“What were the provisions like on that ship?”
He blinked a few times in surprise. I’ve been sitting with my head down this entire time, not taking part in the conversation. My sudden interest must have startled him, but he didn’t try to ask funny questions and looked down at the document in his hands.
“Since it was for a long journey, it’s hard to say they had an abundance, but they weren’t left to starve. Their main diet comprised of salted meat and fish, hard biscuits, cheese, and beer.”
“In other words, only foods that preserve well over a long period. And they made no stops at ports along the way?”
“From what I can tell, that was indeed the case. Or perhaps there weren’t any ports to stop by. There are some small islands from the southeast to the mainland, but they’re either uninhabited or settled by minority groups with their own unique and longstanding cultures. Trespassing may bring unnecessary trouble.”
Did they decide there was nothing to gain by making a dangerous landing if the food situation was not desperate enough?
“I’m curious. Do the sailors from our kingdom eat and drink the same things?”
“Nebel’s sailors? … Much of it would be much the same, but a long journey the ships will enter port a few times to replenish food supplies. For a few days, there will also be fresh vegetables and meat.”
“I knew it…”
That was the big difference between the sailors from Nebel and the dead sailors.
Master Julius picked up my words. “You knew?”
I noticed my blunder and shut up, but it was too late. Everyone’s eyes were trained on me.
“Do you know something?”
Master Julius’s characteristically sleepy green eyes were bright, and I had a nagging sensation he was expecting something from me… or was that just me?
What should I tell them? How much should I reveal? How do I prove my claims? I haven’t made up my mind on anything, but with the situation like this, there was no avoiding it.
A little desperately, I said, “I might know about that disease.”
Only Miss Bianka expressed surprise. Sir Leonhard merely looked a little more alert. And Master Julius’s eyes started to shine even more. I really wished he would stop pinning so much hope on me.
I discreetly rubbed my stomach, which had begun to ache with pain.
“Marie? What do you mean, you know what it is?” asked Miss Bianka asked, her confusion plain to see.
“I happen to have some knowledge of the symptoms Master Julius spoke of. But only from what I’ve read in a book…”
I could only think of two explanations on the spot: “I heard it from someone” or “It was written in a book.”
Even with the book, if they ask for the origins of the source, I’m done for, but maybe I can deceive them by saying I forgot… Was that asking too much…?
“A book? Marie, you’re reading something so difficult?”
Master Julius answered her: “I daresay Miss Marie is more of an avid reader than any of us. She not only reads books from Nebel but from other kingdoms as well.”
Right? He sought my agreement, and I nodded faintly.
Although it was mostly him who brought foreign books to me. Some of the books I haven’t read yet, either. It was easier if they were written in the official language of a major nation, but books written in cognate languages were too hard. I’d spare no effort for research if there was a portion that interested me, though.
Miss Bianka looked amazed. “You know languages from other kingdoms? How amazing! Even though you’re so small and cute I could just want to gobble you up!”
Please don’t eat me.
“Miss Marie is very dedicated to her studies. Whenever I come across a rare book these days, I bring it back as a gift, with high expectations that if anyone can read them it be will her.”
Master Julius’s eyes sparkled like a little boy’s as he continued excitedly: I was afraid foreign books wouldn’t make appropriate gifts for a child. Picture books, however, are either cookbooks or medicine books so I hoped she might enjoy just looking at the pictures, but I never expected she could read them……
Sir Leonhard reined in their conversation. “You two, you’re digressing.”
“Forgive me… Marie, will you tell us the rest?” Flushed, as if embarrassed he had to be reined in, Master Julius cleared his throat.
I nodded, “The main cause of this disease is in their diet.”
“Their diet?” Miss Bianka repeated and I turned to her.
“When a ship keeps sailing for a long time, like the one in Master Julius’s story, the food inevitably starts to lack variety.”
“Right. Fresh meat and vegetables rot when not quickly consumed. There’s no choice but to depend foods that will last for the rest of the journey, such as hard biscuit or wine.”
“Don’t you think that can’t be healthy for the body?”
Her expression became bewildered. “Well, I suppose…”
“Are you saying it’s malnutrition?” asked Master Julius.
I nodded firmly, “Yes. Such a lack of variety threatens their health.”
When I was a high schooler, I wrote a report on a world issue, one that began around the 15th century and lasted until the mid-17th century in what is now called the Age of Exploration, an era of European overseas exploration.
In those days, there was a disease sailors feared more than pirates.
We now know what the cure for it is, but back in those days, because they didn’t even know what the cause was, 100 out of 180 men died on an expedition to India.
That disease was scurvy.
A terrible disease that develops with long-term vitamin C deficiency. Beginning with fatigue and joint pains, bruises form on the thighs, the skim and gums bleed, the teeth fall out, and then finally, death.
“I understand how important it is to eat well from my sister-in-law’s case.”
Lady Emma, Master Julius’s sister-in-law as well as Georg’s mother, returned to good health through a change in her eating habits and moderate exercise. He started off sounding like he was about to respond positively, but he immediately frowned.
“However,” he continuedly reluctantly. “It is difficult to believe that a healthy man will suddenly keel over a limited diet.”
Well, not an unexpected reaction…
I didn’t know what to do. I had a headache.
“This is an example, but… What materials do you use when making brick?”
“B-brick?” Miss Bianka was stunned at the abrupt change of topic.
Head tilted to the side, Master Julius answered, “Clay and sand, as well as lime and water, I believe?”
“Then what happens it without one of those materials?”
This time, Sir Leonhard answered, “Having no clay is out of the question, and without water you can’t make a proper mixture. The brick will still harden without lime or sand, but it won’t be a decent product.”
“It becomes a problem of strength. Ahh, I see,” Master Julius said understandingly. “So the human body is the same, is that right?”
“Yes. If it doesn’t receive proper nutrition, the human body becomes fragile as well. At first it may be small… Nails become easily broken, hair becomes brittle, but if the malnutrition continued to that extent for a long time, won’t health problems begin to appear everywhere?” I desperately appealed to him.
How difficult it was to explain without modern words.
For example: a deficiency in vitamin C will cause fragility in your blood vessels, which may lead to bleeding easier. Or, vitamin C is necessary for the formation of collagen. There was no way I could explain all that with my own words. That’s out of my domain. I was always in the humanities camp as well.
Master Julius seemed in thought. He was silent, but his extremely clear green eyes fixed on me. It seemed like he was looking straight into my soul, so I averted my eyes while I forced myself to endure.
The solemn expression he’d been sporting this entire time disappeared as he smiled. “I’ll believe you.”
“Err, are you…sure?”
There was no confidence in my voice.
The corners of Master Julius’s eyes crinkled when he saw how exhausted I was.
“I don’t know how I’ll solve it, but I don’t have time to be kicking around. My back was already against the wall, so the situation can’t get any worse.”
“Besides, when it comes to you, there’s a part of me that automatically believes there might be way.”
Teasingly, Master Julius winked at me.
I told him he gave me too much credit, but he neither disagreed nor agreed.
“My apologies. On top of it all, I pretended like I was testing you.” Brows a little raised, he seemed unrepentant as he grinned. “Since I’m being so bold, dare I also hope you know how to solve this problem?”
That’s right. As long as Master Julius believed me, it wasn’t the end. It starts here.
Seriously, I nodded.