<– Previous Chapter | Table of Content | Next Chapter –>
Imperial Calendar – Year 430, Late July
Traveling a road that cut through the grasslands like a scar, the wagon with Chrono and the others headed for the Yellow Ocher Temple. It had been decided that they’d transport Shion’s belongings as the reopening of the almshouse was around the corner. Because this was the outbound journey to pick up the luggage, there existed some space on the wagon, but――
“――gh!” Chrono almost screamed out after the wagon got hit by an impact that seemed to toss it up.
The wheel had run over a stone.
“That was an amazing impact,” Chrono muttered reflexively.
“In the end, this is no more but a cart,” answered Cain, who was sitting next to Chrono, in a polite manner.
Chrono was bothered by the manner of Cain’s speech, but there was no fault to be found in his words. The wagon’s wheels had been merely coated with iron, and didn’t possess any clever setups such as a suspension.
“Even though the weather is so nice～” Chrono gazed at the landscape.
Not a single cloud tainted the sky, and the grassland seemingly sprawled endlessly. If not for the continuous bumps on the road, he wouldn’t regret making this journey only for being able to enjoy this view.
“We built a workshop at great pains, so it might be a good idea to have them create a comfortable carriage for us.”
The instant Chrono voiced his idea, Cain tugged his sleeve.
“Is something wrong with her?” Cain asked and cast a fleeting glance at Shion.
Shion was sitting next to the driver ― one of Cain’s subordinates. Of course, Cain wouldn’t have mentioned anything if she were to merely sit there. But, Shion was sitting there while holding her knees, all the time glaring at Chrono with a grim expression.
“Well, various things happened…”
Chrono didn’t know whether Cain had been able to guess the circumstances or simply didn’t want to get involved with this, but Cain merely agreed with Chrono’s reply.
Honestly, I’m grateful for him being considerate in such a way.
“You have my sympathies.”
The wagon swayed drastically at the moment when Chrono sighed lightly. This one was different from the impacts so far. Once he looked to the front, wondering what was going on, the wagon was scaling the gentle slope of a hill.
“The temple lies ahead of this slope.”
Once the wagon climbed all the way to the hill’s top, he could see a huge rock in a rather big distance.
No, I suppose it’d be more accurate to call it bedrock rather than a rock.
The Yellow Ocher Temple had been erected in the shadow of that bedrock.
“…It’s different from what I had imagined.”
“I-I’m sorry for it being s-so small!” Shion blew up in a huff upon Chrono’s unintentional murmur.
Cain covered his face as if saying, “Now you’ve done it.” Chrono thought the same as Cain, but that was his honest impression nonetheless. Since it was called a temple, he had expected it to be a building similar to the temples of the Parthenon, but the Yellow Ocher Temple was an old brickwork building. Moreover, it was overgrown with lush leaves while being surrounded by farm fields.
As soon as the driver parked the wagon close to the temple, Chrono jumped off the loading tray, and looked up to the building immediately thereafter.
It’s probably something around 20 meters high.
Chrono didn’t understand the concept of religion, but he honestly believed that it wouldn’t be weird for anyone to regard this building as a target of worship.
“Let us go inside!” Shion barked in irritation.
Chrono and Cain followed her while Cain’s subordinate remained outside.
Once they entered the temple with Shion in the lead, Chrono saw a small altar. But, other than that, this temple was empty. It didn’t even offer chairs for the believers to sit on.
“Our, no, my living space is in the back.”
Shion opened a door at the altar’s side, and went inside. Chrono and Cain also passed through the door. Beyond the door lay a narrow corridor with three doors lining up along the wall.
“Pardon the intrusion.”
“There’s no one here.”
“That means you’ve been handing out food all by yourself?”
“Yes, I did it by myself! But, since we don’t have any budget, it couldn’t be helped, could it!?”
“You don’t have a budget?” Chrono asked while tilting his head in confusion.
Shion grimaced in annoyance. Probably having a bad premonition, Cain wedged himself between Chrono and Shion.
