Isaac demanded that only Mazelan contact him for a response from those involved in this incident. Their response would help Isaac identify whether they considered this incident to be a serious matter or not, and Isaac’s action would change according to that.
Truth be told, what Isaac really wanted to know was Mazelan’s reaction, not the government’s. He wanted to know whether Mazelan knew of Isaac’s grim situation and ignored it or if he was exiled because he disagreed with the decision. That would determine whether Isaac would form a trading relationship or a mutualistic one. But Isaac expected at least three days for the government to reinstate someone they’d exiled and tell him of the current situation.
Isaac woke up in his bed, scratching his bushy hair. His dazed eyes searched for a cigarette.
“Why did I wake up so suddenly?”
His awakening wasn’t a natural one. His eyes suddenly burst open, and all thoughts of sleep vanished. Isaac was wondering why this had happened when he found the cigarettes he was searching for in a drawer next to the bed. He walked to the window and opened the curtains, stepping out onto the roof and stretching his body in the warm sunlight. He then threw his body onto his trusty chair and lit the cigarette.
“Rizzly’s late today.”
Rizzly had always been ready to serve Isaac like a personal butler, following him around while serving tea. Today was the first time he didn’t show himself. In fact, there should be a lot of noise from the crowd in the plaza at this time of the day, yet there was only silence. Just when Isaac decided to look at what’s happening in the plaza after finishing his cigarette, an unknown voice spoke to him from behind.
Isaac didn’t even have the time to respond to the voice. The mysterious voice grabbed him by the back of his neck. Everything was a blur, and Isaac found himself lying on the ground.
His body screamed with pain at the sudden impact. Despite his vision being blurred by the pain, Isaac managed to spot Rizzly and all of the North Bears, Lanburton and his elves, his hubaes, and the seven grand merchant guild employees who had supposedly escaped the city all kneeling on the plaza. The syndicate bosses, on the other hand, were kneeling on all fours quivering like criminals waiting for judgement.
Isaac didn’t understand what situation this was about at first, but it all became clear when he saw the knights who stood in between the group of people who were kneeling on the plaza.
The knights stood firm with their swords driven into the ground, firmly grasping the hilts. They wore a cloak which hid their faces and seemed ready to swing their swords at a moment’s notice. They were perhaps just as famous, if not more dangerous than Central. Their signature uniform made it easy to recognize them, although seeing them once in a lifetime was already a rarity.
‘Shit! What’s the Arc Royale doing in here!’
One of the facts Isaac found hilarious in this world was that there were so many organisations which existed in this world boasting some grand title as their names. These organisations ranged from pathetic to powerful, and Central was the most iconic organisation. However, there were a few organisations which rivaled Central by specializing in specific areas. Arc Royale was one such organisation, founded to protect the Emperor and the royal family. Each member was armed with great strength and steadfast loyalty to the royal family, but it was so zealous that they were willing to sacrifice not just their families, but even the citizens of Empire if it were required to protect the Emperor. They were near fanatical in their loyalty, notorious for convicting not just the person who defamed the Emperor but all of that person’s relations from their great grandparents to their great nephews.
They were so aggressive that they were willing to fight Central if things came down to it, but they usually stationed themselves next to the Emperor. Usually, only great nobles with the honor of attending the Emperor’s palace saw them, yet they were in front of Isaac.
The Arc Royale only attended the Emperor. Which also meant that if they were here, so was the Emperor. It may have been impossible for the Emperor to come all the way from Gabelin to New Port City, but the invention of the Communicator had eliminated the problem of distance.
PR Note: It’s not very clear that the Emperor is using the Communicator to speak to Isaac, but he is. It will make sense in the next couple of paragraphs.
It seemed the Arc Royale were already prepared in advance and hung a giant black sheet on the roof of the city’s building. The sheet was decorated on its edges and the Arc Royals arranged themselves in two lines to make an announcement.
“The Emperor will now enter!”
Isaac immediately bowed his head when the Arc Royals shouted out. There was a limit to how far someone could go by acting tough. Showing a hint of such behavior was sure to make the Arc Royal behead the offender where he stood. As an organization, Arc Royale’s faith was so fierce that these fanatics normalized killing in the name of the Emperor; the Emperor was the only shackle holding them back. In a way, they were perhaps the one organisation you wouldn’t want to meet over Central.
Isaac’s head was pressed firmly onto the ground with a bitter expression. The rank of nobility was used as the title of their occupation in this world, but the position of Emperor was the one true birthright.
