Chapter 3 – Story 57: Mortification


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“That guy ― this accursed 『Divine Son of Destruction』 ― intends to take on the subjugation force from the front, and crush them then and there!”

Ponpius couldn’t believe what Darius was shouting. Although he didn’t have much experience in leading armies, even an amateur like him knew just how reckless a plan that would be.

During his time as Holmea’s prime minister, he had visited various places inside the kingdom, and thus he knew Conte’s bridgepoint and the flatland in front of it. If his memory didn’t fail him, the place indicated by Darius’s finger on the map should be plain, old flatland with no forests or mountains. It was a terrain that wouldn’t allow a plethora of military trickery.

Or to summarize it, it was nothing but madness to confront an enemy army, which had more than twice of your own forces, straight from the front in a place like that.

“You’re saying that the 『Divine Son of Destruction』 will try to meet the subjugation army in that place…?” Seeing Darius gloomily nodding at his question, Ponpius widened his eyes.

“B-But, Darius! There’s nothing but flat land to be found there, right!? And yet you say they’re going to take on the subjugation army from the front in such a location? In other words――” Ponpius swallowed his own saliva hard when he reached this conclusion, “――In other words, they’re seeking a showdown through a pitched battle!?”

A pitched battle was an engagement where both sides would prepare army corps-sized soldier contingents and square off against each other on the battlefield. Many kings and generals, who were leading armies in this era, regarded victory in a pitched battle as the ultimate type of victory. After all, a victory in a pitched war, which would be carried out with the intention of eradicating the enemy, basically meant that the enemy nation would become unable to continue the war effort upon defeat (this epoch didn’t know the concept of a total war). This outcome would inevitably spell the downfall of the enemy nation. And even Holmea would be no exception to this rule.

Right now, the 「Black Wall」 formed the core of the subjugation force which was heading over to defeat the revolting slaves. The 「Black Wall」 had the obligation to obtain certain victory, and because they had been staying true to that obligation thus far, they were assessed to be Holmea’s mightiest army corps.

If the 「Black Wall」 were to be taken down, the spiritual, mental and physical blow would be unfathomable. Many Holmean citizens would likely start to believe that the kingdom wouldn’t be able to defeat the revolting slaves anymore. And the turmoil triggered by anxiety and fear wouldn’t just stay limited to the population, but also spread to the lords.

The lords pledged fealty to the king for the sake of their fiefs’ peace and stability. And in exchange for their loyalty, the king carried the duty of protecting the dominion, which also meant that he had to command the lords whenever a foreign enemy, which couldn’t be handled by single lords, invaded the lands to repel the attackers on the battlefield. But, if the king became unable to follow up on that duty, the lords would lose any reason to remain loyal to him. If that happened, distrust and dissatisfaction would naturally fester in the relationship between Holmea’s royal family and Holmea’s landed nobility.

But that wasn’t the full extent either. Anyone could tell that quite a few of the lords would likely show themselves open-minded to forming friendly relationships with the revolting slaves of Bolnis. No, in the worst case, some lords could even switch sides from Holmea to the 「Divine Son of Destruction」. And as soon as just one lord bent his knee in front of the 「Divine Son of Destruction」, others would soon follow, leading to Holmea’s west eventually breaking off altogether.

A defeat of the 「Black Wall」 during a pitched battle would put Holmea’s further existence at risk. And because he fully understood that, Ponpius raised his voice, “But, the military force of the revolting slaves is less than half of ours!! Are they saying they’re going to destroy the royal army ― that mighty 『Black Wall』 ― while knowing all that!?”

“At the very least, that man is trying to do just that.”

If these words hadn’t come out of Darius’s mouth and if they hadn’t been talking about the same 「Divine Son of Destruction」, who had defeated Darius, Ponpius wouldn’t have believed any of it. However, Ponpius was also well aware of precedents where small forces had defeated armies with significant, numerical superiority from the front.

“Are they possibly trying to fill the difference in military forces with a last-stand-mentality?”

The event of Holmea’s founding king defeating an enemy army, which excelled his own army manifold in numbers, by taking up formation with a river in the back, so as to prevent his men from retreating, and tossing away all provisions to push his soldiers into a do-or-die stance was a famous historical fact on Seldeas Continent.

Darius denied Ponpius’s thoughts with a bitter smile, “I don’t want to believe that I lost to a fool who would use such a 『Water-in-the-Back Tactic』.”

The reason why Holmea’s founding king had adopted that 「Last Stand」 tactic could be found in the enemy army’s war-weariness which stemmed from the military campaign having lasted a long time. The morale among the enemy soldiers was remarkably low, and thus the founding king predicted that the enemy army would definitely fall apart before his own army, if only they held out.

However, three generations later, Holmea’s king misinterpreted the founding king’s circumstantial victory as guarantor for being able to win against any enemy with a lot more soldiers, if he pushed his own soldiers into a do-or-die mentality by forcing a last stand. It was said that only two hundred of his ten thousand soldiers escaped being killed on the battlefield or drowning in the river by becoming prisoners of war after Holmea’s king had attempted a last stand against an enemy army three time as big as his own.

Because of that incident, the saying 「Water-in-the-Back Tactic」 became a synonym for imitating someone else without understanding the full account of their circumstances and failing at it.

“What’s the goal of the 『Divine Son of Destruction』 then!?”

Darius didn’t have an immediate reply to Ponpius’s question, which sounded more like a scream than anything else.

Darius’s face was colored by mortification as he finally squeezed out after around twenty breaths, “…I don’t know.”

He couldn’t tell the aim of the 「Divine Son of Destruction」, nor what he was trying to achieve. But even so, he was pretty sure that the 「Divine Son of Destruction」 was following a greater plan to smash the 「Black Wall」.

