“So it’s been confirmed.”
Isaac, after his petty scheme to take over the airships with no cost to him at all fell through, promised the enraged Mazelan 5% of the airship industry’s shares as a gift of friendship.
Only then did Mazelan smile, satisfied, before he disconnected the line. Isaac watched the black monitor with his cigarette and muttered bitterly.
Mazelan seemed oblivious to the fact that when considering the airship’s revolutionary potential, Central approved it far too swiftly—even hurried, perhaps. Perhaps certain intel was being deliberately hidden from Mazelan, given his role as Central’s de facto correspondent to Isaac.
Even if Isaac denied so, greed and attachment naturally intensified as one’s wealth grew.
Could Isaac really show no hesitation in the most critical moment if he didn’t figure Central out first?
Isaac wasn’t sure with his current state of mind, when he couldn’t even figure this one out straight away.
Isaac couldn’t have been the first one to pop out of nowhere in this elaborate power game between the Empire, the Queen, the non-humans, and the Pendletons maintaining the balance in the middle.
As their title stated, invaders were uninvited guests, but they were also useful chess pieces.
Therefore, they had been playing this game with people like Isaac as their pawns the entire time.
“I guess the player and chess piece becoming one and the same is part of the game’s charm.”
Isaac finally figured out a rough sketch of the factional battlefield.
The Directorate of Surveillance and Analysis were conditionally neutral. The Empire and the Queen were hostile to each other.
Isaac didn’t know the reason why they fought each other, but victory and loss would be decided by taking possession of or eliminating the chess piece that was Isaac.
“So have I become a king now? I’ve been promoted.”
Isaac snickered and left the Communicator room. But he couldn’t hide his surprise when Rizzly brought him a glass of fruit wine and an update.
“They’ve returned the annexed territory?”
Under the leadership of Marquess Debora, their implementation of blitzkrieg tactics ensured a lightning victory.
They eliminated their foes’ top brass and forced them to sue for peace, gaining everything with minimal losses.
If they integrated their territorial spoils of war, their territory would have been large enough to contest for the title of duke, much like how Marquis Lichten and Count Wolfgang could have tried to.
But to think they would willingly divide their own lands, whether it be for money or stability—an act of impossibility for nobles obsessed with titles and power.
“You know they are standing on thin ice. Rumors are that they chose to solidify their position rather than push dangerous grounds out of greed.”
“Don’t make me laugh.”
Isaac snorted. Their current situation was perilous he said? There were plenty of parties willing to invest in them.
Even Isaac himself was eyeing Marquess Duberon as a potential investment—if she ascended to the rank of Duchess.
This treacherous world only remembered those in first, the path to it was even more so. People knew just how difficult it was, which was why they remembered them.
In order for the Wolfgang family to rise to the rank of duke, Laila first had to survive until her coming-of-age ceremony. It was entirely on Laila’s shoulders to withstand the schemes and treachery looking to prey on her.
But what if another family earned the title of duke before her? Being first is difficult, but second and third were much easier.
This was why Isaac silently hoped that the Duberon Family would challenge for the title of Duke.
The Marquess of Duberon was an ambitious woman, and she had the talent to match her ambition. Even though she was more than qualified to challenge for the title, she willingly renounced the very possibility.
“I don’t like it if this is their act of laying the foundation against me…”
Duberon had made quite the mark on history by giving up on the title. Sure, Wolfgang was surviving because Isaac is alive and well, but what if Isaac was gone? Laila would have no say if the Empire used the Duberon Family as an excuse to split up the Wolfgang territory and title Laila a Marquess instead. Technically, it was still a promotion.
“Do I have to make it even more certain…”
“Sorry? Make what certain?”
“It’s my personal project. How is the brat these days anyway?”
Rizzly sighed deeply at Isaac and glared grudgingly at him.
“She’s being thrown around so roughly that it’s hard to watch.”
She was still just a brat. It could not have been easy for her to face adults hardened by greed.
They would run at her from all sides and confuse her. A single misspoken word, and they would bite at the opportunity, dragging the negotiations towards terms more favourable to them. She was being scammed with both eyes open.
“What is the damsel doing?”
“It’s hard for her to even show her face because of her Pendleton name. Those idiots are even using that fact to force Lady Rivelia to the sidelines when she is present.”
“Pressuring the damsel? I guess there are many creative ways to commit suicide. What about Zeroman?”
“He seems to be trying, but there’s a limit to what one man can do.”
Isaac saw hints of disappointment and animosity in Rizzly’s eyes. Isaac took out a cigarette and asked.
“Have you really grown fond of her, or are you just putting up an act?”
Rizzly smiled blushingly.
“Half and half.”
“Don’t these idiots not know I will overturn the negotiation if I don’t like it?”
“I think it’s because of the clash with Marquis Lichtens.”
“Hm? What’s the Lichtens to do with it?”
“You can imagine that Port City thinks that you would like to finish negotiations before the war breaks out with them.”
A smirk broke out on Isaac’s face.
“Of course they’re thinking like that. I see they’re still living in the glory of their old days. How are the Lichtens?”
