Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Volume 2 - Chapter 5 - Country

[T/N: The chapter title is 国, which is country, but can also mean kingdom as in 王国]

*kin kin kin*

"Hey! That's mine!"
"First come, first serve!"
"Need more booze here!"

The sounds of utensils tapping onto cookware fills the large room. A rough-looking crowd of men and women fill the seats, fighting over the food and alcohol.

"Damn it kid, why the hell are you here in the boonie?! You should open a restaurant in the city an- Hey! Hands off!"

The burly white-haired construction engineer ribs Kun while fending off his co-workers for the venison that's being served by the black-haired young man. All the workers here are related to the Untouchables of the military in one way or another. There’s a saying, “if you were ever part of the military, you’re either still a part of it, or are an Untouchable.” Although the practice has been illegal for just over twenty years, the stigma and governmental programs are still in place to prolong its existence. Rather than concerning itself if a disgraced or retired soldier will somehow affect the image of the government, it’s better for them to be completely isolated and be given dangerous jobs where even if they die, no one would be the wiser, not even their family. Of course, that was prior to the “Writ Ascension”, the populist revolution that supplanted the Council of Tribal Elders with written, enforceable laws for all. Nowadays, the Untouchables are just simply not hired by any civilian companies due to stigma, that those that would hire them would be targeted by the government and the Reaper of Souls. The government pay lip service to their sacrifice and claims to support them, but it’s really just to keep the ex-military members and their family on a short leash.

[T/L: 部落軍民 - I was torn between Burakugunmin or Untouchables, I think it’s making a reference to 部落民 - “Burakumin was an outcast group at the bottom of the Japanese social order that has historically been the victim of severe discrimination and ostracism”.]

“Hank! Mind introducing me and letting me marry him? He can cook for me everyday instead of just during Harvest Moon!” A petite, muscular woman jokes with the man covered in scars while waving around a turkey leg.

“Hey hey, I don’t care if he’s a guy, I’d marry him too!”
“What’d your wife think?!”
“She’d be happy she won’t have to cook anymore!”

*ahahahahahahaha*

Laughter fills the room as the Harvest Moon Feast continues. No one recalls why a feast is held during Harvest Moon, it’s just simply a tradition that likely predates the Age of Chaos. Since the construction works had to be extended due to unforeseen trouble, Kun offered to host them. Unexpectedly, that provided the workers with a motivation that would scare the gods. As a result, all the primary tasks were completed in record time, only minor tasks that’d need a handful of people to complete remain. As such, all the workers are partying up, with some of them bringing in food and booze of their own to share.

Kun smiles as he brings out the food non-stop. As soon as one item leaves the oven, another enters it. Greens and vegetables are prepared just before they run out. He had been alone for years, it wasn’t too long ago that Gui and then Hank showed up to share the holiday with. A happy feeling swells in his chest while he labours away.

* * * * *

“He, he’s doing what?!”

“You heard me, he’s going to be employing the likes of Corporal Pamuk.”

The red-faced, burly white-haired man sobers up at the mention of the name as each of them holds a mug of liquor in their hands, just outside the dining hall where most of the workers fell asleep after enjoying themselves too much.

“Last I heard, he was sent to one of the Military Homes… no one ever gets out of there, how’s that kid of yours going to get the old Sarge out?”

“Heh, Barthos, the bigwigs screwed up, hard. Guess how I was able to get all you dumbasses to come here to build this place.”

The burly man nods before taking a sip from his mug. “Seriously Hank, who the hell IS this kid? A brother to a fox? That the goddamned bigwigs are afraid of him? Fairytales are Fairytales for a reason you know. Don’t tell me he’s some god-damned guidance spirit from the Plane of Dreams that the old shamans tell the kids.”

“You know about the Twin Falls’ Conference?”

“Isn’t that where the filthy Almans murdered everyone else at the Peace Conference?”

“He’s a survivor from there, made it all the way back to Nampa Outpost on his own. Some goddamned son of bitch tried to steal his parents’ inheritance.” The scarred man gulps down his liquor before pouring himself another mug, topping off his friend’s as well.

“Been almost a decade… the only kids were… wait, he’s THEIR kid?”

Hank stares up at the full moon before taking a sip of his drink. “Yep, bastards sent him back here without telling us. They brought him here, hoping to take over everything as per the State Inheritance law.”

Barthos’ face turns red, not from drunkenness, but from anger. “Wait… can’t they just claim it was some underling that did it?”

Hank shows a wry smile, “they found some corpses and a military assigned pickup truck for a certain missing governor hidden away near here.”

