A few people from Cyril Village were punished for an orphan throwing stones at Viscount Kaldia and making her fall off her horse. The perpetrator, the child, was put into a jute bag and thrown into the river, the person who employed the child, the person who let the child live with them, and those related to those two, were whipped in front of the village. Shortly after my birthday celebrations ended, this story gradually spread to the royal capital.
Kaldia fief is in the outer area without any particular features. However, the scandal caused by the previous lord Ouwe Kaldia and his family’s atrocities, the family’s death caused by poisoning, and Earl Thelesia becoming the guardian of the only surviving daughter, were some of the most significant events to be gossiped about by the nobles in the past thirty years, and the gossipy nobles with too much free time in the royal capital have all their attention on Kaldia fief.
“――― and that seems to be the current overview of Kaldia fief in the royal capital.”
“Thanks for your hard work, Kamil. I had expected that, but for them to even know about the orphan incident means that the House of Lords is becoming increasingly interested in Kaldia fief. Just thinking about it makes me feel depressed.”
The other day, Kamil went to the royal capital for the first time as Earl Thelesia’s attendant when the Earl had to attend a meeting at the House of Lords. Children with peerage can participate in the sessions at the House of Lords from the age of six. Which means the Earl was finally going to take me to the royal capital.
The House of Lords is the government agency to which all Arxian nobility with peerage belong. It’s the highest governing body, below the King, and performs a variety of non-judicial matters, including administration, military decisions, and personnel affairs.
It’s not important, but there are few places for Arxian nobles to socialise, probably because of the existence of the House of Lords. It’s merely a place for nobles to have fun and show off their powers, since it doesn’t function as a place for governing. Religious groups such as the church, which hold values of being content with honest poverty, shun the House of Lords, so they hold a social season in summer.
… The last day of my birthday celebration might be one of the few times nobles can socialise with each other. It wasn’t a big deal, but we invited nobles from the neighbouring fiefs and had a simple buffet party. I still hadn’t recovered from the previous day, so I withdrew early after my greetings.
“You’re pretty delicate, Tsar. And yet, you’re good at putting up a front.”
I ignored Kamil, who was teasing me in a friendly tone.
“… I’m sorry, did I upset you?”
“If you think you did, then how about you shut up?”
Kamil flinched when I spoke with sarcasm. A chilly feeling remained at the back of my chest ever since the night of that incident.
I stopped thinking about that incident, summarised what I had heard onto the paper, put it on top of the pile of documents and got off my chair. I slowly crawled into bed where Rashiok’s stomach was, and felt his smooth scales against my cheeks as I breathed. Recently, I’ve been feeling tired of a lot of things because of the sway of my emotions.
Rashiok snorted in annoyance as I had disturbed his nap, but he still stretched out his wing and covered my body. Before I realised it, his wings had become wide enough to completely cover my small body. He could still fit into my arms when he had first come to this mansion, but the growth of beasts is swift.
“… Tsar, are you sleeping?”
Kamil timidly asked in a quiet voice. I felt so guilty that it made my heartache and I was annoyed at my previous attitude.
“No, I’m just going to lie down for a bit. I’ll go see how Elise is doing before noon.”
“Oh… The 『Ojou-samas』, huh.”
Kamil looked relieved that I was speaking softer than before, and I felt relieved to see that.
――― The residents of the Golden Hill Mansion quietly changed immediately after my birthday celebrations.
My nanny had finished her role since I turned six, so she left the mansion, in exchange, several girls were welcomed in as my playmates. However, two of the girls ‘came here to recuperate since they are sickly’. ――― That’s what happened.
“How’s the food, Elise?”
I greeted a child, who was crouched at the corner of the bed, in one of the innermost rooms of the mansion. Although she was receiving good care every day, there was still something wild about her black hair, and her black pupils glared at me. She didn’t seem to like the gloves which covered her fingertips and the dress that she was wearing.
“Nathan, the cook, will be worried if you don’t eat, since he went to the trouble of making it for you himself. You’ll die and won’t be able to strangle me to death if you don’t eat your food, ‘Elise’.”
