Port City has always been the biggest hurdle Isaac had to overcome no matter what his mission was. The close proximity of the two cities made it easy for information to be leaked. Also, New Port City was like a vassal of Port City until recently, and Isaac was vulnerable to betrayal from anyone who swore loyalty to Port City. Isaac was well aware that his plan was full of holes. Failure would have meant an end to his life, and even if it succeeded, Isaac needed to prepare himself for the life of never-ending pursuit until his death. But Isaac had to force the plan through because he didn’t have the time to wait. In order to accomplish the mission of stabilising New Port City within 3 years, his only method was to stuff it with enough money until the problem went away. And it would require an insurmountable amount of money. No ordinary method would have been able to acquire such wealth. He had to bring in the money somehow, and in order to redirect the flow of money from Port City to New Port City, Port City had to be destroyed.
This was why Isaac remained stuck at the rooftop of the City Hall, planning and readjusting the plan while acting as if he had been playing around the whole time. His act reached its finale with the play of a typical overconfident brat who was crushed after a single failure.
So, with the final hurdle that was Port City removed and the Empire’s government involvement to tie up loose ends left by the haphazard plan, Isaac determined that he had bought enough time and proceeded onto a new business plan.
“This is unacceptable!”
“This can never happen!”
“This subject is too sensitive to deal with. I implore you to reconsider again.”
The employees of New Port City had arrived for a meeting which was called for by Isaac. The employees were itching with tension long before they had arrived, worried about what absurd plan Isaac was going to announce. And lo and behold, the ground-shaking order Isaac made was met with adamant refusal from all of his employees.
Isaac asked as he tilted his head, and Cordnell replied with such intensity that his throat was going to tear.
“How could you use war as a medium in gambling?! It cannot happen!”
“I don’t understand. Isn’t war a form of gambling too? Where the winner takes all? It’s just like a horse race. A lot of people are interested in the victor. And they can bet their money by predicting who wins.”
“This is war we are talking about, not some sport!”
“Is it any different? There’s a winner and a loser. And there are people who like to bet on who would win. I didn’t install the Communicators here at a price for no reason. Thanks to that, we can now know the results of the war immediately. That means we can make use of the wars happening throughout the Empire to expand our gambling industry.”
“How will you manage the wrath from the families of those who have been killed in the war?”
“No matter how many soldiers die in war, it’s the lords who profit or lose at the end of the day. I will donate half of our earnings from this gambling as charity to assist recover from the war. I haven’t seen anyone who has refused free money. Ever. I’m sure the families of the deceased would be happy to hear the news that they’d get more money than they originally would have.”
Despite the constant defiance from the employees, Isaac proceeded to run this new gambling method, and when it was announced to the public, the whole Empire writhed. They were angered that Isaac would even use the tragedy of war like a game, and many demanded that Isaac be removed from his office. Isaac, however, met against such criticisms with an arrogant attitude, stating that in the City of Gambling, everything was fair game.
Mazelan also demanded this form of gambling be retracted immediately with a series of scolding calls, and Isaac reluctantly changed some of the rules to appease him. The gambling would only go through if both sides listed the size of their army, its logistics and supplies, their training, the number of knights, and such in detail to the public so that they could be compared; and if the details that had been released were so different to the point that it would affect the tide of war, the gamble would be nulled. The donation proceeds were also increased from half to two-thirds of the profit, and at least half of the donations had to be used to pay the families of the deceased of both sides.
As expected by Isaac, most of the lords who were the greatest benefactors of this gamble secretly received the decision positively.
The army is an organisation which only takes up supplies. All of the Empire’s citizens received basic military training; but since there is no conscription policy in the Empire, lords were required to pay the soldiers a considerable wage in order to compensate for the high risk.
The Empire’s law stated that if a soldier was to die in battle, the soldier’s families must receive 3 years of the soldier’s pay as consolation. That meant that after each battle, Lords would be faced with a very high bill. Until now, the Lords who won the war would merge the territory with the defeated Lord’s and use the defeated Lord’s wealth to pay for the expenditures. But oftentimes, the defeated lord would also be nearly bankrupt since they too didn’t wish to lose the war and devoted everything to it, so the winning Lord often received nothing in return.
There were cases where despite winning the war, the Lords had to sell off their territories or live in destitution for some time. This was why these Lords could not pass up on the opportunity to receive aid in paying the families of the deceased. The Lords began releasing information about their armies as they applied for declarations of war at the Department of Administration. The wise men around the Empire grieved at the Lords’ behaviour and worried deeply for the Empire’s future, but the statement that money ruled everything was the truth that would never disappear in the world of humans.
“Niske denounced Zeroman at the stone statue.”
“Really? That’s faster than I thought. I thought they’d at least get through this year.”
