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Argent washed her face with the water on the basin someone prepared for her last night. Then she walked outside and she immediately smelled the delicious scent of porridge. Lei Feng was dilligently stirring the porridge on the small pot with a serious expression on his face. As if what he was doing was a very important task.
Lei Feng looked up at her. "Come and sit. This porridge will be done in a minute. Then we could eat breakfast."
Argent nodded and sat across Lei Feng. "Where's your dark guards?"
"Wouldn't it be better to let one of them do this mundane task?"
"They don't know how to cook," he answered, not daring to look at Argent.
The three dark guards who were guarding around the perimeter all had complicated expressions on their faces when they heard what their master said. How come they suddenly didn't know how to cook now? Weren't their master the one who trained them in basic survival which, of course, included cooking? Wouldn't it hurt to just admit that he didn't want any of them to cook for the young duke?
Now that Argent thought about it, the barbecued meat they ate last night was also done by Lei Feng.
A few minutes more and the porridge was ready. Lei Feng put out the fire and carefully poured porridge on one bowl. He put a wooden spoon on it and gave it to Argent. "Here. It's hot so be careful."
Argent accepted the bowl of porridge and started eating. Her eyes slightly widened when she got her first taste. She didn't expect much but it was actually good. Not too bland but not too flavorful either. Just the way she liked it. Now that she remembered, that barbecued meat last night didn't also have a very strong flavor. That's why she managed to eat three pieces without her even noticing.
"You're really good at cooking. If you're tired of being a general, you might consider being a chef in your own restaurant," Argent said while eating her bowl of porridge.
"I don't cook just for anyone," Lei Feng muttered.
"Hmm... I guess you won't." He's a mighty general after all, Argent thought and just continued eating.
When they finished eating, one of the dark guards appeared and cleaned up the bowls and the cooking utensils used. Another one dismantled the tent. After they're done, they immediately disappeared again.
"Shall we start walking towards Qingxin village?" Lei Feng asked.
Argent nodded. She wore her cloak and put up the hood, hiding her hair and the upper half of her face.
Lei Feng lead the way and Argent followed.
"Why don't your dark guards just walk with us? Will they just continue to lurk in the dark?" Argent thought of asking.
"Yes. They wouldn't be called dark guards if they don't."
Well, that actually kind of made sense.
As they walked, Argent couldn't help but yawned.
"You didn't get much sleep last night?" Lei Feng asked when she yawned for the sixth time.
It's probably more accurate to say that she didn't sleep at all. Argent only managed to sleep for an hour. It was all because of that code. She was trying to decode it all night and just ended up almost not sleeping at all.
She first tried a very simple Atbash code where the alphabet would be arranged backwards. For example A would equal Z, B would equal Y, and so on and so forth. But the resulting sentences didn't make any sense at all. Then she tried to match all the letters to another letter. She did all the possible permutations and yet nothing came off of it.
Argent then tried to rearrange the letters. But it was hard to do that without finding the right pattern. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Of course, she could also just try to do all the possible combinations but that would take a lot of time. Time she didn't have.
"I'm just having a problem with something," Argent said, answering Lei Feng's question.
"You mean the code written on your notebook?" When Argent gave him a questioning glance, he continued to say, "Sorry, I happened to glance at it last night. So, was it?"
Argent gave a frustrated sigh. "Yeah."
"It's related to your mother's abduction, right? Do you mind if I take a look at it? Maybe a new eye could give you a new perspective?"
Argent didn't think there would be a problem with showing Lei Feng the code. After all, she already told him most of the situation. She took the notebook from her s.p.a.ce ring and showed it to him.
Lei Feng looked at it. The sentences altogether didn't really make much sense, as typical of a code. He could see a number of formulas written on the side. It's clear how much Argent wanted to solve this code as soon as possible. "Have you tried every combination you could think of?"
"Not all. At first, I thought the letters probably had another corresponding letter. But then, no matter what combination I tried, it didn't result into anything. Then I thought of rearranging it. But you should know how hard that could be without knowing the right pattern."
"Or maybe you just need a keyword."
Keyword? It felt like something flashed inside Argent's mind when she heard that. [I see. Why didn't I think of that?]
Now she couldn't help but feel stupid. Not thinking about it much sooner. She stopped walking and took a pen from her s.p.a.ce ring. Then she started to write the formula she thought of on her notebook.
Lei Feng also stopped walking and just stood beside Argent. He looked at her and saw the serious expression on her face. She's already very immersed in what she's writing. Argent probably already figured out how to solve the code. So he just quietly waited for her.
A code that needed a keyword? Argent first tried the simplest one she could think of. A Columnar Transposition Cipher. Why would she choose to use a cipher that was from her original world? Because it didn't mean that no one in this world could invent the same cipher. Her original world might be more advanced in terms of technology, but that didn't mean that the people in this world were less intelligent.
Columnar Transposition involved writing the plaintext out in rows and then reading the ciphertext off in columns. But before she could do that, she needed to write first the letter in the code in the proper order. For that, she needed a certain keyword.
Now, for the keyword. This code was written by her mother. So the only keyword she could think of was her father's name - Dorian. Then she counted the letters of the code. There were 56 letters. She needed to divide that by the length of the keyword, which in this case was six. The resulting number would be 9.33 which would be rounded off to the highest number which was 10. The answer would then be multiplied to the length of the keyword to find out how many boxes there were in the grid. 10X6 = 60. The ciphertext would then be subtracted from this number. 60-56 = 4. This would be the number of nulls in the grid. Which meant that the last four boxes in the last row would need to be black out. So that no letters would be put on there while decrypting.
In Columnar Transposition, to know where to put the letters first in the grid, one should look for the keyword as a guide. If Dorian was the keyword then the order of the number should be - 2 5 6 3 1 4. According to their order in the alphabet. Now, to arrange it;
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Argent continued writing until she got everything.
D o r i a n
2 5 6 3 1 4
d o n t c o
m e t r a p
b l a c k b
o u r n e b
l o o d n e
e d e d t o
u n s e a l
d r a g o n
t r e a s u
A loud thunder was suddenly heard and rain started to fall as Argent read the decrypted code.
'Don't come. Trap. Blackbourne blood needed to unseal dragon treasure.'