The four rulers of New Port City’s streets sat together. Usually, these meetings were just battles of pride where they exchanged insults. This meeting, however, was the first time they grimaced and conspired with one another for the same cause.
Dinozo stepped into the room, and everyone’s eyes turned to him. Wearing his trademark emotionless face, he sat and poured himself a glass of wine.
Foxt impatiently asked Dinozo.
“What did the masters in Port City say?”
Each syndicate had their own master who looked after them, but the only person that could see them was Dinozo. In truth, it was them who placed Dinozo on the seat of Captain of New Port City’s Police Force. His task wasn’t just to act as the middleman between the syndicates during times of conflict, but he also worked as a messenger and collector of ‘donations’ which were sent back to the masters in Port City.
“They told us to solve the problem ourselves. They are having enough trouble with creating their own Merchant Guild, so they don’t have the time to look after us.”
“Hmph! To think they said all those big words when they got their fucking money!”
“Even they want to refrain from joining with the possibility of Central getting involved. They are quite agitated by the constant interference from the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds for their project. They didn’t say this, but I could tell from their eyes that they don’t want us to cause any trouble that could make it difficult for them.”
“Seems like even those bastards on their high horse fear Central.”
“Is there any man who could stand against Central?”
Isaac’s face came into their heads, but they quickly removed the thought. The best way to deal with lunatics is to not deal with them in the first place.
“Does that mean I have to feed those damn brats from tomorrow onwards?”
“Yes you do.”
Everyone sighed simultaneously at Dinozo’s words. They were confused by this sudden turn of events. Everyone here were criminal masterminds who had risen to their power through victories against countless other criminals and syndicates. Murder was just the tip of the iceberg. They’ve made numerous people cry tears of blood as they stole, kidnapped and ransomed both innocents and enemies alike.
They were the darkest of the alleyway shadows. Their cold-blooded nature had earned fear from everyone who looked at them. But now they were going to run a charity feeding all the orphans on the streets. The homeless and the orphans that live in the city are the ones who make the bottom of the food chain, even in this city full of lowlifes.
“If we do as that man said, the retaliation from our subordinates will be a problem.”
Those who lose their reputation lose their heads with it. That is the unspoken rule in the streets. They feared losing their reputation and pride because they too have risen to their seat using the same tactic against their enemies. That is why they’ve used all measures cruelty to have their vengeance, but they couldn’t do anything against Isaac because they will always be on the losing end.
“Then just leave.”
Everyone shut up at Dinozo’s words. That was indeed the most definite solution. If you have a problem with your home, you can simply look for a new one. All of them have saved a significant amount of wealth of their own, which would allow them to live a comfortable life no matter where they go. But even this pitiful power they had amassed was something they wanted to protect. Plus, they’ve made many enemies to get to where they are. The moment they leave their pack, they become vulnerable to whatever comes their way. Without a solution in sight, all they could do was sigh as the night passed.
“Yawn! That’s a good sleep.”
“Hehe, Good morning Sir Isaac.”
Ratt listed off all the curses and insults he knew in his mind as he brought a bucket of water for Isaac to wash his face with. Isaac had refused to reside in a house in New Port City that was prepared for him, opting to stay in the City Hall as his residence.
Even though it was a small 2 story building, it still had everything that was required to function as a government building. But because of Isaac’s decision to live here, the entire police force was called over to perform a massive clean-up operation of the house, not leaving a single speck of dust in their wake. Isaac had also brought much furniture transforming this government building into a comfortable house that suited his own needs.
Once Isaac was done washing his head, Ratt quickly handed a towel to him.
“We will prepare your breakfast immediately.”
“I said no need.”
Ratt looked at Isaac as if he was seeing a ghost. For the last week, Isaac had been using Ratt as a punching bag if his meal was even a second late. Isaac’s physical abuse was focused entirely on Ratt’s nose, and at this point, he had given up on fixing it. The nose that had been crushed into his face made his appearance hideous.
But now he said he won’t be having breakfast today.
While Ratt wondered what the reason could be, Isaac threw the towel away and walked outside the city hall.
Ratt quickly pursued to question him.
“W, where are you going?”
“I’m getting my breakfast.”
“What? If you just ask, I can quickly prepare…”
“It’s fine. My body just feels tensed up because I’ve been only eating and sleeping for the last week. I just want to go for a walk and get some free food on the way.”
“W, where are you…”
“Well, I wonder.”
Ratt had risen to the rank of vice-captain through his exceptional flattery. He quickly figured out the meaning behind Isaac’s words.
“Come to the Police Headquarters. In truth it was our captain who ran this city. Why don’t you two have breakfast together and use the time efficiently by discussing how you’re going to use the tax money collected in New Port City?”
“Hm, let’s go to the Alta District.”
