By the time I noticed, nearly two months had passed since I woke up. I suddenly checked the calendar because of the date on the documents and was shocked by this fact.
“… This is bad.”
All the things that went through my mind at that moment made me spontaneously mutter this, and Lady Marechan, who was next to me helping me with the documents, dropped the documents that she was holding with a thud.
“Eliza-sama, is there something wrong with those papers? Oh… you won’t sleep…”
“No, that’s not it, please calm down.”
She was supposed to be a tutor in this house, but before I knew it, she had been assigned to support me. Well, her employer was Earl Thelesia, so it didn’t matter to me whether she was a tutor or a secretary. Or rather, I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to worry about such trivial matters at all.
The defencive battle at Jugfena Fortress that had me bedridden for a month had thrown a wrench in our plans to take in the refugees.
The House of Lord’s meeting was at the end of spring and the defencive battle at Jugfena Fortress was during the upper month and a half of spring, and only about six months had passed between that.
… Incidentally, this reminded me recently that one season was about three months in my past life. However, a season here was when the moon’s phases revolve around four times, and a year is sixteen months. A year here was longer than it is in my previous life, but there was nothing unusual about the growth and aging of a person. In simple terms, humans in this world may be long-lived creatures that have adapted to this world, or, the length of a day may be shorter than it is in my previous life, although I no longer have a sense of this.
Now, let’s return to the topic at hand.
The plan was to take in fifty refugees every month starting in the upper half of summer. We were supposed to take in 2000 refugees, however only 250 were taken in by Kaldia, since the rest had been killed in Jugfena Fortress.
800 refugees were temporarily taken in by Junas fief, but we will gradually take them in, once the constructed village is steady. Considering their feelings, I can’t impose restrictions on them while I take them in, so I’m not considering this, for now, since it was still a long way away.
Next are the Sill Tribe. They have more people than I had expected. At first, I was told that there were forty people in the tribe, and I assumed that the tribes would join together, and the number would be 120, three times what I was told.
However, the tribes that had been hiding in Bandishia Plateau and Amon Nohl seemed to have been prepared for their deaths, and in the end, the number grew to more than 300. It’s no wonder that they had persisted for nearly a month against the 300 pursuers from Densel.
In total, there were less than 600 refugees and members of the Sill Tribe, which is less than half the number of people we were originally going to take in. First, I had to get them to construct the village, but this mostly had to be done from scratch.
The Sill Tribe, which made up half of the refugees, were nomads; their houses were mobile and they lacked building skills. Furthermore, they had no farming skills since they didn’t farm. There were a few tribes that had withdrawn further west from Bandishia Plateau and had changed their lifestyle in Amon Nohl. Those tribes could build splendid houses, but they were unable to use their skills, since we are unable to provide them with the materials that they are used to.
To compensate for this, we tried accepting requests from the citizens to move to the area, but as expected, only a few people applied, so we are still thinking of a solution for this problem.
Furthermore, another problem was who would be in charge of the new settlement. Kamil had been tasked with this role up until now. It was impossible for me to find a new person who could speak Artolas like him and can command the new citizens and easily communicate with us. Therefore, I asked Earl Thelesia to hire a temporary governor for this. However, this increased the amount of paperwork I had to do since I had to prepare documents for the position takeover and write out instructions for them.
The fief army troops who were engaged in the settlement work, once numbered thirty, have now been reduced to just ten. I was prepared for this when we went to Jugfena Fortress, but I can’t allocate extra troops from the army there anymore due to casualties and seriously wounded troops.
In addition, I had a lot of documents I had to deal with since I had been in a coma, at any rate, I had a lot of things to do and didn’t even have time to sleep or have a decent meal.
“… Anyway, get something to eat soon. Claudia-dono will come crashing into your office with her cart again if you don’t go down to the dining hall to eat or drink.”
Lady Marechan urged, and we both got up from our seats to relieve our stiff bodies from doing paperwork. I only have to go to the kitchen and return, but it was much better than not moving at all.
Just two weeks ago, Claudia crashed her tea cart into the office desk and nearly covered my important documents with tea, and perhaps Lady Marechan recalled this nightmare, since her complexion had gotten even worse.
――― It took me twenty minutes to explain what had happened in the past two months to the child that was glaring at me.
The child, who I had left alone since I woke up, sullenly said.
“So, you were so busy that you forgot about me.”
There was definitely something colder in his calm voice than being yelled at. I’d like to think that it’s better than the days when he yelled at me just for visiting him.
“No, I’m telling you that I had a lot of work to get done before I could see you.”
