What Souma brought onto the land of Bolnis wasn’t limited to just new farming methods and tools.
Even the farm villages’ shape and social system experienced a remarkable transformation in those times.
Back then, the pioneer villages located in the Solbiant Plains were mostly settlements that only consisted of several blood-related families.
In the Norfolk four-course system, which Souma introduced, several farmlands were originally consolidated into communal land, which was the property of the village, and the farmland was then used by several farmers. Common practice was to create an enclosure that included a single, huge farmland.
However, Souma’s knowledge about the Norfolk four-course system was limited to what he had read in light novels and researched on the Internet after his curiosity was piqued. Those sources only stressed the crops and the method of rotating those crops, but information concerning enclosures was lacking. Furthermore, with the Solbiant Plains having a vast uncultivated wilderness, one could secure plenty of spacious farmland even without enclosing it. Thus, Souma wasn’t aware of the need to enclose farmland.
As such the development towards large-scaled agricultural management which relied on landowners who possessed huge amounts of farmland employing farm laborers who had lost their own didn’t take place in this world.
Still, Souma had decided to press large-scale agriculture forward from a different angle.
That angle was the difference between the agriculture in the West and Japan, which he had seen in the news of modern Japan.
What’s carrying Japan’s agriculture are the farmers— or in other words, a private management of family units. It’s different from the West, which uses a large-scale form of agricultural management that invests a great amount of machines and laborers into huge farm fields. Because of that, Japan is absolutely no match to the West when it comes to the aspect of harvest amounts and prices.
Knowing that, Souma, who had an increase in food production as goal, naturally aimed for large-scale agriculture.
What was used in that process wasn’t the enclosure of farmland as done in the Norfolk four-course system, but an enclosure of the villages.
It’s the idea of taking a village, integrated into a settlement, as a single unit, farming on a single farmland by cooperating, and equally splitting the harvest obtained from there.
Because of the taxes being collected from the entire village, this led to a stabilization of tax revenue as all the villagers – just like in Five-Family-Unit System during the Edo Period – had a joint responsibility for paying the taxes. Moreover, because it became possible to collect the taxes in a batch from the villages, the effort to go around the individual settlements as it had been practiced until then fell away, causing a decrease in workload for the finance officials.
However, there were concerns that the individuals’ will to work would deteriorate since the harvest was equally distributed within the whole village.
Souma had learned in social studies lessons about cases in former socialist states where the individual will to work vanished as a result of attempting to equally distribute the resources to everyone. To counteract this, he came up with a measure against this issue.
It was the introduction of the Joumen Law1 .
As one of the annual tax collection laws adopted during the Edo Period, the annual tax was determined from the average amount of crop harvest from five to ten years prior to the current year in the Joumen Law. Hence, since it was possible to levy a fixed tax regardless of how much the villages were able to harvest in a year, the farmers’ share went up the more they harvested, which naturally worked as motivating force.
But, although the farmers’ share would grow accordingly as long as it’s an abundant harvest, it also had the flaw whereupon years of bad harvests would lead to heavy taxation.
Souma, who anticipated the harvest amount to continuously grow over the years due to the introduction of the Norfolk four-course system, decided to make the bold move of adopting the Joumen Law in order to boost the farmers’ will to work.
Of course, Souma was also well-aware of the faults with the Joumen Law. Accordingly, Souma promised a drastic tax reduction during times of bad harvests when he introduced it. To begin with, although this hadn’t been taught during the lessons at Souma’s school, but even the Joumen Law, which was actually implemented during the Edo Period had addressed the case of a bad harvest in a different law (Hamen Law – Drastic Tax Reduction), and thus it wasn’t an original idea of Souma.
However, the introduction of the Joumen Law brought about results which even Souma hadn’t anticipated.
It served as a further stabilization and increase of tax revenues.
On the Seldeas Continent of those times it was common practice for the tax collection officials and the feudal lords to tour the villages after a harvest and have them pay from 10% to 50% of that year’s harvest as tax. Because the levied amount of taxes was decided sporadically by the tax collectors and the feudal lords, it was in fashion to occasionally force bribes and welcome banquets, which turned into a huge burden for the farmers.
The ones who were especially notorious among them were the tax collection contractors.
Having to tour the villages for long periods of time in order to levy the taxes was a huge burden for the kings and feudal lords. Therefore they sold the rights to collect taxes instead of doing it themselves.
And, the ones who actually bought those rights and went around the villages instead of the kings and feudal lords were tax collection contractors.
