It was that night that I had come down with a fever.
Perhaps I had a fever because I was moving around like always, or much more than usual, despite my insomnia not improving since I returned to the capital. I knew that I was ignoring my fatigue and working. So, I also knew that I would faint soon from overworking.
“… Hey, are you alright?”
It wasn’t until the next morning that I regained my senses.
The first thing I saw was Radka peeking at me after he had put a damp towel on my forehead.
“Ah, water? Wait… Ah.”
Before Radka could reach for the water jug, I saw someone’s arm move.
“Here you go.”
Then, the arm poured me a cup of water and offered it to me.
“… Elize… dono?”
The girl smiled at me. She was brave even though she herself was pale.
“Why are you here…?”
Elize Sherstorck had been recuperating at Kaldia fief for four years before she entered the Academy.
Three years ago, she dragged her slightly healthier body to the Academy, and we have talked sometimes since then.
However, the dry, sandy and dusty capital that didn’t have much greenery wasn’t good for her health, so she missed many classes. As a result, she still stays at the Academy ――― at the Advanced Academy, to redo the classes she missed.
However, since the Advanced dormitory is sandwiched between here and the building where the classes are held, and Elize was in her second and third year of classes, I didn’t bother to invite her here.
“It’s been a while, Eliza-sama. I’ve missed you.”
Elize’s voice, which I hadn’t heard for a long time, was crystal clear and gentle, and hadn’t changed in the slightest from what I remembered. Her voice brought relief ――― and made it so all the tension left my body.
“… Yes, me too.”
If I had wanted, I could have invited her to have lunch in the cafeteria, but as soon as I entered the Academy, I left to go to war, and after I came back, I had to deal with post-war things, and I’ve also been busy making up for the delay in my studies, so I didn’t have time to invite her to lunch.
I had hoped to see her when my fever broke, but it seemed that she beat me to the punch. I didn’t want to push Elize, who was still pale and hadn’t gotten strong enough yet, but I was honestly glad that she had come to see me.
“Eliza, the doctor left you some medicine, so you should go ahead and drink it.”
Radka offered me the pill after pouring another cup of water into the cup I had just drank from. The pill seemed like it was made from chopped herbs that reduce fever and nourish the body. When I put it into my mouth, it tasted bitter, grassy and sweet, and I couldn’t help but scowl.
“When did the doctor come?”
“Yesterday afternoon. You had a high fever and looked blank, so I guess you didn’t realise he was here. Elize-sama called him here.”
“Elize-dono called him here?”
I looked at her and she nodded.
“I called the doctor who I’ve been seeing in the capital. He’s a very skilled doctor… I consulted him about my condition and now know what my illness is.”
“You figured it out?!”
I’ve long suspected that Elize’s weak constitution was caused by a non-infectious disease, but there were no doctors in Sherstorck or Kaldia who could identify her disease.
Medical care in Arxia varied greatly. There are a wide range of doctors, from those with state licenses to work for the imperial court or the Knight Order, to those who use dubious folk medicine such as using monster carcasses and secretions as medicines and offerings of healing prayers. Commoners are mostly treated by Ar Xia Church, while nobles are treated by doctors who have graduated from the Advanced Academy’s medical course. And, as usual, the further into the countryside you go, the less accurate the treatment and diagnosis becomes.
“I see, so you’ve finally figured it out… So, what did the doctor say?”
I asked in relief, as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Elize smiled slightly. Then, she answered in a quiet voice.
“It’s a disease called forest syndrome.”
I had never heard of this disease before. I tilted my head in confusion and Elize explained the disease to me in a simple way.
According to her, forest syndrome is caused by inhaling the scales of the cotton butterfly, a monster that has a symbiotic relationship with the cypraeid trees, causing respiratory failure due to the inflammation of the bronchial tubes and the lungs are also weakened due to the weak toxicity of the scales.
There are many cypraeid trees in the north, and a lot of cotton butterflies live there too. Most people in that area build resistance to the toxins in the cotton butterfly’s scales, so they aren’t in danger unless they inhale a large amount of toxins at once, but if someone like Elize, who doesn’t have any resistance to the toxins, continues to inhale the toxins for many years then the symptoms will become severe and dangerous.
“Fortunately, I moved to Kaldia, so I wasn’t poisoned to the point where I can’t recover. The seizures that are caused by my bronchitis will gradually decrease as I age.’
Elize said while looking dark and calm.
“How about your weak lungs? Is that getting better?”
This question, which I probably shouldn’t have asked, must have made her look like that. So, I asked her clearly and mercilessly.
“… Almost. The poison has been building up in there for years. So, it will take years for the poison to clear out of my lungs. My lungs will remain weak in the meantime. The seizures also won’t go away. I was told that there’s no medicine for my condition. They haven’t discovered any medicine to remove the poison yet.”
Silence fell in the room.
Both Radka and I were speechless. Even if her seizures become less severe as she ages, and she grows healthier…. Her weak constitution and the cause of her weak lungs will remain the same. She’s so weak that even the slightest cold can kill her.
