“The Poor Feudal Lord That Can’t Catch A Breath.”
The demon subjugation was complete even if the outcome was unsatisfactory.
Since that was the case, Rion wanted to return home to his governmental duties in Bandeaux as soon as possible. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to do so and had to accompany the main army to the capital to submit a report on the operation.
This was, usually, not something a simple backwater lord like him need to do but all attempts to argue based on this fact were rejected by the Knight Commander. Moreover, he was harshly rebuked by trying to argue he was not the best-suited person for the task.
The scolding was justified. Rion was, without a doubt, the person that knew best what had happened during this mission, therefore he was not really being ordered to come without a good reason.
And thus the royal army and the clansmen departed towards the capital together.
They had traversed half of the distance already, yet Rion was still as displeased as he had been on the first day, riding on his horse with arms crossed and an ever-present cloud on his face. His bad mood was so obvious that others marveled at the fact that his horse was still moving onwards without breaking ranks.
Ariel was the only person present that could penetrate his attitude and make him talk. He would occasionally speak to others, though. Those people, his subordinates, tended to appear out of nowhere and disappear as suddenly.
This eventually piqued the interest of the people around but Rion paid that no mind.
「Trading post expansion? …Tricky. There is a need for now but the flow of goods will wane when the demons are dealt with. The land might be better employed for other purposes.」
This was one more of those moments when Rion was conferring with those mysterious subordinates. All of them, including this one, belonged to Clan Black and their mission had changed from scouting to relaying information between him and the territory.
「Ask Folz first. If he wants to expand, give him priority.」
「Accept whomever. Announce we will lend the land free of charge to all who wish to do business in Camargue.」
「Free of charge, lord?」
The question was natural, even for someone with no experience in business like this clansman.
「Make them draw a contract. If they fail to reach a sales target within a prescribed time, they can pay normal rate, by taking a loan from us if necessary, or leave.」
「May I have detailed explanation, lord?」
「Lord’s intentions are likely to be unclear to some, they will blame me for that.」
Rion could understand this worry. He was not very fond of explaining things to people because his train of thought was slightly odd for this world’s standards and he struggled to find words to get his ideas across. But there were people, like Jan and other alumni, who would not willingly obey without being able to understand the point first and they didn’t care much for his dislikes in this area.
「The aim is to lower the barrier to entry for the new businesses. You know that there are people with worthwhile merchandise that simply lack capital to do business in other towns, right?」
「We want them. But they also have to earn their preferential treatment, which is why there is to be a trial period in the contract. Do you understand now?」
「Yes. Thank you, lord.」
「Investigate them first, of course. Your clan’s job, I presume?」
「The Head will know, lord.」
Rion’s request would be delivered to Bravd to act on.
「Once that is done, if the animal husbandry is going well, have them consider setting up a cattle market. It doesn’t matter if some of the expansion is used .」
「Hmm… Are you going to be fine with all this? None of this is secret, you are allowed to note it down.」
「Unnecessary worry, lord.」
All members of the Clan Black, even the inexperienced ones, were raised as spies from a very young age. Bravd would be very angry if they failed to memorize this amount of information.
「I see. Moving on, then. Regeneration of the residential area is to proceed.」
「At a leisurely pace, though. The demand for more is uncertain right now.」
The messenger judged that it would be better not to ask about the intention behind this. He could see it was not a matter big enough to warrant concern.
「All for today. Keep up the good work. Take care on your way back.」
「By your command!」
This scene played out numerous times for several days making even the clansmen surprised at their baron’s diligence. After all, Cassius and the other heads excluded, none of them saw Rion at work before.
And they weren’t the only ones impressed.
「You are really dedicated to your work as a lord, are you not?」
This was the first time that someone other than Ariel called out to Rion ever since they had left Harcourt. He was surprised as he was consciously carrying himself in a way to deter others from that.
「Ah, so it is lady Charlotte. Is there something my lady requires?」
This kind of reply from Rion was a relief for Charlotte. It wasn’t really proper for her to go and try to strike a conversation out of the blue and on top of that he looked as badly disposed towards talking with people as was humanly possible.
Her outwardly nonchalant question had actually taken quite a lot of courage.
「Not really, it is just that…」
「…My lady is bored again and would like my company like in the past?」
「Ah, I did do that kind of thing, did I not?」
Rion’s word made her recall the time in the old castle when they suffered the first demon attack. Back then, for a lack of a conversation partner, she had chosen to accompany Rion to relieve boredom.
「Yes my lady, that did happen. Is it happening again, perhaps?」
「In part… But, before we continue…」
Charlotte tried to gather all her courage once more. Her gaze wandered past Rion to Ariel riding her horse on his other side.
「…There are apologies that have to be made.」
She addressed her erstwhile rival feeling she had to apologize.
