“So how long do you plan on keeping Port City’s tax rate that high?”
Cordnell asked Isaac, having finished giving his progress report and summarising their current financial state to Rivelia, Soland, Rizzly, Laila, and him.
“Hm? Until everyone from Port City leaves of course.”
“… So you’re going to drain them dry, is it?”
“I told you. I hate it when someone else tries to take a piece of my pie.”
The tax rate was 200%. That meant they had to pay double their income as tax. Essentially, they had to fuck off if they didn’t like it. The only reason this preposterous policy even passed was because Port City was Isaac’s land.
As according to the laws of fiefdom, if the citizen didn’t like the tax rate, they were free to leave.
But these Port City idiots, whose hatred against Isaac burnt eternally, didn’t leave purely because the future ahead seemed to look so sweet.
Materials gathering would begin attracting people and their money. Port City was bound to grow much larger than it was now. So the citizens had been trying their hardest to tough it out.
Politics in Gabelin were in chaos too, as factions who created slush funds through the casinos illegally were being attacked by their foes, leading to endless fights of counterattacks after counterattacks. During the process, they realised the power of the media and came to the conclusion that they needed to misdirect the public eye—and thus they went searching for a suitable target.
What better target than New Port City, the source of the illegitimate funds? The attacked parties were busy cutting their losses while redirecting the daggers aimed at them toward Isaac. Because of the connections Port City had, they overheard that inspectors would be coming to New Port City. They dreamed of the inspectors beating Isaac down, and leaving the city afterwards to be theirs once more. This was the reason why they clung on so desperately despite the 200% tax.
“What will you do if all Port City citizens leave?”
“I’ve got citizens from New Port City. There were so many business ideas I wanted to try but couldn’t because we lacked space. Now, we’ll have the chance to do so. New Port City will have plenty of spaces once I move all New Port City citizens into Port City.”
“You’re going to move them all?”
“That’s the plan. So make the policy as discriminatory as you can. Make it so blatant that they leave out of spite and disgust more than anything. Got it?”
Cordnell merely nodded at Isaac’s order. In the past, he would have made some effort to change Isaac’s mind, but what pity and affection he had for Port City evaporated when its citizens rampaged through New Port City.
Plus, he did a quick calculation of how much profit there would be once New Port City’s residential areas were redeveloped. The answer was outstanding to say the least.
The Magical Spire district, casinos, and warehouse districts were the main source of their income. But the casinos were robbed by the rioters and the warehouses burnt down, resulting in massive losses. If there was one saving grace, it was that Isaac’s quick response of compensating the merchant guilds for their lost product was much less of a blow than expected.
The tax rate was almost non-existent for the warehouses, but these merchants and their greed wrote much less than what was there to further evade taxes. But New Port City was only responsible for what was written in the books, so the merchant guilds had to just eat their losses.
And since this was entirely illegal, they couldn’t even complain to anyone else over this topic. Some of the guilds couldn’t recover from the losses, leading to bankruptcy. The aftereffects were enduring , but that was a problem for the government to solve, not New Port City.
And with everything burnt down, they could start rebuilding the warehouses with proper schematics—originally, they were simply expanded when needed, resulting in a complicated sprawl of buildings. After all, what mattered was the warehouse’s contents, not the warehouses themselves. It took so little time and money to rebuild them, it wasn’t even a loss at that point.
“The Security agents moved back to their posts in your lands along with the mercenaries, distributing the lands into their own districts for reorganisation. As ordered by you, Lord Isaac, we are creating a standing army and disarming and firing all who are uncooperative. That has led to some bloodshed internally. Perhaps you should tone down a little. It would provide a good excuse for the government if they wanted to intervene.”
Cordnell too had connections of his own, and his ears picked up on the rumours. Most of the rumours hinted at the capital’s impending move on New Port City. Too many things had been done under the capital’s tacit approval. If the capital wanted to intervene, they could easily sink New Port City under the weight of its illicit activities.
“Don’t worry about that. The higher-ups will make sure to handle it.”
Isaac responded nonchalantly, when the meeting room’s door burst open and Kainen shouted desperately.
“We’re in deep trouble!”
“… Now you’re saying we’re in trouble too? In fact, why are you still here? Why aren’t you working somewhere else?”
“I have taken over Mr. Kalden’s position.”
Isaac looked to Cordnell in response.
“Are we really that short on personnel?”
Cordnell looked back as if he was looking at an idiot and argued.
“Why don’t you bring in someone more capable than a College graduate if you’re so good?”
“So what’s the problem?”
Isaac naturally ignored Cordnell’s jab and asked Kainen.
“The Inspectors are here!”
“They’re just going to act their part then leave. Give them a warm reception and send them off.”
“I’m not talking about inspectors from the Department of Administration—they’re the Inspectors from Central.”
“… Why are they here?”
