… The feeling that was submerging deeper and deeper started freezing slowly. That feeling, which was much deeper than before the warmth pushed through him, was telling him that the pain was still there.
It had been a long time since Radka had seen Elize, but somehow, he had told her that he was busy with practice, so it was difficult for him to visit her, then he ran back to the barracks. Since then, it felt like his chest was being filled with lumps of ice, and it was so painful.
Three girls repeatedly flashed through his mind.
“Nobles are horrible. They make the villagers suffer as much as they can, and live a good life while having fun every day,” the girl with the dawn coloured eyes said while smiling softly, then next, Elize flashed through his mind with her fleeting smile as she shook her head.
Then after them, the words that the feudal lord’s daughter, Eliza, with her cold blood-red eyes, had said when he was locked in the dungeon replayed in his mind.
『A kingdom’s laws are there to protect its people. According to some people, that would include nobility as well. Apparently, some people think that nobles aren’t regular people, they’re gears that move this kingdom. Nobles are people who obey the law and enforce it… It is said that foolish people, who forget this, hurt people and destroy the kingdom. Like my father had.』
She had said that with an icy expression on her face, but then she suddenly started crying. She hadn’t realised that she was crying and was terribly surprised and frantic, ――― she acted similar to a village child, like Radka.
That played on and on in his mind, and Radka felt like he was going crazy.
The girl who had absolute values, the girl who was the most important to him, and the girl whose existence was hateful and dreadful. ――― But for some reason, that girl had allowed him to live, even after he had tried to kill her.
Radka didn’t know who to trust and was confused. He couldn’t catch up with his emotions.
His emotions, which were distorted by his upbringing, were out of balance with his clever mind. It caused a divergence in his thoughts and emotions and extremely disrupted the order in his mind.
His mind was thrown into confusion and turned completely white, then time passed, just like the wind.
By the time he realised, the height of summer was over and the area around the Golden Hill Mansion was beginning to take on the colours of autumn.
The next day at noon, he had lunch with Igor and Calvin, with whom he had become quite close to.
“… Going to war?”
Radka repeated the words that Calvin had unexpectedly said. The tip of the spoon that had just sunk into the soup slid and hit the bottom of the bowl.
“That’s right. The soldiers from the neighbouring kingdom are approaching Jugfena Fortress to the east. I heard that the feudal lord, Eliza-sama, has ordered the troops to go to war. Igor and I will be among them. Whether the squires will be accompanying us is yet to be seen.”
Calvin nodded calmly and Radka remembered his mouth bending open to utter his opposition, “Why can you accept it so easily?”
Jugfena Fortress was on the national border. Radka didn’t know that ――― Jugfena was the most dangerous place in Arxia, since it faced the only unfriendly nation to Arxia, Densel, and was a place where people had to be prepared for death. But he did have a vague idea of what it meant for a soldier to go to the border.
However, the fact that Calvin and the others were leaving the barracks was more important to Radka.
“――― Are you going to fight?”
The words that he had squeezed out weren’t words that he had wanted to say.
There was no way Radka would be going to Jugfena with them. It was made clear to him beforehand that his life in the barracks would come to an end. He didn’t know when it would end, but he knew for certain that it would be an abrupt farewell.
Radka felt the urge to scratch his chest, almost as if he was sure that time was approaching. The barracks will be empty when they leave. Radka must have been placed in the barracks for some reason, so it was hard for him to imagine that they would leave him here while the barracks were empty, and his guards were gone.
“Who knows. I heard that there was a rebellion going on in an area relatively close to Arxia, so they’re going to take precautions against it. Did you not know that this fief was accepting refugees?”
Igor replied somewhat unhappily, and Radka nodded. He had heard that the fief was accepting refugees. The soldiers who came into contact with Radka at the village, such as those who captured him and held him down, all went to the place where the refugees would be staying, therefore Radka was able to stay in the barracks without any problems.
“The fief is short on manpower because of the previous shit feudal lord. I don’t know if it was the geezer or the brat who thought of this, but they’re going to develop the fief by taking in refugees. So, we have to send out troops against the guys from the neighbouring kingdom since they’re chasing after the refugees.”
Igor spoke roughly, since he wasn’t pleased with what Eliza was doing or accomplishing. Calvin frowned in amazement and supplemented the missing information.
“I heard that Eliza-sama took an active role in accepting the refugees. The refugees brought seeds and livestock with them, and in exchange for living in this fief, they will give some to the villages that were being reconstructed earlier… If that’s true, then that kid probably won’t become like the previous feudal lord?”
Calvin informed him and Radka sulked and only said, “We don’t know that yet.” Calvin agreed gently.
