Soldiers, who were working on other tasks, were quickly called to take care of the radcisilka corpse as soon as possible.
Although all the soldiers who had participated in the battle had frostbite on their hands and feet, it wasn’t too severe, so they were able to recover reasonably well by alternately soaking their hands and feet in hot and cold water. I was relieved that most of the soldiers were fine. I only knew about radcisilkas from books, so I didn’t know they could manipulate cold air like that. If Gunter and Claudia hadn’t handled that well, then there could have been casualties.
I rested for the night and then went to look at the trap for the bandits. I tried it out with my horse, but there didn’t seem to be any problems with making the trench. All that was left was the length of the trench, but I guess it could all be done by noon today at this rate.
“Heyy, can someone secure the sides a little more?! It’s going to collapse!”
I heard a shout of anger from inside of the trench as I patrolled around. Claudia and I looked at each other, then approached the trench with water and a spade to strengthen the hole. There was a soldier inside rushing to harden the soil.
“Right there at the crack. Sorry but I can’t leave this spot. The dirt over here isn’t hardening well. Give me a hand.”
The soldier really couldn’t leave the spot that they were in and didn’t even look at us. Claudia and I cautiously worked on the unfamiliar task.
“Hey, My Lord. Theomer is here… Hey, what’re you doing? Jou-chan, you too.”
Gunter called out to us just as we had finished hardening the area that we were asked to work on. He looked down at the trench with a mixture of surprise and amazement since he didn’t expect us to help out with the work.
“M-my Lord, you said?!”
The soldier, who was working behind us, heard Gunter’s voice and turned around vigorously. His jaw dropped when he confirmed that it was Claudia and I.
“I, I, I, I, I, I asked My Lord to play in dirt.”
“Calm down. We just helped out since it didn’t seem like there were enough people. That’s all. If there’s any other places that need urgent attention, then I’ll call another soldier.”
“N… no, it’s fine now. There shouldn’t be any places that seem like they’ll collapse.”
I concluded that I was done with helping and asked Gunter to pull me up with a rope. Claudia easily jumped out of the trench that was as tall as her. What kind of physical abilities does she have?! I’d like her not to do that, since it would be unsettling for the villagers who set up the capture stage to see that it wasn’t functioning. Since she’s the only one who can do this since she’s crazy, I knew that the height of the trench was enough.
Theomer brought ten warriors with him and they were looking curiously at the buildings in Milda Village. I saw envy in their eyes when they looked at the rooftops and the pit of my stomach hurt.
“… Ah, morning, My Lord. I’ve come to report.”
“Let me hear it.”
According to Theomer, the bandits cautiously approached the outskirts of Lecheneaut Village last night. However, they gave up on raiding it since they saw that security had been fortified there. After that, they moved further west. They were probably heading to Milda just as we had planned.
“When they saw what Lecheneaut Village was like, they sped up. We’re going to reduce the number of warriors on the road, so they’ll arrive near the village in the evening at the latest.”
“There’s not much time to spare…”
“Shall we make them take a detour? If we’re going to do it, then we should do it now.”
“No… More importantly, I’m sorry, but we need help.”
Theomer blinked at my suggestion. He looked down at me and said sarcastically, “I’m quite used to digging holes.”
“That’s good. People who can dig holes and ride horses are the best of the best in the army.”
Claudia said nonchalantly, then put the shovel in her hand over her shoulder. Theomer looked at her in astonishment, and I held my forehead at the same time.
“… Kuku, ahaha! … That’s right. Alright, I got it. Let’s have the young warriors gain some experience.”
We were able to complete everything during the day with the help of the Sill Tribe warriors who Theomer had lent us. The only thing left to do was spread dirt and sand on top of the holes to make it look less unnatural.
Claudia and Gunter stood casually beside me as I was giving out orders. I looked around to see what was going on and saw a few figures from the village heading towards us.
They were the village chief and two unfamiliar girls. One of the girls was still young and had the same eyes and nose as the village chief, indicating that they were related.
“Stop, what do you want?!”
Gunter stood in his spot and raised his voice. Even though this was the outskirts of the village, it was currently occupied by the fief army for military purposes. The villagers weren’t allowed to enter.
“G-good morning. I would like to express my gratitude to the feudal lord and fief army for killing the monsters…”
The three of them bowed deeply, and I felt a light bitterness in his voice.
“It’s unnecessary. Eliminating monsters is originally the job of the feudal lord.”
