It was finally time for my birthday celebration right when my fatigue had reached its peak from preparing for it every day. For the next three days starting from today, I’ll be hellishly busy until I can finally take a break.
“… Stop laughing constantly.”
A bastard laughed while I was feeling extremely exhausted. It was Kamil. He was holding his stomach in laughter at my outfit. It’s annoying since he could hold his laughter, but he didn’t.
“But! … Ha, hahahaha…”
What a fucking bastard. So annoying. I reproached him with a sulky voice, and he laughed harder. I’m so tired so even the smallest things annoy me. Kamil was laughing so hard because of my outfit. No one wants to be laughed at in their best set of clothes. More so when someone else chose what they wore. It was actually the first time someone gave me a gift, so I was pleased.
My hair was twirled in a bun, on the top of my head, a hairstyle that nobles usually wouldn’t wear, and I was wearing a formal knight uniform and mantle, which had plain decorations on it. No matter how you look at it, it’s an outfit for boys. As a girl, I should have been wearing a circlet and a bliaud.
“You have to wear it, it’s custom.”
Earl Thelesia, who was next to me, whispered. He sounded, somewhat, as if he was apologising.
The feudal lord only toured their fief during birthday celebrations while they were still a minor. And it was an Arxian custom for nobles with peerage to wear formal knight’s attire for birthday celebrations. If my father hadn’t died, he probably would have worn this.
Up until now, no young girls have ever inherited a court rank, so, unfortunately, I have become the first-ever example. Earl Thelesia dressed me up in the customary knight’s uniform… So, this meant that my birthday celebration will be conducted as if I were a boy.
Well, I had vaguely guessed this when he made me practice horse riding for the parade command. You can’t ride a horse with a dress. Arxia Kingdom is a society centred around men, so, of course, people think that leading an army wasn’t for women. Therefore, there weren’t any riding clothes for women.
With that in mind, I really didn’t know why Kamil was laughing so hard. He’s not incompetent enough to not predict in advance that I would be wearing a uniform for boys. Is he laughing because he doesn’t think it suits me?
“It, it’s perfect on you… Hahaha… Tsar, it looks good… not cute at all… Haha.”
… It’s the opposite. It looked much better on me than he’d expected. But is it really that funny? Well, there are hardly any differences between boys and girls when they’re six years old, so it shouldn’t matter what they wear. I feel like I’ll never understand why he’s laughing.
Even so, dressing up as a man? I looked down at my outfit again.
My outfit wasn’t so bad. I think it goes well with my high bun and nasty eyes. I would look too poisonous if they made a dress to match my eye colour and hair, but, in a knight’s uniform, I looked rather imposing.
Most importantly, I was happy that I didn’t look similar to the in-game Eliza Kaldia, who often flickered through my mind. It’s simple, but the impact of the differences aren’t small. I tie my hair up because I’m aware that my father always had his hair down when he was alive. My features are exactly like father’s, so it fans the hatred of the citizens. I wonder if I’m trying to erase the similarities between my father and the ‘Eliza’ in my memories because I still fear being related to them.
Our parade, which had left early in the morning, slowly passed through the villages.
I saw the citizens for the first time since I killed my family, and they looked quite different. Although they were still thin, it was still a long way off from the time when they were nothing but skins and bones with empty eyes. Thanks to the Earl.
However, the cheerful villagers changed the moment they saw me, and they didn’t even conceal the hatred that reflected at the back of their eyes when they looked at me.
I guess they can’t forgive that I’m a Kaldia. Or, do they hate that I exist?
Without letting it affect my smile, I continued leading the drill like I had practised. No matter which village we moved on to, there was a complicated mix of feelings directed at me. I thought back to when the Earl had thrown me into the newly constructed barracks. Now, the soldiers’ murderous intent towards me had faded, but they had also glared at me as if they wanted to tear me apart with their eyes when we had first met. Much like that time, the people are taking out their hatred of my father through me.
