As a traditional stone building constructed in my great-grandfather’s time, the Mansion of Golden Hills gets quite chilly in winter. In rooms without a fireplace, the cold feels like it can pierce down to your bones, and the floors and walls are icy cold as well.
Of course, the dungeon with no functions for warmth installed in it whatsoever is even colder. While there are some small holes drilled in the dungeon leading to the ground for ventilation, it seems that the dungeon is actually even colder during winter than our storage facilities.
There’s quite some strong wind drafts in winter, and the fires lighting up the dungeon were weakened significantly by it. I clasped my thick fur cloak tightly around my body as I descended deep into the dungeon, listening to the sound of someone rattling the iron bars.
“What’s wrong, you’re causing such a commotion?”
“Let me out of here! Please! I’ll freeze and die……”
The painfully distressed voice coming from the other side of the iron bars was one of the two prisoners I had secretly kept for myself and put in here earlier this summer, a blonde-haired bandit with a tall, lanky body. His light clothes didn’t do very much to ward off the cold, and he was shivering. His originally blonde hair was also changing to a muddy hue of dirty blonde, becoming matted with filth.
“Shut up…… Don’t do something like beg for your life……!”
From the adjacent cell, the other bandit, the first one I interrogated, was shouting weakly in anger with all his remaining strength. It seems that since he’s middle-aged, it’s taken a harder toll on his body. I wonder if the blonde bandit is shivering more because of the cold or because of everything that’s happened to the other bandit. When I just stood there silently without saying anything to either of them, the blonde bandit turned around and started yelling at the other bandit in frustration and impatience.
“You shut up! If you want to die so much, go die by yourself!! I…… don’t want to freeze to death here!”
“You bastard…… Have you forgotten your loyalty to our gods…..!?”
“Who cares about that!!”
The blonde man was smacking the iron bars. It seems that after being imprisoned for so long, his spirit was finally giving in to the cold of winter and the threat of losing his life.
“Hey, I’ll tell you anything…… Anything at all…… Help me, please let me out of here…… My feet, my feet hurt so much I can’t bear it……!”
His feet hurting so much that he can’t bear it, he’s probably talking about frostbite. Since I didn’t give them any shoes or socks, it seems that his feet developed frostbite first, before his fingers. It’s now been seven days since the first snow of winter, and temperatures have dropped harshly. His injuries have probably already undergone necrosis.
“……I see. Sure, it’s fine. If you tell me everything you know, I’ll let you out of there. I’ll also have your feet treated.”
I think I sound terribly similar to a cat right now. I can even feel myself licking my lips for once.
“Of course. To be honest, I can’t afford to keep taking care of people that take too long to decide anyway.”
As the blonde man shouted in elation, the other bandit was moaning with an anger-filled voice.
“What’s, this! How can this be!!”
“You just shut up!!”
“You bastard, are you this shameless!”
I merely watched silently and observed as both men lost all their self-control and shouted angrily at each other. It doesn’t seem like they are acting. I ignored their continued arguing, and had my soldiers take the blonde bandit out of his jail cell.
“Valon! Don’t go!!”
Finally, the door to the dungeon closed, leaving behind the sorrowful cries of the remaining bandit. I told my soldiers that were helping the blonde bandit named Valon to stand to take him to the interrogation room in the barracks, while I went upstairs to call for Rashiok.
On the third floor, I found Rashiok sleeping in front of Ratoka’s room. Why is he here, I wonder. Because I’m self-conscious about having Ratoka placed under house arrest again, I’ve been avoiding him these days. What I will say to him, what he might say back to me, it’s only natural that I have no idea what to tell him.
On the day that I talked with Chief Priest Faris, I had Ratoka return to the Mansion of Golden Hills immediately without listening to any of his excuses.
Last winter, after I woke up from an entire month of sleeping, Ratoka had told me in detail why he’d thrown a rock at me. The story according to Ratoka seemed to be that ever since his birth, his mother had gone insane and constantly abused him, and he also picked up a hatred of the nobility from the villagers, which developed into a killing intent against the domain lord. His story had never mentioned anything about sisters planting the seeds of anti-noble sentiments.
That’s why I judged things to be dangerous. There’s many people gathered in the royal capital. I was worried about the risk of those sisters who seem to be connected to the Nordsturms somehow finding Ratoka again and “reusing” him in some way.
Ratoka never mentioned the sisters since he didn’t have any suspicions towards their activities – also, because Ratoka didn’t want to mention any of his memories involving his personal emotions. Meaning, there’s a definite crack in Ratoka’s spirit from which the sisters can slip into and potentially take advantage of.
But even if I tell that to Ratoka right now, he wouldn’t be able to understand the truth behind my actions. All I can do is, keep away from him, and keep him safe and protected while also keeping him under house arrest.
……Of course, this is just what I’m telling myself.
It’s obvious that my emotions might not agree with what I’m doing. Honestly, I truly don’t want to do such a thing to him.
Rashiok made a sound of surprise in his throat at seeing the look of self-loathing in my eyes. While draconis are highly intelligent, they don’t have as many complicated things to think about like humans do, so they express their emotions simply.
If you don’t want to be hated by Ratoka, then just don’t do anything that Ratoka would hate you for, it’s just that simple, is what Rashiok’s eyes seemed to be trying to tell me.