It wasn’t long until Mazelan was on the screen. Isaac couldn’t even finish his cigarette he had lit to pass his time.
-You bastard! What lies did you spout about me!
Mazelan peered through the screen with unmatched anger, almost as if he was ready to shatter it. Isaac replied to Mazelan with his typical leisurely tone.
“You shouldn’t have made me wait after calling me over. That’s poor manners. I’m a busy man too, you know.”
Those words from Isaac put everyone at a loss for words, even the operators in the room. Shouldn’t it be the other way around, where the subordinate waits if his superior asks for it?
Mazelan beat his chest to vent out his frustration.
-Dear me! I was a fool! To look after a crazy bastard like you!
Mazelan regretfully let out those words when a man appeared behind Mazelan in the screen, carefully approaching him with shaking voice.
-Um… Vice Commissioner.
-I have a message from your family. They are asking you to visit them immediately after work. They would like to know the story behind the rumours….
The blood in Mazelan’s face drained from his face after hearing the man’s message. Mazelan faltered as if he was about to faint, then quickly grabbed on to the monitor and shook it wildly as if he was holding on to Isaac himself.
-You, bastard! What have you done! The rumours have spread already!
“What are you so worried about. Just tell them it was a misunderstanding.”
-Do you think those words will be enough to convince anyone!
“You will suffer from the rumours for some time, but I’m sure it will die down eventually.”
-Do you have any idea how many people are trying to topple me over… I wouldn’t even be this mad if I’d actually done it.
Frustrated, Mazelan sighed deeply. He was quite famous within the social network of the aristocrats in the Empire. There was his family line, status as Vice Commissioner at such a young age with the guarantee of becoming the future Commissioner, and most important of all, his single status. A pedigree like that was enough to make any parent dream of him as their son-in-law for their daughters. Plus, his actions have shown his slightly workaholic but gentlemanlike nature.
Mazelan’s mother recently found a hobby of looking through the list of women whom a middleman would bring in hopes of marrying Mazelan. She would flick through the list, comparing and judging the girl’s history and abilities. But if a rumour such as this was to spread now…
Mazelan’s body shook when he imagined the scolding and questioning that was awaiting him once he got back home.
“Hey, at least you’ve learnt a lesson.”
“Um, don’t make someone wait after you bring them over?”
People in the Communicator room could feel the anger from Mazelan whenever his body twitched. Mazelan’s eyes flickered with wrath as if he were considering how to beat Isaac to the ground, yet Isaac pressed Mazelan unemotionally to ask why he was called.
“So what’s the deal for me to talk to you personally? I doubt it’s for some casual catch-up session.”
How is this catch-up session? It was an accusation made of false information!
The operators began to see Isaac in a new light. Just the fact that he had a close tie with the Vice Commissioner of the Department of Supplies through a Sunbae-Hubae relationship was enough to make Isaac formidable to his subordinates.
-Sigh. I give up. It’s my fault for trying to pull a prank on you.
Mazelan dropped his shoulder weakly but quickly shifted the expression on his face to a serious one. Play time was over now.
-Is there anyone who can overhear our conversation?
Isaac scanned his surrounding, and he could see all the operators swiftly turn their faces to avoid his eyes.
“There’s about twenty of them.”
-Why is there so many? Aren’t you in a private room?
“They told me all of the private rooms were occupied and gave me a Communicator shoved in the corner of the room. My screen is open for everyone to see.”
-Hm. That’s amusing. I’m aware that Port City receives a high number of calls, but higher-ranking officials should be given priority with the Communicators in the city hall. Switch me over to the Communicator overseer.
Before Mazelan even finished his words, the overseer quickly ran over to Isaac as drops of cold sweat formed on his face.
“G, greetings your majesty. I am the overseer of….”
-Shut it. Did you receive the official document stating that due to delays regarding complete installation of Communicators in the Empire, all private-use Communicators should be prioritised in accordance to rank and the importance of the work? Have you read it?
“I, I have read it.’
-Then why is an Administrator using a Communicator intended for office use?
“I, it’s because… All of the private rooms are occupied…”
-Are you making false reports now? You said you’ve read the document right? Don’t you understand the phrase ‘prioritised in accordance to rank’?
“I, I do understand.”
-There should be at least ten private rooms installed in Port City. Even if all of the rooms are occupied right now, how many official ranks are above the Administrator of a city?
“T, that would be the mayor.”
