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    Chapter 25: The Inner Court

     

    The main building of the Inner Court,

    Temporary Joint Investigation Headquarters, Command Center.

    The Chief of the Six Departments of Law Enforcement walked in, smoking a cigarette, holding a bundle of documents.

    “I’ve not been a Chief for many months, but was this position always so busy?”

    The Chief of the First Department of Law Enforcement, stamping approval seals on documents, chuckled.

    “We have to get directly involved in investigations pushed by the higher-ups to achieve the desired speed.”

    The Chief of the Six Departments sighed, placed the bundle of documents on his temporary desk, and sat down.

    “The Central Inspection Department has completely withdrawn. I’ve received all relevant documents.”

    The Chief of the First Department, stamping seals, spoke.

    “Do you remember the person from the Inspection Bureau who started the investigation?”

    The Chief of the Six Departments took out a cigarette and rubbed his forehead.

    “…It was Kang something, that low-ranking investigator, right?”

    “The Inspector Kang Ho. Remember that name.”

    “Why should I remember such a low-ranking individual? But fine, I’ll keep it in mind.”

    “And we’ve received a message from the Execution Court.”

    The Chief of the First Department handed over a document he had just received.

    “They’ve scheduled a public trial for this morning.”

    The Chief of the Six Departments’ mouth dropped open.

    “…This morning?”

    It was unusually fast.

    He browsed through the documents stamped with the Execution Court’s emblem and frowned.

    “We haven’t even finished external investigations or follow-up inquiries, have we?”

    He slammed the documents down.

    “Does this mean they want to sweep this under the rug?”

    He immediately contradicted himself.

    “No, that can’t be it. If so, they wouldn’t push for a public trial. Then…?”

    The Chief of the First Department nodded.

    “It means they plan to severely punish everyone who turns out dirty in the aftermath.”

    The Chief of the Six Departments’ expression turned grave.

    “…Was this really such a big case?”

    The Chief of the First Department’s eyes narrowed.

    “The Execution Court interprets it as the collapse of the main family’s discipline.”

    The Chief of the Six Departments, forgetting to light his cigarette, swallowed.

    “…I laughed it off when I heard the rumors about the cost.”

    He shivered as he recalled last night’s covert message about the Inner Court Supervisor and the Grand Young Master.

    Just then, a member of the Law Enforcement Court knocked and entered to report.

    “The Grand Young Master is leaving. And…”

    He hesitated momentarily.

    “There’s going to be some kind of opening ceremony in the Inner Court.”

    * * *

    Instead of going down to greet the Grand Young Master, the Chief of the First Department opened the window.

    Brilliant sunlight from the sunrise and a cold breeze swept in.

    “Aren’t you going down?”

    Instead of answering, the Chief of the First Department gestured towards the outside, and the Chief of the Six Departments approached the window.

    The temporary command center was located on the third floor corner of the main building, giving them a clear view of the Inner Court’s courtyard.

    “…It’s better not to go down.”

    The courtyard was filled with protocol stewards and maidservants to send off the Grand Young Master, a direct descendant.

    Their orderly appearance with flags and instruments was quite convincing, but that wasn’t the issue.

    “…Inner Court Personnel Secretary, Inner Court Administrative Secretary, Inner Court Security Secretary, Inner Court Foreign Affairs Secretary…”

    The Chief of the First Department listed the titles as he looked down, causing the Chief of the Six Departments to gulp.

    “…The front row is Seventh Rank, the back row is Sixth Rank. These are the highest echelons of the Inner Court.”

    Particularly those of the Seventh Rank in the Inner Court, while they might not receive elder status due to the nature of their work, were essentially considered elders.

    The Chief of the First Department chuckled wryly.

    “Currently, they are treated as elders, but when the Supreme Family Head was active, their will was as good as the Family Head’s.”

    The Chief of the Six Departments, ensuring he was out of sight from outside, spoke while hiding his body appropriately.

