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    Second Miss stood under the bright moonlight, roughly scratching her head.

    “Damn. I ended up losing him…”

    From the beginning, she hadn’t expected ‘that Life-Stealing Devil Sword’ to easily engage in a duel with her.

    Nevertheless, regret was still regret.

    “That fellow doesn’t deserve the name of being a member of the same ‘Sword Forest’.”

    “Second Miss.”

    A calm voice came from behind her as she grumbled.

    “If you’re planning to stay the night, shall I prepare a bed for you?”

    It was the voice of the Head Maid, Jung-ah.

    “Hmm. I don’t really care about a bed, but…”

    Second Miss slowly turned around and looked at her younger brother’s Head Maid.

    “How did you find me standing in such a remote place?”

    The place she had reached while chasing Life-Stealing Devil Sword was already so remote that it was embarrassing to call it the garden of Wongak Pavilion.

    At her question, the Head Maid smiled enigmatically in the darkness.

    “It’s because I’m the Head Maid of this Wongak Pavilion.”

    Second Miss Yeon Seo-rin felt as if the Head Maid’s eyes were emitting a golden light.

    “I felt something was strange from the beginning…”

    Yeon Seo-rin rubbed the goosebumps that had risen on the back of her neck and said,

    “You…”

    Her gaze became as sharp as a blade.

    “What exactly are you?”

    ***

    Dozens of days ago.

    Seongdo, Sichuan Province.

    The Prefect governing Seongdo under the Emperor’s order asked his daughter, who was about to embark on a long journey,

    “…Do you have no intention of returning?”

    In recent times, it was a conversation that had been repeated several times between the two.

    “…”

    Sanggwan Nanhwa merely nodded with a stiff expression, without giving a specific answer.

    “…I see.”

    The Seongdo Prefect had to accept that he now had no choice but to send his daughter out into the rough and tumble world.

    “Will you seek refuge with 4th Young Master of the Sword House?”

    “…Yes. 4th Young Master of the Sword House is someone who can sufficiently exert influence in Sichuan.”

    At those words, the Seongdo Prefect nodded his head but brought up something that had been bothering his mind.

    “In case, though I don’t know if such a thing will happen…”

    Facing Sanggwan Nanhwa’s puzzled expression, the Seongdo Prefect continued.

    “If you have the chance to meet the Eldest Young Master of the Sword House, make sure to meet him.”

    “The Eldest Young Master…?”

    Sanggwan Nanhwa put aside the term ‘Swordless Expert’ for now.

    There must be a reason for her father, who was considered timid by those around him due to his overly cautious personality, to bring up the Eldest Young Master.

    “I haven’t had the personal opportunity to know that Eldest Young Master, but…”

    Sanggwan Nanhwa’s eyes deepened at her father’s ensuing words.

    ***

    Present.

    Wongak Pavilion, Eldest Young Master’s Office.

    “Eldest Young Master. Do you perhaps remember Elder Ju, who served as the Imperial Scholar at the Imperial Court?”

    At Sanggwan Nanhwa’s words, Yeon So-hyeon lightly tapped his knee.

    “Of course. Of course I remember him.”

    He was someone Yeon So-hyeon had steadily maintained ties with since childhood through letters and such.

    “Then that person is…?”

    Sanggwan Nanhwa nodded.

    “Yes. I heard that person was my father’s benefactor.”

    Only then did Yeon So-hyeon, understanding why Daseollang had so readily accepted his invitation instead of 4th Young Master’s, make a wry smile.

    “…It seems that person embellished my image with nonexistent words.”

    “…At first, I also thought it was a hard-to-believe story.”

    It was a story the father had brought up with doubt even at the moment of sending off his daughter, whom he didn’t know when he would see again.

    The story of organizing and condensing hundreds of medical texts at such a young age.

    The story of promulgating new agricultural methods.

    The story of reading the heavens, observing the weather, and preventing the starvation of countless commoners.

