“I don’t understand this.”
The Emperor muttered. Opposite to the Emperor was Ismael’s face on the screen, who nodded in assent.
-But it’s an offer we have to accept.
“That’s what bothers me even more. I am clueless as to what that undying witch’s aims are. We think of one and then she abandons it, we think of another and she just throws it in a bin…”
The Emperor vented out his frustrations, and Ismael carefully advised the Emperor.
-It’ll be too late by the time the Queen acts. Perhaps it’ll be wise to publicly announce…”
The Emperor immediately shook his head to Ismael’s advice as if it wasn’t worth consideration.
“This must look like a power game between the Queen and I alone. We cross that line first, and the Queen won’t work from the shadows anymore. Although frustrating, the Empire’s power does not surpass that of the Queen’s.”
The Queen’s power was immense, even more so than the Emperor’s. This was why the previous Emperors constantly contested the Queen at every opportunity. The fruits of this endeavor was discovering that the Queen was plotting a scheme according to her own secret agenda during the rule of his grandfather.
But the Royal Family didn’t have concrete evidence to definitively prove this finding. If the Emperor announced it to the public now, there was a high chance that the Queen’s counterattack would result in the rise of a new dynasty. That’s how much power the Queen held. The issue would be water under the bridge to the Pendletons, and the non-humans couldn’t care less as to who the Emperor was.
For the past three generations, it was the Royal Family’s duty to scrutinize and contest the Queen in secret.
Perhaps both the Surveillance and Analysis also knew the Queen held a personal agenda, but the Emperor couldn’t risk the venture to confirm it.
And so the process of monitoring, contesting, and engaging in nefarious schemes went back and forth disguised as an elaborate power game—when suddenly, the Queen extended an offer. One the Emperor couldn’t possibly refuse.
-We have nothing to lose. The Queen has abandoned the Pure Bloods. And without even serving up the poison that is the Pure Blood Confederacy, who have been corrupting the Royal Family from within for so long.
The Pure Blood Confederacy had been a nuisance to the Emperors in the past, slowly crippling the Directorate of Strategy.
Loyalty came at a price.
It was especially difficult to expect loyalty to the Royal Family from Central’s agents, who were taught of this world’s secrets. Therefore, there needed to be a reward befitting their life threatening work, which was how the Pure Blood Confederacy came to be.
As a solution to reduce non-combat losses for agents who had survived battles against the Expeditionary forces, demons, and angels, the Royal Family supported the remaining families, mainly intending to commemorate their sacrifices.
The Queen took advantage of this and secretly urged them to create a cartel from within.
Now they grew powerful enough that the Emperor couldn’t touch them without a clear justification, and as a side effect, the Royal Family and Directorate of Strategy always lost battles for power against Analysis and Surveillance.
But this problem was solved in an instant thanks to this incident. The Pure Bloods counterfeiting an official document and falsely accusing an innocent noble family not for the Empire or Central but for their own gain was beyond criminal at this point.
-Perhaps we are taking this too seriously.
-Even if the Queen has been controlling the Pure Bloods from the shadows, those fools have abused that name for too long. It’s likely this incident took off before the Queen could intervene.
“It’s true that they were more rotten than we first believed.”
-Yes. This incident was likely beyond her expectation.
“But I still don’t understand it. Is Isaac so valuable that she would throw away the Pure Bloods, something she had dedicated immeasurable time and effort to foster? Wasn’t he just bait to distract the Directorate of Surveillance?”
Ismael didn’t have an answer to the Emperor’s question. The Lichten Family, one of the main pillars of the Pure Bloods, had been destroyed.
The Pure Bloods united in retaliation, and the Emperor’s original intention was to say, ‘go ahead, fight, and I’ll just watch from the side.’ But the situation changed when the Queen revealed a top-secret document detailing the corruption and embezzlement the Pure Bloods had committed up to this point.
The opportunity to clean up the eyesore that was the Pure Bloods revealed itself, so the Emperor accepted without consideration. He rekindled the Dark Royale, which had been lying dormant, and eliminated the heads of the Pure Blood Confederacy in one fell swoop.
It was good and all, but what remained was to contemplate whether Isaac is truly worth giving up the lethal poison that had been in the making for so long and wonder about just what that Queen was aiming for.
“It’s even more of a headache when she is so bold with her actions.”
The proof of Pure Blood’s corruption provided by the Queen was likely an olive branch.
The Queen only wanted one thing in return for offering a solution to cleanup the Pure Bloods.
That he recognised Isaac as the master of New Port City.
That was all. At first, the Emperor, seeing just how much Pendleton was trying to get his daughter out, planned to throw Isaac far away into some rural corner of the Empire when he gave him the title. But then the Queen intervened by offering an inexplicably generous concession.
It was hard to believe that all she wanted was Isaac be titled Baron and rule over New Port City; in return, she offered the Emperor a deal that the Emperor would have accepted at any price.
