“The emergency signal?”
“Someone must have found him!”
“Don’t approach it so hastily! It could be a trap! Form up first and then tighten the encirclement!”
Viscount Luken quickly gave his order, witnessing his knights resort to action so carelessly. The order helped the knights regain their composure, and they began approaching the origin of the signal.
Countless comrades had suffered from his dirty traps. They let their guard down in the past, thinking that the warlock couldn’t use magic anymore, but they couldn’t continue to underestimate him after seeing so many die to such simple and haphazard traps.
The knights carefully adjusted the distances between each other as they surveyed their surroundings. The tension in the air began to lessen when the encirclement was tightened enough for the knights to recognise each other’s faces, but Viscount Luken alone wasn’t happy with the situation.
It was too easy considering the suffering they’d been through. Plus, there was no contact with the knight who supposedly launched the signal. A report should have been made whether the knight captured or lost Isaac, but there was no response even as they approached where the signal was fired.
That would naturally mean it was Isaac who fired the signal, but Viscount Luken couldn’t fathom the reasoning behind it. Even if he thought this was a trap, there was no weapon Isaac could possibly use to face their numbers.
Excluding the coat which boasted the protection of a fortress, Isaac’s offensive magical artefacts were non-existent. His ability to summon monsters did bug Luken, but it was a double-edged sword. Based on his memories, Viscount Luken suspected that Isaac had already used nearly half of the mana crystals his coat held to summon those monsters.
Although the remaining crystals would protect him to the end, Isaac should be well aware that it wouldn’t last against the constant attacks from his knights. Viscount Luken grew suspicious as to why Isaac was calling them.
But ignoring the signal was not an option. Viscount Luken kept his guard up like a tightly pulled string and also grew frustrated at his pitiful situation, having to be so tense against an opponent like Isaac.
Within an open area in the middle of the forest, Isaac was sitting on Smith’s stomach. His body had grown cold long ago. He was smoking leisurely with a blank look until he heard a rustle in the air. Isaac turned to see Viscount Luken and stood up to greet him warmly.
“You’re late. What took you so long?”
“… You cursed bastard!”
“Ah! Ah! Ah!”
The knights seemed ready to act at a moment’s notice, greatly angered at Isaac’s behaviour of sitting on their comrade’s body. Isaac raised his crossbow and declared to them.
“I’ll say this out of courtesy. You’ll see blood if you come close.”
“Ha! Who do you think you are, you filthy, gutless rat!”
Some of the knights scoffed at Isaac’s warning and ran at him. All they needed to do was dodge the first shot from the crossbow. They wouldn’t give him the time to reload.
Seeing the three knights run at him from the front, Isaac smiled and sprayed bolts from left to right.
“I swear, those in the military are always such simpletons, both in this world and the other.”
In addition to the three knights that ran at Isaac first, other knights who had followed after them were exposed to the rain of bolts shot from Isaac’s crossbow. The armour that seemed so dependable was powerless against the bolts; they were pierced like paper. Some died instantly when the bolts hit their vitals, while those lucky enough to survive were incapacitated immediately.
Meanwhile, a knight who was behind Isaac had been approaching him sneakily. When he closed enough distance, he lunged forward and swung his aura-empowered sword in an attempt to behead Isaac.
The knight stood baffled at the sudden appearance of a blue barrier that materialized near Isaac’s neck, deflecting his strike. Isaac turned without a hint of surprise to face the knight.
“Did you never get suspicious as to what made me show myself now?”
Tens of bolts fired at point-blank range embedded themselves into the knight’s torso, turning him into a pincushion.
The knights looked at Isaac with overwhelming bewilderment and disbelief. It was a rate of fire that far surpassed their imagination.
“Ggh. It hurts… Hel…”
One of the three knights who were first to rush at Isaac was lucky enough to avoid being hit in the vitals. He crawled on the ground while moaning in pain. Isaac hummed as he approached the crawling knight. Once there, he aimed his crossbow at the knight’s head.
“Stop! He’s injured!”
Despite Viscount Luken’s cry, a bolt dug itself into the knight’s head. Isaac raised one hand up to his ear, as if he couldn’t hear Luken’s words.
“Huh? What did you say?”
“Kuk! All units, attack! Kill him! He can’t have infinite bolts!”
