Arc 2, Crescent Moon
The twenty-six people took their seats.
Ernst sat in the seat of honor at the head of the table. To his right sat the people from Saiquani Town, and to his left sat the people of Folea Town. These people took the seats beside him naturally, as if that was where they were supposed to be.
Just who was it that decided the rank of a merchant should be higher than that of a peasant? As he thought this, Ernst silently watched their actions.
The people who came from the villages all looked at each other, then gingerly sat in their seats.
Interestingly enough, the people who came from the villages which surrounded Saiquani Town also sat on the side of the Saiquani merchants. The villages of Kata, Latelle, and Sounica sat lined up after Saiquani.
When Ernst looked at Folea Town’s side, he saw Caralime sitting next to Folea.
But the people of Arruca Village, which was only a two-hour walk away from Folea Town, sat down next to Sounica Village as if avoiding Caralime. Likewise, Iben Village also avoided Caralime and sat down next to Arruca.
With this, all of the seats on the right side were filled up.
Yakiya Village and Maine Village had not yet taken their seats. Ernst watched them, waiting to see what they would do.
Ever since they entered the room, the people of the two villages didn’t meet each other’s eyes. After seeing that Yakiya Village had taken a seat next to Caralime Village, Maine Village sat at the very end of the left side of the table.
Without any other choice, Dada Village, Eitt Village, and Hrike Village sat down in the gap between them.
Once he saw that everyone had taken a seat, Ernst began to speak.
“I apologize for gathering you all for a meeting during this busy time. Though this may be the first time for some of you to meet face-to-face, all of you are the same in that you live together in Meissen.”
The twenty-six people looked at Ernst. They all looked at him doubtfully, but Ernst continued on.
“Despite living in the same territory together, it is possible for people to never meet each other throughout their entire lifetimes. I would like all of you to discuss together as both individuals, and as representatives of your villages and towns.”
“Talk together… about what?”
One of the merchants of Saiquani said with a careless tone of voice. He had visited the estate many times and was acquainted with Ernst.
Of all the people in this room, he was probably the one who had the most positive experiences with Ernst. The other people in the room revealed scornful and mocking expressions toward the points of Ernst’s speech.
“All manners of things. How things have been up until now, how things are presently, and how they will be later on. The current matters of your own villages or towns which you would like the other villages and towns to know. Even any requests that you would like to make to people who live in other lands is fine. Proposals and suggestions, also. Anything is fine.”
The pairs of people from each village and town shared glances with each other.
“But… if we’re just talking with each other… there’s not much that we can talk about in just a single day.”
The merchant from Folea spoke nervously.
Folea Town, which Ernst had briefly stopped in while returning from Arruca Village, looked extremely different from Saiquani Town. Its houses were lined up like shops on a street, except they didn’t look much like stores. It was about halfway between a town and a village.
“I understand that all of you are busy. It is for this reason that I have sent out the troops of the militia to each of your villages and towns in order for them to work in your stead. I would like for you to stay here without needing to worry.”
They had tried to send in people who had originally come from those places as often as they could.
As if Ernst’s words had made them give up, his people now hesitantly turned toward each other, running assessing gazes over one another.
When Ernst had said that he wanted them to talk, he didn’t expect for them to launch into a lively discussion.
Ernst patiently waited for the first person to speak.
As he expected, the first person to open a conversation was the head of Iben Village.
This time, Ernst had made certain arrangements for the people who would come to this meeting.
If the leader of the village or town was a man, then the other representative would be a woman; if the leader were a woman, then the remaining representative would be a man. This way, the group would not lean toward any specific gender.
After the female head of Iben Village broke through the heavy atmosphere, the woman from Eitt village followed with a reply.
For a while, the women continued to gossip peacefully. They spoke openly about the hardships they experienced and the wisdoms they learned through their day-to-day living. Once the women began chatting about cooking meals for raising the villages’ children, the men reprimanded them to make them stop speaking about it.
But once the women stopped speaking, none of the men were willing to bring up a new subject.
After a moment where everything fell completely silent, the women once again began twittering with each other.
Ernst observed their behavior. He watched the women as they chatted energetically, though all he could do was smile awkwardly when they began speaking about the men they met while they worked away from Meissen.
The women looked as if they didn’t care from which village the others were from, or whether they were merchants or peasants.
After overcoming their initial reservations, even the women of the villages who had grudges against each other such as Caralime, Arruca, and Iben, as well as Yakiya and Maine, happily chatted with each other as if they were old friends.
Then Ernst peeked at the men’s behavior.
The men were completely silent, only glaring at each other.
It was as if the women were in a flower field, while the men were ready to break into a fight. A strong light flashed through their eyes every time their glances met.
The first day ended with the women having a friendly chat.
After finding that those who lived only a day away from the estate lived the exact same lives as they did, the women began to relate to each other. Whenever they found an unexpected difference in customs, they were surprised.
What was particularly curious to Ernst was the behavior of the woman from Yakiya Village, which was comparatively wealthy by Meissen’s standards. Ernst had expected her to show a feeling of repulsion toward the women of the other villages, yet that feeling didn’t actually sprout at all.
The image of the man of Yakiya Village turning his nose up out of his sense of superiority, as well as of the merchants of the two villages laughing mockingly at the peasants, had been running through Ernst’s mind.
The women continued chatting on the second day.
But gradually, the men began prying their mouths open. They spoke without a trace of joy, their words mixed with sarcasm. The men of the villages who had been struck by the sarcasm then counterattacked, and the scene of them being scolded by the women began to occur more and more frequently.
Ernst only silently watched their behavior.