Arc 2, Crescent Moon
The next day, Ernst took a look at the fields encircling Eitt Village.
Even though the snow around the estate was deep after the New Year had passed, Ernst really didn’t see any snow near Eitt Village. Instead of snow, there was the terrible sight of dust clouds kicked up from the cracked, parched fields.
“It seems that it would be immensely difficult to grow crops on fields such as these.”
“We can choose to grow things which don’t need much water, like wheat and millet… and during summer, we can’t grow anything other than potatoes and tomatoes.”
“Was the land here like this in the past, as well?”
The villagers had given Ernst a piece of cloth, and Ernst brought it to his face before he opened his mouth.
“No; when I was a child, the land used to be a little better. The entire village used to be able to eat well on the animals we hunted and the crops we grew.”
The elderly villager swayed as if he was being flapped around by the wind. Targes stabilized him with one hand.
Ernst also lost his footing when a gust of wind blew against him. Ganche nonchalantly went to stand upwind of him.
“Humm. Then in that case, approximately when did things become like this?”
“Let me think… when I was an adult, my mother left the village to work, so around that time, I think. That should be about 100 years back or so, I think.”
Ernst bent down, grabbing some of the soil to take a better look. The clod he had picked up crumbled at the slightest pressure, bits and pieces of it being carried away by the gusts. It didn’t look as if it contained a single trace of moisture.
Just like the sky before it began to snow, dark and gloomy clouds covered Ernst’s heart. Was it impossible to wish for lands abundant with flourishing greenery in Meissen? Ernst wished there was someone he could ask that to.
He stood, letting out a small sigh, and accidentally locked gazes with the villager, who looked at him in shock. Why did he look so surprised? Ernst wondered, completely puzzled, but both of the villagers who had come to guide him only just stared at him with wide eyes.
“What is it?”
“Uh… no… that is…”
They avoided answering Ernst’s question, their eyes darting around like they didn’t know where to look.
Though he still didn’t really know why, Ernst stopped pursuing the matter. Instead, he asked them to guide him to the forest which served as the border to Grude Continent, the Weiss Forest.
Although the dry land extended even up to the outskirts of the forest, the deep color of greenery in Weiss Forest showed how abundant it was, even when viewed from afar.
Strangely enough, there was a clear boundary between the inside of the forest and the outside, as if a line had been drawn to separate them.
The dusty land which held no water, after crossing that single boundary, became a dense forest.
“So there are plants and greenery in this forest.”
“Yes. In the forest, there isn’t a single thing that withers.”
As they proceeded step by step into the forest, the wind lessened until it came to a still.
“This forest is very quiet.”
“The wind is always blowing around outside like that. I also feel that it’s very calm and quiet in this forest.”
“But if you prick your ears, you’ll be able to hear the sounds.”
“The sound of the wind?”
“No, the animal cries. The calls of the birds and deer, for example. At night, you can hear the wolves howl.”
At those words, Ernst unwittingly paused his steps. The phobia of wolves he had developed during his stay in Rintz fief made his small body tremble with fear, even now.
“There are… wolves, here?”
“They’re around wherever there are deer, aren’t they? Since they’re good food. Besides, if there weren’t wolves, we’d be in trouble.”
Ganche softly placed a hand on Ernst’s shoulder. Encouraged by his warm hand, Ernst started to walk forward again.
“Why would you be in trouble?”
“This was back when I had left the village and gone to Meridie fief to work, but… in that land, because wolves had hunted their livestock, they killed all of the wolves. Because of that, deer started overcrowding the forests and mountains, and they ate all of the trees until there was nothing left. When I was working over there, they even started going for the crops, so we had to go and fight against the deer. The deer were like pests attacking the fields all year round, even coming to attack at night… we couldn’t hold up against them.”
So that was why…
Ernst had thought that it would be a good thing if there weren’t any wolves, because that would make crossing the forest very easy to do.
But if there weren’t any wolves, there wouldn’t be anything to weed out the deer. No matter if it were a plant or an animal, it would never be good if there were too much of it, and neither would it be good if there weren’t any at all.
