According to Kamil, who had quickly gathered information because he thought it would be needed, the one who threw the rock at me was an orphan boy from Cyril Village. He didn’t know who his father was. His mother had gotten pregnant during ‘forced labour’, and committed suicide because she couldn’t take it anymore.
‘Forced labour’ was a way for my father and mother to obtain slaves. Slavery is banned in Arxia, but my father treated it as a position and imposed it on the people. On the surface, he was sending personnel to other fiefs, but the truth was close to human trafficking.
I forced down my dizziness and nausea and looked straight into the child’s cloudy eyes. The child’s arms were being held down by a soldier. He had dirty black hair and sepia eyes and was extremely thin. His body, which had grown poorly due to malnutrition, looked younger than mine, but he was probably older than me. In his dark pupils were a murderous intent that adults desperately tried to hide.
“… You! The feudal lord’s daughter!!”
When the child noticed me approaching, he stopped struggling and screamed. The soldier, who was restraining the child, held onto him tighter and said, “Watch your words.”
“I’m not the feudal lord’s daughter, I’m the feudal lord. Kamil, what’s his name?”
I replied for the time being and asked Kamil for the child’s name.
“Apparently, it’s Radka. But he’s a boy.”
The name Radka is traditionally a girl’s name in Jugfena. He was probably brought up as a girl because all the boys who had been born during ‘forced labour’ were disposed of. A child who is around the same age as me and has similar eyes to mine, and he wasn’t treated as a boy. This strange sign is really interesting.
“Then, Radka. Did you simply throw the rock at me because I’m Ouwe Kaldia’s daughter? Or did you have some other reason?”
“Don’t call my name like you know me! What other reason would there be for me to throw a rock at you?! You should have died four years ago too!!”
A child around the same age raised his voice even though it had become raspy and hoarse. When I thought about how this was one of the legacies my father had left me, I almost felt like laughing from disgust.
The soldier ruthlessly pinned the raging Radka onto the ground. The skinny child looked like a withered tree branch on the ground, but he didn’t show any fear. He’s brave.
“What, you think it’s funny? You were only a baby back then, so you think what your dad did had nothing to do with you?”
His voice was low. It’s almost praiseworthy how clear his malice and murderous intent is. If we weren’t surrounded by soldiers, then his glare indicated that he would probably act upon those feelings.
“And, if that’s true?”
“While you were drinking your milk and sleeping every day, how many people do you think died?”
It’s not like it doesn’t have anything to do with me. After all, I was being raised comfortably by that disgusting excuse for a lord until I was two. Radka laughed ironically, stating that even that was a sin, and he was resentful because I should have died back then. That’s a lot to think about for a child who hasn’t even reached 10.
In this world, the system of extending complicity for a crime to the criminal’s family is used. This system is imposed on everyone regardless of their position, and Radka probably knew this as well, even though he was a commoner’s child. For heinous criminals, the entire family would be executed, even if they were the criminal’s nieces or nephews. Under that logic, it was certainly strange that I’m still alive.
――― But, what of it. Since I’m currently alive as an exception to this, I have no intentions of committing suicide because I’m drowning in guilt, or allowing myself to be killed by the citizens of the fief.
“138 people have died since they knew I had been conceived. To be precise, 71 of them are missing, but… what of it?”
If he insists that the people who have died since I was born is my fault, then I’ll just accept it.
I had first recalled my previous life’s memories a bit before I turned one. I spent a year watching dreadful things such as murder; they clung to their rotten ideals and the citizens’ lives became expendable commodities to be used and thrown away.
I had found the poisonous leaves near the edge of the pond close to the garden at that time. I knew that the kitchen was understaffed and that I would be able to sneak in and put the poison into the soup without being seen, because of my small infant body. However, I hesitated after I had obtained the plant, and several more people died in the meantime. If that isn’t my sin, then whose is it?
“I was allowed to live. This means that they won’t allow me to die. Let me ask you back. Why do you think I still haven’t killed you yet?”
I released Kamil’s arms which had been supporting me and pulled out my ceremonial dagger from my waist. Even though the thin blade was decorative, it was still sharp enough to slice through a person’s skin. I brushed away the hand Kamil had used to try to stop me and approached the child.
I felt goosebumps on my skin, and a shudder crept up my spin. My mouth distorted of its own accord at the strange sense of unrealism like I was delirious from a fever.
“You couldn’t have thought you wouldn’t possibly get killed, right?”
I grabbed the child’s hair which had been pressed on the ground, much like an insect. After pulling his hair and exposing his throat, I pushed the point of the blade against it. I could see him gulp. Even so, he kept glaring at me bravely. How courageous for a child of his age.
