Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 14

Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 14

After the man left, the room had grown cold. Ernst had long since realized that the fire in the hearth had gone out. Shivering from the extreme cold, Ernst curled up his quaking, trembling body within the cold bedding.

That man, just what did he say…

Even though Ernst had submerged himself in blankets, sleep never came for him.

Morning eventually came, and Ernst hadn’t even gotten a wink of sleep. Seeing that the candles and firewood had burnt themselves out, the butler turned a condemning glance on Ernst. With his head fuzzy from a lack of sleep, Ernst ate his breakfast, which was the same food as yesterday.

In his office, Ernst cast his eyes over some of the documents that the head butler had gathered.

The number of villages in Meissen, the number of towns, their population, demographics, militia count, the resources within the fief, the resources they imported from other territories, the number of livestock, the acreage of farmland, the rate of usage. The relationship with the neighboring Lux Kingdom, the relationship with Grude Continent, the previous Lord’s reign.

There was no end to the things he had to know, and even if he did learn them all, there was still more to come.

Yet not a single thing stuck in Ernst’s mind. It wasn’t because of his lack of sleep. Even Ernst knew that.

Last night, what was that man saying? Ernst had deliberated over the meaning of what that man had told him all through the night.

Loved him to the bottom of his heart. Loved him. L, o, v, e.

Ernst now noticed that the concept of ‘loving a person’ was a gaping wide blank in his understanding.

After all, he had been the crown prince. For sixty years since his birth, up until a few months ago, he had been the crown prince. This wasn’t an existence where he could frivolously fall in love, and the partner whom Ernst was to love was to be some powerful noble’s daughter, as decided by the leaders of the Kingdom.

It was an existence where, regardless of Ernst’s wishes, he would have to usher in several people as his consorts. Ernst’s circumstances had nothing to do with falling in love with anyone.

That was how it was supposed to be. Ernst himself had thought that this was how it should be.

Falling in love…

What type of feeling was it, to fall in love?

All throughout the night, he had thought this over.

Even now, while he was looking through the information on his territory, most of his head was filled with that matter.

In the royal palace, people were ‘things’. [1]

The head butler, the butlers, the maids, and the royal guard, all of them were ‘things’. They were the same as the desk, same as the chair, same as the walls, same as the pillars. Even if the person were replaced, nothing would change except for the face; it was no different from re-upholstering the back of a chair.

It was for this reason that Ernst never asked for anyone’s name. He had looked at them the same way he looked at objects. The ambassadors from other countries who had come to visit the royal palace were also ‘things’. There was no difference between anyone or anything.

Ernst, who couldn’t discern people from objects, let alone pick out individual people, couldn’t possibly do something like fall in love.

But, he pondered.

From now on, he was free. He wasn’t royalty; he was going to live as just any other noble now. Ernst could now choose his own partner to love at his own discretion.

In that case, he considered.

Do I fall in love with that man?

He had never considered something like taking a man as his partner. It couldn’t be helped. He had been royalty, after all. That was something who had to leave behind a child no matter what. That wouldn’t be possible if his partner were a man.

But from now on, he was free. In the first place, the races of Schell continent lived longer lives than races from other continents, so they didn’t find much worth in having children. Marriage itself involved a painstaking exchange of contracts, and only royalty and nobles bothered to go through with it.

Love between the common people was more free. Ernst had also witnessed this with his own eyes in those few months he had spent at the villa. There were male companions, female companions, and also lovers for only a few days.

That’s right, those people had all freely loved, and Ernst had also become just as free as everyone else.

Freedom, what a great word that was. Ernst looked out the window of his office.

Here, there was no tall fence to obstruct his view, and he could see the enormous forest spread out over the distance. If Ernst wanted to do so, he could even go and run over to that forest as he pleased.

Even now, Ernst had never gone running before. Once spring came and the snow melted, he wanted to try running up to that forest. It was an idea that made his heart thump with excitement.

Aah, no, wait. He had a much more urgent problem to think about than spring.

That was, ‘falling in love’.

What was it that the man had said? Right, he’d said that he wanted to stay by Ernst’s side.

Ernst had been happy. There was someone who had said to him that they wanted to stay with him.

Was this what it meant to be in love, he wondered.

No, that wasn’t right, was it. Ernst recalled his memories of those faces that he would be able to recognize, even now.

If those three hunters had told him that they wanted to stay with him, he would also be happy. If the villa’s butlers and maids said it, that would also make him happy. This feeling wasn’t how it felt to be in love.

At some point, it became time for lunch. He blankly ate the same thing he had eaten in the morning.

He kept thinking it over until his head felt like it was going to burst. He wished he could separate it from the neck up and just leave it somewhere.

There was nothing he could do cooped up in his office, so he went to take a walk inside the manor. On second glance, it was a shabby mansion. Bare stone walls without any wallpaper spanned the corridors. Here and there, the eaves of the roof were broken, letting some snow blow inside. Couldn’t they fix it? Even though he was inside the mansion, Ernst wore a heavy cloak as he walked.

Had it always been this lacking, or had it only been dirt before? This shabby mansion’s only benefit was its spaciousness. Even after walking for a long time, Ernst hadn’t come across any butlers or maids working here. It seemed like they had limited the areas where they worked.

The servants in Meissen were extraordinarily pragmatic, he found.

A fine, authoritative voice drifted over on the wind. Ernst walked down the corridor, then looked out a window.

The militiamen were training. No, to be more precise, the stern-eyed commanding officer and that Dunbertian were sparring.

As expected of the leader of the militia, the officer’s movements looked sharp and fast to Ernst’s eyes. But he wasn’t a match for a natural-born warrior, and the Dunbertian easily sidestepped him.

Soon after, the other militiamen who had been watching from the sidelines stood, and they turned their swords on the Dunbertian. Though the commanding officer tried to stop them, they didn’t hear his order, and a large number of people dashed forward.

Without even realizing it, Ernst rushed toward him. All he could think was that even if the man was Dunbertian, there was no way he wouldn’t be hurt when fighting against that many people.

But then, the way the Dunbertian held himself changed – just as that thought passed through Ernst’s head, the Dunbertian evaded all of the swords pointing toward him, and he stood in the place the militiamen had just left. Some of the militiamen let out sounds of amazement.

Ernst was so relieved that he carelessly patted his chest and gazed at the man in admiration. That enormous body was capable of making such vivid movements.

