Now that the harvest season has concluded, this year as well I’m going to wear dignified formal red and black colored knight attire with silver adornments for my own upcoming birthday celebration. Earl Terejia suggested that I leave my hair down this year, but just like last time, I decided to leave it bundled on my head. Since my deceased father always kept his hair long and we look so similar, I want to avoid looking like him as much as possible, both for my own sake and to avoid my citizens seeing his shadow in me.
Last year I didn’t hold my birthday celebration since I was in the royal capital officially entering the Arxian church in their religious ceremony, but this year I’m holding it again, as a good opportunity to see how things are in my domain.
This year as well the celebration will last for three days, with a big feast on the first day in all the villages. Since this year’s parade by my army will also include the Shiru warriors who have become something like another personal army, it should be quite grand. We also started our recruitment process for the army, and about ten or so people from nearby villages with plenty of hands to spare signed up. They’re not going to participate in the parade because they still lack too much training, but that shouldn’t make any difference.
Another reason why things will be grander this year compared to two years ago is that the economic situation in my domain is gradually recovering, so we made the parade appropriately grander as well. If the parade seems worse off even when people’s living standards are improving, then it would give the citizens unrest and uneasiness.
That’s why, this time I’ll be riding on Rashiok for the parade. Also thanks to the previous incident where Ratoka threw a rock at me, this time maybe riding on an intimidating beast will prevent such a thing from occurring again.
Rashiok’s finally stopped growing, and he’s a bit taller than a warhorse is. Since I’m still too small, I can’t ride atop him unassisted, so despite the fact that Rashiok didn’t like it, I used a saddle whenever I would ride Rashiok.
“Things seem rather quiet this year.”
“……Ahh, you mean the citizens?”
“Is that so?”
Gunther and Claudia were riding next to me and serving as my bodyguards, and since they’re quite experienced at this, I can probably trust their insights. Gunther has a face that says warrior written all over it, but Claudia just looks like a normal beautiful girl as long as she keeps quiet.
Gunther seems to be much more relaxed this time around than during the tense atmosphere from two years ago, and while Claudia doesn’t know about the details from the last celebration, she was still carefully observing things and on guard just in case anything happened. Her instincts are like a wild animal’s. Maybe I’m spending too much time thinking about idle things, but they’re at exactly my eye level because Rashiok is taller than the horses they’re riding on.
Just like the previous time, the citizens had created a path of flowers for us to parade through, and in the first village we passed through, Claria village, people saw us off with smiles. Since this village is the closest one to my Mansion of Golden Hills, it has the most visible amount of change from my influence. The people were smiling at me just as they did while interacting with the Shiru tribe earlier this winter.
“Cheers to our domain lord! May Eliza-sama and Earl Terejia-sama always remain healthy! Cheers to our domain lord!”
During our parade on the flower path, they kept calling out to me. It seems like the villagers are cheering for me.
“They’re cheering you on. Isn’t that nice, my lord – oi?”
Gunther who was laughing heartily suddenly stopped in surprise and his voice rose up an octave at seeing me. Somehow I managed to remain sitting upright and look forward, but tears were streaming down my cheeks. I think it’s lucky that I don’t wear any makeup yet as I’m still a child.
“Oh, ah, after we leave the village, let’s take a short break.”
“We can’t have you parading in front of everyone with a crying face, after all.”
It felt like I could even hear them smiling wryly just from Gunther and Claudia’s words. They sound surprised, but also have heartwarming words for me at the same time. Maybe Rashiok understands my crying as well, he’s using his long, snake-like tail to pat me on my back. His ears keep flickering in a manner that’s pleasant to watch, and the sunshine is glittering off of his scales.
There was no feeling of heavy tension in the other villages either, but it seemed like the villagers’ eyes were still looking for something in me. Life is getting better for them as well, but as the domain lord, there’s still some sense of distrust towards me remaining. Cyril village, the village last time where the rock incident occurred, had the heaviest remnants of an unpleasant atmosphere remaining. While I could feel a few glares directed at me here and there, most villagers in Cyril village just watched us silently as if this was a funeral procession.
Two years have passed since I’ve begun actively taking part in my public duties. Since these villagers almost never see me though, it’s impossible for them to judge me since I’m never around. I’m willing to accept their harsh gazes.
When we visited the last village on the parade route this year, Nezu village, everyone looked at me with an entirely different type of expression. There were those that were smiling gently at me, those with an expression of awe as they stared directly at me, there were a variety of reactions but they all seemed to be so warm.
“My lord, hey, over there. Take a look.”
Gunther pointed to his right with such a happy expression on his face. When I looked in that direction, standing by the edge of the flower path in front of a group of girls, were the two short-haired village girls from before, waving their hands at me. They were wearing flower crowns on their heads, with dark red as the main theme.
I was so happy at seeing them, that I couldn’t keep control of my expression anymore. My eyes and mouth couldn’t help but crinkle into a smiling face. While they kept waving at me, they also started shouting to me.
“My lord, I wish you the best of luck!”
“Happy birthday, my lord!”
Suddenly, the villagers standing on both sides of the path cheered thunderously and threw something in the air. It was colorful and fluttery, and I could see that it was flower petals the same color as the flowers the girls were wearing in their hair, and the inner corners of my eyes couldn’t help but get hot again.
I must be too young still, I can’t control my tear ducts at all.
Being welcomed so endearingly by Nezu village like this, having so many people smile at me, it’s a little embarrassing.
End of Act 2, Part 2