CHAPTER 202 – END OF BATTLE
In the Kaldia domain, in front of the domain lord’s residence.
I had finally withdrawn from the border together with the royal army’s troops and arrived back home when a voice called out to me. Looking up, I saw Eric who was vigorously waving towards me from a third floor window.
Even though he had only left several days earlier, it felt as if I hadn’t seen him for several months with all that happened.
I reflexively wondered if I should wave back at him, then remembered that I was currently bandaged all over for my injuries, so I barely raised one hand just for the sake of appearances.
In place of me, Rashiok and Vedwoka who were flanking my sides both howled in greeting. I could only smile wryly at the startle it gave the horse I was riding on.
“I’ve returned, Baron Dovadain. My apologies for having left you alone.”
“Honestly! You put me here and went off to the battlefield by yourself, and now you’re coming back all beaten up like this!! Are you an idiot!?” I could only accept his typical insult-filled greeting with a subtle expression.
Eric who came out to greet me first when I entered my mansion was staring at my now shortened hair and arm that was currently in a splint.
It was easy to tell that he was worried in his own way, and I expected that my appearance didn’t seem congruent with the fact that everyone was now in a post-victory mode.
By the way, Ratoka who was acting as “me” while escorting Eric was glancing over at me while mixing in with the other servants in maid attire. Ratoka had pretended to return to the battlefield after escorting Eric here, but secretly stayed behind in order to take charge of Eric’s protection and other needs with Eric never finding out the truth that I hadn’t escorted him to begin with.
“Whoa!? K, Kal, Kaldia! You, your hair…!!”
It seemed that Eric had finally noticed that my hair under my hood had parts of it chopped off and now reached only my shoulders. I only shrugged lightly in response to him who was pointing at my hair with a finger that was trembling.
Arxian nobles, regardless of if they’re male or female, prefer to keep long hair. Although there’s still some teenaged noble boys that prefer to keep short hair, most of them also keep long hair to separate themselves from commoners that would be unable to maintain the upkeep for beautiful long hair.
The royal males and nobles that enter the monastery are typically the only exceptions. Well, I suppose that my shortened hair will be stared at with curious eyes by everyone once I return to noble society. I also felt that it was inconvenient how I was no longer able to tie my hair up as I could before.
Ever since cutting my own hair short, I’d been avoiding mirrors.
…I’m almost the same age now as the “Eliza” from the otome game. I felt a sense of loss at the timing of losing my hair which I kept long and tied up in a ponytail on purpose to differentiate my features from the Eliza in the game as much as possible, even if we had the same face.
However, with my hair this short, I felt now that I didn’t resemble my father as much as before. This was the only good part about losing some hair.
“Well?” Ratoka who was helping me change my bandages tilted his head questioningly.
“…The cartilage in my wrist is cracked. I have injuries and scrapes all over my body. My left ear’s eardrum seems to be torn. For some reason, only my face seems to be fine, so you won’t need any strange injuries for you to continue acting as my double.”
After I finished informing him about my situation, he let out a deep sigh.
I glanced over at his left hand then quickly averted my gaze. There was the trace of an ugly three-year old scar there.
…His scar was at the exact same location as mine. Normally, we both kept our scars hidden with gloves, but his had appeared by itself without me knowing about it. Three years ago, the now deceased Viscount Ogren had stabbed a spear through my left hand, impaling it against the ground and leaving me with a deep injury. Ratoka must have purposefully given himself a similar injury to match mine as my body double without me even requesting it of him.
Ratoka never talked about it, nor have I mentioned it. I felt that there was no need.
I never gave him such a command. But if he gave himself such a wound, I have nothing to say.
“…Well, isn’t that a pity. I wouldn’t exactly have looked forward to injuring myself again if you had injured your face.”
Ratoka had never brought up the topic of injuring himself out of his dedication to me before. I decided to respond to his sarcastic joke with one of my own as thanks.
“Aren’t you happy anyway to be told that you look cute as a maid?”
“No, of course I’m not happy!”
“Ahh, well, I’ve always heard that whenever you take my place, there’s comments like ‘Eliza-sama seems much cuter than usual’ and so on.”
“Shut up, you’re annoying! Stop pointing out what people don’t want to hear!”
At Ratoka’s forceful retort, I suddenly couldn’t help but chuckle. It felt like a heavy weight I had been carrying in my chest was finally beginning to dissipate.
I managed to come back alive – that weight had been from my resolve at possibly facing death on the battlefield.
“Sigh… Anyway, I understand about your injuries now. So, what happened after that? …Are the captured enemy children prisoners alright?”
The gentle air in the atmosphere gradually started cooling.
Ratoka’s eyes held no expectations as he asked me about the children. Nor were there any signs that he had given up on them. I merely saw trust in me at whatever I decided to do to the children I had been chasing after in the tunnels when Ratoka and I separated. I slowly shook my head.
“Four of them died. As for what happened – let me give you a detailed explanation. Ratoka, do you still remember the incident from three years ago?”
“The fire moth incident in the royal capital?”
“Yes. Just like that time, a force beyond human understanding – a person who could use magic just like the magical beasts appeared.”
Ratoka remained silent in response to the beginning of my tale.
I told Ratoka everything that happened after we separated. About the fight in the underground passageway, about the war, about the giant bird’s attack, and about how the mysterious two people in white cloaks appeared and presumably spared me.
As I told the story, I felt grateful – perhaps I should be grateful to the Xia Church’s god, Misorua, that I was still alive to tell the tale.