“W, we don’t know what that stupid brute will do! Just staying with him in the same room would harm your reputation.”
“Who says I’m eating with him?”
“Huh? Then with who?”
Alta District was where all of the warehouses were stationed. All of the ships that docked in the ports unloaded their goods here, and the workers were tasked with looking after them. Foxt did have the title of the President of an association, but just as Isaac had described him, his main occupation was seizing the income from workers who were hired in this district.
First of all, all workers were forced to join the association. Foxt’s syndicate would do everything they could to prevent non-members from getting any jobs. Once they do join, they were forced to pay a third of their income to the association as a membership fee every day.
On top of squeezing the workers dry with this policy, he also ran a loan shark business and made his workers sit on a mountain of debt, taking back the rest of the workers’ income to pay their interest. The workers were forced into slavery at this point.
Any merchants who refused to pay a donation to the association were harassed by refusing to unload or store their goods into the warehouses until they had no choice but to pay up. Anyone who tried to resist in any stage of this process was brutally killed and left on the streets as an example. He was ruling the district through fear and violence.
Don’t starve the children.
The order was baffling, but it couldn’t be refused. Nobody wants to do it, but they had no choice. So the order was carried out in the most despicable way as possible, and all of the districts carried this order out in their own way.
Foxt was a man whose action spoke before his words. He was never going to put any effort into an order he didn’t want to follow. So all he did was make it look like he was following the order to the bare minimum.
“Come and get your meal, maggots!”
With an idiot as their leader, all of their followers naturally became the same kind. Isaac wondered how these brutes could come up with such an intricate ploy for their business, but it turned out they simply took over this business from another syndicate through force and carried on.
At the corner of the docks stood a shanty town where the poorest citizens in the slums resided. Citizens who didn’t have the money to live in the smallest of lodges. They were the children and the elderly who couldn’t find a place to work.
Clang! The mobster pushed the barrel over, spilling its contents. It was a soup and it was spilled all over the dirty streets. It was made with ingredients that should have been thrown out and boiled with the water from a river. Calling it a soup was too good of a name.
“Che! Pisses me off whenever I see them.”
The mobster spat on the ground. He was given this role because he drew the short stick. The children and the elderly crawled out of the alleys and carefully picked up whatever they could from the ground. To the people who starved more often than not, even this filth was a gift from the heavens. They quickly swept the streets clean with shaking hands in fear that the mobster could turn at them at any moment. Once the street was cleaned, the people of the slums disappeared back into the alleys.
Isaac, who had been watching it from the start, scratched his head and walked up to the thugs who were distributing the food.
Che! What do you want? We did as you asked.”
When Isaac approached them, the mobster turned the barrel upside down. It was a rebellious act, showing how ‘well’ he had taken cared of Isaac’s order. Isaac simply approached near the man and picked up a rotten apple near his foot. It was left behind since all of the people were too afraid to go near him.
After looking at the muddied rotten apple, Isaac took a bite off it. Even the thugs were surprised at this act. They didn’t think he’d actually eat it.
After chewing the filth Isaac spat the thing out of his mouth and called Ratt over with his finger.
“Have you called?”
“I said it’s disgusting you fuck!”
Isaac picked up the wooden ladle and swung it at Ratt.
The ladle shattered to pieces and blood was dripping from Ratt’s head.
“I don’t care whether you make food out of the trash or make soup with the sewers. It’s a special meal and special meals require special ingredients. But if it’s a special meal, it should at least taste nice! Am I a fucking retard to you? Huh! Do I have to shove this piece of shit in my mouth as my special?!”
The mobsters’ looked in fear as Isaac kicked Ratt’s face like a ball. Once he was done stomping on Ratt’s head, he turned around with a relieved face.
“Phew! I knew I needed some exercise to loosen up this body. Get up.”
Ratt, who was curled up to protect his head, quickly got back on his feet and Isaac turned to see the mobsters again. The mobsters flinched at Isaac’s intimidating presence.
“Go bring out proper food and distribute it again. Something I can eat and say ‘ah, that was delicious.’ Otherwise he will die.”
“I don’t care if he dies.”
Flinch. It seemed the mobster spoke what he was thinking to Isaac out of confusion. Ratt wasn’t part of their syndicate. They weren’t exactly enemies, but there was no reason for this mobster to do his best to save that man.
Isaac watched the mobster for a moment and smiled as he tapped Ratt with his foot.
“I think he’s pretty smart? Trying to make me kill one of his rivals’ leaders. Not bad. You better watch out if you survive today. He’s going to get big.”
Ratt’s eyes quickly turned to the mobsters when Isaac spoke those words. He seemed as if he was ready to kill every single one of them. His crippled nose and bloodied face did well to help the intimidation. The look on his face was a mix of anger and sadness, asking why he had to go through this bullshit.
“W, we’ll be right back!”
