At The Northern Fort / At the Northern Fort Chapter 9
By Mikuni Tsukasa
Translations: 1~5 , 6 onwards
The foxy me.
Holding the fort, commence.
Children are the enemy.
The one-eyed knight.
The Vice-Captain feeds the fox.
Female Knight Tina.
The tragedy of the fox cub and the unmanageable clothes.
The icy Branch Captain.
Free time in the lounge.
Mr. Branch Captain’s secret face.
At the northern fort
Proof of trust.
Child of flame.
Lots of guardians.
Mil’s Mental Diary
The foxy me.
Back in my previous life when I was still living as a Japanese person, I had once heard a certain urban legend.
A newly moved parent and child were going shopping. But because they weren’t familiar with the area, the mother stopped, lost.
But at that moment, the one that told her the way to the shops was her child who wasn’t even 5 yet.
“We need to cross the traffic lights over there, and then make a right. I know this street.”
Of course, this was the first time he had come to this place. There was no way he could have known it.
But the reality was that the shop was just where the child had said.
Though surprised, the mother followed his directions, and as they were crossing the traffic lights, the boy muttered in a low, mature voice,
“I… was killed by a car here in my past life.”
Gyahh!! I thought, when I first heard that scary story.
But right now I’m not in the position to be afraid. As to why, that’s because right now I’m in the same situation as the child in that story.
――I other words, I’ve been born again with my past life’s memories still in my head.
But I’m not a human in this life.
I was staring at a padded hand covered in white fur. No, a padded paw, rather.
Peering into the frozen spring in front of me, I saw myself reflected on the ice.
I sighed. No matter how many times I looked at myself, I wasn’t a human.
Right now I was a fox pup, with silver-white fur like the colour of snow. Strictly speaking, I was rounder than the fox pups I knew of, there was fluffy fur around my neck like a muffler, and even my tail was probably 9 tenths fur.
If I curled myself up, I would probably look like a ball of fluff lying around.
But the reason I looked this silly might have been because I was living in a snowy mountain. The fur was like a natural coat. Even though I was in the middle of snowy winds on a sub-zero mountain, I was completely fine after all.
And the other reason that I was good with the cold was because I wasn’t just a normal fox.
According to my mother in this life, our species is categorised as a type of 『spirit』. In other words, far from being a human, I’m not even an animal.
Apparently we’re snow spirits that take the form of foxes, but I don’t know much more than that.
Mother has no idea that I have memories of my past life, so she probably didn’t tell me anything complicated because she thought of me as a child.
Right now I’m still young, and it’s unfortunate to say that just like human babies, I can’t speak.
No matter how hard I try, the best I can manage is “kyun kyun”.
I let out my second sigh for today.
Even my sighs don’t sound like “hahh” and instead go “kyun”. It’s kind of stupid sounding, so I don’t like it. There’s no feeling of being depressed to it.
And at that moment, I saw a small fish in the spring.
My ears pricked up, and I stepped down onto the thick, frozen surface of the water. My squishy paws were too weak, so I knew that I couldn’t break the ice to catch the fish.
But no matter what, I couldn’t help myself.
In my past life, I died at the young age of 18, and it’s been about a year since I was reborn here. In other words, if you count things simply then I should be mentally close to 20 already, but occasionally I get drawn into behaviours that match my body’s age, and animal nature.
When I see things that move, I feel like chasing them, and I can’t stop myself.
It’s embarrassing to say, but sometimes I even chase my tail without realising it, and run about in circles.
I chased after the small fish under the ice, and ran around with a pitter patter. The ice was slippery, and I fell about once every five steps. Because my childish head was too big, I found to hard enough to run steadily on solid ground, to say nothing of the ice.
As though sneering at me, the small fish continued to quickly swim here and there.
Damnit, damnitt! I want that fish so bad.
Becoming stubborn, I began scratching at the ice when,
“What on earth are you doing in a place like this, Milfiria?”
from behind me, I heard a woman’s dignified and clear voice. Milfiria is my name in this life.