“Lord Chrono, temples basically do not do anything unless they get something in return.”
“That’s wrong! For the sake of everyone, Dad and I――” Shion couldn’t finish her words because Cain scowled at her.
As should be expected of a veteran mercenary.
Previously Mino had mentioned that Chrono was occasionally looking at people with such cold eyes that it made others shudder, but Chrono believed that Mino had to have misunderstood something.
“N-No, I became too emotional as well,” Shion cast her face down apologetically when Cain bowed his head deeply. “…I’ll carry my luggage to the wagon, so please wait in the room down this corridor.”
“Okay, as you wish.”
Shion disappeared into a nearby room, and thus Chrono and Cain went into the room furthest down the corridor. This room was apparently used as a storage room since it was crammed with farming tools such as hoes and linen bags.
Cain closed the door behind him, and sighed deeply.
“Bloody hell, you’re being hated quite a bit, aren’t you?”
“Oh, did you stop with the polite speech?”
“Well, it’s just us two in here, right? If you think that it’d be better for me to act politely even if we’re alone, I’ll do just that.”
“Nah, I prefer it this way anyway.”
“Did something happen with her?”
Once Chrono concisely recounted the events, Cain furrowed his eyebrows, looking troubled.
“It ain’t like you’re to blame, Lord Chrono, but don’t you think you need to be a bit more considerate?”
“I’ll cover for you as much as I can while I’m with you. But look, consideration is important, okay?”
“I’ll do my best. By the way, when are you going to talk normally even in front of other people?”
Probably believing that Chrono was trying to change the topic, Cain smiled wryly.
“I haven’t decided on a precise timing, but I’d like to first produce a feeling of us being a bit more chummy before I do that.”
“A feeling of being more chummy, huh.”
Isn’t that something you usually don’t produce but comes naturally? Chrono wondered to himself.
“Now then, let us hurry up with loading the luggage on the wagon, and get back to Harshel.”
“There’s something I’d like to ask you before that, if possible…”
“A while ago you mentioned that temples don’t do anything unless they get something in return, but is that true?”
“Yeah. Temples won’t do a thing for you if you don’t load them with donations first. Of course, the budget will be distributed in relation to how much donations an area collected. And low-ranking priests with their only redeeming point being their diligence will be dispatched to areas where they can’t hope for donations. By doing that, it becomes unnecessary to build relationships from scratch,” Cain explained, his voice teeming with sarcasm.
If his words are true, it means Shion’s father continued doing his best while being shunned by his church.
“Any more questions?”
“Just one more…do you also have bad memories with temples?”
“Well, I was a bandit after all. But, that’s a thing of the past now. I’ll quickly move on from that.”
“Okay, I understand.”
Chrono agreed as Cain tapped him on the shoulder as if to show him that he was caring.
He mentioned that his parents were killed and that his little sister died during their escape, but maybe he was turned down by a temple when seeking help.
“I’ll carry the heavy stuff, so I’ll leave the light baggage to you, Lord Chrono.”
Chrono grabbed a hoe while feeling grateful towards Cain’s consideration. He had thought that it’d take quite a bit of time to get everything loaded on the wagon, but they finished much faster than anticipated.
As they waited at the wagon, Shion showed up, carrying a small bag and a bundle of books. After placing her things on the wagon, she looked at the fields.
“My subordinates and I will take care of the fields.” Shion’s eyes widened upon Cain’s remark. “Right now we’re serving as cavalry, but my subordinates and I are formed peasants. We often helped out on the fields during our childhood.”
“It sounds…like you had it tough.”
“Indeed. On countless occasions,” Cain answered with a sad smile.
Shion joined her hands in front of her chest, apparently overcome with emotions.
From peasant to cavalryman; that was a success story which would be impossible in the Empire. Well aware that Shion was treating Cain completely differently than himself, he climbed on the wagon’s tray which had now become quite cramped thanks to all the luggage.
“Why are you sitting on the tray while holding your knees like that?”
“Well, I feel somewhat down.”
