Translated by Tianic, edited by Grammarly
“They said no? Do they have a death wish?!”
Angry bellow echoed from the top of the city’s wall as nearby soldiers made quick pauses and curiously squinted to where I stood.
“Yes, sir, all 4 refused.” Carlos touched his nose, “I had been convincing them, but these men were particularly determined.”
“Haven’t you spent too much time off the battlefield to know what ‘determine’ really means?” I glanced Carlos, “To these bureaucratic lords, determination doesn’t worth a penny.”
“I can hardly connect money value to determination, sir.”
“To these few idlers, everything is about money, the only difference is how much money.” I spat, “Didn’t you tell them the Royal Academy’s headmaster is with me?”
“Yeah, speaking of that, they’ve also required to meet Dean Lorenzo asap.” Carlos replied, with a hint of helplessness.
“Let me get this straight: they refused my terms, and they required that I do something for them?”
“I’m afraid so, sir.” Carlos shrugged, “I can see they don’t like you. No offense, sir, scholars and we army-men hate each other.”
“That I’ll have to disagree. Do you call people who deal with oil and mud scholars?”
“I think that’s called ‘paint’. Besides, sculptors only go near clay when they make wet bricks.”
“Whatever you call it.” I said abruptly, “You call yourself a brigadier, huh? Where is your boldness of a soldier? You should see yourself when talking to those wusses.”
“Sir, you’re wrong about me. I did that on purpose.” Carlos made sure no one was nearby, he passionately came closer, “They are Dean Lorenzo’s students who got along with that old bastard. I’m saving all the fun for you, sir…”
“Spare me! Don’t think I don’t know you graduated from the Royal Academy. You want to save the trouble for me because you can’t force your alumni. You, my head staff, you are actually a sly man.”
Carlos dried his face, murmured, “You knew and you said it anyway. Have some compassion for your subordinates, sir…”
“Ok ok ok, bring’em here, make them run faster!”
“Right away, sir!”
Carlos replied with a laugh. How convenient, he had an orderly by the door as if he knew how I was going to deal with the matter. I suspected there’s more than what I saw.
Then I turned to look at the giant grassland down the city’s wall, adjusting my temper.
I was currently on the southern wall of Lissan City, which was partially damaged during the siege yesterday. Today I was here to inspect the restoration, never expected to run into such a matter. Those 4’s refusal has intrigued me under the condition that the letters I wrote to the neutral viceroys haven’t received any replies.
However, these scholars did rank high position in the empire as they were mentors in Royal Academy, had major-rank benefice, and were treated the same as brigadiers.
Back in the days, most military officers, including me, had to salute them. Nevertheless, I never grew a heart for them and I never give a shit about them, and vice versa.
As my men and I were fighting to revenge the Swabian royal family with our lives, these men, who knew only to talk blank words and play with mud, said no to me! I wouldn’t even spare them a look if they didn’t possess the skill I needed.
“Sir, maybe it’s time we seriously consider how to deal with these people.” Carlos was back, he said gently, “As the war deepens, chances are we will come across more people like them. They will be of use on a lot of things once the war is over.”
“I get that too. But as a man, they’re just too dumb to understand the situation, especially when this young lord is the one to decide their life and death.”
As your staff officer, I can only advise you their mindset is far different from that of ours.” Carlos kicked a random stone beside him, “We soldiers instinctively know our environmental surroundings because it is our duty to make decisions concerning life and death. And what about those scholars, they consider their knowledge of the world far beyond anyone besides themselves. They think they have the right to overlook this world…”
I chortled so hard that my shoulder agitated.
“What’s so funny, sir?”
“Far beyond anyone? Permit me to ask them, where were they when Luhrmann rebelled? In a toilet?” I sneered, “I think they are no better than the 36 Clan leaders who demanded benefits from me. At least they knew how much they are worth before asking for anything.”
“Maybe the scholars are not military and soldiers need to protect them from harm.”