I felt the soldiers glance this way. They were probably wondering what was going on and my palms were damp with sweat. I understood that the gazes of the villagers, who were surrounding us at a distance like they were yesterday, were piercingly sharp.
“… B-but, if we are not thankful enough towards the feudal lord then…”
When I refused him, the village chief sounded panicked and puzzled. His gaze shifted to me and our surroundings.
Gunter gripped the spear in his right hand with both hands as if he had been aggravated by the village chief. Even Claudia seemed a little confused and slightly raised her sword from its scabbard.
At that moment, the girl, who looked to be the village chief’s daughter, suddenly raised her face. With resolution on her face, her gaze moved to meet me, who was hidden by Gunter and Claudia. Unsure of what she was thinking, I stared back at her to see if I can read the emotion in her eyes. Our eyes met for less than two seconds.
Then, she suddenly dropped to her knees and bowed.
Her unreadable movements caused the soldiers to become agitated. The other girl also did the same and knelt down. Then, the two girls fell flat on their faces in my direction.
“Please listen, soldiers. These two are…”
“I know that we have been rude to you My Lord. But please, please forgive us two girls.”
The village chief was interrupted by his kneeling daughter, who had shouted directly at me.
“Disrespectful,” I could have said. Villagers aren’t allowed to speak directly to nobles unless they are permitted to. Maybe I hadn’t said that because the girl’s voice sounded desperate and maybe pathetic.
The village chief looked down at them, wondering what she was going on about. Apparently, this girl’s behaviour was also surprising for the village chief. His expression, which was full of anger towards his daughters, gradually turned into bitterness.
I stared at their lowered heads. Why are these girls so desperate? I couldn’t see their expressions and they haven’t uttered a word since the previous proclamation, so I couldn’t read their tone either.
“Don’t say something stupid.”
“… I haven’t said anything yet.”
Gunter looked tense and dismissed my call. I wouldn’t give him an order without thinking over it.
“Gunter, take those two girls and drag them in front of me.”
“I said… What?”
“I told you to capture them for their earlier disrespect.”
I tried to keep my voice from trembling as I gave the command, and it came out awfully indifferent and cold. My high-pitched and childish voice must have transmitted well since I saw the girls’ shoulders jump.
Gunter looked down at me, stunned. The soldiers, who were surrounding me, and the villagers, who were petrified, were staring at me with disgust.
A gentle breeze blew through and swayed the grass. There was a whoosh.
“What are you doing, Gunter? This is an order from the feudal lord.”
Claudia said to Gunter, who stood there while looking down on me. She briskly walked through the soldiers with her favourite spear in her right hand, while her golden hair danced in the slight breeze. Gunter quickly chased after her. They tied the girls’ hands behind their backs, held them down and stood them up. Claudia didn’t flinch as she pinned the girl down in front of me. In contrast, Gunter didn’t hide his confusion as he took her lead.
This time, the two girls, who were made to kneel at my feet, stayed still without groaning.
“Don’t you know about disrespect towards nobles? Answer me, woman with the red hair.”
When I spoke to the village chief’s daughter, she immediately answered, “No.” Her voice was trembling this time.
“You must have something you want me to hear since you went to such lengths. I will listen to what you have to say before I decide on your punishments. Raise your heads.”
After I said that, I thought that it was extremely rude to say. But Claudia miraculously seemed to understand my intentions and didn’t try to forcefully pull the girl up. She lightly tapped the girl’s shoulder and urged her to stand up on her own.
I called them under the pretence of punishing them for the crime they had committed and used the pretence of deciding on their punishment to ask them what they wanted. If they really opposed me, then the danger would decrease by having the two strongest people in the army pin them down.
It was reasonable that Claudia understood my actions quicker than Gunter since she was raised as a noble. Claudia was usually average, so I couldn’t keep up with the personality gap that occurs in her when she suddenly becomes capable at times like this.
The two girls raised their heads and stared at me. Then, they paled.
“… Feudal… Lord…”
I couldn’t help but frown at their trembling whisper. They bit their lips as they looked at me in surprise and their eyes were filled with fear.
“――― That’s right. I am Eliza Kaldia. Your feudal lord.”
I’m sure they must have seen my father in me. My straight black hair that reflected the light and my blood-red eyes; my appearance is like a replica of my father’s.
The girls continued to tremble as they spoke.
“What’s the matter? You were disrespectful towards me, and yet you beg for forgiveness.”
――― What were they begging for? What were they guilty of? I already didn’t care about what the two girls had to say as they kneeled in front of me after having been confronted with the foolishness and ignorance of the villagers.
