Isaac was spending his day just as he always had, reading a book as he sat on a cushioned chair in front of the City Hall. This time, however, there seemed to be a commotion on the streets which disrupted his focus. He raised his head to see what was causing it.
Isaac saw Ratt leading a girl toward the Police Headquarters situated at the plaza. Ratt stood well inside the girl’s personal space, his hands skimming over her breasts and ass as he dragged her behind. Isaac breathed his cigarette deeply and muttered to himself.
“I didn’t know people of this city are so creative when it comes to suicide.”
“Huh? What are you standing around for? Move it!”
When the girl stopped moving after spotting Isaac, Ratt slapped the girl’s ass as hard as he could. While Ratt savoured the soft yet firm sensation he felt on his hand, the girl shouted toward Isaac.
“Sunbaenim, can I hit him?”
“He’s not my subordinate.”
Ratt saw the two exchange words to each other and a thought crossed his mind. The girl knew Isaac. Ratt’s face went pale like paper, but before he could get himself together, he noticed the rope he held in his hand loosened. When he turned, he saw the girl smiling at him, her hands holding the shredded rope that once shackled her.
“Do you know what a bloody pancake is?”
Reisha pummelled Ratt so hard that even the onlookers could feel the impact of her blows as they watched. Only when both her hands were painted red with blood did Reisha walk toward Isaac with a bright smile, dragging Ratt’s motionless body behind her.
“Yo! It’s been a while.”
Isaac greeted Reisha casually with a limp wave. Reisha’s shoulder drooped at the sight of such effortless greeting.
“Sigh, I see you’re the same as always, Sunbaenim. It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other, yet you greet me like you don’t even care.”
Isaac noticed that continuing this conversation was only going to get worse, so he quickly changed the subject to Ratt.
“Why did you bring him here?”
“Huh? Then what do I do?”
“Throw him out.”
“Umm, my mum told me I shouldn’t litter….”
Isaac spoke without a hint of emotion towards Reisha, who didn’t know what to do.
“Then bury him.”
Reisha’s search for a suitable spot to bury him forced Ratt’s survival instinct to kick in. He quickly begged to Reisha, his voice whistling through his broken teeth.
“Keek… Help me.”
“He’s saying ‘help me.’”
“Isn’t killing him better? I don’t think he’ll have any regrets after touching an elf’s ass.”
“Would it? But taking care of the aftermath is annoying, so I’ll just make him follow me as my personal punching bag.”
With Isaac’s apathetic nod, Reisha threw Ratt into the air with just one hand. Ratt’s body landed on the ground, but his body rolled further into the distance thanks to force of Reisha’s throw. Once Ratt’s twitching body came to a halt, the police officers who watched from the side quickly took him away to somewhere else.
“So, how did he wrong you for you to get arrested?”
“Hehe. You see, there was a story that was passed down in our tribe, so I wanted to test if it was true.”
“There was a book named ‘Varying Human Reactions When Acting Innocent and Clueless’ written by an elf who travelled the human cities. It was a chronicle of the author’s adventure. There was one chapter which detailed how the police officers groped the author when a small incident occurred.”
“Do elves have a different law when it comes to sexual harassment? The author just went with that?”
“The author acted like a clueless elf who thought this was just a standard procedure.”
“I mean, there’s a limit to acting. Sure, you are different races, but letting a man have his way on a woman…”
“Huh? But the author was male? He later paid him back in kind by giving them a cursed artifact as a gift.”
“So in order to see if they’d really harass, you got arrested?”
Isaac smirked. Despite not seeing her for so long, it seemed her special personality was still the same.
“So why are you here? Have you graduated already?”
“It’s the holidays. Mazelan Sunbaenim asked me to visit you on the way back to my tribe to send you a message.”
“Hm, is it already that time?”
It did seem the days were starting to get colder. Perhaps it will be winter soon.
“Why did he send you when he could just send a letter? Is it classified information?”
“I don’t know?”
“I thought you came to give me a message?”
“I knew it. I guess you really are living under a rock just like Mazelan Sunbaenim told me.”
