The snow, which I had seen with the children that day, continued to fall for four and a half months. When the clouds finally spread apart, winter was about to end. At the start of the fifteenth month.Reminder, this world has 16 months in a year This year will also be over in two months.
… The story about the Sill children, who were looking after me, looking at snowflakes and seeing Rashiok, soon reached the people in the neighbouring tents. Children talk, and well, I don’t recall telling them to keep quiet about it, so of course everyone would find out.
But I think I should have told them to keep quiet about it, since the children have been sticking tightly around me lately.
“The Sill Tribe kids aren’t being fair! We want to play with Eliza-sama too!”
“Eliza-sama will stay in our tent! That makes it fair!”
“It’s not fair that you’re the only ones who get to play with the draconisha!”
“You say that, but you’ve never tried to talk to her before!”
“Whyy do you never tell us? You’re hogging Eliza-sama all to yourselves! Shouldn’t we take turns!?”
“I won’t call it hogging since there’s a group of us. Don’t you even know that~? And Eliza-sama isn’t a toy! So, don’t say that we should play with her in turns!”
There was a boy and girl who were holding me from the front and the back. One of them was from the Sill Tribe and the other was a farmer’s child, and they were arguing with each other. It was a children’s quarrel.
To be arguing since the morning when the snow stopped falling, children are really lively beings. Or perhaps, they were just trying to vent their anger since they didn’t get to play outside much, because of the snowfall.
Judging from what they were saying to each other, it seemed that I was overly favouring the children in the tent that I was staying in. I’ve done something bad. I’ve already reflected, so won’t you two let go of me? I felt like I was going to say something I wasn’t supposed to say, as dozens of children squashed me from both sides. I-it hurts.
“Then, Eliza-sama can come to our tent starting from today!”
“Don’t be an idiot, Rekha! The chiefs are the people who decide where Eliza-sama stays.”
The boy, who ended his sentences in a particular way, clung to me from behind with his arms around my stomach. Apparently, his name is Rakha. I don’t interact with any of the children in the other tents, so I didn’t know who is who.
The girl who was hugging me by my neck is one who usually takes good care of me, Thiele. The two of them were yelping away at each other, but they seemed reasonably close, so they probably weren’t on bad terms. So, why were they getting fired up because of me?
Should I tell them to stop getting me involved in this? … I thought of the stupidest thing to escape reality, and I got goosebumps from my disgusting thoughts and regretted it right after.
At the same time, I felt a cold sensation come from my head. My head hurt and I started to get a headache. M-my neck and stomach really hurts.
Ah, am I going to die here? I’m not sure if I’m going to die from being hanged at the neck by one or two girls who are older than me, or if I’m going to be crushed to death, or if I’m going to die of suffocation…
“Hey, that’s enough you guys. I’m talking to both of you, Radka and Thiele! Eliza-sama is turning blue.”
The boy, who broke through the wall of children to mediate in the midst of all this, seemed like salvation from heaven or even a hero. He pulled away the two arms that were constricting me and skilfully tapped both the boy and girl in the head at the same time.
He was almost the same height as Thiele and his azure silver hair swayed in the wind. ――― Oh, I remember seeing this hair colour before.
When I whispered the name, I remembered from our little exchange the other day, the boy turned his head to me at once. His face was certainly familiar, and his innocent face looked surprised and flabbergasted.
“You remembered… my name?”
“Of course. More importantly, you save me, thanks. It was a bit painful.”
“It wasn’t just a little, now was it? You were turning blue.”
I shrugged as he gave me an astonished look. It was certainly painful enough that I was ready to die.
I smiled twitchingly while looking off into the distance, then felt a timid tug at my sleeve. When I looked over, I saw Thiele. She looked apologetic as if she had just cooled down a bit, after being pissed off at Aslan. Then, the boy, who was shorter than her, looked up at me.
This boy is probably the child named Rekha. He apologised with his teary, innocent eyes and said he was sorry.
