“I’m not here!”
“Sunbaenim, hide us please!”
Isaac was just enjoying his carefree afternoon sipping on a cup of tea Rizzly had made for him when Kunette and Reisha suddenly rushed over to the rooftop in a panic. The two looked around and quickly hid themselves under the bed. The sudden turn of events left both Isaac and Rizzly dumbfounded. While the two were wondering what was happening, Rivelia was spotted walking up the stairs fuming with anger.
“Shall I say ‘it’s been a while?’ Why are you here?”
Rivelia and Isaac despised one another. Their personalities were such polar opposites that the two were well aware that ignoring one another as if they were different species was the best course of action for their own mental health. There was once a time when Rivelia called Isaac every day to harass him, but that had stopped ever since the appearance of a warlock. Isaac had been enjoying his days in satisfaction ever since.
“Where did Kunette and Reisha go?”
Seeing Rivelia scan the area with bloodthirsty eyes, Isaac quickly glimpsed at the bed.
“Well? I have no idea?”
Rivelia noticed Isaac’s eyes looking to the bed, contrary to his words and quickly marched over to the bed and kicked it. With a loud ‘bang!’ the bed flew into the air, bouncing on the balcony once before it fell off from the edge. Screams echoed from the plaza at the sudden accident, and Rizzly was in great distress as he mumbled to himself.
“Uwah! Mr. Cordnell’s going to be at us again. That was really expensive.”
Leaving Rizzly aside, Rivelia looked down at the now-quivering refugees, who yelped when their cover disappeared so suddenly. Rivelia placed her hands on her own waist as she looked down at the two hugging each other for support.
“Do you think this problem will be solved by running away? Come with me this instant!”
“No! I’m not going!”
“Hiing! Let us be for once!”
Kunette and Reisha immediately responded with their intentions clear, shaking their heads in complete refusal.
“Why wouldn’t you like to go when they’ll let you graduate just by participating in your grades assessment? You two need to graduate, you know!”
Reisha and Kunette looked like puppies getting scolded with their heads drooping low in sadness, and Isaac quickly realised what was happening. Isaac smirked and pulled out a cigarette.
Kunette and Reisha were still tied to the College. Isaac had a rough idea as to why they were sent out of the College. The two had, at the very least, made themselves invisible to the rest of the students by visiting Isaac while he was still there, but it was very likely that the two became uncontrollable menaces as soon as Isaac had left.
The student population would have had no issues if all the students were diligent in their studies. But how would those diligent students feel if there were a select few who played around all day while they were desperately trying to catch up on their grades? They were clearly booted out of the College almost like an exile, since leaving them in the College would cause student morale to drop and bring more trouble in the future.
Isaac assumed that there was an agreement made within the College that since they effectively exiled them, they may as well graduate them so as to not be involved with them anymore. The College offered to let them graduate if they just participated in a grades assessment as a final procedure, yet the two resisted to their fullest, unable to handle the few days of leave. There was no way the stubborn Rivelia would let that pass.
Admiring the fact that there was someone who could control those troublemakers, Isaac clapped his hands. The act seemed to have irked Rivelia, and she stared right back at Isaac.
“What is the meaning of your action?”
“This? This is the expression of my pure respect for you. I salute you, Lady Rivelia. You are truly, truly amazing.”
“I’m staying with Isaac!”
“Sunbaenim, I helped you right? Can’t that be enough to graduate?”
Isaac wasn’t sure why, but the two seemed to consider Isaac their last saving grace. The two grabbed at the legs of his pants and looked up to Isaac with tears welling up in the corner of their eyes. It was a sight that would shake the heart of an average man, but Isaac was no average man.
“I’d rather see you two after you guys graduate.”
“Hweng! Sunbaenim abandoned me!”
“… Isaac, you don’t like me anymore?”
Isaac’s cold words mercilessly cutting them off seemed to have surprised both of them, who suddenly began to cry. Annoyed, Isaac waved his hand at Rivelia to take them away quickly, which sent even greater shock through the two of them. Kunette and Reisha were seen walking down the stairs as they bawled their eyes out in tears. Rivelia looked at the two with pity and then glared at Isaac bitterly.
The taunting smirk on Isaac’s face was so infuriating for Rivelia to look at, but she was too tired to waste her energy over it.
“Sigh, it’s nothing. I’ll see you later.”
Rivelia walked down the stairs with a frown, seemingly having a headache from just thinking about how she was going to soothe the two and stop their crying. Isaac waved at Rivelia with a smile until she disappeared from sight. The smile on Isaac’s face evaporated immediately.
