Snow has mostly stopped falling, and the sun is starting to show itself more often through the clouds, spring is almost here. Vivid yellow flowers began blooming in places where the accumulated snow was melting, warm winds were now blowing down the Amon Nor mountains, and the melted snow also caused some flooding along the Sera river as the dams weren’t completed yet.
“Next year we’ll definitely be living over there for winter instead, right?”
“It’s difficult to move in winter. I think the adults will definitely complete a dam by this time next year, though.”
“Hopefully we can all live in a proper village soon.”
From the small hill that my mansion sits on, I can see a fairly wide swath of the flat Kaldia territory. The three children that I decided to pick from the new citizens for Elise’s new playmates, Athrun, Tira, and Reka, were looking eastward and chatting with each other. I watched them from behind, and although it may have been unnecessary, I ended up joining their conversation at that point.
“……Some craftsmen from another domain are coming over soon to help us build furniture. The adults will have more work to do then as well.”
“Ah, I know about that! Eliza-sama hired them, right?”
Reka turned around after noticing me and had a big smile. I nodded in embarrassment, but Reka and Tira took both my hands and were jumping up and down in joy.
“I’m really looking forward to it! I wonder if Eliza-sama’s new mansion will be finished soon as well?”
Usually Reka talks in a slow drawl as part of his accent, but maybe he’s a little overly excited today, his rate of speech has really picked up. Since Tira usually takes such good care of me like an older sister would, I’m more used to her excitement.
“There’s still plenty of time for that, I think. Although it’s a small mansion, five years time is the standard.”
Although I don’t want to pour cold water on their hopes, I’ll still tell them the truth. Besides, constructing their new village is the number one priority for me, work on the new mansion can be delayed until that’s finished.
Reka is clearly pouting now. He’s sticking out his lips, and his eyebrows are tightly furrowed.
“Ehh~ Then, it’s fine even if we don’t finish that dam first. I don’t want Eliza-sama to not have a place to spend the winter. Hey, Eliza-sama, we can come back here again for next year’s winter.”
“Oy, Reka. Don’t bother Eliza-sama with your selfish requests.”
“Besides, even if we’re living here again next year, that doesn’t mean that Eliza-sama has to live with us?”
After being scolded by Athrun and Tira, Reka glumly fell silent. With a wry smile, I reached my hand out to his head, and although he was a little confused at first – I patted him lightly on his hair a few times.
“I’ll go and see you guys. As much as I can.”
“Really!? It’s a promise!”
Children are really so simple, and their emotions change so quickly. Reka was instantly all smiles again, and with the momentum that came with his excitement, he easily jumped back onto his horse.
“I’m going to go back first and help prepare lunch!”
After saying so, Reka rode down the hillside so quickly that I didn’t even have time to respond. Athrun, Tira and I could only smile wryly at each other.
Claudia looked quite improper as she was sitting on her desk used for work, swinging her feet. The early spring sunshine was shining down from the window behind her, so I couldn’t make out her expression clearly due to the glare.
I was sitting in a chair directly across from her, counting the time pass by in silence. Claudia was the one who had called me over saying she had something to tell me. At least this time she didn’t jump down from a second floor window while calling out to me, so I suppose this is better. However, she’s been quiet for quite some time now, with her mouth bent into a へshape. I don’t really know what to say to her in this situation either. For once, she has a thinking face and she’s furrowing her eyebrows.
The sound of the water clock indicated that the time just reached noon. Claudia raised her face and looked at me as if she just realized I was sitting here. She still seemed a little confused when she met my gaze, and greeted me hesitantly.
“Eliza……-dono? Er, Elena-dono? No wait, it’s Eliza-dono, I think I got it right. Um…… There’s something I’d like to ask you.”
I want to applaud myself for not getting a sore neck yet, looking directly at her and waiting for all this time. I’ve been kept waiting for so long, what could this important thing that she has to say to me be?
Come to think of it, Claudia’s finally been able to remember my name more accurately as of late. Ahh, I feel slightly dizzy from the mental fatigue of waiting so long……
With a slight sigh in my voice, I replied to Claudia.
“Yes, what is it?”
“Ah…… um. Hopefully you won’t be angry at me.”
This is really rare, Claudia started in an apologetic manner before her main question.
“This is from quite a while back, about the bandits we caught earlier last year. At that time, why did you do the dirty work personally?”
Claudia was tilting her head, and her golden hair was making soft swishing sounds.
I see, so it’s about that. She must know that my emotions are stable now. Probably, she didn’t ask me right after that incident out of consideration for me. As always, her intuition is like the wild instinct of an animal, she can detect my emotional state so well.
“There were various reasons. I can’t explain it easily – but if I had to say, I think I just wanted to kill him since he deserved to die.”
“What about the other bandit? Did he just freeze to death in the dungeon……”
“Ah, probably. I thought it was too bothersome to kill him directly. Him dying just like that without anyone knowing was quite convenient, really.”
Claudia nodded silently. She’s refraining from commenting further, and she may not agree with me, but she does understand my reasons. Seeing her reaction, a mystery popped up in my mind.
Why was it that I always considered Claudia so useless?
It’s something that I’ve only realized recently myself, but I can be quite selfish. Thanks to my previous life’s memories, I want to be treated like an adult, and while I acted as mature as I possibly could, I always relied on other adults, just like a child would.
But when an adult like Mrs. Hortensia came along, and wanted to treat me as a child, and when it seemed like she would spoil me to her utmost extent, I was terrified and my spirit broke down.
That’s why – I liked having Kamil around. He was important for me. We were children together, we were fellow humans, we were friends, and I was also his lord, even now, his memories still pierce my heart.
I couldn’t trust him, and I sent him away from me, so of course I would feel guilty about his death.
And, Claudia meets the same conditions that Kamil did. She’s just as pure as the Shiru children, and she’s a person who I’m very grateful to because she accepts me as I am.
So, why is it that I can’t see her the same way I saw Kamil? This is an incredible mystery to myself.
“Got it. Sorry to have taken up so much of your time. I probably should have asked you much earlier.”
Her confusion just earlier disappeared like it never even existed, and Claudia was back to her cheerful self again. And just like that, she left the room.
Then somehow, I managed to come up with an answer to the mystery in my head.
Perhaps, to me, she’s neither an adult nor a child. Also, I probably see the Shiru children the same way.
I still can’t decide whether or not I should call her my friend. Even though, I can now tell myself so easily, that Kamil was my friend.