Arc 3, Waxing Moon
Ernst couldn’t simply wait around while the merchants sought out prospects for those books. In the worst case scenario, if those books were sold as paper, then the amount of paper they would turn into would be worth 100 aquia at most. Although it didn’t do much to offset the shortage, every one aquia they saved now would be an aquia they didn’t have to gather later.
“I had never seen this storehouse opened in my time here,” Sington said, looking up at the warehouse.
“Huum. So no one knows just what had been placed inside, then.”
It was a large warehouse with white walls.
“Yes, that should be the case. When I had been serving the previous Lord, at least, it had already been shut like this.”
A number of warehouses had been built in the Lord’s estate. The majority of them contained emergency stores of food and firewood for the winter. Yet, there was only one warehouse which showed no sign of being opened even before the 100-year absence of a ruling Lord – perhaps because its key had been lost. At this moment, Ernst and Sington stood in front of this very unopened warehouse.
“Since we don’t have the key, I think that it will be impossible to open it… But even if we did get this open, I doubt that there would be anything inside. These warehouses are for the Lord’s emergency stores, after all.”
“I’m thinking the same, to be frank, however… I feel that if there is even a one-in-a-million chance that something is inside, we ought to try for it.”
He and Sington both looked up at the warehouse.
A sturdy lock sealed the warehouse. It was made not of wood, but of iron.
“If it had been made of wood, we could have used an axe to break it, but it’s impossible for an axe to work on such thick iron as this.”
As Sington’s words suggested, the depth of the lock was about the same size as one of Ernst’s fists.
“Huum… This really is quite difficult, I see.”
“What can be done… Maybe Sir Ganche would be able to do something about… but, no, never mind, no matter how strong Sir Ganche is, a lock this thick is…” Sington muttered, twisting his head around.
Since Ganche was the partner of Ernst, the Lord, Sington very earnestly and seriously referred to Ganche with an honorific title. Though Ganche himself had said that being called this way didn’t really suit him, Sington seemed unwilling to concede on this point. When Ernst thought about it, Sington was actually the only person in the estate who had served the previous Lord. In those days, the butlers and maids served the estate in a long and unbroken line of heritage, handing down the history of the estate to each new generation. Through that, Sington had mostly likely undergone rigid training when it came to courtesy.
Yet nonetheless, Sington had only been able to serve the previous Lord for ten years before the Lord passed away; and before then, the previous Lord had shut himself away in his estate as a recluse, so there had not been a single opportunity for Sington to display that courteous behavior for his Lord.
Sington himself thought that he had been trained in courtesy, but in Ernst’s eyes, such training only seemed to draw alienating boundaries and limitations.
But despite this, Sington still thought that he had to call the Lord and the Lord’s partner and children with respectful honorifics, so even if Ganche pulled an awkward and uncomfortable face every time Sington called him, Sington still persisted in addressing him that way. 
As the two of them loitered in front of the warehouse, Ganche and Aldo came over after having been called for by Ernst.
“Aldo, do you know where the key to this warehouse might be?” Sington asked. Aldo had served for many years at the estate as part of the militia.
But Aldo’s response was the same as what Sington had said before. “No… I had never even seen this warehouse opened before, either.”
“Ganche. Are you able to break this lock?” Ganche looked at the iron lock Ernst pointed at, and nodded.
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Ganche said, and after he had made sure that Ernst stood a sufficiently safe distance away, he drew out the greatsword at his hip. Ganche gripped the handle using both hands, and as he bellowed out a ‘hn’ battle cry, swung down.
After a flash that couldn’t be perceived by the eye, a dull clang sounded as the iron lock split in two. The clumps of iron fell and sunk into the ground. Ganche easily scooped them up and tossed them away, and just as simply put a hand to the door handle and opened the heavy door.
Ganche stood to the side, making way to follow Ernst, who took the lead to enter. In this warehouse which hadn’t been opened for more than a hundred years, a somehow heavy atmosphere hung in the air. Perhaps it was because other than the one door that had been opened, there was no other path for the air to flow. This atmosphere, like that inside of a heavy cage, had a peculiar smell to it.
Ernst stopped walking forward and waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. The warehouse had no transom windows which would have let light inside. It was dimand dark, with no light other than the sunlight which spilled from the open door.
