“Hing! How could you drop something so suddenly on us like that, sunbaenim! I already had plans for tonight!”
“Relax. You’re not going to die from missing out on a single day.”
The police members had no work to do in the Ceta District. There had been some incidents between visiting tourists, but those were few and far in between. There weren’t any crimes like assault or theft. Plus, the captain of the police, who should have been training his men, made attending socials and parties part of his daily routine, depriving the police of their leader and overseer.
On paper, the three squads took turns patrolling the Ceta District. But in truth, they were busy playing around all the time. Most of the members of the police force were commoners who graduated from Campus. The 3rd squad was entirely made up of commoners whose families were relatively well-off compared to an average commoner, but they still needed to watch their spending. Kalden and Trentor gave them a lending hand as their sunbaes and predecessors to working in the city, making the lives of the police force more comfortable.
“Can I skip out on this?”
Reisha was designated the squad leader of the third squad and Kunette the sub-leader. Neither of them did their job properly, however, so all of the work fell on Krent to finish.
Krent’s time in the city had been miserable to say the least. As the successor to his merchant guild, he was very busy with managing the smuggling business; it was also a great burden on his mind thanks to Central’s involvement. And that burden has been magnified now that he had to manage all of the paperwork for his squad, which was only supposed to be his cover.
“Shut it! There are no exceptions! And Reisha, how many elves do you think have gotten to investigate and solve a murder case?”
Elves loved to be the first to experience something unique among themselves. On the flip side, they hated not experiencing something that everyone already has. Reisha had been tied to College until now, watching the other elves have the times of their lives as she bit on her nails. Upon her arrival, Reisha had been actively causing all kinds of incidents to make up for all of the waiting she had in the sidelines.
Reisha seemed to show some intrigue, so Isaac quickly continued.
“Go complain to the Mayor if you have any complaints. It was the mayor who gave this order.”
The police members seemed to accept Isaac’s words as reality when he pushed all responsibility to Rivelia. All did, except for one. Kunette, who knew the truth, gazed upon Isaac, which he knowingly ignored.
“Hing! I was supposed to go to the newly opened steak buffet restaurant…”
It seemed that mentioning Rivelia was the decisive blow, as Reisha began to grumble with disappointment. Isaac sighed at the sight. Reisha was Rivelia’s equal when it came to disrupting his peaceful daily routine.
“Fine. I’ll buy you guys dinner for tonight.”
“Heng! You think you can buy me over with that?”
Watching Reisha snort arrogantly, Isaac confirmed his suspicions; Reisha had ulterior motives behind her grumbling.
“… I’ll make you some bulgogi after we solve the case.”
“Kyaa! You promised!”
Smiles appeared on the squad members of the police force, having heard the news that their meals were going to be free. Members of the other squads didn’t care about what they spent since they received plenty of support from their families, but the members of this squad were in the opposite situation, sending money back to their families. The meals in this city were surprisingly expensive, since one of the policies of the city gave tourists coupons for free meals. Only tourists could use these coupons, so these men had to maintain strict control over their wallets.
“Hnng, maybe you guys should watch how much you eat.”
As expected of men in their prime, their proud strength came with a voracious appetite. The restaurant they arrived in was designed for the residents of New Port City, where the meals prioritized quantity over quality at a cheap price. But Isaac could only smile bitterly as the receipts continued to break records set only moments before.
“Umu. So how come you’re still smoking the choyu leaves when you aren’t injured anymore?”
Reisha asked Isaac out of curiosity, all the while her mouth was preoccupied with the meat she was chewing through. Reisha seemed extremely happy, but her smile was sullied by meaty juices that dripped from the side of her mouth. Isaac found the sight to be both cute and irregular. Like an older brother taking care of his sister, Isaac wiped Reisha’s mouth with a napkin as he answered.
“Just because. There’s no real reason.”
