Targes and the Platinum Satchel, Part 3
The replacement of the crown prince should have been an event of serious magnitude, yet people were still going about their day like nothing had happened.
When I saw these people and their unaffected demeanor, what ran through my mind was that, as I had thought, the info I had been given had been wrong.
But, once I turned to an old contact and asked about the internal affairs of the palace, I found out that somehow, that rumor was actually true.
The crown prince had Kleber’s disease.
That was a completely unthinkable turn of events.
Yet even so, the market in the capital was completely calm.
Just what the hell is going on?
As I interrogated him, my former colleague who served as a guard for His Majesty, the King, said:
“The crown prince is changing, so we didn’t hide that the previous prince had Kleber’s disease. The people know ‘bout it, sure, but it doesn’t seem like anyone cares.”
Over these sixty years, this country hadn’t changed a single bit.
It was far too harsh to those people who parted from it.
Once again disgusted with my own homeland, I once more considered leaving and going on a journey, but then I felt like I wanted to go and see the crown prince who been sent out of the royal palace.
That was someone who should have spent his entire life confined in the palace. Someone who, like His Majesty once did, could only dream about seeing the outside, and was never to actually accomplish it.
I wondered – would he be grieving over his situation, cursing it, or sulking over it?
I found that I had an unconquerable urge to see just how that crown prince ended up.
Which territory is the former crown prince going to be sent off to? I gathered information on this from all of my former contacts.
The senate held countless discussions, and their decisions seesawed back and forth an equal number of times. By the time their discussions had finally reached a conclusion, two months had already passed since the former crown prince had been sent out of the palace.
I immediately made my way to Meissen, which was said to have the highest chance of belonging to the Crown Prince-turned-Lord.
Although I had heard the rumors, I never thought that things would be this bad.
I’d gone to see every kind of borderland, but I had never seen one as defenseless as this. They didn’t have any armed forces at all. The people were starved, and they only had a poor excuse for a militia.
Since there wasn’t anyone who would be able to hire a mercenary, I had no choice but to volunteer for the militia. Even people who weren’t citizens of this land were really still able to sign up, huh?
I had gone to the lord’s estate half as a joke, and the person who had recruited me with a single glance had been the captain of the militia at that time – Aldo.
The reason why I was recruited to the militia was, apparently, because of Aldo’s resolute decision to recruit me the moment he saw the value of the sword I carried on my hip.
Resolute decision… Later, when the leader of the 1st platoon commented those words, I bust out laughing.
I had planned to just hang around as a private in the militia until the lord arrived, and then, if I felt like it, I would set off on a journey again.
I also had the thought that I wanted to let His Majesty see his grandson.
I, too, wanted to see the person who had inherited His Majesty’s blood.
Someone who had been brought up pampered and sheltered as a crown prince, and who had never carried the burden of his country as a king. Someone who never had to persevere in his self-indulgence, and who did as he pleased while living in luxury, able to tread on the lives of others without batting an eye.
I bet that he was probably someone like that.
In every country, I had seen nobles and royalty who were corrupt to their bones. They were all generally people like that.
The fact that I was able to meet His Majesty so early in my life was no less than a miracle. People like His Majesty were extraordinary; his character wasn’t one that just anyone could embody.
That was why, what I had thought was that after briefly meeting the former crown prince, I would head out and leave once I had seen his frivolous nature.
All I wanted was to let His Majesty meet him for a bit.
Aldo was to blame for completely wrecking my plans.
While I was hearing out Aldo’s small requests and errands, I got promoted from weapons manager to the general barracks manager, and then after I’d turned into the drill leader for the militia’s training, I’d somehow, at some point, ended up captain of the militia.
Simply put, it was all because of money.
This top-quality sword and armor that I had gotten from Sistica Continent were, truly, so incredible that for a militia captain in such a remote place like this, they commanded respect at a single glance.
But what was so incredible about them was their extraordinarily high cost.
I had used all the money I had to buy them, and had gone to Ruby Country without a single scrap of money in my pocket. There, I’d endured the circumstances and worked, and then afterward, I’d gone to Grude Continent.
