“You’re saying the boy is giving me a reward?” Solon asked, responding to the words told to him by a male governmental official, who visited his home on that day, with a hysteric voice.
“Yes, that’s why he’s saying that he’d like you to come to the feudal lord’s mansion right away.” The official answered.
According to what the official said, Souma had apparently spoken about giving a reward to Solon to show his appreciation towards his help in creating the laws. Souma said that he was sorry for the suddenness of the request, but he’d like to invite Solon to his mansion.
Solon was deeply moved by that. Apart from it being natural that he’s trying to implement the principle of rewarding good work and punishing bad, isn’t the idea of rewarding me a wonderful one?
“Ooh! I got it, I got it. Let’s hurry over.” Solon, who jumped up from his chair as if it would be a disaster if Souma were to change his mind, tried to head to the feudal lord’s mansion while urging on the official.
It was at that moment that Solon felt something like a stare from a corner of his room, and stopped on his feet. Once he looked in that direction, he saw the bronze mirror that had been standing there. The bronze mirror, which had been turned into the direction of his home’s entrance in preparation for visits by debt collectors, reflected a momentary flash of light.
“Is something…wrong?” The official asked quizzically due to Solon, who had urged him on just moments ago, stopping. However, as soon as Solon frowned while groaning, he suddenly changed his attitude.
“Telling me to come at once to give me a reward is quite rude. Prepare an appropriate occasion first. Let’s see. Inform him that I will head over tomorrow morning.” Solon said.
The official, who had been told to bring Solon along, showed his disapproval and annoyance at that, but left reluctantly after being chased out by Solon.
Solon, who drove the official out of his home, closed the door of his home which he had always left open, picked up the bronze mirror, and peered into it.
What it reflected was the face of an old man with a long beard and unkempt gray hair which he had allowed to freely grow without any trimming. Branded by many years of drinking alcohol, he had a drink-reddened face, and the shadows below his eyes were pronounced. And, even the clothes, which he was wearing, were shabby. The clothes that he had kept wearing for many years were now stained with dirt and mud on top of having faded. By now, it was actually unclear what color they used to have. There were tears and holes all over the fabric. They were in a state that you couldn’t call anything but rags anymore.
Solon folded his arms and groaned at his own appearance which he usually paid no heed to. He remained like that for a little while, but then he suddenly got moving, seemingly having thought of something, and dragged out a box from deep inside his room.
“I had left these behind due to a lingering attachment, but I certainly didn’t expect for a time to come where I would use these again…” Faint joy shone through the self-deprecating smile floating up on Solon’s face.
“That damn geezer is just increasing our workload unnecessarily. Soma is already busy enough without his antics.” Shyemul raged on.
“Calm down. Just regard it as a rehearsal for future occasions.” Souma pacified Shyemul who had been muttering complaints since a while ago now.
The location was the audience hall of the feudal lord’s mansion. The audience hall, which they had prettied up through furnishings and interior design so that they could receive envoys from the neighboring country Jeboa here, was sufficiently usable even for the conferment of rewards.
The ones present here weren’t just Souma and Shyemul, but also the main members of Souma’s group such as Zurgu, Garam, Dvalin, Jahangil, and Eladia.
“Humph, that shitty geezer won’t even serve as a proper practice partner.”
However, just as Shyemul was complaining, even the rest of them who knew of Solon’s usual misconduct were doubtful whether it was necessary to go this far for him.
Garam and Zurgu who were busy with the military exercises and gathering of their clans, Dvalin who was working day and night at the workshops for glass and soap, and even Jahangil, who shouldn’t have done anything besides napping, couldn’t hide their wish for this to come to an end as soon as possible.
“Please bring in Mr. Solon.” Souma, who believed that it might be better for him to finish this quickly as the intervals between Jahangil hitting the floor with his tail had been gradually getting shorter, told an elven court lady to lead Solon, who was likely waiting in the ante chamber by now, into the audience hall.
The elven court lady, who had entered the audience hall again after a short time, raised her voice after bowing, “As requested by Lord Soma, I have brought the city’s scholar, Sir Solon.”
Souma sensed that something was out of place here. The elven court lady’s attitude was clearly odd. She, who should be always smiling while not showing her emotions just like her leader Eladia, looked as if she was discomposed in some way.
And, Souma himself immediately understood that it hadn’t been his imagination either. He was quite surprised at Solon’s appearance as he entered the audience hall following after the court lady.
His gray hair, which normally grew out and was unkempt, had been properly groomed with balm, and his long beard had been tidily trimmed, too. Even his usual attire, which was similar to a tattered rag, had been substituted with something like a white toga, enveloping his body. Moreover, on top of that, he wore an indigo blue shawl decorated with vivid embroideries.
And his dignified standing posture brimmed with some personal style.