Each word the Emperor spoke was the law, and Isaac’s future was dependent on the Emperor’s mood. Isaac found this situation to be unpleasant, but he wasn’t stupid enough to show that emotion on his face. It was more than likely that he would lose his head even before he could make such a complaint.
-Thou mayst raise thy head.
The mellow voice sounded in Isaac’s ears. As was ordered, Isaac tried to raise his head, but he immediately heard the Emperor shout ‘Halt!’ as the feeling of cold steel stung the back of his neck.
-I forbid thee, Arc Royal from hasty action with intentions that clash with mine. For I am well aware mine subject’s ignorance in courtship.
With that said, the feeling of cold steel disappeared. Blood began to drip from Isaac’s neck, mixing with the cold sweat on his back.
‘These crazy lunatics really tried to kill me!’
-I ask thee again, thou mayst raise thy head.
The voice spoke once more. Isaac tried to think if he could remember any manners in the Emperor’s court which he must follow, but the frustration that had been building up inside him made him raise his head completely.
Isaac was in no position to act tough, but acting like he was scared of death wasn’t his style either.
“It is an honor to meet you, your highness. I apologize in advance for my horrible manners due to this slow and dimwitted nature of mine.”
Isaac thought of any words he could remember from historic dramas and used them in any way he could. When he lifted his head, he could see the throne room. On the sides stood the nobles who attended the Emperor, but the throne sat so far back inside the room that it was difficult to even make out the face of the Emperor on the screen.
‘They’re making me itch.’
It seemed the Arc Royal weren’t pleased by Isaac’s actions. They seemed ready to cut Isaac down at a moment’s notice, but the Emperor’s words from before held them back. However, being looked at in such a way began to irritate Isaac further, driving him to act more rashly.
The Arc Royal looked at Isaac with unrivaled fury. How dare he stand with his back straight in the face of the Emperor! The swords in their hands began to quiver.
-Halt. Mine patience isn’t to be tested, Arc Royal.
The Arc Royal were stopped just before their sanity broke down. The Emperor smiled as if he was entertained.
With that, the screen began to close up on the Emperor, and finally, Isaac could see the Emperor’s face. He rose to his position at a relatively young age, and has ruled over the Empire for nearly 20 years. He was now in his 50s, and the eyes which seemed to see through everything met Isaac’s.
-I see. I applaud thoust bravery to gaze into mine eyes. Such bravery must be the key which aided your survival.
The Emperor’s voice was filled with joy and Isaac was sure of his death at this point. He assumed that the moment this call was over, the Arc Royal would dismember his body to pieces. That thought actually brought peace to Isaac’s mind. He pondered if the Arc Royal would give him enough time for him to enjoy his last cigarette when the Emperor spoke again.
-I shall ask thee.
“I don’t know what that question will be, but I’ll try to answer you the best I can.”
The Arc Royals’s swords clanked once more when Isaac with his firm back looked directly at the Emperor and replied. It seemed they were still holding themselves back because it would be heresy to cut in the conversation of the Emperor.
The Emperor also seemed baffled by this fresh encounter but smirked and continued.
-… Well, fine. Dost thou have any confessions to make about the fire that consumed New Port City yesternight?
“It was something that was bound to happen.”
-Something that was bound to happen, thou sayeth?
“That’s right. Initiating a provincial war with a city-sized administrative zone is one thing, but the main reason this happened is because the citizens were forcefully evicted from their homes just so a siege battle could take place in a city without walls. It would have finished as just another fire in normal times, but with no one there to stop the fire, it was bound to run wild.”
The Emperor smiled faintly, enjoying Isaac’s reckless behavior.
-Thou wills that it was misjudgment from the Capital?
“I don’t think misjudgment is the right word here. It was just a mistake. Ah! Since many people died here, I guess you should call it a tragedy.”
Isaac could hear the Arc Royal grinding their teeth in anger. They seemed irritated by Isaac’s appalling peasant-like behavior, but such reactions only irked the rebellious child that was Isaac, in fact this spurred him to go even wilder. He was going to die after the call anyways, but the call wasn’t going to get interrupted no matter what he did. So there was no reason for Isaac to try acting in a manner which he didn’t even know.
-… I received grave news – that the fire thou speak of was not an accident of nature, but arson.
“Villains are always depicted as evil even if they saved the world, right?”
Isaac shrugged and glossed over the Emperor’s words. Everyone in the plaza who witnessed it dropped their mouth at Isaac’s crazy behavior.
-Convincing evidence does exist which goes against thou. The ships which brought the mercenaries to thy city sailed from port moments before the fire began. Its disappearance catalyzed the chaos which ensued. Interesting I say, for all of this to occur, the moment ownership of those ships transferred to thee. Do you have anything to say?