“According to the words of the shrine maiden Xia Fema, a sinner must be made to atone for their crimes with the appropriate punishment to cleanse the soul of impurities. So, I can’t give you the death penalty here, now can I?”
“… If you’re going to kill me, then stop acting so pompous and get on with it already. Something like that is nothing compared to what was done to mum!”
Although the sentiment is admirable, it’s foolish. I understood from this short conversation that the knowledge commoners needed to live was extremely insufficient. Radka was a boy born from ‘forced labour’ and was an orphan with a girl’s name. It was clear to see that he hadn’t been brought up properly.
Kamil put his hand on my shoulder. “Any more than this…” he rebuked, and the strange heat that was ruling my head quickly cooled down. I released Radka, stood up and returned the dagger to my scabbard. Kamil sighed in relief. The boy fell to the ground and let out a muffled scream.
“――― Throw him into the basement dungeon. It’s a shame to spill blood during a festival.”
I removed my gaze from the child when this was done. He’s clever and full of rage, so I know that someone hadn’t told him to throw the rock at me. “Do it,” on the surface, Kamil seemed obedient and respectfully lowered his head, and the soldier lifted the child off the ground. Then, he tied a rope around the child while holding back his bitterness.
“What?! So, you couldn’t even kill me after all!”
The boy screamed while twisting his body and trying to escape from the soldier. I ignored all of that and called out to Kamil again.
“Hail people from the village that have close relations to this child to the mansion. It’s fine even if they’re children.”
“Wh… What?! The villagers have nothing to do with this!!”
I sighed at the child who suddenly went berserk. I had nothing more to say to him, so I waved my hand and signalled the soldier to carry him away.
Before long, I could no longer hear his voice because he was gagged with a cloth.
“… What do you intend to do with that child? Tsar.”
Kamil held out his arm without me having to say anything, and he muttered the question in an emotionless voice so I couldn’t tell if he was interested or not. I looked up, and Kamil had a strange expression on his face. I felt déjà vu and recalled the first time I had met him and he had shown me a stiff smile. At that time, he also asked me if I would kill the life in my hand in the same way.
“Don’t worry, I won’t kill him.”
Or rather, I can’t. But I looked down because I didn’t want to tell him why I couldn’t.
I’m paying for my mistakes. It is my sin and responsibility to accept all the hatred from him… and the people. So, why did I ask him about his crime?
Publicly, I can’t let him live. But I can’t kill him with these hands.
Kamil was relieved, and his stiff expression vanished. He might have something against killing people. I doubt he had to kill someone while he was travelling the world as the son of a merchant, but in this world, death is close by. Differences in social status, monsters, diseases, hygiene conditions, food and life… killing intent from others. The causes of death are rolling carelessly everywhere.
“Even I don’t know what I want to do to that child. For now, I’ll talk about it with the Earl first. We can’t have the original plans for the birthday celebration to get further off track.”
While being supported by Kamil, I headed to where the Earl was, only a short distance from us. The soldiers’ looked rigid, and I perfectly understood why. After witnessing the exchange between the child and me, they stared at me with sharp piercing gazes. They seemed frightened, cautious, and a bit puzzled.
I felt really depressed and disgusted enough to want to hit myself.
What difference between the in-game Eliza and me? No matter how much I change my outward appearance, I haven’t changed at all inside.
When I thrust the dagger at that child, a ferocious euphoria rose from within me. It was brutality that drew out on the suffering of the other person, stirred fear, and tried to play with life as if it was a toy. I had the urge to gouge my chest out, so I grabbed my fingertip and put my nail on my palm. The finger that I had pulled the nail from prickled with pain and started to get hot.
If I relax, then I’ll cry. That was how shocking the feelings inside me were.
The hearts of the soldiers that had warmed up to me were also becoming distant. From the start, it was strange for them to forgive me. After all, I am ‘Eliza Kaldia’.
Besides, this will be necessary one day. I can’t stay a friendly child forever. I have to make them understand that I will be the feudal lord who leads them, not a child who they should care about, and I have to make them accept it.
Even if the relationship between us is scorn, hate and fear.
The sun passed through the sky and began setting.
We finally returned to the Golden Hill Mansion, and the soldiers’ eyes were shining at the feast that had been prepared for them. Although there were a lot of expectations, the first day of the birthday celebration is for the people. In the daytime, we marched around the villages to provide people with food and alcohol. At night, there was a banquet at the mansion to thank the soldiers for their efforts.
