Isaac took his time to enjoy his meal, finishing it off by sipping the last drop of his tea. He lit a cigarette and got off his seat.
“I’m done eating. Let’s head back.”
“Are you not going to the City Hall?”
Soland asked Isaac. He had thought the original purpose of this visit was to see the Mayor and Administrator of Port City. Isaac smirked as he replied.
“It’s fine. I think I’ve done my part for the greeting.”
There was no point in meeting a puppet Mayor. None of the City Hall’s officials had come to visit Isaac despite the amount of time he had spent sitting here. Isaac deduced that the Mayor was too busy appeasing and following orders from those who truly ran the city.
His original purpose was to test the waters by annoying someone in the city, but thanks to the fatass, Isaac was able to send an unexpected but proper greeting. With this, his enemies from both outside and within wouldn’t try to bother him for a while.
“Are you really going to abandon Foxt like this?”
Soland carefully asked the question, watching his tone as he spoke.
“I never had talent of throwing away something I never had.”
“Then what will you do with Foxt’s territory?”
“Well, I haven’t given it a thought.”
“If you leave his seat empty, the power vacuum is sure to bring bloodshed in the district.”
“Hm, that would be an annoyance. Who would be suitable to run the place? How about Ratt?”
“There would be bitter outcry from other syndicates if it’s the Vice-Captain of the police force, despite your recommendation.”
Isaac glimpsed at Soland when he made his reply. He could clearly see the greed possessing Soland’s eyes.
“What, you want it?”
“If you leave it to me, I won’t leave you disappointed.”
Soland bowed and Isaac patted Soland’s shoulders with a smile.
“You’ll get sick if you eat too much.”
“I’ll try to watch myself.”
Soland tried to hide his disappointment as he replied. They were the only people who knew of Foxt’s arrest. If he moved his subordinates the moment he arrived back at New Port City, he would be able to take over Foxt’s entire district before anyone else. He considered going through with that plan at first, but Isaac’s presence deterred him.
This was the first time he had seen someone from Campus. The Campus had been placed on a pedestal in his mind all his life. He even dreamt of entering it when he was a child, like a child dreaming of a fairy tale. But Isaac must have done something in that special place for the two who came from Campus to run away the moment they saw him. They were afraid of Isaac, and Soland didn’t know why.
At first, he considered Isaac to be only a nuisance, but now he was afraid that he would turn out just like Foxt if he were to act in any way that earned his disapproval.
“Ah! Dumbass also ran a loan shark business, right?”
“Financing is one of the main business projects for all the organisations.”
“I guess loan sharking could be called a type of financing.”
Isaac nodded by twisting the logic in his head and then turned to meet Soland with a beaming smile.
“Sometimes, you can run into a stroke of luck in your life. Right?”
“You too. You never thought you’d have the chance to take over an entire district like this, right? People call it a stroke of luck.”
“Yes, it was truly unexpected.”
Soland carefully chose his answer for Isaac, trying to figure out the meanings behind Isaac’s words.
“When you have a lucky day, it makes you really happy. Right?”
“Of course. You could pick up a coin on the street, or get help from a stranger. Maybe a shop you just visited happened to run an event which you are the winner. You could take over an enemy syndicate as a whole, or the contract and the account book which records all the debt that had been breaking your back could suddenly disappear somehow because the man behind it is now behind bars, making you free of all responsibilities. Events like these can really spice up your life.”
“Huh? You’re rather silent? I guess making a man from another district butt in to their problem wouldn’t be fair for Dumbass right? I guess finding a subordinate of his that actually listens to me would be the fairer choice right?”
“I guess you have to have some good luck in your life to spice things up.”
Once a month, there is a meeting where the highest officials of the Empire gather to discuss their actions and policies. The fact that the candidates in line for the Commissioner position managed to join this fierce battle of power, factional infighting, and creations of connections guaranteed a successful rise in power. Many young officials who craved power dreamt of attending this meeting just once in their life.
“How could you spout such nonsense?!”
Slam! Mazelan pounded the table as he violently stood up from his seat. No one in the meeting seemed disturbed however, possibly because not only was he royalty, he had proven his worth to act such way through his magnificent accomplishments he made as the future Commissioner of Department of Supplies.
“Ha, I don’t understand why the Department of Supplies is rejecting it.”
Mazelan looked as if he was ready to bite into Kainen’s face, along with his cheesy attitude.
“I can say the same to you! Why is the Personnel Office getting involved in this?”
Kainen shook his head to Mazelan’s rebuttal.
