Before I knew it, I had dropped my clenched fists into the running water of the channel. A boy soldier, who was standing nearby, came to my side, perhaps because he had heard the sound of the splashing water. It was Paul, who had served as a messenger in Jugfena. He had gone from a squire to an official soldier after returning from Jugfena Fortress, and although he had never stepped foot in the developing land, Claudia valued his nimbleness, and had him come along in case we needed a messenger.
He dropped his gaze curiously onto the irrigation channel and asked in a friendly tone, “My Lord, what are you doing?” His wavy golden hair swayed lightly in the wind. It reminded me of spring fluff and made me feel a little better.
“I’m cooling my hands in the water. My hands got sweaty in the gloves, and it feels gross…”
My hands, which were wet from sweat and burnt, gradually lost their heat in the flowing water that remained cold even in the summer heat. At the same time, it seemed to have cooled the heavy and murky feelings of guilt that I had towards the villagers.
Paul copied me and dipped his hand into the water. “Ah, it’s really cold,” he muttered, then smiled happily.
“It makes you want to bath in cold water, doesn’t it?”
“It would be nice in this heat, but I don’t think it would be possible in an irrigation channel. I’ve asked the villagers to prepare a tub for you to wipe your body with, so you’ll have to be satisfied with that.”
“Alright. ――― I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but you don’t seem like you’re younger than me, My Lord. You act like you’re older.”
Unsure about how to answer the boy who had said this in admiration, I dropped my gaze to the water. Paul giggled next to me. The boy’s laughter was terribly out of place in this tense village, but I felt strangely relieved as I listened to him. It was as if he was sprinkling peace around us.
“…To the villagers, you have a scary expression on your face, My Lord.”
Paul gave a small nod towards the villagers who were surrounding us as if it was nothing. I couldn’t do anything but nod my head and smile wryly.
“I used to live in this village. But my home is in Claria Village now.”
“Oh, Is that so? Just to let you know, I won’t give you the time to get reacquainted with people.”
I reminded him while being confused at his abrupt confession, and Paul blurted out, “Hey, what’s with that reaction?”
“Ahaha, of course I know that. That wasn’t what I meant… Don’t you want me to convince the villagers? I’m sure the villagers remember me.”
I blinked when he told me this. Convince. I hadn’t thought about that.
“I thought that My Lord was scary before I joined the army. The villagers are also afraid of My Lord. You don’t smile at all, so it was the same even after I joined the army.”
“I don’t think you’ll look scary if you just smiled a little,” he muttered in the end, but my ears picked this up.
“But I didn’t think you were scary when I saw you trying to help the Sill Tribe. When I talk to you now, it’s kind of a let-down, since our conversations are surprisingly normal. My parents didn’t suffer during the reign of the previous feudal lord, so I might be the only person who feels this way… But I think it’s a bit of a shame for them to be afraid of you without knowing how you are. It’s tiring for both sides.”
Paul began to speak without context, which was egoistic and extremely meddlesome. Even so, my heart remained calm and I just listened to him without interrupting.
Convince… Would it be better to persuade the villagers that the fief army were no longer the feudal lord’s pawns?
The army soldiers would rather have my head chopped off in a heartbeat if I lost my way. To Earl Thelesia and I, the soldiers were one of the guidelines that reflected the will of the people, and they were like internal audits to me. It wasn’t desirable at all to leave them in a situation where they are viewed as ‘pawns of the feudal lord’ since that would only increase the citizens’ anxiety.
The cool breeze blowing down from the mountains intercepted the summer heat and sent it flying. Paul and I remained silent and listened to the sound of the wind and the running water for a short while.
Even if I let him convince them, the current ‘fief army’ doesn’t have any persuasive power over any village. I felt bad for Paul, who was waiting for my answer, but I don’t think his words would lower the villager’s suspicion and caution.
About half an hour later, the village suddenly got noisy.
“Eliza-dono, it’s an emergency.”
Claudia softly whispered to me. She didn’t get my name wrong for once and had the most serious look in her eyes that I have ever seen. I left him alone and wondered what I should do.
Paul looked up at Claudia anxiously.
“What’s going on?”
“A monster has been found in the woods near the village. I heard that it is unusually similar to a large Lisol. I also found traces of monsters while surveying the area, so I would like you to check it out.”
