金金金It had only been a century since King Bergis Wardka had led the northern mountain kingdom of Horsheido to fully conquer the continent of Libelika. The continent had never before been truly unified. Though Horsheido had humble beginnings, it had begun to quickly amass power, and after its preparations were complete, it had begun its advance on the south. It swept through the south as though to vent the rage that had built up after many years of marginalisation. The soldiers of Horsheido displayed inhuman battle prowess, crushing all those who stood in their way without exception. Due to their utter devotion to conquering any disputed territory, their weaker neighbours fell before the unstoppable might of the Horsheido military as an unparalleled campaign completely annexed the entirety of the Libelika continent.
金金金The Bergis unification built its capital city of Ferdos in the most fertile land in the east, and divided the rest of the continent into 12 provinces for ease of rule. The kingdom of Horsheido became an empire, with Bergis its founding father.
金金金Bergis deployed his skilled retainers and blood relatives to maintain order in the provinces, allowing them discretionary authority, and assigning only loose guidelines and vague directives. There were those who advised against such a diffusion of power, but Bergis quickly and decisively acted upon his carefully considered plans. His judgement eventually proved to be correct when several rebellions were swiftly suppressed. The chosen viceroys surpassed all expectations in governing ability, and they oversaw well thought out projects that became the cornerstones of the empire. So long as a relationship of trust was maintained between the emperor and his viceroys, they were able to respond quickly to any situation, and it proved to be an administration that had no gaps within its grasp.
金金金The strict adherence to and widespread adoption of a social policy of “Generosity to the subdued, severity to the disobedient,” incentivised the rulers of each province take up their swords, and fall in line with the rest of the empire. When a former enemy was appointed viceroy of the Ribeldam province, it proved that those with ability would rise to prominence regardless of their background. Bergis became known as “the Emperor of the Sun” for his numerous accomplishments, and he died retaining the overwhelming support of his vassals, and the plebeians alike.
金金金The death of a great ruler was usually followed by a struggle for succession, and Horsheido was no exception. The infighting, however, did little to shake the foundations from which the empire had been constructed. A second generation emperor successfully succeeded the throne, and all the way through to the third generation emperor Befnam, a great focus had continued to be placed upon maintaining stability which led to an era of peace and tranquility.
金金金Despite the calmness of the times, irregular circumstances still existed; the foremost example of which resided in the southwestern province of Coimbra. Having once been a well renowned trading centre, the emblem on its flag was a balance scale. It had great lengths of coast, and its mountainous northern regions had boasted many lucrative gold mines. The famous mines brought prosperity to the province, and only ten years earlier it had been one of the most affluent provinces on the entire continent.
金金金Through trade with the peoples of the southern islands, spices, oceanic produce, and jewelry had been brought to Coimbra. The ensuing cultural exchange had breathed new life into the entire continent. Luxuries like opera became so prevalent in Coimbra that many began to see such things as a symbol of the province. Most lucrative of all was their trade with the western continent of Mundonovo. The people of Coimbra made use of the imports from the far western foreign soil by way of monopoly; ensuring their own profits. They labelled western things as “miracle products” which the aristocracy bought for exorbitant prices. Such wares had included exotic weapons and armour, lanterns of eternal light, and even nostrums for curing any illness. Coimbra initially paid for these things in high quality gold and silver as well as other gems and metals, but later exports began to include paintings, ornaments, and silk. While there was great risk in long distance voyages, vast profits were enjoyed on both sides which resulted in ideal conditions for trade.
金金金Unfortunately, when the first in the line of succession, Grohl Wardka was appointed viceroy of Coimbra, the situation completely reversed. There was religious upheaval on the continent of Mundonovo from which rose a new regime that instated a continental trade embargo, revoking all exchanges with heathens. Those who were caught smuggling were labeled as heretics and punished by a quick death; the unlucky ones were subjected to lengthy executions.
金金金Coimbra still had its treasure until its northern gold mines ran dry. The event had nothing to do with Viceroy Grohl, but for the common man, “Everything is Grohl’s fault. He doesn’t have the blessing of the Sun God,” was a standard explanation.