Ernst stopped in his tracks, looked around at the quiet forest. As the villager said, if you used your ears, you could hear the birds singing and the deer crying shrilly.
He heard the rustle of the leaves. There were insects, too.
“In this forest, if there weren’t wolves then the deer would eat the young trees, too, making it much harder for us to get firewood. Even deer like the young trees better than the mature, giant trees – they’re probably softer and taste better.”
When Ernst looked carefully, he saw that the bark of the trees looked like they had been peeled off by the deer. But it wasn’t enough to the point of felling the tree. Before the deer could kill the trees, the wolves thinned out their numbers.
Ernst quietly breathed in the air of the forest. It had the deep scent of greenery. It smelled like the scent Ernst loved the most.
There was nothing created by nature which didn’t serve some purpose. The lives of all living beings were interconnected.
The villagers explained to Ernst as they advanced through the forest. The further they went, the bigger the trees became. Some of them were so enormous that it would take ten Kleber people holding hands to encircle them.
“In the Grude Continent, would trees like these be considered normal?”
Ernst turned back, asking this to Ganche.
“Not quite. In Grude, a tree like this would still be considered a young.”
At Ganche’s words, the villagers stopped in their tracks.
“Then… the trees here are going to grow even bigger than they are now…?”
They looked up at Ganche, lost expressions on their faces.
“Well, I wonder… Grude Continent is always at a hot temperature, and unlike this land, there is no winter season where it becomes colder, so it might be that the trees won’t grow as much.”
Ganche forced a smile, his masculine brows furrowed. Though he had said those things to calm the villagers, Ganche himself probably didn’t know whether his words were true or not.
Just two hundred years ago, no one would have imagined that the trees in Weiss Forest would grow to be so gigantic, or that Eitt Village’s fields would dry up like this.
Just what would they become one hundred years from now? In this world, not a single person would possibly know.
Ernst slowly walked through the woods. The trees were big, the leaves were big, and the ground he stepped on was soft. There weren’t any places that felt like rock beneath his feet, which was what the ground around Iben Village and Mount Ekze had felt like.
The terrain here was gentle and easy on the feet. Some leaves might have fallen every now and then, so there were large dead leaves that had fallen on the ground. And there was probably moss, too. A soft and full cover of plants blanketed the ground, hugging Ernst’s ankles.
Ernst heard a light voice in the air, one which he had previously heard in the villa.
“That voice, does it come from a little bird?”
When Ernst asked this question, the villager nodded.
“It should be a little bird, though its size isn’t so little.”
“Humm. So there are Grude birds, too.”
“It looks the same as a little songbird you might find in Meissen. But, its size is… about the same as a chicken. It’s delicious when you roast it.”
“Are you able to hunt the birds?”
“We can. The deer, though, are completely impossible for us. The blades of our weapons can’t even cut it.”
“I wonder – what would you say is the success rate of your hunting? Every time you go out to hunt, will you always be able to bring something down?”
After pondering over Ernst’s question, the younger villager responded.
“Our weapons aren’t very good, is the thing… even though we do maintain them, they’re old and worn out… once a blade breaks, we aren’t able to repair it ourselves. As such, there are many times where we go out to hunt but aren’t able to bring down anything. About once every three times, we’re able to catch a bird or a rabbit… it’s not possible to fill the stomachs of everyone in the village with that.’
So they have to eke out a living using those dried-up fields, the food they can just barely manage to hunt down from the Weiss forest, and the money from their migrant workers. Judging by the looks of Eitt Village, if they were no longer able to depend on any one of those three, they wouldn’t be able to survive.
They quietly delved further into the forest. Weiss Forest had many animals. They were all animals that had either come from Grude, or were affected by its influence. In other words, the forest abounded with gigantic, dangerous creatures.
As the villagers explained this to Ernst, their voices were naturally very quiet and low so as to not attract attention.
Everything in the Weiss Forest was enormous. Massive tree trunks rose up into the sky, their branches spreading out far above Ernst’s head. Even the fallen leaves on the ground were so big that they were taller than Ernst.