Forgetting about the fish for an instant and turning around, I found a beautiful fox of about a metre tall, staring my way with its light blue eyes.
It was Mother.
Letting out a high-pitched cry, I ran up to Mother, and nuzzled my head against her forelegs.
“The sun is about to set. It is time to return home, my beloved child.”
Unlike me, Mother can speak. I wonder if I’ll be able to speak too once I grow up.
Gently biting the scruff of my neck, Mother lifted me up. She walked atop the hardened snow towards our home.
Our home is a cave near the peak of this snowy mountain. The wind doesn’t blow in, so there’s no worry of getting buried in while we sleep either.
Mother continued into the back of the cave and put me down, before closing her eyes as though concentrating.
And in the next moment, the figure of the large white had fox disappeared, and in its place was a peerless beauty with clear, white skin.
She had long and glossy silver-white hair, and around her neck was a white fur muffler. That isn’t fox fur, right?
Wearing an outfit like a Japanese kimono with a somewhat Chinese essence to it, she gave the impression of being a somewhat flashy yukionna.
The breast of the kimono was opened a great deal, and a splendid ravine was visible. Although she’s my mother, I have to say that it’s quite an amazing chest she has. By all means let it be hereditary.
Indeed. It was Mother in her humanoid form. Although she spends a lot of time in her fox form while in front of me, there are 『certain times』 when she always becomes humanoid.
Those 『certain times』 are when Mother goes down to town.
“Milfiria, I need a few words with you.”
In the same beautiful voice as her fox form, Mother called out to me.
Holding the fort, commence.
“I must have you watch our home by yourself for a while.”
In a pleasant, song-like voice, Mother spoke to me.
Hearing that I would have to watch the house, my ears and bushy tail drooped. This body is too honest.
“The truth is I have been summoned by the King, you see. …I spoke to you of the King earlier, did I not? He governs this Kingdom of Aridora, and is the most high ranked amongst the humans.”
I had been taught before that this country was apparently a monarchy. And that Mother was 『cooperating』 with that King.
Spirits are fundamentally fond of the humans that live on the same land as them, and sometimes help them.
For example in wars and stuff, the spirits that live in Aridora will help the Aridoran humans.
They hate when strangers──humans from other countries, noisily intrude on their land, after all.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that all spirits will actively cooperate with the humans. There are some that think that humans should solve their own problems, but on that point, Mother is cooperative.
“Lately there has been trouble brewing with the neighbouring nation, you see. Until matters settle down, I shall be by their side. That one is quite likeable as far as humans go. I have been watching him since he was a child, after all, and it would be a pity to let him die.”
“It pains me to leave you alone when you have not even been born for a year yet, although I am also hesitant to bring you with me to the Capital. It is a maelstrom of human ambition and desire after all. There are also those who would seek to make the power of a spirit their own. It is a poisonous place to one pure as you.”
That can’t be… I’m not pure at all, so take me with you.
I’m stained with desire too.
“I shall return in one month, so endure until then.”
Hearing Mother’s smooth words, I doubted my ears. To think that I would have to stay here by myself for a whole month.
Mother had gone to the King before, but she would always come back after a day at most.
Kyun kyun, I cried as I clung to Mother’s leg. Leaving an infant alone for a whole month… That’s neglect. Abuse!!
Mother spoke to me with a troubled expression.
“I had thought that you had some oddly mature parts to you, but you truly are still a child. But as one who will inherit the name Snowlea, you must live more strongly. Live without relying on your mother for this month, and fix that cowardly nature of yours.”
Snowlea is apparently the name that each generation of our clan inherits, and is Mother’s current name.
Mother is usually gentle, but when it comes to upbringing, she believes in being Spartan, and rather than having me brought up girly and gentle, she apparently prefers for me to grow up strong and tough.
There was even one time when she told me “Climb up from the bottom.” before dropping me off a cliff. If I wasn’t a spirit, I would’ve died.
