Translated by Tianic
Edited by Jiem
Character in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda: The main character.
- Moya, Wilder, Jack, Marfa: Cohen’s friends and firm supporters.
- Kennen: Windsor’s brother, Dark City project administrator. A vampire.
- Fischer: Cohen’s friend and prince of the Swabia Empire.
- Grandmaster: A dwarf master on forging.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] walked into the meeting room and sat at the far corner inside. The whole room instantly became silent. It was my first appearance in the regular meeting held in the Dark City Hall after my body had recovered.
The people who sat by me were my three wives and Fischer. Looking at all of my brothers who had sat opposite to us, I felt an incomprehensible sense of disconnection.
“Okay, let’s begin.” I knocked the table with my little finger which had a ring attached to it. The Ice Tear Gem from Winslet was placed on it.
“Sir, reporting!” Kennen, the vampire, stood up and said with a serious tone, “A stone wall spanning the length of a mile long has been prepared, as Your Highness has requested.”
“Good!” I nodded with satisfaction, “I will see to it later on.”
“Reporting!” Wilder who sat in the front row also stood up, “The DMA (Department of Military Affairs) has received the conscripting order. The detailed plan is currently being laid down. We’ll be able to hand it in tomorrow early in the morning.
“Ensure that it is thorough.” I did not have high hopes on the results of their first recruiting plan because such matters were a stranger to them. However, they were indeed doing it with utmost caution. I was happy for them. I have the ability to correct the errors on a plan, however, it was impossible to correct faulty attitudes.
DMA was a managerial section added according to my suggestions. It was responsible for all the army affairs in Dark City. It was seemingly arranged by Wilder and Moya, however, Martin Luther was secretly behind the preparations of it all. I did not intend to make the Dark Army developments a big deal and caught the attention of others. Thus, no independent Army Corps were established.
“Reporting!” Moya stood up with an imposing manner as if no one could stop him, which made me a bit surprised.
“Regarding the combat training plan you have proposed!” Moya eyed the table in front of me, “We, the DMA have some differing opinions.”
I was distracted, “Continue.”
“I mean.” Moya confronted his emotions, “Us soldiers did indeed have many issues during our last battle. The department is figuring out ways fix them. However, if it as you’ve suggested, do we truly need to train our soldiers with authentic swords and spears that could potentially threat their lives?”
“In a battle, the death rate of rookies and experienced ones are different! Basically, the ratio of this is five to one!” I was sure that this was not Moya’s idea alone, “That’s because our soldiers aren’t properly trained and do not know how to protect themselves during a chaotic battle! However, my combat training plan will give our soldiers a real sense of war and make them experienced warriors in the shortest time possible! It’s worth the cost.”
“But, my Lord! In a war, people die! We can’t control that…” Moya puffed up his stubbornness, and was not stepping down, “But, you cannot justify their deaths if they are killed by our own people.”
“It is possible to trade the victory of the next war with a minuscule number of training casualties. Such a cost is acceptable!” I stood up and said, “Do you consider this to be brutal?”
“It’s not… my Lord!” Moya paused, “It’s almost cruelty!”
I barely recognized this friend standing in front of me. His stubborn words and unyielding gaze did not look one bit like the Moya I knew anymore. At that moment, I came to the realization that this was not a dispute between us two, but instead the conflict between two differing mindsets.
The rest of the people in the room watched on speechlessly as we argued. Wilder, who sat behind Moya lowered his head as if he was not a part of this. But I knew, he taught most of what Moya was currently saying.
“I say, you guys can talk it out. Take it easy!” Fischer who sat behind said, “You all have a point, though with the same purpose.”
Publicly as well as privately, I was not going to reject Fischer’s advice.
“Before the combat, I will arrange proper and regular training for our soldiers.” I stabilized my emotions, “I believe if our soldiers train properly during the regular training, there will be minimum casualties during the combat regimen.”
“The combat will give our men a full sense of what real warfare are like. It is also capable of testing the training results.” I raised a hand to stop Moya who wanted to add more and continued explaining, “I intend to split the whole training project into a single tactic subject so that the soldiers will easily familiarize themselves.”