When Chrono lifted his face, the landlady was leaning against the wagon. Without him even noticing, they had arrived in Harshel at some point.
“Did you run into some kind of trouble?”
“Rather than trouble, it stings a bit to be hated so much by a girl,” answered Chrono with a deep sigh.
Then again, he had known that he was being loathed. Still, it irked him that Shion was looking at Cain with sparkling eyes while shunning him like that.
Even while she’s looking at me as if watching an ugly bug――
“How about you take a look at the almshouse to get a change of mood?”
“My willpower to get up has run out…”
“It got cleaned up so neatly at last, so come and take a look, will you? Besides, nothing is going to change with you moping around here like this, right?” The landlady chided him with her arms akimbo and her eyes rolling.
She might have a point there, Chrono admitted and got off the wagon, before looking up to the almshouse.
The almshouse was a two-storied building, but it was awfully dirty as it had been neglected for many years. At some places, even the plaster had already come off.
“Come to think of it, what about Cain and Ms. Shion?”
“I don’t know about Sir Cain, but Lady Shion has gone up to the second floor.”
Chrono wanted to go back to his mansion and sulk in bed, but he had to speak with Shion about the future plans for this almshouse. Despite all his gloom and depression, he had no choice but to tackle it. Still, he wondered whether it’d be even possible to run the almshouse under such circumstances.
“You don’t need to pull such a gloomy-looking face, do you!?”
“I’m not looking gloomy, I am gloomy.”
When Chrono spat out a deep sigh, the landlady smacked his shoulder.
“I told you, didn’t I? Come to consult with me if something happens.”
“…Yes.” The landlady mumbled under her breath while turning her face away from Chrono.
Since she’s become all red up to her ears, I might have a chance to hope for more.
“A-Anyway! Come and take a look at the interior!”
The landlady grabbed Chrono’s arm and started to walk.
“Everyone, Lord Chrono has come to visit. Greet him!”
The four women, who had been cleaning the first floor’s hall, ran up after a cheerful confirmation.
They seem to be around as old as the landlady, or maybe slightly older.
“Could I have you hear me out since I have a request?”
“As long as it’s just hearing you out.”
“Could you possibly hire the four over here as staff for the almshouse?”
The landlady had said this with a voice so loud that it echoed across the entire floor. Chrono groaned lightly, and shifted his eyes to the women. The four women were staring at him with their eyes twinkling in expectation.
“So, how about it?”
“I think some nasty folk will show up here as well, but are they going to be alright with that?”
“They won’t lose out against any ordinary man if it comes to physical strength. Besides, all of them can read and write on top of simple calculations. I think that makes them a nice bargain, you see?”
“You got a point there.” Even though Chrono had listened to the story about their strength with a grain of salt, them possessing a minimum amount of education was already making it worthwhile to employ them. “I understand. I’ll hire them.”
“Lord Chrono has said that he’s going to employ you girls!”
The women broke out in cheers.
“Okay, now show your value and get the work done quickly!”
After energetically affirming the landlady’s order, the four resumed their cleaning.
“Landlady, do you have military experience or something?”
“My father taught me self-defense at a time, but no, I don’t have any army experience. Still, why are you asking me something like that?”
“The way you instructed them――”
Suddenly feeling a stare on him, Chrono lifted his face, just to meet Shion’s scary glare after she had apparently descended to the first floor at some point.
“Whaaaat, how dare you glare at Lord Chrono like that!”
The landlady walked up to Shion and casually chopped her on the head. Shion threw her head back after being hit. Believing that it’d be bad if they started to brawl here, Chrono walked up to the landlady.
“I-It’s unfair for him to decide everything so easily for me…”
“What are you babbling about, girl? That’s his right and duty as lord.”
Shion faltered when being told off by the landlady who had her hands akimbo.
“It might appear easy from an outsider’s perspective, but please take a look at this injury!” The landlady head-locked Chrono, and pointed at the scar on his right eye. “Lord Chrono has protected the fief while putting his own life on the line!”
“Even Dad and I did our best for the sake of everyone!”