“Well then, try your best, Milfiria, my beloved child.”
Mother gave my fluffy head a kiss, before a small blizzard seemed to rise from the ground and wrapped her up. When it was gone, so was her figure.
She left for the castle with the King.
Wahhhh, Mother you jerrkkk!
It’s impossible for an infant like me to live by myself for a monthhh!
I gave a resentful cry, but thinking about it calmly, it actually doesn’t seem that difficult.
As a spirit, I don’t feel hungry, and I can survive even without eating anything. That’s why I don’t particularly have to hunt.
The other problem is outside invaders, but it’s never seemed to be a problem before. Reason being that it’s too cold on the summit where we live, and there are almost no animals here.
When it comes to large carnivores, occasionally a non-hibernating bear called a snow bear will come along, but we’re spirits, and they’ve never attacked us before. Animals are sharp, so they apparently know by instinct that we’re a different dimension of being to them.
In other words, I have no enemy animals on this snowy mountain, and even if I fail at hunting, there’s no worry of starving to death.
If it’s just a month then even the young me can survive without problems.
Geeez, isn’t that easy then?
It was only for a few months, but I lived by myself in my past life as well, so it’s just the same thing. Easy peasy.
Or so I was thinking and getting cocky, but I had totally forgotten that when I moved out by myself for university, I fell homesick on the very first day.
Suddenly waking up in the middle of the night and realising that Mother wasn’t by my side, I somehow felt terribly forlorn. The cave that we were using as our den was quiet, and the silence hurt my ears. Snow was falling heavily outside.
I closed my eyes to sleep again, but my restless feelings kept me awake. It’s lonely living by myself in a mountain like this.
Getting up and leaving the cave, I cried into the air. It was the cry that I used for calling Mother, and was higher pitched than normal. There was a trick to putting lots of grief into it as well.
Normally when I get lost in the mountains and I cry out with this voice, Mother always comes to pick me up.
But this time, no matter how many times I continued to cry, Mother wouldn’t come to greet me.
Even the time when I had been tossed off a cliff for training, when I cried like this, Mother had said “Honestly, what a hopeless child.” and picked me up.
Being by myself for a whole month really is too muchh!
There aren’t any attackers, and I won’t starve either, but I’ll die from being lonely.
But right now Mother is in the capital, and no matter how loudly I cry, she won’t come back.
In that case――
I’ll follow Mother to the capital.
If I make it to the King’s castle by my own strength, Mother will be surprised and praise me for my toughness.
Now that I’ve made up my mind, it’s time to head down the mountain.
With my tail up high, I left the cave behind, powered by vigour alone.
Children are the enemy.
I woke up with a start to find that it was morning.
It was great that I set out on a journey to Mother’s side, but I was still too young in this life. My body wasn’t moving the way I wanted and every few hundred metres of plodding along, I would tire out and fall asleep.
Children will sometimes play like crazy and then suddenly fall asleep like their batteries run flat, but my situation was exactly like that. Although, as an adult on the inside, I’m a little embarrassed about this.
I shook my body to fling off the snow that built up while I was sleeping. It had been layered on quite heavily.
And then renewing my determination, I decided that today for sure I would reach the bottom of the mountain.
Although having said that, the distance I took with each step was terrifyingly short.
Even when I ran until I panted wafuwafu, my progress was trifling. Can I cry already?
After all, the scenery has been completely white the whole time, and far from reaching the Capital, I won’t even leave this mountain at this rate. I have to run more frantically.
This is me being frantic you know. I’m trying my best you know.
But because of my appearance, a happy-go-lucky sound effect accompanies me no matter what I do.
It’s been a year since I was born. Have I ever more keenly realised the shortness of my limbs?
The time it took me to descend the mountain and leave the surrounding forest was a total of fifteen days.
…That’s half of Mother’s trip already.
Right now I had left the forest and was walking along a small path that led to a human town. My spirits were a lot lower than when I had triumphantly left home.
