I intended for Rashiok to be there alongside me at the interrogation of the blond bandit Valon. That man isn’t used to the existence of such a large beast. Rashiok’s presence alone should be enough to terrify and fluster him greatly.
However, Rashiok wouldn’t move from his position in front of Ratoka’s room. Since he’s much bigger than I am, no matter how much I pushed him, he wouldn’t budge. This rascal, I kept calling him various names mentally. I couldn’t help myself and suddenly remembered a wide variety of colorful and vulgar swear words from my previous life. I glared at the draconis laying there casually, taking up most of the entire corridor while wagging his serpentine tail back and forth.
Will I have to give up on bringing Rashiok with me? I don’t absolutely have to have Rashiok with me at the interrogation. The bandit’s spirit had already been weakened by the cold to the point that he was begging for his life. I thought about it and figured I could also use various other methods if I had to return the bandit to the dungeon, so I let go of Rashiok and was about to leave.
……At that moment, I fell flat on my face in the hallway. I’m feeling an intense pain and heat from my nose right now. Thanks to the carpet flooring, it didn’t hurt as much as it could have, but it still hurt. More importantly, there’s something else. There’s a terrible pressure on my back. I’m pretty sure it’s Rashiok’s front paw. I can also hear his breathing really close to me, so his face is probably close to me. He also seems to be holding onto the edge of my cloak so that I couldn’t stand back up, and he was the one who made me fall over, what a rascal.
I raised my face a little and pressed my hand against my nose, feeling a warm liquid trickling down. My nose is bleeding.
I managed to utter his name the best I could with my face to the ground, but the weight on my back wouldn’t disappear. I grudgingly wiped my nosebleed a little with my sleeve rather than letting it drip. While my clothes are rather expensive, the carpet is even more so.
Then, a small figure started coming up the stairs. It’s Ratoka, holding a book under his arm. What timing.
Ratoka seemed to be more confused than anything else. Of course he would be. I could only imagine how different I looked from usual, with my nose bleeding as I’m laying flat against the floor with Rashiok’s paw pressing me down.
“……Um, what are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
Hearing the frustration in my voice, Ratoka hurriedly came over and knocked on Rashiok’s head a few times as he was still sitting on top of me. Then finally, the weight casually disappeared from my back.
That bastard. Once again, I cursed at Rashiok mentally. So this was his aim to begin with.
“Uh…… For the time being, let’s stop your nosebleed.”
With an indescribable expression on his face, Ratoka opened the door to his room.
There was a bed, a desk, a chest of drawers, and a bookshelf with some papers and books on it. In the year since this room had become Ratoka’s, nothing had changed except that there was now a bookshelf. It’s only natural since I haven’t given him any other furniture nor a salary. However, looking around the room while sitting on his bed, I couldn’t help but feel that his room seemed so wide and empty and a little cold, and I wondered if I should give him a sofa.
“Here, a cloth to stem your nosebleed.”
Ratoka’s mouth was bent into the shape of the へ character as he looked to see how I was doing. As soon as he saw that I was still holding my nose with my tunic’s sleeve, he took out a clean cotton cloth for me from the first aid kit on his shelf and also opened the window in his room for me to get some fresh air. I obediently sat still for a while, and my nosebleed naturally stopped bleeding on its own. The pain from face planting is also fading. But if I leave right now, I have a feeling that Rashiok will do the same thing to me all over again.
I was momentarily confused over what to say, but I ended up asking:
“How is Elise-sama doing?”
“She had a small seizure earlier today, and she’s now resting. Lately she’s been having seizures more and more often. Even though she’s been getting fevers less often than before, in this past year……”
Ratoka hasn’t had any work to do while Elise had been sleeping. He seems to be passing the time by reading books, and he just happened to have gotten a new book to read when he returned to his room. Like Ratoka said, when Elise first came here, she often did nothing but sleep as she lacked physical fitness and would always be getting fevers, but after staying a while in the more temperate climate of Kaldia, her physical condition improved and she was no longer bedridden like before. That’s why I furrowed my eyebrows at the report that her seizures have become more common again.
“The doctor is examining the current situation, but it also seems like Elise herself agrees that she’s getting worse.”
“Please encourage her as much as possible. I’ll do what I can to visit her whenever possible as well.”
Elise’s seizures are also greatly influenced by her state of mind. If she feels weak mentally, she’ll have more seizures.
“Please do that. Ever since you’ve put me here again, you haven’t visited Elise even once.”
“……Is that so.”
It’s Ratoka that I wanted to avoid, not Elise, but since Ratoka is still in charge of dealing with Elise for me, I’ve been avoiding Elise’s room as well. I’ve been making the excuse to myself that I’m too busy with work to go see her, but actually I’m feeling quite guilty about not going to chat with her. When I just nodded without saying anything else, Ratoka just stared at me.
“……I can’t even be myself and I have to use someone else’s name, I’m not allowed to use my own.”
His voice was strangely cold. I looked again at Ratoka in surprise. He seemed to be expressionless, nothing but ice.
“Do you not even need me anymore?”
He almost spat that at me, then he seemed to awkwardly deride himself.
“……The fact that you didn’t kill me, I know that I’m supposed to be grateful and not think about it. But I’ve always been wondering. Just why you went to the trouble of giving me an education, and keeping me by your side. It seems that you like me quite a bit. Are you just spoiling me?”
“That’s not it.”
Despite me saying so, I was in doubt of myself. I could see what Ratoka is saying. Even I was slightly aware of it, that I had sealed off my emotions this past year.
“I don’t think I’m wrong. I think you’re overlapping me with Kamil.”
My throat froze up. Even though I wanted to tell him to stop, I couldn’t say anything.
“You’re just using me as that guy’s replacement.”
My head feels hot. Various emotions are running through me to the point that my hands are shaking. My vision is flickering.
He knows. Better than I do myself, he’s seen into the inner workings of my heart better than I have.
A tiny sound escaped from the back of my throat. At that same moment, someone knocked on the door to Ratoka’s room.