“Their intention is obvious—to make the Directorate of Analysis uncooperative to all future missions carried out by Security. Our Emperor may have told us not to scheme against Security so fruitlessly, but you know, people don’t always do what they’ve been told. The noble families of the idiots back in Forbidden Lands had immense power within the Directorate of Strategy, but they’ve all been weeded out because of their childrens’ stupidity. Not to mention you’ve practically destroyed the Lichten Family, one of Strategy’s biggest backers. There is widespread consensus within the Pureblood families that Security’s downfall is all they need. This information was passed on to me by one of the agents who went against this decision. Otherwise, such valuable information wouldn’t have reached a lowly field agent like me.”
“I see your faction isn’t so nice either. So there are factions within Strategy as well? I swear, all you need are three people to birth an organization.”
Soland quietly accepted Isaac’s criticism since this was the organisation he belonged in. Meanwhile, Isaac asked Rivelia.
“So which option do you like the best, damsel?”
“You can’t choose marriage, sunbaenim!”
“No! I will hate you Rivelia!”
Both Kunette and Reisha glared at Rivelia even before she could speak, which somewhat infuriated her.
Me? With that man? Just thinking about it gave her goosebumps.
“The only option I can realistically choose is the second one, but you clearly wouldn’t like it, Lord Isaac. Basically, all three options may as well not exist.”
“Right? I think so too. But I really have no answers for this if Duke Pendleton decides to really hammer me in. So why don’t you just go home?”
Rivelia was mere inches away from throwing her fist at Isaac’s mocking face.
“Do you have any ideas Lord Isaac?”
“Of course I do.”
Isaac threw away his burnt cigarette and reached for another one as he boldly made his statement.
“I will declare a provincial war against the Pendleton Family.”
The entire administrative body, Kunette, and Reisha looked blankly at Isaac, while Soland asked Isaac rather calmly—possibly because he had gotten used to Isaac’s shenanigans or because he no longer needed to disguise himself.
“I assume you aren’t really thinking of fighting them, so what’s your plan?”
“What must you do in order to start provincial warfare?”
“You must request for approval first, and once approved, you make preparations as you release related information, and then you fight the war under judges’s supervision.”
“That’s right. But when I was looking for a way to control the war between Lichten and Wolfgang, I found out that both sides must negotiate beforehand instead of going straight into war.”
“The war with Marquis Duberon was impossible to negotiate because they were so obstinate. Wolfgang and Lichten, on the other hand, had such a deep feud running between them that they put their titles on the line.”
Soland glimpsed at Laila and Julia as he mentioned Wolfgang. Julia was brought to tears when her family was mentioned, but Laila kept a straight face, though barely.
Soland’s eyes gleamed, understanding why everyone was so impressed by her—when Isaac continued.
“And this article states that the involved Lord, its successor, and their representatives reserve all rights over this negotiation.”
“That’s obviously to avoid any unwanted… Ah!”
Cordnell had an epiphany as he answered Isaac.
“So you figured it out? We will declare a war and negotiate simultaneously. Thankfully, we have the successor to the Pendleton Family right here with us, so we can save some time.”
The whole administrative body was astonished by his resourcefulness.
“That’s enough of an explanation right? Hurry up and get it done. We’ll talk about other problems after this is over.”
Annoyed, Isaac shooed them out of the rooftop with a wave of his hand. The group murmured and left to get the job done quickly, when Kalden raised his hand.
Kalden could only hesitate in front of Isaac. He could comprehend why Isaac sunbae became an official Lord.
But he couldn’t understand why Central’s name came out, why Mr. Soland, whom he always thought as one of syndicate bosses, was called out as an agent of Strategy, and why everyone just took it as a small surprise rather than being mind-blown.
“I’m sleepy. You better leave if this isn’t anything important.”
Isaac’s eyes were about to shift away from Kalden as he hesitated, but Kalden finally mustered his courage to respond.
“It’s because I don’t get it! What is Central and what is Strategy? Are you all screwing with me?”
Isaac’s head cocked sideways, and the crowd on their way down the stairs paused for a moment before dropping their jaws. They looked at each other wide eyed.
Cordnell, unfortunately, knew of the situation and was aware of Central’s involvement to some degree, but Kalden was an innocent civilian who knew nothing. Everyone else in the meeting were Central’s agents and associates.
“Wow! Nobody realised beforehand?”
Isaac asked the others in astonishment, which everyone replied with a dry cough. To think they’d make such a novice mistake not even a new recruit would make.
They seemed to have forgotten that everyone here was associated with Central except for Kalden, and Isaac’s sudden rise to Baron had preoccupied them.
“Then again, nobody in the finance department knows of this, so at least one of them should know to watch and manage anyone who’s looking to quit and go AWOL because I’ve become a Lord. Take him away and brief him.”
Kalden flinched when Isaac mentioned “who’s looking to quit,” and the moment Isaac finished speaking, he instinctively knew he’d never escape if he stayed any longer. Kalden tried to run.