After that, the frustrated militiamen who wanted to fight again, along with the militiamen who thought it would be amusing and pulled out their swords, together formed twelve opponents who faced the Dunbertian. Yet in the end, not a single person was able to land a hit on him.

Amidst the exhausted Kleber who collapsed to the ground, the Dunbertian alone stood without losing a single breath.

[1] This hasn’t been apparent in the translation, but all this time, whenever Ernst refers directly to another person (usually his servants), he uses the word 者 (mono) rather than 人 (hito). Though both words mean ‘person’, 者 is also a homonym of 物 (mono), which means ‘thing’. 者 is used mainly in formal situations; it seems to denote a lowered status, so people may use 者 to refer to themselves in order to be polite/humble, while a superior may call others 者 to show they have higher rank. In this particular sentence, Ernst says “人はモノ” or ‘[In the royal palace,] People are things’. It’s implied that he now understands that people are living and breathing beings that he can feel connected to. After leaving the royal palace, he has learned that others aren’t ‘things’, they are ‘people’.

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Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 13

Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 13

Maybe it was another rule that in Meissen, all three meals consisted of the same thing. In the morning and at noon it was always the same soup as ever, and dinner was soft baked bread.

The same as last night, the head butler glanced at Ernst as if telling him to ‘Quickly go to bed’, so Ernst found himself in front of the hearth in his own room.

Letting out a sigh of relief at the warm fire, Ernst sat in a chair. The candle they had given him was short. Was this to tell him to go to bed before the candle went out?

Snow blanketed the earth; the night was quiet. Ernst wondered if everyone in the manor was asleep. He had thought that normally, if the lord of the manor was awake, then all of the servants would also stay awake, but it seemed that things were different here.

First, he should try to follow the way the people of Meissen did things, Ernst thought.

Ernst heard the sound of a hesitant knock at his door.

“Come in.”

Easily pushing open the heavy door, an enormous man nervously entered the room. Ernst silently pointed toward the one other chair in front of the fireplace.

Looking up at Ernst from his lowered face, the man sat in the chair. His large body was unable to fit in it, so he sat with his buttocks hovering over the seat, his body squeezed to take up less space.

But of course, it wasn’t the chair’s fault.

“If I’m not remembering wrong, I know you.”

Ernst glanced at the large man from the side of his eyes. The man’s large body flinched.

“Hmm. So it seems like you’re the one I was thinking of, after all.”

That large body grew stiffer and stiffer.

“Well then… for what reason did you come here?”

The man nervously opened his mouth.

“I, had come here to join the militia.”

“Since that was where I found you, that seems obvious enough. What I am asking is why are you, who had been serving the bathhouse of the crown prince, now here, in Meissen, as a member of the militia. Surely this can’t just be chalked up to coincidence.”

The sight of those large hands tightening on themselves caught Ernst’s attention from the corner of his eyes.

The large man currently cowering before Ernst was that very same manservant who had served in the bathing chamber. He was a person of the courageous Grude race, the Dunberts. It was hard to believe that this figure who was so tense under Ernst’s questioning was supposed to be of such fearless character.

“It… isn’t a coincidence. I heard that Lord Ernst was to become the Lord of Meissen, so just a short time before that happened, I entered Meissen and joined its militia.”

“… Why?”

Those who desired to govern the kingdom, or otherwise those who desired power and authority, would no doubt cling to their social status. Ernst didn’t know which he was, but it seemed that he himself was an obstacle, he thought. When Ernst thought over his situation, it was easy to guess that somewhere out there, someone was trying to ostracize him.

So it seemed like this large man hadn’t come here to kill him, Ernst guessed. After all, there was no way an assassin would stand out this much. This overly large body wouldn’t be able to hide anywhere.

In that case, what was he doing for him to be in a place like this? In Ernst’s chest, a single light flickered to life.

He turned his delicate body slightly towards the large man, waiting for the Dunbertian’s words.

“I… wished to serve Lord Ernst.”

With his head lowered, the words this large man whispered made Ernst feel a swooping sensation.

In that palace, in that cold palace where Ernst had not formed a single connection to another person, there was someone who had missed and yearned for him.

Of his own free will, he had chosen to follow Ernst even in the face of the dangerous forest and steep cliff faces that Ernst had crossed.

“I see! I see!”

Overturning his chair in his haste to stand, Ernst grabbed the large man’s hand. It was a warm, faithful hand.

“I had never before had someone that I wanted to praise and commend. As I am now, I’m unable to even give appropriate recompense to those who are willing to serve me. Even knowing that, you still willingly chose to serve me; how magnificent you are!”

The large man raised his head. For some reason, his reddish-brown eyes held some distress.

“Lord Ernst, that’s not it. I, I…”

“What is it? Did I get something wrong? Is it that I misunderstood something, somewhere. You did say that you wished to serve me now, didn’t you?”

The swelling delight within Ernst deflated.

“That’s not it! I do wish to serve Lord Ernst. If it is for Lord Ernst’s sake, then I am even willing to throw my life away!”

His large hand grasped Ernst’s and squeezed. His grip was tight and powerful.

“In that case, what did I get wrong…?”

“I… I adore Lord Ernst…”

The large man painfully spit out these words.

“Adore? So you’re saying there was even a person who was able to adore me… Aah, what an honor that is. For someone to adore even a boring person like me…You understand how delighted this makes me…?”

Everyone had sought out Ernst’s value as the Crown Prince. There hadn’t been anyone who wanted to follow Ernst when he had lost everything. They each had their own lives, and they lived steadily in the place they had rooted themselves to. Ernst was just an existence that passed by between them. A faint existence.

Yet this giant man had thrown everything away, and he alone had chased after Ernst. Ernst did not know any joy greater than this.

“That’s not it! That’s not it!… That’s not it!”

The giant man violently shook his head.

“Just what, isn’t right…”

Pain rose within those reddish-brown eyes as they stared at Ernst. He didn’t know exactly why, but Ernst felt that this man was pitiable.

“The meaning of my adoration, and Lord Ernst’s adoration… is different. I love Lord Ernst to the bottom of my heart…”

Translator’s Note

I thought these chapters would take longer to translate, but I was eager to find out what happened next.

This chapter might actually be the first time we see real dialogue in this story. Before, all of the dialogue was narrated through Ernst’s thoughts.

