Isaac was an important individual. Although the Directorate of Security was founded just recently, the title he held as Director alone meant that he needed to be protected at all times. Even if he didn’t have the title, others kept a curious eye on him.
That was why Central immediately engaged in action when they didn’t receive contact at the expected time, even when they could have waited a little longer. Thankfully, because it was about time for the Gate to open, much of the army was already organised and ready for deployment, even if it was slightly lacking.
Central determined this was a battle against time as they acknowledged the worst case scenario. They pushed themselves by throwing the transports into the mana storm recklessly, even expecting some of the forces to never complete the trip. But the result was an unbelievable feat, to the point where one would doubt if it could get any better.
The Expeditionary Forces lost one armoured company. No casualties on Central’s side. And the creation of an entirely new defence strategy that didn’t rely on existing ones. The Grand Council had gathered at the sudden summons, marveling at the situation as more reports came through.
“The Gate opened without any prior signs, and the garrison troops tasked with reporting were running around in a panic. Yet, the Directorate of Security alone managed to defend the Gate.”
“That’s not all. They sealed the Gate completely. Ha! Are there only fools in the Directorate of Strategy? This is an incredible success if you look at the results alone.”
“You can’t blame the Directorate of Strategy alone. These were special circumstances.”
The representatives that attended the Grand Council responded in a myriad of ways. Some admired the unexpected success all the while taking a neutral stance. Some found this to be an ideal opportunity to denounce the Directorate of Strategy, and others defended the Directorate of Strategy. This was a rough outlook of the three factions’ power struggles. The Emperor didn’t bother hiding his displeasure. The defence of the Gate had entirely been under Directorate of Strategy’s jurisdiction up until now.
Although the number of casualties were lessened with the development of the defensive coats, every race’s warrior ranks still suffered casualties, including humans. There wasn’t a single race that enjoyed watching what could have been their future leaders and prodigies dying meaninglessly.
But they couldn’t just save their own skin in the face of this world crisis, so they could only endure. Ironically, the races sought different solutions to extinction.
The most encouraging part was the increase of birth rates. Races that lived for hundreds of years innately had very low birth rates naturally, but in order to sustain the sacrifices of their kind in the war, they had no choice but to increase their populations. Thanks to that, they now held just as much of a voice in the council as the humans did, who had held the lion’s share of power. The individual who played the most critical role in this increase of birth rates was the Queen herself, so other races favored her unconditionally. This was one of the reasons why the Empire, who represented humans, found the Queen so problematic.
But even if the number of their tribesmen had increased, they still weren’t fond of seeing their families die on the battlefield. So it was natural that they were enthusiastic about Isaac’s promising success.
Reduced mortality meant the tribe’s strength was going to increase that much. So as the other races’ faces brightened, the Emperor’s face tensed up. Even Duke Pendleton, who was also a representative for humanity, held his tongue with an unhappy look and listened closely to other members’ conversation. The Duke’s mind urged him to defend the Emperor, but there was nothing he could say since the Directorate of Strategy was clearly at fault.
There was nothing they could do about the Gate’s sudden opening, but the loss of communication due to ill maintenance of their equipment was not something they could excuse themselves from. Who could they possibly blame when the Directorate of Strategy demanded sole jurisdiction over the Forbidden Lands, refusing offers of support from the Directorates of Analysis and Surveillance.
In fact, their mistake almost led to the loss of the Forbidden Lands and the capture of high-level clearance VIPs by the Expeditionary Forces. The Duke’s blood boiled, knowing that his own daughter was one of those put at risk. Although his head demanded him to defend the Emperor, his heart was wringing the Emperor’s neck.
“Sorry to keep you waiting.”
Just as the voices demanding change in the defense strategy and a curtailing of the Directorate of Strategy’s influence grew louder, Yoo-rah entered the meeting room.
All of the members greeted her respectfully, and Yoo-rah acknowledged her closest friends with a passing gaze as she walked to the stage.
“Don’t you think they finished too quickly?”
The Emperor muttered, trying to buy time. He was implying that the analysis could not be trusted if it was finished in such a short amount of time. But replies came not from Yoo-rah but other members of the Grand Council.
“Are you trying to say you cannot trust the Directorate of Analysis’s work? Ha! As for me, it’s the Directorate of Strategy’s actions that don’t seem trustworthy.”
“I agree. It seems that the Directorate of Strategy thinks that they are allowed to act as they wish without the approval from the Grand Council.”
“There have been many complaints from the agents themselves too. Especially in regards to the Dark Royale’s tyranny. That is very irritating.”
Those who pounced on the Emperor were representatives of the races that had been on the brink of extinction, only to be saved by Yoo-rah. They were the representatives of the races that favored her unconditionally.
The Emperor didn’t try to hide his anger and tried to retort, but Yoo-rah stepped in first.
“Stop. Now isn’t the time to fight amongst one another.”
