Chapter 30 – The Festival of Abundant Harvest
Once the sky was dyed red, people started to gather in the open space.
Eiji, who had been there for a long time, gazed at the whole thing from his seat, which he had taken from the very beginning, and gave off a sigh of relief.
So there were also people like this? – he thought.
The population of this village was around 250.
The open space, in which everyone could sit as they wished, was filled with people.
Eiji remembered having once seen a similar scenery.
That was back in his student years during the school assembly. He could recall the long advisory instructions given by the principal during the speech, which Eiji had considered as reproachful. Usually, it would take place during summer or winter season.
This place is full of people unknown to me – he thought.
If they were people who lived in the center of the village, Eiji would greet them from time to time. However, it was rare for him to face someone that lived in the outskirts.
There were individuals whom he wouldn’t see in his daily life, such as infants, children at the age of elementary school and elderly people with bent lower backs using canes.
– You’re Eiji-san, ain’t you?
– Yes I am. Nice to meet you.
– Yes, sorry for the late introduction. I’m looking forward to enjoying today.
The elderly man bowed down to Eiji with a smiling face.
They hadn’t met before; nevertheless, Eiji, who wasn’t a familiar face in this village, stood out, which was clear to the villagers.
What’s more, many of them knew about him becoming the executive, and about his name and achievement as well.
As he was encountered by everyone, they would exchange a greeting or speak to him a bit sometimes, then move to their respective places.
The faces of the people that gathered were filled with warm smiles. Seeing that, Eiji could definitely understand how enjoyable this event must be for them.
Indeed, it was the sort of enjoyment that was only for one time a year, as there was usually no place for having a good time with any entertainment.
Had they eased up on their field work, it would have backfired on them with lesser amount of crops. No matter how much you don’t feel like working, you couldn’t ease up on your job.
And it isn’t just limited to field work.
In every job, which covers manual labor, you have to do everything by yourself.
Because of that, if it weren’t for works based on the system of specific occupation, the effectiveness would decline.
Festivals and holidays, which took place several times a year, were probably considered special, as it was only the only time one could rest from the heavy labor.
During a small break, perhaps I should tell them how to play Othello as a form of amusement. – thought Eiji.
―― The fact that it would later become the reason for turmoil didn’t cross Eiji’s mind now.
Before the inauguration of the festival, the alcohol was distributed.
It was beer.
Was it intended for warming up one’s body? It looked like the beer was heated.
Once he received the beer, he would pass it to other people.
The wooden cup, which was hollowed out, contained the mildly warm beer.
What he savored inside his mouth wasn’t just the fragrance of wheat, but also herbs, which were used together. The taste was refreshing, making it easier for him to drink. Eiji could feel how his body was warming up from deep inside.
After he drank for a while, the warmth inside his stomach spread thorough his body.
It’s said that people from snow countries can hold their alcohol. Perhaps, the cold is the reason why they can endure drinking this.
– The festival will soon begin.
– Is it going to be your turn now, Adele-san?
Looking next to him, there was Adele dressed unusually beautiful.
Was it intended for divine work? They were probably high grade clothes, even for this village, and perhaps mended more times than the tribal chief’s clothes.
Her clothes were made from a smooth fabric, which had no hatchings standing out.
It was bleached pure white; however the clothes were dyed red now due to evening sun.
She wore make-up on her face and was more attractive than her usual look.
Adel nodded at Eiji’s words.
– It’s the first time for Eiji-san, isn’t it? We make offerings to the goddess of abundant harvest by performing on the stage.
– I’ve heard that your offerings consist of cattle, but…
– Apart from the cattle, which can no longer be of use, we use bracelets and farming tools, such as hoes.
The bracelets and hoes would eventually be thrown and gulped down into swamp as offerings.
Eiji felt that it was a little bit of a waste to abandon hoes from the material point of view; however, because he grew up in a household which used to call a Shinto priest whenever there was a festival of bellows, he could understand this feeling.
As well as this conduct, which was followed by responsibility.
– Acting as a representative of this village, that’s surely a big role.
– It is something which has been decided since I was small. What’s more, this task is not something to be done by everyone, so it’s an honor for me.
– Indeed, this is a job suitable for Adele-san, who apart from being pretty, has a calm behavior.
– Ara, I feel flattered. Did you know? Both me and Tanya are often compared when it comes to decide who’s the most beautiful in this village?