This is the last chapter I read through MTL. From here on, I’ll be discovering the story while translating. I’m looking forward to finding out how Ernst will work to improve Meissen, and just what exactly is going on with the Dunbertian manservant!


Image result for loli police
Me @ the ML the first time I read this chapter through google

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Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 12

Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 12

By the time Ernst arrived, the mansion was shrouded in darkness. In Meissen, which was located in the north of Rintz, night fell quickly.

Noticing the sounds, a middle-aged man exited the manor. At first glance, Ernst thought he was the head butler, but upon seeing the careless way the man carried himself, he began to have doubts.

The man greeted him whilst biting his own tongue. He really was the head butler.

But, this…

Ernst felt a touch of anxiety. After a hundred years passed without a Lord to rule it, it seemed that Meissen had lost all of its ways. Before Ernst came here, were these people the same as the rest of the population, living their lives by plowing fields and hunting?

Among the territories in Rintz Kingdom, Ernst didn’t know of any territory that was considered worse than Meissen. Ernst would be spending his whole life as the lord of this land. Thankfully, Ernst had been given a lot of time. He would be able to work on this slowly, he thought

Though the curtain of darkness had fallen quickly, the night was still young. But after Ernst finished eating what was considered a full meal to them, he was encouraged to immediately head to bed. Though it had been a long journey, and he was certainly tired, was he supposed to go to sleep without taking a bath? Ernst was puzzled as he thought this, but when he told them that he wanted to take a bath, they looked back at him with perplexed expressions.

The royal palace did as the royal palace did, the villa did as the villa did, and Meissen did as Meissen did. Ernst paid respect to the way they did things and went to bed early.

That day, the sense of relief he had from safely reaching the mansion pulled him into a dreamless sleep.

The next morning, he woke early. Apparently, ‘early to bed, early to rise’ was a rule. There was no fire in the hearth, and Ernst shivered in the cold as he changed his clothes. Perhaps there was also a rule that the fires would only be lit in the fireplaces when it became night.

At the dining table, he ate a simple meal. Thin soup and hard bread. There wasn’t a single piece of fruit or a sip of tea. He drank hot water.

Once he’d settled in, Ernst met with the servants of the manor face-to-face. There were two butlers and three maids, and there was also one cook. As well, there was only the single head butler. There were less servants here than at the villa he’d stayed in temporarily.

Meissen was a remote region – or rather, a border region. Though the three Schell countries were friendly on the surface, they were by no means neighbors who would always trust each other.

Meissen was, at the moment, the front line against Lux Kingdom should they ever come to war. Naturally, it should have a militia within.

So was this supposed to be that militia? Ernst felt out of his mind as he looked down at himself. All of the villagers he had seen yesterday were the same – shabby and thin men who stood around aimlessly. Would those people be able to fight; would they be able to win against an enemy? In the first place, would they even be able to wield a sword?

Ernst went to talk with the man who was considered the commanding officer. He was a man with arrogant eyes. He had a good physique for a Kleber. This man seemed to be the only soldier here. Yet, he carried a kind of atmosphere which said that in the event of an emergency, he would go anywhere.

Ernst gathered the militia in the much-too-small inner courtyard of the mansion. There were also people hidden by the walls of the residence. Hiding his inner dismay, Ernst slowly walked through the mansion, looking at and memorizing each face. He made his way to the back, and just as he turned around, his feet stopped.

Capturing the gazes of the militia men still hidden by the walls of the manor, Ernst’s thin legs froze.

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Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 11

Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 11

The distance between the village at Meissen’s outskirts where Ernst had parted with the hunters and the manor of the feudal lord took about half a day’s worth of travel via carriage. When he compared it to the smallness of the royal capital’s territory, Ernst understood just how vast Meissen was.

Ernst stopped the butler who wanted to hurry and bring him to the mansion, saying that he wanted to take his time to look around. Though it would be impossible to check out everything, Ernst wanted to at least view the villages scattered along the way to the mansion.

To begin with, Ernst asked who was the head of this village. The person the villagers all glanced at came forward; he was an old man whose legs were so unsteady, it wasn’t certain whether he could walk on his own. Was this kind of person really fit for the job? Ernst furrowed his eyebrows.

When he looked it over carefully, he couldn’t find any men who looked like strong workers or breadwinners in this village. There were old men, women, and strangely enough, many children.

Where did the fathers of these children go? In response to Ernst’s question, the village head pointed to several of the villagers and said, “All of them have Kleber’s disease, sir.”

This was the first time Ernst had ever seen someone else who had Kleber’s disease.

There were very few people who developed it in the royal capital. They lived in the lower city surrounding the capital.

But more frequently, in poverty-stricken lands far from the capital, such as Meissen, one would find many people with Kleber’s disease.

There hadn’t been enough time before Ernst’s departure, so while riding his carriage out of Rintz, he had read some information that he had hastily sent for. In Rintz Kingdom, the average rate of occurrence of Kleber’s disease was 1 in 100. Yet in Meissen, that rate became 1 in 20.

Though they had Kleber’s disease, not everyone was like Ernst, who was unable to sire children. Rather, it was considered unusual to be like Ernst, who was entirely a child.

Ernst once again looked over the villagers. These were people who were said to have Kleber’s disease. In this village, the rate of occurrence of Kleber’s disease was 1 in 10, no, 1 in 5, wasn’t it.

A sudden thought occurred to him, and Ernst asked the village head for his age. This year he had turned 147, he answered. These words stunned Ernst.

The average lifespan in the Schell continent was 200 years. Rintz Kingdom was comprised primarily of Kleber people who were, of course, one of the races of Schell, so their average life expectancy was 200 years. No matter how Ernst looked at him, the old man in front of him seemed like he should be somewhere from 190 to 200 years old.

Normally, a 147-year old should still be good to work, and their lower half should still be more than strong. So why did he look like this? Did he have some other disease?

Feeling like the questions in his mind had gone unanswered, Ernst unwillingly moved on to the next village. This village was in the same state. There were many people with Kleber’s disease, and there were only elderly villagers with not a single person in their prime.

Nothing changed in the next village, either.

When the mansion was in sight, Ernst asked the butler what the average lifespan in Meissen was. The butler only shook his head. “I don’t need an exact number – how old?” Ernst asked again, but the butler just titled his head away.

