Arc 3, Waxing Moon
Aldo, vice captain of the militia, Ganche, and the rest of the troops saw off the duo headed to the royal capital: Targes and the leader of the 1st platoon, Brez.
They traveled to Arruca Village by horse, and after leaving the horses with the village, they crossed the valley with the help of a guide from Folea Town. Then, they bought new horses in Linz fief and galloped to the capital. Targes, who was in the knight caste, displayed magnificent form on horseback. By comparison, Brez’s form was somewhat less impressive, but still, his training shone through.
With the responsibility of Meissen on their shoulders, the shorter the travel, the better. Targes had said that he would rush to the capital as quickly as he could. Though Ernst has estimated that the timeframe for receiving a reply from the council would take a month, with how skillfully Targes and Brez rode on horseback, the time might even be reduced to twenty days.
The letter Ernst entrusted to them should, without a doubt, be accepted by the ministry. The contents of the letter involved a scheme which would leave them unable to not accept.
Ernst had not a single shred of worry over whether they would pass through the ministry. What most concerned him was passing through the Senate.
Deep in thought, he watched the backs of those two people grow smaller and smaller in the distance.
He had the impression that Targes had unpleasant memories he would rather avoid in the capital. For Targes’ sake, as well, Ernst hoped that their request would pass on the first try.
Twenty-one days later.
Targes and Brez returned, and as Ernst had expected, they held a document stamped with the ministry’s mark of approval.
“Will Lord Ernst be heading to the capital?” asked Ganche.
He sat in the large chair for his exclusive use in Ernst’s office.
“Humm. Although it isn’t exactly necessary for the Lord to attend to negotiating with the Senate, in Meissen’s case, it would be best if I were to go.”
The request for developing the Linz Valley would not be easy to pass. The cost of such a project would be worth several years of the national budget. In order to somehow persuade the Senate not to toss out their request, it would be better for Ernst himself to go. And in any case, Ernst couldn’t think of anyone in Meissen he could entrust with the task of being the Lord’s proxy.
“Who will… be escorting you?” As he asked, a trace of anxiety shook in Ganche’s copper-colored eyes.
“First shall be… Ganche, of course,” Ernst said, chuckling, and was met with Ganche’s beaming smile. The abundant feelings of his partner who had only lived half as long as Ernst had were so cute, he couldn’t help teasing.
“Next, Targes… or otherwise, Aldo.” Judging by how Targes had looked, he might refuse to go to the capital a second time.
“After that would be a few troops. Going in too large of a group will increase the expenses, but this time we’ll also be bringing along our taxes to the country. Having too few people would be useless.”
As of late, Rintz Kingdom has been undergoing unrest.
News had spread of many incidents where merchants, as well as servants of Lords who were transporting taxes, had been robbed along the highway leading to the capital. Although the military branch in charge of maintaining public order had stationed soldiers along each main road, it was impossible for them to monitor every path. It was said that the bandits would take advantage of even the slightest gap, and would appear out of nowhere to rob you in just a split second. It was to the point where the merchants who were unable to hire mercenaries were mercilessly robbed of everything but their lives, leaving them unable to conduct business.
As if sensing Ernst’s worries, Ganche smacked a fist to his own chest and said, “Lord Ernst, there is nothing for you to fear. If any bandits come for us, I shall stomp them to the ground.”
“Humm. …I have heard, though, that the bandits have Dunbertians and Grudes in their ranks. I know that you are strong, Ganche, but… if among the bandits is someone you know, then…”
“There is no need to worry. The people of Grude Continent will fight even their parents and siblings without hesitation if they meet each other as enemies on the battlefield. I have also been raised this way, so there will be no problem.”
At Ganche’s words, Ernst smiled slightly and nodded, and he suddenly fell into thought.
The idea of one’s upbringing was truly a terrifying thing. Even if someone was raised wrongly, they would firmly believe that their manner was right, and would decide everything based on how they were taught. One’s upbringing was almost certainly one’s basis of judgment.
Yet at the same time, one’s upbringing was a fragile thing.
The reason why one cannot put the education they learned at a desk to practical use is because the things in this world, including one’s own emotions, are not as uniform and simple as what is taught through education.
In the past, even though Ernst had believed in the correctness of sacrificing the lives of some of his people for the greater good of the country, regardless, he had still suffered a great impact from the sacrifice of a single horse.
If, at that time, there had not been those hunters to guide him – if Ernst had been on his own, then he felt that, even now, he would not be able to unhesitatingly choose the correct path, like they did.
