Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 6

Though he was scared of the wolves in the forest, Ernst didn’t want to shut himself away inside the villa, either. The act of taking a morning walk was ingrained in his body, so he couldn’t just stop doing it. Whenever Ernst crossed into the rear garden, he kept close to the villa’s outer wall.

On this day, too, Ernst glared at the forest while walking with his back scraping against the outer wall of the villa. A wolf could probably jump into the rear garden with just one leap. If he saw one lurking in the forest somewhere, he was prepared to run back into the villa as fast as he could. As Ernst stared intently into the forest, he heard the same thin voice that he’d heard when he had first learned there were wolves here.

It was a wolf.

Sweat poured down Ernst’s slender back. The act of ‘sweating’ was also something Ernst had learned of after coming to the villa.

This moment was one that Ernst couldn’t help but laugh at whenever he thought back to it.

Trembling with tension, Ernst stared at the small blue bird that had jumped out in front of his eyes. The trees rustled as the bird flew through them; it landed upon one of the trees in the back garden and began to pleasantly chirp, its voice something that Ernst recalled hearing before.

The maids who had been passing by looked dubiously at Ernst, who had stuck himself to the wall, not breathing as he held his body as stiff as stone.

So that voice wasn’t actually a wolf’s? No, when Ernst had been told that, he did think something had been off. He’d wondered whether such a dreadful beast as that actually spoke with such a lovely voice.

But wait, if he considered all of the possibilities, it wouldn’t be strange for there to be a bird with a voice similar to a wolf’s. The next thing Ernst did was accost a passing-by maid and ask her. The maid answered him with a frank expression which indicated she absolutely didn’t understand what he was talking about. There aren’t any wolves in this forest, were her words.

That day at dinnertime, Ernst feigned a casual air and questioned the butler from before. Where did the wolves go? A grin like that of a child caught pulling a prank crept up on the butler’s face. “Perhaps they had wandered off into the forest,” he replied.

In that case, I wish you had told me that from the start. Ernst thought that, but he didn’t become angry. Ever since Ernst had arrived at the villa and met the people here, they had earnestly cared and worried over him.

Ernst had read books such as “A Guide to Walking through the Forest”. The way they were written made it seem like if you followed what the literature said, you wouldn’t get lost. Despite the fact that the vast majority of his knowledge was obtained from literature, Ernst had thought that was all there was, and had been under the impression that this information was all correct.

But now, he understood. Even books could be mistaken.

There was a donkey.

On that day, Ernst saw a funny-looking and unfamiliar animal at the back entrance of the villa. It seemed to belong to the dingy and crude man who had been talking with the cook. He came closer and asked, “What is this?” The man looked at him with eyes that questioned, You don’t even know something like this? Pronouncing it with a roll of his tongue, the man said, “This is a donkey.”[1]

Donkey. Did he say that this was a donkey? Ernst didn’t believe it. The donkeys in the illustrations were shorter than horses, but otherwise looked completely the same. It shouldn’t have such a stupid-looking face. Was this really what donkeys were like, or was it only this donkey that had such a funny face? A somewhat sullen expression came over the man’s face after he had been asked whether his donkey especially had a funny-looking face, and he said, “No, it looks the same as all the others.”

It was so unexpected for the literature to be wrong that Ernst couldn’t believe it. The literature was everything. Every single one of his teachers would lecture after opening a book. He had been told that the answers to everything he didn’t know could be found within books. Ernst had read all of the books supplied by the royal palace. He had memorized them all. He had been filled with self-satisfaction after being praised for his excellence. Had all of that been for naught?

Yet, there were also times where the literature had come in handy.

On that day, one of the maids collapsed. She complained of terrible abdominal pains. Because of the storm outside, it was dangerous to venture out. Even if one went outside, unless they were in the area surrounding the royal palace, one wouldn’t find a doctor in the city. In any case, it had been late at night, and no one thought that a doctor would make a trip just for one maid. There wasn’t anything that could be done; in front of that suffering maid, a heavy atmosphere fell over the inside of the villa.

Ernst had already gone to bed, but he suddenly woke in the middle of the night. Though the storm was nearing its end, he sensed something strange in the air of the villa, and left his room. Despite it being midnight, he heard servants speaking with lowered voices. After following those voices, he discovered that one of the maids was in pain.

Even though he wanted to scold, Why didn’t you wake me up?, it couldn’t be helped. While only temporarily, Ernst was the head of the household, so it was natural that he wouldn’t receive a report on the physical condition of a single maid.

Ernst examined the maid’s condition, listened to what she had to say, and concluded that it was food poisoning. He ordered the butlers to go to the forest and grab some of the wild Chigo leaves growing nearby, then boil it with Rasbi roots and Zaray stalks and have the maid drink it. Everyone around him looked at him dubiously. In Rintz Kingdom, all medical care was performed by doctors, and only doctors issued medicine. Though doctors used medical herbs, how much to use and what was effective were secrets which doctors only passed down to their apprentices. Because of that, the general people paid high prices to buy medicinal plants, even if they possessed the same efficacy as something they could grow in their own garden.

There were no mistakes in Ernst’s diagnosis or prescription, and the maid had been cured by dawn.

After coming to the villa, Ernst had learned many things.

Though literature could be wrong, it could also be right. The important thing was to judge its correctness using one’s own mind. Nothing would come of thinking that only the literature was correct and turning one’s eyes away from reality. Though it was very different from the illustrations, there was something charming about the silly face of a real donkey, after all.

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[1]: The word for donkey is ロバ (roba). The man pronounces it by rolling his R, like the way a gangster or delinquent would in modern times. Basically, he’s a gruff and rough dude.

5 replies on “Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 6

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