“There is a way to cure it, right?”
“Mr. Lanburton requested a delivery of the world tree’s sap. The demonic power shouldn’t have any lasting effects on her once she consumes it.”
“… That sap of the world tree—is it the same sap that the elves use to make their honey? The same thing they dilute a single droplet of with water?”
“Yes. The diluted sap is used for mass production, but their higher-quality honey contains a single droplet of pure sap. I’ve never tasted it, but I’ve heard it’s magnificent.”
Rizzly grinned as he thought of honey while Isaac looked blankly.
“And they’re going to give us an entire bottle?”
“The sap of the world tree is the most effective counteragent to demonic energy. And I too requested that my tribe deliver a snow flower.”
“What’s a snow flower?”
“It is an important herb—although not at the level of a treasure—that is managed by our tribe. It’s a potent medicine. If a human consumes it, they’ll never fall sick to common illnesses, and they’ll remain quite healthy for the rest of their life. We’ve given a snow flower to a human only three times in our tribe’s history.”
“And you’re giving it to that brat?”
Isaac asked, and Rizzly looked softly at Laila as he patted her head.
“Because it’s clear as day an arduous future awaits her—even worse than what she’s suffering now. Didn’t she almost die just recently by being caught up in this incident?”
“… Is this what it means to be a protagonist? One sick leave and the spotlight is all over them. No. It pisses me off the more I think about it. I understand you’re taking care of an innocent victim of a tragedy, but aren’t I the real victim here? So why isn’t there anything for me?”
“Would you accept our gifts if we did offer it?”
“For whose benefit?”
Isaac answered without hesitation in the midst of grabbing a new cigarette, and Rizzly looked as if he saw the answer coming.
“That’s why all the gifts that were intended for you are being given to Laila instead. Whatever your intention is, Laila is still your daughter.”
Isaac cringed hearing the word “daughter.” He looked down on Laila, unconscious and gasping for air. Isaac put his cigarette back in his pocket.
“I die, then I revive, and then get a daughter when I don’t even have a wife. I swear, my life is a melodrama.”
Seeing Isaac complain to himself, Rizzly’s face stiffened. He asked.
“But you seem to have changed a bit?”
“Me? I have to. I can’t stand idly when they’re asking for a fight. I’m planning to act like myself.”
“Now that’s terrifying to hear.”
“So then. Who shot Kalden in the back of his head?”
“What? Mr. Kalden is dead?!”
Rizzly shouted out in utter surprise. Isaac frowned.
“You didn’t know?”
“No!! I mean, who killed him?!”
“I came here to ask you.”
“What? Why would you ask me?”
“Because Kalden died at City Hall.”
“Impossible. Only Laila and I were at City Hall. Even the plaza outside the City Hall was empty. All the merchants had left for Port City, saying this was their time, and the Blue Roses had stopped working on that day too. There wasn’t a single person walking nearby. I faced the combat knights that suddenly attacked us, and then I noticed a demonic presence at the roof of the City Hall. It kidnapped Laila and escaped, so I chased after it. But I couldn’t do anything because Anton held Laila hostage using his corruptive demonic energy, so I was captured alongside her.”
Isaac’s face turned serious.
“So Kalden wasn’t at the City Hall?”
“… I was so focused on his death that I forgot to check where he died.”
Isaac thought Kalden died at the City Hall, since the body was found there. Cordnell had also testified that Kalden was complaining about there being no end to his work and that he had delegated the ceremony work to Cordnell while he remained at City Hall to finish his own work. So Isaac didn’t bother to ask at all. But was he really not at the City Hall?
“Tsk! This is my fault for not confirming. But what about the combat knights when you chased after Anton? They must have chased after you right?”
“What? No. They immediately entered the City Hall, shouting, “The Northbear ran away!! Kill Isaac!” I knew that you weren’t present, so I didn’t hesitate to chase after Laila. But I made sure to remember the face of the man who said I ran away.”
Isaac saw Rizzly grit his teeth in anger and got on his feet with a sigh.
“Are you going?”
“I’ll need to find out who killed Kalden.”
“I’ll go too.”
“Don’t bother. Watch yourself and take care of that brat. She’s a precious one.”
Isaac grumbled and left Rizzly in the hospital. Lanburton immediately approached him.
“What is it?”
“Lady Rivelia asks that you return to the meeting room immediately.”
“Why? The damsel can report on the current situation in my place anyway.”
“Do you think the meeting will go as planned when Duke Pendleton is present there too?”
“Is it that bad?”
“Consider that it’s Lady Rivelia of all people who is asking for you.”
Isaac smirked and bit down on a new cigarette.
“I can’t possibly miss out on something so fun.”
Isaac’s direction changed towards the City Hall. Lanburton sighed with relief and followed him. As the two walked down the corridor, Isaac remembered something and asked Lanburton.
“Oh yeah!! Do you know where Kalden died by any chance?”