The mobsters quickly scattered, running from Ratt’s frightening appearance.
Once the mobsters disappeared, Isaac turned to see Ratt. He was in horrible condition and his hands were curled tightly into a fist, shaking. He seemed ready to kill Isaac at any moment.
“What. Are you mad? You want to kill me?”
“… No sir.”
“I think those hands of yours say otherwise.”
Ratt tried to open his hands to those words, but the hands didn’t even open properly because of how tightly he had been making fists.
Isaac lightly slapped Ratt on his cheeks.
“Don’t be so mad. That’s just how the world is run. The weak suffer what they must. It’s no different from what you do to the citizens of this city. It’s just too bad you’re the one on the receiving end this time.”
Isaac sat on top of a stack of wooden crates. He placed his chin on his hand with a smoke in his mouth and watched the Grand Canal. The only ships he saw in the old world were cruise ships and fishing boats. But in front of him were giant galleons you would see back in the 17th century. Watching those ships pass him made him remember his memories, of how he memorised the world map by playing Uncharted Waters.
The workers in the port glimpsed at Isaac whenever they walked past him. Rumours about the new administrator’s actions had spread throughout the city long ago.
“Hm, the centre of transport and distribution of goods. I guess it isn’t a lie considering all the ships that pass through here.”
Isaac could count hundreds of ships with a quick look across the canals and Lake Levonen. Not just that, but Lake Levonen and the Minolen Mountains were famous tourist destinations due to their excellent view.
Isaac spun from where he sat, and in front of him was the food distribution which actually had a semblance of organisation now. Ratt was overseeing the entire process, ready to beat down anyone who would cause any commotion. All of the mobsters had no choice but distribute a decent meal to the people of the slums without a fight.
“Man. This isn’t what I was expecting. Do they really don’t know this simple thing? Or are they just ignoring it?”
Isaac survived incidents where human and beast were separated by a fine line. He had experienced how selfish and hideous humans could become through starvation.
Just as Isaac had ordered, the only people who received the food were children. The weakest individuals within the slums. Isaac had expected that some people to steal food from the children.
He was expecting a commotion between adults who would try to take the food and children who would defend it with their lives. But what happened instead was that they would run to the alleys and shares the food with others, their faces brimming with happiness from this fortune.
“A slum where order is maintained.”
Why are the people of the slums shunned? Because they are filthy? Because they are poor?
No. It’s because they are ready to kill a man for a drop of a coin. They would turn against someone who helped them for a price. A group of self-centred individuals. And they couldn’t even do it right, which was why they ended up in this hell hole.
It was true that people who shared food were the weakest of the slums, the children and the elderly. But wouldn’t there be someone who would try to take from those who weaker than them? When they’ve already reached the lowest of the low?
They are people who are strong against the weak, and weak against the strong. If those people weren’t approaching them, it meant there was something else that protected this powerless group.
Isaac looked at the intimidating mobsters. No matter how he saw it, they didn’t look like the sort to protect someone. Even the five who ruled the New Port City saw their citizens as a source of money, not something they needed to protect.
Isaac pulled out another cigarette and took a deep puff before he muttered these words.
“There’s something even the syndicate bosses don’t know about. This really is an interesting place. Well, it’s none of my business.”
He threw the blunt into the canal and stood up to look at the Port City.
“I guess I should introduce myself to my neighbours now that I’ve moved here.”
It irritated Isaac to see people with elegant clothes walk the clean and organised streets of Port City.
The only path that connected Port City and New Port City was the Sky Bridge that stood on top of the Grand Canal. It stood on top of 5-story buildings on each end, which allowed ships to sail below them. It was a famous scenic overlook within the Empire.
Because of that, there were many people who stood on top of the bridge and enjoyed the view while the sailors in the ships that passed under them waved to the people above.
“I don’t know who came up with this idea, but they did a great job.”
Isaac was impressed by the look of the bridge when Ratt, who was next to him, came close to talk to Isaac.
“Are you planning to go to Port City?”
“Why? Can’t I?”
“It’s not a problem for an Administrator but…”
Isaac snickered and slapped the back of Ratt’s head when he couldn’t finish his sentence.
“What. Don’t tell me people of New Port City are banned from visiting Port City.”
“People of the Port City are free to visit New Port City whenever they want, but the people of New Port City require approval from our Captain along with investigations detailing their reasons and such. Without a proper reason even I, the vice-captain of the police force, can’t enter Port City.”
Isaac looked at Ratt as if he couldn’t believe what he had just heard. He frowned and asked a question to Ratt.
“I can guess as to why but let’s hear the reason anyway.”
Ratt scratched his head as he made his answer.
“Such restrictions weren’t in place when the Sky Bridge was first constructed, but you know how difficult it is to live in this place. Many of our citizens slept here but spent the rest of their days in Port City. Just digging through the trash was enough to feed their hunger and begging on the streets would result in more pay than working for a day.”
