“Just how did you guys create such a mess in the three days of Rizzly’s absence?”
Rivelia, who had come to the rooftop in search of Isaac, blew a gasket at the sight of the chaos.
A mountain of shattered ceramics had been swept in one corner while the other was covered in soot, them clearly having burnt something.
Crumbs littered around Isaac’s bed, glued together in place by old spilt honey. Reisha and Kunette slept soundly among the many countless empty bottles, and Julia was sleeping inside an airball. Isaac was resting his eyes on his sofa instead of his bed. Rivelia couldn’t even control her own torrent of scolding.
“Take all this mess away and start cleaning! Now!”
Like the strict mistress of a dorm, Rivelia forced Reisha, who was reeling from a bad hangover, up and immediately cut off Kunette and Julia when they protested to sleep some more. She then forced them to clean the roof.
“Kunette! What are you doing throwing all that onto the ground! Stop it, Reisha!”
Kunette, too annoyed to walk down the stairs with all the trash, instead threw them off the balcony. Reisha was about to follow in her footsteps and start throwing the bottles over, only to be stopped just in time by Rivelia.
Isaac quietly woke up from all the noise and watched the scene in a daze. He lit a cigarette, only to be caught by Rivelia’s furious glare in the midst of scolding Reisha. Isaac immediately shut his eyes and acted as if he was sleeping.
“… Are you playing with me?”
Every syllable of Rivelia’s voice echoed a deep, boiling fury. Isaac stretched his body as if he’d just woken up and sat up.
“Yawn. That was some good sleep. Hm? When did you get here?”
“Eeick! … Sigh. I’ll get you a cup of tea once we’re done cleaning this place. In the meantime, how about you go wash yourself.”
Rivelia seemed like she was about to wallop Isaac for his impudence, but she shook it off with a sigh and turned her attention back to Kunette and Reisha.
“Wow! You’re so mean! How come you’re not saying anything to sunbaenim!”
“Isaac should clean too!”
Kunette and Reisha complained with emotional appeals to justice and fairness—which Rivelia’s deathly stare’s promptly stamped out.
“How about you guys become my superior before complaining?”
Rivelia had extinguished Kunette and Reisha’s protests in an instant. Rivelia ordered the two to clean the roof while washing Julia.
“So why are you here?”
Isaac asked, and Rivelia glared momentarily at him as she washed Julia’s face.
“The Lichtens have surrendered.”
“Really? That took a while.”
Isaac replied nonchalantly, which sharpened Rivelia’s stare. Isaac could feel her stare poking him full of holes. He sighed and looked at her, annoyed.
“What do you want to say to me this time?”
Rivelia wiped Julia’s face with a towel and lightly spanked her toward Kunette and Reisha, who were busy acting like they were cleaning. Rivelia then asked Isaac.
“The mercenaries’ deaths. Did you order it, Director?”
Isaac nodded at the question without a shred of hesitation.
“I didn’t exactly tell them to die, but I guess I did order it at the end of the day. I merely told the mercenary captain to resolve it himself.”
“Sigh, I’m even more surprised that the mercenaries actually followed that order.”
“Hm? Now that’s unexpected. Aren’t you supposed to say something like ‘how could you do this,’ ‘that goes against morality’ or something along those lines?”
Isaac cocked his head at the unexpected reaction, but Rivelia only looked back at him, even more confused.
“To hold a sword in hand means one is determined to stand next to death. By nature of being one, mercenaries chose money over pride and honour—which is why I’m surprised they chose to die like that.”
“Really? Well I guess you can call them true mercenaries then, because they did die for money.”
“Because of money?”
“They are residents of my city after all. I’ll be taking care of their families. As pillars of Rondart Barony, they’ll be provided 1000 Giga as compensation, with free education and medical fees for three generations. That should be enough right? Plus, I’ll make sure to eliminate any greedy leeches who come out of the woodworks, and I’ll also give them a bit of leniency if they commit any crimes.”
Though New Port City did become a better place recently, the number of residents living in the slums dwarfed those who didn’t. But what if their families’ economic problems were suddenly wiped out, even at the cost of their own life?
Plus, the city would protect their families from any schemers and treat them akin to supporters of a noble family, forcing any ill-tempered man to think twice before asking for a fight. It was no wonder many mercenaries volunteered to die.
“Just to make sure, I never told them to die. What was the captain’s name again? I can’t even remember off the top of my head. Anyway, he boasted of having a very simple solution, so I left the work to him. And he delivered, just as he promised.”
Rivelia sighed as Isaac gave his best attempt at washing his hands from the incident. She shook her head.
“I guess it’s not a matter for me to bother with. Before that, I have received news that your personal airship has been completed.”
“Already? Then again, I was told that it was already at the cusp of completion. Nice timing. We will reveal the airship in the New Years Festival.”
“But when did you order a personal airship?”
“I just decided to buy the Emperor’s airship—the one that was put on hold.”
“You mean the airship our previous Emperor put into production?”
“Hm? You know it?”
Of course she did. It was an urban legend that every agent of Central had heard of at least once.
When conflict between the Directorate of Strategy and Surveillance intensified, the fight spread to relations between the Emperor and the non-humans of the Grand Council. After the final straw, the Emperor announced his political delinquency from the Grand Council. He decided to play tyrant—and the airship was one of many that were put into production as a result.
