“So everything’s been packaged up rather convincingly. Fine. So what really happened? Here I am making a great first impression, but they’re still looking down on me like I’m a weakling. Not only that, they’re trying to harass me?”
Isaac’s question was met by Rivelia’s exhausted sigh—its gravity akin to the weight of an entire lifetime.
“As you suspect, the Directorate of Strategy took the lead on this, but before you misunderstand, I’d like to say that this mission was approved by the Queen beforehand.”
“Yet the Queen hadn’t said anything to me?”
“It was done in secret, since it was obvious you’d reject it if you found out.”
“… Shit. I can’t say anything against that. So what’s the reason they only told you and not me?”
“Well, the Directorate of Analysis has predicted that New Port City would grow exponentially more volatile and dangerous as time goes on.”
“What? I mean, why are they calling a perfectly functioning city a potential danger?”
“… Are you seriously asking that?”
Rivelia’s look of disdain agitated Isaac for a moment, but he closed his mouth. New Port City may have looked like it was thriving on the outside, but in reality, it was standing on thin, almost non-existent ice.
After all, part of Cordnell’s repertoire was crying that they’d all be bankrupt whenever he showed up. When Isaac’s thoughts reached this point, he cringed and shouted.
“Did they pass the bomb to me?”
“They said you should clean up your own mess.”
All the profit from the casinos, taxes, and even the smuggling business went straight into city funds. Even that wasn’t enough to get them out of the red; they were paying off one loan by taking out another.
But the city maintained its high employment rate and all sorts of city welfare policies because Isaac didn’t need to care about the future. He simply needed to survive until his time as a Lord’s Representative ended. Everything after that was none of his business.
Isaac partly orchestrated this out of spite to screw over those who sent him here, but to think that it would come back to bite him. It was a gut-wrenching blow to receive.
Isaac had briefly read up on relevant articles to efficiently abuse his power as Director. One of them said that any missions that directly affected one of the Directors required a majority vote among the other Directors and the Queen before starting. And if it was deemed a failure, the mission would be put to a halt and buried immediately.
“Then Strategy would have initiated the proposal, and the Queen approved it. So that leaves Surveillance and Analysis. I don’t know about Surveillance, but Analysis would most definitely agree. So I’ve been caught with my pants down, hands tied behind my back.”
Isaac grumbled, but Rivelia squeezed out a faint mumble as she ducked her face.
“You’re close, but it was Analysis that initiated the proposal, not Strategy.”
Isaac was stupefied by Rivelia’s answer. Her face bright red in embarrassment, she started to explain.
Duke Pendleton cared not about the future of New Port City at first, but the situation changed when Rivelia was involved. When time passed and the New Port City bomb exploded, Rivelia, who was the mayor of the city on the surface, would have a tarnished record.
This problem was pointed out the first time she was elected as Mayor of the City, but Duke Pendleton didn’t consider it a problem back then since he could just dump all responsibility on Isaac when it happened.
But things changed when Rivelia became the Vice-Director of Security. If Duke Pendleton made Isaac responsible, Rivelia would be roped in with him.
This was enough to displease Duke Pendleton, the overprotective father. But when he heard what happened in the Forbidden Lands and how harshly Isaac treated Rivelia in their first mission, his temper exploded. This is when he decided to pull Rivelia out. Not only that, Duke Pendleton tried to adopt the two children Rivelia brought with her, only to have them all leave for Isaac instead.
Duke Pendleton now had an added misunderstanding that not only her real daughter, but his foster children had left for the same man. That was the last straw. So he brought up the potential crisis that was New Port City and offered a solution on how to defuse it.
Of course this was kept secret from Isaac, the rascal. Strategy jumped on the wagon immediately, while the Queen reluctantly agreed with Analysis’ argument that one should clean up their own messes. Surveillance refused outright. So by majority vote, Isaac was titled a Baron and became the Lord of New Port City.
“… What does me becoming a Lord have anything to do with damsel’s extraction?”
“On the surface, you are now a Baron of a rural fief, Director. And I am the princess of the Pendleton Family. Having a Princess of Dukedom work under a mere Baron not only looks bad, but the entirety of noble society would rise up against it. The Pendleton Family now has the justification to pull me out from New Port City.”
A whistle of astonishment and awe escaped Isaac’s mouth. That was how far an overprotective father could go when he had power.
“So this is all because of the damsel?”
“… I apologize.”
Isaac smirked in response to Rivelia’s apology. Though this bomb grew more dangerous the longer it was kept under covers, Isaac just needed to survive the one more year that the Queen asked for. Everything after that didn’t matter.
“Well, you don’t have to be sorry about it. It’ll make my job easier now. I think everything will settle down if you disappear, damsel. How about it?”
Rivelia, who was curious at first when Isaac started speaking, defiantly met Isaac’s subtle suggestion with a serious face.
When news of Isaac’s lordship over New Port City spread, the city was in a festive mood.
All of its citizens were aware the current prosperous rise was brought upon by Isaac and that it was only for a limited time. The citizens found it a shame that such times were about to pass, but this changed when Isaac was titled the official ruler of New Port City. They sang praises of Isaac, believing that these good times would continue ever onwards.
