“Then, I’m counting on you Earl Kaldia. May the guidance of Misorua be with you.”
A high-ranking priest of the Church of Ar Xia bowed at me while saying something I’ve heard before. Behind the priest, Nordsterm’s lackey, Viscount Agren, smiled at me disgustingly without even trying to hide his intentions.
“… I will definitely take care of it.”
I managed to stop my cheeks from twitching and an extremely flat and cold voice came out of my mouth. If I were to look in the mirror now, I’m sure there would be veins sticking out on my forehead.
I was forced to do something troublesome, and it was Viscount Agren who forced it on me. Marquis Nordsterm was probably pulling the strings behind the scenes.
――― It was after the first special meeting at the House of Lords, after the war had ended and the peace negotiations had finally concluded. I attended a medium-sized ball that was held to recognise our services even though I wasn’t feeling well because of Marquis Nordsterm’s disgusting smile.
Quite a few people attended the ball as it was the end of spring, and an early season evening ball, and I already had a bad feeling the moment I saw Viscount Agren coming towards me with a high-ranking priest. I should have said that I wasn’t feeling well and fled as quickly as I could, while pretending that I hadn’t seen them.
“The high-ranking priest ordered you to resolve the discord between Viscount Agren’s son and his fiancée. That’s quite an unreasonable task to push onto you.”
Lord Maudon, who had heard the situation from Claudia, gently patted my shoulder as if to comfort me while I sunk into regret.
“There’s nothing I can do about this. I’m sure they’ll send a letter asking this of me even if I manage to avoid them today. But still, they came up with something really troublesome. They’re quite despicable, those guys.”
Lord Moudon purposely made himself vague. He was talking about the Nordsterm faction of course.
“… You’re right. I’ve just turned 13, it’s not my place to ask a 16 year old woman to completely change her mind.”
He even took the trouble to bring a high-ranking priest so I couldn’t refuse. The Church protects the law and, if they have their backing, then there’s no way for a local Earl like myself to refuse when I’m asked to make sure the marriage proceeds smoothly in order to maintain order.
It was really a very troublesome thing to be forced upon me at a very troublesome time.
“His fiancée is a daughter of the Roguesia House? If it’s the Roguesia House, then they’re nobles from the Ryunfeld region.”
Claudia, who had been watching the entire exchange as my maid, looked at me reluctantly.
The wills and opinions of women are mostly ignored in Ryunfeld. I don’t know what’s the point of asking her to change her mind during this busy time of the year when she’s not respected. If she’s a woman from that region, then she would have been taught to absolutely obey her father’s and grandfather’s orders, regardless of her will.
“… In any case, I’ll need to get acquainted with the young lady for the time being. I wish I had some way to get in contact with her.”
“I think she’s studying at the Academy…”
“It would take too much time to meet her by chance. I’ll have to do something during this victory holiday…”
The Academy will be on holiday for 10 days, starting the previous day.
Even though most nobles hadn’t been involved in the war, there were still a large number of students at the Academy who are children of knights, ――― who have been demoted to commoners, but whose families, or parents still hold a noble status.
The knights who had been on the frontline were now back in the royal capital for their triumphant return, or at the eastern border where they could quickly rush back, so the Academy decided that they will have a holiday for those students.
“Well, I suppose it won’t be much of a hassle to talk to each other in the Academy if you can make contact with her.”
I nodded at Claudia’s words and sighed. My head, which was aching from lack of sleep, felt even heavier.
The next day, I visited Earl Thelesia’s residence to greet him upon my return and to discuss the difficult task that I had been given last night.
“You seem fine.”
I was still covered in bandages everywhere, but it wasn’t enough to bother Earl Thelesia, since he had seen me injured worse before. Or perhaps, to him, just being alive means that I’ve made it back safely.
“I didn’t make it back unscathed, but I did make it back safely, because of what you taught me.”
The Earl snorted. It was the Earl who threw me into the fief army in anticipation of the future, so this isn’t wrong.
“… By the way…”
When I finished greeting him, I looked from behind him.
Oscar was standing there. It was Oscar Thelesia, who had rushed to my aid twice. When our eyes met, he bowed slightly without smiling… He really looked like the Earl when I compare them like this.
“My sister’s grandson. You already know his name.”
Earl Thelesia’s words were extremely straightforward.
“Yes, I do. But, hmm… Isn’t he a Jugfena knight? Why is he in the royal capital?”
Now that the triumphant return has settled down, the knights who had accompanied Ergnard should have returned to Jugfena Fortress.
“He’s my successor. I’m introducing you to him for re-employment.”
What are you saying?
“I’d like to recommend Oscar to your Knight Order.”
“… Can you please repeat that?”
I looked at Oscar again. Oscar didn’t smile when our eyes made contact.
