Targes and the Platinum Satchel, Part 2
I left the royal capital for the first time on this mission, which sent me to a fief on the border of Silus Kingdom: the fief of Couto. 
In this fief, a dry wind always blew over the arid land. The people of this land all wore cloth over their heads, walking with their eyes and faces turned downwards.
The occasional raging bursts of wind whirled sand into the air, relentlessly buffeting me with sandy gales. In this state where I could barely open my eyes, I carried out my border duty despite the difficulty.
Or rather, I should say that I got used to struggling through it.
Rintz Kingdom and Silus Kingdom had built up a friendly relationship for many years.
In the past, Silus Kingdom had never once invaded across the border, and the people of Couto fief had no sense of awareness of being people who lived along a border.
All they did was live their lives, trying to evade the fierce winds.
In the Couto fief, even if they tried to plant crops, the wind would just blow most of them away. As such, they primarily planted trees to harvest fruits.
The trees also served to break up the wind. They planted thick crowds of trees around the villages, and the people who lived there passed their everyday lives in the restricted, confined space in the middle of the trees.
It made me understand that what I knew about the world was very little.
Even though I knew nothing beyond the royal capital, I had still felt as if I knew everything.
Now, when I thought about it, I understood why His Majesty wanted so much to know about the outside world.
I could feel, now, that my world was narrow. I knew that I lived in a confined, restricted world.
I had been walking through life with my eyes closed, my ears covered, as I carried a heavy burden.
I had been traveling down a path, never allowing my steps to deviate away from it.
In the past, I was just as those words His Majesty had murmured described me to be.
After that, my border duty assignments changed four more times, bringing me to different places. Each of those lands was completely different from the others.
There were places which were so completely different that it made me want to ask whether they really belonged to the same country. There were lands full of wealth and prosperity, and there were lands full of povery and misfortune.
There were Lords who crushed the souls of their people, and there were also Lords who imposed heavy taxes so that they themselves could live in luxury.
There were things which ought to be seen, as well as things which weren’t important to see.
I was called out on occasion by the commander of the border guards, who was the leader of our mission, as well as by the squad captains.
When my fellow guards saw just how many times I had been called out to talk to them, they condemned me behind my back as a bastard ass-kisser.
No matter what my coworkers said about me, I didn’t care at all. To me, I wanted to hear at all costs the stories that the commander and squad captains had to tell me.
I wanted, as well, to share my own stories with the captains.
All of them were people who, for some reason or another, carried some memories with His Majesty.
There were people who had only met with him for just a short, transient moment of time, as well as people like me, who had served at his side.
All of them wanted me to tell them again and again about His Majesty’s last days, and then they would press their hands over the corners of their eyes.
When His Majesty had passed away, the lives of the people living in the royal capital remained mostly unchanged.
In the borderlands, it was even more apparent. Their daily routines were completely unaffected.
There were many people who weren’t even aware that a new king had been crowned.
Every time I see people like that, it feels so unbearable that I can’t stand it.
How could someone who loved his people so much, who worked so hard for his entire life and gave everything he had for them, be forgotten by them, just like that?
When I was like that, the conversations I had with the captains comforted my rattled heart.
It was because I could see that everyone who had met that person, even if it was only once, was moved into such sadness as they reminisced over him.
While on my fourth assignment, I heard that the previous commander of the royal guards had died. And just before I was sent out on my fifth mission, I caught wind that the chief chamberlain who had served the previous King had passed away.
I felt like a dry wind blew over my heart.
Just like that, will I lose the people that I can chat and reminisce with over the memories of His Majesty, I thought.
While I was on my fifth mission to guard the border, Rintz Kingdom celebrated the birth of a new Crown Prince.
Fifty years had already passed since His Majesty, the current King, had invited his first consort. In that time, many consorts had been sent up to the palace, yet not a single one of them had gotten with child.
Now that the long-awaited crown prince had finally been born, the entire Kingdom of Rintz was in an uproar.
Even in this borderland far from the capital, it was like a festival.
The Lords of the fiefs wildly spent their money, whether it was to show their loyalty to the Kingdom or to shrewdly compete with other fiefs, and even the poor regions were steeped in an atmosphere of delight.
In the middle of this crazed situation, I alone looked at this world with cold eyes.
All of these people who couldn’t give a damn when that person, who had borne through so many hardships, and who had loved his people so deeply, died… were now rejoicing just because some baby was born.
What an absolute farce.
There was nothing that said this baby wouldn’t be a disaster that destroyed the country.
What would they do if that baby turned out to be an idiot?
While the entire country celebrated, I morosely shut myself away in my room and just drank. As I kept on drinking, a single letter – a set of orders – arrived for me.
It was an order to serve as a guard for the crown prince.
As I drank down the last mouthful of alcohol in my glass, I glared at the sheet of paper that had those words written on it, and then, I tore up that letter in my hands and tossed it away.