-So you’re saying all of the rooms are taken by mayors and Administrators, now? Or is it because the Administrator of New Port City is a talentless, powerless, ambitionless scum of the earth who looks down on his Sunbae like a dog and would only visit whenever he is in need, and is shunned by the rest of the world, that you thought you could just throw him with the rest?
Mazelan pressured the Overseer close to his breaking point, but it was Isaac who saved him.
“Can you stop with the passive-aggressive insults and get to the point?”
-I’ll be watching you.
“T, thank you. I will immediately lead him to one of the private rooms.”
The Overseer looked to Isaac as if he had just saved his life. He repeatedly thanked Isaac and tried to lead him to the private rooms, but Isaac refused with an annoyed face.
“I don’t know what this is about, but if the word is going to spread eventually, then just say it here.”
Mazelan pondered for a moment, then sighed as he replied.
-Well. I guess everyone important already knows, so I guess it shouldn’t matter. You know that Port City is in conflict with the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds because they are trying to establish a merchant guild of their own, right?
“I think I remember hearing about it.”
-Long story short, the conflict from Port City’s attempt at creating their own merchant guild isn’t just a problem in the merchant world, but a smaller version of the political battles within the Empire’s government. If Port City manages to form their own guild, it may force some of the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds into bankruptcy. The problem is that many people are involved with the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds.
“I thought that’s the reason Port City can’t make a merchant guild?”
-That’s right. Even if Port City was to spend a fortune lobbying, the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds have connections of their own.
“Then what’s the problem?”
-Count Milros’s family has stepped in.
“Kainen’s mother’s family?”
-That’s right. Count Milros’ family has agreed to assist the formation of the guild if Port City were to help eliminate you.
“Do they really want to kill me that badly?”
-Removing you is just an added benefit. What they really want is a significant portion of the Port City Merchant Guild’s shares. The profits it would entail are guaranteed as long as it is established.
“But wouldn’t there be significant opposition against them?”
-That’s why you are so important. Unless a noble family served in the business world, the Empire’s law states that nobles with the rank of Count and above cannot invest or assist in forming merchant guilds. It’d be too easy for nobles with such power to go against the fair trade laws if they were to intervene. As the Taxation Branch of Department of Administration always says, wherever there is profit, there is a nasty fight underneath it.
“Hm, it’s my first time hearing that.”
-Well, that’s why such powerful noble families try to get around the law by using their lesser vassal families, who are their relatives. But even that has been heavily restricted by law, so there aren’t many families who succeed.
“So how does that relate to why I’m so important?”
-Count Milros’s family have made many attempts to spread their influence into business just like Port City, and Baron Rondart has already managed to achieve half of the desired effect.
“And I’m the other half.”
-That’s right. Once you’re gone, Count Milros will be able to start his business with a significant portion of Port City’s shares. Well, other factions are well aware of this too, and that is why they will do everything to protect you. As long as you, the official heir to Rondart Family who has no ambitions, live, Count Milros will never obtain the Rondart Family.
The conclusion was that no matter how much Isaac struggled, Count Milros wanted him dead. That was the simplest solution without any future worries.
“Then shouldn’t you have prevented this from happening in the first place?”
-That’s the reason why Count Milros brought Port City into the conflict. Port City had been investing heavily into lobbying, but there hasn’t been any progress. So the people who had been receiving the money are starting to feel guilty. But when Count Milros brought Port City in, he also mentioned you.
“Hm, wasn’t it them who sent me to New Port City? What can they do at this point?”
-I’ve got good news and bad news. Which would you like to hear first?
“Let’s hear the good news.”
-You will receive an official decree soon. Once you’ve received it, Administrator Isaac Rondart, Rank 1 Knight, will have the power of authority which matches that of a Lord. New Port City will also be designated as a special financial district.
Isaac frowned at Mazelan’s words while all of the operators in the room dropped their jaw in awe. They could only look at Isaac in shock; it was almost as if they’d been hit in the head.
“What’s the bad news?”
-You have 3 years to reduce the unemployment rate or the crime rate to below 1% or raise the average earnings of the citizens to the Empire’s average. If you fail to achieve this, you will lose all of your ranks, rights, and fortune along with your status as a graduate of the College. You will also be summoned back to your home.
“Hm, so basically you’re telling me that I’m dead in 3 years, so enjoy that time living like a king.”
-That’s not what it… Hm, is that what it means?
Mazelan, who tried to argue against Isaac’s conclusion at first, soon nodded reluctantly.
‘I guess his straightforwardness hasn’t changed either.’
Mazelan made a dry cough to change the mood.
-But if you succeed, you will be accepted as official heir to Rondart Family.
