On the same day Isaac had his meeting with Mazelan when both cities were still engrossed in the excitement from the Grand Canal Race, Isaac met up with a secretive group Soland had gathered. Isaac’s plan was simply to rob Port City Casino’s safe. Port City was doing exactly what Isaac originally planned to do with his own casino – using it as a front for money laundering. The fastest way to both hinder the casino and destroy its credibility was to rob the place clean.
To do this, Isaac used Soland to assemble the greatest and largest heist crew, along with the legendary heister nicknamed ‘The Master Key’ to get the job done.
Isaac provided them with all the equipment and funds they demanded, and if necessary, he didn’t hesitate to recruit inside men through blackmail and bribery.
The original aim for the Grand Canal Race was to act as a distraction to cover up the heist. However, after hearing of the unprecedented intrigue that ran deep below the city, Isaac thought of another way to destroy the casino completely , and it succeeded. On a side note, Isaac also got a list of people who were quick to abandon ship and tried to move elsewhere the moment things turned shaky.
“Why’s everyone so mute? Shouldn’t you guys at least say a word of congratulations to me, who managed to win against impossible odds using my own life?”
Atop the rooftop of New Port City’s City Hall, all of the merchant employees and Isaac’s hubaes stood still with their heads down, unable to utter a single word.
Cordnell was the exception; he still couldn’t process what had happened. The expression on his face was an infinite cycle of a dumbfounded look, a broad smile, and a frown.
Isaac lit a new cigarette as he savoured to glass of fruit wine Rizzly had poured for him.
“Hm, maybe it’s because I haven’t had it in a while, but the wine seems to have gotten even better.”
“Hahaha. Thank you for your compliment.”
Lanburton nodded wholeheartedly as he laughed. Both Rizzly and Lanburton may feel great right now since they were free of any crimes, but for the merchant employees and hubaes, this was the last place they wanted to be in.
“How… how could a triple pair come out at that moment?”
Cordnell asked the question blankly, still unable to determine whether this was a dream or reality.
“Obviously because I was lucky.”
“But it’s not something that could happen by just being lucky!”
“Well, you have a point.”
“I knew it! You rigged it somehow, didn’t you?”
Cordnell shouted out when Isaac avoided the question by muttering to himself. Isaac quickly put on an innocent act when he was accused by Cordnell.
“Hey! Watch what you’re saying! Rigged the game you say? It was an honest battle, fair and square.”
Nobody on the roof believed a shred of what Isaac had said. But despite being sure of it, they didn’t have the evidence to prove it. On the outside, it really looked like Isaac had won the battle through sheer luck.
It was the casino that demanded Isaac check the dice at the start, and just before the final game, they asked him to check again. It was Isaac who pleaded that they cancel the bet, and the casino refused. Now that Isaac had won the game, the casino must take the responsibility and pay up the exorbitant winnings.
Already, news of this legendary battle had spread throughout the Empire through the Communicators. Most people would simply be awed and excited by what had happened, but there were groups of people who couldn’t be as happy about the outcome. And the employees and hubaes were one of them.
Isaac began to speak, and every time he uttered a word, a cloud of smoke puffed out from his mouth. Cordnell, who was still looking at Isaac with suspicion, and the hubaes, who wouldn’t dare look into Isaac’s eyes, listened.
“You see, humans tend to lose their senses when a large sum of money is being waved right in front of them, even though it becomes super obvious if they just think for a moment. They can’t even step back and observe the bigger picture. Cordnell.”
Isaac snickered when Cordnell answered politely.
“Why don’t you call me a bastard like before?”
Baffled, Cordnell quickly tried to make an excuse.
“I, I must have lost my senses back then.”
“Hm, I understand. It’s difficult to keep a straight head when so much money is involved.”
“I don’t think that’s the right context…”
“I told you that it’ll only take one game right?”
Isaac arrogantly boasted about what had happened, and Cordnell could only suppress the anger rising inside him and laugh awkwardly. At the end of the day, Isaac did do as he said.
Cordnell suddenly came to a realisation and asked Isaac a question with worry on his face.
“But… will Port City really pay up the money?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, the amount they must pay isn’t something even remotely possible, right?”
“I think you’re mistaken.”
“It’s not Port City that needs to pay up but the owners and shareholders of the casino.”
“Isn’t that the same? It’s the four who really rule Port City.”
“Ha, really? Isn’t it the mayor who reigns supreme in the city?”
Isaac snickered with a face of a child trying to keep a secret. And it was at this moment that Soland and the other syndicate bosses entered the rooftop.
“How did it go?”
Soland replied with a snicker.
“They applied for an extension on the payment’s date using the robbery as an excuse, but they fainted the moment I showed them the verdict declared by the Department of Law.”
“Wait, a verdict?”