Isaac avoided answering the question, since he wasn’t going to tell her that he gained mana whenever he smoked the leaves. Meanwhile, Kunette tugged at Isaac, seemingly wanting the same treatment as Reisha. Isaac proceeded to wipe the honey off Kunette’s mouth.
“Now that I think about it, how come I’m not getting fat?”
Isaac muttered to himself as he sipped on the fruit wine to finish off his meal. His usual routine was to eat, laze around, give a general order to the whining bunch, have lunch, laze around some more, look at the sunset after dinner, and then sleep with some snacks. Not one of those meals were absent of meat. He also enjoyed a good snack from time to time, all being completely sedentary. It had already been a year since he started living such a lifestyle, yet his body didn’t show any sign of gaining weight at all. He wondered if it was because his body was special or if there was another reason for it, but he was happy to know that he wasn’t going to suffer from diabetes or heart disease at an early age.
“Thank you! Please come again!”
The owner and employees of the restaurant saw Isaac and his group off with a broad, business smile fit for customer service. Seeing the sight reassured Isaac that his people were following his orders well, and he happily made the payment with his card. 156 Giga. It was quite the massive bill, considering it was to feed only ten police members.
“Ugh, are you guys eating properly?”
How much money Isaac had to spend wasn’t the problem, but it worried Isaac to see his hubaes slap their own bulging stomachs, pleased with crappy food from a crappy restaurant.
Even if they were just commoners, they were still from Campus. They weren’t like his hubaes in the administrative body, whose houses were run-down victims of poverty. Their families were quite well-off from a commoner’s point of view. Yet they were the weirdos who volunteered to join the police force purely for the high pay and accepted the crappy food without complaining, even though it was food that other police members would frown upon.
Isaac wasn’t going to say anything against them, since they were good sons who mailed their pay back to their families, but the one person Isaac couldn’t understand was Krent, the second child of the Rivolden Merchant Guild’s current leader. In fact, he ate the most among the group. Isaac sneered at Krent, and Krent smiled playfully at Isaac.
“I’m from a merchant family, as you know. We’ve got to make the best of an opportunity when it presents itself, especially if it’s free.”
Isaac wouldn’t even feel half as annoyed by him if Krent was bad with his words. It wasn’t like Isaac was ever going to land a hit on Krent anyway, what with the differences in their physicality. All Isaac could do was despair at his lack of skills. Having too able of a subordinate was also a problem for a superior.
The group left the Ceta District and went deeper and deeper into the slums. The clean, well-furnished roads transformed into ones packed with mud, littered with rubbish, and dark all around. A foul smell wafted throughout the area, which raised some eyebrows among the knights.
The atmosphere was chilling and silent, where only the footsteps of the knights echoed. The few pedestrians they ran into quickly fled when they saw the knights and Isaac leading the group.
“Che, I could never like this place, no matter how many times I come…”
All of the knights nodded in assent as Krent made his comment. Despite the plentiful policies enacted with the goal of lifting the slums out of poverty, the endemic poverty persisted like a cockroach; proof that not even a nation could end poverty.
Well, the syndicates still regularly embezzled goods and corruption was rampant behind the scenes, but Isaac wasn’t going to teach his hubaes about the cold, harsh reality.
The reality was that no matter how much one heard about an issue, it would remain weightless so long as they didn’t understand the issue themselves. Although they were commoners, these knights lived a life where all of their needs were met and were going to become the future leaders of the Empire. Although they came here for the money, perhaps by spending time facing the reality of the situation at the scene, they might be able to create social policies addressing the problem more effectively. The current government was just sacrificing innocent lives by setting unrealistic goals and engaging in factional infighting. If Isaac’s hubaes were successful, Isaac could benefit from their policies himself in retirement.
“You’ve arrived. We’ve been waiting for you.”
Axlon came up to Isaac when he noticed them and greeted him. He had been cordoning off the residential area where the murder had happened with his men. The building was an old apartment constructed for the impoverished souls in the slum. It was stuffed with as many rooms as possible, earning the nickname of ‘the beehive’ among its residents.
