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    Luoyang Sword House,

    Elder Yeom’s Training Ground.

     

    “Now, you all understand, right?”

    Yeom Baekha, known as the Executioner Princess and a Law Enforcer, was explaining.

    “The training you are receiving now is due to a special training period declared by the main house’s Judiciary Council.”

    In front of her were dozens of martial artists sitting closely together.

    “This is intended to strengthen the discipline of the main house following the recent incident in the inner court. Have you all understood so far?”

    A martial artist sitting next to a nodding-off companion burst into laughter at her words.

    “Ha-ha, miss. Even we understand that much.”

    Another martial artist also chuckled.

    “We’re not ruffians from the streets of Luoyang…”

    “Isn’t this underestimating us a bit?”

    Their chatter caused even the dozing martial artists to pretend to join in the laughter.

    Yeom Baekha sighed and continued.

    “Okay, then I have a question for our well-educated and cultured martial artists. What is the main house’s ‘Supreme Operating Council’?”

    One of the martial artists confidently answered.

    “It’s the most powerful organization, isn’t it?”

    “The scariest place!”

    “And the most important organization!”

    Yeom Baekha covered her face with her hands and sighed.

    If only they were as good at studying as they were with swords, they all might have been Law Enforcers.

    She composed herself and continued the training.

    “The main house’s Supreme Operating Council currently acts as the Acting Head of the main house and is also the name of the current system. It’s the ultimate decision-making body of the main house, with the authority to forcibly intervene in issues that the Elder Council or other subordinate organizations can’t resolve on their own.”

    “…That means it’s the most powerful, right?”

    “It seems like it means the scariest place…”

    “I got it right! It means the most important organization!”

    Yeom Baekha nodded noncommittally.

    “Yes, yes. You all did well.”

    The martial artists clapped enthusiastically.

    Yeom Baekha waved her hand to stop the applause and posed another question.

    “So, does anyone know how many members make up the Supreme Operating Council?”

    “Three members, isn’t it?”

    “…Uh, I thought it was five.”

    Yeom Baekha forced a smile.

    “The answer is ‘nobody knows.'”

    The martial artists booed her.

    “Hey, wasn’t that a trick question?”

    “Ask us how many members there are and then say nobody knows as the answer, are you making fun of us?!”

    “…Sorry about that.”

    “It’s okay!”

    “Anyone can make a mistake!”

    Yeom Baekha’s smiling face twitched slightly.

    “Now, the number of commissioners in the Supreme Operating Council, as well as their identities, are not known. Why do you think that is?”

    “Maybe it’s for their protection!”

    “Being in such important positions, they might not all be skilled in martial arts, so I think it’s a good measure.”

    This time, a more thoughtful answer came back.

    Given that guarding important figures was part of their training, such a response was expected.

    “Yes! Those are good answers.”

    Everyone clapped happily.

    “Now, now. But the most important reason is to prevent the concentration of all power in their hands.”

    Yeom Baekha continued her explanation in a gentle tone.

    “They possess immense authority, but in exchange, they must keep a vow of silence, never revealing their identity to anyone, anywhere.”

    “…Oh, then they can’t even brag about it anywhere.”

    “Hmm. Then I wouldn’t want to do that. Being successful is the only thing my mother brags about.”

    “…Ah, yes. They are making a noble sacrifice for the Luoyang Sword House.”

    One of the martial arts chiefs sitting at the front stood up and exclaimed.

    “So we all must follow their example and arm ourselves with the spirit of true martial artists, embodying an endless spirit of sacrifice for the main house! Do you understand?!”

    Everyone responded loudly and energetically.

    Yeom Baekha felt like collapsing right there.

    ‘Ah, I want to quit this training right now…’

    Regardless of her owner’s suffering, Baekho, the white tiger, was joyfully hopping around the training ground. 

    * * *

    Luoyang Sword House.

    Elder Council, Great Hall.

     

    Following the statement of the Inner Court Supervisor, a recess was again declared at the request of the elders.

    Elders, grouped according to their factions, were whispering among themselves.

    “It’s been a while since the Inner Court Supervisor spoke up.”

    “Maybe it’s because of the big clash with the Eldest Young Master this time?”

    “Is that man someone who would blink over such a thing?”

    “At least his pride must have been hurt. The Eldest Young Master practically held a departure ceremony in his front yard.”

    Elder Yeom’s faction was also engaged in conversation.

    “What happens if the Supreme Operating Council unexpectedly lifts the Eldest Young Master’s seclusion?”

    “Do they have any reason to do that?”

    “Let’s just discuss the possibility.”

    “If we think about it, even if they lift the seclusion, as long as a civil war is prevented, it shouldn’t harm neutral factions like us.”

    Elder Yeom spoke up.

    “Besides, the Eldest Young Master’s seclusion is bound to end at some point.”

    Everyone nodded in agreement with his words.

    “Right. He has his ‘marriage engagement.'”

    “Then, wouldn’t the Supreme Operating Council try to retrieve the head’s seal somehow? The seclusion isn’t the real issue.”

    “Would the Eldest Young Master exchange his seclusion for the head’s seal?”

    “I certainly wouldn’t if I were in his shoes.”

    “The discussion is getting nowhere.”

    “The problem is that neither they nor the Eldest Young Master can predict each other’s judgments and actions, isn’t it?”

    Elder Yeom interjected.

