New Port City shares were an excellent investment choice.
Holding shares in the reunification of Port and New Port City was the equivalent of acquiring an endless stream of money. There were many parties who watched the reunification process with keen interest.
-The Department of Supplies will be the first to contact you if you ever need money.
“I wonder. I doubt I’ll ever run into such a situation, but I’ll keep that in mind.”
-I’m sure you will have your difficulties, even if New Port City is overflowing with money and you are absorbing the Lichtens for free.
“That would be the case if I’m alone, but I have a few friendly stakeholders too.”
-Hng. You’re bringing in the elves and North Bears?
“They have the right to be involved. They’ve helped me since the beginning and have shares of New Port City. Oh I’ve also let the Pendletons in too because of that damsel’s face.”
-Wow! Now isn’t that harsh? Have I not helped you? I’m disappointed in you, really!
Mazelan shouted out. Isaac took out a new cigarette with a troubled expression.
He’d let his tongue slip. Oh well.
“3%. No more than that. Not even the elves and North Bears have more than 8%.”
-That seems enough.
Isaac couldn’t help but feel that he’d been tricked, as Mazelan’s enraged face instantly transformed to a bright smile.
Isaac had an uncomfortable feeling as he left the Communicator Room. The sight and sound of Mazelan’s mischievous laughter echoing in the warning had been seared into Isaac’s eyes.
It was, how to say, a smile that’d come back to infuriate him later, an embodiment of ‘I told you it was a bad idea.’
‘What is it? Is there something I’m missing?’
Isaac couldn’t find the reason no matter how much he pondered. Which made it all the more frustrating.
“I’d really hate to see him have the last laugh…”
“What was that?”
“Hm? It’s nothing. And when did you get here?”
Isaac asked, and Cordnell replied, flabbergasted.
“I’ve been waiting for you here since ages ago!”
“We’ve been waiting silently because you seemed deeply concerned.”
Rivelia, who had been standing by next to Cordnell, added. Isaac’s head cocked to the side.
Rivelia closed her mouth, dumbfounded, and Cordnell quickly took the chance to shout.
“You started a provincial war and now reunification as well?! Can’t you just take things one at a time?”
“Don’t worry about the provincial warfare, it’s not like it’ll happen immediately.”
“You weren’t even thinking about fighting the war whether it was approved or not anyway! Aren’t you just waiting for the Lichtens to crumble from within?”
Cordnell pointed out, and Isaac flinched and looked back with great astonishment.
“How did you know?”
“How long do you think I’ve been working under you? You’ll just entice, antagonise, shift the blame, and unleash all sorts of vile schemes on the Lichten’s vassals to destroy them!”
“… Amazing. Was there such a way?! You’re a genius!”
“Stop avoiding the subject!”
“Ha, I guess everyone with a brain had already predicted so if even Cordnell is aware of it. But the Lichtens are bound to fall victim to it anyway.”
Isaac commented with a smile. Cordnell sighed deeply and stated defiantly.
“You will need to have different people responsible for reunification and Lichtens, respectively. We haven’t even finished adapting our administrative system to manage a fief. If my workload increases anymore from here, I will go on a strike. The same goes for Kalden too.”
“Ha. To think you’d blackmail me with a strike when you’re already receiving the best pay in the Empire. This is why people say human greed is endless.”
“What’s the point of getting paid if I don’t have the time to use it!”
“Good. Every coin you fail to spend will stack up nicely in your account. Is there a job with a better retirement plan than this?”
“I feel like I’ll die of overwork before I reach retirement.”
“Don’t worry. If you do, the city will happily use those savings of yours as a development fund!”
“Kuack! I’ll never die!”
A fire was lit in Cordnell’s eyes. Cordnell’s resentful scowl bore into Isaac, who slyly changed the topic of the conversation.
“Hm. If you or Kalden can’t do it, then pass over one of the jobs to this damsel here.”
Isaac pointed Rivelia with his chin, and Rivelia’s brows twisted and glared back at Isaac.
“It would have been possible if New Port City was still a Free Trade City, but now that it’s become the Rondart fief, I can’t intervene.”
“… It’ll change from the work by your orders, Director, to work that the Pendletons intervened in.”
“Tsk! I swear, that nametag of yours makes it impossible to give you work.”
Isaac clicked his tongue and complained. RIvelia’s body quivered fiercely as she tightened her fists.
Cordnell slowly inched away from Rivelia in fear of an outburst when Isaac spoke after pondering.
“Should I make Smartass do it?”
“The pushback will be massive no matter where you put him. Especially since Mr Soland is a member of a criminal syndicate on the outside.”
Cordnell, who had created enough of a safe distance already, shook his head after some thought. Isaac spoke as if he had no other choice now.
“Leave it to the fatty. I’m sure he’ll do well. With all the trading he’s been doing with the Lichtens, he’ll be comfortable enough with his connections.”
“Yes sir. But you’re not thinking of actually going into war right?”
“Don’t worry. War will never happen.”
