“Kuk! What the? Did a seed of parental love sprout inside you all of a sudden? I thought you gave up on everything when you contracted a demon? Then again, you’d never have taken the bait so angrily if that was true.”
“Please… I ask, no, I beg you, mercy.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t accept that request. I can’t possibly wake up Sophia, who’s sleeping soundly in Campus, to look at the face of her thought-to-be dead father, now can I?”
Confused, Anton stared at Isaac, the anguish in his face replaced with a blank expression. Isaac snickered and pulled at Sophia’s lifeless head.
“Hello. Help me.”
Anton’s face was frozen in stupefaction as the doll enunciated the words in a stiff, monotonous voice.
“Central’s favourite doll for whenever they need a simple body double. Did you really think I brought Sophia here? No way that damsel would have stayed put if that was the case.”
All strength was sapped out of Anton’s body. It was just as Isaac said. Rivelia would have never watched in silence as an innocent woman was cruelly tortured and murdered in front of her. Anton should have figured it out then, but watching his beloved wife die rattled his emotions to the point where his mind was devoid of logic and reason—and possessed only by the notion of vengeance against Isaac.
“Then what about that?”
“Ah, your wife? You were saying that Central’s playing with the world, right? That’s one of their methods. Everything you see on the screen isn’t always true. Did you actually think a College graduate, a rank 1 knight and the master of New Port City would commit such crimes against innocent citizens of the Empire?”
“Kukuku, so I’ve been played for a fool from start to finish?”
“But I didn’t expect you to fall for it so easily. I was planning to rile you up moderately before moving on to the next stage, but to think you’d fall for it on the very first stage. Such a shame to let it all go to waste after all the effort I’ve put in.”
“… What was the next stage?”
Anton asked, and a bloodthirsty smile curled up on the edges of Isaac’s face.
“Well, I wonder?”
Anton didn’t have the courage to press Isaac further. Even if it was fake, Isaac had demonstrated such cruelty against his family. He didn’t want to imagine just what this next stage could hold.
“Let’s wrap this up quickly since we don’t have time to waste. Where are the Expeditionary Forces?”
“Kukuku. Do you expect me to tell you that? You don’t have anything to threaten me with now.”
Anton mocked Isaac, who stubbed out his cigarette and pulled out a new one.
“I don’t know what you’re thinking is going to happen, but do you really think it’ll all be over with just your death after cutting off a bear’s arm? Do you think the Empire will protect the family members of a demonic turncoat when the North Bears demand vengeance, or will the Empire give away the family? Not even this damsel will be able to stop it then.”
Anton’s eyes quaked fearfully. Completely forfeit, he closed his eyes.
“Promise me the safety of…”
Isaac stepped on Anton’s head before he could finish his sentence.
“You keep on making the same misunderstanding that you’re in a position to negotiate with me. You can only beg for mercy. This is what gapjil is. Understand?”
Anton’s body trembled from the disgrace of having Isaac’s foot digging him into the ground. Moments later, he spoke with a hollow voice.
“There was one thing the demon asked me to do when I signed the contract. ‘In exchange for the power to kill Isaac,’ I must buy time as much as possible against Isaac if the assassination were to fail.”
“That’s right. The demon’s condition was that I buy enough time for the soldiers of another world so they can complete their mission.”
“Sir Isaac, this is!”
Lanburton cried in panic. If what Anton said was true, it only meant one thing. The Expeditionary Forces had joined forces with demons. Isaac frowned and glared at Anton, removing his foot from Anton’s head and seated himself into the chair snugly.
“What was the Expeditionary Forces’ mission?”
“That I do not know. I met them once before, but they were guarded against us as well. I heard them talk to one another, but it was a language I’ve never heard before. And the man who seemed to be their captain introduced himself as John Smith of Navy Seal.”
“Navy Seals? Now some famous celebrities have revealed themselves.”
Protagonists of a countless number of action movies, they were the one and only Navy Seals. They may not have been as unstoppable as they were portrayed in the movies, killing a hundred men one bullet at a time, but they were a special force with prestige and a proven track record. And with inside help, infiltrating and blowing up the warehouse district must have been one of their easier missions.
Isaac frowned. Something was happening just under his nose, but he couldn’t grasp exactly what it could be, frustrating him even further.
“I’ve said everything I know. Kill me.”
Anton’s voice brought Isaac back from his thoughts.
“Hm? Ah. Sorry, take him out.”
Isaac gave his order but the elves and North Bears did not act—only hesitate. Isaac’s brows furrowed when Lanburton spoke up.
“We can’t kill him now. We have to transport him back to Central’s headquarters and confirm the information he’s revealed.”
“Can’t you do it here right now?”
Isaac asked, and Lanburton shook his head.
“Elves may be able to determine the level of truth behind words, but we can’t declare with our instinct alone for something so important. We need to do some intensive interrogation at headquarters.”
Isaac turned to Anton and spoke.
“You heard that? Sadly, you’re going to be breathing just a little longer. Take him away.”
