The Director of Surveillance had been keeping the other factions under control with her overwhelming influence. But the other factions immediately capitalised on their brief moment of weakness. In the end, it was another political battle. Isaac couldn’t help but feel disappointed. He thought the non-humans were different, but they were the same as humans.
“Maybe Milros County will become my grave…”
What would happen if Isaac refused? Would they back off, saying, ‘Then we’ll just find another way?’ Ludicrous. They’d obviously try to kill Isaac and retrieve the pen and lens, especially when the plan had already progressed to the initiation phase.
“Maybe I should have brought my Security boys. Then again, he probably revealed everything in case I tried to do such a thing. Telling me to cooperate or die. Does that mean Reisha and Rizzly are all I can trust? Colins said every Strategy agent was on his side, so we’re vastly outnumbered… Wow! I really am walking into a tiger’s den!”
The heart of Milros County was a major city housing more than one million people. A great shadow had enshrouded this once bustling and energetic city. It all started with a strange disease of mysterious origin. People simply dropped onto the ground, coughing up blood from their mouths. They then succumbed to intense fever, never to wake up again.
Even the healers fell victim to this plague of unknown causes, and worst of all, the Count’s families and their vassals ruling this city were also infected.
The Emperor placed the city in a quarantine as a special measure to stop the plague’s advance, and the Empire’s army formed a perimeter around the city. News of the plague had spread like wildfire. People flocked to the city pleading to see their families, while those quarantined begged to be let out. But the Empire’s army prevented everyone without permission from entering the castle without exception, coldly determined to stop the plague.
To be frank, this was all routine procedure of eliminating an angel. When an angel was found, extermination was the only way to go. Just like how the presence of a single cockroach foretold a hundred hidden cockroaches, no one could tell just how far the angel’s infectious fervour had spread. The simplest and safest method was to wipe the entire slate clean.
The innocent casualties were just a simple number to the non-humans. Central refrained from moving too rashly because of the possibility that the demon and Expeditionary Forces could be present with the angel, but the basic plan was the same.
“You know that things don’t always go as planned right?”
Colins’ face was dripping with cold sweat as Isaac glared into him. Isaac took a cigarette and watched the Milros situation unfold on the screen.
“Wasn’t the Gabelin Central Broadcast only supposed to show news from the Gabelin region? Why did they show up in Milros County?”
“It means the Emperor won’t be standing idly. He must have set this up when he realised the Directorate of Strategy wasn’t responding to him.”
Colins spoke without hesitation, directly in the presence of Kunette, Reisha, and Rizzly. The other Inspectors’ attentions didn’t even shift, but the three’s faces stiffened.
Isaac glimpsed at the three. Reisha was an agent of Surveillance. Both Kunette and Rizzly also seemed like they were associated with Surveillance. But seeing they hadn’t received any information just went to show how serious the Queen was with this mission.
The Queen’s true goal was beyond the Emperor’s guess but he figured that something was about to happen in Milros County. So the Emperor tried to mobilise the Directorate of Strategy, but the men who had already been swapped wouldn’t follow the Emperor’s orders. Realising the situation was turning dire, the Emperor moved the Media to restrain the Queen back as much as possible.
They had only thought of using Media, not being used by it. Now, they had a taste of their own medicine.
The mysterious plague that spread within Milros County. Everything about Milros County’s situation was revealed by the Media. Even the fact that the Count’s vassals and related families had succumbed to the plague and a death toll in the thousands.
“The airship left New Port City. It’ll be arriving soon.”
From the Emperor’s perspective, he pulled off a really amazing move. He declared to the citizens of the Empire that he had delegated Isaac to resolve the Milros situation. His relation, however distant it was, made him eligible to assume Count Milros’s leadership.
And per this order, Isaac had to move publicly—meaning his personal airship, the symbol of his presence, had to follow closely by.
Even if it threw a wrench into Central’s plans, they had to follow through now that the Emperor had announced it. It seemed both the Grand Council and Duke Pendleton scolded the Emperor, but the Emperor argued back fiercely, knowing that something was up with all his Strategy agents acting independently. A fierce debate broke out in the Grand Council because of this.
So the original plan to eliminate the angel and its followers, the demon, and the Expeditionary Forces and then disguising it as the plague’s doing screeched to a halt the moment Isaac arrived.
Not even Central could wipe out an entire county while the entire continent was watching. Until now, it was mere rumours that bounced from one place to another. But now, there was visual proof accessible by everyone. The good ol’ days of doing as they wished had passed.
“This is why not everyone can be the Emperor. I never thought he’d intervene like this.”
