Felicia's Second Life Chapter 10 Book 2

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Good morning, everyone. It's been awhile, how do you do? It has been several months since the events at Lytis. Now, we are about to enter spring. And what do you get in spring? Flowers! Come on, everyone! Let's have a flower festival.

Felicia's Second Life Chapter 10
Let's put pressure on father


By Shiina Ai

“Father, we need a flower festival,” I said to father, who was sitting at the dining table while reading a book titled, ‘Farming for Beginners’.

“No,” father said without raising his head.

“Father, we need a flower festival,” I repeated.

“As I said, no.”

“Father, we need a flower festival,” I repeated again.

“Why?” father asked while turning the page.

“Because father, we need a flower festival.”

“As I said, why?” father asked with a raised voice.

“Father, we need a flower festival.”

“Stop saying that!”

Should I push him further?

“Father, we need-”

“Yes, we need a flower festival. There's no need for you to keep repeating that!”

Yes, score one for Felicia!

“I'm glad you agree, father. So let's have a flower festival.”

“And I said no.”

Still resisting, eh?

“Father, we need-”

“We can't afford a festival right now. Just wait for the Aging Ceremony.”

“Father, we need-“

“Is that all you have to say?”

“It's a waste...” I mumbled quietly.

“What's a waste?”

Oops, accidentally said that aloud. Oh well, it’s not like I can rewind time and unsay it.

“All these flowers. It's a waste to just let it pass by.”

“I don't see your point here,” father put the book down as he stared at my face, his left elbow on the table holding up his chin by the back of his hand.

“Flowers need to be enjoyed!” There, I’ve said it.

“Wasn't it you who said that our motto should be “Hard work day after day”?”

“Yes, but you’re forgetting the second line, “Have fun every night”!”

“I imagine that's not something you personally should spend any thoughts on, Felicia, being unmarried. Come to think of it, I received another marriage proposal just this morning.”

I raised my right hand level to father’s head with the open palm towards his face “Stop there, father. No marriage.”

“If you're going to say you only love girls, I will die in shame, Felicia.”

Huh? Does he know I like girls? How did he know? Scary... father can be quite sharp sometimes.

“No, it's nothing like that, father!” Of course, I have to deny it.

Sure I still like girls but I'm not against doing things with men. I was born into this world as a girl, so being a noble lady, it’s expected of me to marry a man. I won’t be one of those old spinsters who suffer the shame of not having any prospects.

“Then?”

“I'm still too young!”

“You'll be 12 this year, it's a little young but perfectly fine to marry. Just look at your retainers Somme and Serin, for example. They're planning on getting married after summer harvest, don't they?”

“That...” I couldn’t say anything to dispute that. Apparently Somme and Serin had gotten 'close' after Somme's injury during the bandit raid. When we came home from Lytis, they thought it was the perfect time to announce their intentions of getting engaged. How close? I was too afraid to ask.

“Look, father, we need a flower festival.”

“What does that have to do with your marriage?”

“You're the one who changed the topic first, father!”

“Felicia...” Father looked at me with sad eyes.

“Father...” I looked at father’s eyes while showing defiance.

“Why won't you choose a man?”

“It's a beautiful day, isn't it?”

“I know it's hard to choose one, but at least agree to meet.”

“The trees are blossoming, I love the fragrance wafting in the wind”

“How about the second son of Baron Larx?”

“If we wait any longer, all the great views will pass us by, father.”

“I heard the 3rd son of Duke Freir is a good man, smart too.”

“Imagine having a picnic under the blossoming trees, as petals fall slowly.”

“Or a strong man, like the young Baron Sethri. He will surely be able to match your strong personality.”

“We should build a flower viewing spot. Sell drinks too, maybe.”

“Felicia...”

“Father...”

“You didn't listen to a single word I said, did you?”

“Did you say something, father? We need a flower festival.”

“Stop saying that!”

“Okay. The people need a flower festival, father.”

“Changing the words doesn't make it different! In the first place, it's you who want a flower festival, isn't it?”

Busted!

“I have no idea what you're talking about, father.”

“As I said, we can't afford it.”

“Aren't we better off now since my economic reforms?”

“Yes, but with more improvements, there's also more upkeep. And you still haven't told me where you got all these ideas from.”

“No problem. Cut cost somewhere.”

“You're missing the point, Felicia.”

“What point am I missing, father?”

“How much gold will we need, then?”

“300 gold, more or less.”