After the crown prince was born came a second child, then a third. As if a stopper had been pulled out, the King’s children kept being born one by one; and as the entire country rejoiced and danced in celebration, I left the country.
All of it was just ridiculous to me.
They wouldn’t pay their respects to the person who had spent his entire life protecting the kingdom, but they would throw themselves into applauding someone who’d just been born.
Why were they going so far to celebrate someone when they didn’t even know what kind of person he would be?
The poets wrote out sonnets about this baby who couldn’t even hold his head steady as if he was some almighty, all-knowing person.
The painters drew this baby, who was locked away and kept so deep in the royal palace that the common person would never lay eyes on him, as if he was someone who held all of the beauty in the world in his body.
Toward all of this, I just felt numb.
After leaving Rintz Kingdom, I took a look at Lux Kingdom and entered Silus Kingdom.
Even though these countries were founded by people of the Schell race, just as Rintz was, the other two countries were bustling and flourishing.
It made me understand just how poor Rintz Kingdom was. It also made me appreciate how well Rintz Kingdom had protected its self-reliance until now.
The soldiers I passed carried their bodies differently.
The quality of the weapons they carried was not the same as ours.
Above all, the number of soldiers in their armies was incomparable.
No matter how many times the Kingdom was exposed to danger, His Majesty had protected it with his savvy and skill.
The words that the captain of the guards and the chief chamberlain had once said now resurfaced in my mind.
Only now that I had seen the difference in power between our countries with my own eyes was I able to understand His Majesty’s greatness.
I was unable to believe that the present King would be able to accomplish what His Majesty had done. And for a newborn baby to be able to follow his footsteps was something I couldn’t possibly fathom.
I spent over ten years in those two countries, and then I departed from the Schell continent.
Once you took a single step out of the Schell continent, it really was another world out there.
I entered the Sout continent, and there, for the first time, I saw with my own eyes the ocean that I had told His Majesty about.
The sky was a clear, bright blue, and the ocean sparkled, glinting light off of its azure surface. The Sout people, who had long limbs and thin membrances between their fingers, swam freely through the ocean.
They swam as freely as birds flying through the air, and once they surfaced on land, they were like slugs.
Their frames didn’t seem to have any muscle at all. The softness of their bodies made them unable to stand on land. They walked slowly, and each and every one of their movements was languid.
As a matter of course, they couldn’t do something like farming on land.
The ones who grew and even shipped the fruits that were Sout Continent’s specialty product were actually people of the Schell race.
I only found this out after I had come to this land, but mercenaries weren’t the only ones who wandered here in search of a job. Just like the mercenaries, there were people who came here to find an employer who would contract them to do farmwork.
Most of them were people who had been chased out from their homelands. There were people who had committed some sort of crime or sin, as well as people who carried deep wounds in their hearts after being abandoned by their homelands.
The people of Sout, who had flourished from commerce, were a people who weren’t hesitant at all to use other people.
They were the kind of people who didn’t bat an eyelid at using people from other races to fight out their war. They didn’t care at all about other people’s deaths, and they nonchalantly oppressed the people who worked on their farmlands.
The lands of Sout were incredibly beautiful, and the people of Sout were also beautiful, but their hearts were hideous and distorted.
I spent over ten years in this land as a mercenary. I tested the taste of the ocean, and I ate their peaches. The sea was salty, and the peaches were delicious.
Back in the capital of Rintz Kingdom, I had eaten some of the peaches imported from Sout, but the taste had been exceptionally different from the ones I ate here.
This was a taste I never would have experienced if I hadn’t set foot here on my own.
I ate enough peaches to last me a lifetime in Sout continent, then left for Sistica continent.
I had already been a mercenary for decades by now.
My intentions were to obtain the highest-quality armor and weapons when I went to the continent of Sistica.
Sistica continent was a land that the people of Schell continent races could absolutely never enter.
As I walked along the coast of the Sout continent, the land around me gradually changed. It went from a lush land of greenery to a land of solid, reddish-brown earth. The occasional tree only sprang up here and there, and there was no grass at all in sight.
Beasts attacked me without making any sort of sound as a warning, and they were of shapes and sizes that I had never seen before in my life. Countless times, I had prepared myself to accept my death.
But what made me unable to continue further was neither the beasts nor the natives of Sistica continent; it was the environment itself.
No matter how I tried, it was impossible for me to make it past the freezing cold of day and the blistering heat of night.
The difference in temperature only grew the further I went. If there were only one temperature to deal with, then I might have been able to overcome it, but I was assaulted by both each day.
It was utterly impossible for fragile beings like the Kleber to inhabit a place like this.
Once I had gotten what I came for, I quickly fled from Sistica continent.
The world is vast.
The people who live within it are varied, diverse, and fascinating.
