“For the most part you are a skilful fellow, right?” (Oiva)
While rubbing his chin with his sweaty hand, Oiva called out to the 10-years-old child in front of him.
“It’s because that’s a bamboo sword. If it was a real sword, I wouldn’t be able to even wield it like that.” (Marko)
As the other men are using the towels nearby the commonly shared water well to chill their bruises, this black-haired boy finishes wiping off his sweat. Closely observing his half-undressed body, his bodily build is still that of a child indeed. It’s not capable of swinging iron arms.
Oiva is somehow deeply moved by his memory of Marko’s smallness at the time they met. They had also talked about the bamboo swords in the dojo at that chilly night. On a first glance this young person made him feel uneasy about allowing him to go home alone, but as 4 years have passed, it became amusing since he now had the appearance of an adult.
To say nothing of this blue-eyed boy being even the superior of Oiva, who is holding the title of fourth commander of the Hakkinen guard corps, and on top of that, being its leader. That is a point that everyone of the top brass knows without even needing to list it on the organization chart.
Marko of Kikomaru.
He is the one in charge of the production of the well-known medicine 「White transparent gloss」 and totally unknown to the Asuria Kingdom. Thanks to the grade of efficiency in the recent stock, the cheap, low-grade items have spread even to the small and medium villages and the high-priced, high-quality items have been sold as purveyor for the nobles. It is in the process of being acknowledged as household medicine. There’s even a rumour that Earl Helrevi is smearing it day and night into his hair.
And he is the shadow leader with the authority of 「Hakkinen guard corps」, which is now approaching a number of 1000 registered mercenaries, backing him. It is a combat group supported by a great number of merchants and has been approved by the feudal lord to be led by the Hakkinen household. Their credibility is tremendous as their way of working is reliable too. It never happens that the company is unrelated to the distribution of goods within the Helrevi territory. They are operating as semi-public military force.
Also, Bertrand, the leader of the 「Lawless organization」, has been employed in a position of being on the same eye level. Although Bertrand had quieted down completely at some point in time, he has suddenly restarted the forceful resistance and built up his reputation of having great influence in the underworld within those 2 years. Extending his influence to even other fiefdoms besides Helrevi territory, there are many skilled members within the organization.
If you combine all that, you will be able to see the dimension of Marko’s existence for the Helrevi Earldom.
He is a giant.
However, he is an unknown giant. Not once has Marko’s name been made public. Of course that applies to the lawless organization, but even for the Hakkinen guard corps it is Baron Daniel Hakkinen who acts as the figurehead. Even if you investigate the white transparent gloss, you will at most learn of the name Raulee. Assuming one passes beyond the secrecy at this level, they will end at the name of Kikomaru’s village headman, Herman.
Marko’s title is still nothing else but 「Son of the village headman」. Although, if you consider the degree of awareness of 「I remember having met someone like that as well」 in regards to Oiva, it might be the same in regards to Marko himself as well.
In reality, Marko has been declaring that he won’t succeed the position of Kikomaru’s village headman. In Asuria Kingdom’s law the heredity of the village headman’s duty is no more than a recommendation. Anyone is able to take over the duty of being village headman, if the villagers approve of them. Using this method likely had been agreed between father and child. It looks like his mother didn’t know about it until the end.
Spring last year Marko’s mother passed away. With tuberculosis being the direct cause, she died peacefully at the last moments at the end of being ill in bed for 10 years. It’s a story from Lauri, who attended the funeral, but no matter how one looks at it, the cause of her long illness seems to be the birth of Marko. Now that he says it, I realize there is something strange here. If you also talked about the age of his mother, she wasn’t the same age as his father. As a high child death rate is the reality in farm villages, Marko is a single child.
Oiva unexpectedly tried to envision the mental state of becoming a parent. Hoping for a child without being able to birth one and then being rewarded too late with the dearly desired son at last… and he doesn’t even want to inherit the the position and duty of oneself.
However, Oiva thinks it will be a different matter if that son is Marko. He lowered his hand because the pain in his chin had slowly faded. He had been hit at the time of their one-to-one showdown. It would be impossible for me to reign in a son, who is able to pull off something like that at the age of 10, no matter how much I struggle.
“… Well, you did quite the show. You slipped away unhurt from an encirclement by 5 people. Even for me that ain’t simple. Though it woulda been a different matter if I had a spear.” (Oiva)
“As expected, if Oyvua-san had joined in as well, we would have done you in.”
