Except for the zoan, who were entrusted with the pursuit, the majority stopped chasing before long. The pursuit effort naturally slowed down as all the soldiers who had been late in escaping were defeated.
Those who stopped on the spot looked at each other for a brief moment. During that time, only the sound of their rough breathing was loudly audible, without any words spoken.
It was as if they were inside an illusion or a dream, with them fearing that it would pop and vanish once they said something.
“Did we win?”
A timid voice escapes someone’s mouth after quite a long time passed.
Taking that as the start, everyone begins to speak one after the other.
“We won, right?”
“Really? Did we really win?”
“It’s not a dream, is it? We won, didn’t we?”
As the actual feeling of their own victory washes over them, passion fills their voices.
“Yeah, we did it!”
“It’s our victory!!”
At that moment cheers erupted.
Everyone looks delighted, demonstrating their joy with gleeful expressions, thrusting their fists into the air, stomping their feet and embracing the person next to them.
Being among them, Shyemul’s body also trembled in rapture and she shouted,
“You did it, Soma! As expected of my 『Navel Master』! Nothing less from you, Soma!!”
While listening to her voice, Souma, who was tied to Jahangil’s back, breathes out in relief.
He thought that he has to respond to Shyemul, but rather than the happiness over the victory in battle, the fatigue and physical weariness now that it had finally ended won out.
All power left Souma and he felt dead tired, but when the rope affixing his body was suddenly cut, he ended up falling to the ground, landing on his butt.
Placing his hands at both sides of Souma, who is frowning in pain of having his butt hit, Jahangil easily lifted him up. And then he puts the surprised Souma on his shoulder, effectively giving him a shoulder ride.
Shyemul, who grasped Jahangil’s intention, threw her arms up in the air and yelled out loudly,
“Praise Soma’s name! Praise Soma who gave us this victory!”
Upon Shyemul’s words, everyone suddenly stares at Souma. And then, after one heartbeat, they raise the as-of-yet biggest cheering.
“”Soma! Soma! Soma!!””
All those present shout Souma’s name, giving free rein to a wild enthusiasm.
However, contrary to their enthusiasm, Souma only feels flustered and doesn’t manage to give them any answer.
Receiving congratulations for a victory is an important role for a commander. As Souma doesn’t try doing so, Jahangil tilts his head to the side in confusion.
“What are you doing? Hurry up and reply to everyone.”
“L-Let me down quickly! Please, let me down!”
Jahangil’s urging only panicked Souma. Jahangil, who started to think that the flustered state of Souma is awfully suspicious, suddenly felt the area about his nape getting wet.
“…! Don’t tell me! You…”
Souma’s face cramps up, turning red in shame upon Jahangil’s words.
“I-I’m very sorry…!”
Seeing a battle from close-by for the first time, Souma became incontinent due to the overwhelming fear.
But even Souma can read Jahangil’s face – a dinosaurian’s face which is usually difficult to read for a human – that has a tendency to change abruptly.
“That’s why I told you to quickly let me down…”
Due to Souma being on the verge of crying because of his excessive feelings of remorse, Jahangil closes his mouth tightly with the shape of へ.
“What’s wrong, Soma?”
As Shyemul felt suspicious about the exchange of the two, she asks Souma while looking up at him. Due to that Souma’s face dyes red in shame, and he only flaps his hands in panic, unable to answer.
After looking in alternation at Shyemul, who’s inclining her head to the side in curiosity, and Souma, Jahangil breathed out through his nose grandly as if sighing.
“Stay like this until it dries.”
Seemingly quite surprised by Jahangil’s words, Souma blinked. Since he thought that he would surely be thrown onto the ground out of anger, Souma hesitated wondering what to answer.
Due to Souma’s bewilderment, Jahangil said with bitterness,
“It can’t be helped. It often happens on one’s first campaign.”
Sensing something from the way Jahangil said this, Souma timidly asks,
“Possibly, Jahangil has as well…?”
“D-Don’t be stupid! There’s no way for me to have done something like that!”
Then, after mumbling something under his breath, he whispered,
“It was just a bit, really just a little bit…!”
Souma ended up unintentionally laughing a bit. Jahangil becomes flustered due to that.
“No! It’s only an example! — Rather than that, hurry up and reply to everyone!”
Being pestered by Jahangil, Souma raised his right hand timidly.
As reaction cheers full of passion erupt.
The zoan, the dwarves, the dinosaurians, the elves and the harpyians, all of them had joyful faces and repeated Souma’s name passionately.
“”Soma! Soma! Soma!!””
Souma responded to that by forcefully and widely waving his right hand with his cheeks dyed red – not in shame, but due to excitement.
Something hot wells up within the chest of Shyemul, who looked up at her 「Navel Master」 being rendered homage like that while squinting her eyes as if watching the bright sun.
