*Zaza, Zaza, Zaza*
Radka jerked upright at the dry sound of a paper bag filled with scraps of paper being shook.
It was early morning, still at the break of dawn, and yet, the noise woke him up, putting him in a bad mood.
Recently, a large number of phosphorescent moths had started to fly around his room a little after sunrise.
Phosphorescent moths. They are literally moth-like looking monsters. They have been strangely increasing in numbers since the summer before last, causing anxiety in the fief.
Radka’s room was located in the corner of the mansion. That was probably why the sounds of the wings of the phosphorescent moths flying outside the window sounded louder than in the other rooms. Phosphorescent moths habitually fly high in the sky in groups. They are especially active at dawn and dusk when their characteristic shiny scales are less noticeable.
They can fly much higher than moths and butterflies, which are similar creatures, because they were monsters. Phosphorescent moths have the ability to start fires if they are densely packed together on things that are flammable, such as trees or leaves, which is why they are classified as monsters. However, individually, their fires aren’t strong, and they are often burnt to death by the fires they start.
Therefore, they fly in groups so close that their wings touch to protect themselves from birds, but they don’t touch when they are close to the ground. But they swarm around the walls of houses when they lay eggs, so, like all monsters, they are creatures that require a little caution.
Radka got out of bed while ruffling his hair, which was soft and bouncing all over the place. He didn’t feel like going back to sleep when it was this noisy. Besides, Eliza was in the mansion today.
The newly built feudal lord’s mansion, on the hill between the newly built village and Sera River, was an unfortunate mansion since its master rarely returned home after it was built.
By the time this mansion had finished being built, Eliza had already been sent off to war with the neighbouring kingdom. Even now, she was busy going back and forth between the royal capital and the front lines, and when she did come back home, she only used this place to replenish her supplies.
“It must be tough,” Radka muttered to himself.
Even though he had aged, his Eliza-like appearance hadn’t changed, so he wasn’t allowed to accompany her on the battlefield. This was to avoid unnecessary confusion to the allied forces.
In return, his work had grown to the point where he could be called the acting feudal lord.
Even so, Bellway and Lady Marechan, who are officially registered as civil officials in the Kaldia fief, assist him with his work, and sometimes, Eliza would do the finishing touches when she returned. Most importantly, his life wasn’t in danger. His work was nothing compared to the work of his master, who had been sent to the battlefield around the clock and is now even standing on the frontlines.
And even without that exhausting work, Radka knew that Eliza’s burden was heavy and was definitely straining her mind and body.
The noise the phosphorescent moths made was annoying on the third floor, where his room was, so Radka decided to get dressed, then quickly went downstairs.
He heard the door close as he descended the stairs even though it was still early in the day, and to his surprise, he saw Eliza in the corridor. The way she dressed so perfectly and seamlessly gave her an aura of dignity not befitting the morning, and he couldn’t help but look at her.
“Ah, Eliza. Morning. You’re early again today.”
Eliza’s white face turned around towards him when he spoke to her.
――― It had been a long time since he had seen her in the sunlight, and her complexion was much worse than he remembered. Her cheeks had lost some fat, and she was looking less and less childlike and feminine, and her pale white skin, combined with her red eyes and well-defined face, gave off a decadent eeriness that made it seem as if she could be a rumoured blood-sucking monster.
“…. Are you sleeping properly? You’ve got terrible bags. I heard you’re travelling again today; are you going to be alright?”
Radka already knew that she wasn’t going to answer her and that she wasn’t sleeping. He had to ask even though he knew all this.
――― The dark circles under Eliza’s eyes had started to appear four years ago.
The attack that took place four years ago in winter. The attackers were a man with strong northern Arxian characteristics, and a young nun who travelled around the kingdom on a pilgrimage… the girl who taught Radka many things when he was little, and at the same time, she instilled him with hatred for nobles.