“I believe it is completely in our jurisdiction. As you know, New Port City has always been on the list as one of Empire’s worst cities. The Personnel Office’s duty is to send an appropriate person to an appropriate location in need. Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit, but our department have always failed to select the ideal candidate to change New Port City’s situation. Ever since it had been founded.”
“That is why we looked to College for help: to recommend someone that could change New Port City. It was not us who picked Isaac, but the College that recommended him to us.”
“How shameless of you.”
“Shameless, you say? It has been nearly a year since Isaac had been the Administrator of New Port City. I’m sure he has adjusted well to his new environment. All we want from the College’s recommendation is one thing: to revolutionise New Port City and drop its unemployment and crime rate, which it had been leading in throughout the entire Empire.”
“That’s what I don’t understand! If he fails, he will be summoned back to his manor for a period of reflection? How can we believe those blatant lies when we clearly know the situation your family is in!”
“Dear me, I believe your trust is misplaced. Your faith should be in that Hubae you are so proud of, not us. Isn’t that right, Sunbaenim?”
Kainen and Mazelan’s glares met midair. While everyone looked to each other, unable to make a move in this fierce atmosphere, a middle aged man raised his hand to halt the fight between the two.
“Stop. It seems everyone is troubled. A fight between the Department of Supplies and Personnel Office… Are you two trying to make a new tradition?”
Mazelan and Kainen turned their eyes away from each other. That man was Brolen. Not only was he the eldest in this meeting, but he was their Sunbae and the next Commissioner of Department of Finance, and he had already taken over all of the responsibilities of Commissioner in his stead.
“We shall end our meeting here. Well done, everyone. I want the Department of Supplies and Personnel Office to stay here. The rest of you may leave.”
Everyone else seemed happy to hear those words from Brolen, and only three people remained in this meeting room. Brolen tapped his finger on the table as he pondered. Soon, he fixed his posture and began to speak.
“I approve of the Personnel Office’s proposal.”
Kainen made a bright smile when Brolen took his side.
Brolen stopped Mazelan from trying to make a stand.
“Since he was assigned the duty with the honour of College behind him, he must make an accomplishment that matches its fame. There are many Sunbaenims who are enraged that a man who isn’t worthy bears the name of the College. If Isaac can truly change New Port City, it may change their opinion as well.”
‘But I’m doing this because it’s impossible.’
Mazelan thought to himself as he tried to think of a way to come back. But this was a proposal that came so suddenly in this meeting, and there wasn’t enough time to think of a plan.
“But because this is such a difficult mission, he deserves the authority and reward matching it. At this moment, I declare New Port City to be a special financial district and give its Administrator, Isaac Rondart, the authority identical to that of a Lord’s.”
Brolen’s declaration put not just Kainen but also Mazelan in shock. They looked at him as if questioning his sanity. A Lord had the same authority as a King of his territory, which meant that he could change the province’s laws as long as there weren’t any rebellions. This was why people strove so hard to become a Lord themselves.
But what would happen if Isaac held the same authority? Already, Mazelan could think of Isaac sending the city into utter chaos with a sinister smile.
“But we will limit the time period to three years, and if he cannot reduce the unemployment or crime rate to below 1% or raise the average earnings of his citizens to the Empire’s average, we will take away his status as a College graduate, along with its honour.”
Kainen’s head was in utter chaos, scrambling to calculate if this was good or not.
“In addition! If he were to succeed, we will officially proclaim Isaac to be the official heir of Rondart family and make him the Lord of Baron Rondart’s province.”
“That is beyond your jurisdiction!”
Kainen stood up against Brolen’s words. This entire façade was to take over the Rondart Province for himself, and giving Isaac himself the possibility of taking it over wasn’t something he was going to stand.
“Beyond my jurisdiction, you say? The court officials of Empire have already accepted Isaac Rondart to be the official heir. Do you really think I am oblivious to the fact that the reason why he hasn’t inherited his claim is because of Count Milros constantly lobbying us? Isn’t that what’s truly beyond jurisdiction?”
“I warn you now. If you try to use the Empire’s authority for your petty family feud, I will carve into your bones what it truly means to abuse the Empire’s authority. Are you rejecting this proposal in fear that Isaac could change New Port City in three years? Then I must invalidate your proclamation as a whole.”
“We will accept.”
Kainen dropped his head as he backed off, and now it was Mazelan who was in Brolen’s eyes.
“You too. Are you already trying to make your own faction and connections? I understand you are trying to protect your friend, but don’t mix business with pleasure.”
“You two may leave.”
