Chapter 67 – Horse Racing
Dylan pointed out the direction behind him with his hand as he stood in front of horses.
Having tea prepared and straw mats laid out, the villagers were now filled with the spirit of spectating.
– Well then, it’s probably the first time for Fernando and Eiji to watch this contest, the so to speak horse racing. Which horse will run the fastest? Make your guess in the order of arrival.
– Is it fine to choose only one?
– Yes. You don’t have to worry as long you choose less than two.
– What’s the distance of the race?
– That’s right, can you see the tree standing over there?
– Yes, you mean the cedar, right?
– To be more accurate, it’s a Lebanon cedar.
– That’s the halfway point. The horses will pass near that tree as their benchmark as they run counterclockwise around it.
A single cedar tree was standing in front where Dylan pointed out.
It was probably quite old.
The tree was high, creating a big shade on the lawn.
– Yes. Are there any problems?
– A big one. Assuming it works like this, won’t Dylan-san know which horse is the strongest? There’s no way for us, who are betting for the first time, to win, right?
– I’ve thought about a counterplan as well. I say this every time, but we change the racing horses every time. Til now, only the strongest and most experienced horses have been chosen, so honestly, the matter of which one wins remains a mystery. Ah, and not just that. I’ll choose only one horse, whereas, the both of you can name 2 horses. Even this much should be a big handicap. Also, it’s fine for you to choose first.
After having a question and answer session with Dylan, Eiji consulted with Fernando.
– Fernando-san, what’s your opinion?
– I wonder how much of information you can get from a single person. To be honest, I have no idea what the strengths and weaknesses of each horse are.
– Same here.
Dylan would prepare time for evaluating horses in a paddock-like place beforehand.
Drawing near the horses, Eiji surveyed each of them.
Even though Dylan said they were all the same, Eiji understood that every horse had various differences.
It was obvious that their fur color and physique were distinctive, however, even the face was unique for them. These were characteristics that comprised horses unlike humans.
– Well then, Fran will guide both of you.
– Please treat us well.
– The chestnut hair coat colored Rana has a timid personality; nevertheless, he’s gentle and has fast running legs. The dapple-grayed Half is always putting on airs toward Fran, but actually, he’s quick in his feet and has an especially competitive spirit. Half will always exert himself before the finishing line.
– It’s easy to tell them apart with just their colors, right?
– Distinguishing horses isn’t just about their colors. Basically, a horse that has a hard torso has the tendency to run a short distance. It also depends on the length of their legs, especially how developed their rear legs are. It might be surprising, but the horses with short legs are faster on a short distance. Well, Fran can tell which horses are fast even without knowing that.
– This is amazing.
– Well, I guess so. As long it’s about horses, Fran knows everything.
– How long will the course be this time?
– It’s of considerable length. There shouldn’t be much of a disadvantage for any horse.
Still – he groaned.
Eiji thought that all the horses had glossy fur and looked magnificent when they lined up.
Just thinking about these big torsos advancing at great speed when it’s necessary made his heart shiver unintentionally.
The horses let Eiji touch them directly without being afraid of him.
As one would expect, among them, Gyusu displayed the presence of being the most extraordinary.
In comparison with the rest, he was one size bigger.
However, by no means could one feel any dullness from Gyuusu.
Was it because of his footwear being properly tempered?
Rather than that, Eiji had a suspicious thought that Gyusu’s thin legs wouldn’t be able to support his large trunk.
– That’s right. Then, I’ll decide on Gyusu.
– Ohh! Gyusu is a fine horse!
– As one would expect, I thought you’d make him your first choice due to his size.
– How about Fernando-san?
– Hm, I’ll go with the white one. For some reason, I’ve got the feeling that it was telling me to choose him when our eyes meet.
– Ran, too, is a splendid horse! He has lots of stamina and therefore, he can keep running.
– Then, how about that horse and the one over there?
– All of the present horses are great! Father wouldn’t lie. It won’t be strange of any of them win.
Ehen – at Fran, who throw out her flat chest, Eiji could only smile.
Won’t it become a small reference? – he thought.
Despite him making a wry smile, he couldn’t bring himself to scold the simple-minded Fran.
Eiji could understand that her statement came from the bottom of her heart.
Once they decided on their horses and returned to Dylan, he grinned broadly.
It was a smile of excitement.
– Then, What are you gonna bet?
– While we are at it, what’s that over there?
– Yup, horses are our pride. If you win, I’ll present you with a horse. However, not with an aged one but with a young one.
