Chapter 293: The Boundaries of Governance (Two)
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
“Hm, station their army there?”
Hicks held his crutches between his knees again and pondered deeply. “It’s an interesting choice to frighten opponents and disgruntled people with slaughter and fear, blood and death, as well as to break the people’s dependence on the old system and their habits. That is an interesting option.”
On one side, Saroma seemed to have caught up with their pacing. She interrupted them with gusto, “However, long-term garrisons on the Northern Territory means high military costs, an exaggerated amount of supplies, the cost of long-term mobilization, and complaints by the vassals, all of which are not affordable to any archduke. Ciel told me that a man of prime age who leaves his home for a month is enough to affect the local harvests and bring people dissatisfaction.”
A bulb lit up in Thales’ mind. “So, in Bloody Year, despite Eckstedt defeating Constellation, it could not govern the Northern Territory properly, nor station their army there to keep the land.”
Hicks showed them his ugly but amiable smile again.
The new teacher spoke again, “A very interesting discussion, My Lord, and My Lady. Then, this being the case, we have another problem: Since they could not govern the land directly, why not support the Northern Territory’s existing local nobles and let them govern the land instead?”
Meanwhile, Saroma shifted her gaze. “King Nuven broke into Cold Castle and he hanged the then Duke of the Northern Territory and the many suzerains under the duke who did not surrender to the king. He did so in an attempt to get rid of the resistance in the Northern Territory.”
Thales remembered the currently incarcerated Val Arunde, recalling his hysterical accusations in Renaissance Palace.
The archduchess chattered on as if she was reciting from a book, “But he failed to eliminate the entire Arunde Family. The son of the old Arunde was still in the capital, which means he was unable to eradicate the bloodline tied to the Northern Territory.
“Moreover, Eckstedt did not fight south of Shepherd’s River, Eternal Star City was still standing. The disaster-wrecked royal family also managed to quickly elect a king.”
Saroma was not done. “For Northern Territory, the majority of its nobles and civilians, their king, and the duke still resisted in the war. The beacon of hope for resistance was still there, as well as the laws and principles of fighting for it. Eckstedt was still an illegal and evil invader. There was no use for Nuven to bring up a puppet to govern the land in his stead.
“It’s like Dragon Clouds City during the siege of the Night Wing King. Although they were in a precarious situation, they still managed to stand tall and not fall. They were a battle flag that stood tall for all eternity.”
Thales suddenly remembered the scene from six years ago when Miranda and Kohen were trapped in Dragon Clouds City.
‘Miranda Arunde, as the heir of Arunde Family, six years ago, she was also a crucial chess piece for Lampard to occupy the Northern Territory, whether it was as a puppet for him to control or…
‘That was why, she was being targeted by Black Sand Region during operation Dragon’s Blood. From the death of Nuven to the invasion of the Northern Territory, this was a set of chess moves.
“On the other hand…” Thales involuntarily spoke up at the thought of this, continuing with the topic Saroma had brought up. “If Eckstedt defeated Eternal Star City in the past, they would capture or even vanquish the bloodkin of the Arunde Family and even the Jadestar Royal Family…
“Then, it might have been easier to govern and occupy the Northern Territory, or even the Land of Cliffs and the Western Desert, which they had already extended their influence to, by setting up a garrison or controlling the land with a puppet.”
Hicks coughed. The old man reached out, tottered, and grabbed an upturned cup with his hand. Thales quickly stood and picked up the kettle on his desk to pour some water for him.
“Well, this is an interesting argument—thank you, kind sir—as long as the bloodline that symbolizes judicial laws and ruling rights to a land still exist and has not submitted to anyone, the intruders would never be able to say that they had conquered a land, they could only occupy it, then use violence to eliminate discontent and maintain the status quo through a long passage of time.” Hicks drank the water, not forgetting to smack his lips while the cup was still on his mouth.