“Protection? Because of the nature of a soldier?” I humph-ed, “Of course we can protect them, but they’ll have to offer their service in return. Nevertheless, they’re citizens of Swabia, the Royal Academy has been paying them for years, and it’s time to show gratitude. I don’t see anything to complain even if I make them slaves of mine, let alone a little help.”
“This is the freaking world. People want to get better treatment for themselves. Sir, what do you intend to do?” Carlos sighed.
“Either way, in their eyes, I may still be the rascal viceroy, so I shall deal with them with the old-fashioned way.”
“However, consider the fact that they might have to work for you for quite some time…”
“Let’s finish the problem at hand. There will be someone to deal with them for me.” I gave it a thought.
“They are here, sir.”
I looked over and discovered 4 middle-aged men in bewilderment escorted by soldiers. Sweaty, they were already out of breath to go up to the short wall. Could it be they really ran over here? I was only exaggerating out of anger. They were lucky I didn’t say to have them fly over here.
I supposed I can’t give orders so carelessly to my subordinates, they will strictly carry them out.
“Gentlemen, welcome here. Have a rest before we get to the business.” The good-cop Carlos swung off the soldiers behind, “Leave us, we’re good here.”
Though I was not looking, I could feel 4 pairs of eyes of hatred piercing through my chest.
A harsh voice asked Carlos, “You… you… what do you want?”
“Nothing much, my commander wants to meet, that’s why you’re invited here.”
“Invited? We were forced to run across 5 blocks! You call that an invitation?” A second angry, out-of-breath voice yelled.
At this moment, Malphite kept his all-time straight face, stepped in front of the scholars and squeezed out a cold command, “Keep your voice down!”
Next, ‘TING’, Malphite’s left thumb pushed the hilt of his sword, squeezing an inch of the blade out of the sheath, left hand climbed onto the hilt, eyes began surveying the scholars’ necks.
The atmosphere suddenly froze. Any ordinary person won’t be able to think straight when faced with Malphite’s stare.
“Calm, Major Malphite.” Carlos first asked the orc to step back, then he talked, “Gentlemen, we’re at war. Your academic days have gone. Therefore I hope you abide by the martial law, which is quite straight-forward and severe. Like, a signature of Lord Justice will give permission to the executioners to kill on the spot.”
“Lord Justice has not signed anything yet…” One of the 4 murmured seeing that Malphite has retreated.
As soon as he said that, Malphite straightened his chest and strode onward.
Carlos was both amused and annoyed.
“You take that back!” Carlos talked while trying to stop Malphite, “He is the captain of the viceroy’s guard anointed by His Majesty! He’s the few ones who are allowed to kill even without Lord Justice’s signature!”
Great, Carlos and Malphite’s act were excellent. It was time I said something.
I forwent a strand of grass chewing between my teeth, then stepped by Carlos’ side, told Malphite to stand by. Finally, I began staring at the four’s faces without any emotions.
Till Malphite was behind me did the men’s face begin to ease. Not many people in this world can withstand Malphite’s sharp posture.
“Which empire…” I said slowly, “… are you from?”
“That’s ridiculous, we’re Swabian!”
“You people who call yourselves Swabian. Then let me ask of you, who is the king of Swabia?”
“King Climos Summers… Er, King Fischer Summers.”
I suddenly dragged the spokesman over.
“So you do know things! You do know who’s our true king!” My fingers clutched his collar, swayed violently, “Then why have you refused to serve the royal family! Are you one of the rebels?”
I let go of my hand to see that this poor guy’s body of enfeeblement dangling on the edge of the wall like a piece of rag, then dropped on where he stood. His pale face turned blue.
“We wish… we wish only the least respect, general.” One scholar went just in time to hold the man on the ground, “We’re royal scholars who are respected within the entire empire.”
“Respected?” I felt the tic from my face, “with what? Do you actually think you’ll get all that respect by drawing pretentiously with that freaking paint? What’s wrong with your brain?”
“Not pretentiously drawing! Just drawing. It’s the art that we’re devoting our entire hearts and souls to. It’s a noble cause of our life, the finest thing in the world. Art is capable to change lives, cleanse spirits, which you’ll never understand.”