“What? It was at the City Hall…”
“I thought so too, but that’s not the case. Contact Smartass to find anyone who saw Kalden.”
Lanburton nodded at Isaac’s answer when a man stopped them in their path.
“… Who are you?”
A giant with an innocent face unbefitting his large build looked at Isaac and smirked.
“Our Smartass wants to see the Lord.”
Lanburton looked at the giant in utter astonishment while Isaac laughed.
“Who’s this Smartass?”
“Smartass is Smartass. But Smartass doesn’t like it when we use that name in front of him.”
Isaac sighed deeply. It seemed that Soland had sent this man, but he looked like a typical muscles-for-brain character.
“Did you wrong Smartass by any chance?”
“Me? Hehe. I’m Smartass’s right hand man.”
Watching the giant chuckle mischievously, Isaac couldn’t stay angry at the man and chuckled with him..
“I can’t even hate this guy. Take him elsewhere for a meal or something. It seems I’ll need to answer our syndicate boss’s call.”
“What? But everyone’s waiting!”
“You heard that man. Our dear Syndicate Boss demands that I come to him, so I better listen and head there first.”
“… Is that the message I should send?”
“Make sure you deliver it properly. That my Syndicate Boss called me, so they should shut up and wait.”
A Central agent calling Isaac away from a meeting where the Emperor, Duke Pendleton and the Queen waited? It didn’t matter to Isaac, but it was sure to darken Soland’s future.
Isaac slowly walked the city road. What was once a road filled with children’s laughter was now replaced with cold silence, much like the city used to be before Isaac came here. Isaac could feel the stares of prying eyes in the alleyways and at the windows.
The eyes scattered immediately when Isaac’s gaze swept over them. But Isaac could see fear in their eyes in the brief moments their eyes met. Only the weeps of families who lost their dear ones during the confusion echoed in the city.
After wading through the somber atmosphere, Isaac arrived at his destination—the warehouse district. Nothing remained in these ruins other than ashes and embers. The stench of burnt wreckage struck Isaac’s nose. At the loading dock were Soland and Milena, along with syndicate members who stood waiting for Isaac, stiff as a rock. Next to them stood Flander and the mercenaries, who were more at ease in comparison.
But when Isaac immediately kicked Soland without word or reason, the leisurely look evaporated from the mercenaries, leaving only tense nervousness. Soland grit his teeth and stepped back without a moan, before returning to his original position. Isaac grabbed for a cigarette.
“It’s gotten rather comfortable hasn’t it? Not only did you fail to take control of some alleyways, but you got ambushed on top of it. Did you get a stomachache from all your minions’ donations? I guess you really like that title, “Syndicate Boss.” Do you want to swap? I want to sit on your chair and call my Lord to get his ass over to me as well.”
“I had no choice.”
“Give me one reason why I should keep you as the Syndicate Boss.”
“I found out why Mr. Kalden died.”
Isaac stopped in the middle of lighting his cigarette and grinned at Soland.
“Now you’re saying something interesting.”
The cold grin on Isaac’s face sent a wave of fear into the surroundings. Soland faced Isaac head on and spoke.
“There was a survivor from one of the guards patrolling the warehouses. He woke up in the hospital just moments ago and testified that he saw Mr. Kalden run from the Warehouse District towards the City Hall. The guard thought it was strange that Mr. Kalden was here. Mr. Kalden didn’t have a reason to be here, after all, so the guard took a detour from his original route to report it. That was why he was outside the blast radius and how he survived.”
“Kalden was in the warehouse district?”
“Yes. And the warehouses exploded the moment he left.”
Isaac raised his hand and blocked Soland’s mouth.
“You better watch your next words.”
Soland nodded at Isaac’s warning and approached Isaac, whispering into his ear.
“I too thought of a possibility that Mr. Kalden was recruited by the Order during his studies in Campus, but New Port City was nowhere important as it is now when he first arrived here. Back then, Lord Isaac was but one of many surveillance targets too.”
“So rather than investigating his betrayal, I investigated why Mr. Kalden came to the warehouse district in the first place.”
After that, Soland waved at his minions behind him. The syndicate members hesitantly walked over and arranged a few objects in front of Isaac.
Isaac looked down on these objects and then looked to his surroundings. Other than Soland, everyone looked curiously at these objects, wondering what it could be.
“… They most definitely weren’t listed in our account books right?”
“I investigated all the warehouses based on testimonies. They must have been ejected by the blast; it’s all we have. Those who don’t know its true form would have considered it to be remnants of some machinery, and I would have never investigated it myself if there hadn’t been traces of Mr. Kalden. Nobody would have known. After investigating, the warehouse we found was listed as empty.”
Isaac looked down on the objects again arranged in front of him.
Most of these objects had been burnt to a crisp and deformed beyond recognition. But when you placed a long, thin and bent iron pipe next to it, one could only picture a destroyed firearm.