“I’d like you to employ me.”
Appearing in front of Souma, Marchronis suddenly broached that topic.
Shyemul expressed her discontent towards that.
“You are quite impudent for a prisoner.”
Her complaint is reasonable.
Even now Marchronis is still a prisoner who hadn’t been released yet. Originally, he should have been thrown into the same pen as the other prisoners, but he managed to gain a counselor-like position before anyone noticed. Not only does he walk around the city freely, but he also appears arbitrarily in front of Souma like this, making it inevitable for him to be called impudent.
But, without showing any reservation, Marchronis said,
“However, I’m useful in various ways.”
While smiling wryly at Shyemul, who fervently opposes him with an, “I’m even more useful to Soma!”, Souma asks, “In what ways?”
Hearing that, Marchronis smiled meaningfully and answered,
“For example…in regards to the treatment of the prisoners. What do you plan to do with them?”
“At the moment I plan to have them bury those who died in yesterday’s battle.”
Souma explained his immediate plan.
The season is still winter, so it’s unlikely that the corpses will rot right away, but diseases might spread if they’re left alone as is. He would have preferred to burn the corpses if possible, but the wood needed for that is lacking.
Marchronis, who listened to that, nodded for some time while saying “I see, I see,” and then asked Souma further,
“By the way, you have sorted the prisoners properly, haven’t you?”
Unable to grasp Marchronis’ intention, Souma stared blankly at him. But, after a few seconds, he slightly groaned with an “Ah!”
After ascertaining Souma’s state, Marchronis continued,
“You don’t want to tell me that you put officers and common soldiers together, do you? The majority of the officers are young nobles. If you make that lot do heavy labor such as burying corpses, it’s certainly a safe bet that they will be dissatisfied. And if that dissatisfaction gets worse, it’s likely that they will instigate the soldiers around them and start a rebellion.”
I was almost about to cause an uprising, Souma was lightly releasing cold sweat. When he was feeling relieved that this was brought to his attention, Marchronis delivers the finishing blow.
“But then again, even if you had isolated the officers, there would likely be a revolt of the prisoners sooner or later.”
“When you took all those prisoners at the fort, you apparently promised to release them right away in order to prevent them from going on a rampage, right? —But, do you have the will to release this time’s prisoners immediately, too?”
Shyemul, who was certain beyond doubt that the prisoners would be released this time as well, is surprised by Marchronis’ words and stares at Souma. Thereupon she saw that Souma’s face had become stiff as Marchronis had hit a bull’s eye.
This time they had successfully repelled the punitive force, but that didn’t change the fact that there’s a large difference between the whole country of Holmea and Souma’s group. Not to mention the number of soldiers, there was also a vast difference between the soldier’s equipment and the war funds supporting them.
If Holmea recovers from this time’s hard blow and invades once more, it’s obvious that we will be crushed.
In order for that to not happen, we have to fill that gap by storing up on power until Holmea comes attacking again.
Besides, no matter how much time we have, it’s not enough. If we release the prisoners early on despite this, it will accelerate the reorganization of Holmea’s army, resulting in us giving away this grace period that we obtained at great pains. For that reason, only this time I had no intention to release the prisoners right away.
Confirming from Souma’s expression that his prediction was correct, Marchronis continued to speak,
“They will be forced into heavy labor without knowing when they will be set free. Swords and armors will be scattered all around close to the corpses those prisoners will try to bury. It’s plain as daylight what’s going to happen next, right?”
Being preoccupied with only the infectious diseases from the corpses, Souma completely forgot about the weapons and armor. He might have been festive without noticing it due to the victory in the life-and-death battle, but even so, it’s a major oversight. Imagining the scenery of the prisoners severing their chains with those weapons in hand and starting a rebellion due to that oversight, Souma now felt drenched in cold sweat.
“To prevent that, you usually would coerce them by stationing guards, but even that is difficult for your combat forces, isn’t it?”
As Marchronis says, there’s a lot more imprisoned Holmean soldiers than Souma’s forces. To say nothing of the fact that they must use a part of their forces to keep up the public order in Bolnis, which further restricts the number of people they can assign to actually guard the prisoners. In that situation it’s doubtful whether Souma’s forces will be able to adequately overpower the prisoners to the extent of stifling an uprising.
Even so, it’s unlikely that their emotions will well up so much that they will start a revolt now, but if they get their hands on weapons, it’s unlikely that they’ll stay docile forever.
“What’s the best thing to do then?”
