Looking at the plays of later years, many among them depict Soma Kazuya as an enlightened ruler blessed with both wisdom and courage. A benevolent lord, who in his bravery would defeat a great many men of valor in single combat, and with his wisdom he would trifle with the enemy, and guide the people through outstanding political measures to prosperity. Historians, however, denied this valuation. While he certainly did establish an Empire that ruled over huge tracts of land, but his own personal abilities was not all so great. This was the prevailing opinion.
To begin with, throughout his lifetime Soma did not conduct more foreign wars than he could hold in one hand, and he did not have so many chances to show his mettle in the field of battle. Almost all of the military exploits handed down to posterity belonged to his subordinates. There was also no proof that the wisdom to trifle with the enemy belonged to him as well. Since there were many resourceful people in his employ during his reign, beginning with the later prime minister Hakuya, he could simply have selected the best among the suggestions they proposed.
Looking at his political measures, while he certainly had a lot of outstanding ones, the fact that they led all the people to prosperity was suspect. Time and time again, Soma can be seen agonizing on his position. If all his policies accomplished good things then he should not have been so anguished. Thus it was the common opinion of historians that Soma’s own abilities did not tower high above the rest as the plays often depict.
Nevertheless, only few consider Soma as anything but an enlightened ruler on account of those. There was another common opinion historians held in regard of Soma, namely that “he excels at gathering and using people”. Even though Soma’s capabilities were not a tower above others, he was an exemplary prodigy at sending the right personnel to the right place and gathering the right number of soldiers to the right fields. The victory at the five-day war that first made Soma’s name across the continent owed much to this talent of his.
Able to know what he could and what he could not do, able to entrust what he could not do to a person who could, this could just be the one most important ability for an Emperor to have.
◇ ◇ ◇
“I didn’t expect them to be this persistent …”
In the Elfrieden Royal Army main camp, I was looking down surprised at the Amidonian Army’s unexpectedly strenuous fighting. Even though it should have been very clear who would win between the [55 thousand high spirited Elfrieden Royal Army] and the [25 thousand completely exhausted Amidonian Army], the Amidonians were putting up a tough fight. Rather, can we really break through them?
Firstly, both the Elfriedenian and Amidonian wyvern cavalries broke into dogfights. Having not fallen under the attack at Gordoa Valley and not tired out due to riding on their wyverns, the Amidonian wyvern cavalry were their most healthy forces. They numbered less than a thousand, but by being on the defensive, even the Elfriedenian wyvern cavalry could not make a breakthrough even with about twice their numbers. Having air superiority would decide the course of the battle but it looks like that wouldn’t be settled anytime soon.
In the end, I had to entrust the course of the fight on the battle on land. The Elfriedenian ranks are arranged in a crane wing formation. At the center there was Ludwin with ten thousand Royal Guard footmen and Royal Knights, at the left wing was Glaive with fifteen thousand of the Royal Army (Hulbert and Kaede are in this group), while at the right wing was Liscia with fifteen thousand of the Royal Army and the reinforcements from the Dark Elf village. Truthfully, I wanted her to stay here at the main camp, but the Army was overbearingly brought over and was still in confusion so there was presently nobody else but her that could bring the Army together. So I reluctantly allowed it.
While in the Army she somewhat had the position of an idol, and having received Georg’s education, there was no problem with her command, so I judged that there would be little resistance against her. I tentatively attached Aisha as her guard, but I hope she won’t be too rash, she’s a princess after all. For that reason, the only one here in the main camp behind Ludwin’s center wing that I can talk to was the hostage Carla.
Even though she was a hostage, her arms and legs weren’t bound. With the slave collar on her, her neck would be strangled if she tried to run or harbored intent to kill me, so it’s safe. She could easily kill me by snatching a sword from a nearby soldier or simply by stabbing me with her sharp nails, but … well, such is life. I started a chat with Carla.
“What do you think? I thought they’d break more easily”
“Hmph … no one fights a battle expecting to lose. They’d be desperate to not lose”
“I suppose you have a point there”
Carla was surprisingly talkative, it might’ve bored her out to just stand there. Being a former Air Force commander, she’d understand the tide of battle better than me.
“Our left and right wings, Liscia and Glaive’s troops don’t look like they’re moving much. Don’t you think they should try and more actively move to surround and destroy the enemy?”