Isaac just watched Reisha as she sighed, still oblivious as to what she meant. Reisha realised how seriously behind Isaac was on recent events and made a fuss as she spoke.
“Do you really not know? The Empire as a whole is in a huge ruckus because of the newest invention, the Communicator!”
Isaac asked her to elaborate, trying to confirm if the object in his mind was what Reisha meant.
“Yes! Communicator! You can talk to someone as if they’re next to you no matter how far away they are! All of the professors and lecturers praised it, saying its creation will revolutionise the world! Even Campus brought one in and made a policy where students could speak to their families once a month!”
Isaac went into deep thought as he let Reisha’s words exit out of his other ear. The more he listened, the more it sounded like telephone in its earliest version – one that was yet to be available for all households.
“I also had a go with it after hearing my family got one installed at home too. I found it amazing that I could talk to my mum face to face despite how…”
“Huh? Wait. You can see each other’s faces?”
“Yes. What’s wrong?”
Reisha looked at Isaac, wondering if anything she said was that strange. Isaac quickly waved his hand, motioning Reisha to continue, and Reisha eagerly chattered on.
‘What the? Is that even possible?’
Isaac wasn’t aware of its full details, but he had the general knowledge of history of telephones. From Morse Code – back when it wasn’t even possible to send a word through a line – it developed into public phones, then cell phones, and finally video calls. This series of improvements took 200 years of constant inventions and development.
Yet this world somehow bypassed such development and leaped straight into wireless video calls in one go, globalising its trend along the way? Even magic wouldn’t allow such illogical conclusion.
‘I swear, this world gets stranger by the moment.’
“So Sunbaenim, what will you do about Kunette?”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s really really mad.”
“Mad? At who? Me?”
“Of course it’s you! She couldn’t eat honey ever since you graduated!”
“Why? Rivolden Merchant Guild must have held up their end of the bargain! They should be able to send ten pots of…. They couldn’t send it even if they wanted to.”
Isaac realised his mistake. Even the Rivolden Merchant Guild had no way to bring their goods to Campus if Isaac wasn’t there. Isaac had constantly nagged Gonzales about that fact, yet he managed to forget how it would also affect him. Basically, he ran away from Kunette after irresponsibly making a promise he couldn’t keep. It was Isaac’s fault since he failed to make any proper plans to deal with this problem.
“How mad is she?”
“It was really, really bad at first. I think she suffered withdrawal symptoms when she couldn’t eat the honey she’d had every day, and she absolutely demolished the lodge you used to live in.”
Isaac moaned, picturing the carnage in his head.
“Most of her anger is gone and the target of that anger has also changed, but she’s still very upset.”
“What do you mean the target’s changed?”
“We decided to use this Communicator once it was installed, so we called our homes.”
“You told me that before.”
“It seemed the Rivolden Merchant Guild simply stocked the honey they couldn’t send into their warehouse until warriors of Northern Bear Tribe assaulted the guild, angered by the fact that they used Kunette as a tool for their business.”
“I can imagine the chaos.”
“That’s right! But when the guild showed the stacks of honey they had, the warriors simply left after emptying the warehouse. They also told the guild to send all honey to them instead.”
“To the tribe itself?”
“I imagine there isn’t any left?”
“You’ve seen how much the Northern Bears love honey.”
Reisha’s replies were enough to give Isaac a headache. Kunette earned that honey by allowing Rivelia to cuddle her at the cost of her pride. It was obvious that she would be outraged if that honey disappeared.
“Is she going home now?”
“As soon as the holiday started. She said she’ll come here afterwards. Kukuk, good luck on dealing with her.”
Isaac wrapped his hands around his head. Even Isaac would feel guilty if those shiny puppy eyes of hers were filled with hatred as she looked at him – worse if there were teardrops in the corners of her eyes.
“How much is an elven honey?”
Reisha seemed as if expecting this request from Isaac. She arrogantly pushed out her chest as she showed off.
“Ohohoho. You do need my help right? Elven honey can’t be bought no matter how much money you have, but if you ask really nicely… I might help you out.”
“Yes, please. Get me some of it.”