“I’m really sorry, Eliza-sama…”
“I definitely won’t do it again, Eliza-samaa…”
When Thiele and Rekha apologised, the surrounding children also seemed to have come to their senses and looked as if they were being punished.
Those moist eyes, ugh, I was tormented by guilt. This was all because I didn’t think it over enough.
“I-it’s fine… I’m the one who should apologise, I’m sorry. I knew that I had brought something unusual with me, but it was unfair of me not to invite the children in the other tents as well.”
I thought that the Rekha boy had made a fair point and bowed my head in reflection. If a newcomer with a lot of interesting toys only gets along with a certain group of people, then well, of course it wouldn’t be fun for everyone.
Rekha, Thiele and Aslan all looked at each other as if my apology was baffling, since I had been the person who was turning helplessly blue while they were fighting. When they looked at me again, Thiele had her tongue stuck out in an awkward manner, Aslan smiled wryly and Rekha laughed joyfully.
“I’ll call you guys too when I think of something to play with next time. I’ll talk to Theo and ask him if I can go to the other tents as well. Can you forgive me?”
Rekha was still beaming as he looked back at the children, who stayed in the same tent as him ――― the ones who were complaining about unfairness ―――, then nodded and replied, “Sure!” Perhaps Rekha was the leader of the children staying in the farmer tent, even though he was small.
“I didn’t expect you to apologise, Eliza-sama, but if you say you want to play, then that’s totally fine. We’re going to make up with the Sill Tribe children.”
The smiling Rekha and Thiele seemed to represent their groups. They said sorry to each other and lightly hugged. So, this is how you make up?
They also bowed their heads at Aslan, who acted as a mediator. The other day, he was fired up and emotional because of the relationship between the lowlifes and Sill Tribe in the Artolas period, but he seemed to be quite a rational child. Perhaps, that was why his grown-up features, with a wry smile on them, made him seem a little older than the other children. He looked to be a year or two older than Thiele and me.
Then, he turned around, gave Rekha a complicated look and spoke.
“… Rekha. Won’t you stop using the word ‘Sill Tribe’? We’re not the Sill Tribe or lowlifes anymore. We’re all Arxians, we’re all citizens of Kaldia now.”
His expression was exactly the same one he had on his face the other day. Did he understand what I told him, or is he going with what I said even though he didn’t understand it?
“… Yeah. Okay, I won’t say that anymore.”
Rekha must have heard our conversation the other day because he glanced at me and nodded happily.
At the end of winter when I had become completely accustomed to living back and forth between the newcomer’s tents and the Golden Hill Mansion, I began to think about hastening the construction of the feudal lord’s mansion, at the centre of Kaldia.
“Eda… Elu… Ele…”
Just as I had finished working and was leaving the mansion to go back to the newcomer’s tents, a mumble came from above me.
What is it?
I looked up at the window above my head suspiciously, and I saw a flicker of bright golden honey hair under the cloudy sky.
“… Yes, what is it?”
I swallowed my impulsive sigh and replied. It has been a long time since I’ve had this exhausting feeling.
Of course, the owner of the voice was Claudia. Was that strange mumble an effort not to get my name wrong?
“I haven’t seen your face in a long time! It’s been over two months.”
A slightly excited Claudia leaned out of the window, as far as she could, and smiled at me .
“That’s dangerous, Claudia…”
The voice that was about to say ‘Claudia-dono’ cut off in the middle of the sentence, because the moment I had warned Claudia that she was going to fall off, the person herself tipped herself forward on the window frame.
Naturally, Claudia would fall from the second floor window. I gulped. My heart felt as if it had stopped.
“Huh? Did you say something?”
――― Claudia landed flexibly on the ground like a cat, then turned towards me, carefreely.
I couldn’t close my open mouth. What is with this person? Seriously. I want her to quickly go back to being in an otome game or being in a shonen manga.