「That is unnecessary.」
「It seems I was misunderstood. It is unnecessary because I will not forgive Charlotte even if she does apologize.」
Ariel’s reply was harsh. It was not meant for Charlotte alone either. Accepting that gesture now would make her obliged to accept the same when approached by others, she did not want that to happen.
「…I am terribly sorry for what I have done nonetheless.」
「We are going nowhere with this. Just carry on with your previous conversation.」
Charlotte was rejected, in the end, but not completely. She could not get a grasp on what Ariel was thinking, it was certain, though, that she was just allowed to stay in their company.
「Hmm… Where should I start? I have so many things to ask that I just do not know which one should be first.」
「Oh, that many, my lady?」
「Naturally. Your recent undertakings were a source of never-ending surprises.」
「Hmm… And yet I do not recall doing anything to surprise my lady?」
「…Call me Charlotte, please.」
「You are a Baron and I am just a daughter of a Marquess with no peerage of my own, is that not a good enough reason?」
「Is that so, my lady?」
「I-It’s not like that at all. I honestly didn’t mean anything more by this.」
Rion was bewildered by this unexpectedly irrational and flustered reply.
「Ah, I was talking to your wife just now….」
Prompted by Charlotte’s words, Rion’s gaze turned towards where Ariel was and what he saw there was his wife glaring at the other girl with icy stare.
「…Did something occur between this woman and Rion in the past?」
「What do you mean?」
「A dalliance? As if something like that would happen.」
「…I see, then, it must be that.」
「Nothing important. Do continue your conversation.」
Ariel had made a decision long time ago, she would not care about other womens’ feelings for Rion as long as he didn’t hold any interest in them in turn. This was the only way not to live in a constant state of jealousy while he had been sleeping, against himself, with so many women for the sake of her future and that of Vincent.
「So what should we talk about, my lady?」
「Your way of addressing me, for a start.」
「Ah, right. I just cannot help feeling reluctant to talk to my lady in such an intimate manner, it seems presumptuous. That being the case, can we compromise with “Miss Charlotte”?」
「Alright. That’s a start.」
「Well then, what would miss Charlotte like to talk about?」
「How surprisingly casual.」
「You do seem to be in quite the bad mood, you know. Frankly, attempting to approach you right now is quite frightening.」
「It is true that I am in quite a foul mood. I have too many things on my mind, a lot of them rather irritating.」
「Matters of the fief mostly. It was in a sorry state when I arrived there and there is still much to do.」
「And that has been on your mind all this time?」
「It has. When the people are in front of you, it is possible to direct them with a single word. That can not be done once you, or they, leave somewhere. There are ongoing matters requiring my oversight, matters requiring backup plans in case problems happen. Each of them carries many possibilities and my mind is already full.」
Whenever Rion issued instructions, it would take the messenger roughly a month to come back with a report about the outcome. This kind of delay made progress difficult, so Rion had to start considering potential scenarios and contingencies for each of the cases.
「…So you have to issue instructions this detailed?」
Charlotte herself knew nothing about governing but she never really had the impression that her father was under the same pressure as Rion. And that was largely correct, not because Lord Marquess Fatillas was lazy. The demands of governing a territory as large as his simply forced him to delegate majority of the burden to trusted retainers.
「I have to admit, miss Charlotte, I have never thought feudal lords had this much authority until I became one.」
The feudal lord of the land was someone that held the highest authority in that place. This was as true in the fief of Charlotte’s father as it was in Bandeaux.
「Could you not just leave this to your subordinates?」
「I am burdening them enough as things stand. Moreover, some of the people I rely on currently are not legally my retainers, they cannot proceed with the work without my consent.」
「Not your retainers?」
「Acquaintances from the Academy days. Miss Charlotte might know them better as lord Vincent’s former tutors.」
It was still hard for Charlotte to hear Vincent mentioned. Doubly so when it came from Rion himself. All her mistakes would flood back from the depths of her memory and sit heavy on her chest.
「Those people are lending their hand to me. This is just assistance, though, not an oath of fealty.」
Rion continued talking without reacting to Charlotte’s distress. She couldn’t decide whether that was due to his coldness or his kindness.
「Do you have no retainers under you?」
「I do, formally at least. I am a feudal lord, after all.」
「…What do you mean by that?」
「A retainer is someone like I was for Vincent. There is no one in my land that treats me like I had treated my lord.」
「….Oh Rion. That is so harsh on your subordinates.」
Charlotte honestly thought there would never be another master-to-servant relationship like the one Rion and Vincent shared. Theirs was unique, absolutely one of a kind. If that was what he expected from his subordinates, then it was way too high a standard.
