“Shit! How did it get to this?”
Delkrew paced in the room restlessly as he bit down on his thumb, blood dripping the open flesh. When he was enrolled in College, he burned with a passion for stamping his mark on history with his achievements for the Empire.
When he received Central’s invitation, his pride soared at the thought that the world had finally acknowledged his talents. But when he learned the truth behind this world, his dream of service to the Emperor and Empire as a respected advisor was shattered. The following despair sent him into a spiraling depression, and he sought out therapy.
But when he was invited by the Order of the Empire to free the Empire from the shackles laid down by the non-humans and establish human preeminence in the world, his heart reignited with passion once more.
Holding onto his devotion to the Empire, he endured Isaac’s training. He persevered against Isaac’s lunacy, waiting patiently for the day to overthrow Isaac and reveal that he was a member of the Order all along.
As Delkrew had wished, the Order of the Empire had decided to make their grand debut over Isaac’s dead body.
As chief of the members who infiltrated the Directorate of Security and the sole member who had contact with headquarters, Delkrew was disappointed that he couldn’t participate in Isaac’s assassination.
But he realised their scheme had gone awry when Isaac, who should have been in New Port City, appeared at Port City instead of Laila. Delkrew tried to halt the operation, but the magical artifact seemed to have malfunctioned, preventing him from activating the emergency signal.
“Kukuku. I see even the peerless agents of Central aren’t worth much when they’re spooked.”
“Shut up, you filthy turncoat!”
Delkrew snapped at Anton, who downed an entire bottle of alcohol with a mocking smile on his face. Delkrew had been uncomfortable from the start with the fact that they had to use this disgusting turncoat that had contracted with a demon, and even more so that this turncoat had made a massive blunder.
Delkrew had arrived at the first rendezvous location for extraction regardless of the plan’s success or failure—only to see Laila and Rizzly brought into the room unconscious. They really were trying to test him.
It was difficult enough to escape the non-human’s pursuit after attacking just Isaac, let alone after kidnapping a North Bear. In this kind of situation, the Directorate of Surveillance would spare no resources in their pursuit.
And to make matters worse, contact with headquarters had been cut off. Delkrew wasn’t sure if headquarters had cut him off after declaring the mission a failure or if headquarters had been razed. Tactically, he was completely blind because none of the options had accommodated for the scenario of Anton kidnapping Rizzly.
“Kuku! Who’s calling who a turncoat now?”
Rizzly mocked. Still shackled in his giant bear form, he cuddled Laila protectively. Anton’s glare darkened, and he threw the empty bottle of alcohol at him.
Without an ounce of strength, Rizzly could only duck as the bottle shattered to pieces as it made contact with his head. Anton walked over to Rizzly and grabbed his head, growling.
“Your mouth still has a bit of life now, does it? Shall I shut it for you?”
Unhinged, Anton glared at Rizzly with his bandaged eyes. Rizzly simply faced him unflinchingly.
“Go ahead. You will die regretting waking up the monster regardless.”
“Monster? Kukuku. I contracted a demon to get my vengeance on Isaac. I am the monster!”
Anton’s eyes flickered in a frenzy at Rizzly’s warning. Anton drew his sword and chopped off Rizzly’s left arm.
Rizzly grit his teeth and tried to hold back the cry of pain, still holding onto Laila with his right arm.
“Stop, you stupid fool! Have you lost all reason, drunk on that demonic power?!”
As Delkrew stepped in between them, Anton seemed to lose interest. Anton snorted and glared at Rizzly for a moment before grabbing another bottle of alcohol. Anton threw himself onto the sofa at the opposite side of the room, guzzling it down once more.
Delkrew looked at Anton, irked, before sighing and beginning to heal Rizzly.
“You better stay put if you want to protect Laila. You’ll die like a vain fool if you provoke him. ”
“Why did you betray Central?”
“… We did not betray Central.”
“Kuku, swearing loyalty to the Empire and only the Empire? How laughable.”
Rizzly’s mockery seemed to have vexed Delkrew, who tightened the bandage around Rizzly’s shoulder roughly. Rizzly groaned in pain, much to Delkrew’s liking. Delkrew replied as he tied the loose bandage into a knot.
“I’ve done the first aid, so all you need now is to reattach that arm later.”
“If I survive that is…”
Delkrew tried his best to ignore Rizzly’s comment and continued his explanation.
“You might not want to hear this, but the current state of affairs puts humans in a rather detrimental position. We the Order of the Empire simply…”
“Whatever your excuse is, you shouldn’t have awakened the monster.”
“Are you talking about Isaac? It is I who can’t understand you guys. Why do you call Isaac, a simple lunatic with no regards to his own preservation, a monster? Why are you alerted by his every move?”
“Kukuku. That’s the difference between us and humans.”
Delkrew watched unhappily as Rizzly sniggered when the room’s door barged open. Rodney and Niske entered the room, and immediately seized Delkrew.
“What happened! This is not what you promised!”
“You failed to kill Isaac and even kidnapped a Northbear! Huuk! You, you cut his arm off!”