Isaac’s first thought was on how to cook Axlon alive, but there were too many witnesses. Isaac sighed, and Axlon flinched.
“Well… the first witness was the overseer of the construction site.”
“My district was selected as the site for the new personal residential quarters. Well, considering the space requirements and the possibility of future expansion, I guess there was no other choice, but …”
Axlon nervously gave his explanation, which didn’t fit his large physique. Axlon’s district was next to the Minolen mountains, which made it a hub for the mining and timber industry. By cutting down the forests in the area, they could make space for new construction. Although this fact was well-known to everyone in the past, the reason it remained undeveloped was because there was no reason to, along with funding and manpower issues. For the redevelopment of the residential area, the administration wanted to avoid the hassle of demolishing existing buildings and the logistics of migrating the existing residents. They managed to sidestep the issue by choosing to clear out the nearby undeveloped mountains instead. Because of this, these professional employees were free to enter the other districts like it was just another part of the Ceta District unlike the tourists, who were prohibited from entering the other districts.
“So the overseer found the body while he was going back to his house?”
“Yes. And he reported it to the police before we could stop him.”
“So you’re telling me you let an overseer walk about on his own in your district.”
“You and I will have a nice talk after this. What about the corpse? Don’t tell me you got rid of it already.”
Isaac could only see ropes in the area and no corpse. It was going to be a big problem if Axlon disposed of the body in an attempt to keep things quiet even when it was already found out.
Isaac’s eyes narrowed, and Axlon quickly responded.
“We’ve moved the body to the hospital’s morgue.”
“At least you did that right.”
“Hehe, thank you.”
“Does it sound like a compliment to you?”
Axlon could only moan in silence at Isaac’s answer, standing still nervously. Isaac sighed and asked another question.
“So where did he live?”
“It’s the last room on the top floor.”
Isaac proceeded to walk up to the top floor of the building once he got his answer. This small three-story building held twenty houses in which the people of the slums resided. Their lives had turned for the better thanks to Isaac, but to this desperate lot who barely made enough to survive another day, even these hive apartments were a gift of mercy. The residents locked their flimsy old doors shut in fear of getting roped into the murder incident. Only the cries of infants eerily echoed in the otherwise silent area.
“How could one live in a place like this?”
The knights frowned to see the tiny foxholes of houses. The bedroom was the only thing they owned in this property, as the kitchen, showers, and toilets were shared by all of the residents. This was the first time these knights had entered the real slums of the New Port City; it was completely unlike the patrols in the Ceta District. The knights seemed unfamiliar to this environment, as if their subconsciousness were repelled against it.
“Who’s the victim?”
Isaac asked Axlon as he walked up the stairs. Isaac was prepared to replace Axlon if he didn’t make any preparations despite giving the police a justification to intervene. Whether it was good or bad fortune, Axlon answered Isaac without hesitation, seemingly prepared for this moment.
“The victim’s name is Kevin, but we are sure it’s an alias, and he’s around his fifties. Nobody knows what his occupation is around here. Truth be told, it’d be stranger if anyone cared about anyone else in this neighbourhood.”
These people of the slums were too preoccupied with their own survival and had little luxury to care about their neighbors.
“What a harsh world. Did you find any evidence in his room?”
“We don’t know.”
Isaac made a stop at Axlon’s reply, seemingly dumbfounded.
“You didn’t go in?”
“I got help from Soland when I received a report that the overseer had found the body and reported it to the police. He told me to investigate the victim for now but not to enter the room. His reasoning was that since it was guaranteed that the police were going to intervene, we shouldn’t do anything that may further escalate the situation…”
“He has a point. Does anyone know him?”
Although Axlon was the boss of his district, it was too much to expect him to know every single member of his syndicate, which numbered in the hundreds. With the destruction of the Meta District and the migration of Soland’s syndicate into the area, Isaac’s question was implying if the victim was one of the syndicate members. Regrettably, Axlon shook his head.