The white-haired man stares at the reflection of the moon in his cup for a few moments, before chugging the entire thing. He grabs the bottle and drinks the remaining liquor straight from the bottle.

*haaaaaaaaaa*

“Just to let you know, Kun took down a grizzly, apparently the one that the bastards tried to use to kill him with.”

“Oh come on! He couldn’t have been an adult then! Even we can’t say we can take down a goddamn grizz on our own! Next you are going to tell me he can fly too!”

“Actually...”

Barthos’ shoulders sags, “nonono, not going to believe you. I don’t think I can handle all this, the next thing I know, the sky’s going to fall.” He reaches over for the remaining bottle, uncorks it with a *pon* before filling both their mugs. “What the hell are you doing anyways? Pamuk was a great leader, but he’s handicapped now.”

“He’s going to be helping out in training.”

“How?”

“Have you heard of Second Phantasia?”

“Who hasn’t?”

“That’s where we will be training the greenhorns.”

“Wah…? Isn’t it just some stupid game for people to waste time on?”

“I thought so too, well, until I tried it anyways. It feels almost real, we can even use real weapons and actually try to kill each other, like on a battlefield.”

“Damn…”

“Why, you want to join?”

“I’d think half the people here would jump at the chance to do that.”

Hank simply smiles before bringing the mug to his mouth.

* * * * *

*hyuu* *gaba gaba*

Wild wind stirs the curtains as two figures approach the window from the sky.

*bou*

As soon as the figures reach over to open the slightly ajar window, a small flame inside the room flares up, temporary blinding them.

“Welcome, welcome, I’ve been expecting you.” A middle-age man with a lean, muscular build and brown hair lowers the lamp in his hands before opening the windows for the stunned duo dressed in midnight blue.

“Eh…”

“Come on in, make yourselves at home, wine?” The man turns around toward the pitcher sitting on a table nearby, causing his purple cloak to flutter.

The two girls shrug and enter through the window. They managed a “No thanks.” as they find a spot to stand.

*tatatatatata* *gacha*

Sounds of quick footsteps can be heard followed by the sound of the door opening. “Sorry, my liege, we didn’t expect you to wake up so suddenly!” A young squire suddenly appears after opening the door abruptly. The youth drops to a kneeling position before looking up at his king, spotting the two suspicious figures “Gua-”

“Quiet!” The man gives a stern command, freezing the squire’s voice midword. *fuuu* Sighing while closing his eyes for a moment, he waves his hands “these are my guests, you are dismissed.”

The squire stammers wordlessly as he looks back and forth between his king and the figures. Seeing his king’s expression slowly turning into a scowl, he bows his head toward the floor before getting up and slowly back out the door, closing it slowly.

“Sorry about that, Till was it? And who might you be? You must be either Isnic or Trovane. Come come, have a seat.” The man sits down and pours himself a glass of ruby liquid after gesturing to the seats across the table.

The two of them hesitantly walk toward the table and seat themselves after uncovering their faces that are hidden behind a midnight blue cloth. They are still stunned that the king had expected them and actually knows them by name, even in their clothing.

“Aaahhhhh.” The man takes a sip of the wine before releasing a sound of satisfaction. His face turns into a face of concern when he looks at the two, then a relaxed look appears on his face as though he solved some problem. “Don’t be so on guard, it didn’t take much to figure out that it was you. Considering that my guards never spotted any of you the first time, that means you two came as birds. Very few people can do that, and all of them are connected to my old friend. And then the army that appeared from nowhere with no hostilities that travelled through my kingdom using my old friend’s name. How is that old witch anyways?” The man shows a subtle expression, something like a faint smile as he asks his question.

“She passed away a while ago.” Isnic gives a curt reply, causing an awkward silence as the king’s happy expression turns blank before turning into a look of disbelief.

“You’ve my condolences.” The man raises his glass toward the direction of the Academy before downing it in one go. He sits still for a moment with his eyes closed before refilling the the glass. He takes a sip and make a face as though the taste of the wine turned bad before putting the glass down. “Let’s get down to business. I have to ask, what’s that army doing here?”

“They are the people she had been looking for…”

“I see… that’s unfortunate.” The king lifts the glass of wine, stares at it, putting it back down before getting another glass and fills it with water from another pitcher. He takes a drink before continuing. “I presume you two here are about the payment?”

