The news of the Arc Royale’s intervention spread like wildfire. The presence of the Arc Royale in an area absent of the Emperor was something that had never happened in the past, and witnessing the Emperor through the Communicator made everyone realize how convenient their lives had become.
Isaac was now going to be recorded in history as the first to receive the Emperor with a Communicator alongside his conversation with the Emperor. Isaac’s madness was revealed to the world with his reckless behavior and witty sarcasm in the presence of the Emperor. People wondered who in the world would be able to put a leash on that mad dog.
Meanwhile, Isaac was also having a tough time. He could not figure out the intentions behind the Emperor’s actions. Did this incident require the Emperor’s intervention? No. The death of the two thousand people? Provincial wars happened all the time. At its largest, hundreds of thousands of men clashed against each other, and the deaths of two thousand were too weak of a reason for an Emperor to question Isaac personally.
It must have meant that there was another reason, but it was a mystery. The Emperor sat above all law. So with the Emperor’s verdict, all of the problems entailed in this situation were buried six feet under.
Well, it wasn’t impossible for Isaac to find out what was happening, but it was just too much of a bother. Everything that Isaac had done so far was in retaliation, and there wasn’t enough motivation this time.
“Tsk. I am curious, but it’s annoying to act. It feels like everything’s getting busy as I stand on the sidelines, but I feel like I’ll regret it if I do find out…”
Although that’s what Isaac said, he was well aware that the peace he had before was beyond his reach now. This was the Emperor’s decree. The Emperor didn’t mention anything like easing the conditions or nullifying the mission that was given to Isaac. He only guaranteed the wealth which Isaac had collected up until now. All of the other conditions were still at hand.
Well, the only difference now was that if he were to fail, the Arc Royale would be more than happy to pay Isaac a visit and behead him. Isaac’s enemies were surely aware of this fact and would do whatever they could to disrupt Isaac’s mission.
“I don’t like having unfinished business like this…”
In this world without religion, the Emperor was the god. The battle in New Port City, which was just a proxy war resulting from factional infighting, cascaded into the global spotlight with just one word from the Emperor.
Isaac lit a cigarette. This choyu leaf was really a strange thing. How should one put it, it made Isaac feel smarter. It was almost as if smoking it was like drinking a potion of intelligence, accelerating his brain and deepening his wisdom.
“I guess I need to figure out who my friends and foes are.”
Although the situation was resolved thanks to the Emperor, it was still wise to identify allies and enemies in order to prepare for the future.
The breakout of provincial war, the Empire playing favorites with the Marquis, and even the Emperor joining in on the issue must have happened because of some form of an agreement made within a complicated political situation.
Leaving the Emperor aside, Isaac considered himself a rank 1 knight who was rich and had a single city under him, while the Marquis possessed one of the most powerful factions in the Empire’s government. Isaac could understand the Marquis’ motives. Just possessing treasure is a crime when you are weak. What Isaac couldn’t understand was Mazelan. Was the Marquis strong enough to exile him?
Then what if the Marquis and Count Milros joined forces? And if they brought the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds and Port City into the fold too?
Even after all that, it’d still have been impossible.
Mazelan’s family was connected to the royal family and Duke Pendleton. Although it is almost impossible to ascend, he is still technically a legitimate candidate as a successor to the throne. He was royalty. Nobody held enough of a grudge to send Mazelan into exile. The risk of being ruined by the hands of the royal family was too great. All Mazelan did was simply be on Isaac’s side.
Then was there another faction who was strong enough to exile Mazelan? There was.
When Isaac’s thoughts reached that conclusion, his face darkened and Rizzly flinched. So much of Central’s power was beyond comprehension that even Rizzly would flinch at its name. If the Empire’s government held authority over only the humans, Central controlled the entire continent, no matter which race one was.
If Central did intervene, it explained why Mazelan was exiled and why the Empire’s government aided the Marquis.
But what was the reason Central intervened?
“… It must be money.”
Isaac instantly understood. It was the most basic yet most crucial resource for an organisation, especially one as complex and large as Central. It was a mystery as to how they manage to acquire the funds, but their extreme secrecy also meant that they required a massive slush fund.
As Isaac was more and more convinced that money was the reason, he began to understand why Central wanted New Port City. Central was an organisation beyond the bounds of law, tampering in both legal and illegal activities alike. They needed the funds, but it needed to be an unofficial one in order to avoid requesting the Department of Finance for funds. Then where could they gain the funds?
The simplest solution is to acquire it themselves secretly.
