Only with everyone’s efforts could Cordnell be pulled off of Isaac. Isaac, however, didn’t seem to mind Cordnell’s actions and spoke with a smile.
“I’ll overlook the fact that you grabbed at my collar, as I am a merciful ruler.”
Cordnell was shaking furiously at Isaac’s comment, and Kalden stepped out to speak in place of Cordnell.
“Do you know the procedures of forfeiting your noble title?”
“Hm? Can’t I just say no?”
Kalden sighed deeply in response to Isaac’s answer.
“When the first in line of succession forfeits their inheritance, the candidate must officially announce their forfeit of inheritance and write a formal document with three members of the Noble Court bearing witness.”
“I’d rather not go. Can’t I send someone else to do it instead?”
“There are too many past treacheries regarding inheritance. It’s one of the reasons why the number of hereditary nobles has dwindled within the Empire. This is why you must prove that you have given up on the title by your own will.”
“Geez. I don’t understand why people fight over something as petty as a noble title…”
A mix of emotions welled up in the minds of everyone present when they watched Isaac click his tongue, as if he was a wise old sage looking down on the ignorant that were consumed by greed.
“And once you are done finalizing the documents, you must participate in the succession ceremony.”
“What! Why do I have to attend it when I’ve already given up!”
“It’s your last chance. Not only does the first in line of succession participate, but a noble of higher rank, an agent of Central, and a military commander must also attend the ceremony. The inheritance is only truly forfeit when you remain silent throughout the ceremony. And once the ceremony is over, the agent of Central will ask one last time if the inheritance was forfeit out of your own will and not by blackmail or threats.”
“But won’t you end up lying to the agent if you are being blackmailed anyway?”
“If the agent of Central deems that the title was forfeit because of blackmail, Central will immediately act. Even if the candidate does say it was out of their own will, if further investigations show that it was in fact due to blackmail that the candidate forfeited the title, that noble family will be erased entirely. Such an act of deceit would be disgracing the nobles and military commanders who attended the ceremony. Not even the Dukes within the Empire can oppose it if Central had taken action at that point. Ah, but the Dukedom of Pendleton is an exception.”
“That’s rather intricate.”
“That’s just how sensitive the inheritance issue is. It will bother you endlessly until it is resolved.”
“What if I stand my ground and don’t go?”
“The Noble Court is associated in this matter. They will kindly escort you if need be.”
The Noble Court was an organisation made up of nobles who put their lives on the line to keep the honour of nobility alive. It had influence over the inheritance issue from start to finish, so announcing the forfeit of inheritance without attending the ceremony would be disgracing them entirely. They’d never let that pass.
“Ah, shit. I don’t even want to see the look of their faces…”
“Think of it this way. Count Milros and the Rondart Family won’t be bothering you anymore.”
“I guess you can put it that way.”
Isaac smirked in response to Kalden. He took out a new cigarette and inhaled the smoke deep into his lungs.
‘Is it all just a coincidence?’
The safest place for Isaac currently was New Port City. As long as he stayed here, no one could touch him. His term in office ending was an issue, but he was making preparations for it too.
But a problem he hadn’t considered suddenly appeared. And the situation had changed, which now forced him to leave New Port City. Was it all truly just a coincidence?
‘Now it is confirmed.’
The question that had been plaguing his mind ever since he escaped the mine – one of the many theories within his head – was now confirmed, but he still wasn’t sure about the reasoning behind it.
“Well, I guess I have no choice but to attend, since they’d go so far to invite me. Get ready.”
Kalden made a sigh of relief after seeing Isaac agree to the procedure.
“Yes. I will quickly make a team of escorts within a short notice.”
“A team of escorts?”
“Hm? Of course you need escorts. Were you planning to go alone?”
“Do I really need escorts?”
“… You have a point.”
Kalden couldn’t argue against Isaac’s reasoning. The effectiveness of Isaac’s protective gear was proven by the mine incident. Rumours spread that Isaac managed to survive thanks to the coat he was wearing, and people quickly inquired as to if they could purchase one for themselves. But once people got wind of its cost, the rumour quickly changed to proclaim that no man could possibly die wearing that after wasting so much money on it.
“That’s even more of a reason for you to have escorts. Everyone knows how much that coat you are wearing is worth. I’m sure there will be idiots out there who’d act before thinking if they see you walking around alone.”
Isaac was a walking treasure vault. His fashion style was what you’d expect from an ignorant rich man; it was impossible for him to avoid attention. Insignificant flies always flocked to center of attention, although their attempts would be like moths flying into the flame.