“Our day to day training is as if to let a soldier stab aimlessly. They have no idea what or where are their targets, let alone the targets’ advantages or weaknesses. I can almost see how a man will end up once a soldier goes out to the battlefield. He will find it unfamiliar regarding how their enemies will act; how little he knows about them; how he will deal with a hostile opponent in an environment where millions of arrows fly around. The shield: is it supposed to be protecting his head or covering his chest? If the enemy horsemen come rushing in, how will he survive the attack? If he is lost from the enemy’s sprint, how will he survive in a place where there are no friendly comrades around him?”
I said my words calmly, however, I knew that my comments will shock all of them, “Neither do I wish for my soldiers to train under such methods. I value their lives as much as I value mine. And precisely because I want them to survive during a war, I have thus given my proposal.”
“We…” Moya licked his dried lips. Anyone who talked with me while I had a poker face on was bound to be under extreme pressure.
“I know. You must find it hard to accept this as a charging commander.” I said with a smile, “On the other hand, I see that you are very devoted to your duty. I am elated. You, as a commander, have taken your first step towards success through your bravery and wisdom to express your differing opinion from that of your boss’s one. Besides that, we still have plenty of other measures to prepare in case of accidents before the actual combat training.
What I said was seemingly to praise Moya, but in actuality was more inclined to judge Wilder euphemistically.
“I see…” Moya, who was praised smiled bashfully, “We thought you’d changed…”
“Don’t question your boss, buddy!” I said, “Or I’ll kick your ass…”
Everyone chuckled, and thus the room’s atmosphere became lighter than ever. The other subjects thereafter passed on smoothly.
The gains from this meeting resulted in a future that seemed bright, t not only within the City Hall but also shaped a good convention within the entire Dark City management system, which allowed I, as well all other city officials to have the chance to channel in our subordinate’s opinions.
Thus, all kinds of near-issued decrees were perfected, amended in such an environment. All opposing forces to implement the orders were minimized. As for my own, every regular meeting had become a day that would give me a headache from the need to answer all kinds of questions from the gradually growing city officials who began to have opinions of their own.
For they would have developed self-confidence and be able to say confidently, “Your Excellency, my dear friend, if you cannot convince me, how are you supposed to ask me to convince my men out of no reason to do the job?”
Starting from day 2, all soldiers who had served at the beginning of the Dark City construction project were served with ‘feasts’ on a daily basis.
Two hours before dawn, they would be woken up by their fierce tiger-and-wolf-like commanders using horsewhips. The officers yelled or scolded to urge them to gear up and stand in formation. Under the sky filled with stars and the chill of the air, the soldiers were forced to welcome the dawn by running a full circle around the training field outside the Dark City. The team to finish last would have their breakfast reduced by half. The officers called this ‘Appetizer before breakfast’.
After eating the real breakfast did the soldiers truly start the day’s training.
The pikemen team would practice thrusting and combination meant to kill a thousand times, assault movements a hundred times, covering a hundred times… Archers also had five hundred times on drawing practice, a hundred times on dashing, fifty times on dissecting and assembling bows. As for the horsemen, they did not have enough horse supplies yet, thus they were gazed amazedly by the infantries. The knights were engaged in mock battles over and over on horses made out of mud. Still, one should never underestimate these knights who looked like that. ‘Came off the mud-horse’ was one of their frequent proud tales. As of now, they never stopped complaining about their constantly dirtied clothes. Whereas the unlucky bastards who were too lazy to do laundry had half of their lunch reduced, plus a special reward of ten slashes.
After lunch, the soldiers would spend an hour listening to the officers’ lectures on tactics, and restore power in the meantime. Thus, day by day, wars, big or small, which were experienced first-handedly by the army commanders were imprinted to the men’s brains. By the way, they also complained that such arrangements had taken away the time for their prayers.
Soon after that, they had realized such complaints were of no use. They might have been better off asking tricky questions to embarrass their commander. Because the governor once said, “If any of my soldiers’ asses were kicked because the officer can’t answer their questions, I’ll make you cry.” Even if he was caught vulnerable by an officer, there was nothing to be afraid of. Because the great Lord Viceroy also said, “The officers are allowed to kick asses, but with reasons. However, don’t you dare kick too hard, because you need him to be alive to kick him next time.”
Thus, the soldiers had a reason to believe that asking embarrassing questions to the officers was rather safe.
Often, at the beginning, such questions like “Sir! I think you are right, but what if the enemies attack from the back?” would frequently come up.
At that time, the officer would smile and brandish his whip, before replying gently, “Honestly, I haven’t encountered such situations. However, I think we can conduct a small simulation. Your squad will be the ambushing troop!”
