Chapter 1: Petty Trickery Runs in the Family
When the new city of Venetinova was being built in the 1546th year of the Continental Calendar, Old Man Urup had told Souma the Legend of the Sea God which warned of the dangers of a tsunami.
After his meeting with Souma, the city’s plans were changed. Urup moved to Venetinova, where he continued his job as a fisherman while also working as a storyteller on the side, telling people the legends and what to do in the event of a tsunami.
As the years went by, the harsh labor of fishing pushed Urup’s stamina to its limits. Eventually, he came to leave that work to his children and grandchildren in order to focus on his work as a storyteller. He went around to the daycare facilities—modeled after the one in Parnam Castle—and told his tales to children. After doing this for some time, he had a thought one day.
There must be legends warning about natural disasters in every region Ones not just about tsunamis, but about landslides in the mountains and valleys, or flooding near the nvers on the flatlands Near the forests, they have dangerous beasts too. Do all of those legends... really have storytellers of their own?
Because of knowledge from his former world, Souma had recognized the value of Urup’s Legend of the Sea God and placed a good deal of importance on it. However, turning that around, up until he met Souma, Urup hadn’t know the value of the legend he’d been recounting. It was possible that when his life came to an end, the legend might have been lost. And if no one knew the legend when the day of calamity came, how many lives would be lost?
I shudder to think of it And I cant bear to see the legends our ancestors went to all the trouble of leaving us just fade aivay, unnoticed...
At this point, Urup had a flash of inspiration.
Old as he was, it wouldn’t be odd for him to keel over any day now. That being the case, he’d devote his remaining time to gathering legends, and becoming the teller of all of them. With this decision made, Urup acted fast. He immediately drafted a letter to Souma explaining his thoughts. The time spent learning to read and write after retiring from his life as a fisherman was well worth it.
“To His Royal Highness, although I cannot resist the waves of time, nor can I row out to sea any longer, I now take up this pen in hopes of carrying out one last task.” Souma laughed out loud as read the opening line of the letter, not caring who saw. “Old Urup’s going to become a folklorist, huh? He’s still got a lot of energy!”
Wiping away his tears as Liscia and the rest looked astonished, Souma began writing a letter of approval on the spot, and promised to fund the endeavor. Moreover, he also issued a certificate that said Urup’s research was sanctioned by the king and that people were to cooperate with him. He even arranged for Juno, Dece, and other trustworthy adventurers to escort the old man on his travels.
Later, this letter from Urup was later donated to the museum in the capital and became one of its main exhibits. But that’s another story...
“Hey, Old Man Urup. I brought a letter for you from the king.”
“Oh, girlie! Hurry, hurry, and show it to me!”
After reading the reply sent along with Juno and the other adventurers, Urup went to his family. They were reasonably concerned about his recent tendency to do things that were dangerous at his age, but he wouldn’t let that slow him down.
“I’m off for now!” he announced, and departed on his journey.
“Okay, where to first, old man?” Juno asked.
Urup rubbed his mustache and said, “Disasters involving water are scary, so first well go along the coast, then along the rivers, I suppose. After that, it’ll be the mountains. Once I’ve gathered legends from all over, we’ll have to return to Venetinova so I can compile them.”
“That sounds incredibly time-consuming...”
“Of course. I intend to spend the rest of my life doing it.”
With that, Urup began walking in high spirits.
Normally, escort jobs were from one village to the next. Juno and the others would join him when it suited their plans. In the cases where it didn’t suit them, Urup would be accompanied by other trusted adventurers from the guild who’d received a request from the kingdom.
There were those who were suspicious of Urup and his entourage asking around about local legends, but seeing King Souma’s written certificate made them quickly change their attitudes and cooperate. People who saw Urup’s encounters spread stories about them that’d been exaggerated in amusing ways.
In later years, there was even a play called Old Urup’s Tour where he somewhat resembled a certain old retired ruler from the Mito region.