To make a profit they had to collect the taxes on top of the money they used to buy the collection rights. For that reason, the contractors charged the farmers far higher taxes than what had been decided. Moreover, many of the contractors were also moneylenders. They forcibly lent money to farmers, who couldn’t pay the taxes, at high interest rates. It went even as far as them taking away the farmers’ wives and daughters as loan security, once the farmers were late on paying. It was probably only natural for the contractors to be hated just like Genobanda by the farmers due to this.
But, thanks to the strict determination of the tax rates through the introduction of the Joumen Law by Souma, such cruel tax collection was not only pushed into the shadows, but the taxes became precise as well. Owed to this, it reached the point that the farmers paid their taxes with a peace of mind, connecting to an increase in tax revenue on top of a stable tax income.
Furthermore, the blessing of the Joumen Law wasn’t limited to just that. Due to the annual tax revenue being decided in advance, it also had the advantage that the administration was easily capable of estimating the annual budget.
Thanks to the reform of the system and the introduction of these new farming methods, the farmers’ lives quickly improved as the years passed.
However, in future years this chain of systematic and agricultural reforms by Souma has been severely criticized by history researchers with, “While singing praises about equality, the Divine Son of Destruction gave actually birth to serfs by creating a disparity in wealth between farmers.”
Certainly, the large-scale agriculture promoted by Souma later on created a relation between landlords and tenant farmers, where the villagers were employed with money by the villages’ influential people, who owned the land, and moreover gave birth to serfs. Also, due to the fixed amount of taxes by the Joumen Law, the farmers became richer the more they increased their harvest, but it’s an unmistakable truth that it also produced a huge disparity of wealth between the landlords who possessed huge amounts of farmland due to the extra money and the tenant farmers who didn’t own any land.
But, although there were tenant farmers even when Souma was alive, they hadn’t been considered serfs.
That’s because Souma’s country was the sole country which allowed farmers to freely move around, in contrast to the other countries and feudal lords, that restricted the farmers’ movement and tied them to their land in order to prevent the dispersal of farmers. Thanks to this, the tenant farmers were able to choose the landowners who gave them better conditions out of their own will without being tied to a certain area.
This created competition between the landowners who required manpower due to the sudden expansion in arable land, and forced them to promise high wages in order to secure capable tenant farmers. By no means was it an one-sided exploitation of the tenant farmers by the landowners.
And not only that, it seems that the landowners were instead racking their brains on how to secure tenant farmers instead.
This was pretty obvious in the recorded court cases of that time, where many landowners jointly signed petitions towards the country to establish a law to fix the upper limit of wages for tenant farmers, and to set up an arbitration in quarrels between fellow landowners, which originated from the headhunting of capable tenant farmers.
Just as stated below by the archeologist Martin S. Ackerson:
“Influenced researchers have the bad habit to deny everything about the Divine Son of Destruction from the get-go due to the actions of the 『Death God』 Otto Seidenbecher, who believed in the Divine Son of Destruction. However, if you take into account his achievements while excluding such preconceptions, you will be able to see things that are worthy of admiration. The ancient city of Bolnis, which had been made public today through archeology, was very different from our memories of the ancient times. It was a society that had advanced far ahead. And, there’s no doubt that this is something that had been brought about by the Divine Son of Destruction, Soma Kisaki.”
However, it’s not like everything proceeded according to Souma’s wishes.
“Sorry, Soma. It looks like no one has ever seen the plants you mentioned.”
Due to the statement of Shyemul, who dropped her shoulder in depression, seemingly feeling quite regretful due to being unable to meet expectations, Souma breathed yet another sigh.
“As expected, there’s no 『Clover』 in this world after all, huh?”
Because he wanted to make the farmers rotate the crops through turnip, wheat, clover and barley on the fields, which would be split into four parts according to the Norfolk four-course system, Souma asked Shyemul to look for clover. Wheat and barley are already being cultivated in this world. He was also able to get his hands on a root crop quite similar to turnip, although it had a subtlety different shape.
However, only clover couldn’t be found at all.
Come to think of it, this is a different world. Just wheat and barley existing as crops similar to my former world might already be a miracle. But, even considering it like that, it was still a bitter feeling for Souma to fail at finding clover.
“If there’s no clover…putting aside its use as pasture, even the recovery of a field’s fertility…”
Clover’s usefulness in recovering the fertility is owed to its symbiosis with germs, namely root nodule bacteria, in its roots.
Speaking of the three big nutrients of crops; it’s nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. And among them, the most important as well as the one needed in large quantities is nitrogen. As nitrogen is a chemical element that occupies 70% of Earth’s atmosphere, you might as well say that there’s an inexhaustible supply of it.
