-Just how were you managing your employees?
Duke Pendleton criticised Isaac, who responded nonchalantly.
“I told them to not go overboard.”
Duke Pendleton grit his teeth angrily, but Isaac smirked and redirected his attention to Rivelia.
“I’m sure this damsel also took part in it.”
Rivelia was like a deer in the headlights, scrambling to make sense of the sudden ambush. But Duke Pendleton didn’t even pause as he spoke.
-It’s okay if my daughter does it.
Seeing Duke Pendleton match Isaac’s shamelessness put everyone at a loss for words. Rivelia shouted out angrily.
“I did not partake in embezzlement!”
“Hey now, you can be honest here. We all have to do what it takes to survive.”
“I said, I didn’t!”
Rivelia was so infuriated that she slammed the back of Isaac’s head angrily.
‘Smack!’ Isaac’s head bent towards the floor at a frighteningly sharp angle. The Emperor looked at the scene with glee, as if all of his pent-up emotions were suddenly released. He signalled Rivelia with a thumbs up, while Duke Pendleton clapped and sang her praises.
-Well done, my daughter!
Rivelia’s face turned bright red with embarrassment. Looking at her surroundings, she didn’t know what to do next. Her right hand slowly retreated behind her as she stepped backwards.
Isaac rubbed the back of his head and grumbled to the Queen, who snickered at the amusing sight.
“I’ve been wanting to ask, but is this coat defunct?”
-No. It’s the newest model. I see it’s working perfectly.
“But it didn’t protect me just then, did it?”
-An artificial intelligence manages the coat’s automated response system. It hardly consumes any mana crystals. I suppose it determined that you deserved to be hit.
Both the Emperor and Duke Pendleton nodded furiously in assent. Rivelia too felt that she had been justified, straightening her posture. Isaac continued to rub his throbbing head and grumbled.
“I don’t know why you guys are so serious over something so petty.”
-What? Something petty?
The Queen asked. Isaac breathed out a smoke and continued.
“The dead can’t say anything. We have the perfect candidate to frame everything on. All we need is the time to tamper with the evidence.”
The Queen nodded as if she’d realised something.
-True. He occupied quite the high position within New Port City. That should be enough to stave them off.
-Wait, wait, what are you two talking about?
The Emperor spoke in place of those lost in the conversation between Isaac and the Queen.
-We will frame all the crimes on Kalden. That way, nobody will have any justification to step in and stake a claim.
-What a despicable method!
Duke Pendleton shouted, to which Isaac shrugged.
“It’s much easier to use someone dead rather than a living person. It’s not like dead men can start rumours or conspiracies after. ”
-That man worked for you!
“And that’s why I avenged him, and I even found the culprit even though he committed suicide. Haven’t I done everything I could at this point?”
-Do you not care about his honour?!
Isaac looked at the Emperor in disbelief and spoke.
“What’s the point in considering the honour of a dead person?”
-You must consider the morale of your other men! Who will follow you with their heart if they are destined to be tarnished in their graves!
Duke Pendleton argued. Isaac laughed.
“Now that’s funny. Do you want to bet on someone—anyone—in my ranks arguing against my decision to frame Kalden?”
“I’d be amazed if even one person emerged innocent.”
It was Isaac himself who encouraged his men to embezzle since the founding of the city. But regardless of the ruling authority allowing it, it didn’t mean that you were allowed to have a festival of corruption.
They all embezzled in plain sight under Isaac’s willful ignorance. They never would have considered even concealing their actions, so this was like an open hunting season for detectives. Every line was a new conviction. No one would ever decline Isaac’s alternative of framing Kalden, especially when it would save themselves.
“But his family will suffer irredeemably…”
Rivelia spoke with concern. Isaac replied in a sarcastic manner.
“Haven’t they leeched enough off Kalden’s success at this point? Honour is above their consideration since they aren’t nobles anyway. If you feel that bad, why don’t the Pendletons take care of them?”
Rivelia instinctively looked to her father, and Duke Pendleton didn’t hesitate to speak up at Rivelia’s gaze.
-I will take care of them myself. It will be difficult for them to continue living in their original home with this dishonour, so I will give them a new identity and provide them with a new home in my lands.
-Well, if the Pendletons will take care of them…
-Hoho. Then it’ll be resolved rather simply.
Duke Pendleton clutched his head, suddenly realising his mistakes only after speaking up. But the Emperor and Queen both didn’t hesitate to push the work over to Pendleton. He had reacted without a thought when he saw his lovely daughter’s desperate eyes, but he needed to stand by his words, especially in this official setting.
Realising that she had been tricked, Rivelia considered hitting Isaac one more time as she glared intently at the back of his head. Meanwhile, Isaac pulled out a new cigarette and spoke.
“I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I only like it when I get to have a slice of someone else’s success, not the other way around. It looks like the game’s going to get bigger, so why don’t we stop talking about the small fries.”
Silence descended. His words that the game was going to start was part of it, but it was baffling to see Isaac confidently treating the Empire’s government officials like small fries.