“Things escalated when crimes such as pickpocketing, shoplifting and violent gang wars started to occur as each gang contested for their own territory within the Port City. Because of that, people of Port City made a petition.”
“And the mayor accepted it?”
“The mayor of that time refused it outright, saying restriction of entry cannot happen, but he was suddenly promoted and transferred to the Capital. The succeeding mayor quickly accepted the petition. Many mayors have come and gone since then, but this policy has never been retracted.”
Isaac could only laugh at what he’d just heard. New Port City was completely cut off from the rest of the world when looking at its geography. The only way to leave was to pass through the Sky Bridge to Port City and then leave via the transports or to illegally board one of the freight ships that enter the port.
This policy fundamentally stopped everyone who wished to leave this city’s cycle of poverty, no matter how determined they were. When there is no hope, people fall deeper into despair. The people of Port City had taken away the last possibility for people of the slums to recover their lives, purely to conserve the beauty of the city and also for their convenience. They were willing to replace their mayor for it too. Well, Isaac could understand where they were coming from. Even he would have gladly accepted such policy if he was a citizen of Port City.
“I swear, humans are the same no matter where they go.”
Humans are selfish creatures. Screw welfare. How many times had he seen riots made of people have refused public service buildings from being built their neighbourhood because it would drop the price of their houses? They didn’t care as long as it wasn’t them who were at loss. They lived with just enough pity and just enough charity. None of them had truly given their lives to help the weak or fix the broken world.
Isaac looked far into the mountains as he entered the building, the guards ignoring Isaac outright. Other than the staff room for the guards, there were only stairs which led to the top of the building. After walking up the bland interior of the building, the wide open view welcomed him.
He stopped halfway across the bridge and lit a cigarette as he watched the Lake. Once he finished it and got through the bridge, a new world opened in front of him, quite different from New Port City. The streets were clean and carriages and automobiles drove through on top of paved roads. Men and women walked the streets wearing the newest fashion.
“How could the world change so much across a single bridge?”
Isaac walked the streets with a hunched back and hands in his pockets. Wearing a plain shirt and pants, he looked like a typical unemployed man prowling the streets for work. His appearance stuck out like a sore thumb and people who looked at Isaac frowned and avoided him as best as they could, treating him like a homeless bum.
“Shall I get something to eat?”
Walking past the many cafes and restaurants made Isaac realise how hungry he was. In truth, he hasn’t had a decent meal since breakfast.
After prowling the streets little more in search of a restaurant, he found a restaurant named Montaigne where customers elegantly sipped on their teas and enjoyed their meals on the outdoor terrace.
Isaac sat on one of the tables outside when suddenly all was quiet around him. Soon voices could be heard complaining about Isaac.
“What the? When did they start accepting people like him?”
“Tsk. I’ve lost my appetite. Manager! Give me the receipt!”
“I guess this place is done for.”
Surprised by the sudden commotion, the manager quickly approached and apologised to all of the customers while a group of waiters surrounded the table Isaac sat on.
“How dare a bum like you enter this place? Get out now!”
“Shit, why’s it so hard to have a proper meal. Are you sure you can treat your customers like this?”
The waiters didn’t even try to hide their mocking laughter.
“Do you even know where this place is? This is a restaurant run by the Egrino Merchant Guild. You could bring all the money you’ve earned in your entire life and still struggle to pay for a single tea here. How dare you have the audacity to ask for a meal?”
Isaac didn’t have a clue as to why they were treating him like this. No matter the clothes he wore, they wouldn’t be able to treat him so harshly when the symbol of College was… That’s when Isaac realised.
He had forgotten to bring the College Emblem with him when he changed his clothes. Without it, Isaac was nothing special in their eyes.
Isaac sighed as he tried to get off his chair. But he was stopped by a man’s shout.
“What is this commotion here?!”
Looking at the direction where the shout came from, an obese man approached arrogantly to Isaac. He was wearing bright and gaudy clothes and on each finger was a ring decorated with a giant gem. He was wearing layers of accessories on his neck. He looked like a typical evil merchant.
“How could there still be a beggar dares that enters my restaurant! What are you doing?! Throw him out immediately!”
With that, Isaac was quickly pulled out of his seat by the waiters. Before Isaac realised what had happened, he was thrown onto the streets. While Isaac sat there baffled, the waiters muttered that they were going to wash their hands as if they had touched something filthy. The fat man grovelled to his customers as he apologised, and the customer applauded him for managing the situation perfectly.
Nobody cared about Isaac. Even the people on the streets refused to look at him as if he didn’t exist.
“Ha. Being so completely ignored like this is a new experience.”
Isaac got back on his feet and headed back to New Port City.