Chapter 2: Golden Sea
Two years passed. In just two years, my domain has changed greatly. Outside my window, all that I could see beyond the fence, was rippling waves of wheat. He’s done quite well in only two years, is what I was thinking, Earl Terejia can be proud of what he’s accomplished.
Due to the despotism of the Kaldia family, the people’s resources here had been stretched to the limits. Since my shallow father had been scared of rebellion, he repressed the people so much, that was the biggest problem of this domain. If they don’t work in the fields, then there will be less income. Even an idiot could see that this would only eventually lead to self-ruin.
But, saying that my father did not completely understand the famine issues within my domain, might have been an exaggeration. He knew that repressing the people as much as he did would reduce income. Then, how did he maintain such an opulent lifestyle in bad taste?
……When I learned about my family’s incredibly evil “source of income,” I was unable to stop myself from throwing up at the bottomless pits of human desire and evil, even if he was my own father.
Among the punishments for people in this domain, there’s something called forced labor. Basically, putting someone to work. With my common sense from the previous world, there wasn’t really anything like this in my country, so at first I was a bit confused.
When my father started the forced labor system nineteen years ago, he would take girls from twelve to eighteen years old, and boys from ten to fifteen years old, and force them into sex service. Without sugarcoating it, he was basically treating the domain’s people as slaves.
In the Arxia Kingdom, “slavery” is considered illegal.
It’s clearly stated in national law that slavery is illegal, but, it’s only there in the first place because the state church, the Ar Xia church, protested slavery on a large scale. The actuality is that most commoners are under a system similar to slavery, called serfdom, in this country.
Father, with his despicable cleverness, came up with this trick to get around the title of “slavery.” First, saying that this wasn’t a demotion or a lifetime thing like slavery. Also, sending the gathered laborers to other domains to work as well. Calling this only as “labor” to the very end.
In this country, no, on this entire continent, people are merely considered to be the property of their domain’s lord. This was considered to be common sense here, but I disagree with it. Meaning, a rental fee could be earned by loaning out the “property,” it had to be concealed in this flashy manner, and nobody would blame my father.
Since anti-slavery laws are strong in the Arxia Kingdom, openly practicing slavery would mean getting exiled. Although Earl Terejia seems to have a strong sense of ethics, there’s probably corrupt nobles in other parts of Arxia.
Because this country has enjoyed a long period of peace, I wonder if that’s caused Arxia to stagnate and begin to rot from inside. Unfortunately, I found out that “laborers” were dispatched to countless houses. And, even now there are still many laborers.
These laborers are an example of the numerous despotic laws that my father enacted like vomit. It’s terrible. “Laborers” that returned from after pregnancy would be abused even more, increasing even further the amount of psychological damage dealt to them.
Since they were under an unbearably high tax, many commoners were in the harsh situation of facing starvation, and there were so many famished people that improving the quality of life within my domain was slow progress.
That’s why I’m saying, things are better already. Earl Terejia had put the safety of my domain’s people as his first priority.
He started with the hunger issue. He sold off all the senselessly expensive stuff in the house. That’s good. I wouldn’t even know where to sell all these things. That money was used to provide free meals to the people.
At the same time as distributing food to the villages, he also promised forgiveness to the villagers that had been forced into banditry by the terrible conditions. At this time I didn’t know it yet but, Earl Terejia seems to have purchased food and supplies from out of his own pocket as well. But, he calculated it as a loan to Viscountess Kaldia in my name, is what I found out much later.
Next, he captured all the wrongdoers that benefitted from working together with my father. Since most of the Kaldia family had been assassinated in a single day, they had all fled. I learned this after I started associating with other nobles. The reason being, they had taken what valuables they could with them when they had fled. After executing the primary conspirators responsible and distributing their wealth, along with addressing the hunger issue, the people’s resentment towards Earl Terejia and me was able to take a 180 degree turn and view us in a much better light.
After that, it’s just a matter of improving our popularity with the people in my domain. It’s a good thing that the people were so weak that they weren’t even able to consider revolt. Their bodies and minds had been completely in tatters, after all.
And so, for the past two years Earl Terejia has worked tirelessly day and night for the sake of my domain. Looking at the golden sight outside my window, I cried a little at the knowledge.
Earl Terejia is rather elderly. Rather, it can be said that he’s quite a bit older than the life expectancy in this country. It’s due to the standard of living. It’s not strange at all for anyone seven and older to die of something, and reaching seventy was about the limit. I could only watch such an elderly noble become more and more haggard with his work, while I was being taken care of by the nanny he prepared for me, Mrs. Galton.
In fact, I’ve still never even spoken with him. At first, it was simply because Earl Terejia was very busy. The situation was that the people in my domain had to be managed and helped as quickly as possible. There was no time for stopping, his work arrived for him like angry waves crashing down. Earl Terejia himself had no time to spare to take care of children. And I was fine with that. I had no reason to complain.
It happened that night.
I was leaning out the window, looking at the clear, bright night sky and its sparkling stars with nary a cloud in sight. I didn’t really mean anything by it. It’s just that when I was looking outside earlier, I happened to want to see the stars later for some reason.
“Do you want to go out, Eliza?”
A low, hoarse voice that still had a bit of power to it came from beside me. I think I could liken it to rumbling thunder. Before I realized it, he had put his hand on my back and I felt a nervous feeling in my stomach, and my body was stiff with tension. I don’t know what the reason could be for him suddenly speaking to me is, since he’s never even said “hello” to me in the two years since he’s been here.
“……Why did you think something like that?’
Although I knew it was rude to answer a question with a question, but the earl didn’t seem to mind, and looked at the stars that I had just been looking at.
“Earlier during the day, I heard that you had been crying to go out.”
“I had been wondering if you were lamenting your misfortune at being unable to go out, but it seems that I was mistaken. Yet, child, why is it that when you have never even cried before today, that you would cry over something trivial that happened when you have such a lovely personality?”
Mrs. Galton must have reported it to him, I see. While looking at the wheat shining brilliantly in the sun earlier today, I was indeed crying. My nanny must have seen me earlier today since she had been taking care of me for the last two years, and I’m like a daughter to her now. Oh, and, I suppose three and four year olds should have been crying more, eh. Since I’m able to speak, I also didn’t have anything to cry over or complain about, I’ve finally realized belatedly that it may have seemed a little strange.
“Indeed, as far as I can remember, I’ve never left this house. However, I understand already that it’s out of necessity. I don’t have any special interest in going outside or anything like that.”
“Today…… I was just looking at the wheat fields outside. It wasn’t that I wanted to go out.”
The earl who had been silently looking at the stars without speaking, suddenly returned his gaze to me. He was looking me straight in the eye, but I didn’t know what he was thinking.
“The wheat is finally ripe, now. When I thought about that, I involuntarily started crying for some reason.”
And with that, the earl and I stared at each other in silence. His black pupils were still filled with a strong light in them, but I was still unable to tell what he was thinking at all. The eyes are supposed to be windows to the soul is what I suddenly recalled, so I started thinking about phrases from the previous world. If you gaze into an abyss……
“The abyss will gaze back into you.”
I was shocked at hearing something so unexpected, it happened in an instant. By then, Earl Terejia had already turned around and started leaving. Without saying anything else, the earl disappeared from my sight in the hallway.