The eyes say what the mouth doesn’t, I suddenly remembered this phrase I heard from somewhere. Their bitter gazes told me that they couldn’t forgive me for being the daughter of that cruel feudal lord, and living my life leisurely.
However, at the same time, they also seemed to be at a loss for what to do and held some expectations for me. After all, Earl Thelesia had raised me, and he was the people’s saviour. Therefore, the citizens not only saw my father in me, but also the Earl. And, because of their conflicting thoughts, they were at a loss.
The fief soldiers observed me, and it had taken four months for them to get used to me. I wonder how long it would take for the citizens to do the same. They can’t see the work that’s being done in the feudal lord’s mansion. Much less, what I have been studying, or the work being done for the fief. Just how long will it take for the people to approve of me as their feudal lord?
Although it seemed glamorous and joyful on the surface, everyone was actually pretty tense inside. But no one would let their tension show. Otherwise, there would have been no point in the Earl preparing this birthday celebration. I’m amazed by my wishful thinking, but I still couldn’t help but think that.
The final village we were visiting, Cyril Village, was strangely tense, unlike the other villages. The aura in this village was so dense that I felt like it was stinging my skin.
Cyril Village was located furthest away from the area under the feudal lord’s direct control, so reconstruction was the slowest here. In other words, the benevolent influence that the Earl had was minimal here. There were still a lot of dilapidated houses which looked like they were going to collapse, and, unlike the other villages, there was a horrible stench in the air.
Although the villagers had made a sparse runway of flowers along the parade’s path, their expressions seemed more like they were cursing rather than celebrating, and was severely depressing. With the hostility of the villagers, I felt as if my tension was gnawing away at me. To them, their hatred towards my father is not merely a thing of the past. They remember it to the point where it’s like a lump lodged in their chests.
“… You alright?”
Kamil, who was walking to my left, whispered worriedly, but I could only shake my head slightly in reply. Even though it was still chilly, it felt disgusting as sweat trickled down my temple to my chin.
The soldiers protecting me were also tense from the villagers’ animosity. The harmony that they had barely held onto until a while ago completely disappeared, and they looked around restlessly. The people behind us also couldn’t keep their pace. Gunter, who was walking silently on my right, was also restless, and I heard him click his tongue several times.
“I’ll report to the Earl. We need to take a break after leaving this village.”
“Sorry about this.”
Kamil ignored my ambiguous reply since he couldn’t tell if I was replying to him or apologising and headed to the front where the Earl was. I was slightly relieved that Kamil had shown concern for me, and my shallow breathing had improved without me realising.
At that moment, there was a sudden commotion from the people lined up towards the right.
I turned to look because I thought something had happened, and half of my vision turned black from a shadow hurtling towards me.
Along with a dull thud, pain ran along my forehead from the shock of the impact. Unable to deal with what had happened unexpectedly, I reflexively grabbed onto the reins as my body swayed.
Ah, it was already too late by the time I thought that. The horse neighed and stood up on its hind legs since I had suddenly pulled on the reins. I was being shaken about so quickly that I couldn’t see clearly, and soon, my body was in mid-air. My back slammed into the ground, knocking my breath out of me. I couldn’t breathe due to the impact, and along with a loud ringing in my ears, my consciousness started fading.
A lot of people were shouting something. In my blurry vision, I saw a lot of metallic silver from the soldiers glistening around me.
What had happened? A rock had been thrown at me.
Who threw it? Was it a villager? Someone from Cyril Village.
I was panting due to the lack of oxygen. The soldiers had drawn their swords. Everyone was completely tense. Both the soldiers and the villagers were panicking.
Don’t kill them, I tried to say. Since I was out of breath, my voice wouldn’t come out. I dug into the dirt with my nails out of frustration.
“Don’t kill. Don’t kill anyone. If someone is killed now, then only a grudge shall remain.” I heard the Earl’s voice repeat this many times, although he sounded muffled and distant.
That’s right. Don’t kill anyone. If anyone is killed here today, then all the work that’s been accomplished over the past four years will be destroyed in an instant.
