For nobles there’s something called a noble’s conduct. One among those is not being allowed to stay at a cheap inn. It is absolutely necessary for them to wear clothes and eat food proper to their status. If they, who were granted their peerage by royalty, were to be shabby, it wouldn’t only hurt their own honour but also result in damaging the prestige of the king himself.
“… that’s the reason. There isn’t any ill intention. I want you to relax even if it is a plain room.” (Daniel)
What kind of effect had Daniel’s words on those 4 people? If you tried to judge their average age, it was men in good health, who sat down as they pleased surrounding the table with the prepared food and drinks in the room.
“In other words, it’s a farewell party of sorts, isn’t it? Drinking sake while talking with your companions. With the degree of diversity in culture here, this isn’t an exceeding feast from ancient times. With only men here, there isn’t even a single flower present either… that’s not the reason either, I wonder?” (Akseli)
One of them is a man called the handyman of the Helrevi feudal army, First Lieutenant Akseli Anel of the territorial army. Not only one can sense his ability as soldier from his physique, but he is also endowed with elegance in anything he does. Even at this place he picks up the sake cup in a well-accustomed manner. This attitude of a definite composure is probably a fact for the people chosen to be at this place, Daniel thinks. Although there are people holding a favourable impression of him, he would likely be scorned, if it was those close to Earl Helrevi for example.
“What’s up with ya? Do you plan on calling some prostitutes over? I will go home then. What’s with this room? Even under normal circumstances it’s detestable to spill a single drop of sake… don’ add bothersome things to it.” (Jarkko)
One of them is Sergeant Jarkko (T/N: >> Yarukko <<), a senior soldier of the Helrevi feudal army. Is it because the three attributes of a long white beard, a short, stout build and a sour look have been gathered together, I wonder? For Daniel it was somehow inevitable to consider this old soldier a dwarf from illustrated stories. Their first meeting was something quite boisterous, but Axely introduced him as demon sergeant displaying unparalleled bravery on the battlefield.
“No, not at all, Sergeant-dono. Let bygones be bygones since that’s probably not what he meant. First Lieutenant-dono is an excellent person that considers the danger to himself occasionally, albeit seeing many scary things. I’d like to be excused from getting involved in that.” (Lauri)
One of them is the peddler called Lauri. His gentle features are showing a smile that makes him really amiable. That’s also why his beard gives a quite ridiculous impression, I guess? However, he is a capable person, Daniel has assessed. He has clout among many merchants, moreover he hasn’t settled down anywhere. Not only is he upright, but also someone showing a powerful conviction.
And, there’s one more person.
“Whoa… there is slight discomfort for some reason.” (Marko)
Without even a family name and at an age of 10 (Author miss I guess, it’s 8) years, which one wouldn’t suspect, it’s the boy named Marko. If I had to comment on his appearance, he’s a beautiful child with black hair and blue eyes. Once he becomes an adult, he will certainly fascinate men and women alike. However, now, it might result in something interesting, if something like a portrait of him sitting silently was to be drawn.
However, the corners of Daniel’s mouth crooked.
“Although I told you to not misunderstand, I’m already 8 years old. And, all of you had been 8 years at some point too. I urge you to try remember that. Did you harbour any kind of irritation towards the teasing of adults when you were 8 years old yourselves?” (Marko)
“What a troublesome lot”, with an appearance of shaking his head, it has the touch of exaggerated buffoonery. He is playing the fool. Opposite to Jarkko, who cocks his head in puzzlement as he doesn’t understand, the others aren’t able to endure holding it in. Akseli and Lauri raised their voices in a grand laughter. Daniel also laughed. They lifted up their sake cup without knowing from whom they got it and gulped down the contents together.
(To arrive at an evaluation of this boy, stuff like age and outward appearance… !) (Daniel)
He is a child adopting a mature speech and conduct unfitting his own age. He is also a child impertinently talking down to adults. However, this Marko isn’t a regular gifted person of this world… Daniel has confidence in that. He is enjoying the feeling of passionate throbbing for his own fate.