Why does he have to keep shaking his head so much, Ernst thought, a doubtful feeling rising within him. The butler trembled nervously as he asked a question. What is an ‘average lifespan’, he asked.

Ernst was stunned in disbelief. It couldn’t be that a butler who worked at the manor wouldn’t even know something like this. Then, he suddenly recalled something.

When comparing the countries in Schell continent, including the Luxe and Silus Kingdoms, the literacy rate of the Rintz Kingdom was clearly lower than the other two. The disparity between classes was clear; along with the nobles and wealthy merchants, only 1 in 5 people among the commoners was able to read.

But in Meissen, this rate was possibly even lower. A butler who served the manor shouldn’t possibly be unable to read, but his behavior roused Ernst’s suspicions.

The materials that Ernst had hastily gathered only briefly listed some details regarding the neighboring Lux and Grude territories.

For 100 years, no one had ruled this land. Ernst watched the scenery from the window of the carriage.

The bright red sunset illuminated the distant reaches of the snowfield.

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Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 10

Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 10

This was the last night Ernst would spend with the hunters. After walking for one more day, they would reach the outlying village of the Meissen territory. There should be a welcome party for him in the manor of that village. The hunters would part with him from there.

Even though Ernst had said that it would be fine if they at least rested for a day at the manor, the hunters politely declined. Winter was growing deeper and deeper. If they delayed their departure for even one day, the valley might close on them. The snow seemed to be falling more heavily this year.

After passing through the valley, they entered Meissen’s forest. They lit a fire with the drywood they collected here and there.

The forest within Meissen’s territory was quiet. Here, the land, the people, and the beasts were all barren and starving. In this forest, there wasn’t a single sign of a living creature.

They spoke quietly while drinking warm tea. Ernst listened to the hunters’ stories, and he in turn told them stories of his time at the villa. When they heard about how Ernst had been tricked by the butler’s tale of the wolf, the hunters’ grim faces broke out into smiles.

When they got along like this, it made Ernst feel regretful over how they would have to part ways. But it wasn’t as if he could ask them to come along with him. After all, these men lived their lives as hunters.

Ernst told them that he wanted to apologize for the horse they lost. He also wanted to thank them for safely bringing him to Meissen. Yet these things were also firmly refused. They couldn’t receive more compensation than what had already been decided, they said.

They drank tea and began preparing to rest. Today, too, the hunters switched off on fire-watching duty between themselves. The four of them had overcome their obstacles. They chatted about various things.

It didn’t feel as if, by tomorrow night, they would all be gone.

They walked through the forest. The trees in Meissen were wide and tall. It sure would be hard to chop these down,said the hunters, who also worked as lumberjacks.

Was that so? Ernst had thought that it would be better if the trees were large, but it seemed that it wasn’t good if they were too large.

Moreover, it was even difficult to find trees for firewood.

When Ernst asked why that was, the hunters answered that there wasn’t any deadwood in this forest. Along with that, last night, they had only found enough firewood to fuel a fire for one night despite how long they had searched.

Something moved between the trees. The hunters’ feet stopped. They covered Ernst, who stood at the back, and gazed into the depths of the forest.

It was a deer.

Even to Ernst’s eyes, the sight of this deer with its enormous horns was eyecatching. They stared at this outstanding deer. It was incredibly large. The hunters let out murmurs of amazement. Though where they were bordered Lux Kingdom to the north, it also bordered Grude to the east, so the animals were quite large, weren’t they? the hunters said.

A map of Meissen’s territory drifted through Ernst’s head.

Certainly, if you kept walking east, you would reach the land of Grude. There, you would find Grude Country, a land which existed solely for the purpose of trade. Grude Country was located in the approximate center of the Grude continent, and it was said that the rest of the land was filled with dry rocks and reddish soil.

That large man of the bathing chamber belonged to one of the four races which lived in Grude, the Dunberts. All four of the races of Grude shared enormous and sturdy physiques. The animals which dwelled there were also larger than could ever be imagined in the Schell continent.

The deer had stared fixedly in their direction, then turned its body and leapt away.

If we’d brought that deer down, it would’ve made for a fine meal, the youngest hunter said. With that size, it would’ve been a pain, the eldest hunter replied.

When Ernst asked why, the hunter explained that it was too big to be brought down by the arrows used in Schell. Then why not use a knife or hatchet? Ernst once again asked. Even if they did, with a beast that big, it was impossible to even get close to it, the hunter explained, then shook his head as if trying to let go of his own reluctance.

In the distance, they heard the sorrowful cry of a wolf. Even those wolves wouldn’t be able to bring down that deer, the hunters muttered, showing a trace of sympathy.

The forest wasn’t withered of life. Yet what abounded within it was the frustrating feeling of being unable to grasp that which was right before your eyes.

The village was bleak and desolate. The welcoming reception from the manor consisted of solely one butler.

The villagers who unsteadily crept out from their dilapidated shacks all wore clothing that looked rough and chafing. Even though the people of Schell continent were strong against the cold, they still wouldn’t walk around like that in a place like this. They were thin and emaciated, and their limbs looked like sticks.

Ernst had unconsciously frozen still. One of the hunters softly pushed his back. Ernst suddenly remembered to walk, and he went to thank the butler who had come to greet him.

Well then, the hunters said, about to leave. Ernst hurriedly rushed to hold them back a bit. He expressed his thanks to them, and for the first time in his life, he lowered his head and bowed.

Though the hunters, the butler, and the villagers were stunned, Ernst’s bow had come naturally. The hunters had brought him through such an arduous journey; just bowing his head once wasn’t enough of a sacrifice to pay them back for everything.

He raised his head and saw the faces of the hunters. He looked at each and every one of their faces, wanting to carve into his mind the memory of what they looked like, and then he shook the hand of each of them to say goodbye.

They had bulky, rough-skinned hands, those warm hunters.

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Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 9

Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 9

After arriving safely at the hut, Ernst rested there for one day. The hunters living at the hut welcomed him with some warm soup. Though they noticed the horse was missing, they didn’t mention it.

The day passed slowly.

Ernst laid down so that he could recover the energy it would take to safely cross the valley. Though his body felt very tired, his mind didn’t feel any better, either.

Even so, he wasn’t able to fall sleep.

