Editor: Areth Kyntaul
“We have a report from the army defending Bula City. They have requested to switch with another team due to running out of provisions, as well as fatigue.”
Queen Sisi gently poured the honey into her milk and stirred it gently. In an irritated voice, she responded, “Don’t bring this sort of boring news to me each morning. I’m uninterested in this sort of trivial business. If they want to switch, let the military in the North work it out. You don’t need to notify me.”
The envoy looked at the queen and carefully asked for her input, “Your Majesty, Bryn City is currently filled with starving heretics. If we switch the defence team at this time, it might cause disastrous consequences. That is why the military seeks your input. Do you suggest providing provisions or switching teams? The military suggests providing provisions, instead of switching teams.”
“Do as you all suggest, then.” Queen Sisi looked nonchalant about the matter. She couldn’t see how a city far off on the border held any value to her. Her time and energy would be better spent on thinking about how much tastier her combination of milk and honey was.
The military envoy nodded after receiving her answer. Just as he went to turn around, an elder individual dressed in a black robe next to the queen whispered something in her ear.
After some thinking, Queen Sisi then said, “Wait, I’ve changed my mind. Don’t send provisions. Just switch the teams.”
“Your Majesty?” The envoy hesitated for a moment as he looked at Queen Sisi with surprise.
The queen nodded gently and then said, “It is, indeed, very dangerous since the chapel and merchants refuse to send supplies. If the people discover that food has been delivered, yet not distributed, then the mobs will be even more dangerous. How about we just lead them on for now and raise them like animals. They’ll go back in spring on their own accord. It’s time for the military defending Bryn City to return, too.”
“But there are no other armies close by that can swap with them…”
“Let the chapel’s cavalry unit go there. They’re close by. Plus, they can deal with the heretics while they’re at it.”
Queen Sisi took a drink of her self-concocted honey and milk drink. She then savoured it before pouring it onto the carpet.
The two servants standing at the side quickly came up to clean it and refill her cup with the honey and milk drink the queen herself concocted again, in an attempt to find the taste that suited her palate. It seemed the last cup wasn’t to her liking.
The expensive fresh milk and honey were worth as much as water to Queen Sisi.
The military envoy clenched his teeth. He was reluctant to accept the outcome.
The chapel, the military comprised of nobles in the north, and the merchants from noble families in the south, competed for Queen Sisi’s favour in the palace.
Before all this, Queen Sisi favoured the military in the north, due to their war decorations. Now that the war had ended, however, the chapel and merchants in the south had begun to gain ground. They were, thereby, putting serious pressure on the military in the north.
The matter he had reported was a military affair, yet, to his surprise, the queen followed the suggestions of the merchants and the chapel. They were beginning to encroach on the territory of the military, which no longer held value.
That wasn’t good news for the military. The nobles of the northern military had to maintain favour with the queen, but how would they do that? What can soldiers do, when there are no more wars? Her Majesty was now changing things in the military, under the influence of the chapel and the merchants.
Two days ago in Bryn City.
I was stunned when the military’s supply warehouse door was opened.
This warehouse was slightly larger than the food merchant’s. However, it was filled with food inside.
‘There’s enough food to last a thousand people maybe two to three months in here. If they were to consume this modestly, they’d probably have enough for half a year. It wouldn’t even matter if we stole twenty bags of food.’
Hence, when I saw so much food, what I wanted was no longer twenty bags, but fifty bags.
‘The army is definitely leaving anyway, so they won’t be taking this stash of food. That being the case, I might as well take it.’
Transporting food from the north back down south costs more than the food itself; therefore, they were most probably going to sell the food to the local food merchant if they didn’t give it to me. I don’t want that bloke to make an easy profit, so I might as well take it. It’s not like you can make a lot from selling food right now, anyway.
“Will we be discovered if too much is taken?”
“Don’t forget that you’re reporting that you’ve run out of provisions, so, of course, you need to get rid of the majority of the provisions before returning. Moreover, if they inspect you, it makes no difference if you’ve got twenty bags or fifty less.”
I looked at the chief next to me.
I’m not certain if it was the cute Leah who broke down his mental defences, but he finally gave us the nod in the end.
There was a lot of good that came from bringing Leah and Veirya along. The two of them reminded the chief of his family, which helped him make his final decision.
Honestly speaking, I wasn’t certain that they could return for sure, but whatever happens afterwards has nothing to do with me.
Reflecting back on it, I made two mistakes today. First, I wouldn’t lie. Second, I wouldn’t do anything illegal.
But I went and did both because I have no way back.