“Too late. In fact, you should be glad. If we realised you were involved any later, you would have been sunk beneath the lake.”
The mix of comfort and blackmail sent Kalden’s mind into a never-ending abyss.
Duke Pendleton’s scheme was disappointingly overcome by a single piece of paper. New Port City had simultaneously sent documents for both a declaration of war and a peace treaty.
The treaty agreed upon a non-aggression pact and mutual defense treaty between Duke Pendleton and New Port City, and as proof of friendship, Rivelia, successor to the family, would be reinstated as Mayor of New Port City.
A war had begun and ended unbeknownst to anyone. Of course, Duke Pendleton was outraged. But the treaty was signed by Rivelia herself. If Duke Pendleton rejected this treaty, then Rivelia’s legitimacy would be shaken.
That alone would have been enough, but a strange rumour began to spread throughout the continent because of this war that started and finished at the same time.
Since the treaty was signed by Rivelia, it invigorated rumors of Isaac and Rivelia’s relationship. Rivelia was depicted as a strong woman who strove for her love despite all the difficulties and pressure from her family, and a romance novel depicting Isaac the evil incarnate and Rivelia the pure was released, infuriating Duke Pendleton.
Meanwhile, Isaac was the subject of all kinds of insults and conspiracies as usual, depicted as the villain who had used every sinister method possible to trick Rivelia. But he wasn’t one to care about such rumours.
“Ahem. I think we managed to put out the biggest fire for now. Now we must focus on shifting our administrative structure from that for a single city to a fiefdom and addressing the problems that arise with it.”
Kalden spoke out, still unsure if everything that had happened in the recent days were true. Isaac nodded carelessly with a cigarette.
The brief answer stumped Kalden for a moment before he continued.
“Administration between a fief and a city is completely different. There are so many urgent aspects…”
“There won’t be any changes in our administrative structure. Do as you’ve always done.”
Everyone else nodded in agreement with Kalden’s protest. The outlandish look of New Port City had convinced the public to believe it would continue flourishing, but it was already crumbling from within.
“The city’s current financial state is perilous at best. We aren’t getting any tax income, and one of our greatest sources of income—the tariff from our waterways—being spent entirely on maintenance. All that’s left are our casinos, but if anyone were to complain and the Department of Law ordered our casinos to be shut down for investigation, we won’t have an answer to our debts.”
“We pillaged two fiefs. Where did the money go?”
“That fund is exactly how we are still staying afloat! This is going to be your home for the rest of your life! Just managing it for a little while isn’t going to cut it!”
The casino problem was true, and if anyone were to mention the prostitutes and syndicates, everything else would crumble like a row of dominos. Isaac was irritated by the administrative body’s constant nagging and frowned.
“So what do you want to do?”
“Now that the situation’s changed, we have to think about the future. If we change our welfare policies, which is where most of our money is drained into, we can keep our finances in a healthy state.”
Cordnell shouted out when his suggestion was rejected outright.
“Then… why are you even asking?”
Cordnell got off from his seat to argue, only to be pushed back into his chair by Isaac’s cold glare alone. Isaac chewed the cigarette in his mouth and smirked.
“Fine. I’ll consider it. I just need to change the welfare policies right?”
Cordnell and Kalden’s faces brightened when Isaac seemed convinced for once.
“That’s right. Even if the Department of Law shuts down businesses related to our casinos, we can last indefinitely so long as we reduce our spending on welfare policies.”
“We must halt our constructions of schools and hospitals. There isn’t a single mid-sized city that contains a school and hospital in every district.”
Isaac nodded along as Kalden and Cordnell enthusiastically let out their suggestions. Isaac scanned the room and asked.
“Anyone else agree with Cordnell and Kalden?”
No one. You lost if you fought Isaac. That was the absolute truth. They’d never be baited so easily after all they’ve been through.
It was Cordnell and Kalden who were fools, flapping about like fish out of water. Finally the two realised something was off and quieted down, but it was too late.
“I guess just talking about it isn’t as good as experiencing it. Rizzly, Lanburton.”
“Is there something you need?”
Rizzly and Lanburton stepped forward to meet Isaac’s call.
“Bring your boys and watch Kalden and Cordnell. Don’t let them eat more than a slice of bread each day. Since I’m merciful, they can drink as much water as they want.”
“W, what is that!”
“Have you ever starved before? Probably not. So why don’t you starve for about ten days. I’ll consider your suggestions afterwards if you still want to reduce our welfare spending. Take them away.”
With Isaac’s order given, Lanburton and Rizzly took away Cordnell and Kalden, who resisted furiously, crying that they couldn’t be treated like this. Kunette and Reisha asked that they be tasked with the job because it seemed fun, and Isaac readily approved. The two quickly chased after the group, and Julia followed behind them.
“Anyone else have anything to say?”