“They really are useless through and through. I should restructure my lands once I rise as a Duke.”
Marquis Lichten clicked his tongue, causing his knights to flinch before readying their arms. If they were to fall into the Marquis’s disfavor now, they would become obsolete, regardless of their achievements in this war.
“What you said before, what do you mean by that?”
“Is there a need for a dead man to know?”
“… I’d rather die knowing everything than die in frustrating ignorance.”
The Marquis pondered for a moment, then replied to Count Wolfgang with a devious grin.
“You can find out once you’re dead. We’ll end it here if you’re not going to send away your family. Finish them.”
Marquis Lichten’s knights took one step forward. Count Wolfgang’s soldiers, having recovered what little stamina they could during that conversation, gripped their weapons firmly.
The Marquis’s knights murmured in astonishment at their foes’ resolution, but Count Wolfgang stopped his men.
“Stop. You men have fought well. This is the end. My death alone will suffice.”
“We cannot let that happen!”
“We will die with you!”
Even the knights of the Marquis gazed at the Count with respect, but Wolfgang shook his head and repeated.
“Put your swords down. And… though I have no right to say this, I leave my daughters in your care.”
Pushed to an emotional breaking point, the Count’s knights and soldiers broke into tears, dropping their weapons. However, there was one pair of eyes that watched this emotional scene unfold full of envy.
He was the same. That strange charm he had that others flocked to. When only fools singing flattery gathered around him.
Green with envy, the Marquis spoke, displeased.
“Hmph! I’ve changed my mind. It’s about time for my grandchildren to get married. I think your daughters will make fine brides for them.”
Vassals of Wolfgang clamoured in outrage, and even Wolfgang himself seemed to have been struck in the head.
“Even if the Dorothy Family is one of the Pendleton’s vassals, I’m sure they have no choice but to allow a member of their branch family become the official wives of a Marquis Family.”
“Kukuku. If you don’t want to see that, then drop your sword. You need to die begging for your life in front of your subjects. Disgracefully, I might add.”
The Marquis’ treacherous scheme to harass his daughters if he didn’t show shameful display was met with outrage from Wolfgang’s soldiers, but Wolfgang himself cared not. Thinking of his daughters, Wolfgang grudgingly dropped his sword, and Marquis Lichten embraced his twisted sense of victory, laughing maniacally.
“Kukuku. Take him away!”
Lichten’s knights stepped forward to restrain Wolfgang—when an annoyed voice from the entrance stopped them in their tracks.
“Ah, everything was good but what’s with that ending? It’s like ruining a good movie by adding some stupid twist at the end.”
Wolfgang’s face reddened into a fury at the appearance of an unexpected individual, while the Marquis grimaced.
“You money-grubbing piece of filth!”
Wolfgang’s side vented out their anger on Isaac knowing he had betrayed them while Marquis Lichten’s side stood awkwardly, reading the mood.
Wolfgang’s soldiers cursed and swore at Isaac venomously, but it only went in one ear and out the next. Isaac lit his cigarette and spoke.
“Since everything is over, let me ask you a question.”
“… What is it?”
Wolfgang’s men shouted in dismay when Wolfgang answered Isaac’s request, but Wolfgang simply shook his head.
“What is your question?”
“I found out that you and Lichten have some family feud.”
“… That’s right. Because of Lichten’s scheme, our family was on the verge of collapse, and I swore to spend my entire life seeking vengeance. I searched for compatriots during my time in Campus, victims who were on the verge of collapse or had already collapsed from similar circumstances as I. We could join together in our common goal, to destroy the Lichten Family and create a world where no one else will fall victim to a High Noble’s whim. But it’s just a broken dream now…”
Wolfgang cursed his own aspirations at the end, but Isaac simply loosened his shirt’s collar as he snickered.
“So, do you think the answer to my homework was in line with what you were thinking, damsel? Or was it different?”
While everyone looked dumbfounded by Isaac’s comment, Count Wolfgang’s face contorted.
“Lady Rivelia? Even the Pendletons are involved in this?”
Count Wolfgang shouted out in bewilderment, and Isaac corrected him.
“It’s not the Pendletons.”
“Sir Isaac, there are too many ears here!”
Marquis Lichten quickly interjected to stop Isaac, and Isaac shrugged nonchalantly as he replied.
“What’s the problem? Everyone on the Count’s side will die; and didn’t you say that you’d be restructuring your lands later?”
“Are you telling me to kill my men with my own two hands?!”
The Marquis’ somewhat awe-inspiring words made his vassals look up to Marquis with respect, but Isaac sighed as if he was truly tired of everything.
“I swear, they always talk big when they have men behind their back. Why don’t you quiet him down a little.”
Immediately, Black Bandits poured through the entrance and massacred Lichten’ men before he could even react.
Lichten’s knights fell victim to the bolts of Black Bandit’s crossbows even before they could react, and those that survived the hail of bolts were beheaded.
“W, What the… You dare! What treachery is this!”
Marquis Lichten, who was dismayed as he watched his men die in droves, shouted out in anger. Wolfgang’s vassals couldn’t understand why the Black Bandits, the cause of their defeat, were present here or listened to Isaac’s orders. Only Count Wolfgang seemed to have grasped the truth and trembled as he glared at Isaac.