Claudia picked me up and put me on her horse as she gave her report. Then, she jumped up behind me and called out to Paul as she pulled the reins.
“Can you go ask the villagers for more information? I believe the person who found the monster is still resting in the hall.”
Paul nodded, and I gave him another order while watching his back as he was about to run off as fast as he could.
“Paul, talk to the vigilante corps and Gunter while you’re at it. Tell them to gather at the village chief’s house.”
“Yes, My Lord.”
This time, Claudia pulled the reins as I watched Paul run off.
Claudia and I sat down on chairs that had been prepared for us in a large room at the village chief’s house. Those who had gathered before us also sat down in their respective seats in silence, while various emotions ran across their faces. There were a lot of people in the room, but it didn’t feel stuffy since there was a half opened window on the ceiling. Claudia took the cup that had been given to her and gulped it down.
The chairs were arranged in a circle. Gunter sat on the other side of Claudia, and next to him sat a soldier named Asyl, who looked nervous.
On the other side of Claudia sat a dirty man and woman, who were looking around nervously. They were the coordinators of the vigilante corps in Cyril Village. There weren’t enough men in this fief, so women also joined the vigilante corps. The village chief sat at the back, and he was looking at me in fright.
The last person, who was sitting furthest away from me, was Paul, and he was looking around, puzzled.
“Paul, report on the monster that the villagers say they saw.”
Paul wasn’t used to being present for such an occasion and replied in a shrill voice. He shrieked a little when Gunter looked at him sharply. Then, he gulped a few times before speaking in a calm voice.
“According to the villagers, the person, who went to get firewood, found a monster they had never seen before in the woods to the north. They said it looked like a large Lisol. It seemed to be preying on the wild sheep in the forest, so if it is left alone, then the village might get damaged.”
“Did you ask what kind of monster it was?”
“Yes. Unlike Lisols, it was apparently covered in rocks and icy crystals instead of scales.”
I see, Claudia and I looked at each other and nodded.
We could narrow down the monsters that fit the bill by combining the traces that Claudia had found with the information from the witness.
“It’s almost certainly a Radcisilka. It’s a monster that mainly lives at the foot of Amon Nohl and possesses magic that freezes anything that touches its claws. I’ve seen the traces that Claudia found and there are claw marks that look like they belong to a radcisilka in the eastern outskirts of the northern forest.”
Radcisilkas avoided sunlight and moved in shady places like caves and forests during the day, probably because of its nature of living in Amon Nohl, which was covered in clouds all year long. According to the vigilante corps, the northern forest had more trees to the west, so it is thought that the radcisilka had moved westward to avoid the sunlight.
“It freezes anything that touches its claws. Hey… Sorry, we’ll be able to preserve meat in summer if we catch that, right?”
Gunter commented lightly, but unfortunately, that won’t go well.
“No. The claws of radcisilka contain a liquid that is poisonous to humans, and the frozen food will be contaminated by that poison. We must take care of it before it enters the village.”
When I answered, everyone paled. It’s not every day that you come across a life-threatening monster. They must have realised that this threat was very close to the village.
After actually seeing the monster in the forest, it was determined that it was indeed a Radcisilka, and the vigilante corps surrounded the forest with torches. Radcisilkas were sensitive to heat and didn’t like fire. One couldn’t help but wonder why a monster like that would come down from the snowy mountains in summer.
… Speaking of which, I looked up at the sky. The sun was completely sinking behind Amon Nohl while we were preparing. There were a number of phosphorescent moths dancing in under the night sky, making sparks. It seems like there are a lot more phosphorescent moths this year.
“Abnormal behaviour can be seen from the monsters, huh?”
I naturally frowned as I muttered this. I recalled the documents that Earl Thelesia had sent me after I woke up from my coma. They were documents about the Jugfena Fortress’s defensive war.
The refugees from old Artolas which had been killed inside the fortress; their corpses were said to have been torn apart by fangs and claws of large beasts.
“My lord, we’re ready.”
I was thinking about the monster when Gunter called out to me and my attention returned to the forest in front of me.
“Good work. Claudia-dono and I will wait outside of the forest… Listen, don’t forget to heat your weapons with the wooden braziers when you attack.”
