… It seems like she doesn’t know where the office is, despite this being a small mansion, and she also runs around here every day. I started worrying about letting her be my bodyguard. I managed to stop myself from sighing since she was too foolish. When I think about how she will accompany me every day after Kamil is sent to the development area, I felt an indescribable feeling, even though I had suggested this myself. Claudia seemed a little embarrassed, and her face turned slightly pink. The indescribable feeling I had doubled.
“My name is Eliza, not Erina. I’ll take you to the office.”
“It’s fine, you just have to tell me where it is. Eliza-dono, please rest for a bit on my bed.”
“You don’t look well. It’s against the code of chivalry to force a child to do something when they look so pale. I’ll take you back to your room when I return,” Claudia said, while smiling.
She pushed me into her room, half-closed the door, and gallantly walked down the left side of the corridor. She had said something cool before leaving, but Earl Thelesia’s office is actually on the right, and up the stairs.
… She didn’t listen to me at all. She didn’t ask me why I looked sick. However, it was different from how Kamil and I interacted with each other when situations like this happened, since we just pretend not to notice anything.
She didn’t ask me anything out of consideration. Her innocence made me want to cry.
I heard someone knock on the wooden door while I was napping and woke up straight away.
I felt sick in the stomach when I heard his muffled voice after the knocks. My throat felt sore, as if it was being burnt, and I couldn’t muster up my voice to reply. The door opened silently, and I reflexively closed my eyes and wrapped myself in the blanket.
After falling asleep in Claudia’s bed, I was brought back to my room because my condition got worse. I might have strained myself too much and tired myself out. I couldn’t eat anything because of nausea, so I spent the whole day sleeping, and here we are.
Kamil slowly approached me to see how I was. It felt as if my heart was being grasped, and I couldn’t breathe from the pain. It wasn’t cold, but I could feel myself shivering with every step that Kamil took.
Despite my brain ordering my body to pretend to act calm, and answer him, my lungs stiffened, and I couldn’t even breathe. I could hear my heart beat noisily at the back of my ears. Kamil probably thought I was sleeping as he touched my cheeks with his fingers. Goosebumps ran down my body, and I flinched as if I was convulsing.
I desperately kept my eyes shut. I was petrified to see what kind of expression Kamil was making. Isn’t he keeping his other hand on his sword right now? There’s no way he would try to kill me now. If he had wanted to kill me, then he would have done so the moment he was appointed as my attendant. I reasoned, but I couldn’t stop my body from shaking.
Undoubtedly, I was afraid of Kamil.
Kamil brushed my cheeks with his fingers again. Tension and fear had frozen my body, and I didn’t flinch this time. I could hear the sounds of Kamil breathing slowly. Even though his actions were casual, it made my heart beat faster. Even though the blood was coursing through my body, I felt cold as if I was frozen.
“… It’s been decided that I’ll be heading to the development area.”
Although he was talking, it sounded as if he was talking to himself. He muttered in a very low voice.
“The Earl said he can’t leave this job up to someone he doesn’t trust. I heard you supported my move.”
Kamil’s fingers moved from my cheek to my forehead. He casually brushed aside my bands and traced the wrinkle between my eyebrows. I heard him laugh bitterly.
“You can make that face when things get hard, you know?”
Kamil said as he took his fingers away from my face. I heard a clear sound, and something slipped onto my pillow. I felt something cold slide down the nape of my neck.
“You’re really stubborn, Eliza-sama…”
Kamil called my name in a gentle voice, and it made my chest hurt. I opened my eyes in surprise when he called me by my name, but all I could see was his retreating back. My throat remained frozen until he left, and I couldn’t even stop him from leaving.
My heart pounded for a different reason than earlier. How long had it been? I felt like I’ve heard him call me that before. It happened recently, but I couldn’t seem to remember when. His voice was full of emotions, but it was certainly a heartfelt voice.
I looked for the item that had dropped on my pillow. It was a thin chain bracelet with an amber gem, the same colour as Kamil’s eyes.
My eyes felt burnt for some reason, and tears slid from the corner of my eyes. The back of my throat hurt badly.
I was finally able to get out of bed three days later.
My body strength had dropped, and I used my willpower to stop myself from staggering. I had the maids prepare a tub and hot water, and gave myself a simple bath. I can’t go to the barrack’s bathhouse anymore. I used a wrung cloth to wipe my body and heard Rashiok come up to me even though he hadn’t come into my room when I was bedridden.
