At the end of the day, the conflict between Marquis Duberon and Isaac was a battle of pride. From Marquis Duberon’s point of view, Isaac was the talentless successor to an obscure baron family. As the Great Noble of the South with a time-honored ancestry, negotiating with a man such as Isaac on the back foot was considered ‘lowering their standards.’
Isaac, on the other hand, didn’t appreciate the fact that Marquis Duberon negotiated with the government directly to solve the issue while ignoring him, the one holding direct authority over the incident.
Being exiled to a rural province was perhaps the greatest punishment for any official of the empire, but to Isaac, it was the greatest reward possible. Therefore, there was no reason for Isaac to submit to pressure from above. In fact, Marquis Duberon’s blatant act of ignoring Isaac had strengthened Isaac’s resolve to see the Marquis Duberon’s men submit before him no matter what. This was the reason Isaac placed that unbelievable debt on them while acting like he was releasing Dogman scot-free. It was a taunt, but Isaac’s goal was never to receive all of the money. The reason why Isaac made such impossible demand was to bring the Marquis down from his high horse and onto the negotiation table to meet him face to face.
With Dogman’s signature on the unbelievable I.O.U, the Marquis has no choice but to pay back the debt after negotiating or abandon Dogman.
However, to Isaac’s surprise, the Marquis pulled out a completely different, unexpected card out of his sleeve.
Isaac asked Cordnell to repeat, his mind going blank from the news. Cordnell repeated the first thing he shouted after hurriedly rushing up the stairs with a pale face.
“Marquis Duberon has made a formal application for provincial conflict to the Capital’s Department of Administration!”
“Provincial conflict? Do you mean war?”
“… Is that even possible?”
Isaac may have the title of Lord’s Representative to his name, but New Port City was not a fiefdom but a city. Cities could never be a target for war in the first place.
“Giving out the title of Lord’s Representative was a move that was never seen before in the first place. That’s why the Department of Law and all of the legal professions are debating whether to recognize the city as fiefdom with respect to the title, and if so, to accept the application for provincial conflict.”
Isaac’s stiff face relaxed with Cordnell’s explanation and smirked.
“What the. I thought a war really did break out. There’s nothing to worry about over something that hasn’t even been approved yet. I’m sure it’s just simple blackmail.”
Cordnell still looked worried, but Isaac didn’t consider it as a significant threat.
Wars don’t break out so easily. It takes money to move, feed, shelter, and arm troops. It takes money to start a battle, to heal the wounded and even to negotiate the peace terms, which determined the reward and payment after a war is resolved.
Considering that an army devours money from step one to the end, its greatest use is as a show of force when everything else fails. Sure, wars do happen when there more to gain from it than to lose, but it’s much more profitable to simply negotiate with Isaac than starting a war to save the family’s heir.
The greatest factor was that even if the war would break out, Isaac held the heir of the Marquis as a hostage. Therefore, Isaac determined that Marquis Duberon only sent the application to maintain an advantageous position for the negotiation that was to come.
“I’m sure Mazelan-sunbae will clue me in if things get serious. But just to make sure, send a message to the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds to watch out for me. I’d be even more grateful if they pulled in some favors too.”
Cordnell still seemed to have doubts on his face after receiving Isaac’s orders, but he reluctantly stepped back. Isaac’s belief that it would never come to war would quickly bite him for letting his guard down.
“The Capital’s Department of Law has announced that although it is just a city, if it is ruled by someone representing a Lord, it will be recognized as fiefdom. Therefore, it has the responsibility of engaging in provincial conflict if necessary. The Department of Administration has accepted Marquis Duberon’s request and announced the official start of conflict to be one month from now!”
Cordnell visited Isaac first thing in the morning and screamed out the news as his face turned as white as paper. Isaac frowned and started lighting a cigarette, leaving the panicking Cordnell to his own. It seemed everyone had heard the news already, and more and more of the city’s employees gathered on the roof as the cigarette burned away in Isaac’s mouth.
While everyone was in a state of panic over the unexpected outcome, Isaac muttered to himself after extinguishing his cigarette in the ashtray.
“Our intel is too slow.”
“Was that the official announcement?”
“We have both the official announcement and the message from the Seven Grand Merchant Guild about the results too.”
“So they contacted us after the decision was made.”
The most important thing for a merchant guild was information. With the power of the Seven Grand Merchant Guild, it would have been simple for them to get a hold of the information before it was publicly announced. There could only have been two reasons for them to contact Isaac after the decision was made. It was either done so secretly that the Seven Grand Merchant Guild couldn’t pry, or they remained silent even after learning of the information.