According to what Ernst had been taught through his upbringing, in order to protect his own life, he should sacrifice the horse.
But in reality, it is not so easy to choose the path of sacrificing another living being in order to save himself.
As Ganche had said, no matter who the opponent was you met on the battlefield, whether they be ally or enemy, you would have to fight them regardless.
But was it really possible to immediately, and without hesitation, choose to do so?
Ernst wasn’t doubting Ganche. It was just, that Ganche was kind. Was it not possible that such kindness could create indecision in his heart and lead him into a situation that could even threaten his life? This was what worried Ernst.
And moreover… Ernst continued to worry.
What if, among one of the bandits, was someone that Ganche had once loved before. Ernst worried about what might become of himself.
Many people of many races gathered in the capital of Rintz Kingdom. Even if they weren’t necessarily a bandit, there might be someone Ganche recognizes there. If that person turned out to be one of Ganche’s past partners, Ernst wondered – would he be able to maintain his composure?
Twenty days after Targes had returned.
With all of the preparations complete, Ernst set off on his journey to the capital.
He started by taking a carriage to Arruca Village. The leader of the 1st platoon, Brez, served as the coachman. Four men on horses also encircled Ernst’s carriage.
At the vanguard was Targes. Although Targes had been deathly reluctant on the journey to petition the ministry, when he heard that Ernst was journeying to the capital, he was the first to sign up his name to be his escort.
From the looks of it, Targes had judged that the journey to go to the capital and back would be extraordinarily dangerous.
When Targes directed Ernst on who to choose as escorts, he unhesitatingly named himself, the 1st platoon leader Brez, the 1st company leader Mage, and the 2nd company leader Minaha. Ganche, of course, was also included.
It had been a year since Ernst had last entered the capital. One year ago, the road from the capital to Linz fief had not been such a dangerous journey. Just what had happened over the past year for this to change?
As he sat in the swaying carriage, Ernst’s gaze dropped to the box placed under his feet. It was a box of a size that even Ernst could hold. It was carefully decorated with exquisite ornamentation, and the inside was lined with a beautiful silk.
Within this box was the tax to be paid to the king. This was the precious earnings that the people of Meissen had gathered. This box, which was so heavy that Ernst was unable to lift it up, contained something even heavier inside – the money that the people of Meissen had scraped and toiled for.
At Arruca Village, Ernst disembarked from the carriage. The soldiers of the 2nd platoon that had accompanied them would return the carriage and horses to the estate.
Although Rintz Kingdom was a well-known for its horses, since they were unable to cross the Linz Valley, the horses in Meissen were all purchased from Lux Kingdom. Although the horses were thin and had to be bought at expensive prices, Meissen had no choice but to buy them. They allowed the horses to breed, and while the number of horses eventually increased, at present there were only fifteen.
Ernst looked up at the horse that Ganche rode. It was an exceptionally large and splendid horse. Both of its parents should have been skinny horses purchased for too-high prices. This horse must have been cherished and preciously raised by the militia soldiers in charge of the horses for it to have grown so big.
Although it was only for a short time, Ernst took a look around Arruca. The migrant workers had just begun returning to the village. By the looks of it, they had been told about the village’s cooperation with Caralime and Iben. The villagers had hauled out their decrepit looms and begun repairing them. No one knew if the rugs they would sell in the other fiefs, or if they would sell for a high price. Yet even so, the villagers bustled about, clinging to the glimmer of hope before them.
Ernst felt that, little by little, his people were moving in the right direction.
Although they had seemed unified at the estate, Ernst had feared that once they returned to their villages, they would forget that resolution in their hearts.
But when they returned to their villages, they must have persuaded their fellow villagers. Although what they had to say must have had things that were difficult to speak about, as well, they persevered through it and convinced the other villagers.
With Arruca Village at his back, Ernst stepped into the forest.
His people had accomplished so much, and Ernst had to learn from their example.
No matter how thick of a wall the Senate was, he must break through it.
More than seventy people left Meissen through the Linz Valley in order to find work outside of their homeland.
However, not everyone could safely make it through the valley. Every ten years, someone tragically lost their life to this valley.
Once the Linz Valley was developed, it would be easy to transport horses and goods, and people would be able to cross it safely.
In the midst of a winter with heavy snow, if even children could lightheartedly cross the valley without worry, then perhaps the people of Meissen would no longer turn to Lux Kingdom, but to Rintz.
Lord Ernst, the only person Ganche is kind and gentle to is you… You really don’t have to worry. (-Targes’ inner monologue, probably)