Knock knock, a sound came from the wooden door.
At hearing his muffled voice after the knocks, I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. My throat felt painful as if it had just been burned, and I couldn’t muster up a voice to reply. As he opened the door silently as to not make any sound, I reflexively closed my eyes and wrapped myself in my blanket.
After falling asleep in Claudia’s bed, because of my bad condition I had been brought back to my room. I might have strained myself too much and tired myself out. Because I felt sick, I haven’t had anything to eat, and I’ve been sleeping all day.
While Kamil checked to see how I was doing, he slowly approached me. It felt as if my heart was being gripped tightly and suffocating. Even though it wasn’t cold now, with every step that Kamil took, I could feel myself trembling.
Despite my brain ordering my body to pretend to be calm and answer him, my body had stiffened up and I couldn’t even breathe. I could hear my heart beating annoyingly loudly in my ears.
Maybe he’ll think I’m asleep, Kamil touched my cheek with his fingers. Goosebumps ran down my body, and my body flinched without my permission.
I desperately kept my eyes closed. I don’t know what kind of expression Kamil is making, but I’m terribly afraid of seeing him. He might even be holding a knife in his other hand right now. There’s no way he’s trying to kill me right now, if he had known about it he would have done something to me the moment he met me, is what my logic was telling me, but even so I couldn’t stop my body from shaking.
Without a doubt, I was afraid of Kamil.
Kamil stroked my cheek with his fingers again. Tension and fear seem to have frozen my body solid, this time I didn’t react.
I could hear the sounds of Kamil’s slow breathing. Even though he wasn’t moving, that alone caused my heart rate to go up. However, even the blood coursing through my body felt like it was freezing over.
“……It’s been decided that I’ll be heading east to take charge of constructing the village.”
Although he was talking, it sounded more like a monotone. He muttered it in a rather low voice.
“The earl-sama said that he can’t leave this job up to someone he doesn’t trust.”
Kamil’s fingers that were touching my cheek moved to my forehead. He casually brushed aside my bangs, and traced his fingers across my forehead. I could hear him laughing slightly bitterly.
“In a difficult time, you shouldn’t be making that kind of face. Eliza-sama’s so stubborn……”
Kamil’s fingers departed from my face together with his voice. Eliza-sama, at hearing him call me that I opened my eyes, but I only saw his back as he was leaving. My throat remained frozen until he left.
My heart is now pounding hard for a different reason than earlier.
How long has it been. His voice, calling me Eliza-sama like that, I feel like I’ve heard him call me that before. Although he should have called me that recently, I can’t seem to remember when. I felt a mix of many emotions, but for sure his voice had been reproachful.
Without knowing why, tears starting flowing out, and were dripping down my face from the corners of my eyes. The back of my throat hurt badly.
It took three more days before I was finally able to get out of bed.
My body strength had dropped since I hadn’t been maintaining my body, and the maids prepared simple showers for me with hot water and washbasins. I didn’t even have the strength to visit the showers in the barracks.
I used a wrung cloth to wipe my body with, and looked at Rashiok who was waiting beside me although he hadn’t come to visit me very much while I had been bedridden. I wiped his forehead as if I were spoiling him, and he laid down for me without me saying anything. Since Rashiok is heavier than a warhorse now, having a six year old ride on him was nothing.
I stopped the maids who were hurriedly getting up. While Rashiok was still laying down and I was by his belly, he scooped me up with his wings.
“I won’t say that you’re spoiled, but think about our difference in size.”
While talking to him and petting his neck, Rashiok made a “guruguru” sound from his throat. His voice seemed more reserved than usual, and I tilted my head in puzzlement.
“Phoebe, what’s wrong with Rashiok?”
“Um…… What’s wrong, you say?”
I asked the maid who was watching my exchange with Rashiok, but she looked confused and didn’t understand my question. I replied to her in exasperation.
“He doesn’t seem that energetic.”
Normally, Rashiok doesn’t act that spoiled when others are around us. And what’s more, this time he scooped me up with too much force, this is the first time for him.
“Could it be…… because Kamil isn’t here currently? Ojou-sama was also bedridden for a period of time. Rashiok was staying in front of your room the whole time, I think he could be lonely.”
“……Kamil, eh. I see, got it.”
I accepted the maid’s explanation, and slowly closed my eyes. After I received Rashiok from the earl, it’s always been Kamil and I that have taken care of him. Rashiok seemed to understand human power relations to some extent, and obeyed me more than Kamil. Since this is the first time that both of us have been absent at the same time, it can’t be helped that Rashiok would feel lonely.
Kamil’s not going to be here at the mansion anymore. Rashiok made a lonely sounding cry.
Even though I was the one who drove Kamil out, why is it that inside my chest it’s hurting. But, at the same time I definitely felt relieved. The contradiction in my own feelings felt so mysterious and sad.
“You’re going to move that child to the barracks?”
“Yes. I’m going to send everyone that’s connected to that child to the new village being constructed. I told Gunther that together with Claudia, those two are going to be your future bodyguards and that they’ll be in his care.”
After I dressed myself properly, the first thing I did was to visit Earl Terejia. Even though there’s so much work to be done, because I had collapsed so suddenly I haven’t been able to do anything. I also wanted to know what went on during the four days that I was bedridden.
The first thing I heard was the report that “Elise” would be moved to the barracks. Indeed, right now we’re also moving out the soldiers to help with the first stages of building the new village. This is probably a great chance to hide the short-haired “Elise” out of sight as well as getting him some basic training.
However, some among the army were probably present at the time when “Elise” had been captured from the village. I wondered how we would deceive them, but the earl simply shrugged.
“He’s been kept here at the mansion for quite a while. It’ll be difficult for anyone to tell that he’s the same person as that malnourished, skinny, grubby child.”
“……I see, indeed.”
His messy unkempt hair had been cut for him, and Kamil had nominally carried out his execution. Attaching his hair to the jute bag that was tossed into the river to give the impression that he was executed, none of the soldiers from that incident at Cyril village would be looking for that child.
His appearance has improved since his diet’s gotten more nutritious, and since a maid has been washing him every day, even his skin color is different due to all the dirt that had been piled on his skin. Indeed, the change in him is to the extent that he’s like an entire different person.
“I explained to him that he’s going to receive military training as well, so he should put his spirit into it and work hard.”
Earl Terejia said it nicely, but judging by the expression on his face, it’s much more probable that rather than putting his spirit into things, it had only gotten him angry as he would resent the earl for how prideful he was.
Because of what happened to his mother, to that child, as the former domain lord’s daughter, if he didn’t view me the same way as my father who had used his money for personal luxury and to exploit the people, then he wouldn’t be able to maintain his spirit anymore. That’s why obediently going through the same training I did, and changing his opinion of me is harder than even dying to him.
If he can maintain his murderous hatred for me and return after going through training then that’s fine, or if he fails to make it through the training but changes his view of me then that’s fine as well.
“It’ll probably correct his distorted views on nobles for him.”
As Earl Terejia nodded, once again I started thinking about what that would mean.
I first understood it myself when I went to the royal capital, but the only nobles that my domain’s soldiers had ever known were my family, who were all rather extreme and crazy people. The soldiers themselves might not be aware of it, but they view me, Earl Terejia, and Claudia differently now from other nobles. They still basically have a hatred for nobility.
……Well, it might turn out to be good for that child. Being around other people that compare me and Earl Terejia favorably to the other “normal” nobles that they know, it might become easier to change that child’s beliefs.