The nobles were already beginning to return home, and it was late at night with the moon high in the sky. In order to retrieve Ratoka, we left the party and headed for the back door. So that the door guard wouldn’t notice us, our horse-drawn carriage was parked a little ways to the side of the road.
Bellway went back first. He needs to write letters on my behalf, to let some other places know about what Margrave Freche just told me.
At the time that we decided on beforehand, Ratoka came out. Seeing him, Claudia silently moved to the coachman’s seat.
“……Thank you for your efforts, Elise. How was the result?”
“I was pretty lucky. I think you’ll be satisfied with the information. ……Why are you glaring at me?”
Ratoka was beginning to sweat and his face was paling, while he pouted his lips in dissatisfaction. Why am I glaring, he’s asking?
“You got lucky? Is that so. Didn’t I tell you not to overdo things and put yourself at risk, you idiot!”
My voice came out much louder and angrier than I expected. However, I wasn’t able to contain the hot emotion boiling in my stomach and get it under control.
Ratoka’s left arm was completely swollen. He probably has a broken bone. While grinding my teeth, I used a thick fan as a substitute for a piece of wood, and wrapped some cloth around his arm in a makeshift splint.
“Who beat you, and why?”
If he had been able to acquire the intelligence successfully, he probably wouldn’t have been beaten by the security for being a suspicious person.
In the first place, I had him infiltrate the archduke’s family’s servants. I knew that there was some risk involved. ……But the fact that Ratoka returned to me with a broken arm made my blood boil over.
Normally, my anger should be directed at the people that dared to hurt a citizen of my domain, but right now my anger was being directed irrationally at Ratoka.
But, I still know that being angry at Ratoka is unreasonable. So I desperately swallowed and pushed down my anger, until it was only a quiet whisper of rage.
“A, a male servant…… Actually I shouldn’t have been beaten. It’s just that, there was a guy who was pestering the laundry woman that was my information source. So, in order to protect her, teehee.”
What’s with that teehee. Don’t make it sound like your injury isn’t a big deal. Ratoka’s expression kept saying that it was nothing to him, and even though I just desperately pushed down my emotions, now irritation was welling up within me.
“Rather than such a thing, be happier. Although I got injured, what about the archduke family’s situation? The laundry woman was a maid back in the day and knew about it. I was able to investigate properly for you. You want to know, right?”
“Such a thing, you say……?”
Even though his lips were so pale, he was still smiling, something feels off about his expression. And at the same time, I finally understood what emotion this was.
“…………Got it. Report the information you obtained to me.”
“Like I said, you don’t need to be so angry. I even worked so hard for your sake.”
Both of our voices were tense. The atmosphere was filled with irritation as Claudia drove the horse-drawn carriage.
“I’m not being angry now. I just said to give me a report. You may want to be praised, but unless you have results, your injury will have been in vain. Hurry up and tell me.”
As expected, Ratoka deeply furrowed his eyebrows. Due to my irritation, what came out of my mouth sounded five times worse than what I intended, I realized this.
“Just what are you saying! What are you unsatisfied with!? Don’t joke with me!!”
“……That’s what I should be saying!! What am I unsatisfied with? You’re treating your own injuries too lightly!! You should be angrier, you should be in pain, you idiot! I said I wanted information on the archduke’s family, but rather than that, your body is more important!!”
“What!? I’m important!? That’s……”
“You are one of my citizens! Listen up, for a domain lord, their citizens are who they should protect first and foremost!! You got hurt carrying out such an unimportant task, and you’re treating it as trivial!? You’re the one who should stop joking around, don’t just debase your personal value as a citizen of Kaldia!!”
With the momentum of my anger exploding, I was ranting, and when I finished I noticed Ratoka’s eyes were wide open in astonishment and he was frozen solid. My head was cooling down now. Eh, just now, why was I so angry? Embarrassment, anger, confusion, and even masochism, all those emotions welled up within me, and I reflexively covered my mouth.
I couldn’t help but look, I noticed that Ratoka’s mouth was trembling.
“Y, you, did, did you really mean that……?”
“This is an order from your domain lord, forget everything you heard just now, get off the carriage, and run home.”
Now Ratoka’s shoulders were trembling as well. It feels like even a gust of wind could blow him over right now.
Indeed, for me to have said the things I just did, I feel like there’s so much to laugh at. I mean, it’s such a slip of my character for me to say the things I really wanted in a fit of anger.
But, I just couldn’t forgive Ratoka’s nonchalant attitude towards getting injured. And all the same, even if he returned without injuries, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I wasn’t able to provide some security for him.
“……You, this is…… This is what’s called trust – isn’t it?”
-I expected Ratoka to explode at me, but opposite from what I was prepared for, his voice sounded shaky and almost teary.
Huh? When I hurriedly looked directly at him, he was wiping tears from his smiling face with his uninjured arm’s sleeve.
“Sigh – it took so, so long…… Later than me……. Honestly-”
“Y, you’re noisy. ……Shut up, Elise. Also, use neutral gender pronouns instead of male ones, to refer to yourself.”
With difficulty I managed to squeeze those words out, and all my emotions other than embarrassment had cleanly left me.