Since Earl Terejia’s private army was assigned to the defense of the mansion, I had to summon thirty soldiers back from the village construction and take another twenty soldiers that still remained here. With this, I’ll have the fifty soldiers I promised to that knight.
Together with Gunther’s orders, the soldiers marched in tandem with me overlooking them while riding my horse. Since soldiers-in-training will be leading the reins for me, compared to my birthday celebration, it’s a lot easier.
“I thought you weren’t able to ride a horse……”
Claudia who was walking next to me muttered that under her breath. Since she had helped me ride part way on our return trip from the royal capital, she’s gotten the impression that I’m unable to ride by myself.
“It’s not that I can’t ride, I just didn’t have the strength to control a horse for that long.”
“How weak. When we return, I’m going to instill some intensive training for physical fitness into you.”
I staggered a little at Claudia’s grandiose exaggeration and touched my temple as I felt a slight headache coming on. It’s not that I’m all that weak, I just have the strength of a six year old still.
I went on without bothering to reply, and on my other side, Gunther arrived next to me. Claudia called out his name in such a bright voice.
“Yo, ojou-chan, and ‘my lord.’ The march is going well.”
Agil was the one in charge of the overall marching, while Gunther commanded from the front. It seems that the longest serving soldiers have become a bit revved up, I nodded slightly at him, then tilted my head.
“……Um, what’s with calling me my lord?”
“Ah? You don’t think it’s fitting?”
Of course it wouldn’t be fitting when you suddenly change the way you address me. For the person who’s always called me “brat” up until now to suddenly address me as “my lord,” of course I’m going to have a hard time adjusting to it.
When I was living in the barracks with the other soldiers, at first they were calling me brat just like Gunther, but after they got used to me they were calling me Charlie for some reason, the same as Kamil. Gunther had stubbornly never changed his way of calling me, so that’s why I’m so shocked now.
“You should be more happy like the brat you are that I’ve given you my recognition. Should I drop the honorifics?”
Gunther was laughing delightedly at his own sarcastic remark, while I furrowed my brows. It feels like those words have completely overturned the nature of our relationship up until now. So far I really haven’t experienced what it’s like to be a noble and the domain lord, just the relationship between adults and children, instructor and apprentice, those are the only types of attitudes that Gunther has taken with me up until now.
It’s really so sudden, I suppose there’s no changing Gunther’s view of me now.
“You’re really not honest with your feelings.”
“That’s so true.”
“…… Well…… whatever, …… fine. Besides that, there’s something I want to talk about immediately. To have Agil be commanding up until now along the way, I wasn’t…… informed of this.”
Gunther’s sarcasm with Claudia chiming in didn’t sound all that bad at all. I tried to start a serious conversation immediately while Claudia was being relatively quiet for her. When the question was brought up to Gunther, he shrugged and laughed. He’s not a very mature person.
“Our path was planned out in advance. We’re really not going to pass by the village construction site?”
“No. If we head directly east to the new village the Monster Forest will be on our path, as well as many ponds. We’ll resupply at Cyril village.”
“Yeah, yeah, I got it, I see, I see. At any rate, my lord probably just got into a fight of some sort with Kamil and doesn’t want to see his face.”
After leaving that remark, Gunther went back to the front of the marching formation. As expected because we’ve known each other for so long, he’s good at reading me. It wasn’t a fight though. It was one-sided, with me chasing him away.
When we arrived at Cyril village to resupply and rest for one night, it was just like last time during my birthday celebration, the atmosphere was filled with tension. Maybe it’s because this place is far away from other villages, the heavy feeling of being unwelcome here was extremely uncomfortable.
While feeling the sharp gazes of the villagers looking at me, I gave the order to resupply our water from the river flowing through the center of the village.
The rivers flowing through the Kaldia domain all have melted snow from the Amon Nor Mountains as their water source. Since Cyril village is the closest village to the mountains, they can use the water directly from the river as a clean source of drinking water.
I had my horse drink some water as well, wiped down its sweat, and fed it. The young boy novice soldier leading my horse didn’t have the strength to control him and lost control for a bit.
“S, sorry, my lord.”
“I don’t mind. Don’t waste your strength talking and try to recover some strength. Tomorrow we’re doubling our pace.”
Next to the village, we set up tents where about thirty of the soldiers would be sleeping tonight. The soldiers were able to set everything up swiftly and give orders efficiently, it must be due to the soldiers that returned from assisting with the village construction. We’ve collected a large number of tents from the neighboring domains for the sake of the new citizens, and they’re used to camping outside.
As I looked at the sight of me washing my hands in the river, and was able to get some rest for myself, the young boy novice soldier slowly came up next to me at a crawling pace, and sat down next to me.
He seems slightly older than Elise. He wasn’t very tall, and he had a slender figure. He had fluffy, bouncy golden blonde hair. He looked at my hands in the river with strong curiosity in his eyes.
“What are you doing?”
“As you can see, I’m soaking my hands in the cool water.”
My hands were damp with sweat due to gripping my reins tightly as to not fall off my horse, so immersing my hands in the river felt really good. The river water that had melted snow as its source felt nice and cool in the summer heat.
The boy novice soldier imitated me and submerged his hands in the water as well. Ah, it’s really cold, escaped his mouth as he smiled happily.
“Ahh, I want to take a bath in this river.”
“Although it’s very hot, you’re not allowed to enter the river. You’ll get the water dirty. Soak a cloth in water and wipe yourself down with it instead.”
“Okay. – Somehow, it doesn’t feel like my lord is actually younger than me. Rather, it almost feels like you’re the older one.”
I didn’t know what would be good to say to the boy who seemed like he was admiring me, so I looked back at the surface of the water. The boy next to me giggled. In this village of tense feelings, it gave a strangely calm feeling.
“Before I entered the Kaldia domain’s army, the villagers were scared of my lord. When I actually saw you as well, I also thought that my lord was a scary person. My lord, it’s because you don’t laugh. But after talking with you today, I think it’s okay to not be so scared of you.”
“However, since my parents didn’t really struggle all that much under the despotic rule of the previous domain lord, I might be the only one that feels this way. ……But, I think that people will still be scared of my lord if they don’t know how you really are. It’s such a waste. Ah, even though my lord has a cute face, it’s scary because you always have a grim expression. I think that’s a waste as well.”
Without even any context, he started a monologue on this topic for some reason, what’s more he even offered his unsolicited opinion, but somehow, I still felt mysteriously calm, and didn’t even mind that he was a bit meddlesome and listened to all of it. The summer heat around me was being blown away by the cool breeze coming down the mountains.
It almost feels like Kamil’s talking with me. I wonder if it’s because this boy’s atmosphere resembles Kamil’s in some way?
Finally, silence fell on the riverbank. For a while, the two of us merely listened to the sounds of the wind and the babbling river.
Suddenly, there was a commotion from the village, and the sky turned slightly crimson. As I looked at the sunlight reflecting off the water with a tinge of orange, Claudia called for me.
“Eliza-dono, it’s an urgent situation.”
On top of how rare it was for her to get my name right, Claudia looked more serious than I had ever seen her before. The boy novice soldier also looked at Claudia uneasily.
“A monster has been discovered in the forest near the village. It seems similar to a gigantic rizer lizard. Anyhow, please come to the tents first.”
While making her report, Claudia was already lifting me up onto my horse. Then, she jumped on behind me, and while turning the horse around she called out to the boy novice soldier.
“Could you get some more details from the villagers? The person who discovered the monster should still be resting at the village hall.”