The ground beneath Menahem’s feet, who had gotten off the carriage, was covered by a light gray layer. Going by what he could feel through his boots, it wasn’t mere, hardened soil. It was something far sturdier than that. Once he bent down and directly touched it with his hand, he couldn’t interpret it as anything but stone.
Standing up, Menahem gazed in the direction of Bolnis. As he did, he saw that the road covered by that light gray layer continued into the far distance.
“This is the thing I heard about in rumors, 『Soma’s Road』, huh…?”
Even Menahem had heard that the Divine Son of Destruction had carried out large-scaled road construction works parallel to the reclamation of the Sobliant Plains. A feudal lord maintaining the roads in his fief wasn’t anything unusual. However, it made such a big impression on Menahem because it almost perfectly fith with the unbelievable rumor revolving around it.
The Divine Son of Destruction has built a stone road by using magic.
When he heard that rumor, Menahem laughed scornfully, putting it off as a dream. He thought that at most the dwarves with their high engineering skills had constructed a stone paving with a high degree of perfection. However, this road was nothing at the level of a rumor.
“Just how did he build something like this…!?”
After all, the layer in front of his eyes couldn’t be explained away with a stone paving. Let alone a gap allowing for a single strand of hair to enter, this road didn’t even have a single visible seam. It completely looked as if the entire road had been cut out of a huge rock in one piece.
Right, it was only natural for Menahem to be astonished. “Soma’s Road” was paved with concrete.
The concrete used here wasn’t the calcium-bound Portland cement as it was put to use in Japan. It was a Geopolymer-concrete with an aluminum-based binder made by mixing natural components such as quicklime, pumice stone, and volcanic ash brought in from the Maha Genobandela. This was the same kind as the ancient concrete with the name Roman Concrete which was used for constructing the Colosseum and Pantheon – both maintaining their shapes to this very day – built by the ancient Roman Empire.
Just like the people of ancient Rome, the dwarves of this world had already discovered that mixing volcanic ash, pumice stone, and quicklime would result in something as hard as stone. However, the dwarves, who permanently lived in caves and tunnels, mostly used that concrete to reinforce their homes. The one coming up with the idea to pave the roads with that was Souma.
In modern Japan, asphalt, which was cheaper and allowed for much less building time, accounted for the majority of the road pavings, but in snowy countries with an intense abrasion due to tire chains, there also existed areas adopting concrete pavings as it excelled in durability. The memories of having traveled to such places allowed him to come up with the idea to lay out roads with concrete paving.
“Father, what do you think about 『Soma’s Road』?” Yoash asked while fully aware how much of a shock it must have been for his father.
In this era, if you were to talk about major roads, it would mostly be limited to having removed any bigger stones that could be a hindrance for traveling. Because of that, rain immediately streamed along those roads like a river, and depending on the location, the wheels of carriages would get stuck after the ground turned into mud.
However, this didn’t apply to “Soma’s Road.”
It wasn’t limited to it not being influenced by the weather either. A flat, even road with almost no unevenness would likely lower the burden on the carriages traveling across it, and that meant a decrease in the damage of the baggage loaded on those carriages.
Moreover, carriages could travel at a much higher speed than until now. Even a speed that would make any cart jump up due to the ruggedness of normal roads was no problem on “Soma’s Road.” Time can’t be bought with money was a Jeboan proverb, but if you used “Soma’s Road,” you could cut down on the time needed for transport at levels incomparable to before. If one also took into account the reduction of the burden on the carriages because of the travel time, and the decrease of repairs, the benefit of using it would just keep growing the more distant the destination.
Previously there had been talks about merchants wanting to invest into the construction of a new road south of Bolnis. However, Menahem had heard that those talks were at a standstill. But, now that he saw this, he could fully understand. If you were to be shown a road like this, any will to clear the land and invest immense amounts of money and labor to expressly build a road inferior to this one would go up in smoke.
“…How long is this 『Soma’s Road』? Up to where does he plan to build it?”
Yoash casually shrugged his shoulders at his father’s words, mumbled in a daze towards no one in particular, and answered, “Right now it’s still just a major road from Bolnis to the Solbiant Plains, with the road parts from Bolnis to Holmea and Jeboa still under construction. However, I think Lord Soma plans to extend this across all the territory under his rule like a net.”
“Soma’s Road” was a huge undertaking that would take all of Souma’s life. After this, it would grow alongside the expansion of Souma’s rule, and in its golden days it would reach an expanse that covered most of the West as one huge trade road net with Bolnis in the center.
However, it was said that his retainers occasionally raised voices of concern about the construction costs which amounted to an enormous investment. And yet Souma would determinedly continue the construction of “Soma’s Road.”
About this, the leading researcher of the Divine Son of Destruction, Martens S. Ackerson, wrote the following:
“In an era, where the wealth was defined by the amount of gold and silver in one’s possession, only the Divine Son of Destruction comprehended that the fluent movement of people, goods, and capital would lead to wealth. Because of that he invested a gigantic amount of money into the establishment and maintenance of roads that would become the foundation of logistics. And, it also became the foundation supporting his mighty power in the future.”
