Rather than not trusting the information Vanita gave me about being a slave soldier, I didn’t trust what he told me about himself. Not minding the fact that my room was now dark, I kept thinking back to what he told me.
Being chosen because he was a child who learned about Arxia before, it sounds like there’s nothing wrong with his story. But, even with having received some education before, his story sounded too logical…… that’s just the feeling I got.
There was nothing extra or insufficient in his story, and it was quite coherent. Such skills in the art of conversation come only come with training, he must be a person who knows how to apply his knowledge.
Unfortunately, I know almost nothing about Nazric to begin with, but Vanita gave me a deep impression that he was more intelligent than he should be. I definitely need to confirm his story again from another child, but the problem is who to choose.
According to Vanita’s story, the slave children were spying on each other, and that there was the possibility of real trained child soldiers from Rindarl mixed in with them.
So, I need to carefully consider just who to ask questions of next. ……But, I don’t have the time to leisurely decide. Since we’re now on active combat alert, and battle could begin at any moment, I have to command my Kaldia army, attend meetings with the other leaders, write reports on logistics and supplies, review information…… in addition to that I have to pay attention to the actions of other nobles and the House of Lords, confirm and follow the royal capital’s orders…… it’s almost enough to give me a headache, I have a mountain of work piled up.
While thinking about what to do next, I heard Ratoka as he entered my dark room with a lit candlestick. When I looked at him to encourage him to go on, he seemed a bit lost on what to say. It was a bit similar to Vanita’s atmosphere from earlier today, but also somewhat different. Either way, Ratoka was being hesitant.
“……Um. Is it alright if I go visit the underground dungeon?”
“You’d like to talk with the captives?”
I didn’t think that it had that much to do with him, but I could also understand why he cared.
“Ah, there was something, that caught my attention.”
I couldn’t help tilting my head at how vague he was being. Then, Ratoka spoke up again in a small voice.
“Ah, no, um. It’s fine if you didn’t notice anything.”
“……What was it that caught your attention?”
I must have missed what he noticed, so I briefly ordered him to tell me. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve known each other for so long, or if because Ratoka usually doesn’t talk about this sort of thing with me, I feel like he’s being far too roundabout and needs to get to the point.
“Um…… I was wondering whether it would bother you if I talked to the prisoners. ……Sorry.”
I couldn’t help but be speechless at what finally came out of his mouth after much hesitation. His hesitance, plus the apology that he felt necessary to add at the end, told me what I needed to know.
……Ratoka has been immensely affected by my lack of trust towards others, and even now he’s being greatly influenced by me. As my body double, I share almost everything with him. Now I know that trust is a mutual relationship, accumulated over time, this is something that I’ve learned myself through experience.
Because of his silly outburst in the horse-drawn carriage a few days ago, I foolishly believed that would clear the air between us of any remaining ill feelings. But he seems to believe that I still don’t trust him completely. Something which has been ongoing for so many years, wouldn’t disappear so easily, I see now.
“-No, sorry. About that, I’m the one who should apologize.”
It felt like there was mud congesting my chest, as I chose my words as carefully as possible and said them directly, which finally caused Ratoka’s expression to become less tense.
“R, ridiculous. Because you and I aren’t of equal status, it’s only natural that I should apologize if you don’t believe in me, and that you should be doubtful of me. ……I know at least that much.”
Even while saying that we weren’t equals, as if I wasn’t there, Ratoka stole my cup of cold black tea from my hand and gulped it all down. Hmph, I almost wanted to snort and laugh out loud at his incongruous behavior.
“Okay, go ahead. In fact, I was just wanting to give someone the order to go observe the prisoners. I’ll leave it to you, Elise.”
“Understood, ‘my lord.’”
Ratoka exited the room, as he addressed me by the title my soldiers usually did, a title that he normally would never use for me.