Chapter 1 – Story 35: Peddler

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Hopkins is a peddler.
He is a peddler who started with a small niryu and a covered wagon using the funds he amassed during the 10 years he worked as an apprentice in a city’s mercantile house. Hopkins began with taking merchandise he procured in the city to farm villages and exchanging it for agricultural produce, such as wheat.
He deliberately went to farm villages a far distance from the city that don’t get visited by those of the same trade as him. He accepts that his profit is low in comparison to the time spent. However, thanks to this method, Hopkins is now at a point where he experiences passable reactions at the villages that have befriended him to a reasonable extent.
Brimming with self-confidence from this, he made the proposal of his lifetime to a woman that he got to know during his time working at the mercantile house. His cherished family is now staying with him in the back of his covered wagon. Moreover, three years ago, his important family increased by one more, namely a son.
You could call that a successful yet modest life.
When Hopkins visited a city in Holmea State, the hot topic of gossip was that the army that had left to exterminate the zoan living in the north of the Solbiant Plains suffered large casualties from a fire that they had caused in the zoan village by mistake.
Hopkins believed this to be a business opportunity.
Because the Solbiant Plains formerly belonged to the zoan, the common practice is to form large caravans with fellow peddlers or to accompany the military in order to trade with the fortress and pioneer villages that dot the plains.
However, if one links up with a caravan, the profit will be split accordingly to all members. There’s also the difficulty of searching for peddlers that will accompany oneself. The military’s next departure to the Solbiant Plains is also an unknown. They would obviously also demand quite a bit of gratuity if one tries to travel with them.
Why don’t I just go by myself and try and sell some goods to the fortress, if that’s the case? He wondered.
Sure, the Solbiant Plains used to be zoan territory, but that’s a story from the past.
The zoan have been suppressed by the army and were driven away into the hilly area in the distant north. Therefore, I think there’s almost no chance that I’ll get attacked by the zoan. If there was anything else to worry about, it would be bandits, but there’s probably no one stupid enough to be active in an area where the army and zoan prowl about, he judged.
Hopkins really wanted to wring the neck of Hopkins from a few days ago right this moment.

“Well then, what are we going to do about this guy, Garam?”

“Soma told us to even bring along the soldiers without killing them if at all possible. I don’t think we have another option besides taking him with us.”

A red-furred and a black-furred zoan are talking right in front of Hopkins. With both of them having muscular bodies, they seem like they were totally capable of plucking his head off his shoulders with a single twist.
Also, in addition, his covered wagon was surrounded by zoan.

“Zurgu, please have someone run ahead to the fortress to inform them about this.”

“Aye. Got it.”

Once the red-furred zoan went to his other comrades, the black-furred zoan stepped up to the coachman bench with Hopkins on it.

“And so, I’m sorry, but can I have you come with us?”

Hopkins had no other choice but to desperately nod his head while protecting his wife and child in the back.

◆◇◆◇◆

After he was brought to the fortress with his wagon surrounded by zoan, Hopkins doubted his own eyes.
The vicinity of the fortress is crowded with countless zoan tents. Not only that, the zoan are boldly coming and going through the widely opened gate of the fortress. Forget about the zoan village being reduced to ashes, on the contrary, it apparently seems that the fortress was under the complete control of the zoan.
Once the covered wagon drives through the gate into the the fortress’ square, an astonishingly great number of humans became visible. Just like in the rumours, many of them are apparently bearing scalds and injuries.

“Alright, wait here. — You guys, unload the luggage off the wagon.”

The latter half of the black-furred zoan’s words was directed towards the zoan in the vicinity. They took down the medicinal supplies that were loaded on the wagon and brought them to the square’s ground one after the other. Hopkins was afraid that they would hurt his wife and son at any moment, but the zoan didn’t try to touch them at all.
A short time later a human boy turned up from within a building while bringing a zoan girl along.

“I was told that a peddler came?”

He wondered whether the boy had been caught by the zoan in the same pitiable way as himself, but isn’t he calling out to the black-furred zoan in an overly friendly manner? I’m certain that zoan’s mood is pretty bad because of that. He was nervous on whether or not the zoan would take it out on him, but the zoan replied without paying a bit of attention to him.

“The wagon’s load are things like ointments and bandages. I suppose he intended to sell these to this fortress to begin with.”

“That’s a big help. As we will buy all of it, how much do you want for it?”

“W-Wh-What a thing to say! You don’t have to pay. Therefore, just the life of my family…!” (Hopkins)

“That means…”

“You really don’t have to pay any money, so can’t you do anything about saving my family!?” (Hopkins)

“… How troublesome. Shyemul, I’m sorry, but can you go and call Marchronis?”