The two of them nod. “We are in need of a special type of forge, so we’d like two large hollow cylinders of your strongest metal that can withstand the most heat and temperature change. The first one just needs to be half your height and just as wide, the second needs to be two hands wider. The rest should be made the same way too, we need-”

“Wait wait, slow down.” The king gets up, walks over to his stationary, sliding out a small drawer from the right side shelf on top of the desk revealing a small, dried black pool. Directly behind it is a small cylinder with a handle, which the king turns slowly and deliberately. Black liquid from the bottom of the cylinder seeps out, collecting into an engraved path next to the cylinder and gathers at the previously dried pool. Grabbing a quill that’s stacked on the left side of the shelf with his other hand, he sticks it into his mouth before reaching for a vellum sheet on top of the shelf. He finally stops turning the handle after unrolling the vellum into place, he takes the quill in his now free right hand and dips it into the ink. “Okay, two hollow cylinders, half my height, just as wide. Second one is two hands wider. And…?”

The two snaps out of their daze and walk over. “Umm… there needs to be two slots on both side, those two slots must connect to both cylinders and be sealed tight. So two bars can slide through them, like this.” Till makes her hands into a V, at 90 degrees, with a small gap between bottom of the two. “We will need two hollow bars just slightly smaller than the slots and a grill that’s just slightly bigger than the largest cylinder.”

The king stops writing suddenly and turns to Till with a questioning look, “a grill?”

“Hm… grill might be too hard to make… how about a sheet with many, many holes? More holes than metal in fact. As for the treasury, give us the heaviest treasure you have.”

The king stops writing again, “why the heaviest?”

“We need something extremely heavy.”

“How about I get the royal smiths to make you guys the largest encased block of gold we can make instead? That’d be way heavier than any treasure I have.”

“Are you sure?”

“Certainly, better than misusing the treasures in any case…” The king quickly finishes up writing, rolls up the vellum, grabs a candle on the shelf, lights it up before dripping the wax onto the open edge of the scroll. He quickly stamps the ring on his middle finger onto the wax, making a royal seal.

“We’d also like to ask you a favour.”

“Ah, right. I did promise that, didn’t I?”

“It’s nothing outrageous, we’d just like to open a trading post. If possible, we’d like to pay the tax in the form of goods during initial entry. For each goods up to 10 units, we will give 1 unit as a form of tax.”

The king frowns, “why can’t you pay it in coinage like everyone else?”

Till closes her eyes for a moment to recall the discussion with Bell prior to coming here. “It’s simple, the goods we’d be bringing have no fixed price as it simply doesn’t exist in your kingdom. We will mutually benefit since the worth of your taxation will be equivalent to the worth of our goods. If it’s popular, you can always sell it and also be guaranteed a supply of those goods without having to make us a royal purveyor. If it isn’t popular, we don’t lose more money than necessary.”

“That doesn’t seem right, why must my kingdom bear any risk of your goods not becoming popular.”

Till simply smiles, “because you don’t want us to stop trading once we start.” She nods her head at Isnic, who reaches for a small bag lodged inside of the midnight blue clothing and presents it to the king. “Try it in the morning, I believe the one called Mikhal was particularly fond of it.”

The king narrows his eyes before picking it up and inspecting it. “What is this?”

“We call it tea, you simply put some leaves in a container like a cup or a bowl, fill it up with hot water and let it soak for a bit before drinking.”

The king simply raise his eyebrows, “this isn’t enough to convince me, I’d like a favour as well.”

“Oh?”

“I overheard from the Feian troops that your Academy is opened for their citizens, I’d like the same.”

Till maintains a neutral face while pretending to think. “As long as your citizens pay the tuition, I don’t see any problems with that.”

“Then we shall see if this arrangement will be as beneficial as you say.”

Both the girls get up, giving a bow before a “thank you for your time and sorry for disturbing you.”

The king wryly returns a “just come in from the front the next time.” in reply.

*gaba*

The curtains flap for a moment as the two jump out the window. The king remains seated, narrowing his brows. He takes the scroll and breaks the seal. Reaching over to a small silver bell, he gives a ring with a *karan* as he studies the materials Till has asked for. “What is this…? This looks neither like a hearth nor a bloomery, how can this be part of a forge?”

[T/N: Bloomery… why the hell is called ぶるーめりー when it’s obviously a borrowed word, it should be in katakana. Even then, google gave me the result of flowers and a goddamn rockband… *flips table*]

*kara*

“Yes, my liege?” The squire from before opens the door and kneels down shortly after.

“Take away the wine, and also notify the the royal smiths to meet me tomorrow afternoon. Oh, and get me Donavic for tomorrow’s first audience.”

“The Barwn, sire?”

“No, his 3rd son, the one named Mikhal.”