“Ha ha, don’tcha understand? You’ve left your opponent pass below your crotch.” (Oiva)
Recalling the match from just before, Oiva raised a laughter.
Facing 5 men, each equipped with a bamboo sword, Marko had one in each hand and one on each side of his waist. He confronted them carrying 4 bamboo swords in total. Being careful of that oddity, the 5 people encircled Marko, but when they were about to try attacking all at once, Marko threw each of the bamboo swords, held in his hands, diagonally in front.
While knocking down the confused two people he threw them at, Marko ran up to the feet of the one standing in front making sure to stay low. At the same time of defending against the downwards swung blow of his opponent’s bamboo sword with his left hand, he mowed down the opponent’s feet by drawing his bamboo blade with his right hand and attacking with it in the same stroke. And continuing in that low stance, eventually, after smoothly slipping between their feet, he hit everyone’s feet and arms.
There are many reasons for the men’s defeat. As a result of throwing the bamboo swords at the beginning, they ended up being vigilant towards the next throw. As a result of getting in low between their feet, they were unable to use anything but dull sword arts. It was difficult to swing the sword differently as the one, who entered between their feet, was fighting while covering himself. And, above all, Marko understood the road to victory himself. He moved so that the men couldn’t display their abilities.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that is weak at upright tactics. Oiva experienced that directly with his body. He confronted me in a 1-on-1 next after the 1-on-5, but not only did he aim his strikes with nimble hands but also increased the minimum pace to tire me out and thus hit my chin. It was painful.
“If it’s running from place to place, I still can somehow… no, I’ve been told that I behave like a spoilt child.” (Marko)
“Well, if you have stamina, you will somehow be able to deal with it, won’tcha?” (Oiva)
“I won’t even reach up to Oiva-san’s feet with at this level.” (Marko)
“It’s because you are 10 years old. However, are you able to ride a horse? How about equestrian archery?” (Oiva)
“I have to choose a bow. Although I’m aware of power as well as range, as for the form, I will miss it.” (Marko)
“If that’s the case, it’s probably not impossible to do either. It’s fine if you leave the wielding of long-handled spears to the surroundings.” (Oiva)
Upon Oiva’s words the men in the vicinity are nodding with a “Right, right” as well. New recruits haven’t been brought along. All of them are men who know of battlefields. They are members of the Hakkinen guard corps affiliated with the fourth unit. In other words, they are Oiva’s subordinates. Nowadays, there are 100 of the 228 of the fourth unit’s troops stationed at the current Kikomaru. Everyone’s warhorses is managed in the pastures of the village as well. They were even split into 4 groups to camouflage the gathering of troops.
They have merely one duty.
The destruction of the mounted bandits.
It’s a light cavalry of thieves appearing suddenly out of nowhere and laying waste to the territory of Earl Helrevi. They are also the reason for the foundation of the Hakkinen guard corps. It’s a long-standing foe with whom they had repeatedly numerous skirmishes during those 2 years. One can’t even consider them normal thieves. Being endowed with strategical abilities and refined strength, their true nature was shrouded in secrecy for a long time.
The invisible giant called Marko grasped that secret. The market price of salt became the deciding factor for that.
The trade of salt in the kingdom is completely managed by the state. It has been recognized that the market price of salt is arbitrarily going up and down depending on the circumstances of the state. The state of the national treasury shows through the price of salt. Because the people and the nation were exhausted at the time when the future restoration project of the country’s recovery was popular, the price was changed to being sensible at first. And once they would incline towards putting strength into reorganizing the national armed forces, the price would become high… everyone predicted that to happen. In reality it became like this temporarily, but after some time the price began to ease up. That was the origin of Marko’s sense of discomfort.
Marko, proceeding towards the territory’s capital to investigate the market price… although he planned the establishment of the guard corps on that occasion… confirmed the existence of “black-market salt” at that time. Salt, different from the one controlled by the state, must have been appearing on the market regularly in large quantities. And vast amounts of capital are flowing towards its origin.
Marko, who grasped the distribution within the territory, the range of the mounted bandits’ attacks, the scale of their forces and various information from the underworld, reached a devastating conclusion.
The hidden village of the mounted bandits is located at the Heaven’s Boundary Mountain Range. They are maintaining a rock salt mine and a ranch. There are two territories in the north-western part of the kingdom, namely the Earldom Salmant and the Earldom Peterius at the front line, who are wholesaling the black-market salt. The total number of cavalry, they are possessing, surpassed slightly over 1000 after having 500 before. It is a military organization under the supervision of a single, powerful commander.
