“They already know what’s going to happen.”
Isaac looked back with astonishment. Colins shrugged.
“They are neutral, to be precise. They won’t involve themselves in the matter since it’s just humans who’ll die as a consequence. Their stance is to remain as observers while the humans bicker with one another.”
“Are they insane?”
“I also don’t understand them, but it is silly to approach the thoughts of non-humans from a human perspective.”
“That’s true. Then were you put into that body long ago in advance?”
“No. I was hurriedly put into this body when the Inspectors were formed. I was in another body before.”
“What are you, a grasshopper? Jumping from one place to another?”
“That’s all because I’m tasked with a very important mission.”
Isaac smirked at Colins’ answer.
“Yeah, yeah, good for you. So what will you do with the Empire? The Emperor is sure to go on a rampage.”
“The Empire is just an empty title. All its limbs have already been cut off. Every one of Strategy’s agents that had been deployed to Milros Countdom should be our men by now.”
“All of them?”
“Yes. There’s nothing left to stop us, with the Director of Surveillance losing their influence and the Inspectors set on simply monitoring the situation. All the Emperor has left is the Dark Royale, but they will be too busy preserving their own lives without the help from Arc Royale. We will clean up the mess in Milros Countdom, return to New Port City, and fly Korea’s flag. It will be our first step towards independence.”
“Are you sure? You know the entire warehouse district went up in flames right? Weren’t your military supplies being stored there?”
Colins made a troubled expression as he answered with an awkward smile.
“As sharp as always. That’s the reason why we pushed the plan’s date forward. The Dark Royale found out we can turn combat agents into Type 3 Invaders. Although the loss of the combat supplies was a painful blow, we can’t let them discover our plans for the Gate in New Port City.”
“Even though you say that, haven’t you guys prioritised New Port City too much?”
“A little bit of suspicion will help prevent them from acting too rashly. I’m sure you weren’t aware, but the Queen has been setting off false alarms all across the Empire in places other than New Port City and creating confusion.”
“Even though I found evidence of firearms in my warehouses?”
“That was a small setback, but it didn’t have any real impact. We placed decoys in other locations to be found too.”
“How many supplies were stored in the warehouses?”
“Enough to fully arm an entire division. But we have similar amounts stored in other locations.”
“In other locations?”
“Yes. That’s why New Port City is so important. There wasn’t any other place where we could amass our supplies as quickly as New Port City.”
“Where did you get so much supplies? What the Expeditionary Forces provided shouldn’t have been anywhere near enough.”
“Automated factories, mass production. We had too much time on our hands.”
“I’m amazed you guys haven’t been found out.”
“Haven’t I told you? We have cooperatives within the Grand Council.”
It made sense. The eyes of Surveillance only had power within the human world. If the factories were made in a remote area of non-human preservation, they could pump out supplies to their heart’s content.
“Then what about Ratt, who managed the warehouses?”
Colins’ face crumbled hearing that name.
“Now that was the biggest twist in our plan. We were sabotaged from the most unexpected place. We never thought the man we bribed to secretly stash our supplies would find interest in it.”
“He knew how to use the gun.”
“We had maintenance tools and manuals stored with the combat supplies. It should have been easy to learn even if he couldn’t read the text, since they included illustrations.”
“Well, you guys seem awfully experienced and well-prepared for what’s to come. Is there a reason for you to need my help? I think you’ll do fine without me.”
“No. You are most important, Isaac-nim.”
“Yes. You possess the key that will open the Gate.”
“I don’t remember having a key on me.”
“Yes you do. You always have it with you.”
Colins looked suspiciously at Isaac’s finger, and Isaac pulled out the pen from his finger for the first time in a while.
“Kuku. A monami pen. I swear, the Queen’s sense of humour is extraordinary.”
“You can see this?”
“Of course. Only those who know of the object’s purpose can see it. That is why nobody from this world can see the pen, no matter what means you take to show them.”
“So that’s why the damsel couldn’t see this. I’m amazed it can evade a Sword Master’s eye. I did think the pen was quite useful, but didn’t know it was enough to open a Gate.”
“You’ll be amazed when you hear what it’s made of.”
“Are you confident that it’ll all work out? The Inspectors might be one thing since they’ll remain as bystanders, but Kunette, Reisha, and Rizzly also coming with us.”
“They are… How to say, hostages.”
“Yes. Those three are the representatives of the races most friendly to humans.”
True. North Bears only knew how to eat honey, not make it. And a world without humans would be incredibly dull to the elves.
“How are they hostages when you can’t even touch them?”
Those three would most definitely be against the plan when they find out. A clash would be inevitable. The Inspectors wouldn’t watch idly when non-humans became involved in the fight.
“That’s why we told the Inspectors. They are the representatives of races who despise humans. And with the Three-eyed in the mix, it’ll be more than enough to keep the elves and North Bears back. Surveillance couldn’t move even if they wanted to.”