“I hope I’m just overthinking it…”
Rizzly asked when he heard Isaac talking to himself. Isaac responded as he breathed in his cigarette smoke.
“It’s nothing. Get me another cup of tea.”
“But are you sure this is alright? You’re going to be in trouble for some time after getting both Lady Reisha and Kunette mad like this.”
Rizzly spoke as he brought another cup of tea for Isaac, his face clearly possessed with worry for Isaac. Isaac responded nonchalantly.
“I’ll think about that when the situation comes to it.”
‘But I’m the one who suffers until then.’
Similar occurrences had happened in the past. Because of Isaac’s acts of clearly drawing the line, Kunette and Reisha would first get mad, then throw tantrums, denounce Isaac, and act as if they’d never see Isaac again. Isaac, on the other hand, responded as if none of it mattered to him, completely ignoring the situation. As the situation turned colder and colder, it was now Kunette and Reisha who were in anguish, worried that it was Isaac who was now mad at them. The two would then bully Rizzly in order to vent their frustration.
Once, the two abused Rizzly, demanding him to come up with an answer. Rizzly told them to lead the elves and North Bears on a strike, but they violently berated Rizzly for his suggestion. What if Isaac got really mad and told everyone to leave?
Rizzly was a well-respected individual in his tribe, and he was depressed as to why he was treated like this here. It was sad, but there was no answer. If this was some sort of a budding relationship between a man and a woman, Rizzly was more than willing to help. But from what he saw, it more or less looked like two girls desperately trying to get their father’s attention.
No, maybe Isaac was the master of relationships, having full control over the push and pull of affection. To make the wrecking ball that is Reisha and the ever-so difficult Kunette so desperate for attention, he surely deserved respect. But as someone who suffered because of it, it was a living nightmare.
Rizzly grumbled as he made all sorts of faces in his mind before he spoke.
“Anyhow, I’d like to ask you to allow me to leave New Port City for some time.”
“Hm? Why? Do you need some time off?”
“Something like that. There are other merchant guilds that have fond relations with our tribe other than you, Sir Isaac. They are our great friends who always offer work to us.”
“You’re going to work elsewhere?”
“Yes. This is a relation that has been maintained since our ancestors, and they are kind souls who have always given work to us despite not needing to. There is no way we can reject their offer. But with all of the young tribesmen gathered here, it seems they are lacking in manpower. I will need to leave with some of my men.”
“Go ahead. In fact, why don’t all of you go together? Take this chance for all of you to meet your families.”
“All of us? Won’t that leave quite a gap in your manpower?”
“What could possibly go wrong in that time?”
It had been a very long time since peace like this came. After Kunette and Reisha repeatedly escaped back to New Port City whilst being escorted to the College, Rivelia furiously took both of them personally to College. With all the forces that could annoy Isaac gone in a single turn of events, Isaac made a toast. Rizzly’s leave along with all of the North Bears made New Port City quiet, but Isaac welcomed it. As usual, Isaac looked at the sky in a daze, arranging his thoughts when Cordnell quickly rushed over the stairs with a blue face.
“Is it something important again?”
“I guess you wouldn’t even see me if it wasn’t something important.”
Isaac seemed rather apathetic at the situation. Just when Cordnell was about to shout at him, all of Isaac’s hubaes, the syndicate bosses, and merchant employees rushed up to the rooftop.
“Seeing how all of you are here, I guess something big really did happen.”
“Sunbaenim, big news!”
“Of course it’s big news.”
When Kalden said the same thing as Cordnell, Isaac responded apathetically. Everyone who came up to the roof shouted back in unison.
“Mistress Rondart had passed away!”
It was news that was completely unexpected.
Because of many reasons, it was the widowed Mistress Rondart who was administering the fiefdom. But the sudden death of the woman who held all authority over the land brought everyone to confusion.
“How did she get herself killed?”
Isaac said as he remembered his image of her, which was now nothing but a faded fragment in his memories. Even her face was a blank to him, but the cold glare she gave him was one thing he clearly remembered.
“It was publicly announced that the carriage she was riding during her rounds through the villages had an accident and was overturned, killing her instantly. But what the merchant guilds heard is different.”
Cordnell seemed to hesitate to answer Isaac, with so many ears eavesdropping.
“Just say it, it’s annoying.”
Cordnell, who was about to advise taking the men away, realised it was futile and answered while lowering his voice.
“It seems Mistress Rondart had a secret lover.”
Isaac looked back at Cordnell seemingly baffled.
“So she died while coming back from an affair?”
“Y, your voice is too loud!”
Cordnell quickly looked to the surrounding when Isaac spoke back. Those around them quickly turned their faces away, but their ears were wide open to listen.