But plants can’t absorb this inexhaustible supply of nitrogen directly. For plants to absorb it, it’s necessary to affix the nitrogen — by temporarily transforming the nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere into other nitrogen compounds.
One of the natural occurrences that triggers that effect is a thunderbolt.
Due to the energy discharged by a thunderbolt, nitrogen is changed into nitrogen oxide. That pours down on the ground as rain and becomes a nutrient for plants. Since ancient times thunderbolts are referred to as lightning, but because the harvest of rice-plants improved if a thunderbolt struck, it resulted in the etymology that a thunderbolt was called “Rice-plant’s husband” with the meaning of a rice-plant ripening due to thunderbolts.
And the other natural occurrence of nitrogen fixation were the root nodule bacteria, which form a symbiosis with a part of the pea’s roots.
“I guess there’s no other option but to replace it with another plant of the pea family.”
It’s regrettable, but something that doesn’t exist just doesn’t exist. Souma gave up on clover and pondered whether to substitute it with another plant of the pea family.
Fortunately, various edible peas exist in this world as well. Among them there were peas, which closely resembled fava beans and chickpeas. It’s difficult to differentiate a plant that doesn’t have seeds, which are obviously beans at a glance, like clover, but if there are things that are eaten as beans in the world over here, you can definitely say that they belong to the family of peas.
Souma, who racked his brain on what plant to cultivate instead of clover, inadvertently looked at the cows within the fences. The cows have finally calmed down within their enclosure after getting used to it. Right now they are carefreely grazing. Due to that idyllic view, Souma ended up watching them while forgetting his worries for the first time in a long while.
For a while Souma stared at the cows in a daze, but suddenly the plant, which was eaten by the cow closest to him, catches his attention.
For some reason it triggered an excessive interest in Souma. Once he checked whether the same plants were in the vicinity by looking around, he immediately discovered them.
It’s a grass that grew up to a height equal to Souma’s waist. From the distance it seemed as if light-brown, withered and rounded leaves are hanging down from it in clusters, but looking at the leaves from nearby, it was the spread of a plant that had opened its mouth. Moreover, once he looks from an even closer place, he can see two grain-sized, yellowish-brown, round beads within that opened spread.
“These; somewhere I have…?”
Souma inclined his head to the side at those plants, which stimulated his memory in some way.
『Oh well, I wonder whether we should farm at least as much to scatter it at home during the last day of winter.』 2
Suddenly Souma was reminded of his grandfather who shouldered a hoe while wearing a straw hat.
Souma’s deceased grandfather borrowed a small plot of land and cultivated it. As Souma often helped his grandfather, he notices that the plant in front of his eyes closely resembles the ones he saw at that time.
“…! No way, this is!?”
Compared to his memory, the spread shouldn’t naturally split open like that. The color of the small grains within is wrong as well. However, Souma takes out the small beads from within the spread, throws them into his mouth, and chews on them. The peculiar astringency and bitterness that spread inside his mouth overlaps with the time when he ate a bean that hadn’t been roasted properly during the time of the End of Winter Holiday.
“…This, are those possibly soybeans?”
It’s unknown whether a seed, which fell from the other world like Souma, took root and adapted to the world over here or whether a bean of a very similar type was born from a wild soybean which existed in this world from the start.
However, there was no doubt about it being a soybean.
Souma repeatedly instructs himself to calm down.
But, he’s unable to suppress the excitement welling up within his chest.
If I remember correctly, soybeans are a produce with high nutritional value, including so much protein that they are called the “Meat of the Fields.” Moreover, their use doesn’t stop at only being edible. It should be possible to extract oil from soybeans. And the extraction dregs will also turn into fertilizer for the fields. Of course it’s also possible to feed it to cattle. Either way, there are plenty of ways to use it.
Yet, those are only trivial matters. For Souma, a Japanese, soybeans hold a value and meaning going beyond that.
“What are you doing?”
At that point Shyemul noticed Souma’s behavior and called out to him. Seeing Souma sampling soybeans, Shyemul slightly wrinkled her nose up.
“—Are you already hungry? Anyway, cut it out. If you eat too much, you will have an upset stomach afterwards.”
Shyemul also knew of the wild soybeans growing in the plains. However, soybeans have a peculiar acridity and bitter taste. Also, since one will upset their stomach if one eats a large amount of soybeans without cooking them well, the zoan didn’t consider them as edible.
Due to Souma’s voice, which was calm and yet filled with a strange drive, Shyemul feels a bad premonition.
“—Can I have you gather these beans as soon as possible?”
“Beans like these?”