Did my voice come out or not? I didn’t even know this, as I kept shouting not to kill them over and over again in my mind while my consciousness was fading.
My five senses suddenly became clear all at once, as if I had just emerged from underwater.
The first thing I saw was Kamil’s pale face, then the blue sky behind him. At the same time, I heard dozens of people making such a commotion that I couldn’t make out anything that was being said.
My head hurts so much. I wonder if this shaking pain is a concussion. It’s possible since I fell off my horse.
Kamil sighed in relief when I looked him in the eyes. Something felt out of place, and upon closer inspection, I could see that my left cheek was slightly red and swollen. I wonder if someone hit me during the commotion.
“Kamil, what the heck…?”
“No one died or was injured. Except for you. It’s because a certain someone was moaning don’t kill them the whole time.”
He immediately gave me a straightforward report, probably trying to give me peace of mind. For now, that’s all I need to know. Kamil wiped my forehead and fingertips with a wet cloth, and I relaxed and watched him in silence. My body felt sluggish as if I had been sprinting with all my might.
I was carried away without me realising it, and I was lying down on a flat stretch of ground close to the river outside of Cyril Village. Judging from the position of the sun, it doesn’t seem like that much time has passed. My heart was still beating like crazy, but most of the pain in my back from when I slammed into the ground had already faded. Although I had only remained conscious for a few seconds after the rock hit my forehead, it probably took at least ten minutes… to leave the village that was in chaos. I don’t know what happened during that time, but no one seemed to have passed out.
The soldiers were all sitting around me and resting as if they were surrounding me. I heard the high pitched shrieks of a child, but it was too bothersome to turn my neck, so I deliberately ignored it.
“Ahh, you’re really dumb, Tsar.”
“What’s with you all of a sudden?”
Kamil suddenly sighed after he finished wiping down my wounds. What did I do this time for him to call me dumb? It was a horrible decision to send my guard, Kamil, to act as a messenger, but there should be no reason for him to call me dumb.
“Your nails are peeling off. It’s going to hurt later.”
Kamil said as he pointed to my left hand, which he had just wiped a while ago… Come to think of it, something did feel somewhat painful and uncomfortable. I had probably used too much strength when I was digging into the dirt with my nails earlier. I really have nothing to say to be called dumb, because it was a really dumb injury.
“I’m going to wash this cloth. There’s an orphan over there being guarded by a soldier, but you can’t go and see him, alright?”
“… Even if you don’t say that, I can’t even stand up by myself right now. I’ll behave and just rest here.”
I watched as Kamil left with the cloth and finally took a breath. I felt the pain in my back, fingers and forehead gradually subside, and breathed a sigh of relief since the chaos in Cyril Village had been resolved without a single injury.
When I had fallen off my horse, the soldiers had utterly lost direction without leadership because of their accumulated fatigue and tension.
If they had misused their military power and weapons, they might have hurt others who were not connected to the person who had thrown the rock. If that had happened, then the fief would have become unstable. There was no reason to indiscriminately attack the villagers one ruled just because one of the villagers had thrown a rock.
Earl Thelesia’s four years of efforts have brought the energy and willpower that my father had sapped away from the people. However, the people still distrust nobles, and their hatred for me, as a Kaldia, still continues. The people had survived the hellish man-made disaster caused by my father, and it wouldn’t be strange if they threw away their lives to try to take revenge and kill me. This fief is currently under a very fragile balance.
Really, it’s good that nobody was killed.
――― No, there might be someone who will be killed?
On the other side of the soldiers who were resting, was a child who had been endlessly screaming and trying to escape from his restraints.
Even the Earl probably couldn’t predict how a child would act. Did he think that the adults would suppress a child’s reckless behaviour? Or, had he made a blunder because he hadn’t included orphans into his calculations?
By the time Kamil had returned, my headache felt slightly better, and I was somehow able to sit up by myself. Borrowing the strength of Kamil’s arm, I stood up and asked him to take me to the screaming child. Although he had frowned, Kamil lent me his arm without saying anything.