I was suddenly awoken by the sounds of a horse’s footsteps running through the quiet noble district.
The moon had already begun to set. I turned over in my sleep, wondering who the hell it was at this late hour of the night, and jumped out of bed when the footsteps stopped right in front of the mansion.
I wrapped a light blanket around my shoulders and looked out the window. Dimly illuminated by the moonlight, I saw the shadow of a small rider jumping down from the horse.
――― That horse is a Kaldia Army’s war horse. The war horses, who were selectively bred in Luctfeld, were different from the horses that were used normally, and can be easily recognised at a glance.
Did something happen in the fief?
I ran out of the room before I could even think about it.
“Wait, Erge-dono. It’s not a good idea to go out like that.”
Claudia grabbed me by the shoulders the moment I was about to run out of the room, and I jumped in surprise. She combed my hair, giggled then pushed me back into the room.
“I’m a maid right now, so I can’t let my Master show herself like this to others. I’ll go greet the guest at the entrance, so get dressed in the meantime.”
She said, and for some reason, she was dressed in a shirt and trousers that looked easy to move in like training clothes instead of her pyjamas.
“… Claudia-dono, when did you wake up?”
“I woke up a little before you, Eleia-dono. Ah, it’s my rule to not wear pyjamas since I need to move around as a knight.”
It was a completely appalling rule for a daughter of a noble. I felt at my wits end even though I had just woken up, and silently did what she told me to do. Then, I went downstairs when I had changed.
I was grateful that I didn’t show up in front of one of my citizens with my hair down.
Paul, a soldier from the army, brought news on his fast horse that a band of thieves from a neighbouring kingdom had invaded the fief.
The bandits had been hiding along the edge of the Monster Forest in Jugfena royal fief and had been travelling between the two countries through Junas fief. The armies of the two fiefs failed to capture the bandits due to the border. Although their current location is unknown, there was only one place where the bandits could be since they were sandwiched between the armies of Jugfena and Junas, which was Kaldia.
The army fief had already been scattered throughout the fief since Ergnard had sent news ahead of time, and the Sill Tribe had volunteered to go out to search for the bandits. I hope they get caught before they harm the citizens of the fief…
I decided to return to the fief on the spot when I heard this news. I have to take command of the fief’s army. I will have to deal with the bandits if we catch them.
After making the minimum preparations, I took Paul, Claudia and Radka and left the royal capital from the east, before the sunrise.
I clicked my tongue in my mind since this was the worst timing imaginable. The Descending Festival, which was just around the corner, was hosted by the royal family, and was the largest social event of its kind. The loss from missing that evening would be quite a blow.
If this hadn’t happened, then I didn’t want to leave the royal capital during this year’s social season at all if possible. I also don’t want to move Radka right away after receiving that kind of warning yesterday, and most importantly, Earl Thelesia wasn’t well.
It was social season, which meant that it was a time when nobles from all over the kingdom gathered in the royal capital. Of course, many of the northern nobles, who are acting suspiciously, are also in the royal capital. If they spread minor rumours while the Earl and I are unable to move, then it could cause a heavy blow. The fact that we can’t respond straight away meant that we are at a disadvantage.
It was already late in the evening when the horses passed the Golden Hill Mansion and stopped at the very centre of the fief, where the new feudal lord’s residence was about to be built.
Only the foundations of the mansion had been built and it was located on a hill that was noticeably higher than the surrounding area. To the east runs a river that flows from Amon Nohl. The river was Sela River and is the opposite counterpart of Luqta River, which marks the borderline of the western fief. Located upstream is Cyril Village, and on the other side of the river is a flat lake area.
“You’re here, Lord?”
I heard the Artolas language from behind me the moment I jumped off my horse. I turned around and saw a man from the Sill Tribe, dressed in a tunic with a unique pattern woven on it, run up to me.
“Yeah, I just got back. How’s the fief, Theo?”
The young man, Theo ――― Theomer, was elected by the Sill Tribe to communicate directly with me. He led a group of young warriors and it was inevitable for me to have to speak to him, so I’ve spoken to him the most out of everyone in the Sill Tribe.
“Right now, we’re leading the search from the centre to the east of Sela River. But it’s only a matter of time before they cross the river. The fief soldiers are guarding the village and riverfront under Gunter-san’s orders.”
