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Well, I hadn't been involved in high society at all, and I hadn't even returned home, so I was unaware of the rumors about Lord Acrod disappearing from the imperial capital on every holiday due to the ambitious desires of the empress who wished him to become the emperor.

I, or rather everyone at the ranch, had become quite friendly with Lord Acrod, and the fact that he was the next duke had completely slipped from my mind. After all, chatting and laughing over tea during breaks, Lord Acrod never seemed like a high-ranking person.

Lord Acrod, a knight, had been to the battlefield many times. There, he often cooperated with common soldiers in strategic operations, which led him to eliminate any class distinctions with commoners. He explained that there were excellent individuals among the commoners and foolish ones among the nobles, a matter of course, he said.

Moreover, Lord Acrod seemed to have no prejudice against working women. Even though I worked at the ranch with a robust attitude, he always smiled and watched. When I mentioned dedicating my life to ranch work to raise strong horses for horse racing, he didn't frown but instead said, "That's a wonderful dream."

Both Roland and I had become so accustomed to Lord Acrod's visits that we no longer bothered to greet him when he arrived. If my father or brother had seen this, they would have been shocked and fainted. They would wonder what this future duke, and if I may add, potential emperor, thought he was doing.

About three months had passed since Lord Acrod started coming to the ranch, and one summer day, a horse was brought to our home ranch. Lord Acrod happened to be there that day.


It was a horse from the faraway Zaisantsu Count's ranch. A little while ago, my father had received a proposal from Count Zaisantsu about wanting to give away a horse, and he had left the decision to me.

"You can buy it if you want." That was the deal. Well, since I had a much better eye for horses than my father, I considered it a good deal.

So, the horse was brought by a herdsman who walked a long way. I wondered why he didn't ride it. But, I understood when I saw the horse. It was impossible.

The large blue roan horse brought by the herdsman was rampaging. It neighed loudly, stood up, kicked its hind legs, and tried to bite people. It was doing all this incessantly. It was terrible.

According to the information I had heard, this horse should be four years old by now. However, with such unruly behavior, it was unlikely that it could be ridden. In other words, it couldn't participate in horse racing.

That's why Count Zaisantsu was looking for a buyer for this horse. If it couldn't be used for horse racing, there was no reason to keep such a horse.

Even though it was an outsider's horse, the reason it hadn't been euthanized until now was that it was a horse produced in the northern kingdom. It had been purchased at an incredibly high price, imported, and the attempts to make it suitable for horse racing continued. However, the temperament didn't improve, and Count Zaisantsu finally gave up and decided to sell it.

However, due to its wild behavior, no buyer came forward, and when my father was approached, the price had become almost nothing.

If we rejected it, the horse would probably be euthanized. It was unfortunate, but a horse couldn't survive if it wasn't useful to humans.

Because it was causing so much trouble, the herdsman who brought the horse raised a whip to hit the horse's head. I couldn't help but shout.

"Stop! You must not hit the horse!"

The herdsman was surprised and looked at me. From his perspective, he couldn't go home until he did something about this horse, so it was understandable that he would throw a fit. However, I couldn't allow the horse to be abused in front of me.

The herdsman was about to say something but stopped. Apparently, his gaze had shifted behind me, and it seemed he was pushed by the presence of Lord Acrod standing behind me.

Lord Acrod, seeing the black horse that continued to rampage, shook his head in amazement.

"This won't do. It's true that a spirited horse tends to be strong in horse racing, but there's a limit. It has a good body, though."

I involuntarily turned around and looked up at Lord Acrod.

"Do you also think the horse has a good physique, Lord Acrod?"

"Hmm? Oh, it has a majestic skeleton, and the muscles are well-developed. It seems not to fall even when it rampages like that. Truly a horse from the northern kingdom. The temperament is a shame, though."

Lord Acrod had a discerning eye for horses. I had learned that over the past few months. Since he said it was good, and I thought so too, the horse's physique must be really good.

