Earl Thelesia arranged the fief’s army as the base was being completed next to Golden Hill Mansion. It was late summer, and Rashiok had already grown to the extent where he could be left alone. It was an imposing building. It was only some time ago that I was watching it through my window. Right after the soldiers moved into their base and started working, the Earl threw me in there to learn martial arts.
I couldn’t believe that the army base would be the place I visited on my first outing. I want to believe that just being out was great. Anyway, a Viscount conducted the soldiers’ apprenticeship for over a season, to teach the foundations of how to use swords, lances and martial arts.
When one became a feudal lord, they would need to lead soldiers out into the battlefield in times of emergencies. I guess this means that I can’t stay a sheltered, spineless girl who never leaves the mansion. I also felt like the Earl wanted me to take control of the army a little. If this goes well, then I’ll be killing two birds with one stone.
Honestly, I didn’t expect Earl Thelesia to go this far. The Earl and the servants he had brought with him from the royal capital treat me as the feudal lord, but that was in name only, so I wanted to quickly find a husband and pass everything onto him.
It was customary for boys to receive inheritance in Arxia Kingdom. If the house had an eldest son, then it would go to him, if not, then his brother, next the head’s brother, then his son, and so forth… I, the youngest girl, inherited the Kaldia family because I was put in an abnormal situation and was the only survivor of my family.
… I was only two years old when I poisoned my family, so I thought that my house would be destroyed, but that wasn’t the case according to the laws of this kingdom. Thus, Earl Thelesia was sent here to be my guardian and acting feudal lord, and now here we are.
That was why I became the feudal lord, but, of course, remaining one was another matter. The inheritance right will be passed over if I marry. I had always thought that I would stay a feudal lord on paper, as the citizens focused their animosity towards me until my husband takes this title away.
――― But what is he thinking? Earl Thelesia seems like he wants to groom me into a proper feudal lord. That was why he was training me in martial arts. That was why he got me to repair my relationship with the fief army. Common sense was quite different in Arxia Kingdom, and that was quite convenient for me.
I want to ask the rational him about what kind of forecast he had for setting my education policy.
Now then. Fief armies are organised within the vast fiefs of Arxia to facilitate ruling and defence. Depending on the feudal lord, they were used to manage, operate, guard and control, and protect against bandits and beasts; also depending on the fief that the feudal lord controls, they repair and maintain buildings, and rescue citizens in the event of a disaster.
When my father was alive, the army was a more vicious group than slave drivers, to the point that I was treated as a traitor when I inherited the feudal lord position, and was suppressed.
The army right now consisted of those who acted like thieves back then. Earl Thelesia, who won over the hearts and minds of people, and the fact that they expected that I would hate to see the citizens die, changed the minds of the army and rebels in less than a month. How did I charge people who did what they did to protect themselves because they were threatened by my father? I questioned the Earl who had written a list of convicts and handed it to a two-year-old to approve, even though they hadn’t learned how to read or write yet, but his intentions were convenient for me, so I couldn’t complain.
According to the military regulations this time, the new recruits were village boys aged 12 and up. Combined, they made an army of about 100 people. From what I hear, most of them were boys who had lost their family under my father’s tyrannical rule.
… What I’m trying to say is that the military base has become a place concentrated with those who bore grudges against the Kaldia House.
Even I could tell that the Earl’s expectations are completely useless, but one question remains.
Will I survive being exposed to their hatred until the day I return to the mansion?
――― Half a month has passed since I started living in the barracks. For now, I’m barely alive.
“Hey, hey, what’s wrong?! You not gonna come at me?”
My wooden sword swung down and stopped two blows. It was absurd for me to come at him. My young and frail body did all it could to endure, and even that became hard when my breath rises. My arms went numb every time the wooden swords collided, and my legs staggered. My elbows would open when he put force into his sword, and I was already finished.
“Don’t open your upper arms!”
My flank was poked with the wooden sword along with a stern scolding. A dull pain ran through my ribs, and I had a little trouble breathing.
I thrust my wooden sword aiming for a counter-attack, but it just grazed his thigh, and he easily evaded. He kicked my foot while he was at it, and the wooden sword blew out of my hands. I tumbled to the ground. My back hurt as it hit the ground hard.
“Hey, hey. Are you already at your limit~?”
“Ah, you’ll have our hands full protecting you if we have to go onto the battlefield under such a fucking weak feudal lord. It wouldn’t be enough no matter how many lives we have.”
Sneers and jeers immediately flew at me from our surroundings. I didn’t even feel offended by what they said. I knew my shortcomings best. Someone might step on me if I remain on the ground, so I ignored the pain in my body and got up. Then, my practice partner, Gunter, stared at me, coldly.
“Pick up your sword now!”
I dragged my staggering body, picked up the wooden sword, and took my stance.
“One more time please, Gunter.”
My small body, which had built up fatigue, was blown away again, 10 seconds after I bowed. My whole body hurt, but unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to complain.
… After that, the one-sided fight continued several more times. I think I stayed on the ground longer than the fight in the last round.
