At almost the exact same time, Ratoka also noticed that the slave soldier boy was missing his right leg, and both of us exclaimed in unison.
……Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve met someone who’s missing an arm or a leg. I haven’t been on the battlefield for long enough, so I haven’t seen enough injured soldiers yet.
The slave soldiers would have already been inspected for weapons before locking them up in here, but they were just wearing ragged cloths that were unable to conceal anything. Consider how thin and weak they all appear, I doubt that our soldiers would treat them violently.
When they were captured, I heard that they put up almost no resistance, and I suppose that throwing an injured slave like this boy into a unit consisting of only young slave soldiers would be only natural. As I was thinking so, the boy who was now standing seemed to be in pain, standing up with great difficulty.
“Do you, want, something?”
His voice was listless and dry. While he had an accent, he was speaking in Arxian. I hid my surprise.
“How and where did you learn the Arxian language? I recall that Nazric never had any interactions with Arxia.”
I answered him in the Nazric language, and it was easy to tell that the boy was stunned. Although his expression didn’t change much, his eyes indicated that my words stirred some emotions deep within him. For an injured slave soldier like him to be unreasonably forced to join a scout unit, it was evident that he was exhausted as would be natural, but I could also tell that he’s the type to suppress his emotions. Meaning, he’s the same type as me.
He seemed lost for words, and desperately kept squinting his eyes. It would appear that he’s carefully considering his words. This is something that isn’t possible for ordinary commoners. Now then, just who is he? This boy.
“……I’m, probably not who you think I am. While Nazric indeed never had any direct contact with Arxia, it’s actively traded before with other countries that in turn trade with Arxia. For us smaller southern countries, the development of the huge northern country of Arxia could influence our very fates. My country Nazric desperately studied knowledge about Arxia. This information was drilled into us. I learned Arxian in class as part of that knowledge……”
I nodded in response to the flood of information that suddenly came pouring out of this boy who seemed only slightly older than me. As I took a step closer, the boy seemed to shrink back in fear of me. I thought for a moment on what to do, then I mentally snorted at myself because I had already decided what I should do already. I will do it just because I want to, although it could be said that it wouldn’t be very noble-like of me.
Fortunately, this time it was very clear to me just what I should do.
“Elise, go to Ergnade and report to him that I’m removing a prisoner from the dungeon. Gunther, please give him some of our provisions, and make sure he receives some food. Also, summon Oscar over to me.”
As I abruptly ended the conversation with the boy and gave brief, direct orders to my two subordinates behind me, I could tell that everyone here was looking at me with various feelings. In the captives’ listless eyes, I could finally see another emotion.
Being surrounded by me, Oscar, Ratoka, and Claudia, the boy from earlier who may have been feeling pressured by all of us seemed to have calmed down after eating some food we gave to him, but when I asked him what his name was, he choked up again. He said earlier that he wasn’t who I thought he was, meaning that he wasn’t a noble or royalty after all, so why was it that he had so difficulty saying his own name? Seeing that I was furrowing my eyebrows, he hurriedly explained things to me.
From what he told me, Rindarl forbade their slaves to use their names, and called them by numbers instead. If someone was found calling others by their names or using their own name, they would be punished severely.
It’s an inhumane slavery system. I thought back to my battle at Ritox Plateau late last year. Considering the fact that I impaled and burned Rindarl prisoners of war to death back there, should I really be lecturing Rindarl about what’s inhumane?
“Well? In the end, what’s your name supposed to be?”
Ratoka interrupted from behind, saying he couldn’t believe such a ridiculous story, but I told the boy to ignore Ratoka, and with a bit of a bewildered expression, he answered that his name was Vanita.
“Ok then, Vanita. I think you understand that I need to find out some information from you, so first tell me what you have to say about Rindarl, and how it was that you came to be here.”
“We…… because I have some knowledge about Arxia, I was brought here. We were sufficient as scouts, and if we were captured and killed, I heard that it would lower Arxia’s morale.”
I also found out from Vanita that the scout unit consisted of slave children brought from various different places. And, everyone had some friends or relatives that were also enslaved, whose lives would be forfeit if a slave betrayed Rindarl. Before they departed, there was also a rumor spread around that a few of them were real Rindarl child soldiers infiltrating the slave unit, spying on them, so while the slave children were on their way to Arxia, none of them, including Vanita, had considered betraying Rindarl at that time.
“Before you departed, do you know where their main forces were located?”
“I don’t know the direction because there were no landmarks…… I was brought to a building that they constructed with stone walls, and given instructions there. Before then, everyone had been together, with their family members and friends that are now hostage. After that, we were blindfolded, put on horses, and we arrived at some forest, then we walked all the way towards this black iron fortress that we could see from the forest.”
“What exactly was your group ordered to come here and find out?”
As scouts, they’re still far too young, and as far as I can tell, none of them have even received any military training. Well, there’s the possibility that a few of them have been trained as scouts before, but either way, they should have been given some specific mission, instead of being sent here aimlessly just to lower our morale.
Vanita took a good look at me. Then, with fear in his voice, he spoke up again.
“……Our job was to see if there was a black-haired, red-eyed child here. A demon that drinks people’s blood, we were supposed to find out if Earl Kaldia was currently at Fort Jugfena.”
His voice left quite a deep impression because he was clearly being serious, while Oscar, Ratoka, and Claudia suddenly looked at me.
-After thinking for a moment, I shook my head slightly. For the time being, let’s trust this boy’s words.