As one might expect, in the land of Grude from which the warrior races came, there was no work for a mercenary. It was the people of Grude who had kept me from just leaving after seeing what it was like.
I enjoyed talking with such cheerful, easygoing people, and while I drank and ate as I pleased, the inside of my pocket grew slimmer and sadder.
Although I would have been fine with spending time as just one of Meissen’s militia, it was a given that in a fief as poor as this, a regular private in the militia would have to work without pay.
I had used up my money just getting to Meissen. Like this, even if I wanted to set off, I couldn’t buy a single horse for the journey.
Reluctantly, I accepted my position as captain if only because I had been told that I would be paid a wage.
Meissen’s militia was… terrible.
Once I’d become the captain, I couldn’t afford to only train the militia in handling swords and bows. It was also vital for them to have the ability to communicate information in a crisis.
But the militia soldiers of Meissen were ‘soldiers’ in name only.
The words I spoke to the first person changed by the time they reached the third, and by the time they reached the fifth, they became a completely different message altogether. Just how the hell was it this ridiculous?
I stuck close to the first person from the fifth, listening in on the words they relayed.
It made me feel like my head was about to break.
Those guys took the liberty of passing on the message according to how they interpreted it.
In the middle of passing on information, the worst ones started spreading gossip, so no one on either side knew just what they were supposed to pass on.
I hunted down Aldo who was leisurely taking care of the horses, pinned him down by the scruff of his neck, and shouted, ‘What the hell is this?!’
Aldo looked at me with a blank, puzzled expression, which then morphed into a laugh as he said, ‘It’s useless to try, you know?’
When I once again shouted, ‘The hell do you mean by useless?’, he replied, ‘This is Meissen, after all.’
What’s with that. So what the hell did it matter that ‘this was Meissen’?
Losing all my strength, I hung my head as I dropped down to sit in front of the stables.
Brrrr, a horse sounded, looking down on me. Though it may have been for a short moment, I had been a knight. Even if I talked for an entire day, I wouldn’t run out of things to say when it came to the topic of what made for a good horse.
But, what in the world was this horse supposed to be? I’d heard that it was supposed to be for horseriding. No matter how I looked at it, I couldn’t see it as anything other than a workhorse for farming.
I looked at the fifteen horses in the shabby stables. You couldn’t make a cavalry regiment with a count of fifteen.
Moreover, two of these were for pulling the lord’s carriage.
A cavalry of thirteen…
I seriously considered whether I should just quit.
In any case, there was nothing I could do about it. I fell into deep thought.
I’d planned to ditch this place as soon as I’d saved up enough money, but this border territory was so unsecured and careless that it made me feel ill at ease.
I should at least do what I could for these soldiers while I was still here.
Then, in front of my harried self appeared a single Dunbertian.
A Dunbertian in a place like this. He stuck out, completely out of place. Both the common folk and the militia soldiers were so surprised at seeing a Dunbertian for the very first time that their legs went weak.
What are you doing here? Since the head butler of the estate literally fell over and couldn’t get up, I had to question the Dunbertian in his place.
His answer shocked me.
He said that he wanted to join Meissen’s militia.
You’re joking, right? Even when I asked that, he replied that he wasn’t joking.
Aldo was purely delighted, but all I could wonder was why he would want to join the militia.
I decided to write up a contract.
To these guys, contracts weren’t anything heavy and imposing. Through contracts, we would exchange the terms and form an agreement.
The Dunbertian, Ganche, quickly accepted the contract with an air like he wasn’t concerned at all.
Only, penniless as I was, the money I offered him was just 10 aquia.
Had there ever been anyone in the past who could hire a Dunbertian for a full year with just that little money?
Ganche was handy to have around. I was able to leave all the training, except for that of the newcomers, to him.
As for improving the transmission of information… for now, I gave up on it.
The soldiers looked down on Ganche just because of his Dunbertian appearance. It made me think that the insides of their heads had barely anything inside.
What right did these people, who couldn’t even read a single letter, think they had to use their mouths to spew such words? I was disgusted deep inside my heart.
