Despite the success of Isaac’s insurgency with Dark Royale’s support, it was still Central that ruled this world. And at the head of Central remained the Director of Surveillance, the only head left unscathed from Isaac’s attacks.
Ironically, Central activities had become much smoother and more efficient with a single Director at its helm. Enraged by the death of Duke Pendleton, the Directorate of Analysis pulled in all their resources and manpower to map out all the possible routes Isaac could have taken.
With Mazelan preoccupied with directing Gabelin’s recovery, Brolen was designated the provisional leader of the Directorate of Strategy. Fully prepared for the consequences, Brolen placed the Empire under complete lockdown.
The complete halt in the movement of goods and people in the continent was only possible due to the citizenry’s cooperation. Many were enraged by the deaths of the Emperor and Duke Pendleton, and they gladly cooperated with the decree, absorbing the losses themselves.
It seemed not even Isaac was prepared for such an event. Soon enough, Central’s watchful gaze picked up groups of men travelling in secret.
Bang bang bang!
Cries of desperation rang out in between the exchanges of bullets and bolts. The agents of Central, who had been carefully approaching a group of automobiles roaring across the roads, ran toward the hail of bullets and bolts with glee.
“It seems we hit the jackpot. Don’t approach it carelessly! Form a perimeter and keep them there!”
To the agents of Central, a greeting of bullets and bolts were exactly what they wanted. Too many times their targets turned out to be groups of smugglers and criminals who had gotten more active during lockdown to make a quick buck despite the danger.
But on the chance that the hostages were with those groups, Central agents couldn’t launch an all-out attack. And Isaac had been setting off false alarms with dummy envoys of mercenaries and Dark Royale agents across the Empire, each and every one of them approaching New Port City from a different direction.
“Break through! We must escape!”
“Reinforcement will arrive soon! Just hold on a little longer!”
It was a tug-of-war between the defending agents and Isaac’s men. Occasionally, Isaac’s men would whip out a piece of heavy arsenal that would send the agents into a slight panic.
-’static’ Code one. Code one incoming.
“It’s here! Scatter!”
The agents hurriedly fell back, barely making enough room for a single arrow of solid steel to strike the road.
The sheer mass and velocity of the steel arrow left a crater in the ground as it blasted the ground into the air, turning the automobiles over like leaves.
A man that had barely escaped the impact radius fired his rifle at the shadow that jumped off from the arrow. Soon enough, his friends joined the fray after regaining their senses.
The man shouted desperately as he pulled the trigger, but Rivelia deflected the rain of bullets as she charged into the centre of the group. And when she stood squarely in the centre, she unleashed a flurry of slashes in all directions.
She cut off a man’s legs, grabbing the falling torso by the neck and throwing it at his compatriot. With a simple turn, she sliced off an arm wildly spraying with a rifle. Rivelia took half a step back, but the now one-armed man simply shook off the pain and moved to draw his sword. Rivelia grabbed the man’s other arm and pulled him in over her leg.
Rivelia’s carnage was impossible to ignore as her sword roared with mana, searing through their bodies.
Rivelia looked emotionlessly at the minced corpses. She sheathed her blade and approached one of the overturned vehicles. A man was pinned underneath an automobile, sputtering out blood from his mouth.
“Where is Isaac?”
“Kukuk! You will meet him soon.”
“Shut up! Where is Isaac!”
Rivelia stabbed into the man’s shoulder with the precision of a butcher. The man screamed in pain, but his mouth was curved up in a smile.
“Kukukuk. He said unto me, ‘Die for me.’ So I shall.”
The man’s face was dazed like in a drunken stupor. Rivelia stabbed the man’s neck with her blade. A final spurt of blood from his neck, and Rivelia wiped the blood from her blade with a handkerchief. An agent that had been inspecting the vehicles reported to her.
“There was no one in the vehicles.”
“Clean it up, and return to your watch posts.”
The Queen mumbled to herself as she stared at the giant map in the command room. They had blocked all roads leading to New Port City. There was a wall of bodies surrounding the Gate itself, and airships patrolled the skies endlessly. Even the canals and waterways were being monitored with the aid of the races living in the waters.
Not even a speck of dust could sneak its way past this barrier. Isaac had them chasing after convoys throughout the entire defensive line, clearly diversions trying to create an opening.
For Central, who had to approach each and every one of these like it was the real deal, it was exhausting on all ends. But everyone knew Isaac would take advantage of the exhaustion to make his way through.
“Ah! Rivelia, well done. But don’t you think you were overly aggressive? What if they were there?”
The Queen received Rivelia with a grin, but Rivelia returned the greeting with a cold stare. She silently returned to her chair.
Ever since the death of Duke Pendleton, there was a chilling aura around Rivelia, so much so that many refused to even approach her. But the Queen didn’t mind Rivelia’s disdain, especially when Kunette also returned with Reisha and Rizzly.
“Duds for you all as well?”
The Queen asked. Kunette simply frowned and ignored the Queen outright, returning to her chair. Despite the very clear cold shoulders, the Queen bore no ill feelings.
Perhaps it was the mercy of the victor. To her, they were simply sore losers.
“I’m sure you are all aware that things aren’t going as expected. Regardless, Mr. Isaac can’t possibly keep throwing away his men like this with the forces he has left.
Nobody replied to the Queen, but they were in silent agreement. This had been all of Isaac’s activity thus far ever since he dealt a critical blow to Central’s headquarters with the remnants of Dark Royale.