“Nobody knows him. Soland, Milena, and Dinozo are currently putting their subordinates to use to find out his identity.”
“So, how’s the progress?”
“Currently, we suspect that he wasn’t a local but an outsider who entered when we began registering all of the citizens.”
This was a policy that was started before New Port City was open to the public as a tourist spot. Since they could be registered by simply giving a name, the vagabonds and runners found it to be a great opportunity to get a fresh new identity.
The Empire’s Department of Administration should have put a halt on such policies, but the reason they remained silent was because the only people who would smuggle their way into New Port City weren’t going to be law abiding citizens in the first place. Catching criminals who have committed serious crimes like scams cost the Empire a great fortune. But what if all the runners were gathered in a single spot? The costs would drop significantly, and catching the criminals was going to be easier now that they were confined in a single city, despite having a new identity.
Of course, the smarter criminals expected that to be the case and never planned to enter New Port City. But the Empire forced them into the city by initiating a search and arrest mission on a grand scale, trying to force all criminals into New Port City.
This led to a rather noisy period in New Port City. Every hour, a new comer would crawl their way in and cause a scene. The lone wolves were perhaps the easiest to deal with, too consumed by their arrogance. The real problems were those who formed groups of their own and started gang wars in the districts. These small-scale wars caused both gang and civilian casualties, which led to the syndicate bosses focusing on strengthening their authority over their districts instead of its infrastructure. In turn, this created the perfect opportunity for the rebellion to occur.
“Then how did that dead man survive until now? There should be a record of him working at least.”
“Well… we are still investigating, but seeing how he didn’t do any work, we suspect that he brought quite the fortune with him when he first came. We’ve asked the citizens in the area, and they told us that he would leave early in the morning and come back late at night. Otherwise, they didn’t see him around much.”
“But nobody knows who or what he is? What is he, some secret agent?”
Some of the police force flinched at Isaac’s comment, but Isaac never noticed it since he was in front of everyone.
“Let’s check the room for now.”
Isaac stumbled his way over to the victim’s room, which was the furthest one away from the stairs. None of them could go back home until the criminal was caught, and if they didn’t solve the case any time soon, it was Isaac who was going to suffer the wrath of the police force. Isaac complained in his mind, ‘why does a superior have to resolve an issue his underling had caused?’ A syndicate member stood in front of the room, waiting. Isaac received the syndicate member’s greeting with apathy and grabbed the handle of the door.
“Huh? It’s not opening?”
The door remained shut, so Isaac began pushing and pulling the door, trying to force his way in.
“Ah! There we go.”
After a few heavy pushes, the door slammed open. At the same time, projectiles shot toward Isaac.
Reisha and Kunette rushed over like lightning and pulled Isaac back by grabbing at his neck and waist.
While Isaac was busy falling on the floor pathetically, Reisha and Kunette deftly deflected the rain of black light with their hands.
“Shit, what was that?”
Isaac got on his feet, massaging his back. He saw Reisha standing, her hands firmly grasping at arrows that were exuding black smoke.
“Uck! H, he’s dead!”
Isaac turned to see where the scream came from. An arrow struck the head of the syndicate member that had been waiting at the door, who was unable to avoid the trap.
“Ah, shit… we’ve done it now.”
Isaac muttered to himself in distress as he looked down at the dead syndicate member. A single arrow the size of a chopstick had found its mark on his forehead. It was an instant death; there was no need for any emergency care. It was obvious the situation was going to get more complicated, now that a syndicate member had died.
Seeing a dead body and watching someone die in front of them was a similar shock, but on a different scale. It seemed the sight of someone dying in front of them was quite a shock for the brats who just graduated Campus, who simply rustled about in confusion.
That wasn’t the case for Isaac, however. He had seen this sight too many times to care.
“… Isaac, this is bad.”
“Sunbaenim, this is black magic.”
Reisha and Kunette showed the arrows to Isaac with great concern, which was very unlike their usual selves. Isaac’s concern grew with them.
