“Eliza-sama, feed the horse over here~!”
“Alright, I’ll feed him.”
A group of children of a similar size to myself were running everywhere carrying fodder in buckets.
As one of those children, I added a lot of fodder into the bucket in my hand and headed towards the group of horses that had been pointed out to me.
The buckets are heavy, and the horses move around as they pleased, so I won’t know which horses haven’t been fed if I don’t hurry. It was winter, but this work made me sweat. However, this job was strangely pleasant, and enjoyable.
“My Lord, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
Theomer had come to check up on me, and I’m sure I must have looked terribly childish as I nodded at him. He smiled wryly and left without saying another word.
The mental shock that I had received from Radka and Lady Hortensio had left my feelings messed up, as if a storm had passed inside me.
It’s shameful to have someone else say more, but I couldn’t stand it. Especially if they tried to treat me purely as a child like Lady Hortensio did. I felt that something inside me would definitely break and I was simply growing more and more afraid.
Most of the residents at the Golden Hill Mansion now felt terrified. I know that I’m mentally unstable, since I mistrust them and fear them. It shocked me so much that my immatureness was coming to the surface.
So, I’ve decided to run away from it. In layman’s terms, I ran away from home.
I couldn’t abandon my job. Therefore, I ran away to the tents where the new residents were living, next to the hill, for this winter.
I return to the mansion in the morning to work, but I finish all the highly important and prioritised documents at once and leave at noon. It was a really half-assed way of running away.
I was originally planning to devote my afternoons during winter to practicing martial arts and training the army rather than work, so there wasn’t any particular problem with my workload. The only difference was that I returned not to my room, but to the tents on the next hill, after I left the barracks.
This is of course, just an escape. I understand this well.
Still, some things change when the environment changes. The chances of encountering Lady Hortensio and Radka, the people who I’m finding difficult to meet right now, have decreased, and the feelings that had me on edge will cool down a bit.
――― I’m sure some of these problems will be resolved in time, as long as my emotions and age are the cause.
Yes, I have concluded that my inner immaturity is caused by the fact that I’m mentally a ‘child’.
By spending time with children who are the same age as me, I was able to look at my own strangeness objectively. Or perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that I had to confront my own immaturity and insecurity.
I have memories of a woman from my previous life. I followed those memories and tried pointlessly to be an ‘adult’.
But that woman and I are completely different people.
My reasonings did come from those memories. It’s also true that when my ego as Eliza wasn’t established yet, I used those memories as a substitute for my own personally. But those memories belong to the woman in my previous life, and I’ve never experienced them. I am disconnected from her feelings and will. It’s impossible for my mentality to grow by following those memories.
We were born and raised differently and even the world we live in is different. The way we perceive things, what makes us happy, what makes us feel pain, ――― everything about us is different, so why did I become an ‘adult’ by following her memories? I didn’t even realise that, and my mentality didn’t grow as much as it should have.
I pretended to be an adult because of those memories, even though I was supposed to ignore them. What a contradictory and foolish thing to do, now that I realised it.
My life among the Sill Tribe children is passing peacefully. When you’re at peace, you’ll be able to discover yourself.
I’ll admit it. My mentality is still childish.
I’m even younger and more inexperienced than the Sill Tribe children, with whom I have come to spend my days. I was born and live as Eliza, and I haven’t lived for eight years.
On the other hand, the memories of my previous life, which I had inherited by some mistake, made me look like an adult, and I misjudged myself according to those memories. My ugly and distorted interior spread confusion to those around me.
Radka sees me as an adult and as his guardian. Earl Thelesia treats me as a responsible adult. And yet, my mind was too immature to respond to them.
And Lady Hortensio who tried to treat me as a child. To be spoiled by her is like throwing away all my responsibilities. It’s an act that would stop me from standing on my own strength. My sin will never allow me to do that.
It took me nearly three years to realise that. It was beyond foolish.
