Time went by ominously uneventfully.
The turmoil caused by the announcement of the crown prince gradually sank below the surface as time passed. Once the social season ended, the feudal lords, who had livened up the royal capital, returned to their fiefs, so it was difficult to maintain the buzz of the news, no matter how shocking it was. However, that didn’t mean that the situation had died down completely. That commotion had certainly left its mark and caused factions to form, centred around the court nobles.
Like the other nobles, Earl Thelesia and I also left the royal capital at the end of summer and returned to Kaldia.
There were no particular movements from the northern nobles, who I was wary of, and there was no other word from Priestess Faris about the suspicious nuns who frequented Nordsterm. As usual, I busied myself with the large amount of work I had to do, and before I knew it, autumn was coming to an end.
“It looks like it’ll snow soon…”
“Oh, it’s already that time? A year flies by quickly.”
In the last month of autumn, the air in Kaldia became cold and it looked like it could snow at any moment. Winter began when the snow started falling, regardless of the calendar.
I hardly had time to leave the Golden Hill Mansion after returning from the royal capital. I was busy sending letters everywhere, compiling data and reports, preparing documents, receiving instructions from Earl Thelesia, and attending lectures, and practicing the bow and sword… Well, I hardly noticed the seasons passing by probably because I was living my life in such a way.
I’ve made it a habit not to notice, but when I finally experienced the change in the season, I felt exhausted and let out a light breath. It turned into a white haze that quickly dissolved in the cold air in front of me.
I took my horse eastward with Claudia while wrapped in a thick woollen cloak. I had to look at the new fief village before winter came.
“You don’t have much spirit, Elysia-dono. Are you tired? I hope you can relax a little at Theo’s.”
“It’s Eliza. Claudia-dono.”
“… It’s fine, hmm… Oh yes. I’m a little tired.”
I agreed with Claudia without putting up a front and saying I wasn’t tired. Claudia also looked slightly tired and replied, “Of course you would be.”
Earl Thelesia’s condition still hasn’t improved ever since he fell ill before summer. Naturally, I can’t leave him to do work that he can’t do, so we had to split up the work.
I can’t attend to everything even if I did my best, so I decided to team up Gunter, Claudia and Calvin, the oldest soldier in the fief army, and left the most important tasks of running the fief army, managing the vigilante corps, and coordinating with the Sill Tribe, to them. Unfortunately, neither Gunter nor Calvin can read or write, so the paperwork was mostly left to Claudia.
Surprisingly, Claudia was also busy, so she was rejected by Earl Thelesia before she was able to work as an academic advisor for the entire army. In addition to her fighting abilities, she was also good at tactics and strategy. We couldn’t afford not to take advantage of that.
It was obvious that we were both overworked. The lack of manpower was severe.
“It also hurts that Elize-dono is out of the picture…”
Claudia was tired as she grumbled, depressingly. I couldn’t help but sigh even though I knew that there was nothing I could do.
“… I can’t leave Elize to her own devices since she has been brainwashed once before, and I don’t know when the nun will contact her.
I kept Elize ――― Radka at a distance ever since Priestess Faris gave me that ‘warning’ and he was now the other Elize’s attendant. He was kept under house arrest and under surveillance at the mansion.
――― After I woke up from my month- long coma, Radka told me why he had thrown the stone at me as if he had just suddenly remembered.
The story began with his upbringing; the abuse he had suffered from his mentally ill mother, the treatment he received from the nobles and the hatred he felt towards nobles, that developed into a will to kill.
However, he never mentioned the nun who had instilled in him a wrong impression of nobles. Radka didn’t talk about her because he didn’t suspect any of their actions ―― and because he didn’t want to share his memories of her with others, because of how he felt about her.
Which meant that there was a gap in Radka’s mentality which would allow the nun to take advantage of him.
Hence. I concluded that he was dangerous, after I had collected myself. I was worried that the nuns who had a relationship with the hostile Nordsterms would find out about Radka and ‘reuse’ him.
Radka was already too close to me for me to leave him alone and regard it as a trivial matter. I couldn’t abandon him either since I had lent the law and made him live, and as long as I couldn’t trust him, I had no choice but to keep him locked up.
… I know that I was the one who thought of that and carried it out. But even so, my emotions couldn’t keep up with it.
What is the difference between what I’m doing to Radka and what I did to Kamil, who I kept away since I still couldn’t trust him ――― aren’t I just repeating the same mistake?
