Chapter 3 – Story 47: Provisions


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After receiving the report about Holmea having started to move in order to subjugate them, Souma quickly had his core members assemble in the audience hall.

“I think all of you have already heard of it, but Holmea has started to move its army in order to eradicate us,” Souma started off, speaking to his followers who sat in a circle.

A tingly tension ran through the hall in response to Souma’s announcement. They had heard about it before coming here, but being directly told so by Souma drove it really home, stirring premonitions about the impending battles within their chests.

“First, I must apologize to all of you.”

Souma had moved his forces in order to whittle down the power of Holmea while avoiding a direct confrontation on top of instigating tensions between Holmea and Romania. In the meantime, they would have fostered enough military forces of their own to overwhelm Holmea and used those troops as a deterrent against Holmea. That was Souma’s plan.

But, just when he believed that his plan had partially succeeded, he received the news of Holmea’s new invasion. Thus Souma apologized to everyone for his forecast having been too naive.

However, this was an era where showing military might on the battlefield was considered an honor. Even though the others had understood that Souma’s plan was sound, the idea that they had run away from the enemy ended up nesting itself in a corner of their minds. For those among Souma’s subordinates harboring such feelings, the new invasion by Holmea could even be counted as good news.

Because of that, no one blamed Souma after he announced the failure of his strategy. Rather, when Jahangil haughtily declared, “I’m a merciful man, so I won’t hold you accountable!”, he earned himself frosty glares from the other people in the hall.

“Rather than apologies, we should focus our attention on how to move in light of Holmea’s incoming army. ――Do you have any ideas?” Garam bridged the matter of finger-pointing.

Souma nodded curtly, “Basically, we’ll move ahead with the countermeasures against the royal army I had you prepare for a while now.”

Souma had caused Holmea’s lord army to collapse with his attack on Marven, but he had also come up with counterplans in case they would have to deal with Holmea’s regular army instead of the lord’s feudal troops. Once Souma declared that they’d fall back on those, Dvalin stroked his beard with a satisfied look on his face.

“I guess our hardships won’t have been in vain then.”

Souma had requested the majority of the dwarves, who hadn’t participated in the attack on Marven, to prepare measures against the royal army.

Seeing Dvalin’s happiness over those preparations coming in handy now, Souma commented with a bitter smile, “If possible, I’d have preferred for them to have been for naught, though.”

“Can I say something, Sir Soma?” Zurgu asked Souma. “With things like this, we must proceed in accordance with what you told us before, right?”

Souma nodded at Zurgu, answering, “Yes, just as planned――”

At that point, Souma inserted a short pause and pointed at a single point of the big map spread out in the middle of their circle.

“――First we’re going to take over Conte’s bridge point.”

Stifled groans of admiration filled the hall. After the commotion died down, Souma slowly scanned the faces of everyone and asked, “Do you have any questions?”

The one raising his hand and asking, “May I?”, first was Solon. After receiving Souma’s permission, the old man stood up and started to slowly walk within the circle while repeatedly knocking on the floor with his cane.

“The enthusiasm to fight one’s enemy is a fearsome driving force, but is it going to be that easy?”

Everyone immediately grimaced when Solon poured cold water on their elated spirits. The only one not doing so except for Souma was Eladia who always kept smiling in front of others, no matter what might be going on in her head.

“According to the scout reports, the army moving from Holmea’s eastern border numbers more than 10,000 soldiers. Seeing them on the move, some of the lords might be willing to stop hiding themselves in their territories and join the cause under the royal banner. In such a case, their army could grow to 15,000 or even 20,000 soldiers. ――How many troops can we mobilize, compared to that?”

Souma pondered for a short moment, and answered, “Let’s see. ――It’s probably going to fall short of 7,000, I’d say?”

The warriors of the four zoan clans in the Solbiant Plains exceeded 4,000. The dwarven warriors totaled to more than 1,000 when adding those who had been freed from Marven. The Holmean soldiers, who had joined Souma’s side, and the new human recruits likewise totaled to roughly a thousand. The elven archers had only slightly increased from five years ago, summing up to 300-400. In addition, the harpyians and dinosaurians, both races which normally didn’t live in this region, hadn’t grown in number compared to five years ago, stalling at no more than a hundred if you combined both.

