A False Confession
The Duke responded in silence, making an incomprehensible expression, as if swallowing a story that he couldn’t possibly relate to.
Well, if you weren’t planning on responding to me, then you’d have disappeared already.
I darted my eyes back and forth in embarrassment, thinking I was about to be chewed out, eventually raising my head back up.
Still, under the moonlight, his features were crystal clear.
It appeared that he did not completely ignore my words, as there was a slight change in his expression.
Previously, he was suspicious of me, but now, what is he thinking about….
Well, I certainly don’t want to analyze it.
Like that, my eyes started to wander, suddenly focusing on the sword tied to the Duke’s waist.
It was neither as flashy nor as big as the long sword used by Elviniraz, but it was a sword that I thought suited him well.
Rather than emitting a translucent or white light, it glows a ‘shining black.’
It was only then that I realized that I had made a mistake.
So, just now I…
Right now, in front of someone who has been cutting down Vios’s soldiers, I talked about being disturbed when seeing a human being hurt.
It was a very thoughtless remark.
The blunder was so serious that I was worried that his mood would distort enough to put my neck in danger of being snapped.
With my fingertips beginning to shake, I quickly bowed my head down.
“I— I’m sorry.”
“…Why are you apologizing all of a sudden?”
Fortunately, the Duke’s voice displayed no dissatisfaction.
I sputtered my words out.
“We’re in the middle of war and I said something too weak.
I am sorry.”
“…truthfully you are weak, but there is no need for you to be sorry about it.”
…Well, I got an answer out of him.
But I still don’t know if it’s okay or not.
The last words seemed to be okay, so I raised my head, but when I thought about his first remark, I became confused again, so I tilted my head slightly.
Because of the Duke who was analyzing my behavior, in the end I revealed my thoughts honestly.
In front of those who wield swords to keep those behind them safe, I have said, “I’m sorry to see people getting hurt and bleeding.” I think my perspective has been too near-sighted.
My eyes were really opened by Gardiel, who previously tried to console me with such cool words.
However, there was no answer from the Duke again.
Under the moonlight his features were exaggerated; his white skin was even more translucent under the light, and his deep eyes were even more intense under the shadows.
If Elviniraz’s shortened hair and raised bangs gave off a cool image, then the Duke’s impression was somewhat calm and subdued.
Besides, he has black hair, so naturally his atmosphere is much darker.
His midnight-colored eyes were looking down at me strangely.
It was unclear whether I should be meeting his gaze or not, so I kept my eyes light.
If you look at the Duke like this, he’s a very handsome person.
If we could only dispose of that zombie-like devastation…
“….I think that’s better than being complacent to suffering, though.”
His mouth opened at last, as he was staring at my face.
His low, soft voice resonated clearly even in the night.
“I do cut down my enemies, but you don’t have to apologize for being upset when it’s your first time seeing severely injured people.”
where’d this generosity come from? What he said was true, but I need to tread carefully.
Somehow, I realized that I was allowing my usual fears to distort the present into making new ones.
What I actually just heard was that I didn’t have to apologize.
I got a little embarrassed for some reason, so I lowered my gaze slightly.
I even feel a little sorry for making him into such a mean, unforgiving, bad character in my mind.
I lowered my eyes to the ground.
I was late, but nodded to convey that I understood.
In fact, it cost me some embarrassment, but more than that I felt grateful to him for trying to comfort me in his own way.
Like saying that it’s preferable over being indifferent…..
I carefully processed what he had said, and finally smiled a little.
It seemed about time to head back.
I came out to breathe the night air, so my purpose has been sufficiently achieved.
I bowed my head to him.
“Thank you for listening to me.
Then I’ll head back first, Mr.
Ah no Duke, D-Duke….
It was definitely the end of the conversation, which was going okay in its own way, but I ruined it.
Referring to him as ‘Mr.
Customer’ all the time has finally backfired.
With an apprehensive feeling, I looked back over my shoulder at the Duke and smiled very awkwardly.
He didn’t hear it, right?
Unfortunately, his next words proved me wrong.
“I’ve yet to receive the title.
Did you just call me ‘Duke’?”
His voice iced back over.
I couldn’t say anything for a moment, so I just blinked and stared at him in a daze.
It is usually said that in aristocratic society, the heir is confirmed before the coming-of-age ceremony, and after a few years, the title is completely transferred to the next generation.
But even by that standard, Cabel Willard’s succession is late.
It should have been done three years ago as it is…
I suddenly thought that maybe it was postponed because of Cabel’s elder brother Kerbian, who was found dead in the duke’s residence…
So even though the succession is a little late, the imperial family announced a month ago that he would succeed the dukedom… but I still felt a little disconcerted.
Indeed, his face turned cold as ice, and the fear that had previously melted, returned to me like the morning chill.
“If you call me that, wouldn’t it cause the misunderstanding that I am trying to get rid of my father for the title?”
….No way, what are you, a screw bar?! He’s truly twisted.
I was really scared, but I lost my sense due to the ridiculous reason that came out of his mouth.
How the hell did it turn out this way when I was trying so hard to salvage this encounter?! More than that, I actually feel a bit offended from his overreaction to a small mistake.
I did mistakenly call him Duke before the succession, but I quickly corrected myself and called him respectfully!
“In that case… what should I call you?”
“Why would you call me?”
Aha, so I don’t have to call him in the first place.
