A maid stopped Isaac to let him know dinner was ready. Isaac followed the maid to its location, and on the way, he met Yoo-rah, who had been waiting for him in the cloister. Yoo-rah’s curiosity was piqued when she saw the ever-present smile on Isaac’s face. She asked Isaac as she tilted her head.
“Hm? You seem to be in a good mood.”
“Well. I can’t help it when I think of everything that’ll happen from now.”
Yoo-rah, who’d sent the maid away and was walking with Isaac alone, tilted her head to the side for a moment. She then smiled as she spoke to Isaac.
“I have great expectations for you, Joon-young.”
Isaac replied with a smile of his own.
“Call me Isaac instead of Joon-young.”
Yoo-rah seemed puzzled at Isaac’s correction for a moment, but she soon made an understanding smile and nodded.
“Alright. I’ll call you Isaac.”
Asking to be called Isaac instead of Joon-young meant that he was going to cut all relations to his past. Does this woman know the meaning behind it? Or, is she acting oblivious despite knowing it? Ah, what’s the point?
Isaac’s grin deepened further and further. Yoo-rah, on the other hand, hummed excitedly, taking one of Isaac’s arms and locking it with hers. Isaac naturally accepted Yoo-rah’s advances and slowed his steps to match hers.
“So how is that coat?”
Isaac glimpsed down at his coat. Yoo-rah had given it to him as a present after they finished conversing last time, fully equipped with mana crystals. If the previous coat had distasteful fashion sense at best with the mana crystals glittering in the open like a disco ball, the coat given by Yoo-rah looked like a plain black coat. If it weren’t for the bumps Isaac felt within the coat, he would have mistaken it for a normal coat.
“It was very useful.”
“Of course it is! Who do you think made this?”
Yoo-rah happily boasted after hearing Isaac’s opinion. Isaac looked at Yoo-rah with a weary look.
“Is this one of your creations too?”
“I wasn’t the one who engineered it first, but I did improve the initial blueprint into what it is now. Do you have any idea how stupefied I was when I heard a civilian manufacturer created the prototype? I was truly stunned.”
“Well. Forewarned is forearmed, after all.”
Yoo-rah didn’t seem to understand Isaac’s words, tilting her head as she continued.
“I’ve had a hand in that coat. Although its effect is the same, I’ve improved its efficiency. If the prototype could defend against a single attack, this new coat can defend against three without a problem. And unlike the prototype, you can replace the spent mana crystals easily.”
“Like a battery?”
Yoo-rah snickered as she nodded.
“That’s a great way to put it. Yes. You are using mana crystals like batteries. You simply need to change the spent ones with new ones.”
So that was the reason Central scoured the lands for the mana crystals. Isaac understood why they hid the existence of the mana crystal mines and held a complete monopoly over its market. It was part of the equipment for Central’s combat agents. The market value of the mana crystals in a single coat was enough to stun anyone, even if they’d minimized the production costs to the best of their abilities.
They’d barely be able to keep up with the demand of mana crystals if all agents were given a coat, despite how much they’d been mining. The mana crystals themselves weren’t very common in the first place, and even the clusters that were formed were very small. All of this needed to be confidential as well, so they couldn’t openly strip mine the area.
‘I was wondering why they were mining them like mad dogs.’
No way would Central miss the opportunity to take all the mana crystals they wanted. They wouldn’t even be concerned about crashing the market with how much they were mining. Not many of them would be released to the public. And they relegated all of the clean-up duties on Isaac, which clearly showed that abuse of power has no answer.
Isaac clicked his tongue in frustration. Yoo-rah looked at Isaac in confusion, and Isaac naturally changed the subject of their conversation after seeing Yoo-rah’s face.
“But do you have to use pure mana crystals? Don’t you have manufactured ones too?”
Yoo-rah smiled gently at Isaac’s question.
“Those manufactured mana crystals are made by recycling the spent pure mana crystals. We made it in an attempt to find a substitute for the mana crystals because production could hardly meet the demands, but its efficiency was horrible. So we released it in the market. Its sales would create more funds for us to buy pure mana crystals in return.”
“Wait. You made the manufactured mana crystals, Yoo-rah?”
“I told you before. I pretty much built this Empire with my own two hands.”
“… Is that why you’re called the Queen?”
In response to Isaac’s words, Yoo-rah playfully boasted by perking her nose up.
Isaac simply thought it was an honorary title at first, but at this point, she deserved to be called the Queen and treated as such. Yoo-rah enjoyed Isaac’s look of admiration for a moment, then fixed her posture and spoke to him in a quiet tone.