Isaac suspected the latter. From the Seven Grand Merchant Guild’s point of view, Isaac no longer held any value. In fact, the disappearance of Isaac would allow the guilds to monopolize the market in both Port City and New Port City. The criteria for betrayal that Isaac had identified were already fulfilled in this case.
PR Note: The above sentence is a reference to Rizzly and Isaac’s conversation in chapter 45, where Isaac explained why he knew that the syndicate bosses would not betray him in the grand scheme of bankrupting Port City. To quote Isaac from Chapter 45, “You see, betrayal only happens when there’s more to gain from it.”
“I’ve let my guard down.”
Isaac admitted wholeheartedly. He himself boasted that money was truth and justice, but it was his mistake to overlook the fact that the merchants could betray him. After all, merchants were the creatures most sensitive to profit.
“I understand the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds, but why didn’t Mazelan-sunbae say anything to me?”
As if answering Isaac’s question, Kalden rushed to the roof as he shouted.
“Sunbaenim, I’ve received news from one of my colleagues who work in the Department of Administration!”
“What is it?”
“Mazelan-sunbae has been exiled!”
The cigarette slipped out of Isaac’s hand, and his head went blank.
PR Note: Earlier, it was described that the cigarette was extinguished in the ashtray, but he is currently smoking one. Perhaps it was the author’s oversight, or we can assume that Isaac lit another cigarette.
Was the Marquis so great that they had the power to eliminate the Vice Commissioner of the Department of Administration? No, how did they manage such a feat against a royal such as Mazelan?
Isaac spoke back in frustration as his head began to ache.
“Why was he exiled?”
“… Nobody knows the reason.”
“What bullshit is that! How can the Vice Commissioner of the Department of Administration be exiled without reason!”
“Well… according to what my colleague told me, even the Commissioner is in a panic and is looking everywhere to find where Mazelan-sunbae went.”
Isaac clicked his tongue and furiously bit down on a new cigarette. With his only connection and support gone, Isaac no longer had a backdoor into the government.
“Sigh…. There’s not enough information.”
“W-what should we do?”
Cordnell asked in a state of panic, and Isaac replied aggressively.
“What else can we do? We should just bow down like dogs.”
“Send the message to the Marquis. We surrender, so they can take that asshole Dogman with them. No, that’s not enough. Let them know that I am also willing to reimburse them.”
“Surrendering without even fighting is a disgrace!”
The North Bears and Rizzly shouted out for war, as expected of a warrior tribe.
Isaac looked at them with a serious look and asked a question.
“If we were to fight a war, can you guarantee me that you can win the war without a single casualty among the North Bears?”
“That’s difficult. Casualties are inevitable no matter how much preparation you make when it comes down to war…”
Rizzly spoke back with a troubled look, and Isaac cut off him immediately.
“Then don’t bother. I’ve hired you lot to work for me, not to die for me. If we just surrender and reimburse them, it will all be over.”
As soon as the announcement for war was made, Isaac released Dogman and sent a declaration of surrender to the Marquis. Isaac’s offer to release Dogman and reimburse them for the losses the Marquis made was declined almost immediately, however, and they only received reply telling them to prepare for war.
And as if it was all coordinated, fingers began to point toward Isaac.
“The Department of Administration has approved the Marquis’s request for a beachhead in preparation for a siege battle and ordered us evacuate the citizens from Meta District.”
PR Note: As a refresher, the Meta District is the southernmost district in New Port City, not to be confused with the Ceta District, which sits at the center of New Port City. Prior to Isaac’s radical changes in New Port City, Meta District was run solely by Soland.
Dumbfounded, Isaac replied to Cordnell.
“A siege battle? How can they possibly have a siege battle with a city that doesn’t even have walls? Just what did they do to receive such favoritism?”
The scary thing about the power of authority is that it has the strength to change and reshape the rules of society as it wishes. The Meta District consisted of a port which connected to the lake. All ships which come from the east, west, and south must dock here to unload their goods and sailors. Therefore, it was the only place an army could pass through to reach New Port City with ease; a good defense could prevent the army from even setting foot on the city, but only if done exceptionally well.
The announcement to give up on the Meta District basically meant that they were going to minimize the number of civilian casualties in the war.
This wasn’t the end of the despairing news. Soland came up with a pale face and began to speak with a slight quiver in his voice.
“The Marquis has listed himself in the war gambling and provided all information regarding his army.”
“Sigh… they’re really determined aren’t they.”
Isaac weakly waved his hand at Soland to continue, too exhausted to even react.