The only good thing was that my muscles weren’t hurting at all, despite all the running I did. I did get fatigued each day, but it would reset with a night’s sleep.
Even right this moment, I was only tired from the running I did today. Is this resilience because I’m a spirit?
According to Mother, the mountain we’re living on is at in northernmost part of the country, while the Capital is in the middle. Even in winter, there isn’t much snow there, and it’s a comparatively warmer place.
But right now I’m still in the middle of a snow field. If I’ve only made it this far after fifteen days, maybe it’s impossible to reach the Capital.
Although I was closer and closer to giving up, I continued to walk. And while I did, I finally reached a fork in the road.
To the right spread a human town. It was my first time coming down the mountain to a human settlement, so I was watching the town with great interest.
The place gave the atmosphere of somewhere in ancient Europe, and the townscape was built in a Western style. I heard that the town was large, and there were lots of people too, but it was cold here and there was lots of snow, so it gave me a calm and quiet impression. Everybody was probably holed up in their warm homes.
After having a look over the town, this time I turned to the left.
There was a massive building of some sort, but because it was boring and undecorated, I suspected it was a military facility like a base, stronghold or fort of some kind.
Does this country have a military too? I wonder if they’re knights like in fantasy stories.
I stood still at the forked road, unsure of where to do.
Two young children were approaching from town, and when they caught sight of me, they started running this way.
Just who is ‘Wanwa’. So rude.
Just as I had registered the girl and boy happily running towards me, in the next moment, gyuuu, they hugged me without hesitation.
Ugwohh… I’m begging you, please be a little gentler. Various things that aren’t supposed to are going to come out of my mouth.
I get it. Wanwa gets it.
With their Western faces, the two children were as cute as angels, but they were quite strong. They tugged at my fur, and tugged at my tail, and I couldn’t help but let out pathetic kyunkyun noises.
I’ve even lost to children?
But it isn’t as though these children are hurting me on purpose, so I couldn’t even bite at them to resist.
While grimacing in the midst of this battlefield──it was easily a battlefield for me──just as I was wondering how to escape, a saviour appeared with wonderful timing.
“Alt, Mine, where are youuu?”
The female voice came from the direction of the town, probably belonging to their mother. The children immediately turned that way and relaxed their hands.
Unwilling to let this chance go, I immediately ran away. In the exact opposite direction of the children.
Like a white bullet, I sped across the snow.
…I’m sorry for lying. The truth is I just toddled and tumbled away.
After hiding in a bush, I turned around to have a look and found that the mother had finally arrived as the children were looking at me in disappointment.
“Time to go home.”
With her children in hand, the mother brought them back to their warm house.
Aahh, how nice. I miss Mother as well.
Who would guess that this spoiled fox was actually almost an adult in her previous life. I think my mind really is being pulled down to my body’s age after all.
I was a little bit more together in my past life… at least, I should have been…
Now then, it’s about time to leave the bush.
Stepping out, I began to think.
Those children are still in town, so I don’t really want to go there. From now on I need to watch out for any children that sprint my way with a smile. Children are cute, innocent, and terrifying beings.
Since I no longer had the option of going into town, I began heading down the left path.
I walked as far as the menacing fortress, and looked for an entrance I could use to enter. This place is probably a division of this country’s knights or military or whatever. I’m sure there’s going to be heaps of people here who know the way to the Capital.
Although the problem is, given that all I can do is make pathetic “kyunkyun” noises, I don’t know how exactly I’m supposed to ask them.
But well, everything in life begins with a try.
For now I was going to head inside, so I slipped through a crack in the surrounding fence.
Although my head got stuck in the fence, I somehow managed to squeeze through and I made my way inside. The place was large, and if I walked about at random I would probably get lost.
I sniffed the air, and looked for a place that smelt of people. Given that it was a military base, the place was filled with the scent of males. It was very different from mother, who smells sweet and fragrant.
The paths that people used had the snow shovelled off them, so I just followed them. Eventually, it opened up into a clearing of sorts. Kind of like a snowy sports ground.
