That’s all I was told. I’ll take my leave.”
The store owner handed over the goods, finished talking, and left.
“Deal? Three days later? What does that mean?”
Yekin looked at Yeria anxiously.
“Does it mean to hand over all the items we have left?” Yeria asked anxiously.
Yekin shook his head, unable to understand what this deal was about.
However, they learned the details of the deal when they returned to their accommodation.
Yekin and Yeria screamed like crazy.
The youngest Yesil had disappeared, and the back door had an opening as if the wooden door had been cut like a piece of paper with scissors.
A note written in blood was left on Yesil’s table.
‘If you don’t bring out the hidden goods, your sister’s head shall be made public to all the world. I will contact you in three days.’
“This whole situation is giving me a headache.”
Maheim, the leader of the Dark Guilds, sighed. He leaned against a simple animal skin sofa, but he didn’t look like he was very comfortable. He opened his eyes. He thought that the red evening sky dipping down over the low fence was a beautiful sight.
However, its beauty was short-lived. Already, a long shadow was creeping in, bringing in the darkness. He was in a place where one could see the grasslands of the horse market. The area had a few scattered houses.
All kinds of vines and dry grass were woven into the ceiling of his house, and the walls were made with stones and soil to prevent anyone from looking inside. This was where people working in the livestock market lived. However, there was another world here that the world didn’t know about.
He was one of the people of that world. A place where information from the world gathers, a place that raises spies and assassins, where people deal with the dark things of the world, and a place where people handle all kinds of biological weapons and technology needed for intelligence warfare… It just might be that they were the scariest people in the world. An invisible sword is much scarier than a visible one.
Maheim was looking out at the grasslands with a frown on his face. The Archon material operation, which was devised with the help of his son, Sedum, had failed. So, he was worried. Although more than fifteen days had passed, his worries had not been resolved.