(Note for all of you that come here via novelupdates and miss my other posts, I’ve updated the cast of characters. The author has also updated characters’ ages, so now we know that Eliza is 6, Claudia is 16 instead of 10 since I mistranslated her saying she was 10 years older as she was 10 years old in her introduction chapter, that Kamil is 12-15, that Earl Terejia is 73, Gunther is 26, Ratoka is 8, and Elise is 9. There’s also quite a lot of unintroduced characters on the character list again, which provides hints as to where the story’s potentially heading next. Seems like it could be politics and romance based.)
Since the summer heat is getting milder now in the evening and Ratoka didn’t eat too much at lunch since he wasn’t hungry, Ratoka wondered if he should give hunting a try for once.
He has no hunting or gathering experience at all. He feels that if he tries his best he should at least be able to get something, and although his thinking is rather shortsighted, for the first time ever, at any rate this afternoon Ratoka is about to go foraging.
“Ratoka, what are these?”
“This should be fine to eat if it’s cooked over a fire. ……Ah, this red plant, I’m going to dig it up. Only its roots are edible.”
In the forest belonging to the area under direct control, Ratoka was carefully gathering plants.
Since other soldiers also gather plants on a regular basis, the army has quite a lot of knowledge on what plants are edible in this domain. The Kaldia domain also has some plants unique to it that can’t be found anywhere else.
By the way, Ratoka chose to gather plants for his first food collecting expedition. Since the army didn’t want to let him go by himself, for Ratoka’s safety Paulo was accompanying him, and they’ve entered the forest together for Ratoka to gather plants. Although Paulo did try to stop him, Ratoka paid him no attention as he’d already made up his mind.
That’s because there’s some plants that only Ratoka knows as well.
The sister in training that Ratoka knew for only a short time while she was staying in Cyril village, had taught Ratoka more than just about the nobility. Since Ratoka’s mother wasn’t working, Ratoka was always going hungry, so the young sister had taught Ratoka about various wild plants.
Which leaves and fruits are inedible, which plants are poisonous, which seeds can be eaten and which can’t, there’s quite a lot of types of plants in Kaldia that are inedible.
Knowledge of wild plants has been passed down over the generations by the sisters, as they’ve traveled through all the many different parts of Arxia, and they must know how to find their own food as many places are too poor to provide additional food for the sisters.
“Ratoka, what are these?”
“……I don’t know. The ones I don’t recognize, it’s probably better not to touch them.”
“Got it. ……I don’t gather plants too often myself.”
Paulo had been holding out some type of five-leaved plant to Ratoka, a plant he’s never seen before. Well, Ratoka only learned eight different types of plants from the sister in training, so he’s actually not that knowledgeable about plants overall.
Although Paulo learned the poisonous plants since the army hammered that knowledge into him, he doesn’t know the rest of them too well. Ratoka didn’t have any detailed instructions given to him or knowledge on how to gather plants either, and on top of all that Paulo has to check Ratoka’s plants to make sure they’re not poisonous, so this has all been very time consuming.
“Well, that’s how it is. ……Let’s go hunting tomorrow, instead of gathering plants.”
Ratoka’s plant gathering with Paulo’s assistance had rather low efficiency. He understands that as well, but rather than saying it out loud, he could only softly offer an alternative. Paulo just nodded and smiled wryly at Ratoka’s words. Paulo also understood what Ratoka didn’t dare to say out loud.
After they finally gathered a decent amount, Ratoka and Paulo returned to the barracks as fast as they could. Since Ratoka’s not used to foraging, the heat’s still making him more tired than usual and he’s barely able to move. They sat down in a corner of the cafeteria, and drank down some water for their parched throats while dealing with the plants they gathered.
As he silently removed roots, stems, or flowers and other such inedible parts from the plants he picked, or performed other chores like hollowing the seeds out from the fruits, Ratoka was reminded of Elise.
Come to think of it, he hasn’t been visiting that gentle girl recently due to the summer heat. His training has been increased to the point where he no longer has any extra strength to spare, on top of all this unending summer heat, he always goes straight back to the barracks after training to rest now.
Now that he thinks on it, it was really sudden that he stopped visiting her. He didn’t tell her beforehand that his training was going to get busier, and the temperature has gotten higher as well, so Ratoka hasn’t been visiting Elise at all.
Since Ratoka hasn’t shown his face there for a while, he wondered what she thought. Since it’s Elise, she’s probably worried about him. Maybe she’ll think that something happened to him.
At the same time that he worried about what she would think, there was also some anxiety swirling about inside him.
What if, she didn’t care about him at all. Ratoka’s hand that was busy dealing with the plants suddenly stopped.
Whenever he visited, Elise would smile and laugh happily with him. She would look him in the eyes, tell silly stories, and they would laugh together.
He’d always been alone in the village, and until Ratoka’s time in the barracks, Elise and Eliza were the only people to have ever looked him in the eyes.
When he’d just come to the barracks, since the soldiers were endlessly insulting him, Ratoka would always avoid looking at them.
He decided to go and visit Elise. Some of the seeds he just peeled, he’ll take some over to her as a present too. Since he hasn’t been to see Elise for so long, he needs to make up for it somehow.
He’s really scared of Elise coming to dislike him.
He picked some seeds that had a slightly sweet taste to them, they’re the best tasting ones from among the plants that Ratoka knows.
If Elise happens to like them, if she’s happy, then maybe she’ll come to like him more. While thinking such things, Ratoka carefully pared the next fruit.
Meeting someone’s eyes normally, and having a nice conversation with them. It’s something that he’s never experienced before, something he’s always wanted but was so far out of his reach, being all alone by himself with no one to talk to, he never wants to be like that again. Even listening to insults, although not pleasant, is slightly better.
Those were Ratoka’s desires from the bottom of his heart. He doesn’t even think life in the barracks is that bad now, because nobody from the soldiers tries to avoid or ignore Ratoka.
Why is it then that, even though Elise is always agreeable and nice to him, why is he so worried about going to see her.
Ratoka’s hand stopped again. He wondered again why he was so worried. He tried relaxing himself, in search of the answer.
– If possible, he wants someone to think about him. Since his mother’s no longer sane, she doesn’t even recognize him anymore. He wants something else in exchange. Anyone is fine. He wants to be the most important person to someone, although he doesn’t want to say that out loud.
He just wants someone to worry about him.
……He clarified his own wish to himself, realizing just how much he wanted it, and immediately after, Eliza’s icy expression came to mind for some reason, with unknown feelings that clogged his throat.
Just what does she intend to do with him.
Eliza stole Ratoka’s freedom and name from him. He has to go by a fake name at her mansion, and she basically forced him into the barracks as a member of her army.
Just what is going to happen to him.
Is he going to suffer a fate even worse than death?
……To him, the worst fate possible would be to cut him off from everyone, leaving him all alone.
At the very thought, he shuddered, feeling discomfort and fear all over his body.
Ratoka shook his head to clear his feelings, picked up the seeds again, and immersed himself in simple repetitive work to keep busy.