“What do you mean by not yet?! You still haven’t found his whereabouts!”
At the Imperial Palace, the voices of someone yelling resounded.
Hwang Bo-kwang, who was recently placed as the General of the Eorim Army, was yelling. Well, he looked at the assassins of Salmek and grunted his teeth.
Things went wrong five days back.
Hwang Bo-kwang had devised a scheme to draw out the men who were trying to rescue the emperor while using Jo Won-ki as bait.
It was because he knew in advance that those dissatisfied with the changes would look for an opportunity to rescue the emperor.
It was his plan to deal with both the opposition forces, the emperor, and Jo Won-gyun, who wanted to become the emperor as quickly as possible.
However, a problem occurred during the course of the operation.
Even though everything was prepared and the trap was placed, the emperor was taken away, alive!
‘Damn it. If I knew it was going to turn out like this, I would have just killed him at the Imperial Palace!’
It was Jo Won-gyun who insisted for the emperor to be killed soon, and he wanted to use a plausible cover for the death of the emperor.
“Find the emperor quickly! If that bastard goes to Jo Won-rak, it means both you and I will be skinned alive!”
Hwang Bo-kwang, who was yelling at the members of Salmek, sent them out and sighed.
He didn’t have the chance to take a breath.
“The prince is waiting for you.”
Jo Won-gyun had recently been placed with the title of crown prince after disposing of Jo Won-rak.
Of course, it all happened with the ministers and officials who supported him.
“Well, let’s go to the throne room then.”
In the throne room, a bunch of officials was gathered.
It was because the news of the conquest of Yemaek’s failure had been reported a while back.
However, Jo Won-gyun had a much more pressing problem to discuss.
“Uncle, did you find out the whereabouts of Jo Won-ki?”
“It is regretful, but I haven’t been able to figure it out. We will find them soon, so you don’t have to worry.”
Jo Won-gyun grabbed the armrest of the chair so hard that it cracked.
The moment the muscles in his hand swell, he exhaled.
He somehow managed to subside his anger.
It was because he knew that the emperor, who disappeared, wouldn’t appear if he acted in haste, and it was important to take measures related to the defeat of the Song Army in Yemaek.
“How many of the troops have returned?”
“I would say that around 200,000 troops have gone over to Yeongwon fort. The problem is that they lost their weapons and their allies….”
There was still room for troops.
There were another 300,000 in the capital and the other major cities, and if there weren’t enough troops, they could always draft more.
So, the number of troops wasn’t a huge concern.
By taking advantage of the south, it was possible to secure the military capacity as much as possible.
The problem would be the military supplies and weapons.
“Kuk, we need to urge the Kyung deuk-jin to produce military supplies as much as possible.”
At the words of Hwang Bo-kwang, Jo Won-gyun nodded.
“Kyung deuk-jin is a city where all the workshops are gathered, so there won’t be much of a problem with the production of resources. Rather, did we finish analyzing the cause as to why our army got defeated?”
In terms of history, Yemaek could never be conquered.
The troops on Yemaek were indeed superior. However, this time, the Song had taken in over 100,000 Kangshi.
So, they thought that there had to be some unknown reason for their defeat.
“Well, a message had been relayed from the spy in Yemaek. According to the report, a man, who was the king of the Northern Continent, led the iron giants to help out Yemaek.”
“What did you say?! Iron giants?!”
“Yes, it was said that the number of the giants itself was 100.”
Jo Won-gyun also knew about the iron giants, which were referred to as ‘Gigants’.
When a single iron giant moved, the area around it would shake like an earthquake was happening.
Instead of resources and the Puppet, Jo Won-gyun had reached an agreement to use the Gigants of the trade merchants from the Northern Continent and send them to Yemaek for capture.
But it was said that the King of the Northern Continent called Luke had brought in three times more Gigants.
“Those steel giants are a problem. However, the King from the Northern Continent was said to be very skilled with magic, and it was said that not even one of our Zen skill users could win against him.”
Hwang Bo-kwang didn’t speak about Earner’s death.
It was a secret, the creation of Kangshi and its mobilization, making them part of the troops and joining hands with Earner.
