Chapter 52: Ritzhard’s Lonely Years — Second Half
Spring of my second year as a lord.
The villagers are still cold to me.
However, there were some small changes. I could now see elderly people placing offerings and making prayers at the Spirit Stone.
The busy days continued.
While I continued to do my work as a lord, I also had to do work to survive the snow country.
The herb picking in spring is important for gathering the necessary spices and herbs for the whole year, so I have to put a lot of effort into it.
I still had more work. I had to till the fields outside the village.
This was done by everyone in the village.
The harvested goods aren’t distributed among the villages. Everything is sold and collected as tax.
Until a few years ago, the harvested vegetables were distributed among the villagers. Back then, tax was collected by one reindeer a year, but because of beasts the number of reindeers were reduced greatly.
The lord at the time, my grandfather, immediately stopped getting taxes through reindeers and got the taxes through selling vegetables.
Seventy reindeers from the village, and vegetables from barren land.
The difference is great.
However, reindeers are important for the village and for survival. Since their numbers had dwindled, we could not afford to haphazardly collect them.
Because of that, the farm work in spring is done by everyone in the village.
Of course, there are more fields.
Everyone tills their own fields to grow their own vegetables for winter.
When I returned home, the martial race lady was cooking.
Because the maid quit since she had to look after her newly born grandson, my new housemate was making them instead.
The martial race lady, Ruruporon, seems to have learnt cooking from mother, providing me with food that had similar flavour that I had when I was young.
Even so, I continued the research for improving my cooking skills.
I asked the shop lady for things I didn’t know, and soon I became able to cook some moderately delicious things.
Summer. To try my hand at making jam and alcohol, I went out to pick berries.
For the method of jam making, I learnt it from the village ladies when I helped out with making fabric. For the method of alcohol making, I got it from the notes in grandfather’s library.
On the way to my berry picking, I saw some ladies so I approached them to hear what might be good for making jam today, but there was a chilly atmosphere.
They all then remembered something and left.
When I asked what it was to the few remaining ladies, it seemed that they were discussing who picked the most berries.
It seems that they were betting that Mrs Aria will win.
It is said that women who can pick berries well make good wives. Berry picking is that important for the villagers.
“It seems that Your Lordship ended up winning today.”
“Uwah, that’s a bit……”
It seemed that I came late, didn’t read the mood and ended up winning. I apologised and awkwardly made a thin smile.
“Isn’t it great, my lord. You’ll be very popular.”
To avoid the ladies’ cold gazes, I quickly left.
Autumn was the season of fruition. I gathered mushrooms and berries from the forest, while the fish in the rivers and the lakes fattened up, that they became tasty.
The prohibition on bird hunting was lifted as well, so I was busier in autumn than I was in summer.
When it became winter, I started preparing for the polar nights.
Then when it began I laboured at crafting.
Like so, my second year passed by in a flash.
I spent my third year mundanely as well.
Change came in my third time of the polar nights. I couldn’t get motivated, nor could I make progress on crafting.
I had the tools in my hands, but I ended up wasting the time away.
When the long polar nights ended, I finally realised. I was lonely.
For the first and second year, I was desperate trying to catch up with work, so I had no leisure to feel lonely.
I thought I had to make new family.
In my fourth year, I went to my grandfather’s country to attend the ball.
It seemed that there were balls in my country as well, but I was never invited.
It is just said that House Revontulet will never be invited because of something an ancestor did.
When I sent a letter stating that I was going to attend the ball, grandfather kindly sent some dress suits. I was thankful for that.
The lord leaving the village might be irresponsible, but I couldn’t marry with a woman from the village who have low birth rates. Plus, the girl close to my age was a close relative even.
As a count, I needed an heir. Thus, with that obligation, I went overseas while leaving the village to people around my age.
Like so, I arrived in the foreign country before the sea froze.
It’s been a decade since I met my foreign grandfather. That was when he came over across the sea with father. By the way, mother was told to leave the country by grandfather. In retrospect, I think it was to force her to return to the village.
Grandfather had thinned a bit, but he was healthy, as ever.
“Really, to not show up for a decade?”
I could only apologise.
My grandfather back home did not allow me to go overseas.
“Well, it’s fine.”
“So, your objective is to find a marriage part.”
Grandfather suggested having a marriage interview with one woman he thought would be good. So I agreed and asked him to do so.
The day of the marriage interview.
My hair was combed and tied into one knot behind my head, instead of the usual braid. Most men in this country have their hair cut, so apparently there weren’t any men with long hair like mine.
“The best you can do is to take advantage of your face that resembles your mother’s.”
I never thought deeply about it, but according to grandfather it seems that I am handsome. The people from my remote lands were all like this so I never thought of it this way.
I’ll take advantage of this as something limited only to the limited lands.
Grandfather introduced me to a lady from a prestigious house.
“——So, we have these polar nights where the sun doesn’t rise for about two months.”
For some reason, I was rejected that day.
“Of course. What kind of woman would want to be married off to a poor noble in the arctics!”
Grandfather said to silently accept the results. Was that really okay? I tilted my head.
That year, my search for a marriage partner ended there.
I went overseas again on the fifth year.