Those who were friendly to Yoo-rah immediately quieted down, but the Emperor’s faction and neutral parties looked at Yoo-rah with curiosity.
Everyone was aware that the royal family and the Queen had been competing for political superiority. The Directorate of Strategy had been dragged through the mud while the Directorate of Security, formed at the Queen’s strong suggestion, had achieved almost surreal levels of success. From the Queen’s perspective, this was her greatest opportunity, so they wondered why she was going to overlook it.
As everyone’s eyes gathered on her, the Queen sighed briefly and looked at her audience firmly.
“Although the Directorate of Strategy’s inability to maintain their own equipment is worthy of denouncement, that isn’t the important issue. The conclusion alone is that we are in a perilous situation.”
The council began to murmur to one another, and one of the members asked.
“We request that you explain to us in greater detail.”
“I’m saying the Expeditionary Forces weren’t playing all this time either. The Directorate of Analysis had previously verified that the strange phenomena were a forewarning to the Gate’s opening. But unlike the previous times when these phenomena were detected consistently, the phenomena would only show up for two, maybe three seconds before disappearing. We are currently upgrading our detection system as of now, but the Expeditionary Forces have found a way to mask these phenomena during the opening of a Gate, which means we no longer have a way to consistently predict when the enemy will arrive.”
The expressions of the council members turned grave as they began discussing the circumstances with their neighbors. Knowing when the enemy would arrive was a huge advantage from manpower to supplies to funding.The garrison in the Forbidden Lands was never meant to do everything; it was just a forward operating base for the elite troops. Permanently stationing their elite troops in the Forbidden Lands was a waste, especially when they knew when the enemy would arrive. And the Expeditionary Forces weren’t Central’s only foes.
“Isn’t the Expeditionary Forces’ ability to come at any time meaningless now? We can simply solve it by having the Director of Security permanently stationed in the Forbidden Lands.”
There was a collective breath of marvel as one of the council members spoke up, and everyone else nodded in agreement. Now that he had proven his capabilities, they would now put him to his fullest use. But Yoo-rah firmly shook her head.
“That would be meaningless.”
Everyone looked at Yoo-rah with silent puzzlement, when Duke Pendleton opened his mouth.
“Before all that, I must ask this. What method did the Director of Security use?”
Yoo-rah smiled bitterly and answered.
“As you all suspect, the Director of Security possesses an artifact I created, which played a critical role in this situation.”
Everyone’s eyes gleamed. One of the Queen’s foundations of power were these objects called the Queen’s Artifacts, and at the forefront of them all was Central’s defensive coat. She also founded an entirely new subject of study, combining magic and science into magitechnology. Her profound knowledge held the admiration of intellects studying this field, making them the backbone of her faction.
“What the Director of Security has is a failure. No, rather than a failure, it is an unfinished product.”
“Wait, wait. You’re telling me that the very object that annihilated an entire order of knights and stopped the Expeditionary Forces dead in their tracks was an unfinished product?”
The Emperor stammered, voicing the complete bafflement in everyone’s minds. Yoo-rah shrugged and replied.
“Truth be told, I never thought it could be used in such a way. It’s something I had forgotten about all this time after creating it.”
“I have to ask this, even if it runs tangent to the main topic. Why did you create that object?”
The Emperor asked, and everyone in the room nodded in assent, questioning Yoo-rah. Yoo-rah looked back at the Emperor and tilted her head, questioning him back.
“You didn’t know about it?”
“Why would you think I would know of its existence?”
“Because it was the Emperor of that time, the Empire, that was most active in halting its production.”
Both the Emperor and Duke Pendleton looked at each other, both confirming that this was something neither had knowledge about. The Emperor’s expression stiffened, and he asked Yoo-rah.
“We need more details.”
Yoo-rah narrowed her eyes at the Emperor as if something was amiss and smirked as she answered.
“I guess. It has been a long time since then, so it’s not surprising that it’s been forgotten. It’s nothing important. All of you remember that the first defences of the Gate were achieved by literally sealing if off with our own bodies, right?”
Yoo-rah’s patronizing tone irked the Emperor, but he didn’t let it show. He nodded. The council members who had long lifespans remembered honoring their fallen comrades themselves in accordance to their customs.
“As you know, the defence of the Gate was taking a heavy toll on our manpower, so we were looking for a different method to reduce it. Many projects were initiated in conjunction with the defensive coat.”
“What were the projects?”
Yoo-rah hesitated for a moment when Duke Pendleton asked. She looked at a few of the older council members she had known for a long time before answering.
“I could talk for the rest of the day and it still wouldn’t be enough to explain all the projects, so I’ll keep it to ones related to our current situation. The project was to send agents into the other world to infiltrate their world. They would use magic undetectable by the people in the other world, hindering the Expeditionary Forces. The ultimate goal would be to prevent the Gate from opening completely.”
Some of the council members moaned and laughed emptily, remembering what object she was talking about.