And there was another man, a creepy man who never said a word and had a hood covering his face. That man looked similar to the boy named Kamil, who had been Eliza’s attendant, and for some reason, he let Eliza go in the end.
His body remained undiscovered, but the man who looked like her attendant, whom everyone assumed was dead, was now working with the enemy. And after that, they hadn’t been able to find a trace of him for four years.
That was reason enough for Eliza to have nightmares and suffer from insomnia. At least, that’s what Radka understood, and that was also the truth.
“You’re the one who has been coming down early lately.”
Eliza didn’t answer Radka’s question, like he had expected. Radka gave a small sigh and ignored her little bluff.
“The phosphorescent moths are so noisy around sunrise. I tried my best to ignore them and sleep some more before, but now I’ve given up and come down earlier. There’s too many of them. Those things.”
Radka said, before looking out the window. Eliza also turned her gaze in the direction he was looking at as well. Outside the window, the scales of the phosphorescent moths filled the air with a glow that couldn’t be summed up in the words ‘morning glow’.
“… They’ve increased even more during the time I wasn’t here.”
They both glared grimly at the sky. The phosphorescent moths that gathered all around the high feudal lord’s mansion looked like floating autumn leaves, beautiful and fantastic, but at the same time, it was a very strange and eerie sight.
“We’ve taken some countermeasures in the fief, but…”
“Like spraying them with muddy water when the villagers see the phosphorescent moths gather in the village?”
“Well, if you cover them in muddy water then they won’t be able to fly and will die. It also prevents them from catching on fire. But… there’s more land where people don’t live than where they do. It’s like holding a safflower petal in our hand to dye a river.”
“The only saving grace is that live trees are less likely to catch on fire. There have been reports of damage from other monsters as well… What the heck is going on?”
Radka scratched his head while feeling something similar to irritation.
“There’s nothing we can do since it’s a natural phenomenon. I think people will start killing the monsters more seriously if it gets brought up in the House of Lords.”
“It’s a strange phenomenon that’s been happening for two years. Has no one talked about this in the House of Lords?”
“Planates wrote a written protest about the treatment of the First Prince two years ago. Last year Rindarl declared war, and earlier this spring, the House of Lords was dancing around because of the war. After that, they talked about things such as preparing for the war and supplies, so they didn’t have time to talk about monsters that weren’t bringing any actual harm, even if they’re increasing in number.”
“Isn’t the investiture of the Crown Prince left to the royal family and diplomacy to the Archduke?”
Radka muttered in amazement. Eliza shrugged. The topic of monsters wasn’t brought up at the House of Lords because other fiefs haven’t seen any abnormal behaviour from them.
“There’s a possibility that this strange phenomenon is only happening in fiefs that are close to Amon Nohl. I’ll see how things go and talk about it if the topic is brought up, and if the damage is only around here, then I’ll prepare a place for the neighbouring fiefs to discuss countermeasures…”
“That doesn’t seem possible if the war doesn’t end.”
Radka had been helping Eliza with work for three years, and he can now guess what happened in the House of Lords. He once again ruffled his hair and sighed.
“I’d like it if I didn’t die when the war is over.”
It was then that Eliza muttered such a thing.
“… Will you be on the frontlines again?”
When Radka asked this, Eliza slightly moved her lips in irony, “Maybe not on the frontline.”
“I was entrusted with the defence of Lynx Plateau, a key position, to prevent the enemy from taking the roundabout path.”
“Don’t tell me only the Kaldia army will be defending Lynx Plateau?”
“… Yeah. No, we, alone, should be enough. It’s fine.”
He was against it whether it was fine or not. He was worried about Eliza’s physical condition but kept silent about this.
Instead, he talked about something else.
“Make sure you come home. Otherwise, I’ll become ‘Eliza’.”
“… That might be better.”
“Stupid! Listen, if I become the feudal lord, I’ll spend like crazy on your birthday and death anniversary!”
Eliza finally smiled weakly as she slightly hit the head that was a little higher than hers.