Even though the forest was dim, sunlight still reached the roots of the plants. Several kinds of grass sprung up from the ground, mixing in with the deep layer of moss.
Ernst grabbed some of those pieces of grass, looking over them carefully. He pulled out some moss and sniffed it.
Ernst looked over his shoulder and saw that the villagers had stopped in their tracks. He stood up.
“Are you able to harvest anything from this forest other than animals?”
Not understanding what Ernst was asking, the villagers awkwardly shook their heads.
“What I mean is, do you eat any nuts, or any grass like this kind here?”
He simplified his words.
“Oh… tree nuts. We used to eat them in the past, but they’re all the way up there at the top, aren’t they? We can wait for them to fall naturally, but that’s also very troublesome… the amount of labor it takes to eat them is just too much.”
Ernst looked up at the top of the tree, where the villager was pointing toward. There was certainly something growing there. But from this distance, it looked like its size would be the same as a small rock if it were right in front of him.
“What about the grass?”
“You mean this grass? This stuff isn’t edible. I’ve seen deer eat it before, so I decided to try it out once, but it was far too bitter… it isn’t something we can eat.”
When the villager spoke, Ernst stayed quiet and nodded.
Since Ernst had said that he wanted to see where they drew their water, the villagers guided him to the river. It was a small stream with only a little bit of water trickling through it.
“The river is a little bigger in the summer…”
It did seem so. From the way the rocks and soil were dug out, Ernst could see the size the river would be in the summer.
“In this forest, are there other rivers like this?”
“Yes. There are a few of them, and they’re all around this size. This river is the closest one to the village, but since there are wolves as well as some deer that are so big that they’re dangerous, we don’t go to draw water from anywhere further than here.”
“How far does this river travel?”
“It’s somewhat of a mystery… the place where it’s supposed to flow out of the forest is cut off.”
“The river is cut off?”
“That’s right… there’s a rocky area, and when the water reaches it, that’s where it disappears. The entire village has tried to move the rocks out of the way, but since they’re so big, it’s impossible.”
If there is water flowing, then there must certainly be a place where the water will stream out. The water will always flow toward that location. Ernst had never heard of water just abruptly disappearing like that.
“What about the other rivers?”
“The others are all the same way. Of course, we weren’t able to check all of the rivers in the forest, but the rivers we know about are all like this.”
The greenery around the river was particularly dense and vibrant. It felt warmer in the forest than it did in Eitt Village. Though one could say that this was because the wind was blocked here, even if it weren’t, the air would still be quite warm.
It was said that the climate in Grude Continent was an eternal summer. It was a land of parched, dry air and scorching heat.
Ernst quietly surveyed the forest.
Yellow flowers bloomed on the riverbank. There were also some purple flowers blooming there.
These were the first flowers Ernst had seen since he had come to Meissen.
Ganche gently pulled him closer.
Ernst looked up at Ganche’s large body. When he saw Ganche’s masculine face gazing over to somewhere else, Ernst followed his gaze.
A giant deer was watching them, standing in place. It was a stag that had grown magnificent horns.
The villagers also noticed, sucking in their breaths. Though usually one could just say offhandedly ‘Oh, it’s a deer’, that was only when that deer was normal-sized. The enormous size of this deer struck terror which couldn’t be captured with those words. It was much, much bigger than the deer Ernst had once seen in the Arruca forest. For this deer, it could easily raise its head and peek through the second story window of the mansion Ernst lived in.
Ernst made himself smaller, watching the deer’s movements.
Eventually, the deer seemed to lose interest, and it began to eat the grass at its feet. The distance between them, as well as the small size of the people, might have made the deer lose its caution.
Ernst’s shoulders relaxed with relief.
“Let’s go slow and stick close to the ground from here on.”
A villager said this to Ernst in a low voice.
Ernst gave a shallow nod. He was about to retreat when his back collided with Ganche’s hard stomach.
Ernst looked up at him. Ganche’s copper eyes, which had been staring at the deer, looked down toward Ernst with a slight chuckle. Ganche gently pushed Ernst’s slender shoulders, bringing him toward Targes.
