The agents of Security knew better than anyone that the moment these angry protestors touched Isaac, the gates to hell would swing open—even if Isaac was in no real danger at all. Which was precisely why prioritized stopping the protestors from entering the City Hall above all else.
These agents, who had been caught red-handed joining Laila’s faction, dared not to even breathe in Isaac’s direction. They quickly excused themselves to patrol the city and stifle the outbreak of crimes in the chaos of the protests.
But Rivelia was needed elsewhere, as she had taken charge of extinguishing the fire. Someone had to take on the role of Isaac’s assistant and messenger, so the agents of Security needed to pick one from amongst themselves. Someone had to be sacrificed, and in the eyes of the agents, there was no candidate more fitting than Kainen.
“Why are you still here anyway? Didn’t you go back home?”
“… Kaizen has assumed the rule of the Rondart—I mean Karondart—Barony.”
“Huh? That idiot? What were you doing all that time?”
“My in-law’s family justified it with the pretext that the seat could not remain empty for too long. They chose Kaizen, who was already home, instead of me, who wasn’t, to govern the land.”
“Ah! It’s still Karondart if he takes over too. But you look rather calm for being on the losing end.”
“I have been well aware my in-laws have been favoring my brother over me. I would be insane to stay in the Directorate of Security otherwise.”
“Hm. You’ve got it pretty hard.”
Hearing Isaac’s nonchalant comment and seeing his singular nod, keeping a calm demeanor required more than just effort on Kainen’s part. His hand tightly curled into a fist.
The successful elite who was rising through the ranks of the Personnel Office suddenly fell to the abyss the moment the Emperor took notice of New Port City.
With the help of his in-law, his dimwitted brother had stolen away the foundation for his return to prominence. It was during this moment of despair that he was provided a single ray of hope, so no matter how unfair and filthy his situation was, he had to bear with it.
“They’re getting bolder it seems?”
Isaac muttered as the protestors began throwing rocks and sticks onto the roof. Alarmed, Kainen quickly recollected his thoughts and spoke.
“We will disperse them.”
“Hm? No. Leave them be. I’m curious as to how far they’ll go.”
‘That’s exactly what I’m concerned about.’
Kainene grumbled in his head and glared at the back of Isaac’s head. That head of his invited punches; it couldn’t have been more enticing if there was a target painted on it, was what the Security agents would say to each other.
“What’s the damsel up to?”
“Lady Rivelia has taken a number of agents and entered New Port City. But before they could, it seems that Rodney and Niske had escaped.”
Isaac looked back with surprise.
“Yes. We’ve found traces of a quick getaway. Not only Rodney and Niske, but most of the major figureheads of Port City have disappeared. We’ve formed a task force to track them, as ordered by Lady Rivelia.”
“Hm. They are just ordinary citizens, so leave that task to Smartass.”
Kainene looked back with surprise at Isaac’s order.
“Haven’t you heard?”
“According to the refugees from New Port City, Soland sunbaenim was ambushed as well.”
“Yes. Some of the lesser organisations that weren’t too happy with his rule rebelled against him. It’s also the reason why Lady Rivelia quickly enlisted some agents and entered New Port City.”
“Hah, these Port City bastards, they’ve brought everything they can.”
“Their last report says that they are currently engaged with the renegade syndicates, who are supported by a mysterious armed force.”
“A mysterious armed force… It’s hard for me to guess; there’s just too many people that hate me. Who do you think they are?”
“It’ll be confirmed soon, but most likely they are the former combat knights of Viscount Rosenberg.”
“Yes. Their titles and wealth have been confiscated for attacking emissaries. All the combat knights with even the remotest relations to the Rosenberg Viscounty have lost all future prospects. They bear the greatest grudge against you. ”
It was akin to having a criminal record. Honour and trust was of highest importance since they used tools of murder to feed themselves. It would have been strange for them not to bear a grudge when they’d been permanently branded for something they didn’t commit.
“They sound like the perfect tools to use. So is Smartass dead or alive?”
“It may have been a sudden ambush, but Soland sunbaenim is still an agent of Central. He may not have been able to win, but holding his ground or making an escape is an easy feat for him. Soland sunbaenim rallied his loyal syndicates and is currently being aided by the mercenaries.”
“The mercenaries? Are they still prattling about loyalty to me?”
“Yes. Word is, they are extremely cruel. They stand by their declaration that any those who dare to destroy the Lord’s city are unforgivable.”
“I see they are repaying my investment.”
Isaac nodded with satisfaction, but then he immediately frowned.
“Where did you get all this information?”
“The mercenaries and Soland sunbaenim have been sending messengers as things have begun to stabilise, providing us with a detailed sitrep routinely.”
“… How come I didn’t know about any of this?”
“I’m even more surprised that you didn’t know. The non-humans took an airship and entered the city without even attempting to put out the fire. That is why I’ve been sent to be your assistant. I was never told to give you a report.”