The Emperor, deeply entertained at this point, dropped his eloquence and spoke to Isaac in a plain vocabulary. Isaac went along with the Emperor and decided to go all in.
“Turns out these mercenaries weren’t such nice kids. They’ve been raiding the empty houses, stealing all the valuables to try to sell them as goods. I took the ships to stop that from happening. The only way merchants could transport the mercenaries’ stolen goods was through a ship, so I wanted to make their lives miserable by purchasing the ships and moving the goods to Port City in advance.”
-Those ships caused a collision in the port of Port City, paralyzing sea traffic.
“Oh? Really? Tsk. Is that why they told me it’s dangerous to sail at night? Man, it’s going to cost a lot to reimburse them.”
Isaac replied back with a question, acting surprised at the fact. Those already in the know could only admire at Isaac’s shamelessness, and their suspicions began to confirm themselves at this point.
-Thanks to that, the ships which tried to rescue the victims were stuck in the port.
“I mean, I know it looks very suspicious when you line up all those incidents like that, but I am innocent. It was all just a coincidence.”
-Huhu. Then why did you move those ships to Port City?
“It was to build barricades of course. I tried to prepare for the war as best I could, but I was running low on wood. I’d been purchasing many ships beforehand to dismantle them into construction materials.”
-Was there a need for you to purchase those ships? I believe Zeta District of New Port City is a mining district. Wasn’t there plenty of wood and stone available to be used for construction?
Isaac slapped his forehead as if he had just found out about the fact when the Emperor pointed it out.
“Ah! Of course! There was that solution! I didn’t have the time to think it all through, what with the fear of impending death and all. I wanted to at least use up all the money I owned before I died.”
The Emperor slapped the armrests on his throne, bursting out in laughter. His smile never disappeared, and he seemed thoroughly pleased.
-According to the report, New Port City had been buying incendiary materials en mass ever since the war was declared. Wasn’t arson your goal since the beginning?
The purchase of incendiaries was concrete evidence that the fire did not start as an accident but was intended.
Isaac smiled at the Emperor’s questioning.
“Yes. I was planning to start a fire.”
The Emperor’s eyes shone brightly when Isaac admitted it.
-Oh! So you admit that you started the fire in Meta District?”
“That’s not it. The incendiaries I bought were to be used as my final stand.”
“Yes. I was planning to set the city on fire when the war started.”
-… Wait. I am struggling to understand. You were planning to set the city on fire?
“To be accurate, I was only going to burn the Ceta District.”
“Because it would have been much better to see it turn to ashes than have it taken from me when it was through my effort that the place thrived.”
‘That crazy bastard!’
That thought crossed the head of everyone. The Emperor pushed on with his interrogation, though with a hint of playfulness in his voice.
-You do realize how grievous of a crime that is, correct?
The firm voice of the Emperor was met with Isaac’s smile as he slapped the air in front of him.
“Ha, do you really think I would try to live after doing something like that? The reason why I am acting as a jester in front of you is because I’ve given up on everything at this point.”
Everyone in the plaza flinched when they heard Isaac’s words, as if disturbed. This was the man Isaac was. A man who cared not about his life or death. It was because of this that everything turned to the extremes in his hands.
-Then why did you set the barricades on fire?
“I don’t know if you know this, but in this place, there is this ‘breath of the wind’ which blows during this season. A strong gale constantly passes over us. If left unchecked, it was going to set the entire city on fire, so I set up a backfire to stop the fire in its tracks.”
-You did that before the men in Meta District could evacuate?
“I’m not merciful enough to extend a helping hand to those who came to kill me.”
-This is an incident where nearly two thousand people died. Do you not feel a shred of remorse or guilt?
“Maybe it’s because I never received love when I was a child.”
Everyone was sure that Isaac really did give up on his life, as he snickered away while answering the Emperor’s questions with witty comebacks.
The Emperor sat on his throne, examining Isaac for a moment before making his announcement.
-My attendants are to hear me.
-We await your word!
All of the nobles who stood at the sides knelt on one knee as they spoke in unison.
-Do not place your family over the Empire. This is the final warning I will give to thee.
-We shall remember!
-Whose head was it to come with an idea to normalize New Port City in 3 years with only the authority of the Lord’s Representative on mine subject?
-Can thou not even wait the 3 years thou have placed upon thyself?
-The conflicts for profit my subjects fight are of little concern to me. But witness, the calamity which struck us when all fairness was lost.
-The notoriety of New Port City has reached even my ears. Many nights I’ve spent searching for a solution that would bring peace to my subjects’ suffering. But I could do naught and leave the issue unattended. However, I now see hope of success in that man, no matter how extreme his methods be. Therefore, I will make my decree.