That was what His Majesty had told me as he looked at a map, a child-like expression of joy on his face.
I mean, it was a given that the world was wide, right.
People might be diverse, sure, but there was nothing interesting about them.
The me who had thought that back then really was such an immature, close-minded youth who’d been stuck in such a small, narrow world.
After Sistica Continent, I decided that I wanted to see a country where the people of Hel lived.
As anticipated, I couldn’t go and visit their underground countries. I made my way to one of their countries on the surface.
I headed for the country of Ruby, which straddled the border between Grude Continent and Sout Continent.
The Helesians who lived in Ruby Country were called the Rubians.
Just like with the people of Sout, the Helesians of different countries mingled together, so there were no firm differences between the people who lived in each country. I was completely unable to differentiate which Helesian belonged to what country.
Yet, that said, this didn’t meant that the countries of Hel were all on good terms with each other.
The Helesians were mostly traders and craftsmen.
Their bodies were too small to go into battle, so they hired mercenaries to secure their borders and maintain order within their countries.
This protection was, however, only in regards to other races.
If their opponent was another Helesian, then they would pick up a weapon and fight. However, this mainly happened underground, so I myself had never seen it happen.
I spent over ten years in Ruby Country.
No matter which Helesian country you went to, all of them carried wealth. They had gold, jewels, iron – those kinds of valuable resources with high utility.
Since the Helesians were less than a meter tall, thieves considered them to be easy targets. Because of that, the Helesians employed many mercenaries.
The borders of a Hel country were so busy that the Rintz Kingdom’s borders couldn’t even compare.
The Helesians were misers. They hated settling their bills, and they absolutely never offered up any of the treasures they owned.
Even when their lives were about to end, they never let go of the money they possessed.
When a family member died, the first thing the bereaved family did was not mourn or to be in shock, but to try and find out where the deceased would have hidden his money.
In Helesian society, the people in higher positions would nonchalantly trample down on the people below them.
The people who lived in lower positions would easily kill each other, even if they were relatives, all for even the smallest amount of money.
From the perspective of a Kleber like me, their families were enormous, and they popped out children one after the other. A Helesian could easily become pregnant, and pregnancy lasted for only three months. Because of that, the connection they felt for blood relatives was extremely weak.
Unable to bear the harsh world of Hel’s society, I departed from Ruby Country.
I kept walking west of Ruby Country, and at some point, I entered the Grude continent.
Crossing the border here was even more incomprehensible than when I had crossed into Sistica from Sout continent.
It felt like the trees were growing bigger. It felt like the animals were growing larger.
I pondered over these things as I walked until finally, I noticed a clear change.
All I can say is that my body sure was heavy.
I glanced out of the corner of my eyes at the Grude races as they briskly walked by, while I, meanwhile, was literally crawled forward, flat on the ground.
Every now and then, I was carried by some kind-hearted Grudes and Dayers.
What was strange was that the moment my body was lifted from the ground, it became lighter. Whenever I asked to be let down because I was alright now, I once again fell flat to the ground.
The continent of Grude was a strange land, as well.
But the people of Grude were the most comfortable and easygoing people to be around.
They were lively, cheerful, and straightforward. They thought of things not in terms of society or of family, but as individuals.
Whether they joined a band of thieves or took part in a war between nations, the only standards they held to were in regards to the contents of their contracts and the amount of money they were paid.
They also cared little for morals and principles.
If I could take away the weight pressing over my body, I probably would have lived for as long as I wanted in that land which made me feel at home.
What changed my mind as I was thinking that was a rumor I overheard while at the Grude continent’s market.
It was something that Dunbertian merchant who had just returned from Schell continent had told me.
‘It seems like the crown prince of Rintz Kingdom is going to change,’ he said.
That couldn’t be true.
I laughed it off right on the spot. As a citizen of Rintz, I knew very well what the royal family of Rintz Kingdom was like.
A person who was born royalty would remain royalty until death, and until then, they spent their entire lives within the royal palace. No matter how much the King himself might wish for it, he would never be able to leave the royal palace.
I couldn’t believe what he had told me, but the merchant, who had lost one of his arms in battle, continued.
‘Apparently, the crown prince has an illness called Kleber’s disease, and that’s enough to make him stop being the crown prince,’ he said.
It was a disease that the Kleber living in Rintz Kingdom were deeply familiar with.
But that disease was ridiculed as something that only affected poor people, since they were the only ones who contracted it. It was an illness that even merchants who weren’t especially rich wouldn’t suffer.
Of all the people to have that disease, it was the crown prince?
With disbelief running through my head, I returned to my homeland, once again setting foot in this country that I hadn’t seen in sixty years.
 The name of this fief is possibly inspired by/referencing a purple orchid, since it shares the same name (コウトウ/koutou, written in katakana)