“It’s true that this world is a great merit to the Expeditionary Force as a colony, but the greater reason is that this world has a rare resource that does not exist in the other world.”
“A rare resource? Like rare elements?”
Isaac remembered some of the conspiracies regarding resource wars that floated around on the internet. Yoo-rah shook her head.
“It’s even more valuable than that.”
When Yoo-rah’s eyes turned to Isaac’s coat, he realised what she was meaning.
“You’re talking about the mana crystals.”
“Just a single pure mana crystal can power America’s entire electrical grid for one year. It may not be accurate since this was only seen in the data that was left behind by the Expeditionary Forces. Even if its true potential is half of what the data says, it won’t change how valuable it is.”
“You haven’t tested it? I’d thought you have the capabilities to test it with all the laboratory equipment I’ve seen in that room?”
Isaac remembered all those mysterious laboratory equipment that were arranged in the room. Yoo-rah shook her head with disappointment as she answered.
“Only the first Expeditionary Force brought research equipment with them. There were only battles for the control of the Gate ever since. I am a researcher, not an engineer. All the equipment you saw in the laboratory have been dismantled and reassembled time and time again to understand its mechanism. They are only there to create a familiar environment for me, and making them function is beyond my capability. I can perform simple tests, yes, but they are only at the level of resolving my personal curiosity. And even that is severely limited by the lack of equipment.”
Isaac could feel how deep her disappointment ran in her voice. He could understand why she was so unsettled, seeing there were so many things to study as a researcher, yet all she could do is sit around and suck on her thumb.
‘And she could still make objects like these even with the restrictions she has?’
Isaac’s trust in Yoo-rah was plummeting further and further. She was hiding something. As she mentioned herself, she was a researcher, not an engineer. She may be a professor in her own field of study, but can that be the same in other areas of science?
Although Isaac never attended university, he was still aware that people who aim for the title of professor have no time to look at any other field of study, only focusing on their own field.
Perhaps it’s possible to be knowledgeable due to sheer talent. But can one person truly have the power to uplift an entire empire? It may be possible if other invaders whom they call ‘information sources’ joined together, but could there be more bright minded elites at the level of Yoo-rah that came to this world? Or was it more likely that there were more average joes like Isaac himself?
Perhaps it was possible to act without the assistance of other invaders. There were geniuses in this world too. Reconstructing the other world’s technology using the extracted information should be an easy feat. And they even have unmatched assistance from the Empire. But Yoo-rah made only brief mentions about the invaders. She never mentioned how many invaders came over or where they are at this point. Why isn’t she mentioning them?
There must be more than a few of them, so where are they now? What are they doing? What happens to those who refuse to cooperate with the Empire? Are they terminated? Or does the Empire watch them from the shadows? Or imprisoned? Whatever it was, Yoo-rah should have at the very least told Isaac about it.
Could he really trust Yoo-rah? Why? Because she’s from the same nation? Bullshit. He grew up in a world living by the bitter saying that the person you should watch out the most when overseas is someone from the same nation. And this was beyond being overseas; it was an entire new world. So it was safe to assume that Yoo-rah was trying to achieve her own goals, just like all the others.
‘You can say I’m being a misanthrope or just having a nervous breakdown, but I should move as they want. Now is the time to lay low.’
The two continued to make small talk with each other. At the end of their little stroll, a giant door greeted them along with the servants who were waiting at its side. The servants opened the door with utmost reverence when they identified Isaac and Yoo-rah.
Isaac felt awkward receiving such greetings from others. Yoo-rah, on the other hand, walked in naturally and stepped in first, seemingly used to such hospitality. The room was what you’d expect from a western banquet hall, and in the middle was a rectangular dining table. Tens of maids and butlers stood by the walls motionlessly.
Isaac sat on a chair that one of the maids led him to. Isaac looked around. On the table was a white tablecloth and silver utensils glittered as they were neatly arranged. Candles and flowers decorated the table, making it pleasing to look at.
Yoo-rah, who sat opposite to Isaac, smiled mischievously at Isaac, who looked around the room with fascination.
“How does it feel to enter the Banquet Hall? It only opens on special occasions within the Royal Palace.”
Isaac savoured the wine a maid poured for him as he answered.
“The reception is beyond what I deserve. But will there be more coming?”
Isaac noticed there were two more seats prepared other than Yoo-rah and his. Yoo-rah grumbled, bored by Isaac’s reaction.
“There was someone who wanted to meet you after learning the relationship between us, Joon-young, I mean Isaac.”
Someone who wants to see me… seeing this was a banquet hall used only on rare occastions and the number of servants which stood at the side, he could guess who that would be.
“Hey, am I a little late?”