“See, this is my point. We can't afford it. Even the 90 gold for Aging Ceremony is something we can barely afford.”

“Oh, has it increased, father?”

“That’s not the point! But yes! Our population has quadrupled this year, so we need a larger festival. I don’t even know where all these people come from.”

“You’re right, that’s not the point, father. So let’s have a flower festival.”

“I’VE JUST TOLD YOU IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE!”

I managed to shut my ears on time. “There’s no need to yell, father. Anyway, your ransom was 400 gold and I got the money within a week, didn't I?”

Well, it wasn’t exactly 400 gold, but it was close enough. I only paid 200 gold anyway. Muhahahaha!

“You were in the River Country. They have a different sense of money there.”

“Still, I managed to get 400 gold within a week, as I have told you previously. I'm sure the whole barony can spare 300 gold within two to three weeks.”

“Look here, Felicia,” father said as he took out the barony’s financial ledger. “It's not that simple. There are expenses that need to be taken care of.”

“Expenses can be reduced.”

“Some expenses can't be reduced. Look!” father pointed to a particular number in a particular page, “I’ve carefully considered the budget. We can’t afford it!”

I looked at the ledger. My first impression was, “What a mess”. No, it had nothing to do with the handwriting though I had to admit that father’s handwriting was indeed ugly. I meant the way the ledger was recorded. It was messy. If the United Kingdom of my previous world had this kind of ledger, it wouldn’t be hard to syphon money from the treasury. I could make neither heads nor tails of the ledger with just one look. Even experienced accountants would likely need to carefully pore through the nonsense inside.

Just who the heck taught father bookkeeping?

I decided to leave the matter of the ledger for later. “We need a flower festival, father.”

“Stop saying that!”

“But we do need a flower festival, father.”

“Fine, get me 600 gold and we’ll have your flower festival or whatever.”

“That’s double what I asked!”

“You sounded so confident before. Does this mean you don’t want a Flower Festival anymore?” father said as he made a satisfied grin.

“Fine! I’ll get you the money. May I borrow the ledger, please?”

******

“Is everyone ready? Enough supplies?” I said as I made myself comfortable on that pale white horse that I named Horsemeat.

“Of course, my lady. I’ve brought extra too.” Lili said as she got on her own horse, a black mare that she named Darkness.

It’s obvious that naming things isn’t one of Lili’s strong suits.

“I am honoured to again be given the chance to journey with you, my lady,” Serin said while bowing her head atop her horse, a brown stallion named Battle. It was actually Somme’s horse, one of those we appropriated from the bandits last time. Serin’s mare, named Rose was pregnant and Serin didn’t want to put any burden on it.

Escorting us were five spear sentries, courtesy of Merisa. Apparently Merisa was afraid something would happen to me during my travel, so she assigned a team of her mounted patrol to escort me. The horses the spear sentries rode were the ones taken from the bandits when they attempted to move their treasures elsewhere. After the battle, in which I obtained lots of loot, I entrusted the horses to Merisa and the spear sentries to better patrol the barony. There were only around twenty horses appropriated back then, so having five mounted sentries accompanying us would significantly reduce patrolling efficiency.

It’s not like I can just refuse. Although we’ll only be travelling within Mruna, the Barony of Mruna is still one of the largest baronies in Forlendia. We can even be compared to a small county in size. Unfortunately, Mruna’s terrain is mostly mountainous with most of the flatlands unsuitable for farming. Therefore, even with my agricultural reforms, we’ll likely need to import food from places like Karda in the south or Tatun in the north.

I could’ve just commissioned an escort or two at the Adventurers’ Guild, but I wanted to start this quickly. Since I was the commander of the spear sentries, I could get them mobilized quickly. I had to give them full pay at one silver a week instead of the usual one big copper a day when they worked as part-time militia, but at least we could move immediately. As for our food, we’re using the standard spear sentry daily rations pack. It consists of canned fish in tomato sauce, hard biscuits similar to hardtack and canned fruits. Corned beef is not normally issued as daily rations, since beef isn’t a specialty of Mruna and because of that it’s pretty valuable. So corned beef is only issued as army rations, not individual rations. Believe it or not, leather is not the by-product of slaughtering cows for food, it’s the other way around. Corned beef is the by-product of slaughtering cows for leather.