“… If you think that way then you should send the order by a fast horse. Y … you’re the King, aren’t you?”
She was about to say something rude¹ but immediately changed it. Seems like she could learn. Being challenged by Carla, I thought things over, but
¹ «TN: She was about to say kisama but immediately changed to anata»
“… I’ll pass. I’m only familiar with battles on paper. Rather than me, I suppose Liscia would understand the command better. It’d be better to rely on the people on the field rather than make a clumsy order”
That was my answer. Carla turned away with a hmph. Looks like I got it right. Her reaction was easy to read.
“You‘d know the reason wouldn’t you, Carla? Can you tell me?”
“… It’s the enemy numbers”
Carla pointed disinterestedly at the battlefield.
“I’ve only heard this is passing, but those were the thirty thousand Amidonian Army that sieged Altomura, right? And they took a surprise attack when they retreated”
“So their numbers don’t look to have decreased much to me”
“Hm? Now that you mention it …”
I couldn’t see it at a glance since it’s such a large army, but they numbered only slightly less than half our fifty-five thousand strong. It looks like they didn’t take much damage after having received Juna’s Marines’ surprise attack at Gordoa Valley.
“So the surprise attack didn’t bear so much fruit?”
“No, from looking at the trend of battle, I can see there’s a difference in morale between soldiers in the Amidonian side. They probably had their numbers reduced by the surprise attack and supplemented it by conscripting people from towns along the way. That’s why some of them had such low morale”
“I see …”
The countries of this world normally had standing armies. Being so rampant in large animals that aren’t all too different to monsters to a person from Earth, it was necessary to maintain an army that they could move at any moment. For Elfrieden, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Royal Guard soldiers were our standing army. Of course, when push comes to shove, we would conscript soldiers from the populace, and truth be told, the armies of the nobles besides the three dukes were mostly such conscripts. After the war, I plan on also bringing in these nobles’ armies and consolidating them into a single army, but for the conscripted populace, I plan on having them return to their towns. Rather than the decrease of fighting power, I’m more concerned about raising productivity right now.
Naturally, the Amidonian Army attacking us should consist of the standing army and a number of conscripts as well, and everyone that are fit for conscritption should have already been conscripted. This means that the ones newly conscripted after the surprise attack would be ‘those who were not fit for conscription the first time round’. For instance, they could be those who had grown old, those who had gone weak, or maybe adventurers who just happen to be in the country². Their morale couldn’t be as high, was what Carla was saying.
² There is a contract between the countries and the adventurers’ guild wherein adventurers inside the country could be conscripted on the country’s hour of need. The quid pro quo was that the country pays an annual fee to the guild, so I had long already discontinued the contract.
“You can leave those kinds of people alone and they’ll break on their own. On the other hand, if you surround and press down on them, there’s a danger that they would consolidate. That’s why Glaive and Liscia are waiting for them to break rank and flee”
“I see. So the best thing is to leave these matters to the people on the field”
I knew it, so it was best to leave it to the people on the field when something like this happens. I suppose it’s about right for the general to get bored at headquarters.
“… You’re quite useless aren’t you. Is that how a King’s supposed to be?”
“A King’s job is before and after the war. Oh, and also … when push comes to shove, to beg for the lives of his soldiers by offering his neck”
As I said so, Carla looked at me with wide eyes as if seeing something unbelievable. What? Did I say something weird?
“Y … you³, aren’t you afraid of death?” Carla asked. What are you talking about?
³ «TN: Kisama – anata switch again»
“Of course I’m afraid. I’m not a suicide applicant”
“But, you said you’d offer your neck just now. That means that right?”
“Eh … ah … I see. That was weird …”
Now that it’s mentioned, why did I say I’ll offer my neck so easily? I do know that it’s expected of me as a lord, but why did I feel that it’s ‘the obvious thing’? Why? Wasn’t I a coward? Wasn’t I worried for my own well-being? Didn’t I take the throne and worked hard with municipal affairs because I didn’t want to be presented to the Empire? Since when did I learn to be so bold as to be able to cast off my own life without regret?
Seeing me in such a state, Carla seemed like she was seeing something pitiful.
“Are you broken somewhere?”
Broken. As a person. Broken. Somewhere.