Incidentally, the members who accompanied him in that play, like Suke and Kaku in the original, were always members of Juno’s party. (Even though they weren’t always the ones traveling with him...but that’s getting too far off-topic.)
This was how Urup traveled all around the country, investigating myths and folk stories that remained as lessons from that region. Eventually, he would return to Venetinova to compile them before setting out again to investigate more legends. His edited compilations were submitted to the country as a form of report, and Souma and Hakuya were satisfied with the work he was doing.
One day, after this had been going on for some years...
Upon returning to Venetinova to compile the most recent batch of stories, Urup received a summons from Lord Weist Garreau and was given an order from Souma to appear at Parnam Castle. The next day, a wyvern gondola arrived to take him to the capital, and in no time at all, Urup became a man of the D-Did I do something to offend him? Wfa there something in my report that the king or prime minister didn't like?
The gondola was a spacious one in the service of the royal family, but Urup huddled in one corner of it. As he asked himself how it had come to this, the gondola continued its journey. Before he knew it, they had landed in the courtyard of Parnam Castle.
“You must be Master Urup. How good of you to come,” the head maid, Serina, politely greeted Urup as he hesitantly disembarked from the gondola.
Although connected to King Souma, Urup was still a commoner. He was flabbergasted at being welcomed like some kind of noble or minister.
Serina gestured to her right with the palm of her right hand. “Please, come this way.”
Urup followed her lead without a word. He was used to Souma and some of the others at this point, but even the castle’s halls looked so formal to him that he was left feeling nervous. He walked until he was taken to a room.
“Please wait in here for a moment,” Serina said, bowing, then taking her leave.
In addition to being decorated with paintings and other art, the room also had two large, comfy, red sofas. This seemed to be a waiting chamber of sorts.
“Ms it okay if I sit down...?”
Urup, being a bit of a miser, hesitated to sit on something so opulent. After struggling for some time, he heard a voice from the other side of the door.
“Please wait in this room for a moment. His Majesty will be with you shortly,” they said.
The door cracked open, and he caught a glimpse of the dragonewt maid Carla on the other side.
Then suddenly, a person barged into the room. They were a large, bearded man who looked even more out of place in the castle than Urup did.
Who's this guy?He looks like a bandit to me, Urup thought.
Their eyes met, and the big man said, “Hrn? Were you called in by the king too, old man?”
“I’m Urup, here from Venetinova. Who’s asking?”
If the big man were to get violent in this room, he could snap the old man in half. However, Urup puffed out his chest, not wanting to lose to him in attitude, at least.
Seeing how Urup was acting, and sensing he’d scared the old man, the big man scratched the back of his head with an awkward smile.
“The name’s Gonzales. I’m the captain of the mountain rescue team. I got a sudden call from the king today... You too, old man?”
“Yes...I did.” Feeling the man wasn’t any danger to him, Urup relaxed his guard. “I heard about the mountain rescue team when I traveled around villages in the mountains. His Majesty set them up to look out for and rescue people who got lost. Many of the members are former mountain bandits who left that life of crime, but they’re trusted by people because they know the mountains well and are willing to go anywhere to help people.”
“Heheh... You’re making me blush here,” Gonzales said, not seeming to mind in the slightest. A smile made anyone seem a little more charming, but he had the charm of a bear that was totally relaxed.
“You were called in too, right, old man? Have you heard anything?”
“No, I don’t know the details yet either...”
As the two were talking, the door opened, and Souma entered the room with Hakuya in tow.
“Old Man Urup, Gonzales. Sorry for calling you in on such short notice,” Souma said casually.
“Thank you for taking the trouble,” Hakuya added, bowing his head.
“The king... Oh, sorry.”
In response to their king’s sudden appearance, Urup hurriedly prostrated himself, while Gonzales dropped to one knee in a way that he didn’t seem familiar with doing.
With a wry smile at both of their reactions, Souma said, “No, no. Don’t feel pressured to act formally. Come on, stand up, you two.”