However, although “Soma’s Road” was built with such huge amounts of money invested into it, most of it ended up destroyed during the Great Reformation, and nowadays only a small part remained intact in the remote areas of the Solbiant Plains.
“Soma’s Road” as it remained on the modern Seldeas Continent after a millennium and several centuries was even now used as road crucial for the livelihood of the locals, telling a tale of how highly sophisticated its construction technique was back when it was still new. The manufacturing formula and records of its building time were burned down during the Great Reformation, and thus it might be understandable that a belief about the roads having been built by monsters summoned by the Divine Son of Destruction spread among the people during the Dark Age, where even the oral traditions of the skilled dwarven artisans were wiped out.
Yoash wryly smiled at Menahem who insatiably kept staring at “Soma’s Road.”
“Come, father. Your body won’t keep up if you get surprised by something of this level. After all this is only the very beginning.”
Just as Yoash had predicted, Menahem’s shock continued even after they arrived at the city of Bolnis.
What surprised him first was the cleanliness of the whole city. There was nothing like filth laying around at the roadside or an intense stench of feces hanging in the air from the alleys, like it was normal in other cities. As Menahem observed the city, small children came along whenever horses and cows dropped their dung, and skilfully collected the filth with brooms and dustpans.
“Lord Soma loves cleanliness. Those, who relieve themselves in places other than the areas designated for that, will be fined. And the dung of cattle will be collected by orphans, as you can see.”
It was said that during a very hot summer a few years back, Souma protested, while on the verge of tears, that he would carry out his governmental duties outside the city if the excessive stench didn’t go away. The influential people of the city, who couldn’t afford to bear the stigma of having chased out their lord through stench, invested huge efforts to improve the environment in a hurry.
As a result of that, public toilets – the first on the Seldeas Continent – were set up in Bolnis. Moreover, upon Souma’s suggestion and thanks to the skills of the dwarves, those were lavatories that flushed the feces away by drawing water from the river flowing in the city’s center through underground channels. It was said that the living environment in Bolnis went through a drastic improvement thanks to these.
But that wasn’t all. The “Newspaper” that summarized the events in the city and the neighboring countries was a big surprise as well. Once Menahem asked whether something like that would sell in city like this, seeing how there didn’t exist all that many capable of reading even in the city of merchants, Jeboa, he was told that it was apparently possible to have it read to you for a small fee if you brought the newspaper to the children of the orphanages.
Finally arriving at his secondary residence in Bolnis while calming his father who demanded an explanation each time he discovered something unusual, Yoash first sent a messenger to the feudal lord’s residence to request an audience with Souma. And, for the time until the response would arrive, he invited his father to the bath in order to wash off the dirt of the travel.
The bath installed in Yoash’s secondary residence wasn’t a steam bath as common in this world. It was a huge bathtub filled with hot water. This was yet another convention that had apparently spread with the Divine Son of Destruction as origin.
“It’s because there’s a magnificent, large public bath built for the sake of Lord Soma in his residence.”
Souma said he was using it with those close to him as it would be a waste to use a large bath heated with large quantities of hot water all by himself. Moreover, the bath seemed to get many good reviews as it was also opened up to the common soldiers after Souma and his retinue finished bathing.
Hearing that, Menahem frowned, saying that it was very improper for young, brawny men to gather in the nude. Yoash got out of the hot water with a wry smile and a short comment that his father was misunderstanding, and once he put on his formal attire for the audience, his butler informed him about a carriage to bring them to Souma’s residence having arrived.
Menahem, who had believed that only a messenger telling them about the approval of an audience would come, was faintly surprised by the cordial welcome of expressly sending over a carriage to pick them up. Once he left the mansion together with his son with a proud face, a single elven beauty awaited them.
“Yoohoo! What an honor for the Chief Court Lady to come greet us in person.”
Due to his son’s exaggerated manner of speech, Menahem grasped that this elven beauty was Chief Court Lady Eladia who managed Souma’s court all by herself.
“That is a matter of course if it comes to you, Sir Yoash. We have been ordered by our Lord to open the gates of Bolnis at any time if it is for the sake of Sir Yoash.” Eladia bowed elegantly, and held out her hand towards the carriage parked behind her. “Please get into the carriage. My Lord is eagerly awaiting your arrival, kind Sirs.”
Being invited by Eladia, both men boarded the carriage. Watching Eladia chatting with his son while smiling during their ride to the feudal lord’s residence, Menahem grasped that she might be the infamous Enchantress Eladia. Even though she was just holding a conversation, he could sense the sex appeal oozing out of her body.
Still, for it to not feel indecent is probably owed to her wisdom, peeking out through the different conversation topics, and her elegance and refinement which can be felt from every single of her finger movements. Seeing her like this, I can fully agree with the stories about her having deeply influenced one or two countries.
However, there was something else that piqued Menahem’s interest much more than that. Finally unable to withhold his curiosity, Menahem asked Eladia, “I’m sorry for being rude, but what are those clothes you are wearing?”
