I became Countess Dolknes, but I have no intention of leaving the fief like what my parents did. However, unless we defeat the Demon King and graduate from the academy, it would be hard for me to focus on the territory management. That’s why I must at least check the state of my territory once.
I’m going to the fief riding on Ryuu’s back. I went to the dungeon in my territory once, but I haven’t been visiting the feudal lord’s residence after I went to the Royal Capital.
「Ryuu, get down to the garden over there. Please be quiet. 」
When Ryuu landed in the garden, there was a low thud, and the ground shook. He’s a big guy, even if we try to be quiet, there’s no way to assure it will be quiet.
Hearing the sound, the servants came out of the estate immediately and noticed my arrival. It has been two years, not that I’m happy to see them again since I’ve only had a brief conversation with them.
They looked at Ryuu and me in surprise. Some of them even screamed.
I had sent a letter a week before my arrival, but I guess they must’ve been surprised to see a dragon for the first time.
「I’m home. It’s been a while. 」
「Welcome home, Mistress. 」
I bowed lightly, and they bowed deeply and stayed still. I can feel their strong desire not to be the one to talk to me.
Nevertheless, I’m their master. Is this happening because I was different from my parents?
A man soon came out in a hurry from the same door.
「I’m sorry for the delay in welcoming you. I’m Damon, the acting Lord. 」
The acting Lord, Damon, was a middle-aged man with a worn-out atmosphere. I haven’t heard anything about the fief being in shambles, the management must have been in good hands.
I don’t remember if I already saw him back then, though.
「Nice to meet you, Damon. I’d prefer it if you’ll call me Yumiela. 」
「As you wish, Lady Yumiela. You must be tired after your long journey, we have prepared a room for you to rest. Umm… 」
Damon looks up at Ryuu and goes silent. He doesn’t know how to deal with a dragon.
「You don’t need to take care of Ryuu. And I’m not tired yet, so I’d like to hear a quick update about the territory. 」
If I went by using a carriage from the Royal Capital, it would take us two days. But since I flew with Ryuu, it only took us an hour.
「All right. Let me escort you to your room. 」
「Thank you. Ryuu, you can rest in the garden, or you can go play. 」
Ryuu responded with a roar before spreading his wings and took off into the sky. Don’t bring back any monster as a souvenir, please.
Damon guided me through the estate. The other servants didn’t even try to make any eye contact with me.
The only heiress who was treated coldly become the head of the family and came back on a dragon, of course, it would be scary. First of all, I have to work on improving my relationship with my employees.
I don’t want them to be like Rita.
「How long have you been the acting Lord? 」
As we walk down the corridor, I asked him a question.
「I’ve been in this position for 18 years. 」
He’s been doing this for a long time, even before I was born.
「My parents will be here soon, but are you going to serve them? 」
「My loyalty belongs to House of Dolknes and this fief. I’m serving the head of the family. 」
I’m trying to probe how he felt about me succeeding the family, but he gave me a safe answer. He looks like a worn-out middle-aged man, but he’s a man with determination.
「This is the office. 」
I can see how tidy the room is, it didn’t feel like a workplace. He must have quickly cleaned it up after I sent that letter a week ago.
「Then, can you show me the recent account book? 」
「Yes. These are the financial reports for the last five years. 」
For the time being, I’ll just look at the yearly income and expenses. For the last five years, the tax revenues went up little by little every year. Funnily enough, it’s about the same amount each year.
「How has the population of the fief changed over the last five years? 」
「There has been a slight increase, but overall, it’s been flat. 」
「Have you passed any new policies in the last five years? 」
「No, we can’t change any of the policies without the lord’s authority. It’s the same as before. 」
It would be strange to see if profits kept rising for the last five years when nothing’s changed.
「Profits seem to have increased in the last five years, how about before? 」
「There has been slight increases after I was appointed here. 」
Sweats began to break out on Damon’s forehead, which meant he answered me offhandedly. I knew it, he’s tampering with the reports.
But if that’s the case, it’s strange that it kept increasing. If he’s going to fill his own pockets, he should gradually cut down the income and expenses.
If there’s something that bothers me about the decrease in income and expenses, it’s that I wonder how good his ability is? But agriculture, which accounts for most of the tax revenue, is dependent on nature, so there is bound to be some decrease. Who wouldn’t understand that?
「Hey, why did Damon’s predecessor quit the job? 」
「Our revenues decreased so they’ve been fired… 」
Wow, I knew it. To my father, the territory was only something that produced the money. If the acting lord increases the tax revenue, he won’t say anything, but if the tax decrease, they’ll get fired.
「So, what’s the real balance? 」
If changing the acting lord didn’t raise the tax revenues, my father could interfere and excessively raise the tax rate. To avoid this, Damon made it look like the tax revenues were increasing by a certain amount, whether they were going up or down. Fraud is fraud, but it was probably the result of him putting the territory first.
「Umm, I don’t know what you’re talking about… 」
While he feigned ignorance, the sweats didn’t stop to break out.