“…Who’s that 『everyone』 you’re speaking of?”
“The farmers and the poor.”
“Hah, are you trying to make me laugh!?” The landlady took Shion’s serious stare head-on, and snorted, “Your 『everyone』 is just about you. I mean, that’s the truth, isn’t it? If you were really doing your best for the sake of the peasants and needy, you wouldn’t need to glare at Lord Chrono who’s doing what you can’t.”
The landlady cut off Chrono’s words by tightening her arm around his neck.
“You only worked for your own sake, and since you weren’t rewarded for that, you’re sulking now.”
“D-Dad and I bred the beet…the beet which can be used to extract sugar.”
“I’ll approve your father’s achievements. But, the one to make sugar out of beets was Lord Chrono. Your father didn’t know that you could procure sugar from beets, and yet why did he perform selective breeding or some such for beets?”
The landlady mercilessly thwarted Shion’s ways out.
“…T-That’s…for the sake of 『everyone』.”
“Rather than doing something so roundabout, he could have simply taught new ways of raising crops or he could have spread new farming methods for the sake of 『everyone』, right?”
With all her escape routes cut off, Shion panted, her face ashen pale.
“Even your father used selective beet breeding for his own sake.”
“D-Dad has…Dad has…!”
Unable to answer, Shion rushed out of the almshouse.
“Did I go too far?” The landlady scratched her cheek, looking awkward, after releasing the head-lock.
“Yeah, you said too much. Let alone her hard work up until now, you completely denied even her future goal.”
“If you don’t tell her as much, she’ll be hard for you to handle, Lord Chrono, and it’ll be difficult for my friends to work with her as well.”
“Certainly, you got a point there,” someone agreed with the landlady’s comment.
When Chrono turned around, he found Cain standing there while stroking his jaw.
“It would have been fine for her to have refused from the start instead of quarreling with her patron out of personal reasons. Lady Shion is not indispensable to have around, be it for the almshouse or the beets.”
“No, she’s necessary.”
“There are plenty of replacements for her.”
Cain is rather cold-hearted toward Shion despite her affections towards him. But, he has a point. There is no reason why it has to be Shion in particular. If I’m forced to say, I’m just trying to force my moral principles as Lord here ― or in short, it’s a matter of feelings.
“The rest from here on out depends on what you decide, Lord Chrono.”
“Yes, I will not say anything if it is what you decided, Lord Chrono.”
Chrono sighed deeply and chased after Shion.
“Ah, damn it! She’s so friggin’ fast on her feet!” Chrono grumbled while running.
He thought that he’d be able to catch up with her if he ran when he received information from a subordinate that Shion had left Harshel, but no matter how long he ran, he couldn’t catch up to Shion. Around the time when he started to genuinely regret that he didn’t take a carriage, he finally spotted a figure looking like Shion.
Seemingly tripping over a stone, that figure fell on the ground. But, they didn’t try to get up. Once Chrono took advantage of this and closed the distance, he confirmed that it had been Shion indeed.
Chrono called out to her timidly, but Shion remained laying flat on the ground. Her robe was dirty, making it clear that this wasn’t her first or second time to tumble down.
“…Uuhh,” groaned Shion as if to suppress a sobbing, and pushed her body up with quivering arms.
After standing up, she resumed walking while tottering. But, without even taking another ten steps, she fell over once again.
“H-Hicc――! W-Why is it no good i-if it’s for the s-sake of everyone!? Isn’t it okay to do something for e-everyone!?”
Shion sat up and started to bawl like a kid.
“Repeating for the sake of everyone like some kind of slogan maybe wasn’t very popular?”
“Ah,” Chrono covered his mouth with a hand. He thought that it wasn’t very smart to use such a wording with someone who wasn’t all that close to him, but then he reconsidered as even glossing it over now wouldn’t change any of what he said.
“Lord Chrono, didn’t you also fight for the sake of everyone?”
“I believed that I stayed behind on the battlefield for my men, but in the end I did it for myself.”