Isaac’s plan to destroy the relationship between the citizens and four rulers along with the unity of the four rulers succeeded magnificently. A united resistance was one to be feared. On the other hand, if they weren’t united, they were no better than an unorganised mob.
The four rulers of Port City only lost the rights over the waterways. They still possessed the wealth they gained through trade and smuggling. If the four pooled their wealth to plot against Isaac, they would become a formidable opponent.
“I really don’t understand a human’s heart.”
“That is why you should never trust them until you see them with your eyes. And even if you do see them, you should still reserve some skepticism.”
“I heard that this era is the era of trust, but I guess this isn’t much of a concern for you, Sir Isaac.”
“Is that so?”
Isaac snickered and looked down at the plaza as he leaned over the balcony.
“But I sure am bored now.”
The plaza was filled with a crowd even bigger than before the casino incident occurred. It was an obvious consequence since Port City lost its reputation with the riot; while Port City suffered, New Port City profited.
Plus, the war gambling had succeeded and every day in a corner of the plaza, a group of men could be seen analysing the information that had been released and deeply contemplating on who to bet on.
Unless the war was between equally strong opponents, the ratio between the return and losses had significant differences. There was one case where the victor seemed to be decided even before the war started, but when a single knight managed to turn the doomed war into a victory, the knight was received with a hero’s welcome and gained a reputation. Those who bet on the winner managed to make legendary winnings too, although it still paled in comparison to Isaac’s. Still, it helped to popularise the opportunity, and more and more people bet in hopes of such fortune.
Rizzly decided to talk to Isaac, who stared blankly at the crowd.
“Would you like some tea, perhaps?”
The rooftop had been transformed into an excellent residence if it ignored the fact that the place didn’t have walls. The rooftop had a bookshelf, sofa, a display case, and a kitchen to cook basic meals. Isaac even placed a magical item enchanted with the strongest defensive magic available just to use its effect to imitate a roof when it started raining.
Cordnell complained that it was a pointless expenditure, but Isaac was rich now. Insurmountably so.
“I’d like the fruit wine instead of tea. Ah! While you’re at it, bring me the violin too. I think I’ll engage in one of my hobbies for once.”
Rizzly flinched when Isaac uttered the word ‘violin,’ and after handing out a glass of wine and the box which held the violin, he quickly moved to the back.
Isaac didn’t seem to care about what Rizzly was doing, and began playing the violin after taking it out from the box.
“Aaah! He’s at it again!”
“Just what is wrong with him!”
The people who were enjoying their time in the plaza screamed in pain at the ear-shattering screeches and began cursing Isaac. Isaac had been playing the violin as if to boast how free he was after destroying Port City. Isaac had been playing the violen ever since his life in Campus, but it was a musical performance only to Isaac; it was torture to everyone else around.
It would have been much easier for everyone to avoid it if Isaac consistently played at a specific time, but he played at random times of the day. He would play the violin whether it was day or night depending on his mood, so anyone was unlucky enough to be caught in the screeching simply had to run away.
Isaac should have also been feeling the pain from the racket he was making since he was the closest to the source, but Isaac himself wore magical items on his ears which blocked all noise from his eardrums.
Musicians varying from wandering bards to professional musicians had offered to teach Isaac free of charge since Isaac didn’t seem to improve no matter how much he played. But Isaac refused all of their offers, stating that it’s annoying.
There was no way to complain about the noise since Isaac was the ruler of New Port City, so all the citizens could do was either run or also buy the noise-cancelling artifact. In fact, there was a conspiracy theory that all of this was an act to help promote the sale of noise-cancelling items.
“I think this is enough for today.”
Satisfied, Isaac put down the violin and took out the magic items from his ears when he noticed that Cordnell had entered the rooftop inconspicuously. Cordnell stood on the rooftop, seemingly in pain.
“Uuh… Please, have you thought of getting a different hobby?”
“A different hobby? Well… what else could be fun to do?”
“It doesn’t matter what it is. Please consider getting a different hobby before you murder someone with that performance.”
Just as Cordnell finished his words, a deafening screech pierced through the walls from a building across the plaza.
“It’s a murder!”
Isaac looked down at the plaza trying to figure out what was happening. Isaac looked at the violin that was still in his hand and then locked eyes with Cordnell.
“It can’t be. No way.”
“Ahaha. R, right? It can’t possibly a suicide after finding the performance too painful or anything.”
The criminal was revealed immediately, along with its reason. The man had enjoyed his time with a blue rose in one of the hotels and then assaulted the blue rose when she demanded her payment. One of the hotel employees heard the scream from the woman and tried to stop the man, but in the heat of the moment, the man stabbed the hotel employee, killing him.