‘How would they know,’ was the phrase on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but they decided to remain silent. There were too many reasons for why they’d come.
“Hello. I am Colins, Central’s special inspector department. Just call me Cols.”
The man extended his arm for a handshake, smiling warmly. Isaac on the other hand looked back awkwardly.
“I’ve never heard of Central employing inspectors.”
“Ahaha. We aren’t exactly folks who come invited, you know.”
Colins laughed lightly despite Isaac’s inhospitable response. Isaac cocked his head. Cols’ mischievous conduct was strangely familiar.
“Have I met you before?”
“I wonder. It’s the first time for this body.”
Watching him smile, Isaac’s arms instinctively moved to smack his head. Realising this, Isaac continued to ponder.
“This all feels strangely familiar. Why does it feel like I should hit you here and now?”
Colins overheard Isaac’s monologue and twitched. He took a few steps back, all the while maintaining his smile.
“Well, you may as well have some fun before you leave.”
Isaac turned around to head back into his room when Colins stopped him.
“Ah! But my mission is to keep a watch on you, not to inspect the city.”
Isaac stopped in his tracks, slowly turning around again to see Colins, face to face.
“That’s a little too direct. Who ordered this?”
“It was the Grand Council.”
Isaac, who was expecting the Emperor, Pendleton, or even the Queen, frowned at the unexpected answer.
“Why is the Grand Council getting involved now?”
“Because there is a good reason to. Inspecting New Port City is just a cover. My true purpose is to watch Lord Isaac, identify your intentions, and figure out whose side you are on.”
Isaac did suspect that inspecting the city wasn’t their true goal, but he didn’t expect their candid approach to it. No, didn’t the Director of Surveillance announce that they’d never intervene?
“Does the Director of Surveillance not trust me?”
“This was a decision made by the Grand Council. The Director of Surveillance wasn’t involved. The Director of Surveillance rejected this idea, but they couldn’t convince the Grand Council against it.”
“That either means that the Director of Surveillance has lost a bit of influence, or there’s an opposing faction. But the Grand Council, using humans? Now that I didn’t know. ”
“Ah, I’m just a poor old middleman. The real head of the inspectors is elsewhere.”
Colins smiled and pointed his hand to the sky. Isaac raised his head up, and voiced his impression.
“… It’s a dragon.”
“Then what is that?”
Isaac pointed to his sky, showing a giant dragon circling above the city.
“Grekonian. A race known as the Three-eyed.”
“First time hearing them.”
“That’s not unexpected. They are notorious for long periods of idleness, similar to dragons. They are perhaps the most conservative and isolated race of all non-humans.”
“And they’re taking action this time?”
“They are endangered species. They don’t even attend the Grand Council’s meetings.”
“Over a petty reason like that?”
“It isn’t a petty reason. Extinction is what all non-humans are most sensitive about. Because they are so few in numbers, each individual is treated as a representative of their race. And the Three-eyed are treated with even more regard by all.”
“The third eye on their forehead has the ability to see the traits and talents of a person. So the Three-eyed are usually responsible for teaching non-humans.”
“Like home school teachers?”
“Yes. But as I said before, they are extremely conservative and strict. Their innate abilities are perfect against children too.”
“What is their ability?”
“They have the power to control their target. But demanding orders greatly reduce their lifespan, so they typically use it for more simple orders such as ‘sit’ and ‘stand.’ But those are also the perfect ways to discipline children. That’s the reason they’re acting like that; they know it first hand.”
Colins snickered and pointed behind Isaac. Isaac turned to see not only Rivelia, but Rizzly, Kunette, and Reisha running in circles chaotically as if they were in a horrible nightmare.
“… What’s up with you guys?”
“Sunbaenim, It’s the Three-eyed! The Three-eyed!”
“Isaac, tell it to go away!”
“Uwak! It’s the Three-eyed! Did I do something wrong?”
“Uuuh… The memories from my childhood…”
Reisha, Kunette, Rizzly and Rivelia were shaking with horror when the dragon that’d been circling above landed.
“Is that how I taught you to greet a guest?”
The dragon that had been descending with such velocity as if it was about to crush them transformed, turning smaller and smaller. By the time his foot was on land, he looked like a human. Isaac whistled at the smooth transformation.
The man wore a black coat which extended down to his ankles. His hands were hidden under his large sleeves and rested near his stomach. Both of his eyes were closed, and there was a faint slit across his forehead.
“So you are Isaac, Invader.”
The man spoke without a shred of hospitality. Isaac shrugged and answered.
“I’ll consider it an honour that you know my…”
The Three-eyed ignored Isaac completely and shifted his gaze to Rivelia, the elf, and the two North Bears. The line on his forehead opened, revealing an eye which burned red.
Isaac mumbled to himself, watching the eye perform a spitting imitation of the final boss in the Lord of the Rings.
“… What are you, Sauron?”