The human boy, who was about to die in that dim dungeon, has reached the point of being admired fervently by a great number of people, regardless of their race. Just who could have imagined that?
Even Shyemul would have likely laughed it off if she had been told such a story in that dungeon.
But, if it’s now, she can believe in it.
I’m pretty certain that Soma will become a legend.
A legend, yearned after by everyone.
That conviction took hold inside Shyemul.
But just in that moment Souma loses his balance as he got carried away in all the excitement, and it looks as if he’s teetering off of Jahangil’s shoulder. Shyemul was scared to death because of that, but Souma immediately fixed his posture and revealed an embarrassed grin while sticking out his tongue a bit, as if glossing over his blunder.
Shyemul sighed and shrugged her shoulders at that with an air of relief.
‘Geez, my 「Navel Master」 is somewhat careless and troublesome. I simply cannot take my eyes off him. Yeah, as expected, he’s no good without me.
Becoming aware of Shyemul, who’s agreeing with herself in such manner, Souma calls out to her,
“What’s wrong, Shyemul?”
Souma asks with a voice loud enough as to not lose out against the cheers. Shyemul answers by raising her voice as well,
“Soma, looking at you, you are totally unreliable. You are useless without me being around after all!”
Souma widened his eyes slightly, obviously surprised, and then showed an impish smile.
“Do your best supporting me then, okay?”
Due to this unexpected rebuttal of Souma, it’s now Shyemul’s turn to stare in wonder. After a short moment Shyemul is assaulted by a laughing seizure and ends up laughing out loud.
“Good grief, you are really something.”
As if getting infected by Shyemul’s laughter, Souma also bursts into laughter.
With the laughing two playing the central part, the cheers celebrating the victory continued without showing any indication of coming to an end anytime soon.
“Well, I never! For him to have really won with that General Darius as an opponent…”
Standing atop the wall of Bolnis and gazing at the battlefield, Marchronis muttered while partly dumbfounded.
In addition to the speech that fascinated people of various races, Soma, who possesses a thinking outside the norm that can’t be seized by common sense, picked the one possibility allowing him to even win against General Darius. However, it was nothing more than a possibility. In reality, the chance for success probably wasn’t even 1 in 10,000.
However, once you look at the results, he overturned a difference in combat power that was larger than expected, and really came out victorious.
If you can’t call that a miracle, I don’t know what else you could call that.
“I-I’m sure, it’s a fluke! Something like that General Darius losing…!”
Setius, standing next to Marchronis, said that as if he were spitting out. ‘In the end it looks like a soldier, who served Holmea, can’t easily come to grips with General Darius’ defeat.
However, even though those words were filled with a substantial amount of a sore loser’s griping, there was some truth to them.
In the future, Souma, who heard General Darius’ prediction before the battle from a prisoner of war, leaves the following words behind:
“That time’s plan was a desperate measure taken under the pressure of necessity as we were outnumbered heavily. No, far from a last resort, it was nothing more than a huge gamble. And by chance it actually paid off. If the punitive force’s numbers were less by even the slightest amount and if my troops had been slightly more than they had been, I would have likely moved according to General Darius’ prediction.”
Obviously clear from these words, Souma knew better than anyone else that the victory in this battle, which was afterwards called 「Decisive Battle of Bolnis」, was owed to a huge amount of luck.
But, despite that Marchronis declares,
“It might have been a fluke, but a win is a win.”
There’s no point in denying the result of something that already took place.
And yet Setius argues vehemently,
“However, such a fluke won’t ever happen again! A new punitive force will be dispatched immediately, and it’s decided that those guys will lose this time for sure!”
“From where are they going to gather that new punitive force?”
“There’s still a national army exceeding 10,000 soldiers remaining in Holmea! If they call together all the feudal lords, that number will probably grow even further – so much that people like them won’t be worth any mention.”
Marchronis shakes his head lightly.
“The majority of Holmea’s army has been deployed in the eastern half of the country for the sake of holding Romania in check. They can’t be moved unless the relation with Romania improves.”
The result of this battle will probably reach Romania soon. The news of Darius’ defeat, who can be called a guardian deity of Holmea, might invite an invasion by Romania, which had been thwarted by his authority until now.
If you consider it like that, it’s an even bigger loss for Holmea, being unable to afford thinning the defense of its eastern flank .
“T-Then, won’t be fine if they simply recruit new conscripts!?”
“I guess that would even the numbers.”
As Setius slackens his cheeks, feeling that it’s exactly what he thought as well, Marchronis asked him in return,
“So, who is going to lead those ten thousands new recruits who would have been merely assembled at that point? If it was me, I would refuse to do it. All the more if you tell them to face an enemy who defeated General Darius who led 7,000 elite soldiers of the national army.”