Realizing that an unexpected danger lurked at his feet, Souma honestly asks Marchronis about what the best measure might be.
Marchronis secretly admired that attitude of Souma.
In some cases, generals harbor the illusion of having become almighty after attaining a great victory. No matter how much advice and warnings they are given by others, they don’t lend their ears to them.
However, this boy called Soma – far from being arrogant – frankly acknowledged his own blunder and didn’t lose the modesty and magnanimity to ask others to teach him. With this he might be a person worthy of being taught—no, worthy of being served, Marchronis becomes fraught with emotions.
But, once he remonstrated himself that it’s a taboo to jump to hasty conclusions, he informed him further with a deliberately indifferent tone,
“The easiest method is to sell the prisoners as slaves.”
Pretending to having not noticed how Souma twisted his mouth, Marchronis continues,
“Fortunately this city is close to Jeboa. If it’s the merchants over there, they won’t question the other party as long as it leads to good business.”
“I won’t turn the prisoners into slaves.”
Souma quietly, but distinctly announced.
“Hoo. But, if you employ the prisoners, it will only increase the labor such as the preparation of food and their monitoring. If you sell them as slaves, not only will that labor disappear, but you will also be able to obtain war funds, no?”
Marchronis provocatively said as if ridiculing Souma’s view as naive. Shyemul, who thought that he was looking down on Souma, was about to leap upon him with bared fangs. However, while holding her back with a hand, Souma repeated the same words he said before while putting the strong intent that he will never change his view on that into those words.
Once he did, a smile showed up on Marchronis’ mouth.
However, by no means was it a contradictory one, but instead had an air of favorable impression. That’s because Souma’s reaction was nothing but what Marchronis had expected.
Souma has already denied slavery in the speech, which will be called the Proclamation of Iron in later years. If he did something like going against his own upheld slogan due to being captivated by immediate greed despite this, the hearts of the people following him now would only grow distant from Souma in the near future.
It’s not clear whether he understood that, but Marchronis judged that the boy in front of him is at least properly clasping the banner he raised.
“In that case, it’s only natural to split the prisoners into officers and soldiers. It would be best to have the soldiers split into several groups and guard each of them. If they can’t get in touch with each other, they will become unable to recklessly cause a revolt when thinking of the other groups.”
The voice of Marchronis saying that completely changed from the previously provocative manner to a gentle one.
Souma obediently accepted this suggestion.
“—But, if we can’t use the prisoners, how are we going to deal with the disposal of the corpses?”
“You just have to make use of the city’s residents. After all, they’ll be the ones most affected if a plague begins to spread.”
Souma frowned at Marchronis’ suggestion to use the residents.
He wants to build an as favorable of a relationship as possible with the residents of Bolnis. Therefore, he felt reluctant to push the physically and mentally straining task of burying the corpses on them.
However, Marchronis hadn’t forgotten to consider the residents either.
“It will be fine if you give them the right to sell the weapons and armors they gathered. It will also serve as compensation for the residents. —Ah, however, it would be best to thoroughly enforce that the weapons must be bought by your side. Although they are mere residents, it will become a hassle in the distant future if they were able to hide a large number of weapons.”
For a while Souma places his hand on his chin and carefully scrutinizes Marchronis’ suggestion in his mind.
I wondered whether he would lay a trap in the shape of a fake proposal to save the Holmean soldiers being one of them, but that seems to not be the case. Marchronis’ suggestion is something he can completely agree with.
He couldn’t really believe that Marchronis was only trying to promote himself.
“You are looking into the very far future. But you don’t notice the pebbles at your feet. That’s what I feel. Don’t you think you need an ordinary man like me who can’t see anything but the things at his feet?”
Boosted by those words of Marchronis, Souma made his decision.
“I understand. —Mr. Marchronis, I’d like to employ you.”
“You have my thanks. I will make sure that you don’t regret it.”
Souma and Marchronis firmly shook each other’s hand instead of a written employment contract.
Once that was finished, Souma started to talk all of a sudden,
“Then let me apologize for being so abrupt, but is it fine for me to leave the supervision and management of the prisoners to you?”
“Me, you say?”
Marchronis was surprised, not expecting that the handling of the Holmean prisoners would be entrusted to a former Holmean soldier like himself.
Souma reveals an impish smile at that.
“Yes. I believe you to be the most suitable for that task, Mr. Marchronis.”