You’re asking what I’m doing? Of course, I’m touring the barony! Father told me to get him 600 gold, right? Unfortunately, not even I have 600 gold. Unlike the River Country’s extremely inflated economy due to the ongoing war and the number of reopened gold mines, I can’t get a lot of gold so easily in Mruna. If I ask father to raise taxes, we can probably get a bunch of grain which we can sell for gold, but let’s not go there. Raising taxes should not be done so callously. So I’m going to tour the barony looking for stuff to sell, bandits to rob and trees to plunder. It will be a glorious two weeks’-worth of adventure through grasslands, beaches and forests.

******

Day 3

“My lady, that plant is called Song Blossom. It blooms fortnightly and gives a distinct smell,” Serin explained seeing the flower I was holding. It had six bluish petals and a long stalk.

“My lady, please don’t get too close to the flower,” Lili warned me as she quickly pulled me back by the waist.

“Why? Is it poisonous?”

“There is a reason it’s called Song Blossom, my lady. For some reason, whenever it blooms, you will find people dancing and singing among the blooming flowers without a care in the world,” Lili explained.

I quickly threw the flower to the ground and stepped away from the flower bed. I wouldn’t want to be seen dancing and singing myself silly. That would be stupid. I had a reputation to protect.

So it has some kind of hallucinogenic effect, huh?

I walked to another part of the field, away from the dangerous flower. Spotting a reddish flower, I asked, “What is that flower?”

“It’s called Red Demise, my lady,” Serin answered.

“Sounds dangerous,” I said as I took a step back.

“Not really, my lady. It’s a kind of flowering plant that is completely safe to cultivate at home,” Serin said as she plucked one and brought it over.

“It’s normally used to repel insects and provide sinus relief,” she said as she had me sniff the oil from the stalk, which had a minty smell, before she continued with, “However, you have to be careful when all of them start withering at the same time.”

“Why?”

“Because they only wither at the same time when they’re infected with a fungus called Spotted Peace. They’re pretty much harmless in small amounts, but if a pot of ten or more stalks of flowers are infected, those nearby may fall asleep and die.”

“Throw it away!” I scolded.

“Please forgive me, my lady. There’s no need to worry, though. In nature, there is a parasite that eats the Spotted Peace,” Serin said as she threw away the flower back into the clump of flower patch she got it from.

“What about that large flower on that mound?” I asked while walking towards a single large flower with thick stem. It rose above a mound of dirt with nothing around it. I assumed, with my limited botanical knowledge, that it created a condition where other plants couldn’t survive either by having herbicidal properties, by changing the pH level or by totally hoarding all the nutrients from the soil, like a certain plant from an old real-time strategy game I used to play in the 90s.

I touched the large lily-like petal of the flower and was caught off-guard when something sprayed out from its center. It hit my face and upper body, making me take a step back. I wiped my face with the sleeves of my short dress before realizing that the mound of dirt was moving.

“My lady, that’s no flower!” the spear sentry’s squad leader cried out.

Suddenly the mound of dirt rose and what came out was a creature I only knew from drawings as a Man-eating Worm. It had short, mottled body. The flower was part of its head, of which its only other feature was three rows of sharp saw-like teeth lining the inside of its circular mouth. There was no eye, apparently it only reacted the moment it sensed the flower being touched.

This observation and assumption process happened in only an instant. After all, it would be pretty stupid of me to study a creature called Man-eating Worm when it was about to consume me. There was nothing I could do though, because the stuff it sprayed on me had a muscle-relaxing effect. I couldn’t move even if I wanted to.

The worm slid forward towards me, intent on making me its sustenance. It wasn’t a big creature, only about six-feet long and two-feet high. However, it was notorious for eating small creatures, like human children. It seemed like this child, me, was going to be eaten today. I was hoping to die with a bit more dignity.

“Get away from her!” Lili appeared suddenly from behind me, like a shadow that came out of thin air.

She quickly swung her dual-wielded throwing knife, cutting the stem of the flower with one knife and stabbing her other knife into the worm’s head, if it had a head. The worm’s skin proved resilient, as although Lili managed to stab her knife into it with difficulty, she couldn’t pull it out. It was as if the muscles simply clamped down on the length of the knife. Lili had to let go of her knife when the worm turned its head and attempted to bite down on Lili’s arm.

The spear sentries came right after Lili managed to steady her footing. Using a long spear, the leader repeatedly hit the worm on the head while another spear sentry used the distraction to stab a knife into its tail end. She then hammered it down with a rock, effectively preventing the worm from moving forward. It was while this was happening that Serin pulled my unresponsive body away.