“I see… It’s easy to leave traces in the lake area. But if they still haven’t been found, then they’ve probably left the fief once. They might be straddling Juna’s fief border just like the time they gave the royal fief army soldiers the slip… If we can cooperate with the other fiefs’ armies…”
Although I had said that, it was impossible. I scowled. The Lady, who is acting on behalf of Margrave Junas since he was away from his fief, was famous for her dislike of Kaldia.
Latching onto my father’s misdeeds and the figure I inherited, Lady Kano makes no effort to hide the fact that she despises the Kaldia House as the『Devil Clan』. On the other hand, she even manifests her dislike onto the people of Kaldia, the biggest victims of my parents, so I guess she hates Kaldia fief itself. I don’t know the details, but it is said that the relationship between her father and my grandfather was like cats and dogs.
I shook my head and changed my thinking. I’ll use a different method. Even if I do send a message, it’s better for me to think about what will happen if I get rejected, and make my move.
“Theo, are there still any warriors from the Sill Tribe who can still move?”
“… Yeah, I left half of them behind for the construction.”
While saying that, his expression changed into a stern one. Of course it would, from what I had said.
But I still said it.
“We’ll postpone the construction. Mobilise all those who can move.”
Theomer didn’t agree. He stepped forward and grabbed my shoulders. He probably didn’t put that much strength into his grip, but my little shoulders creaked a bit.
I bit down my pain. I didn’t allow myself to move even the slightest muscle in my cheeks. I stared straight into Theomer’s glaring eyes.
“I can’t agree with the fact that our living place is going to take slower to build than it already is. Or are the original citizens more important than us, the newcomers? Did you lie to us when you said that you would treat us the same way?”
Theomer asked sharply in a low voice. He had a valid point, and I knew the reason why he was so angry.
Theomer is one of the clan chiefs. In place of the chiefs who had been lost while fleeing from Densel, the other clans only had old men from the previous generations as their chiefs. He’s the youngest of the eight clan chiefs who moved to this fief, and the Sill Tribe expected a lot from them, regardless of how young or old they are.
And in front of the chiefs, I had indeed declared that I would treat them as my own citizens, the same as the people who lived in this land to begin with.
… Even so, the construction work has been significantly delayed beyond what was planned. The death of Kamil, the supervisor, the death of the farmers who were supposed to help, and the departure of the new supervisor, me. They were working with unfamiliar building materials, and a completely different environment and lifestyle than what the Sill Tribe was used to.
I laid my small hand on top of Theomer’s on my shoulder.
“My promise doesn’t change. Theomer Tealit. I’m also troubled that your place of residence hasn’t been finished… I didn’t go to the royal capital to play around. I’ve taken steps to ensure that there wouldn’t be any problems even if construction is halted.”
Theomer slowly closed and opened one of his eyes. The flames of the touches that were burning around us danced and swayed in his stony grey eyes.
“I’ve spoken to Lord Carlson, known for his woodwork. In a month’s time, 60 men and a whole workshop will be coming here. They will make ships, piers and furniture that you’ve been having difficulty with. They’ll also be processing wood for building. I also asked them to provide me with a weaving machine and spinning wheel.”
Yes, I wasn’t having fun in the royal capital. I don’t have the time or right to do so.
“Please understand. It’s selfish of me to ask this since I’ve accepted you, but the citizens don’t like me very much. On top of that, I have to protect them, so for that reason, I will pull you guys into battle, since you are strong. I’m not taking away your way of life as a warrior simply because I respect it.”
Theomer’s hands, which were on my shoulders, completely relaxed. He looked me in the eyes. His eyes weren’t like Earl Thelesia’s, which could see right through me. His eyes looked as if they were trying to understand what I was thinking.
“But I’ll reward you for your work.”
I can see my blood-red eyes along with the flames in his eyes. Like a testament to my sins, they were the exact same colour as my father’s.
Theomer stood up, urged by Claudia who was watching the course of events from behind me. Then, he faced me and hung his head down.
“… I was rude. I’ll move all the warriors as instructed by the Lord. I’ll take them west.”
“Thank you for your help.”
Theomer tilted his head when I said this and gave a faint smile, as if he wanted to say something. However, he turned around without saying a word and jumped on his horse. He joined up with the Sill Tribe warriors who were waiting for him on the other side and rode down the hill.
I watched their backs for a while and heard the light sounds of a child’s foot tramping over the gravel in frustration.