Chapter 13: Life’s Hard Mode
“You probably haven’t even thought about the possibility of getting killed, right?”
I grabbed the child’s hair and pressed it into the ground much like I would with an insect. After pulling away the hair and exposing the throat, I pressed the point of the blade against it.
He gulped down a breath. Even so he kept glaring resolutely, how courageous for a child this age.
“According to the words of the shrine maiden Xia Fema, sinners must be made to atone for their crimes with the appropriate punishment, in order to cleanse the soul of impurities. Then, how about if I immediately give you the death penalty here?”
“……If you’re going to kill me, stop acting so pompous and hurry up with it already. Something like that, would have been nothing at all to your mom!”
Although the sentiment is admirable that he’s still so spirited while barking at me, it’s foolish.
“- Put him in the basement dungeons. It would be bad to spill blood during the festival.”
I returned the dagger to Kamil, and left the child’s line of sight. He’s somewhat clever and impertinent, but I know well now that he’s just a simple child. Yes, and on the surface Kamil seemed obedient and respectfully lowered his head, and with his instructions the soldiers began tying the child up with rope.
“What’s this! In the end, you couldn’t even kill me!”
While twisting around and trying to escape from the soldiers, the child was still shouting. I ignored all of it, and called out to Kamil again.
“Haul fifteen people from the village that have some relation to this child to the mansion. It’s fine even if they are children.”
“Wh…… What! The villagers have nothing to do with this!”
The child suddenly went berserk in a frenzy, and I laughed inside. Once again I ignored it, and I indicated to the soldiers that they should carry it out immediately. Before long, I could no longer hear his voice due to a cloth gag.
“……What do you intend to do with that child? Charlie.”
Kamil held out his arm without me having to say anything, but maybe it’s because he’s interested or something, he asked me that with an emotion I couldn’t quite identify in his voice.
“I don’t know the answer to that question yet, since I haven’t decided upon it myself. For the time being, I’ll talk about it with the earl first. We can’t have the original plans for the birthday celebration get even more off track.”
While being supported by Kamil, I headed for the earl who was only a little off in the distance from us.
The soldiers’ bodies seemed to be rather rigid, as I took his hand. After witnessing my exchange where I confronted the child, staring directly into the eyes, sharp gazes were aimed at me. They seemed to be somewhat frightened and on guard against me. Perhaps in their hearts they’ve gotten farther away from me again.
However, this would have been necessary someday. I can’t always be seen by them as a child that they can be overly familiar with. I’m not a child that they can get emotionally attached to, it’s necessary to make them recognize and admit me as their lord that’s supposed to be their leader.
……Since it seems rather difficult, I’m getting a little depressed. I’ve gotten carried away by the mood, I wonder if this is fortunate or unfortunate.
The sun indicated that it’s now sometime in the afternoon. We’ve finally returned to the mansion, and the soldiers’ eyes were shining at the feast that had been prepared for them. The first day of my birthday celebration is supposed to be for the people. The afternoon had been marching around the villages, providing the people with food and drink, for the sake of the villagers. At night, to thank the soldiers for their efforts, there would be a banquet at the mansion.
Considering the incident that had happened earlier in the day, it was decided to end the festivities immediately after the customary gift exchanging. It would probably be good for the soldiers as well to end things quietly without a fuss. They weren’t drinking wine and remaining sober like children, looking down on the ground with cold eyes, it was clearly as if water had been poured over the mood of the feast.
With help from Mrs. Galton, I changed out of the tight, formal knight attire and back into a comfortable tunic and dalmatic. The dalmatic wasn’t decorated with high class accessories, but it had a complicated weave pattern. The people hate it when the nobility are too luxurious. In order to avoid unnecessary backlash, the earl had decided to not use jewelry to decorate my outfit, but spent more money on tailoring the cloth instead.
After I finished getting dressed I supported myself against the door, and raised my voice to Mrs. Galton who was tidying up my formal wear. Recently she had gotten worse about trying to make me into her idea of a traditional girl. In her home region of Greenfield, the ideal girl was considered to be a housewife that didn’t go out and work, and she seems to be seriously trying to apply that type of education to me. Although I am a girl, but before that the education necessary for a domain lord should be much more important.
“I’m going out for a bit. Remain here.”
“Eliza-sama, where…… are you going by yourself?”
I pulled away from the hand that Mrs. Galton held out in offer to me, walked briskly out and quickly closed the door behind me. As long as I got a little distance between me and Mrs. Galton, she’ll never find me. She’d never imagine that I’d be going to the basement dungeons.
The basement dungeons here in the mansions, had been wastefully expanded immensely by my father. Its area was about equal to the entire first floor. Since the stones here in the dungeon have had their fill of blood in the past twenty years, the air down here felt dreadfully gruesome. The stone walls appeared slightly wet under the light of the candle flames, giving an appalling reminder that these walls have been coated in blood many times over. It seems that the rough stone walls have been used in the past to “grate” people with.
The child was crouching in a small individual jail cell with clean stone walls. In this dungeon that’s always dark even when it’s daylight outside, it would whit away at anyone’s spirit. After all, human beings are instinctively afraid of the dark.
At my sudden line, the child’s face raised in response. The expression on the child’s face was exhaustion rather than the hatred shown for me earlier.
“……What did you come here for?”
“I’ve come to see you.”
His voice had no more of the spirit from the daytime, it was slightly bitter instead.
“You’re going to be executed as soon as the festivities are over. As complicity for your crime, the village mayor who had hired you, as well as his daughter, and the woman named Marley whose house you’ve been living in, and her two children as well are going to be executed along with you.”
I forced down the bitter taste as I mentioned the punishment, and my voice came out colder than I expected.
“You ask why? What you just did was attempted assassination of Arxian nobility, since I’m the Viscountess and lord of the domain here. Adding in the crime of treason, you’re now considered a heinous criminal. Surely you didn’t think that this would end simply as a child throwing a rock at another child?”
The child who was hugging their knees in the back of the jail cell was now shaking and started moving. Slowly crawling towards me, the child’s glittering dark eyes seemed like that of a specter’s. He gripped the iron bars of the cell tightly, and focused on me with a terribly calm expression.
“Even though you know that you’re a criminal, you’re going to punish the people in your domain to preserve your honor?”
……At that question which came from such a small child’s mouth, I was both surprised and found it laughable. What a precocious child. This child’s head was burning with a sense of righteous justice, but a lack of knowledge had invited misfortune.
“Is dying that scary? Or is it painfully tough that you’ve gotten those around you involved? Or maybe both?”
I tried my best to repress my slight smile as I asked. The child was glaring at me with eyes that wanted to shoot me dead, but for some reason I find it rather fun.
“You caused all this with your own foolishness. Your punishment is in complete accordance with the law. Maybe I should take up my father’s hobby and take pleasure in harming the domain’s people.”
“A country’s laws, are there to protect its people. That would include the nobility as well. The nobility aren’t regular people, they’re the gears that move this country. ……If foolish people forget that and try to hurt others, this country could be destroyed. Such as my father.”
Since he hasn’t received any education, I don’t know if the true meaning of my words will be understood. I wonder just how impactful the ideas I borrowed from my previous life would be as a test. I didn’t say anything else, and immediately turned around and left him in the dungeon.