Not even ten days had passed since Souma returned to Bolnis after pulling back his troops from the Conte when Romania’s General Lobnas arrived in the city with a bright red face.
“This is not what we’ve agreed upon! Weren’t you going to attack Luoma!?” Lobnas barked the second he opened his mouth.
Souma tilted his head as he sat opposite Lobnas with a small tea table between them.
“Just what might you be talking about? I don’t remember having ever mentioned that I would attack Luoma.”
“…! That’s certainly true, but still…”
Certainly, Soma has only said that he’d take a town, but never specified which. But, if we’re talking about the city closest to Bolnis, it’d be Luoma. Usually you’d first consider attacking the place closest to you, wouldn’t you? It was completely unexpected and unreasonable that he’d ignore Luoma and instead attack Copper Mine Marven, which is located deep within Holmea’s territory.
Lobnas still tried to protest to Souma, who was calmly slurping the tea Eladia had poured him, in one way or another, but he got forestalled.
“As promised, I took a Holmean town. Is there any problem with that?”
“N-…No, there’s no problem. Not really, but…”
With Souma not having specified which town, he had kept his promise as he had assaulted a Holmean town. When he asked Lobnas whether there were any issues with that, the Romanian general had no choice but to admit its validity.
However, what Lobnas and the other Romanians had desired was for Holmea and Souma to fight a bloody war that would exhaust both sides. The bridge point with its alert surveillance, Fort Garaff which was known for its sturdiness despite being small, and the big city Luoma where lots of reinforcement would gather if the aforementioned two fell. Each time Souma were to pass one of those way-points, it’d whittle down Holmea’s military forces. Romania had anticipated both sides to crush each other, and thus Romania would be in a bind if they couldn’t get Souma to at least have a stand-off with Holmea’s army so as to draw away as many forces westwards as possible.
And yet, Souma quickly withdrew his soldiers after assaulting a single town, and was now hiding in his city once again. Because of that, word on the street said that Holmea, which had already heard about the promise that Romania would attack a town next, was amassing almost all of its royal army at the eastern border. Turning this around, it basically meant that Romania was protecting the revolting slaves from Holmea. You could also describe it as putting the cart before the horse for Romania.
In front of Lobnas, who was searching for the right words while grinding his teeth in frustration, Souma listed his own achievements.
“We forced a town to surrender just as promised, stole large amounts of copper and dwarven slaves, and above all, ruined Holmea’s reputation. ―Which part of all this displeases you?”
Lobnas groaned, unable to give a response.
Looking at it from the achievements Souma had obtained, his recent campaign was staggeringly successful. So much that a grand applause from Romania, Holmea’s archenemy, would be more than justified. Thus it was impossible for Lobnas to file any complaints towards someone who had achieved such great feats.
Once Souma confirmed that there would be no protest from Lobnas after waiting for a while, he beckoned over Shyemul who was standing behind him. He received a signed letter addressed to King Doldea, which he had written up in advance, and forcibly pushed it into Lobnas’s hands.
“Please pass this to His Majesty King Doldea. Also, give him my best regards and tell him that I’m looking forward to his great exploits while I pray for his safety.
―Our guest is leaving. See him off.”
As he was about to be chased out of the mansion with things still unsettled just like the other day, Lobnas tried to object. But, the one Souma called by clapping his hands before he could do so was Jahangil ― a dinosaurian so tall that Lobnas had to look up in order to see his face.
“Jahangil, please be as kind as politely showing our guest the way out,” requested Souma with a sweet smile.
Jahangil nodded, apparently telling Souma to leave it to him. Then he folded his arms, drastically puffed up his chest like a proud rooster, and peered down at Lobnas.
“I’ll see you off. So, hurry up and get going.”
Lobnas became enraged due to Jahangil’s overly rude attitude and way of speaking, and tried to complain, but when Jahangil glared at him with his dinosaurian face that was hard to decipher for humans, the complaints on the tip of his tongue vanished like a fleeting dream. The attendants, who he had brought with him, were already on the brink of running away.
As Jahangil roughly and triumphantly snorted, Souma lightly waved a hand with an innocent smile behind the huge dinosaurian.
“I shall await the good news from Romania.”
Due to that smile, Lobnas finally realized that he had been led around by the nose.
Having scurried away from the lord’s residence in panic, Lobnas somehow managed to struggle his way through the heavily guarded Holmean territory, and crossed the Labian. There he joined up with the military forces King Doldea had secretly moved up to the border.
After having read the letter from Souma which Lobnas had handed him with a ghastly pale face, King Doldea first laughed out loudly inside the huge tent where all the influential lords and generals had assembled. Then he tossed the letter to Lobnas who was by now drenched in cold sweat, fearing what rebuke and punishment might await him.
“Read it out loud for everyone.”
Lobnas looked like he would start bawling like a child at any moment due to King Doldea’s order.
It’s obvious that nothing decent is written in there anyway. Although I almost pissed myself from just handing the letter to the king, he’s now making me read it to all the lords and generals. At this point it’s public torture. However, I cannot afford to go against the king’s order.