“Whether the rumour spreads or not has nothing to do with me, so don’t bother. But more importantly, where’s the evidence?”
“There is no evidence, but it had been many years since she periodically visited the same village to stay overnight before returning to her mansion.”
“I guess that would rouse some suspicion. But how did you guys find out?”
Cordnell muttered, unable to continue his words. Isaac’s eyes began to narrow, and unable to withstand his stare, Cordnell spoke as if he was confessing.
“Once you make a trade with a merchant guild, it is tradition for the guild to investigate the trade partner’s connections. We happened to find out by coincidence.”
“I guess finding a weakness like this would help to negotiate a more favourable deal. I can understand that.”
Isaac nodded convinced by the reason, and Cordnell quickly shouted out.
“That is not our intention!”
“Really? Can you swear on it?”
Cordnell shut his mouth when Isaac questioned him back. The world of commerce was just as fierce as a battlefield. You never knew when relations would break, even if there were ongoing trade deals. Having a grasp of their weakness could lead to making favourable trade deals, and if relations broke down into hostility, it could be used as a weapon.
Keeping an eye on trade partners and their connections also led to the watchers realizing that the reverse could also be occurring, which led to them being more careful in their actions. Now, it was considered normal for this constant watch to occur.
Still, nothing good was bound to happen if the rumour leaked, so this was confidential news known only by high-ranking members of the merchant guilds.
Isaac smirked as he watched Cordnell, who seemed to be clueless as to what he should do next. He asked a question as he pulled out a cigarette.
“So who’s the partner?”
Cordnell hesitated whether he should answer or not. It was only because of Isaac’s stare that Cordnell continued as he shut his eyes.
“The most likely candidate is a young local farmer in the village.”
Isaac dropped the cigarette from his mouth.
“… It’s not a noble, or a knight, but a commoner?”
“… Kuk! Kukuku. Kuhahahaha!”
After a brief pause, Isaac fell on the floor, unable to hold his laughter. He could understand her having an affair. It must have been lonely for her to become widowed at such an early time in her marriage. But the candidate was not a noble like her nor a knight under her command; it was a plain farmer. There was no comedy better than this.
“Ah, love really is great after all. If even the merchant guilds are aware, I’d assume everyone important knows too?’
“They are keeping it on the down low, but…”
“Kukuk. Ah, it’s such a shame that I couldn’t see the look on my brothers’ faces when they found out.”
With great difficulty, Kalden spoke to Isaac, who was greatly entertained.
“I’d like to say my words of consolation for your loss. And I’ll prepare for your trip to attend her funeral.”
“Why would I attend that?”
Isaac responded with a serious face, and Kalden responded, dumbfounded.
“It may not matter to a noble who gained their title through occupation, but the Rondart family is a hereditary noble family. With Mistress Rondart, who was ruling the land, passing away, her successor should take over the title and the land. Not even Count Milros or Duke Pendleton can intervene in this matter. You do know that the Rondart Family is a vassal to Duke Pendleton, right?”
Isaac smirked in response to Kalden’s explanation.
“I’ll just give it up then.”
“What? You’re going to give up on the title? Why!”
Hereditary nobles could maintain their titles and wealth throughout generations. Descendants of nobles who gained their title through work needed to prove their own worth to gain the title themselves, but hereditary nobles didn’t need to waste their time and effort. They had all of it to begin with.
This world was full of nobles whose children were too incapable to become a noble themselves, making them commoners. If the symbol of success for commoners was to gain the title of a noble, the proof of success to nobles was to become a hereditary noble.
“Not only do I not have any intention of inheriting the title, but there is one significant problem if I do accept the title.”
Isaac spoke with a serious look, which spread to everyone else on the rooftop. Even Cordnell, who was well in the know with Isaac’s many secret businesses, fell in deep confusion.
Was it Count Milros? New Port City? The smuggling business? Central?
While Cordnell pondered just what could be a serious issue if related with Isaac’s inheritance, Isaac made his answer after quivering at the thought of it.
“You said Baron Rondart is a vassal to Duke Pendleton right? You know what that means? If I inherit the title, I’ll need to treat that damsel as my superior. I’d rather abandon the title before I allow my eyes to bear witness to such a thing.”
Cordnell was left dumbfounded after listening to Isaac’s words.
“You’re giving up on the title just for that?”
How could he give up on something that so many people prayed for and fought over, for such an insignificant reason?
“Just because of that? Don’t you start judging my decision just because it isn’t your problem. It may seem petty to you, but it’s a serious problem for me.”
Isaac spoke down to Cordnell as if he was lecturing him, and Cordnell couldn’t help but charge at Isaac and grab at his collar.