Chapter 3 – Story 36: Distrust


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Having managed to escape safely, Rudophus and Kuffner started a signal fire by burning green wood after assessing that the zoan wouldn’t pursue them up until here. After a short while, the soldiers, who had scurried away in all directions, started to trickle in successively after spotting the fire. However, when the two commanders performed a head count, only a little more than 1,500 soldiers had gathered. In other words, more than 500 soldiers had been killed or used the chance to run away.

“What are we going to do, Rudophus? Should we attempt another attack?” Kuffner asked while walking next to Rudophus between the soldiers who were sitting powerlessly on the ground.

Even though the number of our soldiers has decreased to 1,500, most of the dwarves are women, children, and elderly who are no more than a burden. Under such circumstances, we should still be able to put up a fight.

However, Rudophus shook his head at Kuffner’s suggestion to launch a second attack, “It’s no use. Look at the faces of our soldiers. They won’t be able to fight.”

All the soldiers seemed lethargic. This wasn’t just just to blame on the forced march over the last few days, but also stemmed from them having completely lost not only their stamina but also their willpower due to the surprise attack by the ambush troops and the shock of having to flee because of that attack. They didn’t seem capable of fighting any longer.

However, neither Rudophus nor Kuffner could afford to twiddle their thumbs just because of these circumstances.

“In this location we’re closer to Fort Garaff than Luoma, aren’t we? ――Alright, I’ll head over to Fort Garaff, and request reinforcements. You rest up here while continuing to gather the soldiers.”

Leaving those words behind, Rudophus spurred on his exhausted body, and galloped on his horse to the fort. Fort Garaff was a small fortress situated between the city of Luoma and the bridge point to Bolnis. In the past a brutal, savage tribe had lived in the area around the bridge point at the Conte River. It was said they frequently invaded into Holmea and pillaged as much as they could. As such this fortress had been built in preparation for attacks by that tribe.

Fort Garaff was known for its sturdiness as Holmea had gone out of its way to use stones quarried out of the northern mountains to erect it. Unable to take it down even after attacking the fortress for seven days and nights, the savage tribe had no choice but to give up on it in the end. Later on this story became an anecdote to emphasize the fortress’ toughness.

At present, the fortress was crammed with approximately a thousand royal army soldiers in preparation for the Divine Son of Destruction who had shown up at the bridge across the Conte. Rudophus planned to borrow soldiers from them.

Arriving at the fort, Rudophus quickly met with the guard captain, explained the situation to him, and asked for reinforcements. However, the captain folded his arms, and informed Rudophus with an expression full of mixed feelings, “I cannot thin out the fort’s defenses. Sorry, but I can’t spare any soldiers.”

Not having expected to be turned down in his wildest dreams, Rudophus became pale and he desperately pleaded, “Please reconsider. At this rate, it’ll become a disaster for our country, if the copper gets stolen. I won’t ask for 500. I won’t even mind 200, no, 100. Please, lend me some soldiers!”

We still have 1,500 soldiers with us. As they’ve used up all their energy and willpower, they won’t even try to get up right now. But, if I can get our allies to come over as reinforcement during such a predicament, it might rally our soldiers, resulting in them becoming able to fight again. Because of this I must bring reinforcements with me, no matter how small they might be.

Rudophus lowered his head, frantically begging, but the fort’s captain coldly turned him down, “You people have been tasked with the recovery of the copper. Our mission is to protect this fort and hinder the advance of the revolting slaves once they cross the river. ――It’s impossible for me to overturn His Majesty’s decree at my own discretion.”

Rudophus became shocked. It’s simple. This guy is scared of King Warius’s temper. Even if it might be a suggestion or action with Holmea’s benefit in mind, King Warius will reject and deny it without even listening  if it goes against his own ideas. On top of that, you’ll be shunned through exile or dismissal like General Darius, if the king’s irritability explodes. If you don’t want that to happen, you have no choice but to keep demonstrating your unlimited loyalty without ever going against King Warius’s decrees or deviating outside the boundaries of your orders.

Rudophus understood those sentiments, but his task was of utmost importance for the nation. Rudophus desperately explained the gravity of the situation, but he wasn’t able to change the captain’s view. After being driven out of the unapproachable fort, Rudophus was at a loss.

At this point, recovering the copper is impossible. Even if I were to go to Luoma now, the dwarves would easily cross the river in the meantime.

Rudophus had no choice but to return to Kuffner, full of despair. Spotting Rudophus returning with his head hanging in dejection all by himself, tears welled up in Kuffner’s eyes.

“What should we do, Rudophus? At this rate, we’ll be exposed to His Majesty’s wrath…”

“What should we do, you ask? That’s what I want to know!” Rudophus spat out, and looked up to the sky.

The lords who hadn’t notified the palace about the serious matter as they couldn’t pace their trust in His Majesty. The country’s soldiers who care more about their own hide than protecting their country’s dignity. And us who worry about ourselves rather than the country which had its dignity damaged.

“What’s going to happen to our country…?”

Words, he could never voice out, welled up in Rudophus’s chest.




The zoan warriors were the first ones to suddenly and loudly break out in cheering over the drum sounds reaching Souma’s encampment from the northern mountains. After Shyemul translated the drum rhythm for him, even Souma tightly clenched his fists.

The advance party had safely returned after rescuing the dwarves at Copper Mine Marven. Moreover, they had brought back the copper, which Souma had assumed to get very likely scattered on the way back to deter the enemy, without so much as a casualty. This was the best outcome he could have hoped for.

“That’s wonderful news. ――Pass on my praise and gratitude to Garam and his men.” Souma asked Shyemul, and looked up to the sky while she hit her drum next to him while suddenly remembering something.

