|Author: Sasaki Ichiro
|Original Source: Syosetu
|English Source: Re:Library
“Young Lady Julia, we are deeply honored by your visit today, moreover for going to such lengths on behalf of our village.”
It was daunting to see Village Chief Aroldo—Eren’s father—bow so low that he practically kissed the ground.
“Umm, you don’t really need to use such exaggerated words when speaking to me. Just call me Jill like usual.”
“I mustn’t. Lady Julia is the esteemed daughter of the ruling baronial family in this region. As a subject and village mayor, there is a certain position and attitude to uphold.”
Realizing there was no persuading him, I let him go through with it.
(At first, I thought they weren’t really similar, but I guess it’s like father like daughter…)
I was reminded of a similar conversation with Eren a few days ago, and a bitter smile crept up my lips. As if reading my mind, the village chief nervously asked me.
“Speaking of which, is Eren doing her job well? The last time she came here, she looked like the same brat that left the village half a year ago. As her father, I can’t help but worry.”
“Yes. She is working very hard as my personal maid.”
Well, she was actually being held in the time-out room undergoing boot camp by the head housekeeper, but not telling him that would be better for all parties involved.
“Is that so? I am happy to hear that.”
Pangs of guilt attacked me when I saw that relieved expression on his face. To shake it off, I decided to bring up my second reason for visiting.
“By the way, how is the development with the fertilizer? Ms…my mother had asked me to check on it and report to her.”
This was a request from Ms. Christy.
I noticed the wards losing their effectiveness the other day during the skeleton incident, so I wanted to reinforce them as soon as possible. That was why I asked her permission to return to the Western Pioneer village, a place I know all too well.
“If you do, then check the effectiveness of the fertilizer. We will spread it to other areas if it proves useful,” she added, and thus I was tasked to look into it in detail and submit a report.
Considering the effort I would put in, I could no longer tell which one was my main business anymore. I felt like she was just conveniently making use of me.
“Ah, the fertilizer! Truly a wonderful thing. The growth is worlds apart from our usual crops. We just started using it, but to use it only on a single field would be a waste, so others rushed to copy us. Now we have around 10 different fields using it!”
Aroldo’s face immediately lit up, and I breathed a sigh of relief at his words.
“However, I’m afraid there are discrepancies between the crops. I suspect there’s a problem with the mixture of the compost.”
“I see. Perhaps there’s a necessity to compare mixture ratios for each crop variation. For now, can you show me the field?”
“Of course. This way—”
Prompted, Vier and I headed toward the fields.
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“…I’m bored. Days like this are perfect for kicking a damn ragweed on its rear.” Sitting on a white chair with armrests, set up on the spacious terrace for a tea party, Regina lifted her teacup to her lips, a disgruntled expression clouding her face.
“Did you say something, Grand Founder?” Her great-great-grandson, Duke Eilmer, seated at the same table, looked puzzled as he asked.
“Not a damn word. Good Lord, when will I be free from this?”
“Do you not enjoy living in the Imperial Palace?”
“Hell no. Each and every one of you act high and mighty, calling yourselves nobles or royalty or whatnot. Strip all that s̲h̲i̲t̲ away, and every man is equal—emperor or slave. The only difference is how many golden spoons you’ve shoved up your a̲s̲s̲.”
Regina spoke indignantly before shoveling some tea confectionery into her mouth. She frowned. “Too sweet, it’s sickening. The cookies Jill makes are far superior.” She washed it down with black tea.
“Well, I also wish nothing more than to see you return to your former life as soon as possible. But with the next emperor yet to be named, I hope you’ll bear with this farce a little while longer, Grand Founder.”
Duke Eilmer bowed reverently. Regina glared at him. “Hah. What stops me from making you the next emperor, then?”
As she spoke casually, the color drained from Eilmer’s face, and he immediately looked around.
“Grand Founder! Please, no such remarks. You’ll give me an ulcer… Also, I have no interest in such a troublesome mantle.”
“Keh. You’re just trying to save your own skin, you damn brat.”
“Oh no, not at all. The palace is already teeming with those who wish to inherit the title. I can’t compete with them.”
Whether he was hiding something or being sincere, Duke Eilmer only shrugged, his expression unreadable. Regina snorted and turned her gaze beyond the horizon, toward the distant Tenebrae Nemus. A long sigh escaped her lips.
I removed the last of the planks, opened the window, and stretched wide on the roof. “Phew. Finally, all done.”
Right at that moment, amidst the drifting smell of dust and mold from the hermitage, a medley of familiar scents such as medicinal herbs, chemicals, the ingrained fragrance of wood, and the metallic scent of iron all intertwined, surged forward.
It was by no means a pleasant smell, but for me, it was a close and nostalgic fragrance.
(…Ah, I’m home.)
Once again, my heart was filled with that thought.
A small hermitage sat within Tenebrae Nemus. It was a humble little hut that looked as though it might fall into decay at any moment, but this was the place where I was reborn, the mold that had shaped me into who I am.
Fortunately, it didn’t seem to have suffered much over the winter—Bartholomew had taken good care of it, just as he promised—and I was able to get everything back to normal after putting away all the winter preparations. …Okay, well, the garden is overgrown with weeds, and it’s a bit untidy all around, but still, it filled me with emotion.
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“Okay then, first things first. Replace the old evil warding barrier, pull the weeds, clean the chimney—oh right, I need to see if the well is in working order. So many things to do.”
As I listed all the things to do, I found myself smiling, free of worry.
“For that part, you sure seem like you’re enjoying yourself, Miss Jill.”
When Bartholomew spoke to me from the garden below, I shrugged at him lightly.
“Well, this is what my job originally was, after all. If I don’t clean it up and maintain it in working order for Regina, she’ll kick up a storm and say, ‘You ******* ragweed! You can’t even clean the house properly?! A damned broom is much more useful than you, you damned weed!’ with a face like this.”
I pulled the corners of my eyes upward and imitated Regina’s manner of speech, then giggled at myself. Seeing that, Bartholomew only craned his neck in puzzlement.
“Well then, I don’t think I can finish all this in a single day. I guess that means I’ll have to commute here for a while. I’ll be borrowing your help, Vier.”
“Hm. If it’s cleaning that you’re doing, don’t you think you should bring your handmaids with you?”
Riding on Vier, we hopped down from the roof as I shook my head in response to Bartholomew’s question, a bitter smile on my lips.
“That won’t do. Regina will raise hell if she knows some strangers are touching her pile of junk. …And yet she isn’t the slightest bit remorseful when she breaks something. That’s why it only gives me more work if anyone else is doing it, and it’s most reliable if I do it myself.”
“Hm, I see now. This hermitage is yours and the witch’s sanctuary; thus, it is only churlish for a stranger to meddle. Forgive my insensitive question.”
This gargantuan Death Knight sure loves to use big words. He even bowed as he apologized, but upon hearing them, I gave this hermitage another look.
Right…Indeed, this place must be my ‘Sanctuary,’ a foundation for my sense of self.
With that being said—
“When my fond memories of it consist mostly of being yelled at and spanked by Regina, somehow that makes me feel sad…”
With memories that couldn’t quite be described as beautiful, I headed toward the well to check if the water was still usable, reminiscing about the events that took place here.