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    The laborers repairing the fence along the outskirts of Wongak Pavilion shared cool water and chatted among themselves.

    “Have you ever heard about those wearing such uniforms?”

    “Yes, I saw them once when I went to repair the Martial Arts Academy. But I don’t know which group they belong to.”

    “Even though they’re just patrolling, you can feel they’re no ordinary warriors.”

    At that moment, a special task force member glanced over at them, as if he had heard their whispering amidst the noisy scene.

    “Whoa…! The water’s cold!”

    “Ahem! Alright, everyone, back to work!”

    As they picked up their picks and shovels to resume their bustling activity, the special task force member sent a telepathic message to his patrolling colleague.

    ‘This… I thought it was just an announcement about the end of the Eldest Young Master’s seclusion, but it’s completely different from what I expected.’

    Even just along the wall they were patrolling, hundreds of workers were bustling about.

    ‘After all, he is the Eldest Young Master of the main family. They must have decided that returning to the previous state would be problematic for the family’s dignity.’

    They continued their patrol, navigating past mountains of materials and dodging passing carts.

    “Huh, really. But still, was there a need for such a massive construction effort, even issuing emergency orders? Would there really be visitors in such a hurry just because the Eldest Young Master, known as the Swordless, has ended his seclusion?”

    ‘…Well, how could we, mere sword-carrying dolts, understand the thoughts of our superiors?’

    ‘Sword-carrying dolts, you say…!’

    ‘Have you read any books other than martial arts or tactics manuals?’

    ‘…And how many have you read, then?!’

    ‘….’

    For some reason, both felt as if they had suffered internal injuries and continued their patrol with a strangely dragging step.

    “One, two, three!”

    In sync with the resounding command, whips cracked in the air.

    The muscles of twenty oxen, linked by thick chains, flexed dynamically.

    As the oxen bellowed loudly, the pillars supporting the main gate of Wongak Pavilion were pulled out, and the entire gate began to crumble.

    “Wow!”

    Even amidst the swirling dust, the workers cheered at the sight of the neatly collapsing gate, exactly as planned.

    Following the engineers’ instructions, cranes moved into position, and pulleys screeched as new pillars were erected with precision.

    Then, carpenters who had been on standby quickly swarmed the area, swiftly constructing a new gate.

    It was a sight to behold.

    With unlimited capital and manpower poured into the project under an urgent command, the unmatched capability of the Luoyang Sword House’s construction division was fully displayed.

    Yet, the expression of Life-Stealing Devil Sword, observing the scene, seemed somewhat melancholic for some reason.

    “Wow, what a spectacle.”

    “With this pace, the construction could be completed in a day or two.”

    The two special task force members, having finished their patrol, approached, admiring the new gate.

    “Captain, we’ve completed our patrol.”

    “Ah, good work. Any unusual findings?”

    “Nothing much, just rescued a few workers who fell on the other side of the fence.”

    “And the back gate of Wongak Pavilion, which had been sealed off because it wasn’t in use, has been opened. It’s under repair.”

    “It was prearranged. We’ve also stationed personnel at the back gate. Did you see?”

    “We did. Everyone’s too caught up watching the construction to pay much attention.”

    The special task force member chuckled.

    “So, they’re building a whole new gate?”

    “It had been neglected for too long. They decided it was better to rebuild it. And over there…”

    Life-Stealing Devil Sword pointed right next to the main gate.

    The workers had finished laying the foundation and were already using cranes to lift the main beams into place.

    “That will be the guardhouse for the main gate.”

    The special task force members nodded.

    “As we patrolled around, we noticed guard posts being constructed everywhere.”

    “…Well, even if our days of easy duty are over, it looks like we’ll have a decent place to serve.”

    Life-Stealing Devil Sword pointed to a two-story building near the main road, closest to the main gate of Wongak Pavilion.

    “And that will be the headquarters for the Wongak Pavilion special task force. The buildings behind it will be repaired and assigned as quarters for the members.”

    The two-story building was surrounded by scaffolding for the external work, with extensive repairs underway both inside and out.

    “Headquarters and quarters, huh…”

    “Hehe. It seems like they’re turning it into a small barracks.”

    “It appears the high-ranking members of the supreme council think quite differently about the Eldest Young Master than we do.”

    Life-Stealing Devil Sword shrugged.

    “…I told you before. The Eldest Young Master is different from what the rumors suggest.”

    The special task force member slowly looked around, smacking his lips.

    “Seeing all this, I’m starting to think maybe you were right, Captain.”

    “But why do you look so glum, Captain?”

    Another member chimed in.

    “Right. Isn’t this all for the Eldest Young Master you admire? Everyone’s going through all this trouble for him.”

    “…It’s nothing.”

    Despite his words, Life-Stealing Devil Sword’s gaze was fixed inside the main gate.

    There, piles of rubble were quickly diminishing under the workers’ efforts.

    “Isn’t that where you used to eat and sleep, in the waiting station for the liaison servants, under the Eldest Young Master’s orders, Captain?”

    “You living in there was like a wild man, no different.”

    Ignoring the chuckling of the two special task force members, Life-Stealing Devil Sword muttered with a hint of regret.

    “…It was a home I had grown attached to, nonetheless.”