We watched as the worm tried and failed to move forward. I asked the squad leader why they didn’t deal it a death blow while it was vulnerable. She told me they shouldn’t, because Man-eating Worm’s leather was quite valuable and having numerous cut marks would lower its value. Apparently, worm leather was tougher than cow leather and often made into premium leather armour.

As they started cutting and skinning the sun-baked worm, I threw up my lunch on the ground. It was a very disgusting affair. I hoped to never see it ever again.

******

Day 6

“My lady, look! It’s a whole field of skywatchers !” Serin pointed at a patch of yellowish flowers from atop her horse.

“What kind of flower is that?” I asked astride Horsemeat.

Serin jumped down from her horse with the help of one of the spear sentries. “You mentioned we’re going to have roastings, right, my lady?”

“Yes, so?”

Forgive me for being apathetic. Finding out that half the species of flowers in my barony will either kill me or eat me can do that to a person. Flowers were never so dangerous in my previous world.

“Skywatcher’s seeds are often used to produce oil that is used in marinating and coating meat being roasted. We must be lucky, they almost never grow this well in Mruna,” Serin said while examining one of the flowers.

It was similar in a way to a sunflower, except that it didn’t face the sun. The face of the flower pointed straight upward, which was probably how the name skywatcher came into being. The petals also looked quite different. Instead of small petals around the disk, the petals were large and came in several layers along a central bulb. The stalk was also thicker than the sunflowers in my memory.

“My lady, there is a suspicious signboard on the plains,” one of the spear sentries on scouting duty rode back and gave her report.

“A signboard? What does it say?”

“I don’t know, my lady, I can’t read,” she said, her embarrassment evident in the tone of her voice.

I wondered briefly if I should make reading and writing a compulsory lesson for spear sentries.

Giving such an order would certainly be within my self-granted authority. Although father is paying for the day-to-day upkeep costs, I am the one paying for their equipment and deployment fees. Telling them to take reading and writing classes wouldn't be too much of a demand. The only problem is, with five hundred spear sentries, I’d have to arrange for more teachers and enlarge the school.

Maybe I’ll just wait until the Naval Academy’s built.

“Well, take us there then,” I said, pushing the thought away for now.

“Yes, my lady,” she said as she waited for us to mount our horses and led us to the signboard in question.

It wasn’t far. The signboard was only a short gallop away. However, what was written on the signboard that pointed into the woods suddenly made me feel empty inside. What was written there, in terrible handwriting, were the words that more or less said, “That route through treasure”. I said more or less because I assumed that was what the author meant to say.

Seriously, at least fix the typos, you imbeciles. Whoever wrote the signboard should seriously go back to school. It seems like I seriously need to increase the number of adult classes. All the classes are already getting full without taking into account the number of spear sentries and other adults still illiterate.

“Sounds like a trap, my lady,” the squad leader said to me.

No shit!

“Lili, I trust you know what to do?” I said while giving Lili a sideway glance.

“Yes, my lady. I shall take my leave,” Lili said as she jumped down from her horse and then... disappeared.

I wonder when Lili started learning ninja techniques. If I ask Suin, will she teach me too? At least I’d like to learn how to turn invisible or climb walls with my bare hands. I won’t go so far as to ask her to teach me how to perform lightning fists or air-ball shuriken.

“Serin, stay here with the horses,” I said while ordering all the spear sentries to dismount. It wasn’t like we could ride our horses into the woods anyway.

“Wh-what are you going to do, my lady?” Serin asked as she took the reins of each of the horses.

“Fall into a trap, of course. Everyone, don’t forget to bring the cavalry shield, quarterstaff and knives. One of you will carry a bow instead of a shield. Everyone please carry two lengths of rope as well. We’re going to fall into a trap after all.”

“My lady, we should return to the town and request support,” the squad leader advised.

“Nonsense, it would be rude to the people who set up this trap. We should obediently do as the signpost says.”

Yeah, I'm looking down on them. I just want to see who wrote that signboard. Well, although I'm looking down on them, I should still make proper preparations. Besides, if we go to back to town and bring reinforcements, there's a good chance they'll be gone by then. I really want to see who it was who wrote that signboard.

The squad leader had a face of shock, but she quickly pulled herself together and ordered the patrol squad to move out. I wondered how much I’d get yelled at when report of this reached Merisa. That tomboy never knows when to chill. She worried so much about me that I often wondered if she was actually my real mother. Considering how horny my father is, that’s very possible.