-It’s likely that this is a scheme to distract us just as she’s always done, but I can’t imagine what her plan is, risking the dissolution of her relations with the non-humans.
“I’m thinking the same thing too but let’s not waste our strength here. If it’s a bait, we must bite. But we won’t stand idly by either.”
-Do you have a plan?
“Let’s find out if Isaac truly is as valuable as she thinks. All she asked was we recognise he be master of New Port City alone, so there are many ways to shake him up.”
-Are we opening hostilities?
“Proceed in a way to recruit him.”
-Are you serious?
Ismael asked back in disdain, which the Emperor smirked and nodded.
“The Queen is bound to react if we try to form a friendly relationship with Isaac, and we’ll move accordingly afterwards. It doesn’t matter if it succeeds or fails. Isaac’s a man who’d be happy to join hands with us if he doesn’t like where things are going, no matter how close he is with the Queen.”
The inauguration concluded in a much simpler manner than expected. The employees from the Empire’s Capital Department of Administration handed out the documents, rights, and a seal and flag engraved with the Rondart symbol. Isaac looked at the goods and muttered.
“This Rondart name really is persistent. But what happens to the Baron Rondart family that existed before? Is that mine too?”
“I heard you refused the inheritance of the lands.”
“Since Lord Isaac, the official successor to the Rondart Family, had forfeited the inheritance earlier, the existing Rondart Family will now be considered a branch family. It will take the first syllable of your brother’s name and use the surname Karondart from now on.”
“Karondart huh… Then would it be Corondart if Cordnell got it? So lackluster with your work. Whatever, go away if you’re done with your work. No, since you’re here from the capital, I’ll treat you as special guests. Make sure you splurge, alright.”
The members of the Noble Council erupted in a fiery uproar at Isaac’s uncaring and rude response, but Rivelia quietly escorted them away. After a brief conversation, the Noble Council quickly left New Port City.
With the employees from Capital gone and no more visitors to be expected, peace settled around Isaac. However, that was contrary to the festive mood of New Port City.
Isaac muttered to himself as he sipped at his wine, listening to the cheers and singing of the populace from his rooftop. Rizzly quickly butted in.
“Shall I bring you your instrument?”
“I’m not in the mood. Don’t.”
Isaac seemed to have lost interest when Rizzly beat him to it. He rudely spat his answer and continued to smoke. Rizzly glanced at him to appraise Isaac’s mood.
After having cared for him for so long, he could tell if Isaac was just wasting his time or if he was deep in thought. So Rizzly took Laila to the corner and began whispering to her of what she needed to know.
‘Why is it so quiet?’
Central’s and the Empire’s silence was uncharacteristic; they typically reacted like a woman slapping a molester. But it was this silence that had ended up hindering Isaac, intentional or not
The reason Isaac had to shut himself in his city despite acting as if the world was his oyster during the provincial war was because he was unable to act.
Isaac believed that Central would say something against the rise of another noble family to Dukedom. Throughout history, the only hereditary noble family that achieved the title of Duke was Pendleton.
If Wolfgang suddenly rose to Dukedom, the Empire would be embroiled in perpetual warfare, filled with ambitious souls aiming to be third and fourth Dukes of the Empire.
It would be a golden age for weapons manufacturers, but that would mean the disintegration of the provincial war system, a system that originally intended to maintain an experienced standing army for the Empire in the worst case scenario..
And humans were always greedy for more. With a strong army and loyal vassals under their rule, these nobles would naturally look to become king or even Emperor.
This wouldn’t be a problem if Central could maintain its absolute power forever, but you could never be sure that the future would always be like this. The rise of a second noble family to Dukedom created more problems than solutions. Yet Central kept absolute silence—not a single word of agreement or disagreement.
If Isaac had no stimuli, he wouldn’t react. That was Isaac’s personality, but Isaac’s liked to quietly integrate his own schemes beneath the chaos. But with no stimuli at all, Isaac was stuck in inaction.
Granting him an official noble title was hardly a noteworthy stimulus for Isaac; it was an overprotective father’s tyrannical abuse at worst. Central’s order was needed for Isaac to move and make adjustments, but their silence meant that he would spend his time idly.
This would be welcomed any other time, but the two years Queen asked for was a problem. Isaac couldn’t trust the Queen, so he couldn’t trust the timeline Queen gave either.
So Isaac needed to move faster than what the Queen asked for. He was lacking in manpower, materials and time. In this situation, it’d be difficult to finish preparations for backstabbing the Queen and Central when necessary.
‘Whoever is more desperate has to move first… but the risks are too high.’
The Queen was a problem, but Strategy and Analysis couldn’t be ignored either. With the Queen’s favourite chess piece watching from every angle at all times, suddenly acting on his accord after putting on airs of indifference would immediately attract suspecting eyes.
‘I need a cover…’
Was there a convincing excuse? An excuse that everyone would nod their heads to and accept? An excuse that answered the question of ‘why was he acting so unlike himself?’ There was.