It was a memory from back when Souma had been worrying how he should take Marven after being entreated to do so by Knurl. Just as he was staring at the map of Holmea spread out on the table in front of him, Solon had suddenly shown up, just to confront him with a question.

“King Warius has committed a huge blunder with the punishment of General Darius. Tell me, what could it have been?”

After pondering for a while, Souma answered following:

“He deprived a general, who had devoted himself to his country to such an extent, of his rank over just a single defeat, and put him under house arrest, I’d say?”

“Wrong!” Solon immediately denied. “No matter how great the achievements of a general, it is very proper to strictly punish them if they make a mistake. If you correct the discipline thanks to that, it will likely become the cornerstone of a powerful army.”

When Souma asked what King Warius’s mistake had been, Solon answered, “The blunder committed by King Warius was to slight General Darius’s statement while even bringing up decapitation based on his emotions alone. Moreover, he withdrew this because of the plea of a mere princess.

Because of this, the people of Holmea likely believed that King Warius’s principles were strongly influenced by his emotions and that he’d easily change his own words at times. Furthermore, him dismissing people with close ties to General Darius over the most trivial issues afterwards left a lasting impression on the lords and military officers!”

Solon went on to declare, “『The commander of an expeditionary army mustn’t consider the orders of their ruler』 is a phrase from a book said to have been left behind by the empire’s famous general Inkdias.”

An expeditionary army was a force taking action in a place far away from its homeland. The commander, who led such a force, had to decide their actions based on their own judgment depending on the ever-changing situation. The saying meant that it was occasionally necessary for such a commander to defy the orders given to him by his ruler.

“But, that also relies heavily on a strong relationship of mutual trust between the rule and his commander. Without that trust, the ruler will call the actions of the commander into question, and the commander won’t be able to move out of fear over the ruler’s retribution.”

Solon pointed with his cane at Holmea on the map.

“And right now that 『Trust』 is damaged in Holmea. Even if they might be a major power――no, precisely because they’re a major power, the country will lapse into chaos once it loses the pillar of 『Trust』. Hence I believe it to be the best plan to take a stab at the damaged 『Trust』.”

Seeing Souma brood with his arms folded after muttering his approval, Solon revealed a broad, mischievous smile.

“Boy, you haven’t lost everyone’s 『Trust』, right? 『Trust』 is something like a tall tower you build by piling pebbles atop each other. It requires a lot of time and effort to build, but it crumbling apart takes but a moment. Keep in mind that you’re always in the center of public attention. Bear in mind to discipline yourself so that you may become a role model for others.”

Souma answered, “I am greatly obliged for your wise advice,” and bowed his head admirably.

However, immediately following, Solon got chased around by Shyemul, who had taken out a stick from who-knows-where with the words, “Then let me beat you up with a stick to demonstrate how to become a role model!”, resulting in the two playing tag within the lord’s residence in Bolnis while Souma’s admiration got blown away.

But this was just a small digression.

“What are we going to do next, my 『Navel Master』?” Shyemul inquired after finishing to pass on the message to Garam.

“Hmm. ――Let’s move as planned. First, have Mr. Marchronis come here.”

Shyemul seized a nearby zoan warrior and sent him to Marchronis who was currently busy with training the new recruits.

Afterwards Souma waited for Marchronis to arrive, but he felt a strong gaze on his face. Once he shifted his eyes in the direction of its source, he found Jahangil over there. He was staring at Souma with his reptile eyes, which didn’t allow any guess as to what he was thinking or feeling, while holding onto the crystalline telescope he’d been lent for the sake of observing the bridge point.

Even to this very day Souma couldn’t read the emotions on the face of a dinosaurian, but only at this time could he easily imagine what Jahangil was thinking.

“Let me tell you just in case, but we’ll follow the plan.” Souma emphasized since he’d be troubled if Jahangil harbored some unfounded expectations.

In response, Jahangil looked away in a huff, obviously sulking. Just when Souma sighed, accepting that it couldn’t be helped, Marchronis arrived.

“It looks like your plan has succeeded.”

Marchronis couldn’t understand the meaning behind the zoan’s drum rhythms, but watching the zoan warriors’ behavior, he could at least tell that it’d been good news.

“All of it is thanks to the efforts of Garam and his men.”

Hearing Souma humbling himself like that, Marchronis commented, “Let’s leave it at that,” with a wry smile, and then put on a somewhat serious expression.

“So, is it fine for me to assume that the countermeasures against the lords army will proceed as planned?”

They had received news that Holmea’s lords army, supposedly led by Marquis Appius, had already finished its formation and could start marching from Luoma at any time now. According to their information, the lords army exceeded 12,000 troops in total. If such a big march would advance upon them, Souma would have no chance with his current troops.

However, at the same time Souma had taken hold of a certain piece of information.

“Yes. ――I have received a report that the lords army’s movements were stalling. Very likely they’ve gotten deceived by the situation just as I’ve planned.”

Upon Souma grinning broadly, Shyemul sighed deeply and dropped her shoulders. Shyemul still had difficulties understanding human expressions, but as might be expected, after having spent so much time together with Souma, she could at least guess that the smile on Souma’s face right now was something tremendously evil.

“Hey, my 『Navel Master』! This humble servant finds it very difficult to accept your disposition of getting awfully lively whenever you entrap someone.”

Souma burst into laughter at Shyemul’s exaggerated lamenting.

“Well then, I suppose this man with the nasty personality is going to give it the final push as planned.”

Afterwards he lifted his arm high into the air, and announced loudly so that the people, who had been watching his exchange with Marchronis, would also be able to hear him, “We’re withdrawing! Let’s go back to our city!”




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