Chapter 7 – Herbivores, carnivores, a shepherd and me

The fragrance of flowers is drifting around gently caressing the cheeks. If you take a look, a sea of tulle flowers, being in full blossom in various shining colours such as pink, white and red, is forming partitions of weeds on the fences. That beauty makes you sense the vigour of spring and the signs of summer drawing near. As it had been a while since he saw such scenery, he unintentionally voiced it out.

“It’s a nice village. The land is brimming with energy.” This translation is owned by Infinite Novel Translations

The youth, saying this while smiling, had a refined appearance riding on top of the horse’s back. However, underneath the blue cloak he wore armor and a sword was affixed to his hips. And, a long-handled spear was tied at the back of the saddle making his apprenticeship and ability as a military man apparent. The bearer is loaded with combat-like articles.
He moves while profoundly gazing at the scenery of the village. Several people ran in a hurry towards him. I guess it’s the village headman and the others going by their attires. The youth however, who made such an assumption, awaited the men without even dismounting from the horse.

“Having journeyed all the way here, please be welcome to Kikomaru. I’m the village headman, Herman.” (Herman)

“I see. I’m Akseli Anel (T/N: Akseri Aneru), First Lieutenant of Helrevi’s territorial army. Thanks for going as far as coming to meet me.” (Akseli)

Throwing discerning looks at each other, Akseli raised a voice of astonishment within his mind. He is tough. The healthy body, albeit reaching the limits of being middle-aged, is indeed that of a farmer, but I can sense a tenaciousness that one ought to call the framework of the soul within the strong scent of soil. Is it maybe pride? Or is it rather conceit?’
(A pioneering village from a period of wars has a strong core. They don’t have a spirit of independence.) (Akseli)
Even while praising them, he doesn’t breath a word about it. Akseli looked at the village headman’s group with a glare. Despite them being confused about his attitude of not dismounting no matter what, one of the villagers comes forward offering to take the horse’s bit. Nodding generously, Akseli jolted the sword belt at his waist ostentatiously. With a clank it springs back into its previous state. The whole action is for the sake of observing the village men’s reactions.

“… Will First Lieutenant-dono please join us at dinner this evening?” (Herman)

Even while the village headman’s shoulder slightly stiffened, his eyes didn’t show anything like trepidation or such. I guess he has no knowledge of military arts going by they way of taking distance and the level of his center of gravity, he is able to surmise. Even so, the point of his posture not breaking is as Akseli expected. If you read this anwhere else but at Inifinte Novel Translations, you are supporting thieves
“I’m planning to stay for around 3 days to investigate the village. Although something like hospitality is unnecessary, I would be glad if you could serve me some sake.” (Akseli)

“Well then, please allow me the favour of receiving you at my humble home. Will you require a guide?” (Herman)

“You have my thanks. As for the guide, I shall rely on you from tomorrow onwards. For today I have planned to have a look around with nothing but my own eyes. I will listen to village headman-dono’s story after dinner.” (Akseli)

As soon as he said this, Akseli nimbly dismounted. Entrusting the horse and his luggage to the villagers, he began to walk just as he had said he would. It’s not like he will blame them for following him either. This investigation is a formal duty assigned by royalty.
The objective of Akseli, being dispatched by the territorial army, is to inspect Kikomaru which shows an odd growth. The village continues to fulfill the obligation of annual tribute payment… it’s an investigation for the sake of finding the reason why only such small village is able to keep accomplishing this.
For around 2 years this place has been a large ice field with strong winds cutting through it. The cold-weather damage rampaged extensively in the northern part of the Asuria Kingdom. Dense miasma was mixed into the wind only weakening the capability of the soil to produce anything. As end result it caused even difficulties in procuring fodder as well as crop failure. Although the large-scaled animal husbandry and the warhorses were preserved, small to medium villages were in a state of being unable to bring their livestock through the winter. The price for meat hit rock bottom temporarily just to continue rising steeply after that.
With the tribute payments falling, the flow of goods thinned and only the slave market thrived in richly colored prosperity. Predicting the frequent occurrence of robbery in the near future due to the deteriorating public order, Helrevi’s territorial army reinforced the rapid reaction force. Actually even Akseli experienced hostilities with mounted bandits.
(It is the irony of a horse production area that even the bandit’s horses are excellent. Their mobility is first-class.) (Akseli)
Akseli recalled his escort mission for a transport unit. Inferring the situation of being pursued by bandits, we continued to guard against raids at night and day. We used the small amount of time before lunch to let loose a bit. I was surprised by the bandits being composed of nothing but light cavalry, but I was even more surprised by their high proficiency. Giving up as hopelessly difficult to destroy them as unit mainly comprised of infantry, we devoted ourselves to defence in order to protect the baggage, but… the result of that was me having my right to command an unit being revoked and being demoted to a leisurely post.
(Cowardice… isn’t it? If someone tells me that, I won’t have any words to refute either. It’s because of my indifference toward foolhardiness. And it’s also a fact that I memorized the terror about the bandit’s vigour’s strength. It’s deeply embedded. There are no words to retaliate about that.) (Akseli)
The extent of damage and even the situation of failing to subjugate the bandits afterwards didn’t turn into a favorable wind for Akseli. The result of the battle still held some merit, but seeing that he was punished by the feudal lord once, it’s unlikely they would praise him for it just being an accidental encounter. At least Akseli found it unimaginable that the feudal lord, Earl Mathias Helrevi, has such magnanimity and caliber.
In the end, the current state is him being a gofer with the duty of patrolling the borderland… an improper, unfortunate post if it’s done by someone with the rank of First Lieutenant in the territorial army. However Akseli willingly fills the role. Rather he was even enjoying it.
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“… Compared to the stagnating lake, there is only fresh wind and water streaming around here.” (Akseli)

