Isaac was tweaking his original plan to inflict the most damage possible at a critical moment when Rivelia opened the door.
“Lord Isaac, it’s time for you to join the meeting.”
“The meeting? It still hasn’t finished yet?”
“It seems that they wish to detail what’s to be done in New Port City and to you, Lord Isaac.”
“Just how hard are they trying to screw me over? Why can’t they send a message—they want to see my reaction in real time? Face-to-face? Connect me.”
Isaac sat on his chair while Rivelia tinkered with the Communicator. Soon, the Emperor, Duke Pendleton and the Queen’s faces appeared.
“What the, why is the Director of Surveillance still not present?”
Isaac assumed that he would finally see the Director, yet they weren’t present—again.The Queen snickered as she answered.
-The Director of Surveillance has been summoned by the Grand Council.
Isaac was pondering just what the Director could have done wrong to be summoned by the Grand Council. The Emperor didn’t bother hiding his displeasure, however, and glared at the Queen before explaining.
-The Director of Surveillance has been investigating the masterminds behind the Order of the Empire long before this incident in New Port City. However, they’ve been charged with insubordination, having acted independently without notifying other departments.
“Those controlling the Order huh… So they had information on the assasination plot too. Yet they didn’t tell me anything.”
-Not only you, but neither Strategy nor Analysis received any details whatsoever.
“So who was it that wanted to kill me?”
The Emperor’s and Duke Pendleton’s mouths clamped shut, their expressions cryptic. Isaac looked at them confused, and the Queen finally spoke up in their stead.
-It was Arc Royale.
“… The same Arc Royale I’m thinking of?”
“Hm… Arc Royale.”
It seemed plausible. Fanatically loyal to a fault, the Arc Royale would not have been able to accept the truth that the Emperor—their holy deity—took orders from a higher body. And it was the Grand Council too, a body revolving around the interests of non-humans.
It seemed plausible that the Arc Royale founded the Order of the Empire as a foundation to radically change the power structure within Central.
“I can see those lunatics joining hands with the Expeditionary Forces to kill me…”
In the Arc Royale’s view, their greatest eyesore was the Queen, not the non-humans. She swore no fealty to the Emperor despite being a human and held more power than the Emperor himself, thanks to the non-humans’ assistance.
And Isaac, as the Queen’s close aide, was to develop his lands as centre of trade and transportation. This would further strengthen the Queen’s authority, so it made sense they would target New Port City and Isaac.
Isaac’s death would double as a message and ploy to weaken the Queen as well. Not to mention, there was already bad blood between the Arc Royale and Isaac, making him the perfect target.
As the Emperor’s closest guards, they had plenty of opportunity to access classified information such as the mana crystal mines and information on demons.
This was an issue completely beyond the matter of a mere assassination attempt. It meant that the Arc Royale had created the Order of the Empire as a scapegoat to conspire with the Expeditionary Forces and demons—all to root out the non-humans.
“Those guys really messed up big time.”
The Emperor, from whom Isaac expected a grumble, smirked instead. Isaac pondered why. There was no way to prove the Emperor’s involvement if any, but he most definitely couldn’t avoid responsibility as their leading authority. The non-humans would have been dying to devour the Emperor at this point, yet he seemed at ease.
-They can’t quite lay the blame on him directly. The Emperor and the Directorate of Strategy have been consistently warning the Grand Council about the possibility of the Arc Royale’s loyalty taking a strange turn. They’ve repeatedly argued that their powers be reduced.
Isaac replied to the Queen with great surprise.
“Why did Central ignore it?”
The Queen snickered and shrugged.
-They were quite useful, you see.
Isaac smirked with the Queen. He could guess what use they served.
Non-humans didn’t care about a human death toll. They would never consider civilian casualties in their plans. But if a team composed of primarily non-humans pushed ahead with an operation knowing the human collateral damage, the humans would surely retaliate. In that case, they were vastly outnumbered.
The Arc Royale, certified for massacring anyone who insulted the Emperor and the Empire en masse, was a perfect scapegoat for non-human activity. So the non-humans would do everything to preserve them, while the Emperor wished otherwise.
“Is that why the Director of Surveillance was summoned?”
-They were summoned for eliminating the Arc Royale without the Grand Council’s approval.
So they weren’t punished for moving individually without the input of the other Directorates but for eliminating the Arc Royale.
“It’s a shame, but I’ll see them when the opportunity comes later. So have you decided?”
Isaac asked, to which the three looked to each other, all with troubled expressions.
“What’s the problem?”
Isaac asked again, the only one smiling. The silence seemed to have nominated the Queen, as both the Emperor and Duke Pendleton directed their gazes at her. The Queen coughed and spoke.
-The situation has gotten more complicated.
“When has it ever been easy?”
-First, we decided to go with your decision regarding the punishment of the Port City rioters.
“Really? I thought you guys would negotiate some alternatives.”
Isaac exclaimed in surprise, to which the Queen looked at the Emperor, frowning in displeasure.
-The name Arc Royale served its purpose.