“Or they foster the local figurehead, then turn the land that figurehead owns into the invaders’ affiliate and indirectly control the Northern Territory,” Hicks said as he suddenly raised his gray eyes. His strange gaze was quite profound. “Like the Alliance of Freedom—for Eckstedt.”
The prince and archduchess were stunned. When they heard the familiar location, they looked at each other in surprise.
But the Old Crow did not continue the discussion. He only returned to the main topic.
“So, dear Thales and Saroma, let us summarize the discussion just now. For the Born King, the civilians and vassals of the occupied districts of the Northern Territory did not become part of his alliance, and the Eckstedtian vassals who mobilized their armies with the king’s did not get their corresponding benefits, do you agree?”
Saroma looked stern and nodded. “Yes.”
The old man coughed again and lamented, “You know, at my age, if you want to eat something good, aside from having good teeth, we must also have a healthy stomach.”
Hicks put down his cup of water and, without a pause, regarded his two students sitting up unconsciously. He heaved a long sigh. “So, after a seemingly dazzling victory, Eckstedt could not rule over the Northern Territory for very long. On the premise that the disadvantages were greater than the benefits, their only option was to leave the land that they were powerless to retain, and were forced to have their army withdraw. It’s not to understand the enmity between the two countries now, is it?”
Thales took a deep breath and said, “Of course, that seems to be the case.”
Hicks looked at Thales, who was cautiously selecting his words while he spoke. The wrinkles on his face moved slightly when he smiled, then he said with a laugh, “Well, there is one more thing which I think is a little strange.”
Thales and Saroma leaned forward hastily. They had gradually grown accustomed to this teacher’s style of ‘chatting’.
“I might not able to eat meat that is too tough, but it’s okay to eat a few snacks.” Hicks narrowed his eyes. At that moment, the old man made Thales inexplicably think of Gilbert, remembering the sly eyes of the ‘Cunning Fox’,
“Eckstedt gave up the Northern Territory, but why did they also give up Broken Dragon Fortress? Why did they let the Constellatiates take back such a major fortress, just like how they let go of the Northern Territory?”
Thales and Saroma exchanged glances, both of them were confused.
Saroma tried?to answer carefully, “Because… Broken Dragon Fortress is just a fortress for defense… And a sentry post? So it requires armies to be stationed for long periods of time, and the benefits of capturing it are far lesser than the costs for maintaining it.”
Thales shook his head. “Using the fortress to monitor and suppress Constellation is a benefit itself, but on the other hand, the disadvantage of giving it up is greater. Constellation could always use it as a base. Your reason does not hold.”
Hicks smiled as he watched the two think hard.
“It sounds like a dilemma.” The old man changed his posture and gently tapped on his right leg. Evidently, it was not good for his health to be sedentary. “So, what was King Nuven thinking of when he made that choice in the past?”
‘King Nuven.’ Thales’s thoughts were a blur again, a tough and compelling image of the old man appeared before him. ‘Yes… King Nuven…’
Thales’ eyes refocused.
“Because King Nuven did not allow it.”
Saroma and Hicks’ eyes turned back to him.
“If Eckstedt controlled the fortress, no matter who was stationed there, it meant that the status and role of Black Sand Region had risen greatly. Broken Dragon Fortress could only rely on Lampard’s supplies and support to confront Constellation, which will increase the weight of his leverages.
“Secondly, with the fortress as a line of defense, the pressure on Black Sand Region to go up against Constellation will reduce rapidly. Lampard will be able to free up his hands, which will greatly increase his ability to threaten King Nuven.”
Thales held his chin and pondered thoughtfully, “So, if King Nuven took the fortress and sent his garrison troops, not only would it mean that he would have helped block the threat from the south for Black Sand Region, but he would also have to rely on Lampard’s support. It was equal to handing the chips over to Black Sand Region.