“The Marquis himself will only send his Order of Heavy Combat Knights to fight in the war.”
“The Marquis himself? What do you mean by that? Isn’t that alone enough to end the war?”
“They’ve also hired mercenaries, and rumor has it that the money came from Port City.”
“Tsk! This is why you shouldn’t leave loose ends.”
Isaac clicked his tongue in regret.
‘What’s the name of the mercenaries?”
“It isn’t known yet, but after using some of our connections, we have heard that the Full Hammer mercenary band that is situated in the east is currently moving toward here on ship.”
“Those war hounds!”
Rizzly shouted out in surprise at Soland’s answer.
“Do you know them?”
Isaac sent a look to Rizzly, whose face was crumpled with disgust.
“They are well-known filths in the mercenary world. Looting the dead bodies is their most basic atrocity. They are notorious for all sorts of things, from being suspected of betraying their employers to massacring prisoners and civilians and even raiding the countryside.”
Isaac frowned after hearing Rizzly’s words.
“Suspected? They are only suspected of doing such things?”
“Yes. They’ve been accused of such actions many times over, but they’re always released because of a lack of evidence.”
Isaac lit the cigarette in his mouth. If a mere band of mercenaries escaped with a non-guilty verdict after so many suspicious incidents, it meant that they had a supporter behind them. Isaac could picture it now. War could make money, quite amazingly so. That would mean there would be a weapons merchant specializing in weapons of war, and mercenary groups such as the Full Hammer were excellent partners. Considering that Port City would be the supplier of those armaments due to their status as a trade city, it almost seemed natural that the Full Hammer mercenary band would be chosen for the job.
“Is there more?”
Soland hesitated for a moment before continuing.
“The odds of victory in the war between the Marquis and New Port City are 1.001 to 372.”
“It’s sad but obvious. And?”
“Each of the remaining three in Port City has bet a million Giga on New Port City’s victory.”
All Isaac could think of when he heard Soland was, ‘they got me!’ Eye for an eye, blood for blood, and gamble for gamble. With a situation turning out like this, winning this war even at the odds of 10 million to 1 was going to become a problem for Isaac.
“Wait! That’s a bet of 3 million Giga in total! That should even up the odds!”
Kalden pointed out that fact, but Soland shook his head with a bitter smile.
“They’ve each bet 2 million Giga on Marquis’s victory.”
“Did they bet their entire fortune for this?”
Before the rights of the waterways were transferred, the investigation in the wealth of each of the four rulers of Port City concluded that each had a net worth of more than 4 million Giga, astounding even the investigators. Not even the Guild Masters of the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds had such wealth, showing the prowess of the richest men in the Empire. And they used all of it on the bet.
“They did say that they’d use everything they have to get their revenge, and now they’ve backed up their words. This is what happens when you don’t finish the job properly. I guess the squabbles they had in public was just a ruse to let my guard down.”
While Isaac wondered how to solve the situation, Trentor came up the roof.
“And where have you been to come here now?”
“… There’s been an important announcement in Gabelin.”
“An important announcement?”
“Yes. ‘I am unable to accept Isaac Rondart’s graduation from the College when his actions and lack of talent have time and time again ruined the reputation and pride of the College. As an honorable graduate of the College, I formally petition the College Committee to deprive Isaac Rondart of his graduation.’ Signed by Kainen Rondart.”
“Basically, everyone who wants me dead has contributed.”
Isaac sighed with his arms folded and tapped his fingers.
Marquis Duberon, Count Milros, Port City, and maybe Seven Grand Merchant Guilds, who were suspected of betrayal. Every one of them was aiming for New Port City and Isaac.
“War huh… war… I love making money from war but hate doing it myself…”
Isaac’s mutter brought a sigh on everyone around him.
“I guess there’s no choice if they want war.”
“A, are you really going to fight the war?”
“Is there any other way when they won’t accept my surrender?”
“How can we fight a war when we don’t even have an army of our own?”
“I guess I can’t hire any mercenaries?”
“There aren’t any mercenaries crazy enough to join the losing side of a war.”
“Tsk. I guess there’s no choice. I really didn’t want to do this…”
“Is there a way perhaps?”
Trentor’s eyes shone as he questioned Isaac, but Isaac simply shook his head as he replied.
“How can there be a way out when both winning and losing the war will end with practically identical outcomes.”
“Then what are you going to do!”
“What else but to run?”
Everyone lost their words at Isaac’s reply.
“There’s still some time left until the war starts, so maybe I could take all of my wealth and run before it starts.”
