Arc 2, Crescent Moon
Yakiya Village looked prosperous. Of course, this was by Meissen’s standards.
It had 33 villagers, 7 of which were children.
Of special note was the fact that there was only 1 person in this village who suffered from Kleber’s disease.
“In this village, only one person has Kleber’s disease?”
The village head responded to Ernst’s surprise with a smug air.
“That’s right. It’s a dirty pauper’s disease, after all.”
After the people beside him prodded him, the village head hastily tried to smooth over the words he had just spoken. Ernst smiled and accepted his attempts. The people of Rintz commonly believed that Kleber’s disease was something that only the poor contracted.
“There aren’t any people who leave the village to work?”
“Ehm… that’s right…”
The village head nervously answered.
Even if Ernst was no longer royalty and was now only nobility, the village head was well aware that he could be cut down for the disrespect he displayed in his previous statement.
“Humm. I have heard that the work of riverfolk involves ferrying across the river. Are you able to make a living with the income you earn by ferrying the village’s crops?
As if he still didn’t believe that Ernst had let his slip of the tongue go, the village head nervously glanced around as he spoke.
“…Yes. We go to Lux Kingdom to sell our village’s goods. We’re able to pay our taxes that way.”
“What manner of goods does your village produce?”
“The earth is rich and fertile here, so we’re able to produce an abundance of crops. The land of our neighbor, the fief of Caprix, is quite poor, so they’re not able to grow much. We’re able to sell them the wheat, vegetables, and potatoes grown from our Yakiya Village.”
After finally calming down, the village head answered Ernst fluently. His manner of speaking was undoubtedly like that of a merchant.
“So you bring your crops over to them.”
“At the moment, that is the case, yes.”
“At the moment? So it was different in the past?”
“Yes. The primary product sold by Yakiya Village used to be honey. In the past, we filled up bottles of honey and stacked them up in the boats, our boats always sailing back and forth with the booming business. But we always sold completely out in the end.”
“Do you no longer sell honey?”
“…We aren’t able to gather any more… the bees have died, so we’re unable to gather honey.”
“The bees have…? What caused it?”
“It’s Maine Village’s fault. Because those guys foolishly chopped down all of the Kalia trees, all of our bees in Yakiya starved and died.”
Kalia trees blossomed throughout the year. Ernst thought back to the road he had traveled to get to Yakiya, and then to the climate of Meissen.
Most of the trees around Yakiya village bloomed from spring to summer. They had also planted some Kalia trees, but the number was so few that you could count them.
“I was under the impression that bees stopped working in the winter.”
Certainly, this was the information that had been written in the books.
“You know quite a bit.”
The village head looked at Ernst with admiring eyes. Ernst had the feeling that he was being made a fool of somewhere.
Royals and nobles lived at ease; he probably thought of Ernst as one of them, those kinds of people who lived in ignorance far above others, and who knew and cared nothing of the way the people below them lived.
“For normal bees, it’s certainly the case where they cease their activities over the winter. But Yakiya Village’s bees are different. The bees of Yakiya are alert and active all year round. Because of that, rather than having only one harvest a year, Yakiya Village can have three harvests.”
“That’s quite incredible.”
“We were able to make our bees like this after a long time of work.”
The village head puffed his chest, making him seem as if he was looking down upon Ernst’s small build. The villagers at his side also looked very proud.
This village, too, had diligently worked hard in order to breed the kind of bee they wanted.
“After countless decades, we were finally able to produce the kinds of bees we had imagined… but because of Maine Village, all of that went to waste.”
Hatred filled the village head’s eyes.
“We’ll definitely return the favor to those bastards… because of them, everything is over!”
A villager who sat beside the village head spat this out in a restrained, resentful murmur.
When Ernst went into Yakiya Village, he only brought Targes and Ganche with him.
While Ernst met with the village head, Ganche waited for him outside. It wasn’t with the intention of excluding him, but simply because Ganche’s body couldn’t fit inside the village head’s house.
After leaving the house, Ernst saw Ganche standing imposingly there. The village head left the house just as he did, only for Ganche’s staggeringly intimidating figure to direct a glare at him.
The village head flinched and faltered back. Ernst glanced at him from the corner of his eye. When he saw that the village head had no idea of what he had done to deserve this, Ernst gave a wry smile and approached Ganche. He touched Ganche’s arm, soothing him.
A Dunbertian’s eyes perceived even the slightest traces of light in the darkness of night. Their ears, also, captured sounds that a Kleber could never hear.
Both of these were abilities that could be adjusted according to the owner’s intentions.
At this moment, it seemed that when Ernst left him to enter the house, Ganche feared for Ernst’s safety and put his ears to work.
Ernst had to praise Ganche for not leaping into the house and beating the village head when he spoke ill of those who had Kleber’s disease. Compared to when he had first met Ganche, Ernst felt that Ganche’s self-control had grown stronger.
They stayed at Yakiya Village for one day.
Though Ernst had only been told that their soil was fertile, the village’s fields were ripe with abundance. They needed to buy their firewood, but they could obtain all other life necessities from around the periphery of the village.
Inside of the forest a short distance away from the village, they had placed a box – a man-made beehive. Though they had said that the bees died, the bees hadn’t been eradicated to extinction. Compared to their previous golden age, the ratio of bees had diminished from 100 down to 1, but the bees continued to make honey even now. Kalia trees had been planted in Yakiya Village to serve as food for the bees over winter, but they hadn’t taken root very well.