金金金The effects of the empty mines quickly surfaced. Coimbra’s position as the premier trading partner with the southern archipelago was usurped by the easterly province of Ribeldam. When the silk merchants who had once come from the capital via the Bahar province began to take the shortest rout to Ribeldam, it stopped the flow of goods and people, and killed the province’s livelihood. Miners who had lost their jobs lined the roads, hesitant of where to go, and the many active merchants of the south simply abandoned their districts to empty, scattered stalls. Those bitten by the lust for gold also vanished, leaving nothing but air in their places. Not even Viceroy Grohl could stand idly by. In order to find new mines he made huge investments, and to combat low employment he offered land to clear for agriculture as well as long term positions in the military.
金金金While such efforts did have some effect, the full economic prowess of the previous golden age was still a long way from recovering. Conversely, the increased military expenditure required higher tax rates which further burdened the people and aggravated rising dissatisfaction. Even their constant, pressing negotiations with the Mundonovo continent remained in vain. Regardless of what Grohl proposed, it fell upon deaf ears. Finally, as insult to injury, an insurrection began in Coimbra’s north.
金金金Various complaints had made their way to Emperor Befnam’s ears, and in his eyes the prince’s inaugural ceremony was on the verge of being canceled. It wasn’t just an issue of the leading candidate for the throne suddenly becoming inconsequential, but it also called into question the ability of the ruling emperor, and marred his rule with a negative stigma. It was one thing for him to allow his son a fiefdom out of fatherly affection, it was a different matter, however, if the result of it was a full scale revolt.
金金金“Even blood relatives are to be removed from office should they prove themselves incompetent.” Such was the single most important legacy of the first generation Emperor Bergis.
“Viceroy, we have just received word that the rebels are advancing south. At this rate, the Rockbell district will be threatened as well. This is an emergency, and we need to devise a plan for our countermeasures.”
金金金Seated on the throne, the Viceroy of Coimbra, Grohl Wardka grasped a chalice of wine in the silence. A vein was bulging on his temple.
“Those disloyal little shits! Do they realise how much money was wasted on trying to find them more gold!? What is the northern garrison even doing!?”
金金金The northern regions from which the rebellion had sprung had initially been appropriately garrisoned. There were even stations posted along the highways, so there was no reason for the soldiers not to take action. As the rebels were just passing through without obstruction, it felt like his soldiers were doing nothing to stop them. At that point, it would have been good news if they hadn’t joined the rebel forces.
The trusted retainer Wilm addressed his words to Grohl who was red in the face with rage, “Our opponents seem to be indecisive because of their proximity to their families. At present it is difficult to estimate their combat potential.”
“For what purpose do they think I pay their wages? Is it not an attempt to deal with the situation?”
“M-my lord, the guards are also former miners.”
金金金It would be a best case scenario to say that the guards hadn’t joined the rebellion, and just remained as civil servants. While that was certainly the case, simply stating it outright could only serve to further irritate Grohl.
“So what! Shall I bring in the national army now!?”
金金金Throwing some papers to the ground, Grohl rejected the official’s words. His blood was boiling to the point where it would be a considerable task to calm him down. Wald was truly shocked, but he kept it from showing on his face by stroking his white beard.
金金金As I thought, this man isn’t emperor material. His transparency, and quickness to speak are habits many years beyond repair. It makes me doubt how much of His Majesty Befnam’s blood is in him.
“… Viceroy, it is now the time to consider our options for dealing with the rebel army. Shall we commence peaceful negotiations, or is extermination more suitable than argument? If this isn’t swiftly resolved, the seeds of future troubles will have already been sowed.”
“Dialogue with the fools who have already drawn their swords is an impossibility!! Muster your troops, we prepare for a subjugation!”
“Wai- please give me but a moment. The soldiers are also the people of Coimbra; ordering them into such a senseless slaughter could only sully your reputation…” before the official could finish his words, Grohl bellowed his rejection.
“Such verbosity! How long does it take for your men to prepare, Wilm!?”
“The subjugation force should be assembled in about two weeks from today. Working overtime could complete the process in only one.”
“Then rush the mobilization at once! Listen well, for the fall of Rockbell is unacceptable! That district is my wife’s birthplace, and should it be lost, my Sarah’s honour will be tarnished!”
金金金The official rushed out at a brisk pace. Coimbra’s standing army numbered approximately 30 000 strong, but the full force would never be concentrated around the capital city of Madress. The northern garrisons were out of the question, so the soldiers had to be gathered from the southern belt. Regardless of Wilm’s own pace, the assembling of a punitive force required a full week’s time.
