The empty rooftop was the ideal environment for performing research on magic circles. In the past, Isaac received visits from his administrative workers to report on the city’s management, but they were few and far in between. But with the arrival of Rivelia, the administrative body opted to report to her instead and stayed well away from the rooftop ever since. The research needed to be performed in secret, and the presence of Rizzly, his personal bodyguard, would have made it difficult to find such opportunities to do so. He, however, was currently being dragged along by Kunette as she adventures throughout the city.
Kunette treated the whole city as her playground, wandering about from one corner to another. But Isaac didn’t worry about her since Rizzly was by her side, and according to Rizzly’s testimony, Kunette was even more powerful than Rizzly himself. Isaac found that claim hard to believe but decided to accept it anyway.
There was one occasion when Cordnell came up to the rooftop, expressing his concern regarding Kunette’s overuse of the funds. Isaac decided to investigate what she was spending the money on, only to find out she was buying all sorts of food and snacks to share with the children of the city.
It was natural for Kunette be popular among the children, since she was sharing all sorts of snacks and lollies in her adorable and tiny physique. She was like their idol, and children flocked to her wherever she went. Not even the adults could treat her disrespectfully. It seemed Kunette found the situation enjoyable and lessened her visits to Isaac. This was, in fact, the perfect time for such a thing to occur.
“… This really is OP.”
Isaac muttered to himself as he looked at the paper in front of him. Others would question Isaac’s act of staring deeply into a blank piece of paper, but in Isaac’s eyes, he could see a magic circle made up of mysterious symbols and lines. What was important was that it had been 3 days since this drawing was first made.
“If it’s absorbed into the user, the user can make permanent magic circles, and in its pen form, it can create magic circles that last about a day…”
Baffled by the sudden absorption of the pen, Isaac thought to himself, ‘Can it come out on its own?’ The pen then suddenly popped out from his finger. The fusion and ejection of the pen was freely controlled by the user, and the user simply needed to draw the circles as seen in the book without having to look through its meanings. The thickness of the lines could be controlled purely by the user’s thoughts. And voila, a magic circle was born. This pen would allow a magical professional to develop magic circles with extreme ease.
It was an object that any who worked in the field would dream about. Isaac didn’t know who the inventor of this pen was, but he was certain that only an absolute madman would create a ballpoint pen capable of destroying the Empire.
“I’m not going to let anyone just take this treasure from me. I need to prepare myself.”
Isaac gave up on the idea of handing over the pen or having it taken from him. This monstrous item was bound to shake up the world no matter who the user was, and the chaos created by such circumstances would shatter Isaac’s ambition of living a peaceful life. Handing it over to Central could be a solution, but it didn’t seem likely that Isaac would receive any form of gratitude in return. It seemed more likely that he’d be closely monitored for the rest of his life or be “dismissed” for confidentiality. So the best choice of action was to act oblivious, since no one was going to find out about it as long as the pen was in his finger.
The North Bears and elves did provide security for Isaac, but simply relying on them for the entire ordeal was a foolish move. It was still likely that Isaac could be abducted and interrogated at even the slightest suspicion no matter how oblivious he acted, considering how valuable this item was. It would be prudent to prepare against such events so that he could enjoy a long and peaceful life.
It was impossible for Isaac until now, but he could finally create a trump card of his own to turn the tide in any situation. A magical weapon was an excellent candidate to do such a thing.
“I’ll need some protection too. And a method to escape from unforeseen circumstances… Hm, I think I’ve got quite a few things to deal with, finally.”
“What is Sir Isaac doing these days?”
Rivelia asked. Kalden, the recipient of the question, carefully answered as he noted Rivelia’s mood.
“He has taken a liking to his new hobby, sculpting.”
“Sculpting? He is wasting his days sculpting while everyone else is busy at work?”
The administrative body did their utmost to avoid Rivelia’s glare of cold fury. Rivelia began to ponder how she was going to bully that man but decided against it. It may be better that he stayed on the rooftop like he was now.
