… There was a slight scent of flowers and the boy opened his eyelids. His body shivered from the cold and clear morning air, and he breathed deeply.
His body reacted to the feeling of the blankets, but he still wasn’t used to it. He felt nostalgic as he smelled the unique smell of the crude straw bed while turning to face up to get up. The bed that he had been given was hard and uncomfortable to sleep on, as it was just fur cloth spread on top of a wooden plank. Thanks to that, he was good at waking up, but that was the only good thing about it.
The small room was cramped and solid, and the snores of the other boys in the room resounded clearly. Fed up with the annoyance, he pushed open the wooden board that covered the window next to him and the dim light shone in.
It was just a few minutes before daybreak. The boy always thought that the moment, when the sky was dyed red as the sky changed grey from the sun and moon, was gorgeous. The boy stared at the sky until it was completely taken over by blue. His mind, which was dazed from just waking up, started working.
He remembered the appearance of the person who had taught him the name of the colour red, and held his aching heart. The girl who was with the nuns. They had only spent a short amount of time together, but that was why he clearly remembered her eyes, which were the same colour as the dawn sky.
Then, he let out a sigh. The slightly sweet scent coming from the single flower that was placed by his pillow filled his nose. It made the hard, frozen thing in his chest a little smaller.
The gentle smile of the person who gave it to him crossed his mind and he smiled. The dawn sky and the scent of the flower were his solace from his sad awakening.
――― The sun rose fully and it was time to get up.
The boy turned his back to the window and stood up, and the iron plate that was hung at the entrance was struck with a wooden mallet. *BANG BANG BANG* The sound mercilessly echoed in the room, drowning out the snores and drew the filthy boys from their dreamland.
“It’s morning. Get up you fucking geezers!”
“… O-ooh. Mornin’ Radka.”
“Jeez, you’re relentless in the way you wake us up every morning…”
The boy sighed as the occupants of the room finally began crawling out of their beds. The last thing he wanted was to be distracted by irrelevant thoughts, so he threw the iron plate and mallet on the ground.
It has already been half a month since the boy, ――― Radka, or Elize Celustka, came here. There was a rule in the barracks that stated that the first person who woke up in the morning would wake everyone up, but for now, he was the only person who was banging the iron plate every day.
The wooden swords crossed together with a thud and the impact made Radka’s arm go numb. Radka had lost his centre of gravity and was trying to hold his ground, but as soon as he did, he felt his knees fold.
His unsupported body was easily swept away by an adult’s power. The wooden sword flew out of his hand and the sand grated as he rolled on the ground. This was already the tenth time he’d been covered in sand even though he hadn’t even had breakfast yet.
He tried to get up once more, but his arms were too weak, and he fell to the ground again. His body was skinny and poorly developed for an apprentice soldier , and it had finally stopped listening to him because of the daily rigorous training.
“Hey, hey, don’t be slacking! Tsar was a lot more tenacious when she was five!”
“You won’t even be able to cut wheat, when even a five-year-old girl can beat you! As expected of Radka-cyama, who was raised like an Ojou-san!”
The rude soldiers around him took jabs at him. These soldiers were squires when the feudal lord’s daughter was thrown in here, and they were jeering at him and calling him an ‘Ojou-san’ because the Earl, who had thrown him in here, had said “Train her like you trained Viscountess Kaldia.”
The word ‘Ojou-san’ which was meant to tease him as a sheltered girl irritated him more than ever. His thin appearance and girly face were enough for him to have an inferiority complex.
“――― Shut, up! I am not like that feudal lord’s daughter; this is my first time learning the sword.”
He barked back at them while barely clenching his twitching arm with both his hands.
For the first time ever, he raised his voice since he had gotten tired of facing humiliation and having to eat sand every morning. He hadn’t spoken up before, not because of his patience, but because he was tired from training. His body still wasn’t used to his lifestyle, but his mind had grown accustomed to the days here.
His rough voice made the soldiers silent for a second. You became quiet with just that? The moment he thought that, the soldiers laughed hysterically since they couldn’t hold it back anymore.
“Even Tsar had never touched a sword before she came here!”
Radka could only stay silent at their mockery. Don’t nobles learn how to use a sword before they’re aware of anything that’s going on? The little nun who stayed at Cyril Village some years ago had certainly said that. He had only managed to endure their banter because he thought the person who he was being compared to had sword training before they were thrown in here. Now that it had been revealed, it shredded his small amount of pride into pieces.
More importantly, it was a bad comparison. The girl, who the soldiers called Tsar, was the daughter of the feudal lord ――― or rather, she was the current feudal lord ――― and Radka loathed her. Seeing Radka, whose face was twisted with rage and frustration, the soldiers’ laughter died down since they thought that they had teased him too much. He got irritated, they were bothering me so much, so why are they quiet now?