We proceeded deep into the woods at a brisk pace while maintaining vigilance towards our surroundings. Each of the spear sentries except for the archer had a V-shaped cavalry shield in our left hand instead of the round shield that was standard issue for spear sentry footmen. In their other hand was a quarterstaff carried by the urban patrol, basically spear sentries in peace mode, meant to apprehend instead of kill, as was the case with the long spears. Besides the three throwing knives attached behind their shields, each of them also carried two more knives on the standard issue hemp belt that they wore regularly.

Sorry, no leather belt. The barony can’t afford to supply almost 500 leather belts to the spear sentries. With the success of the Lytis expedition, more and more of the mature and young women of the barony wanted to join the spear sentries. Perhaps they wanted to have better standing among their peers, maybe it was for the power, or maybe they just love me so much that they wanted to help me. Anyway, although having more spear sentries is better, it’s also increasingly expensive.

Unlike the seasonal soldier conscription, the spear sentries have duties during times of peace. Although the number of active duty or part-time spear sentries is only one-fifth of the full mobilization potential, we still need to prepare enough equipment for all of them.

Let’s see, now. Each spear sentry above the level of Experienced ideally has a full set of Felician armour, which includes a helmet, breastplate, plate skirts, bracers and all-terrain boots. All of these are made using a combination of leather and paper, which is still pretty expensive. Yes, I do call it Felician armour. I invented it after all. It’s obvious my name should be there.

Then there’s the steel shield, the long spear and the roman stakes. Some of them are also armed with bows. Let’s not forget about the mass-produced throwing knives. Each of them carry two throwing knives on their belts at any time they’re on duty along with three more knives attached behind their shields if they’re ordered to go into battle. Mruna’s spear sentries are probably better equipped and protected than Forlend’s famed Grey Knights. Unfortunately, they’re way too expensive, so the barony is still unable to fully arm everyone yet.

Father has also been complaining about the expenses and the necessity of arming my ‘toy soldiers’. It has been really hard to get father to agree to set aside some of the barony’s income for ‘preservation of peace’. Just like many nobles in the middle ages, father’s idea of spending money involves feasts, balls, strong armies for wars and building lavish stuff. For that reason, it was much easier to get him to support my bathhouse, but much harder to get him to pay for the spear sentries, especially after I told him that the spear sentries’ equipment was solely to be used by the spear sentries instead of loaned to the seasonal conscripted army. I had to split the expenses with him down the middle because of that.

Sure, the serfs are duty bound to fight for the lord for free for 90 days. It seems like the levy system doesn’t exist here. Either nobody thought of it yet or the king refused to implement it. So every man of age must go to war when requested. Before Surfes declared war, the 90 days of compulsory free service was used for militia duties. Once Surfes declared war, the 90 days of free service was used up on the battlefields. Now here’s the real problem. This system only applies to men, not women. Since the spear sentries are mostly women, not only do we have to arm them, we also have to pay them throughout the year. So that’s why maintaining the spear sentries is way more expensive than sending a bunch of men to war.

“Get down!” the squad leader cried right before a block of wood swung across the forest trail in front of us. It was a few feet away from us and wouldn’t hurt us even if we had been standing. Regardless, if that had hit us, it would’ve ruptured our internal organs, not to mention breaking all the bones in our bodies.

Scary!

“Everyone keep your eyes alert! Expect more traps ahead,” the squad leader ordered as the others acknowledged the order.

We encountered several more traps afterwards. The first was a pitfall trap, but when we arrived, it was marked with a blue cloth, so we easily skirted around it. Then came a crossbow trap, but the trap mechanism was already disabled and one of the spear sentries marked the place so she could retrieve the crossbows afterward. They were pretty big crossbows the length of two arms that could shoot three bolts at the same time. After that, we found bear traps, just lying in the open, but with the mechanism already sprung, there were rocks and broken tree branches around them. The last trap we found was a disabled tree branch trap, meant to deter a small group. You could tell it was a trap because there was a rope wound at the end tip of the debarked branch.

Eventually, we arrived at a wide trail, where a small group of bandit-looking brigands stood in wait. There were mostly clothed in leather vests and hemp trousers and armed with what appeared to be well-worn swords. Could this be the finish line?

“Wuahahaha!” a large and muscular man, probably in his early 30s laughed boisterously with his arms folded across his chest, “You’ve done well to reach here despite all the traps in your way. As expected of the one who annihilates the red plume bandits!”

“Boss, it was the blue plume bandits,” one of his henchmen corrected.

