With a heavy sigh, Eryn stepped off the coach in front of the Faulkner residence. Having taken care of the standard duties of a senior magic knight, namely sifting through the high-priority jobs and delegating them to the appropriate people, she returned home mid-afternoon to take care of her other official duty.
Her butler, Pietro, was at the door, waiting for her with a smile and a tray of tea and refreshments.
“A pick-me-up for my Lady.” He beckoned her inside.
Grabbing one of the pastries on the tray and a cup of tea, Eryn scarfed it down in an unladylike manner. There was no one else present to see her improper manners, so she had gotten into the habit of it to save time. Though Pietro gave her an upturned brow in response, he let it pass seeing as his master has been stressed as of late.
Suddenly becoming a Viscountess and gaining her own domain was quite the challenge, especially since she had been left with the duty of building and managing a new town from scratch. This was certainly not what she had expected as she began her new life as a proper noble. That was on top of the knight duties that she normally had.
Though Cornelius had offered to re-distribute her workload to lighten her burdens, it felt improper for him to do so just for her sake. What kind of example would she set for the junior members if she slacked off right upon returning, regardless of the cause? The last thing she needed was for others to think that she was a stuck-up noble that waded in her own power.
No, if she was going to do something, she was going to be open and clear about it. No more games or hidden agendas. She would trust those around her to back her. That was why she couldn’t slack off either.
As she got to her study, she sent a Magic Pigeon to contact Dengel, who had essentially taken charge of the business side of her affairs in the recent months. Being faster and more efficient with the work than Eryn could hope to achieve, he was a man that easily adapted from managing the trading company to coordinating the construction and well-being of the entire town. It was no wonder that the Duke had relied on him. Eryn felt like everything would continue to progress just as smoothly even if she didn’t exist.
Once, she jokingly told him to be the Lord of this domain in place of her.
“But my Lady, you are the face of this domain. The people look to you for their safety and prosperity, not a commoner such as I who only knows how to plan,” Dengel said bluntly.
“Wait, does that mean that she’s like a mascot for this town? As in, have her go around and show off to the public?” Claude chimed in.
“Hmm, it is true that the common people like to see and hear from the person who governs over them. How can they appreciate a lord who hides behind closed doors?” Dengel said, rubbing his chin.
Eryn sighed. She didn’t like the thought of being merely an object of adoration for the townspeople. Though when she started walking around town and conversing with the people that resided there, she ended up not minding it so much. It was also a nice break from all the new things she had to learn about being a proper lord.
Since she had achieved her longtime goal of becoming a noble, there was no longer a need to chase after every rabbit in order to succeed. She tried to delegate as much as she could to capable hands, especially since Cornelius had offered some of his trusted servants to come work for her.
But old habits die hard. With every report of an interesting guild job, her finger itched to draw her sword again. She had to fight off the urge to go adventuring again, like she did when looking for an excuse from her merchant responsibilities. However, she couldn’t be away for an extended period, not when her town was finally in a good state. Moreover, she didn’t know how to pull her familiar away from the restaurant that she had gifted him. Sure, she had him help run some errands that required his expertise, but for them to go traveling around once again? She wondered if she could be that selfish. Though knowing him, he would likely drop everything and agree to go.
Secretly, she missed those times since she didn’t have the liberty to do such things anymore. How did her friend Cornelius deal with such a life?
A soft knock interrupted her thoughts.
The door opened to a sharp-looking man with raven hair and glasses. He had the air of a proper servant, and his eyes gave off an impression of wit and intelligence.
“My Lady, I have the reports for today ready. Would you like to hear them?” Dengel responded cordially.
“Yes, if you could.”
“The construction of the town is nearly at its completion. I believe that it will only require another month. We had to hire another set of workers due to the higher than predicted influx of people seeking permanent residence. We have my Lady and Sir Claude to thank for that.”
“Yes, yes. If I had known that this would lead to extra work, I would have waited to show myself. Did you think that this town would end up becoming so popular?”
“It was within my calculations,” Dengel said while adjusting his glasses. “Or rather, as Sir Claude would say, ‘keikaku doori’.”
That was apparently one of Claude’s random weird phrases that he would pull out from time to time, especially when he had sealed the deal on some arrangements. Eryn shook her head. Now, he had Dengel saying it sometimes. Though Saki had told her how it meant ‘all according to plan’ in her native language, neither one of them could figure out why Claude said it with such a sinister smile.