“Fuck! That bastard Amil’s eyes were mocking me! There’s a rebellion now, so I guess I’m the funniest guy in the empire!” Grohl kicked over a nearby stool, and rose with an infuriated expression.
金金金Wilm’s cold gaze took in the scene. He had been serving since Grohl was a child, but still held little affection or loyalty towards him. His true loyalty was to the incumbent emperor, and to the furthering of the Horsheido Empire’s prosperity.
金金金From Wilm’s perspective, placing Grohl on the emperor’s throne would be nothing short of a failure. The successor was almost certainly going to be a prince from Bahar by the name of Amil. A rumor was spreading that at the inauguration ceremony, Amil was to take Horsheido as a surname and become the crown prince. There were even whispers that he was to be adopted by Befnam and soon thereafter enthroned. Wilm found that such stories were not lacking in credibility.
金金金However, Amil’s lack of mercy is slightly disconcerting. For example, how thorough he’s been in usurping his own older brother’s position. It seems he intends to take the first emperor’s words to heart.
金金金“Even blood relatives are to be removed from office should they prove themselves incompetent.” Amil’s rough plan was progressing favourably. Wilm had been in communication with him for some time, so Amil was aware of the full details of the rebellion. Providing arms and funding from behind the scenes, the one who fanned the smouldering coals into flames had been Amil the whole time. He’d even managed to keep hidden that the rebel leader Ristih was in fact a knight from Bahar.
金金金To the nobility of Bahar, it was only natural that the rebel army was composed of mercenaries and Coimbra’s northern serfdom. In Wilm’s eyes, Grohl was incapable of suppressing the revolt as he had no combat experience, and his leadership skills were lacking; he was paranoid, and quick to show his intentions; and he held great pride in himself, but was severely lacking in charisma.
金金金This subjugation would be hard fought; the rebellion, feeding off the people’s hatred, would drag the punitive force into a quagmire. Just as the rebels would be poised to take the entirety of Coimbra, the Bahar guard would sweep in and splendidly depose the agitants. Finally, Grohl would assume full responsibility, and most likely forfeit his position as viceroy. Furthermore, there had been other preparations in order to ease the execution of the plan; it was the reason that Grohl’s wife Sarah had been so thoroughly encouraged to visit her home.
金金金Sarah’s father, Count Barel, had his fief of Rockbell along the border between northern and southern Coimbra. It was guaranteed to be a centre of conflict when the rebel forces advanced on the south. Knowing this, to ensure Sarah’s position on the brink of the revolt, Wilm had proposed that Sarah spend some time with her father. He did not feel a sliver of guilt for leading them into a trap.
“Wilm, do you know if Sarah’s party was able to escape to safety? It was your idea that she went there! There’s no use denying it!”
金金金Towards the accusatory comment, Wilm knelt with a serious expression.
“I hadn’t anticipated this kind of scenario. At this moment, I am utterly contrite. We are currently unable to contact Lady Sarah. The current plan is to continuously send scouts to confirm her safety. If it comes to it, I will willingly lay down my life to escort her to safety.”
“Whatever you do, be sure you save her! Order Gaddis to advance on Rockbell at once! Give him strict orders to buy time for the main force!”
金金金Coimbra’s military was controlled by the two great generals Wilm and Gaddis. For over fifty years, and since long before Grohl’s appointment, the two soldiers had dutifully served.
“It shall be done.”
“… That infuriating bastard of a rebel army! I don’t even care about the people anymore, I just want the rebels to be entirely eradicated!” Grohl spat in a loud voice after acting as viceroy.
金金金His retreating form was locked in an icy glare.
金金金Only your status and ambitions shall be eradicated. It would be best to pray to the Sun God for the safety of your beloved wife and son. You never would have had the Sun God’s blessing for yourself anyway.
金金金Once Grohl was removed from power, it didn’t matter what became of his Sarah and her son. If they went on to a humble life in a remote location, there would be no need to kill them. The rebel army did, however, plan to leverage Grohl’s wife and child as hostages in order to make him yield.
金金金If he refused to comply, killing him wouldn’t be a problem. That stupid man was guaranteed to try and hurt those who offended him, so he was unlikely to stop before every participant in the rebellion was dead. In that case it would be acceptable to have him legally answer for his crimes as viceroy.