“I heard that the goblins of the north, who appeared in the capital the other day, were also sent by the barbarian king.”
“Uh! I need to take care of my land and sea. Why is he interfering in businesses of other people!?”
“Maybe because he is a barbarian? Barbarians are blind to greed and know nothing. It must be his intention to use Jo Won-rak and then devour the entire empire.”
“Uh, yes! We can’t allow that…!”
It was when Jo Won-gyun, enraged by Hwang Bo-kwang’s words, was about to break off the chair.
The door of the throne room appeared, and a junior official in charge of liaison between the central and the local entered.
“There was huge trouble, Crown Prince!”
“What is it?”
On behalf of Jo Won-gyun, Hwang Bo-kwang asked.
“100,000 Yemaek troops have crossed over the border and are invading the area. The messenger reported that their target is the capital.”
“What? It is as if they are going crazy! They have gone crazy!”
Hwang Bo-kwang was confused.
It must have been some kind of luck for them to have won over the Kangshi and the Song Army.
But without even any fear and move in to invade the Song Empire?
With his face clearly registering shock, he immediately gave orders.
“Tell the commander of Yeongwon fort, Lee Si-beak, to block the border right away and send only 30,000 troops for the reinforcements, right away!”
While the 30,000 troops will take some time to reach the border and defend, Hwang Bo-kwang thought of leading an elite army at the center and destroy the Yemaek Army.
However, the official stutteringly said,
“Well, that won’t be possible… Yeongwon fort’s commander, Lee Si-beak, and the neighboring forts have all surrendered to the Yemaek troops and the border has already been breached.”
Hwang Bo-kwang and the others were shocked.
If the Yu-dong prince was the backbone of Yemaek, then the Yeongwon fort of the Song was the empire’s backbone.
However, the fort had surrendered without a fight!
“Crown Prince, we need to show an example for Lee Si-beak and others who have surrendered to the Yemaek. We need to dispatch the troops to stop the Yemaek Army right away!”
“The words are valid!”
“We need to hurry and destroy our enemies!”
At Hwang Bo-kwang’s words, the officials in the throne room nodded.
It was the time when the throne room was turning noisy…
The door of the throne room opened again, and an elderly general with a red armor entered.
The armor was so colorful as if shiny scales were attached to it.
The cloak with a red dragon on the black background.
Every time the general walked ahead, the sound of the floor cracking could be heard.
The strange beat on the floor matched the pace where the elderly general was moving, and the noise in the throne room went silent in a moment.
“God’s warrior, former Eorim Army General, Red Dragon King Lee Yong-mu, greets His Majesty!”
He put his hand on his chest and called himself Lee Yong-mu, the man who reached the zenith level in the Southern Continent, the real power behind the military.
Hwang Bo-kwang intervened as soon as Lee Yong-mu introduced himself.
“What is the Red Dragon King, who resigned from the palace, come to the throne room for?”
Lee Yong-mu hadn’t gotten along with Jo Won-gyun since the moment he took over the regent position.
The situation of the military and the ruler didn’t please him.
Naturally, there was a conflict.
And things took a turn when they prepared to conquer Yemaek.
Of course, when the title of commander for the conquering army was given to a man whose name Lee Yong-mu had never heard of, Lee Yong-mu’s pride was hurt and he resigned from his post.
“Wouldn’t it be better to go to the next stage of life than be buried right away, maybe take care of your grandchildren?”
When Hwang Bo-kwang was speaking sarcastically, Lee Yong-my calmly replied, “I do want to live comfortably with my grandchildren, but I had no time to rest because of the incompetent man who took down 600,000 of my troops!”
Regardless of Hwang Bo-kwang’s anger, Lee Yong-mu turned his gaze over to Jo Won-gyun and continued, “Prince, I heard the news that Yemaek had crossed the border.”
Jo Won-gyun asked by flaring his eyebrows.
It was understandable that the information reached Lee Yong-mu. After all, he was the former general.
But, why did the former general went to the throne room?
He was the one who resigned from the position.
Lee Yong-mu looked at Jo Won-gyun and asked, “How can I rest at home when our enemies have trampled our land? Please let me lead the army and stop them!”
