“You have a point there. But is that even possible?”
Isaac asked, to which Rivelia answered.
“It’s possible. Wars aren’t always fought one-on-one. An increase in the number of fronts is not uncommon. Normally, provinces use alliances or form confederations to expand or threaten multiple fronts to discourage aggressors.”
“But the Lichtens surrendered, so isn’t that the end?”
“Yes. It’s over. Lichten’s territory is now part of Rondart Barony. The Noble Council will send an employee to oversee your promotion.”
“Although your combined territory’s size is that of a Marquis, it won’t be possible for you to ascend to Marquis immediately. For now, you’ll receive the title of Count, which is one rank lower.”
“Why’re they giving it to me? I’m going to hand it over to Wolfgang anyway.”
Frustrated at Isaac’s rude tone, Kalden shouted at him.
“And I keep telling you that it’ll be impossible! The Wolfgang Family have signed no pacts nor engaged in negotiations with Rondart Barony whatsoever, be it via Administrative Laws or Provincial War Laws. As such, the Lichtens have actually fought two separate wars on their own. Perhaps if the Wolfgang Family had begun to amass their forces or mobilised them to the front lines, or made any action that could have impacted the war, they may have been able to argue for their share of the spoils. But Wolfgang hasn’t taken any action whatsoever.”
“Is that such a big deal?”
“Yes. It’s a massive deal. Lichten was defeated by Rondart Barnoy. Therefore, the Lichtens’ territory will be part of Rondart Barony—which the Wolfgang County can’t ask for a single share of, let alone compensation for their war effort.”
“Why do you keep talking about shares or compensation when I’ve been telling you I’ll give it to them?”
“Because you can’t.”
“You could have given all the territory to Wolfgang citing their war contributions as an excuse. It may never have happened in the past, but you’ve made a habit of doing that anyway. However, the Wolfgang Family have been completely excluded from this matter. They don’t have any rights to demand a share of the Lichtens’ territory.”
Rivelia grimaced at him. Isaac glimpsed at her and asked with a cigarette in his mouth.
“I still don’t understand. What’s the relationship between them not having any rights and me giving the territory to them?”
“You could trade the territory under the Mercantile Laws. However, Provincial War Laws take priority over territories that have been gained through it. And according to the Provincial War Laws, transactions of territory gained through war is forbidden, with the sole exception being an inability to pay war compensations. This was an article created in fear of provincial wars motivated solely by monetary gain, but it applies to this case as well.”
Isaac frowned after listening to Kalden’s explanation.
“You’re making it sound like I fucked over Wolfgang.”
“And you did a great job at it. The Wolfgang Family received not a single bit of compensation after losing so much—yet you, my lord, managed to take it all without shedding a drop of blood.”
“So the solution?”
“You know how everyone hates you right, my lord? Both the Department of Administration and Law heard the rumours as they processed the paperwork. They realised that only the Wolfgang Family would be screwed over at this rate, so they joined forces rather than let something good happen to you, my Lord. They threw everything they had and still failed. And one of my colleagues contacted me afterwards. So realistically speaking, there isn’t a solution.”
A bitter smirk appeared on Isaac as he rubbed his chin. He remembered Mazelan’s sly snicker as he had warned Isaac. That man knew this would happen and still hid it from Isaac. But he still needed to proceed with the provincial war, regardless of his knowledge of the scheme.
It was the quickest solution to solve both the issues of the Lichtens and Port City before the year ended. It just irked Isaac that Mazelan tricked him.
“Wow, sunbaenim, did you plan all of this? What will pitiful Laila do now?”
“D, don’t bully my sister! Huaang!”
“… Isaac, bad!”
Reisha teased Isaac with a ditzy smile. Julia, who remained quiet as she waited for the boring conversation to end, quickly woke up when she heard her sister’s name before crying out in a panic. Kunette came and thumped Isaac’s leg for making Julia cry.
Chaos quickly engulfed the rooftop, but Isaac ignored all the noise and pondered for a solution—until he realised that he didn’t need to even bother.
Since Isaac needed to act like he had become greedy and attached to this world, this scenario was the perfect piece to fit in the puzzle. A scenario that would shock the world to Isaac’s content. His heart would flutter from the insults shot his way.
Isaac smirked and quickly finalized the plan. He extinguished his smoldering cigarette onto the ashtray and glimpsed over to Rivelia, who seemed afflicted with a headache.
“Is it nice being a duke?”
“I mean, now that things have turned out like this, I just had the thought that it wouldn’t be so bad to become a duke.”
“Just what are you scheming this time?”
“Hey now! Don’t say ‘scheming!’ I’m just enticed by this offer.”
“Yes, yes. Why don’t you aim for the Emperor while you’re at it?”
Isaac laughed over Rivelia’s sarcasm and turned to Kalden, who closed both his eyes and ears. This conversation could be considered treachery and defamation against the Royal Family—both crimes of highest order.
“Go and bring the brat and the entire administrative body here. I’m going to make an important announcement.”
“Is this everyone? It’s rather empty. Did they all quit just because the work got harder?”