Three soldiers were given buckets filled with red charcoal and five soldiers were given weapons. That was the number of soldiers that I’d managed to pull away from the group that was preparing traps for the bandits. It was an undependable number of soldiers for exterminating a monster, but I could only leave it to Gunter and hope that they stay safe.
“I’m going to give you this order just in case but prioritise your lives over anything else. You dying will cause more damage than failing to get rid of the monster. Is that clear? … Alright, go.”
They replied in unison, and the soldiers, led by Gunter with a spear in his hand, headed into the forest. The trees gradually hid them, and I soon lost sight of them altogether.
“I hope this ends peacefully…”
Paul muttered softly as he stood behind me. He was peering anxiously at the villagers, who were surrounding the forest with their torches, instead of the forest.
“Those who live in the martial world believe in their comrades, act with confidence and wait without panicking.”
Claudia chided him in a much calmer voice than usual, and Paul quickly straightened up and turned towards the forest.
A tension-filled silence spread all around us.
Then ――― the soldiers’ roar echoed from within the forest.
Everyone stared at the forest with intense concentration. The tension from inside the forest could be conveyed by sound alone. Someone gulped and cleared their throat.
Gunter’s angry roars mixed in with the soldiers’ screams. That was how I could tell that they were having a tough time. I clutched my sleeves tightly.
“… Hey, isn’t it kind of cold?”
Who was the first person to say that?
Like cold air that emitted from ice, the cool air unpleasantly caressed the parts of my body which weren’t covered by thin and short sleeves.
Just then, a strange sound came from the forest.
It sounded like a snap. The sounds overlapped each other and became audible, and the soldiers in the forest began to raise their voices in confusion and surprise. After the screams, there was the sound of something hard crashing together.
Something strange was happening. The outside of the forest was completely silent. Everyone, including me, was staring at what was going on in the forest.
“Ah, look at that! The forest is freezing over!”
One of the villagers shouted in a panic. Everyone started making a commotion.
When I looked in the direction that the villager was pointing, I saw that the trees were indeed frozen white. Furthermore, the white area was slowly expanding; more area was being frozen.
“Its magic is enough to freeze the forest…?”
This was the origin of the chill from earlier. I felt uneasy about whether Gunter and the others in the forest are safe. The area around Radcisilkas should be completely frozen.
The fact that they were wearing leather armour instead of metal armour actually helped in this situation. How bad would their frostbite be had they been wearing metal armour over their thin summer clothes?
All I could do was listen carefully to see if mournful voices were coming from the forest.
Then, Claudia suddenly jumped in front of me.
I saw a giant lizard running towards us while mowing down trees over Claudia’s back. A radcisilka with arrows stuck on its body was crawling towards us at an extremely fast speed. Silver blood was spraying out from its body.
“Whoa! It came out?!”
The villagers behind us all screamed in unison.
Paul snapped at the sound of Claudia’s voice, and picked me up. At the same time, Claudia drew the sword at her waist. The sword wasn’t long, and she threw it with great momentum at the Radcisilka, which made me wonder how such power can come from her slender arms.
The sword pierced into the Radcisilka’s forehead with a thump. But even so, the giant lizard didn’t die. It opened its huge mouth which was lined with fiendishly sharp teeth and jumped forward at Claudia in order to bite her.
Claudia’s long golden hair spread out beautifully in the air. I saw her leap in the air gracefully as her hair flipped in the air. She nimbly escaped from the Radcisilka’s teeth. She held her spear with both hands and thrusted it into the Radcisilka’s neck.
There was a duller and louder sound than when it was stabbed with the sword earlier. Claudia skilfully used her own falling weight and strongly pierced the Radcisilka’s flesh open.
I snatched a torch from a nearby villager.
Claudia safely grabbed the tossed torch with one hand and pressed the flame against the tip of her spear.
The radcisilka squirmed violently. White smoke that looked like water vapour erupted from the place where Claudia had pressed the flame.
“Hold it down!”
Gunter jumped out from the forest and swung the broadsword in his right hand down onto the lizard’s neck.
The soldiers came out after him and surrounded the lizard before swinging their swords down.
Silver blood spread out from their feet in a flash.
――― The radcisilka eventually turned over on its back and stopped moving.
The corpse of the lizard, which had finally died after having several swords, arrows and spears stabbed into its body, was stained silver in its own blood and became magnificent.