“Umm, this isn’t what I wanted…”
Reisha had a complicated look when Isaac nodded to her words without hesitation. It seemed she wanted to see Isaac struggle against his pride, hesitating on whether to ask for help or not. She was probably hoping for Isaac to beg on his knees once he finished weighing his pride and his life against each other.
“So, when are you going back? Shall I find a ticket for a ferry?”
“I didn’t come on a ship.”
“All I needed was a raft to come here, just like in Campus.”
“You came all the way from the capital surfing on af raft?”
“Yes. That Grand Canal is really nice you know? The water flows steadily, so it’s really easy for me to pick up the speed there.”
Reisha continued to speak of her adventures, of how she overtook all the ships that sailed the canal. Isaac listened to her story for some time and then stood up to head for Port City.
“I get it now, so you should go home.”
“Huh? Why! I was planning to play here for a while!”
“Then play here for a few days. Then, go home and get me that honey. Don’t come back if you don’t have it with you.”
“Wow! Are you threatening me now?”
“No, I’m asking you for help.”
“Hm. Well! Since you’re asking me for help, I guess I can’t just leave you alone!”
Isaac sighed deeply. Just changing one word was enough to outwit Reisha’s simple mind. She was now boasting about how there’s nothing to worry about since she’s here to help. Isaac decided to give a little piece of advice to Reisha – a heartfelt one at that.
“You should never sign a contract for someone else’s sake.”
“Huh? How did you know? That’s one of the absolute laws for elves, to never pledge for someone else, not even for a family.”
Reisha disappeared the moment they arrived at Port City, saying she’d go around for a look.
Isaac wasn’t worried, since she’s very used to going about on her own. Even if she causes an incident, there’s nothing to worry about. This was Port City, not New Port City.
Isaac wandered the streets, not knowing where these communicators were set up. But finding out where wasn’t a problem. Everyone on the streets was busy talking about this revolutionary invention.
“Hm, I guess it’s still treated as entertainment by most people.”
The communicators were placed in Port City’s main plaza, which was so full of people that Isaac didn’t even need to search where it could be. Those who have already used it were boasting to the crowd that surrounded them, who were listening attentively about the experience. There was a long queue to use the communicator.
The queue seemed too long to wait for, and Isaac turned around without a doubt in his mind.
“This one of the useful times to have the power of authority.”
Communicators were revolutionary tools that could change the paradigm of the generation. Considering the Empire’s history and their personality, Isaac was sure that these communicators were already installed in many of its government buildings for efficiency. It hadn’t been long since it was invented, but unlike New Port City, Port City was probably number one candidate when it came to installation of this equipment.
“What a difference.”
Compared to New Port City’s City Hall, which was more akin to a residence, Port City’s City Hall seemed more like a giant manor for a high ranking noble. Being a prosperous city meant there was more funds the city government could use, and since most people who visited the city hall were people from high society, the city had to decorate its hall like that of a noble’s residence.
Just as Isaac had expected, Port City’s City Hall had some Communicators installed. But what he didn’t expect was that the city was also operating all the calls with a switchboard.
“This is the telephone device’s most modern version, yet it’s operated with the most rudimentary system. What kind of a technological gap is this?”
Isaac smiled bitterly as he watched the operators frantically moved the crystal balls in every direction. You could see how new this technology this was by watching all the mistakes these operators made with their lack of experience.
“How did you get here? This area is restricted for city’s personnel only.”
A man who seemed to be the overseer of the communicator room approached Isaac with hostility until he realised the College Emblem on Isaac’s chest. His face stiffened, and Isaac had to repeat what he said to the reception down at ground floor.
“I’m Administrator of New Port City. I need to use them for an official matter. Is there one available?”
“There is one but… Do you even know a place that it can connect to?”
He was tensed up because of the College emblem at first, but Isaac’s history had been revealed to its finest detail to everyone. Even he, a man well below Isaac’s rank, looked down on Isaac.
Many of the higher ups in the Empire stilled preferred to use the old way. To them, communicators were just devices they’d use out of curiosity. When they were first installed, they frequently visited this place to talk to their friends and acquaintances, but it seemed their curiosity had been sated and hadn’t shown their faces for some time now.
