Arc 2, Crescent Moon
Ernst had planned to head to Eitt Village the moment he returned from Iben. The moment he arrived back at the estate, however, a snowstorm began to blow as if it had been lying in wait.
This was Ernst’s first time seeing a snowstorm since he had arrived in Meissen. It truly looked as if the snow had imprisoned them.
Despite this, Targes still ordered the militia troops to train. It wasn’t as if their enemies would subside just because the weather was bad, he reasoned.
The troops were burdened with complaints, but now that they were starting to become disciplined, they knew that Targes’ words were right. They all followed their captain, fully throwing themselves into training.
“Lord Ernst, did you call for me?”
It seemed that when Targes returned just now, he had left an extreme cold. Targes entered the room, his breath turning white in the air.
Ernst encouraged him to take a seat in front of the fireplace and handed him some hot water. Ernst still couldn’t buy tea leaves yet.
“How was the training?”
“I want to say that the newcomers are getting up to speed, but… whenever they can find a way to take it easy, they’ll do it.”
“Take it easy… you say?”
“That’s right. Since it’s hard to see through the snowstorm, they probably thought that no one would know that they left their positions during the march and just waited for the rest of the squad to come back around.”
When that image drifted in front of his mind, Ernst’s lips quirked up with a smile.
“What they didn’t know was that even with a snowstorm blowing around, Ganche’s eyes see just as clearly as on a sunny day. So when he found those soldiers, he snatched them by the scruffs of their necks and hurled them back into line.”
Ernst laughed aloud.
“That sounds like a lot of fun.”
“Well… yeah, I guess so.”
Targes smiled wryly.
The soldiers’ lack of eagerness to train seriously was a mark of the peaceful times.
Of course, that didn’t mean that they could afford to shirk their training.
“Well then, as for the reason why I called for you despite how busy you are.”
Targes corrected his posture and turned toward Ernst.
He changed greatly from his first impression, now becoming the extremely capable and reliable Captain Targes.
“There is just one thing I would like to ask of you.”
As Ernst said this, he placed a small bag on top of the desk.
Ten days afterward, they were able to depart for Eitt Village.
Ernst set off with Targes, Ganche, and the 7th platoon accompanying him.
This time, he didn’t bring anyone to serve as his butler. Ernst wanted to avoid any conflicts with the villagers. At this point, he wouldn’t gain anything by bringing someone who was unable to conduct themselves properly. Ernst politely refused Ganche’s offer to carry him, and one of the soldiers drove Ernst’s carriage instead.
Of course Ernst wished for nothing more than to touch and be held by Ganche. When Ganche’s scent enveloped him, Ernst felt that he had nothing to fear.
However, he took care to not make others see him so quickly as someone who was always touching his partner irrespective of the situation.
Ernst was the Lord who commanded Meissen.
The Lord must not treat anyone preferentially, for both Meissen and Ganche’s sake.
There may be someone out there who will think about harming Ganche. Ernst couldn’t afford to close his eyes to the dark side of humanity.
This was one of the lessons Ernst had learned in the royal palace.
Eitt Village was located 6 hours away on foot to the east of the estate. It was located in the middle of a sprawling forest, with Grude Continent situated nearby. It had a population of 37 people, 5 of which were children and 8 of which had Kleber’s disease.
“It doesn’t snow over here?”
Ernst asked this to the villagers who had come out to greet him.
“Yes, there isn’t any snow. Because of the Grude Continent’s influence, it snows less and less each year. These past ten years, it hasn’t snowed at all.”
In the house of one of the people who had come to meet him, Ernst conversed with two villagers. Targes accompanied him again this time. Ernst’s impression of him was that this person had a quite keen sense of tact.
“Since it doesn’t snow here, we have very little water. We suffer from a lack of water during the winter season especially.”
The villager’s expression turned cloudy.
“I see. Where do you usually find water?”