    “….”

    The two special task force members gave Life-Stealing Devil Sword a strange look.

    “…The special task force really is a gathering place for oddballs.”

    “A perfectly healthy gentleman in the special task force, and it turns out it’s his head that’s the issue.”

    * * *

    Inside a building along Wongak Pavilion’s main street.

    The meeting that the officers and engineers responsible for the repairs of the buildings around the main street had just concluded.

    As the remaining individuals gathered in small groups, lighting pipes or cigarettes, a well-built officer entered with a pale face.

    “Hey! You’ve worked hard!”

    He responded appropriately to the greetings and approached the group.

    “That woman, the steward of Wongak Pavilion, must be a ghost. And not just any ghost.”

    The officers, who had all had their share of troubles with the steward since dawn, laughed heartily.

    “You said that the steward’s beauty was like that of a fairy from the moon palace and insisted on being put in charge, and now you’re backtracking.”

    “The responsibility of liaising with the steward will be yours until another officer is dispatched and falls for her charms.”

    “No, but…”

    He wanted to find a way out, but there was no escaping the words he had already spoken.

    The well-built officer looked as if he wanted to flee right there and then.

    “Whenever we try to make things go a bit in our favor, she catches on like a ghost. There’s no winning against her.”

    “And when she looks at you with those strange eyes, you feel like a frog hypnotized by a snake.”

    Everyone added their piece, shaking their heads in agreement.

    “There are many fearsome figures in this field, but to become the Eldest Young Master’s steward at such a young age, one must indeed possess such capabilities.”

    The well-built officer, having received a cigarette from another, lit it with a flint lighter.

    “By the way, why are all these buildings along the main road being repaired?”

    “We’re not quite sure ourselves.”

    One of the officers looked outside.

    Beyond the demolished wall, all the buildings along the main road were being repaired without exception.

    “If it’s just about appearances, fixing the exteriors would have sufficed…”

    “I understand the need for barracks for those mysterious experts, but why do all the other buildings need interior renovations too?”

    An older officer, glancing through some documents, spoke up.

    “From what the requirements suggest, they’re intended for waiting areas for visitors and administrative buildings for official business.”

    The others looked bewildered at his explanation.

    “Waiting areas…? Does the Eldest Young Master expect that many visitors?”

    “What does a Eldest Young Master with such modest influence need all these administrative buildings for?”

    “Modest influence? More like none at all, isn’t it?”

    “Maybe it’s preparation for the future, just in case.”

    “…Well, we, who mostly work outside, don’t know much about internal politics.”

    “Even without deep knowledge of internal politics, it’s clear that the Eldest Young Master’s chances in the succession struggle are slim…”

    At that moment, the older officer, tapping out his long pipe, interjected.

    “Don’t you know if you’re unsure about something, it’s better not to discuss it at all? Our department was on a break due to some schedule issues, so having this ‘minor construction’ is something.”

    He was the officer who described a construction involving hundreds of workers and massive funding and resources as ‘minor’.

    It gave a glimpse into the scale at which the Luoyang Sword House’s construction division usually operated.

    Everyone nodded in agreement at his words.

    “Well, as long as our special task allowances are calculated correctly for us…”

    “And our performance records improve, there’s no downside.”

    “Besides, it’s rare to get a chance to work on such a rapid progression task with maximum manpower in cooperation with various departments. It’s beneficial experience-wise.”

    The older officer stood up, dusting off his clothes.

    “Let’s stop worrying about the Eldest Young Master and get back to work, everyone. We can’t afford to dawdle if we want to stay on schedule.”

    * * *

    The first to appear from afar was none other than the Chief Steward.

    Even from a distance, the Chief Steward’s procession was noticeable, with him dressed in luxurious silk garments.

    Upon spotting him, the workers quickly set aside their tools and bowed deeply as a sign of respect.

    Following him, a line of beautiful women emerged, one after another.

    The workers stole glances at the women, who moved with modest grace, and blushed at their beauty.

    All the women were neatly dressed in the maid uniforms of Wongak Pavilion, but peculiarly, each maid had a sword securely tied to her back.

    “Finally.”

    “Our subordinates have arrived.”

    “Hehehe.”

    Il-ryeong and Yi-ryeong whispered to each other behind Jung-ah.

    They seemed uninterested in the Chief Steward who had raised them, their attention solely on the maids who would now be under their charge.

    Of course, even while doing so, the twin maids did not forget to maintain their dignified poise and demure expressions.

    “Head Maid.”

    “Chief Steward.”

    Jung-ah and the Chief Steward exchanged polite greetings.

    The Chief Steward unfolded a document and began to speak.

    “Based on the urgent orders from the main family’s supreme council, the Steward Department hereby transfers a total of fifty maids to Wongak Pavilion as requested.”

    His expression was strictly businesslike, but Jung-ah could see through him.

    He was elated at the opportunity to be of service to his lord.

    Jung-ah politely accepted the document from him and smiled.

    “The lord is waiting, please come inside.”

    “Hmm. Yes, that would be best.”

    The Chief Steward cleared his throat a few times and quickly followed behind Jung-ah.

    He had been secretly worried that Jung-ah, amidst her busyness, might just take the maids and send him back.

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