It was a common scene in New Port city, but the one key difference was the status of the criminal. Dogman Duberon. He was the eldest son of Marquis Duberon, whose land was known as the breadbasket of the south. Dogman also held the nickname of the “south’s son of a bitch.” He committed all sorts of crimes, but his father used his power to cover up the incidents. Marquis Duberon truly was a powerful individual.
“A guest has arrived.”
“A guest? Who?”
Despite the city being in a ruckus after the murder, Isaac was spending his time leisurely as he wasted his time smoking when he heard Rizzly speak. Isaac wasn’t aware that he was expecting a guest, if any.
“He says he’s the butler of Marquis Duberon.”
“If it’s another request to meet with me, make him talk to one of my subordinates. It’s tiresome to deal with their kind.”
Isaac sometimes received lunatics who proposed business ideas or requested investment from him, and he considered this to be similar. He flicked his wrist to Rizzly, telling him to go. Rizzly glimpsed over his back then talked again.
“But he’s here already.”
Isaac turned his face and there stood Cordnell alongside a sharp, middle-aged man he had never seen before.
“Did you bring him here?”
Isaac talked down to Cordnell with displeasure, and Cordnell looked to the man that stood beside him for a moment before talking.
“This is Viscount Anton, who is from the land of Marquis Duberon.”
“He’s here regarding the great master.”
PR Note: “Great master” is a literal translation from 대공자, but in this context, it may be similar to the concept of a “young master” commonly portrayed in web novels.
“Who is that?”
Cordnell dropped his jaw at Isaac’s words, and then he regained his senses to speak again.
“Do you remember the culprit… I mean, the main suspect from the murder few days ago?”
“Ah! Him? What about it?”
Anton stepped forward instead of Cordnell, who seemed to be at a loss for words.
“I am Anton, butler to Marquis Duberon. I see you are as impolite as the rumours say, to receive a guest while sitting like that. I wonder how they taught you back in your mansion.”
Cordnell’s face went pale as Anton insulted Isaac without hesitation. Even Rizzly frowned and let out a growl, but Isaac himself remained composed.
Isaac still treated him with some respect and replied, since the man he was talking to was also a noble that held the title of Viscount.
“Marquis Duberon demands that you release Master Dogman, who is innocent.”
Isaac was baffled by Anton’s arrogant demands. He looked to Anton for a moment and then asked Rizzly beside him.
“He was caught at the scene right?”
“He also admitted to the crimes right?”
“The weapon that was used in the crime was his sword right?”
Isaac looked back to Anton with a shrug.
“That’s how it is.”
“We will take care of the incident back at our mansion. You would be wise to release Master Dogman and take your hands off this incident.”
“Is that all?”
PR Note: The original translation was as follows: “What more could I add on?” However, I took the liberty to go with a phrase that was more indignant and disrespectful of Isaac.
“Like some sort of consolation for the release? How can you expect this trade to go through if you’re not going to offer anything in return?”
“Trade happens only between two people of equal stature. I understand that you may think that you’ve won the world after gaining your hands on New Port City, but please keep that misunderstanding to yourself.”
Anton scoffed as he replied. Isaac scratched his head and asked Cordnell a question.
“Who is this Marquis Duberon?”
“W, well… He’s the Great Lord of the south.”
“So he’s nothing.”
Isaac’s belittlement was met with a response from Anton, whose eyes and murderous intent flared.
Cordnell, who stood next to Anton, faced the killing intent head on and fainted; Rizzly immediately transformed into a bear, baring his fangs and preparing to charge at a moment’s notice.
‘Man, it’s been a while since I’ve had this fucking kind of anger.’
Isaac continued to talk nonchalantly despite facing off against such intense murderous intent.
“We’ll be managing the incident as the law states it. So you can just fuck off.”
“… You will regret this.”
“Sure thing. I’ll sort out this incident by following the law and then regret it later. Happy?”
Anton stared silently for a moment at Isaac’s sarcasm before he disappeared down the stairs. Rizzly made a sigh of relief and transformed back into his human form.
“Huh? Is he that strong for you to be so worried?”
“Don’t you know? Anton from the Duberon is among the strongest swordsmen in the Empire if you exclude the sword masters.”
“Is that why he’s acting so arrogantly? Make sure you watch him, since he could try to break that fucking murderer out.”
“I’m sure he won’t resort to that.”
“He has a reputation to uphold. According to Empire’s law, only the Lord that rules the land where the crime happened has the authority to dictate the punishment.”
“So that means he won’t resort to a prison break, but he’ll use whatever means necessary to secure the non-guilty verdict.”
“The Marquis has enough power to do so.”
Isaac sighed deeply after hearing Rizzly speak.
“Just when I was about to have a break after sorting out Port City, some mutts decided to show their faces.”