He opened the letter with his fingers trembling from dread and anxiety, and read the letter which had a beautiful literary style, if only for its letters.
“From thy friend in the land of the setting sun, to the king of the country where the sun rises. I pray for thy good health…”
Of course these opening lines were an imitation of the imperial message to Emperor Yang of Sui by Prince Shoutoku. 1
For Souma it’d be ill advised to provoke Romania too much. After all, it’d put Souma and his followers into a bind if Romania and Holmea, both regarding each other as archenemies, joined hands out of deep hatred against a common enemy.
Accordingly he used Prince Shoutoku’s letter as a reference to demonstrate his modesty by claiming that his side wouldn’t be flourishing any further (setting sun) while Romania could keep prospering without any bounds (rising sun).
“Fuhahahaha! Isn’t that an awfully pleasant letter?”
However, not knowing anything about that historical background, King Doldea interpreted the letter in a different way.
“The sun comes from the east, and sinks in the west. In short, he wants to tell us that glory has left the eastern Romania to come to his land in the west!”
Hearing the king’s interpretation, Romania’s officers and men flew into rage over this preposterous insolence. After all, the world still regarded Souma as nothing more than the chief of some riffraff of subhumans and slaves. Such a man had bluntly declared to Romania, “The era of your country’s glory has ended. Now we’re going to prosper.” It’d be unreasonable to expect them to not get upset over this.
Within this whirlpool of boiling anger, Lobnas continued to read out loud while sweating buckets.
In the letter Souma kept meticulously listing just how lowly and inferior he and his followers were. However, even that line-up of modesty fell on deaf ears among the angry representatives of Romania, sounding to them like nothing but barefaced lies and deceptions. And then, as if to give it the finishing blow, Souma ended the letter by stressing that he was looking forward to King Doldea taking a single town as per their agreement since his own capture of Copper Mine Marven ought to be no more than child’s play for someone of King Doldea’s might.
When Lobnas finished reading the letter, King Doldea addressed all present lords and generals, “Did you hear, my fellow countrymen? That cursed slave chief has described his own achievement as child’s play. For Holmea, it not only meant the fall of Marven, which you could also call a cornerstone of their national income, but also the theft of a huge amount of copper, and a complete loss of honor as a major power. He’s saying that something of this level doesn’t register as anything of significance to him. On top of that, he’s provoking me by claiming that it should be a breeze for me to achieve even bigger military gains.”
At that point, King Doldea asked Lobnas with a grin, “Say, Lobnas, what could this brat mean by saying that he’s looking forward to my achievements?”
Even Lobnas had come up with a likely possibility. But, it was nothing he could risk to ever put in words.
King Doldea chuckled at Lobnas, who was lost for words, and declared, “You don’t know? This brat is telling me that he won’t listen to any of my instructions until I’ve taken a town as it was promised.”
Holmea, which knew of the agreement between Souma and Romania since Souma had intentionally leaked it, had very likely finished all its preparations to face the upcoming invasion by Romania. Going through with an attack at this point would be like willingly leaping into the jaw of a starving lion. Given that Souma was quite aware of this fact, his letter was similar to him one-sidedly breaking off his relations with Romania.
“Y-Your Majesty! I shall make up for this failure, using whatever it takes! I shall head over to the slaves of Bolnis once more, and persuade them to do our bidding! Please grant me permission to depart at once!”
King Doldea gently spoke to Lobnas who frantically appealed to his king while wiping away the sweat on his forehead with a cloth.
“That’s no longer required. ―Thank you for your work. You must be tired from your arduous, hurried journey. You may take a good rest.”
The lords, generals and even Lobnas himself, who had clearly expected the king to severely scold and heavily punish Lobnas, slightly widened their eyes in surprise. And they all stared at the king as if to probe for the intentions behind his behavior.
In response, King Doldea said, as if it was very natural, “The plan of using the revolting slaves to whittle down Holmea’s military forces had certainly been suggested by Lobnas, but it was none other than me who acknowledged it. Thus, all responsibility lies with me.”
Most people would have blamed the original proposer, Lobnas, for it, and would have him take responsibility for this blunder. And yet, the old king didn’t only thank him for his service, but also declared that he’d bear all responsibility.
All lords and generals, including Lobnas, felt great admiration for their king’s virtuous leniency.
“Lords and generals of Romania, pride of our Romania, now is not the time to question past mistakes. Rather than that, I expect you to frankly state your opinions on how we should proceed next without holding back on anything.”
For this very reason, all lords and generals answered, “So mote it be!”, without any hesitation when King Doldea asked them to offer their opinions.
- This message has been recorded in the Books of Sui, but as far as I’m aware of, there exists no translation into English of this work, like with so many others, and since I’m not really good at imitating old formal speech patterns in English, bear with the opening not being as polite or as beautiful as it could be. You can read the relatively short wiki about it in English here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Sui