“And it was even more impossible to give the fortress to Black Sand Region; seizing Constellation was for Eckstedt,” Thales said quietly. “But before that, he would not allow the Northern Territory and the fortress to become any Eckstedtian archduke’s territory and help them grow in power. Those places could only belong to Dragon Clouds City.”
Saroma showed an awed expression. Opposite them came a weak but gratifying laugh from the Old Crow.
“I think our discussion has gone from the state and governance to the depth of the suzerains’ game, which is both good and bad. The good is that you can see more of how things went. The bad is…” Hicks winked playfully at the two students, his eyes became clearer. “…You will see less.”
Two students were surprised for a moment, then became lost in their thoughts.
The Old Crow pushed his own monocle up slightly, coughed, and shifted the cane away from his knees and to his right-hand side.
“Very well, we have talked for quite a while today.” Hicks looked up, still wearing an amiable yet weak smile. “I can say that we came to a mutually agreed upon and interesting conclusion; invading and occupying a place, and maintaining and ruling a place, are?two completely different matters, don’t you agree?”
Thales and Saroma looked at each other, the latter nodded. “Of course.”
Hicks’ eyes widened slightly.
“You know, this reminds me of chess and maps.” The skinny old man tugged at his crooked scarf. “Everything is very vivid on a chessboard and a map. You move a chess piece, a pawn, defeat an enemy, and your flag will be erected on the square your pawn stands. Your color will be dyed on that square, and that place now belongs to you.
“It’s the same case for some of the poems about wandering knights. The protagonist is sturdy, strong, rushes headlong into danger, and conquers cities. It seems that wherever his horse travels, that place will be destined to be the land where he will be loyal to.”
The prince and archduchess were breathing in synchrony and they listened carefully to their new teacher’s words.
The Old Crow lowered his head slightly and said, “But in reality, Eckstedt’s example tells us that everything is complicated and requires more consideration. You have eliminated the enemy and achieved victory, but it does not mean that you can keep the land. You can command an army to attack and win, but it does not mean that you can accept the price that comes with it, even if it looks like a sweet saga of victory.”
Hicks looked up and gazed into the sky outside the window with a sigh before he spoke, “Maybe this is the boundaries of governance.. When you face war and peace, hostility and alliance, you first understand what is the boundary of governance, where it is. No harm will come from understanding it.”
He turned his head. The flash in the eye behind the lens made Thales straighten up subconsciously.
“Do you agree?”
The Prince of Constellation took a deep breath and nodded solemnly. “Yes, I do.”
Saroma also nodded vigorously.
Hicks tilted his head, and his wise look seemed to disappear for a moment. He laughed again. “We had a good time, didn’t we?”
As he was still speaking, the skinny Hicks propped up the cane and stood. “Perhaps… that will be all for today?”
Thales and Saroma quickly stood up and saluted courteously.
“Of course,” the prince said seriously, “Thank you, Sir Hicks. You are a good teacher.”
Hicks laughed. “Oh, don’t say that. After all, I don’t even have the qualifications of a scholar in an academy.”
The Old Crow shook his head with his eyes closed. “Oh, yes. Everything we said today: from why Eckstedt withdrew their army that year, why they gave up the land, to the boundaries of governance. They’re interesting, correct?”
The two students nodded respectfully.
Hicks opened his eyes somewhat. Behind his lens there was a hint of cunningness as he changed the subject. “If that’s the case, then how about this? When we next meet, I hope just like today, you will both be able to reasonably tell me…”
The two students were all ears. Hicks held his walking stick in his hands, squinted his eyes, and looked at the two solemn teenagers with interest.
“Why everything we discussed today, all the conclusions, from beginning to end,” the Old Crow whispered,
“…are all wrong.”
Time seemed to stand still for two seconds. Two seconds later, once the two teenagers registered what he said, both Thales and Saroma became shocked.
Saroma could not help but cry out in surprise, “What?”
Thales stared at their teacher and did not respond for a long time.
