“Eliza, ‘Elise.’ Are you both here?”
“……Earl Terejia? Yes, Eliza-sama is currently here.”
Since I was currently unable to respond to anything right now, Ratoka replied for me. A tired-looking Earl Terejia quietly opened the door and came in for some reason together with Rashiok. It seems like Rashiok is gently nudging Earl Terejia. Maybe that’s why the Earl appears slightly confused.
“……Is something, the matter. Earl Terejia.”
A terrible sounding voice came out of me. It seems that I’m still quite shaken. Earl Terejia turned towards me, and suddenly raised his eyebrow.
“……No, I want to know what’s going on as well. Rashiok brought me over here.”
“That’s right. ……Something like this happened before as well. The day of that battle at Fort Jugfena.”
Rashiok, the subject of our discussion, was merely sitting in front of the door. Is this to make sure that nobody can leave? I think he wants us to talk things out. While the three of us remained confused, Rashiok suddenly howled.
We just kept looking at each other for a while. Finally, Earl Terejia was the first one to speak up.
“Shall we just chat for a little while in front of the door like this?”
Ratoka was licking his lips nervously. I also felt really awkward as well. We had just been talking about a topic which neither of us wanted a third party to hear.
“I think that what ‘Elise’ said earlier wasn’t wrong at all. Eliza, you have indeed been overlapping ‘Elise’ with Kamil.”
It’s impossible for me to insist on that not being the case anymore if even the Earl is saying so. I can only admit to it. I nodded bitterly, while the Earl continued speaking.
“I haven’t seen you too much these days recently, but I can still tell. You’re afraid of repeating the same thing with Kamil’s death all over again.”
– I felt like my vision had just cracked into two pieces like a shattered mirror. Something that I didn’t want to know, didn’t want to hear, even more so than that I was overlapping Ratoka and Kamil with each other, was being said by Earl Terejia.
“The same thing?”
“Aye. You couldn’t place your trust in someone, and as a result he died. And now, you’ve become afraid of trusting others. Isn’t that right, Eliza?”
As an old man, his gaze is quite sharp. However, there was no emotion expressed in his eyes. Not anger, not pity, nothing. I felt like all my strength left my body, and I collapsed onto the bed. I was afraid of meeting Ratoka’s eyes. I covered my eyes with one arm, and took deep breaths.
“……Yes. That’s right.”
Once again, I have no choice other than to admit this as well.
“If even Claudia-dono didn’t notice anything, I didn’t think anyone else would. As expected, you know me very well, Earl Terejia.”
The earl didn’t reply to my words.
“Even so, I didn’t even know it myself until you told it to me so directly. I probably didn’t want to see or think about it myself.”
Even though I know it’s unseemly, my voice was trembling. On the contrary though, I think it would be funny if I could speak normally right now.
“……What do you mean?”
My shoulder couldn’t help but jump at Ratoka’s sudden voice. I wasn’t able to read his emotions from just his voice alone.
This time I smiled at myself in self-deprecation.
“I thought that it was meaningless to trust people, until Kamil died. Actually, it might be better to say that I was being unreasonable. At any rate, the earl meant the thing about me being unable to trust people.”
Ratoka was looking directly at me. – In his eyes, I saw disdain.
“Just like the earl said, in the end Kamil died because I couldn’t trust him. When we were confused by the baboon magical beast pretending to imitate a human voice, Kamil protected me and ended up dying. ……But if it hadn’t been for me not trusting him, he probably wouldn’t have ended up dying.”
“……Then, are you now thinking about doing the opposite and relying on people more instead?”
“Ahh, that’s right.”
I nodded, while Ratoka closed his eyes. He’s taking deep breaths. He’s deeply furrowing his eyebrows, and I can see him clenching his fists tightly and attempting to suppress his emotions.
“-Is that so.”
That was all he squeezed out of himself. It was such a cold voice. It made me feel like I was looking into a mirror, talking to a reflection of myself. His behavior where he’s freezing his emotions and that icy voice, it strangely resembles me.
Suddenly Ratoka turned his back on me. Rashiok standing in front of the door stepped aside. Ratoka quietly left the room now that the path to the door was now clear. Earl Terejia who had remained silent while watching us let out a sigh.
“As always, being so difficult.”
“At any rate, since I was obviously summoned here for something, I felt like I had to speak up and say something about how I saw things, forgive me.”
“……No need to say sorry. Please excuse Rashiok for his actions.”
At any rate, if the earl hadn’t spoken up, probably all three of us would have ended up leaving the room without saying anything. Maybe it would have come out of me someday if we had just continued waiting in silence, but neither the earl nor I have the free time for that.
After Earl Terejia left the room, only Rashiok and I remained. Rashiok approached me and laid down at my feet. His ears and tail were drooping, and he was looking at me with a gentle expression.
“……I’m not angry at you, you know.”
Rashiok nudged my feet with his nose as I spoke those words lacking in any energy.
“Oi! I thought that you were supposed to help me if I told you everything I know!!”
The bandit in the interrogation room was crying and screaming. According to the soldiers, he had been shouting for all this time. It seems that at first he had tried to beat down the door, but since it was too painful to do so, now all he was doing was shouting.
“Did he say anything useful?”
I had asked Gunther and Claudia to take charge after I had him moved to the interrogation room. I was told by my soldiers that the moment he entered the interrogation room again, the bandit voluntarily started offering information on the bandit group’s goal.
“……It seems that they were going to meet up with a certain woman, in order to assist her.”
“It seems that her name is Diferis. She’s currently in the Ogren domain. It’s a domain located in the heart of the Nordsturms’ seat of power.”