(Translator note: Since Igor, a soldier that died in the battle at Fort Jugfena, appears in this chapter, this means that these chapters take place before the battle in the story’s timeline. Ratoka was mentioned before as having been sent off to the army for training, after all. Rest in peace, Igor, we hardly knew you…… Also, on the topic of arcs, I took a look ahead, and the school arc finally begins, in Chapter 143. Just for the curious that were wondering if a school arc would ever happen in this story.)
“Oi, you’re up?”
A voice suddenly spoke up from the half-open door to Ratoka’s room, catching his attention instantly. Turning to look, he saw a sturdy-looking middle-aged man walk into his room.
He’s also tall and on the thin side, and probably gives off the impression of being too weak to be a soldier, but he’s the longest serving member of the Kaldia army, that all the other soldiers look up to and go for advice.
The soldier crinkled his crow’s feet wrinkles slightly at Ratoka. The light of the red sunset shone on him and he cast only a dim shadow.
“Good, since I was about to come wake you up. Claudia-sama hunted some monster meat today. Right now, everyone’s cooking it up. You should come have some as well, that’s why I’m here to wake you up,” the soldier invited Ratoka to eat. While still remaining on his bed, Ratoka just looked at him blankly.
What exactly was the soldier saying, Ratoka didn’t understand. Although he understands each word individually, but he didn’t understand them together as a whole.
“……What’s the matter? Are you not feeling well?”
He started worrying about how Ratoka was doing, and walked next to Ratoka’s bed. When the soldier reached out his hand with a worried look on his face, Ratoka shook his head hurriedly.
“That’s, not it……”
The soldier watched Ratoka’s confusion for a few seconds. Then, he smiled softly.
He suddenly picked Ratoka up in his arms, and started walking with him without saying anything. Ratoka didn’t say anything either. He was so frozen up in surprise at what was going on, that his voice wouldn’t come out.
“I’ll bring you over.”
The soldier carried Ratoka to the cafeteria, where almost all the other soldiers were currently gathered. The barracks cafeteria was constructed with plenty of room, enough to hold one hundred people, but seemed slightly empty since there weren’t enough soldiers in the barracks to fill the cafeteria up.
“Oi, as expected of the old man!”
“Oh my, wow, to carry the ojou-san here in your arms, this must be the wisdom of age.”
“Hey, you shouldn’t tease children like that. If you keep treating him like that you don’t know what could happen, he might do something stupid!”
While being carried like this, Ratoka heard all kinds of comments coming from around him, until a calm voice admonished the soldiers.
– Since he was so embarrassed, and couldn’t deal with it, Ratoka hid his face in the shoulders of the soldier carrying him.
The soldier patted Ratoka in order to soothe him.
All Ratoka could think about was that the soldiers would surely ridicule him for the state he’s in now. What will they say about him. They’ll probably say he’s just a small kid?
However, contrary to his expectations, the soldiers didn’t make fun of him, and remained silent. Ratoka had definitely thought they would all laugh coarsely at him, and seeing all the soldiers so quiet like this shocked him.
He lifted his head slightly, and took a look at the soldiers. Just then, someone offered him a skewer of cooked monster meat, and he couldn’t help but blink.
“This is for you.”
The young soldier holding the meat out to Ratoka was averting his eyes, and Ratoka hesitantly finally took the meat on the skewer that was being offered to him. It’s also a bigger piece of meat than what any of the other soldiers have, which made Ratoka even more puzzled as to why he was the one getting it.
“There’s no mistake, this is for you, hurry up and eat it. Since you haven’t been eating dinner, right?”
Since Ratoka held the skewer for too long without eating even though his stomach was growling, the young soldier got impatient with him. Reflexively, Ratoka couldn’t help but hold up the skewer like a weapon. The young soldier immediately jumped away from him.
“Man, there’s really no helping some people.”
While watching their exchange, the middle-aged soldier holding on to Ratoka smiled wryly.
“Honestly. All of you, making such a big fuss over one brat.”
Hearing such words coming from close to him, Ratoka was getting more and more shocked. When he looked in the opposite direction, it was Gunther who just made that comment. Looking at him, Gunther had his usual scowl and was furrowing his eyebrows like usual.
“Ahh, Gunther’s dirty mouth hasn’t improved at all since he was teaching Charlie.”
“Rather than improvement, I think it could be getting worse. Charlie wouldn’t give up no matter how much she was ridiculed, this brat’s not like that at all.”
Ratoka realized that the two adult soldiers were talking about him, and he hid his face. However, was the domain lord’s daughter also ridiculed by the soldiers like this during her training, he was somewhat surprised inside.
Even though the ugly feeling of hatred would always appear every time he thought about her, this time he felt an entirely different type of emotion swirling about inside him like mist.
That was what surprised Ratoka the most so far that day.
That mist-like feeling, didn’t disappear from Ratoka’s mind that day, but rather kept increasing inside him. He still hates the former domain lord’s daughter. However, he’s also beginning to feel a mystery feeling towards her now that keeps increasing in strength.
Also, the slight murderous intent he used to have towards Eliza was fading. Ratoka didn’t understand what was happening with his own feelings.