How about that – Being told so, Eiji was at loss for words.
The value of a single horse was extraordinarily high. Sometimes, it would be equivalent to one’s annual income.
If one was to simply get hold of a horse like that, there would be no greater profit.
Nevertheless, when he considers the amount of his bet being equal to a bed made from a wooden framework, Eiji wanted to shrink back unintentionally.
Still, certainly, they arrived here to buy a horse.
Pehaps, the amount of the bet was reasonable.
– It has turned into quite a big bet, hasn’t it?
– In exchange, if I win, I’ll wish for something adequate from you.
– That’s right, having you tell me how to make and use that stirrup from before would be also nice, but… shall we talk about that after I buy that stirrup from you?
Dylan’s smile was fearsome, however, there was a limit of things which Eiji could offer in exchange.
It should be fine to have Dylan consents despite Eiji having just few options.
– Don’t worry. I swear on my pride that I won’t request anything unreasonable.
Being told like that, he couldn’t refuse.
– Excellent. Well then, let’s begin! Has everyone decided on your bet?
– Yeah! (everyone)
At Dylan’s enthusiastic shout, the villagers yelled back with delight.
It seemed that bets among fellow villagers were carried out publically.
Unlike in Siena, could it be that the tribal chief of Auman found a way to manage gambling without it turning into a problem?
It’s hard to make gambling public without causing problems.
Perhaps, Dylan’s management was, by itself, properly conducted.
As Eiji pondered, Fran, who was standing next to him til now, quickly went in front of him.
– I-It’s dangerous.
– Fran, too, will participate, so it’s fine.
– You will?
– Yes! Gyusu’s rider is Fran! Since Gyusu chooses his riding partner, as long it’s not Fran, he won’t move.
Once Fran approached the horse with her light steps, she mounted on him with her nimble body movements.
Because that her look was confident, at least there didn’t seem to be any worry.
Upon the fact that nobody from the village considered that as a problem, Eiji understood that this had been done commonly by her.
As soon the horses lined up in a single row, the man, who held the flag, raised its pole horizontally.
Apparently, the entry gate and the finish line were the same spot.
Two thin poles would be separated by being raised up, and a tied up line would act as the goal.
Were they affected by the enthusiasm coming from the gathering place? The horses looked excited.
While gently brushing their necks, the jockeys appeared to be desperate in trying to maintain their horses’ serenity.
At the time the flag was raised overhead, the horses took their position at the start line.
Gyusu was placed leftmost. Because this was a counterclockwise route, there’s was a slight difference, nonetheless, he will be the closest the end line. 
His appearance was composed, and looked like that of a reigning champion.
Sitting in the place with the best side view on the goal, Eiji awaited the start.
– Somehow, it feels tense, doesn’t it?
– Yes, the sensation before a race feels really good. You could say… that your blood becomes chilly.
– Are you nervous?
– Yeah, that’s right. It feels like my heart is getting hot, even though I feel composed myself, every time there’s a bet.
– Gentlemen, please enjoy yourself as much as possible.
Once Dylan said so, the flag was raised overhead.
At that moment, the horses crossed the starting line.
And shortly thereafter, shouts of joy broke out.
Sounds of footsteps extended just like earth tremors as the horses kicked the ground while advancing.
It was quite unlike their slow walking path back then.
The horses running at full power were astonishingly fast.
Among them, the horse, Ran, chosen by Fernando dashed into a far leading position.
With its clearly abnormal pace, Ran created a distance of severalr horses.
– Gyusu is third right now. It’s a good position, but… did you know?
– It would be different in cases of short distances, but a horse that has a big torso won’t be able to maintain its speed on a long distance.
– Then, he is going to drop out?
It was a worrisome talk.
However, Dylan shook his head from side to side.
– Well, I wonder about that. There’s no way for Gyusu to run at his full speed yet, so he might spare some stamina for later. How about we watch the game while acquiring necessary knowledge? Perhaps, it’s much more interesting that way.
– Yes, please tell me if there’s anything else.
– It’s quite long. Horse racing isn’t just about fast legs. When a horse fails to take over another, as long its front is hindered, it won’t be able to advance however much stamina it has left. That’s why a horse that’s afraid will run at top speed from the very beginning and push aside the others so as not to be taken over, at the same time, distancing itself from the rest with its full power. There are lots of horses that will apply the strategy of “running away”. On the other hand, there are also “insert in” types that will try to overtake the front runner on the last lap using the saved energy in their legs. Generally speaking, there are two patterns that can be observed in the competition.
