The Nordsterm House is a great noble line, and the head of the house has the rank of marquis. Three generations ago, a Princess also married into their line, so they have a connection to the royal capital. They have a bad reputation since they maintain their wealth through lending money, and so there aren’t many nobles who can resist them. In addition, most of the nobles who represent the north are branch families of the Nordsterm House, and their influence in the north is said to be greater than that of the royal family.
I sighed in my mind; we’ve been marked by a really troublesome opponent.
The northern lands have been treated as the least important in Arxia since long ago. Amon Nohl lies on the border with the other kingdoms, and the north faces the rough, wavy sea. Their land was cold and infertile. They were also poorly positioned for marine trade. There are other kingdoms to the east, but the north has been largely under the control of Denzel for a long time. Randil might not have the navigational technology needed to pass the northern fiefs yet. They had little to no produce, and the northern fiefs weren’t valued as a national trading ground or a defensive area. Probably because of that, I’ve heard that there are many poor areas that are very lifeless in the north.
For that reason, there was only one family, the Nordsterm House, who ruled over the northern region until the founding of Arxia. Not one noble was dispatched to the north until the very end as a result of prioritising fiefs which needed to be governed in detail. It was impossible for the head of the Nordsterm House to govern the vast land by himself, so the land was divided and given to branch members, and about a hundred and twenty years ago, that system of governance was changed into the feudal system of the royal capital, and has remained that way till today.
The Nordsterm House, which governed these lands, formed a relationship with the royal family simply because of financial factors. It is said that they have financial numerous fiefs around them, and their income from the interest alone was used to fund the management of their fiefs.
I recalled that Earl Thelesia said that the royal family had married a Princess to the Nordsterm House, even though it didn’t benefit the kingdom, as a last resort to bring their fortune back to the centre.
Arxia’s royal family is made up of two families, preventing the succession of the throne from leaving the hands of the royal family. The Nordsterm House put a third of their assets into the treasury in exchange for a woman from the Merliart House, even though they weren’t the royal family.
Earl Thelesia said that he heard this from Marquis Rettalgau who was at the ‘imperial court’ when this was decided, so there was no doubt that this information was correct.
A noble family whose assets had been reduced, but had ties with the royal family, was gathering people and directing their hostility towards me. Give me a break.
They were showing hostility towards us, in the first place, because the House of Lords decided that they would split the defence costs that they had given to the north to Kaldia, Jugfena and Junas. The House of Lords didn’t make the wrong decision when they decided to redirect unspent money to where it would be spent.
However, the northern nobles are currently only marking Kaldia fief, in other words, me. Aren’t they just resenting me for no reason or taking their anger out on me since they’re not targeting Earl Einsbark, the governor of Einsbark royal fief, or Margrave Junas?
I sighed once again as I thought that far. I’ve thought about this many times over the winter, but whenever I had time, I couldn’t help but think about this disturbing omen.
“… Don’t look so gloomy.”
Earl Thelesia, who was seated across from me, snored in the carriage on the way to the royal capital.
“It won’t take long anyway. Junas and Jugfena also need Kaldia to sort the fief out as soon as possible, and officially, the plans to get the fief sorted are made by Earl Thelesia. It wasn’t a good idea for the Nordsterm House to move against the three families, Thelesia, Junas, and Einsbark, as they only had assets and no weapons.”
“I’m sure the Nordsterm House knew that from the beginning. If they are aware of this and are still moving against us, then they must have some backing?”
I’m worried about the powers other than the Nordsterm House.
The Nordsterm House had nothing except for money and the northern nobles. Those alone posed no threat. However, depending on who was helping them, things can be stirred up. It seemed like there was a problem with how the Nordsterms spent their abundant funds.
“Do you think the Nordsterms are connected to something that could upset the dynamics of the kingdom?”
Earl Thelesia raised an eyebrow and confirmed my concerns. The decision to discontinue the excess funds to the north and pay those costs to the southwest fiefs was a decision made by the House of Lords, and that decision was treated as if it had been decided by all the nobles of this kingdom. In short, it was the kingdom’s policy.
By the way, the House of Lords was made up of nobles who have a rank above Viscount and Imperial nobles with the rank of Earl and higher. Nobles of lower status are supposed to be indirectly involved in representing the participating nobles, and the reason why I usually don’t attend the House of Lords was because I can appoint my guardian, Earl Thelesia, as my proxy.
“But if not, then would the conservative northern nobles try to do something that would interfere with the decision made by the House of Lords?”
I replied to his question with a question, but the Earl nodded with a huff. Unlike the nobles in the royal capital, the conservative northern nobles are cautious about the risk of their dwindling influence.
The fact that they were gathering together around the Nordsterm House meant that something was going on. It’s best to be cautious.
It seemed that there was something called a rite of passage in society.
As I knelt for hours in the darkness in the Great Temple of Misorua, the headquarters of the Ar Xia religion, which surrounded the royal palace in the capital, I thought about this while repenting.
Seven years old is a milestone in Arxia.
This is the age when children can begin receiving punishments for breaking the law. It is the age when one makes a full-fledged vow to obey the laws of Xia and are held accountable for breaking them.
