Chapter 16 – This is already a decided matter

I wonder what kind of thing is that which paints the sky red on daybreak? Is it the beginning of congratulations by the soil welcoming the bright sky? Or is the sky inspiring the soil to emit heat? Akseli desired to understand that and believed the church, which doesn’t teach this, to be superficial.

“… You will not yield on this no matter what?” (Daniel)

It’s Daniel, who’s worn-out, telling him that. Being the leader of the Hakkinen guard corps, he is the head of a Baron household, which has now, at last, both fame and strength. Even him, no matter how many times he tries to entreat, is unable to overthrow the view of that person. Although Lauri as well as Oiva, and even Jarkko, are hoping for that, the boy repeats his opinion without even changing his facial expression.

“Yes. It’s necessary.” (Marko)

Continuing sighs resounded within the room unbeknownst to how many times it has already been. The conference room, prepared ahead of time as place for a part of the guard corps, was simple and cramped. Also, the air becomes stuffy if Marko and the five corps leaders, including Akseli, appear together. Standing at his usual place by the window, he remembered the battle a while ago even though he was participating in this meeting with an apologetic attitude due to not knowing the way of winning this dispute.
The strategy of subjugating the mounted bandits through offering up all resources of the Hakkinen guard corps… the plan for that had been drawn by Marko.
It was also Marko, who affirmed at the beginning of the incidents. “The objective of the mounted bandits regarding the territory of Earl Helrevi isn’t any kind of property. They don’t make any distinction between the territorial army and the civilians either. The reason why is because their true aim is to disturb the transport lines of the military towards the front-line.”
Akseli belatedly realized what Marko had said. At the moment of being attacked by the bandits, there were of course many goods stolen, but there were far more goods destroyed. Broken wine barrels, burned wheat bags, killed livestock… with the situation of the mounted bandits implementing an unforeseeable hit-and-run tactic relying on speed, won’t there be some regret to being unable to steal the goods, he wondered, but if their goal was to hinder the transport towards the front, it’s an understandable argument.
If I also classify it from the viewpoint of damage in various places within the territory, I understand that they have been focusing their attacks on important transport operations. Previously, at the time he fought as member of the territorial army, Akseli had guarded goods and items that were transported to the front. If I follow up on the details, it will become obvious in reverse that they did diversionary raids for the sake of concealing their goal. Those caused a lot of harm to the civilians.
The mounted bandits mainly aimed at the transportation units of the territorial army at the early stages of their appearances and disappearances. This was strange in the first place. If you consider the number and presence or absence of guard forces, there was no necessity to brave the danger of attacking the territorial army. It would have been fine if they simply aimed for the civilian transports. It’s at least better if you plan to obtain a large amount of goods all at once. I deemed the reason they didn’t do that to be contempt and resentment towards the territorial army, and also possibly conceit regarding their own combat potential.
And Marko’s huge move sowed a trap within the territory.
The Hakkinen guard corps, which has reached the point of owning a large, influential voice within the territory by now, extensively used its clout for this scheme. Even intervening in the transport schedule of the territorial army, not to mention the private distribution of goods, they slowly but steadily incited the mounted bandit’s targets. The assistance of Bertrand, who continued to reinforce their scheme from the shadows, was also large.
Although the mounted bandits, who didn’t accomplish their objectives as they planned, started to plot once again, that in itself was already an act induced by Marko. Rather, you could say that the middle stage of the operation was getting close. Those, who were believing too much in their own plan and scoffed at the opponent’s plan, had their own plan used against them in return. It was nothing more than them being deftly turned towards this conclusion by Marko’s conductor stick.
As for the final phase a hilly area, during the night, was the arranged stage.