“――― Well, hmm, what? Don’t despise our feudal lord too much.”
One of the soldiers muttered, and the others also agreed and muttered the same things.
(… Ah, whatever! What the fuck?!)
Radka swung his fist down to the ground in frustration. At that moment, a cold voice sounded from someone who was watching him silently.
“Hurry and get up you brat. If you have that much energy, then we can go another five rounds.”
At the same time, the wooden sword that had been blown out of his hand fell on Radka’s stomach and he groaned.
With eyes full of resentment, he glared at the person who had not hesitated to perform such a reckless action on a child who hadn’t even turned 10. The man, who stood above Radka as he laid on the ground, returned the glare with a sharp glint.
“… I’m sorry.”
Radka flinched from the stare and apologised straight away, but the man’s eyes didn’t change. He quickly jumped up and held his sword, and the man stepped back a little.
――― That was a close call. If he had remained lying down for even a little longer, then he would have been kicked or stepped on. The man clicked his tongue at Radka who had escaped a crisis in a hair’s breadth.
“Hey, don’t just stand there looking stupid, and start.”
Radka nodded once and went straight for the man ――― Gunter.
… They only crossed swords a few times before Radka ended up rolling on the ground again because his body wasn’t listening to him.
At noon, Radka had to go get his own dinner. That was the rule of this fief’s army. However, Radka was physically tired to the point of vomiting and couldn’t hunt for his food because of severe fatigue. I’m used to being hungry, he sulked to himself and hadn’t gone to hunt for food even once.
“Oh, you’re here again?”
He would rather drag his weary body through the shadows of the buildings and trees and head towards the mansion that represented the despicable feudal lord rather than be seen by others. As soon as he leaped into a section of the intricately shaped courtyard, a soft voice came from above the window.
Radka looked up and meet the gaze of the girl who was peeking out from the upstairs window. She smiled elegantly and her smile was lovely like the flower he had received.
“Fufufu. It’s strange. You’re ‘Elize-sama’ too, aren’t you?”
He felt a bit bitter at being called that. But it was to the extent where he could gulp it down and smiled back at her. It was more important to him that the girl, who was holed up in her room and sickly, was looking quite well today.
“Elize-sama, what will you talk about today?”
“Anything…. More importantly, Elize-sama… I told you not to add -sama when you call me by my name, didn’t I?” Radka mumbled, and said what he wanted, since he allowed that.
He said this every time he came here, but Eliza only smiled happily and said, “I’m sorry,” then she would nod, but she would keep on attaching it to his name.
(I would really like to tell you my real name, but…)
Even though it was his real name, he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone except for the soldiers in the army. So, he wished that she would at least call him in a friendlier manner. Although he did think that it was too much for him to request something of a noble, since he was only a commoner ――― but he didn’t stop himself from saying it because Elize didn’t fit his image of ‘nobility’.
(Ah, it’s alright today too. Elize-sama doesn’t get angry no matter what I ask. Eliza-sama is also a special noble today. She doesn’t make anyone suffer and doesn’t do terrible things ―――.)
He let out a sigh at the sense of security that melted his brain.
The ‘nobles’ who Radka heard about were proud, spendthrifts, wore gaudy clothing and talked a lot, even though they didn’t care about the citizens. It was only a young nun trainee that had told him that, but he didn’t have any way of listening to other opinions, and he didn’t want to listen, since everyone in Kaldia agreed that the feudal lord ――― or more precisely, the former feudal lord ――― was exactly like that.
However, Elize, who was giving him a gentle smile, and his image of a noble didn’t connect. She didn’t spout cruel words such as “You’re opposing a noble even though you look like a commoner?” every time he chided her for the way she called his name, and it made him feel relieved.
On the other hand, the look that passed through his mind irritated him badly. Every day he heard her name while living at the barracks, it betrayed his image of a ‘noble’, the girl whom the soldiers love and called ‘Tsar’, Eliza. Kaldia’s daughter, who he resented.
… At Eliza’s sixth birthday celebration at the end of spring, Radka had thrown a rock at her when she passed through his village.
He was trying to kill her. He sincerely hoped that she would die, so he threw a rock at her head with all his might as she rode on top of the horse like an adult.
She had only received a graze, and fell off her horse, since he was a skinny and powerless child, but, as a result of being accused of treason for her failed assassination, he was allowed to live under the name ‘Elize’, for some reason.
His frustrations turned to the soldiers because of what had happened this morning as well.
Tsar. An old word that remained from the Jugfena region. It comes from a tale about a wise king who ruled Jugfena before Saint Ahar was born.
(What ‘Tsar’? Isn’t she just someone who torments us?)
Radka spat in his mind behind the smile he showed Elize.