金金金To think that a former child prodigy would be in this state. People are truly a mystery.
金金金At first, Grohl was the most favoured of his siblings. This was demonstrated when he had been granted Coimbra as his fief, and so far, he’d depended on his own childhood fame to maintain his social status. The 5th prince Amil had begun to supplant him. While growing up he had never displayed the signs of genius, but what he did have was wisdom, and, during his time as viceroy of Bahar, he successfully oversaw the enstatement of many splendid social policies.
金金金As Coimbra was crumbling, he authored Bahar’s embetterment. Amil had bought provincial improvements, and secured his position as viceroy through hard work; furthermore, he had managed to steal the place of the leading candidate for succession.
金金金Grohl hated his younger brother Amil with such vehemence that he almost considered them to be at war. It had taken considerable efforts from Wilm to get him to calm down. Mere knowledge of the depths of Grohl’s grudge against Amil would have given Emperor Befnam an aneurysm. The plan was to remove Grohl from power, and mop up the situation his rule had spawned.
金金金The day will soon come when my hard work is rewarded. Until then, I must put up with this fool’s temper.
金金金Ironically, Wilm was Grohl’s most trusted vassal. He’d accompanied him since childhood, and betrayal was simply not considered. Being unable to gauge other people’s intentions was Grohl’s greatest vice.
金金金The Red Circle Army continued to march, each man as he pleased. Neither rank, nor file existed as they marched so that they were hardly worthy of being described as an army. Aside from their splendid banners, nothing served to signify any differences between them and common bandits. Mixed in with the crowd, Noel and the others from the village walked onwards.
“I’m so glad the weather is holding up. The good sun being in high spirits is making my own mood better too.”
“That didn’t flow well… Look around, the only person with such an optimistic facial expression is you.”
金金金With his own face quite stiff, Mirut pointed to his jaw. The men with red cloths wrapped around their arms moved their feet while maintaining a nervous look in their eyes. Their hands held crude spears or bronze swords, and while better than nothing, the only thing protecting their bodies were copper breastplates. They were like lambs, waiting for the regular army to lead them to slaughter; however, they were numerous. As far as Noel could see they were approximately five-thousand strong, but she was sure that many would flee as soon as battle commenced. While thinking about other people’s affairs, Noel turned to look at Fraser and Kraft.
“You two sure are making some deathly expressions. Looking closer, you really look like corpses. Is your circulation okay?”
金金金At Noel’s joking, Fraser burned red.
“S-shaddup! Let it be.”
“Of course we look like we’re about to die. See this? All I have is a hoe. What do they expect me to do with this in battle?”
金金金Kraft looked at the hoe with a pained expression. They were useful enough as farming tools, but weren’t things created with the intentions of killing; doing so with them would be unthinkable.
“Well, the long ones have good reach. See, my spear is long too. Come on, look, look!”
金金金She removed the bident from her back, and whirling it around, poked at Kraft, trapping his neck between the prongs. At that rate it seemed she could sever his head in a single stroke.
“Noel, s-stop it with your bad jokes. Uh, um, the tip is touching me!”
“See, the long ones are handy. If you swing that hoe at your opponent’s head, it’ll definitely do serious damage. Just plow the contents of their skulls, okay.”
“Uuuu… somehow, I feel worse.”
金金金Even though she had been trying to encourage Kraft, it didn’t have much of a calming effect; rather than that, Kraft’s face actually became slightly more blue than it had been before. While she tried to think of better ways to comfort him, a ludicrously loud voice was heard from behind.
“Oi you kids! What are you going to do with such a shitty weapon? We aren’t here to play around!”
“You’re always so loud! What else could I expect from a Baharan?”
“I could say the same about you! Hey brats, I’m talking to you!”
金金金A middle aged man who was growing some stubble, and a fox-eyed slender man approached. A red cloth was wrapped around each of their right arms, and they sported iron armour and steel swords. At a glance they could be appraised as experienced men; they were much more hardened than the people of Zoim.
“W-we are, are we?”
“That’s right. Even though you tried to act tough, things like a shabby hoe, and an old bow aren’t enough are they? And those clothes really won’t do!”