500 members of the Hakkinen guard corps, disguised as a transport unit, were prepared as bait, which the main force of the mounted bandits couldn’t resist to strike at. The first corps consisting of 254 members, led by Daniel, was placed at the front of the transport unit, the second corps consisting of 241 members, led by Jarkko, was located at the rear of the transport unit and 48 members were positioned in the centre as transport personnel.
Tempting the mounted bandits to attack with this assignment, the guard’s side endured it. It was a dangerous mission, though they had even prepared pikes for that situation. At any rate, the mounted bandits were strong and fast. Although they had materials for setting up simple defensive fences against horses loaded, it was a questionable point whether they would gain the time to use those. Here it was meaningful to have Daniel, who is the leader, and Jarkko, who is deeply trusted by the soldiers, deployed.
The mounted bandits bet on executing a surprise attack. The guards knew about them coming, but they weren’t able to specify the location the mounted bandits would use for their attack. I have to say that they demonstrated their skill as a cavalry troop. Furthermore, after striking once, the mounted bandits didn’t attack again. This was something the guard corps expected, but it was a judgement which let Akseli experience the ability of the mounted bandits after all.
There were 4 units that moved after receiving a signal.
2 amongst those were from the fourth corps consisting of 40 members per squad. Each of their horses galloped while pulling a large number of rakes and brooms. Intentionally whirling up a massive cloud of sand, they were feigning the existence of an entire military force. Their role was to limit the path of retreat for the mounted bandits by positioning a cavalry unit from the territorial capital and from the river-crossing base. This is Akseli’s personal opinion, but he believes that there are many slightly handy people with a strange penchant for recklessness in the fourth corps.
One of the 4 units was 100 cavalry of the fourth corps led by Oiva. With them functioning as a raid unit, their duties were to relieve other units depending on the situation and to reinforce the entire operation. With Marko participating there as well, you could expect all situations to be optimally resolved.
The last unit was 519 cavalrymen led by Akseli. Their numbers added up with 269 cavalrymen from the second corps of the Hakkinen guard corps and 250 cavalrymen from the Helrevi territorial army. Negotiating with the feudal lord and the territorial army, these numbers were what they somehow accepted to provide. Akseli chose excellent soldiers including his previous subordinates, but he wanted to have twice the number if he could have voiced his desires.
The reason is that Akseli’s group’s assigned task was to damage the mounted bandits. As fruits of the scheme so far, he looked for military gains in itself on top of that. It’s not like it lessened Akseli’s expectations, but once he considered the enemies strength, it was better to have many soldiers. He considered that he could make the best use of his battle ability in a large army.
And this way of thinking resulted in him getting strong during crisis.
Even when the mounted bandits got caught up in the dummy soldiers plan, they still adopted diversionary tactics against the non-existent 2000 cavalrymen. Even Akseli was amazed by their bravery and cleverness. As result, the route of the mounted bandits slightly diverted from their expectations, making it impossible to cooperate with Daniel’s pike soldiers on foot.
But even at that time their scheme demonstrated its effectiveness as the mounted bandits chose to dispatch messengers to their detached force. The irony was that their cleverness in tactics also resulted in a decrease of their main force’s combat potential.  With this it became a close matter since they barely had the same number as Akseli’s unit. It was unlikely to turn into a decisive battle seeing that the dummy soldiers effectiveness was working, but it became a situation depending on the coordination with Oiva’s unit whether they would be able to achieve military gains or not.
The 500 mounted bandits were a magnificent cavalry unit.
As they likely also felt the oppression of being chased by great numbers in their rear, they freely changed the formation at the same time as galloping at high speed. Reading the terrain, they took various actions. Akseli regarded this as similar to the mystery of cavalry tactics. He also recalled Marko’s words with cold sweat. “It’s a cavalry unit related to that Salomon army… doesn’t that also mean that they have the status of being the strongest cavalry unit on the continent?”