Even if Viscount Luken hadn’t given his order, the knights were already consumed by the rage that had been building up. Watching Isaac brutally murder one of their men who was incapacitated was the tipping point. All of the knights rushed toward Isaac at once.
Many of the mana crystals on Isaac’s body shattered instantly.
“Hey… don’t you guys ever learn?”
“Kuk! Fall back!”
Seeing all of the knights who were close to Isaac fall to the ground, the knights quickly withdrew. But most of the knights had already become victims of Isaac.
“… It’s been less than 5 minutes, and I only have 7 left?”
What a distasteful joke. Viscount Luken muttered to himself with closed eyes. He should have been careful when he realised that Isaac was baiting them in, but never did he imagine that Isaac would appear with such a devastating weapon.
‘Is this the reason why Central is so overly sensitive about every individual Surveillance Target?’
It was most likely due to the ability of the Queen’s Artefact, but the knowledge to create a weapon like that in itself was a weapon.
If they lost control over their Surveillance Targets and weapons such as this were to be invented all over the world, it would create untold chaos. Being consumed by internal turmoil would be a lethal poison when there were enemies outside patiently waiting for an opportunity.
“Aim for his crossbow! I’m sorry but we’ll have to use the bodies of our comrades as shields!”
Viscount Luken shouted, and all of the surviving knights reacted immediately. Isaac quickly fired bolts at Luken, but he quickly weaved between the trees until he could grab at one of the corpses to shield his front.
Isaac seemed troubled at the turn of events and stopped shooting. One by one, the knights stared at Isaac from under the bodies of their dead friends they were holding.
“Ah, maybe I’d played around too much. To think you’d use the bodies of your friends like that. Cruel bastards. You should show respect for the dead, at the very least.”
“… Do you think you have the right to spout such words?”
How many had died at his traps! Not only that, he rigged multiple traps together to be activated in sequence. Many died trying to recover the bodies of the first victim due to such traps, and the worst were sequenced traps which blew up the dead body into tiny pieces, killing many in the explosions.
“Dumbass. I’m their enemy but you’re their friends. Can’t you tell the difference? Tsk. I should have killed the head first. What a shame.”
Isaac purposely left Luken alone to detain him later and find out what was going on behind the scenes, but he never imagined that he’d react so quickly. Even Luken would have been easily eliminated if Isaac used his crossbow while they were still oblivious to its abilities and his guard was down, but that was not possible anymore.
“There aren’t many mana crystals left! Just a few more attacks, and it will stop functioning! Approach him slowly!”
Hearing Luken’s order, the knights approached Isaac while holding their friends as shields. Isaac fired a few bolts with a troubled look, but he quickly gave up after seeing that all he was doing was increasing the number of bolts stuck on already-dead bodies.
“I guess I can’t do this alone.”
Isaac muttered those words and raised his right hand. Luken immediately shouted when he noticed Isaac was holding a strange stick he didn’t see before.
“Watch out! He’s plotting something!”
A wyvern suddenly appeared near the foot of one of the knights who were approaching Isaac. The wyvern’s beak grabbed at the knight and his friend’s body. The knight screamed, but he was split into two along with his dead friend with a loud ‘crack!’
“Kuuk! I’ll take care of the monster! The rest of you are to aim for Isaac!”
With that, the knights threw the bodies of their friends at Isaac.
In that very moment Isaac dodged the corpses flying at him, one of the knights had already closed the distance and swung his sword down with all his might at Isaac.
With a loud clang of steel, a blue barrier emerged to protect Isaac, who immediately responded by shooting his crossbow into the knight’s stomach.
Thud thud thud!
The knight wobbled on his feet after being hit with so many bolts, but in his last desperate act, the knight grabbed at Isaac.
Sacrificing himself to hold Isaac in place, the other knights immediately swung their blades at Isaac. The number of mana crystals shining on his coat diminished each time their swords hit Isaac.
“What beautiful comradeship. But did you know?”
Isaac smirked and took out an eggbomb.
“Shit! Get back!”
Viscount Luken, who still had eyes on Isaac whilst fighting the wyvern, shouted out in horror. But it was a little too late. The eggbomb in Isaac’s hand shattered like glass, and fierce torrents of mana consumed them.
The concentration of mana exploded at such a close range that it ravaged through the knights’ bodies. The mana inside their bodies began to spike uncontrollably, sending sharp pains throughout as if their organs were being shredded. The knights fell on the ground as they were overtaken by the pain.