Kainen and Mazelan bowed to Brolen as they left. Once they left, a man emerged from the shadows. It was the same man who brought Rivelia into Central.
“Do you think it’s possible to change New Port City in three years?”
“Even Central will find that difficult.”
“It matters not. We’ve suffered too much when the last Gate opened, and we have no room to care about each individual Surveillance Target. There’s bound to be a response if he has that much power and time. Send some agents for close monitoring of the situation.”
“Yes sir. But what shall we do with Kainen?”
“Does he still not know?”
“Yes. We’ve kept him in the dark, since he was related by blood with the target.”
“I think it’ll be fine now. Since the day for Gate’s reopening is near, send him in along with the rest. Once he learns the truth, he will quiet down.”
Isaac’s daily life was always the same. All he did was wake up, eat, smoke, waste his time with menial chores, eat, smoke, read, eat, smoke, drink and sleep. A very dull and peaceful life.
And while Isaac enjoyed himself in the life he sought for, New Port City began to change. The biggest change was the return of children’s laughter in the city.
For the children who suffered endless starvation and abuse, laughter was but a luxury. But thanks to Isaac’s order, they were able to have a full stomach every day without the need to scavenge or beg. They no longer had to do dangerous and dirty jobs for a piece of bread. There was nothing they needed to do to survive. With so much time left in their hands, the only natural thing to do was gather and play.
The sight of children playing in the streets changed the adults too. At first, they would get mad at the children for making too much noise, but now they would nonchalantly tell them to play safe as they walked past.
Among the ten thousand citizens who live in New Port City, around 30% of them are syndicate criminals and their families, while the remaining 70% were exploited by the syndicates. They were the workers, orphans and the abandoned elderly.
The few ruled over the many through repression and violence, but to work as their slaves was the workers’ destiny. They had neither the strength nor the will to resist against them.
There was no place to run even if they wanted to. If you somehow managed to earn enough money to leave this place, the money you hold will make you the prime target for criminals. The only thing left in your possession would be your cold dead body after they are done with their work. Even if you somehow left the city, finding a reliable workplace was difficult. Even that became impossible when Port City started restricting the entry for the bridge, which was the sole escape route. Leading an honest life would leave them empty handed. So the environment naturally shifted to criminal ways.
The children were influenced by their environment; those who lost all hope crumbled under depression as they grew older, abusing their children and letting themselves be consumed by alcohol and drugs.
But this negative cycle started to crack. The life is still difficult, but now the city provided for their biggest expense: feeding the children.
It was run by the syndicates, but everyone knew who truly made this to happen. Just the fact that they could earn money through honest life was enough to give the people hope. This change was limited to specific areas in New Port City, but the fact that such a change occurred was a big deal.
There were few who weren’t happy to see these changes. When Foxt was arrested, other syndicates quickly moved in to fight for the district.
They have declared that the owner of the streets have changed, defeated the remnant of Foxt’s syndicate, and offered a considerable sum to Port City’s master who looked after Foxt to gain his approval. Reorganising the syndicate with the newly acquired land also took time. In total, it took 6 months for the syndicates to finish this reorganisation. And it was in these 6 months which the leaders of the syndicates were oblivious to the changes that were happening in their own districts. By the time they realised the gravity of the situation, it was too late.
Within the VIP room of New Port City’s finest brothel, the Rose Garden, Milena, Axlon, Soland and Dinozo drank their wine with a serious look on their faces.
“Do you guys have your donations for this month?”
Everyone frowned and shook their faces. Axlon slammed onto the table, unable to withhold his anger.
“Shit! Ever since the new Administrator came, everything’s going horribly!”
“Do you think this was all according to his plan?”
Milena spoke her biggest concern, but Soland shook his head.
“I know that man is great when making decisions in the heat of the moment, but he doesn’t have the brains to come up with a plan like this.”
“But isn’t he from the College?”
“Ha! Do you think I haven’t investigated his past? I’d bet my entire… Ahem. Anyhow, there’s no way that’d be true!”
Soland confidently spoke out, but Milena muttered on, still suspicious of what was going on.
“But we’ve become a joke now.”
“If the Administrator truly planned all this, then he truly is greatest of all geniuses.”
Milena sarcastically retorted to Dinozo’s words.
“That’s what they usually say about the College. Genius among geniuses.”
Everyone fell into a deep thought after Milena’s words. They didn’t want to admit it, but what she said was true. Other than the order to feed the children, the Administrator had never intervened.
