「Live your life in the service of others」, my mother would say.
I had heard it many times growing up, and it was said a final time with her dying breath.
「Be a man that can protect the weak」, my father would say.
I had heard it many times growing up, and it was said a final time with his dying breath.
They passed away from an epidemic when I was ten. I followed their advice word for word in the twenty-five years that followed and lived a life that they would have been proud of.
For the first five years, I found other orphans who had, like me, lost their parents in the epidemic and swept the streets for a pittance together. We received scraps to eat by helping out at a local farm and occasionally hunted monsters that wandered too close to the streets, living off the bounty that we obtained.
Then, when I was fifteen, my kingdom went to war with a neighbouring kingdom for reasons still unknown to me. Our side suffered a series of devastating losses, and before I knew it, enemy forces were storming the nearby villages. They eventually reached us and began to plunder our village. Unable to tolerate these atrocities, I continued to fulfil my parents’ dying wishes and volunteered to take up arms to repel the aliens.
The war lasted for twenty whole years.
The year I turned thirty-five, our side, after negotiating terms favourable to us, declared the war to be over when winter was nearing its end. As we ushered in a new era of peace, I was suddenly lauded as a hero that had saved our kingdom. I had somehow, through natural talent that I wasn’t even aware of, bagged more achievements than my average comrades. Not only that, but I had apparently played a large role in securing favourable terms for our side.
Life after the war involved receiving endless commendation from the people that I met, which made me rather uncomfortable. The people that had fought alongside me, the knights that had led us into battle and the common folk had all despised the street urchin that I was. Yet, the same people were now praising me for my heroism.
It did not stop at that — I was even granted an audience with the king himself. He had applauded my contribution to the war effort through difficult words I could not really comprehend, and even offered me a fiefdom. The lowly-educated hero that I was, I had no idea what ownership of a fiefdom entailed. However, the king had patiently explained that in return for my protection, the serfs would pay me taxes which I would, in turn, pass to him.
I guess it was common procedure for a newly-crowned lord to immediately make his way to his freshly-received territory, as the king’s men essentially shoved me into a horse-drawn carriage and I was a good distance away from the imperial capital before I realised that I had brought nothing with me.
The journey took about a month, during which I was under constant supervision of the officials who all seemed to dislike me. I was not allowed to leave the carriage save for when I had to sleep or answer the call of nature. When we arrived, I was kicked out of the carriage amidst the verbal complaints of the officials, and thus began my new life as a frontier lord.
We stood in what looked like the center of my territory while an official explained how far it extended. While I scratched my golden hair (courtesy of my parents), he pointed to a grassland in the distance and slid his finger in a horizontal line over to… more grassland.
In short, my fiefdom consisted of grass. There was nothing man-made to be seen, let alone actual humans. Just grass. I stared at the expanse of vegetation in disbelief.
「This grassy plain is known as Nettsrose」, continued the official through a sinister smile. 「You’re Dias, correct? Then from today onwards, you will be known as Dias Nettsrose. Do your best — I think this is a great place for an orphan to grow up.」
Now that his job was done, the official left along with the carriage that had brought me here, leaving me to take in the surroundings alone. The area was devoid of the usual villagers that were clamoring to praise me, and I did not see any kind of house in which I could stay either.
I also realised that I had yet to eat that day. I looked around for anything that looked edible, but simply came up empty. At least I had my trusty double-sided battleaxe, which I had made good use of during the war. In addition, I had the hemp clothing on my body, a pair of beaten-up boots and a badly scratched suit of armor to go with them.
Aside from those, nothing else. No home, no humans, not even food.
It was amidst these conditions that I began my new life as the governor of the grassland.