Quarantining the city meant the flow of goods into the city was stopped. With no supplies entering, the price of food and other necessities for the one million people would skyrocket. People would hoard whatever they could find, and crime would soar as people got desperate. The Emperor solved this by dropping the supplies into the city from airships far above the ground, certain that the disease could not spread to such a height.
Airships from the Department of Supplies flew goods into the city without rest, an act captured by the Media and broadcasted to all citizens. The turbulence within the County calmed, and the people sang praises of the Emperor.
If Isaac were to resolve the County’s situation as Central intended, the public’s ire would be directed at Isaac rather than the Emperor.
“Why is this man involved now? I swear, being too successful is a problem.”
Isaac mumbled, watching the screen. On it stood Mazelan in the middle of an interview. There had to be a limit to how capable one man could be. Not only did this man procure all the needed airships and supplies within such a short span of time, he also entered the county personally to oversee the logistics.
A relative to the Emperor and a man who spoke through action not words despite his rank as Vice-Commissioner of supplies. He boldly declared that all hoarding and attempts at monopolising goods would be punished. In addition, all supplies provided were free of charge until the plague ended.
To top it off, Mazelan was an acquaintance of Isaac. From the Emperor’s perspective, even the slightest hesitation from Isaac would be a success. Mazelan was the perfect candidate to be sent in this mess.
Isaac felt sorry for Mazelan, as he seemed oblivious to the fact that he was being used. But Isaac could only sigh, knowing that he would act the same way in a situation that didn’t involve an angel.
Isaac glimpsed at Kunette, Reisha, and Rizzly. He wanted to relay the Queen’s plan to the Director of Surveillance through them. But Colins didn’t seem to fully trust Isaac either. He hadn’t left Isaac alone ever since he explained the plan.
Kunette and Reisha attempted to torment Colins out of frustration, but Colins cited his duty as the Inspector to be at Isaac’s side at all times, even in meals and during his sleep. If for whatever reason Colins couldn’t do it, he’d swap with the wolf or tiger Inspectors.
To be frank, even if Isaac somehow told the three about the plan secretly, they were also captives just like Isaac. In order to relay the message to the Director of Surveillance, they’d need to use the Communicator. But with the Queen having full control over it, the Inspectors would automatically intercept any communication.
They might have been able to use a more primitive method such as a pigeon or a spirit, but it’d take far longer to relay. By then, the plan would have been carried out, and it would be far too late to do anything.
At this point Isaac needed to give them some kind of a hint for them to realise what was happening and to prepare themselves for the upcoming event. Isaac was sure that all three of them must have figured something was off with their sharp heads.
“What was the Queen doing allowing this to happen?”
“The Queen is currently busy trying to convince as many Grand Council members to vote with her while the Director of Surveillance isn’t present. And it doesn’t matter if it’s all revealed. I’m sick and tired of fighting in the shadows now.”
‘Am I cornered?’
The Independence Army had made its decision. Isaac planned to give the three a hint, yet Colins didn’t even feel the need to watch his words. He spoke directly about the plan in front of them.
The Emperor did buy some time by intervening, but it honestly didn’t mean much. In fact, it made the situation worse for Isaac. He was already the sole bearer of the world’s scrutinising ire. If he destroyed Milros County now, he’d become the greatest bastard in the history of man.
And even if Isaac was a relative, they shared not a single drop of blood between them. All they shared was animosity. No matter how hard Isaac tried, all he’d hear at the end was that he got his revenge by using the plague to his advantage.
“But what will the Pendletons do?”
The reason the Empire was split between the Emperor and Pendleton was because the Grand Council feared the unification of humanity. Pendleton might walk a path separate from the Empire, but they’d never agree to the Queen’s plan.
Both the Empire and Pendleton would object against the Grand Council’s decision, which would lead to the Grand Council waging war against all humanity in this continent.
Isaac tried his best to act naturally by going for another cigarette to hide his true feelings, glimpsing at the three. They seemed busy trying to figure out what was happening and eavesdropping keenly. Colins smirked and answered.
“Pendleton will maintain his neutrality.”
“I think the situation is a little too serious to just watch, don’t you think?”
“The pretty lady will be with us too.”
“You’re going to hold a sword master hostage? Are you mad?”
One of the greatest obstacles in the Expeditionary Force’s invasion was the existence of swordmasters, who could destroy tanks with their bare hands. And they were to hold such a being hostage?
“Hostage? Such a dangerous word. We will simply request that she attend this event as an observer.”
It was the worst joke Isaac had ever heard. It was true that Rivelia could easily escape on her own if she wished, but her personality would never allow such a thing. Even if Reisha and Rizzly joined her, it’ll be difficult for them to escape with Kunette and Isaac.
‘He’s forcing me to choose. And I don’t like being pushed around like this…’