The two men rose to their feet, unsure what to make of this.
Souma smiled and told them, “Thank you both for coming. There’s something I really need both of you to help with.”
Urup and Gonzales looked at one another.
After that, Urup and Gonzales were led to another room that was a little dark due to a lack of windows.
In the center of the room, occupying most of the space, was a large object they couldn’t quite make out. Upon closer inspection, the two men realized it was a scale model of the Kingdom of Friedonia. It depicted the relative positions of the villages, towns, and cities, and even recreated the heights of the mountains.
Urup and Gonzales gulped at the sight. The model’s accuracy was uncanny.
Having traversed the country investigating legends, Urup could tell how accurate it was. Gonzales knew it too, as he’d traveled the mountains as part of his rescue operations. Even detailed maps were a closely guarded secret, so this elaborate model wasn’t the sort of tiling that common folk like them would be allowed to see under normal circumstances.
“Wh-What is this...?”
“Just what it looks like. A scale model of this country/’ answered Hakuya, who was already in the room.
Looking around, they saw that National Defense Force Commander-in-Chief Excel and Julius the White Strategist were also present.
This was the second war room in Parnam Castle, the place they’d planned the relief of the Gran Chaos Empire not long ago.
Finally returning to his senses, dripping sweat, Gonzales said, “So.-.why'd you go and show this to ms? Isn’t this a national secret?”
“Hee hee! Yes, it is. If you were to try to take it out of here, you’d be disposed of in secret.” Excel laughed with her mouth hidden behind her fan. She was smiling, but this was no laughing matter for the two guests.
The invited men were dripping cold sweat. Why have they been called here, and what in the world will happen to them?
“Excel. Please don’t scare them,” Souma chided, causing Excel to playfully stick out her tongue.
It looked just like when her granddaughter Juna made the same gesture after a bit of mischief.
“Good grief,” Souma said, his shoulders slumping. Then, clapping his hands together, he tried to get back on track. “Now then, as for why you’re both here, Hakuya tells me he wants to borrow some of your wisdom.”
“Indeed,” Hakuya said, stepping forward. “You are both in possession of specialist knowledge. Sir Gonzales knows the mountains of this country like the back of his hand. And while gathering legends about disasters involving water, Sir Urup has learned enough he could fairly be called an expert on flood control. I would like to have the two of you lend us your knowledge for the sake of this country.”
With that, Hakuya gave them an explanation of the situation this country found itself in.
The only faction that could oppose the Great Tiger Empire of Haan was the Maritime Alliance, and with the north stabilized, Fuuga was expected to invade this country in the not too distant future. Most of the people of this country were relieved that the threat of the Demon Lord’s Domain was gone, and a time of peace had come at last, so this revelation came as a rude awakening to both of them.
“Th-That’s what’s happening?” Gonzales said, bewildered.
“It sure sounds rough...” Urup said, adding, “But now I’m even less sure what you called us here for...”
Hakuya smiled a little as he placed his hand on the scale model.
“Think of the Great Tiger Kingdom’s forces like water rushing toward us. They move faster when moving from higher ground to lower, and they lose momentum going in the opposite direction. If they re split up, they lose their vigor, and if they join together, they gain it. Water and armies are the same in that respect. Because places water can pass through easily are also easily traversable by people.”
Having said this, Hakuya looked at Urup and continued.
“Sir Urup. In your reports, you pointed out areas at risk of harm despite not having legends, correct? That’s because, based on the legends you’ve gathered so far, you have an instinctive understanding of where water easily accumulates. If we liken the invading force to water, then wouldn’t you be able to tell us where they’ll move based on this scale model?”
“Well...” Urup trailed off, but as he did, he simulated the flow of water over the scale model in front of him.
How will the water move if it comes across the northern border? he thought. It will split at that mountain, then join up again in that basin If it takes that narrow path, it will reach a dead end, but down that other route, it will be a smooth path to the capital.
