Right after dawn, the two of us, Liecia and I, were being jolted on horseback.
While breathing the still early morning misty air, Liecia’s favorite horse Celine, unmindful of the two person’s worth of weight on it, jumped as it ran. We were riding double like on a motorbike, but it was Liecia who was holding the reins while the one with arms gripping tightly around her slender waist behind her was me.
“Whoa there, don’t press my stomach so strongly”
“No, well, this is quite scary you know?”
“Pathetic. Isn’t it normally the man who’s supposed to be holding the reins”
“Can’t be helped. This is the first time riding a horse for me”
A modern Japanese, Tokyo born, Tokyo raised, doesn’t have many chances to ride a horse anyway.
At most, it was only to the extent of riding a pony with a helper at a petting zoo when I was a child.
“Any adult in this country, from farmers to nobles, can ride horses you know?”
“Unfortunately, the country I came from has lots of more convenient modes of transport”
“But this country mainly uses horses. Since you’re here anyway why don’t you get used to it?”
“…….. when I have time”
“Right. …. so, the vehicles in your country, I think I’m interested”
“Yeah, there box-shaped vehicles with wheels that can carry a huge number of people in one go…”
While having that conversation, we continued galloping along.
It’s probably around 6 right now. About time for people to finally start working. The shopping districts have no stores open, and there are virtually no pedestrians.
Leaving the urban area, we finally arrived at the walls surrounding the city. We talked with the guard there and went outside through a small gate next to a large gate (opens 7 AM) that you don’t see outside of foreign fantasy movies.
The negotiations this time was handled by Liecia. A newly enthroned King would probably not be allowed outside the gates without guards. Which is why the military officer Liecia went and dodged the issue saying “I’m going outside on royal orders” or something. After we safely left the castle gates, Liecia grumbled.
“They wrote it down as a royal order. Now how should I explain to my superiors…”
I politely ignored her.
Then within a short time, we finally arrived at our destination.
“……. stop here”
I asked Liecia to stop the horse, and she looked at me with a doubtful face.
“You wanted to come here? I can’t see anything but fields, though”
As Liecia said, wherever we look around us there’s nothing but verdant fields.
Green fields wet with dew as far as the eye can see. This place…. there’s no mistaking it.
“I want Liecia to see this sight”
“These fields? Well, it certainly is pretty, wet with morning dew and all that…”
“Pretty…. huh. Even though it’s all because of this that people are dying from starvation”
Liecia widened her eyes in surprise. I made a mocking smile.
“Look closely. These inedible fields are the cause of this country’s food problems”
◇ ◇ ◇
That is what Soma called the fields spreading before our eyes, making a mocking smile.
“….. what does that mean?”
“It means what it says. What we have spreading out here are all [cotton]”
“Cotton…. Ah! That’s what you meant by inedible”
Cotton is the raw materials for making cotton thread. Certainly not for eating.
Soma sat down on the spot and propped his elbows on his knees.
“In conclusion, the country’s food problems were caused by the increase of these cotton fields.”
Did he just casually say something amazing just now? The country’s food problems?
Not noticing my bewilderment, Soma continued talking.
“I found this out when I was sorting out the documents, but because of the enlargement of the Demon King Territory demand for necessities like clothes increased. Naturally, the demand for the raw material, cotton, also increased. As the price of cotton rises, you can only sell what you make, so the farmers stopped the food cultivation they’ve been doing and simultaneously switched to cotton. They’re [cash crops] not meant to be eaten but to be sold, but the fact the farmers suddenly switched to farming only cash crops is causing this country’s food sufficiency to decline”
I didn’t know that. No, I’ve never given it any thought.
Wondering what’s causing our country’s food problems, I selfishly thought it may be bad weather, or maybe because the land is bad to begin with. Even though there’s such a definite cause, even though I’ve lived here for over ten years, I didn’t notice at all. Even though Soma who was only called out here a few days ago was able to notice.
“To expand on that, the cause of the country’s recession is the same. Because our food sufficiency is low we have no choice but to import from other countries, but because there are transportation costs for importation, the price of foodstuffs suddenly jumped. Though a family’s finances would be under pressure, they can only cut down food expenses so much. If they don’t eat, they die, after all, so of course what gets cut down are luxury groceries and luxury items. This restrained buying is what’s causing the recession”
What was I looking at. If I were a townsperson I’d just say you reap what you sow and that’s that.
But I was a princess. A superior’s ignorance is the murder of those below her.
“I’m… disqualified as royalty”
Because of the extreme exhaustion I sat down hard on the spot.
I’ve never in my life felt a sense of helplessness I’m feeling today. Seeing me like that, Soma groaned “ah” and “uh” and then plopped his hand on my head.
“Don’t be so discouraged. We can still make it in time. I’ve secured the funds. With this money let’s first reform the agriculture”
“……. What are you going to do?”
“Restricting farming of cash crops, replanting food fields, raising food sufficiency. The country will support the conversion with subsidies. First we plant soybeans that has a wide range of use and potatoes that are resistant to crop failure, and finally add paddy fields. Then…”
Soma talked about his wide-ranging agriculture reforms. There were lots of words I don’t understand, like rice or paddy, but his face looked radiant. I think I understand why father turned over the throne. He’s the one this country needs the most right now. No matter what it takes we need to tie him down to this country.
….. The engagement with me was probably one of those ties.
(…. this is definitely not the time to say it isn’t funny having my marriage arbitrarily decided)
Soma said he’d surrender the throne once he put the country’s economy on track, but there’s no way I can accept that. To let a rare talent leave government service is the country’s failure. I need to make sure that doesn’t happen no matter what.
(I wonder if I can construct a fait accompli and make him take responsibility…. wait! F, fait accompli… means… that, right…?)
Because of the ‘image’ that came to mind, my face suddenly turned red.
“Which is why the mountain areas… hey Liecia, are you listening?”
“Hyes! I, I’m listening”
“? Somehow you look red?”
“It’s the morning sun! Don’t worry, keep talking!”
My cheeks were hot. I think I’ll die from embarrassment.
What Soma said after that didn’t enter my ears at all.
◇ ◇ ◇
[Character Sketch: Liecia Elfrieden]
Daughter of the 13th King of Elfrieden, Alberto Elfrieden. She married the one who would later become Soma E Elfrieden. While being a princess, she was also a graduate from a military academy and a personnel of the royal military, and in that capacity, actively took her part as the bridge between Soma and the Military. She also showed more resourcefulness regarding government affairs than her father, to the point that it was later speculated that she might not be blood related to him. She would always be with Soma through his turbulent life¹, supporting him from the side, being the very model of a Good Wife and Wise Mother.
The cause of the food shortage was the sudden conversion from food crops to cash crops. A well-known example of this is the “forced planting system²” introduced in the Netherlands East Indies. I heard that because the colony was forced into planting cash crops, famine broke out and many died from starvation.
² «TN: Cultuurstelsel»
Next time is either the agricultural reform or talent gathering.
I’ll be happy to receive your views and opinions.