Interlude: From 0 to 1
After the birthday march ended and Eliza initiated the soldiers’ banquet, she went into the Golden Hill Mansion by herself and headed to a certain place.
――― He’s almost certainly waiting for me at that place since he did that performance during the march. What the fuck is he thinking…?
As Eliza had expected, the boy was waiting for her in the dungeon.
It was as if he was redoing the day that he had met her.
“Wait. There’s something I need to say first.”
Eliza glared at the boy since he stopped her from asking him, “Why did you do something so idiotic?” The boy laughed gently. “You’re becoming like a kid,” he said.
Then the boy remembered.
――― You’re a pipsqueak but you don’t act like a kid, it’s disgusting and makes me angry to look at you.
He felt a terrible pain in his heart when he remembered this ――― but he no longer felt the urge to take this pain out on the younger girl in front of him.
“Congratulations on your eighth birthday, Feudal Lord-sama.”
The girl, who cried just by having petals thrown at her, cried a little while glaring at the boy.
“…, … Why?”
She said something that a lost child would say and cried without letting out a sound. It wasn’t cute at all. That attendant ――― that older boy, who isn’t here, was like Igor, and didn’t become a leader. Maybe he actually couldn’t become a leader. Because the girl would match him and grow up too quickly.
――― So she won’t look after herself if she acts like an adult and forgets that she’s a child.
She was always truly at the mercy of expectations. She’s someone who wasn’t a child but also not quite an adult. It’s terrible.
“I somehow understand why you wanted to turn our relationship into nothing.”
The boy redid the birthday celebration where his relationship with Eliza had gone to hell, as a mere citizen, during the day, and now as a special resident of the Golden Hill Mansion.
“I was really conceited and probably expected too much from you. I thought you needed me since you broke the law to let me live, gave me special education and kept me by your side.”
Eliza nodded even though the boy’s words were wrong. She had wanted to need him ――― but it was impossible since the boy and Eliza couldn’t face each other.
She couldn’t manipulate their relationship from the surface, and it collapsed. Eliza’s relationship with Radka hadn’t changed. They were a feudal lord and her citizen. That was the boundary between them.
“You treasure your people more than yourself to make atonement. So, you couldn’t kill me since I am a citizen of your fief. But you couldn’t kill me as a feudal lord either. You let me stay beside you because there was nothing else you could do. You didn’t educate me because I’m special, you did so because you want to give that education to everyone in the fief. And you wanted me to be a replacement for Kamil as your attendance because it’s convenient. It didn’t matter who your attendant is.”
Everything was correct. Eliza strangely admired the person who is very similar to herself and understood her better than she did.
“… But you know, I wanted to believe that I acted as you because I found a way for me to be useful. It’s extremely painful and unpleasant to feel unneeded. That’s why ――― I showed you my worth,” Radka said.
“… Ah. I was extremely thankful that you were there at that time. And… I was happy. ――― I’m sorry. For everything.”
She expressed various emotions in a few words; about how thankful she was when he came at that time, about how he showed that he had chosen Eliza over that girl, about how he gave Eliza a chance to start over ――― and about how he forgave her first.
“Hey, hey, didn’t the Sill Tribe kids teach you how to be a kid?”
A dumbfounded Radka demanded that Eliza rephrase her words. She thought her words had been full of emotions but complied.
“… I’m sorry. And, thanks Radka.”
That’s when Eliza saw Radka’s cheerful smile for the first time. It was completely different from the hidden, stiff expression he had until now.
“It’s alright. I think I’ve apologised, but I’ll do it again. Sorry… Let’s just settle this with one final blow and then start over from the beginning.”
Radka stretched Eliza’s cheeks as soon as he said that.
Eliza was stunned for a second, and almost reflexively, swept Radka’s feet and rolled him on the dungeon floor.
――― Why did it turn out like this when they had made up?
At the same time, she thought that, Eliza thought that her swelling cheeks and Radka lying on the floor was stupid and let out a laugh. Radka also let out a soundless laugh as if lured by her laughter.
It’s funny. This idiotic way of making up was like little boys who only act on impulse!
Two bright children’s laughter echoed for a long time as if blowing away the cold, bloody air of the dungeon.
The two continued laughing until they were tired and out of breath, and remembered how cold it was.