Translated by Tianic, edited by Grammarly
I goofed a bit nearby and entered the viceroy’s mansion via the side door directly to my chamber located in the back where Carlos and the guests weren’t located.
And the main event took place at the atrium.
I needed Carlos to meet them before me because these guests were not high in position, not enough for me to welcome them personally; on the other hand, as the first choice in assisting me to negotiate in the next few days, Carlos could learn my opponents firsthand by this initial encounter.
I was scheduled to stay in the rear chamber till the luncheon was finished before receiving Carlos’s initial report of the people he just met. However, my eagerness triumphed over the plan so that I quietly approached the atrium along with my guard Malphite. We looked for a right angle by the window frame to keep on eavesdropping and I considered my action to be fair and legal.
What a magnificently-decorated room and a feast for the eyes.
The cost of today’s luncheon would be enough to buy wonderful food for an entire battalion and they will eat with joy. I had no choice, it was for my ultimate purpose.
Brigadier General Carlos, my Chief of Staff, was certainly enjoying the food. His harmless, authentic smile and the way he’s holding the goblet have earned my guests’ trust and favor.
True, Carlos was older in age than me and most of my subordinates, so naturally, he was more experienced in making friends with middle-aged people.
Moya was also presented and responsible for receiving the envoys, but he was not much of a talker, and he never partook.
I saw some envoys have tried to approach and converse with Moya, yet to fail, nonetheless. He kept a calm face, content with sitting by himself in a less noticeable corner. He didn’t turn a hair for this occasion, but the golden, well-forged, well-fitted Protoss armor attracted everybody’s attention.
“I’ve heard about your name, general. If only I had the chance and honor to drink with you.”
Looked like Carlos had introduced Moya to everybody.
“My apologies. I’m on duty today so alcohol is strictly forbidden.”
“I see.” The envoy realized his silliness but it would be even more so to not finish the red, therefore, he drunk up and said, “Then I shall leave you be.”
“You’ll have to excuse Moya. He leads an entire legion so he has to be extra vigilant.” Carlos refilled the man’s cup, said, “Before the war against the rebels, the king once awarded us, senior generals, a banquet and the king proposed a toast for each of us, but General Moya declined the drink with the same words just as he declined yours.”
“Huh. I see that General Moya is a man who is truly devoted to his duty and I admire that.” The envoy nodded with understanding.
I swore this guy had something odd in his statement earlier, however, it’s still going in my head. Before I found the answer, the simple-headed-looking Moya opened his mouth.
“Declining His Majesty’s toast was to better serve my ruler.” The expression on Moya’s face never coincided with what he was saying, “The king is the prime person in my heart, so I don’t take pride in refusing the king; instead, I felt tremendously sorry.”
The listener forced a smile and drank out of embarrassment because his intention to blemish Fischer failed.
If a petty brigadier general could reject the king, then this king could not be less respected.
(I bet he meant that.)
“Well said.” I cheered from deep down.
As a matter of fact, Moya was a smart man since he has been taking care of his little brother since very young and was used to not reveal his emotions. To Jack, Moya has always been a caring big brother when the world outside thought he was just a plain, dull, man.
But no way a dull little kid would survive that long in the wild by wandering, let alone raising a little brother who demanded more food.
The answer would be no. That was why I felt certain that in the coming future, Moya’s deceptive face will be fooling more people and they will pay the price.
“Mr. Staff, I haven’t seen the Protoss Knight, Viceroy Cohen Kheda and the second fierce legion commander Brigadier Wilder yet.” One of the guests released his fork, asked, seemingly out of no purpose.
“Huhhe, let’s not act hastily. Since you all happened to run into each other and arrived together, Commander Cohen and General Wilder’s absence makes no surprise.” Carlos said, “However, remind you, during wars, as our leader, he likes us to address him as Major or commander, try to remember that, gentlemen.”
“Is that so?” The one who asked the question earlier hummed, fiddling with his goblet, “What would happen if he’s called by other titles?”
The warm, welcoming expression on Carlos’s face quickly and noticeably faded. The swift change surprised me and also attracted the other’s attention and interest. The atmosphere in the atrium inevitably intensified.
The only one who was not affected by the episode was Moya, he was still enjoying the bread rolls, not even bothered to raise his head.
“Why, why, your excellency, would you ask such a question!” Carlos avoided looking at anyone, eyes slightly down to the blank air. His tone turned harsh with agony.
“Miserable scenes, bloodstained battleground, painful eyes of despair. People who disobey the commander will never feel the pain… no more…”
Moya’s sharp knife carefully sliced a thin layer of meat off the grilled steak.