    “Now the Supreme Family Head supports the highest operations council. Once the Supreme Family Head steps down, they’ll return to their original positions.”

    “…Right.”

    The Chief of the First Department didn’t believe that the ‘unconscious’ Supreme Family Head would rise again, but he humored the idea.

    It was a truth that could never be revealed to the Six Departments Chief, who had just begun to delve into the deepest parts of the Luoyang Sword House.

    Just how deep the darkness of the Luoyang Sword House was, something he had only begun to understand after becoming an elder.

    Even the First Department Chief was sometimes startled by it.

    “…The Grand Young Master is remarkable indeed.”

    “Yes.”

    The Grand Young Master was casually exchanging greetings with the highest echelons of the Inner Court, accompanied by his maidservants.

    Occasionally, laughter that seemed to stem from jokes he made could be heard all the way to the temporary command center.

    “…It seems that the Inner Court’s highest echelons are not in their right minds to accept the Grand Young Master’s jokes so calmly.”

    Even they, who had investigated the Inner Court, felt uncomfortable descending below due to the awkwardness.

    Especially the highest echelons, who were the main parties accused by the Grand Young Master, should have felt more uneasy.

    Yet, none of them showed signs of surprise, fear, or anger.

    “…After such a sudden inspection and investigation, so many of their subordinates were cut off.”

    The Chief of the Six Departments, experienced and toughened by long years of investigation, was certain.

    On the faces and gestures of those highest echelons of the Inner Court, there were no negative emotions.

    A sense of unease weighed down on him.

    “This is a rare scene, so keep watching.”

    The Chief of the First Department whispered excitedly.

    “What you see now clearly shows the true nature of the Inner Court, the most secretive organization of the main family.”

    “I only feel unease, though…?”

    The Chief of the First Department narrowed his eyes.

    “That unease you’re feeling now is the real face of the Inner Court. Those we investigated are just shameless riffraff unworthy of the name of the Inner Court.”

    “…Are you saying they’ve disguised their emotions so well that it causes unease?”

    “No.”

    The Chief of the First Department calmly explained.

    “They truly do not care.”

    “…They don’t care even if their subordinates are cut off? Isn’t that a characteristic of the powerful?”

    The Chief of the First Department snorted softly.

    “They wouldn’t care even if their fellow top echelon colleagues were beheaded right now. The same goes for their own heads.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “The highest echelons of the Inner Court consider themselves mere parts of the whole. Parts of the organization called the Inner Court. Always ready to be replaced or sacrificed.”

    It was a mindset completely different from what typical powerful individuals would have.

    “No, how can they be so insane…”

    The Chief of the First Department looked at the Six Departments Chief.

    “Has he forgotten what lies behind the main building of the Inner Court?”

    * * *

    Behind the main building of the Inner Court, a small hall.

    In a space as vast as a temple’s main hall, an extremely aged individual sat cross-legged.

    Half-closed, his deep eyes contained depth and madness beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals.

    A middle-aged man with seven gold-threaded tassels at his waist appeared as the side door opened.

    “…Inner Court Supervisor. The lockdown has ended.”

    At the voice of the Inner Court Personnel Secretary, the old man’s eyes fully opened.

    “Is the Grand Young Master leaving?”

    “Yes. As per procedure, we are currently conducting the opening ceremony.”

    The Inner Court Supervisor, referred to as the old monster by Yeon So-hyeon, stood up.

    “With the Grand Duke starting to move, everything will change from now on.”

    “…Everyone here is ready to sacrifice their lives at any moment, like a stray dog.”

    The Inner Court Supervisor slowly nodded.

    “That’s right. Even if the scissors break, as long as the hand is unharmed and the bonsai is undamaged, that’s all that matters.”

    The Inner Court Supervisor murmured softly.

    “Even I am just a pair of scissors…”

    His reference to ‘the hand and the bonsai’ was not about himself.

