The Adventure of a Boy with the Mind of a Middle-aged Man

The Adventure of a Boy with the Mind of a Middle-Aged Man Interlude

A Commander’s Duty – Kai Lodos[1]

Kai Lodos climbed the one and only path along the Radoa mountain range. Saruman’s troops, who had been entrusted with guarding the resupplying forces, followed behind.

Currently, they were surrounded by steep cliffs on both sides and could at most fit seven or eight soldiers in a line.

And so, the kingdom’s expeditionary force marched up this long, winding road.

“What am I doing……”

Kai was never meant to be a soldier. He had only entered the army in order to send enough money back to his grandparents.

In fact, he had dreamed of growing up into a chef that could give his grandparents a happy life.

“Hey, stop daydreaming and move your feet!!”

One of Martha’s aides on horseback kicked Kai who promptly collapsed onto the floor. He was bound at the wrists and so couldn’t brace his fall and slammed face first into the ground.

“I hope you understand that you’re a filthy traitor! A public execution awaits you when we return.”

Kai knew. He knew that this was a crazy army that punished any commoners who dared to say anything cowardly. Kai would definitely be punished.

The Amrzs Kingdom was a little better seven years ago. It was, at least, good enough that he could have a dream. The incident that most clearly led to its shift was when that man who called himself a hero was summoned from another world.

No, maybe not. The hero had only weaved together the kingdom’s will. 

In the end, the madness had already been spreading throughout the Amrzs Kingdom throughout the start.

These past ten years, smallpox ravaged the kingdom and produced countless deaths, drastically lowering productivity and causing widespread poverty. In addition, the outrageous response of the kingdom’s nobles brought forth a whirlpool of intense hatred and unease.

The kingdom’s government directed their citizen’s dissatisfaction outwards.

While they managed to obtain wealth and manpower and avoid starvation and dissatisfaction, discrimination over one’s status began to form.

“Hurry up and stand!” Martha demanded as he repeatedly beat his subordinates with the scabbard of his sword.

Kai tried to stand up, but halfway through noticed something move above the cliffs to the right. A fierce chill ran down his spine. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Retreat this instant!”

“Huh!? You’re still going on about that crap—” Martha yelled, but the cliff above his head broke off with a rumble and began to fall.

……

…………

………………

Kai opened his eyes to absolute hell.

Left and right, soldiers were completely squashed by a giant boulder and crying out in pain.

The kingdom’s forces had formed such an incredibly long line, but they were all annihilated as if a giant had trampled over them.

“Ugh……”

Martha had fallen off his horse and, while trembling and with a pale face, collapsed to the floor in tears.

He seemed fine. Looks like they both had the luck of the devil.

“Cut this!” Kai demanded as he put forth his bound arms.

“B-but—”

“Hurry!”

Martha shrunk away and pulled out his dagger, cutting through Kai’s restraints.

“Let’s go!”

“But……where?”

“We need to find the commander for now!”

Kai wasn’t so happy-go-lucky as to think rocks would just fall on them with this timing. It was definitely to the enemy’s plan.

And if Kai were in their place, he’d be sure to clean everything up; a large Radol force was surely soon to come.

“What about my men?” cried Martha as he clung to Kai.

It looked like he had a deep camaraderie, but those feelings would only get in the way now.

“They all died. Now hurry up and get a move on if you don’t want their deaths to be in vain!”

The kingdom’s forces had suffered an overwhelming defeat. The only thing left was to figure out how to convey their surrender.

The fastest way would be to have their commander, Wimp, signal their surrender, but one of the most basic principles of winning a war was to eliminate the enemy commander. The enemy was probably already on their way to kill Wimp; there was almost no chance he would survive.

Martha kept trembling on the ground, refusing to stand up, so Kai grabbed him by the collar and forced him up.

“Listen up, alright!! We are the commanders now. That means we have the power to end this cruel and fruitless war! If we don’t move, then we will have been massacred for nothing. And that we includes us as well.”

The enemy had used such a fiendish plan, so there was no use expecting a guilty conscience from them.

Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!