金金金Noel, like the others, checked her own gear. They had leather breastplates, hunting bows, and a farmer’s hoe. The only high quality weapon in their possession was Noel’s bident. Noel had left her bow in the village on account of the awkwardness of transporting arrows in significant quantities. If she needed to kill people, she felt her bident would be more than enough.
“B-but, this is all we had in the village.”
“It’s true though, look closely. This stuff’s shabby. That said, did you really bring a hoe? What do you expect to do with that in battle?”
“You just said that was useful!” though Kraft was dumbfounded, Mirut had retorted quickly.
“I don’t worry about the past.”
“It just happened!”
“Really, was it like that?”
金金金Noel smiled and stuck out her tongue, which cause Mirut to sigh exhaustedly. The middle aged man hadn’t expected the exchange, and burst out laughing.
“What an interesting woman this red haired miss is! So many of the people here walk around with serious faces, I’ve gotten sick of it. Oi, Ned, you think so too right?”
“I said your voice is too loud. Be quieter or it’ll burst my eardrums.”
金金金The man called Ned was covering his ears and shaking his head.
“It’s fine, I’ve lived many years with this! Right, now that the mood is good, I’ll show you something fun! You’d better be thankful to Mr. Geb!”
金金金The stubbly… Geb signaled to a man behind him, who brought something forward. He dumped a large cloth bag before them with a thud.
“Feel free to take your favourite weapons and armour from the lot. The original owner isn’t around to miss them anymore.”
金金金To the nervously enquiring Kraft, Geb grinned like a madman.
“That’s right, when we were crushing a village that don’t comply, we got this stuff from a fool who fought back. He was a tottering old geezer, but he still was quite the rascal.”
“He was probably a retired soldier. Well, now that he’s dead it doesn’t matter much,” Ned yawned disinterestedly.
金金金He took a canteen from his belt, and drank in a leisurely manner.
金金金With a serious expression, Mirut took a sword from the bag. Its iron blade had no major flaws.
“Is it alright if I take it?”
“I don’t care. It’s heavy so taking whatever is fine.”
“Thank you very much. Hey, you guys should be grateful too. We don’t know what the future holds.”
金金金At Mirut’s prompting, the others of their village gathered around the sack. Of copper breastplates and iron swords, they chose as they liked. Kraft as well, threw down his hoe in favour of an iron spear. Noel wasn’t particularly interested in any of the items, so she didn’t participate in their rummagings. She didn’t see anything that could become a new treasure after all.
“Oh right, what village did you guys come from?”
“… Z-zoim village.”
“Ah, that run down village we just passed? The following guys probably sacked it. They target the women, and probably everything else. Every place we pass ends up like that.”
金金金While Geb was joking about atrocious things, Mirut averted his gaze. Not a word was said about the other villages. Thinking about earlier words, he figured the villages that opposed were all destroyed, and the ones that complied were forced into a pitiful state. As it was just the way Noel had predicted, they weren’t surprised.
“So~, that is, not many fled separately?”
“Now don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not trying to push any blame onto anybody. It’s just a bit of admiration, that’s all. Even though they were villagers, they would have had to have thought well to realise what would happen. So, somebody told them to evacuate. It can’t have been that old headman?”
金金金Geb asked around the area, but none of the men from the village would meet his eyes. All but one avoided his gaze.
“That was me. I was teaching Mirut.”
“Oh, so it was the miss then. Oi, Ned, you hear this? My discerning eyes were spot on you know.”
“I get it. Tone it down.”
“By the way miss, what was it that made you think of hiding the villagers? Intuition?”
To Geb’s question, Noel smiled and answered honestly, “It wasn’t intuition or even just thinking for a bit. After all, even though the Red Circle Army introduced itself as such, it’s real face is that of a locust. There is only one thing to do when a swarm of locusts comes to feed as it moves from one feeding ground to the next.”
金金金In a panic, Mirut and the other’s tried to halt her words, but Noel’s mouth wouldn’t stop.
“Isn’t it strange to think to leave some bait out before they arrive and escape with the rest? So before they were eaten, I was teaching them the proper way to escape.”
金金金Saying that, as Noel laughed she jovially patted Geb who was also of good humor, but the trailing Ned’s smile vanished.
“The miss’s words aren’t wrong, and she doesn’t seem to shy away from nasty things either, eh? You lot, after this I’ll have you properly learn the common sense of this world.”