-We await your word!
-Isaac Rondart and the nobles are to listen.
Isaac bowed along with the nobles when his name was spoken.
-I hereby recognize all wealth Isaac Rondart, the Lord’s Representative, holds under his name, and forbid all methods of taking away his wealth under any illegal measures.
-However! Although it was possible, thou looked away from the responsibility which is yours to save the Empire’s citizens. Therefore, I shall send an overseer who will also be the mayor of New Port City, along with a battalion of knights who will act as the city’s police force. The police force will only listen to the mayor’s orders.
‘… What am I supposed to do then!’
No, was there a point in making such objections when the Arc Royals were eagerly waiting for this call to finish to kill him?
These lunatics were guaranteed to behead him the moment the call finished and then commit suicide for their crime of going against the emperor. Arc Royale’s notoriety came from the fact that they’d done it in the past. Back then, the families of the Arc Royals who committed suicide were also removed by fellow members. This was done not under the Emperor’s command but rather because fellow Arc Royals were furious that they allowed such affronts to the Emperor.
It seemed the Emperor was aware of Isaac’s worries and directly addressed the Arc Royal deployed in New Port City.
-The Arc Royal are not to disobey my will by acting in my honor. As I have warned you in the past, any actions against my will will result in the disbanding of Arc Royale. The Arc Royal are to return back to their posts and fulfill their missions.
With that, the communication was over.
The plaza came to a silence, and only the displeasure from the Arc Royal was left.
“… You’re in luck.”
With those words from the person who seemed like the leader of the Arc Royal, they turned around and marched out of sight. When Arc Royal finally disappeared, a sigh of relief echoed from all around, and everyone who worked under Isaac ran toward him.
“Woow! We’re alive! We’re alive!”
“I swear I thought I was going to die at this point!’
“Who would have thought our sunbae’s crazy method would work!”
“I guess it really is true, that we shouldn’t associate with lunatics!”
There seemed to be insults mixed in with admiration, but Isaac wasn’t concerned about that; he wanted his cigarettes.
“Bring me some choyu leaves.”
“I’ll bring it to you immediately!”
Rizzly quickly ran up to the roof of the City Hall and came down with a handful of choyu leaves.
Isaac took one and breathed it in so deep that almost half of the cigarette burned away in an instant. As he let out the smoke, he said,
“Wow! That was a close one.”
“He’s a funny one.”
Within the meeting room of the royal palace, the Emperor smirked as he remembered how Isaac was when the screen turned black. He could see the confusion that took over him at first, but as time went by, he began to feel at ease and even smiled at the end.
“I apologize for putting you up to this.”
Commissioner Brolen of the Capital’s Department of Administration spoke, and the Emperor replied with his chin resting in his hand…
“I assume your people were in a hurry to ask of me to do this. I guess no one would have expected him to come with a radical solution such as burning the city down. It’ll be busy for some time, as many laws must be changed in accordance to this incident.”
“We believe it is a good thing that we managed to find such a loophole in such a short amount of time.”
“But I must say, he’s rather shameless isn’t he?”
“He is a disgrace, who would spout lies in front of the Emperor. Even if he is a surveillance target, he…”
The Arc Royal who stood by the Emperor joined in the conversation, unable to suppress his displeasure, but the Emperor stopped his words with a hint of annoyance on his face.
“Stop. That is not the main issue. For I am your… dear me, I’m getting too used to speaking like that. So have you finished the analysis?”
“Yes. After analyzing the target’s responses and actions, the target is very likely to be not of western origin but from eastern nations. Most likely being from one of the three far east nations.”
“And it just happened to be the three far east. This is a sensitive problem.”
“Yes. As it is according to the treaty, I have given the information regarding the target to the Queen.”
“So, did it seem like they fell for our trick?”
“It seems there weren’t any issues with the projection alteration.”
“Huhu. The Queen certainly came up with something interesting. For the people on the other side to see something completely different, while we are sitting here in the meeting room. Amazing.”
“But there is an issue of it being used for ill purposes.”
“That is the problem of the user, not the technology itself.”
“I shall remember that.”
“But do you think this will be enough?”
“As one of their sayings goes, you have to beat around the bush to bring out the snake.”
“Yes. That was why you asked of me to do this on top of altering the communicator projection. But the information is correct, yes? Since I’ve made the declaration, all eyes will be on New Port City from now on. This was a plan we knowingly sacrificed two thousand people for, as we were aware of the surveillance target’s plan. If this was just for basic information gathering, even the Central won’t escape my questions.”