“Can you really say that after requesting for an authorization for provincial warfare? Even if the Lichten’s armies are destroyed, they’ll easily assemble thousands by rallying the defeated troops and their combat knights. And the armies possessed by their vassals are even larger. If they advance toward New Port City for war, we’ll crumble to a single siege.”
“They won’t be able to reach here.”
“How are you so confident?”
“Because there’s still the Wolfgang Family. Those idiots aren’t just attacking me right now. The Wolfgang Family has more than enough reason to join in. If the Lichten’s armies somehow come to a consensus and advance toward us, Wolfgang will smack the back of their head clean off.”
“That’s why you don’t have to worry about a war breaking out. And even if they scrape together an army and come, so what? You think they can push their might in this city full of elves and North Bears? I’ll bet you they’re busy shifting blame amongst one another and avoiding responsibility right now. The fatty shines in blackmail and leveraging relationships, so you can just wait for a bit before offering to leave them alone with most of their fortunes intact.”
“… Are you sure it’s an offer? What if they refuse?”
“What other choice do I have if they reject the offer to leave with all their possessions instead of being exiled penniless? If they want to stay, they can stay. I have many ways to ruin them. You better try your best in persuading them if you don’t want them to reach that fate.”
Cordnell sighed deeply watching Isaac snicker away.
“Who do I leave Port City to now…?”
Isaac contemplated on who to leave Port City to. He couldn’t make non-humans do it.
It was beyond possibility, as they had no talents in such matters. Isaac thought about other members of the administrative body, but they were all exhausted from just managing their own workload at this point.
But Isaac didn’t want to do it himself, and he couldn’t make Rivelia do it.
Just as Rivelia had said, her noble birth had changed the weight of her actions. She was first and foremost the successor to the Pendleton family, and a representative of the Rondart fiefdom second.
Isaac thought about dumping it onto Kalden or Cordnell outright, but it seemed clear that they’d retaliate with a strike. Whether it was good or bad, those two really didn’t care for what came at them after ten days of starvation.
So Isaac scanned the area for a suitable candidate, when he saw Laila.
Laila could feel her spine tingle when their eyes met. Isaac declared.
“Alright. I’ll leave Port City work to the brat.”
“It’s something you’ll need to do for the rest of your life when you go back home, so it won’t be a bad idea for you to have some practice. I’ll give you some advisors, so give it a try. You help out sometimes too, damsel.”
Everyone looked at Laila in worry.
Becoming the one responsible for this work meant bearing the animosity and harassment that resulted from it.
It was too heavy a burden for a child.
But on the other hand, there really wasn’t anyone else suitable to be a candidate. Even though the matter would be over so easily if Isaac took over, Isaac clearly didn’t have any intention to work. So they had to look for a suitable candidate, which were few in number.
Laila was one of such candidates, with the only flaw being her young age.
The money-obsessed opponents would struggle desperately with all their might, but what if their opponent was the successor to the future Dukedom of Wolfgang?
And if the successor to the Pendleton family stood by her side, they didn’t need to worry about Laila’s exposure to such unsightly displays.
“I’ll do my best.”
Laila nodded with a firm determination, and Isaac spoke as he took out a new cigarette.
“Begin the negotiations from scratch again.”
Port City’s negotiators would put all in their effort at manipulating the young Laila if they redid the hard-fought outline of previous negotiations.
“Don’t worry. The final decision comes from me anyway. If I don’t like it, we can just start again.”
Everyone nodded their heads. Since it was Isaac who had the final say on the terms of the negotiation, it didn’t matter how much Port City bullied and manipulated Laila into submission. All Isaac had to say was no.
“Finish it by next year before you start attending Campus. It will be a good experience for you.”
“… I have a request.”
“I want to learn from here instead of Campus.”
Isaac glimpsed at Laila when she asked. He exhaled a long trail of smoke and spoke.
“I guess it’s about time for you to know. The reason why I’m asking you to do this for experience is so you can engrave one fact into your head that you’ll need to manage your dukedom.”
“What is it?”
Isaac let out another trail of smoke, and then he looked Laila straight in the eyes and spoke.
“Humans aren’t a race to be trusted.”
Laila’s eyes shook, unable to discern the meaning behind Isaac’s words. Isaac raised one corner of his lip mockingly and continued.
“The average commoner may be able to live in a society based on trust, but that will be impossible for you, brat. If things go well, you will become the second hereditary Duchess. Do you know what that means?”
“… I don’t.”
“You cannot trust another human being. No, you must not trust them.”
Isaac’s cruel teachings turned Laila’s face pale and Rivelia shouted out in refute.
“What are you telling a child?!”
Isaac glimpsed at Rivelia and spoke.
“Shall we use this damsel as an example? Successor to Duke Pendleton. Single. These two conditions alone attract others—especially men, who flock around her at all times. Why?”
Laila pondered for a moment and answered.
“Because she’s beautiful?”
Laila’s unexpected answer made Rivelia blush, but Isaac scoffed and nudged Laila on her forehead.
“Wrong. She may be pretty but there would still be plenty of men willing to approach her even if she was ugly, even hideous. Why?”