Even now, I’m still sorting through the documents by date until the person who I called to help me will come, because of the lack of manpower. I had to get as much work done as I could while I still had time. I can light candles at night, but it was quite expensive to use them to read and write without any inconvenience.
“Is that what you say to someone who you’ve neglected for six months or more?”
I was a little surprised that it had been that long already since this guy was thrown into the barracks.
This child’s education continued even while I was busy, and his speech was gradually becoming like mine. Even the gesture of him narrowing his reddish-black eyes was similar to mine, and it was a bit amusing.
“… I didn’t neglect you or anything. I didn’t have any business with you.”
I knew that the words that had come out of my mouth made a vein pop out of his forehead.
“Or, did you want me to take care of you even though I’m younger?”
“You want to get your ass kicked?!”
“Oh, spare me the vulgarities, Elise.”
I looked at Radka, aka 『Elise』, whose face had turned red with anger and frustration and couldn’t help but burst into laughter. His straightforward expression was similar to those of the fief army soldiers’.
Radka, who was called Elise, was sullen and pouted. I glanced at him and saw that his eyes were filled with a complicated expression; they looked as if he was complaining, lost, irritated, but also resigned. It was the same glimmer as the one I saw on that night when he woke me up.
… Unlike Kamil, his eyes told a lot. It was emotionally easier to understand what the other person was thinking just by looking at him in the eyes.
“You could have come to me if you needed something instead of waiting for me to call you.”
“Huh… Me? Inside this mansion?”
I put away the documents that I had finished into a leather bag, and finally had a little free time.
I looked up and observed Radka properly for the first time in half a year; his face had become completely healthy and he looked girly. He also had a disbelieving expression on his face.
I looked at his face and realised my own slip up. I didn’t realise that this mansion was nothing more than a prison to him.
It was decided that Radka would have his freedom in the mansion when he came back from the barracks, as soon as Elize was exposed, and nearly everyone knew about him. Originally, it was decided that his restrictions would be loosen as soon as the heat from the birthday celebration had cooled down. Frankly, that was a measure to win him over, as well as relieve the stress on the maliced child, and also a way for him to get used to life in the mansion. I didn’t expect that his『education』would go better than I expected or that his murderous intent towards me would fade to this extent.
I can even take back the words the Kamil had once said to me, “She might kill you while you’re sleeping.” He had almost killed me while I was in a coma, but it was strange to me that we could talk carefreely like this. ――― He no longer looked angry. How should I treat him? How did I want to be treated? I wasn’t sure at first, but now I don’t know at all. It’s about you, how could you not know? I mocked myself.
“You’re no longer confined. You can do what you want in the mansion within the bounds of common sense. You’ll be captured straight away if you go on a rampage anyway.”
“I won’t. Ah, hmm, I won’t do that anymore.”
Radka corrected himself, perhaps because he had remembered why he was in this mansion.
“I’ve become a little smarter now, too… I’m sure anyone would if they had to study like that.”
He shrugged his shoulders sarcastically and laughed, and I looked down for a moment… What is cleverness? Is it really foolish to give into death without sticking to your morals?
“But I have a lot of assignments and lectures every day, and I can hardly leave my room at will…”
He frowned and added, “It’s no different from being confined.” I pulled my consciousness out of the sea of thought for a moment and replied coolly.
“Time is something that can be worked out.”
“… Worked out. Didn’t you leave me alone because you couldn’t work that out?”
Opps, did I slip up? He glared at me and I diverted the topic, “Well, I’ll release you from the assignment hell starting from tomorrow.”
I nodded to Radka, who looked innocently happy. I moved my muscles and showed him a slight show, then he stopped making that expression and his cheeks twitched… This guy has good instincts.
“From tomorrow, you shall be my apprentice maid, apprentice secretary and apprentice guard; unless you want to spend the rest of your life trapped in this mansion. But if you don’t, then do your best to graduate from apprenticeship.”
It was something I had suddenly come up with when I saw the performance of the person who was helping me, but anyway, I don’t have the luxury to choose someone to help me right now, since I’m short on manpower. It wasn’t what I had envisioned I would use him for, but that can’t be helped.
I prepared the next documents as Radka screamed and told him to come to this room tomorrow at breakfast.
He was troubled and grunted for a while.
Then, I got Radka to help me with my work and things had finally settled down.
“… What the fuck do you want me to do with this?”
Those words naturally leaked out of my mouth, probably because I was stunned. This is unnecessary, I looked at Earl Thelesia with a clinging gaze.
“You can only play with it, right? Together with Elize-dono.”
But Earl Thelesia’s calm voice crushed my fragile escape route.
