Chapter 82 – Franko’s Inspection (last part)
– It appears you’re making spear heads, right?
At Franko’s words, Eiji’s heart beat faster.
It was a shock which sent chills down his spine.
Just when on earth did you learn about that? – Is what Eiji thought.
The reason for that was because Franko has been with Eiji all the time since he called Eiji in the early morning.
Eiji had already witnessed Franko’s manner of working as a tax collector; nevertheless, he shouldn’t have been able to gain enough time for gathering information.
And then, that he arrived in the early morning should itself deny him that possibility.
Dante and the rest came to the workshop as usual.
Even if they were able to keep their mouths shut, Eiji should still have been able to notice small changes in their attitude.
Thus, it could be stated that such a thing hadn’t happened as far as what Eiji remembered.
Despite Eiji training his disciples for somewhere around half a year to a full year now, they would still see each other almost throughout the day.
Were he to pile up their time spent together, it would probably exceed that of Eiji and his wife, Tanya.
Obviously, their position as master and disciples was different, however, as one would expect, Eiji would immediately become aware of anything that feels off.
First, he had to confirm when Franko had acquired that information.
– You’re saying some strange things there, ain’t you? Just from where on earth did you learn of such gossip?
– Now, where did I hear about it? I’m sure it was inside this village.
As expected, Franko wouldn’t disclose his source of information that easily.
On top of that, him applying pressure on the villagers here would be the same as acquiring certain data.
Well, it was agonizing indeed.
In the end, “which” spear did his information pertain to?
Just like this, it was hard for Eiji to make a decision.
Assuming Franko considered that matter suspicious, it would be necessary for this side to retort.
In that case, it should be fine for Eiji to say that the items just happened to be made in the past.
However, if their talk regards his recent making of spear heads, then there will be nothing more that Eiji can do.
– When did you hear about that? Even though I’ve been constantly by your side, I haven’t heard about such a rumor, which seems to be so limited in information, so…
– Well, since it was during my previous visit here, how long has it been? Was it during the time I brought Dante and the rest with me? I wonder…
– I see.
Eiji’s biggest doubt had cleared up.
And then, he understood, that there was most likely no need for any worry.
Eiji sensed as if the stiffness came loose from his body, making it feel lighter for him.
Indeed, there was a time when he made spears before; nevertheless, those ones no longer existed as he converted them into farming implements.
Not to mention, what Eiji feared the most was when he had sensed someone’s presence the other day.
Wasn’t I being peeked at that time? – Such a fear wouldn’t leave his mind. However, knowing it wasn’t at least related to this matter, he felt quite at ease.
Whatever Eiji would do after this, he could find a way to compromise Franko without being investigated by the latter.
– Well, I wonder myself about that, but I made spears once before.
– Oh, is that so? Which means you have changed your mind in order to make weapons, right?
– However, I do not possess them any longer.
– What do you mean?
– Crafting spears was just an emergency measure against wolves that tried to attack this village. After that, I quickly beat and reshaped them into present farming tools. All the members in this village should know about this story, but haven’t you asked them?
Hmm – Franko kept silent.
Were Eiji to make any flashy explanation, he would reversely bring an unfavorable situation on himself.
That’s why, he wanted to answer in all honesty.
– Certainly, I’ve heard a story like that.
– It seems that Franko-san thought about me changing my mind regarding making weapons, but well, that’s the background of the story, and there are no more spears from that time. I’m consistent with my beliefs, and therefore, I won’t change my standpoint of not wanting to produce weapons.
– Is that so? ……Still, you won’t mind if I check it just in case, right?
– For what purpose? Your role is to collect things paid in the form of taxes. What’s more, looking everywhere in a sacred place just because of an unheard rumor is, honestly speaking, unpleasant for me.
– Nevertheless, there still might be a chance.
Despite saying this much, he still won’t withdraw? What a troublesome man. Guess, I’ll have to make one more move in this risky gamble. – Is what Eiji thought.
– If you say you want to check this place at any cost, then fine. But let me ask something before you do so. Assuming I provided you with false report and you find out spears, what kind of punishment will you give?
– Fumu…. For example, I think it should be obvious, but all the weapons will be confiscated. Not to mention, I’ll impose additional taxes, and you won’t be able to avoid forced labor.
– I see.
Nodding down, Eiji used that moment to create an advantage.
And then, once he gazed sharply at Franko, he stated his condition.
– Then, in case you don’t find any, please bear the responsibility and make up for your error in equal amount. Like by exempting us from taxes and forced labor, you see.
– Don’t be silly. I told you, I’m carrying out my official duty.