If you added up all of these contingents, the count wouldn’t reach 7,000 troops.

“Lord Soma has said something very inspiring and courageous, but if you take a look at reality, our forces will number less than half of the enemy’s. Roaring for a fight under these circumstances is the height of folly. Don’t you think it’d be much wiser to seek for means of peace first?” Sword cackled raspingly.

Everyone present felt offended by his suggestion, some more, some less. In contrast to a country that was hailed as one of the West’s major powers, their side was no more than an insignificant power which was ruling over a single city. Requesting peace talks when a big country had dispatched tens of thousands troops would basically be counted as a capitulation with the peace talks taking place in name only.

Jahangil, who could very well be described as the leader of the warmongering faction among Souma’s people, kept striking the floor with his tail, clearly baring his irritation.

Before Jahangil would pounce on Solon, Souma spoke up, “That’s impossible.”

It wasn’t as though Souma hadn’t groped for ways to make peace with Holmea over the last five years. However, Holmea never stepped back from its stance of regarding Souma and his people as revolting slaves, and thusly didn’t even try to start peace talks. Now that they had dragged Holmea’s honor through the dirt by pillaging the copper of Marven in order to fulfill their secret agreement with Romania’s King Doldea, peace had entered the realm of pipe dreams.

Once Souma explained all this, arguing that they wouldn’t be able to avoid the war with Holmea, Solon further said, “You’re certainly right. We won’t be able to avoid the fight with Holmea. But, is it necessary to deliberately attack Conte’s bridge point? Since ancient times, the morale of soldiers falls the further away from their motherland you sent them. The lack of provisions becomes a problem, too. How about fortifying the city’s defenses, hindering the approaching Holmean army, and stalling for time while waiting for their wills to break?”

However, Souma shot that plan down as well.

“That’s also impossible. In the first place, we don’t possess a wall that could hold back the enemy.”

Ever since Souma took its reign five years ago, Bolnis had gone through a drastic development. Accompanying that, its population had exploded, reaching a point where they couldn’t contain all the people inside the walls. Nowadays, a second urban area had formed outside the city wall as if besieging the city itself. But, because the city’s scope had grown much too fast, the construction of city walls to protect the outer city couldn’t catch up. Moreover, Souma had prioritized the city’s growth over its defenses, deliberately delaying the building of another city wall. Because of that, the outer city would be exposed to the enemy army for its lack of a wall that could hold back enemy attacks in case the city and its circumferences became the battlefield.

On the other hand, the inner city didn’t have enough room to shelter all the people from the outer city. Even if they forced the outer city’s residents to evacuate behind the inner city’s wall, they’d face food shortage as the next issue. Of course, Bolnis had stored emergency rations, but it was impossible for those rations to feed thousands of soldiers on top of tens of thousands of residents.

“And most importantly, we don’t have any allies who would send us reinforcements.”

Souma had formed friendly relationships with the neighboring Jeboa and the marmen, but ultimately those were no military alliances. Even if Souma were to request help from them, it’d already be more than expected if they sent some relief provisions and letters of encouragement. Very likely, they would stall for time by evasively making up excuses while trying to get a grasp on how the situation was developing. Even so, them not actively coming to Holmea’s aid, was already better than nothing.

A siege battle with no hope for relief attacks and food storages which would run out sooner or later was similar to a fish that swam around in a pot that stood on a stove. Eventually the fish would be boiled and eaten.

“If a siege battle is no option, we have no choice but to aim for victory on the field. But, the approaching Holmean forces outnumber us by more than twice as much. If it was me, I’d split the Holmean forces in two groups. While one army division would detain us, the other division could attack our back, invading the city. For the sake of not letting that happen, we must first take control of the bridge point to stop their advance. In addition, we won’t have any other choice but to fight with the river in our back.”

Amidst many of those present showing their approval by nodding, Solon further brought up, “There are few villages in the vicinity of the Conte we could pillage, so we’ll need to transport the provisions from this city, but do you have any plan in regards to that?”