There were currently no Ar Xia sanctuaries in Kaldia fief. It was the church’s job to teach law and order, and villagers, who cannot hire teachers, usually learnt how to associate with people of different status through rites held at the village sanctuary.
However, my father destroyed all the village sanctuaries where the church was based in Kaldia since they were 『too gorgeous』.
Father announced that there was a financial crisis in the fief and enacted a law against luxury. The citizens of the fief lived in simple houses and lived accordingly, but the people of the church lived in beautiful stone buildings and wore tidy clothes. It would have been easy to incite the citizens, who lived in poverty for years and wore rags, and chase the church out.
Father took money, food, and people on the grounds of rebuilding the fief and expelled those from the church who came from outside since it was easy for them to notice the abnormalities in the fief, and he even deprived the people of basic education. His reasonings were completely fabricated and he had tricked the people.
That was over twenty years ago.
“We… We were the ones who found the monster yesterday. So, please. We will pay the ‘gratitude fee’ so please don’t take the men and children from other villagers for ‘labour’…!”
A mournful cry brought me out from my sea of thoughts.
I blinked and looked down at the two girls who were kneeling in front of me. What did she just say? Labour…?
“.. I see. So, it’s like that. Very well.”
The girl’s shoulders jumped. My voice came out colder than I’d expected. However, I understood where their tragic desperation was coming from, so I felt something close to disappointment.
I truly cursed the blood that ran through my veins. So, father exploited something called a ‘gratitude fee’ to make his citizens do ‘labour’…
“… It’s time for you to stop putting me on the same page as the previous feudal lord.”
A feeble voice came out of my mouth next. My eyes glazed over. I was burning with anger and hatred for my father, and emotions that could no longer confront him.
“I’ll say it again. Eliminating monsters is originally the job of the feudal lord, I don’t need gratitude, ――― if you understand this, then leave.”
The three who came from the village shrieked. They crawled back to the village. An intense ache burnt in my chest from threatening them, but there was nothing I could do about it.
Shadows moved in the darkness of the night. I didn’t see anyone with a torch, probably because they judged that the light from the moon and stars were enough, or because they didn’t have a torch.
The quarantined area was stuffy, and a grain of sweat fell from the tip of my jaw onto the ground.
The people who were creeping towards the village didn’t get off their horses, probably since they were thinking about escaping. Claudia cleverly used the pursuers to guide the group towards the trap.
All that was left to do was surround them and catch them in the trap. It was the same as hunting. ――― I left the task of dispersing my prey to my most trustworthy partner, just as I usually do on a hunt.
Just a few more steps until they fall into the trench, and a high-pitched howl rang from the eastern sky.
That was the signal.
Rashiok and the mounted Sill Tribe warriors jumped out in a mass on the path that the bandits had come from.
“The pursuers! Run!”
The bandits turned their horses in the opposite direction to escape and went tumbling down into the ditch, that probably seemed like it had just appeared out of nowhere. The people at the back knew that there was a trench there, but they couldn’t stop because they were being chased by a predator, Rashiok.
Roars, screams, and horse neighs echoed through the night.
I ordered. The soldiers, who were lying in the dark, stood up as if they had been plucked. The old rug that had covered them was lifted up and thrown into the trench that was filled with chaos and groans. Then, water was poured on top of the rug.
Those inside of the trench screamed at feeling something heavy fall on top of them. They couldn’t even keep their stances since the rug was so heavy.
“Second squad, go!”
The men with the washbasins carefully poured liquid onto the rug.
The liquid was silver blood from the Radcisilka that had been killed last night. The blood froze the rug when it touched the water. Shrieks came from under the rug.
Gunter led the soldiers who were hiding behind the building and ran out with weapons and ropes in their hands.
The man, who was kicked off his horse before it fell in the trench, howled. The man skilfully stood up, drove through the Sill Tribe warriors, who were close behind him, and came rushing towards me while using the rug that hung over his fellow bandits as a stool.
It probably looked like there was a child standing by herself. He’s quick at judging the situation.
“――― But, he’s not well-informed. There’s no reason for me, a feudal lord, to be standing alone in battle.”
Claudia jumped down from the treetops and pulled him down.
“Stay still. I won’t kill you if you stay still.”
As expected, she was extremely skilled with a spear and had completely subdued the man with her spear.
――― Thus, no one in the fief army was injured and none of the bandits escaped. Operation: Capture the Intruders ended in perfect success.