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Taigon eagerly bared his fangs, ready for battle. Other members of the Grand Council rallied behind Taigon and readied their own weapons. The royal guards, who had their swords drawn, stepped back cautiously.
“What a coincidence. My boys said the same thing too.”
With that, the royal guards manning the walls threw their bodies down onto the plaza. The members of the Grand Council dodged the rain of bodies in a panic.
Just as everyone was starting to question the royal guards’ ma.s.s suicides, their bodies exploded.
The explosion’s tremors immediately shattered their armour into bits and pieces of shrapnel, flying in every direction. The council members in the bodies’ immediate vicinity were eviscerated, while those caught in the blast were thrown about like ragdolls.
“Kuuk! Everyone, focus! Kill Isaac!”
Taigon bellowed while he clutched his ringing ears. Some of the members who regained their bearings ran for Isaac, and the royal guards stepped forward to stop them.
“You think we’d be stopped by the likes of you…”
A werewolf member snorted at his opponent—a single royal guard armed with a sword. With a single jump, the werewolf sliced through his opponent’s neck with his claw.
Despite the stream of blood flowing from his neck, the royal guard continued to hold onto the werewolf. Sensing an impending danger, the werewolf tried to pry himself out of the royal guard’s grasp—when the royal guard exploded.
Taigon shouted, horrified. His longtime friend, who had followed behind him all this time, was now just a mangled stump of flesh and bone.
It wasn’t just Kalonzo. Every one of the council members who ran at Isaac were locked into a death grasp before being incinerated in the ensuing explosion. The remaining council members looked at Isaac in utter despair, realising that all of the royal guards were strapped with bombs and did not fear death.
“My boys are only good at one thing, but they’re very good at it.”
The council members glared at the chuckling Isaac. In their long lives, this kind of foe was not unfamiliar to them.
A suicide attack carried out by humans who have been brainwashed by angels. The council members quickly figured out that these weren’t the royal guards. They were the remainders of an angel’s failed incursions—the mercenaries who’d disappeared with Isaac.
Angels wouldn’t hesitate to use humans as suicide bombers, because humans were no more than commodies to them. But for Isaac, a fellow human, to use the same tactics? The council members were reminded of why the Director of Surveillance labelled him a monster.
Taigon looked around to count the number of council members who could still fight, then glared at Isaac.
“So this is what you were counting on? You underestimate us. Though there will be sacrifices…”
“I know, I know. You’re not going to surrender, you say? Who asked in the first place? I was never planning on letting you live.”
“Hmph! We have no desire to live either! Though we will die here, the Empire will disappear with you!”
“Even though I have hostages?”
“Those worthless human hostages can rot!”
“No, they’re not humans.”
Taigon’s eyebrows narrowed, watching Isaac smile with glee. Isaac clapped his hands twice.
As if they’d been waiting for the signal, the screen that was broadcasting the feed from New Port City disappeared, splitting into multiple smaller screens. When they saw what was on the screen, they stood still, terrified.
“W, what is this! How could this possibly happen!”
Taigon shouted in utter shock. An old Druid with a body of a wizened tree. A young man with a lion’s head and a s.h.i.+ning golden mane. A bird woman with wings so white it looked like that of an angel’s. They were all tied down helplessly, and next to them were humans ready to take their lives with their swords and crossbows.
“They aren’t involved in any of this!”
Among the revered endangered races, they were the last survivors of their races, waiting for their inevitable extinction. Taigon’s anger had never been more true. They were the last survivors of the races who’d sacrificed themselves for the future of this world.
They were beings whose capture, much less their lives, should not have been involved in the first place. Seeing them captured by humans, the hairs of his body stood up almost as if they were outraged themselves.
Isaac chuckled, amused by Taigon.
“Did you really think I’d been fleeing aimlessly for the past 6 months before las.h.i.+ng out in desperation? I was honestly scared when you said you figured out my plan. Well, you were right that I was a diversion. It’s just that I wasn’t going after the Queen.”
“… That footage must be fake!”
Taigon shouted. Isaac clicked his tongue and smoked his cigarette.
“Denying reality now? When I heard about the endangered races, the first thing that crossed my mind was that they’d make excellent hostages. But it turns out all humans think the same way. How did you think I figured out their locations? Dark Royale had already uncovered their locations so they could be used as hostages in case a war broke out with the non-humans.”
“Kuu… This is why you humans…”
Taigon grit his teeth.
“Druids, Golden Manes and the White Wings. They sacrificed the most to stop the 7 Days of Calamity right? And that makes them that much dearer to you. Shall we start our talk after we break open one of their skulls? Who should we choose? Alright. Let’s make them die in order. That Druid over there. You said they’re made of trees right? Set it on fire. I wonder what’ll happen.”
Taigon shrieked. There was still a possibility that the footage was fake as he’d said, but he couldn’t bet on it when the stakes were so high. As Isaac had said, the Dark Royale would have uncovered the locations of all the endangered species, no matter how cla.s.sified it was.
