The rocky, clattering horse-drawn carriage took two days to finally arrive at its destination. In the outermost section of the nobles’ living quarters in the royal capital, separated from the commoners’ quarters by a single fence, we stopped at a timeworn small townhouse. It was much shorter than the two story mansion that I live in, and I barely even need to lift my head to look up.
A sigh slipped out from Earl Terejia. Then, he looked at me.
“You, is this really fine?”
“It’s just a place to stay at while we’re in the royal capital anyways.”
The earl shrugged, and looked back at the townhouse distastefully. This townhouse is the first thing that I’ve ever bought for myself in this life, meaning, it was also a bit small and narrow.
After the battle at Fort Jugfena, although dealing with the aftermath of that battle was finally over, I’m still quite busy and have to go between my domain and the royal capital quite often. Since the House of Lords has regular meetings in summer and autumn, it’s a bustling social season at the royal capital. Most nobles with their own domains also have mansions in the royal capital, and this could be a good opportunity to deepen my network of contacts.
Especially from mid-summer to autumn, there’s quite a lot of events that gather many people, such as social debuts for newcomers, dance balls, and church festivals.
Of course, although Earl Terejia is already a very experienced court aristocrat, I haven’t even reached adult age yet, let alone made my social debut, so it should still be about a decade before those social events have anything to do with me.
……Although that’s how it should have been, contrary to all that there was actually a mountain of invitations from various nobles piled up back home in the domain lord’s office. The reason was simply that everyone wanted to get acquainted with me to establish a useful contact for future negotiations.
Because of the four eastern dukedoms combining to become the Rindarl Union, and the unprovoked attack from Densel, we were on the highest level of alert against them. Of course, domestic attention was also on the eastern domains that bordered the enemy, the domains of Kaldia, Jugfena, and Genas.
The House of Lords was giving these three domains extra financial support, but now the system of payments to us was being re-organized, as some of the domain lords were now moving to have some of that money returned.
Since there was so much attention on our domains, it’s also opened up new market opportunities for Jugfena and Genas, as well as Kaldia, for being the country’s first line of defense. Due to all the military equipment and facilities that must be made, as well as the large number of goods that the new citizens would need, that’s why so many nobles have all sent me their invitations.
In short, every domain wants new trade opportunities.
Although it was a bit of a superfluous rule, in Arxia there’s a custom that children that haven’t reached adult age yet shouldn’t attend social events other than ones that they’re hosting, as a matter of etiquette. However, because I’m a domain lord before I’m a child, there’s a relentless number of invitations being sent my way. Usually, it would be the reverse, where someone is a child before they’re a noble.
……Because of my circumstances, I now have a full schedule of luncheon and evening meetings every day. It’s actually a bit hard on my body as I’m still quite young, but I won’t say a single word of complaint. I don’t have anyone to complain to anyways.
So that I don’t always have to stay at Earl Terejia’s place whenever I visit the royal capital, I bought this tiny house on the very outskirts of the noble area.
It does seem to be rather decayed, but well, because I don’t have to stay here for very long each time, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care about the outside, I’ve already had the interior fixed up.
I sank myself into a non brand name, cheap, yet still well made sofa, and I looked at the exposed red bricks and wood that seemed to give a feeling of warmth to the plaster walls, I think I like it.
“Elise, give me my schedule for tonight and tomorrow.”
“Uh, ……ah. Tonight, you’re organizing documents in the office. ……Tomorrow, during the day…… The tailor is coming over to take measurements. Tomorrow evening, um, you’re attending Margrave Molton’s party.”
When I pestered Ratoka who had been forced to stand beside me in maid attire, he read off my schedule he was holding to me in a fluster. Recently Bellway had been teaching him various things he needed to know to attend to me.
I mostly intended to make Ratoka into a personal maid, rather than a personal attendant, but if he knows how to do more things, that’s pretty convenient too. Although doing this does seem to have added to his dislike of me, but little by little, it feels like things have gotten more informal between us.
“The day after tomorrow it seems that you have a Sacred Code study session at the church. Also, there’s luggage to be organized in the office still, what should we do?”
“I’ll go after I’m done drinking my tea.”
“……Your tea you say, but what about your maid?”
“You’re so dense. That means you should go right now.”
“Ahh…… So that’s it.”
Ratoka nodded, although he still had an expression that didn’t quite seem convinced.
He turned around, and left while walking awkwardly, still unused to the heels and skirt he was wearing, and he passed by Claudia who was leaning against the wall next to the fireplace on his way out, sighing slightly at what he had to endure from me.
She met my gaze and didn’t even try to conceal that she was laughing, still giggling as she shrugged her shoulders lightly at me.
“……What is it.”
“Nothing, I just thought that you’re having quite a lot of fun with him.”
Claudia had continued to remain being my bodyguard, but since at the mansion I would have other guards as well, this is actually the first time that she’s seen me interacting with Ratoka.
“When Ellusia-dono is talking with him, you seem quite surprisingly lively. As expected, it must be because of something like you two being close in age?”
“Well…… I wonder. Also, it’s not Ellusia, it’s Eliza.”
“Mm, I got it wrong again. Sorry.”
Somehow, I don’t think it’s because that I’m close in age to him. What’s more, why is it that I treat only Ratoka so casually, I can’t even say for myself why that is.
“However, when I look at you like this, not only do you seem surprisingly lively, you also seem to be having fun, and even give off the impression of relaxing a little. How should I describe it……”
Claudia seemed lost for words, and began muttering to herself. It seems that she isn’t going to say anything else to me, so I turned towards the window to look outside.
On the other side of the window glass was the sky tinted a shade of red. It gets dark later here in the royal capital than in Kaldia, it would have been completely dark at this same time in Kaldia already.
What remained the same in the royal capital as Kaldia, was that the lights here were also candlelight as well. It’s too expensive to use anything else after sunset.
Just like I declared earlier, I headed to the office as well after finishing my cup of tea. That said, all I’m going to do, is organize what’s on the desk so that it’s more convenient for me to use, and I finished immediately.
When I looked back at Claudia I realized she was no longer talking to herself. She was looking directly at me with those sky blue eyes of hers, with a difficult to describe, somewhat wondrous expression on her face. I didn’t know what to say to that reaction of hers, so I couldn’t help but freeze up.
I just stayed like that and blinked several times.
“Ahh, that’s it! It feels like Eliza-dono is finally opening her heart, and calming down. When the person I’m supposed to be protecting isn’t wary, then I’m not wary either.”
Suddenly Claudia said that out loud with an extremely self-satisfied expression on her face, while I felt as if my chest was freezing over, even though I knew it was an illusion.
“……Eliza-dono, what’s that matter? It couldn’t be, did I get your name wrong again!?”
“……No, that’s not it.”
Even though my frozen muscles were protesting, I somehow managed to squeeze those words out of me. Her words had made me realize just what I was feeling, which really made me want to groan out loud.