The clothes of court ladies in this era were loose pieces of cloth affixed with cords and pins, similar to the chitons of ancient Greek. However, what Eladia was wearing was a thick blouse-like attire with slender sleeves. By no means did it expose much skin. Rather, it had less exposure than the clothes she had worn so far. But, because her body contours stood out much more with these clothes than the previous loose attire, it actually felt bewitching instead.
Eladia let a chuckle slip, “Oh my? And here I had heard that you were a steadfast man resolutely devoted to nothing but business, Sir Menahem.”
Asking a woman on the very first meeting about the make of her clothes was extremely rude. Moreover, she was a former prostitute. It would be no wonder to interpret it as him looking for a sexual relationship.
Eladia forgave Menahem, who apologized in a hurry, and answered, “After all I had been previously asked the same by your honorable son, Sir Yoash.” Eladia held out her right hand, showing Menahem something small round attached to her cuff. “This is a creation of Lord Soma, called a button.”
Hearing the explanation about buttons from Eladia, Menahem was astonished.
The structure is extremely simple. However, its utility is magnificent.
After all, it was an era with no elastic fabric as of yet. The sleeves and collar of clothes had to be very wide to allow the head and hands to pass through them. But that in return thwarted the clothes’ ability to block the cold. Accordingly, the gaps were closed up by tying the cloth with cords or stuffing them out with further cloth. However, this button was much simpler than doing something like that. Besides, it didn’t have any leftovers that would turn into a hindrance like cords did. Also, it was also possible to use these buttons as decorations for dresses.
As Menahem deliberated that he had to immediately go to his favorite tailor to have him make those once he returned to Jeboa, Yoash cleared his throat next to him.
“Father, old man Mayart has already created several prototypes.”
The name brought up by Yoash was that of Menahem’s favorite tailor which had just now crossed his mind. He ended up excited by the button, but considering it calmly, there was no way for his cunning son to overlook something like this.
“There’s really a lot of interesting things in this city.” Menahem said as if to play down his embarrassment.
In response Yoash shrugged his shoulders at him in an exaggerated manner, “It’s all fine that it’s interesting to you, but I’d like you to talk to me first about such things. It would be intolerable, since you will definitely be told, 『I didn’t think that it’s anything so significant』, if you speak of it to the lord.”
Menahem furrowed his eyebrows at his son who filed a grand complaint. Something that might greatly change the traditional fashion being described as “insignificant” sounded unbelievable to him. Menahem hesitated whether to label Souma as a person who couldn’t be measured by their scales, or as an utter fool not understanding the value of things.
Meanwhile the carriage had arrived at the lord’s residence. Once the two got off the carriage, they were received by beautiful elven court ladies. Even Menahem, who frequently visited the royal palaces of various countries, was somewhat overwhelmed by the sight that would cause anyone to mistake this place as the inner palace of some large country.
“Lord Soma has been waiting for you in the garden’s pavilion.”
Menahem faintly knitted his brows upon Eladia’s words. He thought that they might have no interest in making him feel welcome seeing as they would guide him to the garden and not inside the residence, despite the still chilly season.
However, his son seemed very happy, crying out, “Oh! That place has finally been finished!? I’m looking forward to it!”
Menahem asked him with his eyes what he meant by that, but his prodigal son didn’t even try to answer and only flashed a mischievous smile at him.
“Lord Soma is that way.”
Menahem, who turned around the corner of the residence’s hallway, had his breath taken away due to the scenery in front of him.
“This is, what a…!”
Surprisingly, there was a huge pond in the residence’s garden. A single pavilion had been erected there as if floating above the water, while being hit by the sparkling reflections of the sunlight.
Building a pond by leading water to a garden wasn’t anything unusual in Jeboa either. However, ultimately it would be a pond created by drawing natural river water through waterways. He had absolutely no clue how this residence, which was located at a higher altitude than the river, was drawing its water.
“It’s because of this.” With those words, Eladia pointed at a windmill. “Thanks to that, water is drawn up from the river below to this pond.”
Menahem could understand. He had also heard the stories about windmills which had been constructed in the pioneer villages of the Solbiant Plains by Souma.
However, going as far as expressly using a windmill to draw up the water to this place is likely not just for the sake of a nice scenery.
When he looked down into the pond from the small bridge crossing over from the bank to the pavilion, he saw several big fish calmly swimming around within the water that was more limpid than he had expected.
Very likely the water of this pond is going to serve as drinking water, and the fish being raised in here will likely become food during emergencies. However, creating a pond in the garden while doing all this to draw up the water is still too exaggerated for such a purpose. No, this might also be a display of his luxury.
Once he shifted his eyes towards the pavilion, he discovered a young human male who was attended by a single zoan. It was still far away, but the swelling part at the zoan’s chest, who wore a breastplate knitted out of ivies and stood behind him, hinted towards her being a woman.
“Oh my? It looks like our lord couldn’t wait for your arrival, Sir Menahem.”
Upon Eladia’s words, Menahem was ascertained. A young human man who was always accompanied by a female zoan warrior.
“So he’s 『Divine Son of Destruction』 Lord Soma Kisaki…”