    Then, a voice came from outside the hall.

    “The Medicine King has come for today’s consultation.”

    Upon the Inner Court Supervisor’s nod, the Inner Court Supervisor Secretary spoke outwards.

    “The Supervisor has granted permission, please let him in.”

    “Yes.”

    Shortly after, the side door opened, and a shabby-looking old man with a bundle entered.

    It was the Medicine King.

    The Inner Court Supervisor bowed his head towards him.

    “Elder, I am in your hands again today.”

    The Inner Court Supervisor Secretary also bowed deeply.

    The Medicine King clicked his tongue softly.

    “You too have it tough at your age.”

    The Inner Court Supervisor smiled.

    “There’s no time I envy your endless vigor more than these days.”

    “…Now that ‘he’ has started to move, does it drain your strength?”

    Watching the Inner Court Supervisor simply smirk, the Medicine King sighed softly.

    “Well, I’ll prepare some restorative medicine for you later. Take care of yourself.”

    The Inner Court Supervisor bowed his head.

    “Now it’s not me who needs it but…”

    “I know without you saying it.”

    The Medicine King passed by the Inner Court Supervisor and entered a long corridor inside.

    “The one you value more than your life, I will protect them with my name on it. Don’t worry.”

    The Inner Court physicians followed the Medicine King into the corridor.

    The Inner Court Supervisor, looking in the direction of the corridor, spoke.

    “…Everything for the Family Head.”

    The Inner Court Supervisor Secretary bowed.

    “Everything for the Family Head.”

    Their location, behind the main building of the Inner Court, was the deepest part of the Luoyang Sword Sect.

    A domain dedicated solely to the Luoyang Sword Sect’s patriarch.

    * * *

    The Chief of the First Department, facing the cold wind, looked at the Inner Court’s courtyard.

    “…Everything they do is solely for the Luoyang Sword Sect’s Family Head. To put it bluntly, they are ‘extreme loyalists to the Family Head’, aren’t they?”

    The Chief of the Six Departments swallowed dryly.

    “…The more I learn about the Luoyang Sword House, the more absurd it seems.”

    The Chief of the First Department chuckled lightly.

    The Six Departments Chief, rubbing the goosebumps on his arm, asked.

    “So, do they all have something to do with… what’s it called…”

    “‘Brainwashing’?”

    “Yes, that. Are they all related to brainwashing? I heard the main family has ‘specialists’ for that…”

    The Chief of the First Department shook his head.

    “I’ve heard that the left-path techniques can only elicit loyalty towards ‘specific targets.’ It has clear limitations.”

    The Chief of the Six Departments nodded.

    “…Then the gap would be too great when the Family Head changes.”

    “Exactly. With a change in the Family Head, all those who should be limbs and organs will become like puppets with their strings cut.”

    The clan had to keep functioning, no matter what happened.

    “…Then it’s even more terrifying. Everyone with such great power willingly ready to throw their lives away?”

    The Chief of the First Department smiled.

    “…Think of the warriors of the main family.”

    “…Hmm.”

    A sigh escaped the Six Departments Chief.

    Assassins fanatically dedicated to loyalty and devotion, ready to sacrifice everything for their clan or lord.

    “…I now understand why the successors fight so fiercely to become the minor Family Head.”

    “Yes. But there’s something I’m still not sure about.”

    “What is that?”

    The Chief of the First Department stroked his beard.

    “Them. The highest echelons of the Inner Court. Why are they all out here since dawn, seeing off the Grand Young Master?”

    The Six Departments Chief’s eyes widened.

    “…Are you saying they didn’t come out just for that opening ceremony?”

    “As far as I know, the opening ceremony is just a standard procedure.”

    Doubt lingered in the Chief of the First Department’s eyes.

    “There’s no need for the highest echelons to pour out like this just for an opening ceremony.”

     

    Dark Heavens Scripture – Volume 3

    END

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