I stared at the item in my hand again. It was a doll that was elaborately made into the figure of a beautiful girl with an indescribable smile on her exquisitely deformed face, to make her look less creepy.
She wore an unfathomably expensive and gorgeous outfit and one would be taken aback first, rather than moved, at the excessiveness of its ornaments. It’s not necessary to pile this doll with frills to the point that it looked ghastly…
I’m not sure if it’s because it’s winter when people stay in their homes or not, but this doll was a gift that was sent in the name of Baron Sherstorck, the father of Elise, the girl staying at Golden Hill Mansion. The Baron took the trouble to send two sets of dolls with different designs. In short, I’m sure the meaning to this was what Earl Thelesia had said, “You and Elize play with these.”
Elize came to Kaldia for recuperation, but on paper, she had come here to be my playmate. I also used her as a front to hide information about Radka, but Baron Sherstorck had no way of knowing this.
A doll is a very orthodox gift for a pre-teen girl, and while I think it’s weird to play with dolls, that would seem like a strange opinion to everyone else.
Among the nobles, a baron is someone who is only granted with the right to own land. Barons rarely show up in high society, so he wouldn’t know that I was already working as a feudal lord and barely had enough time to talk with his daughter. Even if he did know, he wouldn’t think that I, a young girl, wasn’t interested in playing with dolls at all.
Earl Thelesia quickly went back to work as if he didn’t care about my personal preferences. I was left looking at the glistening doll again.
What am I going to do with this? Play with it?
I was troubled and reconsidered, no, wait, wait… In short, Elize will play with this and it’ll be fine if someone plays with her. I don’t have to be the person who plays with her.
I will push this onto Radka… I mean, give it to him and tell him to visit Elize at once tomorrow. I received information that they’ve gotten to know each other pretty well and that he used to sneak out to see Elize several times when he was in the barrack.
Nodding at the good idea that I had come up with, I plucked the first piece of the doll’s layered skirt. The pointlessly elaborate outfit was embroidered even in places that couldn’t be seen. The golden threads that were stitched to make a rose in the topmost cloth flickered in the light.
Upon closer inspection, I realised that the embroidery somehow represented a strange pattern. One part of the embroidery, which would normally be repeated, was different from the others.
I unrolled the other piece of cloth and saw that this doll was also embroidered in the same way. What pattern is this? I pondered as I stared at it, and then suddenly realised that this strange pattern were letters. I tried to read the letters in an appropriate spot, but it was hard to read, since there were no spaces in between the letters. It seemed to be a meaningful sentence.
The next day, I solved the mystery of the embroidery and immediately went to Earl Thelesia’s office.
“A secret letter…? Hmm. He’s training her through dolls.”
The Earl muttered as he looked at the paper which had the words scrawled on it.
“I’ve asked Elize-dono about it, and apparently this rose is a cipher. Elize-dono can’t leave her room, so Viscount Stadel had her solve these riddles for fun, and the rose always contained the cipher.”
Her uncle, Viscount Stadel, was exceptionally fond of her since she was sickly and sometimes spent days in bed, unable to get out. I heard from Elize that he had prepared a lot of different toys for her so that she wouldn’t be bored holed up in her room. Viscount Stadel didn’t have a daughter, so maybe that was why he gave all his affection to his niece. The weakness of Elize’s body may have added to the overprotectiveness of those around her. I was impressed that she had grown with such purity and innocence when she was raised in such an environment.
In order to get the key to the cipher, in the end, it was necessary to play with dolls with her. This was probably a plan by the Viscount who participated in last year’s House of Lords meeting. If that’s the case, then I’ve been perfectly set up.
“So, do you know what it says?”
“Yes. It’s not difficult to understand as long as I carefully separate the words. It was a warning about the movement of the northern nobles.”
Earl Thelesia’s face twisted with just a bit of annoyance at the word ‘northern nobles’.
“He wrote that there are several radical organisations gathered around the Nordsterm House.”
“Foolish. They’re not going to get back the money that was taken away from them, no matter what they do now…”
The Earl sighed deeply as if he was tired. When we thought things were finally settling down, this happened. I’m grateful to Viscount Stadel for informing us about this, since he knew the northern nobles viewed us as enemies, but I couldn’t welcome trouble. Kaldia fief was short-handed even at the best of times, and both the Earl and I were overwhelmed with work.
I felt just a little gloomy when I recalled the malicious gazes of the northern nobles who I met at the House of Lords. We had to confirm whether the contents of the secret letter were true, but I was convinced that it was.
“We’ll have to work a little during my stay at the royal capital.”
I nodded at the Earl’s words. This year I’ll be heading straight to the royal capital as soon as winter is over, and the sowing is done. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done there.