Today I took Eric to the makeshift hospital again, and I waited outside the door for him as I read Ratoka’s report on the prisoners.
Just like Vanita told me, the slave children seemed to be suspicious of each other. There were some children that were so afraid of being ratted on by a spy, causing their friends and family to be executed, that they even committed suicide in our dungeon, their mental states were quite fragile.
Given this situation, I suppose it’s highly likely there are child soldiers among them that are deceiving us. My memories of Kamil further increased my suspicions. It’s definitely possible that there are children just like him, that are capable of killing so many adults.
Eric came out of the makeshift hospital and called out to me, so I put the report down.
“Baron Dovadain. For being able to come visit and console the soldiers again today, I thank you on behalf of my adopted father.”
As I stood up and thanked him, Eric’s face distorted. Still, maybe he was thinking that it would be a bad idea if those inside the hospital heard my voice, he indicated with a chin movement that we should walk further down the hallway.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you ask me, I won’t use my status as a royal to authorize an attack on Rindarl. When I return to the royal capital, I’m going to inform His Majesty the king and my father that we should offer a ceasefire and make peace with Rindarl.”
“-Please consider it again. Without Baron Dovadain’s permission, the Arxian royal army won’t be able to efficiently deal with the enemy’s slave armies. If the enemy uses their slaves as meat shields to attack us, then our army will……”
“Stop repeating yourself, it’s annoying. My answer is the same, we should retreat. Our frontlines should be pulled back to Fort Jugfena, no matter who our enemies are, we shouldn’t invade their territory, don’t you think?”
In the past few days, Eric and I have been repeating the same conversation over and over again. -This, is the new “problem” with Eric I was referring to.
“It’s contrary to our church’s teachings, using violence to forcibly take land and resources. But, just look at what’s happening at our frontlines. Not only have you guys forced the opponent’s armies back, you’ve also occupied Densel and Planates’ land, and now they want to defend their territory and take it back. And think about the toll it’s taking on our soldiers!”
Eric was angrily motioning about as if he wanted to hit something. It’s somewhat different from when he was throwing tantrums at noble school, this was because of his self-righteousness.
His face was changing color with how furious he was for the sake of others, and the slight self-loathing and self-denial that I could sense in him before was completely absent.
……The impact from meeting those soldiers that were so psychologically damaged, was much stronger than I expected. I knew that he would be sensitive towards mental trauma, but I never would have thought that he’d make the leap from seeing injured soldiers straight to denying the fact that we were at war.
“Baron Dovadain, you should understand that it will be difficult to relinquish those captured bases as it would hinder peace negotiations.”
“Humph, what are you saying. You’re the one who should understand, right? Such a thing isn’t necessary for peace negotiations. Isn’t Rindarl’s request simply to treat the first prince better?”
That’s something that everyone in this war knows. I was speechless in response.
“Summon First Prince Albert back from the monastery to the royal palace, and allow him to attend noble school. Cancel Prince Alfred’s crown prince position, and the cause of this entire war will disappear. For such a meaningless reason, sacrificing our citizens in a ridiculous conflict…… Hey!?”
Before Eric was able to continue his rant any further in the hallway, I suddenly dragged him into an adjacent room. Even if he’s a high-ranking noble like the archduke’s son, there are words that can’t be said. What he just said was a clear insult to the Upper House of Lords – the highest decision-making body in Arxia. Although he’s from the archduke’s family, he’s still only the second-born son of a concubine, there are statements that can’t be taken back once they’re said out loud.
“What are you…… doing!”
“Calm down a little. Calling the decision of His Majesty the king ‘meaningless and ridiculous’ in such a public location, you know what will happen if this is heard, don’t you?”
I closed the door and covered his mouth, while coldly urging him in a whisper to remain calm, and reminded him that he was disrespecting the king. I forcibly made him focus on me, instead of the injured soldiers. Hopefully with this, his head will cool down somewhat and he’ll regain his senses.
Eric stared at me as I talked, then he slowly nodded. The moment I took my hand off him, he quickly scampered away from me, putting distance between us.
“My apologies for being rough with you.”
“No………… It’s fine. I think I was…… a bit carried away just now.”
Eric’s face was pale as he sat down on a nearby chair while breathing hard. He felt like a balloon that just lost its air, it’s like a hole just opened up in his emotions, and he lost his original shape.