“There are some objects that have been kept inside this warehouse.”
If anyone was going to say this, it would, of course, be a Dunbertian. Among the Kleber, not a single person’s eyes had yet adjusted to the darkness, but Ganche’s eyes could accurately see the insides of the warehouse.
“I see tableware and furniture, as well as what seem to be rugs and the like.”
At this point, Ernst’s eyes could also finally see. Just as Ganche said, the various objects used for the estate had been tidily tucked away here.
Sington rushed over to a shelf. It was no wonder; even from faraway, one could see just what kind of goods were there. At the very least, these goods could still be used even after they had been abandoned behind a lock whose key had been lost for over a hundred years. Ernst looked up at the mountain of goods, and he expressed his thanks to his previous generations of Lords.
“Lord Ernst. Seems like quite a lot of things have been brought out of that warehouse, eh?” Targes said as he passed the door into Ernst’s office.
Ernst paused in his writing, and he laughed. “Yes, exactly so… It seems that all of the Lords who have ruled Meissen enjoy leaving behind surprises for people.”
“…What do you mean by that?” Targes tilted his head. Ernst prompted him to take a seat in one of the chairs encircling the large desk, and as Ernst gathered a sheaf of papers in his hands, he sat on the other side of Targes.
“This is something which also came out of that warehouse.”
He passed several papers over to Targes.
Targes looked through every one of those papers, then lifted his head, surprise on his face. “So that warehouse was actually planned as a treasure chest…” Targes murmured in wonder, and at those words, Ernst nodded.
On each of these sheets of paper, the differing names of various Lords were written, accompanied by the same words: If the Lord of the next generation is ever faced by troubled times, make use of this.
The Lords of the previous generations had all worried over the same thing, and they had left behind goods from each of their eras as gifts to help their future successors.
“Such incredibly tasteful people they were, were they not… I, also, want to leave behind a gift for the Lord of the next era… I have to try.” Ernst whispered those words, the last of them sounding as if he was trying to convince himself.
These unexpected gifts from the previous eras had saved Ernst from his current predicament.
“Lord Ernst. If you sell these goods, will you stop collecting the citizens’ tax?” Targes asked.
Ernst shook his head.
“Why not? If you sold all of this, it seems to me that you wouldn’t even need to collect taxes for the next ten years, and everything would be fine…”
Ten years was an exaggeration; five years, at best, would be a better estimation. Nevertheless, for the people who were currently living in poverty it would be a blessing from above.
“No matter the situation, the tax must be imposed on the people… It is certainly true that if all of those goods were sold, then even if no tax was collected from the citizens, the tax I must pay to the Kingdom would be covered. Yet doing so would not be for the good of the people… Can those who do not have responsibility to shoulder truly grow to steady maturity?”
He looked into Targes’s eyes, which were the same blue as his own.
“A moderate struggle which must be overcome is what allows a person to grow. If the people no longer needed to pay taxes, they would feel that they were saved. They would rejoice. This joy, however, would vanish soon enough. They would take the favor they had been given for granted, and feel that it was only natural for them to ask for more. In this way, they would become people who only made demands of others.”
He lowered his gaze to the sheaf of paper that had come from the warehouse. Although these papers listed objects from hundreds of years ago, because they had been stored in the tightly-shut warehouse, the papers’ color had not faded over time. The ink was just as vivid and bold as if it had been written now. What those Lords had been thinking when they wrote down those words–Ernst understood perfectly.
The eras of those Lords who had contributed their goods could not have all been smooth and pleasant. All of these lords had saved and scrounged what they could so that someday, what they sent could save the future generations.
“…I see what you’re saying. Something like that could actually happen. And besides, it isn’t as if there were ever a merchant who made a huge profit in one part of his business, and that made him decide to give out his wares for free.”
Ernst laughed at Targes’ response.
“I’ll set aside the gifts from my predecessors to cover the deficiency in the taxes for this year… And as for the rest, they will be used for this.”
Ernst handed the envelope beside him to Targes, and broached the real matter at hand.
“The reason I called you here, Targes, is because I would like to ask you to deliver this.”
“And this is…?”