    If the person who had conveyed that story hadn’t been his benefactor, the Seongdo Prefect would never have believed it.

    “Now that I’m directly meeting the subject of that story, it’s difficult to simply think of it as an exaggerated tale.”

    Sanggwan Nanhwa covered her mouth and smiled softly.

    “…Well, it wasn’t such a big deal.”

    Even though Sanggwan Nanhwa had said it to praise Yeon So-hyeon, he didn’t look particularly happy.

    “I just did my best in that moment.”

    What was the bitterness permeating that tone?

    “Rather than that…”

    When Sanggwan Nanhwa was about to make a puzzled expression, Yeon So-hyeon had already moved on to the next topic.

    “I’ve heard your story sufficiently well.”

    Now, only the Eldest Young Master’s decision remained.

    Led by Sanggwan Nanhwa, the spines of all the Daseollang members straightened.

    “For this Eldest Young Master to become the new representative of Daseollang…. To be honest, I didn’t expect things to unfold so smoothly.”

    Thanks to that, his plan was progressing much more favorably.

    “Nevertheless…”

    With a small smile, Yeon So-hyeon slowly shook his head.

    “Before accepting your proposal, I must lastly explain this Eldest Young Master’s current situation to you.”

    Sanggwan Nanhwa nodded with a stiff face.

    “We’re listening attentively.”

    “I’m well aware that you have arrived in Luoyang, and at this Wongak Pavilion, after overcoming immense hardships and adversity.”

    Yeon So-hyeon slowly but clearly explained the situation Daseollang was facing.

    “But the moment you become entangled with this Eldest Young Master, the moment you become entangled with this Luoyang Sword House, you will feel that everything you experienced at the hands of Emei Sect was nothing.”

    It was an unambiguous warning.

    “You must also be well aware of the conflict related to the succession struggle in this Sword House.”

    Daseollang had already gathered and shared sufficient information about the situation of the Luoyang Sword House before departing for Luoyang.

    Nevertheless, the might of the Luoyang Sword House they had witnessed today, the prestige and scale of the Luoyang Sword House they had witnessed today, was beyond their expectations.

    “The moment you entrust the position of Daseollang’s representative to this Eldest Young Master, you will be embroiled in the power struggle of the world’s greatest family.”

    A twisted smile rose on Yeon So-hyeon’s lips.

    “Even at this very moment, the one this Eldest Young Master ‘let go’ is busily meeting with those in key positions at the main family, rapidly escalating the situation.”

    ***

    Somewhere in the Luoyang Sword House.

    “Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.”

    The Deputy Armory Director whispered in a low voice to the elder sitting in front of him.

    “That tenfold amount is an amount the Eldest Young Master absolutely cannot handle in the short term if the joint venture with 4th Young Master goes awry.”

    As the elder nodded his head with a ‘hmm’, the Deputy Armory Director spoke with an even stronger tone.

    “It’s the Eldest Young Master’s first move.”

    He chattered, spitting saliva.

    “If he stumbles from that very first move, what will happen? The Eldest Young Master will be distanced from the succession struggle from the start!”

    And the Armory Director, who pushed the loan onto the Eldest Young Master while taking all the responsibility, would have no choice but to step down.

    “If there are necessary funds, who am I? Just tell the Deputy Armory Director of this Sword Houses Armory as much as you need!”

    The position of Armory Director seemed to be within his grasp.

    “I’ll lend you as much as you need right away!”

    ***

    “The second brat, whose conflict with this Eldest Young Master is growing fiercer by the day, will absolutely not miss this opportunity.”

    Yeon So-hyeon smiled, baring his teeth.

    “Not only that, all those who have been gnashing their teeth at this Eldest Young Master will pounce with blades in their mouths.”

    Yeon So-hyeon’s gaze turned to each member of Daseollang.

    “Even so, do you want to hand over the representative position to this Eldest Young Master? You will all fall into a battlefield unlike any you have ever experienced.”

