Arc 1, New Moon
The distance between the village at Meissen’s outskirts where Ernst had parted with the hunters and the manor of the feudal lord took about half a day’s worth of travel via carriage. When he compared it to the smallness of the royal capital’s territory, Ernst understood just how vast Meissen was.
Ernst stopped the butler who wanted to hurry and bring him to the mansion, saying that he wanted to take his time to look around. Though it would be impossible to check out everything, Ernst wanted to at least view the villages scattered along the way to the mansion.
To begin with, Ernst asked who was the head of this village. The person the villagers all glanced at came forward; he was an old man whose legs were so unsteady, it wasn’t certain whether he could walk on his own. Was this kind of person really fit for the job? Ernst furrowed his eyebrows.
When he looked it over carefully, he couldn’t find any men who looked like strong workers or breadwinners in this village. There were old men, women, and strangely enough, many children.
Where did the fathers of these children go? In response to Ernst’s question, the village head pointed to several of the villagers and said, “All of them have Kleber’s disease, sir.”
This was the first time Ernst had ever seen someone else who had Kleber’s disease.
There were very few people who developed it in the royal capital. They lived in the lower city surrounding the capital.
But more frequently, in poverty-stricken lands far from the capital, such as Meissen, one would find many people with Kleber’s disease.
There hadn’t been enough time before Ernst’s departure, so while riding his carriage out of Linz, he had read some information that he had hastily sent for. In Rintz Kingdom, the average rate of occurrence of Kleber’s disease was 1 in 100. Yet in Meissen, that rate became 1 in 20.
Though they had Kleber’s disease, not everyone was like Ernst, who was unable to sire children. Rather, it was considered unusual to be like Ernst, who was entirely a child.
Ernst once again looked over the villagers. These were people who were said to have Kleber’s disease. In this village, the rate of occurrence of Kleber’s disease was 1 in 10, no, 1 in 5, wasn’t it.
A sudden thought occurred to him, and Ernst asked the village head for his age. This year he had turned 147, he answered. These words stunned Ernst.
The average lifespan in the Schell continent was 200 years. Rintz Kingdom was comprised primarily of Kleber people who were, of course, one of the races of Schell, so their average life expectancy was 200 years. No matter how Ernst looked at him, the old man in front of him seemed like he should be somewhere from 190 to 200 years old.
Normally, a 147-year old should still be good to work, and their lower half should still be more than strong. So why did he look like this? Did he have some other disease?
Feeling like the questions in his mind had gone unanswered, Ernst unwillingly moved on to the next village. This village was in the same state. There were many people with Kleber’s disease, and there were only elderly villagers with not a single person in their prime.
Nothing changed in the next village, either.
When the mansion was in sight, Ernst asked the butler what the average lifespan in Meissen was. The butler only shook his head. “I don’t need an exact number – how old?” Ernst asked again, but the butler just tilted his head away.
Why does he have to keep shaking his head so much, Ernst thought, a doubtful feeling rising within him. The butler trembled nervously as he asked a question. What is an ‘average lifespan’, he asked.
Ernst was stunned in disbelief. It couldn’t be that a butler who worked at the manor wouldn’t even know something like this. Then, he suddenly recalled something.
When comparing the countries in Schell continent, including the Lux and Silus Kingdoms, the literacy rate of the Rintz Kingdom was clearly lower than the other two. The disparity between classes was clear; along with the nobles and wealthy merchants, only 1 in 5 people among the commoners was able to read.
But in Meissen, this rate was possibly even lower. A butler who served the manor shouldn’t possibly be unable to read, but his behavior roused Ernst’s suspicions.
The materials that Ernst had hastily gathered only briefly listed some details regarding the neighboring Lux and Grude territories.
For 100 years, no one had ruled this land. Ernst watched the scenery from the window of the carriage.
The bright red sunset illuminated the distant reaches of the snowfield.