“I do. ――Marko, show us that.”

What Marko brought out in front of everyone in response to Souma’s request was an iron helmet, a jar with hot water, and something similar to mudballs. Marko picked up one of the balls that had the size of a baby head, and began to explain with his usual gentle tone.

“Umm, this is a ration ball I prepared in accordance to Lord Soma’s instructions.”

Marko put the mudball inside the iron helmet, and poured hot water into it. Then he began to stir the content while humming a tune.

“After letting the barley soak in water for a while, you boil it up until all the water is gone. ――Then, ermm, you shape the 『cooked』 barley into dumplings.”

Shyemul grimaced, asking, “That, huh?”

On the Seldeas Continent it was common practice to coarsely grind or pulverize barley, mix it with cow or goat milk, and eat it as porridge or soup. However, Souma was craving for rice, and thus he liked to deliberately boil the barley grain, before eating it just like that.

The sight of Souma eating it with tears in his eyes while mumbling, “Ahh, it’s so grainy and crunchy,” made even Shyemul, who should be used to Souma’s eccentricity, draw away from him.

“After placing the dumplings on a net while making sure that they keep their shape, and deep-frying them, you sprinkle mitto on their surface and let them dry for a good while.”

The zoan twitched their keen noses. A nice, appetizing aroma had started to drift from the helmet.

“By just pouring hot water on those dumplings later on, like just done, you can complete a simple, mitto-flavored barley porridge.”

It looked somewhat gross, but it was still a porridge just like Marko had described. Souma had used what was called miso ball or altered miso ball ― a military ration with a high preservation time that was used during Japan’s Warring States epoch ― as reference for this ration ball. What he had created by also capitalizing on his knowledge of modern Japan’s instant food and the ration balls which were used as portable rations by ninja, became the first military ration of the Seldeas Continent.

Marko poured small portions into bowls and passed them to everyone. Once they timidly tasted the porridge, it had a strong salty taste, but many of them cried out in surprise about this food being unexpectedly good.

“……Hmm? Have you put anything other than barley into this?” Zurgu asked.

He was surprisingly fussy about the taste of food, and not just the amount.

“Yes, after the dumplings lose plenty of moisture by exposing it to wind and sunlight, we stuff ingredients into them and fry them once more. There are five different fillings. A vegetable ball made with dried vegetables. A pork ball centered around pork meat. A beef ball made out of plenty of Zoan spices and beef. And a seafood ball made out of marine products. All of them are delicious, but the porridge becomes even better if you mix all types in one pot. Hehehehehehe….”

“Hey, Marko. Take this seriously, man,” Garam cautioned.

“I’m very serious here~,” protested Marko with a sullen face.

It was only understandable for Garam to suspect Marko of screwing around in this era where the amount of food was prioritized over its taste. But, the provisions created by Marko would later become extremely helpful in keeping up the morale of soldiers during long battles.

During excavations in the modern era, archaeologists found remains of a wall in the ruins of a bar of ancient Bolnis. The wall had 「Go to the army if you wanna eat delicious food」 scribbled onto it. This allowed the archaeologists to understand just how well-perceived Souma’s army provisions were.

As everyone was eating the porridge with relish, Souma had a servant bring a rectangle wood box with a high falling slightly short of his waist.

“We built a wooden crate big enough to hold four layers of five times five ration balls. One of these boxes covers one meal for exactly a hundred soldiers. Simple to understand, right?”

Marchronis effusively nodded at that. Back when he had led soldiers in the plains, their provisions occupied one clerk. At that time, they roughly estimated the amount of food needed by the soldiers in wheat bags, but one ball per meal with a hundred meals per box was a lot easier to manage, and Marchronis believed that it’d make planning future provisions much simpler too. Moreover, this method also benefited the transport since the box’s size had been standardized.

“And as for the transport of these provisions. ――Ms. Michena, please take it from here.”

Michena jumped up after having her name called out by Souma.

“O-Okay! We have already purchased big dragons through Sir Yoash. And we’ve been raising our own. We will assign these to transport the materials and provisions!”

