Herald of Steel

Chapter 36 Puppeteer
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Listening to the slave before him gloat, Theocles, even though he was on the same side, felt a bit acidic in his heart.

He let out a sigh in vexation, "*Sigh*, Nestoras and Aristotle should have killed you at the beginning when you were still just a normal albeit a bit popular slave. No matter the potential future loss!"

"It's easy to find mistakes in hindsight." Alexander pointed.

"Yes,.. yes, it is. I can't claim to have done much better, myself." Theocles dejectedly admitted. "As you said, 'we all wanted the golden goose to keep laying good, ever larger, golden eggs'.

"We must have thought things like, 'how can we adults be unable to deal with a brat whose nose milk is yet to dry?' and 'are we going to be afraid of a mere slave who is yet to grow hair down there?' and 'we can kill him any time anywhere'. Hehe, boy were we proven wrong." Theocles unreservedly ridiculed himself.

"Greed and overconfidence. Greed and overconfidence." Alexander spelled it out twice to highlight its importance.

" Yes, two certain things that lead all men to ruin." Theocles nodded heavily.

"We should have been more careful about you and we should have never overlooked Menes just because of his skin color." He emphasized.

It had to be noted that even among slaves, black slaves were discriminated against as being big dumb brutes, a stereotype originating from how the black slave trade was run.

Ironically, born-free black people were not treated as such, being treated as equals like all other races. It was only the black slaves that were subjected to this bigotry.

"You know", Theocles informed." after Constans lost his candidacy to Nestoras, he genuinely took the defeat graciously. He never had a motive to usurp either Nestoras or Octavius. It was you who planted that baseless seed of suspicion in Nestoras's head and the fool watered it, fertilized it, and let it grow. And it was only after Nestoras showed his hostility to Constans did Constans also start showing hostility to Nestoras. That behavior was of course seen by Nestoras as confirmation of his suspicions, not even considering that it might have been his recent actions that provoked him. So he doubled down on Constans, and Constans retaliated in kind, ultimately fracturing the once harmonious group."

"Hehe, if the group was harmonious and united, how could a lowly slave like me ever rise?" Alexander ridiculed him with a chuckle.

The example with Nestoras and Constans was one of the most simple examples of human psychology.

If someone, suppose- Man A, thinks that another man, Man B is hostile to him. So in response, he shows hostility to him, Man B, who was in reality just minding his own business now sees that Man A is becoming hostile to him. So to protect himself he also turns hostile to Man A. And this behavior, Man A sees as confirmation of his suspicions and becomes even more hostile. 𝘧𝔯𝑒𝒆𝓌𝘦𝘣𝓷𝘰ѵ𝑒𝘭. 𝐜om

This creates a vicious positive feedback loop where both men become increasingly hostile towards each other because they believe it is the other person that's becoming hostile when in reality neither of them really wants to be hostile to one other.

A real-life example would be a global arms race.

Theocles seemed unperturbed at being mocked by a mere boy.

He simply sighed and said with a deep look, "Yes, you are like a puppeteer conducting his show. It's absurd to think that this was orchestrated by an underaged boy."

"Your little stunt meant that the camp divided itself into three factions, me, Xanthine, and Constans in the neutral sometimes anti-Nestoras faction and Aristotle, Pallidus, and Nestoras joining forces to contain your faction.

"And this worked for the time being. A delicate balance with each other acting like a three-legged stool kept the group stable. To further strengthen the group, we even selected a legitimate successor- Octavius- to discourage coups from you or Menes." He revealed.

"But today everything has changed. Today's battle killed Octavius and Constans and made Xanthine suddenly decide to switch to Aristotle's side. Our delicate balance of power has been shattered." He lamented.

"That's very good. Although the battle was a fiasco, I will admit a few positive things happened for me." Alexander gloated.

"Yes, I am sure it has," The middle-aged man gently smile.

"After today's result, How could you, the ever-opportunist, let go of this golden opportunity? I understood a battle for the control of the group was inevitable. With Constants and the successor of the camp- Octavius dead, the likely successor candidate would be the strongest warrior- in this case, Menes or following the tradition of the leader's protégé becoming the successor, you or Remus. All three candidates are someone neither Nestoras nor the old coot, Aristotle can ever agree to." Theocles exposed.

Alexander lightly smiled.

That was his conclusion as well.

Alexander voiced out his thoughts then, "I do agree Constants dying was an immense boon for me. That monster was the only one who could go toe to toe or muscle-to-muscle with Menes. And Remus is too young and greatly under my influence. Realistically, it would have to be me or Menes, who is.."

"Under your thumb." Theocles snatched his words.

And then quickly added, "Sorry, could not resist," as Alexander simply stared back with an icy stare.

"But, you can see my options." He then proceeded to end his long explanation, "Choose either the old decaying side of Nestoras supported by the old farts- Aristotle and Xanthine who both have one foot inside the grave or choose the vibrant, young and competent side of you and Menes. And with Nestoras becoming increasingly deranged after his son's death, the choice was made even easier. He is no longer fit to lead us." Theocles, at last, finished his long answer.

"You forgot the word 'scheming'." Alexander reminded him to add that to his description. "Heh, I schemed so much. You aren't afraid I will scheme against you? He then smirked.

"That's why I chose you. You can scheme against me. Nestoras can't." Theocles returned a chuckle.

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