Chapter 3 – Story 55: Painting Maniac


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Buljeboa’s young monarch had shown himself at Romania’s western expedition camp immediately after Romania’s army had suffered its devastating defeat during the Labian crossing.

“I am terribly sorry for being so late, King Doldea,” King Cesar brazenly declared after stepping into the tent that also served as headquarters.

Shortly before setting off on his western expedition, King Doldea had written a letter to King Cesar, offering him to join their invasion and defeat Holmea in a joint effort. But, Buljeboa was a small country stuck between Holmea and Romania. It had persisted so far by not choosing any sides and keeping both countries humored.

From the very start, King Doldea hadn’t expected that such a country would join his western expedition. In the end, he only sent it with the intention of using Buljeboa’s refusal to participate in the expedition as a pretext to attack the small country after having taken Holmea under his control.

And because of that alone, none of the Romanian lords and military commanders, let alone King Doldea, could hide their surprise when King Cesar suddenly showed up. On top of that, King Doldea had just suffered a tremendous defeat which would go down in history.

It’d have been less of a problem, if all King Cesar could expect was a reprimand for having fallen behind the invasion army, but now it was quite likely to have the responsibility for the defeat pushed on him and get killed over it, if things went badly due to King Doldea flying into rage.

And in reality, King Doldea only glanced at King Cesar’s hand being held out for a handshake, but didn’t even consider grasping it. This attitude, which could straightforwardly be called rude, told plenty of King Doldea’s current mood. But then again, that wasn’t the only reason for King Doldea not shaking hands with King Cesar.

King Cesar loved paintings to such an extent that he had earned himself the title of “Painting Maniac” in his own country, and he was especially known for his preference of drawing himself. His artistic skill was rumored to be so outstanding that no famous painter wanted to take the post of royal painter at Buljeboa’s court as they all flinched back from being compared to the king.

But, at the same time, he was also known for a certain, bad habit. His hands were always smeared with paint, and because of that, not a single place in King Cesar’s private chambers, except for the ceiling, was left without fingerprints. And just as the rumors stated, King Cesar’s hands were dotted with various colors right now as well. Hence it was obvious that King Doldea’s hands would have become smeared with paint, had he shaken King Cesar’s hand.

King Cesar himself seemed to be aware of it as well, and received gloves made out of special leather from an attendant to put them on his hand after saying, “Oops, please forgive my rudeness.”

Then he smiled at King Doldea and continued, “Still, I must say, King Doldea. You did well in enduring it.”

Bloodlust began to ooze out of the officers who believed that King Cesar was insinuating their defeat from the other day. King Doldea also saw his mouth starting to cramp up with a twitch, despite pretending to be calm about it.

However, apparently not noticing that change in Romania’s behavior, King Cesar snapped his fingers once with a smile full of composure. In response, one of his attendants stepped up to King Doldea and presented a single letter in a respectful manner.

When King Doldea’s chamberlain tried to take it, King Cesar held him back.

“I think it’s better if King Doldea were to see it with his own eyes.”

That was a statement going against etiquette as kings usually didn’t read letters personally, but the other party was a king himself, albeit from a small country.

King Doldea gave his approval when the chamberlain looked at him to get further instructions and then read the document. Immediately following, King Doldea suffered a violent shock even while pretending to remain calm. And only Daraios noticed it among those present.

“How about it? King Doldea, I’d like just the two of us to hammer out the details, if you’re up to it,” King Cesar suggested after confirming that King Doldea had finished reading the letter.

Even if he might be royalty himself, the ruler of some puny backwater country was suggesting to talk privately with the king of a major powerhouse like Romania. Several officers reflexively placed a hand on their sword’s hilt as they started to run out of patience with the various rude actions of King Cesar, in addition to him having joined the western expedition late. But, King Doldea lightly raised a hand, restraining those officers.

“I’ll talk with King Cesar in private. Leave us alone. ――This also applies to the chamberlains.”

It was irregular for the king to have the chamberlains, who ought to always stay by the king’s side, step out in addition to the officers. As might be expected, the various officers and chamberlains hesitated to agree.

“It’s a royal decree.”

However, once King Doldea insisted like this, the officers and chamberlains reluctantly left the tent, and King Doldea held some sort of secret talk with King Cesar.

Up until now it hadn’t been made public what the two had discussed during their little, private meeting. But, afterwards the irritation, which had always dyed King Doldea’s face ever since Romania’s defeat, had vanished without a trace and he had regained the openhearted, cheerful attitude he used to have before launching the attack across the Labian. And accompanying that, King Doldea started to address King Cesar as “my friend” and treated him as warmly as if they were of equal status. But that wasn’t the end of it either. King Cesar also began to prowl around Romania’s army camp with a smug face.

