“Ohhh, so this is the rumoured secret medicine “Filtered and refined white peach paste”? I hear it has an omnipotent effect.” (Barber)
Peering into the small jar, that he carried in his big hands, with curious eyes, the man, calling himself a barber or such, said in an easygoing tone. The boy with his peculiar eye colour is feigning a behaviour of actually viewing it as someone else’s problem. The peddler Lauri had scruples to smile as he tried to comb down his beard. Because there is no sign of him dropping it even in the stagecoach that shakes with a loud noise, his attachment to it is quite considerable.
“I’m not the pupil of a witch. It’s not like this is omnipotent. However, there’s no doubt about its efficiency as medicine.” (Marko)
Deliberately speaking of witches, which are a taboo of the church, he denies that. Suspicious-looking, unusually effective medicines and elixirs always give a hint of being related to a witch. By doing the exact opposite, he aims to increase the credibility in return.
“It won’t have any bad influence even if you eat it, but it’s a medical cream. Basically it shows its effect by applying it on the skin. It’s effective against incision, itching, festering, frostbite and scalding. Its effectiveness is to such an extent that it even astonishes characteristically worried women for that reason. It cures hands, that became rough through scrubbing and washing, at once. It also works perfectly against wrinkles and spots on the skin.” (Lauri)
It is a practised speech. Setting aside his singing of praise, Lauri took the barber’s hand. Scooping up something white and soft with his finger from within the dim, small jar, he smears it on the man’s backhand. I probably should see to painting the jar after all. There is no resistance. The white cream spread cleanly right away from the start.
“Oh, an amazing massage. Hasn’t my hand become excessively smooth?” (Barber)
Pinching and stroking his own hand, the barber can’t conceal his interest and personal curiosity any more. It stands to reason, Lauri nodded slightly. If it’s the occupation of a barber, he won’t just use it privately but also for his work. I’m sure it will become popular if I use this well.
But, there’s still much more to come… they will desire it more and more, Lauri thinks. It’s not only because he has confidence in the article. This is already something you can call the real thrill of a merchant. He whispers in the barber’s ears though there isn’t even any necessity any more.
“For a well-versed usage, there’s also the trick of applying it on the back. This will relieve you of getting chilled while asleep.” (Lauri)
The barber stopped his preparations and shortly thereafter expressed a slight let-down on his face with an “Uh-huh.”
“For an even more well-versed usage, there’s even the trick of applying it in the hair. That will, ah, what a…” (Lauri)
“… What is it? Tell me, what kind of effect will it have?” (Barber)
Laughing with a smile, he told him boldly.
“What it is… ? It will decrease the fallen hair.” (Lauri)
“Bought! Please sell it to me!” (Barber)
Whether for himself or for his work… Lauri had a good business feeling in regards to the forceful clinging of the client. Receiving the payment, he gives him several jars. At the end they tightly shook hands. Both are savouring the happiness of having carried out a good trade. Once Lauri turned around while pouring his nasal breath in satisfaction on his beard, the black-haired, blue-eyed boy is once again nodding with a sound of agreement.
“Splendidly done.” (Marko)
“Haha, the signs were good, that’s what it was, right?” (Lauri)
Kikomaru’s village headman’s son, Marko, wearing a lovely hat tailored out of pelt, is smiling. However, they are currently concealing his title. He is now getting on the coach as apprentice of the peddler Lauri. Actually, he isn’t even teaching him a single thing as merchant, on the contrary, he is also a responsible party as manufacturer of the greatly popular merchandise 「White transparent gloss」, but the truth is that pretty much all of it is a big lie.
Lauri has now finished writing down the transaction in his account book defying the swaying stagecoach. He reconfirmed the number of stock within the luggage. There is still an ample amount. It is suitable for peddling given its expensive price per unit on top of being able to transport a great number of them due to its small size. Furthermore, it’s irresistible because of the lively smiles of the clients. It results in him wanting to worship it spontaneously.
(It’s a fantastic item. I’m a really fortunate person to deal in it.) (Lauri)
It hasn’t been put on the market for more than a year yet, but beyond producing worshippers at every place we went to, I want to establish it on the market and steadily increase the staff, is Lauri’s true opinion. However, Marko is stopping that. The organisation isn’t ready for an increase in production. That’s because it is complicated to invest in it with the circumstances surrounding Kikomaru.
White transparent gloss… its main ingredient is the fat of a short horse.
The leaf of the root crop qwamp, that ignores barren soil and is resilient against miasma, is included as unique ingredient. Although it is possible to extract the essence by boiling it in water, the short horse accumulates that essence by eating the leaves raw. Before long, it will bring forth an oil with a potent medicinal effect. Explaining this, Marko even added another thing at the end. That is from the knowledge of the minority in the north.