But to the regular employees of the offices, this device, which significantly shortened their work time, was both a blessing and a curse. The operators may take some time because it is their first time working, but even so, the employees of the offices celebrated how much time had been saved thanks to this device. However, it also meant that they were given more work to complete because of their increased efficiency, and most didn’t know whether they should be happy or sad about this fact. This was the situation the communicator service was in, yet some backwater administrator from New Port City decided to visit when they were at their busiest hour. The overseer assumed that the official matter was just an excuse, and the real reason he came was to sate his curiosity.
Since communicators in the city hall was for official use, there was no fee. The overseer also assumed that the administrator came here to save money since public communicators came at a steep price, so there was no reason for him to show any manners to Isaac.
But the College is the College. Out of reluctance, the overseer led Isaac to a communicator which was placed in a corner instead of a private communicator room.
“All of the private communicator rooms are currently in use. This is the only one available now, if that’s okay with you. You can tell the operator where you wish to connect.”
Many in the room whispered to each other when they saw the rumoured Administrator from New Port City. Of course, none of their words were very nice things to hear.
‘A monitor is it?’
Isaac looked at the booth he was placed. It was akin to a sight you’d see from a PC café, with just a monitor that sat in front of him. Isaac ordered his operator.
“To Gabelin’s Department of Supplies.”
“Connect me to Gabelin’s Department of Supplies.”
All of the operators in the room who were eavesdropping looked as if they understood everything. There is only one reason for an Administrator to contact the Department of Supplies: to receive more supplies. But no amount of crying from an Administrator of New Port City would connect him to the higher-ups, and he could imagine Isaac getting a scolding for not connecting to Levonen Province Department of Supplies first.
The operator moved the switchboard without a shred of sincerity. It seemed there was still confidentiality in these devices, and only voices could be heard while the screen remained black.
-This is Count Grobelin’s Exchange. How may I help you?
“Grobelin? I thought I asked for Gabelin?”
-We’ll connect you to them.
-Hello. This is Gabelin’s Department of Finance Exchange. How may I help you?
“Department of Finance? I want the Department of Supplies…”
-We’ll send you back. Please connect from the previous exchange.
-This is Count Grobelin’s Exchange. How may I help you?
Is this some customer service bullshit…
Isaac sighed at how quickly these operators learnt how to make someone feel miserable by transferring the caller in an infinite loop.
“I told you to connect to Gabelin’s Department of Supplies.”
Isaac tried to put it as nicely as possible as he thought to himself that he’d been through this kind of thing back in the past. But the operator talked back to Isaac instead.
-Hey. Why do you keep connecting to us? We’re busy as it is already without you making it worse! We’ll send you back again. You do it one more time and I’ll report you!
While Isaac sat dumbfounded by the operator’s reaction, it seemed the operator from the other side forgot to finish the call. Everyone could hear the conversation the operators were making.
-What is it?
-I don’t know. It’s that idiot who asked me to connect to Gabelin’s Department of Supplies.
-Why is he asking for that here?
-I know right?
-If it’s Gabelin… Isn’t that the Department’s headquarters? He’d get a straight connection if he asked for Department of Supplies Headquarters. Maybe he’s purposely saying Gabelin to get misunderstood as Grobelin for another purpose.
-What are you saying?
-I’m saying that maybe that man has feelings for you.
-Ha! Don’t make me laugh. He sounded like a typical Rank 3 knight stationed in some rural village! I have standards you know! You remember this too! The moment you get in a relationship with a man like that, it will be the end of your life!
-But the call came from Port City?
-Really? Ha! I bet he’s still at the bottom of the caste. The most that man will achieve is a title of Administrator of some backwater village. Do you really want to have the title of ‘village chief’s wife’?
All of the operators could hear the conversation between the two operators, and they could only keep themselves from bursting in laughter.
-Aaah! Why am I, a woman who has both beauty and intelligence and currently enrolled in Campus having to spend the golden opportunity of holidays doing this? Shouldn’t men line up to meet someone with my status?
