제 16 장: A Fleet of Deceit

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The ship arrived in the port of Busan the next morning

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The ship arrived in the port of Busan the next morning. The harbor was teeming with Portuguese warships and other Japanese vessels whose bows gleamed in the early morning light. Hong Pyo marveled at the size of the flotilla as they sailed past. Truly, this was an exhibit of Japan's indisputable superiority of force and power in the East.

"You. You're following me to the general's office as soon as we dock," a harsh voice ordered. Hong Pyo turned to find Nakahara Taiki standing behind him, arms crossed and katana tucked in the crook of one elbow. The man was dressed, as usual, in black from head-to-toe, and even after two days on board the ship with the man, Hong Pyo couldn't quite shake the eerie feeling that Taiki's beady gaze gave him.

"What about the shaman?" Hong Pyo asked. Not that he really cared about what happened to her, but he was a bit curious.

"She'll be taken for questioning," Taiki replied. "You're invited to watch, if you'd like."

Questioning. It was a polite way to phrase what it would really be, Hong Pyo thought. The shaman would be tortured, and possibly quite horribly. But there was nothing nice about war, and if torturing was needed to get the truth out of the woman, then it would have to be done.

And what was the truth? Though Hong Pyo's stomach churned at the thought of blood, he couldn't deny his curiosity. At least he wouldn't be the one getting his hands dirty during the interrogation.

"Thank you, I'll be interested to see what she has to say," Hong Pyo answered.

Taiki's only indication that he heard was a short nod of his head, before he turned on his heel and strode to the starboard side of the ship. Hong Pyo trailed after him.

Once the ship was docked and the gangplank lowered, Taiki strode off at a pace that Hong Pyo struggled to match. The man practically flew down the street!

Hong Pyo frowned.  It didn't make sense. The soldier's legs were shorter than his, and yet he was the one who had to almost double his steps!

"Could you—could you slow down just a bit?" Hong Pyo panted, nearly running into a passing soldier who gave him a strange glance. Hong Pyo glared right back at the man, until he realized why he was the subject of such scrutiny—of course, he stood out here. He could feel the topknot that marked him as a Korean nobleman bobbing on top of his head as he hurried along. Since Busan had been overtaken by the Japanese, he was now a rarity here.

Taiki stopped suddenly, and Hong Pyo wobbled to keep his balance and not run into the back of the man. At first, he thought it was because the soldier had heard his plea to slow down, but then Taiki entered the building they had stopped in front of.

This must be the general's headquarters. Hong Pyo squinted up at the sign above. Pharmacy.

He snorted and followed Taiki through the door. The interior of the building smelled like sweat and steel, but an underlying sharpness of medicinal herbs still lingered in the air. It tickled his nose, which he rubbed fiercely with a sleeve to ward off a sneeze.

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