The ferry sailed up the Grand Canal and reached its destination safely. The ferry passed through the Grand Canal and entered the Kurente River, which was the lifeline of the continent’s middle regions. After a day of sailing through this river, the ferry arrived at the city of Kurentes.
“It’s been a while since I last visited here.”
Isaac said as he looked around Kurentes. It should have been a nostalgic sight for Isaac, as it was the first city he visited while on the way to New Port City after graduating from the College. Yet Isaac’s remark was empty and emotionless.
Perhaps the one thing that changed in the city was that the people in the city recognised him. Although the looks he received were those of envy and jealousy, like they were looking at the greatest swindler, the lowest of scum, or a man who gained his wealth through sheer luck. Still, Isaac was now famous.
“I have acquired a transport for us.”
“Wow. Where did you get this?”
“It’s a newly released automobile. It was designed in a way so that passengers don’t need to stay in a lodge or a hotel. It’s rather popular with the merchant guilds.”
What awaited Isaac when he got off the ferry was a middle-aged man who seemed to be the driver and a camping car. No, perhaps it was more of a trailer since the living quarters weren’t connected to the driver’s compartment itself.
Trentor approached the driver to complete the confirmation process, and Isaac shrugged his shoulders and asked Trentor.
“Did you rent this?”
“Of course not. It’s not even worth considering that option when it’s not my money I’m using. I just bought it straight up.”
“You’ll receive a scolding from Cordnell once he finds out.”
“We’ll just use it as a vacation vehicle for our city hall employees.”
“Is that right?”
Isaac smirked and entered the trailer, whistling once he looked at the trailer’s insides.
“It’s got everything it needs.”
Inside the trailer were a sofa, a dining table, a mini bar, a kitchen, and other oddities and curiosities for entertainment purposes. Isaac threw his body onto the sofa that was next to the window. Trentor also entered the trailer, and once he closed the door, the camping car began to make for its destination.
Isaac leisurely looked out the window whilst smoking and began to receive looks of curiosity and amazement from the onlookers. As time went by, the sight of buildings became sparse, the view fading into wide open farmlands infused with peace and harmony.
“Would you like a drink?”
Trentor, who remained silent until they left the city, suddenly asked Isaac as he made his way to the mini bar.
“Give me one of whatever you have there.”
Trentor poured some green liquid in a glass cup and handed it to Isaac.
“That’s a strange colour.”
“It’s a wine called Oruho. It’s a specialty in this region, where they make the wine by distilling grapeskin.”
“Kuk! This is pretty nice!”
“It’s a pretty strong drink, might I add.”
Isaac smirked at Trentor’s explanation and gulped the entire glass in an instant. He then placed the empty glass onto the table and asked.
“Were you in it since the start, or did you join in the middle?”
Trentor asked back, unable to understand what Isaac was on about. Isaac rubbed his now-burnt cigarette onto the ashtray and spoke again with a relaxed look.
“I’m asking when did you start working with Central?”
“… What do you mean by that?”
Trentor’s faced stiffened and replied coldly. Seeing this, Isaac smiled and played with his coat as he exhaled the smoke out of his lungs.
“This thing was really worth its price. Although it was only partially working, its core functions were still operational inside the mana crystal vein.”
“That’s probably because you stuffed it with pure mana crystals.”
“That’s right. And it’s thanks to the fact that I’ve used so many mana crystals without a care that I managed to survive against the warlock. But did you know?”
“How did the warlock find out there were mana crystals in that mine?”
“… Isn’t it just a coincidence?”
“I thought so too. But that is my mine, not yours. I’m making that fact clear. Although I doubt saying all this will have any impact. Anyhow, shall I let you know something interesting? I wanted to find out how much money I could make by selling the mana crystals that were mined, so I looked up the market price. Thankfully, the market always releases the price publicly. But what’s strange is that the price of pure mana crystals never fluctuates too much, with a few rare exceptions. Do you think that makes sense? From what I know, pure mana crystals are found by coincidence! There isn’t anything else that produces the crystals other than these lucky finds. Yet the market price is stable. Interesting, is it not?”