I found dozens of people gathered in one of the corners, so for the moment I hid in the shadow of a building.
I then once again slowly poked my head out. They were apparently doing sword training, and even though it was so cold, they weren’t wearing coats or anything. There were probably other people working or doing other training, so maybe these people were only a fraction of all the people living in this base. After all, compared to the size of the building, there were too few people here.
Everyone had a sword in one hand, but the only people swinging their swords were the two in the middle.
“You’re being too timid. You think you’re fit to be a knight with guts like those?”
A strict-looking superior was scolding them harshly, as he watched the two match swords.
Since there weren’t any ‘knights’ in my old life, I got just a little excited.
The superior man had short grey hair, and a fearless face. He was tall and muscular, and had a well-maintained figure, like a boxer. He probably like 3% body fat.
Not only that, but what stood out most was the big scar on his face. It ran down the left side of it, from the forehead to his chin. It was like a sword cut right down, and because of that his left eye was scarred.
While I was staring at the one-eyed knight from the shadows, without any warning, he suddenly turned my way.
We were pretty far apart, so I never thought he’d notice me, but the moment our eyes met my fur stood right up and I jumped back into the shadows.
His right eye shot right through me. Why did he notice me. I didn’t move or make a sound at all.
It can’t be that he noticed my gaze? Was it because I boldly stared at him?
The man showed no signs of heading my way. I could still hear the metal swords clashing, and the training seemed to continue without incident.
After getting my breathing under control and calming down a little, I stuck my head out to have just one more lo──
──ok, oh he’s still looking this way.
HE’S STILL LOOKING THIS WAYY!
This time our gazes definitely met, so I turned my body around and ran right out of there. As my feet hit the ground, soft snow flew up. Moving my short legs, I ran for a few dozen metres before slowing down to take a corner. It’s fine, nobody is chasing me.
Around the time that I sighed in relief, I calmed down and realised that there was no reason I actually had to run.
To begin with, I came in here because I wanted to ask somebody for the way to the Capital. I haven’t figured out how to ask when I can’t talk though.
Anyway, I really need to make contact with the humans or else nothing will ever begin. What am I going to do if I run away just from eye-contact. I was a human too, in my past life. I know full well that humans aren’t just walking masses of cruelty. There’s no reason to run.
I took a step forward after gathering my courage.
But when I saw a few knights walking from afar, I immediately curled my tail and hid in the shadow of a staircase.
Like you said, I might be a bit cowardly.
Actually, now that I’m this small, a human is actually shockingly big to me. Seeing them up close is pretty scary.
Not only that, but I don’t even know how the humans of this world would react to me. What if they caught me and killed me, and then skinned me for my fur.
Since I look just like a small fox cub, what if they didn’t realise I was a snow spirit. And if they did notice, what would they do? I don’t think anybody would attack me, but…
Anyway, the point is that it’s scary not knowing what they’d do to me. Would it be safer for me if I acted like a normal fox, or would it be safer for me if I really brought out my “snow spirit-ness”? Umumu…
I was thinking seriously about the issue, but a wave of sleepiness started to wash over me. I spent all day moving about after all, and I had a really rough time with those horrid children too.
It’s almost evening now, and even though there’s some time left until sunset, I should probably start sleeping now.
I gave a large yawn――since I’m in this kind of body, I couldn’t do a pretty little yawn with my hand over my mouth. It was a bold yawn with my teeth completely bare―and then I began sneaking around looking for a place to spend the night.
I walked about the base, careful not to bump into any humans, and in the end I decided on the back of what seemed like a barracks or dormitory for the knights. It wasn’t all that spacey, but there were some short trees here and there. I bet once spring comes, the lawn will pop up from beneath the melted snow.
It didn’t seem like people would often come here, and there weren’t any markings by stray cats or anything either.
There was a shed in the raw corner of this back courtyard, and it seemed almost forgotten, so I decided that I was going to sleep there. Maybe the door had been broken, because I couldn’t see one anywhere.