“You’ll have a bounty on your head across the whole Empire because of the war gambling.”
“If I hide in the mountains…”
“You’ll live the rest of your life being chased by bounty hunters.”
“Right? War huh…”
Isaac sighed at each and every downcast reply. Isaac sat with his legs crossed, resting his chin on one arm propped up by the armrest while the other held a cigarette, while he was deep into thought.
There were many reasons for a war to happen, but Isaac boiled it down to two reasons.
Vengeance and profit.
Port City, Marquis Duberon, Count Milros, and the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds. Port City had more than enough reason to take part for vengeance, but what about the rest? How would they profit by starting this war? Well, considering that victory was guaranteed, there was bound to be profit somewhere.
Then what does the Empire seek from this war? Laws are the rules which set the foundations of society, and the Empire solely possesses the power to punish any who break them. That was why the laws have always been created in a way which seemed most fair to everyone within society.
But the Capital’s Department of Law made a decision which was clearly biased toward Marquis Duberon. Even though a war between a city and a fiefdom was impossible, they sided with the Marquis and made the war easier for them.
This was when Isaac realized there was something he didn’t know. The rights of the waterways would transfer to the Empire once his term was finished. Isaac thought the Empire would always be on his side so long as the Empire got the waterways, and the remaining years of his term would be a very short wait. Then what was the prize the Empire sought, which abandoned the just and fair decisions even at the cost of giving up the waterways?
Isaac sighed and shook his head. There wasn’t enough information. These were problems which would need to be considered once the immediate problem was solved, but with the power of authority turning its back on Isaac, his options were limited.
This is why the power of authority is terrifying. This is why Isaac tried to twist and turn the law as best he could until he could use it or be backed up by it, and only then did he initiate his plans and try to involve them as much as possible in the process.
With the law only taking the other side, there was only one thing he could do. To destroy the game itself.
With his pondering finished, Isaac noticed the grim atmosphere which beset the administrative body of the city, as all of the employees fully realized the situation.
‘Tsk! I can practically hear them scrambling for a way out already.’
No one liked to be on the side destined to lose. The merchant employees looked to each other once and then began to speak.
“Um… we have received an order from our guilds.”
“Did they tell you to leave before the war starts?”
“Fine. You’ve all done well until now. At least you guys are making a small fortune for yourselves right?”
“Hehe, thanks to you…”
“Well done. Leave.”
“Don’t you guys want to leave here as soon as possible? What more do you possibly expect to see by staying here any longer?”
The merchant employees were somewhat dumbfounded by how easily Isaac allowed them to leave. They had expected Isaac to burst out in anger declaring that what they were doing was betrayal most foul.
Isaac smirked at the merchant employees.
“Tell your Guild Masters this. It was you who broke the contract first.”
None of the merchant employees could lift their heads at Isaac’s vague comment. It was never a relationship built on trust in the first place. It was a relationship made for mutual benefit, so none of them felt a sense of guilt or betrayal for leaving the city.
In fact, it was stranger to see those who volunteered to stay.
On the roof, there was supposed to be just Rizzly, Lanburton and the syndicate bosses. However, Cordnell and Isaac’s hubaes stayed firmly put, and Isaac wondered.
“Why are you lot staying here?”
“Sigh. What am I supposed to do even if I leave? I’ll just be called back immediately anyway. Is there anyone who manages the finances of New Port City other than me? Don’t worry. We saved up a slush fund of 10 million Giga, so I’ll try to make something happen with that.”
Isaac smirked as Cordnell made his complaint, and then he turned to look at the hubaes.
“Ahahah! You’d be surprised, but I’m the loyal sort!”
Kalden laughed heartily as he spoke.
“I’ll do my share of the work as long as I’m paid.”
Trentor spoke coldly.
“… I don’t want to go anywhere else.”
For the introverted and shy Selia, she didn’t want to lose the perfect job in New Port City.
“I’d like to leave, but no one else would like to hire me.”
“We wouldn’t be able to find another job even if we leave now.”
Isaac watched his hubaes state their reasons for staying and nodded as he smiled.
“I guess it doesn’t matter for you guys since they’d never kill those from the Campus anyway. Cordnell also knows all of the details regarding our finances, so he’s safe too. Since there won’t be any guests visiting us for some time, go and start the evacuation process in the Meta District.
“Did you think of something?”
Isaac shrugged at Trentor’s question.
“As if I’d come up with something now. I’m just doing as I’m told before I them give any more reasons for them to intervene by being lazy. Get it done and over with quickly.”