Setius was at a loss for words.
Certainly, if you were to tell an army consisting of nothing but new recruits to defeat an enemy who repelled Holmea’s mightiest general, Darius, any of Holmea’s soldiers will flinch, no matter who it might be.
“The replenishment of the soldiers lost in this battle, and the new formation of a punitive force will probably take its time. I have no doubt that the boy called Soma gained precious time with this. Though I don’t know whether it’s a half year or a full year.”
The extension of time procured by that boy in this time’s battle probably isn’t overly much. But, if it’s that boy, he will grow rapidly and tremendously during that little period of time granted to him.
Marchronis had such a premonition.
“If other people refuse, I’m sure General Darius will assume that task. If it’s the general, he will next time definitely…”
Marchronis assumed a gloomy look due to the remark of Setius who still seemed to be unsatisfied with the situation.
With Soma having devoted himself to a clever scheme that could only work in this time’s battle, and him having exposed his battle array as well, it’s probably impossible for him to win against that Darius a second time.
However, Marchronis couldn’t believe that Darius would lead the punitive force a second time.
It’s well-known that Holmea’s king Warius has a strong temperament. In addition, even the low-ranking Company Commander Aide Marchronis has heard about the time when the fame of Darius as a soldier had been shunned by Warius, who is a literary person.
Marchronis gazed anxiously in the direction where Darius’ army had withdrawn.
“It will be fine if he doesn’t garner His Majesty’s disfavor, but…”
However, Marchronis’ worries proved to be true.
The sound of a goblet, thrown by Holmea’s king, Warius Sadoma Holmeanis, rolls on the floor following an outburst of anger, echoing awfully loudly inside the dead-silent audience hall.
“Losing to the likes of slaves; how dare you show your face shamelessly in front of me!”
Having returned to the royal capital after gathering the remnants of the defeated army, Darius directly reported to the king about the need to reorganize the army to subjugate the rebels promptly alongside the news of his defeat.
However, King Warius, who was enraged by the news of the defeat, didn’t even try to listen to Darius’ words. And yet Darius continued to passionately explain the danger of the rebels and the person leading them, but at last that got on Warius’ nerves.
King Warius’ body trembled in rage as he widened his eyes and glared scornfully at Darius.
“Until now I considered you to have the caliber of being the Commander-in-Chief, but it seems my eyes were flawed. Not only were you unable to suppress a rebellion by mere slaves, you are even telling me to be afraid of them? To top it off, you are blurting out bullshit such as us having to reconcile with our sworn enemy Romania, about how the slaves should be the enemies we must defeat!? For you to be willing to go this far just to cover up your own defeat!”
Darius, hit by the thrown goblet, appeals to the king with blood dripping down from his forehead and his face drenched with wine while being leveled with insults,
“Your Majesty! I shall fully take the responsibility for this defeat upon myself! But, I’m telling you this for those precious to—”
Interrupting Darius’ words with an angry shout, King Warius stood up from his throne.
“You said that you are going to fully take responsibility for the defeat upon yourself, didn’t you? Very well! — Anyone! Drag Darius out to the plaza and behead him!”
Even the courtiers, who watched the development indifferently so far, opened their eyes wide in surprise due to that, as might be expected.
Darius is a very meritorious retainer who brought countless victories to Holmea while serving various generations of kings. No matter how much of a crushing defeat he suffered, to lop off his head for nothing more than a single loss is beyond reckless.
However, anyone trying to remonstrate King Warius once he’s become like this wouldn’t just receive the brunt of the king’s disfavor. Unable to bear the risk of sparks flying their way if they covered for Darius with his fallen reputation, the courtiers look at each other and shove the responsibility around in-between them.
At that moment a small figure jumps out from a corner of the audience hall and goes down on their knees as if snuggling up to Darius.
It’s a little girl with as-of-yet innocent looks and her amber hair styled into a bob cut.
Two pieces of cloth, dyed in a faint pink and sewed together at her shoulders, hang down at the front and rear of the girl’s body. That cloth was tied by a broad, corset-like, leather belt slightly below her breasts. Furthermore, on top of that, a long, faint pink cloth covered her body from the right shoulder like a stole.
This is a dress only allowed to be worn by children of a certain part of the upper class of this era’s Holmea.
“Dear Father, please, please forgive Uncle Darius.”
Due to the girl with her body trembling slightly as she plaintively cast her pale face downwards, King Warius sat back down on the throne alongside a deep sigh.
“Princess, women must not interfere with governmental affairs.”
I knew that she’s become deeply emotionally attached to Darius for a while now, but I certainly didn’t expect the fainthearted princess, who only stays inside the royal castle because of her weak constitution, to act like this.