Inside, it was small enough that maybe even an adult couldn’t lay down here. The only things inside were snow shovels. Since there was no door, a little snow had blown inside, but it was no issue to a living fluffball like myself.
I entered the shed and then curled up into a ball.
If I had to name one worry, I suppose it would be that the whole shed was visible from a dorm window. The opening to the shed was completely in-line with it.
But once the sun sets, the place will be blanketed in darkness. It’ll be pitch black in here too, and even if somebody looked out the window, maybe they wouldn’t see me?
With my eyes closed, I thought about it casually with one foot into the land of nod… ZZZ…
The one-eyed knight.
My ears twitched at the sound of a window opening. But I was still sleepy, so my eyes wouldn’t open.
In my half-awake mind, I dimly thought “The windows in my old life opened a lot more smoothly huh.”
I wonder if the frame is wooden.
Maybe you guys should oil it a little.
I opened one eye.
There was a person by the window, opposite the shed I was sleeping in. The window was wide open, and he was looking through it.
──Staring. Right this way.
I immediately woke up. Bolting to my feet, I stared right back at him. I could tell that my hairs were standing on end.
It’s that one-eyed knight.
…Could that be your room?
There was a lamp in the room, but the light leaked through the window and illuminated my body.
OH MY GAH.
Who was it! Who was it that said that I’d be hidden once the sun set! He can probably see every hair!
Maybe he had gotten back and was already relaxing, because he was wearing a lot less now. Umu, he really does have great muscles.
As I stood in the shed, and he in his room, the two of us watched each other without moving.
The atmosphere is getting kind of tense. I could feel a nervous sweat forming at my paw pads.
At that moment, the one-eyed knight suddenly placed his foot against the window frame, and then -don- landed lightly on the ground.
His one good eye pierced through me, and his boots began to crush the snow as he made his way to me.
With my escape route blocked, I fell into a huge panic, and then because he was closing the distance, I panicked even more. There was only a metre between us now.
The light from his room was illuminating him, but because it was a backlight, his face was obscured and it made him all the more terrifying. It’s a bit mean to say this, but he had a scary face to begin with.
After a moment of silence, his arm stretched towards me, and I screamed “GYAHH!” in my mind. In reflex, I kicked off the ground and moved back.
But this shed is tiny. When I jumped back, I crashed into all the shovels.
And then the loud sounds of the crash surprised me, and sent me further into a panic. The shovels fell to the ground noisily, and I became so confused I had no idea what was up or down anymore. I jumped and flailed about, and even stepped on my own tail and tripped.
His palm reached out for me again. It was about the size of my face, and there were small scars and calluses from practising the sword. This man is probably really strong.
On the other hand, I’m powerless. Mother can use blizzards to freeze her enemies, but that kind of thing is still impossible for me.
What am I going to do if One-Eyed Knight wants to kill me? What if those hands strangle my neck?
It’s the end for me if he catches me.
When I realised this, the battle instincts I didn’t know I had surged out from within.
You think I’ll let you catch me?
Get the enemy before he gets you first!
My fangs were bared before I realised, and I bit into his hand. A low growl escaped my throat.
I thought he would retaliate, but he stayed still down to his expression.
Since he wasn’t reacting at all, I gradually grew calmer. I stopped growling, and then let go of him in a fluster. I could faintly taste blood on my tongue.
When he slowly stood up, I froze with a start, but he just said,
“Sorry for scaring you,”
and then left the shed.
With my escape route open again, I quickly ran outside, and then took a certain distance from him. I stared his way, all four legs poised to run at any time.
My heart was hammering away, but I was a little calmer now.
What do I do? I bit his hand. I didn’t think I had such a feral part to me.
Apparently it was a finger on his right hand that I had bitten, because it was bleeding just a little.
My canines are small and thin. Not only that, but my jaws don’t have much biting power, so as far as I could tell his injuries were light.