“I guess this was worth their name.”
New Port City was Isaac’s land, as declared so by the Emperor. And since the two cities reunited, Port City was also Isaac’s land. But the citizens failed to accept the fact. Not only did they protest, but they even became riotors and took part in the plot for Isaac’s assassination. Thus, it was a rebellion against the Emperor, who had appointed Isaac the Lord of New Port City!
It was a rather heavy bit of mental gymnastics, but for the Arc Royale, it wasn’t so out of reach. Just hearing whispers of the name “Arc Royale,” the populace came to the conclusion that Isaac’s offer was much cheaper in blood.
Using these guidelines, Central manipulated the media—going so far as to play an entire act of the Emperor just barely managing to halt the Arc Royale that in reality no longer existed.
Everyone who was involved in the Port City affairs quickly learned to clamp their mouths shut. Forget even the thought of disagreeing, let alone retaliating against Isaac’s tyranny, lest it be their heads lopped off.
The threat of being charged as accomplices to an assassination plot in combination of the Arc Royale’s violence-first motto, the riotors’ protests against Isaac’s brutality quickly fizzled.
“It seems like you’ve got it covered up quite nicely, so what’s making it complicated now?”
Isaac asked, and the Queen spoke back accusingly, the troubled expression still on her face.
-You are at fault for this too, Mr. Isaac.
Isaac immediately assumed his own innocence. The Emperor and Duke Pendleton groaned and glared at him while the Queen sighed.
-Coincidentally, the power of the media has gotten much stronger. The Empire must consider the public’s opinion.
“If anything, I can just hand over New Port City. It’s not like I have nowhere else to go.”
-No can do. New Port City needs you Mr. Isaac.
The expressions of Isaac, Duke Pendleton, and the Emperor immediately shifted at the Queen’s answer. They were all playing the front of serving this world while hiding their true intentions, silently judging the best time to swing their hidden blades at one another.
That was why the Queen’s claim that Isaac had to be in New Port City. With just a single look, he could see as clear as day the Emperor’s and Duke Pendleton’s head resting on their arms in thought.
‘They must be confused. Ha, even I’m confused by this.’
The reason why Isaac proposed such a forceful quelling of the riotors was partly because he didn’t want to take this situation lightly—but also to find out just how important he was.
With the entire continent as witness, everyone had reasons to attack Isaac. He planned to distiguish enemy from ally as attacks came from all sides, yet only the Directorate of Surveillance—one he considered an ally but not so much a friend—was demonstrably incompetent.
The Emperor and Duke Pendleton had seemingly made no moves to threaten Isaac, only condemning him for his brutality. They had never attempted to drag him down as of yet.
Yet, it was the Queen who maintained his importance here. The fact that she mentioned it could mean it was a bait—or the preparations were complete, so it didn’t matter if it was revealed. Or, it could mean that the operation was already in progress. It could also just be buying time. Nobody knew.
“Is it that bad that the media has gotten bigger?”
Isaac asked, and the Queen shot a glance at the Emperor and Duke Pendleton before continuing.
-This is a political matter we cannot deal with ourselves. The various political factions all know how large of a pie New Port City is. They’re practically drooling over it, and now they’re making moves to each get a piece.
“And you can’t protect it?”
-Because you gave them a reason, Mr. Isaac.
Isaac took out a cigarette with a troubled expression. He laid out bait to see who was coming, yet he only attracted small fry.
“Does that matter?”
No matter what political faction, they could not escape the Emperor’s influence.
One word from the Emperor could easily resolve the situation, so Isaac couldn’t understand the ruckus. The Queen, Emperor and Duke Pendleton sighed in unison.
-We can cover up the brutality and insubordination because it can be downplayed, but the discovery of a secret account book is a grave issue.
“Hm? What secret account book?”
Isaac asked back, hearing it for the first time.
-Did you not receive a report?
-Some of the rioters looted the casinos during the incident. And some of them took the account book that was being kept in the casinos.
“I’m pretty sure I paid all the taxes.”
-Like I said. This is the secret account book. Not only did it have evidence that New Port City was laundering money through casinos but also evidence that casino guests created slush funds. And the media revealed it all.
Isaac sighed deeply. He folded his arms and chewed on his cigarette.
“That should hurt everyone who created slush funds too.”
-That’s the problem. You provided these political parties an opening to attack, Mr. Isaac. The political atmosphere of Gabelin will be tumultuous for the foreseeable future.
“Am I becoming the scapegoat for it?”
-We can’t reveal that you are the Director of Security within Central—that would result in greater problems. Which is why we can’t do anything.
Isaac sighed at the Queen’s words. With the reunification with Port City, New Port City’s growth was about to take flight to a whole new level. Other factions would not simply watch as a select few got to monopolise it.
Isaac could imagine everyone coming at him from all sides to claim a share, now that New Port City was not only a massive source of wealth but also a haven for illicit funds.
He was already getting frustrated. Now, he’d have to waste time dealing with all these small fry who’d never run out of reasons to lay a claim on his pie.