“Please, listen to me, oh father…”
As expected, even King Darius, who had lost his cool, was unable to refuse something petitioned by the still-young princess with tears in her eyes.
“… Darius, you have to thank the princess. — I shall revoke the decapitation. However, you shall be no longer a general and your privilege to join the court council shall be stripped as well! You are under house arrest in your mansion!”
That was the biggest compromise possible for King Warius.
However, that’s not what Darius desired.
“Your Majesty! I won’t mind if you behead me. I beg you, my words—”
“Be quiet! I don’t want to see your face any longer.”
Without even taking notice of Darius’ yell, Warius left the audience hall with brisk footsteps.
Having been left behind, Darius falls to his knees in the audience hall, hanging his head dejectedly. There wasn’t a single person trying to console Darius. Rather, the only things Darius hears are voices full of scorn as they let him intentionally hear their insults.
“For that to be the highest-ranking general. Age is certainly something dreadful.”
“Indeed. I sure don’t want to become like that.”
The ones in the center of those hurling such contemptful words are the people who had their children join the punitive force for the sake of completing their first campaign. Not only was their children’s long-awaited first campaign stained by defeat, there are also many among the youths who haven’t come back home. It was only natural for their parents to turn their anger at Darius who led the punitive force.
While being abused like that, a soft cloth is pressed against Darius’ cheek whose shoulders are trembling as he is down on his knees, suffering from his own disappointment and regrets.
Once he quickly shifts his look, the princess, who petitioned for his clemency, was wiping away the wine soaking his face with a handkerchief.
“It’s alright, Uncle Darius. Please be patient for a while until father’s rage calms down. Then your house arrest will be rescinded immediately and you will be able to return to your rank as general. After all is said and done, you are a person who dedicated your life to Holmea, Uncle.”
Darius weakly smiled due to the young princess frantically trying to comfort him.
“Princess, I’m indebted to you.”
Thereupon the young princess heaved a deep sigh of relief.
However, armed royal guards force their way in-between those two.
“Your Highness, please back off.”
In front of the princess, who widens her eyes in surprise wondering what’s going on, Darius was forced to his feet without any care about his own opinion by the royal guards standing on both sides. The sword hanging at Darius’ waist is taken away before the eyes of the princess who tried to get close to Darius in panic.
“Your Excellency Darius, your house arrest has been already announced by His Majesty. Please restrain yourself as you will be sent back to your mansion at once.”
Their words are polite, but even Darius is confused due to being treated like a criminal.
“J-…Just what sort of reason do you have for this violent treatment!?”
Even as Darius protests, the royal guards maintained their mask-like expressionless faces and indifferently informed him,
“It’s not a violent treatment. It’s His Majesty’s compassion. Something like being afraid of mere slaves; His Majesty suspects you being simply confused by the defeat. Allowing you to repeat such nonsense will only hurt His Majesty’s reputation. As His Majesty felt misgivings about that, we were ordered to accompany you to your mansion.”
“His Majesty’s order, you say…!”
Darius widely opened his bloodshot eyes.
“I have been shunned by His Majesty to such a degree!? Even though I only…only devoted myself to Holmea! To such an extent has His Majesty…!”
“Your Excellency, if you keep going any further, even if it’s you…”
The royal guards flaunted the swords at their waists by placing their hands on the hilt.
Due to that Darius feebly lowered his head.
“Then we shall accompany you to your mansion.”
All life vanished from Darius’ face who is walked off out of the audience hall by the royal guards.
As if the curse of age finally seized Darius, who kept it away with his strong will until now, Darius’ face became decrepit and ugly with age lacking any trace of his former self during that small period of time.
Due to that the princess tries to run up to Darius with tears welling up in her eyes, but that is obstructed by the arms of the royal guards.
A murmur escaping the cracked lips of Darius reached the princess’ ears who tried to shake off the arms holding her back.
“At this rate Holmea will be destroyed. It will be overthrown by that guy. By that guy—”
A heartbeat later words – as if fresh blood is oozing out – flowed out,
“By that 『Divine Son of Destruction』…!”
Watching Darius, who was taken out of the audience hall while being accompanied by the sneers and scornful remarks of many courtiers, until he vanished into the corridor, the princess muttered in a daze,
“『Divine Son of Destruction』…?”
Even while not really understanding what’s meant by those words, the princess felt her heart stirring excessively for some reason.
And thus the determination of Darius, who tried to convey the deeds of the 『Divine Son of Destruction』 while going even as far as sacrificing the youth he had designated as his successor, fell on deaf ears.
According to a future historian,
“There’s no doubt that it had been the 『Divine Son of Destruction』 who caused a fatal wound to Holmea. But, the one who gave it the finishing blow was no one other than King Warius who ignored Darius’ advice. If King Warius had taken Darius’ advice seriously at that time, it might have changed history.”