After a month and a half had passed since Radka was thrown into the barracks, he had gained enough strength not to throw up at noon. However, he still didn’t have enough energy to go hunt for dinner, so he continued to live without dinner.
Today, the distance for marching training was extended even further. Still, it was certainly progress, that he was able to stand until the end. But his feet hurt so badly that he decided not to visit Elize, and promptly crawled into bed.
Hunting ――― it reminded him of the noble lady who was appointed as the feudal lord’s daughter’s new guard. She was a blonde woman named Claudia, who came to the barracks after Radka finished his training and swung her spear around. She was more adept with the spear than anyone else in the fief’s army. She would whimsically join in on hunts and easily catch big game. Perhaps because of this, the soldiers teased Radka less about being an ‘Ojou-san’.
Her speech and conduct also destroyed his ‘image of a noble’.
――― Every noble lady wants to wear new dresses every day with the tax money they take from the citizens. Aren’t they horrible? … A nostalgic voice rang at the back of Radka’s ears. It had been two years since he last heard that voice, but he remembered it vividly. The voice was so clear that it was hard for him to forget.
Radka had always been injured somewhere before Eliza had taken him prisoner. It had always been like that until about four years ago, when the feudal lord died and the citizens of Kaldia slowly regained their lives as people.
In those days, he wandered outside alone, since he wanted to avoid the public gaze during the day, and he slept on the doorstep of the house at night, since he didn’t know what would happen if he was at home.
Radka’s heartbroken mother had finally lost the ability to recognise him. When she saw his black hair, she would mistake him for the feudal lord, and when she saw his red eyes, she would mistake him for the feudal lord. Only his hair and eye colour were the same as the feudal lord’s but that was enough for his heartbroken mother. ――― His mother, who was still delirious, tried to sew his eyelids together. From then on, both his mother and him came to fear each other.
The villagers shunned him. There were a lot of things about Radka that they disliked. For Radka, the inside of the village was just as unpredictable as the inside of his house.
Radka had no father. He was a child who was conceived and born when his mother was sent to ‘forced labour’. By the time his mother was sent back to the village, because her stomach was showing, she had already lost her mind and turned insane. Therefore, she didn’t know where she was or who the father of the baby was.
The rule was that any child conceived during ‘forced labour’ would be killed if they were a boy. The feudal lord announced that all the villagers would be punished if the boys were not killed. People were sent everywhere for ‘forced labour’, and the only thing they had in common was to ‘serve nobility’. Any remnants of that noble must not remain, aside from daughters; sons of nobles must not be born. Of course, the women who gave birth to the child also got punished along with the villagers, so once the mothers found out that the child they birthed was a boy, they would give it up as if their child had passed away.
Meanwhile, Radka’s mother, who had been kept away from the villagers because of her mental illness, gave birth to Radka all by herself. She went around pretending that her baby was a girl, and like that, she gave the baby the name ‘Radka’. Perhaps she had already decided from the start that she would raise the child regardless of whether they were a boy or not, but Radka’s mother didn’t prepare a male name for her child. Perhaps to hide the truth, Radka and his mother lived in a rugged hut on the outskirts of the village until they heard that the feudal lord had died. His mother never let him out of the house, and she also rarely went out herself.
However, the sudden news of the feudal lord’s death drove his mother even more insane. Radka, who received the brunt of her madness, couldn’t stand her erratic behaviour anymore, and escaped. Thus, his presence was finally discovered.
The small distance between them allowed his mother to regain her composure for a time, but she became more emotionally unstable after two years. Unable to recognise her precious son, who she raised in secret, she gradually began showing feelings akin to hatred towards him.
The rule which stated that Radka had to be killed disappeared when the feudal lord died, but the villagers alienated him since he reminded them of the feudal lord. They treated him as if he didn’t exist, just like before, and occasionally, they would look at him in disgust when they got too close to him.
Radka wandered around the outskirts of the village every day while looking at the ground. The young Radka observed his own mental exhaustion as he walked. The fact that his mother, who had been his whole world until then, had tried to harm him, was eating away at his soul.
By the time two years had passed, Radka only had a gloomy expression on his face. His fear of his mother, mixed with his love and hate for her, along with his severe loneliness, hastened the establishment of his ego in a warped way. It was around that time that the nuns arrived on their rounds. It was two years ago in spring when the adults in the village had finally sown rye in the fields. The villagers couldn’t welcome them, but the nuns, who imposed their own serenity on themselves, showed no signs of discontent with how the villagers were treating them, and they quickly became integrated in the village by spreading their ‘word’ and doing voluntary work.
『All nobles nowadays have forgotten their job. And yet, they continue to show off their privileges and live in luxury. These actions contradict the teachings of God.』
The nuns repeated those words enthusiastically. At the same time, they talked about the lives of the feudal lords and their arrogance, which they had seen and heard about during their journey. So the people of Cyril Village, who were made to live in hell because of their feudal lord, believed them. As a result, the villagers of Cyril Village still blindly believe in them, and their hatred for nobles, including the feudal lord, grew.