* * * * *

*kara kara* *dota dota*

The door guards open the elaborate doors to the audience hall for what looks like a boy before marching back to their designated spots after silently closing the door. Before the steps to the throne in the magnificent stone hall stands a small table, with various bowls, cups, mugs and a jar of hot water as well as a container holding some dried leaves. A stool is provided next to the table.

“Long live the king!” The boy presents himself next to the table, bringing his right fist to his left shoulder before kneeling down on one knee, keeping his eyes on the floor.

“At ease, make yourself a drink and sit down.”

The boy gets up and smiles ear to ear upon seeing the leaves. He takes a few leaves, throws it in a bowl, pouring some hot water in it. Seeing that there’s no lid, he grabs a serving plate and covers the bowl with it before sitting down.

“Mikhal Donavic, due to your timely arrival at Feia leading to the success of driving out the immortals. You are hereby bestowed the advancement of two ranks from Squire to the title of Knight 1st class by the generosity of His Majesty.” Silence follows before the Chancellor who read the scroll coughs and whispers. “Wake up.”

The boy quickly gets to a kneeling position. “Ackno-.. eh.. Thank you, your Majesty”.

The man draped in fineries and a purple cloak sitting on the throne gives a quick wave. Mikhal quickly gets back to his seat and takes a sip of the tea to calm his nerves.

“Donavic!”

“Sir!”

“I assign you to attend the Academy with my younger sons and daughter and to protect them! You will be assigned a dozen Knights 2nd class, a dozen Squires and a dozen Pages to complete your task! Additionally, you are to be the liaison representing Sardon. If there is anything notable within the Academy, you are to report it at once! A seasonal report is expected from you. Understand?!”

“Yes, my liege!”

“Good, you are dismissed!”

The boy takes a bow and is about to turn his back. He stops mid-motion, reaches for the bowl of tea, drinks it in one gulp, before bowing again and leaving the audience chamber.

*kara kara* *dota dota*

The door guards open the door from the inside this time, with the familiar sound of marching feet and the sight of the silently closing door.

*karan karan*

The king rings the silver bell that’s resting on his throne. A servant quickly appears, bowing as soon as he gets to his designated spot.

“Yes, my liege?”

“Go prepare the leaves in a bowl of hot water for me, the same as the one on the table there.”

The Chancellor turns toward his king with a conspiring smile.

“Right, make that two bowls. Seems like the Chancellor is curious too.”

The servant quickly bows and swiftly takes the bowl of leaves before disappearing to the side of the audience hall. Other servants quickly appear to remove the utensils, the table and stool.

The Chancellor announces with a loud and clear voice. “Next!”

10 comments:

  1. Dang! How can they live without tea? Are they from the stone ages? xD

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    1. Tea only reached us (europe) during the 16th century and thats because some Portuguese Priests got their hands on Tea while in China then a Century later It became a Big Hype in Britain. So it would not be all to odd for a kingdom in that game to not know or have Tea ;)

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    2. Author didn't researched that well enough though. While what we know as Tea now wasn't known in Europe there were plenty of herbal teas... While Tea as Tea could been something unknown they certainly would know concept itself and it's not guaranteed that they would've found it better than whatever herbal mix they are using as there are always personal preferences, normal Tea is so popular because it have widest target group.

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    3. One, as you said, tea has widest target group: anyone can drink it. Two: production can be easily upscaled into mass production, with high yield, unlike herbs. Three: teas can be processed into long term storage, unlike herbs.

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    4. 1. It's not about "anyone can drink it" (though there are similar examples, like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamerion_angustifolium), it's about "concept of tea already exist even if big-T Tea is unknown".
      2A. There is nothing that prevents mass production of most sources of non-Tea teas.
      2B. Sources for herbal teas usually easily acquired locally without any need for production
      3. BWUH WHUT? The above example in 1 was used and stored similarly to Tea and most of herbs used in herbal teas are also easy enough to store. *looks at mother's collection of herbal teas* Yeah, that one is soooo wrooong...

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  2. Thanks for the chapter, I'm hoping to find out what the king thinks of the tea.

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  3. A Bloomery is a type of furnace/forge used in medieval times. You can find it easily by typing medieval bloomery into google and see some nice images or use the wikipedia link here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomery

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    Replies
    1. You kind of misunderstood, I had trouble with the original (it was written in hiragana). It should've been katakana as bloomery doesn't exist natively in japanese, hence I never thought to look to for a foreign word based on the original text.

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  4. Thanks for the chapter!
    I know the story is progressing by doing all these tasks but I wanna see some action again soon...

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