The 13th tunnel of New Port City’s mining district. A tunnel that was veiled in utmost secrecy with only a select few privileged to know its existence. This was where mana crystals and its byproducts were harvested.
Within the deepest depths of the tunnel was a jail. And within a cell was Viscount Aintz—its only prisoner—dejected and in complete isolation. He lay strewn across the floor, blankly staring into the ceiling and scratching the floor with his nails. Suddenly there was a thud, and Viscount Aintz immediately ran over to the bars of his cage.
“Tsk! He’s gone completely mad.”
At the end of the dark pit was the warden who brought him food once a day—this prisoner’s only outside contact. Deranged, Viscount Aintz stretched his arms in between the bars with a groan.
With no one to speak to, Viscount Aintz had lost all cognitive ability to speak. The warden watched Viscount Aintz move his arms about like an animal for a brief moment. The warden shivered and shook his head at the horrifying sight.
Hired by Central, the warden spent his entire life managing the mine’s operations. He had worked for many mines in his career, but this mine was by far the worst when it came down to hazards.
But the one saving grace was that he was safe from the chaotic reveal of traitors in Central’s midst and the uproar in the city.
“It’s none of my business so long as this mine is operating but…”
The warden shivered once more, glimpsing at Viscount Aintz who whispered to himself. The warden intended to throw the can of rations into the cell and walk away—when his head twisted sharply and fell to the ground.
With the warden taken care of, a group of men emerged from the darkness, their footsteps reminiscent of a war march.
The man at the front of the group raised his flashlight toward Viscount Aintz, who was busy devouring the can of food with no regard for the collapsed warden. The man compared Aintz’s face with a photo and spoke.
“Hey, look here.”
Viscount Aintz responded slowly, blankly looking toward the man. The flashlight quickly blinked repeatedly. While simply just flashes at first, the beams of light lasted longer and longer with each one until Viscount Aintz’s clouded eyes began to regain focus.
“Are you awake now?”
The man asked, and the annoyed Viscount Aintz waved his hand demanding the flashlight to be moved away.
“Shit! My head. Move that away.”
The man turned the flashlight away and handed to Viscount Aintz a palm-sized wooden box.
Viscount Aintz took the box and shifted it as if solving a puzzle. With a ‘click!’ the box opened and a ray of light beamed, recreating Yoo-rah’s face.
-Huh? You’re doing fine. I heard you were in quite a predicament, locked away in the mines.
Viscount Aintz showed no surprise at Yoo-rah’s appearance, simply sighing and wiping away the food on his hand and mouth.
“I feel like killing myself. Every time I woke up, I questioned my purpose here and seriously contemplated killing myself. If it weren’t for their timely rations everyday, I would have done so long ago.”
Yoo-rah snickered at Viscount Aintz’s lament.
-It must have been hard, forcefully shoved into that incompatible body. You did well.
Viscount Aintz sighed again, and he spoke as he watched the group of men scatter in the tunnel, tinkering away.
“Seeing how they are here, I’m assuming we’re at the final stage. How did the plan go?”
– It succeeded perfectly. Central figured out that the Expeditionary Forces and demons have joined forces, we’ve destroyed all supplies within the warehouses, and Mr. Isaac is absolutely furious.
Watching the Queen’s satisfied face, Viscount Aintz let out a deep sigh.
“The supplies can be replaced, but throwing away the Arc Royale and letting them find out we have complete control over communications is a crippling loss.”
-It couldn’t be helped. We never suspected Dark Royale would try to negotiate with the Expeditionary Forces without the Emperor’s knowledge. It’s a relief we stopped the negotiations before they reached anything serious.
“The Expeditionary Forces should have been happy quietly mining away the mana crystals using the technology to bypass the gate through the demonic world that we’d donated. I’m actually impressed they tried to backstab us by joining forces with Dark Royale. Really goes to show that no ally or enemy is eternal.”
Viscount Aintz grumbled and the Queen smiled bitterly.
-But we should be glad it wasn’t the Directorate of Surveillance. If they had intervened in place of Dark Royale, we would have been caught completely helpless.
“I guess that’s the consequence of halting that forced project midway last time.”