“We draw water from the springs and streams in the forest. But, since more than half of the village has left to find work, the only ones left are children and older people like me… gathering water is very demanding work.”
“Because of the walk to gather the water?”
“No, I keep a goat for that. It takes one hour to get to the forest, but as you might expect, the streams dry up in the winter. There’s also less water in the springs, so there’s not enough to gather. There’s nothing we can do about it, so we have to go to Maine Village.”
“Yes. It takes two hours to walk over there, but that’s where it’s snowing. We go over there so that we can bring back snow.”
The village of Maine was located in between Yakiya Village, which was located near the Bastelis river, and Eitt Village, where they were now.
In the past, that village had primarily dealt in lumber and wood.
“But lately, Maine Village has started demanding money…”
“They want us to pay for collecting snow. But us, we don’t have any money, so… We have no choice but to go to Dada Village. But it takes four hours to walk to Dada…”
Can you really demand money for the snow which falls from the sky? Ernst knit his brows at his inner thoughts, then urged the villager to continue.
“How do the people in this village make a living? Do you grow crops?”
“In the past, we lived off of timber. We made firewood to sell in Meissen, and we also made furniture. But in recent years, the trees in the forest have grown too large, and we were no longer able to cut them down. Nowadays, we chop down the relatively thin trees to make firewood, and we’re somehow able to sell it… But only, just barely.”
Saying that, the villager smiled as if embarrassed. Ernst smiled a little with him.
Even though it didn’t snow here, it was still just as cold. Or rather, the cold became even starker here on this land without snow.
But as long as they were able to gather enough firewood, they wouldn’t have to worry. The fireplaces in the village were all lit even though it wasn’t nighttime yet, confirming this.
“What about crops?”
“There isn’t enough water for them. The ground here isn’t very fertile, either… we’re only just barely able to grow potatoes and wheat.”
“Then this means you must have trouble finding food.”
“Yes. That is why it’s so important for the people of the village to leave and find work. There aren’t many nuts in that forest, and there aren’t any fruits, either… In the past, we used to go hunting. But just like the trees, the beasts have grown so enormously that we’re no longer able to hunt them down… Ah, but we’re able to catch and eat rabbits and the like. Even the rabbits are huge these days.”
The villager motioned how big they were with his hands. It was about as big as a large dog.
“So in Eitt Village, the main diet one eats is primarily animal meat?”
“That’s right. We were never able to grow many crops here, even in the old days. We’re also mountaineers, and not farmers. So we hunt as many young animals as we can, then make dried jerky to last us through the winter.”
“But even if they’re bigger than before, a rabbit is still a rabbit. They’re even faster than deer, so we can only successfully catch very few of them. We buy food and water with the money earned by the people who left to find work, and the money we earn by selling firewood… and of course, we also pay our taxes.”
The cooperation between villagers was strong in Eitt Village as well.
In the first place, in Schell Continent, it was very rare for a family unit to be based around a married couple. Most of the time, families were centered around mothers and their children.
But in Meissen, the villages were all one big family. Like in Eitt Village, there were many villagers who left to find work, and the number of children conceived by those migrant workers was also high.
The mother gives birth to her child, and after leaving this child in the care of the villagers, once again leaves to find work. The villagers didn’t care about which child came from who or where, and they showered every child equally with love.
And when someone grew old, the entire village came together to care for them. As such, the money earned by the people who left to work was never spent for themselves.
Everything was communal property, and everyone in the village supported the lives of all of the villagers.
“Everyone seems to cooperate with each other very well. Furthermore, they seem to have thoroughly considered how to seamlessly manage society in the village.”
As Targes walked down a step toward him, Ernst addressed him and said this.
“That looks to be the case. I’ve been to see many places in other territories before, but I’ve never seen a land where the villagers are united and help each out like this.”
“I see. So the villages are cooperating exceptionally well.”
How good it would be if they could extend this cooperation throughout the entirety of Meissen, Ernst thought.