Many of the soldiers and officers of Romania didn’t hold King Cesar in high esteem. Daraios was one of them. But, Daraios was cautious of King Cesar for a reason that differed from the other soldiers. What he hated about the man was the look in his eyes. Even right now, a glazed, murky gleam dwelt in King Cesar’s eyes.

It was the same gleam you’d find in the eyes of common soldiers when encircled by a huge enemy force. A gleam that filled the eyes of any sick who had been told that his death was inevitable. It was an expression of despair and resignation.

Yet, King Cesar wasn’t a common soldier who had found himself in a deadly predicament, and although it was hard to describe him as healthy, it wasn’t as though he suffered from a fatal disease. Daraios didn’t know what had happened to King Cesar, but he suspected that the king was regarding everything in this world as hopeless. And exactly because he bore no hope, he didn’t harbor any expectations either. And because he didn’t harbor any expectations, he wouldn’t get disappointed by anything. And because he wouldn’t get disappointed, he didn’t feel any fear. And because he didn’t fear, he didn’t hesitate either. And since he didn’t even care about his own life, it was only natural for him to walk among Romania’s armed forces with such a calm face.

But, that kind of thinking had already left the boundaries of a living being. It was the thinking of a corpse. Yet, the corpse was moving around. Daraios didn’t know anything else as sinister and ominous as that. The dead roaming as if they were alive would only happen when the living were cursed.

For this reason, Daraios felt strong feelings of disgust and anxiety towards King Cesar. The sole other person in Romania’s army who shared Daraios’s feelings on this, was Princess Piarta. She also avoided King Cesar while claiming, “The dead are wandering the lands.”

As far as Daraios was concerned, he wanted to expel that abomination from Romania’s encampment as soon as possible, but he couldn’t. Under the pretext of guiding him, he led King Cesar to King Doldea’s tent while keeping a close eye on him.

“Oohh, my dear friend King Cesar!”

Today was yet another day of King Doldea spreading his arms to welcome King Cesar. And then, after dismissing Daraios with a single word of thanks, the two kings had another private chat inside the tent.

“So, I take it you brought good news?” King Doldea asked with his eyes sparkling like those of a boy expecting a great birthday gift from his parents.

King Cesar nodded.

“It is just as you’ve deduced. I have two pieces of good news. ――First, the boss of the western, revolting slaves is on the move. He won his first battle and succeeded in taking the Conte bridgepoint. And the second is――” At that point, King Cesar retrieved a piece of parchment, “――I have received a response from my aforementioned contact in Holmea.”

King Doldea devoured the words written in the letter which King Cesar had passed to him. After finishing, he nodded several times as if musing over its content, before breaking into a broad grin.

“…So our chance has finally arrived, huh?”

“Indeed. Finally.”

Both laughed at each other for a while. Then King Doldea voiced a doubt that had been gnawing at him for a while now, “But, it sure comes as a surprise for you to have been in contact with that man, King Cesar.”

King Cesar shrugged his shoulders lightly as if saying that it was nothing of importance, “Although we have different tastes when it comes to paintings and poems, we both appreciate the beauty of art. We have simply reached a point of feeling closer than before after he hired one of our countrymen as a performer to relieve himself of his boredom in the borderlands. Using that performer as an intermediary, we have deepened our friendship compared to several years ago.”

King Doldea expressed his understanding.

Buljeboa, a small mountain nation, owned little land suited for farming. Because of that, the country was known for its many citizens to become traveling entertainers, who performed music and dance in public, or mercenaries, who lived off battles, to sustain their lives. Even the Romanian western expedition army was bolstered with many Buljeboan mercenaries, and some of them had even worked their way up to becoming high-ranking officers.

“Either way, you have my heartfelt gratitude for your assistance, King Cesar,” said King Doldea before furrowing his eyebrows somewhat, “――Just that alone makes me want to reward you in some way, but…”

“Just as I mentioned before, I’ll be fine as long as I can protect my current territory.”

Several days ago, back when King Cesar had visited Romania’s army camp for the first time, Buljeboa had lost its standing of surviving by playing both sides. You could say that it was natural for him to aim for securing the safety of his own country when drawing closer to one of the major powers.

But, then again, it’d bare any benefit to occupy Buljeboa when considering the effort it’d take. As such, King Doldea had no qualms with overlooking a small country which would jump as soon as he told them, as long as it’d allow him to realize his long-standing dream of gaining control over Holmea.

“But, I’ll only feel bad about it, if we keep it like that.”

After considering King Doldea’s objection for a moment, King Cesar replied, “Then allow me to make a single request.”

“Ohh, please feel free to tell me anything.”