“I, I’m sorry, I’ll listen properly when you do.”
“And it isn’t just taking things by force. You have to agree on who gets what share. That way you can get things in good faith. We’re all the same sort, so it’s only natural to help eachother out. Am I right?”
“As long as you understand. Right, now it’s about time we…”
Towards the Geb who was, to everyone’s annoyance, just warming up, Noel called out, “Hey, is it alright if I ask a question?”
“What? Well, I’m fine with questions every once in awhile. Don’t worry, my wife ran away, so it’s okay if you fall for me.”
“Pffft, take a look at yourself in a mirror and you’ll stop spouting that nonsense.”
“I don’t need to hear that from you, you rotten fox-eyed bastard!”
金金金Geb and Ned started a shoving match with eachother. Interrupting them, Noel walked over.
“So~, do either of you know how to attain happiness? If you do, I’d appreciate you telling me.”
金金金Surprised by her abrupt questioning, Ned and Geb paused to think; however, even though they were seriously considering their responses, they continued to grapple. The other soldiers in the Red Circle Army began to watch them as they continued to march towards their destination.
“… It’s a pretty tough question, but my answer is this: whatever it is, win. It’s admirable if you win, you get good drinks, and other good things. Money too.”
金金金Noel removed her memo from her breast pocket and carefully transcribed Geb’s response.
“Oi oi, you’re writing everything? We sure have found an eccentric one, eh? In that case, be ready to write my answer down too.”
“Alright, I’m ready.”
“My answer is: be on the winning side. In order to attain the delicacies of life, be smart, and always conduct yourself in such a way as to profit. It’s surprisingly difficult, but the rewards are vast.”
“Yup, it does seem kind of hard to do.”
“What are you trying to teach the kid? With that kind of thinking, how is anybody supposed to get stronger? Real victories are the ones you gain with your own hands.”
“It’s the truth of the world though. Loud words won’t fill your stomach. Even if you do the right thing, it doesn’t mean you’ll be successful. All you can do is carry yourself well. That’s the secret to living well in this world.”
After completely recording the pair’s thoughts, Noel expressed her thanks, “I appreciate your input. I’ll keep this as reference, okay.”
“Well, give it your all. Be sure to remember me when you find happiness.”
“That goes for me too. My name Ned by the way. Be sure to remember that.”
“Yup, I will!”
“Good answer. Well be sure to live and we’ll meet again.”
金金金With toothy smiles, at Noel’s reaction, Ned and Geb laughed as they wandered away. Noel too smiled at the recent developments. Sunny days had the best moods, whereas rainy days had the worst moods. Noel was a girl whose face reflected such a thing.
“As I thought, good things happen on sunny days. I learned two new ways to attain happiness.”
“I’m surprised that you weren’t killed. I swear you’re shortening my lifespan.”
金金金Fraser was wiping a cold sweat.
“It’s been bothering me for a while now, but why are you so intent on finding happiness?” Mirut asked the question that was on his mind.
金金金The quest for happiness was a part of the human experience, yet Noel’s search was extreme to the nth degree.
“That’s because it’s everyone’s dream. Finding happiness was what we all wished for; at least I can find it.”
“Will something special happen when you find happiness?” the question slipped out.
金金金If happiness was ever truly found, of course good things would follow. The problem was that for the moment, what that happiness looked like was a mystery. The thoughts floating in Mirut’s head were focused on how to find food, and the other various ways he could continue a peaceful existence each and every day. He was sorely unaware of that, but what he did know was that his goal was somehow different from Noel’s.
“I won’t know how to find happiness unless I try. I haven’t gotten there just yet though.”
“… Is that so.”
金金金Mirut averted his gaze, even as he spoke. His days had never been happy his entire life, but at the same time, he’d never been resentful of it. It was possible that he had allowed his time of happiness to slip by without ever noticing.
“Well, if you put it that way it might work. Even I never really found much joy in that village…”
Interrupting Fraser, Kraft thrust himself between them, “That’s a lie! Earlier you said you had a belly full of happiness.”
“Be quiet you gangly bastard!”
金金金Fraser landed a direct hit on Kraft’s head. The people of Zoim, tired and nervous, jeered at the staggering boy.