As a matter of fact, Lauri was responsible for the sales. Selling the popular white transparent gloss that had definite effects became a precious way of earning money for Kikomaru. But that popularity conversely gave birth to danger in the business as well. If they increased the amount circulated on the market, it would spur on a rising degree of attention. They have been concealing the producer and the manufacturing method and thus they are a small business currently, but if these aspects became known to merchants and nobles, they would only exploit the abundance of the current Kikomaru down to its roots… that is Marko’s judgement.
In fact, around half a year ago an inspection official was dispatched to Kikomaru. As they properly paid the annual tribute in spite of the continuing crop failures and damages from the cold as of late, they provoked suspicion in return. There wasn’t anyone investigating about the white transparent gloss, but since the white transparent gloss’ profit on sales was the reason that the village didn’t stagger, you could call this a dangerous point. Marko talked calmly about it, however even Raulee wiped away his cold sweat.
(The territory of Earl Helrevi is known for its strictness. There are many villages engaged in pioneering the remote regions. They are serving as supply stations. If you say that’s inevitable, then it can’t be helped, but… based on the character of Earl-sama, who lacks any kind of compassion, this point might be a large one.) (Lauri)
Correcting the blanket over his shoulders, Lauri surveyed the wintry, desolate, rural landscape. It’s a dreary one as well. The wheat bales all over have utterly gone bad due to the rain and are neglected without being put away. The livestock isn’t maintained. Can they at least save the sparsely appearing deep-green Sierra wheat sown in winter?
The amount of taxes is slightly harsh for this kind of land. The tax collectors are known to be extremely inflexible on the collection. That doesn’t mean that they are too rigorous, but it also never happens that there’s a reduction or exemption from taxes in consideration of crop failures. The result of this policy is this scenery. I wonder how many villages were hit very hard with punishments and poverty in merely 2 years. Just how many of the farmers are slaves in disguise?
(By no means I think so, but it isn’t on purpose, is it… ? The restoration will soon hit the critical juncture of running for 10 years now. The demand for warhorses has fallen as well. It is a good time to change the type of industry. If you have funds, it’s a good chance to start a large business binding the labour force. Will the ranches dedicated to short horses increase even more?) (Lauri)
Lauri tried to think about the dream shown by the white oil, but then shook his head. He sighed once as well.
(No good, no good. I’m getting too enchanted by the white transparent gloss. If you have this, it’s something that will save mothers all over the country… the adult women of Kikomaru are really healthy women. Somehow I wanna also spread it to the small to medium villages. But, it isn’t a situation where I can simply do that either. I won’t do anything unreasonable. I cannot afford to hinder Marko with my petty, narrow-minded thinking.) (Lauri)
As he turned for a glance, Marko was silently gazing at a far distant place. More than 2 years have passed since Lauri met this mysterious boy. With him having turned 8 years this year, the young dragon couldn’t yet grab the chance to ascend to the high sky. If you consider that chance to result in new wars, it’s fine if it is several years from now, Lauri was thinking.
It’s because I’m aware of it.
Even if he is someone holding a destiny, unexpected death is a reality.
The lives of people are surprisingly cheap. In case of the feudal lord’s thought 「This year’s tax collection isn’t splendid」, that context can lead to grief and demise of many lives. I think any kind of unfeeling policy will sever lives that should have been born before it happens. All the more if it’s on the battlefield. Just a single victory or defeat causes countless lives to disappear. Whoever dies, their chances will die as well… Lauri hugged his blanket feeling a chill.
“This year’s winter looks to be intense as well, right? Here you are.” (Marko)
Marco handed over his own blanket. Although it was loaded and tied in the luggage, he expressly unfolded it. Raulee felt thankful but at the same time pathetic as well.
“I’m a person sensitive to heat. These clothes are far too thick as well.” (Marko)
Saying this, Marko pinched his hat and clothes. This even made Lauri smile wryly.
He is thickly clad in clothes. He is unable to endure staying below the blanket any longer after he prepared it for Lauri. There is the matter of the strong wishes of three people, the village headman, his wife and Hannah. Marko, who is remarkably behaving more like an adult compared to the time of meeting him, rather increased his meddling in regards to the aspects of health in his restricted talks about such things as decisions and actions.
The journey to the territorial capital certainly was the longest distance to be travelled in Marko’s life. However, for Lauri this kind of journey is part of his daily life. For the boy, who is a young dragon, it is probably something trifling as well. That’s because his “mysteriousness” puts the territorial capital, not to mention the royal capital, into the confines of restricted thinking as well. No matter how much I’m called his guardian… no, it’s because I’m his guardian, I guess?’ Lauri thought back.
(Whatever child it is, its parents are its parents. They want to feed it so that its belly is filled. They probably want to keep it warm with something. And if there are no other worries, they might be under too much pressure. This is a wonderful thing.) (Lauri)
“What is it? You look so happy.” (Marko)
“Ah, sorry, sorry, I just thought that you are loved.” (Lauri)
Raulee, who was sent to a merchant’s store as apprentice as a very young child, envies him slightly. Although he felt like he had seen his mother crying, he can’t remember his father’s face at all. He also worked at his home and the merchant’s store all through the year in short sleeves and bare foot. From his point of view, Marko’s outfit can’t probably be called anything but slightly inappropriate for an apprentice.
