Just when Souma was inspecting his highly anticipated mayonnaise factory that got completed recently, he received the news of the battle at the Labian’s ferry point.
“It’s a simple seasoning you can whip up by mixing oil, egg yolk, vinegar, and salt! It contains such high calorie values that people, who got stranded on a wintry mountain, managed to avoid starvation by surviving on mayonnaise! There is nothing as perfect for army provisions as this!”
Even though Shyemul and the others were rolling their eyes at him, saying, “He’s started talking weird again,” it was still a fact that they had managed to build the very first mayonnaise factory on the Seldeas Continent thanks to Souma’s sponsoring.
Fortunately poultry similar to chickens had already been raised in this world, making it easy to obtain the eggs necessary as base material for mayonnaise. However, the number of eggs per bird was low when compared to modern Japan with its advanced, selective breeding. Yet, they’d be able to cope with this by increasing the number of poultry.
As for the vinegar, their neighboring country Jeboa was the best when it came to wine brewing in the West, and thus they had asked Yoash to order vinegar ― fermented wine. They also relied on Jeboa in regards to oil as squeezing out oil from fruits similar to olives was widely spread in Jeboa.
The mayonnaise created by using these ingredients greatly differed from the one Souma used to eat in Japan. Sourness and saltiness were prevalent since they had to somewhat increase the amount of salt and vinegar for the sake of enhancing the mayonnaise’s preservation time. Moreover, the flavor of the ingredients was quite different, too.
Nevertheless, Souma was happy about having inched closer to his Japanese eating habits by another small step. Besides, when he saw Marko staring at the mayonnaise as it was being whipped with his mouth half-open as if drool was going to drip out at any moment, Souma was sure that Marko would do everything to improve the mayonnaise’s taste.
Shyemul suspiciously looked at Souma, who was staring at the new mayonnaise with his face all smiles, and said, “Say, Soma, you’ve brought up all kinds of arguments and reasons, but isn’t it simply your own desire to eat this mayonnaise that brought about the production of this foodstuff?”
Souma couldn’t find any words to refute her. However, it wasn’t necessarily wrong to call mayonnaise perfect as a provision for an army. The majority of its ingredients was rich in fats, making it highly nutritious. On top of that, its biggest advantage could be found in its long preservation time. Vinegar and salt had sterilizing properties, making it possible for mayonnaise to be stored for more than a month even under normal temperatures. This was a huge boon in a world, where technology for cooled storage didn’t exist.
However, the mayonnaise production also had a big issue: Its whipping.
Adding egg yolk to vinegar and oil, which wouldn’t mix under normal circumstances, and having all three emulsify required a fair amount of whipping. However, that whipping was a considerably tough work, causing it to be unsuited for mass production.
Accordingly, Souma sought Dvalin’s cooperation, and together they developed Seldeas’s first mixer that used the motive power of windmills and water wheels as source instead of human labor. Thanks to the introduction of this mixer, it became possible to mass-produce mayonnaise for the first time. Later on, mayonnaise wouldn’t be just used for feeding soldiers, but also became a staple seasoning for the masses living in the West with Bolnis in its center.
The modern archaeologist Arnis said the following about the mixer:
“The reforms said to have been brought about by 『Divine Son of Destruction』 Soma Kisaki drastically differed in several points from those of other statesmen living during that era. They were centered around the standardization of tools and manufactured goods, the integration of manufacturing and production bases, the specialization of work, and the mechanization of manufacturing processes as their biggest feature.
In those days, work that required heavy labor was handled by what you’d call human-wave tactics through the gathering of large numbers of slaves and laborers. However, 『Divine Son of Destruction』 Soma Kisaki first considered whether he could replace humans by machines and tools, and furthermore, sought ways how to power those machines without relying on human efforts. It has been regarded as very likely that this idea stemmed from his inability to employ large numbers of slaves like other countries because of the abolishment of slavery he had proclaimed himself, but wouldn’t it be interesting, if that restriction had actually forced the Divine Son of Destruction to consider the optimization of production like modern people do?”
Souma was gleefully inspecting the mayonnaise factory which would be evaluated in such a manner in later years, but just the report about the battle at the Labian delivered a shock to him as if he’d been suddenly slapped against the back of his head.