Claudia called out my name since I had fallen silent and she was worried. I slowly shook my head and got rid of the gloomy feelings in me that were getting stronger.
“… It’s nothing. I was thinking of stopping by Neza Village on our way home tomorrow.”
“Oh, those girls. I hope they’ve recovered from their emotional trauma a bit.”
Claudia agreed, and that was where the conversation ended. The rest of the way was wrapped up in silence.
“My Lord! I’m glad you’re here.”
Theomer was probably waiting for us since he was standing at the entrance to the village. He raised his left hand and greeted us. Claudia and I also raised our hands lightly in response and greeted him.
“Hey, Theo. It’s been a while. How are the winter preparations going?”
“It’s been a while. It’s good to see that you’re farely well. The winter preparations…? I wish I could say that it was going well.”
Looking at him under the sun, Theomer, who had spent the summer in Kaldia, had tanned a bit. His skin, which was reddish at first, was now the colour of harvest wheat.
“The irrigation work isn’t progressing as far as I thought it would.
I nodded at Theomer’s brief report and passed through the village gates. They had a wall built to keep out monsters and for security purposes, since there were no other human settlements in this area.
Inside, there were a few rustic stone buildings at the back and the rest were just foundations for buildings. Similarly, there were stone-paved roads built and at the front of the village, which still remained untouched, there were nomadic tents and simple tents, gathered from the House of Lords, crammed together.
This was the present state of the new villager.
They had six more buildings compared to what I had seen before going to the royal capital. But it wasn’t enough for 600 villagers to live in. A building which was originally meant for around 20 people, now contained nearly double that amount. Still, nearly 300 people were forced to live in tents.
“We gave the homes to the children and elderly first, but…”
“We can’t let them live in tents on top of the foundations for winter. I can’t send them off to Misorua a year after they’ve become my citizens.”
The water level of the rivers and lakes in this area can rise in the spring due to the melted snow from Amon Nohl and cause them to overflow.
Therefore, they have been working to raise the floors of the buildings to control the water levels from Sera River and the lakes, but the work wasn’t going well since many of the newcomers are children and the elderly, and the able workers weren’t used to the work.
On top of that, this village was located far away from the other villages and is the farthest away from Golden Hill Mansion. It was dangerous for a village with simple dwellings to be isolated in Kaldia during winter, since it snowed heavily here.
“… Alright. I’m sorry, but I’ll have the newcomers live in an area under my direct control again for the winter.”
There wasn’t much else to do once we checked in with Theomer to see how things were going and decided how I wanted them to spend the winter.
I spent the rest of the day asking people all I could about their lives: what were they lacking? Was anyone sick or injured? That and other small things.
I needed to know their opinions so that I could decide which of Carlson’s woodworks I needed to accept as my priority next spring and which supplies I should purchase. I must talk to Bellway as soon as I return to the mansion.
I asked my usual dinner to be cooked for me and excused myself to the newly built lodgings. Then, I went into a simple tent filled with children. The newcomers, who weren’t familiar with the noble system, gladly accepted my request.
The dinner I received that day was steamed pumpkin and river fish, fermented horse milk, seafood soup with greens and cheese. The pumpkin was smooth rather than soggy and felt pleasant on my tongue. It wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be, but it was delicious.
I asked for my usual dinner, but the cheese was probably a service. They do have a few goats, but they needed citrus fruit to make cheese. The distribution route for citrus fruits had ceased in Kaldia, so cheese is a luxury item.
“So, this is pumpkin? Yummy! It has a rich flavour even though it’s a vegetable.”
Claudia also seemed to like pumpkin. Claudia, who was eating her steamed pumpkin with joy, was offered a second serving.
In the evening, I spent time with the other children my age. I listened to them talk about fishing and talked with them about hunting, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t think about troublesome things. We kept talking until I fell asleep with excitement.
It was fun, so much so that I felt sad about leaving the next day.
“My Lord?! Wh-wha…?”
I stopped by Neza Village on the way home and surprised… or rather, scared the chief and his wife. Well, it was a sudden visit, so it was no surprise that they’re frightened.
“Ah, I’m sorry to have startled you… I was just stopping by on my way back from the newcomer’s village to check on the girls from the other day.”
The chief confirmed in confusion. When I nodded, the two panicked and quickly tried to call for the girls, so I quickly stopped them.
“W-we’ll call them right away!”