Then a raged battle began… the losing team was cut half on their dinners.
The soldiers looked at their halved dinner and were suddenly reminded that a guy from the knight squad had not paid his money back. It was a good method and time to ask him. Because the knights had not received their horses.
In this case, another inquiry to counter the officers was, “Sir! If it were a single encounter, and the enemies were a team of knights. What should we do?”
“You guys are keen learners! Okay, let me give you a friendly match, with the cavalry squad…”
Hearing this, the infantry people were already anticipating the results.
A squad of knights with heavy armors encountered a team of lightly-dressed infantries. Because the ‘knights’ did not have horses, they were in agony while the infantry people sniggered. The horsemen without horses were like mini buns that could be swallowed one at a time.
Result one: Infantry won, the knights’ dinners were cut by half.
Result two: Infantry won big time, the knights’ dinner was canceled (If the subordinates were so useless, the commander would lose his mind.), the infantry team will have an extra dish (Their officer will get good stuff when his men won him honor.).
However, there was always a gap between dream and reality.
Because if the match was seen by another senior officer who ‘accidentally’ passed by and he ‘accidentally’ said, “How could a horseman without a horse? You squad, come here! You’ll be their guest horses…”
Thus, the final result was: A group of knights rode a team of infantry and lost to another infantry squad. The horsemen’s dinners were cut in half. The infantrymen who played as horses had their dinner canceled and was rewarded three slashes (Their officer lost his mind.).
After dinner, the squad officers would report to DMA for one or two hours. This was the happiest time of all soldiers. They all could stand on the field fence and roar to the suns and moons and the stars, or bathe in the river, or fight against the archers from the neighborhood squads.
So to speak, all should be finished before the officers come back because no one could tell what was the officer’s mood when they returned from DMA. There was once a squad who was rewarded with a piece of meaty sausage for each because they won in a fight against another team. The sausages were seasoned with spice and black pepper and were so delicious that it could drive anyone mad. There once was a team of soldiers who were punished by running three circles on the training field naked because the whole team was bathing in the river when the commander came back as well.
“Your Excellency!” A big and tall soldier came toward me and saluted, “We, a hundred as ordered, at your service!”
“Is anyone of you an officer?” I gained interest while looking at these hundred men and asked the guy beside me.
“You’ve asked for the best from the last battle!” Jack answered, “So no officers!”
“Why?” I said, “Our officers aren’t good?”
“You don’t know or you don’t wanna say?” Surely I wanted to know the reason.
“I know!” Jack said, “Because the officers offered their chance to the subordinates.”
“Yeah!” I walked and said, “You power of observation and judgment is not bad. We have a group of good officers.”
A hundred men in perfect formation. All of them with their shoulders pushed back, chins up. There were human soldiers, orc soldiers, elf mages and dwarf soldiers, sandman…
“Everyone, have a seat!” I said with a smile. Actually, they were not looking decent while standing, “Sit around me, be at ease. Relax, it’s break time.”
The sandmen and dwarf the most well-behaved, thus they sat right away. The orcs were slower who sat in the outer circle. The human beings who thought before acting sat behind the orcs… The elves did not sit but floated.
“What did you do in the last battle?” I asked a sandman who sat in the front, “That your commander send you here?”
The sandman’s craggy face became slightly flushed and said with embarrassment, “I… I dug too fast then somehow ended up coming out behind the enemies, and somehow brought down a few guys with neck bows.”
“And somehow you ended up here?” I said with a smile, “I need you to carry on with that…”
The ground hitched with smiles. I patted his shoulder and asked a few other soldiers, which all came out with satisfying results.
“I have to make myself clear!” I stood in the crowd of soldiers, “That you came here, will lose you the chance to become an officer! Your lives and training will be harder than the guys’ in the training field! The longer you stay with me, the easier you might catch few of my bad habits. Given this, are you willing to stay?”
“WE ARE!” A hundred soldiers answered together.
“Of course, to reward you,” I said, “You will be getting armors and weapons specially tailored and forged just for you! You will also be coached and trained by martial and spell masters! If you are dedicated enough, you will, by all means, be capable of leaving your legendary stories in the Dark City history!”
Soldiers of each clan cheered with their distinctive sounds.
“Now, about your training!” I continued, “I will not demand too much. You can choose whatever methods or guidance. I will only advise you all on one thing. Once every three days, your commander… Fischer will screen you. Every man who he thinks is underqualified will have to return and be made up by newcomers. Because we need only the BEST!”