Solon entered the hall after bowing. Once he advanced until the middle of the hall with a firm gait which made one wonder where his habitual drunk staggering had disappeared to, he went down on both knees. Afterwards he lightly pressed his bent right arm against his abdomen, and as if using that as fulcrum, he bent his upper body, bowing his head lightly.
Because of Solon’s conduct, which he hadn’t shown so far, everyone present in the hall looked dumbfounded. Even Souma only blinked his eyes while in front of Solon who didn’t show any intention to lift his head so far, not knowing what to do.
The one coming to her senses first was Eladia. She hurriedly whispered into Souma’s ear, “Lord Soma, that’s a scholar’s official bow when having an audience with someone of a very high social position. Please tell him to lift his head.”
“Got it. ――M-Mr. Solon, please raise your head.”
At first Souma thought that he would only thank Solon and hand him a bag filled with silver coins. However, the atmosphere in this place now didn’t feel like it would permit him to do just that. Without a moment’s delay, Eladia provided timely help to Souma who was bewildered about what would be the best course of action here.
“Sir Solon, creating new laws on this occasion has been a great accomplishment. Therefore, you shall be given a reward by Lord Soma. Please accept this.” Eladia improvised a reward conferment speech. She held back Souma, who was about to hand the silver coin bag to Solon in person, and quietly called out to Shyemul, who was next to him, “Lady Shyemul, please pass this to Sir Solon in Lord Soma’s stead.”
“M-Me?” Shyemul was flustered by the sudden designation.
Going by Solon’s usual acting, even Eladia had planned to leave out the ceremonial etiquette and simply hand over the reward. However, now that Solon had adopted official etiquette, their side had to follow the appropriate etiquette as well.
“If Lord Soma were to hand it over himself, he would be taken lightly. On the other hand, if the hand over would be done by someone at the level of a court lady, Sir Solon and his achievement might be taken lightly instead.” Elaida explained.
This was a task to be handled by a prime minister or a grand chamberlain. However, right now a person with such a position didn’t exist. Therefore it was the most faultless approach to get it done by Shyemul, who was the one trusted the most by Souma, the one allowed to be close to him, and Souma’s first retainer who was regarded as a friend by him.
“Lady Shyemul, you should act as Lord Soma’s representative here.” Eladia strongly declared.
Shyemul nodded her head repeatedly while feeling shaken, “O-Okay, I understand.”
She took the bag with the reward and walked over to Solon. Even in the eyes of a third person, she would look stiffly tense. The sight of the nervous Shyemul, the one on the side of giving the reward, moving her body like a robot in contrast to the calm Solon, the one who is supposed to receive the reward, was comical.
However, no one present had the composure to laugh at that. Everyone had been swallowed up by the atmosphere and was keenly watching the course of events. The pull of the atmosphere was so strong that even Jahangil had extended his tail to its limit.
“A-Accept…just take it, okay?”
Solon raised a hand and stopped the reward bag held out by Shyemul alongside some ambiguous words. Then he deeply bowed towards Souma once more, and said, “Lord Soma, would you kindly allow me to make a single proposal instead of receiving a reward?”
Several days later, many citizens gathered in front of the notice boards that had been set up at important points of the city.
A man, who arrived there belatedly, discovered an acquaintance within the crowd of people, and called out to him, “Hey, what the heck’s this gathering ’bout?”
“It’s an official notice by the Lord. I hear it’s new laws.”
At once the man’s interest vanished. Things like laws were compulsory verdicts convenient for the rulers. They weren’t really related to folks like themselves who didn’t own any money. Besides, he couldn’t be bothered to read the excessive amount of words of the new laws which fully covered the back of the notice board’s wall.
However, since it was strange that this many people had gathered considering all that, he asked about it.
“That’s only natural. If you can fully memorize these laws and recite them in front of the lord, you will be given a reward, they say,” was the answer he received.
Hearing about a reward, the man’s look changed, “Reward, ya say? That’s grand. So, how much can ya receive?”
“100 silver coins.”
“100 silver coins!? W-W-W-Wa-Wait, for real!?”
Given that the annual salary of a common soldier amounted to 40 silver coins in those days, the reward money was equivalent to two and a half times the annual salary of a single soldier. If you were to convert this into the money of modern Japan, it would be around 10,000,000 Yen, seeing how the average annual income in modern Japan was approximately 4,000,000 Yen.
If you considered that anyone could earn 10 million Yen for just memorizing the laws, you might be able to understand the man’s surprise.
“The announcement official, who was here until just now, said so. Moreover, as long as you can memorize even a bit in the case all of it is impossible, you will apparently receive a reward corresponding to that. That’s why everyone’s gathering here like this.”
Because of this, the man also stood on tiptoes and looked at the official notice board over the heads of the other people as if it would be a disaster to miss it. However, the man couldn’t read the words.
