Arc 2, Crescent Moon
Five days later, they finished preparations to leave the estate.
Ernst’s entourage included a butler, Mais, the captain of the militia, Targes, the 2nd platoon leader, Al, and the 22 people in the 2nd platoon, plus the new recruits, totaling 48 people. Of course, there was also Ganche.
The head butler was in charge during Ernst’s absence, while the Vice-Captain of the militia, Aldo, was in charge during Targes’ absence.
First, they would head for the furthest village from the estate, Caralime.
The village of Caralime was located southwest of the estate.
It was located in the exact center between the valley Ernst had crossed which bordered the Rintz fief, the forest which lead to that valley, and the mountains which lead into Rintz fief. These mountains were tall, steep, and impassible.
The village had once engaged in farming, grazing, and hunting.
Ernst completely had no idea of how the village was doing now. According to the census conducted 50 years ago, all of the adults of the village had Kleber’s disease.
The butler Mais drove Ernst’s carriage. The militia soldiers, naturally, walked on foot. Only the captain, Targes, and the 2nd platoon leader, Al, rode on horses.
Before their departure, Ernst had asked Mais about Caralime village. But other than the village’s name and location, Mais didn’t know anything about it.
Mais was still young. He had also only served the estate for a short time. It wasn’t improbably for him not to know anything about other villages.
However, Ernst thought.
Whether they were the people of the Kata or Latelle villages close to the estate, the merchants of Saiquani town, or the people who worked at the estate like Mais, the people of Meissen generally had a very narrow field of view.
They only perceived the happenings of their own villages. Or otherwise, like the Kata and Latelle villages, they had a strong tendency to only think about the people they could easily keep in touch with.
Even though they were all residents of Meissen, they were deeply uninterested in the people who lived in villages that were too far away.
In the center between Caralime village and the estate was a small mansion owned by the lord. Since Meissen encompassed such a huge expanse of land, it was scattered with several mansions just like this one.
They departed from the estate early in the morning, and they arrived at the mansion after noon.
“It really was the right choice to bring some from the manor.”
Mais said, looking around the inside of the mansion.
“There isn’t a single piece of firewood.”
This was normally a mansion that wouldn’t be used at all. It was obvious that this would be the case.
“How are the militia’s troops?”
“I’m not exactly sure why, but the Captain seems to be angry.”
“Yes. And the militia members are looking downright depressed and miserable.”
“Did you call for me?”
Targes came to meet Ernst, who had taken a seat upon a creaking chair in the mansion.
“Yes; please take a seat.”
Targes sat down on the chair Ernst pointed at, which let out a similar creak.
“…Is it really alright? All this.”
“Who knows. This is a mansion that hasn’t been in use for a hundred years. No matter where you go you’ll find something wrong; it’s causing Mais a lot of trouble.”
“Yeah… it really seems that way.”
Targes looked at the floorboards, then looked up at the ceiilng. The floorboards were coming unstuck in some places, and holes had opened in the ceiling.
“If Meissen ever has anything to spare then this can be repaired, but for now it will remain as is.”
Depending on the situation in the future, Ernst thought that it might even be better to dismantle the mansion itself and build a small cabin in its stead.
“In any case, what did you need me for?”
“Aah, that’s right. When we arrived at the mansion, Mais mentioned that the Captain was angry… I wanted to ask, did something happen? Ah, no, but, it isn’t that I particularly want to meddle with the inner affairs of the militia… I’m just, a little curious.”
He didn’t intend to poke his nose in, but he couldn’t help but ask.
If the troops were in low spirits, then maybe Ganche was in low spirits, too. It was better if he knew the circumstances so that he could comfort him, was what Ernst was thinking.
“…Please rest assured. I did discipline them a little strongly, but it doesn’t have anything to do with Ganche.”
When those blue eyes brimming with laughter turned on him, Ernst forced a cough in reply.
“The new recruits seem to be completely lacking in awareness. Though there’s nothing that can be said other than, ‘No wonder.’”
“That’s right. Lord Ernst has also noticed, right? Despite Meissen being a border, its army is shabby.”
Ernst lightly folded his slender hands.