‘Everything we discussed today… is…’
As he looked at the two, mouths agape, Hicks raised his left hand and waved, like a mischievous child, and laughed loudly. “Don’t be nervous, Saroma. Like I said, we are just chatting. This is the topic of our next chat: Why everything that we said today is wrong.”
The teenagers stared at the Old Crow, then at each other. They could not accept the words from the other party. A home tutor told you at the end of the first lesson that what he just said is wrong?
In that moment, Thales suddenly felt that the nickname ‘Old Crow’ was quite apt.
“I had a great chat today. The weather is good. Why don’t you go for a walk together?” Hicks sucked in a contented breath of air, winked at his two special students, and leaned against his walking cane as he turned to walk away.
“Don’t waste your youth now.” With the squeaky sound of the walking stick, the impressive new teacher pushed the door and left. He left the two students with their jaws hanging.
“What does this mean?” Saroma asked Thales doubtfully. “What we talked about today was all fake?”
At that moment, Thales exhaled a long breath. He stared at the leather chair which Hicks had sat on, and suddenly realized something.
“No. I think he meant that the truth is not important.” Thales thought as he tried to understand the other person’s intention. “What’s important is… he wants us to face an almost certain conclusion. We are now to stand on the opposite side of the argument, and we are in a disadvantageous situation where there are so many proofs against our stand.”
Thales narrowed his eyes. “In that situation, we now have to persuade him of our stand.”
‘Wait a minute. Overturn a conclusion formed with many facts and evidences, and which had been deeply rooted into the hearts of the people from a completely different standpoint?
‘What a tune.’
Saroma rubbed her eyes, let out a breath, fell into her chair, and pouted. “I don’t understand.”
Thales shrugged. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand. Just prepare to pull an all-nighter in the library.” The prince smiled with a vague sense of familiarity. “I have a hunch that this topic is not that simple.”
Saroma sighed. She twisted her mouth, and she slumped against the desk, completely forgoing her image. “But there will be an etiquette class with Female Officer Ginghes tomorrow. We have to continue…”
Thales snorted, and there was a faint hint of derision in his tone.
“Forget the etiquette lesson.” The prince turned around and, with a profound gaze, looked at Saroma who was not very happy. “Do you remember what I said?
“The education you received in the past is to cultivate you into a decent and elegant archduchess,” he said, his eyes were burning. “To turn you into—”
Saroma interrupted him.
“But?” The archduchess raised an eyebrow. “You are going to say ‘but’, right?”
The pace Thales had been building up after much difficulty came to a screeching halt.
Thales nodded his head in resignation, then shook it. He then gestured to the door with a tilt of his jaw, which Hicks had used to leave. “Okay. But… I think this man… This Old Crow… boundaries of governance?”
The prince glanced at Hicks’ seat and looked at the blonde girl in front of him. He looked into her aggrieved eyes. “He is teaching you practically and seriously about how to become a qualified—”
Just then, the familiar sound of a walking stick suddenly appeared outside the door.
*Click clack… click clack… click clack…*
Under the strange stares of two people, Hicks appeared at the doorway with an apologetic smile.
“I’m sorry, I am old and forgetful.” The Old Crow shook his head. “Although my physical condition makes it hard for us to fix the next lesson, I still feel that I should tell you in advance what I hope you can do next time.”
Thales and Saroma nodded respectfully. “Of course.”
Hicks smiled slightly. “First of all, I hope that you all took notes and seriously thought about every sentence in our discussion…”
Saroma nodded while she took notes on a book, following his advice.
“Secondly, remember that because we are chatting, we can interrupt and ask each other questions anytime, anywhere. And also, we should all speak in a structured and critical manner once we catch on to the key points in our discussion.”
Thales was a little surprised.
‘Wait a minute. These words… Why…?’
Hicks coughed and continued. “Also, we might as well be cautious and humble in our discussions. Before we question something, we had better ask ourselves where we stand and what we think.”
Thales was completely stunned in that second.
‘These words… Impossible!’