The only reason why I was able to admit this without mocking myself was because of the children. They know I’m the feudal lord. But they understand that I’m just a child, and they gently confront me with that fact.
… Well, even if I recognise this, it’s going to take me some time to sort out my feelings so that I can accept it.
“Eliza-sama, are you done over there?”
When I managed to feed all the horses that had been entrusted to me, a girl the same age as me, who had probably been waiting for me, called out to me from behind.
It’s already been half a month since I was allowed to sleep and wake up in the new citizens’ tents. I’m staying in the tent where the Sill Tribe orphans were staying.
“Yeah, I’m done.”
“Then, that’s all for today. Let’s go get something to eat.”
She grinned and grabbed my hand, and we returned to our tent. When I first came here, I got lost all the time since the tents looked the same, and since then, someone has always held my hand as I walked.
“Here’s a rag and a change of clothes. If you don’t wipe your sweat away, then you’ll catch a cold, so make sure to wipe it off, alright?”
“I know. I’ll be fine.”
The children in the tent basically treat me as a ‘newcomer’. The children were amused by my unfamiliarity with the Sill Tribe’s lifestyle and took care of me.
It was really interesting to see the older children, as well as the younger children, act as if they were my older brothers and sisters. It must be quite refreshing to take care of someone when they’re the ones who are usually taken care of.
I felt relieved by the carefree nature of this situation.
The clothes I was given to wear were the Sill Tribe traditional clothes. The tunic and dalmatica that I usually wear were also unique to the Jugfena region. There wasn’t much difference between the two, but the Sill Tribe clothes had more vivid embroidered patterns, and there were more patterns of animals, such as birds and horses, rather than plants.
I carefully wiped my entire body before putting it on. I didn’t need the girl to tell me that I had to wipe my sweat properly; it had already been drilled into my bones during my three months at the barracks.
The felt tunic felt very different from what I usually wore, but I was getting used to it now.
The girl must have known that I had finished changing since she peeked out from the partitioning screen. She walked up to me while putting her shoes on and skilfully fastening her tunic.
“Hey Eliza-sama, what are you going to do today?”
“Today… I have training with the army.”
The sun has already passed in mid-air, so Gunther should be coming to pick me up at the entrance of this simple village.
“I see. Your work as the chief, right? Good luck.”
I nodded at the girl’s encouragement and creeped out of the tent. I was hit by cold air that made my face hurt. It wasn’t cold since my body was on fire, but anyhow, it was chilly.
I put my hand to my mouth to warm up the tip of my sore nose and let out a white breath, and then the girl creeped out of the tent and wrapped a felt cloth tightly around my neck. Is this a scarf? This is something that doesn’t exist in Arxia.
“Wrap it around your neck properly. It’ll be a disaster if the chief catches a cold.”
“Ah, I’m… sorry.”
I usually say my apologies, but then remembered that the children didn’t understand this, so I rephrased it. They only knew the word ‘sorry’. They tilted their heads in confusion when I had first said my apologies.
“The only time you can say sorry is if you really do catch a cold. You should say thank you at times like these.”
I laughed a little since the girl had said that quite proudly.
When did I forget something so simple? Like the girl had said, it was quite strange to say sorry when someone wraps a scarf around my neck.
“Yes, good girl.”
The girl smiled and patted my head. I finally smiled.
――― To sum it up, running away from home is also my way of starting over as a ‘child’.
I glanced up at the Golden Hill Mansion, which stood on the next hill.
I felt as if a child with black hair and red eyes was looking down at me from a window with an expressionless white face and muttered a wordless ‘sorry’.
It might have been Radka… or it could have been an illusion of ‘me’, a silly child who was shackled and didn’t know what to do.
I handed Radka to Lady Hortensio. I gave him permission to go in and out of the barracks, let him practice and attend lectures, let him come and go from Elize’s room, whether he wanted to or not. That was as much freedom as I could give him. I wanted to give him the status of a mere child who was living at the mansion.