– How can you call it your duty when you’re wielding your power of the state like that without any proof? I’m willing to go along with you as much as is possible, but, treading on our good faith, I’d like you to take your own risks as well.
The atmosphere was filled with silence.
Even if Franko bears the risk, as long as he’s confident about Eiji making spears, it will be Eiji’s loss.
He would probably find them, were to be persistent.
As if brooding for a while, Franko kept silent.
Well, what’s your answer?
-………I got it, I got it. I shall believe you.
– If you want to carry out such an inspection next time, please provide me with clear evidence and testimony. I too won’t be able to retreat if someone gives an evidence.
Franko shrugged his shoulders in a giving up manner.
Eiji was glad to place an emphasis on the rules and on the fact that the blacksmith’s workshop is a sacred place from the very beginning.
Tidying up the box in which he stored the arrowheads for Nazioni, Eiji lowered the fire inside the fireplace.
It looked like Franko had stopped shivering and his body began to warm up.
– Good job guiding me today. Actually, your splendid manner of working is something worthy of being appreciated.
– Thank you very much. Despite you saying so, I only proposed few ideas. The ones who carried out them were the villagers here, so please give them your acknowledgement.
– However, their results are also the results of the one who managed them. I actually hold you in high regards. Like this, I want you to contribute not just for the sake of this village but also for the development of Nazioni.
– If it’s within my range as an individual, then I’ll gladly help.
Franko’s eyes were cold by itself.
His cold sight, which was characteristic of that of an observer, stared fixedly at Eiji.
If he’s told to lent his wisdom to all the people on this island, then Eiji won’t be hesitant in making that choice.
If he’s told that his agricultural knowledge will save them from famine, he will gladly take the lead.
And if he’s told that tools are necessary, Eiji will most likely be pleased to sell them.
However, there will be no end if it’s for a ruler to prosper one-sidedly.
Eiji had a hard time in trying to not let his objection show through his eyes.
– Today, you did a good job. Once more let’s have a meal together afterwards.
– Understood. Franko-san, what do you plan to do from now on?
– Hm. I’m going to greet some familiar faces from Nazioni. It appears they’ve been doing their best for somewhere between half a year to a full year now.
– Yes. As their master, I can say they’ve been doing pretty well. It’s also thanks to you, Franko-san.
Well then, just what kind of information are they going to exchange with each other?
Eiji became mindful, however, there was no way for him to tail Franko.
As soon as Franko left the workshop, Eiji saw him off.
Turning his back on Eiji and continuing to depart, Franko said to himself.
– Still, I was surprised at you for showing me such a strange and strong resistance this time. Suddenly, it makes me want to question if there’s something I should feel guilty about in my job.
Without hearing an answer, Franko walked away like that.
-…….*exhale*. So I somehow managed to pull it off……?
With Franko’s figure disappearing, Eiji breathed out a sigh of relief.
His body felt heavy.
Being mentally exhausted, he felt he wouldn’t be able to move.
Eiji walked back as if dragging his legs sluggishly toward the front of the shelves used for goods delivery.
And then, taking out the box containing things for paying taxes, he pulled out the Nata.
– It somehow went smoothly, I guess.
Once he removed a leather scabbard, spear heads appeared.
He hid them inside the scabbard used for sheathing the Nata.
Since the Nata had a somewhat unusually large blade, it was also possible to store an adequate number of spear heads.
Despite that, there was no doubt that it was a disadvantageous bet.
Were Franko to check the scabbard directly, he would have probably discovered them.
By picking up the box by himself and handing over the Nata confidently, Eiji could avoid Franko detecting the spear heads.
– However, to carry out this inspection without warning, he’s indeed quite cautious of me.
Thinking about how Franko was dealing with him today, Eiji muttered.
Even their first encounter turned into a negotiation right after he had returned from trading.
This time, having his chance of taking any countermeasure sealed off, Eiji was taken around since the early morning.
One could probably say that Franko regarded Eiji’s existence as highly valuable.
Or perhaps, was he trying to check the reaction coming from this village?
Whichever it is, we too have to be more vigilant of Franko and deal with him better, I guess – Eiji thought.
By the time Eiji reached Bona’s house, there was already a meal prepared, with the smell of a stew floating inside the room
The tribal chief, Bona, Eiji, Fernando, Franko, and Jane, who was in charge of the cooking, sat at the table.
– W-What is this cooking?
– What do you mean by what?
– Even if you say this is a type of stew, it has a taste I’ve never experienced before. The stew has no bitterness and it has a clear substance. I’ve travelled around all the places inside this territory, but this is the first time for me to have a dish like this. Who was the one to make it?
– That would be Jane-san, you see.
– Indeed, she’s one skilful girl in regards to cooking…..