    “Perhaps the solution to this issue will become clear once we observe their decisions.”

    Their gazes turned towards the elders of 2nd Young Master and Sam Gongja’s factions, the ones Elder Yeom was referring to.

    * * *

    “We agree to raise this matter to the Supreme Operating Council!”

    “We also concur!”

    The elders belonging to Elder Yeom’s faction nodded their heads.

    “It seems Elder Yeom’s prediction was correct.”

    “They wouldn’t make a decision that harms the successors they serve.”

    “They must be confident that the Supreme Operating Council will stop the Eldest Young Master.”

    “We have no grievances against the Eldest Young Master, but…”

    “Still, we can’t just let someone who could cause a civil war, the worst-case scenario, roam free.”

    “Then let’s also express our agreement.”

    Elder Yeom nodded his head.

    However, he felt conflicted inside.

    If the Supreme Operating Council summoned the Eldest Young Master, what conversations they would have and how they would clash was beyond his prediction.

    But it seemed obvious that the Supreme Operating Council, positioned at the pinnacle of power within the Luoyang Sword House, would significantly restrict the Eldest Young Master in some form.

    That was the reason for his unease.

    Deep down, he hoped for an outcome where the Eldest Young Master would be confined within Wongak Pavilion.

    That would greatly reduce the burden regarding his daughter’s treatment.

    He remembered what Yeon So-Hyeon had said that day.

    “I am merely a physician and a swordless one, but what about you? Can you just be a father to a child?”

    As he clenched his teeth, the vote began.

    * * *

    “The matter will now be raised to the Supreme Operating Council!”

    The Head of the Council of Elders forcefully tapped the gavel.

    The decision was made.

    “Now, let’s move on to the next item, related to internal reforms of the main house, due to the recent unfortunate incident in the inner court….”

    It took barely an hour for the Council of Elders to grasp the situation regarding the Eldest Young Master and reach a conclusion.

    * * *

    As the regular meeting of the Council of Elders concluded, the elders who had been confined rushed out of the Great Hall.

    “Well then, I’ll see you at the next regular meeting.”

    “Take care until then.”

    Exiting the Great Hall, they returned to being the dignified, cultured elders that they were known to be.

    As they dispersed to their respective paths, one of the elders telepathically asked Elder Son.

    ‘Your earlier words, they were true, weren’t they?’

    Elder Son, with a smile on his face, replied.

    ‘Do not worry. The Supreme Operating Council will never leave the head’s seal in the hands of the Eldest Young Master.’

    ‘Can I trust that?’

    ‘Of course.’

    He sent the telepathic message with unwavering confidence.

    ‘After all, it’s a direct word from 2nd Young Master, my lord.’

    * * *

    In the empty Great Hall.

     

    “Was this the best decision?”

    The Head of the Law Enforcement Council asked.

    “Was there another way?”

    The Head of the Judiciary Council also inquired.

    “…There were ways. Plenty of them.”

    The Head of the Elder Council sighed.

    “But none of them were the best among the best, were they?”

    “Sending it to the Supreme Operating Council was the best judgment.”

    “If they, who hold all the power and authority, take over, they will prevent the worst outcome.”

    The Head of the Elder Council took a deep breath.

    “That’s the problem. That there was only one option that could be considered the best judgment.”

    His gaze turned towards the main entrance of the Great Hall.

    There was only one main door in the Great Hall.

    Whether leaving or entering, that door had to be used.

    The Head of the Law Enforcement Council spoke up.

    “I heard that this incident in the inner court started with just one surveillance investigator.”

    The Head of the Elder Council nodded.

    “Was his name Kang Ho? I know of him because of my acquaintance with his grandfather.”

    “And it was the Eldest Young Master who specifically summoned that Kang Ho.”

    The Head of the Elder Council sighed.

    “…Ultimately, the Eldest Young Master, by merely moving a single low-ranking surveillance officer, has shaken the entire inner court.”

    The Head of the Judiciary Council spoke in a subdued voice.

    “Moreover, with the premeditated spread of rumors, he left me with no other choice. He forced the Judiciary Council to make that scene in the central square.”

    “It’s unimaginable that a person with no power or influence, who has been in seclusion for ten years, could orchestrate such a thing.”

    The Head of the Elder Council slowly nodded.

    “The Inner Court Supervisor, that old monster, was also caught off guard unexpectedly…”

    “Though everyone here might feel the same, this isn’t because we are hostile towards the Eldest Young Master.”

    “It’s simply because he is an excessively dangerous individual.”

    “While he is at his weakest now, we must cut the problem at its root.”

    “And we have played our strongest card, the Supreme Operating Council, the most powerful tool we can mobilize from the main house. Our judgment is correct.”

    “…Do you all realize?”

    The Head of the Elder Council smiled wryly.

    “We all knew these details and had made our judgments before even having this conversation. Yet, here we are, gathered and discussing what seems redundant.”

    The Heads of the Law Enforcement and Judiciary Councils remained silent.

    It was because they were anxious.

    Despite having made all calculations and taken the strongest action possible,

    The Head of the Elder Council shook his head.

    “…Somehow, it reminds me of the ‘Blood History’ era.”

    There was no response.

    The Head of the Elder Council moved his reluctant steps.

    Towards the only exit.

    “…It’s been a while since I’ve visited the clan elders.”

    Suppressing his reluctance, he deeply sighed under the weight of the oppressive mood.

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