-It has been rather cumbersome that the Dark Royale turned their full attention to us after stopping all their external activities.
Viscount Aintz turned his head to the group of men who stood idly, listening to their conversation.
“But I’m surprised they didn’t find you all out; you all have absolutely no skill in English.”
“Hey now, we can at least speak basic sentences with our high school knowledge. Nais too meechu! Ai em Jon Smis, yu es neibi lutenen.”
One of the men spoke in exaggerated Konglish. Everyone laughed.
“But what happened to the Director of Surveillance?”
-She’ll be summoned before the Grand Council.
“I guess it was worth sacrificing Arc Royale to involve her.”
-Yes. And the project has succeeded. We can finally proceed with our plans.
The Queen proclaimed, and all of the soldiers including Viscount Aintz quivered in excitement.
“It’s finally here!”
-Yes. You have waited long.
“I can say goodbye to defectives like this trash.”
-You’ll be able to pick and choose whoever you want.
“Then what will you do about him?”
-Ah, of course! You will need to do one more thing because of that.
“Uwek! Even I don’t like prancing around him when he’s mad.”
Viscount Aintz profusely refused, and the Queen smiled gently.
-Wouldn’t he enjoy meeting his old comrade in arms?
“No way. He wouldn’t hesitate to shoot his own men…”
-Regardless, thank you for your efforts.
Viscount Aintz looked for help from his colleagues, only to realise they were already looking elsewhere.
“You cheap mongrels… When do I have to go?”
-You will need to move as soon as the stage is set. It seems that the Expeditionary Forces are now plotting their own scheme, having joined forces with demons and angels.
“Is betrayal a compulsory part of their education? They really are a nuisance.”
-Now it’s a race against time.
“I’ll move as soon as I can.”
-And once I set up the grandest of stages, I’ll be waiting.
“But what will you do if he rejects our offer?”
Viscount Aintz asked, and the Queen answered without hesitation.
-Nothing will change. If Mr. Isaac refuses, eliminate him and retrieve the artifact.
With the call over and the Queen’s image gone, the men who had been tinkering with the mine’s walls shouted.
“We’ve finished setting up the charges.”
“I’ve come quite far, but thinking about that man always brings shivers up my spine. Is this what a conditional reflex feels like?”
Viscount Aintz grumbled and rolled his eyes if he hadn’t forgotten anything. After a moment he pressed the detonator’s button.
“Ah shit. Maybe I should have had a smoke before going?”
Bang! A ball of fire traveled up the mine, and its ceiling began to collapse.
Isaac’s personal airship had been placed in a storage facility immediately after its purchase, so Isaac himself had never seen it until now.
It had been collecting dust, since Isaac had no interest in seeing the airship move, let alone going abroad. But with the City Hall now a pile of debris, they needed a new place to hold their meetings. And so Isaac decided to land the airship directly on top of ruins of the City Hall—his idea of an ideal location.
The personal airship, revealed to the people for the first time, was so grand that even Isaac felt a little sorry for Cordnell after seeing it.
Going against the conventional oval-shaped balloon with a gondola attached to its underbelly, this arship imitated the shape of a dragon, complete with folded golden wings.
Curiously enough, this airship had a cruise control feature. Once it picked up speed in flight, the wings on either side would stretch out as the dragon’s head would suck in air and expel it from the other end. It rivaled the speed of an airplane.
With an exterior befitting for the Emperor’s use, even the refugees who fled the chaos returned to get a look, resulting in a massive traffic jam of bodies. While the administrative body admired its capabilities, Cordnell laid unconscious, having fainted the moment he saw it.
Its interior was just as extravagant as its outside. Extravagant luxury goods and magical artifacts decorated every surface, and one would feel sorry for even stepping foot in this realm.
And among its interior was a meeting room, originally intended for the Emperor to hold a meeting with his most trusted vassals. Its Communicator device rivaled that of Central’s headquarters, and a large rectangular table sat at the center surrounded by comfortable chairs. In the corner, a sofa and bar put a luxurious finish on the room.
Isaac filled the glass with ice and amber whisky, the clink and sloshing echoing into the room. Isaac took a sip of the whisky, admired its bitter and burning taste, and then threw himself onto the sofa.