A heavy metallic sound echoed behind me as if it was drowning out my mocking voice. The chain that connected the child around the room so that she could move were shackles. From behind me, Kamil softly placed his hand on my shoulder and held me back with hesitation. The small child was trembling with anger on the bed in the dim room.
A dark emotion dominated my head. I had the most disgusting desire to leave a wound in this weak child’s heart. After all, I am ‘Eliza Kaldia’, that man’s daughter. I wonder if I can fix my dirty insides.
“… Shut up. Besides, I’m not called Elise, I’m Radka.”
“No, you’re not. The orphan from Cyril Village named Radka has been executed. You’re Elise Celustka, a girl who was called to the Golden Hill Mansion to be my playmate.”
“I’m not! … I’ll kill you someday!”
This time, her chains jingled loudly. I sneered at her vigorous scream. ‘You’re going too far’, Kamil indicated by squeezing my shoulder firmly.
“You, you’re just a coward who couldn’t even kill me in the end!”
“Well, I have no idea what you’re talking about. You came all the way to this mansion to be a playmate of mine, so why would I kill you?”
She threw a pillow at me in anger. However, it had little momentum since it was filled with light feathers, and fell silently to the floor before it even reached me.
“Let’s ask Nathan to prepare something easier to consume. You won’t do anything unreasonable since you can’t even get off the bed, ‘Elise’.”
I ignored her screams which sounded as if a blood vessel in her head would burst, and left the dim room. I wonder if it ended with cheap provocation because Kamil stopped me with his hand. I’m glad it ended without words that can’t be undone, but I also thought that I had said too much.
Next, I brushed off Kamil’s hand, which was on my shoulder because I didn’t know how long he was going to keep it there. But, his hand won’t leave my shoulder. I looked up at him to see what was going on, and he hesitantly opened his mouth.
“Umm, Tsar. Why did you bother to keep her by your side?”
“I’m not. I’m keeping her alive because her red eyes can be useful.”
“… She might kill you while you’re sleeping.”
When he said that, a dangerous glint flashed within his eyes, and I’ve seen it before. It was an inhuman glint, and yet it swayed threateningly. His expression was cold, and his emotions cut off.
“I won’t keep her that close to me.”
Again. My head felt like it was going to freeze. Kamil opened his eyes wide in surprise. The cruel emotion of icy rejection and warped pleasure were drawn out because of Kamil’s expression, and I became afraid of myself so I drowned it out right away.
“… I’ll say it many times, I’m only keeping her alive because her red eyes can be useful. I can use her in many ways as a tool and not as a trusty subordinate.”
I lied since it seemed like I would get flustered. Kamil sighed lightly and smiled. His eyes were incredibly calm but shone with a light that I didn’t recognise. What is that emotion called? I’m sure I knew what it was in my previous life, but I don’t know what it is now.
“You’re really awkward, aren’t you Tsar? I don’t think you need to tell me that kind of excuse.”
It was my turn to have a cold expression. The wind outside was strong, and I could hear the new leaves rustling from afar.
“Then, I let her live because I couldn’t kill her. I placed her beside me because I want her to acknowledge me. Are you satisfied now, Kamil?”
Silence enveloped the corridor. Kamil’s hand dropped from my shoulder, and I saw him clench his fist tightly. I didn’t want to keep looking at him like that, so I closed my eyelids. Is he disappointed in me now? He can think whatever he wants of me, a reckless emotion swirled from within me. Recently, I’ve been feeling desperate towards Kamil.
I wasn’t just going to this ‘Elise’s’ room. It was awkward to stop here in this silence, so I took a step, and something heavy landed on top of my head. It ruffled my hair, and I realised that it was Kamil’s hand.
I finally recalled what the emotion in Kamil’s eyes was as he comforted me with his hand; that was pity. Kamil pitied me. However, his eyes also had a mix of respect and love.
Why did he look at me with those emotions? I have no idea. It felt disgusting because I had no idea, so I brushed Kamil’s hand away again.
“We’re going to the other ‘Elise’s’ room as well.”
“… Alright, I got it.”