“I suppose so. It is still unknown how Eliza-sama will grow up in the future. But it’s true that she’s working for the citizens of her fief right now… And, when she lived in the barracks, she trained very hard every day. You know better than anyone how hard training is, don’t you?”
Calvin smiled bitterly, and Radka couldn’t nod his head. But when he remembered how hard training was, he couldn’t shake his head either.
When the twenty soldiers returned from the refugee reception area, Earl Theresia’s private army arrived to defend the fief in the absence of the soldiers and feudal lord, and Eliza left with the fief soldiers to Jugfena fortress.
Some of the soldiers who returned from the reception area were those who had directly captured Radka on the day of Eliza’s birthday celebration. Radka returned to Golden Hill Mansion before they arrived. He had expected it, but he wasn’t even allowed to say his farewells to Calvin, Igor or the soldiers who stayed in the same room as him.
Radka was allocated to the room at the far end of the mansion, just like before. The chains that were used to restrain him to the room had been removed, as if they weren’t intending on restricting his movements this time, but the toys and fluffy cushions, that had been prepared for him to pass time, were also gone.
Radka was alone in the empty room. It was a far cry from the cramped rooms at the barracks. But he wasn’t pleased with the size of the room at all.
(Although they have better food to eat, clothes to wear and bed to sleep on than in the barracks…)
Living in the barracks was much simpler in comparison, but Radka believed that it was still better to stay there than here. At least, he could talk to Igor, Calvin and the other soldiers every day. He could take on the name Radka and be called Radka.
But that wasn’t allowed in the mansion.
There was no one named Radka in the Golden Hill Mansion. The orphan named ‘Radka’ from Cyril Village had already been executed and was dead. Now that he had returned to the mansion, the boy named Radka who lived in the barracks was also gone. And so, a girl named Elize Celustka, who was invited to the mansion as a playmate for the feudal lord’s daughter, was the only representation of himself.
(… So instead of training, I will have a noble upbringing.)
Only a limited number of people were busily coming in and out of his room, and Radka was made to study every day. As if to hammer noble education into him all at once, he spent his mornings learning letters and etiquette, and in the evenings, he went outside to learn how to use a rapier.
He was busy with the assignments given to him by his two tutors, and hardly left his room. He lived an isolated life. Radka felt suffocated living like this and his depression gradually grew. He didn’t have time to talk to anyone other than his tutors, and even then, he couldn’t do anything, as far as he was concerned, since they corrected his actions and words.
(Really, what the fuck is she thinking?)
Radka was perplexed when he recalled the time when he had thrown a stone at her.
She should have said that he would be executed. But the next morning, he only had his hair cut and was confined to this mansion instead. The food was simple, but it was enough for him to eat, and he received them at fixed intervals. He was provided with a cloth to wipe his body with every day and hot water. Thanks to that, any trace of the skinny, hairy and dirty little kid from his time in the village was gone, and was replaced by a healthy, small and beautiful child.
The people in the village surely wouldn’t recognise him if they were to see him now. They all thought Radka had died, and had little contact with him in the first place. Maybe all they remembered about him was the colour of his hair and eyes. In any case, the shade of his hair and eyes reminded them of the feudal lord, and they always avoided him, even though the feudal lord was dead.
However, he wasn’t able to say that the change in his appearance was ‘good’. The appearance he had, when he spent time with his mother in the village, and the name Radka, that he had received from her, weren’t things that were easily abandoned.
Even if his mother had gone mad and even if his mother had tried to harm him.
――― His filthy appearance was a symbol of the days he spent with his mother in the village, and receiving a girl’s name was proof that his mother had loved him. Radka certainly felt resentment at Eliza for changing him as she liked because he was dirty and unhealthy, for giving him another name just because it was inconvenient and for taking him away without permission.
(In the end… no one needs ‘me’ aside from mum. That’s why ‘Radka’ was killed.)
After three weeks, Radka became completely depressed with those thoughts in mind. It was painful to be busy every day with being forced to study and isolated in a room.
However, Radka couldn’t abandon this. The tutors all said words like, “Eliza-sama acquired all these things through hard work,” which stirred up his sense of rivalry.
If the things those two and Calvin said were to be believed, then the feudal lord’s daughter started from scratch like Radka had and gained recognition from those around her through her efforts. Radka’s pride didn’t allow him to abandon his studies without being able to do the same thing. If he admitted that it was difficult to acquire a noble’s education, then his perception of nobles living lavishly was wrong. Therefore, Radka had no choice but to desperately follow Eliza’s lead. So that he could tell her that the things she had done was ‘easy and didn’t require effort’.
――― Although he was dimly aware that thinking like that was a way of acknowledging the other person’s efforts, he pushed the thoughts out of his mind. But he still hadn’t realised that the killing intent he felt towards her had changed into rivalry.