“No, no...” Urup shook his head as he was running his mental simulation. “It’s true, I can tell how it would move on this scale model, but the actual mountain roads aren’t this simple. There must be roads you can’t represent with this.”
Hakuya nodded. “Yes. Which is why I’ve also called Sir Gonzales.”
“M-Me?” Gonzales pointed at himself with his index finger.
“Indeed.” Hakuya nodded. “As captain of the mountain rescue team, you’ve learned a great deal about the many mountains in this country. Probably as much as the people who live in the area.”
“Hrm... Well, I’m sure I’ve climbed more mountains than anyone in the country.” Gonzales scratched the back of his head.
Hakuya nodded again before continuing. “Sir Gonzales, you are highly knowledgeable about the kind of hidden paths through the mountains that Sir Urup pointed out as an issue, as well as the game trails that wild beasts use. If we have your knowledge to make up for the shortcomings of this scale model, then Sir Urup can likely work out an accurate path for the invasion.”
“I see. Hence why you called these two,” Julius said, impressed, then crossing his arms. “Fuuga will have no choice but to use a large army to invade this country. The people here have a higher quality of life, and with daily broadcasts to enlighten the population, it won’t be as easy for them to use propaganda as it was against the Empire. With no choice but to launch a frontal invasion with a large army, the paths his forces are able to take will be limited.”
“And if we can narrow down the routes they might take, then preparing countermeasures becomes easier,” Excel said, closing her fan. “As Sir Ichiha said earlier, we need to use delaying tactics. The places where water would pool are the places where it’s easiest to deploy a military force, so they will be hard to defend, leading to their abandonment. But the places where the water has to split are easy to defend, so we hold those key points so the Great Tiger Empire can’t deploy their forces there.”
“Correct,” Hakuya confirmed. “At the same time, if we utilize the knowledge these two have, we can prevent the enemy from using routes we aren’t aware of to get around behind us.”
Urup and Gonzales were still as confused as ever, but all the smart people in the room seemed satisfied with this explanation.
Souma, who had been listening until this point, said, “I get what Hakuya is thinking. Urup, Gonzales.”
“What is it?”
Bowing his head, Souma answered, “Please lend the country your wisdom.”
Seeing the king bow made the two panic even more. There was no refusing at this point, or hesitating for that matter.
“R-Raise your head, sire! If this feeble old man can be of help, then 111 do anything you ask of me!”
“Yeah, sire! I owe you one for helping me get out of the mountain bandit business too. If what I know can be useful, then let me help you out!”
“Thanks, both of you.” With their assistance secured, Souma raised his head and smiled.
This was how Urup and Gonzales came to join the Kingdom of Friedonia’s second war room, and they began shoring up the defenses against the coming invasion.
“Sir Prime Minister, there’s a path on this mountain. It’s not wide enough for horses, but men could cross it on foot.”
“Hmm. We could position troops as a precaution, or perhaps use it to ambush their rear units,” Hakuya said.
“This basin here is wide open, but on the western side, it slopes upward toward the south. The water would pool here, but it would struggle to flow south. If anything, it ought to drain out the eastern side.”
“I see how it is. In that case, it’s a place where the enemy’s advance will be uneven. Sir Julius?” Excel asked.
“You’re probably right,” Julius replied. “I thought we might have to abandon this point if we couldn’t defend it, but it might be better to put up a hard defense here and blunt their advance.”
“Hee hee! Yes, that’s true. I think we could do some damage if a unit charged in from the east.”
The head of the mountain rescue team and a storyteller were joining strategy meetings between the prime minister, strategist, and commander-in-chief, and their opinions held equal weight. Their debates continued day and night, and their proposed delaying tactics grew more and more refined. This situation was probably the “turtle with many snakes for tails that attack regardless of the turtle’s intentions” that Fuuga had feared.
And this sort of phenomenon was occurring in other places too.