As I was about to open the door, I heard coughing from the other side. Cough, cough, it was a dry cough accompanied by wheezing, and I also heard a woman whispering inside. I didn’t enter rudely like I had at the innermost room of the mansion. I knocked on the door twice first, then heard a voice from within, “Please come in.”
“Hello. How are you feeling today ‘Elise’-dono?”
The other ‘Elise’s’ room was really different. It was bright and airy, but the sounds of the coughing continued. The coughing came from a girl who was sitting on the bed. A tall maid stroked the girl’s back as she looked this way.
“Hello, Maya. How is Elise-dono feeling today?”
“She’s gotten a little better after coming to this mansion.”
In the meantime, the girl’s coughing gradually stopped, and she slowly began to breathe again. Maya, the maid, tied up the girl’s messy, yet lustrous brown hair and the girl finally raised her face. She had a gentle smile on her face, utterly different from the bitter expression I had seen earlier.
“My apologies, Eliza-sama.”
“No, it’s fine.”
Her name is Elise Sherstorck, and she is the niece of the Stadel feudal lord to the north of Kaldia fief.
Although Viscount Stadel and I only greeted each other at my birthday celebration, he took a liking to the warmer climate in Kaldia fief and asked if his sickly niece could come here to recuperate her sickly body. Elise’s father, Baron Sherstorck had land usage rights in Kaldia fief along the borderline, so he agreed to sell those back to us in exchange for taking care of his daughter.
Stadel fief was a small territory at the foot of Amon Nohl, and it was only known as an excellent place to avoid the heat during the summer. That aspect of Stadel fief was the same as Kaldia fief, but there was a vast difference in temperature. Viscount Stadel and Baron Sherstorck have been looking for a warm location for Elise to recuperate in for many years, and they came to consult with Earl Thelesia since he was governing Kaldia fief right now.
There was no reason to refuse, since my father caused this fief to be isolated in all directions, and the offer of letting the other ‘Elise’ stay in the mansion was like a godsend.
“If you have any problems, then please don’t hesitate to let me know immediately.”
“Everyone in this mansion treats me really well, so I have fun every day.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Her voice was thin due to her asthma, but Elise spoke gently, so I smiled back at her. We talked about trivial things such as the flowers Maya received from the gardener this morning, then I left the room. She can’t speak for long, so I couldn’t stay for too long.
“Sorry for making you wait… What’s wrong, Kamil?”
Kamil, who had waited in the corridor without going into the room, had a strained expression on his face. He beckoned me silently with his hand, and we headed towards the feudal lord’s office.
After making sure that we were far from Elise’s room, I asked him what was wrong again. He continued waiting while briefly explaining the situation to me.
“It seems that a lot of refugees have reached Jugfena Fortress.”
“The farmers with the Sill tribe?”
“The House of Lords sent a pigeon for an emergency summons. Not just for the Earl, but you as well, Tsar.”
… Me too? Earl Thelesia had all the rights to govern as the feudal lord, so is the topic about how to handle the refugees since they summoned me as well? The Earl’s plans are finally being realised, but it seems like it’s nearly time to take action.
Earl Thelesia was busy putting away some documents inside of the office, and his secretary, Bellway, was also doing the same task with a serious expression on his face. He had several blank papers on the desk, and there were several red pigeons perched on the window, probably for emergency communications.
Red pigeons have innate homing abilities and were known for the vivid red feathers, and were the best species to use as carrier pigeons. Typically, white pigeons were used for communication, so I can tell at a glance that this was a state of emergency. By the way, these birds were called pigeons, but they were actually twice the size of pigeons in my previous world. The window frame didn’t have enough room for them to perch on, so there were several smaller ones perched on the floor too.
“Yes. I’ve heard that the House of Lords has summoned us due to the mass influx of refugees.”
“Yeah. They’re farmers who cooperated with the Sill tribe. The Sill tribe, themselves, aren’t that close to our borders just yet. That’s good news. The House of Lord’s meeting is also in four days. We don’t need to rush yet.”