Three days had passed since the evening when Daniel entered the bar chasing after Marko. Those were 3 days that changed the future of many people. All of the world’s hues reflected in Daniel’s eyes are transforming.
The 5 people, who gathered here this evening, are companions sharing one project.
The Hakkinen escort group.
The leader is Daniel. Akseli and Jarkko are serving as commanding officers of the combat group with its currently 150 mercenaries attached. Daniel has been responsible for a greater part of the funds. The remaining has been provided as support money by several merchants. The one in charge as accountant is Lauri. The prime objective is to guard the merchants travelling the highway. They are to put priority on the cargo of the merchants supporting them. Besides that, they are to take over the task for less money than the normal escorts. If there was damage to the goods, they would pay a compensation.
It won’t be the end of the subjugation unit, if they lose. Managing it as an organisation, it’s a group maintained by an increase of profits. The forecast of the management has already risen due to the many merchants supporting them. It is a fact that Daniel was forced to do this as a personal matter… but the unexpected twist of that was the effectiveness of the name taken by the group. The family name Hakkinen is superb as signboard. They are supported by an illusion.
It is Marko who planned and prepared everything.
It was him, who gave the merchants and mercenaries a hint and stirred them up to form a guard unit. Even more, what strange coincidence that he contacted Akseli at that place to draw out a secret cooperation from the territorial army? Daniel latched onto that.
Marko’s actions, knowing of Daniel’s lineage and circumstances, were fast.
He drew a diagram showing a complete prediction of the organisation explaining it with 「It’s about being able to manage an unofficial private army that is acknowledged by the feudal lord」 due to Daniel’s complaining about having troubles forced on him. Once Daniel approved of it, even while being overwhelmed, they hurried towards persuading the merchants alongside Lauri and entrusted the recruitment of mercenaries to Akseli.
Legally speaking, Marko shouldn’t even have the right to do something like ordering a company officer of the territorial army. He shouldn’t have, but for some reason Akseli was in high spirits to be of use. Towards Daniel, who voiced his doubt, Lauri answered with the words 「Such are the mysteries in Marko’s surroundings」. Speaking of Akseli, he accepted the directive 「Your mission is to observe Baron Hakkinen」 from the feudal lord before anyone became aware of it while choosing the mercenaries.
“He is someone who does things diligently to the degree of not sparing his household and expenses. Suggesting it as troublesome situation, I was appointed to it without him even suspecting anything as I had volunteered to do it myself. Well, it won’t raise my evaluation or cause any congratulations though.” (Akseli)
While he was at it, he has even seen to Jarkko’s application for extended leave to pass through. Probably he used health issues as pretext for that, but as a result that judgement is laughable. Daniel laughed at that, but that caused the old soldier to become angry. Although he immediately apologized, Jarkko probably calmed down due to the influence of Marko’s words.
“You are sturdy as soldier. That’s something everyone, who knows you, understands. Even I realised that at one glance. First Lieutenant-dono did that on purpose. The health issues only served as pretext. Even though Baron-sama laughed, he hasn’t only perceived it as funny story. That’s because you are full of ambition.” (Marko)
Even while expressing his complaints in grunts, Jarkko’s mood was changing to the better. And, feeling merry, he joins the circle of the recruited mercenaries. There are many who know of him, who is a veteran soldier with a long military record. They are idolising his firmness of character to rebuke someone disregarding whether they are nobles or anyone else. And all the more since he is even good at taking care of others with his kind compassion despite his appearance.
In regards to Daniel, he had to make courtesy calls everywhere in his role as representative of the organisation. Everything has been prepared by Marko. The meeting of merchants and the review of the organisation’s members are important tasks as well. Of course it can’t be helped that Marko cannot sign and seal the official documents. For Daniel, who lived every day wasting away in boredom, all of that was fun.
