Two years had passed. In just two years, my domain had changed greatly. Outside my window, all I could see beyond the fence, were rippling waves of wheat. He had done quite well in only two years, is what I was thinking, Earl Terejia could be proud of what he had accomplished.
Due to the despotism of the Kaldia family, the people’s resources had been stretched to the limits. Since my shallow father’s biggest problem was his fear of rebellion, he had repressed the people overzealously. If they didn’t work in the fields, then there would be less income. Even an idiot could see that this would only eventually lead to self-destruction.
But, saying that my father did not completely understand the famine issues within my domain, might have been an exaggeration. He knew that repressing the people as much as he did would reduce income. Then, how did he maintain such a luxurious lifestyle in bad taste?
……When I learned about my family’s incredibly evil “source of income,” I was unable to stop myself from throwing up at the boundless depths of human greed and evil, even if he were my own father.
Among the punishments for the people in this domain, there was something called forced labor. Basically, putting someone to work. With my common sense from the previous world, there wasn’t really anything like this in my country, so at first I was a bit confused.
When my father started the forced labor system nineteen years ago, he would take girls from twelve to eighteen years old, and boys from ten to fifteen years old, and force them into sex service. Without sugarcoating it, he was basically treating the domain’s people as slaves.
In the Arxia Kingdom, “slavery” is considered illegal.
It is clearly stated in national law that slavery is illegal, but, it is only there in the first place because the state church, the Ar Xia church, protested against slavery on a large scale. The reality is that most commoners were under a system similar to slavery, called serfdom, in this country.
Father, with his despicable cleverness, came up with this trick to get around the label of “slavery.” First, saying that this wasn’t a demotion or a lifetime thing like slavery. Also, sending the gathered laborers to other domains to work as well. Calling this only as “labor” to the very end.
In this country, no, on this entire continent, people were merely considered to be the property of their domain’s lord. This was considered to be common sense here, but I disagreed with it. Meaning, a rental fee could be earned by loaning out the “property.” It had to be concealed in this flashy manner, and nobody would blame my father.
Since anti-slavery laws were strong in the Arxia Kingdom, openly practicing slavery would mean getting exiled. Although Earl Terejia seemed to have a strong sense of ethics, there were probably corrupt nobles in other parts of Arxia.
Because this country had enjoyed a long period of peace, I wonder if that caused Arxia to stagnate and begin to rot from inside. Unfortunately, I found out that “laborers” were dispatched to countless houses. And even now, there were still many of them.
These laborers were an example of the numerous despotic laws that my father enacted like vomit. It was horrifying. “Laborers” that returned due to pregnancy would be abused even more, increasing even further the amount of psychological damage dealt to them.
Since they were under an unbearably high tax, countless commoners were in the harsh situation of facing starvation, and there were so many famished people that improving the quality of life within my domain was progressing slowly.
That’s why I was saying, things were better already. Earl Terejia had put the safety of my domain’s people as his first priority.
He started with the hunger issue. He sold off all the excessively expensive stuff in the house. That’s good. I wouldn’t even know where to sell all these things. That money was used to provide free meals to the people.
At the same time as distributing food to the villages, he also promised forgiveness to the villagers that had been forced into banditry by the terrible conditions. At this time, I didn’t know it yet but, Earl Terejia seemed to have purchased food and supplies from out of his own pocket as well. But, he calculated it as a loan to Viscountess Kaldia in my name, is what I found out much later.
Next, he captured all the wrongdoers that benefitted from working with my father. Since most of the Kaldia family had been assassinated in a single day, they had all fled. I learned this after I started associating with other nobles. The reason being, they had taken what valuables they could with them when they had fled. After executing the primary conspirators responsible and distributing their wealth, along with addressing the hunger issue, the people’s resentment towards Earl Terejia and me was able to make a 180 degree turn, and they viewed us in a much better light.
After that, it was just a matter of improving our popularity with the people in my domain. It was a good thing that the people were so weak that they weren’t even able to consider revolt. Their bodies and minds had been completely broken, after all.
And so, for the past two years Earl Terejia has worked tirelessly day and night for the sake of my domain. Looking at the brilliant sight outside my window, I cried a little at the knowledge.
Earl Terejia was rather elderly. Rather, it could be said that he was quite a bit older than the life expectancy in this country. It was due to the standard of living. It wasn’t strange at all for anyone seven and older to die of something, and reaching seventy was about the limit. I could only watch such an elderly noble become more and more haggard with his work, while I was being taken care of by the nanny he prepared for me, Mrs. Galton.
In fact, I had still never even spoken with him. At first, it was simply because Earl Terejia was very busy. The situation was that the people in my domain had to be managed and helped as quickly as possible. There was no time for stopping, his work arrived for him like angry waves crashing down. Earl Terejia himself had no time to spare to take care of children. And I was fine with that. I had no reason to complain.
It happened that night.
I was leaning out the window, looking at the clear, bright night sky and its sparkling stars without a single cloud in sight. I didn’t really mean anything by it. It was just that when I was looking outside earlier, I happened to want to see the stars later for some reason.
“Do you want to go out, Eliza?”
A low, hoarse voice that still had a bit of power to it came from beside me. I think I could compare it to rumbling thunder. Before I realized it, he had put his hand on my back and I felt a nervous feeling in my stomach, and my body stiffened with tension. I didn’t know what the reason could be for him to suddenly speak to me, since he’d never even said “hello” to me in the two years since he’d been here.
“……Why did you think something like that?”
Although I knew it was rude to answer a question with a question, but the earl didn’t seem to mind, and looked at the stars that I had just been looking at.
“Earlier during the day, I heard that you had been crying to go out.”
“I had been wondering if you were lamenting your misfortune at being unable to go out, but it seems that I was mistaken. Yet, child, why is it that when you have never even cried before today, that you would cry over something trivial that happened, when you have such a lovely personality?”
Mrs. Galton must have reported it to him, I see. While looking at the wheat shining brilliantly in the sun earlier today, I was indeed crying. My nanny must have seen me earlier today since she had been taking care of me for the last two years, and I was like a daughter to her now. Oh, and, I suppose three and four year olds should have been crying more, eh. Since I was able to speak, I also didn’t have anything to cry over or complain about. Recently, I had finally realized that it may have seemed a little strange.
“Indeed, as far as I can remember, I’ve never left this house. However, I understand already that it’s out of necessity. I don’t have any special interest in going outside or anything of the sort.”
“Today…… I was just looking at the wheat fields outside. It wasn’t that I wanted to go out.”
The earl who had been silently looking at the stars without speaking, suddenly returned his gaze to me. He was looking me straight in the eye, but I didn’t know what he was thinking.
“The wheat is finally ripe, now. When I thought about that, I involuntarily started crying for some reason.”
And with that, the earl and I stared at each other in silence. His black pupils were still filled with a strong light in them, but I was still unable to tell what he was thinking at all. The eyes are supposed to be windows to the soul is what I suddenly recalled, so I started thinking about phrases from the previous world. If you gaze into an abyss…
“The abyss will gaze back into you.”
I was shocked at hearing something so unexpected, it happened in an instant. By then, Earl Terejia had already turned around and started leaving. Without saying anything else, the earl disappeared from my sight in the hallway.