The large and muscular man, the boss, from what the henchman said, grabbed the henchman’s shirt with his left hand. He raised the henchman in the air and threw him into the bushes on his right while yelling, “That’s what I said!”

“What traps? They were all broken,” the squad captain murmured.

“What? Say that again!” The boss demanded.

“I said, all your traps were broken by the time we arrived,” the squad captain repeated.

The boss looked to his left at another henchman. The henchman cowered and stammered, “B-but I made the traps myself, boss!”

“Exactly! So why weren't they working?” The boss asked.

“I don’t know! May-maybe a wild animal tripped into it.”

“Every single trap?” I asked.

“Didn’t see any animal carcasses around them,” the squad captain added.

“Unrelated people should SHUT UP!” the henchman yelled before he too was raised to the air and thrown into the bushes.

“Bunch of screw-ups!” the bandit leader spat before he turned his attention towards us. He took off his forester hat, placed it against his chest and with his other hand behind him, he made an exaggerated bow as he said, “Greetings, Lady Felicia of Mruna. My name is Rannick, the boss of Raven’s Peak. Pleased to meet you, my lady.”

Ah, boss of Raven’s Peak, huh? I’ve always suspected there was a bandit camp there. Why is he looking at the squad captain, though?

“Uhh, I’m not the Lady Felicia,” the squad leader said while showing a little confusion in her eyes.

“You’re not? But I was told Lady Felicia is coming here! I’ve been waiting for two days!”

I stepped forward. “I am Lady Felicia.”

Rannick blinked at seeing me. He froze for a couple of minutes while his gaze remained fixed on me. It was when I said, “Hello?” did he finally snapped himself out of his daze.

He grabbed the shirt of his closest henchman and cried, “Why didn’t you tell me Lady Felicia is a little girl?!!!”

The henchman sweated profusely as he said, “Sir, I wouldn’t know. I’m just the cook.”

“Oh, are you? Sorry about that,” Rannick let go of the bandit cook just as he grabbed another bandit next to the cook. “Why didn’t you tell me Lady Felicia is a little girl?!!!” he repeated to the new henchman.

“Sir, the Red Plume Bandits didn’t tell us...”

“It was the Blue Plume Bandits!” Rannick corrected.

“Yes sir, of course you’re right.”

“Hey, excuse me. Are you looking down on me because I’m a little girl?” I asked, feeling slightly pissed.

Rannick put down the henchman and said with the gentlest voice and the friendliest smile, “No no, uncle isn’t looking down on you at all. But the forest is a dangerous place, you shouldn’t have come here in the first place. Why don’t you go home now, okay?”

“Are you saying we can just walk out? You won’t stab us in the back?” I asked.

“No no, just you. Oh, I suppose you can take one of the women to escort you out if you wish. Little girls shouldn’t walk alone in dangerous places. The others will have to stay, though,” he answered while maintaining his gentle voice and friendly smile.

“What’s with the double standard?” the squad captain asked.

“Uhum! Boys, tell them the Raven’s Peak Bandits motto.”

“Alright! I, Semfon shall start. The first line is, Profit Through Thievery!”

“I, Luffin shall continue. The second line is, Take All Their Women!”

“I, Merias shall add. The third line is, “Let No Harm Comes To The Children!”

“I, Furun, shall continue with the fourth line... err... boss, I think we should think about the fourth line.”

“So in other words, you won’t hurt children, but you have no problem taking the women?” I asked.

“Correct!” all of them, including Rannick and the unnamed cook and extras said with the noses high and chests pumped with their fists resting on their waists.

I’m getting a headache.

“Girls, come here,” I said while the bandits were still standing proud in that same pose.

“My lady, what are we going to do? They outnumber us slightly. I also believe there may be more bandits in the bushes,” the squad leader said.

“Don’t worry about the bandits in the bushes. Everyone still remember Engagement 12? We’re going to do that except for the one holding the bow,” I said.

One of them raised her hand and asked, “What’s Engagement 12?”

“She’s a new recruit, my lady. Her family migrated from Tatun in Wamor at the end of Winter,” the squad leader explained.

“Never mind then, give her the bow. The rest of you, Engagement-“

“Can we fight already?” Rannick the bandit boss complained.

“Shut up!” I yelled at the bandit. To the spear sentries, I said, “Newbie, support them with your bow. The rest of you Engagement 12 at my command.”