“Whoa! Wait a minute! Isn’t there anyone here who can read the words?”
Upon the man’s question, the people present only looked at each other without anyone coming forward. Just as he thought that this would pose a problem, a child of the orphanage happened to coincidentally pass by nearby.
“Oi. They were teaching how to read and write in the orphanage, weren’t they?”
“Now that you mention it, I heard about it as well. ――Hey, boy.”
The boy, who had been called to halt, trembled with a start. That’s because the orphans, who had been treated as parasites, were almost always used as targets for venting one’s anger or severe scolding whenever they were called out by the city’s people.
“Wait, wait, it ain’t like I’m going to punish you or anythin’. You can read words, yeah?”
“Yes, if they aren’t too complicated…”
“Ooh, nice! How about those?”
The crowd split apart, creating a path to let the boy through. The child passed though the passage while scared, and looked at the posted laws and ordinances, and then felt relieved. It was the same thing they had been recently using as teaching material for reading and writing at the orphanage.
“It’s fine. I can read those.”
“That’s wonderful! Alright, I will give you a little reward, so can you read those to uncle here in exchange?”
The child, who had a copper coin pressed into its hand, said, “Here I go,” and began to read the laws out loud.
Since this day, the children of the orphanage continued to read out loud the laws all over the city of Bolnis, and it went as far as the adults calling out to them as soon as they caught sight of the children.
Around one week later.
The residents of the city created a long line at the feudal lord’s residence to take the test in reciting the laws. Souma, who looked down at that spectacle from a room in the residence, recalled the time when Solon made his suggestion.
“Can you put up notices with the new laws in the city and reward those able to memorize those laws with money?” Solon made this proposal in exchange for his reward.
Once Souma asked about what he had planned, Solon’s answer was what Souma watched right now.
“Let me see. Lord Soma, you will likely gain five benefits from this.
First, the laws will become common knowledge. No matter how many laws you create, they are meaningless as long as the people don’t know of them. If they know that they will be given a reward for memorizing the laws, the city’s residents will take the initiative and try to learn to read the laws.
Second, a recognition of the laws. By giving rewards to those, who memorized the laws, according to the official notice without discrimination, the people will likely recognize that they will definitely be given rewards for achievements by you, Lord Soma. Once that happens, the people should try to obtain achievements and observe the laws on their own accord.”
Here Souma interjected with a question, “But, the residents of the city can’t read, can they?”
“Indeed. But, have you forgotten? About those who are right now frantically taking lessons in reading and writing in this city.”
Souma suddenly realized, “…You mean the children of the orphanage, don’t you?”
“It is as you say. The people of this city, who can’t read or write, won’t have any other option but to get the children to read the laws to them. It is a fact that the orphans, who they had despised so much, can read and write. Through this you will probably be capable of wiping out the prejudices towards the orphanage’s children existing within the city’s residents. Moreover, if the orphans understand that they can get something out of reading the laws, it will also boost their will towards studying. Those are the third and fourth benefits.”
“What’s the fifth benefit then?”
“It’s the popularization of reading and writing among the city’s residents. They will learn that many orphans can also read and write, which was the domain of a very small fraction of people so far. Things such as documentation and the exchange of letters, which had been complicated until now, will enter the lives of the residents. Reading and writing will become something that’s a lot closer to them, and will likely connect to a development for this city.”
Everyone present stared in mute amazement at Solon who explained his suggestion with well-reasoned arguments. They all doubted whether the Solon in front of them was really that old drunkard.
Among all of them, only Souma, who had had a high opinion of Solon, nodded many times over with eyes sparkling in admiration.
“I see. That means, not two birds with one stone, but five birds with one stone.”
“Oh my? Five birds with one stone? What might that be about?”
Once Souma saw Solon tilting his head to the side in confusion, Souma realized that the idiom “Killing two birds with one stone” apparently didn’t exist in this world.
“In my hometown, the idiom “Killing two birds with one stone” expresses the act of achieving two results with one mean. It means you can obtain two birds by throwing one stone. Since we will be able to obtain five results with one mean this time, I suppose it has turned into “Killing five birds with one stone.”” Souma explained.
“I see, I see. When all’s said and done, this means it will become a plan to kill five birds with one stone…no, to kill six birds with one stone.”
Souma was puzzled at that. He was curious about Solon deliberately correcting himself to six birds, even though he had only mentioned five benefits. However, no matter how often he asked Solon about it, Solon persistently kept telling him nothing but, “You will understand once you actually put it in practice.”
A governmental official entered the room with Souma, who had been watching the queue while recalling those things, to give him a report about the state of the tests currently underway.
As expected, there didn’t seem to be any people who could recite all the laws from memory after one week. According to the official, most of the participating residents managed to memorize several lines of the preface, and those being capable of reciting half of it amounted to manageable numbers.