There isn’t a single deserted house within the village to be found. Every family is keeping a Cicero bird. It seems there are even dyed articles mixed amongst the laundry drying in the sun. Akseli was surprised seeing the appearance of the women… raising their hands as if to cover their mouths, their toes are smoothly put in order and their fingers haven’t developed cracks either.
(The soil and the people, where does something abundant as this come from… ? I should definitely investigate this. There must be a reason for that. If I watch the people any longer, I might misread things. It doesn’t look like they are hiding barns and farms anyway.) (Akseli)
The cheers of children could be heard from the other side, blocked by the buildings. Akseli, who went that way, stood stock still watching a scene he didn’t anticipate there at all.
They were games and yet not a games.
Approximately 20 boys and girls are cheerfully playing separated into several groups, but the details of the games are different from any child play Akseli knows about. And yet they have a charm that ends up attracting her gaze either way. Akseli, who pondered about the reason it couldn’t be called mere child’s play, discovered the meaning and intention hidden within those games.
Certain children are enjoying themselves swinging a stick, but this isn’t sword play. I guess it’s most likely made out of wood. But anyway, a solid loop is hanging on the stick and they are competing by having it fly a distance. It appears they are free to swing the stick as they please, but there are many children swinging the stick from top to bottom for the sake of using the stick’s own weight.
(There isn’t any trick to that. In order to toss it far away, the skill is to figure out the speed of the stick’s point… the stick’s point, it is!?) (Akseli)
Akseli, who imagined himself doing it unintentionally recalled his own learning in sword art there. A game of not winning with all one’s strength… it’s a game needed to get a knack for sword techniques. In fact the bigger children’s way of swinging their sticks is sharp. They aren’t thrown off by an unsteady posture like the one used in agriculture. They are swinging their arms and swords similar to a whip lowering their center of gravity. That is slashing, Akseli concluded.
Also, there are certain children playing by chasing one another, but even so they are competing in an unknown way. Several of them separate in the same number at a time. They are mutually running in order to touch the back of their opponents. It’s a game where a child, that has its back touched, drops out. In this case isolation means defeat. No matter what formation the team uses, the key to victory is to break the formation of the opponents. It had an aspect of strategy awakening their creative originality.
(Are they aiming to surround the left group by breaking through the central ranks? However, their opponents have also guessed this and are scattering. They are trying to get off the hook by gathering at another place. A single targeted person was surrounded, huh? However, with exception to that, they have reorganized… if you look at one person being a single unit, it’s quite like a war. Even looking at the single state of one person, it is an excellent small-scale group battle.) (Akseli)
And last is the apparently youngest group. It looks like the remaining children, who have even difficulty in running, are humored by a single boy, but at the time he saw this, Akseli spontaneously raised a groan. No matter how many innocent limbs try to touch the boy while laughing and cackling… they crowded him with unforeseen movements and the clumsiness characteristic to very small children, but the boy is smoothly and elegantly avoiding them. With a paper-thin margin. The children, intending to touch him, mysteriously can’t touch him. Laughing all the more, they extend their arms.
(There is absolutely no stiffness or hesitation in his movements. The position of his head doesn’t move up and down either. It isn’t at an average level of sliding one’s feet. It appears as if he can see all the hands, even those in the rear.) (Akseli)
While the small children seemingly raise their voices in happiness, they keep swarming the boy. They have become engrossed in trying to touch him. The boy also floats a smile. While dodging and turning around, they can’t touch him at all. The boy’s black hair is swaying and rustling. It’s completely similar to the dancing of fairies and an angel… feeling this, Akseli fixed his eyes upon him.
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“And, what kind of business does First Lieutenant-dono have with me?” (Marko)

“No… it’s not to the degree of calling it a business.” (Akseli)