While being surprised, Franko continued to eat in a greedy manner.
The basic pre-preparation cooking method of removing the astringent taste and the extraction of Dashi(1) has probably been refined little by little for a long time.
This sort of pre-preparation was a bit time consuming, but nevertheless, its taste proved to be exceptionally good.
Recently, a similar taste has been considered to be improve among most households in the village.
– Indeed, it makes me want to visit this village first from now on.
– We will introduce this cooking method to you in an easy to understand way. The cooking itself shouldn’t be much different from those in other villages.
It was something one couldn’t joke about.
Were Franko to come more often because of delicious cooking, it would become a great nuisance.
They also wanted him to consider the feelings of the side which organized those friendly receptions.
Perhaps, there was no need to hide one’s cooking method in particular.
As long as it’s for warding off Franko, it will be enough profit.
Once the meal reached a point where they could rest, Franko expressed his words of consideration toward the development that took place within the region.
– Judging from the character of this place, even in this developing territory, Siena has the tendency to fall behind. However, I’ve been nothing but surprised by the way it has been developing recently. Indeed, most of the advancements in this development can be accredited to Eiji’s great efforts.
– A single person like me is only capable of smithing.
– There’s no need for you to be humble, you know?
– No, I’m being honest. No matter how much knowledge you possess, it will be meaningless as long you can’t carry it out in practice. I think it’s thanks to Fernando-san shaping my plan of development and the tribal chief accurately conducting everyone in the village that we have what we have now.
– Still, your knowledge and wisdom was the core of this development. Being too humble will make you sound sarcastic.
Even though he was praised by Franko, why wasn’t he that glad?
As soon as Eiji shrugged his shoulders and ignored, he noticed Franko gazing fixedly at him.
Somehow, his sight gave a bad feeling.
-……Is something matter?
– Well, Eiji. There’s something I need to convey to you.
– What could it be?
– I was given an order by the ruler, Nazioni-sama, to summon you. He told me to bring you with me this time when I’ll be collecting tax offerings.
– What? Right now, I’d rather not leave the village since my wife is pregnant, so….
– You won’t be sojourning for a long time. What’s more, we have a reason for calling you as there’s not enough explanation for us regarding how your invented items should be used in practice. Because of that, even if we go through the trouble of collecting taxes in the form of your new products, we are still unable to apply them skillfully, which is unfair for us. As a tax collector, it’s my duty to take care of this, you see.
– Can’t you just forward me some people in charge of using those items?
– There would be no problem, were we to carry out normal business. However, that excuse won’t work as I was told to present you together with the tax offerings.
Franko’s explanation had pretty much made sense.
Still, was it the city of Nazioni?
If possible, Eiji didn’t want to go at such a time as this.
But since it was before the village would launch their plan of mutiny, it was probably a favorable opportunity.
Even at present, Eiji had no knowledge regarding the current state of the city called Nazioni.
Nevertheless, what troubled him was that he didn’t know how long they would keep him constrained.
As if sensing Eiji’s worry, Bona threw him a lifeboat.
– Fumu, I’ve a question, but is it fine?
– Please go ahead, Bona-san.
– Can you promise that Eiji won’t sojourn for long? Just like he said before, my granddaughter, Tanya, is giving birth soon. If possible, I’d like for her to tag along with him.
– I swear on my name that Eiji won’t stay there for more than 2 days.
At Franko’s promise, Eiji sighed with relief for the time being.
He couldn’t tell how much of his promise was true, but declaring like this to another tribal chief would probably mean that the promise would be kept.
– How about you, Eiji? I don’t think even Franko will revoke his promise with me, but….
– From here to Nazioni, how far it is?
– A one-way trip will take 2-3 days. Since we have excessive luggage with us on our way there, probably 3 days, I guess.
– With that, it would take us around a week, right?
If that was the case, there would still be time left til his wife’s birth.
And if Eiji had Fernando progress with his house reconstruction during his absence, there should most likely be no hindrance to the birth itself.
– We still have some extra time, but I think it’s better for us to depart as quickly as possible, otherwise snow will start falling. In addition to you fulfilling your job of delivering the taxes, I’d recommend bringing Dante, Katharina, and the rest. They too have been constantly working this year, so it will probably do them good if they return and meet their families.
– Understood. If they’re going to return here either way, it’s probably better for them to go with you.(2)
What kind of ruler awaited Eiji at Nazioni?
In the end, was it someone whom one shouldn’t consider uprising against?
Let’s check it out. – Is what he thought.
Translator and reference notes:
(1) Japanese cooking stock popularly eaten with Miso soup (fermented soybans) and Rice.
(2) Not 100% sure about this sentence