Having said that, I would really be troubled if she were to disappear.
The scene was so shocking that it sent a shiver from my legs into my brain. I’m not sure if I’m angry or dumbfounded, but I let my fury out in an angry voice, even though I knew it was improper of me to do so.
“What are you thinking?! Jumping down from the second floor!”
Claudia had unusually good ears and was startled by my sudden outburst, so she covered her ears. Her sky-blue eyes widened as she started at me, but I ignored her gaze and continued in a strong tone.
“Please refrain from acting too eccentric. I thought my heart was about to stop.”
Claudia called my name while still looking flabbergasted. Then, she seemed happy about something since she smiled dazzlingly. Ah, it really looks like a child’s smile when I see it like this. She looks too innocent.
“Alright, I promise I won’t do it anymore. I didn’t think it would worry you so much.”
Worry me, you say?
Unexpected words came out of her mouth and this time I looked like a complete idiot.
“You were worried about me getting hurt, weren’t you?”
I felt like all my energy was taken away by the smiling Claudia. I replied, “Drop it,” while looking down, but Claudia didn’t seem like she was going to hold back.
“Hmm, so… what did you want from me…?”
I had acted a bit carelessly. Claudia tapped her fist against her palm while saying, “Ah.” That my pace attitude, seriously… It’s been a while since I’ve been this exhausted. I felt like I was wrestling with a curtain.
“I have something to ask you, Eliza-dono.”
I had no idea what she wanted since she hadn’t stated it. My face twitched, but Claudia didn’t care and grabbed my wrist.
What the fuck is going on?
“Now, let’s go.”
――― I purposely ignored the two red eyes that were staring down at us from the upstairs window.
I haven’t become a direct ‘child’ yet, so I can’t quarrel with him.
Claudia had dragged me to Elize’s room where she was recuperating, just as I had thought when I heard the word ‘ask you’.
“It’s been a while, Elize-sama. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to come see you in a long time.”
I bowed deeply at Elize, who smiled happily. I felt really guilty about avoiding this place for so long, even though I had a little more time since winter began. Radka had reported that her seizures have been getting worse, but I didn’t go to visit her and continued to go to the newcomer’s tents.
“No, it’s fine, since you’re busy with your job as the feudal lord. Didn’t you send Elize-sama here in exchange for not being able to visit? That was very thoughtful of you.”
Ugh… Her considerate words stung my chest and I groaned in my mind. I deserved this.
Apparently, Radka hadn’t left Elize’s side. I wondered how he spent his days, even though I decided to leave him alone for a while.
“… Well, that’s good then. I heard you’ve been having a few seizures lately, but how did you feel afterwards?”
Elize quietly turned away from me and looked somewhat lonely. I could tell that she was anxious from a glance, and that made my heart hurt.
“I… still can’t go out yet. But that’s okay. It wasn’t as bad as when I first came to this fief.”
She was acting tough. I suddenly wondered if it was better for her to play with the newly arrived children. Even if she can’t run around like them, wouldn’t she feel better just by talking to them every day?
… Maybe I should consider inviting some of them over. I need to discuss this with Earl Thelesia and Maya, but it is my duty to improve her health, as long as it’s about her recuperation.
Elize happily started talking about her days with Maya and Radka, leaving me to start listing candidates in my mind. This was probably the only thing she could talk about, so I felt like my idea was worth considering.
“If sending Elize here has made your life a little more enjoyable, then that’s good.”
“Yes. I’m ――― having a lot of fun. Thank you very much.”
Elize’s bashful smile was so innocent that it touched my heart.
――― I am…
I don’t see her much, but it was unsightly of me to find peace when talking to her and hated myself since she was so innocent. I felt absolutely at ease with her because I was convinced that she was too sickly to leave her room, and thus, had no way of betraying me.
I struggled to swallow down my self-loathing for that despicable thought. I told myself that what I needed now was self-affirmation, not self-loathing.
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