Sooner or later, the sneaky bastards in this series are going to realize that it’s just not smart to fool with Narsus. But for now, his genius continues to be the driving force in the narrative, and I guess it’s understandable that someone from another country (like both of Sindhuran’s princes) wouldn’t know of his reputation. Indeed, the only thing Narsus seems unable to get on top of is the petty bickering over him by Elam and Alfreed, which is rapidly developing into the most irksome element in Arslan Senki. I sure hope the series comes up with something more for Alfreed to do, and soon.
For now at least, both Rajendra and Gadevi are convinced they’re going to be able to get the better of Narsus. In Gadevi’s case (more precisely, that of his vizier) that means sending Jaswant (Hatano Wataru) to be a spy and saboteur in Rajendra’s ranks. In Rajendra’s it means convincing Arslan to split their forces and attack Gadevi separately, so as to use the Parsian army as a sacrificial lamb. Not a one of Arslan’s inner circle is buying into that scheme, but Narsus counsels Arslan to agree with a set of conditions, as always one step (at least) ahead of the enemy – or the ally.
Jaswant has his own backstory – an orphan, he’s loyal to the vizier, who raised him as a son. One of Narsus’ conditions was that Rajendra provide a guide, and it’s Jaswant he chooses. And when the army arrives at a Sindhuran fortress, Jaswant shows his true stripes – but as always, Narsus has seen around the corner and planned accordingly (if you see this guy carrying an umbrella, you can damn well bet it’s about to rain). For now there’s no reason to suspect Rajendra had any idea he was sending a spy along as Arslan’s guide, but we still have a three-way game of deception going on here, the end result of which is the routing of the outpost’s defenses and an easy takeover by the Parsian army.
I think it’s certainly valid to question whether Arslan as he currently is might just be too nice to be king, but we hadn’t seen the question addressed so openly as when he decides to release the captured Jaswant rather than execute him. Even Narsus seems to disapprove, but he lets Arslan have his way, and for now the boy’s strategy (though not consciously on his part) is to conquer by inspiring loyalty with that very kindness. He has empathy for Jaswant, who doesn’t know who his parents are and acted purely out of loyalty to his surrogate father. The trick, I suppose is to let Arslan be Arslan – not to stifle the very qualities that make him such a compelling potential ruler, while at the same time not allowing those qualities to betray him when he indulges them unwisely.
There’s an obvious reason why Arslan felt empathy with Jaswant specifically, and it’s the elephant (though soon not the only one) in the room. Narsus and Daryun acknowledge openly that Arslan likely isn’t Andragoras’ son (though they say nothing of whether he’s Tahamenay’s), and Arslan has obviously figured this out too and is deeply troubled by it. But Daryun makes a very timely and sincere expression of fealty, and though one can hardly blame him, it seems very likely that the hero of this story is a boy who has no legal claim to the throne of Pars. This society is neither a democracy or a meritocracy, so what Narsus and Daryun are doing is by definition treason – but in effect, Narsus is going all-in on Arslan with the aim of nothing less than the complete remaking of the Parsian state.