“Would you kindly be able to watch over Lord Ernst for a short while?”
After he saw Targes nod, Ganche swiftly moved.
Not knowing what Ganche was planning to do, Ernst knit his brows, a worried expression on his face. Seeing that, Targes grinned at him. Though Targes’ smile eased some of his worry, a slight bit of uneasiness still roamed in Ernst’s chest.
Even though Ernst didn’t understand Ganche’s intentions, was there something between those two that let them understand each other even without sharing words?
For the first time, Ernst felt like he had swallowed a heavy stone, a discomfort he couldn’t express with words sitting in his stomach.
Weaving between the giant trees, Ganche quickly and silently approached the deer, his footsteps not making a single sound. When he was just a short distance away, he lowered his body and watched the deer.
He was hunting the deer. Even Ernst understood what Ganche was trying to do. But to be honest, he didn’t think there was any way for Ganche to actually bring down that deer. The only weapon Ganche possessed was the greatsword that he always used. He didn’t have a bow and he didn’t have a spear – would he be able to bring down that deer with just his sword?
No matter how big the Dunbertian was, he was tiny compared to that deer. In front of that deer, which had stooped its head to eat grass, Ganche was only as big as a pebble.
Every time the deer waved its enormous horns, fear gripped Ernst’s chest.
Ganche could get hurt. He wanted Ganche to stop, but he couldn’t make himself shout. When he thought of how the deer could turn on Ganche as he followed Ernst’s order and ran, Ernst’s throat felt like it was stuck closed, and he couldn’t let out a single sound.
As the deer searched for grass, it turned its head.
The exact moment it turned its back to Ganche, Ganche’s body moved. His actions were so fast that Ernst’s eyes weren’t able to comprehend what had happened at all.
By the time Ernst caught up, Ganche had caught the giant deer’s neck with both arms, tightly wringing its neck.
Distressed, the deer stomped on the ground with its enormous feet. It dug trenches in the ground, kicking up soil. Ernst saw a single kick of the deer’s foot make a hole in one of the gigantic trees. Yet it wasn’t able to touch Ganche, who was right behind it.
The struggle for its life continued for a long time. Gradually, however, the deer’s movements grew weaker. Finally, its time slowly came to an end.
Shouts of joy erupted from the villagers. Laughing, Targes softly patted Ernst’s shoulder.
It was only then that Ernst realized how ragged his breathing had become. He cycled through some shallow breathing. His heart was pounding fast.
The fingertips of his thin, clasped hands were cold.
Slinging the enormous deer over his shoulders, Ganche returned with a spring in his step. He lifted this deer, which could fit who-knows-how-many of Ernst inside of it, under one of his arms, a triumphant and smug air around him as if saying, ‘What do you think?’
There were so many things that Ernst wanted to say. He wanted to be angry and scold, Why did you do something so dangerous! But in front of that childlike smile Ganche showed him, Ernst couldn’t find anything to say.
Ernst stood as tall as he could on his tiptoes, stretching out his hand. Ganche bent down, wanting to receive his prize.
Ernst’s small, still-cold hand went patpat as it pet Ganche’s brown, curly hair.
“You did very well. The villagers are happy.”
Ernst said, smiling with a cool face that wouldn’t break a sweat. Then, he added:
“Of course, I’m happy, too.”
Ganche’s masculine face beamed with a bright smile.
Even if Ernst considered what he did to be dangerous based on Ernst’s own ability, it was a simple and easy matter for someone with Ganche’s ability.
Ernst couldn’t help but worry. After all, he loved Ganche. It was natural for him to wish for the safety and happiness of the one and only person he loved. Yet, no matter how uneasy Ernst felt, he should never say something that would clip Ganche’s wings.
As he stood in front of Ganche, who openly radiated joy after receiving Ernst’s praise, Ernst warned himself of this.
The deer Ganche brought back to Eitt village was an unexpected good fortune. The militia soldiers were so shocked by its colossal size that their legs turned to jelly; the villagers, on the other hand, paid no mind as they gleefully began to dismantle it.