Irritated by Rodney and Niske, Delkrew ignored them and spoke to Anton instead.
“Why are they here?”
“What am I to do when they come here of their own will? This is their house, after all.”
Rodney and Niske quickly realised that something was amiss from their conversation; they shuffled about, unwilling to make eye contact with either person.
“They may have been followed.”
“We can’t do much about that. And we aren’t moving out now anyway.”
“… We will stay until the predetermined time.”
“Kukuku. Considering that they haven’t come by now, I’d say that they’ve already been found and captured.”
“… Impossible. I’m sure they just haven’t found an opening to escape through yet.”
“Is that wishful thinking I’m hearing?”
“Do not look down on my comrades. Even if their identities are revealed, they wouldn’t confess so easily through torture.”
“Kukuku. You seem confident. But do you still think the same knowing their opponent is Isaac?”
No. Could they truly hold on if Isaac was interrogating them? Even Delkrew wasn’t confident, so how could his comrades be any different. Anxiety began to set in, catalysed by fear that Isaac could arrive at any moment. But with the existence of the Directorate of Surveillance, there was no place in this world to escape to. They were his only hope now.
“Then we have to move immediately!”
“The North Bears and elves will come here to get us now! Why did that man kidnap them in the first place?!”
Rodney and Niske jittered about as they pestered Delkrew and Anton to act, but the recipients instead only looked at each other, both with mutual disdain for these two pieces of baggage. Rodney and Niske immediately reacted.
“Sir Anton, do not forget that we saved you!”
“We risked much to save your life!”
“I am very thankful for that. Thanks to it, I now have an opportunity to get my revenge. So fuck off before I kill you. You’ll be able to escape if luck is on your side.”
“Where are we supposed to go with just the two of us?!”
“Then you’ll have to wait.”
“Wait for what?!”
“The only hope of escape for idiots. Although I’m not sure if it’s hope or despair waiting at the end.”
“You mean those strange men?”
“Yes! Of course! Those men who came from another world! Where are they now?!”
“Kuku, can’t you see Mr. Central agent is waiting helplessly because he doesn’t know either?”
Rodney and Niske almost fainted at the sound of Anton’s dripping sarcasm. The two wanted to escape immediately, but where could they go without Anton, their only source of physical protection? Plus, they had left all of their wealth and vassals behind because they escaped here in a rush.
The reason why Delkrew couldn’t make a decision and waited idly by was because there was a method to avoid Surveillance’s eyes.
An awkward silence set in. Rodney and Niske anxiously wandered inside the room before looking at the other two and rushing out of the room. Delkrew clicked his tongue.
“Tsk! Their intentions are as clear as day. Why don’t you take care of them now?”
It was obvious looking at their expression that Rodney and Niske wanted to run over to Isaac and surrender, using this location as a bargaining chip.
“Kuku, it’s too late. We’re surrounded.”
Delkrew quickly ran over to the window and lifted the curtain slightly. Under the moonlight, shadows moved in the distance
“Shit! Regrouping is impossible now!”
“Are you sure about that?”
“I’m saying that we’ve just been used. Kuku.”
“Don’t bullshit me!”
Delkrew snarled, but Anton simply swished the last of the bottle before speaking.
“There’s one thing I forgot to say.”
“What is it?”
“Why did I bring that ugly bear? Because the Expeditionary Forces wouldn’t be coming here in the first place.”
Delkrew’s face crumbled. He realized now that he had been used all this time. He had all the opportunity to prevent Isaac’s assassination if he knew that the Expeditionary Forces wouldn’t be coming. But by kidnapping Rizzly and Laila, Anton had closed off all the other routes of action.
Both Anton and the Expeditionary Forces used the Order of the Empire for their own purposes.
“You filthy turncoat…”
“Don’t take it too personally. Didn’t you swear to die for the Empire anyway? Why don’t we put up a good, final fight, kuhahaha!”
Delkrew bit his lip and glared menacingly at Anton, but he couldn’t act. Not only was he no match in strength against Anton, but infighting now was only going to benefit Isaac. Delkrew needed to look for an opportunity to escape by using that vengeance-obsessed lunatic.
“If you call those who work with demons ‘demonic turncoats,’ and those with angels ‘angelic turncoats,’ what do you call those who work with Expeditionary Forces?”
“They are just traitors.”
Rivelia coldly summarized Isaac’s jab. The Order of the Empire had violated the most sacrosanct of rules.
It was the Empire of humans that ruled this world, and it was the humans who died at the forefront whenever demons and angels appeared. But why must we be controlled by non-humans? Let’s regain our freedom and create a world led by humans, just like the world of the Expeditionary Forces.
… That was the goal of the Order of the Empire. By that logic, all humans were on one side and all non-humans were on the other; therefore, the humans should join forces. Under that understanding, the Order of the Empire brought in the Expeditionary Forces. And with the conspiracy that the war itself is a scheme created by the non-humans in power, they concluded that peaceful interaction was possible, which led them to join forces with a demon.