However, just as he had proclaimed, Souma ordered to give rewards without any discrimination to those people as well.
The official said that the majority of the participants didn’t manage to receive more than a few copper coins, but the people still went back while full of joy.
Very likely many would raise toasts in the name of Souma with a wine bin, which they bought with that reward, all over the city tonight.
As Souma was smiling while imagining those scenes, Shyemul turned up with a voice full of delight, “Soma! Just as you had guessed, he had joined the queue.”
The one who Shyemul had caught and was now dragging behind while being all smiles was Solon who had disguised himself by dyeing his hair and beard black with charcoal.
Souma had guessed, The sixth bird Solon mentioned; isn’t that possibly about him wangling the 100 silver coins by joining the test as someone who’s familiar with the laws? Hence he had asked Shyemul, who had a good nose, to monitor the queue so that Solon wouldn’t slip in there. Once she did, he was discovered just as expected.
“That’s no good, Mr. Solon. You participating would be unfair.” Souma admonished Solon, who had been thrown at his feet by Shyemul, while smiling bitterly.
However, Solon’s reaction towards that was dramatic, “P-Please forgive me! Show some mercy to this pitiful, old man! I don’t have the savings allowing me to pay a fine or the strength allowing me to endure a punishment! I beg you, please forgive me as this old senile fool shall serve you for the few remaining years of his life!”
Souma stared in wonder at Solon’s exaggerated pleading for his life.
It’s not that it had been particularly decided that Solon himself mustn’t participate. Souma merely tried to chide Solon for his participation being unfair as the one who had created the laws. Souma certainly hadn’t foreseen that he would hear such a grandiose begging for Solon’s life while saying that he would serve him for his whole life from now on.
Once Solon suddenly stopped apologizing in an exaggerated manner in front of the bewildered Souma, he raised his voice filled with a stabbing drive, “However! I will have you allow me to scold and criticize everything you do. I will make you feel uncomfortable by only speaking of things you’d like to not hear. I shall serve you if you’re fine with all that.”
“…Understood.” Being overwhelmed by the sudden change of attitude, Souma acknowledged what he had been told.
In response, Solon smiled broadly with his mouth that was lacking a tooth, “Very well, in that case I shall lend you my power to create a peaceful country, where the the people can cheerfully drink wine and take afternoon naps, with all that this incompetent me has to offer.”
Souma suddenly realized. Even if he had successfully obtained the 100 silver coins, that was no more than one benefit for Solon. And even if you were to add the ability for him to obtain Souma’s respect through this suggestion, it would be at most no more than two. It wouldn’t become six birds with one stone like that.
In the first place, the one gaining five benefits from having the city’s residents learn the laws was Souma.
In other words――
“So, you were the sixth bird, Mr. Solon?”
Upon Souma’s question, Solon averted his eyes to the side, and “Now then, I wonder what you’re talking about?”, played dumb like that.
Like this Solon, who was later on called “Very Wise,” had his name entered as part of the act called the Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki.
The Divine Son of Destruction Soma was said to have rapidly enacted reforms, breaking with all traditional customs, but that was limited to the fields of military strategy and technological development. It was said that domestic affairs had been his weak point.
In fact, even the possibility for Michena Elbagis, who had been no more than a low-ranked clerk, to rise in power during the early administration of Bolnis, which became Soma’s first base, was due to nothing other than the confusion brought about among the governmental officials due to Souma’s high-handed reforms.
Many historians have been advocating, “Soma Kisaki’s true nature was destruction, not stability,” because of that.
It’s unclear whether that is the truth or not. But, domestic affairs not being a strong point of the Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki was an undeniable truth.
And the one who supported Soma Kisaki in regards to that weak point was Solon who was referred to as “Very Wise.”
No only did he bring about law and order to the country by preparing proper laws, but it’s also no exaggeration to say that his endorsement towards the usage of Arabic numerals and his education of the orphans gave Soma’s country a solid foundation. Just as Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki had stated, “Without him, the country itself wouldn’t have come to be” was truly right.
For this reason, many people in the future name Solon as having done the most, despite Souma having listed Michena as the one with the biggest achievements.
Hence, the master painter Numari dedicated Solon a single horn on the right side of Soma’s forehead, which had grown upwards as if piercing heaven, in his picture “Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki.” It towering more heroically than the other horns was expressing him having raised the most conspicuous achievements among the three.
Allow me to add one digression at the end.
Divine Son of Destruction Soma assigned Solon to a responsible post while highly valuing his achievements. However, it’s a well recorded fact that the zoan girl Shyemul, who was called Soma’s other half, hated Solon. The next words are considered to have been left behind by her.
“I admit that he’s smart. But, his character is the worst. I don’t want to call him a wise person or wise man.”
This is the reason why Solon wasn’t referred to as “Very Wise Person” or “Very Wise Man,” but “Very Wise.” 1