Just when she was about to use the murder incident as justification to mobilise her police force to search for demonic and angelic turncoats, Central reported that the dead victim was the demonic turncoat all along. And with the new decision made in conjunction with the Directorate of Analysis, it was unlikely that she’d receive any more reinforcements, so she needed to finish her assignment with the agents she had at hand. It would be much easier for Rivelia if Isaac stayed on the rooftop, since she needed to watch for any signs of the angelic turncoats attempting to contact him.
‘To think they’d worship Isaac. Either the angelic turncoats are crazier than what we know, or they’re absolute numbnuts not worth our time.’
“Sigh, I’ll leave Sir Isaac for now. He’s helping us by not starting any more unnecessary endeavours.”
On top of a mountain of secret missions she needed to finish, she still had her duties to fulfill as the mayor of the city. She didn’t like it, but it was best not to bother Isaac and let him be engrossed in his new hobby instead, lest he be agitated into creating another abominable business and making everyone’s lives difficult.
“Sculpting is actually quite fun. It’s a great way to spend idle time.”
Isaac muttered those words as he carved at the wood with a small knife. He was so sure that he would just give up on everything if he didn’t routinely hypnotise himself with that monologue. Isaac could activate the magic circles only after he smoked. That was a crucial weakness. He couldn’t simply smoke in leisure during emergencies. He had barely enough mana to activate the magic circle after he finished smoking one cigarette. The use of mana crystals was mandatory in order to maintain the magic circle and activate it repeatedly.
As a test, Isaac drew the magic circle for Magic Arrow on a small piece of wood. When activated, the arrow that formed was much weaker, and its duration was reduced by quite a bit as well. But it was still a success.
However, unless he was going to suck on his thumb after a single attack, he needed a way to attack repeatedly. So he tried the same test again; except, this time, he carved a small circle where the mana crystal was supposed to be placed inside as shown in the book. The test, however, only resulted in the loss of the mana crystal.
Since Isaac didn’t learn this formally, he had no way to know what went wrong. And he couldn’t just grab someone and ask, because that would raise suspicion. So he used city patrolling as an excuse to visit the magical spires and magical engineers in Meta District to ask them a few questions.
Isaac was told that for enchanted magic circles, results varied greatly depending on how smooth the surface of the enchanted object was and how consistent and smooth the depth of the grooves were. Just a single scratch on the edge or incorrectly carving the symbol or the angle of the line would result in a failed activation sequence.
Isaac asked how the wizards performed such a delicate procedure, only to be mocked that drawing a magic circle was a foolish effort in the first place.
Wizards didn’t draw magic circles but instead memorized the image in their head. Then, they use engraving magic to engrave the magic circle onto their object. It was quick, efficient and flexible. But it wasn’t something Isaac could do himself, so like a dumb fool he was, he had to brute-force his way through.
Isaac wanted to ask for more details, but coming to the magic spire was already going to attract attention, since he never held any interest in this place until now. So he used a few offensive magical artefacts as pretext and returned to his research. He first drew the magic circle onto the piece of wood. He then carved the wood following the lines he had drawn and then drew the magic circle again, this time with his finger that was fused with the pen. When he activated the magic, there was a marked improvement in its power and duration.
This was how sculpting became his new hobby. He thought that it could reduce the suspicion he had raised and allow him to practice magic at the same time, but instead of completing magic circles, Isaac only realised that his craftsmanship wasn’t the best in the world.
Just a single lapse in his concentration, and the carving knife that was following a straight line dug just a little deeper than it should have.
“Fuck! Screw it! I’m done!”
Isaac’s temper, which had been barely contained until now, exploded, and he threw the wooden plank onto the floor. It seemed that the study of magic circles was just as much of a waste of time as the study of magic itself. Isaac tried placing a mana crystal into one of his earlier works, where the carved circuits were chaotically spread all over the place due to multiple mistakes. The result of doing this was a wasted mana crystal, and Isaac almost lost his hand along with it. Isaac didn’t understand why it burnt to ashes, but with no one to ask for help, Isaac’s only option was to constantly practice until he got better.
