“It’s too early to be surprised.”
A smile appeared on Mazelan’s face, satisfied by Isaac’s surprised expression. He waved at Isaac to enter the elevator, and the doors closed the moment Isaac stepped into the elevator.
“… I see it only leads to one floor.”
“Part of its function is to act as the Royal Family’s secret escape route in emergencies.”
“Escape? Does that mean there’s another form of transportation underground?”
Mazelan made a wicked smile in response.
“You’ll know when you see it.”
“… This is madness.”
It’s just as Mazelan said. Isaac felt the elevator move, and it reached its destined floor within moments. When its door opened, Isaac was greeted by a train stationed by a platform .
“Like I said. We’ve already finished researching and replicating most of your technology. We are simply waiting for the right time to release it. But that doesn’t mean we should let these wonderful things sit around doing nothing right?”
“But a subway…”
“It’s not exactly a subway… Hm, what did the Queen call it? Magnet? No. Le, le…”
“Yeah! A maglev. She said it travels at the speed of 600km/h and faster according to your world’s scale all the while generating no noise or vibrations.”
“That’s insane… You succeeded in mass-producing superconductors?”
Isaac remembered the shallow knowledge he glimpsed through in the sea of information that was the Internet. Maglevs were theoretically possible, but the high cost of producing superconductors and the inability to create a superconductor that could function in high temperature barred it from commercial use. Yet one was right in front of him in plain sight.
“This must be using magic right?”
That word really was the solution to everything.
“Huh? Of course. What did she say? It was developed by utilising the magic circles of polar forces, was it?”
‘… Of course. Wait, isn’t this dangerous?’
No matter how capable Yoo-rah was, developing a superconductor was a feat impossible to do alone. Especially since she was lacking a proper research facility in this place. Isaac remembered the enchantments he imbued on his crossbow. Magic circles applying the forces of push and pull. She probably didn’t need superconductors since magic in itself behaved like a magnet. But the scale of its utilisation was enormous.
What would the Expeditionary Force do once they find this information? Just the utilisation of magic alone solved what would supposedly cost a great fortune to develop such technology. That fact alone was enough reason for the Expeditionary Forces to cling on to this Middle World, even if they had to give up on mana crystals.
The major powers of the other world may be working secretly to monopolise the gate for now, but if they changed their stance and began a full scale assault, just defending the gate like they were doing so now wouldn’t be the end of it.
‘Wait a minute. I just gained another useful card, haven’t I?’
While Isaac pondered how he was going to get the most out of this, Mazelan got on the train and called out to Isaac.
“Aren’t you coming in?”
“Yes, yes. I’m coming.”
With Mazelan and Isaac on board, the train slowly started to move.
“Is there no driver in this thing?”
“Who would we assign here, a top secret facility requiring absolute confidentiality? Do you think we would waste an agent of Central to drive a train we use once in a blue moon? That’s just wasted potential. We used a single button to solve the issue, since it only travels between two destinations.”
Isaac nodded in response to Mazelan’s explanation and scanned the insides of this tiny train. He then walked over to the front of the train, seeing the view that laid of him. The train slid silently through the tunnel, floating atop the tunnel floor where the train rails were laid. The tunnel was lit up by light bulbs on the roof, and Isaac could tell how quickly the train was traveling, seeing how the light from these bulbs blurred into a line of light.
“Man, feels like I’m in warp space.”
Isaac smirked, remembering how the stars turned into lines in sci-fi dramas during warp speed. Isaac walked back and sat on one of the empty seats lining both sides of the train. Isaac asked Mazelan.
“Can I smoke in here?”
Mazelan gagged as if an insect crawled into his mouth. He flicked his hand at Isaac, allowing Isaac to do whatever he wanted. Isaac smirked and immediately placed a cigarette in his mouth. After lighting the cigarette, Isaac inhaled one deep breath and called out to Mazelan, who was looking away from Isaac with his arms folded as if he was trying his best to ignore Isaac.
“Shouldn’t you let me know where we are heading at this point?”
“… We’re going to New Port City.”
“From here? That’s going to take a while. Don’t tell me you didn’t bring any snacks or drinks for such a long trip.”
“Who said we’re going to New Port City by train alone? In fact, how could we possibly dig a tunnel all the way there, considering how far away it is?”
“Then what? Don’t tell me we’re going there in a car.”
Mazelan scorned Isaac with his eyes.
“Like I said. It’s too soon to be surprised.”
“… You’re telling me there’s something more surprising than a maglev?”
“… This is madness.”
All Isaac could do was to let out an empty laugh. The destination of the train was a hazardous region where the mountain range of the Minolen Mountain, which acted as the boundary splitting the North and Centre of the Empire, met with that of Adelin Mountain. In its corner operated Central’s secret base.
“This base was created for resupplying and transporting our agents in addition to letting them recuperate.”