“Quit acting like that.” I offered a cold laugh of scorn, “With your disgusting color trying to contend for ignorant commoners’ whisper, what an act of clowns.”
“Let’s get to the point, general. We do know what you want us for, but we’re not painters, and drawing map is never our nature job.” A third voice cut in, “We understand you are soldiers and it’s your nature to war. We do not have anything to do with wars. Offering your lives on the battlefield is like we die for art and no, there are no similarities.”
“Die for art? Very well, then jump from this wall.” I hinted Malphite to get the man who spoke earlier, “In the eyes of this soldier, falling from this wall of 30 arms-length in height and watch blood splash is art.”
“Dis… disrespectful!” Blood vein bulged on his forehead, the one being grabbed by the wall roared, “J’accuse!”
“Alor, je m’en fiche.” I turned to the rest, “It’s your turn now. It’s not too late that if you offer your service, he can still live. If your answer is still no, I bet you all need to be like him.”
“General, I hope you realize your act of threatening!” The sculptor said with his hoarse throat, “We’re being forced to do your demand, but not from my heart.”
“That’s really not of my concern. I need the result, yes or no, that simple.” Malphite pushed the painter back to the ground, “Alright, cut the crap, yes or no?”
“We…” They shared looks then finally nodded, “okay.”
Their faces actually had fear, anger, pity, disrespect showing. They were indeed the ones who devoted to art, I’ll give them that.
“Next time, say yes from the start. I don’t wanna force myself to get angry any more.” I didn’t let Malphite release the man right away, “Tell me, weren’t you being stupid earlier?”
“My place, my rule.” My fingers pinched the sculptor’s jaw, “Behave and don’t piss me off.”
“Aren’t you afraid of what we might do to the map?”
I grew silent before he could continue.
“Try me.” I laughed and let Malphite released the man in his hand. Then I told Carlos, “Get them coated in uniforms.”
Carlos acknowledged and got his hands on the job immediately.
“We don’t want army clothes!” The one who almost sacrificed for art went nuts one more time, “We already agreed to draw your maps!”
A hint of amusement grew on my face before I said, “It’s either naked bodies or army uniforms, your choice.”
“Again with the respect argument? I think I should make myself clear. I disrespect you.” I drew my distance closer, one hand directing to the soldiers making themselves busy beyond the wall, “Look at them, plain soldiers, from plain families. They have nothing special, but that is exactly why I respect them. Because they’re fighting for Swabia, offering everything for King Fischer.”
The scholar breathed heavily, fixed his eyes on me, definitely not convinced.
“What about you, what were you doing when rebels ravaged the city? And with what can you earn my respect? Oh, you think it’s so easy to earn a soldier’s respect?” I tidied my hair, “Respect is earned, and not given. You’ve got to offer something in order to let us: the fire and blood-bathed soldiers, respect you.”
“What can we do when the rebels were coming? We know nothing but draw! You want us to fight with paintbrushes?”
“So long as you’re willing to serve the king.” I tapped on his shoulder, “Believe it or not, soldiers are actually the ones who value each other the most. If you make an accurate map, I can definitely avoid many misconducts and many unnecessary sacrifices. Ergo, your new Swabian map will earn my as well as all soldiers’ and officers’ respect.”
“Map of Swabia, humph…” He said no words, nor did the other three.
“I won’t force you to believe me. It takes time.” I began walking down the wall with my men while saying, “However, I do hope you sort out the map of the nearby provinces. I’ll give you 20 days.”
“Twenty days? Wait, that’s not enough!” Before I reached the last stair, I heard the yelling.
(How rude of them.)
But I neglected them and kept on walking.
“Sir, are 20 days really enough?” Carlos retracted his eyes.
“I bet they’re beyond familiar with things around this province and they can always refer to the old maps. Shouldn’t be too hard. People only work more efficiently when given the right amount of pressure. Besides, I didn’t specify what’s the punishment if the work was not done after the due date.” I laughed, “Carlos, I have to ask you to take care of them in their daily lives. Say, let their rank be Major and should abide by martial laws.”