The screening was implemented as an elimination and substitution game would indirectly stimulate the soldiers’ passion and their reluctance to fail. Everybody’s eyes began to shine with lights of competitive emotions.
“Now, I’ll give you the time of an entire night!” Fischer, who just assumed to be a Commander, said loudly, “If I were you, I would be spending time thinking of my specialities or the armor or weapons I were to wear or use! I’ll take you to the Grandmaster first thing tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir!” It looked like they were pretty impressed by the new commander.
“Now!” Fischer glanced at me and turned back his look, “Fuck off!”
Spanking profanities meant that Fischer was in quite an excellent mood.
After they were all dismissed, Fischer grabbed my arm, “Let’s hit the furnace!”
“The stuff you had Grandmaster prepared for us!” Fischer was indeed turned on due to a couple of exciting news, “They are ready!”
“Is that so!” I bantered, “If I were you, I would be thinking of the name for the hundred men squad.”
“Right! I forgot about this ‘important’ issue!”
“Ya’ getting old…”
“Go away! This Highness is clearly wise and brilliant…”
“Far more! Your Highness is all but beautiful and unreal!”
“Actually he winds up being a slut…”
I hurry-scurried the outfit the Grandmaster prepared for us and saw in the mirror a mage apprentice. I was black from the top to bottom: Black cloak, black hood, even the shoes, and belt were black.
I eyed Fischer, and he looked back wryly. He was a man with white skin, then plus a suit of white outfit. Now he was truly beautiful and unreal.
“Hey, how may I call you? Spotless fog?” I said
“You silly man!” He answered, “All-time black raven!”
“Quit the fuss!” The Grandmaster came in and dropped whatever he was holding on the table, “Are you not satisfied, aren’t you? Take them off then!”
“We are though!” Fischer said, “But you don’t need to dress us up as mage apprentice?”
“Ya think you know?” Master glanced at Fischer, “What do you know about the color, the class. That’s not something to settle up randomly.”
“Oh, now is it a thing?”
“Of course it’s a thing, you brat!”
We were in disbelief at his words, which encouraged the Grandmaster to feel the need to explain it all.
“The reasons to wear an apprentice’s outfit, A, only an apprentice mage has reason to wander around on the continent.” Master said, “For a guy who learned only half of the spells, it’s perfectly normal that his spells stop working.”
“Well, that, then that describes Cohen!” Fischer grinned.
“B, such guys are usually young lads whose future is entirely undetermined. Thus, nobody dares to disrespect a mage apprentice.” The Master tugged on his beard and continued, “Holding grudges is one of young men’s bad practice! Besides, people like you will do so much better if you don’t mess with others!”
“Valid point! Make sense!” I nodded.
“Then what’s so different of the black and white?” Fischer asked.
“When a mage apprentice wears black, it indicates that he was more or less affected by dark magic. As for you, the white dresser is like a mage of light who stands by his side and helps him to fight against the dark temptation!” The Master became even more excited as he spoke.
“You two babies can cheat around in virtually anywhere!”
“Who said we are gonna cheat?” I said.
“No cheating? So… ya think I don’t know you are out to make money?” The Master said, “You two little ones will do no better than fooling around.”
“Quiet!” I looked outside, “You want everyone to know?”
“Oh!” Master dropped the subject and handed over a few objects, “Take a look, I’ve got you a few good stuff.”
“G…loves?” I looked carefully, “And… and wands?”
“YESSSSSS!” Master said, “Now wear them!”
Though we were confused, we believed his word due to his professionality anyway.
The black gloves felt different once I put my hands in. I could tell that with this pair of gloves, by my will, I was able to punch a man to his death with just one hit.
“BAH!” I punched on the wall and left a deep fist mark there but my hands felt no pain.
“So?” Master said proudly, “Not bad, huh? Now, feel the touch.”
I did as instructed and touched the punch pit on the wall. The feedback was so real as if I had touched it with my bare skin!
“Now stick your hand onto the wall with your finger!”
“Incredible… unbelievable!” My fingers stick into the wall, made no sounds. I shared a look with Fischer, he was gazing at his fingers in the table face, dumbfoundedly.
The Grandmaster tugged his beard, laughed. Obviously, our shocking looks had greatly satisfied his vanity.
“No matter what you are up to, bless your souls!”
We left packed with large and small by his blessings.