New Port City was the perfect place to do so. It was already a city of crime, so no matter what activities they performed, they simply needed to set up a puppet and Central would never be found out.
And with the smuggling trade already firmly in place and Isaac developing the market even further, it was prey too enticing to pass on.
“Tsk, they should have just asked me to give it to them. I’d have happily obliged.”
If it was all started because of money, then it was easy for Isaac to react. He could have made a deal where the Central would protect him from the shadows, and in return, Isaac would become their subordinate.
It even explained why the Emperor was involved in this incident. The incident Isaac had caused proved beyond the expectations of Central, and one of the largest fires in history was bound to get the Empire’s attention. This unwanted attention wasn’t what Central wanted, and in the worst case scenario, Central’s name might have been revealed. The moment it did, Central would be cornered in the political world. The Emperor, who held absolute authority through Central, would also be in a tough situation because of this. Factions of nobles within the court would capitalise on this incident to pressure the Emperor into ceding rights to them. So the reason the Emperor reacted so fast was to finish this incident before it became complicated.
Truth be told, this was an oversight on Isaac’s part; his thought process was still rooted in the inner workings of the old world. No one in this world would ever pressure or demand something of the Emperor. If anyone even attempted it, they would be erased along with their family by the Arc Royale.
Although they exist, they do not rule.
The Emperor had almost no work. He would show his face in festivals, and only in the most sensitive and significant situations did he make the decisions. The rest of the administrative duties were done by the departments of the Empire.
What directed these departments was politics, and many political factions formed alliances for their own benefit. Yet the reason the Empire could rule with an iron fist was the secret intelligence and police force that was Central, the symbol of overbearing loyalty which was the Arc Royale, and the complete monopoly the royal family held over the process of printing money in the Empire. Isaac was impressed by how well the royal family controlled the situation by keeping the most important pieces themselves and leaving the rest for everyone else to fight over.
“Wait. Mazelan sunbae is also a royalty in line for succession. And Central exiled him? Wait a minute. Was it not Central, but someone even further up who intervened? Why?”
The only person above Central was the Emperor.
“Does that mean the Emperor was involved since the beginning? Wouldn’t that mess up the time frame of everything? No, if the royal family intervened, then I can understand the government forcing the provincial war through. But is there a reason that the Emperor would be so interested in this place?”
Without enough information and only more questions, Isaac shook his head and focused his mind elsewhere.
“Let’s just not think about that. I feel like it’ll just get messier the more I know.”
Although the war never officially started, there was still a lot of time required to repair the damages. Thankfully, the Emperor’s attention helped to make for an excellent advertisement.
“You do know I can’t give you the same conditions as the last time right?”
“Sigh… I accept. And I apologize.”
“What’s there to be sorry about? I mean I am disappointed that you turned your backs on me despite carrying out my end of the bargain with the investments, but I guess business is business.”
Everyone was in confusion at the baffling result of the provincial war, and the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds were no different. They cut Isaac off, assured that there was no way he was going to live another day. But it turned out to be their worst decision.
Thankfully, Isaac accepted the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds back, but they couldn’t expect the same hospitality from him. The Seven Grand Merchant Guilds were prepared to accept unfavorable conditions out of guilt, but thankfully, the only changes were that they would lose the benefits they had over the other merchant guilds. They were now on a level playing field with everyone else.
After the Communicator call ended, Isaac came back to the rooftop where he saw the merchant employees, his hubaes, the syndicate bosses, Lanburton, and Rizzly waiting for him.
“What did you tell them?”
“What else? I just took away their special privileges.”
“That’s a relief.”
Cordnell, who was silent as Isaac walked up, made a sigh of relief after hearing Isaac. Cordnell was no longer an employee of the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds, since he refused to follow their orders.
With Isaac’s wealth guaranteed under the Emperor’s decree, the merchant guilds hung onto Cordnell, who was perhaps their only remaining connection to Isaac, and begged for forgiveness.
Unable to ignore them, Cordnell mentioned the guilds’ pleas and Isaac surprisingly accepted.
“Before that, make another Communicator room on the roof.”
“Huh? Why? We already have one in city hall.”
“It’s annoying to walk down there.”
“Then, it’s going to cost us double for maintenance.”
Isaac looked back, as if he were asking what the problem was. Cordnell sighed. It was the most pointless expenditure, but Isaac did have enough wealth to consider another installation a non-issue.
Isaac threw himself into his designated chair. In front of him sat everyone who left when the war was announced.