Considering the incident that had happened earlier, it was decided that we would go back to the mansion after we finished with formalities so that the soldiers can celebrate. Looking down at a child who couldn’t drink would clearly ruin the party. They probably wouldn’t call for me anyway.
With the help from my nanny, I changed out of the tight, formal knight uniform and back into a comfortable tunic and dalmatic. I put my hand on the door when I had finished changing, and my nanny noticed me while she was tidying up and spoke to me.
“Eliza-sama, where are you going…?”
“I’m going out for a bit. Stay in the mansion.”
“Wait please, you can’t go out by yourself.”
I dodged the hand that reached out to stop me, quickly closed the door behind me before dashing to where I wanted to go. My nanny was just as obstinate as Bellway, and she would stop me if she knew where I was going. Now that it was evening, she probably won’t let me out of the room until Kamil comes to get me. That’s why I tried to escape from her by jogging, even if it was considered bad manners. My nanny won’t find me as long as I get to where I wanted to go. She would never imagine that I would be going to the dungeon.
The dungeons here in the mansion were pointlessly expanded by my father. Its area was about equal to the entire first floor. The stones in the dungeon had their fill of blood in the past twenty years, so the air down here was awfully eerie and gloomy. The stone walls appeared slightly wet under the candle light, and I shivered the first time I had learnt that it was coated with the blood of dozens of people. Apparently, the rough stone walls had been used in the past to ‘grate’ people.
Radka was crouching in a small cell with a good view of the stone wall. It’s always dark in this dungeon even when it’s daylight outside, so it slowly wears people down. Human beings are instinctively afraid of the dark.
Radka suddenly raised his face at my single command. His expression looked exhausted rather than the hatred he had shown me earlier.
“… What did you come here for?”
“I came here to see you.”
His voice no longer held the spirit he had from this morning, and was slightly bitter instead.
“You’re going to be executed as soon as the festivities are over. As complicity for your crime, the village head who had hired you, as well as his daughter, and the women who let you live in her house, and her two children will be punished as well.”
I forced down the bitterness as I mentioned his punishment, and my voice came out colder than I had expected.
“Why, you ask? You attempted to murder an Arxian nobility, a Viscountess and feudal lord of this fief. Adding in the crime of treason, you’re now considered a heinous criminal. Surely you didn’t think that this would simply end with a child throwing a rock at another child?”
Radka hugged his knees at the back of the cell and started moving. He slowly crawled towards me, and he looked like a ghost with his glistening black pupils. He gripped the iron bars of the cell tightly, and focused on me with a terribly calm expression.
“Are you going to punish the people in the fief to preserve your honour even though you know you’re a criminal?”
… I was both surprised and amused at the question that had come out from such a small child’s mouth. What a precocious child. This child’s head was burning with a sense of righteousness, but his lack of knowledge had invited misfortune.
“Are you afraid of dying? Is it painful that you’ve involved those around you? Or, maybe both?”
I suppressed my slight smile as I asked. Radka was staring at eyes that wanted to shoot me dead, but for some reason, I became crazy and found it amusing.
“You caused all this with your foolishness. Your punishment is in accordance with the law. As if I would hurt my people as a pastime like my father did.”
“Hmm. You never know.”
Radka was still glaring at me as he sneered. I felt a chill at the back of my mind. I really don’t know since I am that man’s daughter.
“A kingdom’s laws are there to protect its people. According to some people, that would include nobility as well. Apparently, some people think that nobles aren’t regular people, they’re gears that move this kingdom. Nobles are people who obey the law and enforce it… It is said that foolish people, who forget this, hurt people and destroy the kingdom. Like my father had.”
Or, like the Eliza Kaldia in my memories who I haven’t been able to completely forget yet… like me.
Cold water suddenly dripped down my cheek. It was so sudden, that I looked up at the ceiling in surprise. Is it condensation?
“Huh, why did you suddenly cry?”
“Hah? I’m not crying.”
Radka was surprised and became confused. I was surprised that the voice I had let out was extremely low and oppressed. Doesn’t it sound like I just said I was crying? I quickly wiped the water that was flowing down my cheeks with my cuff, but my cheeks still felt wet no matter how much I wiped, and my cuff became cold.
“No, you are crying…”
“Shut up, idiot. I said I wasn’t crying!”
I blurted out something strange because I was upset.
I felt like I was going to sob convulsively, so I quickly ran away from the dungeon. The mysterious water that was dripping from somewhere down my cheeks didn’t stop until I fell asleep. Dammit, why?
Of course, there was no way for me to know that the child in the dungeon was pondering about me.