「I’m not accusing you of anything. I’d like to know if you turned in a deficit year or if you borrowed money from somewhere else? 」
「…Yes, I forged the reports. I concealed the actual balance for a good harvest year to make up for a bad harvest year. We don’t have any debts, but we are in a tight financial situation. 」
「It’s tight because you sent most of the money to my parents in the Royal Capital, right? 」
「Yes, but the truth is I forged the reports… 」
「Damon, thank you for supporting the Dolknes territory. My family was supposed to be the one who supports it. I look forward to working with you to support this territory. 」
When I lowered my head, Damon kept his gazes down. Eh, are you crying?
「I, Damon, swear to do everything in my power for the sake of this fief, Lady Yumiela. 」
He does his retainer’s courtesy. Hey, isn’t this in a similar pattern with Rita?
「Let’s bygones be bygones. And it would have been worse if you hadn’t forged those reports. Let’s think about the future. You have a public service project you want to do, right? 」
「But we have no savings, we will need a plan to raise money. 」
I can take care of that part, I’m a rich person with abundant raw materials from monsters.
「Don’t worry, I’ll bring you the money. If you need help like cutting a rock on the way or levelling down a mountain, I’ll help. 」
For the benefit of my fief, I’m not afraid doing the heavy works limited to destruction activity. No, should I stay out of it to open more job opportunities?
「Then we’ll build roads, no, we’ll start with the flood prevention project first— 」
Damon begins to talk about the development proposal for the fief as if to relieve his previous exasperation. So, when is this talk going to end?
The next day, Damon and I decided to go out to inspect the town. I told him I didn’t mind being alone, but he wouldn’t listen, saying he’d follow me.
「Lady Yumiela, um… Are you going out without any hat on? 」
「Yes, I’ve decided not to hide it anymore. 」
The townspeople paid attention to my hair, but I don’t care. From now on, we have to aim to create a society where black-haired people can walk openly.
「Ah, I miss this place. 」
I stopped in front of one of the stores. I used to sell my raw materials to them in the past.
「This particular store doesn’t have a great reputation because of its outward appearance. 」
As Damon said, the building is old, and the inside was dimly lit.
The reason why I chose to sell my raw materials there was because of its appearance. Because in a respectable store, they would never buy any monster materials that a child brought in alone.
The town looks pretty much the same as it did two years ago. It’s not desolated or run down, but it’s not vibrant either.
「I mean… This territory doesn’t have any character. 」
「Well, we don’t have any specialities. 」
I’ll have to think about it, whether it’s a new industry or adopting a successful method from other territories. It would be nice if we could use the dungeon to revitalize the town as Barias did.
「Lady Yumiela is very familiar with the town. Have you visited the town while you were staying in the estate? 」
To my surprise, they still haven’t found out that I slipped out of the estate uncountable times before.
「I’ll be honest with you… I’ve been sneaking out of the estate and levelling up in the mountain and the dungeon for a long time already. 」
「What on earth were the maids even doing… No, it’s all my fault that I entrusted everything to the maids. 」
「No, I’m the one who sneaked out, right? 」
If we’re talking about who’s to blame, it would be me, hands down. We need to stop arguing about who’s responsible in every argument because I’m the one who will be the most inconvenienced.
We decided that a visit to the town wasn’t enough, so we came to a nearby village not far from the town. Once again, the villagers’ eyes are focused on me as I enter the village.
「It’s the Mountain Guardian. 」
Eh, what did the grandpa say? The other villagers gather around and speak about the Mountain Guardian. Some even put their hands together in prayer.
「Damon, what’s this all about? 」
「I don’t know what’s going on either… 」
What kind of misunderstanding are they making this time?
「Umm, what is the Mountain Guardian? Maybe you’ve got the wrong person? 」
The old man answers on behalf of the villagers.
「The Mountain Guardian is a goddess with black hair. I was worried because recently there haven’t been any sighting… Are you the Goddess? 」
Is there such a god? It’s unusual for an ominous black-haired god to be a guardian deity.
「No, I didn’t mean it like that. What kind of goddess is she? 」
「The Goddess controls the darkness and drives out the monsters. 」
That’s a very militaristic goddess. It’s a pity that the world is going to treat her as an evil goddess for being able to control the darkness.
「Has that goddess always been residing in this mountain? 」
「No, the first time the villagers witnessed her was about ten years ago. She was a little girl at the time, but she’s gradually grown up. 」
Um, I knew it… It was me after all. The dark attribute gave it away.
「Ah, that was me. I used to level up around here in the past. I’m not a goddess, but a human. My name is Yumiela Dolknes. I’ve recently become the lord of this fief. 」
I explained the situation, and I wondered if the villagers would be disappointed.
However, the villagers’ cheers betrayed my expectation.
「Our Lord is the Mountain Guardian? 」
「Praise the Goddess! Long live the Lord! Long live Lady Yumiela! 」
…What is this? It’s better than… being hated, right?
t/n: thamk you kittensnips and anon for the kofis!