Ever since Ratoka had monster meat together with everyone, the soldiers began saying positive things about Ratoka as well. It’s because it was the oldest veteran soldier that everyone respects had taken Ratoka out of his room to eat with all the soldiers. After the veteran soldier admonished everyone else, the soldiers’ treatment of Ratoka had indeed gotten much better.
In the first place, the soldiers couldn’t help but keep comparing Ratoka to Eliza, mostly because they didn’t understand that Eliza was actually much more mature for her age and smarter than any normal child. So when Earl Terejia had Ratoka put into the barracks and told the soldiers to train him as well, of course they would treat him the same way, none of them knowing any other children.
So even though the soldiers were clumsy and inexperienced with children, although they had treated Ratoka the same as Eliza up until now, they were learning that the two of them should be treated differently, which caused a rapid change in the soldiers’ actions and words that greatly confused Ratoka.
It started from little things. Just greetings between the soldiers and Ratoka, even though everyone still acted nervous around each other at first.
Ratoka remained in a state of perpetual confusion at all the changes around him. Each time he exchanged greetings with the soldiers though, his irritation towards them seemed to disappear bit by bit.
It started with breakfast. The young soldiers sitting close to him in the cafeteria would make conversation with Ratoka. And, apart from Gunther still insulting him, the soldiers would begin giving him words of encouragement. They would complain about the former domain lord together, grumble about the severity of everyone’s training menu, tell stories about everyone’s hometowns and families, Ratoka gradually got to know the soldiers better.
There were quite a lot of shocking stories that the soldiers had to tell.
For example, a lot of them were former bandits, that hated the former domain lord just as much as Ratoka did. Since Ratoka couldn’t comprehend why they didn’t hate the domain lord’s daughter Eliza as well, he couldn’t sleep well at all on the night he first learned this.
He heard all about how the soldiers had treated Eliza pretty terribly as well when she first entered the barracks. Ratoka learned that in fact, the toll it took on her body from Gunther’s training seems to have been even worse than what Ratoka received, and the insults were just as bad as well.
“Oh, you’re here. Ratoka~”
After marching training, Ratoka was sitting down resting in the shade of a tree, when he heard someone calling his name.
“That was pretty tiring. You alright?”
A boy with fluffy, wavy blonde hair sat down next to Ratoka. His name’s Paulo, and he’s the second youngest member of the Kaldia army, older than Ratoka by only a few years.
Maybe it’s because they’re the closest in age, Ratoka talks the most with Paulo. Or rather, it could be said that Paulo’s extremely outgoing. This is actually the first time that they’ve talked during a break though, but Paulo’s relaxed attitude like this was just natural made Ratoka forget that fact and his self-consciousness.
Although he is tired from the training, he’s sitting down here more to get away from the heat. Since it’s the middle of summer right now, this is the hottest time of year in the Kaldia domain.
When Paulo who was worried about Ratoka heard him complain about the heat, Paulo raised his eyebrows slightly. It seems that Paulo’s really strong against the heat, and even after the training was over, he thought nothing of it.
“I see. Then, want to grab lunch together with me?”
“Mmm…… I want to cool off here a little bit longer.”
The sunlight coming down was so dazzling, that he was hesitant about stepping out from the shade. Ratoka’s skin is rather white and sensitive to heat, so he’s not good at dealing with it, so he’d rather relax in the tree’s shade compared to eating lunch. In the first place, he doesn’t feel hungry right now.
“Oi you, you alright?”
Another two people showed up, this time it was the oldest soldier in the army along with one of the younger soldiers walking unsteadily.
Although Ratoka felt it was too bothersome to even open his mouth, Paulo greeted both of them for him. The soldier named Calvin is the one that held on to Ratoka and brought him out to the cafeteria that one time. The one trudging along slowly behind him is Igor, a young soldier who is Ratoka’s roommate now. They both smiled happily as they entered the shade, and held out some large cups to Ratoka and Paulo.
“Make sure you guys stay hydrated.”
Ratoka silently took the cup of water.
Paulo and Calvin are the two soldiers that Ratoka is the friendliest with now. It’s mostly because of age for Paulo, and because Calvin brought Ratoka out of his room to the cafeteria and defended him that one time. Well, Ratoka’s roommate Igor has been looking after him as well.
Ratoka gulped down his water. He definitely feels a lot better now after drinking it.
“Thank you very much.”
Ratoka lowered his head to thank the two people standing in front of him. Then, Igor reached a hand out to pull Ratoka off the ground.
“……If we don’t go soon, they’ll stop serving lunch at the cafeteria.”
Ratoka was almost about to reflexively say that he doesn’t feel hungry right now, but he stopped himself from saying anything. He definitely would have said that in irritation last month, but why weren’t those words leaving his mouth right now, he wondered.
He looked at Paulo who was still standing in the shade. Even though Ratoka had said before that he didn’t feel hungry and to leave him alone, Paulo still insisted on having lunch together.
Before, he probably would have just stayed here in the shade alone. After all, if he went to get lunch, he would just have to suffer through insults like “if you can’t move, want me to carry you?”
For Ratoka, who had always wanted to interact with others, having to live together with others in the barracks and get along with everyone was slowly beginning to heal his spirit, and return him back to normal.
Now that he’s actually being treated as a child of his age, he’s no longer taking things out on others, and the heavy feelings of hatred he had toward Eliza were beginning to fade.