Cordnell asked the question that everyone was itching to know the answer to.
“Huh? It’s nothing. I just wanted to know what would happen if I can’t pay for someone when they’ve won a large sum. As you know, the laws aren’t exactly prepared for this kind of thing yet. So I used my rights as a Lord’s Representative and sent an official document to the Department of Law to receive an answer. What will happen if the casino says ‘tough, you get nothing.’”
Soland replied instead of Isaac.
“The Department of Law declared that the casino must immediately pay for all of the winnings the moment it incurs the debt. No exceptions. If the casino cannot pay for all of the winnings, then the responsibility falls to the owners and shareholders of the casino. The amount they must pay is proportional to how the size of their share in the casino. If some of these owners and shareholders go bankrupt, the responsibility falls to the others and their underlings to pay off the winnings.”
Everyone was at a loss for words after Soland finished. If an official document had been sent to the Department of Law, it would mean that the Commissioner and all of the high court officials had gathered in a meeting to discuss this matter.
With a verdict favourable to Isaac, Port City had no choice but to pay up.
“Wait! When did you send this document?”
Cordnell quickly realised that the time it took to process didn’t make sense and shouted out. When an official document is sent to the Department of Law, it must be thoroughly dissected and analysed before a verdict comes out. On average, it takes half a year to one year before the results are out.
“Huh? I sent that when we first opened up our casino. It’s a good thing the verdict came out right on time. We got lucky.”
“Don’t tell me that you’ve been planning for the whole thing the moment Port City opened their casino.”
Isaac quickly waved his hand as an act of innocence.
“Hey! Watch what you say! You’re making it sound as if I planned all of this.”
So he did plan it!
Everyone shouted out in their mind. Everyone’s suspicions were now confirmed despite Isaac’s pleas of innocence and the lack of evidence.
“W, what insane plot is this! What would you have done if this plan were to fail?”
Isaac replied nonchalantly to Cordnell.
“I’d just die if I failed.”
“How could you say that so casually?”
Cordnell shouted in frustration.
“Because I wouldn’t die alone.”
“You see those syndicate bosses? We made a promise that although we were born on different days, we would at least die together. Ah! This only counts if I die. Aren’t they so loyal? I didn’t ask them to, but they insisted on dying with me. Hahaha.”
Everyone looked to the syndicate bosses when Isaac finished speaking and had an epiphany when they saw the expressions the syndicate bosses were making.
During the time when everyone thought Isaac was done for and desperately tried to save their own skins by embezzling, the syndicate bosses, who should have been the most proactive to do so, were eerily passive. On top of that, there were always a number of North Bears who followed each syndicate boss wherever they travelled. Everyone mocked the syndicate bosses for those acts, thinking that they were simply boasting about their strength. But in truth, they were being watched the whole time.
“Um… there is one problem.”
Soland, who had been looking for an opportunity to speak, hesitantly spoke out his words.
“While we were going through the list of shareholders for the casino, we found out that one person had pulled out from the entire ordeal.”
Isaac pressured Soland to continue with silence, his eyes coldly narrowing.
“Z, Zeroman sold all of his shares related to the casino a few days ago and pulled out of the business.”
“He’s the man who holds the rights to the southern waterways.”
“He pulled out of the whole thing, you said?”
“Yes. He sold all of his shares to the remaining three.”
“So that means I have no way to drag him into the mess?”
Tension built up in Soland’s mind as Isaac visibly became increasingly irritated.
“Did someone have an ulterior motive? No, if that’s the case, then Zeroman would have been more active than just pulling out… Is he just sharp? Lucky man.”
After a moment of pondering, Isaac returned to a normal expression with a snort, unfazed by what had happened.
“Well, we’ll take care of that problem one step at a time. We can always pull him in using a convenient excuse later. Make sure you do a thorough investigation on Zeroman.”
The syndicate bosses made a sigh of relief when Isaac went over the issue without throwing a tantrum.
“Get ready because we’ll be busy now. Zeroman may have escaped, but the rest of the waterways are under my authority now.”
Those words shook everyone’s mind like a crack of thunder. Those rights were the geese that laid golden eggs, the true goldmine that brought Port City the riches they hold now.
The Port City may have been able to pay Isaac all of his winnings by stripping down everything to bare necessities and paying in installments if they had the time, but with the declaration from the Department of Law, that option wasn’t possible. The only way they could pay back was by handing over those rights.
Those rights, which were like an impenetrable fortress in the business world, have been taken by a method that nobody has ever thought of before. With those under New Port City authority, money was never going to become an issue .
“Now, now. We’ll call it a day. Everyone go back and have some rest.”
The merchant employees and Isaac’s hubaes looked at each other in confusion. They were expecting some kind of punishment for their crimes.
“I want to ask you something.”