Thus, three days passed like surging waves and they arrived at the opportunity to devote themselves to the sake cups this evening.
“However. as former 8 years old, I give up. It’s also somewhat different from what the current 8 years old says after all.” (Daniel)
Once Daniel tries to reheat this topic,
“Are there two such lads? The adults won’t be needed then.” (Jarkko)
While drinking the sake emphatically, Jarkko insults them with his rude mouth. It seems that this old soldier had discarded all of his manners on some unknown battlefields. Daniel returned a 「Is that so?」. The sake is really delicious.
“Certainly, it would probably be a disaster for the world if there were two or three Marcos.” (Akseli)
Although Akseli sighed as if it would be really unbearable, his mouth’s edges were slanting upward. And, a sharp light dwelled in the look he turned towards Daniel.
“Even only one is already a child that influences the world greatly. It reminds me of the fable “The three-headed Snake King.” Having magic expected to protect the golden grape, each of its heads was great and thus they fell in disorder. In the end the grape was eaten… by the “White Wolf.”” (Akseli)
That is a bedtime story read to children. It’s just a story with uncertain origins. Daniel of course knows about it as well. He also understood the intention of Akseli, who talked about it. His own mouth’s edges are slanting as well.
Akseli has warned Daniel 「Do not misunderstand」.
It can be understood as if Marko was imitating one of the snake’s heads, but it’s different. Instead, it might be Daniel and Akseli who are the snake heads. However, that doesn’t mean that Marko represents the grape. Most likely the Hakkinen escort group is the grape, Daniel surmises. Akseli’s words might also have the aim for them to have bit more humility towards their project in comparison to the snake king.
That’s because Marko is most likely the white wolf.
A silver wolf, who has sharper claws and is smarter than anyone thinking they are superior. Being the hero of the fable’s world, the children are cheering him on in his adventures of glory and hardships. Even Daniel anticipated that. And, even among the many famous scenes of the story, there is only one that is popular, the “Misunderstanding of the Monkey King.”
It had been arranged that the white wolf was to cooperate with the monkey king, who was on top of a tree, in a strange situation. The white wolf runs around for the sake of the monkey king, who loathes to descend to the ground, and brings a lot of gains to him. The white wolf did that with good intentions, but the monkey king misunderstood that as his loyalty towards the desire to have the tree’s nuts. It reached the point that he gave the white wolf high-handed orders.
There are three conclusions. They are used differently depending on the character and age of the child the story was read to. The first tells of the white wolf running up the tree and biting the monkey king to death. The second tells of the white wolf biting the root of the tree and having the monkey king drop to the ground, which inflicts serious injuries upon him. The third tells of the white wolf simply leaving and thus abandoning the monkey king.
The ending Daniel prefers was the last one. It’s not because of the gentleness and compassion. Rather, it’s the opposite. I have no doubt that this conclusion is the one tormenting the monkey king the most. To receive the hostility and hate of someone is in some ways luscious. However, if you were to be forsaken with nothing but silence… it would end in long solitude. I wonder at what kind of memories will the monkey king, all by himself with the nuts, look as a result? What kind of end is awaiting him? Daniel considered this to be exceedingly cruel.
Therefore Daniel answered, accepting Akseli’s gaze directly.
“I also like the story of the white wolf. If I were to accompany that person as a friend on his road of conquest, it would certainly be an honour. And I would even run around instead of him, if we were to run into the monkey king’s kind.” (Daniel)
I have no doubt that there will be many difficulties and obstacles standing in the way of Marko, who is the white wolf in the shape of a human. The fable’s white wolf won everything even while being wounded, but Daniel knows that the reality is a lot more terrifying than a story. A man, who was called the hero, was defeated and died. Didn’t the man, who won, die after being labelled as an evil person?
A herald is necessary. Daniel has a hunch. Depending on the kind of difficulties, there is a necessity for people who shoulder those instead of him. Being clad in the illusion called Hakkinen, there must definitely be a role only I can do.