Just when Isaac was about to open his mouth, the door opened with Mazelan and another man entering the room, accompanied by a group of Arc Royales – who were more than motivated to kill Isaac at this point.
All of the servants and maids bowed simultaneously and showed their respect, and even Yoo-rah stood up to greet the Emperor. But she couldn’t hide her panic when Isaac remained on his seat.
Just as Yoo-rah called out to him, one of the Arc Royales threw their sword at Isaac for his disrespectful behaviour. The sword was blocked by the barrier created by the coat with a loud ‘clang!,’ and Isaac leisurely sipped at his wine without a shred of surprise.
All of the other Arc Royales unsheathed their swords and were about to jump him, but a number of simultaneous shouts from all sides stopped them.
“What are you doing!”
The Arc Royales stopped on their tracks with Yoo-rah’s sharp voice, Mazelan’s desperate cry, and a single word of the Emperor. Seeing this, Isaac smiled and spoke to the Emperor.
“Have a seat. This wine is quite delicious. I guess even the wines here are of greatest quality as expected of the Royal Palace.”
“Halt! The Arc Royale is not to act! This is the Emperor’s order!”
The Arc Royale was ready to jump back in, but the Emperor’s words stopped them once more. They sheathed their blades, but their eyes were still locked onto Isaac, demanding blood. Isaac, on the other hand, cared not about what was happening and sipped at his wine. The servants and maids unnervingly glimpsed at Isaac for his actions while Yoo-rah glared at the Arc Royale menacingly.
The Emperor sighed when hall’s mood turned dangerously murderous so quickly, and he turned to speak at the Arc Royale one more time.
“None of you are to act before I tell you to. Understand?”
“… We understand.”
The Arc Royale gave a firm nod and submitted to the Emperor grudgingly before stepping backward. Yoo-rah and Mazelan let out a sigh of relief. Even the Emperor caught his breath and collapsed onto his seat at the head of the table.
“I finally understand why an insane man is so scary. It was a refreshing experience.”
Was this the gravitas of the Emperor?
Instead of being insulted by Isaac’s rudeness, the Emperor held his empty glass to Isaac. Isaac smirked at the Emperor’s gracious act and filled his glass whilst holding the bottle with one. All of the servants waiting at the side lost their balance witnessing the atrocity. The audacity to do so was unheard of – an act which ignored all due respect and formality.
It seemed that one of the Arc Royale’s anger had peaked. The Arc Royale’s face was bright red, and he stared intensely at Isaac with fumes venting out of his nostrils. Isaac noticed his glance, glimpsed at the Arc Royale, and smirked.
“You’re quite lenient.”
“Hm? Huhu. You end up seeing the best and the worst of everyone when you hold the seat as Emperor. It’d be too tiresome to react to everything that happens around me.”
“I guess that’s why that lot would dare to pull their blades out in front of the Emperor. I can’t understand that. Is it because I’m from another world? In our world, unsheathing one’s blade in front of the Emperor was a crime serious enough to eradicate their entire families. Not to mention, they openly ignored your orders the first time. You can’t be too easy on your children, or they’ll end up trying to play with your head later.”
There was only silence in the Banquet Hall. Even the Emperor seemed shocked at first and could only gulp. He calmed himself by taking one sip of his wine and laughed heartily.
“I do admit they have the tendency to go overboard. That is why we recently began re-educating them. But the Arc Royale are the only subordinates I have whom I can trust my back. I know all of their actions are based on their loyalty to me.”
The Arc Royale kneeled and shouted out, “Glory to the Emperor,” touched by the Emperor’s words. Isaac watched the scene, annoyed, when Mazelan took the seat next to Isaac and muttered into his ears as he nudged Isaac’s side with his elbow.
“I swear you’re the reason I can feel my blood run dry.”
“Hey, you should be getting used to it by now.”
Mazelan could only sigh at Isaac’s playful response. Meanwhile the Emperor gently spoke to Yoo-rah, who was looking sideways with a pout.
“It seems the Queen isn’t too happy.”
“Hmph! I definitely warned you before that you need to readjust the mentality of Arc Royale!”
“You know that isn’t a problem which can be solved overnight. We are making progress little by little.”
“Really? Seems to me that I’ll be dead by the time that’s over too.”
The Arc Royale flinched at Yoo-rah’s cold stare and hung their heads.
“Did you see that? How they were looking at me? How dare they do that when it was me who saved their lives?”
“Haha. I will give them a firm warning.”
Seeing the Emperor was only laughing over the situation, Yoo-rah pointed the tip of her tongue to Isaac instead.