The one who understood best what has to be done is certainly the original proposer Marchronis. But Marchronis realized that Souma’s true intention lay somewhere else.
Until now Marchronis hasn’t cooperated by acting personally even if he gave his proposals to Souma.
That’s because it was the final line Marchronis mustn’t cross in order to stay a Holmean soldier.
However, Souma firmly demanded him to make that final step.
In the eyes of the Holmean soldiers, who had become prisoners, Marchronis, who had been entrusted with the management of the prisoners, is nothing more than a traitor. Now that it has come to this, Marchronis won’t have any other option but to completely sever his ties with Holmea.
“…I completely forgot about that…when the fortress was captured, I remember thinking that the guy who came up with that plan definitely has a bad character.”
“Are those words of praise?”
Once Souma asked jokingly, he nodded grandly at once.
“Of course. It’s the highest compliment I can give.”
After entrusting Marchronis with the management of the prisoners and the disposal of the corpses, Souma headed to the entrance of the plains located in the city’s north together with the zoan.
It because he had heard from Shyemul that they will hold a memorial service in the plains for the warriors who died in battle.
When Souma arrived together with Shyemul, many zoan had already gathered.
Wooden stands that were about the height of a person were lined up in rows in front of them. The remains of the zoan warriors with their mouths covered by a black cloth had been put to rest on top of those stands, one by one.
“This is our way of holding a funeral.”
Shyemul taught Souma as she stood next to him.
“Originally we’d like to properly take them along up to the altar, but if it’s too many casualties and if we are too long together with them, there are situations where those, who lived with the dead, will be taken along to the netherworld as well, so it cannot be helped.”
Very likely she’s figuratively speaking of the fear of being afflicted by infectious diseases stemming from the decomposed corpses.
“You don’t make tombs?”
“There are no tombs with zoan in them.”
Shyemul looked up to the blue, perfectly clear sky.
“A soul, which left the dead body, will ascend to heaven along the Tree of Ancestral Spirits that’s protected by the ghosts of its clan’s heroes. And the flesh left behind will be carried to heaven by the birds. The bones and pelt left behind by the birds will be set on fire at last, sending them to heaven as smoke.”
When Shyemul’s explanation had finished, the sister of the priestess leader, Wai Zanuka Shunpa, a woman of the Eyes Clan, stepped forward in front of everybody. She bowed and then raised a howling, sonorously singing at the top of her voice. As if singing in chorus to that, the zoan, who had assembled there, raised their voices as well.
The big chorus of howling was at times a soprano, praising the distinguished services of the deceased warriors, and at times bass, mourning their deaths.
Unable to raise his voice like the zoan, Souma couldn’t participate in the mourning and was only able to listen with his whole body to the vibrations of the big chorus that shook the atmosphere.
“Well then, let’s go back…?”
Once the big chorus finished after a short time, Souma started to go back to Bolnis after being prompted by Shyemul.
On the way, he suddenly turned back and saw how big birds, who had already discovered the corpses with their sharp sight, had gathered.
The view of the birds pecking at the flesh of people should feel revolting in the eyes of a modern Japanese person. However, Souma, who listened to Shyemul’s story, was able to perceive that scenery as something solemn, noble and difficult to desecrate.
Having returned to Bolnis, Souma walked through the corridors together with Shyemul, heading for his office.
“What do you plan to do after this, Soma?”
Shyemul asked as she walked one step behind Souma.
“Let’s see. —First it’s no good if I don’t start from learning about this city.”
Souma donned a formal expression and quoted a famous passage from Sun Tzu he happened to have a smattering knowledge of.
“Know your enemy, know thyself, and you shall not fear a hundred battles, right?”
However, Shyemul, who doesn’t know that quote of Sun Tzu, only tilts her head to the side in confusion.
“What does that mean?”
As he certainly hadn’t expected to be retorted at that part, Souma is at a loss for words.
“Uummm… If you know yourself well and also about your enemy, even a hundred battles will be alright?”
“Even if you ask me whether that’s alright, I can’t really answer.”
Just when they were having such an exchange, a single zoan warrior ran up to them in a trot. First he salutes towards Souma, then he entreats Shyemul.
“Divine Daughter. I’m terribly sorry, but…”
With only that, Shyemul guessed the circumstances.
A short time after the battle over Bolnis came to an end, quarrels between the clans started to crop up.