The users of black magic were the Empire’s greatest enemy. The prime example of such users were warlocks. In a world where wizards could receive the title of knights through the practice of magic, those who formed a contract with the demons and borrowed their power were called warlocks. They possessed great power that was only rivaled by their own twisted nature. Every appearance of a warlock was followed by a massacre of grand scale. But now, through the great efforts of the Empire, the warlocks had been reduced to a name in history books and fairy tales as Central was relentless in their attempts to exterminate them.
“Are you saying the victim was a warlock?”
“I don’t think so. A warlock wouldn’t make such a flimsy trap. Or die so pathetically outside his own house.”
“… He’s not a warlock.”
Perhaps the greatest victims of warlocks were the other races. So the other races were taught thoroughly regarding warlocks and how to deal with them from a young age. Hearing Reisha and Kunette, who could be considered somewhat of experts in this area, speak against the idea of the victim being a warlock reassured everyone.
Isaac pointed his finger in the dark room, were only a shimmer of red light was seeping out. Krent retaliated against isaac’s order with silence.
“What are you just standing around for? Get it.”
“Am I going in alone?”
“Why would I send more in when there could be more traps inside? Don’t you know the basics of scouting?”
“… Why don’t you lead us through example?”
“Rejected. Why would I go in when I have such a fine subordinate such as yourself? And I am literally the Administrator and the Lord’s Representative of this city. My job is to give out orders, and it’s your job to follow those orders.”
“Why does it have to be me?”
“Don’t you know that nothing’s free? You have to make up for all the food you shoved down your throat.”
Krent looked for assistance from his colleagues, but all of them avoided eye contact. Even if Reisha said that it wasn’t a warlock, it still gave off a bad vibe. Krent reluctantly drew his sword and made his way carefully into the room, all the while grumbling.
The room was so small that it was easy to identify how Krent was doing while looking from the outside. Krent looked around the room and then spoke out.
“There’s nothing suspicious.”
Isaac began to order the police force into the room, one by one.
“Sunbaenim, why aren’t you letting Kunette or I into the room?”
“You two need to protect me.”
Reisha’s eyes opened wide at Isaac’s answer, while Kunette seemed encouraged by it; her eyes shone brightly, determined to protect Isaac. Reisha smirked, finding Isaac’s attitude to be quite funny. His manly pride be damned, to be able to ask for a woman’s protection without a moment’s hesitation.
“You are probably the only knight who would ask someone else to protect you, Sunbaenim.”
“What can I do? It’s the disgrace of being weak.”
Even after all of the police force had moved into the room, nothing happened for quite some time. Only then did Isaac move in with them. Death wasn’t something he feared, but he wasn’t going to run into danger head first without taking precautions.
“Why is it so dark?”
Isaac could only see up to the door thanks to the light from the corridor, but the inside of the room was pitch black to him.
“All of us can see fine here.”
“Don’t put me on the same level as you lot.”
“It’s a typical apprentice warlock’s room from the looks of it.”
“Yeah. With all the artefacts he has inside. Look over here, he even drew a magic circle on the floor.”
“Huh? That magic circle design is really ancient. Nobody uses that anymore.”
Isaac’s frustration mounted, as he felt excluded by the fact that he was the only person who couldn’t see what they were talking about.
“Huh? What are you doing, sunbaenim?”
“There should be a button around here. Ah! There it is!”
Isaac felt around the walls with his hands and pressed the button for the magic light in the room. With a click, everything in the room lit up clearly. The knights, on the other hand, frowned for a moment, blinded by the sudden influx of light.
“Man, was he really trying to become a warlock?’
One of the walls were covered with flags each depicting a symbol of a different demon. In the cabinets were a mummified head of a goat, incense, a mirror, and a dagger – all tools used for a ritual. On the floor, two magic circles were drawn on top of one another – a pentagram and an inverted cross. The circle was dark red, as if it were drawn with blood.
“Does anyone know what this means?”
Isaac pointed at the magic circle and asked, but Reisha shook her head.