“Ah! We received an urgent report not from Saints, but from the Directorate of Surveillance. But the report is really dubious at best…”
“What is it?”
“It states that the emissaries that visited Viscount Rosenburg for negotiations were attacked.”
“Attacking the emissaries? Isn’t that going against the Provincial War Laws?”
“It is a serious crime that won’t go unpunished… which is why we requested for more information. They say that some of the escorts for the emissaries began attacking the others.”
Rizzly hurriedly continued explaining to Isaac’s dumbfounded expression.
“The scene suggests that the emissaries were defending against a fierce full-frontal assault.Without any other evidence, the law will surely make Viscount Rosenburg’s head roll.”
“Hm. Oh man, I did think about this method, but I gave up because I didn’t have anyone to order to die. I didn’t think they’d be able to do it.”
Isaac muttered, and Rizzly shouted out as if he’d known all along.
“I knew it! Those were your orders!”
“Hey! Don’t make such precarious claims. Did you ever see me tell them to die? You were there with me.”
“That’s true but…”
“But are you sure we can really take advantage of this? It’ll be problematic if they died for no reason.”
“What do you think sounds more likely, the truth that the escorts went mad and killed each other, or the lie that the radical viscount demanding war couldn’t hold down his rage and attack?”
It was most definitely the latter.
“But there must be evidence of a fight left behind on both sides. The viscount’s knights should be clean without any wounds, right?”
“Ha. Who could fathom an attack on the emissary’s party? Plus, it’s a fight between battle-hardened combat knights against mercenaries fresh out of training. When you consider it an ambush, the investigation would consider even the smallest to just be a fabrication.”
“Hm. You have a point. So are the Lichtens over?”
“Yes. Those in the know should be aware of what really happened, but they’ll surrender because it’s even more frightening.”
“It’s good that this ended within the year. Now we just need to finish up the matter with Port City before revealing the airship.”
“The matter with the Lichtens will end without a hitch, but what will you do about Port City?”
“I’m sure the brat will do well.”
“I’m saying this because it won’t happen.”
Rizzly grumbled. Isaac breathed out his smoke and spoke.
“Then go and help her.”
Rizzly’s face brightened for a moment, and then looked down disappointingly again.
“Ei, who’s going to take care of you if I’m not there?”
“I’ll be living fine without you.”
“I’m sure you’ll be alive. The question is how.”
Rizzly replied and looked at Isaac like a worried parent leaving their child near a deep pool.
“Then go and finish the matter quickly. It’s obvious we’ll end up redoing the negotiation at this rate. I’d rather spend my days alone for a few days and finish the matter rather than hear you cry about it all the time.”
Isaac knew why Rizzly still hesitated, so he added with a smile.
“I’ll leave a message for Kunette.”
“Really? Thank you.”
Rizzly having gone to help, Laila, Kunette and Reisha fought to fill the role of the missing assistants for Isaac.
“I am Isaac’s secretary!”
“… Then go make me tea.”
Isaac was forced to give orders when Kunette looked at him with overflowing eagerness.
Kunette scuttled to the kitchen with Julia, where she began organizing the task. Just heating the water and preparing the saucer was already a ruckus, but then came the cups in the cupboards.
Kunette and Julia were jumping to reach the cups that were clearly beyond their reach. Everyone could guess what’d happen next. They dropped the cups onto the ground.
A mountain of ceramics shattered on the ground. Kunette and Julia looked at Isaac in fear of a scolding, but Isaac just looked at them disinterestedly and stated.
“Rizzly will cry when he finds out.”
“… I’ll clean it.”
Kunette and Julia made a scene cleaning the cups in an attempt to hide their crime. They seemed to have forgotten their original goal was to make tea for Isaac. So Isaac ordered Reisha instead.
“Reisha, can you fetch me some fruit…”
“Uheheh! Sunbaenim, this tastes nice!”
“I’m pretty sure that fruit wine wasn’t meant for you…”
Reisha managed to find the fruit wine, unbeknownst to Isaac. Her face was bright red as she chugged the bottle with a smile. Isaac looked at her unhappily and then sighed before reaching for a cigarette.
“Sniff, sniff! I smell something burning. Ah! Fire! Fire!”
Julia stopped her diligent cleaning and sniffed at the air to find the source of the smell. She realised that a tablecloth had been left next to the fire that was made to heat the water—and it had now caught fire. Julia cried out, and Kunette joined her in frantically running in circles.
“… Why don’t you put out the fire first?”
Isaac couldn’t stand watching Kunette and Julia simply scream without thinking of putting it out. He looked for Reisha to do it in his stead, only to find her dozing off with the bottle of alcohol in her arms.
With no choice, Isaac got up and put out the fire. He pushed the broken fragments of the cups to the corner of the room with his foot. Isaac then pulled out a cup that somehow survived the fall and heated up some water. Lastly, he took out some snacks and honey for Julia and Kunette.
“Just eat this.”
Kunette and Julia, fully aware of their mistakes, were simply standing still with puppy eyes until Isaac threw the snacks at them. The look of glee overtook on their faces, devouring the snacks and honey. Isaac watched the two indifferently as he sipped at his tea.