“So I’m fucked if I fail, but if I succeed, I will receive a reward that I don’t want. That is one hell of an enticing mission you’re handing me. Would you feel happy if you received a mission like this?”
Isaac had been singing about being transferred to a rural village ever since Mazelan met him. Even if Isaac were to succeed, Rondart Family wanted a dead Isaac, not a living, breathing one.
-There’s nothing we can do. It was decided so suddenly. This is what Port City managed to scrape up all their lobbying. Since the Department of Administration officially decreed this order, even I have no way to alter it. But what the opposing factions managed to do was to give you power by turning you into a makeshift Lord. Not many people get to live like a king for 3 years, you know.
Isaac looked shot back at Mazelan’s attempt at consolation with dumbfounded look.
“What’s the point of giving out orders when there’s no one willing to follow it? Don’t you know a man who acts like a king without arms and legs will only earn the mockery of those around him?”
Mazelan smiled bitterly as he apologised. Isaac watched this and sighed alongside him.
“It’s fine. I know what you’ve been through to help me out until now. So, how much power and authority does a Lord’s representative have?”
-You may be a representative, but considering that no one will be transferred there as a Lord, you might as well consider yourself to be a Lord. Lords have the same power as a King.
But there were few restrictions. They were allowed to create, dissolve, and/or change all laws regarding the administration, legislations, and private laws, but if a mass of residents were to send a complaint to the Department of Administration and the Department of Administration deem the complaint to be acceptable, there would be a referendum aimed at the entirety of the population within that region.
Therefore, Lords are Kings who must watch out for their popularity and support from their subjects. But as long as the Lord doesn’t place brutal laws, no amount of complaints will pass through the initial screening.
Another set of restrictions are aimed toward prevention of changes to the law that stop a complaint from going through, and one of the main restrictions is the freedom for the subjects to assemble openly. Any attempt at stopping these would be pivotal in passing through the screening.
After listening to Mazelan’s explanation, Isaac nodded and spoke.
“So, a Lord is someone that can be changed if enough people call him an asshole and the government agrees that he is an asshole. But otherwise, the people are told to go fucking live somewhere else if it isn’t so bad.”
-That’s a crude way to put it, but you are correct.
Isaac folded his arms and began to think. Mazelan looked at him expectantly.
-Do you have some revolutionary method?
There are many cities that are in a similar situation as New Port City but were just not as bad. The battle against unemployment and crime rates is fought not by the Department of Administration but by all government bodies. If Isaac could come up with a newfound idea and change New Port City, other cities may also follow his example and turn their cities into a better place.
“No. I just found the situation I’ve gotten myself in to be funny. It was 5-year time limit back in Campus, and now it’s 3 years in New Port City. What a limited life I’m living.”
-Ha! Ah, sorry. I just found it funny. Limited life you say. Now that I hear it, it sounds very convincing. Kukuku, I think it suits you.
While Mazelan continued to chuckle, Isaac asked a question.
“So why am I still alive?”
Mazelan coughed wildly at the unexpected question. It seemed something got stuck in his throat and he coughed and wheezed for some time; when it finally settled down, he looked back with his face in pain.
-Kekek, what are you on about?
“I may be talentless, but I’m no fool.”
-That’s right. You’re not a fool.
It seemed as if Mazelan was talking about a completely different subject, and Isaac lost his train of thought for some time. He scratched his cheek and continued.
“The first thing that came up to my mind when I received the College graduation certificate is what you were going to use me for.”
“I’m not innocent enough to think they gave me the College certificate for nothing. I should have been a Campus student until the end, but the fact you guys gave me that certificate meant I needed to have it for some reason. When I heard that I was transferred to New Port City, I understood everything. If a College graduate were to die in New Port City, Central will turn the world upside down, and you guys get to kill two birds with one stone. Very efficient.”
-… You’re mistaken.
“How could I be mistaken? I think one innocent soul is a small price to pay to fix up an entire city.”
-Do you think I’d simply allow that to happen!
Mazelan stood up as he shouted, but Isaac simply shrugged.
“I know you’re quite the bigshot, but I really don’t think Central cares about getting on your bad side.”
“That’s why I don’t understand. Even until now, I have been waiting to see who would be sent to kill me, but there haven’t been any visitors. Since I had all this time on my hand, I decided think. Am I really that important for Central to refrain from killing me?”
-So what’s your conclusion?
“I’m asking you now because I don’t know. Am I really worth more than a city?”
-Only you can make and improve your own worth.
“So basically, you don’t know.”