Kai heard several more explosions from the top of the mountain. 

Their escape route was blocked by a giant boulder, so they’d be killed even if they tried to run away. In that case, he’d struggle with everything he had.

“Let’s go!”

Kai threw Martha onto the ground and headed towards the sound.

“Officer Kai!” said one of the surviving soldiers as he rushed towards Kai. They all were filled with despair.

“Listen up! We’re going to throw down our weapons and raise up the white flag! They probably won’t kill us if we do that.”

This was a lie; there was about a 50/50 chance they would be killed.

However, the only way to overcome this pit of death would be to rely on the Radol’s mercy.

“Are you sure? The commander hasn’t permitted this, and if the kingdom were to hear about—” asked Martha with a dying voice.

“Have you looked around?” replied Kai. “We can’t run away anymore, so our best option is to become the Radol’s prisoners of war. The two of us will never be able to return afterwards, so there’s no point in thinking about that anymore.”

“But……. that’s just—”

“That’s the commander’s duty.”

Martha cradled his head as he cowered and began to cry.

It had been about a year and a half since Martha had enlisted into the army. It was unfair to pin all the responsibility onto a soldier who was effectively a greenhorn.

Kai let out a sigh. “Martha Saruman-dono, you are the highest rank here, so you retain the right of command.”

Martha shook his tear-stained face back and forth. “N-nooo……”

“I know, so please transfer that to me.”

“……”

Martha silently nodded over and over.

“Now I’m the commander of the kingdom’s expeditionary force. Now, as the commander I hereby order the following. Martha Saruman-dono, you have shirked your responsibilities on the battlefield—an inexcusable act. Thus, I temporarily strip you of your status. You will be taken in as a prisoner of war as a normal soldier!”

Martha would live on if his luck were good.

“Geez. So this is what we get when we send these wishy-washy greenhorns into battle……”

Kai used a nearby spear to rip off a part of a white coat, fastened it onto the tip, and ran towards the gunshots.

Kai arrived at the battlefield. No, it wasn’t a battlefield, but an execution ground.

The Radol soldiers held a thin pole between their hands that spit out fire with a thunderous boom. In the next instant, one of his comrades would fall to the floor.

While several were wounded, they formed a ring around the Radols and pointed their swords forward. The commanding knight, touted for his bravery, was there too.

“Stop!” Kai shouted in vain.

“You demons!!” shouted the commanding knight. He raised his sword up and rushed forward, his face as red as a pomegranate.

“Eeek!!” yelled the soldiers, the bodies completely locked up in place. Some were crouched on the floor, and some were even crawling. 

Kai headed towards the soldiers who had lost their will in the face of the Radol’s metal poles. He took in a deep breath and raised the white flag.

“I am the commander of the expeditionary force, Kai Lodos. We give you our unconditional surrender. Everyone throw down your weapons and surrender!” Kai shouted.

Considering what the kingdom had done to the Radols thus far, there was no guarantee they’d even listen.

In short, this was a gamble. But the odds didn’t look too bad judging by the enemy’s tactics.

Not only had they manipulated the information and blocked off the kingdom’s forces from retreating, but they had also confined the forces into a narrow road. Then, they dropped boulders from above, and commenced a search-and-destroy soon afterwards. 

The plan made good use out of the natural terrain to encircle the kingdom’s forces and was quite by-the-book as far as tactics went. Kai had no idea how they had caused the boulders to fall, but other than that it was a plan anybody could have come up with.

However, they had taken this collection of ordinary tactics and refined it to the point that you could call it an art of war. This thought process that embodied the very definition of efficiency was the real reason the enemy was so frightening.

These types of plans would be impossible for the kingdom’s forces, which were rife with chaos; you’d need absolute control over your forces in order to pull something like this off.

In addition, there’d be no small number of casualties during the cleanup. Any strategist would want to avoid that, especially when the enemy had laid down their weapons and unconditionally surrendered.

With Kai’s orders now as an excuse, the soldiers threw down their weapons one by one and raised their hands into the air.

The enemy attack immediately stopped, just as he had presumed, although those mysterious weapons were still pointed his way.