“There’s so much, we’ll be able to eat this until summer.”
Even the villagers whose legs were so weak that they wobbled when they walked were laughing as they took out their dull knives. The children excitedly ran around, and there were also people who lit up a fire, ready to hurry up and roast the meat so that they could eat it.
“I really didn’t think that you’d bring it down with just your bare hands.”
Targes clapped Ganche on the back. Ernst, too, had thought that Ganche would use his sword.
“When the deer is only that big, I can strangle it.”
Ganche proudly stuck out his chest.
Even after the villagers and soldiers had eaten their fill of the enormous deer, most of it was still left over. What remained would be made into dried meat, improving Eitt Village’s situation. The villagers made use of everything, even the viscera, fur, bones, horns, and hooves.
They were all blessings from nature, so none of them could be wasted.
On the occasion of Ernst’s departure from Eitt Village, Ernst handed over a small pouch to the village head. After relaying some instructions to the village head, Ernst left the village.
For a long time, the children of the village followed after them. Ganche was popular with the children in this village, as well.
Ernst stealthily peeked at him from the window of the carriage.
In the Schell Continent, there were three countries which belonged to the people of the Schell race. They were Lux Kingdom, Silus Kingdom, and Rintz Kingdom. Of those three, Rintz Kingdom was quite exclusionary, so of the Schell people which resided within it, the Kleber made up the majority of the population.
The Kleber had white skin, golden hair, and blue eyes.
Although they belonged to the same race, the people of Fell and the people of Lux could have white or yellow skin, and their hair could be blond or white. The color of their eyes could also be blue, green, or purple, and wasn’t fixed to any one color.
Only the Kleber could be clearly distinguished by their outer appearance. Regardless of whether they were born in the upper class or the lower class, as long as they were Kleber, they would have white skin, blond hair, and blue eyes.
And also, for some reason, there were many Kleber who believed that their appearances were the most sublime and beautiful of them all, and that their bodies had the highest natural talent.
As a result, the people of Rintz Kingdom, which had a population that was 90% Kleber, held a deep-rooted discrimination toward not only people of other races, but even the Fell and Lux people of their same race.
And within Rintz Kingdom, remote regions such as Meissen were even more insular and exclusionary. Even when meeting fellow Kleber, they found it difficult to be familiar with people who didn’t come from the same lands they did.
Even though Ernst had become the Lord of the lands, there were still many people who weren’t able to accept him in their hearts. People like Ganche, who was Dunbertian, would especially feel the wall between themselves and the people of Meissen.
As if trying to tell the soldiers to come back to the village, the children clung to Ganche’s hands, dangling from his arms like they were reluctant to part with him.
Seeing him like that, Ernst chuckled.
Though part of the reason why Ernst wanted to bring Ganche on all of his marches was because he wanted his partner to be by his side, Ernst’s primary purpose was to introduce Ganche to the people of Meissen, setting the stage for them to accept his appearance, body build, and temperament.
Once Ernst exchanged the contract, he had no intention of parting with Ganche. Even if Ernst, as Lord of Meissen, buried this land under the bones of his people, he thought that Ganche would still wish to always live with him – even in that land.
Dunbertians were the kind of people who would never choose to chain themselves to a single place, yet Ganche had told him: for the rest of his life, he wished to live by Ernst’s side in Meissen.
In order to make Ganche feel as much at home as possible, Ernst wished for the people of Meissen to quickly accept him.
The children had finally given up, saying their goodbyes to the soldiers at the end of the road. When Ganche turned around to wave at them, the children waved back so wildly that their arms might fly off.
One of Ernst’s goals had been accomplished.
This is one of my favorite chapters. Ganche showing off how much he can provide for Ernst~~~
When I read about the ‘chicken-sized songbirds’, all I could think was how much I wanted Ernst to take one as a pet. Too bad the author isn’t writing that kind of selling-meng story.
I’m planning to contact the author, Tsukiya-sensei, soon. I’m very nervous… I want to show my appreciation for her story, but I also have a duty to tell her I’ve been translating her writing on my blog. I suppose next time I post will be an update on this situation…