Isaac’s face frowned at Kainen’s explanation. Non-humans would never try to protect a human city. The reason they still went into the burning city was to secure the safety of other non-humans still in the city and Rizzly.
It was strange. Up until now, the non-humans sent a routine report whenever something happened. Of course, it was Rizzly who received these reports first before delivering it to Isaac, but even in Rizzly’s absence, the non-humans would send someone to Isaac. If they hadn’t said anything until now, something serious must have happened.
Isaac was pondering just what could be causing the non-humans to forgo their reports when Kainen received a message on his personal Central-issued communicator. Kainen read the message, and his face paled.
“… Lady Rivelia says there’s something the Director should see personally.”
“What’s Rizzly up to?”
“Mr. Rizzly and Miss Laila have gone missing.”
Isaac’s face stiffened in a frightening manner.
“Mr. Kalden is dead.”
Kainen unintentionally gulped and stepped back. He never knew the sight of someone standing up and dusting his legs could be so frightening.
The aftermath of a battle was apparent. The City Hall looked like the aftermath of a bombardment. Corpses and weapons littered the area, a testament to how fierce the battle was.
Rivelia was ordering people to block off the plaza, collect the bodies, and go through the debris when she found Isaac and approached him.
Rivelia greeted Isaac with a stiff expression. The mood around Isaac was terrifyingly heavy, and even she gulped.
“What are those?”
Isaac glimpsed at the group of men who were tied up in a corner. Rivelia answered icily.
“They are the culprits who joined in on attacking the city.”
“Then why are they still breathing?”
“Surrendered? We’ll talk about that later. Where is he?”
“We’ve placed him in a separate area.”
That body couldn’t possibly be given the same treatment as the numerous corpses piled up in a corner. Isaac followed behind Rivelia, and found an agent guarding a body covered with a linen sheet.
The agent, who had been rendered frozen by Isaac’s demeanor, lifted the sheet away.
Isaac looked down on Kalden’s cold dead body. He crouched and carefully observed Kalden’s body when he noticed a wound at the back of the head. Isaac frowned and stood back up.
“This isn’t what I think it is, right?”
Isaac spoke, and Rivelia pulled out an object from her pocket with a grim expression.
“We found this near the body.”
Isaac laughed emptily when he saw what was in Rivelia’s hand. An empty, cylindrical object the length of a finger. An object far too familiar.
“A cartridge casing… Kalden was shot to death. In the back of his head no less. Seeing how there’s no wound on his face, it must be a low calibre gun like a pistol. What are the elves and North Bears saying?”
“We haven’t heard any information from them.”
“Yes. They are currently concentrating their efforts on finding the missing Mr. Rizzly. And for some strange reason, they were cold to us.”
“Of course they were.”
Isaac witnessed it first hand on his way here. How the elves and North Bears, who had always been friendly and polite, forcefully invaded buildings, homes, and shops. They searched the area through force, and any who resisted were violently subdued. Many were shocked by the sight.
This act would tarnish the city’s image, but that image had already been shattered with the arson of New Port City and its warehouses. Trust was broken. But knowing how non-humans treated humans in the state of emergency was a valuable insight.
“Call over Lanburton.”
Isaac ordered Rivelia, and he gave Kalden’s body a final glimpse. He then looked at the destroyed City Hall. He sighed, took out a cigarette, and walked toward the prisoners.
These prisoners must have been making quite the ruckus, as all the combat knights were gagged. When Isaac approached them, they seemed to go into a frenzy against their bindings. The sharp look in their eyes seemed to try to mince Isaac to pieces.
Gagged, their voices were muffled, but Isaac just looked at them coldly. Isaac scanned through them and then pulled out his shotgun, pointing the twin barrels at the closest prisoner’s head. He pulled the trigger.
‘Bang!’ and the pellets blasted the prisoner’s head off. The prisoner’s panicked at the noise, even more horrified by the ease at which it decimated a human head.
Isaac immediately blew off the head of another prisoner next to the first victim. He then broke open the barrel and reloaded.
Rivelia was in utter shock at Isaac killing prisoners. She blocked Isaac’s path.
“They’ve already surrendered!”
“I know. This is just revenge. This became Central work the moment we found the cartridge casing, so don’t talk back. I’m not in the greatest of moods right now.”
Rivelia hesitated, but she stepped aside. She could have tried something if this was just a rebellion against just Isaac, but she had no say when it involved Central’s matters.
“Do you really think Mr. Kalden would enjoy such revenge?”
Isaac smirked at Rivelia’s comment.
“What are you on about? This is just self-satisfaction. I feel like doing this because someone who worked for me died. What a dead man likes or doesn’t is of no concern to me.”
“What are you doing, hold them still. It’s hard to aim.”
While Rivelia and the agents looked at Isaac in horror, the combat knights began a frantic struggle, and the syndicate members inched away from Isaac as far as possible.