At The Northern Fort / At the Northern Fort Chapter 14
Having returned to the fort from patrolling, Grail took off his coat and gloves that got wet from the snow and moved to his quarter.
He did move the swords and the spare blades elsewhere, but he was still worried if Mil was well without any injuries. That baby fox is not yet used to living indoors.
‘I didn’t leave anyone there since I thought she was shy, but maybe I should have asked someone that was off duty.’
While moving, he went over if he left anything dangerous in the room. To begin with, he didn’t have any needless furniture or luggage, and he even cleaned the floor. He didn’t want those soft paws to get scratched, so he didn’t miss a single splinter on the wooden floor.
He spotted his room door, so he took out the key from his pocket and put it into the keyhole with experienced movements. He was impatient, but because Mil might have been sleeping inside, he opened the door gently.
He naturally began with looking towards the baby fox’s bed, the basket with the blanket. However, the basket was empty, and after Grail looked around the room he froze up.
He could only see one colour. Black, black, black.
…What is this.
There is a table in the inside of the room, and on that was a fallen ink bottle. The ink was dying the half-written documents and the table, black. The ink dripping from the table was also dirtying the chair and the floor, turning Grail’s room into a desolate state.
Just what happened in my room. He thought that it might be a thief, that his face distorted into a scary expression. However, from the culprit’s small black tracks all over the room, it didn’t take long to identify who the culprit was.
Grail sighed and laughed a little. He was worried, but he felt relieved after he found out the culprit’s identity. The books that were placed on the table when he was writing documents were also neatly organised on the floor with pawprints on them. Might this also be the doing of Mil? Just what was she trying to do?
Grail looked around his room again. In this bland room, there isn’t much of a hiding place. The black pawprints also betrayed the culprit’s location. Grail looked under his bed without hesitation.
The white baby fox was there.
Under the bed, at the furthest corner in the dark.
When Grail called her, Mil twitched here and stared here. She was properly looking at Grail. However, she did not look at his eyes.
She had guilty face, while she hid the ink-stained front feet under her body. Was she trying to hide the evidence?
When he stared under the bed for a while, Mil carefully turned her gaze towards him while hanging her head down. However, when their eyes met, she immediately turned her gaze. She stared somewhere else with a strained expression.
She was hiding her dirty feet, and was holing up under the bed, trying to not meet Grail’s gaze. Those attitudes showed that she was the culprit.
First, it shows on the face.
If she wasn’t related, she wouldn’t make such a grim expression.
She’s emitting an aura as if it was ‘the end of the
world’. Grail could not hold it in and laughed.
“It’s okay. I’m not angry.”
When he said it in the softest voice possible, light of hope returned to Mil’s eyes in the dark under the bed. To check that, she stared up while trembling.
“It was my fault for not closing the lid on the ink bottle.”
If the lid was shut tightly, a baby fox wouldn’t have been able to open it. Not with those clumsy paws.
He did not check the objects on top of the table because he thought that it would not be possible to climb.
“So now, come out.”
Grail stretched his arm under the bed. He grabbed Mil, who was still hiding her front feet, by her nape and dragged her out. Mil was not coming out on her own, but she didn’t resist either.
“Ah, they really are black. Plus, all four of them.”
He laughed upon seeing her feet. Why was it that he did not feel angry or dumbfounded when she dirtied the room so much?
He patted Mil, who was making an expression strangely like a human’s.
“It doesn’t look like you have any wounds. Let’s wash off the ink now.”
When he spoke kindly, Mil, who was making a grim expression without saying a thing, suddenly cried *kyunkyun* and clung to Grail’s feet. If it were to be translated, it would be “Wa~n, I’m sorryyy!” maybe. She was like a child pouring out tears because it felt relieved.
She cried as if she were begging for forgiveness, leaping with her hind legs and scratching Grail’s trousers with her forelegs. That action was so lovely and it would have been a waste to stop it in the middle, so Grail gladly sacrificed his trousers. The ink on Mil’s front feet were not dry yet.
Ah… I’m sorry.
I’m really sorry.
I was prepared to receive a scolding and be driven out of the fort, but the one-eyed knight was a kind man. Even though I soiled the room with ink, he didn’t scold me, saying that it was his fault for not closing the ink lid. I even increased the damage when I was apologising before, dirtying his trousers, but he smiled softly as if he didn’t care. How tolerant!