“As for now, I shall wait for the letters back from the viceroys.” I stretched myself to the busy street.
Tens of black army flags edged with gold stood on the top of the wall, whipping on the exact same speed and extend.
Soldiers of the 3rd legion, which was on guarding duty, were well equipped, full of energy. Amongst them, a team of men down the gate was the fiercest of all: not only did they hold the best weapons, but they also assume the same figure. I handpicked them from my IGTs. All were experienced, calm men.
A team of riders trotted into the city. They wore diverse armors, a variety of weapons. Men on the horses were sweeping the environment as they entered, protecting the few important people at the center of the formation. They must be the envoys sent by the neighboring viceroys.
The knights dismounted, stood not far from the gate.
As the Chief of Staff, Carlos was well-dressed for today’s occasion. He did a good job making himself graceful for the meeting later. He strode towards the envoys.
I watched as Carlos greeted each of them, caught a few loose words over the wind. Then I sipped my wine.
“I wanna be him.” Wilder was standing by my side when Carlos and Moya passed, he complained, “Why I’m a commander like him and he can be all pretentious in his Protoss-bestowed armor and meet people and I can only peep him on this penthouse.”
I didn’t bother to even turn, my eyes stared at the gate where the welcome was currently taking place, said softly back to Wilder, “You said you don’t wanna stay with your boss?”
“That’s certainly one way to translate it. And YES! I’m thrilled to stay with you but I really wanna show off.” Explained Wilder, “Boss, I know you intend to show our power as a deterrent. Certainly, I’m the perfect one for the job. My men are not wusses.”
“Precisely the reason I keep you here. You’ve had your time to show off.” I glanced Wilder, “On the other hand, your face is too unkind and cruel, know what I mean? It’s better to be friendly in the first meeting.”
“Can’t blame my face, my parents gave me that and I’ve got no chance to offer any suggestions. By the way, boss, word hurts.”
“I said your face is not very kind, not your face is ugly.” I was amused, “I can hardly recall the last time you bother to care about your look. I’m still here with you regardless of how you look.”
“I’ll take it.” Wilder peeped again through a tiny window, “These people are either viceroy’s sons or brothers, I fear Moya and Carlos might not finish the job easily.”
“Politics is like a business. One side has cargo, the other has money. Since we’re out here to negotiate with nothing on hand, needless to worry.” I said gently, “Since they are here, they’re here to do business so long as we offer the right price.”
“And after?” Wilder was also observing the slowly advancing fleet.
“After, we do what people on the meat market do, bargain.”
When the fleet passed the street in front of the penthouse Wilder and I stayed, Carlos made an excuse to stay at the inn right in front of us for me to observe better.
I noticed many aged people in the team, the youngest of which was in his 40s. No young man was found there. As envoys, they showed decent courtesy without any hint of impatience.
As they drew their distance from me, I fell into pondering.
Carlos and Moya were faced with veteran politicians. Unlike the young, these old people were extremely difficult to be convinced with the terms we’ve planned to offer. If only I can offer more.
(Ugh, forget it. If I give them more, Fischer and I are better off buying a land and farm. There’s no space to take any steps back.)
In that case…
“Wilder, is your unit schedule to train tomorrow?”
“Sure, every day.”
“I bet you wanna wear that Protoss armor of yours.”
“You bet I do! Can I?” Wilder’s eye glinted.
“I’m gonna hand it over to you. I want you to practice a drill for our envoys.” My finger unconciously tapped on the window frame, “Lighten up your men, put on shiny armours, and pull off your most fearsome formation like you’re going to war!”
“Roger that, boss!” Wilder’s palms were rubbing, he laughed, “I’ve been waiting for it since a long time ago.”
“I suppose you do. I should be heading back. Gotta meet them later on.” I turned to the stairs, “Prep yourself, Wilder, time waits for no one. Let this negotiation soon be finished.”
“Rest assured, boss.”
This chapter was originally published on Wuxianation, any despicable reposts or copies without proper citings are strictly prohibited.