“Don’t you think you’re thinking too deeply about this? The warlock could have easily made the mine his hiding spot, but once he found the crystal vein, he determined that it was no longer possible to remain hidden. He could have decided to involve you, Sir Isaac, to take the Queen’s artefact as he made his escape.”
Isaac smirked at Trentor’s argument.
“You do know the law of supply and demand right? They say that the size of the pure mana crystal market shrunk slightly after the introduction of manufactured mana crystals, but once the development of magical artefacts advanced, the market for pure mana crystals grew larger than it had been before manufactured mana crystals were introduced. And if the prices are stable, there must be a supply that can match the demand.”
Trentor shook his head as if it was all nonsense and poured another glass of the green wine. Isaac took the glass and had a sip as he continued.
“Do you really think the market for pure mana crystals can match the demands when the only way you can supply it is by finding crystals by coincidence? I don’t think so. Then the answer is already there. Pure mana crystals are not found by chance but are excavated from mines just like the one I have. And a secret organisation has a monopoly over it, keeping it a secret from the public. I wonder what this secret organisation is, to be able to supply these mana crystals without a problem alongside an extensive information network and security detail – without a single rumour about it, no less. The warlock that is being chased by Central? Or Central?”
“If Central was aware of the existence of the mana crystals in the mine, they would never have appointed you as the Administrator of New Port City in the first place. It would have been easier for Central to manage the mine if the city was still in chaos.”
“I know. That’s why I’m curious as to why they appointed me.”
Trentor let out an empty smile, seeing Isaac agree with him so easily.
“But the fact that you are an agent of Central is still true.”
Trentor let out a small sigh and played along with Isaac, annoyed that Isaac was continuing the conversation that he thought was over.
“Is there a reason why you are so convinced of that?”
“I have evidence you can’t refute.”
“What is that?”
“When did I ever mention anything about the mana crystals in the mine or the warlock to you?”
Isaac’s statement seemed to have hit its mark, as Trentor couldn’t hide his bewilderment. He hastily started making his excuses.
“T, that’s because I heard something along those lines from Mr. Cordnell or Krent.”
“About the Queen’s artefact too? I only mentioned that to the damsel.”
Trentor rubbed his chin with a troubled look. He made a sigh and spoke as he shook his head.
“Sigh. For someone with a complete lack of talent, your head is as cunning as a snake.”
“So you admit it?”
“Well, I’ve no choice since I pretty much confessed to you with my own mouth. Let me introduce myself again. I am Mission Support Agent Trentor from the Directorate of Surveillance.”
“Mission Support Agent? What’s that?”
“Simply put, my role is to stay at the protagonist’s side as a close friend, a trusted subordinate, or a loyal vassal whilst staying with the target forever, and it is also to betray you at the most crucial moment when you show signs of going against the Empire’s will.”
“There are quite a lot of volunteers for this role you know. Graduates from College aren’t just your run-of-the-mill geniuses. It’s very unlikely they’ll be sent on a dangerous mission, and if you’re lucky, you get to enjoy untold wealth and fame along with the target. Although I happened to pick the worst of the bunch.”
Seeing Trentor sigh at all of the suffering he had been through, Isaac recalled the occasional hostile looks that Trentor gave him ever since the start.
Isaac just overlooked it, thinking that Trentor was just disappointed in being forced to work under some pathetic sunbae for money, but to think he was tasked with following Isaac forever.
There was a look of pity in Isaac’s eyes as he comforted Trentor.
“You are so very unlucky too.”
Trentor couldn’t help but feel depressed, seeing the cause of his suffering looking at him with pity and comforting him. However, all of this was about to end.
“So when did you notice that I was an agent of Central?”
“Hm? I thought I already told you.”
“No, I’m already aware that I spoke too much like an idiot. But when did you start suspecting that I was an agent of Central?”
“When you volunteered to come with me.”
“Was the reason that I was from the same city as you not enough? That was the entire reason why I was assigned to you, Sir Isaac.”