Even Radka was no exception, even though he didn’t understand half of what they were saying. Or rather, the person who listened to them feverishly and believed them was him. The hell that was created by a noble wasn’t over for him, and the words the young nun said to him during his pain-filled days were the only ‘words’.
Radka could still clearly remember the words of the trainee nun. All the words spoken by her established his knowledge of nobility.
――― Why’re you walking with your head down? You have to look ahead while you walk, otherwise it’s very dangerous.
The first time Radka heard that clear and spirited voice, he didn’t think it was directed at him. He had grown accustomed to being treated as if he didn’t exist when he was out.
――― Hey, are you okay?
She grabbed him on the shoulder and turned him around, startling him to the point where his heart seemed to have stopped beating. Radka saw his own reflection in the dawn coloured eyes that were looking down at him from a little higher up.
It was his first time ever seeing his own reflection in someone else’s eyes.
The glare from a red light burnt Radka’s eyes through his eyelids. The illuminating light annoyed him and awoke his slumbering consciousness. When he turned away and opened his eyes, the setting sun, that was shining through the window sill, had dyed the room scarlet.
(Did I fall asleep after training ended…?)
He managed to get his sleepy head moving and grasped his situation. It felt like he had just flopped into his bed, just a few moments ago, but, apparently, he had fallen asleep a few hours ago. He moved his somewhat more comfortable body and turned his back completely from the setting sun.
He could hear the joyous roars of the soldiers from outside the room, in the dining hall across from the corridor. The sound which was obstructed by the wall seemed directly related to him, and his surroundings, and he pursed his lips together. I hate evenings. Could this be due to the lonely memories of listening to the sounds of people enjoying themselves from the other side of the wall, like I am doing now?
The sounds of life coming from the houses along the road he took back to the rugged hut, where his heartbroken mother waited, while swallowing down his depressed feelings, tore at his weak heart. Even now, just thinking about parents calling their children by their names made him cough up with inexplicable envy.
Even now ――― Radka longed for someone to look at him and acknowledge him for whatever reason. The first person who granted his wish and taught him many things was the trainee nun with stained red eyes. That alone was enough to earn her his blind faith.
Breathing slowly at the cold, stubborn emotions that were slowly spreading out from within him because of the memory, he looked up at the wall that was hit with the setting sun, for no reason. Evenings were short in Kaldia. The room which was dyed in scarlet became redder and gradually dimmed.
If the sky at dawn was the colour of that girl’s eyes, then the blood-red sky at dusk resembled the eyes of the feudal lord’s daughter… Eliza. Or, they resembled the eyes of the dead feudal lord.
(I wonder if my eyes are the same colour.)
Radka gently covered his eyes with his palm. People say his eyes are red, but he couldn’t see them for himself. Then, he got incredibly gloomy. The horrific memory of his delirious mother almost gouging his eyes out flashed through his mind.
“… Oh, you’re awake?”
Radka dropped his arms when a voice suddenly called out to him from the half-opened door. When he raised his face, he saw a man in the prime of his life push open the door and enter the room.
The tall and slender man, who looked weak even though he was the soldier who had been here the longest, and his name was Calvin. Calvin looked at Radka and the corners of his eyes gently deepened. His shadow was finely chiselled in the faint light of the lingering evening sun.
“Good, I’m here to wake you up. Claudia-sama killed a giant fallow deer today. We’re just about to roast it together.
“Get up, we’re going to eat,” the man beckoned Radka, but Radka only stared at him blankly while sitting on the edge of his bed. I’m not sure what he’s saying. I could understand the words individually, but I couldn’t connect them together.
“… What’s wrong? You don’t feel well?”
Calvin must have thought that Radka’s appearance was weird since he came next to the bed. Radka quickly shook his head at the outstretched hand and the worried look on Calvin’s face.
“I’m just dull from confusion,” Radka said as he shook his head sluggishly and Calvin smiled wider. In the next moment, he lifted Radka up and walked out of the room without saying anything.
Radka couldn’t speak because of the suddenness of the situation and could only cling to Calvin’s arm as he stared at the wall leading to the dining room.
Most of the soldiers who had stayed back at the base were in the dining hall when they entered.
“I’ve brought him here.”
“Ooh, as expected of Old Calvin.”
“Did your old wisdom allow you to easily bring the unmanageable Ojou-san here?”
When the soldiers noticed Calvin and Radka, they leered and raised their voices cheerfully. Radka felt his cheeks heat up.
“This isn’t childishly bullying a kid. They’re not teasing you because you don’t know how to act.”
But before he could speak out in rage, the soldier who was holding him patted his back and said, “Don’t worry about it.” His fury quickly died down, and the scream that was at the edge of his throat disappeared.
For some reason, it was really embarrassing and without thinking, Radka looked down and pressed his forehead against Calvin’s shoulder. Then he realised that the soldiers probably wouldn’t make fun of him in his current state, and that was all he could think about.