“In that case, I would like to be allowed to draw a portrait of you, King Doldea.”

King Doldea tilted his head in confusion upon that unforeseen request. He had heard that King Cesar’s drawing skills were so outstanding that even famous painters feared a direct comparison. If it meant that such a great painter would draw a painting of him, King Doldea actually felt like he had to shower him with a great amount of riches instead. And yet, he didn’t understand what kind of benefit King Cesar would draw out of this.

King Cesar answered King Doldea’s question as follows: “My name will go down in history as the first artist who portrayed you, who became the founding, supreme ruler of the West.”

That basically meant King Doldea would go down in history as first supreme ruler of the West. Of course, King Doldea readily consented to his request.




“Supreme ruler of the West, huh…?”

After being seen off by an awfully cheerful King Doldea, King Cesar returned to the tent which had been assigned to him, and repeated the complimentary title he had used on King Doldea a little while ago.

However, King Cesar’s true aim was the exact opposite of that compliment.

“Allowing a king, who would truly unify the West, to appear like that would be troublesome.”

That was also the reason why he had intervened in this battle. No matter whether Bolnis’s revolting slaves or Holmea came out victorious, the winner would swallow the loser and become a major power excelling Romania. Once that happened, the current equilibrium in the West would fall apart like a house of cards.

Won’t that make it impossible for me to play around as I please?

King Cesar accepted the chilled fruit water handed to him by a chamberlain while asking, “Now then, has any new information been delivered during my absence?”

“Yes, Your Majesty. We received a detailed account of what happened at the Conte bridgepoint.”

King Cesar carefully listened to the report of his chamberlain while gracefully sipping on his fruit water, but when he heard the story about Souma having driven off the Holmean soldier with a fake fortress, even he couldn’t help to widen his eyes a bit.

“That’s interesting! I see, I see! So he led the Holmean soldiers around by the nose with a fake fortress, eh!?” King Cesar chuckled, his eyes narrowed. “But, you did well to have found out so quickly about the true nature of his fortress.”

As long as the bluff of making a sturdy stone fortress appear overnight was working, Holmea would hesitate on launching an attack. Therefore, it should be convenient for the Divine Son of Destruction to delay the reveal of its true nature for as long as possible. King Cesar suspected that the Divine Son of Destruction had prepared perfect countermeasures so that it wouldn’t get exposed.

And yet, this piece of intelligence had reached him only a few days after the report about the attack on the bridgepoint had come in. Logically, King Cesar praised his subordinate for having investigated things so swiftly.

In response, the chamberlain answered something unexpected, “I hear it was simple to grasp the true nature of the fortress.”

“What do you mean by that…?”

Upon his king’s question, the chamberlain explained that the Divine Son of Destruction hadn’t restricted people from coming and going across the Conte bridge he had occupied. Because of that, even the peddlers, who had avoided getting close for a while out of fear of getting dragged into the battle, were now freely using the bridge as before.

Even King Cesar’s spies found that to be abnormal, and notified the king and his retinue via bird message.

“According to a member of 『Root』 who had disguised himself as peddler, the fortress was fake, and the soldiers of the revolting slaves were bragging about being in the middle of building a real fortress.”

After a while of brooding, King Cesar suddenly mumbled, “…A provocation, huh? ――We’re talking about that dumb Warius here. He must have flown into rage as soon as he heard about it, right?”

“Indeed, it is as you say. I heard he was on the brink of fainting out of sheer anger.”

King Cesar burst into loud laughter upon his chamberlain’s reply.

“This man called 『Divine son of Destruction』 is a master at pissing off people, isn’t he!? Hahahaha!”

After laughing for some time, King Cesar suddenly put on a serious expression.

“But, it’s strange. ――Bring me the map of the area surrounding the Conte bridgepoint.”

At once, the chamberlain spread the map on the table.

King Cesar looked down on it, “…Nothing,” he drew a circle around the bridge, “――As I thought, there’s nothing here. Forests, rifts, mountains, basins…none of those. It’s plain old flatland.”

But, after scrutinizing the map closely for around the time of slowly counting to twenty, the king’s lips curved into an evil smile.

“I see! This cunning trickster! That nasty 『Divine son of Destruction』…!”

The face of King Cesar, as he licked his lips, looked just like that of a snake in front of its prey.

“Get everything ready for a directive. Tell all members of 『Root』 to spread their net in the rear of Holmea’s army. This might yield us unexpected bounty.”

While gazing at the chamberlains hurriedly getting everything ready to write down his decree, King Cesar leaned back in his chair, crossed his legs, and rested his chin in a hand.

“Let’s see how you’re going to react to this blatant provocation, Old Lion of Holmea.”


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