“Should I take it as an honour? That our growth was seen as dangerous to Pendleton?”
Isaac clicked his tongue and shook his head.
“Hm? Tsk tsk tsk. You’re still mistaken. I told you. It’s not the Pendletons. How come you and your men always come to the same answer? Or is that what seems obvious at first?”
“… I want to know the truth.”
“You really want to know?”
Wolfgang’s eyes met with Isaac’s, and Isaac clicked his tongue in disappointment before taking out a new cigarette as he answered.
“The truth tends to be cruel. It’s not the Pendletons. It’s Central.”
That sentence was enough. Count Wolfgang closed his eyes when the growing suspicion in him was confirmed. When he opened his eyes again, he looked eye to eye with Isaac.
“We were destined to lose.”
“Just for your solace, know that we too struggled to prop up those incompetent buffoons up until the end..”
“I thank you for your compliment.”
Wolfgang replied with a smile, as if the weight on his shoulder had lifted the moment he gave up everything.
“You were just unlucky. If it wasn’t the Lichten Family, everything would have turned out like you wanted. You just picked the wrong enemy.”
“Is that so. What’s the relationship between Marquis Lichten and Central?”
“The noble families descended from ex-Central agents created what’s called the ‘Pure Blood Confederation,’ and Lichten is one of them.”
Marquis Lichten frantically shouted out when Isaac revealed Central’s secret without hesitation. Annoyed, Isaac glared back at Lichten.
“Oi, old man, it’s rude to butt in someone else’s conversation. Shut him up you guys. And you shouldn’t call out your superior’s name so casually.”
The Marquis flinched and stepped back in face of Isaac’s cold stare. Even if the Pure Blood Confederation was closely related to Central, they could just as easily be put down like Count Wolfgang if a Director of Central wished so.
“To think I’ll see that man not even squeak in terror like this. A great present you’re giving me before my death. I assume your rank is that much higher than his.”
“Central’s Director of Security.”
“Directorate of Security? First time I’ve heard it.”
“Because this is our first mission.”
“I see… But even if this is Central’s work, killing civilians to achieve your mission is abuse of power.”
“What’s a few civilian deaths to the destruction of an entire countdom?”
“You have a point.”
Count Wolfgang nodded in agreement, and he looked back at his men. Those who understood their conversation wore infuriated expressions, while others still wore a look of frustration, still not knowing what it meant but unable to ask the others to clue them in.
“I have a request.”
“… Let my daughters live.”
Isaac looked behind Wolfgang, and Lady Elena held Laila and Julia firmly when she felt Isaac’s gaze was on her. Though she was a branch family, Elena knew well as she herself was a noble. Central did not risk their secrets from leaking. So they would kill everyone in this place.
Isaac felt keen interest when he saw Laila stare relentlessly at him without letting a single drop of tear escape her eyes, as if she wanted to engrave Isaac in her memories. Isaac approached Elena.
Wolfgang’s men tried to stop Isaac, but they had no choice but to stop when Isaac’s agents raised their crossbows. Isaac smiled as he ignored Laila’s gaze.
“Would you like to make a deal?”
“You can live. Because it’s difficult for me to deal with your family, which is under the protection of the Pendletons.”
“But even if you do, you are just a branch family of a Viscount. You will no doubt be poorly treated once you go back home.”
Isaac was right. A lady of a branch family, a widow who was married off to a noble line that had collapsed to ruin. A troublesome baggage that would no doubt bring political issues. There was no reason for her to be treated nicely.
“W, what do you want from me?”
Elena quivered as she responded, and Isaac spoke sweetly, like a devil seducing its victim.
“You are aware that the rights to your land are in my hands right? Die with your husband today. Then, in accordance with our contract, the rights to the land will pass on to your children. I promise you this as Central’s Director of Security. I will let no man or woman dare to try taking advantage of your children—regardless of their goals—until your children come of age.”
Returning the rights to this land to the official heir? It was an offer they couldn’t refuse. Elena’s body trembled as she felt her two children’s warmth in her arms.
“On whose will? This war is my victory! Transactions of the rights over territory are not allowed during war!”
The Marquis, who was astonished by Isaac’s claim that he owned rights to Wolfgang’s territories, threw a tantrum at Isaac’s declaration to pass the territory to Wolfgang’s children.
After everything Lichten had done to barely scrape together this victory, the Marquis would go bankrupt immediately if they gained nothing from it. Isaac clapped his hands as if he’d just realised something.
“Ah! I forgot. Lady, it won’t be the Countdom.”
The Marquis let out a sigh of relief—but only to be in dismay afterwards.
“I will return it to them as Dukedom, after I absorb the Marquis’ lands too.”
Everyone inside the room looked at Isaac dumbfoundedly while Marquis Lichten’s face twisted, the veins on his forehead popping.
“Absorb my lands you say? On whose wish! You think you can do whatever you want just because you’re the Director of Central?! The other Directorates won’t stand for this!”
Annoyed by the Marquis’s constant pestering, Isaac spoke out in irritation.
“There’s nothing wrong in the legal sense, you see.”
“How is there nothing wrong?! You made transactions of territory during war!”
“Ah. That is a problem in legality.”
The Marquis boasted triumphantly, but Isaac replied nonchalantly at the Marquis.