“Yes, my lady!” The four experienced spear sentries said together as they took up position between me and the bandits. Loosely linking their cavalry shields together, they advanced two steps forward before positioning themselves into a crouch. The bottom of their shields dug into the ground as they hid their whole body behind their shields. Putting their quarterstaffs on the ground, their fingers closed around the throwing knives attached behind their shields. They stayed still as they pulled the throwing knives quietly between their fingers under cover of the large cavalry shields.

As the bandits raised their axes and swords with their battlecries, I gave the order, “Throw!”

The spear sentries threw their throwing knives in the bandits’ general direction as our single archer released her arrows behind the safety of her planted shield. The bandits, expecting the initial attack, raised their own round shields to protect themselves from the rain of twelve knives. While some of the knives did strike flesh, the majority either buried themselves into the wooden shields or bounced harmlessly. That was within my calculation.

“Charge!” I ordered, as my gun spouted fire and smoke causing one of the bandits to fall in a shower of reddish liquid.

My spear sentries jumped up, each with her shield held loosely in her left hand and her quarterstaff held firmly in their right. The eight remaining bandits, already recovering from their rain of knives raised their weapons and their shields and charged against the spear sentries. Their eager faces turned into shock when instead of melee fighting where they outnumbered the women two-to-one, they were sent flying when the women threw their shields at the approaching bandits. In just seconds, three of the bandits were knocked down when the spear sentries’ cavalry shields made contact with theirs. The rest were too confused to react as the spear sentries, now with both hands on their quarterstaffs, showed the result of their year-long weekly training on the bandits.

What was left was for me to tie up those bandits already disabled.

Only the bandit leader proved a problem as he alone fought two of the spear sentries on his own. The other two were too busy with making sure the bandits couldn’t help their leader by repeatedly beating them down or attempting to beat them unconscious. In the end, despite their training, the two spear sentries couldn’t hold down the leader on their own and accumulated injuries on their bodies. It was like fighting a wounded lion, despite being beaten repeatedly and having open wounds, his every blow was heavy and dangerous. Every hit from his wrought iron sword put much strain on the hard wood of the quarterstaff, causing the palms of the spear sentries to bleed until the quarterstaff itself was covered in blood. Even the squad leader coughed blood when his elbow hit her chest.

I fired a shot at the bandit leader in order to help the spear sentries. As the bullet left the barrel of my gun, he turned his gaze at me and avoided the bullet aimed at his chest by a hair’s breadth. I never believed those fairytales where a person dodged a bullet, but there it was. Right in front of my very eyes there was someone who could dodge a bullet. As the other two spear sentries noticed his mad gaze pointed at me, they leaped to my defence, standing between me and the wild animal in front of us.

The bandit leader shoved the two spear sentries desperately fighting him away and charged straight my way. My two highly trained protectors entered the fray, hitting him with coordinated strikes using their quarterstaffs. It was clear to see that they were fighting a losing battle. With no time to reload my guns, I unsheathed my newly forged cavalry rapier and ordered, “Octopus trap, everyone! I’ll handle him!”

The spear sentries protecting me disengaged. Since there was no more barrier between him and me, the bandit leader crossed the distance in just one step. He raised his thick iron sword high before bringing it down on me. There was no time to think as I sidestepped, causing his blow to miss by a great margin. I was glad that I wore a short skirt for this battle. Had I worn one of those long robes or gowns, I would’ve been cut cleanly in half.

He pulled his heavy iron sword from the ground and swung it horizontally towards my legs that I barely avoided by jumping over the approaching blade. There was nothing I could do to avoid his fist when it hit me in the kidney while in mid-jump. Thankfully, the damage was minimal as his whole momentum was in the sword swing. My Felician armour was easily able to spread the impact of the light hit.

“Hey, didn’t you say you wouldn’t harm children?” I asked while rubbing the place he hit me.

“Children should do as told...” he gave a horrifying ghost-like grin as he approached me quickly with his sword raised high.

He again slashed his sword downward, but this time I was ready. I sidestepped his blow with a shorter step and deflected his sword using my own much thinner steel sword. Being a child and a young girl, there was no chance of me competing in strength with him, an adult man who could raise a big iron sword as if it was a wooden sword. Since my thin steel sword was slimmer than half of his sword's width, there was also a chance my steel sword would eventually break under his heavy blows. So the only thing I could do was use his own momentum against him.