Earl Thelesia quickly tied pieces of parchment to the pigeon’s legs and sent them off as he said that. I spontaneously looked at Kamil since his words and actions contradicted each other.
“Then, what’s with this situation?”
“Unfortunately, Viscount Galbaeto has passed away. He was unmarried.”
“Eh,” a sound of surprise escaped from my throat.
Viscount Galbaeto’s fief was south of Kaldia and was located between Kaldia and Margrave Junas’s fief. He was quite young and had just graduated recently. I didn’t hear that he was sickly. He even came to my birthday celebrations the other day and greeted me. Without minding that I was speechless from the sudden turn of events, Earl Thelesia continued speaking.
“The only person with inheritance rights to Galbaeto fief is Margrave Junas. His legitimate son has a high-ranking position in the royal palace, and so does his other son. Now then Eliza, what do you think will happen to Galbaeto and Kaldia fief?”
I blinked at his sudden question. I know that only Margrave Junas had the inheritance rights to Galbaeto because the Galbaeto House was originally from the Junas House, and Margrave Junas was Viscount Galbaeto’s father. A daughter of the Galbaeto House was Margrave Junas’s second wife, and their child was adopted into the Galbaeo House and took their name. His mother, the previous feudal lord, and his wife were already deceased.
“Does that mean that the Galbaeto fief will be incorporated into the Junas fief? If that happens, then Kaldia fief will be isolated from the Jugfena royal domain and the Junas fief.”
Earl Thelesia nodded, and his eyes indicated for me to continue.
“… We’ll be the crucial link in the supply chain against Rindarl.”
“That’s right. That’s why we need to obtain the Sill tribe.”
Both the Earl and I welcomed the refugees. The Sill tribe were excellent equestrians, and Kaldia fief wanted them no matter what, since we were beginning to organise cavalry troops. In particular, this poor military couldn’t provide supply to the kingdom’s greatest line of defence. We needed talented personnel no matter what.
I want to manage the population problem and make their lives easier, even without that. The labour shortage is getting worse day by day. I even want all the farmers.
It would pile up no matter how many people we can get, and we won’t be able to maintain the previous policies. Like the Earl said, we needed to take in all the refugees, and get as much support as we can from the national treasury.
“… Is there anything I can do?”
“Of course. We need to make preparations if we’re taking in refugees. And no matter what they do, the Sill tribe and Densel soldiers will be coming here. Kaldia can’t remain uninvolved.”
I nodded at the Earl’s words, and Bellway suddenly put a desk with a large number of documents by the wall. I didn’t even have time to be afraid of a large number of documents as Bellway folded his arms and smiled like always.
“Now then, Eliza-sama, please go over these documents. They’re cooperation contracts with the neighbouring fiefs. It would be a great help if you find and jot down everything related to defence cooperation with each fief onto the parchment sheets here.”
I saw Kamil holding a large pile of documents as soon as I sat down on the chair. It was a rather pressing situation since both Kamil and I were working on this. I gulped since the conflict with the neighbouring country was rapidly becoming a reality.
“… Oh yes. The cause of Viscount Galbaeto’s death was assassination.”
Earl Thelesia suddenly said when the sun started setting.
I looked up from the desk in surprise. The red rays of sunlight coming in from the window became a backlight, and I couldn’t read the Earl’s expression.
I opened my mouth dumbly and repeated in surprise. I heard a small sound and turned towards it. Kamil had dropped his pen. Is Kamil also shocked to hear the word ‘assassination’ even though he’s usually aloof from the world? His side profile which I could see from behind his bangs was white as paper.
“Did someone have a grudge against him?”
Bellway frowned and asked. The Earl raised an eyebrow and shook his head.
“There are many reasons to kill someone even if you don’t have a grudge against them. Nobles are those close to death. Their lives are treated as profits, and are lighter than the lives of the citizens.”
He declared; his voice deep with emotions.
“You have to be careful too.”
He added sleekly before dropping his gaze back down onto the documents.
… I don’t need to be careful. I’m someone who had assassinated her family. I remembered the ceremony that was conducted at my birthday celebrations, and a bitter feeling like poison filled the back of my heart.