「Even if miss Charlotte says that, this is the only way I know.」
「Now that you told me this, I am starting to feel sorry for those behind us. No other person in this world, beside you, is capable of giving everything he is and has for the lord he serves, you do know that, right?」
「Yes, I am aware of that. Which is exactly why I am not expecting anything of anybody.」
「…Do you not find that to be bad too?」
Rion saying that he did not expect anything was really harsh on his retainers too and it did, in fact, make Kiel feel sad. To all others eavesdropping on this conversation out of curiosity Rion’s former lord suddenly grew in stature to mythical proportions.
「Hey, I have a question.」
This voice did not belong to Charlotte. Rion, Ariel and her all simultaneously showed displeasure hearing it. A certain impudent woman, seeing Charlotte’s conversation going well, decided to employ her usual brazen approach and butt in.
「What kind of magic was that?」
Rion remained silent, ignoring Maria’s question. He did not even deign to look at her and neither did Ariel. They completely erased the approaching girl from their consciousness.
「Hello? Can you hear me? You should reply when asked, you know.」
But even when she worded it like that, Rion could not reply. Actually, she should be grateful that he did not answer her with a blade and magic. Thankful to the World that is.
「Hey? Isn’t ignoring people like this rude?」
「Aren’t you the impertinent person here?」
Kiel, judging from Rion and the other’s behavior that Maria was not a desirable person, decided to intervene and respond to her.
「What? I’m Maria, you know?」
「A commoner, I presume?」
Kiel’s assumption was reasonable. Having no surname in this world was the proof of having no status. Not all commoners lacked a family name, some were granted the privilege in recognition of exemplary achievements. There was nobody, however, that would avoid stating their surname when introducing themselves. Having one in this world carried that much prestige .
「You’re wrong. I come from the family of a baronet.」
Maria, still having no idea or interest in matters of etiquette, was just casually introducing herself like she had been in the previous world. She used to have a tendency to use her former name as well but because it was not anything like “Maria” she had corrected that particular habit.
「A quasi-noble then. Hmph, to think someone like you would dare to call out a landed noble for impoliteness. Who do you think was the impertinent one here?」
「A commoner that offends someone of noble status commits a transgression. Don’t tell me that you don’t know that?」
「But I’m Rion-kun’s friend, you know?」
「This cannot possibly be true. Lord baron clearly loathes the idea of talking to you.」
「Get lost, girl. I am a loyal servant of my lord, I will have no more of this nonsense.」
Kiel called himself Rion’s servant out of pure stubbornness. He had determined himself to make Rion recognize him as a proper retainer one day in the future.
Maria obediently retreated from before the old man that just didn’t seem to get it. She might have cared little for the feelings of others but she could recognize that she was being hated for putting Rion and Ariel through so much and that stubbornly trying to continue here would achieve nothing.
Incidentally, Maria’s antics cost Arnold the chance to have conversation with Rion and Ariel and made it clear that to him that none of them had been forgiven.
「I wonder why that woman is so very shameless.」
Charlotte, still annoyed, spoke her mind right after Maria left.
「She thinks that the lead character will be forgiven for anything she has done.」
「…You sure have a way with words. But I guess that it is true that that woman is of a type that will not rest until she gets to play the leading role. Even though she is completely unsuited for that.」
Charlotte could insult Maria without restraints in the present company and the feelings she had always been forced to hold back exploded from her in an unending stream of scorn and derision.
「Did I hear right? Miss Charlotte thinks it doesn’t suit her?」
「Yes, that is exactly what I think. For me, the best leaders are those that naturally gather other people’s attention. Not those that have to constantly expend effort to forcibly grab it like her.」
「…Is that so..」
Rion knew for a fact that Maria was in a leading role which is why Charlotte’s words were a huge surprise. Charlotte, one of the most crucial characters in Maria’s team, was openly saying that the her supposed leader was unsuited for the task.
The game scenario might have been developing much worse than Rion expected.
「…Eh, you are still as dense as always.」
Of course, Charlotte couldn’t possibly know what was on Rion’s mind. She just thought his reaction was par for the course.
「I was talking about you right now, you know?」
「All the things you do always gather people’s attention. And once you have it, they can neither take their eyes from you nor stop listening to your words.」
「Ah, but I don’t want that at all. That would be bad for me.」
「That may be so. But that will not change even if you hate it. It was certainly true in the recent conflict. Even I, someone who hates fighting even when the opponents are demons, felt shivers from watching you in battle. Shivers of admiration rather than fear.」
「That’s… Flattery won’t get you anything from me, you know?」
「Is that so? A shame.」
Even though Charlotte laughed it off as a joke, in the end, those were her honest feelings. And not hers alone.
HnM Staff’s Corner
Ah, I totally forgot about it but we have reached our first anniversary last March 21.
Belated anniversary to HnM TL!