(But, this is a precious feeling. I want to value it.) (Lauri)
Marko most likely thinks this, I assume, Lauri thinks. Is it that stuffy? While correcting the hat on his head many times over, Marko can’t completely unfasten its fluffy pelt. He only fixed its current location. As effect of the slightly big size, the hat emphasizes his youthfulness and loveliness. I wonder whether he knows himself or not that his appearance could be called that of a beautiful little girl.
“Mu… for some reason I feel a faint discomfort.” (Marko)
“Well. you mustn’t say such things lacking filial piety.” (Lauri)
“No, it’s not about that… well, I admit that I’m not a dutiful son either.” (Marko)
“Yeah? I have a feeling that you are more dutiful to your parents than other children.” (Lauri)
Returning these words with a shake of his head, Marko murmured with a sigh blended in,
“It’s the atonement of a changeling.” (Marko)
His profile looking downwards seemed terribly sad and transient. Lauri, who is wondering whom Marko is picturing. once again thought about that person. That person, worrying about Marko without showing her tremendous pain, probably is currently praying for his safety while travelling.
The sickness of Marko’s mother is getting more and more critical.
Even if she lives through the winter, she won’t last until summer… this was the commonly agreed opinion of everyone.
The territorial capital of the Earldom Helrevi.
Even without a precise count it is a city where more than 50000 people have gathered to live. The outer walls enclosing the city are tall and solid. It isn’t any different for the inner walls and the castle either. If you were to pass Eberia and Earldom Salmant as well as Earldom Peterius, which are next to the Plains of Wandering Calamity, you will walk into a large river at the tip called Eastern Dragon River. Earldom Helrevi is on its opposite shore. Though there are only few soldiers on standby, they are aware of being a defensive stronghold.
Lauri and Marko finished entering the territorial capital from the main gate, however the plaza in front of the gate was submerged in an unexpected chaos and tumult as twilight was approaching. People, who became tattered, horses and carts… a merchant caravan was attacked by thieves. From seeing armed people being mixed among the wounded, it was a safe bet that those were the guards accompanying the caravan. The investigation of the soldiers is continuing.
“I heard thieves have appeared, but never did I expect them to get this close to the territorial capital…” (Lauri)
Lauri couldn’t help but feel fear. By looking at the state of the injuries of the people, you could guess that the place and time of the attack was very close to Lauri’s group. The thieves didn’t aim for us because of the low profits from a simple stagecoach and such, but if we were to get involved in it, I don’t know what would have happened.
The fact that we arrived peacefully and without any events at the territorial capital might be owed to the prayers of Marko’s mother. Lauri, whose real feelings were such, bowed his head in the direction of Kikomaru.
“… Too late.” (Marko)
It is Marko who released such a remark. His view has been turned toward outside the gate. Everyone else was paying attention to the injured. It seems he was the only to look in another direction.
“What’s late?” (Lauri)
“The sortie of the rapid reaction force.” (Marko)
He doesn’t even look back to Lauri. His discernment is sharp.
“If they don’t send out troops for tracking them down and killing them, they will regret it. The next victims will only increase as time passes. It’s equal to a danger for the entire domain too. And yet there are no signs of them even sending out scouts.” (Marko)
While he is looking, the soldiers are in the process of gathering. The soldiers carrying bows on top of the walls and the soldiers carrying spears around the gate, each of them amounted to around 200, I guess.
“Umm… I think there are still some more soldiers to be gathered. At any rate, I don’t think they will lose against thieves with these walls, however…” (Lauri)
Lauri says timidly. He is an amateur when it comes to military affairs. Even as he felt relieved seeing the soldiers and the wall, there was Marko’s earlier remark. He got cold feet a bit.
“Please look at that.” (Marko)
Marko points at the wounded.
“Those guards might be part of a mercenary group looking at their armaments. They seem to have combat experience as well. While even defeating such military group, the thieves let the horses and carts get away. That means that their goal wasn’t to plunder the caravan with their attack.” (Marko)
“The thieves are… not plundering? What are they planning?” (Lauri)
“They are sounding out. This attack, in all probability, was for the sake of testing the immediate response of the territorial capital. With an attack happening close to this territorial capital, which has the largest military power within the domain, they let their prey flee on purpose and look at the state of affairs afterwards… seeing all of that, if you make light of this…” (Marko)
Knitting his eyebrows, his usually beautiful voice carried a tinge of a leaden mood. Lauri grandly swallowed the spit that had gathered within his mouth.
“I-If you make light of this?” (Lauri)
“Then it will be a daring attack next time probably causing serious damage. Or maybe they are somehow planning a large-scale military operation. Well, it won’t be a decent situation either way.” (Marko)
Lauri looks at nothing but Marko, who declared this coldly.
In the end, it took until next morning for the scouting party to depart from the territorial capital.