Once, one of the police officers ended up fighting Foxt’s captains during his arrest. The fight ended up with the death of the criminal, which was a problem since he needed a court hearing first. But Isaac simply frowned at the situation because of the noise it made and told them to clean up the mess they made. However, the situation had spiralled out of control for everyone.
Everything was good when they happily shared Foxt’s territory. It meant more land and more people to exploit. But what they first believed was the golden egg turned out to be one giant pile of turd.
The first detriment was financing, which was a core part of all the syndicates.
Isaac had ordered the destruction and exemption of all the debts Foxt’s syndicate owned. The other leaders happily agreed, since they believed that the account would be full in no time, and sharing Foxt’s account book was bound to end up in conflict no matter how they shared it.
But the people who were exempt never came back to borrow money again. There were a few hopeless individuals who were too addicted on alcohol, drugs, and women, but they numbered only a third of the original.
When they investigated why, they found out that the cause was they themselves. The New Port City was designed so that all of the money citizens used would naturally flow back to the syndicates one way or another. All of the restaurants, shops, grocery stores, pubs and medical centres were under the syndicates’ influence.
When the syndicates began providing free food to the children, the people of the slums were relieved of their greatest expense: food. Because of that, their financial crisis began to loosen up, and they could finally see the state of their surroundings. They were able to give pocket money to their children to clean the streets for them.
With money on the line, children eagerly cleaned the streets, in contrast to before, when they either ignored or only acted the part. New Port City’s streets started to become cleaner. Now that the streets were clean, the people themselves looked dirty. With plenty of water around them, cleaning themselves wasn’t a problem.
This was only happening in Foxt’s territory now, but the words of these changes spread throughout the city. The problem was that the rest of the city was hoping for Isaac to do the same for them. The hope that they could have a new start once their crushing debts were removed was threatening every syndicate.
And they couldn’t laugh at the sick joke that they were the cause of all this. If this was the only problem, they could make by somehow. But there was another problem slowly strangling the syndicate.
The cost of feeding the children was starting to add up to too much. It was originally made with ingredients that should have been thrown out, fitting for the orphans of the slums. But because of Isaac’s occasional patrol, they had no choice but to improve the quality of their food.
No matter how deep they are in criminal lives, the members of the syndicates also have family and children. As the quality of food increased, the syndicate members started adding their children into the line. Since the food is now eaten by their children too, the quality of food started to rise with it. Now, telling their men to lower the quality or only allow orphans to eat was bound to cause a rebellion. In the worst case, they would be replaced.
“My back is starting to break feeding children I’ve never had.”
Milena complained emotionally. Milena’s main focus was the brothels, and the majority of her members were women. It seemed their maternal instinct kicked in for their food, and they provided the highest quality of food for the children in the entire city. It also meant an increase in costs.
“What about me?! I’m struggling to meet my daily quotas!”
Mining was a difficult and dangerous job. Using children meant that they could make small thin tunnels at the cost of single piece of bread. Even if these tunnels caved in, there were plenty more children who could take their place. Axlon had been abusing the children for his mining. But now that the children always had a full stomach, no one volunteered to work in the mines. Even if they were paid properly, no one wanted to work in a place with such a high mortality rate and guaranteed for lung disease after few years.
Axlon had no choice but to hire proper miners, but making tunnels large enough to allow adults through exponentially increased the time and money needed to make a profit. It was now difficult to expect levels of output similar to the days before.
“I am also spending all of my earnings from my district to cover the losses from newly acquired territory.”
Since the city’s police couldn’t blatantly take over the syndicate’s job, they decided to split the district into three, and the police would get a share. Soland received the biggest share, since it was he who negotiated with Isaac to allow other syndicates to take over. He had been regretting this decision ever since. Foxt’s main source of income was slave labour, binding his workers through unrecoverable debts. Since the interest rate was higher than what the workers could earn in a day, the workers were in hopeless situations of endless labour. But suddenly, all of that had disappeared.
The workers were paid the minimum wage dictated by the Empire’s law, but the only other source of income from the port was the fee for using the warehouses by merchants. Sadly, the fees were almost non-existent since the price was set by their masters in Port City for their ships. So most of the wages were paid from Soland’s own savings.
Plus he also needed to feed the children in the Alta District, doubling the cost. The only way to get his earnings back was to increase the number of people in debt, but no one was foolish enough to walk back into that death trap. There were a few cases that did borrow money to cover the hospital fees due to injuries or sickness, but the increase was marginal.
They couldn’t stop someone from paying back their debts, and the relationships between the mobsters and the labourers were complicated. Many were friends or families with each other, so trying to increase the hospital fees could lead to rebellion from within. Soland couldn’t find a way to counter this and believed that he will continue to be in the red for a long time.