    A heavy question, asking them to stake their lives.

    Silence hung in the office.

    But that silence didn’t last long.

    “By any chance, do you have the business plan for that joint venture?”

    “Of course.”

    At Sanggwan Nanhwa’s question, Yeon So-hyeon readily took out a stack of documents.

    “We’re not accustomed to competing in political power.”

    Receiving those documents, Sanggwan Nanhwa said,

    “If the Sword Houses power players saw us, we would undoubtedly appear merely cute. But…”

    Daseollang passed the documents to each other, reviewing the business plan Yeon So-hyeon had established.

    “As businesswomen, we can predict the prospects by looking at a business plan.”

    They raised their voices at each other, whispered, widened their eyes, and even clapped.

    Yeon So-hyeon gave Daseollang ample time to review his plan and exchange opinions.

    After the cup of tea placed in front of him was emptied, Sanggwan Nanhwa spoke as the representative.

    “The business plan has sufficient prospects.”

    Yeon So-hyeon smiled brightly.

    “Just sufficient?”

    Sanggwan Nanhwa smiled.

    “If we refine this plan, it will become perfect.”

    At that confidence, the smile on Yeon So-hyeon’s lips deepened.

    “Not everything will unfold according to plan, right? Especially with the opposition’s interference being no joke.”

    Smiles appeared on the faces of Daseollang.

    “Like we said, we’re weak in political fights.”

    “Isn’t it the representative, the highest leader, who should resolve such matters?”

    “Only then can we subordinates freely demonstrate our capabilities.”

    Yeon So-hyeon burst into laughter.

    “Good. Very good.”

    Daseollang laughed with him.

    “Actually, seeing Emei Sect wielding such power in Sichuan yet only managing that much, we were so dumbfounded.”

    “All they do is make threats and seize shares.”

    “It was good that they moved the declining temple in the mountain valley to Seongdo.”

    “And it wasn’t bad that they ventured into the academy business and conducted a matchmaking business for the women they produced through nun classes.”

    “They secured considerable influence among the upper class through the matchmaking business. But that was their limit.”

    “No matter how much they’re hyped up, in the end, it’s the limit of what an old-timer with a rigid mind can come up with.”

    The tall Daseollang, An Song-gyeong, made a mischievous expression.

    “We were in the accessory business because it had the lowest entry barrier as a first business.”

    “To be with the Eldest Young Master of the Luoyang Sword House in Luoyang…”

    Sanggwan Nanhwa smiled at Yeon So-hyeon with confidence.

    “We’re also happy to get this ‘real opportunity’. So please take good care of us from now on.”

    She added briefly.

    “Representative.”

    Yeon So-hyeon clapped his hands, greatly delighted.

    “Good. Then, since it’s late today, let’s retire for the night. We’ll gather again in the morning…”

    His voice trailed off.

    “No! This is the right way to do it here!”

    “No, it’s not?! Are you sure you’re looking at the same business plan as me?!”

    “Hmm. To be able to conceive such a plan…”

    “As expected of Luoyang. It’s incomparable to the peaceful land of Sichuan.”

    Daseollang was already engrossed in the task of refining and enhancing the business plan.

    Seeing her friends like that, Sanggwan Nanhwa showed a slightly awkward smile.

    “It seems everyone’s blood has rushed to their heads because the Representative’s business plan is so fascinating.”

    Yeon So-hyeon laughed heartily and called the maids to provide Daseollang with ample refreshments and drinks.

    ‘Daseollang.’

    He observed Daseollang engaging in heated discussions, forgetting their fatigue, while taking a step back.

    ‘In previous history, they were the ones who got caught up in this incident, lost members, but still succeeded again in the end.’

    And in his last memory, the legendary company that made it to the bottom of the top ten business groups in the Central Plains and dominated an era.

    ‘With this, another horse is ready.’

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