If he had to describe the current situation figuratively, Darius would say it was like the enemy had carelessly lowered his sword in front of him without adopting any defensive stance or trying to show off, just as he was about to counterattack that very enemy. Any normal enemy would keep swinging their sword to not show any openings for possible counterattacks. Yet, the 「Divine Son of Destruction」 did the exact opposite of that, acting as if he was inviting his enemy to attack him.

However, this became terrifying instead. Darius had a hunch that his sword would easily get blocked, followed by a scathing counterattack, if he tried to take a careless stab at his foe.

Yet, that couldn’t serve as a reason for them to leave the 「Divine Son of Destruction」 to his own devices either.

Holmea had not only allowed an enemy to violate its borders, but also let them boldly build a fortress on its territory. If the kingdom ignored this, the country itself would likely be slandered domestically and foreignly as a place run by idiots and cowards. If you added the matter with the copper from the other day to this, this would already go way beyond damaging Holmea’s dignity as major power. Rather, it’d brand Holmea as a third-rate country that couldn’t protect its borders and agreements.

Furthermore, it would be quite likely for the western lords, who owned fiefs near the border, to embrace rebellious ideas against King Warius, if he disregarded an enemy that threatened the safety of their own territories. If the kingdom didn’t defeat the 「Divine Son of Destruction」 as soon as possible, Holmea would suffer fatal damage from just that.

However, no matter how often Darius stared at the map, flatland was all he could find around the Conte’s bridgepoint. He couldn’t see a single patch of forest, valley, or mountains where it’d be possible to hide an ambush. As such, he couldn’t believe that the 「Divine Son of Destruction」 would be able to use the plan that entrapped him five years ago.

And yet, why is the 「Divine Son of Destruction」 waiting in that place as if he’s seeking a decisive battle?

At that point, Darius suddenly realized it.

“…Is this possibly a plan to try luring us into jumping at shadows?”

Looking at the movements of the 「Divine Son of Destruction」 so far, he had a tendency to avoid battle. The same also applied for the plan of attacking Copper Mine Marven the other day. Not only did he completely evade fighting from the front, but he also tempted Holmea and Romania into a confrontation, trying to divert the brunt of Holmea’s attack elsewhere.

All of this allowed one to suspect that the 「Divine Son of Destruction」 was attempting to avoid battle at any cost. And under such assumption, his current actions could only be labeled as a bluff. No matter how advantageous the terrain for the deployment of a big army, it’d only make Holmea wary and hesitant instead. And while Holmea became unable to make any reasonable moves as they would suspect anything to be some sort of trick, the revolting slaves would try to amass the power necessary to oppose Holmea.

Darius believed that such a plan, which was basically nothing more than trolling, fit the way of the 「Divine Son of Destruction’s」 thinking. But, he immediately discarded his own assessment.

The situation is different from when he was cornered five years ago. The 「Divine Son of Destruction」 has to eventually decide the power standing between him and Holmea. I have no doubt that he’s been preparing himself for battle during the last five years. Be it the raid on Marven, or the fake fortress built after taking the Conte’s bridgepoint in one night; both would require a considerable amount of preparations to enact. It’s unthinkable that he could have come up with these just the other day.

So, would that very meticulous and careful 「Divine Son of Destruction」, who piles plan upon plan, really challenge us with nothing but a bluff in a war that could very well be described as decisive?

No, that’s impossible. That guy must be planning something.

Darius harbored such a prediction which had already reached the level of conviction. But, he didn’t understand what this hunch was pointing at.

Having been placed under house arrest, I have no choice but to get mortified over here. If I could see the soon-to-be battlefield with my own eyes, if I could feel it with my whole body, I might have been able to somewhat read his aim. And yet I remain shackled to my mansion in the capital.

Darius had never cursed his own fate as much as he did at that moment. But, noticing that his thoughts were drifting off in a bad direction, Darius took a deep breath while relaxing his shoulders.

For the sake of changing my thinking, I should first scrutinize only the facts I know and make my judgment based on those.

Making up his mind like that, Darius calmly stared at the terrain and the difference in military forces between the enemy camp and his country’s forces.

The enemy has less than half our soldiers. And although they got a fortress now, it was constructed in a hurry. I doubt it’ll be able to fend off the onslaught of a big army. And sprawling in front of that fortress is a flat plain. And there’s no reason for us to get destroyed by an enemy with inferior numbers on a battlefield where you can take full advantage of a big army.

Darius placed his index finger on the piece signifying the subjugation force on the map.

I see no problem at all. None at all.

While persuading himself like that, he slowly pushed the piece towards the Conte’s bridgepoint. And just when the piece arrived right in front of the bridge, the muzzle of a monster that sported arrays of uneven fangs opened above the map. That monster leaped for Darius’s finger.

“Uoohh!!” Darius cried out in surprise, jumping back.

If I had been one second late, my finger would have been bitten off.

His heart was thumping like an alarm bell and sweat was gushing out all over his body due to that fear.

“What’s wrong, Darius?”

Once Darius turned to the quizzical voice, he found Ponpius staring at him with a puzzled look.

“Didn’t you see――”

He was about to continue with “――that just now?”, but Darius realized that not a trace of a monster could be seen on the map.

That just now…!

Darius propped himself up with his trembling arms on the table, lowered his head, and scowled at the map. Darius’s intuition had appealed to him that something terrible would happen if Holmea fought over there.

That just now was a premonition of it.

Ponpius was unsure how he should call out to his friend due to Darius’s sudden, weird behavior, but after a while, he gathered his resolve and tried to speak up.

“…I have to immediately send out secret messengers to the officers who have joined the subjugation force.”

But, before Ponpius could open his mouth, a voice full of mortification escaped Darius’s lips.

“Telling them that they must avoid fighting that guy over there…”




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