Furthermore, he’s doing his best to wipe the ink off my feet, Even as he’s saying, “This isn’t coming off well.” He’s sitting cross-legged and is wiping off the ink from my feet with a wet cloth. From washing my feet in a bucket of lukewarm water, most of the ink came off, but my feet were still grey-coloured.
He was touching my sensitive belly, but I had no right to complain. The only right I was allowed now was for me to reflect and be thankful.
Thank you so much, and I’m really sorry. I wanted to convey that, so I persistently licked the one-eyed knight’s hand. When I did that, he said, “Alright alright,” and swiftly took his hand away. How unfortunate.
In the end, my four legs had light grey socks. The one-eyed knight said, “They will come off when you run around in the snow.” I hope so. If they don’t get erased, the evidence of my failure will remain for eternity.
After that, the
the one-eyed knight started cleaning his room. The books weren’t dirtied that much, and he read a lot so he said that it’s okay. That’s a relief, but I’m still sorry.
The stain on the floor or the chair weren’t completely erased, but he said that he’ll just keep using them. I’m sorry.
As for the table, the ink seeped in deeply, and it was old to being with, so he said that he’ll get rid of it. “I was planning on replacing it, so this is a good time,” he said, but I’m sorry.
Then the important-looking documents are all scrapped. I’m sorry!
“I can always write the documents again.”
The one-eyed knight is so kind that it hurts.
While he’s cleaning, I couldn’t help because I was a fox, just standing behind him quietly. To not get in his way, I just stayed still and quiet with a distressed expression, watching him work.
In front of me, the one-eyed knight was cleaning up the mess I made while I couldn’t do anything. However, he did not hate this useless me, but rather he sometimes looked over here and smiled.
I wonder why?
After he finished cleaning my feet and his room, he squeezed out the water into a bucket full of dirty water and stretched his neck. It must have been tiring. I increased his workload. I couldn’t help but feel overly self-conscious.
“The lunch break’s almost over.”
S-Sorry, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I made you clean in your precious break time.
I circled around the one-eyed knight.
However, the one-eyed knight did not seem to care a bit about wasting the break time. He picked up the bucket, looked down at me with a benign expression and said something jokingly.
“Now, we’ll go greet the Branch Captain. He’s the highest ranked person in this fort, so don’t bite him.”
…Mn? Mr Branch Captain?
After putting away the bucket, the one-eyed knight and I went to the Branch Captain. I put all my effort into climbing the steps, and proceeded down the quiet hallway. Here, the atmosphere feels somewhat different. Unlike the rowdy dining hall or the comfortable quarters, I could feel the air getting tense here. I straightened my back and stuck close to the one-eyed knight.
Branch ‘Captain’, he said, so is he higher ranked than the one-eyed knight, the ‘Vice’-Captain? Before, he said “the highest ranked person in this fort”.
Just front thinking about meeting him, my steps became wonky from nervousness. I have four feet, so I’m confused about which one I have to move first…
If the Branch Captain does not give me permission, I wonder if I can’t stay here.
If he’s the one-eyed knight’s superior, I wonder if he’s older and stronger and tougher.
In my head, I imagined a large and strong man like a bear. It’s the man in charge of this fort in this harsh environment, after all. He’ll need to be someone like that to be here.
We stopped in front of a large wooden door. Maybe it’s the office of the Branch Captain. Then, the one-eyed knight suddenly knocked without a sign. Wait, I’m not ready for this yet…! I tried to fix my hair fringe, but I realised that I did not have hair.
While I was just realising such a trivial
a trivial thing, an answer came from inside and the one-eyed knight opened the door.
I gathered up courage to face the bear in power and entered the wide room. Though I hid under the one-eyed knight’s legs.
I felt a sense of disharmony the moment I entered, from the smell. I do understand that the smell of burning wood from the stove would be strong, but there was also the clean smell of soap. In this fort full of men, only Tina has that kind of smell. What is this refreshing smell.
The room did not have anything unusual. There were bookshelves and filing cabinets by the wall, a classy low table in the middle along with a black sofa that went well with that, and an office desk by the window. Also, the floor was carpeted and soft, good for my paws.
“Thank you for the work today, Branch Captain.”
The one-eyed knight greeted the Branch Captain while standing at the entrance. His voice was lower, more polite and calmer than when he speaks to me. From that, I also looked toward the desk. The moment I saw the Branch Captain, the image of a bearish old man received a punch and disappeared. The Branch Captain was the opposite of my imagination.