Them deliberately using expensive big dragons as core of their transportation was based on a trait of those dragons. If you used many horses and cattle for transporting goods, it became indispensable to also take their fodder into account. Usually, it’d be fine to let them graze along the road and around the campsite, but if you gathered a large amount of horses and cattle in one place, they’d quickly run out of grazing ground. Because of that, you’d need to bring additional fodder or move after splitting up the animals into several groups.

But, such a worry was unnecessary with big dragons. After all, if you let them eat one calf whole, they’d be able to live on water alone for around ten days.

“As long as we have the flat roads built by Lord Soma, I promise that we will not allow everyone to starve, no matter what!” Michena assured the others while clapping her modest chest.

However, this was a promise by Michena who never overestimated her abilities or talked big, alway carrying out her professional duties reliably. Hence, her words could be regarded as a firm pledge.

“As you’ve heard, I’d like you to not worry about provisions. Also, we’ll prepare wages for all soldiers and warriors participating in this war.”

Solon immediately leaped at Souma’s announcement, “Hoh, that is a very strange thing to say. Are you saying you won’t recruit new soldiers even though we’re already inferior in numbers.”

In this era many of the soldiers participating in wars were farmers who could be drafted as part of their taxation. However, if you turned around Souma’s declaration to pay wages to all soldiers, it meant he wouldn’t recruit any such farmers.

“I would like to ask you about the idea behind handling it like that, Lord Soma.”

Souma firmly answered Solon’s sharp verbal stab, “For the sake of preventing looting by the soldiers.”

Because the recruited farmer soldiers would be no more than amateurs, their will to comply with military regulations and commands would be low. Moreover, such farmer soldiers would naturally work for free. For this reason, they’d be very liable to plundering. In order to prevent looting, Souma had intentionally made the bold decision to separate soldiership and farming.

“Naive! That’s far too naive!”

But, Solon sneered at Souma’s decision.

“Since ancient times it’s been said the wheat stolen from the enemy is ten times more valuable than the wheat harvested by your own country. Looting is yet another effective tactic. Levy soldiers from the farming villages and pillage all over Holmea with a large army. If you do it like that, it will become simple to obtain victory.”

In addition to using a way of speaking that seemed to slight Souma, Solon demanded to pillage from people who are no soldiers. Due to this, Shyemul flew into rage and tried to get up, her fur standing on end.

But, Souma held her back with a hand.

“I don’t think that you’re wrong in what you say, Elder Solon.” While feeling Shyemul staring daggers at his back as if asking him what he was blathering about all of a sudden, Souma continued, “But, that would only be limited to the upcoming battle against Holmea.”

Souma began to explain to not only Solon, but everyone present in the hall.

“I’d like all of you to remember. Why did we rise in rebellion? Why are we trying to fight? It’s because we want to right the mistaken structure of this world. It’s because we’re trying to correct the wrong ideology spread by the Holy Church, preaching that humans are just while all other races are foolish savages.”

Everyone showed their approval by powerfully nodding at Souma’s words.

“So, what’s going to happen if we loot ourselves, sacrificing many weak citizens? All those believing in the church’s teachings will claim, 『See, the other races are savage brutes, just as the teachings say』 and 『They’re terrifying enemies endangering the peace of humanity』. That will spell our defeat. Even if we might defeat Holmea, it’ll still be our defeat in the end, I believe.” At that point, Souma made a short pause. And after a while, as if allowing his words to seep into the hearts of everyone, he continued, “It is as Elder Solon says, forbidding looting means we’ll face a harsh path where we’ll need to fight with few soldiers. But that very harsh path is the only path that will lead us to the place we want to reach. Please, I’d like all of you to fully understand this part.”

After that appeal, Shyemul was the first to place a hand on her left chest and bow her head. Following her, the other zoan did the same. Moreover, the dwarves placed a hand on their beard, the harpyians spread their wings upside down, and so on, all races offering their respective displays of allegiance to Souma.

After feeling relieved by that, Souma asked Solon, “Elder Solon, is there anything else?”

Solon flashed a broad grin at that, answering, “Everything shall happen as you will, Lord Soma.”



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