Mazelan moaned at Isaac’s reply. After a brief series of whinges, he sighed and began to speak.
-Damn it, they told me to keep it a secret, but since you already figured it out, I guess it doesn’t matter. In truth, Central is completely uninvolved in this incident. You’re just goddamn unlucky.
“Those are sad words to hear. It’s too bad I can’t deny it.”
Isaac nodded at Mazelan’s confession.
-It started with the Milros Family. Headmaster Corduroy already prepared a nice rural village for you to live in peace. It may be rural, but the Administrator job is still a government occupation. It had to go through the Personnel Office eventually. And the largest faction within the Personnel Office is Count Milros’s Family.
“Did they reject it?”
-That’s not even close. Instead of rejecting, they tried to stop you from getting any government occupation outright. They were planning to deal with you by summoning you back home by any means necessary. But none of that could happen if you began work as government official.
“So why does that matter about getting a College degree?”
-It’s not so simple to generalise the influence of the College and the Campus. If the Personnel Office were to reject an offer the Headmaster of College made, it would make it seem like the College is inferior to Personnel Office.
“So that’s why they gave me a College degree? So that I had no choice but to be made a government official?”
-That’s right. And as a counter, Count Milros put you in New Port City.
“So they played me in a bloody game of politics?”
-And it’s still ongoing. The Personnel Office decided to suggest an impossible feat on you, because they couldn’t stand the fact that you were doing so well in New Port City. New Port City is more complicated than you think. It’s not just the Department of Administration; even the Department of Supplies and the Department of Law are involved. However most of it is still under the jurisdiction of the Department of Administration. But they got really angry when the Personnel Office, who had nothing to do with New Port City, decided to influence the city by bundling you with it. So they retaliated by accepting the Personnel Office’s offer while giving you the greatest authority possible.
“It was the Personnel Office that told me to change New Port City into a normal one; since Department of Administration had no substance to reject it, they at least decided to make it easier for me to act?”
Irritation began to surface on Isaac’s face. Mazelan noticed it quickly and tried to comfort Isaac the best he could.
-But there is still hope. They told you to make it happen, but not maintain it right? Basically, drop the unemployment and crime rate down on the last month of the time limit.
“You make it sound as if maintaining it for a month is easy. I can’t even fathom how much money that single month would cost.”
-I’m just telling you now so you can prepare for it. Just relax and don’t worry too much. I’ll figure out a way for you.
“Don’t bother yourself with it. Since it’s come to this, I’ll do something about it.”
Mazelan’s face tensed up at Isaac’s words. He had seen firsthand from start to finish how Isaac eliminated the bullies that had bothered him back in Campus.
“Yes. It pisses me off that they keep poking me from the sides, and it also annoys me that they are using me as their chess piece for their fight for power. It seems my retirement will only be comfortable when I remove this last name of mine.”
-Huhu. Interesting. I’ll do everything I can to help you.
“Yes. Then I’ll contact you when needed. Ah. Is it problematic if everything you said were to be leaked into public?”
-Huh? Of course. It won’t look nice if the word that the Empire’s government bodies were fighting against each other.
“Well I think most of the people in the Communicator room heard all this, so do what you can to stop them from leaking it.”
Mazelan’s scream was the last thing that passed through the Communicator before Isaac disconnected. Some of the operators quickly looked at Isaac, then left to leak this urgent news to the rest of the City Hall. Isaac, however, was too deep in thought as he watched the invisible screen and tapping his finger.
Isaac wanted to officially forfeit his status as a heir once he graduated, but the factions against Count Milros were not only going to make that impossible, but also guarantee that he inherits his title in an attempt to weaken Count Milros’ influence, according to Mazelan.
Isaac thought he was safe since the status as College graduate was going to protect him from assassination, and all of the administration back home was already run by the Baroness. He thought they would be satisfied with that fact but didn’t know there were matters like these that affected him.
Thankfully, what’s nice to hear is that the opposing faction has given Isaac some power just as Mazelan had said. If they told him to change New Port City with only the power of an Administrator, even Isaac would have to give up and throw both his hands into the air.
But no matter how he put it, he was just a bystander who got caught in a fight between giants, and the fact that he was getting kicked around as their pawn annoyed him greatly.
Basically he had to sort out this Rondart Family business. He had no wish to expose his neck to make it easy for them to guillotine him. Perhaps they will finally leave him in peace if he were to fix up this broken city, inherit his title as the Baron, then throw the title away to his younger brother and tell him to fuck off with that measly province.
“I’ll do what you want. But, I’m doing it my way.”