“But would there be idiots daring to touch a College graduate? When no one in this city could touch me?”
The syndicate bosses bitterly smiled at those words. The biggest reason why the syndicate bosses left Isaac alone was because he was from College. And that was the beginning of their downfall.
“Oh yeah, didn’t my sunbaes back in College say that they didn’t recognise my graduation? What happened to that?”
Isaac remembered the additional blow when the provincial war occurred. Everyone else smirked at the sudden mention of it.
“It just faded away as time went by. Even if the entirety of the College united in their attempts to make it happen, they couldn’t possibly speak out against someone who was acting on the Emperor’s orders. It just got buried under quietly.”
“So I’m still a College graduate right? Would there be anyone brave enough to touch me?”
Everyone nodded to Isaac in agreement. The greatest shield Isaac had was the College. Just being hostile to Isaac was enough to have Central intervene. It may have been possible for idiots to pester Isaac and act like nothing happened if it didn’t work out if Isaac didn’t have this shield, but the fear of Central would be enough of a deterrent to repel most people from trying to harm Isaac.
“But I must say, the situation is rather awkward. Kunette and Reisha have gone to College, and Rizzly took all the North Bears home, so there isn’t anyone left. I think I’ll need someone to do some chores for me. Any volunteers?”
“How about you ask one of the elves…”
“Take an elf with me you say? It’d be very interesting if an elf went traveling with me, huh?”
There was no answer. Kunette and Reisha were out of consideration in the first place, and the North Bears were also an exception since they weren’t here. But no matter what, an elf must not travel with Isaac. It was bad enough when those troublemakers were alone. If Isaac were to be fanning at their instincts from the side, who knows what kind of legends would be born from their trip to Gabelin alone. No, it’d be considered a miracle if the two could even arrive at Gabelin without getting sidetracked.
That meant that someone in this group had to volunteer but…
Everyone quivered at the horrors of imagining such a sight. To travel as just two for such a long time… what they would only see in nightmares would become reality.
“So who shall I take with me…”
Entertained by the reactions he was seeing, Isaac muttered and scanned the group one by one. The recipients were busy trying their best to avoid eye contact.
“Do you want to go?”
Kalden profusely refused by waving his hands about at Isaac’s offer.
“You already know how much work I’m currently tasked with!”
“Then how about you, Cordnell?”
“Who’s going to manage the finances then?”
It wasn’t just Kalden and Corndell, but all of the administrative body put up their excuses whenever their eyes met Isaac’s, stepping slowly backwards.
“It’d be so boring to travel alone….”
In truth, Isaac had no thoughts of having someone travel with him. All of this had just been a tease because he didn’t like the way they reacted. The fact that they were all suffering from overwork was one reason, but the biggest reason was that they might be unfortunate enough to end up dead just because they went along. At this moment, Trentor stepped up, his face crumpled as in a mix of emotions – almost as if he’d eaten something he shouldn’t have.
“Hm? What’s this? You’re volunteering?”
Trentor sighed when he received an odd look from Isaac.
“There’s no choice. Someone will have to go with you, so I decided that I may as well see the look of my family.”
“Were you from Gabelin?”
Trentor glared back at Isaac in discontent.
“Haven’t you read my resume?”
“There was a resume?”
“… I’m from the city of Danent.”
“Where is that?”
“Unbelievable! Shouldn’t you at the very least know the name of your home city?”
“Oh! Were you from the Rondart fiefdom?”
Seeing Isaac reply to his outburst with another question of curiosity, Trentor simply gave up on being angry and shook his head. Meanwhile, Isaac was trying his hardest to keep his laughter in check as he looked at Trentor. He had been speculating all this time, but seeing all the puzzle pieces match so perfectly gave him the assurance that he was right.
“Then the rest of you are to go back to work. Trentor, get ready to leave.”
Everyone quickly left the rooftop as if their lives have been spared. The potential risk that they too might have to follow Isaac if they overstayed their welcome was a terrifying motivator for their hasty retreat.
“When are you planning to leave?”
“It’ll take a few days before Rivelia that damsel returns from Gabelin, right?”
“It’ll be about three days from now, since she’s already on her return journey.”
“Then we’ll leave as soon as that damsel arrives at the city. We can’t have both the Mayor and the Administrator absent at the same time.”
“I doubt you are here to greet my return. Are you leaving right now?”
“I hate to do so, but the procedures I have to follow are rather complicated.”
Rivelia frowned as if her head hurt from seeing the sight of Isaac and the administrative body all gathered up at the docks. It seemed that she had already received news of the current situation.