“How dare a commoner act as he pleases!!” yelled a plump officer from the middle of the ring.

Only the commoner foot soldiers received military education when they joined the army. Officers with noble origins like Martha weren’t even taught about resolve, the most important aspect of a soldier, and rose the ranks.

And so, after dozens of years, an innumerous number of incompetent commanders who couldn’t even grasp the situation on the battlefield were born.

“What are you doing! There’s savages right there! Hurry up and cut them down!”

Nobody moved an inch and only trembled.

Depending on how the enemy felt, they could all be killed. If their commanding officer could understand even the slightest bit of this situation, he wouldn’t say such a thing.

“I see. So you won’t listen to your superior’s orders. That’s how it is.”

Damn, the mood’s shifted.

“Stop—” Kai began, but before he could finish, the officer sent one of his soldier’s heads flying.

The soldiers shrieked at the sight of the spurting blood and took refuge behind Kai.

“Do you know what you’ve just done,” Kai growled.

The commanding officer paid Kai no heed and began his incantation.

It looked like this was it. Kai was done dealing with any more of this incompetent meddling, even if he had to kill a high-rank officer. He would no longer be able to step back in his kingdom’s land.

If Kai did nothing, 7000 soldiers would have died for nothing. He wanted to avoid that at all costs.

He gripped the hilt of his sword and began to kick off the ground when a burst of wind flew past his left flank.

“Khu?”

An arrow placed itself deep inside the officer’s skull just between the eyebrows. Then, he collapsed onto the floor.

“I-I am Martha Saruman, a Senior Commanding Officer. As Commander Wimp has perished in battle, I retain the right to command. Just earlier, I transferred all rights to Kai Lodos. So listen up, listen to Kai and surrender!”

Many sighed in relief, and some burst into tears.

But it was still too early to celebrate; there’s no guarantee the enemy would accept the kingdom’s forces.

If the Radols continued their attack, Kai would need to make sure as many people could escape.

“Kai……I killed him,” Martha said with a pale face as his arm trembled.

“No, you did well. The sounds are dying down.” Kai could tell the explosions in the distance were quieting down. At the very least, he had postponed their complete destruction.

It felt like an eternity. Sweat stained his undergarments, perhaps because of the intense pressure.

A young man with strangely cropped hair and sideburns showed up and said, “We accept your unconditional surrender and will pause our attack for 30 minutes. During that time, I’d like you to inform all your soldiers as such.”

“I understand.”

Martha nodded from beside Kai, who then set off with a white flag in hand.

◇◆◇◆◇◆

The remaining prisoners of war were ordered into a giant stone building. Inside was a room with the very minimum amount of supplies necessary for daily life. This was probably some sort of training facility.

“You were right, Kai. I know my foolishness can’t be forgiven but let me apologize. I’m truly sorry.” 

Martha bowed down.

“Well, it was our fault that the situation had gotten so bad in the first place.”

Sending out a newbie Senior Commanding Officer out into the frontlines was solely for educational purposes. Kai and his soldiers held plenty of fault for letting the situation deteriorate to the point where sending him out was already useless.

“……What’ll happen to us now?” asked Martha.

“Who knows. The man who planned these strategies is frighteningly calm. He wouldn’t take us as prisoners of war just to treat us this coldly. There’s still hope left.”

That said, that hope was very faint, as the kingdom had done so many things to the Radols.

“Whatever happens, happens.”

Martha plopped down on the futon that had been provided and covered himself with a blanket. Kai could tell that he was shivering and crying underneath.

Was it because of his grief over the deaths of his men and his comrades, or was it because of his despair over his bleak future? 

Either way, this youngster planned to keep moving forward. As his elder, Kai couldn’t afford to put on an unsightly face.

So he declared, “It’s alright. Everything will work out.”

[1] Usually I translate these side stories in first person, but I tried doing this one in third. The raws are written in third person but sometimes it’s really difficult to make it sound natural so I just throw caution to the wind and make everything first person. Let me know which one you like better as I’m still deciding.


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