“You should call it an airport, not a base. Unbelievable… I’m so shocked that I don’t know what to say.”
Would anyone believe that atop the eternally snow covered mountain range there existed a basin and a small city constructed on top of it?
Countless shops, restaurants, theatres and entertainments were visible within the city, aimed at providing rest for the agents. Although there wasn’t an airstrip, Isaac could see many airships and propeller planes taking off and landing in an endless cycle. Isaac couldn’t help grabbing at his head after seeing one of these planes taking off.
“I’m going mad. To think I’d get a culture shock here of all places…”
Mazelan snickered away watching Isaac writhe in pain. Isaac quickly flicked his head toward Mazelan, staring at him as he spoke.
“This is all magic too right?”
“Can’t believe that the word ‘magic’ is all that’s needed to explain everything. The word really is magical.”
Many who worked in the field of magic would denounce Isaac’s statement, but the word ‘magic’ really was all the explanation that was ever needed.
“How many of these base cities do you have?”
“We have one in every strategic location in the continent.”
“So it’s a system where you stock up necessary supplies with trains and distribute them with planes. The agents will also be deployed using these planes, but seeing how they all takeoff vertically, you don’t need an airstrip, do you? Only a small landing zone centred at these base cities, right?”
Mazelan unknowingly gulped after hearing Isaac’s mumbling. Isaac had deduced most of the operating system after taking one glance at it. More and more, Mazelan was starting to doubt if involving Isaac with Central was the correct move.
Maybe the best choice was to shove him into a rural village? Mazelan considered filing that request once more, but quickly shook it away. It was already too late. The decisions of the Grand Council could not be overruled. Especially when they’ve played the practically unheard-of card founding a whole new Directorate. If they undo all of this so soon, all of the Central’s agents would rise up, questioning their decision-making capabilities. So the best choice was to control this man as best they can.
‘Can she really do it?’
Mazelan recalled Rivelia. At first, the stubborn and strict Sword Master Rivelia was the limiting factor of Isaac that everyone could accept, but Mazelan had seen her being pushed around by Isaac too many times in the past. Mazelan shook it off back then since she was still young and inexperienced, but was it any different now? The experiences they’ve had were of different dimensions.
“Now this is an unexpected appearance.”
After a three-hour flight, the plane arrived at the base located opposite to Lake Levonen, where an airport and a dock operated in tandem.
Mazelan insisted that Isaac stay put and lay low before disappearing back into the plane. Isaac waited alone, waiting for his ship destined to New Port City. But onboard the silently approaching ship that sailed through the night fog was an incredibly unexpected individual.
“Let me introduce myself again. I am agent Soland of Directorate of Strategy, manager of Project 401 in New Port City.”
“That’s funny. So it’s Smartass after Reisha. Who’s next?”
“I don’t think that’s a question I should answer. Nor do I know anyone else.”
Isaac smirked as he put his coat back on. Soland’s response was polite but also drew a clear line. Seeing Isaac was ready, Soland led him out of the room to the ship. On the way, Isaac asked.
“So what’s Project 401?”
“It’s classified. If you want to know, you can submit a formal request for clearance to the higher-ups and receive approval.”
Isaac giggled at Soland’s clear cut answer.
“My little Smartass, how did you hold it in for so long until now? Your mouth must have been itching to reveal your identity.”
“… Are you not asking about Trentor?”
“Oh yeah. Where is that bastard?”
“Yes. He was terminated when he attempted to report the suspicious activity halfway through the mission.”
“What? You mad?”
“Even if it wasn’t his original intention, he died trying to protect you, Sir Isaac. You should show some respect to the decea…”
“Respect? Don’t make me laugh.”
After having a good chuckle at Soland’s words, Isaac sent a cold glare back at Soland and replied.
“Sometimes, when you’re really unlucky, you wind up dead after being thrown around as pawns by the higher-ups. At that point, the only retards are those who died.”
“Well. I guess I should avenge him at the very least. Who knows when I’ll be in his shoes.”
The eerie sight of Isaac chuckling with a cigarette in his mouth sent a chill up Soland’s spine. Was this really the correct move? The rumours of the chaos within the Grand Council spread like wildfire, and all of the Central’s agents were aware. How the Director of Surveillance declared him a monster.
When Soland first heard of the rumour, he dismissed it, believing in his heart that Isaac wasn’t that bad. But seeing him again now, he could feel it. As the Director of Surveillance said, they had awoken a monster… He was far too dangerous. On top of that, they gave him the position of Director. Soland didn’t know what the higher ups were going for but… could he really be controlled?
“What are you standing around for? Let’s get moving. It’s always tiresome when you leave home. Home’s the best, isn’t it?”
Isaac and Soland boarded the ship and traveled for 30 minutes before arriving at the port in the Meta District, using the glamourous lights and boisterous noise of the Ceta District as a guiding beacon.