“That’s nice.” (Akseli)
Axely said in absolute delight with a broad smile of mischief.
“It’s alright to take his place, it’s also fine to bite together with him and it’s even alright to win by anticipating it. Humans are beings that escape from their ugliness only when they do the tasks they are skilled at. Good gracious, I have to admit that I’ve recently become a very handsome man.” (Akseli)
“Yeah yeah”, Daniel gave a broad smile. There is an example already here.
(White wolf, it is… ? Since my childhood I had wished to hold its tufty tail. It looks like I will see an amazing world. And above all, I feel great.) (Daniel)
“This is an important point”, Lauri closes only one eye. Somehow or other this man has a good sense. And he calms down this place. I’ve heard that he apparently met Marko earlier than anyone else. At the same time Daniel considered this to be enviable, he felt a single anxiety.
“Though it might be a bit late for that now… it’s really no problem for you, Lauri? If you become a person in charge of the escort group’s office work, you will spend a lot of time together with me in the territorial capital. You won’t be able to freely peddle anymore as you’ve done up until now.” (Daniel)
There is an implicit inquiry in there. That is, it will decrease the time he can spend at Marko’s side. As a matter of fact, it cannot be helped that Marko, who is the son of the village headman, has to return to the village. That place is in a remote area. There’s no doubt that he will take off grandly eventually, but with an age of 8 years there are restrictions after all.
“Of course, I don’t mind. I thank you very much for being worried about the lowly me, Baron.” (Lauri)
There’s no lie in the figure returning the reply with a smile. However, it doesn’t dispel Daniel’s worry. If Lauri doesn’t establish the stronghold of the escort group in the territorial capital, it will certainly become troublesome. Having said that, I don’t want to act like stealing a trusted friend from Marko.
Probably guessing it from Daniel’s expression, Lauri began to throw glances in the direction of Marko. Once Daniel tried to follow that, it was Marko who let out a big sigh as result.
“That way the business will make progress.” (Marko)
Unexpected words came out from the boy’s mouth. It was a method that couldn’t be avoided. Marko began to explain in an indescribably happy way.
“Everyone, do you know of the medicine called “White transparent gloss” that has become famous in public recently? It’s us, who are manufacturing and selling it. Since I want to keep this a secret as much as possible, please don’t tell anyone, okay?” (Marko)
He happily looks at the surprised surrounding.
“In fact, there were two problematic parts. One was the capital investment necessary to expand the production quantity. And the other was the increase of personnel to enlarge the market share. Although we had the funds, we would end up being targeted by scary people if we weren’t successful.” (Marko)
The boy raises a finger of his small hand for each of them, feudal lord, nobles, merchants and thieves.
“The stronghold of the Hakkinen escort group is definitely the territorial capital, but going by its nature, it will result in establishing branches at various places in the territory while increasing its personnel. The stationing of soldiers is only natural, but since our opponents are mounted bandits, it will also be necessary to have horses. What do you all, who are responsible for the management, think we have to obtain for that?” (Marko)
He counts those with the other hand. Market, transport, personnel, stables and offices.
And he showed both hands in front of his chest.
“Thanks to you, all of that is progressing smoothly. Thanks for the treat.” (Marko)
Smiling with a grin, he bowed with a bob of his head.
Being taken aback, time flows slowly as they continue to only gaze at Marko… “An old man’s wisdom?” Jarkko boldly grumbled with a snort,
“… And you want to gather two of this lad? It will become a major disaster.” (Jarkko)
The room burst into laughter.
Daniel was asked by the shopkeeper, who probably received complaints from the other customers, very politely to keep it down a bit as the very loud volume didn’t fit with the regulations of the inn. And yet, while putting effort into suppressing the laughter, he couldn’t restrain, with his hand, he bribed him by slipping a gold coin into his hands with a “Sorry, sorry.”
After that he would bribe him 3 more times. The farewell party was a heated one.