The fourth polar nights alone was really terrible, very depressing. So, I followed grandfather’s orders to take back a woman who already agreed to a marriage.
Well, anyone might guess what would happen if a woman was suddenly taken to a self-sufficient village.
Some time afterwards, I had received the infamous nickname of ‘the Yeti of the Borderlands’.
“……Well, I was this kind of scum.”
As I told Sieg about the past ten years as a lord, for some reason I was sort of confessing my sins.
The long polar nights make people depressed. It’s probably because there’s no sunlight.
Though I was out of choices, but in retrospect it really wasn’t something I should have done as a person.
Now I knew. Loneliness drives people mad.
However, because I felt that I shouldn’t repeat the same mistakes, I told everything about the village to Sieg. My explanation back then might have been a really sloppy one though, for her to agree to such an unreasonable marriage to such a crafty person.
However, Sieg is here.
She said that she will become my wife.
This was a miraculous story, if nothing else.
“I didn’t know.”
Sieg suddenly murmured.
She must have been uncomfortable. I was talking about haphazardly finding a woman for marriage.
“I should have told you sooner, right. Erm, sorry.”
“Indeed. Why didn’t you tell me sooner.”
My chest tightened from her reproachful words.
“I’m really sorry that I was insincere.”
“Insincere? What are you talking about?”
“What I wanted you to have told me sooner was the story about you becoming depressed in the polar nights.”
Sieg said that the story about women wasn’t interesting, and also said that the story didn’t worry her too much.
“I also took advantage of this marriage. I’m in no position to criticise you.”
“I told you to not worry. ……But to think that you were cornered that badly, I should have become your true wife sooner.”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“I had no confidence as a woman. I thought that Ritz might regret choosing me as a marriage partner, so I thought I shouldn’t accept it so quickly.”
The truth was finally revealed.
But that might have been why it was good.
While I spent time with Sieg, I think I slowly regained myself. I finally managed to say farewell to a depressed me that I had been wrestling with for a decade.
“So, you see, don’t degrade yourself.”
“I know that Ritz is a sincere person.”
But the blunders I made yesterday don’t disappear. I have to reflect.
Maybe to change the dark atmosphere, Sieg smiled briefly and turned into a serious expression as she started talking.
“There’s a fairytale that I read when I was little.”
For some reason, she suddenly started talking about a fairytale.
“The Snow Fairy of Happiness.”
Long time ago, far far away, there was a village that snowed all year round.
The village was a strange one, where a fairy lived as well.
The fairy lived together with the villagers for a long time.
When there were blizzards that prevented the villagers from going outside, the fairy delivered food to the villagers.
The happiness of the villagers was the happiness of the fairy.
One day, the blizzard did not stop for many days.
The villagers wished to the snow fairy for bright sunlight to shine down on the village.
The snow fairy brought strong sunlight to grant the wishes of the villagers.
The sun melted all the snow in the village, and the villagers rejoiced at their first coming of spring.
They held a festival for three days, but then the villagers noticed something.
“Where did the snow fairy go?”
The villagers searched hard, but they could not find the snow fairy.
The village grieved, but something happened.
One day, the villagers discovered it. The clothes the snow fairy was wearing.
It was something a woman of this village had made. It was small, fitting only for the snow fairy.
Then, the villagers realised it.
That the snow fairy disappeared with the snow.
The festive village fell silent.
They could not regain something that is already lost.
The snow fairy was already gone, they could not wish for it to come back.
From that day on, the villagers went far out to the mountains.
On that mountain, there was a lake that was frozen all year round, and the villagers took some ice and offered it to the snow fairy.
People hoped that the snow fairy might appear again, so they kept offering ice.
Then, a century later, the strong sunlight turned into a normal one, and snow started falling again.
The villagers celebrated the days when it snowed, and passed on the story of the snow fairy which had now become a legend.
There was something that watched over such a village.
It could not do anything, but it wished for the happiness of the villagers every day.
It is said that something invisible to people silently watched over the village.
“……or so it goes.”
“Hehh, that’s the first time I heard it.”
“It might be a fairytale only in my country.”
Sieg hesitantly said it. That I was like the fairy in that story.
“When I first saw you, I was surprised because I thought you were the snow fairy.”
“Fairy!? Not a Yeti!?”
“Aa. Without a doubt.”
“A man turning thirty is a fairy!?”
No, it’s not possible. I denied it, but Sieg insisted that I was similar.
“But then, weren’t you surprised when you came here?”
“Aa. This is a village of fairies.”
As to why she started talking about that, she was worried that I might disappear like the snow fairy from overworking.
“It’s alright. But, it’s a coincidence.”
“During the polar nights, I found the sun.”
As she looked puzzled, I caressed her hair with my fingers.
“I wonder if the sun is coloured like this?”
I said that and kissed the hair that had the colour of the sun.
“See, I didn’t melt.”
Sieg looked extremely troubled.
I only recently found out that this face was her embarrassed expression.
I held her shoulders and kissed her on the lips.
I thought I was going to melt from just touching her, but thinking that it was in a different sense of the word, I focused on the act.
The sun from overseas enveloped me in a warm light.
I could not be happier.