“Are you mad? Do you not fear death?”
Viscount Luken gasped for air as he shouted at Isaac. Even he, who maintained some distance in order to deal with the wyvern, felt the effect of the mana storm. Sharp jolts of electrocuting pain resonated throughout all of his body, leaving him paralysed for the moment.
It was fortunate that the wyvern was extremely mana-sensitive and collapsed with an agonizing scream when the mana storm erupted. Otherwise, Luken would have been easy prey. It seemed that the eggbomb also did a number on Isaac’s coat, as almost all of the coat’s mana crystals were cracked and had lost their light.
“It’s not death I’m afraid of. What’s more important is how you die.”
“There aren’t many mana crystals left in that coat of yours.”
“Seems like it. But which will be first? My coat shattering or you dying? Let’s continue this if you’re done resting.”
Isaac flicked his finger and taunted Luken to come. Viscount Luken got back on his feet trembling and grasped his sword firmly.
“Now. Let’s act out our finale.”
“Hold it right there.”
Just when Isaac raised his crossbow and aimed it at Luken, a cold voice interrupted. Tens of hooded figures jumped into the scene all around them, surrounding the two in the middle.
“… Is it the Directorate of Surveillance? How can you be here so soon?”
Viscount Luken dropped his arms, sword slipping out of his grasp with an empty look. He knew that everything was over.
“Did you really hope that we’d stay oblivious after you were making such a scene?”
Viscount Luken hung his head as if he’d given up, and then he suddenly lunged toward Isaac.
“I’ll kill you no matter what!”
“You should know that’s impossible.”
Luken couldn’t even cover half the distance between him and Isaac before multiple chains were thrown and shackled him, throwing his body to the ground like baggage.
Isaac stared at Viscount Luken who squirmed in anger, then he smirked as he spoke.
“It’s been a while, brother. Since when did you work for Central?”
“Shut it, trash.”
Isaac snorted and shrugged his shoulder at Kainen’s response. He then raised his crossbow.
Kainen shouted out in surprise, feeling a sudden twitch of danger at Isaac’s unexpected action, Isaac snickered as he began spraying bolts into the forest vicinity.
Ting ting ting!
One of the bolts Isaac shot hit Viscount Luken’s vulnerable head, while the other agents used their swords to deflect some of the other bolts that flew at them. However, the bolts they failed to deflect pierced their armor.
“How could this be? How could our equipment fail to block a single bolt?”
Kainen shouted out his disbelief. The equipment they wore was several generations ahead of the prototype Isaac was wearing. This was the reason why the agents only deflected the bolts aimed at their vitals and left the others for their equipment to handle, and they were shocked by the fact that the function they trusted had failed them.
While everyone was in a state of shock, Isaac pulled out a new cigarette, took a single breath, and spoke with a smile after confirming Viscount Luken was dead.
“See? It’s all the same. Death is meaningless.”
“How dare you attack agents of Central…”
“Can I not? Why? Did you really think I’d snivel on the ground and say ‘thank you so much!’ if you come at the end and strike a pose?”
“Attacking agents of Central is considered treason against the Empire.”
“Ah! Is that so?”
Seeing Isaac raise his crossbow at him, Kainen immediately threw his body to the left.
“What are you doing? Did you really think I’ll kill my brother who’s also an agent of Central?”
Kainen was taken over by anger and embarrassment as he saw Isaac laugh away. Gritting his teeth, Kainen shouted.
The other agents seemed to hesitate for a moment. But just as they were about to make their way to Isaac, a desperate voice interrupted from above.
“Stop right there!”
Isaac raised his head to see who it was this time. He saw a shadow kick off from the tree branches and nimbly land onto the ground.
“He killed a vital suspect to our investigation and attacked Central’s agents!”
“You can send your complaints to the headquarters.”
“Watch your tone. We may be in different Directorates, but I am still your superior. Was the murder of Mistress Rondart really a coincidence? You should shut your mouth if you don’t want to be caught up in the investigation.”
Kainen’s anger seemed to have reached its limit after hearing Reisha’s words. He twitched violently and stared at Reisha. He turned around sharply and swore.
“Don’t think this is over.”
Reisha let out a small sigh of relief seeing that Kainen decided to back off. Suddenly Isaac, who had been leisurely smoking his cigarette during their conversation, fired a bolt at Kainen’s back.
“Kuuk! You son of a bitch! What’s the meaning of this?”