What they did was the right thing to do. If they hadn’t sacrificed the horse, someone might have died. No, maybe all of them might have died. One horse was enough to satisfy a pack of wolves. If that hadn’t been the case, Ernst wouldn’t have been able to escape on foot.

He couldn’t stop thinking about those days he spent swaying on the back of the horse. He had been told that as king, he shouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice one or two people for the greater good. He should always unhesitatingly choose the good of the country over the lives of a thousand citizens.

Ernst, also, had believed that this was the way of an admirable politician.

But now, faced with the sacrifice of just one horse, he knew he would never be able to do such a thing.

He had really… become so weak.

No, that wasn’t right. In that cage called the royal palace, he had just lived without knowing anything. Something like ‘living’, and something like ‘dying’, he didn’t understand either of them. For that reason, as life held no meaning to him, it was simple to throw away the lives of his people whilst debating what should be done.

The valley was more difficult to cross than the forest.

It didn’t have any wolves. It didn’t have any other dangerous animals to replace the wolves, either. It was the terrain itself that was dangerous.

In the summer, it was said that this place was rocky. But the scenery laid out before Ernst’s eyes was one vast, white surface. Below the white snow covering the area were countless unstable rocks.

The hunters carefully searched for footholds to move forward. Now that they had exited the forest, there weren’t any trees to block the wind from blowing directly on them. Ernst’s small body was about to be blown away, so one of the hunters tied Ernst to himself with a rope.

As they went forward, the amount of ground they could walk on lessened. The path narrowed, making the cliff seem like it was getting closer.

Three days after they started walking, they approached the most treacherous part of the valley. Will we be able to get through this place safely? Ernst wondered, his body shrinking in fear.

The hunters took one day of rest before heading to that area. They used cloth, branches, and snow to ward off the wind. Using the lumber they’d brought from the hut, they stoked a fire. They melted some snow, and for the first time in three days, they were able to have a hot drink. They added tea leaves and ate some of their treasured butter in order prepare for tomorrow and build up strength in their bodies.

The next morning had fine weather. The wind also wasn’t very strong. Ernst felt relieved; he thought that it would be easy to cross from here on, but in contrast to his thoughts, the hunters had gloomy expressions. When the weather was good, the temperature would rise, and it would be easier for the snow to melt.

But of course, it would still be easier to walk than if the wind were blowing. Winter still hadn’t passed over the entryway to Meissen. They had no choice but to hurry and get out of here while they still could.

The youngest hunter proceeded first. He carefully searched for footholds. He grasped at the rocks with both of his hands. Ernst watched him with intense concentration.

He couldn’t afford not to do so. If Ernst missed his footing, he would fall into the cliff on the other side. You couldn’t see the bottom even if you peered down. With the depths of hell at his back, Ernst had to be able to walk on his own because no one would be able to save him if he fell.

Ernst was the second to go. The eldest hunter had fastened a rope around Ernst’s stomach, then tossed the rope toward the crossing hunter. After confirming that the other person had tightly grasped the rope, the hunter urged Ernst forward. With a nervous expression on his face, Ernst nodded and began to walk.

He believed in the three hunters.

He followed the footsteps of the hunter who had crossed before him. His fingers gripped the cliffside. He felt like his bulky gloves didn’t have much use when it came to this.

As best as he could, Ernst put all of his strength into sticking his fingers to the rock. Slowly, carefully, he inched his feet forward. Because he wore the winter clothing, he couldn’t see his feet.

When Ernst leaned slightly back to get a better look, the voice of the senior hunter rang out. Move forward by searching out the next spot with the tip of your foot, he said.

Ernst hastily pulled back his neck. He was right; even though Ernst had only leaned back a little, the gust of wind coming from below had destabilized his body.

He couldn’t just rely on his eyes. He concentrated all of his senses on his feet, and as if fiercely trying to get his shaking fingertips to settle, he applied more strength to them. He let the vast scenery behind his back fade from his consciousness.

His eyebrows were frozen because of the cold. Ernst slowly advanced, and as he glanced up, his gaze collided with the serious expression of the hunter carrying the rope.

Regardless of whether they had been hired by Ernst, regardless of his status as the former Crown Prince, they all felt that they wanted to safely get out of here together. Ernst boiled with energy that bubbled up from the depths of his body.

Ernst took twice as long to cross as the hunter leading the way. On Ernst’s last step, the hunter who had watched over him gripped him with his powerful hand.

As Ernst fell over, the hunter firmly hugged his small body. He patted his back as if praising him, Well done. Ernst felt more proud than when he had solved a difficult formula in the royal palace.

The two remaining hunters also safely passed through.

Once again, they walked in a group of four. Just because they had crossed the hardest spot didn’t mean that the rest of the path in front of them would be easy. They had to climb both crumbling rocks and frozen stone surfaces. It was hollow beneath the snow, putting them in danger of falling in.

But because the three hunters accompanied him, Ernst wasn’t afraid. Day by day, step by step, Ernst felt like he was growing stronger.

He felt like he was learning, for the first time, how to trust in other people.

It had been inevitable that of all the people in the royal palace, no one had felt sadness or regret over his leaving.

Ernst didn’t know the name of a single person living in the royal palace. He didn’t even know the name of the head butler who had accompanied him since birth.

Even if he didn’t know, it didn’t matter. Though he didn’t know their names, the only things they spoke were instructions. There wasn’t any trace of affection in them.

So that’s how it was, Ernst realized.

Ernst didn’t even know the names of the people who’d lived in the royal palace.

When he thought about it, that giant man had been the only person whose name he had wanted to ask.

Translator’s Note

Hello! Thank you for reading the latest update to the MotS translation!!

The story continues a bit slowly for the next few chapters until Ernst settles into Meissen, so I’m going to wait and release them as a batch update.

Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, my friend Cael is also translating a new BL story on this website! It’s called Your Kingdom. Please check it out~! It’s about an innocent and sickly prince who is attended to by a mysterious angelic(?) man.

Finally, for one last shameless promo, I’ve been writing an original story of my own too! It’s called Klue & Berry, and it’s about a shameless trader who accidentally falls in love with the monster of a forest. It’s still WIP, but please try it out if you have free time~

I’ll try to keep working steadily. Thank you for enjoying the stories that these authors have lovingly crafted!!

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Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 8

Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 8

The march through the forest grew more difficult with each step. The closer they went to Meissen, the deeper the snow became. At the moment, the snow nearly reached the knees of the horse – yet they hadn’t even finished half of the journey.