Trentor, one of the hubaes, asked the question with a serious face. The question he was going to ask was obvious to everyone, so they looked at Trentor with frustration and condemnation for asking such an unnecessary question. But Trentor wasn’t fazed by this and continued.
“Truth be told, we believed that there was no more hope for New Port City because you’d fallen to gambling addiction.”
“As you know, we have applied to work here for the high pay which we were desperate for one reason or another. But losing out on that promised pay of 3 years seemed unfair for us, which is why we got our hands on the city funds.”
Trentor was prepared to be charged for embezzlement and spoke out to beg for mercy, but Isaac’s reaction of apathy brought confusion not just to Trentor but everyone else around him.
“I think I told you before. Do it at an acceptable level. Sounds to me like you guys have been going overboard lately, but I’ll consider that your bonus considering how well you guys have been working for me. You honestly think I’m going to care about that tiny sum of money now?”
“Do it at an acceptable level from now on. Leave.”
The group left in confusion, puzzled by Isaac’s unbelievable reaction.
Silence finally set in when everyone had left the roof.
“But it was still very dangerous.”
Rizzly spoke as he refilled Isaac’s glass. Rizzly, who had been serving Isaac as both a personal guard and secretary, knew of the entire plan since he had made all of the orders to force the plan through. Because of the situation he was in, Rizzly had no way to change the plan. But in his eyes, Isaac’s plan was so full of holes that just one kink in the plan would have derailed the entire project.
Isaac was also aware of this problem. But the reason he had to force it through anyway was because he had the government’s support, so flaws that seemed obvious at the time would be solved thanks to the support.
“Why, did it seem too haphazard for your taste?”
“Zeroman did leave the plan unscathed.”
“He’s just a sharp fella.”
“I know my men have been watching them the whole time, but Sir Isaac would have been completely destroyed if any one of the syndicate bosses betrayed you.”
Isaac burst out in laughter as if Rizzly made a great joke.
“What the, that’s what you were worried about?”
“It’s good that the plan went through without a hitch but…”
Rizzly continued complain. The plan was a complete success if you only looked at the results, but Rizzly found it very frustrating that it seemed like he was the only person whose heart and mind were under constant stress over how this project was going to turn out. Isaac took a sip of the wine and spoke.
“What do you think would have happened if the syndicate bosses betrayed me and joined Port City instead? I would fall and they would gain Port City’s trust. They’d get a few words of gratitude and a small sum they would call a reward. Then the situation would turn back to how it used to be, where Port City has the power to replace them at a whim. I gave them the opportunity to undo the shackles that were placed on their heads by Port City. And a reward of one million Giga for each one of them. For those who seemed worried that they would be cast out after the plan was over, I gave them complete authority over their designated task so that they could embezzle some of the funds during the whole thing.”
“You see, betrayal only happens when there’s more to gain from it.”
“Port City could have offered a greater reward.”
Isaac snickered when Rizzly gave his opinion. Isaac’s laughter was drenched deep in pessimism, a laughter only made possible by someone who could never trust the human nature.
“That would never happen. The relationship between Port and New Port City is that of a master and its dog. Would the master accept it when the dog suddenly demands for equal rights? Both the syndicate bosses and I know that will never happen.”
“… So it was going to succeed no matter what.”
“We just got lucky. If I didn’t know what was really happening in this place, I would have been satisfied with only robbing their safe and disrupting their business since I didn’t have enough cards to play with. Without cooperation from the Department of Law, I would have had to go through the tiring court battles, and time isn’t exactly on my side.”
“Even so, please refrain from doing something like this again. I was so worried that I couldn’t even eat honey.”
Isaac snickered. Rizzly’s complaint of being a North Bear unable to eat honey was perhaps the most authentic way to express their stress. Isaac didn’t hesitate to reward Rizzly, who had followed the plan with utmost loyalty.
“Well done. If you go see Lanburton, there should be a pot of elven honey for you. Take it and have a nice break. I’ll keep that a secret from Kunette.”
Rizzly disappeared even before Isaac finished speaking.
Now alone on the roof, Isaac lit a new cigarette as he muttered to himself.
“I guess money isn’t an issue now.”
A crowd gathered around the merchant employees and Isaac’s hubaes the moment they left the City Hall. They wanted to hear a more detailed story from those close to Isaac, but there was nothing for New Port City’s employees to say to the crowd.
They couldn’t even say that Isaac had somehow rigged the entire game or the heist too. They all had their suspicions, but there was no evidence to prove it. Plus, they knew that staying silent was going to be more beneficial to them in the long run than speaking out right now.
And so, the city employees forced their way through the crowd and split off into two groups. Gathering in their own little factions seemed childish, but they couldn’t help but stick around with those that they are more familiar with.