With Taigon first to surrender, the other Grand Council members laid their weapons down with him. The royal family were of no threat, but the Grand Council members could strike back at any moment. So the royal guards devoted more of their attention to the council members, corralling them to the middle of the plaza.
“Kuh! What an amazing sight.”
Isaac couldn’t help but be impressed at the view, seeing all of the rulers of this world kneeling before him as he sat on the judge’s bench.
“… Why don’t you drop the act now?”
Taigon spoke threateningly to the Emperor and Pendleton, who kneeled next to him.
Isaac couldn’t possibly pull a stunt like this without their help. Just the fact that all royal guards were replaced by the mercenaries was proof enough. It was impossible without the Emperor’s approval. But Pendleton refuted him haughtily, belittling the tiger’s train of thought.
“Didn’t you know?”
“The Dark Royale was the Empire’s ultimate card against the war with non-humans. It was created to maximise fallout in a war destined to end in our defeat. Neither the Emperor nor I know how many members there are in Dark Royale. An ultimate secret service.”
Isaac nodded in agreement with Duke Pendleton.
“I was surprised too when it was given to me. I didn’t think the Dark Royale would be of such help. Without them, my stunt would have been much more humble. My original plan was pitiful at best, not to mention a very low chance of it actually succeeding.”
“… We will not let this go unpunished.”
Taigon warned not just Isaac, but the Emperor and Duke Pendleton too. Endangered races were being held hostage. This was bigger than just Isaac now; the entirety of humanity had just made enemies of the non-humans.
“Now, now. Focus, we’re going to start the broadcast. It’ll be an historic moment.”
“Is this live? Ah, there it is.”
Isaac rubbed his chin when his face was on screen. He smiled brightly.
“h.e.l.lo there. Let me introduce myself in case there’s people who don’t know me. My name is Isaac. The man bearing the t.i.tle of ‘Enemy of the Empire.’ Confused as to what’s happening? Don’t worry. I’ll explain.”
Isaac took out a new cigarette as he gloated. The tip of his fingertip lit up a small fire, and he lit his cargette with it.
“I’m sure you all know I’ve been named the ‘Enemy of the Empire.’ Hm. A great honour.”
“But you know, although I’ve been t.i.tled as such, I’ve thought well and hard about if I’ve done anything that deserves the death row. Turns out, I haven’t. Think about it. Spreading the plague in Milros Castle and trying to make money selling the cure? Anyone other than me could have also done it. So I’ve decided. Ah! As a College graduate, previously Rank 1 knight and now the “Enemy of the Empire,” I must accomplish a feat deserving of the t.i.tle. Something so grand and magnificent that no one would ever try to challenge me. That way, I’ll be the household standard for what it truly takes to become the “Enemy of the Empire.” Don’t you think so?”
Everyone, from those who were kneeling in the plaza to those watching the broadcast in their homes, had the same thought… What kind of bulls.h.i.+t was this?
“So I’ve prepared an event that will go down in the history books. Let me give you a taste of what’s to come. Who was it again? The crown prince? Bring him here.”
“W, wait! Let go of me!”
“You insolent mutts! Do you know who he is?!”
The mercenaries, who’d now unclad their royal guard disguise, marched into the middle of the royal family and grabbed the crown prince. The royals around him mustered up some of their courage and stood in defiance, but they were mercilessly cut down by the mercenaries’ swords.
The mercenaries spared n.o.body as they cut through them like they were simple straw scarecrows. They mutilated the bodies of those who resisted, and those who managed to escape their wrath struggled to crawl away from the ma.s.sacre. All of this on live broadcast, to every screen in the Empire.
“Yes, Mr. Crown Prince. Wow, look at you. Aren’t you handsome? You can practically see the royalness oozing from his face.”
The crown prince stood firm, his mouth shut despite his whole body trembling, trying to maintain his dignity.
“Now everyone. Look here. It’s the crown prince. The future Emperor.”
As Isaac introduced the crown prince on screen, Flander handed Isaac the shotgun. Isaac loaded the shotgun and before anyone could even object, placed it on the crown prince’s head and pulled the trigger.
‘Bang!’ and the crown prince’s head was no more. Isaac smiled, satisfied.
“There’s nothing like a shotgun when you’re killing someone. The visual is just phenomenal. Pistols and swords are so dull. Ah, viewers, did you see that? The seat of the Emperor’s next-in-line is now empty.”
The Emperor closed his eyes and bit his lip as he listened to Isaac snicker. Though he was lacking, he was still his son. No father would be emotionless at their son’s death. Isaac glimpsed at the Emperor for a moment, then loaded a new round into his shotgun.
“Now, n.o.body knows who will be the next Emperor of the Empire. So let me set off some fireworks for the future Emperor. Some grand, extravagant fireworks.”