Isaac commented when he saw how most of the seats remained empty despite the summons. It was just Cordnell, who was dozing off with thick dark circles under his eyes, Kalden, who stood awkwardly, and Rivelia, who was standing next to Isaac.
Kunette and Reisha were considered equal to Julia, who wasn’t a part of the administrative body, and they weren’t even included because they were playing in the corner of the room. Lanburton was also absent. Apparently he was too preoccupied with playing the old gentleman and accompanying noble ladies.
Rizzly, of course, was currently blasting off all the stress that had been piling up on him up until now onto Port City residents.
“We’re left with the bare minimum of manpower here because we sent everyone else to Lichtens territory.”
Rivelia mentioned, exhaustion causing her voice to tremble. Isaac cocked his head, confused as to why.
“Because we don’t have anyone else.”
How much documentation would be required if one annexed territory through Provincial Warfare? Though there wasn’t a precise scale, it was safe to assume that the workforce running a small city would be nowhere near enough.
The members of the administrative body were deployed, but most of them were sent to check for embezzlement and corruption. It was the Lord who needed to hire employees to staff the actual administration.
Therefore, most of the staff that were tasked to administration were the Lichtens’ men.
Obviously, no one was going to work for Isaac, who took over the entire territory through a vile scheme.
Even if some remained, there remained a problem of whether that person’s abilities could be trusted.
So it was left to the administrative body to confirm everything, but New Port City didn’t have anywhere near the manpower to do so. In fact, a single city shouldn’t have been able to take over a territory fit for a Marquis.
Just because the impossible happened didn’t mean its outcomes were just as easily triumphed.
The Administrative Body’s faces paled blue after seeing all the work that needed to be done, and quickly went to the Lichtens’ territory for the hard fight—all the while ignoring Isaac, who would have just irresponsibly left all the work to them in the first place.
And this irresponsible, apathetic individual wasn’t even aware of his subordinates’ current locations.
“The territory owned by Lichtens alone contains 3 major cities, 12 mid-sized cities, and villages too many to count. Plus, if we include the territories of their vassals, the number just increases exponentially! We don’t even know where to start.”
Kalden’s complaint seemed to go over Isaac’s head as he continued smoking when Rizzly and Laila appeared on the rooftop.
“You look happy?”
“Hahaha! I just got their signature on the reunification paperwork. Port City is now yours, Sir Isaac.”
“That ended quickly.”
“They love to twist their words around, but we all know what they want in the end right? They were so quick to sign when I offered tax exemption and to buy their lands at 50% above the market price.”
“Good. Occupying our minds with Port City is a waste of time, so tell them to sell quickly and fuck off from here.”
“What about Zeroman?”
Isaac asked, and Rizzly shrugged as he answered.
“I think he was quite shocked. He said that this wasn’t his place to join and wanted to have a drink. But from the way it looked, I think he wanted to jump into the canal.”
“Whatever. Don’t bother yourself with it. If he dies, he dies. We have more pressing matters. Kalden.”
Isaac pointed his chin at Laila, and Kalden began explaining the situation to her all the while wearing an expression of great pity. Laila’s face paled as Kalden’s explanation went on. By the time he finished, Laila was trembling on her feet.
“So, your thoughts?”
Laila got back on her feet with Rizzly’s help. She took a few deep breaths, and then she looked Isaac straight in the eye.
“From what I’ve heard, I believe I am of no use now that you have achieved your goal.”
Isaac took Laila’s glare and took a breath of his cigarette. Through the smoke he’d exhaled, he could see Laila was holding herself back from running over to him and throwing a tantrum.
‘She’s definitely something alright.’
Isaac was impressed by Laila’s resolute veil; most children around her age would have cried a river and thrown themselves into hysterics. Isaac maintained his gaze at Laila.
While the administrative body struggled to breathe in the heavy atmosphere, Rivelia also looked at Laila helplessly, unable to offer anything but pity because it was solely Laila’s family’s issue. Reisha quickly coaxed Julia to sleep as the mood darkened. And Kunette found her spot in Isaac’s arms.
Isaac took a puff of his cigarette and petted Kunette’s head as he spoke.
“Brat, you understand that Lichten’s lands have been absorbed entirely by Rondary Barnoy by law, right?”
“Elite staff from both the Department of Law and Administrations failed to come up with an answer, so it’s safe to say there is no way that Lichten’s lands can be transferred to the Wolfgang name.”
“… Your reaction seems rather lacking.”
“You promised my rise to Dukedom on my parents’ bodies. I will simply believe in that promise.”
Isaac stared blankly at Laila for a moment before bursting out in laughter.
She really wasn’t your average brat. Rather than throw tears and have a fit, she would rather comment on the past to stab at Isaac with psychological guilt and responsibility. It was refreshing.
“Yeah, even though I am a man who believes promises can be broken if needed, I would really like to fulfill my promise to you.”
“I will look forward to it.”
“Which is why…”
Isaac’s voice trailed off, and everyone’s attention was now on Isaac. After a brief silence, Isaac let out the bomb.
“Let’s get married.”