For Akseli it was advantageous that he knew the place where Oiva’s 100 cavalrymen unit laid in ambush. There was no need to recklessly attack them. If I skilfully lead them over there, that Marco is extraordinary and there’s no doubt that he will cooperate with us by landing an effective blow. It’s fine, if I handle it cleverly until then.
If he thinks about it now, Akseli is ashamed that this caused a gap. It’s essentially the same with any scale of battle, it’s vital to crush the intention of the opponent. And this is likely only possible after owning soft and hard tactics. (T/N: soft = evasive/defensive, hard = offensive) At that time Akseli inclined towards the soft tactic and neglected the hard one. He ended up leaving it to Marko.
That’s why he decided to receive that detached attack. Getting attacked by plunging in from the left flank, dozens were defeated in a short amount of time. Akseli’s unit being a mixed unit of guard corps and territorial army acted as a weak-point as well. Akseli was convinced that the damage would become considerable until he could reorganize them. He also predicted for it to become fatal if they were to be attacked by the 250 bandits, they were chasing. However, he also believed that this wouldn’t happen.
It was because they reached an adequate location where Oiva’s unit could get to. As a result the surprise attack was a flawless success, an utter defeat, shown by capturing the boss of the mounted bandits alive. Since you can say it was Marko, who raised that direct military exploit, Akseli and the others as well are nothing but impressed. In all respects he is a boy outside the norm.
Having said that, the enemy was formidable as well. With only a slight unrest by their boss being taken prisoner and seeing that rescue was impossible, they immediately darted away. It wasn’t a chaotic escape either. It was a retreat meant to preserve their combat potential as unit. Not only was it admirable for each and every single soldier, but likely they were even carrying out their objectives as an organization.
The military gains reached more or less the standard.
With 93 mounted bandits having been killed, there wasn’t much of a difference to those killed in action of the territorial army and the guard corps, but the number of prisoners added up to 209. It could be considered that the main force of the mounted bandits was partially destroyed and their boss was captured.
This was a necessary battle. It was something unavoidable since the subjugation of the mounted bandits was the condition for founding the guard corps. The outcome being a victory will likely raise the military fame of the Hakkinen guard corps even further. It’s also the same with the public order within the territory. However, it’s unavoidable for this matter to effect the guard corps in reverse instead.
The mounted bandits and the guard corps, in a sense it was a relationship of give-and-take.
With the losses this time, the mounted bandits will have to reduce their activities. Even if we don’t know the location of their village, I have no doubt about this. But, if that is the case, the necessity for a guard corps will decline as well. Merchants are sensitive towards profit. Proposing to lower the number of guards along the journey at first, they will probably also demand a reduction of the guard fees next. Although we certainly gained their trust, we have lost our use.
The feudal lord won’t stay silent either. Akseli is even able to imagine the feudal lord’s gloomy expression. A stronger and more renowned combat group than the forces he owns the military authority over, exists within his territory… of course he won’t be able to stomach that. It looks like he was tolerating it since there’s also the aspect of him having instigated the foundation himself, but the matter this time likely crosses the limit. Isn’t this because it is helping your selfish desires? Akseli smiles bitterly. Akseli himself still has to lead a life in secrecy because of him. As far as the feudal lord’s command of 「Immediately report to me if there are concerns of rebelling against the public order and morals」 is concerned, it might be possible to have a trained pack of stray dogs as something like a guard group.
It won’t work without reducing the scale of the Hakkinen guard corps.
At that late night all of the leaders felt the end of a dream, but Marko said,