“I don’t like it. Why do I have to sneak back in like some rat…”
“What, did you expect some grand welcoming performance?”
Soland immediately retorted to Isaac’s grumbling. Isaac narrowed his eyes and spoke back at Soland.
“Seems like you’re crossing the line quite often these days.”
“Because I’m not just some syndicate mutt who can’t utter a single word.”
“I miss Smartass.”
“… My name is Soland.”
“Is that even your real name?”
“At least it seems like there’s someone here to welcome me. Although it’s someone I never would have guessed.”
As Isaac got off the ship, Rivelia, who had been waiting, approached him with a complicated look in her eyes.
“Let me introduce myself again. I am Rivelia of the Directorate of Analysis, overseer of all activities in New Port City.”
Isaac snickered, fascinated by Rivelia’s polite attitude.
“Now isn’t this a fresh response?”
Isaac mumbled through his chuckle. Rivelia, gritted her teeth and growled as she glared at Isaac.
“Central has assigned me to be your vice director and your secretary, Director Isaac.”
“Well the higher the rank and lower the responsibility, the better. But how many of Central’s agents are there around me? Smartass, damsel and Reisha. At this rate, even Kunette’s going to confess she’s an agent.”
“That isn’t something I can answer.”
“And it isn’t something I should care about either. But I never thought you’d be tagging along here to welcome me.”
“It’s good to see that you’re doing fine. I heard you had a bad time there. Hm? What is it?”
“… Ha! It’s nothing. Just seeing you like this is so new to me.”
Rivelia frowned, seeing Isaac sending a strange look at her when she asked how he was. Isaac smirked and shook his head. To think there was someone who’d ask how he was doing, even if they were just empty words with no feeling in it. Is it because she hadn’t been tainted enough? Or is she simply defending her own belief? What’s the point? The ending’s already decided.
“Let’s go then.”
Isaac marched toward City Hall, but Rivelia, who was at his side, hesitated before speaking out.
“There’s something you need to know.”
“I’m sure you can take care of it. There’s no need for me to know right?”
Rivelia bit her lips seeing Isaac’s disconcerted response. She had to report it, no matter how much she didn’t want to. She was stressed enough when they were of the same rank before, but now he was her superior. It ate away at her mind because she couldn’t even quit everything out of spite. All she could do was just hold it all in.
“… It’s a problem concerning your stand-in, Director Isaac.”
“Don’t tell me he got found out?”
“That’s not it…”
Rivelia pondered how she was going to explain it, until she summarised it briefly.
“The problem is that he’s working too well.”
Isaac immediately stopped hearing Rivelia. He turned and faced her directly.
“Working you say?”
Rivelia responded as her eyes avoided Isaac’s overbearing glance. Isaac stared at Rivelia for a moment before smirking and heading to City Hall once more.
“That’s obvious. That stand-in or a puppet couldn’t possibly be of a high rank in Central, most likely a rookie. You said you were the Overseer of New Port City, so the rookie can’t say a word and only do as you tell him to. And the damsel here abused this situation to proceed with all of the plans she had. Am I wrong?”
“… You’re correct.”
Rivelia hung her head. He managed to deduce so much after hearing that he was ‘working.’ Perhaps it was right for the Director of Surveillance to make such a scene. But a monster… was that true? All he has is exceptional talent in analysis. But she also heard that Isaac managed to kill tens of combat knights and even injure agents of Central.
“Hey, Damsel, what gave you the bright idea to make a mess like this? Isn’t it obvious there’s bound to be suspicion if a stand-in acted like that?”
“… My name is Rivelia.”
Irritated by the name Isaac insistently called her, she firmly spoke back at Isaac with a glare, emphasizing her name. Isaac, however, laughed in Rivelia’s face as if she was no competition.
“What, does it piss you off? Consider it your punishment, because I need to sort out the mess you made. I couldn’t really do it back when I was just Isaac, but not anymore. I don’t remember people’s names. No matter who that is. You want to be called by your name? Give it up. We were never that close to begin with, right?”
“But how am I going to clean up the mess our damsel made? I’m sure everyone’s suspicious at this point. I would too, if the man who’d been lethargy incarnate suddenly became so diligent. So thoughtless of you, maybe because you’re still too young. Tsk! Oi, damsel. Make sure you take notes when you’re following me around. It’ll be of great help in the future.”
Soland, who was quietly tagging behind the two, noticed Rivelia’s firmly clenched fists quivering. Soland quickly slowed his pace, distancing himself from the two. If Rivelia’s temper were to erupt, which it likely would at this pace, it’d be mere moments before a new body would be placed into a coffin.
It may be thanks to Rivelia’s stubbornness that she was holding herself, but that’s what scared him even more. It’s much scarier when a quiet person goes mad.