In conclusion, after the number of bees fell sharply, their population was now around the same as 50 years ago.
“So we’re not staying at Yakiya village, eh?”
Targes, who was walking in front, turned back to ask.
After convincing Ernst by saying that there weren’t any militiamen around, Ganche held Ernst in his arms and together they followed after Targes. The snow fell deeply, and if Ernst were walking, it would reach up to his thighs.
“Humm. This way, we can leave the lifestyle of Yakiya Village somewhat up to their imaginations.”
“Aah… I see your point.”
That lifestyle was the average way of life for the majority of Rintz Kingdom’s villages. In Meissen it would be called a wealthy village, but by Rintz Kingdom standards it would be just average, or a bit below average.
“Besides, we’ve kept those soldiers waiting.”
“Why weren’t they allowed to come along?” Ganche asked.
Perhaps because he always kept in mind his rank as a common foot soldier, Ganche did his utmost to never, ever, open his mouth whenever Ernst was around another person. Right now there was only Targes around, so he was willing to ask.
Because both Targes and Ganche had unyieldingly stopped him, Ernst could only hold himself back and take a peek at the beehive in the box. The bees in Yakiya village were very big, as big as Ernst’s palm.
From the documents that had been stored in the estate, Ernst knew that Meissen had once been a honey-producing area. The primary producer was Yakiya Village. However, upon calculating the population and scale of Yakiya Village, the amount of honey they collected was far higher than seemed feasible.
They had to look after the bees. Increasing their numbers wasn’t as easy as simply adding more boxes for beehives.
Ganche’s copper eyes watched Ernst, who had sunken into his thoughts.
Ernst chuckled and picked up on where he had left off speaking.
“The 4th platoon is made of people who had come from Arruca Village, Iben Village, and also Eitt Village. Those villages are particularly poor, even in Meissen… It would be better to not let them see what Yakiya Village is really like.”
“That’s right… On the side of the receiving party, if there is not enough tolerance for acceptance, then too much knowledge can prove harmful.”
Targes said this without turning back, and Ernst nodded his agreement in silence.
It was incorrect to believe that disclosing all information available to decision-makers was the right thing to do. In some situations, it would be like continuously dangling an unattainable carrot in front of a horse.
In other situations, the people may not be able to bear knowledge of the disastrous circumstances. Pushed into the depths of despair, they might completely lose sight of the future.
And moreover… Ernst sank into his thoughts.
In order for Yakiya Village to succeed in their plan to increase the amount of honey they produced, they had to either work toward increasing their number of bees or improving the size of their bees. Ernst didn’t think that it had been possible for them to increase both of those things, but the wisdom that the people of Meissen gleaned through their experience was a truly surprising thing.
However, after pushing so hard to improve their bees, they had forgotten the most crucial and most simple thing.
In Meissen, which was buried in snow for most of the year, the only tree which bloomed all year round was the Kalia tree.
When the village of Maine tried to acquire a mercantile rank, it was for the Kalia trees, and there was no way they could repay their hefty loan other than felling their Kalia trees.
But the best feeding ground for the bees of Yakiya Village were Maine Village’s Kalia trees. The people of Yakiya Village had completely forgotten about that.
By the time Yakiya Village realized it, it was already too late. One of the causes for the sharp decline of their bees was also because of them. In truth, they should already know this.
It was loathsome and mortifying. Even though they wanted to blame someone else, they knew that if they wretchedly shoved the blame on others, they would be counterattacked with ‘You guys were at fault, too, weren’t you?!’. They were the only village in all of Meissen that could be considered well-off. It was probable that in Meissen, all of the other villages and towns begrudged them for this.
Of all the villages Ernst had visited up until now, the villagers of Yakiya Village were the ones who most gave him the impression that they all stuck together as one.
It wasn’t unity forged to overcome the difficulties of life; rather, it was a solidity made to protect against an external enemy.
As for the only village in Meissen to carry debts. Maine Village.
Their acquisition of the merchant rank may have caused them to become a target of envy to the other people of Meissen. But after obtaining the merchant rank, the once-thriving village suffered a series of failures, and now they were burdened under a large amount of debt.
The rise and fall of Maine Village drew the laughing scorn of others, and even now they may still be ridiculed.
Though one could say that this was what they had asked for, Ernst believed that the true cause for Maine Village ending up being burdened with a large loan wasn’t because of Maine Village’s choices, but because of Yakiya Village’s vengeance.
That was what Ernst wanted to believe.
When it came to the people of Meissen, within their own villages and towns, they would desperately come to each other’s aid and protect each other. Yet, the moment they went a single step beyond their own communities, they became cold and indifferent.
When others suffered failure, they laughed and ridiculed them; when others enjoyed fortune, they envied and begrudged them.
Ernst looked up at the sky. The snow fluttered down, sparkling in the sky. As Cobo had said, the snow would fall one more time, and then a late spring would come.
Ernst clung to Ganche’s thick neck, breathing in and filling his chest with Ganche’s scent. A large hand promptly held and comforted him.
Enveloped in this beloved scent, Ernst firmly tried to gather up his crumbling heart.
Ernst wanted a heart that was strong.
He wanted a body that was strong.
Like the Dunbertians who stood on their powerful earth, he wanted to become a tenacious, strong man who would not be shaken by anything.
He returned to the estate, lost in his thoughts.
He worried over what he should do for several days until finally, Ernst came to a decision.