These items were created with the sole purpose of showcasing absolute luxury of the highest order. No one could possibly be allowed to see it because it was top-secret, yet the Emperor poured both the Empire’s revenues and the Directorate of Strategy’s funds to showcase his majesty.
The Grand Council snorted at first, believing that the act wouldn’t last long. At its peak, the Emperor’s wild attitude drove the Empire to the brink of bankruptcy. The Grand Council, in a desperate panic, appeased the Emperor by guaranteeing him a few rights and allowing certain technologies to be revealed.
The Emperor signed a contract promising to never do something like this again, and the rest of the items under production were repurposed. The airship was the only thing that couldn’t be reused, so the legend went that the ship lay in the corner of a storage facility somewhere.
And that very airship had landed in the hands of Isaac. The ship that was handcrafted by the Empire’s greatest artisans and bankrupted the Empire.
The airship was often referred to jokingly as the Empire’s emergency fund, because even a small fragment of the ship would be enough to fund the Directorate of Strategy for a year. To think such a priceless item was sold to Isaac; Rivelia had to say something.
“Mr. Cordnell will cry when he hears about it.”
“Don’t worry. I bought it in installments.”
Isaac commented nonchalantly, and Rivelia couldn’t help but mutter that it wasn’t the issue. She sighed, when Kalden quickly appeared.
“Ah! You were here.”
“What is it?”
“I’ve just come back after catching up with a friend of mine who works at the Capital’s Department of Administration. But it seems there’s a strange rumour spreading there.”
“A strange rumour?”
“Yes. A rumour that you, Lord Isaac, is aiming for the title of Duke using Wolfgang.”
“What bullshit is this?”
Isaac replied with a grunt, and even Rivelia smirked at the sound of it. But Kalden remained serious.
“I don’t think you can just laugh about the issue. I reacted the same way at first, but the more I think about it, the more plausible it seems.”
“Tell me in detail.”
“It isn’t much. It’s just that Lord Isaac is only playing the part of helping the Wolfgang Family and is actually using them with the true goal of ascending to become a duke yourself.”
“Why would I want to be a Duke when it’s not even higher than a Director?”
“The people don’t know that. And how they fit this piece in the puzzle is a work of art, I tell you.”
Isaac, who had no reason to join, had offered his support in the war to both Wolfgang and Lichtens on the front. But in truth, he was slowly taking over the rights of both families all the while amplifying the damages to both parties.
But when the war ended in the worst case scenario—the destruction of both families—Isaac immediately secured the sole successors to Wolfgangs, all the while leaving Lichten’s successor with an astronomical debt to Isaac that was impossible to pay off.
Taking over an entire Marquis family via debt was unprecedented. Isaac expected mass resistance if he pressed forwards. So he instead aimed for the young children of Wolfgang. But Rivelia Pendleton’s intervention sealed Isaac’s plot and revealed the inner workings of Isaac’s plan. Isaac had no choice but to step back against the growing anger of the public.
So Isaac pondered and waited for an opportunity. Isaac was given a noble title, which was expected, and used the incident caused by Lichtens’ successor as reason to declare war. The Lichtens and their vassals, who were out of fuel for another war, had no choice but to accept Isaac’s offer to emigrate elsewhere.
With the territory of Lichtens in his hand, Wolfgang was all that was left. When Kalden’s explanation reached that conclusion, Isaac raised his hand to stop Kalden. Isaac took out a cigarette, unable to mask his confusion.
“What do you mean, ‘that sounds plausible?’ That I took over the Lichtens of purpose? Well it’s true, but I’m not doing it to have it for myself.”
“That’s why nobody believes you. Who in their right mind would go so far to help someone who doesn’t share a single drop of their blood?”
“I am that lunatic.”
“And I keep telling you that people don’t know that.”
Isaac grumbled at Kalden’s refute and bit down on his cigarette.
Kalden watched Isaac’s mood carefully, probing if he should continue. He decided to tell Isaac more.
“In truth, this was a conspiracy theory that only a few were saying, but it’s been gaining popularity as of late.”
“Why? Is it the Directorate of Strategy toying with me again?”
“I don’t know about that, but from the sound of it, it’s because of you, Lord Isaac.”
“Yes. The Lichtens have lost the provincial war.”
“How is that a problem?”
Isaac frowned, unable to understand the reasoning. Rivelia, Kunette, and Reisha also cocked their heads.
“Because they surrendered not to Wolfgang, but you, Lord Isaac.”
“Does that matter? I’m going to be giving it to Wolfgang anyway.”
“I don’t think that’ll be possible.”
Isaac replied with a great frown.
“That’s because the Lichtens surrendered only to you. The Lichtens and Wolfgang are still at war with each other.”
“At war? What nonsense are you talking about?”
“According to provincial warfare laws, a province that has fought a war is not allowed to fight in another war for the next year. It’s to forbid a treacherous act of attacking another province that has been weakened by the previous war. So the Department of Administration tried to reject your request for provincial war, Lord Isaac. But as it turns out, they couldn’t reject it.”
“Everyone assumed the war was over with the final battle at the Count’s castle, but the truth is, there hasn’t been a single negotiation for a ceasefire or peace. So on paper, they were still at war with each other.”