“Now then, there’s something I want to talk to you about.”
This was after they finished bathing and had had dinner.
Reinhardt had gathered the whole group, that is Jin and Reiko, Elsa, her nanny Mine, butler Adberg and guard Herman. In addition, in the same room were Reinhardt’s own butler and two maids.
He was in his serious mode.
“Have you noticed anything strange?”
He asked. Jin thought a bit and said,
“Well, I thought it was a little unenergetic for a village.”
Reinhardt nodded and,
“Oh, that’s no wonder. After all this is a village where only elderly people live.”
He said. Jin frowned while listening and muttered,
“Depopulation advances in this place too, huh…”
Elsa caught that and asked Jin. She looked puzzled.
“Ah, umm. People gradually disappearing, I guess.”
Reinhardt took it from there.
“To maintain population, each married couple needs to have no less than two children. You know that, right Elsa?”
“Considering the mortality rate of infants and conscription, infectious diseases and such things, three would be preferred, is my opinion as a statesman.”
Jin came to realize that Reinhardt wanted to say something.
“To speak plainly, this village has become unable to maintain its population.
After that, Reinhardt began talking with a rather severe look on his face.
“To begin with, around twenty years ago, the neighboring Celuroa Kingdom was meddling with the surrounding countries.”
Maybe he wanted to soften the serious talk a bit, as he mixed in some light words.
“The motive behind it, well, most likely no one but the previous King of Celuroa himself knew it, and you can’t ask someone who’s buried underground so this is only conjecture.”
He said and threw a glance at Elsa, then Mine,
“You could say that basically it was to widen his territory, however, it wasn’t anything small.”
Reinhardt paused to take a breath and,
“He wanted to annex every country on the continent.”
He told it bluntly.
“That’s the Unifilers’…”
Jin began to talk, and Reinhardt nodded.
“That’s right. At that time the Unifilers already had that ideal. The current King of Celuroa doesn’t appear to be as ambitious as his predecessor. But in truth, he’s a person with ambitions no less weaker than his predecessor, from my perspective. The predecessor was easy to understand but the current King… To tell you the truth, I can’t see through him. But there’s no way he doesn’t aspire to rule the other countries. Most likely he’s just gathering power for now.”
He then looked at Elsa a second time,
“Anyway, during the three-year period between precisely 21 years ago to 18 years ago the previous King of Celuroa assailed Egelia Kingdom and Frantz Kingdom. Maybe because our Shouro Empire doesn’t trace its roots back to Dinar Kingdom, they didn’t really attack us. However, there was a period when for the sake of self-defense we couldn’t avoid dispatching troops to Celuroa Kingdom.”
Then Jin also understood it.
“I see, and so that time was the cause of the depopulation of this village.”
“Well, that’s how it is. Also, Elsa, I’ve heard that it was in those days that your father rose to the top with his merits.”
When Reinhardt said that, Mine’s expression contorted for a moment, but there was no one who noticed it.
“Yeah. The story I heard from your uncle was that when he was in Egelia Kingdom as the commanding officer of a battallion stationed there, he kept back the Celuroan army over three times the size of his, and that he kept the damage to friendly troops and the surronding inhabitants to a minimum.
“Eh, Elsa’s father’s an amazing person, isn’t he.”
That was Jin’s honest opinion, but when Mine heard it her she once more grimaced. But, as she was hanging her head down no one noticed as always.
“During the war with Celuroa Kingdom’s army a great many military personnel and soldiers died, and apparently among them was Louis’s… Earl Kuzuma’s father.”
Jin understood with just that explanation.
“Oh, so it’s because of that that Earl Kuzuma inherited the house so young.”
Reinhardt nodded with a firm look on his face.
“That’s right. And the soldiers were conscripted from all around. Most likely this was one of the places. It looks like all the men that were capable to fight aged 20 to 40 were conscripted.”
Counting backwards, people who were over 40 back then would be around 60 now. You can understand why this village had no one but elderly people.
“I heard that the troops were organized into companies by village. There must’ve also been companies that were completely annihilated. This village is one of them.”
Reinhardt said with a sigh. Jin’s mood also turned gloomy, but one question popped to his mind.
“Then, what about the wives of the conscripted men and the children in their teens?”
He asked, and Reinhardt replied looking sad,
“They probably abandoned the village.”
“This is north of Egelia Kingdom’s capital, if Celuroa Kingdom’s army was to attack this would surely turn into a battleground. To the luck of the remaining families it looks like this place wasn’t exposed to the horrors of war, but nevertheless the mothers with children escaped considering the worst-case scenario.”
Silence filled the room.
“Sorry for the somewhat depressing talk. But, Elsa, you’re already 17, so I think you ought to learn a bit about the world, not to mention about the time that your father took part in.”
He then faced Jin said,
“Jin, I had you listen because I wanted you to know about it and I wanted to know your opinion about something.”
“Yeah. Earlier you said “depopulation”, right? In other words, that must mean you’ve seen or otherwise know of communities like this village? I thought that if that’s the case, then as a statesman I’d like to ask you to teach me about what kind of countermeasures were taken, if you know of any.”
Reinhardt was also a member of the nobility, and a statesman at that.
He was again worried about the hard reality of this world’s population shortage. He thought it necessary to discover means of lessening it, even just a bit.
When so asked, Jin called to mind the memory of a TV programme about a depopulated village of the elderly he had seen while on Earth.
“Well, let’s see.”
While searching his mind Jin spoke bit by bit.
“First of all, livelihood, right. Without work to earn a living people won’t gather.”
“Hmm, that’s true. Please continue.”
Reinhardt also agreed.
“Without places that appeal to young people not a lot of immigration will happen, don’t you agree?”
There were many regions where arable land remained. He meant some reason for saying ‘I want to live here’.
“I can also understand that. Anything specific?”
Jin remembered news about what some municipality somewhere had done,
“First would be a tax reduction, I guess. Something like for five years it’s a some percentage lighter.”
He adapted it for this world and explained.
“I see! During that five years they’ll settle down permanently. That’s a good idea.”
“Next would be, something like reducing the tax a little according to the amount of children.”
Reinhardt began smiling in admiration.
“Excellent. I also thought of that. Jin, don’t you think you’ve got the talent to be a statesman?”
He praised Jin highly. Jin shook his head and,
“No no, you’re making too much of a man like me who’s only good at building things.”
He said, flustered. Because all of that was second-hand knowledge anyhow.
After that they exchanged various stories and opinions, and when the evening grew late each of the retired to their rooms.
＊ ＊ ＊
That night, Jin was in unusually deep thought while lying on the bed.
(Me building all kinds of things is also something I completely got from my predecessor.)
He tossed and turned in bed.
(The explanations I made that seemed excellent to Reinhardt and the others weren’t my achievements, but thanks to the education I received in modern Japan.)
He felt vaguely depressed.
(What’s the best I myself can do?)
Deep in his dreams, Jin ran swiftly as if looking for the thing he liked and wanted to do, this was his first time since coming to this world that he had pondered about what he ought to do in this world.