Hearing the boy’s words, the zoan girl next to him entered the building and returned after a short time, bringing along a middle-aged man that had several sword cuts carved onto his face.

“Just what kind of business do you have with me?”

“I’m sorry for expressly calling you here, Marchronis. A merchant came to sell medicinal supplies, but since I don’t know the market price, I’d like you to help me out here.”

The man called Marchronis checks the numbers and types of goods lined up on the ground.

“Twenty jars of ointments, two hundred bandage rolls, ten jars of salves and fifty wrappings with laxative medicine. … Hmm, including a bonus for braving the danger to come sell these here, it will be around thirty seven silver coins, I think.” (Marchronis)

That was mostly the same amount of money Hopkins would have tried to sell it for.

“Will it be alright with that amount of money?”

Even if it wasn’t fine, Hopkins had no other option but to agree with the boy here.
Due to him continuing to nod his head in earnest, the boy interpretes it as having gained Hopkins’ acknowledgement. He instructs the zoan to carry the medicinal supplies inside the building.

“By the way, you came here from the city, right?”

“Yes. It is as you say!” (Hopkins)

“In that case I will pay you twice the amount, but I have a little something I’d like to request from you…”

The sweetly smiling face of the boy reminded Hopkins of the face of a terrible villain.

◆◇◆◇◆

Several days later Hopkins’ covered wagon travelled south through the plains.
Instead of his family, two strange guests had boarded the cargo area of the wagon that had become empty after unloading the merchandise at the fortress.

“Yes, indeed, I can’t get used to liking this wagon after all, I guess.”

“Endure it. This time our goal is to enter the city.”

“Ah, no, as long as I’m together with you, Soma, I won’t complain. Naturally!”

The ones leisurely chatting in the cargo area are the mysterious human boy called Soma and the zoan girl who can be considered a beauty even from Hopkin’s point of view, possessing balanced limbs and gorgeous fur.
The condition that the boy proposed in exchange for buying the merchandise for twice its price was to lead the boy to the city. Of course, the boy also attached the condition that Hopkin’s wife and son will be well taken care of at the fortress.
At first the boy intended to go by himself, but the zoan girl resolutely suggested to accompany him which caused a dispute. The black zoan frantically tried to dissuade her, but the zoan girl stubbornly refused to comply, which resulted in her tagging along while being treated as the boy’s slave.
When the zoan girl stated that she will pretend to be a slave, the zoan in the surroundings seemed so surprised that they were on the verge of fainting, and there even appeared to be some who begged her in tears to abstain. Judging from that fact, she’s probably quite the important person among the zoan.
However, what worries me even more is that the zoan girl diligently takes care of the human boy.
After watching these two’s interactions in these last few days, I’m surprised by the zoan girl’s devotion towards the boy.
In the morning she wakes up earlier than the boy, prepares his clothes and meal, and then patiently waits for him to get up. At bedtime she avoids lying down before the boy falls asleep if possible. Also, if the boy’s shoulders shiver slightly due to the northern wind, she gently places woollen cloths on his shoulders. If the boy takes a nap inside the swaying covered wagon, she places his head on her knees.
It’s like she’s a human maiden experiencing her first love.
For there to be a human that gets offered this much dedication by a zoan while the humans and zoan hate each other; If he had heard this story from someone else, Hopkins would have likely laughed it off.
The other thing Hopkins considers to be odd is the fact that the boy doesn’t know that many things.

“This coin is one dinas? Is what you say?”

The boy asked Hopkins while holding one bronze coin that he took from the war funds of the fortress

“Correct. It’s one bronze coin and also one dinas.” (Hopkins)

“This is a gold coin?”

Next he pointed at a coin glittering with its dark-gold color.

“No, that one is a brass coin.” (Hopkins)

It’s a coin made out of brass which is an alloy of copper and zinc.
It uses the same material as the Five-Yen coin in Japan.

“Oh, hmm, so what kind of coins are circulating in this world?”

Feeling doubts while thinking this child uses weird expressions such as 「this world」, Hopkins replied,

“The ones circulating in Holmea State are iron coins, bronze coins, brass coins, silver coins and gold coins. Even in other countries, it’s mostly the same.” (Hopkins)

“How much value does each of them posses?”

“An iron coin is 1/20th of a bronze coin. Four bronze coins become one brass coin. Twenty five brass coins are one silver coin. Fifty silver coins can be exchanged into one gold coin.”

“With one gold coin being 5000 bronze coins, it’s also 5000 dinas?”