– Then, Gyusu has no problem with the leading horse separating from him?
– Well, there have been instances where Ran would succeed in running away like this, but… I wonder if it won’t be too hard for Ran this time.
At the time they rounded the halfway point, the following group of horses were about to catch up to Ran as he slowed down a bit.
– I believe in you! Continue to run away like that!
Fernando lowered his head and put his hands together as if praying.
Was his prayer not heard? The distance between his horse and the others continued to slowly diminish.
– A, Aah!
And then– the horse was eaten.
It looked as though a small fish used for bait was completely swallowed by a big one.
Fernando’s horse was exceptional among those that had taken the front, however, the beautiful horse couldn’t finish its running away.
It seemed that Ran was desperately running, even so, the following horses were fast.
By the time there was half the distance remaining from the goal, the horses increased their speed further.
The group of horses split vertically with each of them aiming for the front as if sewing the gaps.
Gyuusu was——- he fell to 5th.
There was nothing left for Eiji than having faith in Gyusu.
Fran, Gyusu, I trust you.
He didn’t hear Eiji’s internal voice, but it didn’t seem that Gyusu planned to remain like that.
Increasing his speed to maximum, Gyusu continued to outrun and be overtaken.
Eiji understood that Gyusu was running desperately as his characteristically long neck shook violently up and down.
– Excellent, you’re going to be reaching the end soon. Keep running like that!
Numerous voices of cheering from the surrounding rose up.
Eiji too, shouted without realizing it himself.
– Win, Gyusu! Fran!
– Leave it to Fran!
*Whoosh* – Gyuusu’s body sped up as if stretching out.
It was an acceleration unseen before.
The tip of his nose stuck in front more than the others and continued to stretch little by little.
The difference in the length of their noses would be the same as their necks or half of their bodies.
And then, he crossed over the finish line first.
– Yesssssssss. Fernando-san, I won! Gyusu finished first!
– Calm down!
– As if I can calm down with this?! Fran, Gyuusu, thank you!
– I wouldn’t expect for you to be this zealous.
Eiji hugged Fernando next to him without realizing it.
Once he calmed down, he realized it was an embarrassing conduct.
Eiji felt his head burning hot, and thought that his own face was probably flushing red.
– No… well, you must be glad for your win.
– That’s true.
Fernando’s gentle words felt somewhat painful inside of Eiji’s heart.
Directing his sight toward the venue, Fran and Gyusu went around in circles near the goal with Fran raising her hand in a winning gesture toward the spectators.
It looked like Gyusu’s skin sweated vigorously.
He ran well.
Will he be glad if I give him some carrots later? – Eiji wondered
While thinking so, Dylan approached his side.
– Eiji, congratulation. Unluckily, my horse finished second. Guess it’s my loss.
– Ah, Dylan-san, thank you very much.
– As promised, I’ll prepare the horse for you by the time you leave. If there’s anything you need for trade, tell me. You see, I need to arrange things in advance.
– Then, I’d like one more horse.
– Understood. What do you intend to use them for? Farming? Or perhaps, riding? Depending on that, the type of horse will change.
– For pulling the boat, and then for plowing purposes.
– Good, I’ll choose one with excellent physique.
Saying so, Dylan made a refreshing smile and left the race track behind.
– Ah, by the way, Dylan-san.
– I’m a little bit curious, but, just what was your intention behind organizing a welcome like this?
– People tend to show their true character when getting drunk or being absorbed by gambling. At first glance, you look like a composed person, however, I knew you had some enthusiasm hidden. Despite Fernando losing, he still maintained his easygoing attitude, so his heart is strong. Besides, horse racing is fun. Everyone gets zealous and falls in love with horses, so that’s it.
– …One more thing. If Dylan-san was to win, what would you plan to do?
– If I were to win…? That’s right. If there is a technology than can contribute to development, as the tribal chief, I’ll want to know about it thoroughly. Well, it’s fine either way. After this, let’s do some trading.
Dylan said it resolutely, with a clear voice.
Eiji thought that he was an unprecedented person who would suddenly force betting on his visitors, still…
Ah, this person is a fine superior. – He thought from the inside.
Translator and reference notes:
: Not 100% sure about this one.
: Fran sometimes speaks in 3rd person.
: The author mentioned about Gyusu being the closest to something, but couldn’t figure it out. I can only guess he meant the end line.
: This one will be explained in later chapters.