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One by one, the agents presented the information they had compiled as Isaac silently listened, his mouth always chewing on a new cigarette. Thanks to that, Isaac had a rough sketch of the timeline of events, although the organization behind all this was still veiled in mystery.
First were the prominent individuals of Port City. Threatened by a looming bankruptcy, they coerced Zeroman into being the figurehead of the reunification effort.
New Port City accepted the offer happily, and Port City celebrated their successful endeavour of selling their a.s.sets for more than they were worth. But in their preparations to migrate elsewhere, New Port City suddenly revealed the airship
By the time the Port City prominents realised they had been tricked, the Empire had begun releasing technologies beyond their wildest imaginations—as if they had been waiting for this very moment. Quickly, they realised that they themselves had kicked away their chance at resurgence.
The timing of their transaction with New Port City was too impeccable. Although reunification wasn’t framed that way, the only people who profited from it were the high-profile citizens of Port City. There was nothing for the ordinary citizens of Port City.
At this point, they would remain outsiders to the echelons of the upper cla.s.s no matter where they went. There was no way to undo the reunification this late either. These prominent individuals were practically running around in circles—when Rodney and Niske suggested a.s.sa.s.sinating Isaac.
At first, everyone else rejected the idea in fear of Central. That was when Anton appeared. Everyone was surprised first by his survival and again when they heard that he had ascended to become a swordmaster by holding onto his hatred and desire for vengeance against Isaac.
With everyone now agreeing that there was a chance, they planned on executing their plot on the day of the reunification festival. The first group they recruited were the combat knights of Rosenburg Viscounty, who had suddenly found themselves unemployed in their field of expertise.
The combat knights, all burning for vengeance, accepted the offer, and the Port City Individuals provided them with a hideout to stay in.
They also recruited syndicate members of New Port City to create chaos from within. Calling in each and every favour they had, they reached out to members who were dissatisfied with how the city was currently running.
The syndicates—which had fought each other for dominance when the districts were separate bodies—had lost their place when Soland suddenly united all the districts under his rule.
Most syndicates had followed the trend and lowered their heads to Soland’s authority. But to the few idiots clinging onto old memories of unadulterated violence and lawlessness, Port City had thrown them a bone—promising them the power of a crime boss in the old days.
Port City even presented a tremendous bounty in the event of success. Blinded by greed, the fools joined in and commenced their attack on Soland when the warehouses exploded—just as planned.
“So that’s roughly how everything is?”
“… This seems too haphazard.”
Rivelia commented with a frown. According to this timeline, Port City only took five days to determine the date, recruit combat knights, and convince the renegade New Port City syndicates.
“Right? I don’t understand it either. Even if everyone else was a fool, the people of Port City are educated and well-informed. So why did they join in such a haphazard plan? Not to mention that five days shouldn’t even be enough to a.s.semble enough substance to blow up the entire warehouse district. But it was all too perfect—from their planting to detonation.”
The entire plan had one objective—a.s.sa.s.sinating Isaac. Probability of success aside, there was no follow-up plan if it succeeded. Central’s intervention was a given, yet not one person feared such a situation. It was also strange that they didn’t have a specific plan for dealing with Rivelia and the non-humans, which should have been their biggest concern.
Many bore grudges against Isaac, but Rivelia and non-humans were the reason most didn’t dare attempt revenge. If Rivelia or non-humans were injured or even killed, there would be consequences for not just the culprit but their friends and entire families. Yet, this plan took none of it into consideration.
Isaac was pondering the glaring holes in their plans when Lanburton jumped off a roof and landed lightly on his feet.
“We are still searching for him. But has everyone gathered here?”
“What do you mean everyone?”
Isaac c.o.c.ked his head at Lanburton’s question, when Lanburton suddenly raised his arm. In response, the elves and North Bears revealed themselves from rooftops of buildings and at the entrance to the plaza.
“What are you doing?!”
The agents murmured among each other in a panic, seeing the repeater crossbows in the non-humans’ hands. Rivelia protested Lanburton’s actions.
“I apologize, but everyone gathered here must be investigated by the Directorate of Surveillance.
“This is insubordination!”
“I know. But please understand our…”
“Hey, Mr. Lanburton.”
Lanburton gulped when Isaac interrupted his conversation with Rivelia. Isaac slowly rose from his seat, scanning his surroundings. Every elf and North Bear flinched and turned away when Isaac’s eyes glanced in their direction.
“Kalden is dead.”
“I am sorry to hear the news. But…”
The shotgun roared with fire. Lanburton had made a panicked retreat the moment he found himself staring into the other end of the barrel. Looking at the crater of pellets where he had stood moments before, he stood nervously.
Isaac had always approached the non-humans like a friend. This attack was a warning that such a relationship might be on its last legs.
“You didn’t know Port City was double-crossing me, you didn’t know Anton was alive, you didn’t know the combat knights smuggled themselves in, and you didn’t know there was an a.s.sa.s.sination plot against me? Am I supposed to doubt the abilities of Surveillance? Or am I to doubt the Surveillance’s intentions? Rizzly’s gone missing and Kalden was shot in the back of his head. And now, the non-humans—you—who have been acting independently are now boxing me in? How am I supposed to take this in?”
