The excruciating pain slowly washed away, and Isaac managed to catch his breath and reach for a cigarette. He was so close to dying. It was supposed to be an act, but gauging the depth of the stab was difficult when using someone else’s hand.
He would never have pulled off such insanity if immediate treatment wasn’t available. But Isaac wasn’t going to pass up on the fastest and easiest method when it only involved some pain. He just made a mistake towards the end.
“Bring me the evidence.”
Rizzly, whose face was crying mercy at Kunette’s arbitrary brutality, pulled out some tongs and grabbed the bloody knife.
“Do you think such blatant fabrication will work!”
The knife had Isaac’s blood and Viscount Aintz’s fingerprints. At this rate, they were going to be had—trapped and with no way of escape.
The only part that was remotely questionable was that this incident happened in front of the emissaries in plain sight. Was Isaac certain he could keep them silent?
“What do you mean fabrication? I have the knife, blood, fingerprints, and a culprit arrested.”
“Do you think we will commit perjury!”
“Hm? I think you’re mistaken. Who said we’re letting you free?”
“You can’t just arrest emissaries without a criminal charge!”
Feeling his wound slowly heal thanks to Reisha, Isaac felt firsthand how amazing magic was. He got on his feet, lit a new cigarette, and announced.
“The elves and North Bears are combing through the city to find the assassin and his helpers. Isn’t it normal procedure to arrest people of the Lichten Family, whom the assassin hails from?”
Everyone was shocked at Isaac. So that huge mess the elves and North Bears stirred up was for this reason.
‘He’s already made his decision.’
Baron Dale shut his eyes in shock. Half of his brain scrambled to assess the difference in power between the two sides. Ordinarily, he would have scoffed at the idea of going to war against some sorry excuse of a Lord that owned a single city, but the situation now was different.
The Lichten main family had lost most of their military forces in the war against Wolfgang. Their loss had set them dangerously close to bankruptcy. And their vassals had been jockeying for power while the branch families’ alliances were in a constant state of flux in the power struggle to become the family head.
If all of Lichten’s vassals united with what was left of their military, facing off against Isaac would be a simple feat. But their opponent was a lunatic who didn’t hesitate to cut open his own stomach. There was no way he would fight fair and square.
Dale could see all sorts of schemes, deceit, and conspiracies coming at them, driving a wedge between each family and vassal.
Though Isaac had no formally conscripted military, his financial power alone dwarfed the Lichtens’. And legality wise, he had the legal right to demand war; requesting for outside aid or an arbitration was impossible. No. Isaac had Wolfgang for military power. Though they were in a similar state as Lichtens, they would easily crush the Lichtens if Isaac provided the Wolfgang family logistical and financial support. After all, Wolfgang had plenty of reasons to join the war.
When his thoughts concluded at that point, Baron Dale bit hard on his lip, glaring at Isaac as blood dripped from his mouth.
“The truth will be revealed one day.”
Isaac smirked, donned his coat, and sat back on his chair.
“The truth… yeah, it will be revealed one day. But will the people believe it? Between the lie that some man who lost all his money and exiled from his house attempted to kill me out of hatred, or the truth that some lunatic cut himself to take over a Marquis’ realm? What seems more believable?”
“I think they would be plenty convinced if the culprit of that truth was you, Lord.”
The administrative body instinctively nodded at Rivelia’s point.
“Ah, really? Well it doesn’t matter. The hearsay of a few will never become the of the many. Listen here brat—and you too, damsel. I’ll tell you the truth—the truth that’ll be engraved into your blood and bone. What you want to believe is the truth—especially when it comes to things you’re not involved in. Remember so.”
Everyone was silent, unwilling to endorse Isaac’s words. The rooftop was silent until Baron Dale cried out.
“Do you think it’ll be over by just arresting us?! What about them?! How long do you think they will stay loyal to you! The truth will be revealed when any one of them betrays you!”
The administrative body’s faces stiffened, and Isaac’s head tilted.
“I thought accounts from close aides had no legal power in the court?”
“If a close aide gives an account that goes against you, it will naturally raise suspicion—even if it doesn’t have any legal consequences.”
“That’s fine. I’ve been treating them horribly in preparation for a case like this. I’m sure everyone will think they’re just falsely accusing me out of hatred—even if they really do betray me.”
So blatant was Isaac that Baron Dale could only gulp like a goldfish.
“Take them away.”
A group of North Bears appeared out of nowhere and gagged the emissaries’ mouths as they took them to jail. Watching the scene, Isaac lit a new cigarette and looked at the administrative body.
“I’m asking just to make sure, but is there anyone who doesn’t hate me? If there is, then I probably haven’t been hard enough on you. It’ll be easier for me to get away in court if I make you all work harder.”