At any rate, I interviewed Oscar.
I took him to the spacious parlour in my dormitory.
When I looked at him again, his stern countenance reminded me of Earl Thelesia, and my nervousness about meeting someone for the first time almost dissipated.
“Thank you for coming, Oscar-dono. This is the first time we’ve greeted each other. Once again, I am Eliza Kaldia. Thank you for coming all the way from Jugfena.”
“No, it’s an honour to be here, Earl Kaldia.”
The serious Oscar didn’t betray his appearance, and the first words he said to me were very formal. I could feel tension behind his words, and it made me feel closer to him.
“You don’t have to be so formal. I’m just a child, as you can see.”
I joked and opened both my hands. Oscar’s eyes widened slightly in surprise, and he smiled slightly as if he was looking at something amusing. He probably relaxed a little.
“Have a seat.”
I offered him a seat and he sat down, looking more relaxed than he had when he had first entered the room. I was relieved to see that he had understood my intentions well. I don’t mind being formal to those people who I will occasionally meet in high society, but it’s annoying to be formal to someone who I will meet frequently in the fief.
“I’m sorry to get straight to business but let me give you a detailed explanation about our Knight Order. Our Knight Order was established under Earl Thelesia’s name, and it was established to protect and supervise the newcomers who we have accepted into Kaldia.”
“It was established under Granduncle’s name?”
“I didn’t have the title of Earl at that time. The Knight Order has now been changed and is under my name… Ah, you need at least a Junior Earl title or higher to establish a private Knight Order.”
I remembered that it wasn’t general knowledge to apply for a private Knight Order, so I added this explanation.
The distinction between these two have become blurred since I’ve received education that is required of a noble and feudal lord. Now that I’ve started showing up in social circles, it’s common courtesy to adjust myself to who I’m talking to… I need to be more careful from now on.
“However, my fief is short on men. There are a lot of cases where the knights are, for all intents and purposes, contracted to work like lords or vassals. It’s quite different from Jugfena, so are you alright with this?”
“… Have you already decided on a plan?”
“Of course. First of all, I must say that all the newcomers, for all intents and purposes, are well supervised under the old system.”
“Isn’t that… against the ideology of equality among the commoners?”
The ideology of quality among commoners is based on a passage in the Sacred Code which states that no commoner is allowed to rule over other commoners. It is interpreted that the masses are always ruled by nobles. It is believed that giving different statuses to commoners could eventually threaten the status law of the nation.
Of course, he would be confused, so I answered him while shaking my head.
“The ruling class of the old regime has a vassal contract with me. They are merely conveying my will to the other newcomers under my orders.”
However, if the ideology of quality among commoners is probed too deeply, then the nation won’t be able to last. Because the nobles will have to be in charge of everything, from being village chief who represents each village to commanding the fief army which is formed by recruiting commoners.
Of course, everyone knows that this is impossible. As a formal loophole, the law states that only lords can contract commoners as vassals. A vassal is a person who serves the head of the house and is designated to act as an intermediary between the people and the head of the house. Village chiefs and the army are different from vassals since they make a contract with the feudal lord, but they’re almost considered the same thing now, since the title of feudal lord is basically hereditary. In the past, knights were a type of vassal, but over time, their noble status became a special position that was allowed for only one generation and the knight status became something else.
“Ah, a vassal… I see.”
“I’m hoping that the entire ruling class of the Sill Tribe will eventually join the Knight Order. We still have our hands full getting them to settle down, so we don’t have time to educate them right now. I’ve decided to have the knights oversee them from the beginning, to build up reputation, even though it’s not a praiseworthy approach. They only speak Artolas or Rindarl, and of course they’re not literate, so they can hardly do any paperwork. I’d like to leave that part of the job mainly to them now. Then there’s protection. If the need arises, I will have them on defence.”
“So, you mean to say that the significance of the expansion is going to be applied to the defence of the fief?”
“You have good intuition.”
The edges of his lips raised slightly. I welcome competent people.
Even so, I got thirsty from explaining all that at once. I rang the bell in my hand and instructed the maid, who was waiting outside of the room, to prepare some tea. Then, Oscar chuckled lightly as if something was amusing.
“… What is it?”
“Nothing. It’s just… I suddenly feel like you’re a splendid noble, even though you’re so small.”
Is it strange to see a discrepancy between what’s inside and out? “Please don’t be offended,” I nodded in reply to the words he had added. I wasn’t offended, his response was much better than I had expected.
“If you’re alright with everything, including my personality, then I happily welcome you to Kaldia.”
With Ergnard in mind, I tried to make my voice sound as jokingly and calm as possible.
Oscar nodded with the biggest smile I had ever seen him make. Well, it was a small smile though.