“Well, yeah. There was no real reason for you to volunteer, seeing how you could just ask for a leave to visit your own family. There’s no specific reason that you had to travel with me.”
Trentor quietly cursed under his breath, enraged by Isaac’s explanation.
“Shit! This is why I told them it was too haphazard! I swear those from the Directorate of Strategy are the worst!”
After going on a rant, Trentor looked back at Isaac, eyes full of discontent.
“So why did you decide to travel with me, knowing that I am an agent of Central?”
“I thought I needed to have a nice conversation with Central some time.”
Trentor seemed puzzled, almost dumbfounded by Isaac’s words.
“A, a conversation? With Central? Did that resourceful head of yours never think that this would be a trap?”
“Well, I don’t know the reasons as to why you’d go so far to even killing someone, to bring an innocent, law-abiding citizen like me out of the city… Scratch the innocent part. But I’ve made my own preparations, you see. There’s nothing you can do as long as I have this.”
Isaac smirked as he touched his coat. In response, Trentor pondered as to how he should provide an explanation.
“Although I have heard about the Queen’s artefact thanks to the rumours, even I have no idea about the demonic turncoat, no, the warlock who was managing the mines. I never had the urge to find out about it, since doing so seemed like it would shave more than a couple years off my lifespan.”
“That’s a nice attitude you have there.”
Trentor frowned when he received Isaac’s proud eyes.
“But the fact that Central manages and secretly excavates mana crystals is such a well-known fact that even I, the lowest ranking agent in Central, know about it. Although we weren’t aware that it existed in New Port City.”
“So why is Central so obsessed over strip-mining for those mana crystals? Just that would be enough to fund whatever you need. And why are you guys trying to take my share away too?”
Isaac complained about how Central took a share of the waterway business’s profits, and Trentor explained.
“That coat you are wearing. It is the prototype of combat equipment we hand out to Central’s combat agents. The combat agents use what you have, but they have been greatly improved and cheapened in terms of manufacturing costs to allow for mass production. But the mana crystals that are used to make one of these coats have to be pure mana crystals. From what I know, most of the mana crystals that have been excavated are used for this.”
“Really? I guess you’d be quite destitute if you tried to buy one of these for every agent.”
Trentor sighed when he saw Isaac nod in agreement and make an odd remark. It seemed those around Isaac had developed a habit of sighing whenever they talk with Isaac.
“Anyway, because we’ve conducted experiment after experiment regarding this kind of equipment, we also know of its weaknesses.”
“One is that it becomes an ordinary coat when all of the mana crystals that are embedded in it are spent.”
“You call that a weakness?”
Isaac smirked and took out a cigarette, and Trentor continued as he pushed a button that was hidden under his chair’s armrest.
“Another is that you can temporarily disable some of the extra features, excluding its main functions, by overloading it with mana beyond its capacity.”
The furniture inside the trailer creaked, turning upside down to expose all the mana crystals embedded in the walls and the roof of the trailer.
Seeing Isaac make a troubled look at the unexpected turn of events, Trentor spoke with a smile on his face.
“One of the coat’s extra features purifies the user of any harmful substances. That is why you will only get a light stomach ache when you drink poison like water with the coat on. So, one of the ways to incapacitate a wearer without conflict is to draw them into a room filled with mana crystals, just like this. The Choyu leaves you smoke are excellent at purifying poisons too, but what I used isn’t exactly poison. Now that I mention it, aren’t you feeling sleepy? It’s about time for it to kick in.”
Isaac immediately stretched his hand out to the glass in which Trentor poured the wine. Looking at the green liquid that was at the bottom of the glass for a moment, Isaac took his last breath of the cigarette and muttered.
“I guess I was the retard.”
Drowsiness the likes Isaac could never withstand against fell on him. Fighting against sleep was something he’d never done in either of his lives. Following his habit of sleeping whenever he felt like it, Isaac allowed his body to be taken away by the drowsiness.
Confirming that Isaac was fast asleep, Trentor let out a sigh of distress. He had no idea what the upper echelon of his organisation was thinking.
“I swear I will file a complaint.”