And, I fear that it’s likely… that it is connected to the former Salomon army.
Oiva is clearly able to recall the face of Marko at the time he spoke of his final conclusion. The place was the headquarters of the guarding company in the territorial capital. Daniel, who is holding the positions of being the commander of the first unit and the leader, Lauri, who is responsible for all parts unrelated to combat, Akseli, who is the commander of the second unit, and the fourth units’ commander, Oiva. That is the line-up of the top brass.
Marko’s visage was close to smiling.
Narrowing down his eyes and his lips drawing the arc of a crescent moon, he looked downwards without his shoulders being exhausted or strained. His voice resounded clearly just like the sound of a bell. It was the beautiful boy as usual.
However, in spite of that… all of them had their breath taken away.
If Oiva had to express the sensation in whatever way, it would be “Demonic blade.” It’s one among several even appearing commonly in illustrated stories of the church’s legends. It’s a dreadful sword that kills by cursing without making a distinction whether it is the one swinging it or the one it had been swung at. It is called the weapon of the one who defeated the evil king as well as the large sword possessed by the evil king. Ruin shapes its blade.
It’s not like there is such a thing. Even if it existed in the time of the legend for argument’s sake, there shouldn’t be anyone left who has parted with such an object either. But, if we assumed that such a thing really existed in this world currently… won’t it give off this kind of dreadfulness? Oiva was convicted for it to be like that.
It was only for an instant. It’s not like there is some special, secret plan if they are connected to the former Salomon army. The topic of discussion changed to drafting a concrete plan for the sake of subjugating the mounted bandits right away. However, the impact being etched into my mind as if striking at my soul hasn’t vanished. It might be only a segment of a swamp if I should express my own emotions at that time in words. It was a terrific experience. Looking back at it, it was no more than an unforgettable encounter.
And, looking in front, Oiva saw the boy’s expression darken.
It’s not hesitation due to cowardice. The boy is grieving over how frail his own body has become. He experienced a lot of contests with the company’s members, but the victories were likely something unwilling and insufficient for him. I don’t understand to how much of a reference it amounts. I don’t know what level he might be expecting of himself.
However, has he noticed it? Both his arms and legs cannot help but overflow with strength even while being imbalanced. He is exposing his fighting spirit with a “Let’s do it! Let’s do it!”
“… Well, then it’s really fine?” (Marko)
Because that was an unusual tone of voice for Marko, Oiva ended up being slightly bashful. The appearance of him peeking over here because of feeling ashamed and discreet. This is irresistible. If you saw the dreadfulness shown on that day at the guard corps’ headquarters, it’s impossible to leave him now alone understanding both sides of Marko.
“It’s fine! Of course, there are no problems!” (Oiva)
Oiva declared disarranging the softly, free-flowing black hair.
“Let’s go and finish off the mounted bandits together! Right, you guys!?” (Oiva)
The men answered with applause. One after the other burly palms are approaching Marko and firmly hit his shoulders and back. It was the sound of delightfully leaving their lives in his hands. Marko, who surpassed being just a simple boy for them, was accepted as single, brave warrior due to the bouts with bamboo swords and the dialogues with Oiva.
It is a rough and sordid scene. If you call it a farce, it probably is. If you used the rules of the company, the story would finish with them being ordered 「Accompany Marko」 with an overbearing attitude. However, Oiva thinks that it’s good this way. I like this kind of method. I think it is just like blood won’t circulate between living things, something like relations won’t form by sympathy. If you count on considering the deaths of allies for the sake of the creating deaths of enemies in a war, it won’t work, however, for that reason, I always want to be a humane person.
“Thank you very much. It hurts. I look forward to work with you. Don’t stiffen my shoulders.” (Marko)
Even while being jostled, Marko is laughing. His surroundings are laughing. Has he realized it? Everyone is already treating Marko as “general” and not as “soldier” anymore.
Attracting the soldiers, he is a person holding a fragment that has a charm of cheering up… isn’t that a general’s trait? Oiva is believing this. I don’t know whether I possess that ability or not, but Marko has it without a doubt. Furthermore, it isn’t the ability of an ordinary general. It’s possibly something even more superior… it might be something that Oiva can’t distinct either. He might also be a giant in regards to military affairs.
I don’t know, however it is extremely interesting.
While once again rubbing his chin, Oiva gazed at the uncultured group that grew into a flood of dialogues and before long got carried away.