With the order given, Isaac’s hubaes walked down the stairs, discussing the amount of time, funds, and locations as to how they’d evacuate the citizens.
Once Isaac saw his hubaes disappear completely, Isaac ordered Rizzly to confirm that they left the plaza as he waited, smoking a cigarette. With one deep breath of the smoke, Isaac began to speak to the syndicate bosses.
“What do you guys want to do? If you want to leave, I can spare you guys some money and let you leave.”
All four shook their head decisively with a bitter smile to Isaac’s offer.
“We’re all in the same boat. There’s no way Port City will leave us be.”
It was just as Dinozo said. With them switching sides to Isaac’s, the four rulers of Port City were never going to let them be. Even if they ran, it was obvious they’d be hunted down by bounty hunters. So they had to stay with Isaac, whether they were alive or dead.
Dinozo continued his words.
“We may be joining in the war due to circumstances, but don’t expect us to be of much use in the war.”
The only beings New Port City could consider combatants were the syndicate members, elves, and the North Bears. The syndicate members were only useful in pub fights or tussles in the back alleys. It was obvious they’d run the moment they clashed against professional soldiers. The only trustworthy combatants Isaac had were the elves and North Bears.
Isaac nodded in agreement to Dinozo’s words and looked to Rizzly and Lanburton.
“Now that I think about it, I think it’d be better for you two races to stay out of this fight between humans.”
“Do you really not need our aid?”
Lanburton looked with surprise to Isaac. Isaac was in need of any help he could get. As long as the elves and North Bears stayed by Isaac’s side, they could at least prevent Isaac from dying in the chaos of war.
Plus, if the elves and North Bears were to fight back against the unfair treatment Isaac received, the Marquis wouldn’t be able to do as he pleased to Isaac even if he took control over New Port City.
Lanburton couldn’t understand Isaac’s act of kicking away his only saving grace while Rizzly fumed out in anger as he complained.
“North Bears do not run before battle!”
“Who says that I’ll be fighting a war?”
Rizzly could only blink after hearing Isaac’s reply.
“Why would I fight the war when I’ll be screwed whether I win or lose?”
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t fight the war! The North Bears volunteer to be of service to Sir Isaac!”
Isaac smirked as he witnessed the fierce loyalty Rizzly swore to him, and then he looked to Lanburton.
“I’ll search for volunteers. There are many elves who wish to experience war too.”
“I told you already, I’m not fighting a war. And it’d be rather inconvenient if you ruined my work because of some mercy or pity…”
Lanburton’s laughter replied to Isaac’s worry.
“Hahaha, our perspectives are different from that of humans. The cruel and vile actions of humans are just an entertaining experience for us. Not to mention there aren’t many employers who provide us with as much entertainment as you do.”
‘So this is why. Is it because they are a different race?’
Isaac always felt something was off when the elves helped those in the slums out of pity. The look of pity they sent to those in the slums was more like a look they’d give to an abandoned puppy rather than another sentient being. Isaac wondered if the image elves had in his old world was a product of marketing. He felt like the cruel reality had shattered one of the romances he had held.
“All of you are to evacuate anyway. All you need to do is do one thing I’ll ask later. I don’t expect any more from you.”
“Haha, then we shall wait for your order.”
Lanburton laughed as he got off his chair.
“Aren’t you leaving too?”
“My mission is to be your bodyguard, Sir Isaac.”
“I told you I’m not fighting a war.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you fight the war or not. I’ll be dead if Kunette ever hears that I was separated from you.”
“Hm… Fine, I guess it doesn’t matter. But can you swear to me that you’ll keep your mouth shut, even if you’re disappointed in me?”
“The work of humans is of no concern to me.”
Isaac smiled brightly with that reply, and then he turned to look at the syndicate bosses.
“Just to make sure for some unexpected betrayal, I will place one condition. If I fail, I will die. Then as a final request, I will ask the elves and North Bears to bring me your heads. We’re in the same boat, so we should die together too. You already know that it’s much better for the Marquis or Port City to simply kill you rather than be in conflict with the elves and North Bears right? So I will give you a final opportunity. What I’m about to do will earn me the most vile of contempt whether it succeeds or fails. If you want to back out, speak up now. Because the only way to leave once you hear of the plan is through death.”
The syndicate bosses gulped and nodded in silence at Isaac’s murderous warning. Even if they wanted to leave, they were trapped in this situation anyway. They had no choice but to cooperate if they wanted to survive.
Once the syndicate bosses seemed like they’d made their decisions, Isaac began explaining them of his plan. When Isaac’s words were finished, the syndicate bosses realized that they had joined hands with the devil.