Chrono touched the scar on his right eye. If he had run away, he’d have been charged with desertion, and thus he had judged that his odds would be better with taking on the fight. His investing in a workshop and the attempts to mass produce paper were for his own sake just like his agricultural reforms. As his investments would make their rounds, they’d eventually become his own profits, he believed.
“Did the Divine Mother who rules over Yellow Ocher Harvest take away my divine arts because I lied about my own heart?”
“I don’t have any idea what a goddess would think or feel.”
“Figures,” Shion muttered with her face cast down as if she was down for the count. “…I’m the worst. I make excuses, I sulk, I nitpick on everyone else, and yet I don’t achieve anything myself. Even my divine arts were taken from me. And I got also scolded by the person who was kind enough to help me with the cleaning. If I find a hole, I’d love to bury myself in there.”
“…I…,” muttered Chrono, causing Shion to lift her face. She was looking his way with eyes full of hope, but―― “It’d be nice if I could tell you anything to pep you up, but unfortunately I have no smart words I could offer you. At most, I can retort by asking what’s the point in burying yourself in a hole?”
Shion listened to his words and remained silent. Chrono suspected that she might have possibly given up on him. But that’d be only natural as Chrono himself was wondering just what he was saying there.
“You might harbor some gloomy feelings due to your Dad, but I think that’s an issue where you have no choice but to compromise in some way, don’t you think Ms. Shion?”
“What should I do…?”
“I’m telling you that it’s something you need to think about yourself. But, if it’s so painful, you can also stop, you know?”
“I don’t know what I should do after I stop being a priestess.”
“I’m sure there are many jobs other than priestess you can do. Options like maid, administrative official, teacher, or scholar are all good as well.”
Shion widened her eyes.
“Was it that unexpected?”
“Yes, I thought I can’t do anything but work as a priestess.”
“You must have suffered from a tunnel view.”
“I guess you’re right.”
Thinking that she might have recovered a bit, Chrono offered her a hand. Thereupon, Shion stared at his palm in an odd way.
“Can you stand up?”
“Eh? Ah, yes. I’m alright.”
Shion took Chrono’s hand and stood up.
“So, what are you going to do?”
“……I think I’d like to try continuing as a priestess for a bit longer,” replied Shion after a long silence.
It didn’t go as far as back when her emotions exploded, but Chrono could sense that power had returned to her voice.
“I feel slightly uneasy. Worrying that I might die without achieving anything like my father.”
“That won’t happen.”
“Because there are plenty of jobs I want you to do for me, Ms. Shion. I’d like you to work as director of the almshouse. I want you to hand out food to those people who are unwilling to enter the almshouse. I want you to teach people farming techniques, and I want you to teach my men how to read, write, and calculate…I suppose I’ll also have you negotiate with all kinds of people since I want you to do something like job mediation.”
“…That’s a huge workload.”
Shion wiped away her tears.
“Once again…would you be willing to lend me your help?”
“Yes, if you’re fine with me,” Shion smiled lightly.
One week later, Chrono looked up to the almshouse together with Shion after they had applied new mortar to the facade. Since then Shion had worked so diligently that all her complaints seemed to have been a lie. She had even come up with the idea to separate the hall with boards to allow the residents to have personal spaces.
“At last, is it?”
“I’m slightly anxious, but I plan to freely rely on my staff and you, Lord Chrono, when necessary,” Shion said with a gentle smile on her lips.
It appears as if she’s managed to sort her feelings throughout the last week. No, she might be simply happy over seeing results for all the hard effort she put into this.
“Director, we are going to begin accepting inhabitants!”
“Ah, I will be right with you!”
Being called over by her staff, Shion looked at Chrono apologetically.
“You don’t need to mind me.”
Watching Shion dashing away, Chrono muttered, “Do your best,” under his breath.
<– Previous Chapter | Table of Content | Next Chapter –>
Pingback: Records of Chrono’s Wars – Volume 2 – Chapter 3: Almshouse – Part 1 »
Pingback: Records of Chrono’s Wars – Volume 2 – Chapter 3: Almshouse – Part 2 »