Lee Yong-mu was the most influential person during the Song Empire, during the reign of the emperor.
Whenever there was a foreign invasion, he would lead the army himself and subdue them, and never once did Lee Yong-mu lose in battle, which was why he gained the nickname, Rising General.
That was why he couldn’t hold himself back when Yemaek started invading their nation after a long time.
‘If Lee Yong-mu steps in and stops the Yemaek army, I guess there could be nothing more reassuring to me than that. But, wasn’t he displeased with me?’
Jo Won-gyun was worried for a while and called for Hwang Bo-kwang while gesturing.
As he approached, he asked if he could trust the Red Dragon King.
Hwang Bo-kwang immediately activated the sound blocking ring, which he had received as a gift from Arsene, and whispered the answer, “Honestly, at least, from what I saw so far, I think we can trust him.”
Lee Yong-mu was the first one who had been under the surveillance of the Jo Won-gyun group.
And Hwang Bo-kwang planted a spy near him and kept a close eye on the man.
As a result, it was confirmed that during the last month of his retirement from the military, he hadn’t met with any special people or contacted anyone other than his household men.
“As long as he believes that His Majesty is in our hands, he would never try to betray us.”
Lee Yong-mu’s greatest known weakness was his undying loyalty to the emperor.
That was why Hwang Bo-kwang or Jo Won-gyun tried to remove the man until he himself wanted to move out.
As the two men were whispering to each other, Lee Yong-mu suddenly lifted the sword on his waist.
Surprised escorts in the throne room hurriedly surrounded Lee Yong-mu and pointed their swords at him.
However, Lee Yong-mu didn’t seem to care much and took off his helmet and cut off a wrist full of hair.
Also, he politely bowed while looking at Jo Won-gyun and placed it down.
Hwang Bo-kwang was shocked to see that.
In the Song Empire, a person’s hair couldn’t just be carelessly cut because it was one’s body’s most prideful part.
In particular, warriors weren’t allowed to touch their heads even if meant forfeiting their lives.
It was because of the law and pride. However, some of them used their hair as a sign of loyalty.
So, giving out one’s hair was like giving away their life.
‘Is he being serious?’
When Hwang Bo-kwang was puzzled, Lee Yong-mu, who cut off his hair, patted his chest.
“It is true that you are nothing like His Majesty. But now, it is more urgent to stop the enemy than to put our feelings ahead. If I can’t stop our enemies, go for my throat right away!”
Hwang Bo-kwang’s eyes shone brightly because he had managed to come up with a great idea.
He told Jo Won-gyun his thoughts and managed to make a decision.
“Fine. I entrust you with 100,000 of our elite soldiers. Go ahead and show those eastern barbarians who don’t know when to stop!”
“I will, Sire!”
Lee Yong-mu bowed to Jo Won-gyun before he left the room.
Thus, the participation of Red Dragon King Lee Yong-mu had been decided.
Above the massive eastern walls on the palace of Daeryang.
Hwang Bo-kwang, who was watching Lee Yong-mu, smiled.
The typical smile of a villain, who was planning something terrifying.
There was one reason why Hwang Bo-kwang agreed to Lee Yong-mu’s request.
It was because he managed to find a golden opportunity to break Lee Yong-mu’s neck.
Lee Yong-mu, the zenith of the Southern Continent.
He was a person who couldn’t be killed in a head to head combat.
Even if he put together all of Hwang Bo clan or the best of the Absolute powerholders, killing Lee Yong-mu wouldn’t have been possible.
However, putting in all those men would turn annoying for Hwang Bo-kwang, and he didn’t want to take a chance.
That was because even the tigers in the forest end up getting killed by humans, who were much weaker.
He had a glimpse of the perfect opportunity. Hwang Bo-kwang left the wall with a smile on his face.
The thought of defeating the man in battle made him smile.
It was good for Lee Yong-mu to die during battle or for him to never return.
As he wanted, he would be able to kill him.
“Kukkk, Lee Yong-mu! You will never survive this battle.”
Hwang Bo-kwang, who was looking at the soldiers in a distance, spoke to himself with an upbeat voice.