As people who took on jobs through contracts, all of the people of the Grude Continent races were excellent at reading and writing, and especially so with reading comprehension.
Even in contracts where the true meaning was obfuscated and covered up by piles of words, they were able to read and pinpoint the exact intent. It was self-defense in order to ensure that they didn’t take on a disadvantageous contract.
I often saw the militia troops trying to shove off gathering firewood, fieldwork, and just about every labor-intensive task onto Ganche.
If you wanted to hire this Dunbertian for a year, you’d need half all the tax Meissen pays the country. If I told them that, I wondered just what sort of faces those troops would make.
I was well aware that the estimated price for a one-year contract with a Dunbertian was 1500 sitt.
Just what in the world was Ganche thinking when he closed a contract for 10 aquia – the same amount you’d give a child to spend?
If I hadn’t known just what kind of people Dunbertians were, I would have fallen into deep suspicion and paranoia over this abnormally dirt-poor price.
It didn’t take long for me to understand what Ganche was really after.
The former crown prince who was said to have Kleber’s disease looked like a young boy.
Since he had Kleber’s disease, that was a given.
The crown prince had unreadable eyes with indecipherable emotions.
According to the butler, the crown prince inspected the state of Meissen while on his way to the estate. I found that surprising, but nothing more than that.
Those blue eyes of his were surprisingly tranquil, and they held not a single trace of anger, resignation, or feelings of coldness. Early the next morning, he took his place alone at the dining table. Apparently, until the chef got up, all he did was just sit there quietly.
Promptly after breakfast, he came over, wanting to see the militia.
This tiny lord who didn’t even reach up to my chest looked up at me with a firm gaze as he spoke. His voice was quiet, and it reminded me nostalgically of His Majesty’s.
When I told him about the militia’s current state, his eyes widened as if in surprise, and he quietly nodded. The meal that had been put before him, too, must have been extremely different from what he’d been used to up until now, but he had just silently eaten it without complaint.
When I thought about it, in order to get to this land, you had to cross those difficult mountain roads as well as that valley. Just how was this little lord able to cross them?
There was no way that he’d been able to get through on a carriage.
What finally forced me to have to revise my perception of this former crown prince was that matter of him suddenly taking that giant man, the Dunbertian Ganche, as his companion.
The world of people was greatly fascinating.
It really was, Your Majesty.
While living, you had no way to predict what was going to happen.
Inside of my heart, I addressed these words to that person I fondly remembered.
There was no way I would have thought that a former royal would have chosen someone of another race – much less someone of the Grude Continent races, which were often scorned and disdained as being like animals – as his life’s companion.
I stood as witness to their contract of companionship. Although this was my first time seeing a marriage contract, I didn’t think that theirs was normal.
The tiny lord had neglected all of his lord’s duty-related work, and after five days, that contract which he had meticulously written and refined was… gigantic.
Normally, a marriage contract was something that could fit on a single sheet of paper.
Compared to that, the number of pages in this one…
Through that, I understood the deep love and tremendous attachment Lord Ernst felt for Ganche.
But the same went for Ganche. At one point, I had grilled Ganche after he had accepted Lord Ernst’s companionship contract.
I was shocked.
He told me that the two of them had previously met in the royal palace. I never knew that someone of the Grude races could keep thinking about a single person for several years, and even wholeheartedly chase after them. Even Ganche himself was surprised, so I, of course, was also surprised.
But when I looked at the two of them, I felt that it wasn’t bad to have someone with whom you shared a deep relationship.
This former Crown Prince, Lord Ernst, was someone who went far beyond what I could have ever imagined.
He spoke on his own to his people, who were of only peasant class. He kneeled down and put his knees in dirt, and he touched animals like sheep without batting an eye. He ate the same poor, shabby food as his people, and he held their calloused, rough-skinned hands.
Even these folk who lived all the way out in these remote lands and who didn’t know just what kind of people royalty were, understood that Lord Ernst wasn’t normal.
Royals did not speak to anyone other than a designated few. They did not put anything in their mouths other than something that had been carefully scrutinized. They did not come near animals and beasts, let alone touch them.