I rubbed against his forehead as if I was spoiling him, and he tragically flopped onto the floor. It was easy for Rashiok to roll the body of a six-year-old since he was heavier than a warhorse, and the maids quickly tried to control the situation. I laid on his stomach since he had knocked me down, and he wrapped his wings around me.
“I won’t say that you’re spoiled, but think about the difference in our sizes.”
I lightly slapped his neck while saying that, and Rashiok growled. His growl seemed more reserved than usual, and I tilted my head in confusion.
“Phoebe, what’s wrong with Rashiok?”
“Hmm… What’s wrong, you ask?”
I asked the maid who was watching my exchange with Rashiok, but she seemed puzzled and didn’t understand my question. She had replied to me in confusion.
“He doesn’t seem to have much energy.”
Rashiok usually doesn’t act spoiled in front of others. Also, he has never wrapped his wings around me with that much force.
“Isn’t it… because Kamil isn’t here? You’ve been bedridden for a while too. Rashiok has been staying outside your door the whole time, so he might be lonely.”
“… Kamil? I see.”
I understood the maid’s reasoning and slowly closed my eyes. Kamil and I have always been taking care of Rashiok together after I received him from the Earl. Rashiok understood relationships to a certain degree, so the next person he became emotionally attached to after me was Kamil. This was the first time that we both couldn’t take care of him, so of course, Rashiok would be lonely.
Kamil won’t be in this mansion anymore. Rashiok let out a lonely cry.
Why does my chest hurt even though I was the one who drove Kamil out? But I also felt relieved at the same time. The contradictions in my own feelings felt awfully sad.
I was tired of these frustratingly complicated feelings, so I leaned against Rashiok. He licked my cheeks to comfort me as if he was saying he understood everything.
“You’re going to move that child to the barracks?’
“Yes. Most of the people who know about her have been sent to the development area. I want her to be your bodyguard together with Claudia, so I left her to Gunter.”
I got dressed, and the first thing I did was visit Earl Thelesia. It felt unpleasant, since he always had to do a lot of work regularly, and I couldn’t help him because I had suddenly collapsed. I also wanted to know what went on during these four days that I was bedridden.
The first thing I heard was a report that Radka had been moved to the barracks. Indeed, the soldiers had been mobilised for the initial stages of the development. However, there were still some soldiers at the barracks who had seen Radka get caught. I wondered how he was going to deceive them, and the Earl shrugged a bit.
“She’s been kept at the mansion for quite a while now. It’ll be difficult for anyone to tell that she’s the same malnourished, skinny, filthy child.”
“… I see. That’s true.”
Her messy, unkempt hair had been cut by Kamil in the pretext of preparing for the execution. Attaching that hair to the jute bag that was tossed into the river gave people the impression that she had really been executed, so none of the soldiers had seen her since the incident at Cyril village. She had more meat on her body since her diet has gotten more nutritious, and the maids were washing her every day, so her skin colour is different from when she had dirt stick to her skin. She had indeed changed so much that she looked like a different person.
“And no one thinks of that as ‘Elise’ right now.”
“You’re right about that too. I don’t want ‘Elise’ to have combat training in her history.”
It was the perfect time to get her some basic training since she currently had short hair and looked like a boy. She will continue to live in this mansion as ‘Elise’ from now on.
“I explained to her that she is also going to receive military training. She seemed enthusiastic and said she will work hard.”
Earl Thelesia said, while looking glad, but perhaps she hadn’t been enthusiastic, and her anger and resentment had been stirred because of her pride. Because of what had happened with her mother, she can’t stay sane unless she viewed me in the same way as my father, who had used his money to live extravagantly and exploited his people. Therefore, getting her to go through the same training as I did, and having her change her opinion of me was harder than dying for her. It is fine if she can mature through that training because of her murderous intent towards me, or if she fails and changes her view towards me.
“It’ll probably correct her distorted views on nobles a little.”
Earl Thelesia nodded, and I started pondering.
I first understood this when I went to the royal capital, but the image of a noble in the minds of the fief’s soldiers was affected by my father and was too extreme and crazy. The soldiers might be aware of this since they occasionally view Earl Thelesia and Claudia differently… Well, it might turn out to be good for that child. It would be easier to change that child’s beliefs if she can admire nobles around her by referencing ‘normal’ nobles.