“Thank you very much.” I turned to Gunter, and somehow bowed while breathing shortly and shallowly, and morning practice was finally over. The other soldiers were also putting away their wooden swords and began returning to the barracks. Gunter, who was practising with me, also threw his sword away without saying anything and left the practice grounds with them.
I had always been confined in the mansion and raised delicately, but this training completely covered me in sweat and sand and caused me to throw up every night. I keep my head down spiritlessly because I couldn’t even raise my head. I was frustrated because my body wouldn’t move how I wanted it to and grasped my fingertips tightly from anger.
Someone placed their hand on my head as if to blame me.
“Have you finished morning practice? It’s nearly time for breakfast.”
Of course, it was Kamil who patted my head, as if to comfort me. Prompted by him, I slowly picked up my wooden sword. I looked up at him with a stupid move, and he smiled gently, patted my back once. He took my hand and gently released the fingertips that I had been grasping.
“… I think you did much better than yesterday. You rushed at Gunter a few times.”
Kamil told me as if encouraging my depressed self. However, a growl came from a soldier passing by.
“Hey, Kamil. Don’t spoil her.”
A soldier from the army snarled, but Kamil smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m just saying what I think.”
“… Humph. It’s not good for you to accompany that brat.”
The soldier spat out, and I could hear my irritation boil like oil in my head.
My breakfast and light lunch were properly prepared for me by the army, but I had to provide food for myself at night. Maybe it was training to improve survival skills on the battlefield. Therefore, after afternoon practice, I wipe the spew that I had thrown up, and it was time to secure food for dinner.
Kaldia, where soldiers don’t even get candles, was poor. Night was short, and midnight was long. I probably wouldn’t feel hungry in the middle of the night if I didn’t throw up during training, but that was because of my weakness, so I can only desperately gather edible food. I have never felt hunger before, so I didn’t know how painful having an empty stomach was until now.
It was great that Kamil and Rashiok were allowed to help me, this was their consideration towards a five-year-old. Rashiok was beginning to grow scales and was the size of a small dog, and enjoyed hunting for food. Although Kamil hunted for different things, he told me what he would share with me in advance, and secretly split his spoils with me.
After I returned to the barracks, the ‘food’ I collected would be checked for edibility by Gunter and Kamil. Soldiers in training would have to check for poisons themselves, so it seems I was given preferential treatment. Of course, they properly taught me which food would cause instant death at the beginning. Still, the barracks were calm and quiet, and no one had upset stomachs, or fainted and bubbled at the mouth.
… For a fief in a powerful kingdom with no wars, I feel like they have an almost abnormal level of attachment to food. I wonder if this is the aftertaste of leaving their villages because of hunger and becoming bandits. I’m surprised that they didn’t go crazy. A girl with memories of her previous life won’t be able to endure that. There was no hunger in the daily life of that girl who lived in a highly developed world. Do people get weaker as civilisation advances, or had they thought up this training because they’d already gone crazy; I wonder which it is?
“So, what’re you looking for today? Are you going to gather mushrooms?”
There are many types of poisonous mushrooms, and this was driven into my body. Even if Rashiok can eat them without hesitation, they were poisonous to me, so there were many types I couldn’t eat, and the mushrooms I harvest will most likely go to waste. Kamil asked where I was aiming to gather food, and I shook my head. It was also troublesome to speak after spending hours at the training grounds.
“Then, are you going to hunt animals?”
Birds and rabbits are given to the citizens, and I haven’t eaten one even though I’ve hunted many with Rashiok’s help. Frog had small bodies, and there were very little to eat on them. The bigger ones live at the bottom of the river and in lakes, and there were a lot of monsters, so it was dangerous. I heard that their eggs are edible, but unfortunately, it isn’t breeding season. The snakes I could find were all rather large, and I was treated to a snow snake recently. Since they’re the main prey for draconis, its nutritional value must be high. Most spiders, even venomous ones, are edible when cooked. Lizards are the easiest to catch. The drawback was that lizards must be cooked very well done over a fire to prevent parasites, but well, I realised through my body that humans are omnivorous.
“Well, I think I’ll focus on snakes and lizards.”
“Then, you should head to the south of the mansion. I hope you catch something good today.”
Since my hunts haven’t been very good the past few days, the day before yesterday I boiled grass in saltwater, and yesterday I found an out of season cicada, so I had that and grass that grew around here. Who could imagine that a young noble girl would think that young silver grass is actually edible?
Wild grass can be powerful medicines or poison and was hard to digest, so they’re a last resort. I harvested a lot of nuts, but I couldn’t digest most of them and had diarrhoea. My training didn’t change the next day, even though I had loose bowels, and I quickly gave up on eating them.
“Then, I’ll do what I always do. Good luck.”
Kamil clearly stated, before going down the hill to the north. People didn’t live in that part, so there was a lot of food which could be harvested, but it was dangerous.
He can calmly force his way through there, and be completely fine even after practising; as expected, someone brought here by Earl Thelesia definitely isn’t an ordinary person. Even the army’s soldiers look tired at this time.
Well, it doesn’t matter who Kamil is.
“Let’s go, Rashiok.”
I dragged my exhausted body in the opposite direction. Rashiok squealed in response to my voice. For dinner that day, I had several lizards and grilled mushroom that Kamil had secretly shared with me.