It was made of top quality paper and sealed with the mark of Meissen’s lord. No matter who were to look at it, they would know that this was an official document meant for someone of authority or nobility.
“I would like you to deliver this to the ministry in the royal capital.”
Targes’ hands had been reaching for the envelope. When he heard Ernst’s words, they froze. “It’s for the ministry…”
At the center of this country was a Senate composed of thirteen nobles. Any requests to the Kingdom would first have to be discussed and approved by the Senate; otherwise, the demand would never reach the King’s ears. However, before the matter could reach the floor of the Senate, it had to be approved by the ministry. The request had to be conveyed to the ministry through a written document, and only the approved cases would be sent over to the Senate. From there, the claimant of the case would be summoned to the court for the first time so that they may receive the Senate’s questions, provide explanations, and earn their approval.
A round trip from Meissen to the capital took about one month. And while one waited for their claim to pass through the ministry, they had to stay in the capital to anticipate the response. On top of that, if the Senate wanted to call a meeting with him, Ernst had to be present for it. This meant that it was necessary to prepare the travel and board expenses for at least two round trips. Yet given how much cost was involved in developing the canyon over the next twenty years, unless they were able to raise funds through a request to the kingdom, they wouldn’t be able to do it, Ernst thought.
“In regards to the Linz Valley development, I want to begin by crossing over the first hurdle. I want to send someone who is familiar with the capital, and who will not be disadvantaged when faced with the ministry.” Ernst smiled. “…In my land of Meissen, there is no one but you who meets these qualifications, Targes.”
For a brief moment, Targes’ expression wavered. “The task is just to deliver a letter to the ministry, isn’t it? … In that case, I’m not necessarily the only…”
“No, that will not do. Although it might certainly be a simple matter of handing my letter over to the ministry, the people who are in charge of receiving such requests will, without a doubt, be observing the appearance of the carrier. If the recipients judge the carrier of the message to be unimportant, then the documents will be discarded without ever being sent to the ministry.”
“No, but… if it’s a letter from the – the former crown prince, Lord Ernst, would there really be anyone who would thoughtlessly just tear it up…” As Ernst had predicted, Targes withdrew.
“It is because it is my letter that there is a high possibility of it being discarded. If a meager-looking person were to deliver the letter, then what would happen is that the letter would not be accepted because the problem would be attributed to the petitioner’s own negligence. Even if the ministry were to end up looking at my letter, they would consider that to be all that was necessary. As such, to ensure that they cannot say that this is the fault of the petitioner, I must send in someone so exemplary that they will feel pressured just by looking at him.”
Ernst heard a grunt from Targes’ morosely closed mouth. Although it wasn’t as if Ernst was giving Targes more credit than he deserved, Targes likely thought that Ernst was praising him too much.
“There is also the training of the militia corps, as well as the training for splitting the militia in two groups, as I had instructed you before. I understand how busy this makes you, but can I trust you with this?”
Ernst tried to appeal to him. Targes’ arms remained crossed.
As a heavy atmosphere settled over them, Ernst internally let out a sigh. Unlike with Ganche, where Ernst could do anything to appease him, he had absolutely no idea what to do with Targes.
“If we do not pass through the ministry, then we cannot meet with the Senate. As for the Senate, I will do whatever I must, no matter what it takes, to pass my case. Yet when His Majesty the King passes his judgment, he can reject my proposal for any number of reasons. Even so, I want to do whatever I can for the sake of the people of Meissen.”
Ernst peeked at Targes’ face, far above Ernst. He had the slight impression that the hardness of Targes’ expression had softened somewhat.
“It may not pass through in the first try. But I will keep submitting my requests no matter how many times it takes, even if I must attach myself to the Senate. I will never give up until His Majesty sends down his approval. So that I can pass the first stage of this process, I ask of you, would you be willing to lend me your aid…?”
Ernst lowered his head, bowing deeply. Then, he heard Targes let out a heavy sigh.
Slowly lifting his head, Ernst met Targes’ eyes. Targes, with an expression like he’d just swallowed a bitter-tasting bug, reluctantly nodded.
 The honorific Sington uses is the Japanese suffix 「様」(sama). Specifically, this sentence here says that the Lord, Lord’s partner, and Lord’s children have to be addressed with “-sama”.