It was said that in the past, there had been a king who had prepared a carriage so he could be driven around the palace as a form of play, but the butlers had prepared a large folding fan for whenever he boarded or departed the carriage so that his gaze would not have to touch the horse.
The more I became acquainted and familiar with Lord Ernst, the more surprising he became.
Even His Majesty had not been such an unreserved, unhesitating person.
Even he hadn’t been so persevering, and so broadminded of a person.
The people of Meissen quickly got used to Lord Ernst.
Or rather than ‘got used to’, I should say that they made light of him.
As if they had completely forgotten that he was the former crown prince, they came over to speak to him whenever they pleased.
When I saw this lord, who had been woken up in the middle of the night just because of a splinter that had gotten stuck and started to fester, even I started to feel sorry for him.
When Lord Ernst had told me to gather his people, I had assented without really knowing what he meant to do.
It was Meissen that had taught me what kind of territory a land would be when there was no one who could see the bigger picture.
As I prepared the things Lord Ernst had ordered, I became overwhelmed by just how much thought that tiny lord fit inside of his small head, and the pace of my heart quickened.
In the beginning, when he had told me to buy wool from Caralime, I had no idea what he meant.
Then, when he told me to go bring it to Iben Village and then to Arruca Village, I had thought that this lord really was just another noble after all.
He was just a foolish lord who ate up his people’s taxes for his own hobbies.
But now, I understood.
The large table that the troops carried in, and that one piece of firewood that had nonchalantly been placed next to the pile of stacked-up wood. The candle that had been set down next to the candlestand.
When I looked at this room, I understood just what Lord Ernst wanted to tell to his people.
Even though he had gone all the way through such lengths, just how could they still spit at and curse this lord, who worried and fretted so much over his people?
As I restrained Ganche with my eyes, I also had to hold myself back from stepping forward.
Why was it that even though he loved his people so much, even though he loved them more than anyone, they still attacked him?
Quietly, without letting anything affect his composure, Lord Ernst just closed his eyes, and as the slanderous, abusive words rained down on him, I saw His Majesty in Lord Ernst’s figure.
His Majesty had never been shouted at or beaten down by words like Lord Ernst.
But I saw His Majesty, who had dedicated his entire life to his people, who had offered up his heart for a kingdom that didn’t even care when it broke – a kingdom that didn’t even bother to grieve over his death.
His Majesty, whose one-sided love which he had carried his entire life for his people had never been requited.
His Majesty who, even in the deepest depths of the royal palace, still worried over his people, even though the people of this kingdom treated him as someone who didn’t exist.
Even though they loved their people to such an extent, just why was it that no one tried to understand them?
I am but a bird in a gilded, blessed cage.
I am presented with plenty of feed, water, and warm straw, and in my time of leisure, I acquaint myself with the world outside the cage.
‘Tis because I know it not that it is something I may love.
As he laughed mischievously, His Majesty had said those words.
It was certainly possible that it was only because he had never directly seen the repulsive, ugly parts of his nation that His Majesty was able to love it.
However, I couldn’t help but think that wasn’t the case.
I had seen many lords. I had seen many nobles, and royals as well.
That was why I couldn’t help but disbelieve it.
After all, it was difficult for someone to continue to hold strong feelings of love for a partner they couldn’t see.
Whether it was a new lord with tremendous resolve who was taking up his post or a king who wore on his head a crown of sorrow, with the passing of time, they would forget those feelings of the past.
Was there ever anyone like his Majesty who, even on his deathbed, continued to worry over the his nation of people whose figures he could not even see?
Over the course of three days, I watched Lord Ernst be beaten down.
No matter what self-serving thing he was told, no matter what inappropriate insults were hurled at him, no matter the sneers and threats directed his way, Lord Ernst never once responded to them.
Without even trembling from anger, all he did was merely quietly look at his people.
Those eyes of his shared a great similarity with those of His Majesty.
They were the eyes of someone who held concern, and who held love for his people.
When everything wrapped up, the people of Meissen cheerily returned to their villages.
It was the first time I had seen them with such eyes full of liveliness and vigor.
Even the militia troops who didn’t know anything about what was going on were delighted.