Every now and then, a belly grumble-like cry of an animal issued from the forest. That was a wolf. This time, it was an actual, genuine wolf.

With the long winter approaching, the wolf’s stomach was most likely empty. In order to keep it from sensing them, Ernst’s escort proceeded downwind of the wolf.

The people traveling with Ernst were hunters who lived in this forest. Large and heavy-looking hatchets were balanced on their hips, and they carried pointed, sharp knives. Carrying bows on their backs, they marched through the forest with grim faces. All three of Ernst’s escort were Kleber.

Though they hadn’t yet encountered a wolf, Ernst was slightly worried over whether just these men would be enough against a wolf.

Certainly, all of them had burly and strong physiques compared to Ernst, who suffered from Kleber’s disease. But in his mind, Ernst was comparing them to a Dunbertian’s body.

If that man were here, he would be able to walk leisurely without worrying about the snow catching his feet.

The snow continued to fall constantly.

The snow flew between the branches of the trees, which stood still as if they were dead. Sometimes, a snowstorm blew.

This was the first time Ernst had ever felt so cold in his life. He buried himself in the winter clothing that the villa’s servants had prepared for him to avoid the freezing cold.

Unconsciously, he hunched over. Because of how cold it was, he couldn’t even look in front of him; he couldn’t raise his face to see.

He listened to the sound of the horses and hunters stepping through the snow. This quiet marching was all that he could hear. Ernst started nodding off until one of the escorts woke him. Whether he was asleep or awake, time passed without much difference between them.

Even when he was awake, he dreamed.

In his dreams, there was a warm bath. That giant man of a servant was there. He gently washed Ernst’s body. His fingertips slipped into the hole in Ernst’s backside and scrubbed it. With his large hands, he washed every inch of Ernst’s body, and he touched Ernst’s small manhood. Warm happiness flowed through Ernst.

Only Ernst had a horse prepared for him. With his boy-like slender body, it would take all of his might just to stand in the snow.

They advanced through the woods. They kept on advancing. The snow continued to pile up heavily, but the men marched forward without paying it any mind.

Ernst heard the howls of the wolf coming from far away, and closeby.

At night, they dug holes in the snow and and rested inside. This was the first time Ernst learned that snow could be something warm.

His escorts took turns resting, and they continuously stoked the fire to make sure it wouldn’t go out.

Ernst offered, “Shall I take over?” After all, during the daytime he was the only one on a horse, and he thought that he shouldn’t be as tired as these men who had to walk through the snow.

The men’s faces showed that they had been caught off guard, and they laughed awkwardly as they rejected Ernst’s offer. Their stern faces had made them seem scary, but their expressions when they laughed were nice and honest.

Ernst chatted with them little by little. They walked in silence during the day, but at night, they gathered around the fire and spoke. Bit by bit, the men told him in quiet voices about what it was like to live in the forest, and how they had lived in the Rintz region ever since they were young.

Gazing at the fire, Ernst fell into a strange and quiet mood.

The howls of the wolf echoed throughout the night. Though Ernst still felt scared, it wasn’t as much as he had been when he’d first entered the forest. This was because he’d come to understand the people escorting him. He didn’t need to worry uselessly; instead, he just needed to get to know them.

They ate the food they’d brought with them little by litte. Though the luggage they carried gradually grew lighter, the expressions on the men’s faces grew more severe. When Ernst asked why, they told him that from here on out, if a wolf attacked them, they wouldn’t have any food to spare for luring it away.

So that was why. Their food wasn’t just for eating; in an emergency, it was also used to divert a wolf’s attention.

That said, walking through the snow while carrying extra food wasn’t all that easy.

As their load lightened, their walking speed increased. They had to leave the forest before they encountered any wolves.

The next obstacle to face on their path would be the valley. Supposedly, in front of the valley was a hunter’s hut. They would travel up until there, and then they would leave the horse and continue on foot. Once they left the forest, there wouldn’t be any wolves. The men’s feet moved faster.

The night, too, quickly approached. Though the fire would repel a stray wolf, they would be helpless if a group came after them. The wolves were intelligent enough to know to wait until there wasn’t enough wood for the fire to keep burning.

The horse exhaled, its white breath rising like a cloud. In the night sky, the whirling snow glittered like stars. The fallen snow looked like crystals, and it was beautiful, cold, and cruel. To keep himself from falling asleep, Ernst tightened his grip on the horse’s reins.

Suddenly, he felt something gazing at him. The men’s feet came to a still. Sending a signal with his eyes, the youngest hunter touched Ernst’s arm.

He was asked to quietly get off the horse and follow him. They hadn’t left the forest yet. This wasn’t a resting place, either. Ernst heard the urgency in their voices, but he neither questioned nor resisted them. There was nothing in this forest that Ernst would know better of than they did.

The eldest hunter tied the horse’s rope to a tree. He touched the nape of the horse’s neck as if comforting, apologizing, pitying it. The horse stomped its feet restlessly.

Surrounded by his escort, Ernst quietly but quickly proceeded down the snowy road. He followed after one of the escorts, who had gone ahead to break up the snow, making it easier for Ernst to walk. Though his feet still got caught in the snow, Ernst fervently followed him as if trying to chase away the frightening thoughts in his head.

As Ernst continued to walk, clenching both of his hands, the sounds of the horse’s neighs reached his ears. He heard the wolves’ enjoyment. Ernst tightly closed his eyes and shook his head.

He roughly exhaled. Kept traveling through the forest. The escorts strode forward quickly. Ernst clumsily moved forward like he could fall at any moment. His body looked like it was about to collapse, so one of the escorts grabbed his delicate arm and pulled him along. No one said anything. No one could say anything.

Ernst felt like he wanted to cry. But he couldn’t afford to do so.

Translator’s Note

RIP horse.
We made it 4 chapters without Ernst thinking about his parts, let’s celebrate.
I’m really enjoying Tsukiya’s writing. I hope you guys are too!

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Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 7

Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 7

As winter approached, the territory Ernst would rule was decided.

The butlers, the maids, the cooks, and even the man who owned the donkey shed tears as they bid him a reluctant farewell. This made Ernst feel happiness. When Ernst had separated from the royal palace, every single person there had an attitude expressing how they just wished for Ernst to hurry up and get out. Yet even so, the people of this villa were willing to cry for him. They cried and were angry over how absurd his situation was.