Yes. I decided based on Lord Acrod's opinion.

"Let's buy it."

When I said that, both Lord Acrod and Roland looked surprised. The herdsman who brought the horse was also surprised. He seemed surprised not only because a young girl like me was in charge of purchasing, but also because of various other reasons.

I gave the herdsman a letter and had one of the cowboys deliver my letter to my father. The money transactions would be handled between my father and Count Zaisantsu. The herdsman left with a somewhat skeptical look.

"Do you have a chance of success, Ecreesia?"

Lord Acrod asked with keen interest. I nodded.

"Of course. That horse is a good one. I made a good purchase."

"But with such a wild temperament, will it be usable for horse racing or riding? No matter how good the pedigree and physique are, it's useless if you can't ride it."

"It's okay. It might take a little time, but we can get it to participate in horse racing."

When I asserted that, Lord Acrod narrowed his eyes a little. It was a slightly intimidating expression.

"What's your basis for that?"

I nodded. Even if the cowboy tried to lead it to the stable, the black horse, which continued to rampage, wouldn't listen. I pointed at the front and back of the horse to make Lord Acrod understand.

"Look. That horse, even though it's wild, won't approach humans voluntarily, will it?"

Lord Acrod's eyes suddenly widened. He seemed to feel unexpected hearing.

"...Certainly, it seems so, but what of it?"

"That horse isn't rampaging because it hates humans. It's the opposite. It doesn't want humans to approach because it's scared of them."

That horse was afraid. Of humans. So, it rampaged to prevent itself from being touched by humans. ...It seemed that the people around this horse, including the herdsman who tried to whip it in the face, had not thought about the horse at all. It must have been treated quite violently.

"If that's the case, we just need to teach it that humans aren't scary. It's not that difficult."

When I said that decisively, Lord Acrod looked at me for a while and then smiled.

"If you say so, it must be true. Let's have a look at your skills."

— — — — — — — — — — —

The next day, I began leading that horse for a walk. At first, it resisted fiercely, kicking and protesting.

"Ghanamonto! It's okay!"

Ghanamonto was the name of this horse. I'm not sure if it was a place name chosen by Count Zaisantsu or a name from before, but if it already had a name, it was better not to change it.

I patiently waited until he (a stallion) calmed down and then used the reins to slowly lead Ghanamonto for a walk around the ranch. It was a route that circled the entire ranch, and we did this for several rounds. To make it more manageable, the cowboys took turns leading him, but the rule was not to provoke Ghanamonto. If he stopped, we had to wait until he decided to move again.

Initially, Ghanamonto resisted just having the reins put on, but he gradually got used to it and even allowed us to touch his head. A few days later, when Lord Acrod visited, he was astonished.

"He's become quite obedient."

"Horses like walking. I think he prefers walking alone like this rather than grazing mixed with other horses."

Our ranch's pasture was a mix of working and riding horses, making Ghanamonto uneasy. Even when we let him graze with others, he always stayed on the fringes, nervous. So, since he couldn't exercise in the pasture, he seemed to look forward to these walks.

Exercise made him hungry. As long as Ghanamonto was restless, I kept the feeding bucket down and didn't give him food. I'd give it to him once he behaved. Repeating this, Ghanamonto started behaving better, eager for his meal.

There was an educational aspect to this – teaching him that humans provided his meals. It was effective. Just like humans, it's hard to defy someone who feeds you.

While gradually calming him down, I started brushing him. Ghanamonto, initially resistant to any touch, became okay with his neck once he got used to our walks. Eventually, even his legs were fine. I meticulously brushed those areas.

For horses, brushing is a form of self-grooming they can't do themselves. It's apparently quite enjoyable. Ghanamonto seemed to like it too, and over time, more areas became touchable without him getting upset.

The last areas he resisted were his face and hindquarters, likely because they had been whipped during training. There were marks on his belly from being spurred, creating understandable aversion towards humans.