“Wait, why are you calling them here when I came to check up on them? I’ll go visit them.”
The two village girls had regained their spirits, even though they still feared men. They couldn’t work in the fields or do public work anymore, but they spent their time tending to farm tools, twisting ropes, and taking care of the chickens that the village started to raise last year.
Although I couldn’t talk to the villagers individually like I had at the newcomer’s village, I asked some of them about their lives and their preparations for winter before heading home.
It has been five years since Earl Thelesia implemented his rebuilding policy, and their lives seemed to be slowly getting back to normal. I wonder if it’s time for us to start producing our own cloth and yarn, which we have always imported.
Maybe we can get goats and sheep from Henznite next year. We have to revive the technology that has been left behind, or related costs will increase greatly. I deliberately ignored the fact that behind all this enthusiasm, there would be more work to be done.
There were tents for the newcomers lined up on the hill to the north of the Golden Hill Mansion. The first snowfall ended, and it became sunny for the first time in a while.
This scene was here last year under the instructions of Earl Thelesia, but this was my first time seeing it. At that time, I was busy with rehabilitation and work, so I was unable to leave the mansion.
However, the newcomers could avoid being isolated and helpless in the snow this way. With a large number of children and old people, and a different lifestyle in an unfamiliar land, the newcomers would soon become dissatisfied if we don’t take care of them.
But that’s not all, there were also some obvious benefits.
The villagers of Claria Village, the biggest area under direct control to the south, are taking an interest in the culture and belongings of the newcomers.
Because of its proximity to the area under my direct control, Claria Village has the lightest scars from my father’s time, and it was also one of the earlier villages that Earl Thelesia had provided aid to. There were many squires from this village, and many of the fief soldiers had married brides from this village, so their ill feelings towards the feudal lord are relatively weak. They also had a lot of citizens from other fiefs stay in their village, so they were more or less friendly towards the newcomers.
“Last year, they gave us pumpkins, livestock, dairy products and cloth in exchange for bread, eggs, straw and rye. I think some of us received cookware from them too.”
They also bantered with the newcomers according to Theomer. The old people who were around since before my father’s misgovernance began, really wanted cheese.
Artolas and the old language spoken in the Jugfena region had some words in common, so the villagers used that to communicate with the Sill Tribe.
“Please interact with them again this year if you can. There are a lot of villagers in Claria, and a lot of things are gathered there, so they have connections with other villages. It’s quite convenient for you to be accepted by them.”
I talked with Theomer about how they would spend the winter while helping put the horses into the wooden fences that the army fief had prepared for them.
The Sill Tribe horses are smaller than the fief army horses, but they were short and stout and had great endurance. They were well-trained, but had rough temperaments, and I wasn’t used to dealing with them, so I had a hard time pulling them into the fence.
“Though, we can’t slaughter cattle anymore and we can’t make cheese either.”
“… I think we can import lemons. Could you just make a few? I’ll give you ten goats next spring.”
If we’re going to get goats into the fief anyway, then the ones who can handle them the best is the Sill Tribe. I’m going to give some goats to villages that have recovered and had time to take care of livestock, like Claria and Neza, but since I’m going to buy different kinds of goats, I’d like to leave them to the Sill Tribe first and let them create techniques that are suitable for raising the goats.
“Ten goats…? I’ll talk to the other clan chiefs.”
“Thanks. Also, can you train the cavalry again this year?”
“Yeah, that’s fine. You should participate this year too; can you be there? As the leader, shouldn’t you know the battle formation and how to handle a horse?”
Although the new cavalry troops are led by retired cavalrymen from the Luctfeld fief, they would be returning to their fief between winter and spring. So, I had the Sill Tribe, an equestrian tribe, train the troops, and it worked out great. The way they handled horses was fundamentally different.
“We can let a few warriors join the army when we stabilise our situation instead of just having them there for winter…”
“Really? Aren’t the warriors important people who protect your clans?”
“No, our people are being protected by you now, not the warriors. Not living like a warrior isn’t to protect our pride, right?”
Theomer said. The corners of his mouth lifted up into a grin and a big smile appeared on his face. I see, he’s right.
“… You’re right. There’s no problem since you’ll be in my private army.”
“Use us well. You’re our King.”
An unbelievable title came out of his mouth, but well, I don’t mind so I ignored it. I’m sure a King to them is someone who has a higher position than a clan chief. That’s probably all.