Ernst’s territory was a backwater area along the border, Meissen.


This was a place that shared a border with the neighboring country, Lux Kingdom. The snow-covered region was barren, and it was separated from the adjoining region of Rintz[1] by steep mountains and valleys, which couldn’t be crossed during the winter season. The territory itself was broken up by steep mountains and vast forests, and it also held a raging river which served as the border to Lux Country; it was an impoverished but vast territory.

Most of its population was said to suffer from famine. Even the Lord of the territory likely wouldn’t be unaffected by it. For over a hundred years, there were no Lords ruling over Meissen.

It was probably due to the raging river and the land being too poor that the territory hadn’t been stolen by Lux Kingdom.

Crying, the butler who had once frightened Ernst with the story of the wolf shouted: Why must he have to go to that sort of place?

But for Ernst, there were things he had to do which left no room for him to spend grieving or getting angry.

That was, to prepare himself for his departure. Even if he left immediately, it was uncertain whether he would arrive safely at his destination. Winter was coming soon. Or rather, it might already be snowing over the land. In this season, Ernst didn’t know if it was even possible to cross the mountains and valleys separating Meissen from the Rintz region.

Even so, it was impermissible to ignore the King’s royal decree until next spring. With his life riding on the line, early in the morning on the very next day, Ernst hurriedly set off.

Did the people of the palace expect this situation to happen? It wouldn’t be a surprise; perhaps the decision of Ernst’s territory had been put off because they had been waiting for the coming of winter. He wasn’t even the Crown Prince anymore – just what were they so afraid of?

Or was it that he must have been such a nuisance that they hated him?

The horse balked at the snow trapping its legs, and was soothed by the man currently tying a rope to it.

Ernst traveled via horse-drawn carriage toward the Rintz region. He wasn’t able to ride horses. He had been told that as befitting the manner of a prince, he mustn’t touch animals. Horses were things which pulled carriages; they weren’t things that the King and Crown Prince should ride. That said, Ernst regretted that he hadn’t taken the opportunity while he was at the villa to practice riding. It took fifteen days for the carriage to rush from the villa to the Rintz region.

Once he passed into Rintz’s territory, white snow had begun fluttering from the sky.

The servants of the villa had requested Ernst to please, at least allow them to assist in his preparations, and Ernst had gratefully accepted. They followed him on horseback, and until Ernst arrived in Rintz, the servants on their horses became his escort, arranging his food and even his winter clothing.

They had really helped him out. Ernst wanted to repay this favor to them, but he didn’t really have anything with him.

Except, he had books. Ernst handed the book about medicinal plants over to them. Though they tried to refuse, saying, “Something as valuable as this…”, Ernst insisted. In the first place, he had only brought it with him to distract himself. All of its contents were already memorized inside his head.

He made them take this bulky book, and one by one, he shook each of their hands to say goodbye. All of them had warm, nice hands.

Just like the hands of the servant in the bathing chamber, they were the hands of people who lived honest, steady lives.

Translator’s Note

Whenever I read a BL, I always get anxious if the ML hasn’t shown up for a long time. So I’ll give a small spoiler and say, you can expect to see a familiar face in chapter 13.

Also, if you’d like to read more Japanese BL, please check out hasr11’s translation of Sky of the Wolf!

Unfortunately, the new wordpress format broke the way I usually do footnotes. Since most of my footnotes are about the problems of my translation, I’ll leave them stacked at the bottom of the page.

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[1]: So I actually got confused here. To clarify the geography, Rintz is the name of the Kingdom, but the name Rintz here refers to a specific region of the country which is next to Meissen.

Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 6

Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 6

Though he was scared of the wolves in the forest, Ernst didn’t want to shut himself away inside the villa, either. The act of taking a morning walk was ingrained in his body, so he couldn’t just stop doing it. Whenever Ernst crossed into the rear garden, he kept close to the villa’s outer wall.

On this day, too, Ernst glared at the forest while walking with his back scraping against the outer wall of the villa. A wolf could probably jump into the rear garden with just one leap. If he saw one lurking in the forest somewhere, he was prepared to run back into the villa as fast as he could. As Ernst stared intently into the forest, he heard the same thin voice that he’d heard when he had first learned there were wolves here.

It was a wolf.

Sweat poured down Ernst’s slender back. The act of ‘sweating’ was also something Ernst had learned of after coming to the villa.

This moment was one that Ernst couldn’t help but laugh at whenever he thought back to it.

Trembling with tension, Ernst stared at the small blue bird that had jumped out in front of his eyes. The trees rustled as the bird flew through them; it landed upon one of the trees in the back garden and began to pleasantly chirp, its voice something that Ernst recalled hearing before.

The maids who had been passing by looked dubiously at Ernst, who had stuck himself to the wall, not breathing as he held his body as stiff as stone.

So that voice wasn’t actually a wolf’s? No, when Ernst had been told that, he did think something had been off. He’d wondered whether such a dreadful beast as that actually spoke with such a lovely voice.

But wait, if he considered all of the possibilities, it wouldn’t be strange for there to be a bird with a voice similar to a wolf’s. The next thing Ernst did was accost a passing-by maid and ask her. The maid answered him with a frank expression which indicated she absolutely didn’t understand what he was talking about. There aren’t any wolves in this forest, were her words.

That day at dinnertime, Ernst feigned a casual air and questioned the butler from before. Where did the wolves go? A grin like that of a child caught pulling a prank crept up on the butler’s face. “Perhaps they had wandered off into the forest,” he replied.

In that case, I wish you had told me that from the start. Ernst thought that, but he didn’t become angry. Ever since Ernst had arrived at the villa and met the people here, they had earnestly cared and worried over him.

Ernst had read books such as “A Guide to Walking through the Forest”. The way they were written made it seem like if you followed what the literature said, you wouldn’t get lost. Despite the fact that the vast majority of his knowledge was obtained from literature, Ernst had thought that was all there was, and had been under the impression that this information was all correct.

But now, he understood. Even books could be mistaken.

There was a donkey.