“Is that really true? It’s no misinformation or anything like that?”
Learning of Romania’s crushing defeat, Souma first questioned the accuracy of the news. Souma’s aim in the recent military maneuver was to secure himself and his people a safe sphere of influence. For this very reason he caused the collapse of Holmea’s lords’ army through the clever scheme of attacking Copper Mine Marven deep in the hinterland. Moreover, he used the secret agreement with Romania to lure them into advancing on Holmea, thusly binding Holmea’s royal army at the eastern border.
If Holmea and Romania had entered a stalemate with both sides glaring at each other from their respective shore of the Labian, Holmea inevitably wouldn’t have had the leeway to meddle with Bolnis. By playing for time in such a way, Souma would have bought himself the necessary time to build up a military force mighty enough that neither Holmea nor Romania would have been able to best it easily.
All of this was part of Souma’s plan. And now he received this report, just as he started to concretely feel that his plan had definitely succeeded. That alone was more than enough reason for Souma being unable to rid himself of the feeling that it couldn’t be true.
“Do you not trust my ears, Soma?” Shyemul asked sullenly after having translated the zoan drum signals informing them about the notification of the Labian battle.
This caused Souma to become flustered.
“No, that’s not it at all… Rather than that, we have to hurry back to the lord’s residence!”
The two rushed back, but the news of Romania’s crushing defeat had only arrived there through the zoan’s drums.
Why did the two sides, which should have had a stand-off while remaining on their side of the Labian, suddenly started a battle? How come Romania got crushed?
Not only did they not know the answers to those questions, but they couldn’t even ascertain the credibility of the information.
Something beyond my estimations must have happened.
Even though Souma was fretful over the lack of details, he had no choice but to wait for follow-up reports.
And then, after checking several reports that slowly trickled in over several days, Souma could finally draw a rough picture of what had pertained at the Labian.
“It looks like there’s no doubt about Romania’s western expedition army having fallen for Holmea’s trap, leading to Romania’s crushing defeat.”
At this point, even Souma, who had doubted the accuracy of the information at first, had no choice but to admit that Romania had terribly lost. Romania’s fleet was annihilated as it tried to cross the Labian. And even the few Romanian soldiers, who managed to reach the opposite shore, were entirely slaughtered by the 「Black Wall」.
Those were the details he could scrounge together after consolidating the reports from their collaborators in Holmea and the hearsay from peddlers. Just for caution’s sake, he asked a harpyian to fly to the actual site for him. She confirmed the existence of battle traces backing all the information he had gathered.
Moreover, he had roughly grasped the general flow of the battle itself. After all, this was an era where commanders loudly proclaimed their own deeds of arms on the battlefield in an attempt to receive even bigger rewards. Far from concealing the details of a battle, all the officers and soldiers happily spread their heroic stories in bars and brothels, not having an ounce of understanding about the concept of information leaks. Thanks to that, it didn’t take much effort to work out the entire plan plotted by Holmea.
“I have to admit it was a clever move…” Souma voiced his admiration for Holmea’s plan.
They’ve ingeniously used the plan of King Doldea to thin out the eastern border defenses by using us against him. Once someone believes that their own plan has succeeded, they become less likely to doubt the success, the more confidence they harbor about their own scheme. Holmea acted out a play where King Doldea’s plan had worked out just as he had envisioned it, consequently luring the wary King Doldea into attacking. I didn’t know that Holmea had anyone who could come up with such elaborate and cunning plans.
“Does anyone know something about this Ponpius person who’s said to have proposed this plan?” Souma asked, feeling curious about the mastermind.
“In the past he’s been Holmea’s Grand Prime Minister.” The one answering in an absent-minded whisper was Solon. “That annoying geezer should have given up his post and retired to his own territory a long time ago, though.”
Once Souma pointed out that Solon was speaking about Ponpius as if he had met him in person, the old man averted his face in a huff, and tried to dodge the issue by saying, “Those are rumors. Nothing but rumors.”
It would have been fine for Souma to grill Solon here, but he judged that it’d be a waste of time in the current situation. Instead, Souma addressed the former Holmean Company Commander Aide Marchronis whom Souma considered to know the most details about Holmea on his side.