Souma faced Shyemul, who said it as though it’s pointless even if she gathers such inedible beans, with a ghastly smile.
“Of course you will gather them, right?”
If it’s for the sake of obtaining soybeans, Souma has the resolve to even unhesitatingly brandish his authority as Shyemul’s Navel Master.
Shyemul had no other option but to bob her head up and down.
“Soybeans nurtured the Divine Son of Destruction’s soldiers.”
These are famous words by the archeologist Martin S. Ackerson.
It’s been known that pulses contain a well-balanced amount of nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals, but even among pulses, only the soybean is a produce referred to as the “Meat of the Fields” containing such great amounts of vegetative proteins that they rival meat.
However, at the time of the Divine Son of Destruction, beans weren’t eaten that much. Especially soybeans, which weren’t regarded as a foodstuff even by the zoan, who lived in the Solbiant Plains where wild soybeans were growing, because they included soybean saponin, which has a unique acridity and bitterness.
But, it’s said that the Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki proactively cultivated these beans, propagated original ways of cooking them and made an effort in the soybeans’ diffusion.
Also, according to the records left behind by Michena, the Chief of Financial Affairs back then, the processed food made out of soybeans was stored alongside barley and wheat as provisions for Soma’s military forces. There’s no room for doubt that soybeans were an important produce sustaining the tough bodies of Soma Kisaki’s soldiers.
Moreover, there are also records left stating that Soma himself liked eating soybeans.
Since it’s said that his mood got very bad if he couldn’t eat a soup which used a melted paste of fermented soybeans for three days, he likely preferred them quite a bit.
Even now this truth is considered to be the biggest mystery in the history of the Seldeas Continent. Investigations by many historical researchers have been carried out, taking that as a key to explaining the history of Soma Kisaki before his appearance in the Solbiant Plains.
Contrary to wheat, which had reasonable value as grain, beans were the food of the poor and slaves back then, being regarded as inferior food. There’s a famous theory using the fact that Soma Kisaki liked and ate those beans as reasoning for him having been a former slave that escaped from some country.
However, what has garnered even more attention most recently is his way of eating those soybeans.
Soybeans don’t contain only components which are beneficial to the body. Components that have a negative effect on a human’s body such as elements causing goiter, materials blocking enzymes and phytic acid, which hinders the absorption of minerals, can be found within soybeans, too. Taking in large amounts of those toxic substances is considered as undesirable.
But, there’s a method to separate those toxic components from soybeans to process them into a food with ideal nutrition.
The method, which was introduced by Soma Kisaki, truly followed logic and has become a law for processing soybeans.
I don’t know about nowadays with chemistry having advanced, but to notice the toxicity of soybeans and adopt a method to negate that toxicity through fermentation probably required an enormous amount of accumulated empiric rules during the ancient times. Having such an experience, Soma Kisaki can’t be considered anything but a human from a race that ate or used soybeans for, at the very least, several hundred years.
Several regions, which used soybeans as food, have been confirmed in the documents of that time, but a race or area where the beans were eaten in the same way as Soma did hasn’t been discovered. Until this very day theories about this circumstance have remained hypotheses.
Well then, nowadays it has become an established theory that Soma discovered wild soybeans, which grew in the Solbiant Plains, and started to cultivate those beans. However, until very recently there was the belief that Soma Kisaki used black magic to produce those beans. For that reason there are still areas where soybeans are shirked as the food of the devil.
Even in the current times, traces of that belief can be found in fairy-tales.
“The Divine Son of Destruction, Soma Kisaki, tried to grow the food of monster soldiers.
Accordingly, Soma Kisaki cast a dreadful curse at the plains.
『Miso, Soysauce, Tofu, Natto! They are edible!』
Once he did, one soybean sprout after the other shot out of the ground.”
— Extract from the Fairy-Tale “Divine Son of Destruction”
Actually the meaning of that chant, which Kisaki Soma recited, has remained a riddle up until this day.
- Loose translation out of the Japanese Wikipedia as it’s a Japanese-only law: It’s a law that was mostly used during the Edo Period. The traditional law of annual land tax collection was adopted by the Kemi (inspection of rice plants) Law which decided that the amount of taxes after checking the annual harvest amount, but since this didn’t lead to a stabilization of the tax revenue, the Joumen Law was introduced as part of the Kyouhou Reforms in 1722. In the Joumen Law the annual tax amount was decided from the average harvest amount over 5, 10 or 20 years, resulting in a fixed annual amount having to be paid over several years regardless of good or bad harvests. Times of very bad harvests were addressed in a separate law later on.
- Refers to the tradition of scattering beans during the ceremony for the holiday at the end of winter.