Hm, feels like I found the answer. I only noticed when she pointed it out, but my state of mind right now is strange. I think I’m looking at lives lightly. My own, and also those of others. Which is why I could add and subtract them so easily. Calculate the (number of lives saved) – (number of lives lost), and if the answer comes up positive, then take that choice. Like a system made to do such thing.
“Ah … so it’s something like that”
“Before I noticed, I might have been acting under a ‘King’ system. It’s as if I was able to come up with the best decision because I’m programmed for it”
“She-stem? Prog-ram? Oi, what are you talking about!?”
Carla yelled, and I smiled in self-derision.
“Carla, I might really be a ‘fake King’ after all”
“You see, I couldn’t send soldiers to battle without ‘turning into a King'”⁴
⁴ «TN: i.e. a real King wouldn’t have to turn into anything – just be himself»
I’m a coward. I don’t like hurting, I don’t like dying. I don’t want to see others hurt or die, either. In order for such a me to attend a battle, I had no other choice but to ‘turn into’ a King under a State system, to tell myself, because you’re a King, this is what you do, to seal my ego and do what needs to be done. Otherwise, I would be crushed under the weight of the lives lost due to my choices.
“I can’t laugh at the previous King. If there’s a replacement I’ll go resign right away”
“… why are you voicing your weakness to me”
“It’s the other way round. I can’t possibly voice them to Liscia and the others”
I’ll only needlessly worry them. Especially Liscia, she’s very earnest, she even considered pressing the throne on me her own responsibility ….
That moment, something changed in the battlefield before my eyes.
◇ ◇ ◇
The Amidonian Army began to crumble. Deserters began to appear from among the Amidonians who had until now braved the superior numbers of the Elfriedenian Army. They were the people hurriedly conscripted along the way from Gordoa Valley up to this place. Amidonian youths are mandatorily appointed to military training once they reached a certain age, but they were people who normally lived civilian lives. Being suddenly drawn into a battleground where they had the disadvantage couldn’t be good for their morale.
Finally, deserters began to appear, fleeing towards the still not encircled southern side. Though the Amidonian side would cut down anyone trying to flee in order to make them continue the battle, the effort was bound to fail since the conscripted soldiers numbered almost ten thousand. Furthermore, the more deserters tried to flee, the more their ranks broke, throwing even the intact platoons into disarray. The Elfriedenians did not miss this chance.
“Hal, now nanodesu!”
“I’ve been waiting for this! Come on you bastards!”
“”” OOOOOOOHHHH!!! “””
The Kingdom’s left wing received Kaede’s green light, and Hulbert led soldiers in a charge in order to complete the encirclement. They went without horses into the disarrayed enemy, swinging around pairs of pikes. Noticing the situation, one of the Amidonian commanders shouted atop his horse.
“Don’t let the enemy complete the circle! Stop the left wing with ranged attacks!”
Immediately, arrows and magic flew, aimed at the troop led by Hulbert. However,
The hundred meter long, two to three meter tall earthen wall Kaede summoned covered Hulbert’s troop at the critical moment. This should surprise even the Amidonians. There shouldn’t even be five mages in the whole continent who could instantly create an earth wall of this size. Kaede Foxia had a timid character, but in respects to her head and her skill with earth magics, she was a talent among talents. Hulbert pressed his back to the wall and ordered his men who were likewise hiding themselves.
“Don’t let Kaede steal the show! Let’s fire back!”
“”” OU! “””
Now, it was Hulbert’s turn to fire arrows and magic at the Amidonians from behind the wall. Hulbert threw the lances he once unleashed at the Zemish mercenaries at the Amidonian Army. Since the Amidonians were poised to attack, they were not able to shift to defense in face of this attack in time. They were shot and burned, and a great disturbance came upon their ranks. Taking it as a chance, Hulbert jumped out.
“Let’s do it now that they’re confused! We’re striking in one go!”
On the other side, the side of the confused Amidonians, their general tried to calm the confusion down.
“Everyone, do not falter! You’re only falling into the enemy’s scheme by getting confused!”
He frantically tried to reorganize the soldiers but they didn’t show any signs of becoming ordered.
“Quiet down! I’ll lop off your head like this guy here if you don’t!”
“No you shut up!”
The general noticed too late, Hulbert was already before his eyes with crossed arms. When Hulbert uncrossed his arms the blade of his lances had already clamped on his torso like a pair of scissors, cutting him along with the head of his horse. The upper half of what was once the general fell down on the ground with a thud, spraying blood. The sight thoroughly drained the Amidonians of fighting spirit.