But it’s quite a shock to me that I could hurt somebody like this. I could feel my ears and tail drooping.
“Kyunkyun,” I cried, as I tried asking if it hurt.
“Somebody’s gotten meek all of a sudden.”
One-Eyed Knight smiled lazily at my attitude change. Paying no heed to his injuries, he came my way.
Awawa, don’t come over here!
I ran away again. And after taking enough distance that I could feel safe again, I stopped and turned around.
Each time he frowned and came my way again, I would run away the same distance. We repeated this again and again, and maintained the same distance.
“What the hell…” muttered One-Eyed Knight.
I don’t get it either, okay. I’m sorry about biting, and I want to apologise about that, but when you close in on me, it’s still scary and I get nervous.
The human in me judged that One-Eyed Knight wasn’t a bad person.
He has a scary face, but he doesn’t mean me any harm. Maybe he means to shelter me.
But the fox in me kept thinking “You can’t trust him so easily,” and stayed on guard.
Until I’m absolutely sure that he’s safe, the fox me is going to keep a distance.
While I was watching him, he turned back and headed back to his room.
I sat down on the spot and watched him leave.
Did he maybe lose interest in me? I’m not sure if I’m relieved, or lonely about that.
He returned through his window, and didn’t show his face for a while. Maybe he was treating the bite wound.
I’m a spirit, so I don’t think I’ll give him diseases, but he probably thinks I’m an animal, and I guess he would need to be careful to sterilise it.
If I could talk, then I could apologise…
Fifteen minutes passed without incident, so I decided it was time to get closer to his room. The window was still wide open.
When I looked inside from the shade of a tree, I found that One-Eyed Knight had some kind of plate in hand, and once again showed up by the window.
I stretched my neck because I was curious about the plate.
When I did, I found that I could smell something appetising. There were a few small balls of meat on the plate. Meatball with sauce, it seemed.
My stomach growled. Even though I shouldn’t need any food as a spirit, my human self knew that the food would probably be yummy. When I imagined how it would taste, my tummy suddenly felt empty.
Sometimes I see Mother drinking alcohol, so I should be okay eating human food, right?
Lured by the smell, I tottered over to the window.
Aah, it smells good.
It smells really good.
I looked at the meatballs in One-Eyed Knight’s hand, and gulped.
Mother tells me “Spirits don’t need food,” but sometimes she brings me mice as “snacks”.
But I still have my thoughts as a human. How could I look at a mouse with its eyes rolled back and think “Wow, looks delish!”? I always shake my head and let Mother have them.
Since we live on a mountain, Mother always brings me dying animals as “snacks”. Thanks to that, I guess I misunderstood and thought that I had no appetite. I might not have ever seen human food since coming to this world.
But now, with this meal in front of me, the longing for it was unbearable. Drool was running from my half-open mouth.
I forgot about my fear for him, and ran over with my tail wagging.
But the window was too high for me, and I couldn’t reach the food. Aah, damnit. It’s so close. I placed my front legs against the wall, and let out heartbroken cries as I stood on my two hind legs.
Seeing this, One-Eyed Knight went back inside, and brought three wooden boxes from somewhere. I took a few steps back in wonder.
Leaning out of the window, he dropped them onto the ground. Using the three boxes, he created a crude staircase for me.
And on the second step, closer to the window, he placed the plate down for me.
In joy, I jumped onto the first step. But just as I was about to take a bite, Wait a minute, I thought, and looked right up.
Standing at the window was One-Eyed Knight, watching me from up close.
He probably didn’t mean to, but I felt really pressured by his grey eye and hair. Maybe because his eyes were sharp, it felt like he was glaring at me.
Meeting his gaze from so close, I felt my body freeze. As I felt regret at the smell of the food, I went down the stairs and took a distance.
I want to eat. But being near him is scary.
I walked restlessly around the boxes. Unfortunately my nose is really good, so I could perfectly smell the fragrant meat and sauce.