With proper brushing, his coat gleamed, revealing the magnificent physique – a lustrous black-blue coat, impressive skeletal structure, and well-defined muscles. Reduced fat, thanks to the walks, highlighted his excellent condition. I couldn't help but sigh in amazement.

"Amazing! He's magnificent! Ghanamonto!"

Importing such an incredible horse would have cost a fortune. Count Zaisantsu couldn't just give up on him.

Yet, even though Ghanamonto had become considerably accustomed to us, he was still wary, particularly when you put something on his back. He intensely disliked it and would try to shake it off. Clearly, he had some unpleasant memories associated with this.

Once Ghanamonto allowed full-body brushing, I introduced him to another horse for ridden walks. Ghanamonto, fearing humans, was a bit uneasy, but the other horse, used for riding, quickly put him at ease.

Then, with a person on the other horse's back, we went for a slow ride together. Surprisingly, the riding horse remained calm with a rider on its back. While showing this, I continuously stroked Ghanamonto's back as we walked.

Gradually, Ghanamonto got used to it, and he could walk with something on his back. We started with just a single rope, gradually increasing the load. It took two months until the entire set of riding gear could be placed on him. The finish line was almost there.

However, the final challenge was whether he would allow a person to mount him. This was a sensitive issue, likely a trigger for traumatic memories for Ghanamonto.

The key factor here was the trust we built with Ghanamonto over the three months since he arrived at our ranch. We treated him with affection, patiently teaching him that horses and humans must cooperate to survive. Slowly, he opened up, and we built a bond of trust.

Now it was a matter of whether Ghanamonto would believe in that bond. Whether he would trust us.

I was confident he would. Ghanamonto was a timid but intelligent and cooperative horse. He had stopped fearing humans considerably, and I believed he had developed trust in me.

I made my decision.

On that day, Lord Acrod was also present.

While he silently observed, I saddled Ghanamonto. Saddling was now a routine without any resistance. Ghanamonto waited patiently with a calm expression, ready for our usual walk.

With Lord Acrod watching, I approached quietly, placed my foot in the stirrup, and smoothly leaped onto Ghanamonto's back.

Instantly, Ghanamonto raised his front legs high. He stood up on his hind legs. Lord Acrod's expression changed, but he didn't utter a word. I pulled the reins, bending down, balancing on Ghanamonto's neck.

However, once Ghanamonto put his front legs down, he seemed a bit uneasy, shaking his head and scratching the ground with his front legs. Yet, he didn't go into a full frenzy. It was a success. I quietly exhaled. Sweat poured out.

Continuing as if nothing happened, I went for our usual walk with me still on Ghanamonto's back. He quickly got used to it and walked normally. Indeed, he was a remarkably intelligent horse.

After returning to the stable and dismounting from Ghanamonto's back, I hugged his nose.

"You did so well! Amazing, Ghanamonto!"

I washed and wiped him, and the moment we left the stable, I collapsed to my knees. Lord Acrod, who had been watching closely, hurriedly helped me up.

"Are you okay?"

"The tension released, and my legs gave out..."

I had been tense, ready to handle Ghanamonto if he went into a frenzy. For a horse with such trauma towards being ridden, it could have been dangerous.

However, Ghanamonto overcame his fear, trusting me. That was more gratifying than anything.

"...Amazing. You've truly tamed that wild horse."

Lord Acrod expressed his admiration, but it wasn't me doing anything particularly special.

"Ghanamonto was originally a smart and good horse. If you treat them properly, horses respond well. They're creatures like that."

That's why I loved horses.

Smiling brightly, I was being closely observed by Lord Acrod. After all, I was being held up by him, almost like being embraced. Gah!

"S-Sorry! I'll move away immediately!"

I said nervously, but Lord Acrod, with a serious expression, didn't take his eyes off me. Instead, he drew me closer and said in a whisper.

"Miss Ecreesia, I have something to discuss."

"Yes? A discussion?"

With a charming smile, Lord Acrod said something in a whisper.

"Let's go to the racetrack."

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