Isaac’s hubaes arrived at the hotel that the Rivolden Merchant Guild constructed, which they used as their accommodations. The price for their stay was paid for by the city anyway, so they used the most luxurious rooms in the hotel. The hotel also provided them with a private meeting room.
One by one, the hubaes changed into more comfortable clothes and gathered in the meeting room. They didn’t promise to meet up here, but it’d be hard to keep a sane mind on a day like this without having some alcohol. And so, even as the meeting room became more and more crowded, they all sipped at their own drinks in silence, thinking about everything that had happened. Kalden broke the silence, and spoke out against Trentor, unable to comprehend his actions from before.
“So why did you speak out to sunbae?”
There was a hint of blame in those words. The true meaning behind those words would be ‘why you would unnecessarily complicate the problem by announcing our crimes to him when he was going to let it go without a word.’ All of the other hubaes seemed to agree with Kalden, and looked to Trentor.
Trentor, who had been frowning throughout the whole thing, glimpsed at Kalden, and smirked.
“Although it angers me, I get the feeling that I won’t be able to deny those words once I hear the reason.”
Kalden, who was disturbed by Trentor’s insult, demanded the reason, and Trentor sighed.
“Can’t you see that Isaac sunbae has a hold over our weaknesses for the future?”
“Think about it. What we’ve done is embezzle government funds during our employment as government officials.”
All of the hubaes were disturbed and began to mumble to each other, while Kalden countered the argument.
“But Isaac sunbae approved of our actions!”
“Yes, yes he did. He said that the moment we started working. But not many of us actually followed his advice. Why? Because it’s illegal. But everyone joined in on the whole thing with the recent turn of events.”
“You agreed to do so as well!”
“Because I thought he was done for sure. That’s why I’m regretting my decision wholeheartedly.”
“But Isaac sunbae didn’t seem too bothered by what we’ve done.”
Trentor shook his head when Selia made her comment.
“But it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s illegal. Don’t you see what this means? Sunbae now has the power to cut out and fire any one of us if we were to act out against him in any way!”
The gravity of the situation finally sunk in for the hubaes. If this embezzlement incident were to be leaked to the public, their lives would be over. Even though they were graduates of the Campus and the fact that they would come out not guilty due to the fact that their superior allowed the ordeal to happen, the crimes they committed would stay with them forever.
No one would hire someone that had committed embezzlement. Just as Trentor said, they were now pawns who had to follow through everything Isaac said. Or so they thought. That conclusion was very logical, but sadly, they were mistaken.
“Shit! We’ve let our guard even after we’ve seen what he’d done in Campus first hand. It was obvious what we were going to do if he acted like he was destroying himself. He wanted to both destroy Port City and gain the tools to turn us into his pawns at the same time. Ha! I’m sure he was mocking us in his mind, watching us desperately trying to save our own lives when he had a trump card up his sleeve.”
Trentor grit his teeth in anger as he muttered, but that wasn’t what Isaac had intended from the start. Isaac never wanted to turn the hubaes into his pawns.
If the plan had failed, Isaac’s hubaes would be the most impacted. They would be like driftwood lost at sea, losing everything they had in an instant with no certainty for their future.
Isaac was even planning to encourage them to embezzle as much as they can so if his plan had failed, at least the hubaes would be able to save their own lives.
Not to mention the mass embezzlement of the funds from the city officials was also part of Isaac’s plan. Harold and the other three rulers of Port City weren’t idiots, and they would have closely monitored what was going on in New Port City. Isaac had to engrave into their hearts the assurance that New Port City really was falling to pieces. Thankfully, Isaac’s hubaes played their part and began to embezzle in plain sight, and Cordnell clung onto Isaac’s legs even until the final moments. It gave them a false sense of security in the belief that Isaac truly had fallen to gambling.
PR Note: The author initially referred to “them” as the “four,” but Zeroman had already pulled out.
“But will this really go through without a problem?”
Kalden was worried about what was to come. This incident was beyond just a giant winning from a gambling match. It was an incident that would directly plunder the rights over the waterways from Port City. No one would simply stay idle and watch as their belongings were being taken. They would do everything they can to find out the truth, and if they find even a single piece of evidence that the match was rigged, it would be Isaac who would be on the back foot instead.
“It would be difficult if it was our sunbae alone. But this is the waterways we are talking about. What’s our sunbae going to use that for? The greatest benefactors would be the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds. I’m sure the guild masters of the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds are rushing over to New Port City as we speak.”
Everyone nodded with Trentor’s explanation. The Seven Grand Merchant Guild had been fighting Port City all this time over the establishment of their own merchant guild. The problem that had been plaguing their minds had been solved with a decisive blow. Isaac no longer needed to play a hand in any of the problems. It was now the Seven Grand Merchant Guild’s turn to solve any future problems that arise, and they would be more than happy to do so.