“Ugh, there’s no helping these guys.”
As Mirut was about to get involved, Noel muttered to herself, “But, I do know what happens if I don’t find happiness.”
“… Just what happened to you?”
“Hey, what do you think happens?”
“You were about to say. Hurry up and explain.”
“Ha, if Mirut can’t find happiness, I know what will happen. It would definitely be best if you found happiness,” smiling mischievously, Noel stood and began to walk alone.
金金金Noel laughed brightly, but the look in her eyes seemed somehow hollow to Mirut. It reminded him of the emptiness of a soulless doll; artificial, with neither hope nor despair.
金金金Geb and Ned had departed from Noel’s group and returned to Ristih.
“Where were you loitering? Your ranks are lower than mine in this Red Circle Army! Have some awareness of your commanding officer!”
“Understood, Captain Ristih. Please continue. Ned foolishly wandered off without listening to me.”
“Apologies, Captain. Even though it was entirely this idiot’s fault.”
Geb and Ned bowed without grace, as Ristih nervously rebuked them under his breath, “… Refer to me as Sir Ristih, this isn’t Bahar. It’ll be a serious problem if we’re noticed by the people of Coimbra before the operation is complete.”
“Okay, okay, I get it.”
“This guy’s always too loud, so you probably should have said that earlier. I tried telling him, but he wouldn’t listen,” Ned’s words caused Ristih to furrow his brow.
“Seriously, have you adopted the laxness of the peasants surrounding you? Don’t just befriend the plebeians for fun!”
“My behavior is usually appropriate. In battle I’ll do my best, but I don’t know how well they’ll do.”
“I don’t think any of the stupid rebels will figure it out. I’m just saying this, but are they even prepared for battle?”
金金金Ristih was slightly shocked. His life was dependant on the rebellion. If the decision was made for suppression, it would become a war. He’d been half forced into his role, and didn’t seem to have made such an extreme resolution. The situation had made it nigh impossible for Ristih to ever fulfill his ambitions.
“It’ll be fine, the lot’s bound to shape up once they’ve seen a bit of blood. Once they’ve plundered once, there’s no going back. He he he, just leave the Rockbell district to me.”
“… Is it truly best to destroy Rockbell after all?”
“Of course. There are plenty of excuses for wiping the place out. We’ll have to get the recruits used to the blood and greed eventually. Besides, it’ll be more fun this way.”
金金金Geb sprouted an evil grin. He could easily be mistaken for a brigand, and even the thought that he was one of Bahar’s knights would have surprised people. Ned nodded beside him. Although originally from Coimbra, he was a man who had left for Bahar in dissatisfaction. The sacking would defile his hometown, but he didn’t seem to have any complaints. Ristih, as the leader, had to consider both destroying the target, and having it surrender because the goal was not a war of conquest.
“Are you out of suggestions on how to get the local lord to capitulate? If Viceroy Grohl’s wife and child are captured, we won’t need to waste our efforts.”
“I don’t think he’ll hand them over like a present to a daughter. Besides, if you try something that slow, it’ll give time for the real army to come out of southern Coimbra, which would make the toppling of Rockbell all the more difficult. Now is the time to take it all in one stroke.”
金金金They had done well in fanning the flames of rebellion in the hearts of the people, but they were still not of the strength required to take the capital city. The full force of the provincial guard was 30 000 well trained and equipped professional soldiers, whereas the rebels only had a disorganised rabble around five thousand strong. There was no way they could confront their opponent directly if they were facing its full force; however, Grohl was famous for being inefficient, and the Coimbra divisions were also the worst in the empire. If Ristih could beat back the punitive force, there was a chance he could favourably negotiate for the capital’s surrender. It was for that goal that ‘ad urbem vinco’ became their mantra.
金金金The plan was to lengthen the rebellion to give Bahar an excuse for military intervention, but that wasn’t the main issue. To defeat Falid, and deliver it into Amil’s hands, complaints needed to be raised, and great deeds needed to be done. Ristih was confident he could do it.
“All right, at this rate we’ll invade Rockbell, and seize victory in one fell swoop. Though I do pity the residents.”
“Entrust the vanguard to me. Starting with that district, I’ll show you an easy victory. He he, exciting, eh?”
金金金Rockbell’s guards were few, and their spies were well established there. It would surely fall, and reinforcements wouldn’t be able to arrive in time.