“It can’t go on like this.”
Isaac began lighting a cigarette to calm his agitated mind and pondered for a moment.
He was a man who valued results over method. Instead of practice and effort, he preferred a single scheme to shortcut his way to success, and instead of persistence and patience, he wanted immediate results. There must be an easier way than what he’s doing now.
His thoughts stretched on for a while, to a point where his first cigarette turned to ashes and Isaac stretched his hand for a second, when he suddenly had an epiphany. The realisation he had brought a bitter and empty expression onto his face.
“What have I been doing until now?”
“Is it you who’s on night duty today?”
Isaac walked down from his rooftop to run into Krent, who was alone in an otherwise-empty City Hall. Krent had not been able to contain his exhaustion, and constantly yawned until he spotted Isaac and stretched his eyes. These night shifts were duties enacted after Rivelia arrived in the city.
“What are you doing here of all times?”
“And why are you on night shift? Shouldn’t you be doing business now?”
Krent knew that Isaac meant the smuggling when he mentioned business, and he made a bitter smile.
“I can’t just skip out on my duties, what with so many eyes looking and all.”
“Is that so? I guess that makes things easier. I don’t have to go through the hassle of calling you over.”
“Huh? You were looking for me? Why?”
Nobody who had been called over by Isaac ever escaped unscathed. It was well-noted by Krent’s predecessors, and his eyes became possessed with worry.
“Do you deal with mana crystal transactions in your business too?”
“Huh? Why are you suddenly mentioning that?”
“It’s expensive right?”
“Pures are, yes.”
“And they shine on their own.”
“Pure mana crystals are treated as a type of a gem, and those with high purity are considered even more valuable.”
“Buy every one of them you see.”
Krent’s eyes turned wide at Isaac’s request.
“Not manufactured, but pures?”
“What are you going to use it on? Mana crystals don’t come out often because they’re even more dangerous than military assets.”
Although mana crystals were of high value, its limited use and rarity resulted in a very small market. But with the development of mass production of magical artefacts, things began to change. As the market for mana crystals began to evolve into something much greater, the royal family of the Empire quickly created a monopoly of the market like what they did with salt and harshly tightened the leash on any smuggling businesses.
The biggest factions which revolted against the act were the magical spires who had been constantly buying up those mana crystals, but the Empire made them their collaborators by sharing some of the tax revenue they received with the sales. At one point, the supply could not meet the demand for mana crystals, and they began selling for ten times their weight in gold, and every shady business treated mana crystals as a form of currency in smuggling. Just as how the golden age of mafia was during the criminalization of alcohol, the smuggling of mana crystals increased the might of smuggling and criminal syndicates all over the Empire, and the Empire had no choice but to let go of their monopoly over mana crystals.
PR Note: The original text’s reference to the “criminalization of alcohol” most directly referencing the era of US Prohibition that lasted from 1919 to 1933 when the 18th Amendment was ratified. During this era, the manufacturing, sale, and transportation of alcohol was deemed illegal in all 50 states. The mafia thrived on such activities, and it was such a failure in curbing alcoholism that it was repealed by the 28th Amendment. For a rosy recount of part of the origins of Prohibition, see this episode of Comedy Central’s Drunk History. For a more informative history, see this Wikipedia page on Prohibition.
What was even more laughable was that the moment the Empire gave up on the monopoly of mana crystals, the magic spires announced that they had developed new technology to produce manufactured mana crystals and jumped into the markets. Having already tasted the money, magical spires became even more notorious than merchants. They controlled the supplies at their own discretion, setting whatever price they wanted. They performed all sorts of atrocities befitting of monopoly, but a dispute between magic spires led to the leak of information regarding how mana crystals can be manufactured into public. Now, anyone with enough funds could create a factory for mana crystals. Of course, they needed the Empire’s approval beforehand.