The blade of my sword met his briefly, but only briefly, as I used the contact to push his sword away instead of blocking it directly. Then when it was safely away from my body, I flicked my sword to free it. With my sword freed, I used it to press against the back of his sword on its downward stroke, effectively adding to its kinetic energy. The iron sword buried itself deeper into the ground this time, but before I could enjoy my success, his left arm grabbed my upper right arm. He squeezed my sword arm hard, making me cry out in pain and loosening my hold on my sword. In retaliation, I kicked his crotch, but it was protected by something hard. I winced as my shin came into contact with the hard object.

I thought, maybe I should make myself a pair of shin protectors next time.

Suddenly he loosened his hold on my arm and I could feel that his attempt to lift his sword again ceased at the same time. I looked up at his face and around his neck were four ropes, lassoed so that they would tighten against his neck. He tried to pry the ropes off with his fingers, but he was fighting a losing battle. A minute later, he fell to his knees, unconscious.

As the adrenaline wore off, the spear sentries started to take notice of their injuries. The younger sentries tried hard to stop themselves from crying, but with so many injuries on their bodies, their tears escaped without them knowing. Only the squad leader remained calm despite her injuries. Together with the spear sentry who held a bow earlier, we tied up all the bandits before turning our attention towards the wounded spear sentries. We cleaned their wounds and bandaged them, but all four of them will have to rest for a few days at least.

Just as we finished giving first aid to the wounded spear sentries, Lili came out of the bushes with a bloody knife.

“How many did you kill this time, Lili?” I asked off-handedly.

“One, my lady,” she replied.

“Only one? That’s strange!”

“I did tie up eleven men, though. I figured you’d like to have several more slaves,” Lili said while trying not to giggle.

“What are you saying, Lili? I’m not in the market for slaves!” I denied.

Of course, more slaves are always good. But Lili, you should know me by now. Such things should not be spoken in the open!

******

“How exactly did you manage to get 600 gold?” father asked as he looked at my report.

“Father, please believe me when I say that I am too awesome for words.”

“Wait, did you just propose that I cancel the irrigation project?” father asked when he came to page three.

“Yes, I absolutely did.”

“Why?!!! It was meant to increase fertile land!”

“Father...”

“What?”

“Do you know how rocks turn into fertile soil, father?”

“Well, it has something to do with water softening the rocks, right?” father said while looking very sure of himself.

I sighed. “Father, allow me to tell you how rocks turn into fertile soil. The truth is, father, they... just... DON’T! Seriously, father, you can't turn rocks into farmland. It’s just not possible!”

He waved the book he was reading before I came in to my face. “But, the book says-”

I took the book titled Irrigation for Beginners from his hand and threw it to the corner of the room.

“And you also irrigated your farm.”

“Father, there is a difference between barren soil and rocky soil. My farmland wasn’t rocky, it simply lost its nutrients. Besides, have you even looked at the land you were planning on irrigating, father?”

“Well, I did look at the map.”

“Let me tell you what the terrain is like, father. It’s flat!”

“What’s the problem with being flat?”

“There will be no way for the water to drain out. You’ll be saturating the flat lands with water, the water will evaporate and what’s left will be water with higher salt content. Instead of making a farmland, you’ll contribute to making the land absolutely unsuitable for farming for many generations in the future!”

“But the book said-”

“Father, give it up.”

“I can’t just give it up because my 11 year old daughter told me to stop! I'll lose face, Felicia.”

I sighed again. “Look father. You're a knight.”

“Your point?”

“Your strong point is the battlefield, father. All these administration stuff, it doesn't suit you, father. You're absolutely hopeless at it.”

“Why is my own daughter insulting me?” father whined as if he was about to cry.

“You don't have to do this yourself, father. Leave things to the pro.”

“What is a pro?”

“Someone good at stuff.”

“So you're trying to say that you're this pro?”

“Well, I don't want to brag, but it’s fun to brag, so I’ll do it anyway. You should know by now that I’m great. Just leave everything to me, the barony's account is safe with me, father. I guarantee it. Hehehe.”

“Felicia...”

“Yes, honourable father?”

“Based on your track record, you're probably right in that you're the best person for the job.”

“Great! Now let's-“

“However! The greedy face you're making right now doesn't inspire much confidence.”

“Ah, damn. Does it show on my face?”

<-.-><-.->

*Actually this chapter has been sitting in my hard drive for over a year. Thanks very much to Eric who edited it last year. Yeah, it's been that long since this chapter was completed lol I only did small adjustments to this chapter before I posted it. Hope you all enjoyed the chapter.
**As always, please a comment. Praises gives me motivation to write faster, constructive criticism makes me write better. Even a neutral comment is good enough to make me feel appreciated. Thank you very much for reading.



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