“So who’s next!”
Blood dripped from the lances in both of Hulbert’s hands, making him look like a demon raksasha. The Amidonians felt as if they were caught in the darkness with an oni, and began to flee. This was the later testimony of a former Amidonian soldier who saw Hulbert that day and barely survived:
[He didnt’ feel real that day. Still such a young man and yet you can’t call him anything but an experienced warrior. When I heard them later calling him the “Red Demon Hal”, it was strangely appropriate. Truly … such was the vigor he had … ]
Thus begins the heroic saga of Soma’s follower, who would later be called [Red Demon Hal]. His battle style of leading from the head and pushing through never changed even after he became a general. Soma and the others would time and time again admonish him that what he’s doing was not appropriate for someone who leads, but he would not heed them, saying “this way feels more like it”. Soma was unable to say anything more because he was actually able to survive each battle properly, causing great worry for Kaede, but that is another story.
◇ ◇ ◇
At the right wing of the Elfriedenian Royal Army, Liscia was raging. Even as the commander of the right wing, she urged her horse forward and came out rather considerably on the front line. Every time Liscia thrusted her rapier at the enemy ranks, blades of ice would appear and cut down the Amidonian soldiers. Her figure was beautiful like a Valkyrie but on the other hand, she also seemed to be somewhat impatient and had lost her cool. Of course, her conspicuous act caused her to be targeted by the enemy.
“Don’t falter! Surround them and crush them!”
Receiving their commander’s order, the Amidonian soldiers swarmed Liscia. Their number was too much for her, no matter how great her valor was. Surrounded by soldiers wielding spears, her horse was unable to break through. As the enemy soldiers’ spears aimed at Liscia,
“Princess! Ugh, get OFF OF HER!!!!”
Aisha who had run up to her in the nick of time blew off the entire swarm of enemy soldiers with a full swing of her greatsword. Though she had been assigned as Liscia’s guard, she was unable to swing her greatsword freely on horseback and walked instead, which was why she lagged behind. After exterminating the surrounding enemies with the slash and wind pressure from her sword, Aisha ran up to Liscia’s horse with teary eyes.
“Princess, please don’t be so rash! His Highness is going to yell at me!”
“… sorry, I lost my cool there”
Seeing Aisha beg her with tears in her eyes, Liscia regained her cool. Liscia being on horseback, Aisha’s head only reached up to thigh-height of her. She plopped her hand on Aisha’s head.
“But, I had to be a bit rash. I … have to quickly get this battle over with”
Aisha tilted her head seeing Liscia’s grave expression. The Amidonian Army was a little bit persistent, but at the current trend, the battle was moving at the Elfriedenian side’s advantage. There had begun to be deserters appearing from Amidonia’s side, Elfrieden only needed to slowly complete the encirclement and before long would gain the victory. Which was why there should be no need to be so impatient.
Liecia, however, said to Aisha, still with a grave face.
“Say, Aisha. What do you think of Soma?”
“What do you mean what?”
“Don’t you think he’s forcing it?”
“That’s … he is, I suppose”
Even from the eyes of Aisha, who was completely devoted to Soma, he currently had a frightening look on his face. No … ‘broken’, to be more accurate. Somehow dangerous and worrying. Of course, they were in the middle of a war right now, it would be more problematic if she were to indiscreetly say it to his face. However, she couldn’t help but see Soma as looking needlessly frightening. Aisha wanted Soma to smile.
“If this war’s over … will His Highness be able to smile?”
Hearing Aisha’s inquiry, Liscia smiled.
“In order for him to smile, that’s our job”
Aisha’s expression became serious again. She readied her sword and stood in front of Liscia.
“But please stand back, princess. If anything happened to you His Highness will not smile again”
“… alright, I’ll restrain myself a little”
“Let me do the fighting”
“That I can’t do. Do you think Soma will be able to smile if something happened to you?”
“… Is that so?”
The two looked at each other and smiled. The next moment, they put on their warrior faces again.
“Then princess. Let’s both ‘take care of our selves'”
“Yes. Let’s end this annoying war with the two of us”
The two ran back together to the ranks. In later years, Soma would say self-deprecatingly:
[Whenever Liscia and Aisha teamed up, even a King or Emperor could not stand up to them] (“hen-pecked”, was likely the word he was looking for)