On top of that, she can’t return home until she dies. She couldn’t even go near the northern part of Arxia because she can’t breathe in the cotton butterfly scales.
My fever didn’t come down until the next day.
Including today, there were only five days left until the victory holiday. Although it was sudden, I decided to send a messenger to the Roguesia residence to tell them that I will be visiting them later today. Viscount Roguesia replied immediately. I was glad that I had asked him if we could meet during the victory holiday.
The noble block in the capital is separated from the commoner’s block by eight gates. In the centre is the royal palace, and the eight main streets leading from the gate are connected by side streets like a spider web.
My own residence outside of the Academy ――― a small, old townhouse which is now used by Claudia and the others, is located near the southeast gate, and the residence of Viscount Roguesia, which I will be visiting today, is built near the south gate. The houses are surprisingly close to each other, and there are many side streets which make it impossible to pass through with a carriage, so I decided to go there by horseback.
I put on my usual knight uniform for riding. Women’s riding clothes haven’t been developed yet and riding on a horse is impossible when I have to wear stiff undergarments with dresses to make the skirt puff out. While maids and tutors are allowed to wear panniers made of layers of cloth for ease of movement, those who are in charge of them are required to wear clothes that make it difficult to move. It’s really inconvenient…
“That’s a remarkable outfit, Earl Kaldia.”
Apparently, this way of dressing up was very disgraceful to the servants of the Roguesia House.
The Roguesia House is a noble family from the Ryunfeld region, and Ryunfeld has a strong aversion to women moving up in the world. The entire Arxia Kingdom has traditionally been a male dominated Kingdom, but they don’t restrict women as much as Ryunfeld does.
He was being sarcastic, but it seemed inappropriate to get upset over something like this, so I elegantly tilted my head to the side while thinking about Margrave Moudon’s situation.
“I’m dressing in formal wear according to the law, is there a problem?”
“This is not a formal place like the House of Lords. If you’re a woman, then don’t you think it’s polite to dress in a manner that is appropriate for women?”
“I think it’s impolite to go meet the head of a noble house for the first time in an ordinary dress.”
The servant seemed at a loss of words and fell silent in annoyance. Claudia and Radka, who were dressed as maids, laughed quietly.
The servant led us through the Roguesia residence where I could only see male servants. Even tasks that would normally be done by maids were done by the male servants. It seemed that instead of despising the work traditionally done by women, men were doing it instead. There was a bit of contradiction between their thoughts and actions.
“Master, Earl Kaldia is here to see you.”
“Oh, welcome, Earl Kaldia.”
The servant guided me to the parlour which had a large window that let in lots of light. There was a courtyard outside of the window and the unobstructed sunlight made the room bright and warm.
“Thank you for inviting me here today.”
“I should be the one to apologise. You came all the way to our residence because of our family problem.”
Viscount Roguesia was a man who had white hair and a soft, friendly smile, and he had a soft demeanour despite the aura of the mansion. As soon as we were seated, he immediately called the person in question, his daughter. Compared to the servant’s threatening attitude at the beginning of the meeting, Viscount Roguesia’s attitude was surprisingly cooperative and flexible. However, the contrast between the Viscount’s attitude and those of the rest of the house was an uncomfortable feeling that couldn’t be overlooked.
“… You wanted to see me, Father?”
The Viscount’s daughter, who had probably been waiting for him to call her beforehand, immediately showed up in the parlour.
Her bright, pale azure hair glistened in the light that was coming from the window. She’s a cute girl, I thought. I heard she is 16, but her soft features, which were like her father’s, made her look younger than her age.
“Earl Kaldia. This is my daughter, Feyria.”
Viscount Roguesia gently placed a hand on Feyria’s shoulder and introduced her to me. As soon as Feyria heard the name Kaldia, her eyes widened in surprise, and she looked at me.
“Feyria, this is Earl Kaldia. Say hello.”
“Y-yes. My name is Feyria Roguesia, Kaldia-sama…”
She was trembling, but her voice was clear. Her strong-willed eyes looked straight at me. I sighed in my mind since I felt that she was more lively than modest.
The father seemed flexible and gentle and didn’t seem like a man who would expose me to the peculiar customs of Ryunfeld. His daughter seemed lively and not at all obedient.
“… I am Eliza Kaldia Einsbark. I look forward to getting to know you.”
This is really troublesome. It will be difficult to explain this if Feyria didn’t want to be engaged to Viscount Agren’s son, and her father, Viscount Roguesia didn’t oppose the annulment.
I once again cursed the northern nobles for forcing me into a troublesome situation ――― and at the same time, I was fed up with the father and daughter who were in front of me.
This troublesome situation happened in the first place because Feyria didn’t want to marry into the Agren House.
I don’t like Viscount Agren, who got in my way and pushed this situation onto me, Marquis Nordsterm, the man pulling the strings, or even Feyria, who had caused this situation.
Feyria, who was sitting properly beside Viscount Roguesia, seemed to be quietly observing me. Viscount Roguesia probably hadn’t told her why I am here.
I don’t know what her reasons are, but she wants to destroy her own marriage, so I am here to stop her. Will she become wary once she knows why I am here?