“The field agent who had been tracking down the ‘demonic’ turncoat also found evidence of the presence of an ‘angelic’ turncoat.”
“What a headache. Just looking for the ‘demonic’ turncoat was enough of a problem, and now we’ve got ‘angelic’ turncoats running about too. Leaving the ‘demonic’ turncoat aside, what do you think is the goal of the ‘angelic’ turncoat?”
“New Port City is the perfect habitat for a group of ‘angelic’ turncoats to thrive in. If New Port City indeed went into the hands of the Marquis, we would have seen a great riot.”
“It’s so strange. I can understand the ‘demonic’ turncoat finding New Port City attractive, but why did the ‘angelic’ turncoat choose New Port City? They should know that it would have been under the most surveillance since it is the prime target for them?”
“… The Directorate of Analysis determined that project 401 had been leaked to them. We believe the ‘angelic’ turncoats tried to blend into the fold through project 401 and infiltrate our main body.”
“Did the ‘demonic’ turncoat go to New Port City knowing this fact?”
“No. Isaac began giving out citizenship status to anyone who applied half a year ago in New Port City. There was no better place to gain a new identity to avoid Central’s eyes than New Port City.”
PR Note: In the raws, the words for “demonic” and “angelic” had apostrophes, so we simply replicated the punctuation here. It is currently unclear whether they are titles or adjectives at this point in the story.
The Emperor sighed as Brolen made his report.
“Were there any surveillance targets like this one in the past? All of the turncoats we’re searching for high and low are gathered here, and we happened to find another surveillance target on top of the original one. It’s like a set meal.”
“Considering that none of this would have happened if we gave him the life he wanted, we have to be wary for unforeseen circumstances.”
“Is that what the Directorate of Analysis is saying?”
The Emperor smirked.
“That reminds me of the saying. Humans are humans no matter where they are. Don’t you think this is true?”
“It’s been 300 years. That amount of time is sure to bring out those with ulterior motives. Yes, what will the aim of those avoiding the Central’s eyes be?”
“… They’ll try to secure the surveillance targets for advantages.”
“That’s right. This rule of iron fist and suppression through fear, is all futile at stopping human greed. Even more so if you have strength and power.”
The Emperor sunk deep into the chair.
“Surveillance targets always bring great profit. And the smell of such profit attracts flies. The experience of witnessing a faction become a threat to us by stealing a surveillance target from us once is enough. We don’t need to experience that again. Know that only the Empire may secure the surveillance targets as you administer your projects.”
“Yes your highness.”
“Continue your search for the ‘demonic’ turncoat. It seems the Queen is quite agitated by this incident. Since I’ve given much power to Isaac, the “angelic’ turncoats will have no choice but to contact Isaac in order for their plan to succeed, so keep your eyes on him.”
“Then it will interfere with our treaty with the Queen.”
“I will send my word to the Queen. There is a line on the treaty, of exceptions in special cases. The only saving grace is that because they are all together, we don’t have to thin out our agents when we’re suffering from a shortage of manpower.”
“Who will you choose to make up the team?”
“Don’t you think it’ll be very interesting to see the greatest troublemakers in each Directorate come together in one spot?”
“… Sounds to me like it’ll become a giant mess.”
“That’s exactly what I want. We won’t just beat around the bush but burn it. The snake will have no choice but to either burn with the bush or come out from it. Don’t worry about any shortage of manpower. I’m sure the fact that I decreed this will bring about plenty of volunteers. But we will need to choose an individual who has the capability to manage this troublesome group.”
“Then I shall make a team of people who are acquaintances of our surveillance target.”
“Hn? Are there such ideal candidates?”
“Yes. Not only are they perfect for infiltrating without garnering suspicion, but there is someone who can manage this troublesome lot. No, she is perhaps the most ideal candidate for this.”
“She? Ah! Are you speaking of Rivelia?”
“Yes. She is currently fulfilling the mission of guarding the Queen. Once her current mission finishes, I am planning to send her in with other veteran agents.”
“I guess everyone would accept her taking the role, given her reputation. But are you prepared to face the Duke Pendleton’s wrath yourself?”
“I mean… I’m sure that as the great noble of the Empire… he would understand the reasons…”
Brolen’s words faltered, his voice lacking confidence. The Emperor looked with pity in his eyes, doubting if that were ever to come true.
“That overprotective idiot? Impossible.”
PR Note: At the end of this chapter, Chue Mon Gak thanked the following donors.
Derek, Jose, Adil, Pablo, Ong, Alessandro, Damian, Josean, Andy, and Anton for your donations.