“Seeing the objective the mounted bandits have been following, they will rally their forces before long, and besides, it has been decided that we will deal with the increase in personnel. Although there’s also the unproductive move of working at professions without experience, the corps will probably soon loose the support of the populace. Without working out a solution, something like keeping the organization alive is not possible. It’s also because such conduct is even falling behind the negligences of the territory’s government.” (Marko)

It was a severe judgement. And he proposed something outrageous,

“Please leave 100 of the prisoners to me. Entering their village together with them, I will try to change their objective itself.” (Marko)

Everyone didn’t get the meaning at first. However, with Marko’s voice properly having entered his ears, he overflowed with violent emotions after his body temperature got out of order. It might have been the first experience for Akseli to raise his voice without having intended to. But he couldn’t suppress it. I’m against it. Absolutely no.
Something like prisoners are trivial, it’s about Marko.
What kind of madness is it to send a 10-year old child into the stronghold of an enemy, we continued to fight for a long time? To say nothing about that child being our core. All of the leaders have been aware of it without needing to word it out. All of them are detecting something in Marko.
(I’m in a position, where I can’t say it as frankly as Bertrand, but… that still doesn’t change anything.) (Akseli)
Remembering the man, who displays his loyalty towards Marko more straightforwardly than anyone else, Akseli snorted. Bertrand is looking at the boy as incarnation of his own faith’s god. He might not even hesitate to do a suicide, if he were to be ordered to do so… Akseli feels it to be like that. He doesn’t feel inclined to make the slightest fun off it either. After all he himself is someone alike too.
For Akseli Marko is a king.
A king definitely has generals and being a general is certainly Akseli Anel’s long cherished wish. The him, before meeting Marko, would rather discard his name than turn back. The him after he met Marko is an Akseli, who demonstrated all of his abilities. He was living his life in high spirits.
The sky hasn’t dawned yet. The window, illuminated by the light within the room, is imitating a mirror. Akseli saw his own face there. Smiling without his lips forming a smile. So… this is my own face. This is.

“Do it… I wonder, how many years will it take? Is it alright for us, if we wait who-knows-how-long?” (Akseli)

Arranging his words to show respect, he asks Marko. He also realized from the corners of his vision that all of them, having worn-out faces, were startled. It’s Akseli’s belief to talk, if there was something to be gained by it. With this it will be my beginning as general.
The reduction of the Hakkinen guard corps won’t change even if Marko heads towards the village. Sooner or later Akseli will also return to being a handyman of the territorial army. I will return to the scenery of past boredom. Therefore, if Marko takes an oath here, it won’t do, if he doesn’t accept to abide to it. It won’t do, if I don’t receive approval as a ‘subordinate’ by my own chosen ‘master.’
If that happened, Akseli would wait. No matter how many years it will take, I guess.
That’s because a general doesn’t doubt his king for life.
He directly confronts the blue eyes staring at him firmly. Thinking of that gaze as path to an oath, he advances straight ahead. Akseli, who went down on his knees at the feet of Marko, who’s sitting in a chair… displays the elegant as well as respectful bow of a retainer.

 

 

“Allow me to daringly call you now an Emperor. Master, Marko.” (Akseli)

The blue eyes have been nothing but calmly open. Even so, they are once again a mirror. In their depth dwells the darkness of avidya.

“Command your retainer. I will make certain to accomplish it within that ‘who-knows-how-long.'” (Akseli)

Silence drifted, but for Akseli that was a happy time. There were things transmitted during the time their gazes crossed. Before long this king will probably control many retainers and people, but in this moment now, no one but myself is reflected in the view of the king. Akseli enjoyed that.
Marko laughed with a giggle. Akseli had once again a fresh smile as well.
“Then I will deliberately use honorific language as well”, Marko opened with an introduction.

“It will take 2 to 3 years. In the meanwhile, please climb the ranks, Akseli. At least that you have the 1000 elite cavalrymen of the territorial capital below you as commander.” (Marko)

He didn’t expect the unreasonable. Rather, it was a point he wished for.

“You don’t mind what method I use?” (Akseli)

“I leave it to you. If it’s you, you will probably manage one way or the other. The territorial capital is full of injustice.” (Marko)

“It’s a bother”, as Marko added one thing to another with a completely, unbothered face (T/N: the “It’s a nuisance” is “Komaru desu” while his face is described with the negative form of the Japanese adjective, a word game so to say which means that Marko doesn’t really means what he says), Akseli unintentionally ended up bursting into laughter. By grasping the distribution of goods within the territory, Marko has been discovering many irregularities related to the military goods. He is telling Akseli to use it to obtain evidence. Because of that Akseli couldn’t resist laughing. Every single thing about this king is superb.

“I have received your command.” (Akseli)

It became an oath. Akseli is still able to live continuing the enjoyable dream for much more time to come yet.

“Now then… if there’s nothing else, we will dissolve for the time being, I think?” (Marko)

Once Akseli surveyed his surroundings, Lauri quickly, Daniel in a hurry, Oiva enjoying it and Jarkko with a displeased face and blushing cheeks… even while throwing shoulders and elbows at each other, they were trying to get before Marko as if competing with each other to be first. However, all of them looked at Akseli with a harsh gaze.

“In general there’s something called first come, first served in this world.” (Akseli)

As he said this, Akseli shrugged his shoulders.

 


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