“CLANG”, a goblet escaped from a man’s grab.
“It never occurred to them that…” Carlos’s eyes started drifting, as if he sunk into past memories, murmured, “Commander Cohen, a Protoss Knight who’s no lower in status than a Cardinal; a legion commander who executed 300 priests on his first week; a major who makes himself like home in the Protoss alliance and destroyed the enemy alliance with absolutely cruelty. Imagine, what would happen if one goes against him?”
Whereas Moya picked up a slice of medium, half-red meat, admired it with satisfaction, then started chewing.
Muscles contracted and stretched as Moya’s face slowly went savage.
“nom… nom…” A guest swallowed.
“Huh… aha, how sorry I am, apologies. I shouldn’t have filled you with my boring reflections.” Carlos went back from his memories, he said out of embarrassment, “What I said is in the past tense. Please execute me, let’s drink up the red.”
“Cheers…” The guests echoed, they more or less threw a glimpse to Moya who was wiping his lips with a piece of napkin. The banquet carried on.
It was just dinner after all.
I couldn’t keep myself there any longer so I pinched Malphite and returned to the rear hall. I had to force myself to not laugh too hard on my way there.
I was truly astonished by Moya earlier.
He worked with Carlos seamlessly during the dinner earlier. It was hard for me to imagine a man as silent as him to actually pull that off.
I view him as the boy who would rather endure everything and never be the initiator in order to protect his brother.
Admit it, the fire and blood of war can forge men. I was so delighted to see my friends grow that my growing notorious fame seemed less important.
After the luncheon, Carlos, Moya and I started drawing our negotiating strategy.
“Sir, we can assume that they all have their bottom lines since they have agreed to come. And we need to extract the line. In this way, we will be able to achieve our goal at the lowest cost.
Moya added, “They might change their baseline by the way. Anything can change.”
“We can work that out. I won’t be meeting them today.” I laughed, “Because I’ve informed Wilder to hold a legion-wise military drill. I suppose I’ll see the envoys there. I like to settle everything done within the first meeting.”
“Only one? Isn’t it gonna be a bit rushed?” Carlos worried, “We agreed to talk to them one by one.”
“There’s no need, I’m creating a perfect chance tomorrow, trust me. But I need you to start making contact with them from tonight, one by one, in private.” I sighed, “One more day here, the enemy will be one day more prepared for us. We can’t afford it.”
“Understood.” Moya replied gently, “Is there anything else I can do for you, boss?”
“Tell the logistic officers to swap the goods from each warehouse. Mobilize the supply fleet. Carry the staff department’s supply to the city, stay there for half a day then deliver it to the 2nd Legion, and repeat the circle.” I lowered my voice, “Do it at midnight, do it quietly.”
“Why quietly?” Moya frowned, “Any idiot will notice such large-scale transportation.”
“Absolutely, I do want our guests to find out that we’re mobilizing.”
“.. to purposely let them think we’re just trying to smoke-screen. Nice!” Moya nodded.
“Exactly, last thing we want them to know is we’re in an even bigger hurry than them. By making them panic, we gain the upper hand.”
Moya stood up and left to do the arrangement.
Carlos saw Moya’s leaving, he said to me softly, “He’s matured.”
“I agree, what pleased me more is my Chief of Staff is not too over his head, haha. Your performance at the luncheon was exceptional.”
“Forget about us, sir!” Said Carlos, “Peeping through the window doesn’t sound like a commander’s job.”
“We’ve got nice weather today!”
“Sir!” A group of officer passers-by saluted.
I returned the salute then made my way towards a high platform temporarily built on a medium hill.
“Are we ready?” I talked and walked, “The audiences will be here any moment now. Are you prepared to shock these slickers?”
“Yes, sir. Commander Wilder has made sure of it.”
I stepped onto the platform to observe the view.
“Where’s your commander?”
“Commander Wilder is leading the participating troop!” A squadron leader replied, “He insisted on leading by himself.”
“Good. Off you go do your job.” I sat in the middle chair.
As the rising sun painted the morning fog red in the east, caravans carrying my guests arrived at the platform. Moments later, Carlos led them and boarded the deck.
From yesterday’s afternoon till night, my Chief of Staff has spoken with each of them and reassured the conclusion before: these envoys were given absolute decision right on today’s negotiation. That was to say, they wouldn’t be needing permission on any decision they made.
As long as the deal is within their bottom line, an agreement could be made.
“Sir, staff leader Carlos and the envoys!” Said my duty officer.