Isaac spoke as he holstered his shotgun, pulling out his modified crossbow instead. Not only the non-humans but even the agents stepped away from Isaac. That was the original design of Central’s new weapon, developed to match the firepower of firearms, in the limelight.
That was Isaac’s personal weapon—which somehow had the ability to nullify the power of defensive coats, baffling even the brightest minds of Central’s laboratory.
Pulling out the crossbow instead of the shotgun meant that Isaac was willing to fight for real if things came down to it. Cold sweat dripped down Lanburton’s forehead as he lamented his situation mentally. Once again, he was shocked by the Queen’s diabolical, even inhuman, scheme. How complicated she made everything was just a dilemma—one that Lanburton needed to solve by undoing the misunderstandings before they crossed the point of no return.
“First and foremost, most of the manpower of the Directorate of Surveillance were preoccupied with tracking down the Expeditionary Force that infiltrated our world from a small Gate that was opened nearby. ”
Hostility noticeably lessened in Isaac’s eyes, replaced with curiosity.
“Let me guess. The Gate opened not even 10 days ago right? Surveillance focused all their efforts on the sudden Gate, and Port City managed to proceed with their a.s.sa.s.sination plot without being noticed. Don’t you think it’s too good of an excuse?”
“With so much of our manpower dedicated to tracking the activity of the Expeditionary Forces, it created a hole in our surveillance network. We only received the emergency report now.”
“And I’m supposed to believe that Surveillance noticed just now right?”
Lanburton’s face crumbled. He grit his teeth, reminded of the cunning Queen and how she had caused such a disaster simply by delaying the transfer of information within Surveillance’s systems. Lanburton couldn’t even fathom how deep the Queen had infiltrated the Directorate of Surveillance.
“My thoughts are this. Surveillance thought I was pushing the boundaries too much and wanted to put me back in my place. So you guys caused this.”
“You are mistaken!”
“Really? Then explain to me this. Rodney and Niske saved Anton and hid him until now. Why didn’t Surveillance notify me of this? Were you too busy because a Gate opened back then as well?”
Lanburton’s face twisted in frustration. That was Surveillance’s mistake from start to finish. They hadn’t foreseen a mutual relationship with Isaac back then.
It was kept secret to be used as a trump card to eliminate Isaac at some point. The Director of Surveillance ordered the plan terminated when it was disclosed, and everyone thought the order was delivered. But it was intercepted at some point. Most likely, it was the Queen’s doing.
So their secret weapon had dealt their original wielders a crucial blow. The Director of Surveillance had put so much time and effort to make sure the monster doesn’t awaken, but the mistakes of Surveillance caused Kalden’s death, and the monster now doubted Surveillance. Lanburton feared who would be able to withstand their Director’s fury.
Lanburton looked around seeking for help, but all elves and North Bears immediately ran away when Isaac stood up, only daring to peek out their heads from edges of roofs and alleyways and watch the situation.
‘Those heartless b.a.s.t.a.r.ds.’
Even Rivelia looked at him skeptically, convinced by Isaac’s reasoning. He had retired from Surveillance long ago, yet heaps of work piled up in front of him all of a sudden. He was getting too old to deal with this.
“The Directorate of Surveillance will formally apologize for their lapse in oversight. I will force them on their knees if I have to. But it’s more paramount to fix this situation first, right?”
Isaac deliberated for a moment before nodding and putting his crossbow away. Although he was convinced that Surveillance trying to screw him was the most likely answer, Lanburton’s panicked face convinced him to listen for a little longer.
Seeing the mood lighten, the elves and North Bears emerged with relief. Lanburton was looking at the two races grudgingly when Isaac spoke to him with a new cigarette in his mouth.
“Now, tell me, just what was so important now that you halted your search for Rizzly and came to me instead? You had best know who shot Kalden in the head at the very least.”
The elves and North Bears who had been quietly coming in quickly retreated back into the alleyways. The anger hadn’t disappeared. Now it was just sharpened and controlled, like a knife at Lanburton’s neck.
“Mr. Rizzly seemed to be kidnapped along with Miss Laila, but we haven’t figured out their location, the culprit, or their aim.”
Isaac’s brow twisted. Lanburton quickly continued before Isaac’s temper exploded.
“But we did receive information that someone here knows the truth behind this incident!”
“That must be related to why you formed a perimeter around us.”
“So it was one of them that killed Kalden.”
Isaac’s cold glare turned to the agents of Security, panicked and confused that they were now the target of Isaac’s anger. The elves and North Bears quickly surrounded them.
“That’s impossible! What reason could the agents of Security have to betray us!”
Rivelia rejected the idea as if it was preposterous, but Isaac nodded, considering it plausible.
“I did have my suspicions when I saw that Kalden was shot in the back. It means the culprit was familiar enough for Kalden to turn his back to him. So, who was it?”
Lanburton hesitated with a troubled expression, and Isaac frowned deeply.
“Don’t tell me you don’t even know who it was?”
“That is, we only received very vague information as well. We’ve put all our efforts in finding Mr. Rizzly but failed, and just when reinforcements were about to arrive from the Directorate of Surveillance, they warned us of suspicious activity. Although it was too late by then.”
Lanburton couldn’t say the warning came late because of Queen’s sabotage. Looking at the circ.u.mstances, it was precisely because of that they let their guard down and lost Rizzly.