‘I have Leah with me. I want to protect Leah’s smile. I’m not afraid of lying to the entire world, as long as it’s for Leah’s present and future. After coming here, Leah became everything to me. She trusts me and depends on me unconditionally, so I, too, am her everything. She’s my cute daughter. I could do anything for her.’
‘I’m just an ordinary man, but I can do anything in Leah’s presence.’
“All right then. Fifty bags it is, then.”
Since we were betting our lives, the chief in front of me went a little bit crazier than me. However, that let me feel relieved.
When the soldiers found out that they were going to get to go home, they cheered loudly with absolute joy. By the looks of things, they won’t have any complaints if we take the food. They were even more eager to go home than to eat.
“Load the food up tomorrow, but don’t use a food cart. Use a weaponry cart. Send it out during the day. There’s no need to wait until night time. We don’t need many escorts, either. We won’t ride our hoses tomorrow. We’ll sit inside. Just deliver it as fast as possible. You must get it there in one trip. Prepare sufficient horse carts, understood?”
I looked at the chief in front of me and spoke to him with all seriousness.
‘We’re going to have to get past countless refugees when we leave this city. The refugees are all looking for food. If they find out that we’re transporting it, they’ll throw themselves at us to steal the food.’
‘I sympathise with them, but that doesn’t mean I’ll do something for them. Their predicament is Queen Sisi’s business. One lord, alone, can’t resolve the famine throughout the entire north. If they don’t handle it well, they’ll end up burning themselves. I’m never going to do something hypocritical.’
“Understood.” The chief nodded.
I reached my hand out to pass him a few gold coins. I then leaned closer and in a quiet voice said, “If you think that this is too little, let me tell you a way to make some big money. After we leave, deliberately leak this news. All that you need is for the news to reach the food merchants. The guy from the food merchant goes to get bread from the bread store every day. Arrange for someone to go and tell him that you’re leaving and will be distributing the remaining food to the people for free…”
“I won’t distribute it…”
“I never told you to!” I looked at the chief with higher expectations of him.
I sighed and then said, “Don’t you get what I mean? Food merchants rely on hoarding food to raise their prices. Once they catch wind that food will be distributed for free, they are guaranteed to come and buy it off you. When he does come to you, you can sell one bag at eighty silver coins. Do not give discounts. They’ll buy it off you for certain. As for everything else, that will be up to you and your conscience.
While I said that, I’m not one who ‘follows his heart’. I only think with my brain, calculating my gains and losses. But I really do like making others think with their ‘heart’, because they’re bound to make irrational choices like that. His choice this time won’t affect me, in any capacity, but I’m really curious as to what he’ll do.
The soldiers merrily loaded the carts with food, as per instructions. As it was late at night now, nobody would pay attention.
Despite the soldiers sending their food away, they did so with smiles, while cracking jokes with each other.
Veirya blankly watched them go back and forth in front of her, but with a somewhat complex gaze.
Leah cheerfully watched them load up the carts with food. She hugged my arm with joy and excitedly exclaimed, “Papa! Papa! You’re so amazing!! H-How did you do it?! L-Leah admires you, Papa! You’re amazing, Papa!”
“Leah, if you think about it carefully, you’ll realise that it’s actually very simple. Honestly, it’s sort of exceeded Papa’s expectations. Papa is celebrating now, as well, to be honest.”
I chuckled softly and scrubbed Leah’s head.
The chief then came up to us. He looked at Leah nervously. He slowly squatted down in front of Leah then handed her a bag of candy with a smile.
He said, “Have these candies. I prepared them for my daughter, but I can go home to her and buy her new ones, now, so… you can have these.”
“Papa…” Leah looked at me slightly nervously.
I gave her a small nod.
Only then did she grab the bag of candy. She took out a handful of lollies from the bag and placed it into the chief’s large hand. She smiled and said, “She can have these. It is a very happy privilege to be able to receive candies from our Papa.”
“Yeah…?” The chief nodded with a hint of embarrassment.
He then looked up at me. He chuckled softly and said, “I want to return home even more now, after seeing you two. You and your daughter must be very happy.”
Leah nodded firmly and cheerfully replied, “Uhm! Leah and Papa are very happy.”
The chief looked at me with envy. He chuckled and added, “I’ll be able to experience the happiness you’re experiencing, too, won’t I?”
‘If I’m being honest, I don’t know what orders his superior will give him. They might not get to return.’
I revealed a smile as I looked at the chief, who was excited. I then responded, “I shall congratulate you in advance, then.”
I can’t show any other expression, because I must do this.