After the head butler left the office in high spirits, he probably ordered people to start cleaning up.
But at that time, a new and difficult problem was thrust before me, and my body shamefully went rigid with fear.
In the past, I had also spent several decades as a border guard.
I had already noticed that in Meissen, as a border territory, the Bastelis River wasn’t all that reliable.
Yet this tiny lord was still able to foresee many more points than I could.
That which protected Meissen was its poverty. There was someone who was able to perceive Meissen’s poverty in such a way.
He said that Meissen had a future. That it was possible to develop that valley.
I couldn’t follow such a tremendous plan in my head at all. Aldo, seated next to me, was just the same.
When I accidentally glanced over at him, I saw that Ganche was smiling with a grin. It seemed like that guy, at least, knew something.
My head was so overstimulated that I couldn’t sleep, so to cool down, I went to take a walk alone at the rear of the estate.
Though you could say that it was getting closer to spring, I still tromped through the deep snow which fell over Meissen’s land. With each step, I tread down, flattening the snow beneath my feet with a thick crunch.
In Meissen, people’s houses were built far apart. When I walked straight ahead from the mansion and approached the forest, the only light I could see at this late at night was the light from the moon.
Bit by bit, I left the estate behind me.
Step by step, I walked across the snow field of the night.
My eyes grew accustomed to the dark.
The snow was stunningly bright.
On a night like this, just what was it reflecting to shine like that?
I impulsively looked up, and all of a sudden, there it was: the round moon floated above me.
The luminous, bright moon, which glowed with a gentle light.
As I looked at the distant forest in the horizon, I saw that the moonlight fell straight over the trees.
Lord Ernst was like the moon.
I abruptly had that thought.
For a land buried in snow like Meissen, the overbearing light of the sun was far too much. It would bring about avalanches, inducing great tribulation on the people.
Lord Ernst, like the moonlight, revealed with clarity the path ahead under a gentle radiance.
Lord Ernst was like the glow of the moon, enveloping his people and the land under his light as he pointed out a path for the people of Meissen. 
Over this vast expanse of snow that was Meissen, which had neither landmarks nor directions for anyone to find their way, he was the light of the moon which glowed against the dark and illuminated a destination.
I wanted to ride a horse through all of the scattered towns and villages of Meissen, waking all of the residents of this fief with my shouts.
Oi, you! All of you! Do you even realize it!? Do you even know just how rare of a person you have as a Lord?!
I wanted to run back to the barracks, shake the sleeping troops awake and shout at them.
Oi, you guys! You have to protect him with everything you have! We might never find anyone like him again – we have to keep him safe!
Then, I wanted to scream at all of the citizens of Rintz Kingdom.
Aaaah, what an atrocity you guys committed! If you’d taken this person as King, this country would have flourished so quickly!
I took the satchel out from my pocket.
It was a small satchel that had accompanied me over many long months and years. The delicate embroidery had worn out, and the lustrous platinum now looked faded.
I enveloped that tiny satchel with both of my hands.
Your Majesty, would it be okay if I ended my journey here?
I’ve found that I want to keep watching over this land.
I want to use what remains of my life as a wager so that I can see with my own eyes just how much that tiny Lord will be able to achieve.
As I stood alone in that snowfield illuminated by the moonlight, I heard a dear and nostalgic voice echo in my ear, the voice speaking within my chest.
That is well, that is well.
The voice which spoke was full of warmth.
 I felt like this area of Targes’ thoughts had a lot of poetic sentiment, so I added lines which weren’t written in the original in order to get across some of the feelings in the words he used. The word for moonlight is commonly 月明 [tsukiakari], which was used previously in the paragraph. In this line, the word 月影 [gekkei/tsukikage] is used. 月影 can mean moonlight or the moon, and can also refer to the light of the moon that silhouettes people and things in the dark. This is the same word used in the title of the story, Setsugen no Gekkei/Tsukikage (Moonlight on the Snowfield). Targes’ thoughts reveal that the title of the story refers to Ernst, who is the moonlight illuminating the field of snow that is Meissen, which has been trapped in a long, dark winter.