Although it was unlikely they’d listen, Trentor had no choice but to complain. Even if he was just a Mission Support Agent – who were treated as pawns for how easy their jobs were – the fact that he was sent into a mission with such a high risk factor that he needed to transfer directorates without receiving a single detail about the mission was unacceptable.
Not only that, but the order was given to him not by his direct superiors in the Directorate of Surveillance, but rather the Directorate of Strategy. Since Mission Support Agents were hidden trump cards that were used at the most crucial moments to turn the tide, his confidentiality level was much higher than the importance of his assignment. Not even Rivelia, the woman in charge of all of Central’s activities within New Port City, knew his true identity.
But the fact that the Directorate of Strategy sent him the order meant someone even higher up had ordered it; it was something he literally couldn’t refuse. But he couldn’t help but feel uneasy since all of his previous actions as a Mission Support Agent had gone to waste.
After hours of complaining to himself, the trailer stopped at its destination. Trentor opened the door and stepped outside. Greeting him was the middle-aged man who was driving the trailer.
“Is Isaac asleep?”
“Yes. I’ve done as you have ordered.”
“Good. He didn’t say anything strange by any chance?”
“Well, nothing out of the ordinary.”
Trentor thought whether he should report what Isaac had said to him, but he decided that there was no obligation for him to make such a report to a member of the Directorate of Strategy, seeing how he was a part of the Directorate of Surveillance.
“I see. Good work.”
“So where is my next assignment?”
“Hm? Ah, you will travel with the stand-in until we finish our questioning. We’ve already finished talking with the Rondart Family, so travel with the stand-in to the Rondart Family’s fiefdom and then return back to New Port City.”
“And don’t you think you need a promotion at this point?”
“How about making a name for yourself in the main body of Central, instead of spending your days in rural areas as a Mission Support Agent? I’ll vouch for you.”
“T, thank you sir!”
Trentor immediately bowed his head in gratitude at the middle-aged man’s words, showing his appreciation. With support from a man who was ranked high enough to directly order a Mission Support Agent, Trentor could easily aim for the rank of team leader or higher.
“Ah, and regarding the issue concerning Isaac…”
“Anything you want to order?”
“It’s not much, but I want you to make your report after arriving back at New Port City. How should I say this, act first, report later? Think of it that way.”
“… That goes directly against our manual.”
“I’m not telling you to not make a report entirely but to just delay it for a moment.”
“But according to the Mission Support Agent manual, we are required to report immediately when important changes are made in regards to the target or their environment.”
The middle aged man smiled bitterly after hearing Trentor’s words, taking one step back as if there was nothing he could do.
“I guess there’s no choice then.”
“Yes. Thank you for understa…”
Trentor looked down at his chest as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. A black fang sprouted out of his own shadow, piercing his heart.
Blood dripped from Trentor’s mouth as he looked with puzzlement at the middle-aged man, who spoke to him apathetically.
“I apologise. The Director of Surveillance must know about this as late as possible. To think a fool who immediately fell for the bait without any thought would be so stubborn. This is why you’re going to end up dying as a mere Mission Support Agent. You should have just done as you were told.”
Trentor’s legs gave out, his knees collapsing onto the ground.
“Just think that you were unfortunate enough to be involved in Dark Royale’s work.”
That one name was enough to explain everything to Trentor.
‘Of course… how could someone like me ever get lucky?’
Trentor muttered to himself as his body collapsed onto the ground, his consciousness fading.
To be caught by Dark Royale. They were the organisation who didn’t hesitate to attack their fellow comrades if needed be. The life of a lowly agent from another directorate must be worth less than a pebble on the street to them.
Although it was a life full of misfortune, Trentor didn’t feel angry. In fact, he felt like he was missing out. Isaac knew this was the work of Central. Although the sparks from the clash may or may not spread, he’d eventually fight against the Dark Royale. What would happen when a lunatic faced off against an insane organisation? A smile appeared on Trentor’s face.
“… He’s smiling?”
The middle-aged man saw the smile appear on Trentor’s stiffening body. The sight bothered the middle-aged man, who then turned around.