Isaac’s airship arrived back at New Port City, landing atop what was previously the City Hall. Unceremoniously, the airship assumed its duties as the new City Hall.
It already possessed the necessary functions required to function as a city hall, and Cordnell made a convincing argument to keep it there. It would allow them to reallocate funds for rebuilding elsewhere and simultaneously act as an extravagant landmark for tourists.
He also announced Kalden’s crimes and new policies regarding the victims of the recent crisis—namely, their compensation. The severe tax punishment and heavy-handed policing policies were the focus of the controversy, but when the Department of Law sided with Isaac, the general consensus was that it was good that it ended this way.
And when rumours that the Emperor had just barely managed to prevent the Arc Royale from mobilising, complaints about Isaac’s heavy hand dissipated—all without needing Central to intervene.
The administrative body was in a state of panic at first when they realised that the secret account book was stolen, but when Isaac ordered them to frame it all on Kalden, they all agreed unanimously despite it weighing heavily in their hearts.
It wasn’t like Kalden was completely innocent, and knowing that the Pendletons would be taking care of Kalden’s families lightened the guilt just slightly.
“You finally feel alive?”
“Better than ever.”
“Isn’t the eye cumbersome?”
Rizzly testified his well-being by circling his formerly detached arm forwards. His left eye was still covered by a black eye patch.
“It’s annoying, but Laila will be taking care of me.”
Laila, who was looking at the interior of the airship in awe, quickly came back to her senses and bowed to Isaac.
“I apologise for worrying you.”
“You look fine. So? How is it? Fancy right?”
Laila ducked her head in embarrassment and whispered her answer.
“It’ll all be yours when I die. If you want it soon, then study up on how you can get me killed quickly.”
“… Will it all be mine when you die, Lord Isaac?”
“Then I have a request.”
Intrigued by Laila’s bravery, he urged her to continue with a nod.
“Please rescind the punishment of confiscating all wealth from the Port City rioters.”
“Hm.. and the reason?”
“If I can get you to rescind the punishment by convincing you, the people will come to support me instead.”
“Hooh? That’s an interesting thought. But haven’t I taught you this before? People will take courtesy to be a right when given too frequently. They may thank you at first for this, but later, they will consider it a given and demand even more.”
“It doesn’t matter. I can just ignore them then. What I need are people who can pay taxes, not destitute that I have to feed.”
Isaac burst out in laughter.
“Puhahahah! Did you hear that? She says she wants more tax payers! Good, excellent! I like your reasoning. I’ll play along with it.”
“No need to thank me. This will be an excellent opportunity for you to see how selfish humans can be.”
Isaac snickered when the doors to the airship burst open, letting Reisha, Julia and Kunette through.
Julia burst into tears and ran to Laila the moment she saw her.
“Huang! Sunbaenim, are you hurt? I should have been with you! I couldn’t help it because of work!”
Reisha massaged Isaac’s shoulder as she cutely pouted to Isaac.
Isaac sighed at the sudden chaos and lit his cigarette.
“And what’s she doing?”
Kunette only glimpsed at Isaac from behind the doors as if she was embarrassed, seemingly not eager to approach him at all.
“You see, Kunette is sorry that sunbaenim was almost hurt while she wasn’t around.”
Reisha immediately snitched to Isaac. Isaac smirked and tapped his knees. Kunette ran over to Isaac like a puppy and climbed up his knees onto his lap.
“Did you have fun?”
Isaac asked Kunette. Kunette leaned her back onto Isaac’s stomach and looked up at Isaac’s face with her adorable beady eyes.
“Isaac was hurt when I wasn’t there. Now I’m sticking with you all the time.”
Kunette emphasised the last couple of words. Isaac breathed in some smoke and spoke.
“Go out and play.”
Reisha immediately followed Isaac’s orders, dragging Kunette away despite her desperate resistance. She then led Julia and Laila out of the airship, promising to show them around the airship.
“Nothing. I’m just surprised I got off so easily.”
Just as Rizzly spoke, Reisha peaked her head back into the airship.
“Oh yeah! Mr. Rizzly, Kunette’s currently shedding her teeth, so instead of biting you, she will be eating all of your honey.”
Rain clouds seemed to materialise on Rizzly’s face almost immediately, his earlier liveliness lost under the cover.
Kalden’s funeral was rather extravagant. And at the same time, the orders of confiscation were rescinded, and when it was revealed to be Laila’s doing, support for her skyrocketed.
Finally finding a sympathetic voice, Port City residents flooded her with all kinds of pleas and complaints. They were already familiar with her due to her role in the reunification negotiations. Now, they used any and all connections they had—regardless of how petty or insignificant—to lobby her on the extortionate tax rate on Port City.
These grownups tried to pull impossible demands from Laila’s mercy and courtesy. But when she responded with a no, their reaction only taught Laila exactly what Isaac had said—that humans were infinitely selfish, and that a courtesy quickly became synonymous with a given.