On the other hand, the atmosphere on the rooftop of the City Hall was as grim as a funeral. The city’s administrative body had gathered there after the news. Lanburton and Rizzly, the representatives of the elves and the North Bears, respectively, were indifferent, as this was none of their business. But Cordnell, who was in charge of the city’s finances, looked as if he’d lost his mind, and Krent clawed at the grip of reality right next to him. Opposite to the two sat Soland and Kalden, who would let out a deep sigh each time they whispered to one another.
“Wow! So you’re a Lord now, sunbaenim? Then make me the captain of the knights!”
“… M, me too.”
The struggles of the administrative body were of no concern for Reisha and Kunette, who nagged Isaac. Julia also shyly raised her hand after carefully looking at her sister, only to drop her hand immediately when Laila sent a ferocious glare at her. But this seemed to have irritated Cordnell, who stood up and roared like a lion.
“Screw the knightly orders! Where do we even have the money! We’re all screwed!”
Kunette yelped a hiccup, while Julia burst into tears out of fright.
Rizzly immediately growled at Cordnell, seeing Kunette’s distress. The others also sent looks at Cordnell, silently scolding him for making a child cry. Subdued, Cordnell fizzled back onto the chair like an extinguished ember, venting out his hatred for Isaac.
“Why! What did I do to be involved with him… Why.”
Seeing Cordnell cry to himself was such a common sight that everyone overlooked it. In fact, they felt the same way right now.
In an attempt to break the mood, Isaac loudly clapped to gain their attention.
“Nothing’s going to change if we just cry about it, so let’s fix the most urgent problems.”
There were mountains of problems that had come up alongside Isaac’s rise to lordship, and all of it was the administrative body’s work since Isaac wasn’t obviously going to do it.
But those were problems that could be fixed gradually, not something that needed to be solved immediately.
“Scheming and plotting is what Directorate of Strategy does best. So come up with a solution for it too.”
Isaac nonchalantly demanded of Soland, but the response came from different people.
“Eeh! Mr. Soland, you were an agent of Strategy?”
“Huk! Even Mr. Soland was part of Central? I always thought you were a New Port City local?”
The crowd murmured in surprise. Even Rivelia looked at Soland in astonishment. Isaac tilted his head and asked.
“Was this a secret?”
“… Yes. A secret so confidential only those above the rank of Vice-Director knew.”
“I got it, so tell me as an agent of Strategy. What are the possible solutions?”
Did this man know what intelligence confidentiality meant? Soland contemplated how he was supposed to report this to headquarters, but he quickly sighed, realising that it wouldn’t make a difference.
“The Directorate of Strategy promised Duke Pendleton their utmost support for his mission, even involving those on leave and those who have retired.”
“I can almost taste how pissed they are.”
“You have been ruining just about everything for Strategy until now.”
“For starters, you destroyed Project 401, which was supposed to be my life’s crowning achievement.”
“Hm? Ah, was there something like that? What is this Project 401?”
“There’s nothing you need to know. It’s already been scrapped.”
“Playing hard to get huh. So what?”
Soland sighed deeply at Isaac’s mocking tone. Everyone could tell that Soland’s sigh struggled to contain the anger of the entire Directorate of Strategy.
“Anyhow, The Directorate of Strategy had tried to anticipate every course of action you could take, Sir Isaac, and sent it to the Directorate of Analysis. All of the proposed courses of actions were rejected as impossible, but they also said that they couldn’t be ignored either.”
“Really? That’s interesting. How did you think I was going to react?”
“We’ve anticipated three main courses of action.”
“Three? I see you and Strategy aren’t too shabby yourselves. Makes sense since you make a living on schemes and plotting.”
Soland made an uncomfortable expression as Isaac labeled them insidious.
“But the Directorate of Analysis disregarded all these routes of action as impossible. Anyway. First is possibly the best option that will resolve the issue without causing more trouble. It is to send Lady Rivelia back to Pendleton Family… but I don’t see it happening.”
The moment Soland mentioned Rivelia be sent back, she sent a cold glare at Soland, who immediately continued through his list.
“Second is for you, Sir Isa… No, now that you’re a lord, I’ll call you Lord Isaac. That Lord Isaac swears fealty to the Pendleton Family. Though Duke Pendleton himself will reject it, the Pendleton Family cannot turn you away if you swear loyalty to Lady Rivelia, its successor, as her vassal.”
“As if that’d happen.”
Isaac smirked. What he heard just now didn’t even merit consideration. Soland sighed, but he hesitated before continuing.
“The final option will resolve the issue completely, but you will become everyone’s enemy, Lord Isaac.”
“I like the sound of that. What is it?”
Isaac perked up at the sound of becoming public enemy number one. Soland seemed to hesitate even more, but others’ silent glares urged him to continue.
“It is to make the separation of Lord Isaac and Lady Rivelia impossible, such as marriage…”
Even before Soland could declare that this idea itself was outrageous, all sorts of objects were thrown at his direction. Rivelia was a given, who was fuming with absolute outrage. Reisha scolded Soland from the side, listing everything she doesn’t like about the Directorate of Strategy. All of Kunette’s hairs stood up like a cat’s, and she hissed at Soland.
“Are you trying to kill me? Or do you want to see the world burn?”
Isaac mockingly stated his disapproval, to which Soland replied as he rubbed the bridge of his nose, where an object hit him squarely.
“Even I think these were made with the intent of provoking Duke Pendleton.”
“What would Strategy gain from pissing off that old man?”