“Although we’ve fought against Lux Kingdom and Silus Kingdom before, we have never been invaded across the Bastelis river. What that means is that despite Meissen being a border territory, it has never faced battle even once in its history.”
“Exactly. None of the country’s official army has been stationed here, and neither the citizens nor the militia are conscious of this being a border territory.”
“Yes. Yet even so, this land is…”
“A solitary island.”
Targes grinned at Ernst’s words.
“In the winter, the path to the Rintz fief disappears. Even in the summer, the only way to cross is by sidling over that rock wall. If Lux Kingdom wished, they could easily force Meissen to capitulate. Though the general population seems to think it’s the Bastelis river which protects them.”
“What’s actually protecting Meissen is its border with Rintz fief, the Rintz valley. Even if the Lux Kingdom’s soldiers crowded into the snow, in order to cross that valley, they would have to send each soldier across one by one. There is no way they could do that with thousands, or tens of thousands of soldiers.”
“It is for that reason why Lux Kingdom will not pass through Meissen in order to attack our Kingdom of Rintz.”
“Yet even if that’s the case, that doesn’t mean that we can just let the militia act as carefree as they please. Along the way here, I was watching how the militia conducted itself. All of them acted like they were going on a stroll… all happy-go-lucky. They chatted amongst each other, and they started discussing current events and circumstances with the peasants they passed. There were even some who forgot their weapons, can you believe that? Those damn guys, the first thing they should do is remember to bring their weapon with them.”
Although to Ernst’s untrained eye it seemed that the militia’s movements had improved through their training, what he saw wasn’t necessarily how things actually were.
“Compared to the newcomers, the second platoon seems to be at a somewhat better level.”
“Is that so… Meissen has many problems to work on. The militia is also one of those problems. But I believe if we work on this patiently and steadily, it will be possible to resolve. At the very least, don’t you think that the sense of urgency the Captain carries has helped the militia overcome half of their obstacles?”
Ernst said quietly, and when he looked up, he saw that those usually fearless eyes were now swimming with moisture.
It seemed that this captain of the militia was unexpectedly a very shy person.
The members of the militia didn’t think of themselves as defenders of the border. Even Ernst could see that from the start.
That was why he had decided to entrust the captain with strengthening and disciplining the soldiers.
Though the King sat at the highest position of the army, he did not receive any training as a soldier. On the contrary, he would never hold a sword in his life.
Ernst was the same. Ernst, who had never held a sword and had never experienced marching with the soldiers, couldn’t think of any words to say to the militia.
Now that Ernst had confirmed that the captain leading the militia carried the same feelings Ernst did, he concluded that he could leave everything up to Targes without having to worry over it.
Ernst felt that one of the burdens he carried had become lighter.
What was protecting Meissen were the Bastelis River and Rintz Valley.
That was what Ernst had said to Targes, but Ernst realized that there was one more thing which protected Meissen.
As ironic as it was, that thing was Meissen’s greatest defense, and its strongest shield.
Even though they had been badly beaten down and fallen into low spirits because of the captain, after just an hour, they were completely back to normal. Since this was what one meant when one said they had no awareness, it couldn’t be helped.
Ernst let out a light sigh, gazing at the troops surround him from a distance.
He instantly found Ganche. It was because he stood two heads taller than everyone else.
Ganche also sought out Ernst, and he came jogging over.
His whole face lit up with a smile.
“Is the carriage alright? It’s not shaking, is it? Is it not making you tired? …Perhaps you ought to leave it to me to carry you, after all?”
He held Ernst’s small hand within both of his, making Ernst have to brace himself as he listened.
“Humm. My answer to all of those questions is, ‘I’m alright.’”
That large body became discouraged, his muscular shoulders falling.
“Is it alright at the moment? You don’t have training to do or anything?”
“Yes. We have put up the tents, and I will be on meal duty tomorrow morning. Since I am not on fire duty tonight, I am free until morning.”
“Is that so.”
As if he was anticipating Ernst’s next words, Ganche’s large hands rubbed Ernst’s arms.
“In that case, I’ll allow you to carry me to the mansion.”
In a merry mood, Ganche easily lifted Ernst up and began to walk.