– And y-your point is?
– Eiji-san, do you intend to tell Tanya that you want to hold flowers in both hands?
– W-wait a moment!?
– It’s a joke.
Good grief, the people who make jokes are too mischievous.
I wonder what Tanya would do, were she to become serious. – he thought.
Speaking of which, she was probably serious about that. I really want her to stop that – thought Eiji.
Adele smiled while apologizing to Eiji, who had a stern expression. Even that one aspect of her behavior made her a different flower from Tanya.
– The ceremony itself will soon end. After that there will be dancing, singing, and cooking. It will become noisy, but please enjoy your first festival, even if you have to bear with it.
Adele, who said it with an expression full of confidence, bowed down as she left.
As Eiji was staring at her silhouette in daze, the sign of someone approaching could be sensed.
He turned back and became startled.
It was Fernando, who had his face red from alcohol, staring at him.
– Ain’t you oggling at my wifeee?
– That’s wrong! Speaking of which, despite saying you were punished, ain’t you quite attached to her?
– O, oh…..Don’t make me remember unpleasant things. My lower legs throb whenever I think about it.
Trying to subdue his anger, he became pale while holding his left.
Because it was under the dim shadow, he couldn’t tell, but Fernando’s legs were probably swollen.
You would think he was completely dominated by his wife.
Eiji didn’t want to imagine just how much had Fernando gone through.
It seemed that behind that kind behavior of hers, there was a severe attitude, similar to her husband.
– But if you drink alcohol, won’t your legs throb even more?
– Besides days like this, I’ve no opportunity to drink this much.
– If you suffer, then I guess that would of little importance.
– As if I’d know unless I tried.
– Looks like I’m just meddling into somebody else’s problem.
– The me of tomorrow will be different from me of today, you see. It’s fine to suffer the consequences of tomorrow, tomorrow, or have tomorrow’s fun tomorrow.
– And then, the thing remaining tomorrow will be the pain.
Though it would probably end quickly.
Glug glug – As Fernando was sipping his mug of beer, he left the place to ask for more.
Eiji, who was once more alone, again looked around in search for the silhouette of his wife.
Could it be that she was still in charge of cooking? – he thought.
It felt a little lonesome for Eiji to be waiting alone for the inauguration.
Finally, once the sky changed its color from red to deep blue, and the curtain of night fell on the place, the bonfire was kindled.
The sound of the tree bark bursting was heard together with its scattering spark.
The top of the stage platform was brightly lit up inside the darkness of dusk.
The noisy atmosphere froze in silence for a moment.
It seemed as though the bugs and wild animals hid their breathing sounds.
The sound of a khakkhara echoed, and then the sound of a drum.
Tinkle – with a single ring of bells, the silhouette of women surfaced from the darkness.
Adele, who was holding a staff in one hand, walked onto the stage from the side of the open space near to it.
Each time she made a step, a clean sound reverberated. Behind Adele, there were other women following.
The tribal chief – Bona, the manager of women – Jane, and Tanya, all of them were holding offerings.
There should be no particular meaning in doing that.
After that, Mike and Philip appeared, pulling a large cow.
The offerings were lined up on the stage.
The silence continued.
Even the men, who looked as though they were totally drunk, wouldn’t utter anything frivolous.
Everyone was keeping their mouth closed, expecting for the moment of holiness.
The festival was also the worshiping and making dedication to deities.
People were earnestly believing in a god.
– Thou who are the goddess of abundant harvest in this land. We give thanks to thee for thy blessing and the beneficial rain, which you have brought to us for this whole year. We pray for thee to extend thy affection for the upcoming spring crops as thee would always do while we make this dedication for thee.
Adele kneeled down while bowing. All the representatives, who were sitting behind her, bowed in the same manner.
The flame from the bonfire bursted loudly for a moment.
The iron pole was swung down cutting through the air.
The cow, which was hit by it, had its eyes turn white after giving out a single scream, at the same time passing away within a moment.
The cattle was laid down on its side, and processed quickly and accurately.
It was a splendid performance and quick work, which would make one surprised.
Finally, the liver and heart, in which the soul of the cow was residing, were taken out and served as the offerings on the plates.
Translator and reference notes:
: this comes from a Japanese proverb ‘flowers in both hands’, meaning that a man have both of women for himself. Adele is implying that Eiji wants to hog both her and his wife for himself since he flattered her.