All of them are fights with trivial reasons such as which clan achieved the most during the battle or one clan simply being unable to stomach another clan. In most cases Garam or Zurgu were able to subdue it, but once the dispute’s contents turn into a problem between clans, them being chiefs of their own clans became an issue. At such times it often lead to a situation where the disputes had to be subdued with the authority of the divine child of the Beast God.
“It can’t be helped. —Sorry, Soma. I have to leave for a bit.”
The office is right around the corner. And since the sole archer of the Fang Clan, Fagul Gulshata Shahata was there, Shyemul, who considered it likely to be no problem for her to leave Souma at this point, left Souma with those words and departed at a quick pace together with the warrior.
And just when the left-behind Souma was about to head towards his office again, he heard a woman’s small scream alongside the sound of a large amount of paper being scattered from a corner on the other side of the corridor.
“Aah~! Geez! I will be scolded again!”
Although he could have ignored it, Souma, who got somewhat curious, turned his feet in that direction.
Once he peeked his face out from the corner of the corridor, he discovered a single woman frantically gathering a large amount of papers that had been scattered on the ground.
“I have to hurry, I have to hurry, I have to hurry…”
She’s crouching and picking up the papers while speaking to herself, but as she hurries too much, the paper, which she managed to pick up with trouble, ends up falling down again.
Just then a strong gust of wind blew.
One piece of paper, which is carried by that wind, is dropped at Souma’s feet. However, the woman, who is desperately trying to pick up the other papers, doesn’t notice that.
Thinking that it would be bad to ignore all of that, Souma picked up that piece of paper and held it out to the woman who still hadn’t noticed him.
“Ah, I’m sorry!”
Having a piece of paper thrust in front of her, the woman finally noticed Souma and lifted her face.
Her age is likely a little bit above Souma’s. She’s a woman with an impressive amount of freckles heavily scattered across her unrefined face.
Her hair, which had a color close to orange rather than red, was curling up all over and gave off an air of being unfashionable as it looked unkempt and ruffled upon closer inspection.
The one-piece-like dress that covered her body looks extremely plain in Souma’s eyes, which had become used to the zoan’s brightly colored copper armors and the showy hues on the clothing and accessories in the modern era. It was made out of a coarse fabric without any dyes.
At any rate, she’s a woman giving off the impression of being completely unfashionable.
For some reason Souma ended up imagining a female university student who is reading a book while curling herself up in a corner of some library.
That woman only looked up at Souma with an easily readable expression of being bewildered while asking herself Who’s this person? without even accepting the paper held out to her.
“This was hurled over into the opposite direction.”
With Souma urging her like that, the woman finally comes to her senses.
“I-I-I’m sorry! That you very much!”
Receiving the piece of paper in panic, the woman apologized with a stammering and then expressed her gratitude.
Souma, who was repeatedly apologized to by her bowing her head until he left, muttered while listening to the footsteps of the woman beyond the corridor’s corner vanishing into the distance,
“I wonder, is she really capable of doing her job like that…?”
The place to where the woman, who didn’t realize that she had given such an impression to Souma, a boy younger than herself, was headed is a room where several government officials tackled various documents while at their wits’ end.
“You’re late, Michena!”
Due to the angry insult by one of the officials once she enters the room, the woman called Michena shrieked slightly and cowered.
The official immediately turns his look back to the documents in his hands.
“Fuck! The food and alcohol is completely gone. These sub-hu…”
Being about to say sub-humans, he corrects himself in a hurry.
“—That lot of various races started to do whatever they please before we knew!”
What awaited the officials, who finally returned to their duty after swearing their allegiance to Souma, was a mountain of tasks that had piled up and up. What was especially terrible was the state of the food storages which had been extremely devastated. Large amounts of food and alcohol for the party after the Proclamation of Iron and the two victory celebrations had been taken out of the food storages. It was a situation where it was probably better to recount from the start than referencing the previous account books.
“Michena! Head immediately to the food storage and count the goods over there!”
Being hurried by a menacing official, Michena gets really close to tearing down the bundle of papers she tried to pile up on a desk. For that she ended up being glared at by yet another official.
“E-Excuse me. —I will go right away! I will do it at once! Yes!”
Saying so, Michena rushed out of the frenzied room.
Right now this woman is still a humble, low-ranked official.
Later on she became a brave woman who was called the retainer having raised the most achievements serving under the Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki. A cold blooded, female secretary feared much more by her allies than her enemies.
In the future she’s referred to as First Horn and Small Horn capable of shining the most. She’s a woman extolled as the leader of Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki’s Three Horns.