“Sir Ristih, if you could spare them, I would appreciate you lending me a hundred men.”
“Oi oi, what’s this Ned? I thought you didn’t want to play around?”
“They are to be saved for later, for something much more fun than short term pillaging. If I do have them, I might achieve the greatest feat of the campaign,” Ned pronounced with a satisfied air.
金金金Geb acknowledged his statement without believing it while taking a sip of water from his canteen.
“What exactly are you planning, Ned? There’s no issue with allowing you only one hundred men. They’re all rank and file, are you sure you can rely on so few?”
“I’m originally from Coimbra, so I know its geography well. In the wooded groves stretching west of Rockbell there’s an abandoned fort that will prove useful when the fighting begins. I thought we might be able to conceal a significant body of troops there.”
金金金Ristih nodded while rubbing his chin.
“… I see, you thought this through quite well; will only a hundred men be enough?”
“The fort has the appearance of a ruin, so even some ten-odd men would be enough. If we take too many and are spotted, there’d be no meaning to it all. One hundred men will be perfect.”
金金金With his fox-eyes locked on Ristih, Ned twisted his mouth into a grin. His whole body seemed convinced of his plan.
“Right, in that case, your column is in charge of securing that fort. Take some of our Baharan soldiers. The operation will give us more options if Grohl’s wife and child are hidden. If you ever need reinforcements, immediately send word.”
“Yes sir. Please leave it to me.”
“Geb, you take the vanguard to besiege Rockbell. When the defence is low, flood them with your reserves!”
“He he, roger that!”
Eyes locked on the pair, Ristih stood, raising his voice, “We, the Army of the Red Circle, march now on Rockbell! We march to crush the defenders of the capital, our final goal! So that Viceroy Grohl can know of our intentions, to the world in which our target lies, we must rouse ourselves now more than ever!”
金金金Blending in with the crowd, the soldiers from Bahar raised their arms with the rest of the men.
The continent is the continent of Libelika. The continent of Mondonovo is in the west, and the furthest south are the southern islands. The Coimbra province is in the south-western area of the continent of Libelika. Imagine Nagasaki.
The below note is the same as before, but at least I liked the content.
Nagasaki was Japan’s primary trading centre with the Portuguese and Chinese although most of the similarities in this work are with the Portuguese. Initially the ports brought great prosperity due to the trade, but Christianity was also one of the imports. Later when Toyotomi Hideyoshi feared that the Spanish were working with the Catholic church to attempt an invasion of Japan (due to some poor negotiating tactics on the Spanish side of things), after some killings (with the Japanese doing most of the killing), there was a ban of foreign trade which lasted some time into the Tokugawa era too, but was eventually lifted. Catholicism was also banned at the time, and many of the “big name” samurai lords renounced their faith. Some of them didn’t, however, and were (maybe incidentally, unless the whole thing was a conspiracy) sent to invade Korea, but that is mostly unrelated, and happened during Hideyoshi’s reign.
The author was significantly influenced by other aspects of Japanese history as well. Some of the parallels I was able to draw, though I admit to potentially overthinking things a bit, include:
- Rice tax
- Rebelling against the government while claiming ultimate loyalty to the emperor
- A warrior class (country in the case of this novel) being ostracized by the more cultured courtiers in the south, and eventually taking over
- A continent to the west and islands to the south
- Old forts laying about (in Japan that would be the forts they built when they first feared a mongol invasion)
- A flag with a sun emblem
- The sun looks red in the minds of the people (I wouldn’t expect ‘the land of the rising sun’ to depict many yellow midday suns instead of the red ones that are its namesake, but as far as I know, neither Horsheido nor Noel have any reason to think of the sun in any colour other than its usual yellow aside from their author being from 日本)
I think I learned the above from: A Brief History of the Samurai, by Johnathan Clements; Japanese Imperialism 1894-1945, by W.G. Beasley; and looking at the sky. Please don’t expect me to be an expert. If you are interested in learning more about any of the things I mentioned above, please research away. Honestly, I’d be impressed if anybody read this far into a translator’s note.
I used “ad urbem vinco” instead of ” so the capital surrenders” because I think Latin is a good way of making slogans that don’t sound cheesy.
No comment. The editor didn’t work on this re-edit.