“No. A pentagram and cross are basic magic circles, but it’s a design that nobody uses anymore. And this is the first time we’ve seen a magic circle where they are drawn on top of one another.”
“… Strange, I can feel mana from it.”
“Then let’s… huh?”
Isaac tried to give out his order in accordance to Kunette’s comment, when suddenly the magic circle started producing red smoke. Isaac looked at the sight in wonder, while the police members quickly backed off from it with a shout.
“The magic circle has activated!”
“Everyone, watch out!”
The smoke began to gather on a single spot and form the shape of a creature.
“How could a monster from a demonic world appear!”
The knights drew their swords when they confirmed that it was a wyvern, while Reisha complained to Isaac for his mistake.
“Why did you have to touch the crime scene so carelessly!”
It almost seemed like complete coincidence that the two events happened at the same time, but when looking at the chain of events, it was true that the magic circle activated when Isaac turned the lights on. He had no excuse to give.
The wyvern let loose a deafening scream into the air and began to attack the knights, its wings fully extended.
Krent, who happened to be misfortunate enough to lock eyes with the wyvern, received its tackle. He blocked it with his sword, but the momentum of the charge threw his body out of the building, shattering the house’s wall.
“S, stop it! Our lives will be over if we let that thing go!”
The wyvern seemed rather unintelligent in its single-minded pursuit for Krent, and it jumped out of the house. Screams echoed from the streets, and the police force quickly jumped out of the building to catch the wyvern. Isaac’s hubaes were trained well enough to jump off from the 2nd floor without any problem, but Isaac was sure to break his legs if he tried it. He quickly placed Kunette on his shoulders and ran down the stairs.
Some brave souls were peaking their heads out the door in response to the sudden noise as Isaac passed.
“All of you get back in the house and don’t come out!”
The heads quickly shrivelled back into the houses.
By the time Isaac came out, the situation was already over. Perhaps it was expected of the first-rate knights from Campus. The knights’ focused their mana-imbued attacks on the wyvern, and it was subdued before it could mount a proper resistance. Black blood oozed out of its wounds, and the head was cut off from its body, its tongue fully extended.
“Huff, huff! At least you guys managed to solve the initial problem. Krent, get out there and cordon off the area. One of you is to go to the City Hall and report to Rivelia and ask for reinforcements. The rest of you except Reisha and Kunette are to get back in that room and watch if another one spawns again!”
The group of police, who seemed clueless about their next action, quickly set themselves into motion with Isaac’s orders. Isaac tried to catch his breath and smoke when Reisha approached him.
“It’s a good thing we entered that room first.”
“It could have turned into a disaster.”
“… Isaac, it hurts.”
It seemed that when Isaac rushed down the stairs, Kunette ended up banging her head on the ceiling. She squirmed in pain, massaging her head.
“Ah, sorry. I was in a rush. But good job protecting me. I’ll give you all the elven honey you want.”
“… It doesn’t hurt.”
The sight of Kunette trying to act brave and fib about her pain made Isaac pat her out of cuteness. But his act caused even more pain for Kunette, so he ended up having to comfort her again.
“Did Rivelia sunbaenim send us expecting something like this to happen?”
Isaac looked Reisha in the eyes and spoke back with his voice full of conviction.
“I swear on my entire fortune and one of my arms that is not the case.”
Those who are destined to succeed do so no matter what it is. All that happened was a crime that justified police intervention, and the incident happened to include traces of black magic and the casualty-free extermination of a monster that spawned in the middle of the city. Rivelia was sure to receive a reward for this unprecedented success. When Isaac’s thoughts reached that conclusion, he couldn’t stop himself from laughing.
Reisha looked with worry, but Isaac continued laughing. This was perhaps the most successful extermination of a warlock and demonic monster, so she would need to report to the Emperor personally. That would mean that Isaac wouldn’t need to see Rivelia for some time, and with any luck, Rivelia might even get promoted and transferred out of the city.