And when manufactured mana crystals took over most of the market, the Empire snuck back in and claimed pure mana crystals as their own again. So, the market for manufactured mana crystals were owned by the magic spires, while the pure mana crystal markets were owned by the Empire, generating a decent profit and enriching the Empire.
Although the manufactured mana crystal market was larger than the one for pures, pures had qualities unattainable for manufactured crystals. For Isaac, who had no need to buy mana crystals en masse, he preferred pures over manufactured.
“It’s pretty and shiny.”
“Is that all? What am I to tell Mr. Cordnell?”
“Why is he involved when I’m deciding what to do with my own money?”
“I don’t think Mr. Cordnell would willingly give away the funds when I tell him I’m buying them because they are pretty and shiny.”
“Just proceed anyway. It’s going to be cheaper than what is on the market since there’s no tax, right? And haven’t you got some connections as the son of a Guild Master?”
Krent sighed at Isaac’s reckless order and nodded.
“Well, I know everyone I need to.”
“Then invite a master of heraldry.”
PR Note: Heraldry refers to the system by which coats of arms and other armorial bearings are devised, described, and regulated.
“Huh? Why all of a sudden?”
“I need to have a crest of my own, as deserving of a Lord’s Representative.”
Krent stared intently at Isaac to see if he was really speaking with a sane mind. Whether Isaac knew about this or not, he simply tapped one hand with a fist and continued.
“Ah! I don’t have any decent clothes to wear befitting my prestige, so invite a skilled tailor too.”
“Why are you asking me for all this…”
When Krent complained immediately at Isaac’s list of chores, Isaac tilted his head in curiosity.
“Huh? Weren’t you finished with your shift?”
“I still have some more to go.”
“Really? Then I’ll take over for you, so bring them here immediately.”
Krent seemed dubious as to why Isaac was suddenly searching for mana crystals and tailors.
“Rivelia hasn’t come yet, right?”
“Huh? Rivelia-sunbaenim is…”
Krent tried to answer, but when he saw Isaac bury himself deep into the chair and place both his legs on the table, Krent’s expression changed to a more dubious one.
“It’s nothing. Then I’ll head off to look for a tailor.”
“Yeah. Do it quickly.”
Krent left the administrative office with an entertained look. In a short moment, Isaac quickly became bored of just waiting and walked around the office, looking through all of the details in the office. When he was having a warm cup of tea alone, however, some of the young men who were in charge of chores and small work for the office entered.
The men quickly greeted Isaac with a surprised look, and Isaac received it like an old man who had surpassed enlightenment, nodding ever so slightly as he sipped his tea. The men were careful not to agitate Isaac as they cleaned the office.
There was no way the administrative body were going to clean their office or do any maintenance of their own. In fact, they never had the time to do anything but work. So the city hall needed some manpower for those who could do small work and chores for them, and the people of the city quite liked the idea of working in the city hall, which was in the centre of the city. And the number of male volunteers rose sharply ever since Rivelia had come to the city.
“… Um, Sir Isaac.”
The men finished their cleaning duties, and one of them approached Isaac reluctantly.
“Has the mayor not come to the city hall yet?”
“I don’t think so. Why? What happened?”
“Oh, no. It’s not like that… hehe, I guess Lady Reisha hasn’t come yet either?”
Isaac’s eyes narrowed and stared at the man when he asked those questions. The man simply laughed awkwardly in response. Isaac tsked and started a speech.