The children of commoners are gathered in a nearby chapel to celebrate their birth, then they are made to listen to the Sacred Code, but noble children are different. They contact the Great Temple of Misorua and set a date and time for their ceremony, and after purifying themselves with running water like a wedge, they repent in solitude in this dark room for about half a day. Afterwards, they recite a passage from the Sacred Code and pledged obedience to the law in front of God and the priests.
At the same time, this ritual was also a way to formally enter the Ar Xia Church. Until the age of seven, children entered the religion on a provisional basis. This was because a lot of children died before the age of seven and children under the age of seven couldn’t distinguish between what was right and wrong.
My seventh year awoke memories of the shichi-go-san celebrationsIt’s a traditional rite of passage in Japan. In the corner of my mind, the memory of my past life which had emerged so strongly, whispered to me that all religions were shady and there was no such thing as God. I silenced that voice which was complaining about the stupidity of shutting myself up in the dark for half a day and repenting.
It doesn’t matter if Misorua is real or not. I don’t need any true faith to belong to Ar Xia. What mattered was whether or not I followed the society ordered by that doctrine.
… I kept dreaming about my previous life while I was asleep for nearly a month. I called them ‘memories of my previous life’ for convenience, but they were memories of a woman who lived in another world, which had been in my head since I was born.
The memories which had gradually faded away over the past seven years, leaving only things related to this world, were mostly about the trivial life of the woman who those memories belonged to. Since the origins of that world, and the way people lived their lives there are completely different from here, those memories were something that I had left to be forgotten, since they were unnecessary.
… I was shown those memories endlessly in my dreams, just like a vivid movie. Inevitably, the memories of my previous life, which I had never paid any attention to before, began to haunt me uncomfortably.
I couldn’t accept these memories as something that had happened in my own past, and it felt like I was reading about a heroine in a novel, or the whispers of a ghost.
But because of that, I also felt fear. A person’s personality depended largely on their memories. When I remember that my existence now may be overwritten without me knowing, by that woman from my previous world, I get a chill down my spine.
――― I am Eliza Kaldia, and I live in Arxia Kingdom. I am not the young woman who lived in Japan.
I kneeled in the darkness, a position that criminals were forced to take at the time of their execution, and seriously reflected on my short, sin-stained life, while half bidding farewell to my previous life.
After finishing the ceremony as planned, I looked around the Great Temple’s sanctuary and other buildings for a while since I had to wait for Earl Thelesia.
The Earl is my escort, but he had his own business to attend to. A bishop who can perform Ar Xia rituals was finally coming to my fief. This time, the Earl had to deal with the paperwork and conditions for the transfer of the bishop.
Incidentally, the word ‘bishop’ reminded me of a high-ranking clergyman from my previous life’s memories, but in Ar Xia it meant someone who taught the teachings of Ar Xia. They were literally someone who taught the creed.
Following the guide of a priest, I entered the sanctuary. At that moment, I was dazzled by the attentive details of the structures.
Wherever I looked, the elaborate carved stone statues and wooden frames had unparalleled beauty, and there were two streams of water flowing out from the front platform. The round window opened wide on the ceiling was shaped like a flower, and the stained glass magnificently lit up the sanctuary. The jewels inlaid into the eyes of the stone statues shone with that light and intensified the unrealistic scene inside of the sanctuary.
Further above the platform, was an altar dedicated to the remains of Saint Ahar, and to my surprise, it was a fountain. There were stones around the fountain which caused the water to border around in a circle, and there was a coffin made out of gold enclosed by glass in the centre.
“Isn’t it wonderful?”
The priest who was guiding me said with just a hint of pride.
I could only nod. I didn’t know any other structures that were as beautiful as this even if I searched through the memories of my previous life. I couldn’t take my eyes off the structures, since they were so magnificent, and let my gaze wander around each one that drew my interest for a while. The priest let me look at them until I got bored.
When I was looking at the workmanship from the ceiling to the floor, and from the walls to the platform, a voice suddenly spoke to me from behind.
“Oh, you… aren’t you the Kaldia girl?”
It was a mysterious voice that sounded both old and young, and like a woman’s or a man’s. There was something familiar about this distinctive voice.
I turned around and saw a person dressed in a white priest’s robe.
“I see you’ve done your oath ceremony. You look awful for someone who had just been a wedge and confessed.”
The priest, who had performed the ceremony for my birthday celebration last spring, had an indescribable and thin smile on his face. It was the first time I had seen him in a year, but my cheeks twitched since he didn’t look that much different from what I remembered of him.
“… You sure, well, work a lot for someone so young.”
He must have found it interesting, since he looked at me and muttered in amusement, and my shoulders jumped.
I knew that this mysterious priest was hard to deal with. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking at all, and yet the way he spoke made it seem like he could see right through me, and it made me feel unsettled.
“Chief Priest, please don’t tease Viscountess Kaldia too much…”
The priest who was guiding me warned Priest Faris in a troubled tone. Priest Faris shrugged, then walked straight towards the altar.
|↑1||It’s a traditional rite of passage in Japan|