Surprising. He immediately guessed the value of the currency correctly.
I’m pretty sure the ones capable of calculating in this era are people who have a job related to counting money such as merchants and government officials, or humans born into prospering noble and knight families.
However, as far as Hopkins can assess, neither of those applied to Souma. Considering merchants and government officials, there are too many things he doesn’t know. A human born into a prospering family shouldn’t be so close to zoan.

“Well, that’s right, but usually a brass coin is called demeranis, one silver coin is called agnis and one gold coin is called gulkonis.” (Hopkins)

“Wow! Are the names different for each currency? That’s something troublesome.”

I’m the one that wants to be pretty surprised over this…, Hopkins retorted in his mind.
He cannot help but being curious what’s so astonishing about this very common knowledge.

“One dinas, how much value does that have?”

“Let’s see. If you go to a bar in the city, most jars of alcohol cost about one dinas. And—.” (Hopkins)

Hopkins stretched out his hand from the coachman seat, opened a food box and took out one round bread from within.

“This bread costs two dinas.” (Hopkins)

“One bread costs two dinas; that’s always true?”

“Yes. Otherwise everyone would be troubled, right?” (Hopkins)

In this era the staple food is bread, and is something indispensable for life. Most of the countries’ leaders strictly regulated the price of this bread. If there was a sudden price jump for bread, many people wouldn’t be able to buy bread and thus starve. If the starving populace started to plunder and rebel in their wish for bread, that would cause damage to a country.
But then again, it does happen that wheat gets mixed with barley and similar stuff or that the weight of the used wheat gets lowered in years with poor crop harvest, but if the perpetrators go too far with that, that will also result in them receiving punishments.
In addition, the fixed bread price also served to stabilize the value of the currency.
Currency also becomes an intermediary for barter. Let’s assume there are two humans: A who wants to sell fish and B who wants to sell meat. In case A wants meat and B wants fish, it will be feasible for both to barter for the goods. However, in case one or both parties don’t want the food possessed by the other party, they won’t be able to barter. With this, business transactions would stagnate all over.
But, if there exists a currency at that time, A and B will be able to change the goods both possess into currency temporarily. If either desires something the other party possesses, it will be fine to exchange the money into fish or meat. If the other party doesn’t have what the interested party wants, the interested party can just keep the money on hand and buy what they want from someone else. By doing it this way, it becomes possible to trade far more smoothly than by bartering.
However, for this the currency has to be something that had its value acknowledged by both, A and B.
Accordingly, with the country’s leaders deciding one bread to be worth two dinas, the value of the money has been guaranteed. It also means that it’s easy to understand and use for the populace, since the price of bread is directly related to their lives.

“Why has this bread been baked with dividing lines on its surface?”

“That’s because it’s easy divide it at the times when you eat in the morning, noon and evening, if you separate it like this.” (Hopkins)

“This one piece of bread is one day’s share. In addition, there are three meals per day in this world as well.”

In the modern era it has become normal to have three meals per day, but it’s not unusual for there to also be two meals per day depending on the place and epoch. Ancient Rome in Europe had three meals per day, but after them it became two meals per day until the medieval times. Also, even in Japan it was two meals per day until close to the middle of the Edo period. (T/N: 1603-1868 CE)

“It’s originating from the fact that The Seven held three banquets per day to bless the sun which is the beginning of this world.”

Being able to explain it to the boy, the zoan girl talks in a manner that could be called tremendously happy.

“Morning when the sun revives, noon when its life is the most energetic and evening when the sun dies; praying for the sun’s rebirth tomorrow, we also take our meals alongside a blessing towards the sun.”

“I see.”

If you consider him to be intelligent to a surprising degree, that’s about correct. But he doesn’t know things that even younger children are aware of.
He’s a truly odd boy.

“It’s quite the hard bread, isn’t it?”

“Really? I think that’s just how bread is, though.” (Hopkins)

The zoan girl tilted her head to the side due to the boy who hits the bread’s surface with the back of a finger.
The boy, who ate the dumplings and meat prepared by the zoan girl during the journey in these last few days, had a look as if he was very interested in the bread.
The reason why the boy didn’t have the chance to eat the bread during the journey until now is because when Hopkins tried to prepare food for the two of them on the first day of their travel, the zoan girl stubbornly declined it while declaring that they will prepare their own shares by themselves.

“Both of you, the city has come into sight.” (Hopkins)

Once he informed the two in the back that the city’s outline has become visible in the far distance along the road, the boy bent himself forward and looked from the coachman’s bench as he sat within the covered wagon, wearing a bright expression.

“Holy smokes… so that’s the city.”

“Yep. Over there you can see the city Bolnis, which is the westernmost city in Holmea State.” (Hopkins)

 


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