“The same to you too, Isaac. How come you just stayed seated when even I stood up to greet the Emperor? What if the coat I gave you didn’t function properly! Did you really want to die there? And do you know how narrow-minded Arc Royale is? Not to mention how long their petty grudges last! Do you really want the Arc Royale to hinder and intervene in everything you do in the future?”
It seemed Yoo-rah’s nagging wasn’t going to end any time soon, so Isaac raised one hand and stopped her from speaking further.
“Stop, I hate women who talk too much.”
“…W, what does that have to do with me?”
“Oh! To think I get to witness the Queen blush! You really do see everything as you get older.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Haha. There is no meaning behind it.”
After a momentary glare at the Emperor, Yoo-rah snorted and harshly turned her face away, and the Emperor watched it with a fatherly smile. Isaac too watched the scene, confused by the Emperor’s smile. How he was treating the Queen made no sense, as he should be aware the Queen was much older than he was. Mazelan nudged at Isaac’s side once more and whispered.
“You’re a better player than you seem. To think you could silence the Queen with just a sentence. For the first time, I’m starting to respect you.”
It seemed that Mazelan wasn’t being sarcastic, as his eyes held a hint of admiration within. Isaac simply responded with a shrug. The workers of the Royal Palace seemed like they were very experienced, as they quickly began bringing out the food to change the mood of the hall.
The food that came out was truly worthy for the Emperor, with the highest quality ingredients cooked in the most elegant manner. The four silently focused on eating their meals. Once their banquet finished with dessert, a satisfied smile appeared on everyone’s faces.
“Hm, it has been a while since my palate has been sated. Perhaps that is thanks to you?”
“Do you not eat like this normally?”
“Normally I have my meals in a much more plain fashion. These courses are only provided on special occasions.”
“The funding reserved for the royal family is very tight. Just paying for the maintenance alone takes everything we have.”
Isaac smirked as the Emperor complained about one thing after another, enjoying the wine which he took to his liking and pointing out how its flavour wrapped around his mouth. The Emperor sent a look to the head butler, who quickly led all of the palace workers out of the Banquet Hall.
“What about those?”
Realising the real reason why he was called here had come, Isaac pointed his chin at the Arc Royale, who remained idle inside. The Arc Royale grit their teeth, and everyone else simply shook his head at Isaac’s continuous taunting.
“Don’t worry about the Arc Royale. They already know most of what I know, having followed me all this time.”
‘Is there not a shred of worry for betrayal?’
Nobody knows the true intention inside someone else. But the fact that they know confidential information the Emperor deals with meant either he trusted them that much or there was some safety measure that prevented the Arc Royale from ever leaking the information. Isaac placed his bets on the safety measure. It was something that was expected, seeing how they treated confidential information.
Type 3 and 4 invasions weren’t something they could make lightly of. Suddenly, the owner of the body changes whilst retaining the original owner’s knowledge, experience and information. But the fact the Arc Royale knows information that the Emperor acts upon meant they had some sort of failsafe, whatever it was.
“So, Sir Isaac. What do you think of this Empire?”
“It’s a nice place to live, if it weren’t for those who pester you.”
“Right? I think so too. But there are so many around who make our lives miserable.”
The Emperor nodded in agreement and let out a deep sigh.
“You seemed like you were doing fine.”
“This title of mine forces me to bluff from time to time. So how much of the Gate did you explain?”
Yoo-rah, who still seemed unsatisfied, responded coldly directly at the Emperor’s eyes.
“I only gave a brief explanation about our side. And even that almost took the entire day.”
Isaac tilted his head in question. The Emperor sent a look to Mazelan, and it was his turn to speak. Just as he was about to talk however, he had to consider what title to address Isaac.
Should he address Isaac casually like how he always had? Or does he need to show some respect? It seemed Isaac wasn’t aware of it, but he had now become one of the main associates of the Empire and had the power to influence it however he wished.
Mazelan had witnessed with his eyes what it meant to have the Queen as the guarantor. Already, Kainen had been forcefully locked away and was going through intense interrogation just because there was suspicion that he lent a helping hand on kidnapping of Isaac alone. And even the Director of Surveillance had taken a liking of Isaac.
When you put it that way, Isaac had become more influential than Mazelan, the vice commissioner of the Department of Supplies, himself. When his thoughts reached that point, Mazelan couldn’t help but feel unjustified. How dare Isaac rise above him by playing around all day, when he had to suffer through all the paperwork day in and day out to reach his rank! There was no respect that he deserved!
Having finished his pondering, Mazelan made a few dry coughs and spoke.
“The expeditionary force of your world isn’t the only foe Central faces.”
“Other than the Expeditionary Force, there is heaven and hell.”