In fact, there’s no reason for me to.
“Yes, you’re right…!”
So I admired him with genuine delight, but his expression became very strange.
Regardless, this was my chance.
I once again bowed and said, “I’ll go back first.” There was no answer from him.
Although my admiration itself is sincere, his words still annoy me a little when I ponder over them.
So it’s just me, huh? When I think about it, I used to call him ‘Duke’ all the time.
But now if I do he’ll sarcastically berate me over the ‘misunderstanding’ I’d cause. It’ll be official by the time this campaign is over so what’s the big deal??
So I decided to call him Cabel.
If I can call the paladin leader by his name in my head, then why can’t I do the same for the imperial knights’ leader? I laughed quietly to myself, enjoying my internal act of defiance.
The new day dawned unusually bright.
Fortunately I was finally able to sleep after my dalliance at dawn.
However, it was already so late that when it was time to wake up, I made a dying sound and grabbed onto Lily’s arm, begging for five more minutes…but if I continued to sleep now it’d become my eternal state.
Lily’s gentle voice, saying that we have to prepare for departure soon, barely contained her desire to chuck me out of the tent.
I deliberately washed my face with cold water, but the fatigue would not go away that easily.
Maybe yesterday after meeting the Zombie Duke…no, I mean Cabel.
It seems like I’ve become a zombie, too.
The virus has obviously become contagious.
But now they’re saying that once we get past this mountain, we can rest for a full day.
That was my only hope.
The mountain was already scouted yesterday, but it was decided to go out for reconnaissance in the morning one more time just to be safe.
This time, only six scouts were sent for a quick search.
I still couldn’t shake off my fatigue, so I walked around in a slightly dull and hazy state while I waited.
Beyond the barracks, I saw soldiers preparing to search.
Ugh…that means we’ll have to start hiking soon.
On my way back to the priests’ barracks, I stopped and stretched lightly.
I secretly healed my legs yesterday, but I’m still worried about them hiking all day.
“Hello, Priestess Renesha.”
I had just bent over and was straightening my legs when I was given a jovial greeting.
I lifted my head to see Elviniraz in front of me.
I straightened myself and greeted him casually, pretending to be indifferent.
Of course even though my greeting was calm, I couldn’t stop my heart from pounding when facing this sculpture again.
I’m becoming way too reactive to his appearance.
“Were you able to sleep well yesterday?”
Did Sir Knight sleep well, too?”
“Yes, I did, but the priestess still seems a bit tired.”
My silence before responding seemed to affirm his statement, making him smile knowingly.
He somehow acted like he knew why I didn’t sleep well, so yesterday’s shameful memories replayed in my mind.
I quickly averted my eyes, looking for a way to turn the topic of the conversation.
“By the way, is Sir Knight going out to scout as well? Shouldn’t the other knights go instead?”
Fortunately, I was able to find another topic quickly, but it turned out to be a genuine inquiry.
It was because of his figure, properly equipped in armor.
I heard that the search itself was quite short and only took an hour or two, but for the rest of us that meant waiting around for departure. He wouldn’t have changed into his armor already, so it seemed certain that Elviniraz was joining the morning search.
Does the paladin leader need to go out himself?
Elviniraz nodded as I was regarding him with a slight surprise.
“If I join the search, it will be done with quickly.
Wouldn’t it be better than handing it over to someone else, only to take up more time?”
Even though it was obviously true, it felt a bit strange to hear out loud.
I just nodded briefly in admiration because I couldn’t think of anything to add.
Meanwhile, Elviniraz added in a very playful voice.
“And the sooner we come back, the sooner the priestess will be able to cross the mountain, and the sooner she can rest.”
Thank you for your deep consideration.”
I didn’t want to think so, but now I’m convinced.
It’s obvious he just wants to make fun of me about yesterday.
Otherwise, there’s no reason to go out of his way to bring up my restless night again.
As I glanced at him, a pleasant smile lit up his face.
His golden eyes glittered with mirth.
“It is said that there is a villa built by the previous lord.
Since the priestess hasn’t been able to eat properly the past few days, it would be nice for you to enjoy dinner and relax there.”
That would be great.”
“So, if we get over the mountain safely, shall we eat together?”
“…Sir Knight, you mustn’t say things like that.”
With my firm answer, a question came to Elviniraz’s face.
In fact, what he said to me was very exciting.
Even if it would be a meal with all the soldiers, it was still thrilling to hear him suggest with a smile that we eat together.
Nevertheless, his last words were absolutely never to be said.
“Those are magic words that bring about misfortune.”
It’s like when the final boss in the dungeons collapses and someone asks, “Is he dead now?,” making him rise again! Similar examples include: “I have something to tell you when this war is over,” and, “Is the project done now?”
In the former case, it becomes the speaker’s last will, never to be said aloud.
In the latter case, the workload is reduced, giving a false sense of relaxation, only to have the speaker receive a notification of the next task awaiting confirmation. I feel a terrible sense of déjà vu…
Anyway, I’m talking about Elviniraz right now.
When he did not immediately understand what I said, he just looked down at me and remained silent.
Finally, he drew a smile.
“It’s a method of keeping tension until the end.”
….He interpreted it better than I described it.
I didn’t feel the need to explain in any deeper detail, so I nodded in affirmation.
With that, Elviniraz laughed breezily, saying he’d keep my words in mind.
His laughter is still so cool.
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