“I don’t know what romance you guys are dreaming about, but let me give you this advice. Wake up. Romance only exists in fiction. Do you think you’re the protagonist here? You may be in your own life, but you are nothing when placed in the stage called the world. You will die alone and as a virgin if you never realise the difference and keep on dreaming. And of all things! The face isn’t everything, got it? It’s not like you can feed on their beauty, and no matter how pretty they are, they are just hags when they grow old. Got it? Ah! It might be different for Reisha. But Rivelia, that woman, ain’t much. Yeah she’s hot now. But you just give her a few years. Especially if she doesn’t fix that temper of hers, otherwise it’ll be moments before her face is covered in…”
Isaac, who was giving a heated speech in front of the men, closed his mouth when they stood as stiff as a stick and sweat dripped down from their faces. He felt a chill on his back, and he took out a cigarette, took a deep breath, and asked.
“This isn’t the cliché where Riveli-, I mean, the mayor is standing behind me, right?”
Isaac’s question, which almost sounded pitiful, was met with a resounding no from the men as they shook their heads and wished their luck to Isaac.
The noise the door to the Mayor’s office made almost sounded like a shriek of terror. Isaac took another deep puff of the cigarette and muttered in resentment.
“Krent, that bastard…”
For some unknown reason, it seemed Rivelia was staying overnight in the city hall and was resting in the bed that had been placed in her office. And Krent left Isaac without letting him know about this fact…
“… Sir Isaac, may I have a word with you?”
Isaac shut his eyes in an attempt to avoid reality as the murderous voice echoed in his ears.
“Uwak! You bastard! Why are you here aga… huh? What happened to your face? Did someone hit you?”
“Shut up, don’t ask.”
Isaac took out a chair and placed it in the middle of the shop, almost as if this was his own home. As punishment for the mistakes he had made with his words, he was called into the mayor’s office for a scolding. But staying overnight to figure out a solution for his problem came back to bite him and waves of drowsiness smashed at him. Soon enough, Isaac began to sleep in front of Rivelia while she was scolding him, and out of pure anger, Rivelia hit Isaac in the face.
Isaac responded with the words that a sword master throwing a punch at a civilian was an attempt at murder, and this seemed to have hit a nerve for Rivelia. Isaac had been making a run for it since then. And even in the midst of the intense chase, he shouted out loudly in the plaza full of people, ‘You think you can ever get married with a personality like that?’ He was almost cut down by Rivelia with her sword.
Although he was unable to complain that he was beaten up by a girl, he visited Marcus since going back to the city hall was like walking into hell on his own two feet. He had some business with him anyway.
“Tsk tsk. I can guess who the culprit is, since there’s only one person in this city who’d dare to place their hands on you. As your senior in life, I’ll give you some advice. Go and beg for forgiveness, no questions asked.”
“Why should I!”
“I doubt she hit you because you did something good.”
There was no answer. No matter how he looked at it, it was Isaac’s fault from start to finish.
Isaac spoke with a face full of frustration as he bit down on another cigarette.
“Those pure mana crystals, you can process them right?”
“Mana crystals? I guess there are some idiots full of vanity who’d process the mana crystals as if they were gems to use for jewellery. You’re free to do so, but it is complete madness from our point of view.”
“Because the mana it contains will change along with its size. The purity will stay the same, but the total amount of mana it has will drop with each chip made. And its value will drop along with it. Processing a mana crystal to shape it is literally throwing money away. Sure, we do shape it a little, but it’s done in a way that maintains the size of the crystal as close to its original form as possible.”
“Do you know anyone who deals with mana crystal processing?”
“I know a few. Why? You want me to ask?”
A light shone in Marcus’ eyes. Mana crystal processing had a very limited demand, but it had a very decent profit margin. All of the chips that had been made on the crystals during processing were money when gathered together. Dust and fragments of mana crystals were used in the creation of magic circles, so they were sold at a high price in the market. So most of the time, the pay for these mana crystal processors were the fragments and dust left over after processing.
“Call over a few of them. But, the condition is that they must adopt a few children of the city as their apprentices.”
“That business is rather isolated…”
Marcus showed some signs of refusing, so Isaac quickly made an offer that couldn’t be refused.
“You think I’m calling them over to process just a few mana crystals?”