It happened right after I finished my second round of interrogations. A messenger pigeon came to us from the House of Lords in the royal capital. The message stated that the bandit group that successfully invaded Arxia have been declared national enemies to be on guard against, and that they were to be taken into custody by the royal army under direct command of the king.
“It’s fortunate that there’s still more than ten days before I have to take them to the royal army.”
“You do realize that they’re going to be taken into custody by the country?”
Ratoka was reacting to the news in the letter. I had just commented on it, and he was asking me why I thought it was lucky. I nodded, and began my explanation. Although I have a ton of work, it’s summer, and the cloying heat is a distraction. I felt like a little change of pace by chatting with Ratoka.
“Although they were captured in the end, they still managed to penetrate through our border domains and even reach further inland. That’s something that hasn’t happened since the great war in which the Artolas Kingdom was destroyed. Our defenses aren’t that light. At the very least, a simple ‘bandit group’ shouldn’t be able to penetrate so far inland.”
“……But, they did get that far.”
I emphasized that they weren’t a simple bandit group, and Ratoka lowered his eyes to look at the floor. It seems that he’s trying to organize the information he knows already with the hint I just gave him, despite his young age, he’s got quite a good brain that works fast. I have the habit of looking down whenever I’m thinking. It seems that he’s copied my habit.
“Mrs. Marshan taught me that information about Arxian internal affairs isn’t very well known outside our country, especially to a hostile country we don’t have a friendly relationship with like Densel.”
“Commoners would have even less access to information about Arxia. The only place in Densel where they would even see Arxians is in the palace at their capital, where Arxian diplomats stay…… For that bandit group to know our borders in such detail, they may have a connection with the Densel palace. Come to think of it, some of them knew how to speak Arxian. Is there a noble mixed in amongst them……”
I nodded at each of his analyses of the information so far, when I suddenly realized that my lips were beginning to shape themselves into the form of a smile. The way this child thinks, while he did receive the same education as I did, he’s really so similar to me. Sharing information with him is a good way to confirm my own theories, it seems quite effective so far as Ratoka’s inferences overlap with mine, this is good. Now that I’ve noticed how smart he is, I’m going to make even more use of him in the future.
“Of course the House of Lords doesn’t know that these bandits are highly educated yet, those nobles are probably of course more concerned with the path the bandits took as they invaded us, feeling suspicious about it. They want to be on guard against the neighboring country, and not let any future invaders get anywhere close to them.”
“Yes, sooner or later our country would learn about us capturing the bandits. That’s why I spent so much energy interrogating the bandits so much.”
Before they were taken away from me, to where I wouldn’t be able to reach them anymore, I wanted to squeeze as much information as possible out of them first. Ratoka nodded, saying “I see.”
I fell silent, and pointed to the bottle of water on the desk. I’d gotten thirsty after all this chatting. Maybe an attitude of serving has been ingrained into him, Ratoka poured a glass of water for me almost unconsciously. This apple mint water has a distinctive cool, refreshing feeling, it completely wiped away the feeling of summer for me. I felt recharged instantly, and continued chatting.
“I suspect that there may be conspirators within our country aiding them. They knew too many details about our internal geography.”
“Conspirators, eh. Indeed, our diplomats should have no reason to teach the enemy about our geography. But, why is it that Arxia is going to all the trouble of taking custody of the bandits and moving them?”
As expected, when it comes to the way that nobles think, Ratoka hasn’t learned enough yet and he still can’t come up with the reason. He stopped thinking about it, and asked me directly and politely.
“If they’re in a dungeon in the royal capital, the nobles can easily go see the prisoners. Since nobles are used to having people at their beck and call, of course they’d want the prisoners within their reach. What’s more, if the Nordsturms are involved like I’m worried about, it’ll be the most inconvenient for them more than anyone if the bandits remain here as our prisoners.”
“But, isn’t it dangerous to just obediently hand the prisoners over then?”
“Who said we’re just going to obediently hand them over?”
Eh, Ratoka froze for a moment. Then, he hit his hand with his fist after two deep breaths. He has a look of absolute disgust.
“I see. You’re going to ‘kill’ some people, just like you did to me.”
“You should be watching your vocabulary and acting more feminine, ‘Elise.’”
As I thought, he really thinks in a similar fashion to me. Yes, even if it’s an order from the House of Lords, I see no reason to give them all of the bandits. After all, I had the full authority to question them until this letter arrived. Meaning, even if I accidentally killed one or two bandits during the interrogation process, that was a possibility.
“I’ve already decided who I’m going to have ‘killed.’ The first bandit I interrogated, and one other, that blonde-haired man. ……I have to take the rest of the bandits to the royal capital like they want. I’ll leave the preparations to you, Elise.”
I ended my chat with Ratoka there. Although I returned to my domain because of the bandit invasion, I can’t just keep them confined here indefinitely and stay here.
Like I promised Teo, I still need to finish the dealings with other nobles about getting tradesmen from their territories to come help in our construction. I had just really wanted to draft up a more organized system of government while I was back here in my domain. There’s still several urgent problems I need to resolve about the construction though, so I have to take care of that as well.
It’s the first time I’ve ever had to deal with the paperwork and procedures necessary for accepting so many new citizens, I’ve been incredibly busy with very little time to rest. As for the management work and rebuilding of my domain, I’m beginning to do more and more of it instead of Earl Terejia.
Honestly, that earl…… He’s already so elderly, and thinking about how I was still only seven, I almost wanted to cry a little.