“But are you really heading to Gabelin like that?”
“What about it?”
Isaac puffed his chest to show off his ludicrous piece of fashion to Rivelia – the same piece of apparel which deterred even his acquaintances from approaching near him. Isaac passed Rivelia in order to ride the ship to Gabelin, speaking to her as he passed by.
“Then I guess this is farewell.”
“You speak like we’ll never see each other again.”
“I’ve made my preparations, but the enemy I’m facing isn’t a pushover you see.”
“I don’t think neither Count Milros nor the Rondart Family could possibly cause you harm when you are giving up on your succession.”
“It’d be nice if that were the case. Make sure you keep the city safe, and don’t you ruin it, you hear?”
“W, who do you think is going to ruin this city?”
Leaving behind the fuming Rivelia, Isaac and Trentor got on the ship while the administrative body bid their farewells. The ship began to move slowly. Rivelia glared back at the ship, annoyed that Isaac didn’t even look back at her before getting on the ship.
Just thinking about him made her mad. A hereditary noble title was both a source of privilege and great power. No matter what one did, the title of a noble followed them. If one were to succeed, the people would ask, ‘why try so hard when you’re already a hereditary noble?’ If one failed, they would say that none of it mattered since they were a hereditary noble. The reason why Rivelia tried so hard to prove her abilities through sheer effort was because she didn’t want to hear those any of those dismissals from others. Yet Isaac kicked away the power and rights that everyone envied.
“Did that man really give up on the title because he didn’t want to become my vassal, just like he said back in the Campus?”
Rivelia muttered to herself, but she quickly snorted as if that’d make no sense. But the administrative body who knew the truth flinched in their minds.
The tragedy that befell the Rondart Family was unexpected even to Rivelia. It may have been pure accident, but if it wasn’t, the people who caused it must have been aiming for Isaac.
If their aim was Isaac, the secret escorts from Central that were guarding Isaac weren’t going to be enough. The opponent would be well prepared in advance, so she needed to send over more agents.
Since all agents deployed in New Port City were prohibited from leaving to elsewhere, Rivelia quickly headed over to the Mayor’s room to request permission for reinforcements or to try and receive approval to send agents out of the city when suddenly she pulled out her sword, her face turning cold.
“… Who are you?”
A drop of cold sweat made its way down her back, seeing a mysterious man sitting on her table flicking through important documents. She didn’t even notice that he was in the room until she had opened the door.
Seeing Rivelia’s body stiffen with tension, the man smirked.
“It’s been a while, Rivelia. You were such a tomboy when you were a child, but to think you’d be so beautiful after growing up. But I see your personality is still the same.”
Rivelia didn’t let her guard down seeing how the man had known her, but her eyes began to widen and shake after recognising who the man was.
“No… Impossible… how are you here…”
“It seems you still remember.”
“Why is the Dark Royale here?”
The look on Rivelia’s face turned colder than it had ever been before. There was a top-secret organisation within Central that worked in darkness.
It was an organisation that didn’t even have a name. An organisation that cared not what the methods were in order to get the job done. It was unofficially called the Dark Royale, because their zeal matched that of the Arc Royale and their work was covered in darkness.
Ist Starlein Marvelion Elduran Hugh Gabelin. The man was commonly referred to as Ismael, known to the public as the man that had given up on the title of emperor without a shred of regret, and now, he was the leader of Dark Royale. He was the younger brother of the current Emperor and in the past he was her…
When her thoughts reached that part, Rivelia’s face quickly reddened. Ismael snickered at the sight.
“To think that the little girl who sang about marrying me in the future would turn into such a fine woman. Such a shame. If I’d known, I should have accepted back then.”
“D, drop the useless chatter, and why are you here?”
Rivelia changed to her serious tone, and Ismael responded by wiping the smile that was on his face as he responded.
“I’m just here to tell you that target 728 won’t be returning to New Port City.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well, Isaac will safely return from the succession ceremony. And he’ll lock himself in his rooftop. Just like he always does.”
The man used the name Isaac instead of the code 728 which Central used. The bright Rivelia quickly caught on to what that meant.
“You are sending a stand-in?”
“That’s right. For one reason or another, he will keep making new business proposals, but they will fail one after another and bankrupt him. And when New Port City collapses, Isaac will be arrested for failing his mission, his existence being forgotten by everyone in time. And the Empire will step in to save Port City and New Port City.”
“Are you doing this to get the money New Port City was making?”