The administrative body pondered about their response.
Does he want them to hate him or not? As the group maintained silence in fear of this being a trap for hell, Reisha raised her hand.
“Me, me! I don’t hate you sunbaenim!”
“Ahem, I also don’t have any ill feelings toward you. In fact, it’s closer to respect.”
“I don’t have the right to say anything. I just do as I’m told.”
Reisha, Kunette, Lanburton, and Rizzly confessed they bore no ill feelings, but Isaac responded with disappointment.
“Huuh! I see I was too easy on you. They always said you need to raise your subordinates strongly. So from now on…”
“No! I hate you, Lord Isaac!”
“‘Bastard’ is the only name I use to refer to you!”
“I’m writing a book on management called How to Avoid Being a Hindrance to your Employees: What Not to Do, Feat. Lord Isaac!”
“I am giving out lectures on how to become a respected employer, what not to follow from Isaac!”
“I always swear at you every time I wake up and just before going to sleep!”
The administrative blurted out reactively when Isaac was about to declare that he’d bully them even harder.
Realising their mistake, the administrative body slowly went back into silence, fearing Isaac. However, Isaac nodded with a look of great satisfaction instead of being angry.
“Good. Work harder next time. I’m sure there are people wondering about what’s happening, so get back to work.”
“What do we do with this man?”
Rizzly grabbed Viscount Aintz who was still unconscious. Isaac pondered.
“We’ll need to get some of our money back. Throw him in the mines. And Kalden.”
“Restart the reunification negotiations. We got our money.”
Everyone reached an epiphany and nodded. This entire scene was orchestrated to absorb Port City. The administrative body wasn’t sure what changed Isaac’s mind, but with no money being directed to Lichtens, they had plenty of money to use towards reunification with Port City.
Isaac received a call even before he finished his cigarette as the administrative body left the rooftop in awe, perhaps because of the incident he’d caused.
Walking leisurely into the Communicator room, Isaac smiled and waved when Mazelan’s face appeared on screen.
“It’s been a while. I assume you’re staying busy?”
-Whose fault do you think that is?
Mazelan glared at Isaac, unhappy with Isaac’s casual greeting.
“I guess it is a big incident, as a College graduate, the Lord of New Port City, and the Director of Security was almost assassinated.”
Isaac nodded with a look of sincere empathy on his face. Mazelan sighed with contempt before he spoke.
-So why did you do it? I want to know the reason.
“To take over the Lichtens.”
-You could have done it without this!
Mazelan’s shout was met with Isaac snicker, as if the answer was trivial.
“Why should I pay for it when I could just take it for free?”
Mazelan looked at Isaac with his face flushed completely red, coughing in between venting out his frustration. If Isaac absorbed the Lichtens’ fief—which had been put up as collateral—Isaac would need to buy out all of their rights too.
The nobles and bureaucracy would have protested this unprecedented method of gaining entire fiefs.
Though it wasn’t scary, it was still annoying.
But what if it was provincial warfare? All of these annoyances would disappear instantly.
Isaac also had the justification, so no one could say otherwise. After all, this was an attack on the Lord of a fief.
Since this was a provincial warfare with everything on the line, if Isaac won, he wasn’t responsible for compensating the civilian casualties in the Lichten’s previous war.
Though morally Isaac had responsibility, it wasn’t forced upon Isaac. So if Isaac declared that this should be done as the law states it, all recompensation would need to come from the Empire’s treasury while Isaac only needed to pay for recompense that occurred in the war between him and Lichtens.
This would also be something that never happened and would bring much noise, but the Empire’s policy prioritises civilian damages when no rewards are involved, so the first step in resolving the issue is to pay from the treasury. Therefore, if Isaac declined outright, the Empire will carry the burden instead.
Which is why Mazelan vented out his frustration for a long time, until he sighed defeat and asked.
-Are you really trying to make a new Dukedom?
“I don’t see why not?”
-There isn’t. There isn’t, but…
“I’m not liking the look on your face.”
Isaac was annoyed when Mazelan scanned Isaac from top to bottom with his eyes half-closed.
-No. Well, you can do it if you want. Hm… the truth is, I’m curious how it’ll turn out too…
“What’s with you and that weird laugh of yours?”
Isaac spoke with whole hearted disdain when Mazelan started laughing to himself. Mazelan quickly regained composure and avoided the question.
-But do you think you can handle it? I think you’re doing too much for you to handle…
Isaac quickly saw through what Mazelan was implying.
“I can always sell my shares If I think I need to. And I hear there are many people looking for it?”
Mazelan coughed dryly as if Isaac had hit the mark and proceeded to avoid eye contact.