Dinozo also complained along with the others, his face crumbling.
“I am also in a difficult position.”
Since Foxt’s district was to be overseen by the police force, they had to select someone to take that role, and the only suitable candidate was Ratt. Ratt was glad that he could finally escape the grasp from Isaac, but the problem started afterwards.
Instead of finding someone else to be his servant, Isaac started to force anyone he could see in the streets to do his chores instead. The plaza, which was once the most populated are in the city, became a ghost town at night in fear that they may end up becoming Isaac’s dog for the day.
With no people visiting the plaza, the brothels situated in the area had to vacate, and the police force had to cover the losses themselves.
“And my costs for feeding the children are increasing too.”
As the brothels left, the homeless and the orphans quickly took the empty buildings for their own. Other syndicates also saw this as an opportunity to evict the orphans in their own territory into those empty houses, forcing them onto Dinozo’s land.
The three coughed as they looked into the distance, and Dinozo could only send them a cold stare.
“But it seems there is a way to deal with this Administrator if we hold out a little longer.”
“How can we do that? One wrong move and it won’t be just our heads on the floor. Even they in Port City won’t be able to escape unscathed.”
“The only way we know of dealing with a problem is making an incident to turn people into meat bags or sink them into the bottom of the lake. But our masters’ methods in Port City aren’t as crude as ours.”
“So we are asking what that method is!”
“They’ll let the law take care of him.”
Ratt left his house for another productive day. With the sudden arrest of Foxt, Ratt was sent to administer the divided region. He was finally starting to think that his title as Vice-Captain was leading him to a better life, but what made him the happiest was that he finally escaped Isaac.
Even those who tried to challenge him for his title could only squirm and watch from the side. It was uncomfortable that he couldn’t see the true reason behind Isaac’s approval, but the fact he wasn’t at the side was enough to satisfy Ratt.
“Eh… I am expecting peak performance from all of you!”
The first thing Ratt did everyday was to make a speech in front of all the workers as he stood on top of a stand made of empty crates. Ratt did everything he could to make his pointless speech as grand as possible. Watching his audience listen attentively out of fear had brought pleasure to Ratt’s mind.
‘Kuh! This is why I can’t stop this!’
“As you know! I have given an opportunity to you unlike many who are forced to beg in the streets. So you should always have a feeling of…”
“Iyaho as you …. Huh? Who dares to interrupt my speech?”
Ratt shouted, angered by the fact he fumbled his speech. His audience only looked confused, while Ratt was eagerly scanning the area to find the culprit. His eyes screamed with the fury with which how he would put that person in jail for a month. Suddenly, the same shout came from behind him.
“These damn sailors…”
Ratt thought it was the sailors who interrupted his speech as they sailed behind him. Ratt quickly turned to look for the culprit.
“You bastards! Who is it?! I’ll make sure you are put into jail! Come out!”
As Ratt watched the ships leisurely float by the canal, he suddenly noticed the miracle of a person standing on water.
“Dear me! How come someone stand on water!”
“Is that a girl?”
Even the workers gathered next to Ratt out of curiosity, and couldn’t stop chattering to each other at what they are witnessing.
Ratt’s dumbfounded eyes met with the girl’s, and the girl greeted Ratt with a bright smile and a wave of her hand. Ratt also waved back instinctively and mumbled to himself as he saw the girl go further into the distance on top of a small raft.
“A, an elf?”
Suddenly, the girl turned around and began coming closer.
Ratt’s eyes turned wide when he saw the girl kick off her raft and jump high into the air. Everyone’s eyes were with her, and soon she started to drop.
Ratt staggered backwards as he saw the girl plummet down onto the ground like a cannonball. He made an embarrassing appearance as he rolled off his makeshift stand, but everyone else was too focused on the beauty of this girl who had suddenly appeared. Ratt also watched the elven beauty in awe when he remembered the legend he had heard from his senior as a recruit.
It was the legend of a curious elven girl who visited human world. She knew very little about human culture, which caused a minor incident. The police threatened and shouted at the innocent girl, groping the girl’s body as part of an ‘investigation.’ The legend ends with gifts sent from the elven girl for overlooking over the situation with just a warning!
Ratt’s face quickly warped into a sinister grin.
“How dare you try to assault an officer of Empire’s Police? You are under arrest according to Empire’s law!”
The girl tilted her head at Ratt’s voice filled with ulterior motives. She smiled, and stretched out her hands.
“Yes! Arrest me!”