As long as I, who wishes him to ‘be like me’ , isn’t there, ――― and he isn’t a feudal lord or a noble, then the adults and soldiers will treat him as a child.
A child with black hair and red eyes. A precocious and clever child. A child who knows my sins.
I had certainly tried to keep him close to me because I tried to get him to replace Kamil.
But I’m sure I had wanted him to become another ‘Eliza Kaldia’ from the beginning.
I wanted him to be another me, so I felt betrayed by his relationship with the nun, because it was out of my expectations.
As expected, that was ――― too arrogant of a wish.
“… But I can’t let him go. ――― I want him to stay here as my family at least.”
I couldn’t abandon him even though I didn’t need him. Only ‘family’ fitted that definition.
I don’t mean family who are related by blood, but a relationship that was more uncertain and warmer as recognised by the woman in my previous life.
Like a family. If possible, I would like us to be like siblings one day… I wonder if it’s too greedy of me to hope for that much.
It started to snow outside the window. The timing was bad since I’ve almost done with today’s work.
As I removed the reading stone that had been placed on my paperwork, in place of a stone weight, and pulled out the next documents I needed to look over, I stared at the chunk of glass in my hand while thinking.
This piece of glass was a luxury item and was clear and had few impurities. This one small chunk was far more expensive than a single windowpane. I suddenly had a good idea.
“Eliza-sama, what’s the matter?”
“Ah… nothing. It’s nothing, Lady Marechan.”
She spoke to me, and I dropped the reading stone into my sleeve, feigning that nothing was going on. Luckily, she hadn’t noticed anything.
Lady Marechan tilted her head as she stared at the reading stone in a daze, but she didn’t seem to care much and returned to the paperwork she had been doing.
She will officially work under me as a civil official in Kaldia next spring. She will still be tutoring, and will be getting paid for both jobs, her new job will correspond with the job she’s currently doing. Even now, she was assisting me with my job, while also carefully correcting Elize’s essays.
I turned my gaze back to my own work. I scanned over the few remaining reports and applications from the army and created a simple summary from the important details and signed it. Then, I drew up an order form and other documents to go with the summary and signed that as well.
All that was left to do was to submit all these documents to Earl Thelesia. If there aren’t any discrepancies, then it will be authorised.
After punching holes into the relevant documents and threading a string through the holes, today’s desk work was finally over. I stretched, but my back didn’t make a sound since I had kept my posture and my small body was flexible.
“Are you done?”
Lady Marechan came to my side while pulling the hem of her dress loosely. She had never worn a tunic or dalmatic, the regional outfits of Jugfena. She always wore a plain coloured dress with a stand-up collar.
“Yes, in good order. How about you, Lady Marechan?”
“I’m also done.”
Lady Marechan smiled back elegantly, but her expression suddenly clouded, and her gaze dropped to the stack of papers in my hand.
“… Excuse me Eliza-dono. About the other Elize-dono… Is it really a good idea to stop teaching her?”
I nodded my head in return to her question.
“I’m currently living in the new citizens’ tent.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that…”
“I come back to the mansion for my work… This means that I’m giving up my position as the feudal lord and a noble, except for when I’m doing my job. I can’t keep Elize tied up in a position that requires education while I’m acting like this.”
Lady Marechan shook her head slightly at my explanation. It sounded as if I was giving up.
“But, give her lecturers if she wants them.”
Lady Marechan should have not known anything about the quarrel between Radka and I, but she looked at me as if she had something to say. But in the end, she lowered her gaze without saying a single word.
I’m sure she wanted to tell me to do something about it. Even if she didn’t want to say that, she probably wanted to ask me what was going on.
But she won’t tread into the topic.
Lady Marechan entered this house as a tutor. Of the numerous workers in a household, the tutor is the only person who will move onto the next house once her service is over.
Therefore, she doesn’t tread onto the problems of the residents of Golden Hill Mansion. That became much more obvious when more people started staying at the mansion.
Hence, it seemed really ironic to me that I now feel most at ease beside her in this mansion.