-Are you really asking that? It’s because you didn’t have enough points to graduate, and the professors are willing to make up the difference if you did this job.
-Is there a rich man with a short life? I’m confident that I could drop out from Campus if it’s to serve someone for a month.
-With your skills?
-What about my skills, you bitch!
Isaac pulled out a cigarette as he was forced to listen to their conversation. He was stuck here as long as they didn’t finish the call and transferred him back to the previous exchange.
All of the operators in the room were twitching in pain as their stomach cramped from trying to stifle their laughter. Even the overseer was quietly snickering, but he finally made a move since the entire exchange room was now paralysed by this event.
“Hey! Who are you?! Do you think the public network is for your petty talk?!”
Finally, they realised the connection was still on. With a scream the operator from Grobelin closed the call. After a moment of silence, Isaac massaged his head as he made his call.
“Gabelin, no connect me to Department of Supplies Headquarter.”
Isaac looked at his operator who was still laughing at what had happened. Now that he thought about it, that man definitely did it on purpose.
Do I fuck him up or not?
It was during this time the connection got through straight to where Isaac wanted.
-Hello. This is Amy from the Department of Supplies Headquarter Exchange. How may I help you?
As expected of the Empire’s main government facilities. Unlike the other calls Isaac made, the screen showed not just her voice but her face as well. Amy, the operator of the department, was beautiful enough to be an object of desire for the men around her.
“Hm. Where do I connect from here?”
Isaac realised that he only knew Mazelan Sunbae was working in Department of Supplies, but not his title or which cabinet he worked in. In truth, he didn’t even make an effort to find out. The only thing he had to ask for was the name Mazelan, but there was no way it would be that easy.
“Hm. Do you know any of the higher ups with the name Mazelan?”
-Mazelan was it? I’ll have a look.
It seemed she was well trained for her job. Despite Isaac’s unexpected request, Amy still kept a smile on her face and looked through her records. After a few searches, she replied with a troubled look.
-I’m sorry but I couldn’t find anyone who is currently working in Department of Supplies under the name of Mazelan.
Everyone who was overhearing this call snickered at Amy’s reply. It annoyed Isaac but his priority was finding Mazelan. After a quick moment, he recalled Mazelan’s official name.
“Then how about Marvelia Zelion Lankast Hugh Gabelin. Does that name ring a bell?”
Amy’s face stiffened at the mention of that name. So did all the other operators in Isaac’s room. It was as if time had stopped within these walls. All of the operators looked to each other to check if what they had just heard was true.
There was only one reason for a person to carry the name Gabelin.
That name was reserved for royalty.
Just speaking the name in public is considered ill-mannered, and even the highest ranking officials speak the name sparingly. Yet that name was blurted out from an Administrator of the worst city in the Empire.
While everyone was frozen in place, Isaac silently urged Amy to hurry up. Amy simply looked back at Isaac in disbelief. There was no need for her to search for him.
-Are you talking about Vice Commissioner Marvelia?
“Vice Commissioner? He’s already promoted that far? I guess having a nice family backing you up can get you somewhere no matter how much you play. Anyway, connect me to him.”
But it’s not just a family!
Everyone in the room screamed toward Isaac in their minds. The room was at a halt for all work; the Communicators were ringing with all the calls that had not been received. But there was no time to receive them. Just making a noise in this situation could send them into trouble.
Amy’s face was still tensed up as she attempted to connect to Vice Commissioner. She carefully spoke back to Isaac.
-Um, Vice Commissioner has asked you to wait because he’s currently in a meeting.”
“Wait? That’s annoying…”
You crazy bastard!
Once again everyone shouted in unison in their minds. It is expected for the subordinate to wait if the superior demands it. This would be the same for a run-of-the-mill Vice Commissioner from another department, let alone a royalty! Yet he was complaining that it was annoying!
“Well, you can still send him a message right?”
-Uh, yes. What would your message be?
“Tell him that he better pay back for the time when he forced the cheque on to me after playing in New Port City’s pubs and brothels.”
The atmosphere in the room dropped cold, matching the winter’s wind in the cold northern lands.