Chapter 20 – The Start of the Negotiation.
The atmosphere was filled with heavy silence.
On the one side of the table sat Eiji and the tribal chief, whereas, on the opposite was the man.
The sound of the firewood bursting into flame reverberated together with the sound of the continuously falling rain.
Inside the dim-lighted room, there was a stove and a torch for light.
After changing his clothes and warming up for a while, Eiji looked at the man attentively.
– My name is Franko. My job involves territory managing and tax collection.
– It’s Eiji, I do forging.
Somehow, being fixedly glared at by this guy gives off a bad feeling.
But Franko wouldn’t avert his eyes.
Being observed by that guy’s eyes, which seemed to see through to one’s soul, Eiji could feel the difficulty in dealing with him.
Never before had he been gazed at like this.
Eiji could feel pressure coming.
Next to him, while the tribal chief was sipping hot water, she sent Franko an eye signal, so as to begin the conversation.
– I have several questions to ask you; therefore I’d like to have you answer me. It’s true that you’re making use of the iron which hasn’t been use until now, yes?
– That’s true.
– So you’re telling me that the metal, which has been infamously called ‘the garbage metal’, became useful?
– It seems so.
– I wonder what forced you to think of it that way.
– I don’t know.
– You don’t know?
Eiji spoke about his personal history.
Not only about how he lost his memory, but also about his knowledge remaining.
He told him how he was picked by Tanya, and how he strived in order to become a member of this village.
As well as that he possessed arts, information, and experience of a blacksmith.
Eiji thought that it would be only natural for him to apply iron in the present time where only bronze was used.
While listening to Eiji’s answer, Franko nodded with sounds indicating that he understood.
Then, he spat out words at once saying – I see, I got it.
– Then let’s follow your story. It seems that this iron has a fine sharpness, but quickly it becomes rusty, as well as not being too durable, don’t you think?
– It went well with kitchen knives and hatchets; however, as for hoes and scythes, I still have to improve.
– Are the prospects of improving methods visible?
– It’s still at the stage of experimentation, or something of this sort.
Eiji didn’t intend to answer in detail; nevertheless, he didn’t consider himself to be a skillful liar 
Talking would be the same as digging one’s own grave.
He thought that it would be better to answer with the necessary minimum, just to the extent of not ignoring that person.
Franko continued to speak without holding any bad feelings toward Eiji, and dropped words which gave an impact.
– I see. But doesn’t it seem like you’ve been making great efforts with other things? Judging from what I checked, in addition to goods, such as: hammer, iron pot, kitchen knives, needles, and fasteners, there seem to be other tools like: upgraded plows and hoes, bearings and axles used in bullock carts, a tree cutting tool called a saw, a tool used to shave the tree – a plane, a seed sowing implement, tools which use the power of the so-called water mill, a trap used for hunting animals, a human powered cart, ofuro, and soap…. All of these are correct, right?
Because of the shock, Eiji couldn’t answer straight away.
– You surely have checked quite thoroughly, haven’t you?
– At first, when I asked the villagers, they were rather reluctant, but once I requested them to tell me with honesty, I was able to draw comfortable answers.
It would be fine to consider all of this items as exposed due to making them available to the public.
The implements which hadn’t been noticed by him were things, like the senbago used by Tanya and the winnower.
There’s a chance that he will even grasp those.
How long had it been since Franko arrived?
Eiji felt chills running up his spine, thinking about his fearsome information gathering ability.
Then, that word called “honesty.”
He probably must have had some sort of method to get the information out the people.
Eiji could easily imagine the content of Franko’s job.
Perhaps, it reeks of him trying to intimidate with raising or exacting taxes – he thought.
Indeed, an incredibly capable person.
Most likely, he would be able to see through one’s lies and deception within a blink of time.
Eiji could sense his mouth rattling and drying.
Even though he tried to drink the tea, his mucous membranes felt numb.
And while being aware that his expression became tense, he couldn’t stop it.
– It’s fine not to be that stiff. I’m not saying anything that would mean taking away from you, or devour from you.
– You say? But, it seems to be so because you’re the tax collector. Having to face a person who’s an official, I can’t help but feel nervous. What’s more you look quite capable.
– Is that so…? Well, I thought you’d say that. It can’t be helped.
Saying that, Franko smiled lonesomely.
That sight was unexpected to Eiji, which made him think like “Oh?”
Eiji believed that this guy actually understood his duty well.
Furthermore, he was aware of the fact that being an official was a role disliked by others.
And more than that, he tends to work thoroughly.
That appearance of his piled up with Eiji’s, who worked as a blacksmith.
Despite that, Eiji could make other people happy only with his work.
On the other hand, for Franko to do his best, it was enough to please specific people, and to throw someone into misfortune.
Certainly, there was no way for the side which takes and for the side which had things taken to be compatible, so he didn’t appear to be a likeable character. Nevertheless, you had to admit he possessed way of working and abilities.
– Then, let’s ascertain your discharge of duty. Including the previously mentioned developments, Eiji-san managed to produce 50 points within 3 months of time. Not to mention, during that time, once the charcoal ran out, he had to interrupt his work in order to gather lumber. Indeed, that’s some fearsome mobilization power.
– I sometimes had different people assist me, or entrusted them with everything, from time to time.
– Despite that, the majority of the works were yours. If we simply 4-fold that, your production ability would reach 200 points per year.
At that time, Franko cut his words short.
Then, within a moment he looked straight at Eiji.
One could feel the strong attitude coming from him, which said ‘I’ll not allow any place for excuses.’
– …I’d like you to achieve 100 out of these 200 points.
– That’s harsh, isn’t it? At this rate we won’t be able to burn using our stoves during the winter.
– Oh. Why is that?
– It’s because other people use firewood as well.
During the winter, no matter which household it is, each needs to kindle fire in order to get warmth.
If so, then Felippe’s job will be at the limit due to the amount of work.
Back in the olden days, blacksmiths used to store firewood when it became winter, and used them for the work once it turned warm.
– I see. In that case, I’ll reduce the amount concerning the winter season and make it 80 points. However, in exchange, I want you to make soap. How about this?
– I see….
Indeed, after seeing such a situation, he would compromise.
Because it seemed that the wheat tax ratio was 50:50 between the officials and peasants, one could have the feeling that half of the yearly production would be reasonable.
Nevertheless, there was some sort of trick.
Judging from Eiji’s feeling, if he were to consider them as trade products, the value of iron tools would be comparatively high in comparison with wheat.
Wouldn’t that mean higher taxes?
For Eiji, in order to make everything more luxurious, he couldn’t care whether the taxes were high or low.
But, if the taxes are low, then the village would develop thanks to flow of trade products through and throughout the village.
He wanted to make the life of the people around him more abundant.
Having only half of the tax collected while doing the same work would be considered a blessing.
That wasn’t the sole reason for his worry, however.
Could it be that the reason why Franko wasn’t coercive in his negotiations was because he wasn’t able to measure the exact value of Eiji’s inventions?
Perhaps, with such reason, it would be possible to reduce the tax ratio – he thought.
In spite of that, what should you do to make it good?
And can they fight for equal opportunities?
While Eiji couldn’t think of any ideas, the hand of a savior was outstretched.
That was tribal chief who was sitting next to him silently without giving off any sign.
– Franko, I have a small suggestion coming from me, however…
Translators and reference notes:
: the meaning was ‘skilfull speaker’ in Japanese, but somehow ‘skilfull liar’,which was suggested by Ace, matched better. I can’t tell whether it is what the author meant, but just bear it in your mind.