With Isaac’s order, Anton was tied onto a carrier and dragged away. Even as he disappeared, Anton shouted demands for the safety of his family. Rivelia glimpsed at Isaac.
“You’re not going to exact revenge on his family right?”
“Who? Anton’s family? Why would I drag something on when it’s already over? Before that, bring me that Central agent.”
The North Bears quickly entered the villa and dragged Delkrew out. The North Bear’s glares were much colder than when they were looking at Anton, a demonic turncoat.
“Using family as bait. The fact that Central placed someone like you on the seat of Director is proof that my beliefs aren’t wrong”
Delkrew grit his teeth and stabbed first with a jeer, but Isaac wouldn’t even flinch at such an act. Isaac stared deeply at Delkrew’s boldness. Isaac sighed and asked.
“Alright. That’s good and all. I’m sure you have an important and grand reason behind it all. But we just released all that technology recently. You know how much the world will change because of it, so what’s gotten you so unhappy?”
“That in itself is a scheme made by the non-humans.”
“To develop human civilization is their scheme?”
“The non-humans structured this world so their rule becomes stronger the more human civilization advances, much like in the Expeditionary Forces’ world.”
Isaac curiously cocked his head.
“What nonsense is this? You should be aware how much power the new technologies have since you were associated with Central in the first place.”
Isaac asked and Delkrew glared at the non-humans around him.
“That’s exactly what they want. As our civilization advances forward, the non-humans will gain the ultimate power to destroy us in mere moments.”
“What power is that?”
Isaac asked and Delkrew asked back at Isaac.
“Do you know who prints the Empire’s currency?”
“That’s obviously the…”
Isaac suddenly shut his mouth. He then smirked, shook his head with disgust, and looked back at Lanburton.
“Ha, for all those acts of innocence and naivety, you sure know how to take everything that matters.”
Human society was primarily a capitalist world, both in this world and the previous one. In a world where money ruled everything, currency was power.
But what if it wasn’t the Empire—but the non-humans—that controlled the flow of currency? Then “advancement” wasn’t advancement at all; it was just a sinister, growing dependence.
If the Empire were to rebel against the rule, the non-humans didn’t even need to intervene. They’d simply pump a practically infinite amount of currency into this world, bribing more agreeable nobles and encouraging them to become the next Emperor. The Empire would crumble from within afterwards.
“That’s not all. From mines for all mineral ores, food, medicinal ingredients, and other goods needed for basic life—they’re all monopolised by the non-humans.”
“So this is what Rizzly meant when he said there were multiple methods.”
Right now, where there was a great disparity in transport times, an overabundance or a lack of currency would only affect small locales.
But when the transportation and supply chains of goods turned from chain links to spider webs and the supply of raw materials became taken for granted, anything that affected one location would impact everywhere else.
Isaac rubbed his temples to ease his headache, and asked Lanburton.
“You knew there were idiots from the Order right?”
“Why did you ignore them?”
Isaac asked, and Lanburton shrugged.
“The Directorate of Surveillance isn’t so idle as to waste time interfering with some humans’ hobby.”
“How dare you call it a mere hobby!”
Delkrew shouted, and Isaac retaliated by kicking Delkrew’s chin in anger.
“And you didn’t even work on that hobby properly. Discriminate the non-humans and create a world ruled by humans you say? So joining hands with other humans is a given? If your history is too short to learn from because of the 7 Days of Calamity, you should have studied the history of that other world that you love so much. You should know that worlds ruled by humans are the same!”
Isaac kicked Delkrew over and over. His nose broke and shards of enamel crumbled out of Delkrew’s mouth before washing away in the rain. Isaac still didn’t seem satisfied and looked around. He spotted a chair he was just sitting on, and swung it right at Delkrew.
“Do you know just how many nations fell over thousands of years thanks to idiots like you who acted in the name of greater good! How many nations fell because fools like you brought outside forces into their nation! How the people of the fallen nation suffered because of it! All of that is laid out in the open if you looked in their history book for a brief moment, but you had no interest in it right? No! Maybe you ignored it despite knowing it. With that baseless confidence that you were different from them.”
“He’ll die at this rate.”
Lanburton carefully stopped Isaac, noticing that Delkrew was motionless against Isaac’s relentless violence. Isaac finally withdrew his anger, took some deep breaths, regained his composure and grabbed for a cigarette and spoke.
“Phew. Can’t let him die so easily. He’s pretty smart, orchestrating a suicide by pissing me off. As expected of College graduate. Wake him up.”
I don’t think so… thought everyone else as they looked on in fear when Lanburton forced Delkrew to regain consciousness.
Delkrew moaned in pain, but he still didn’t seem to learn his lesson and glared at Isaac. Isaac spoke once more.
“Let me ask one thing. Seeing how you’re the only person from the Order here, I suspect you’re one of their leaders. Was there anyone, even from Port City or Anton, who met with the Expeditionary Forces military planning?”
Isaac didn’t need to wait for an answer. Seeing Delkrew’s eyes tremble was all the answer Isaac needed.