Episode 27: A Matter of Life or Death
Following after the report of the painter girl, who had been entrusted with the task of working as a village secretary, Yamato went together with her towards the food storehouse located in the center of the village.
In total, there were three people there to check on the situation: Yamato, Liscia, and the painter girl.
“I see, this certainly is a problem.”
“I’m sorry, Yamato-nii-sama…”
“Don’t worry, it’s not your fault Chloë. This is something that couldn’t be helped, and you really were of help for spotting it.”
“Thank you… Yamato-nii-sama.”
Towards the depressed girl acting as secretary, Yamato patted Chloë’s head as he said those words in order to cheer her up.
After all, she was not to blame nor take responsibility for the current problem. Rather, he felt he should praise her for noticing this issue earlier than anyone else and reporting it. Therefore, he decided to compliment her properly.
“Certainly, the salt stockpile has been reduced a lot, Yamato-sama.”
“Yeah. At this rate, it will be gone faster than planned.”
The problem was the amount of salt stockpiled in the village storehouse.
And by Yamato’s estimations, the day the salt stock would run out in the village was not so distant.
“Shortage of salt”
This was the current and most urgent problem in the village.
This was because Urd Village was located in a basin surrounded by mountains. It was a great location, but its downside was the long distance to the sea, making it difficult to procure salt.
『People can’t survive without salt』This was a serious problem, be it Earth or any other world.
Last autumn, when Yamato pledged to rebuild the village, one of the first things he did was to confirm the amount of salt stored.
『The village has a fair amount of salt stored.』
And during that same autumn, the village chief’s granddaughter, Liscia explained to him about the current state of the salt in the village.
The salt was managed by the village chief, and it was distributed to the villagers regularly.
Since salt was also a valuable article, it was kept hidden under the false floor of the storehouse.
This was the reason the village still had salt, since it luckily escaped the thieving hands of the food collectors of the evil Feudal Lord last year.
“I was sure it was being rationed properly…”
“The salt is always used, Liscia-san. It can’t be helped.”
However, the problem came to light after Yamato did the calculations today.
No matter how hard he tried to save up on salt, the village’s stock will be gone not far in the future.
“It is probably due to the change in the feeding habits and the increase of the population in the village.”
“Indeed… that seems to be the case, Yamato-sama.”
But this time, I’m also to blame for this.
I didn’t get a proper grasp on the food culture of the people of Urd. And there’s also the issue with the large amount of salt used for preserving the meat.
I suppose that is the case, since in this world without freezers, ‘salting’ is the common sense. Still, for my calculations to be this off…
In this medieval-like world, salting the meat to preserve it was the popular practice. It was used for everything, from the fishes caught in the river, to the meat of beasts killed in the forest.
Especially, a large amount of salt was used to preserve the meat of the Big Rabbits and Wild Boars in these past months.
Apparently, Yamato’s solution to quickly solve the food shortage situation had backfired. However, this couldn’t be helped in a world without a refrigerator.
So, rather than regretting his decisions, he decided to try and explore another way to solve this problem.
“So far, the village has been buying the salt, right?”
“Yes, we’ve been buying it from the peddler, but…”
As Liscia said, in a mountainous place far away from the sea like this, salt had to be bought from the outside.
And up until now, the peddler who regularly came to the village, sold them salt at a very high price. It was traded with the coins they earned by selling the village’s special products.
“But with the big bandit group lurking on the highway, the peddlers have stopped coming, right?”
“Yeah… and thanks to those bandits, we couldn’t even go to the town to secure food for the village…”
One of the problems the village had was the fact that it was a completely isolated settlement.
A large-scale bandit group had been appearing along the highway connecting Urd Village in the mountains to the nearest town.
That dangerous armed group attacked people and carts equally. The scale was said to be many times larger than the group of bandits Yamato and the other had confronted recently and it was apparently the size of a small army.
And the neighboring Feudal Lord didn’t seem to care enough to dispatch his troops to such a remote location, to this place infested with bandits.
“Let’s leave for later the issue of suppressing the bandits. For now, we need to focus on finding a way to secure salt.”
The hideout of the bandit group was quite the distance away from Urd. Like the other thieves, the probability of them deciding to attack this remote village was quite low.
So, for now, they had to find out a different way to obtain salt, one more reliable than use the highway to trade.
How to get salt…
The need for salt was also remarked throughout the history of Earth. Rather, it was not an exaggeration to say that the history of salt was closely linked to the history of humankind.
From the primitive ages where humans lived solely by hunting, the needed salt was obtained from the animal’s internal organs and the spinal cord.
After mankind settled and learned to get salt from natural deposits or refining it from sea water, the population developed and started to explode.
Since then, salt began to become a high-priced article and in the older times, countries monopolized it and placed enormous taxes on it in order to profit from its trade.
Urd is among mountains… far away from a sea…
If there was a source of seawater nearby, Yamato could use his knowledge and refine as much salt as he wanted.
But nothing similar could be done in this basin, with no coasts nearby.
So, I need to get salt from another… no, wait a second.
It was then.
He remembered something he saw. A certain memory in this village was revived suddenly.
“Liscia-san, Chloë. For now, keep the matter of the salt a secret. I think I might have a solution.”
“Is it true? Yamato-nii-sama! ”
“We’ll leave it to you then, Yamato-sama.”
The two girls, whose face had become sullen after noticing the alarming problem suddenly cheered up after hearing Yamato’s words.
The salt situation was a delicate problem, and something the villagers aside from the Village Chief didn’t have the need to know for now.
“Ok then, I’ll go take a walk for a bit.”
Leaving the two girls in the food storehouse, Yamato decided to visit a person who might have a solution for the salt situation.
“Apparently, he’s home.”
After walking through the village square, Yamato reached the place where the person he was looking for was.
Noise could be heard from the building, signaling that its owner was inside.
“I’m coming in, Jii-san.”
“Oh, it’s you kid. Have you come up with a new interesting blueprint? ”
The place he decided to visit was the blacksmith workshop. And the person he was looking for was the old man from the Mountain Clan, Gaton.
“What’s wrong? what is it with the long face?”
“Actually, there’s something I want to ask you, Jii-san”
“Hmm? What is it?”
Although Yamato tried to have a neutral expression, it was easily seen through by Gaton.
With the salt being a matter of life and death, he was probably a little too impatient.
“I want to know what ‘that’ is.”
Pointing at the red crystal sculpture on a shelf of Gaton’s workshop, Yamato asked.
And after that, it was Gaton who was lost for words. What Yamato wanted to know was where to find it.
“Is that… a crystal of rock salt? ”
“Yeah, like you said.”
He remembered the sculpture, Yamato saw it when he first came. He remembered the red crystal, this rock salt crystal.
“『The Mountain Clan People know the secrets of the mountains』… right?”
“Yeah, that’s right, but…”
The Mountain Clan were stubborn people, they only used metals and rocks they gathered by themselves or by their own clan.
In other words, Gaton should know where this rock salt came from.
However, for some reason, Gaton’s words were unclear. Apparently, there were some circumstances.
Nevertheless, this was a matter of life or death, so Yamato decided to keep pushing.
“That rock salt crystal… I picked it up from a rock salt mine near here…”
“What? Is there a rock salt mine nearby?”
“Yeah… but, now nobody can get close to that mine…”
The usually obstinate and fearless Gaton answered with a murmuring voice that seemed to disappear at the end.
This was the first time Yamato had seen Gaton with such a frightened expression.
“Please tell me. I want to know.”
And so, Yamato asked about the circumstances of the old blacksmith Gaton.