I rose from my seat to face them.
“Major Cohen Kheda, good morning!” The guests saluted me by addressing me with my military title.
Yesterday’s luncheon worked.
“Morning, gentlemen, please do make yourselves at home.” I said gently, “I truly apologize for making you go all the way here to meet me.”
“You’re being most pleasant.” One of the guests replied, “It is our job to meet at where you will be, even if it means drilling in the desert.”
I chuckled, “I love your joyful personality.”
“Glad to hear it, huhhe.”
“Please be seated.” I showed them around then began talking, “This commander likes to go straight to the point so I will save you some time talking shit. Besides, there might not be another chance to meet you all like this in the future.”
“As you wish.”
“You’re very clear about the current situation within the empire.” I relaxed my wrist, “My demand is simple to you like last night’s talks with Carlos. Now, I need your bottom line.:
The rest of the men shared looks. One of them asked out of surprise, “You wish to bargain with us here, general? Aren’t we supposed to watch your army’s big performance here?”
“I don’t see a problem here, anywhere could be a negotiating ground.” Carlos said, “Command Cohen’s first reaction was to discuss with each of you individually, however, limited by time, we have to make do by meeting you all together. Now, be his guest, make the deal.”
“Couldn’t agree more. I understand how difficult it is to do a viceroy’s job and it is a difficult decision to make. I’ll make my offer: anything, anything at all, as long as it’s within my power, I’ll give it to you.”
They half believed after my offer. I suspected they were still in shock after I set the occasion here.
“So… general, where do you wanna start?”
(Oh, so I missed a conversation starter.)
“I voted you’ve come here to avoid the possible war in the future.” I stood up, paced, “First, I shall ask if any of you share the same idea?”
“I speak for my house, general, my mission is to avoid the harm of war. But I do hope you understand, general, peace is not just wishful thinking, we need efforts from both parties.”
“Well said, you have my admiration. The rest of you think alike, I assume.”
“True, general. We do.” One said, “I don’t want to lie to you because we’ve exchanged info on our way here.”
“I appreciate your honesty, that’s why I shall be trustworthy to you. You have to choose a side, me or Luhrmann. I need your vote.” I glanced at Carlos, “I hope you make the right decision as my guests.”
“I agree. The provinces you represent are right within our reach. Your homelands are on our army’s marching route. You must understand what that means as long as you’ve acquired a bit of military knowledge.” Carlos said.
“We sure do.” A man’s voice said, “Major Cohen Kheda, forgive us, you know how far Luhrmann’s gonna go to ensure this rebellion stays the same. Supporting you means great risk. What do you have to make us feel safe?”
“Like I said earlier, your home is next to ours. If you chose to support our enemy, that makes you our enemy. See where I’m going with this?” Carlos said, “How confident are you to fend off such an army that took 2 provinces down within 10 days? Just for your information, Luhrmann did not send a single soldier or grain during the attack.”
“It’s all happening too fast for Luhrmann to respond.”
“True, it might come to him to send troops, but too late.” Carlos was a quick responder, “Your’ houses are well-informed, so tell me, have Luhrmann’s troops been going through any mobilization?”
No one made a sound.
“He essentially abandoned Lissandra and Maple, let me help you. Viceroys of the 2 are trusted men to traitor Luhrmann and yet he abandoned them. Imagine, what he’s gonna do to you?” Carlos continued, “On the contrary, our noble King Fischer, he’ll never abandon anyone, anyone who’s loyal to him. Are we clear on that?”
“Bu…” One envoy stopped at the first sound, he gazed at me.
(Guess it’s my turn to speak up.)
“I suppose you wanna ask if this general can represent the king?” I replied gently, “I have total authority on this matter and His Majesty recognizes whatever the outcome is.”
Quickly, my guests gathered their heads, with lowered voices, they discussed.
Carlos and I shared a knowing smile.
“Very well, Commander Cohen, Chief of Staff Carlos, we’ve made our decision. Now allow us to ask for your demands.”
Before I spoke, my duty officer ran to the platform.
“Commander Cohen, Legion No.2 is all prepped for the drill, waiting for your next command!” He saluted and said with a clear voice.
“Commence the drill!”
“Sir, yes, sir!”
“What a time, gentlemen. Don’t forget the purpose that gathered us here. Let’s enjoy the performance while finishing our conversation.” I said.
By the horizon on the further land, a burning-red sun has just revealed its first hair.
This chapter was originally published on Wuxianation, any despicable reposts or copies without proper citings are strictly prohibited.