New Port City was entangled with smuggling, the waterway rights, and the mana crystal mines. All of its worth and the potential wealth it brought would transfer over to Central. Money was always an issue no matter how much one had, and Central was no exception. It would be hard for Central to overlook such a tempting opportunity to strengthen their funds.
“Well, that’s one of the reasons.”
“I am in charge of all missions regarding New Port City! Target 728 is entirely in my jurisdiction! Performing such a mission without ever advising me about it is an abuse of power!”
Ismael let out a twisted smile in response to Rivelia’s outburst.
“This is the decision of the Grand Council.”
All strength sapped from Rivelia’s body. She could have done something if this was initiated solely by the Dark Royale, but there was nothing she could do if this was approved by the Grand Council.
“Does the Director of Surveillance know of this?”
“Do you really think we’d need approval from the Director of Surveillance when the Grand Council has given approval?”
“And you’re already too late.”
“Don’t tell me, was the death of Mistress Rondart because of Central?”
“Hey, you’re speaking some dangerous words.”
The look on Ismael’s face didn’t match his answer.
“Why? Target 728 has been cooperative with Central ever since the beginning.”
“Well, there are some grownup reasons behind it.”
“What do you mean by…”
Just when Rivelia was about to criticize Ismael for avoiding the question, he quickly cut her off with a firm voice.
“These are orders from the Grand Council. Follow your orders.”
Rivelia bit her lip and dropped her head, submitting to those words. Ismael approached her and tapped her shoulder to cheer her up. Just as he passed her, he mentioned something as if he’d just remembered.
“Ah! I’m just letting you know this to save you from wasting time. Stop trying to track down the ‘demonic’ turncoat which contacted target 728. He’s one of us.”
Rivelia quickly turned to chase after Ismael, surprised at what she had just heard. But Ismael was nowhere to be seen, somehow evaporating into thin air.
Rivelia couldn’t even touch any of her work for many days; her head was too occupied by the thoughts of recent events. The sudden appearance of Ismael had shaken the foundation of Rivelia’s perspectives and values.
Ismael mentioned not to track down the demonic turncoat which appeared in the mines, saying that he’s one of them. That meant one thing. They would even use a demonic turncoat to accomplish their objective. That was absolutely unacceptable. Demonic turncoats were those who borrowed power from the demons of hell.
They were fools who would let their own power control them, only to have their bodies taken over by the demons as their fate. No, that’s how she was taught. But the fact that Central was using ‘demonic’ turncoats if needed was something which went against her values.
‘Was the Grand Council aware of this?’
Of course they were, and they let it pass. Rivelia let out a deep sigh. Realising that the organisation she was associated with wasn’t as righteous as she had first thought put a heavy weight on her heart.
There was no answer. Rivelia was only a team leader in Central. This was also only given to her because of her title as Sword Master; she had little actual connections within Central.
The timing was also impeccable. All of this happened when both the Director of Surveillance, who was on Isaac’s side, and Rivelia were absent, which enabled Isaac to escape their watch before they could do anything.
Unable to perform any of her work, Rivelia left the City Hall to calm her jumbled mind with a walk. After wandering about, Rivelia ended up at one of the docks. Sitting at the edge of the dock and watching the calm lake seemed to help calm her head, but it was only momentary. She initially thought that Isaac would be invited to Central because of how cooperative he was, becoming mutual partners. But to have Dark Royale suddenly intervene… Rivelia couldn’t let her mind be, knowing how harshly they treated surveillance targets through the rumours she heard.
Although Isaac was mean and deserved a beating from her, this wasn’t right. Once he fell into the hands of the Dark Royale, he’d be tortured with unspeakable methods, only to be disposed of without a trace after everything important had been extracted.
Rivelia was tempted to send a message to the Director of Surveillance to let them know that Dark Royale was involved in the matter, but disobeying her orders wasn’t something Rivelia could do.
She would have if there was any justification behind it, but there wasn’t any she could think of. Only her sighs could be heard in the port, when suddenly she remembered the last conversation she had with Isaac at the docks.
-Don’t make a scene and stay put. We can play again if I do come back by some chance. I guess this is farewell. I’ve made my preparations, but the opponent isn’t a pushover.
Rivelia suddenly got up on her legs. She didn’t notice it back then, but now that she remembered, Isaac wasn’t talking about the Rondart Family or Count Milros. He was talking about Central.
Although that was just a speculation, that alone was enough. The fact that Isaac was aware of Central’s part in the matter was enough to have the Director of Surveillance intervene in the matter.
If the Director of Surveillance intervened, Dark Royale’s mission was bound to fail. Rivelia quickly made her way to the City Hall to pass on this information.