“Former prime minister? He isn’t a general?” Souma asked quizzically
“As far as I know, he shouldn’t have any experience in leading an army,” asserted Marchronis. “He might have some experience in leading troops as a noble, but as prime minister he was mainly engaged in domestic and foreign politics. Besides, back when Lord Ponpius used to be prime minister, General Darius served Holmea as marshal. There would have been no need for the prime minister to deliberately take command of the army.”
Marchronis brought up Darius’s name as part of the historical circumstances, but hearing that name gave Souma a big shock. Widening his eyes, he intensely stared on the map depicting the Labian’s ferry point.
“Don’t tell me…” Souma muttered while everyone looked at him, wondering what might have happened for him to react like this. “『If you want the enemy to make a move, you have to first offer the enemy something they want』.”
This was a quote that had embedded itself in Souma’s memory.
In response, Marchronis, Solon, and Shyemul threw their eyes open, startled. Marchronis had learned this as part of his education as a former Holmean soldier while Solon knew of it as information stemming from a formerly important enemy. And Shyemul had been forced to read it out many times on behalf of Souma who couldn’t read the letters of this world.
After swallowing hard, Marchronis asked Souma, “You’re certainly not saying that General Darius was involved in this…?”
What Souma had cited was a passage out of “Darius’s Teaching Book,” which Darius had supposedly written as guideline for Holmea’s forces at the behest of the previous king during his time as marshal.
Ignoring Marchronis’s question, Souma asked in return, “…Does Ponpius have some sort of connection with General Darius?”
“Yes, he does,” declared Marchronis, “Grand Prime Minister Ponpius for the government, and Marshal Darius for military affairs. Those two were extolled as the previous king’s arms and Holmea’s two wheels. It’s only natural for them to have been close friends.”
Souma felt goosebumps pop out on his upper arms when he heard Marchronis’s reply.
“That man….is that man going to come…?”
At that point, Pipi literally dived into the room through the widely-opened window while scattering her blue feathers.
“Lord Soma! I have returned just now!” squealed Pipi Totto Gigi, the one leading the harpyians under Souma’s command.
“Spare me the formality! Did something happen!?”
Souma had requested Pipi to scout out Holmea. Since she had flown over in such a hurry, it was a safe bet that she had seen some kind of movement in Holmea.
And Souma’s guess proved to be spot on.
“Y-Yes! ――A great number of Holmean soldiers has started to move to the capital from Holmea’s eastern border! Their numbers exceed ten thousand!”
No way, Souma thought, even if they might have delivered a heavy blow against Romania, it’s far too daring to move the army out before Romania has completely withdrawn.
“No, it’s the other way around, huh…?”
Because it’s too daring, anyone would doubt the authenticity of such news. And, as long as they can make Romania doubt the information even a bit, it’ll be more than plenty. If it’s Romania which has just recently experienced something terrible thanks to misleading information, this alone will cause them to jump at shadows, effectively hindering them from making any moves.
“Also, among them, I spotted soldiers with a somehow weird feel.”
Souma furrowed his eyebrows at Pipi’s rather ambiguous phrasing.
“Weird as in how?”
“Umm, ants who don’t build hives live in the forests of our homeland.” Because Pipi was completely unsure how she should describe her own feelings in the best way, she chose this to start her explanation. “Those ants move in such large groups that you can’t even begin to count their numbers. If someone attempts to hinder their advance, they’ll immediately attack and devour them, no matter how big the animal might be. ――Those black soldiers somehow reminded me of those ants…”
Suddenly a loud thud could be heard. It originated from Marchronis placing both his hands on the table to support his own staggering body.
Without noticing the strange looks by those around him, Marchronis asked Pipi, “Just now you said black soldiers, right? Did those soldiers truly wear black helmets and armor?”
Even while being taken aback by his unusual behavior, Pipi nodded.
Marchronis shuddered. Only one army corps was allowed to wear black in Holmea. And Souma had also been taught about that army corps in preparation for the upcoming battle against Holmea.
“Mr. Marchronis! Does that possibly mean…!?”
Marchronis gloomily nodded, answering, “Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. It’s the 『Black Wall』. It looks like Holmea plans to crush us for real this time…”
At last, Holmea’s strongest army corps had started to move in order to crush Souma.