On that day, Ernst saw a funny-looking and unfamiliar animal at the back entrance of the villa. It seemed to belong to the dingy and crude man who had been talking with the cook. He came closer and asked, “What is this?” The man looked at him with eyes that questioned, You don’t even know something like this? Pronouncing it with a roll of his tongue, the man said, “This is a donkey.”[1]

Donkey. Did he say that this was a donkey? Ernst didn’t believe it. The donkeys in the illustrations were shorter than horses, but otherwise looked completely the same. It shouldn’t have such a stupid-looking face. Was this really what donkeys were like, or was it only this donkey that had such a funny face? A somewhat sullen expression came over the man’s face after he had been asked whether his donkey especially had a funny-looking face, and he said, “No, it looks the same as all the others.”

It was so unexpected for the literature to be wrong that Ernst couldn’t believe it. The literature was everything. Every single one of his teachers would lecture after opening a book. He had been told that the answers to everything he didn’t know could be found within books. Ernst had read all of the books supplied by the royal palace. He had memorized them all. He had been filled with self-satisfaction after being praised for his excellence. Had all of that been for naught?

Yet, there were also times where the literature had come in handy.

On that day, one of the maids collapsed. She complained of terrible abdominal pains. Because of the storm outside, it was dangerous to venture out. Even if one went outside, unless they were in the area surrounding the royal palace, one wouldn’t find a doctor in the city. In any case, it had been late at night, and no one thought that a doctor would make a trip just for one maid. There wasn’t anything that could be done; in front of that suffering maid, a heavy atmosphere fell over the inside of the villa.

Ernst had already gone to bed, but he suddenly woke in the middle of the night. Though the storm was nearing its end, he sensed something strange in the air of the villa, and left his room. Despite it being midnight, he heard servants speaking with lowered voices. After following those voices, he discovered that one of the maids was in pain.

Even though he wanted to scold, Why didn’t you wake me up?, it couldn’t be helped. While only temporarily, Ernst was the head of the household, so it was natural that he wouldn’t receive a report on the physical condition of a single maid.

Ernst examined the maid’s condition, listened to what she had to say, and concluded that it was food poisoning. He ordered the butlers to go to the forest and grab some of the wild Chigo leaves growing nearby, then boil it with Rasbi roots and Zaray stalks and have the maid drink it. Everyone around him looked at him dubiously. In Rintz Kingdom, all medical care was performed by doctors, and only doctors issued medicine. Though doctors used medical herbs, how much to use and what was effective were secrets which doctors only passed down to their apprentices. Because of that, the general people paid high prices to buy medicinal plants, even if they possessed the same efficacy as something they could grow in their own garden.

There were no mistakes in Ernst’s diagnosis or prescription, and the maid had been cured by dawn.

After coming to the villa, Ernst had learned many things.

Though literature could be wrong, it could also be right. The important thing was to judge its correctness using one’s own mind. Nothing would come of thinking that only the literature was correct and turning one’s eyes away from reality. Though it was very different from the illustrations, there was something charming about the silly face of a real donkey, after all.

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[1]: The word for donkey is ロバ (roba). The man pronounces it by rolling his R, like the way a gangster or delinquent would in modern times. Basically, he’s a gruff and rough dude.

Moonlight on the Snowfield: Chapter 5

Arc 1, New Moon
Chapter 5

Three months had passed since Ernst began life in the villa.

Most nobles lived their lives ruling over large territories. Ernst, who had just been demoted to the rank of noble, should have had land to rule as well.

People who belonged to the races originating from Schell continent were generally unwilling to bequeath land to their children, perhaps due to these races’ long lifespans. Besides, it was difficult for them to conceive children, so it was possible for a noble to reach the end of their life without having a child. Rintz Kingdom was like this; land was bequeathed by the King, and naturally, people weren’t overly attached to their place of residence. If a noble has died, or if they have been accused of a crime and parted with their territory, and the next lord of the land hasn’t yet been decided, then the lord of the neighboring territory would temporarily reign. At the moment, there should be several territories without lords.

Would Ernst receive a territory befitting his former rank? Or would he receive a territory which dissolved the prestige of his former status? It could go either way. The two options were so contentious that even up until now, this matter hadn’t been decided.

Ernst would be fine with either result. Whether it was an incredible one, or a disappointing one.

Now that Ernst was no longer a crown prince, the servants learned to look at his face and speak to him. After a long while, their hearts eventually understood that it was no longer improper to do so. Ernst was fine with ruling whatever territory he received. He only just felt regretful if he were to have to part with the servants of this villa, with whom he had only recently began to reach some semblance of familiarity. That was why he never asked if a decision had arrived. He felt that if they were to treat him like the servants of the royal palace did, as if he was some awe-inspiring and untouchable figure, then it would wound him greatly inside. It disgusted Ernst how, ever since he had ceased to be the crown prince, he gradually became a more cowardly person.

The villa was on the other side of the country from the royal palace. There weren’t any visitors, and there weren’t any travelers passing by, either. There weren’t any tall walls or low fences, and beyond the backyard, a forest spread out. Even after a long time, Ernst wasn’t able to get any closer to the forest.

When he had first started living in the villa, Ernst had been greatly interested by the forest. One could see its expansive size and depth just by looking in the general vicinity of its entrance. Every now and then, he could hear an indistinct and light voice coming from it. He had asked a passing-by butler, “What is that?” The butler had stared at the forest, then turned his face away and replied respectfully, “That is a wolf, sire.”

A wolf. That was something he had seen among the illustrations in his books.

There was a book in the royal palace which detailed all sorts of animals and plants. Whenever he needed a break from studying, Ernst always looked through this book. Not only the Schell continent’s flora and fauna, it also listed the Grude continent’s, the Sout continent’s, Hel continent’s, and Sistica continent’s. All of the animals and plants of the world were listed in that book. It was incredibly interesting. Within the forest before his very eyes lived the wolf which he had seen in the book. Ernst wanted to find it no matter what, and see a wolf with his own eyes.

But when Ernst expressed his interest in doing so, the butler intervened, “Sir, with all due respect…” and talked about his own experience. With a pale face and a shaking voice, he described the appearance of the wolf, and upon hearing of what the wolf did, Ernst blanched and his face froze.

Even the maid who had just been passing by began to tremble and cry, her grief palpable as she and Ernst listened to the story of how the life of the butler’s acquaintance had been brutally snuffed out by the wolf. The story was so gruesome that it haunted Ernst’s dreams for the next few days, giving him nightmares.

However, it took him about a month to realize that the story they’d fed him had been completely made up.

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