“So why are you guys still here?”
There was no reason for this lot, who were brought here forcefully by the Arc Royale, to stay. Everyone around him simply coughed dryly as they avoided Isaac’s eyes in awkward silence.
Isaac’s eyes narrowed. Their intentions were obvious. The mission to stabilize New Port City was now decreed by the Emperor himself. That meant that if they succeeded, the reward they’d receive would be a king’s bounty. It would secure the future of them and their families for generations to come. Isaac smirked at their plain motivations and spoke.
“Do I look like a nice enough person to take back those who betrayed me?”
Everyone who avoided eye contact with Isaac was in shock as they looked back at Isaac.
“But the Seven Grand Merchant…”
“If the merchant guilds come back, their profits lead straight into my pocket. But employing you guys means that money would be leaving my pocket. It is pure greed for you guys to come back here after taking your share of the money just because it has become safe again.”
“Fine, you can come back if you really want to. But! I cannot give you the same conditions as last time, just like the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds. I have to discriminate to separate you lot from those who stayed with me till the end. Otherwise, it’s just not fair. Your pay will be what is considered normal for administering a city, and considering our friendship until now, I won’t demand that you give back all the money you guys embezzled from me. However, if I see any of you doing it again, I will sue you on the spot and file a lawsuit to repossess your wealth. If you still want to work knowing that, then you’re free to come back.”
Isaac coldly finished talking, but everyone else’s moods brightened and they nodded happily.
“And didn’t you guys say you’d all leave me?”
Isaac’s question was met with Cordnell and hubaes’ shameless smile.
“Where else could we possibly go to?”
“We’ll stay here even if you demanded that we leave.”
Now even those who left were coming back. The honor of acting out the Emperor’s will was greater than the notoriety they’d gained from setting the city on fire.
“You spineless, disloyal lot. It was pointless being merciful to you all until now.”
The four chuckled at Isaac’s comment.
“Now! Let’s hear what the current situation is.”
Isaac clapped twice to change the mood of the meeting.
“I’m too stupid to understand everything that had happened, so explain to me what our dear Emperor told us.”
“I think the simplest answer is that he won’t be picking sides in this incident.”
Isaac tilted his head.
“Although Isaac sunbae holds the title of the Lord’s Representative, your true occupation is the Administrator of New Port City.”
“The position of Mayor is most definitely a higher position than that of the Administrator. It is the Mayor who determines the city’s projects. The problem here is the title you hold as the Lord’s Representative.”
“It just means that I’m the highest official right?”
Kalden shook his head in rejection.
“The administrator follows the mayor’s orders, and the mayor follows the Lord’s orders. But an Overseer could intervene on the work of the Lord. That would mean…”
“The hierarchy is going to be a mess.”
It was like a double snake ouroboros, where their ranks encroached on each others’ authority. It wasn’t a problem if their decisions were unified, but if not, it was going to get very complicated. Although it was the Emperor’s will, there were many who wished for Isaac’s failure, especially Count Milros, whose faction practically owned the Personnel Office. They could send over someone who would challenge Isaac at every decision.
PR Note: An ouroboros describes a serpent/snake eating its own tail, the silhouette of which creates an infinity symbol. In this context, a more appropriate simile would be the double ouroboros because the Mayor and Isaac are separate entities. In a double ouroboros, two snakes eat at each others’ tails. They are beings who openly contest and devour the others’ authority to enhance their own. Because of their constant conflict, there is no apparent progress.
“But there’s something more important.”
Cordnell seemed to calculate something in his head with a serious face before continuing.
“The Emperor declared that a company of knights be deployed into the city, one who will follow only the Mayor’s orders.”
“What about it?”
“As you know, the police work of New Port City had been done by Mr. Rizzly and the North Bears. But this was only for Ceta District. The rest of the districts were policed by the syndicates. But with the Mayor and the knights deployed as the police, it will be impossible to run the city as we have done until now.”
“Ah! Of course.”
Isaac finally understood the gravity of the situation, and his eyes turned to the syndicate bosses, who were sitting in brooding silence. There was no way this company of knights following the Emperor’s word would be an ordinary one, and their loyalty to the Emperor was going to make it impossible to bribe them.
“What’s even more important is that they will only follow the Mayor’s orders.”
“I get it. It means they’ll meddle at every corner.”
Cordnell shook his head.
“No. Although unlikely, even if the Mayor were to join hands with you, Sir Isaac, they will not overlook any illegal activity since they are under the Emperor’s orders.”