“Sunbaenim, why are you doing this?”
Befuddled, Reisha tried to approach Isaac, but she quickly somersaulted backward when the crossbow pointed toward her.
“Oooh! I see your skills are much better than those knights. I guess you really are Central.”
“Sunbaenim, what are you doing?”
Reisha shouted out in confusion, never expecting Isaac to attack her. Isaac, on the other hand, responded casually.
“Reisha, Reisha. My adorable hubaenim. So, you’re part of Central?”
Reisha flinched at Isaac’s interrogation and smiled shyly as she made her answer.
“Hehe! There’s a good reason behind…”
“Are you even my hubae?”
Reisha dodged the subsequent bolts and quickly ran to a tree, poking her head out to the side of the trunk to respond to Isaac.
“This isn’t funny anymore!”
“Then why did you ignore me before? Hey, my brother. Don’t you think it’s a shame to leave like this?”
Kainen was at a loss for words in the beginning, having never expected Isaac to fire his crossbow at Reisha. He simply watched Isaac in silence. But when Isaac began talking to him, Kainen looked back full of suspicion.
“What are you aiming at?”
“Nothing much. I just thought it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to determine the true successor to the Rondart Family, since we happened to meet each other.”
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Did you really think I’d be obsessed over the title of a Baron?”
“Even better. You and me. Whoever wins gives up on the title of the Baron.”
“Isn’t it usually the other way around? Kya!”
Annoyed by Reisha, who kept commenting whenever he spoke, Isaac fired two bolts at Reisha to shut her up.
“Hing! Sunbaenim keeps shooting at me!”
Leaving behind Reisha, who seemed to be complaining into a hand-sized mirror, Isaac grinned at Kainen and continued.
“How about it? Let’s have a duel. You hate me and I hate you too. It’s a shame if we die, but it’s a promise between us that the loser will inherit the title of Baron. I guess Kaizen would be the one having the last laugh if both of us died here.”
Glaring at Isaac’s chuckle, Kainen drew his sword.
“I accept. That’s what I wanted too.”
“”Kainen, I told you to back down!”
“This is what he wanted. An elf should stay out of our family business.”
“Follow your orders!”
“Don’t worry. I won’t kill him.”
Kainen grabbed his sword with both hands and approached Isaac, positioning the sword’s point to his lower left.
“Now, let’s begin!”
Seeing Isaac raise his crossbow, the other agents of Central quickly backed off and took cover. Since their equipment provided no protection against that weapon they’d never seen before, they had to exercise caution in order to avoid being hit or even killed by a stray bolt.
“Ah, seriously! Listen to what I’m saying!”
Despite Reisha’s outcry, Kainen began running in a zigzag as he ran toward Isaac, and Isaac made a heartfelt smile as he pulled the trigger.
“Ah, I forgot.”
Isaac muttered as he looked at his crossbow. The bowstring had snapped. He had improved the abilities of everything on the crossbow, but the bowstring, which was the most important part, was left untouched.
No ordinary bowstring was going to be able to handle the stress of firing tens of bolts in such quick succession. The fact that it managed to serve its purpose in the battle against the knights alone was a miracle.
A silence befell the forest. Kainen, who lost his balance when this unexpected event occurred, regained his stance and began to contemplate whilst looking back and forth between Isaac and his crossbow. With Isaac’s only weapon broken, victory was guaranteed. Kainen’s heart shouted that he should jump on Isaac at this moment, but there were too many witnesses. Critically wounding someone who wasn’t even armed was going to instantly destroy the reputation he’d been carefully building.
Whilst Kainen balanced his reputation and profit in his mind, Isaac noticed that everyone’s eyes were on him. After looking at the crossbow for a moment with a troubled look, he scratched his cheek and threw the crossbow onto the ground with an expression which screamed innocence.
“Hm? Why are you still here? The fastest way to be promoted is to listen to your superior’s orders. Run along now.”
“… Sunbaenim. Can I hit you just once?”
Reisha clenched her fist tightly with boiling anger as she spoke, her eyes constantly on Isaac. Isaac placed a cigarette into his mouth and responded with a bright smile.
“I don’t know why you’re so mad, but I’ll tolerate your nagging since I’m such a kind person.”
Not just Reisha, but even Kainen glared at Isaac with both their fists clenched. The smile that was on Isaac’s face was truly despicable.