There was nothing Isaac and Dark Royale could do against Central and non-humans when all of its manpower was in service. It would be impossible even if he amassed all of his forces and launched a single attack in the midst of the scattered chaos. But simply bleeding his forces like this would only waste time and achieve nothing.
“Are you sure Mr. Isaac is aiming for the Gate?”
Rivelia questioned the Queen with a cold glare. The Queen grinned.
“Of course. Why else would he take the nuclear bomb if he wasn’t going to use the Gate?”
“Who knows? Maybe he took it as a souvenir.”
Kunette commented sarcastically. The Queen clutched her stomach and howled with laughter. After her fit of laughter, the Queen recomposed herself and spoke.
“Oh man. This is amazing. I guess you can only make jokes like that when you have no idea how serious of an issue this is.”
“Hmph! Then why don’t you tell us why it’s so serious?”
Kunette shrieked at the Queen. Her pride couldn’t take the fact that the Queen knew something that not even she, the Director of Surveillance, knew.
“I’m going to.”
The Queen nodded, not even quipping at them. Kunette and Rivelia were caught dumbfounded, staring blankly at the Queen.
“I can see just how hesitant you are to kill Mr. Isaac. So I’m going to lessen the burden for you. If Mr. Isaac throws the nuclear bomb through the Gate, the Days of Calamity will start again. And this time, it won’t end after 7 days.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
Both Kunette and Rivelia jumped from their seats and shouted. Even Reisha and Rizzly, who were standing behind Kunette, looked at the Queen in utter disbelief.
The Queen snickered, revelling in their reactions.
“Ahahaha. Haven’t you ever thought it was strange? Why they let this so-called ultimate weapon of war rot in the museum? When they could have just chucked it into the Gate in the Forbidden Lands, instead of the countless battles we fought against the Expeditionary Forces? ”
Although it was embarrassing to admit, they had never considered such a possibility. They couldn’t possibly fathom that such a small object could have such destructive power. Who would believe that a single crate could end the war by simply throwing it into the Gate? Most agents of Central believed that its effect was greatly exaggerated to instil fear and constant vigilance against the Expeditionary Forces.
“How do you know this?”
Kunette asked, to which the Queen answered with a rather sadistic smile.
“Because I started the 7 Days of Calamity.”
The four seemed to be flabbergasted beyond belief when they heard the Queen’s answer. The Queen snickered and continued.
“Before the 7 Days of Calamity, the elder races of this world were exhausted from the endless invasions from Heaven and Hell. So they looked for a way to sever the connection permanently. And in their pursuit, they found a world where only humans resided.”
“Impossible. We found your world after the 7 Days of Calamity.”
Kunette argued, and the Queen nodded.
“Of course. You’ve been taught that. That’s what everyone thinks happened.”
“When the elder races found that world, they had an idea. If they couldn’t sever the connection with Heaven and Hell, why not redirect them from their world to another? The first step was taken by the elder races, who contacted the leaders of our world in secret. In return for facing the invasions of Heaven and Hell, they were given the profit that humans love so much. Why do you think the Expeditionary Forces invested so many resources and so much manpower when its few samples hinted at a risky profit at best? It’s because they already saw the profit firsthand.”
“It can’t be…”
The epiphany now dawning on their faces, nobody had the words to speak.
“Starting to connect the dots now? During the negotiations, the location of the Gate that would connect the two worlds was the Forbidden Lands and my country. Mr. Isaac’s country. Our home. Funnily enough, there was no grand reasoning behind it other than pure convenience.”
“To the elder races of this world, war between humans was just a spectacle. A war fought with weapons they’d never seen before. So they were watching and watching until something—that nobody expected—happened. As they watched the final battle with their secret Gate, I followed Mr. Isaac’s advice and detonated the nuclear reactor, destabilising the Gate’s foundation. What followed was the Calamity.”
The four couldn’t even breathe as the Queen recalled the events. The Queen looked into the air, as if caught in nostalgia.
“7 Days of Calamity. You think the Calamity ended after 7 days with the sacrifices of the endangered races. But it wasn’t a sacrifice. They were repenting for their sins. But when you consider that humans won’t repent for their sins, I suppose you can count that as a non-human accolade. Ah! There’s no need to suspect that I’m lying. All of this was told to me by a dragon—the Old One—when I arrived in this world as the first Invader.”
The Queen suddenly punched her table, startling the four around her. The Queen’s eyes were burning in a frenzy as she glared at them.
“Without knowing anything! I. Mr. Isaac. We! Lost our friends, our family, our nation. Despite this, I’m still enacting my revenge only on my original world. Do you still hate me? Do I look despicable? Do I look like a witch? For hundreds of years, I lived as an outcast. Even the other Invaders, whom I thought were my friends, only wanted to use me for their own ambitions. Only Mr. Isaac seemed to understand me. And I almost wanted to give up when he would stare at me every so often with pity in his eyes. But I couldn’t do that.”
Her emotions had gotten the better of her, at least for a moment. She took some time to regain her composure. She had fulfilled her long awaited wish by opening the Gate, but the constant stream of small setbacks had been pelting away at her, finally breaking down the dam holding back the centuries of emotions.
“That was unsightly of me. Excuse me, I must take a break. But think well. How will Mr. Isaac react if he finds out about this?”
The faces of four listeners paled at the thought. The Queen jeered at them as she walked out.
“You shouldn’t hesitate anymore.”