“Hm, does that mean the syndicate boss’ heads are in trouble?”
The syndicate boss’ faces went pale.
“Don’t worry about that, Cordnell.”
“Buy all of the other districts in New Port City with my wealth.”
Cordnell looked surprised at the baffling order.
“W, what do you mean by that?”
“I will own all the districts other than Ceta District. It will then become my property, or is it fiefdom at this point? Then there is no room for the government to intervene in my administration. We can just use the clause prohibiting the invasion of private property. Plus, no matter what the police do, the court ruling will be entirely dependent on me. Make sure you guys run the districts so it remains silent. I won’t stop all the nitty-gritty crimes, but if it’s a major one, then even I can’t do anything. So make sure to do your jobs quietly so it won’t leak.”
The syndicate bosses sighed with relief. Now that Isaac held the lifelines to their lives, they had no choice but to stay loyal to him until the end.
Cordnell realized the meaning behind Isaac’s words – what he meant by ‘keeping things silent.’ His face paled but quickly spoke when he realized there was another problem.
“Where do we have money to do such a thing? If we calculate the costs for reconstruction, reimbursement, and the funds for this new acquisition project, we’d be scratching the bottom of the barrel to find funds!”
Even if New Port City’s real estate prices were the lowest of the low, it was still the size of a small city. Just buying it all was one problem, but the houses all had different owners. Meeting them one by one to form contracts was bound to spread rumors, and some would begin to have funny ideas and start setting ludicrous prices for their land.
It all sounded so simple when Isaac simply gave the order, but it was up to Cordnell to administer and manage the entire situation.
“Do we not have money?”
“What’s the point even if we do have money? Because of your stupidly generous policies, it all disappears before we can even touch it.”
“What happened to all that money I had?”
Cordnell sighed when Isaac complained.
“We spent about 2.4 million Giga purchasing the barricade and other miscellaneous goods for the provincial war.”
“We’ve spent that much?”
“Yes. We had to evacuate the refugees and provide them with a residential area along with food and water, but the biggest waste of money was dismantling the ships we bought to create the barricades. Plus, we’ve bought so many offensive magical tools that one of our warehouses is full of it. We bought those tools at 1.5 times the market price, so reselling it will still result in a loss.”
Isaac folded his arms and began to think after hearing Cordnell’s lamentation.
“So when are this Mayor and the police force arriving here?”
“Thankfully, it seems we have time until next year. By then, we need to have sorted out any questionable work that could trip us up.”
“We don’t know who will be the Mayor yet?”
“I’ve asked for some favors from the Seven Merchant Guilds, but it seems there is fierce competition.”
“Understandable. It is an order from the Emperor after all.”
The act of following the orders of an Emperor was going to be passed down family lines as the most glorious accomplishment. Many factions would fight for a place in not just the Mayor position but for spots in the police force. It was obvious that it would take a long time to create.
“Then we can ignore the Mayor and police force for now and just sort out the money problem. Man, don’t I have a lot of money?”
“As I’ve said before, yes you do have money. But you are spending more than you are earning.”
“Does that mean I have to start a new business to make money?”
“Eek! As I’ve said already, we don’t have the money! You just told us to buy out the remaining districts! How can we start a new business when we don’t even know how much it’ll cost to buy out the districts? We would be in troubling times even if we saved everything we had right now!”
Cordnell shouted out when Isaac spoke of a new business. Everything he had been doing until now never ended with just a small expenditure.
“Don’t worry about that, we’ve already got some free money on us.”
“What? Free money?”
“There’s the money the three from Port City wasted on their gamble.”
“Wasn’t the provincial war gamble nulled?”
“Why’s it nulled? It was a draw.”
“What? How can there be a draw in war! And even if Port City were to admit the result, they’d never back off! They just lost all of their money, so they’d definitely send a complaint to the Department of Law, and if Port City wins, we’ll need to both pay back their money and reimburse them for the legal battle! We may end up losing more money because of our own greed!”
Isaac stretched out his index finger and moved it side to side.
“Tsk tsk tsk. You’re a little slow on this. All we have to do is declare a draw. It won’t be us fighting against Port City but someone else.”
Cordnell asked back with a dumbfounded face, and Isaac spoke with a smile.
“Contact the Marquis. Offer them a declaration of a draw for the provincial war and to split the gambling bets 50:50. They are the ones more shorthanded on money, not us. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to accept. The Marquis has a faction within the government too, so even Port City will be powerless against them.”