“In any case, the trading company has managed to take advantage of the former Duke’s supporters by backing some of their businesses. We are fostering healthy business relationships as we speak, mostly arranged by Sir Claude.”
When he wasn’t cooking at the restaurant, Claude had been going around to the other nobles who had suddenly been left struggling after the demise of the Duke. With his knowledge of otherworldly goods, he could find new opportunities for the products that they marketed. In truth, it seemed like those people would follow anyone as long as they could profit from the relationship.
It had actually been quite a while since she had spent any time with her familiar. After the brief glimpse of his ability during the wedding ceremony, there hadn’t been any battles. They were both doing all they could to adapt to this new life. It was rather unfortunate as she wanted to see more of his newfound capabilities.
“My Lady, I sense a bit of displeasure in your current state. Am I boring you?”
“No, Dengel. You do excellent work. Work that is too good for the likes of me. I find it odd that you didn’t choose a better lord to serve.”
“Who I serve is not determined by the greatness of their title. You should know as much from my former Lord. You will grow in time. My intuition rarely leads me astray. Besides, your familiar is a knight and hero of the kingdom, not to mention that you have a former captain of the Royal Guard and another Electi as servants. I don’t exactly see this position as a disadvantage.”
Putting Ludmila aside, she hadn’t known Pietro’s history until then. He had simply never told her anything about it. As long as she had known, Pietro had been a servant of the Faulkner family, and she had never thought to question why he was so strong.
“Then, if I had to guess, the life of a Viscountess is not what you dreamt of?” Dengel gave her a sharp look, which caused Eryn to draw back. He had clearly hit the mark.
Eryn still had a thirst for adventuring, as any knight her age possessed. But more than that, her previous lifestyle seemed more interesting and chaotic, whereas the life of a noble was very contained and structured.
“Then, might I suggest a change of pace? It is not necessary for you to be here all the time. I realize that you are trying to be dutiful in your responsibilities, but no one would blame you if you wanted to stretch out your sword arm a bit.”
“If you say that you can’t leave your responsibilities to me in your absence, then I’m just going to have to prove you wrong,” Dengel interrupted. In these few months, he already had a firm grasp of his new Lord’s personality.
‘What should she do though?’ Eryn contemplated, as she had never considered taking some time off from her goals.
“How about some monster hunting with Sir Claude? I’ve heard of some strong beasts that live on the outer edges of the kingdom. There may even be a request from the guild to slay one.”
“A job, huh?” Eryn wondered if she really had much reason to get more powerful at this point. Getting strong had really been a way to increase her standing.
At that time, she heard the cry of a Magic Pigeon outside. Opening the window to let it in, the pigeon dropped a letter in front of her before giving another cry and extinguishing.
Eryn unrolled the letter and scanned its contents.
“It’s from Cornelius!… A request, specifically for me?…”
Dengel walked over and looked over her shoulder.
“A sea voyaging escort mission for Princess Katalina to the Southern Isles? I see…a marriage meeting to promote relations with the country of Macali and establish friendly ties.”
“A trip across the southern waters? Oh, that sounds like fun! I should go get Claude and head out immediately!” Eryn excitedly exclaimed as she trotted out the door.
Dengel thought it was quite the difference from her previous attitude.
“Wait, my Lady!” he tried to stop her.
Dengel shook his head as he watched his Lord disappear already. A job escorting the Princess was not what he had in mind when he wanted her to take a break. If anything, that was likely going to hinder his plans.
He had been well aware of the feelings that the two masters he served held for each other. Using the vacation as an excuse, he hoped that the two of them would find some time together to sort them out.
However, he could also tell that something was up with the princess as well. Given all the times that she sneaked out of the capital to dine at Sir Claude’s restaurant when he happened to be there, Dengel had to guess that she, too, held feelings for him.
In all honesty, he had no idea who to root for, but if he was going to minimize the drama in the future, it would probably be best for Lady Eryn and Sir Claude to be together.
Dengel sighed as he pondered what to do. Though he was well-versed in business relationships, relationships of love were a completely different story. Was he reaching too far into the snake pit?
Still, he greatly preferred it to the dilemmas he had in the past, decisions which he still regretted making and sought personal atonement for. Marquis Reichenstein had handed him a merciful judgment, hardly accusing him of any wrongdoing. In return, he pitched in efforts to resolve as much of the Duke’s past actions as he could.
Dengel dashed after his Lord.
One day, when he had done enough to wipe his plate clean, maybe he too would take a break.
Until then, he had a few greenhorns to raise into proper society.