Akseli felt overpowered by the blue eyes straightforwardly gazing at him. In a place underneath a grove of trees with a carpet of flowers spreading, it was pleasant for two people to sit side-by-side.
(He doesn’t show any agitation at all toward a soldier who came here for making a round of inspection. Rather it’s me who has his hands somehow drenched in sweat. Although I don’t think that he is an ordinary person, you can say for sure he is a child with parts beyond that.) (Akseli)
It’s obvious that this boy is different from others. It’s not because of his neat personal appearance. It’s not because of him learning remarkable defensive body movement. It was the gaze of the boy which inevitably weighed on Akseli’s mind. Even though he has features to the degree of an angel, only his gaze is emitting an uncomfortable feeling of power.
(Without even a hint of something like the sweetness of a dream worn by a child, he doesn’t even have any capriciousness and resignation of a yielding person. He is completely the same as the mirror surface of a calm blue lake. It’s as if the darkness of avidya dwells in the depth of that gaze… can you say these are a person’s, to say nothing of a children’s eyes?) (Akseli)
Having a feeling to deeply and profoundly inhale, Akseli set his gaze free towards the fields. The Mekon wheat, sown in spring, is growing thickly and spreading emerald leaves. The wheat’s head hasn’t quite budded yet, but you can expect the harvest in fall by the vigorous waves of leaves swaying in the wind. It’s not a scenery you can observe in any kind of village either.

“I’ve heard that you… that Marko-kun is 8 years old, but what kind of place is this village in your eyes?” (Akseli)

Akseli said and frowned. I definitely tried to connect my words since anything is fine, but nevertheless this isn’t much of a question, she thought. Although he is the village headman’s son, he is an 8 years old child. His gaze is certainly mysterious, but what commenting can he do towards the village which is his whole world as far as he is concerned? Since there is no sign of him knowing something like a place to compare with, he won’t debate whether the village is good or bad either.

“This is a nice village.” (Marko)

I asked a thoughtless question thus he could only answer in this way, Akseli contemplated, but the following words were something surpassing that his imagination. Read this at the blog of Infinite Novel Translations
“There is sturdy raised livestock. Look, the shepherd is visiting to see the state of affairs in a hurry.” (Marko)

Bitterly and bluntly saying this and even showing a smile, Akseli’s eyes opened widely. It’s only being himself that is reflected within the eyes of the boy. Even though he is about to comprehend the meaning, he isn’t able to answer anything right away. Recovering his breath, he also opens his mouth after swallowing down the saliva with a gulp. A big part of that came from his pride.

“… Livestock, eh? I wonder what kind of beast is the shepherd?” (Akseli)

“It seems to be a beast with with intellect and desire. Although only 10 years have passed since transferring the livestock, well… he is raising them fairly well. Although he is failing in the recent years.” (Marko)

“Failing… what happened?” (Akseli)

“It keeps taking place. Isn’t it because new beasts are invading his turf?” (Marko)

Akseli once again swallowed down his saliva with a gulp. It might be uncouth, but it was something he suppressed to the minimum. He corresponded to the level demonstrated by the boy… it was curiosity that gushed forth after barely keeping his personal dignity.
(The livestock is Kikomaru. The shepherd, who is a beast, is Earl Helrevi. This village has been under the territorial rule of the Earl for around 10 years before the time of the “Sacred Flame Festival.” And the new beasts are those mounted bandits, aren’t they? Interesting. Isn’t that boy, Marko, interesting? What kind of words will come out from his small mouth?) (Akseli)
There is a single divination Akseli knows of. It’s a something called a child divination. At the time when an era stirs, there is something called an oracle seeing an omen within the silly singing and actions of children playing. It is considered that god will speak through their pure hearts. Am I not experiencing such miracle… ? Akseli was captured by the now inversely persuasive power of the uncomfortable feeling from before.

“I wonder if the old beast can’t win against the new beasts?” (Akseli)

“Yes. If its bleeding continues or possibly if a incredible replacement becomes the head, it might be possible.” (Marko)

“Why can’t it win?” (Akseli)

“It’s because it is looking ahead while making light of the flies.” (Marko)

“Can it win if it turns around?” (Akseli)

“If it intends to give them one foot as well.” (Marko)

“… Are they beasts of such degree?” (Akseli)

“The old beast’s body has fallen ill for no more than 2 years. It sheds blood. Smoke can be also seen in front. It’s in a state of not brandishing its fangs adequately.” (Marko)

Akseli groans to each and every point indicated obviously showing immediate results. It turned into a feeling as if he is overlooking the whole area of the Helrevi earldom before I noticed. Being prudent even at the time I was leading an unit, I pretended to not see the faults of the territorial government… he was thinking about that sitting in a corner of the village he had been relegated to.
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“… I wonder what the sturdy livestock will do?” (Akseli)

Akseli had already partly forgotten about his duty at the time he asked this. Without the intonation of demanding an answer in his tone, he even had a presence as if he cut loose his anxiety instead. However, the boy’s reply again exceeded Akseli’s prediction.

“For the time being they would look for a pretext to invite the shepherd. Beyond fulfilling the obligation of paying a tribute, they have the right to be protected from wolves. Although their resolution will become somewhat constrained, well, please pay attention to protection and you should not forget that a pioneer village is acquainted sufficiently with pioneer villages, First Lieutenant-dono” (Marko)

Akseli let out a laughter.

 


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