The person sitting on the desk was a handsome man that deep black hair that reached down to his shoulders. In his small face, his long eyes, his handsome eyebrows, his thin nose and lips were arranged perfectly. He didn’t have the breathtaking beauty of Mother, but he had a gender neutral beauty to him.
And he was younger than expected. He looked like he was a little younger than the one-eyed knight even.
Compared to the rough knights in the fort, he was much thinner and much more elegant. However, he seemed to haven been training, as he did not have a soft feeling to mistake him as a girl.
He gave an impression that he is a strict and cold superior.
“Today, I am here to talk about the baby fox I mentioned sometime ago. May I have permission to protect her in the fort? I brought the fox in question over as well.”
Upon hearing the one-eyed knight’s words, Mr Branch Captain lifted an eyebrow. He doesn’t seem to like me coming that much.
Mr Branch Captain slowly turned his gaze to me, who was hiding under the one-eyed knight’s legs.
It was as if I was being pierced by those pitch black eyes, that my heart pounded like crazy from nervousness.
However, I have confidence in my looks. To be frank, I am a bit cute.
…Yes, I’m sorry.
Still! Seeing this fluffy white me, no one would think, ‘Uwaa, how ugly,’ or ‘biologically impossible’. Though Mr Branch Captain may be a cold person, I don’t think he’ll say “I won’t give permission. Throw it out,” to this poor little fox.
I am a poor baby fox. Mother went to the Capital, so I have nowhere to go to. I am careless and pour ink all over the place (mental scar), but I am a good kid. I get excited over fresh snow and lose myself, but I fundamentally am a good kid. Please let me stay!
I pleaded Mr Branch Captain with my
Captain with my eyes while thinking that.
When his gaze met mine, he sharply raised his eyes for a blink. I’m not exaggerating, just for a blink. In those eyes, there were other emotions than coldness, but I couldn’t read what they were.
His reaction afterwards was what was important for me.
Mr Branch Captain closed his eyes, frowned greatly, clenched his teeth and grimaced.
Eh? I was scowled at…? Was it biologically impossible?
However, that expression lasted only for a moment, and returned to a calm expression. As if nothing happened — as if he did not see me — he turned to the one-eyed knight.
Icy cold voice. ‘That’ must mean me.
Oh no, he might hate me. I looked up at the one-eyed knight out of anxiety, but his expression was as usual…
“Yes, isn’t it cute?”
He lips curled into a smile slightly as he said that softly. How is he being so carefree in front of this icy Branch Captain?
Mr Branch Captain ignored that and delivered his decision in a composed tone.
“…It’s not bad to interact with animals. It can help with restoring vigour to my subordinates who are tired from the harsh life and work here. However, if discipline falls from that, and there are troubles with work or missions, it needs to be reconsidered. That is all.”
He said that in a businesslike manner, but he did not deny my existence. Rather, it was a normal and rational opinion. From that reaction when he saw me, I thought he was going to say, “What do you mean protection, get that beast away!”
Moreover, from what he just said, I also understood that he was thinking of his subordinates properly.
“Then, will you give permission for protection?”
“If you, Grail, will take care of the baby fox, I will not interfere.”
“There won’t be a problem. Thank you.”
It seems like permission was given. It seems like Mr Branch Captain doesn’t like me very much, but I didn’t dislike him.
I felt that he was a person that could make fair judgements as the person in charge of this fort.
“Then, please excuse me.”
I chased after the one-eyed knight into the hallway. It would be scary to be glared at again, so I did not look back.
It was good that permission was given, but I think I have to change the impression I have on myself. Would there really be someone who dislikes a little frail baby fox? What had I been thinking. How self-conscious.
There are people that dislike animals, and there are also people indifferent to animals. The one-eyed knight is kind, Tina keeps saying ‘cute’, and the other knights did not dislike me either, so I ended up getting a little too full of my self. I must reflect.
‘I might be a healing kind…’ I feel embarrassed for thinking that for even a moment. Very embarrassing. I want to hit myself. What do you mean, healing kind, you furball!
Yes. I’m just a furball. I do have knowledge from my previous life, but I’m not using it, and I don’t even have special powers as a spirit. I can’t earn money, I can’t hunt, I don’t have the strength protect someone, I don’t know anything, I spill ink (mental scar)…
Huh? I’m more helpless than I thought I was.