Colins left to check in on the plan’s progress thus far, mentioning that there would be many nostalgic faces. Isaac got off his seat and silently watched the view, smoking.
Independence, restoring the nation—the strongest nation, no less. It all sounded nice. It’d been in preparation for a long time, reacting flexibly to emergencies and planning multiple scenarios for different situations.
But it was haphazard. Isaac could point out flaw after flaw the moment he started listening. Yet Colins, no—Min Won-hoo—believed wholeheartedly in the plan.
An immortal army that could fight with no end, no matter the injury or “death” toll, was invincible. But Isaac wanted to ask.
Did you have the consent of those tens of thousands of soldiers?
They came back when they thought they were dead. But now, they were to fight on the battlefield once more. Gaining their acceptance and loyalty aside, maintaining a proper chain of command would be impossible.
Let’s say it was possible. Since they were trained as soldiers, following orders was like their second nature. But would they continue to listen after realising the situation? If soldiers were truly obedient, there wouldn’t be a single word about a coup d’etat.
And founding a new Korea? Wasn’t there a saying that you might forget gratitude, but you’d never forget vengeance? There were people who joined the army to help the effort, but there were also those who used their age and position to disobey commands—and that didn’t even include those who saw the soldier casualties as inevitable, even mandatory. Remembering these selfish people still infuriated Isaac.
And you’re going to bring them all back? Even if it somehow worked out, how would you expect these people—who lived in a free democratic nation—to obediently transition into a feudal society?
Cries for democracy, personal rights, and freedom would become rallying points for the power-hungry; and we were to go through all that again?
Most importantly, the Queen’s plan was based on sacrificing this world’s citizens. What about the people whose bodies were snatched and perished on the battlefield? Sure the snatcher could come back, but what about the original?
“So you’ve become a monster too.”
Isaac muttered bitterly. That was why he couldn’t be happy about this reunion with his longtime friend. And the Queen’s plan had one massive hole.
It was that she needed Isaac’s help. How many people had died in the war that was decided by the few in power? At least those people died knowing it was for a war.
But what about the citizens who’d be deployed into battle as Type 3 Invaders? Isaac didn’t have much of any attachment to the citizens of New Port City, but he had no intentions to send them into a war they weren’t involved in for no reason. The one thing Isaac despised the most was the empty, questionable deaths caused by a single person in power.
“Perhaps I should say thanks for removing the guilt in my heart?”
Colins made one critical mistake during the conversation. Isaac wasn’t sure if he slipped up out of excitement or didn’t care if Isaac noticed, but Isaac could now abandon any intentions of joining the Queen’s plans.
“They should have nothing to say, since they even tried to kill me.”
Colins definitely stated that the supplies in the warehouses were theirs. And even if it was a loss, it could still be recuperated. And they blew up the warehouses to avoid Dark Royale’s investigation, making it the Queen’s doing. This was all the Queen’s doing, not the Expeditionary Forces that Central thought joined hands with a demon.
It made sense why Surveillance was suddenly so incompetent. Central’s reliance on the Media ultimately placed them right in the Queen’s palms.
It also explained Ratt’s suicide and the unexplainable circumstances around it. Ratt was a setback nobody expected. That man who turned a blind eye after taking a bribe.
Even if they cut the tail, Ratt’s testimonies would trigger an investigation that would only lead to further suspicion. But as the saying went, a dead man couldn’t speak. And suicide would be much more natural than murder. It was simple enough for a Type 3 Invader to slip inside and kill himself.
They most like planned on making his suicide look like a result of a downward spiral, as a sudden suicide in the midst of the confusion would be suspicious. But the warehouse supplies were uncovered and Ratt was caught in the escape with a stolen pistol on him.
They needed to kill Ratt to erase any possible hint of suspicion, and thanks to that, Isaac now knew this was the Queen’s doing. Colins basically confessed to it being the Queen’s doing.
It was probably the Queen who took care of Anton too. With the warehouses revealed, Anton’s testimonies would come to a new light, and the Queen most likely didn’t want any more variables so close to the plan’s beginning.
“Then what were the Expeditionary Forces doing there? Was it just bad luck they were caught in the crossfire? I find it hard to believe that it’s all a coincidence… But they probably aren’t completely innocent.”
Even during the fiercest of wars, the line for diplomacy always stayed open. Perhaps they were baited into a trap like last time, or the Expeditionary Forces itself was a decoy set up by the Queen.
“I doubt this pathetic excuse of a plan is what they spent such a long time preparing for…”
This plan only had the results in mind, excluding the complicated political and diplomatic circumstances. The risk of failure was too high. For a plan in the making for hundreds of years, it was too haphazard.
“It was my mistake for believing in the Surveillance too much.”
Isaac grumbled with a frown. Isaac thought the non-humans were different. He believed that the Director of Surveillance spoke for all non-humans as their representative. But in reality, there were conservatives and there were radicals—those friendly to humans and those who rejected them. There were races whose rivalries ran long and deep. Just like Gabelin’s political world, they also had their factions.