I’d approach the food, but his eyes made me run, I’d approach the food, but his eyes made me run.
As I repeated this over and over, he gave a troubled smile aid said,
“Got it. I’ll leave, so take your time.”
With that, he really disappeared into the room, so after watching carefully for about a minute, I quickly leapt onto the box. While feeling moved about this taste from my old life, I gobbled down the food. Yummyyyy.
The 5 bite-sized meatballs quickly disappeared, but it was more than enough to fill my little stomach.
After licking the sauce off the plate, careful not to step on the plate, I placed my forelegs against the window and peeked in.
In the plain, undecorated room, One-Eyed Knight was sitting on his bed and polishing a sword. I was still worried about the bite I left, so I stared carefully at his hands.
It looked like he had washed it, and all that was left were two red dots──marks from my teeth. It was just a small injury, but I was worried, and wondered if he wasn’t going to use a band-aid or something.
I called out in a small voice, and let him know that I was done.
“Did you eat it all?”
He put down his sword and stood up. And then when I jumped down from the box, he stretched out his arm through the window.
“You licked it clean, huh.”
Not a single stain could be seen on it.
“Where are you sleeping today?”
His tone was soft and gentle. It was comforting, listening to his low voice. Was he worried about me?
I went into the shed with the fallen shovels to answer him. There’s probably nowhere better.
“I’ll get rid of the shovels for you tomorrow.”
Seeing me find a spot between the shovels, he laughed.
Closing the window, the quiet night returned. But if I listened carefully, I could hear the sounds of floorboards groaning, and doors opening and shutting.
Even though it’s scary when he’s too close, for some reason it makes me feel safe to know that he’s close-by.
Hearing the other knights inside the dorm helped the loneliness of having Mother gone. On the mountain top, not even an animal could be seen, I felt like I was the only one in the world, and it was terribly lonely.
Because I have memories of my old life, I’m different to both a proper animal and a proper spirit.
I guess I really feel most relaxed around humans.
Resting my shin on a fallen shovel, I fell into a deep dream.
The next morning. I woke up as the surroundings got brighter.
While I was stretching outside the hut, with the -gatagata- sound of a window opening,
“You’re up early.”
The one-eyed knight poked his head out. He was still in his pyjamas. Maybe he still has low blood pressure in the morning. He still felt drowsy.
He just woke up, yet his eyes or his face didn’t get puffy. How enviable.
“Wait a little longer for breakfast.”
Saying that, the one-eyed knight went inside.
I climbed up on the wooden boxes to peek inside since I was curious, but I was greeted by the scene of the one-eyed knight changing his clothes, so I hurriedly turned away.
My face still in its hot state, I went back down to the ground. To calm my heart, I continuously dug up the piled up snow. -zubabababa- …Oh my, this is quite fun.
The one-eyed knight brought my breakfast when I reached the mud as I dug the snow, that my front paws were all muddy.
“Don’t dig too much. You’ll fall in,”
he said while placing a plate of food on the wooden box.
How rude. Even I don’t fall into my own holes.
Then I fell in.
I was too focused on the food that my front paw fell in the hole and I tripped over.
“That’s why I told you,” laughed the one-eyed knight.
Embarrassing. My face heated up.
he said with a smile on his face and then disappeared inside, closing the window behind him.
After I got myself out of the hole and climbed the boxes, I peeked inside, where I found the one-eyed knight just about to exit the room.
Having noticed me peeking inside, he lightly waved his hand, saying, “see you.” He’s probably going to go training.
After seeing him go out, I started eating.
It was a soup with carrots and potatoes, along with bite-sized pieces of bread. This feels like cat food. I’m glad he didn’t give me raw meat from overly considerate.
Hafuhafu, I breathed as I brought the food to my mouth with my tongue. The bread was soaked so it looked unappetising, but it still tasted good.
Now that my belly was full, I started thinking about the future. I really want to go to where Mother is, but I still don’t know the way to the Capital. So instead, maybe I should stay here for a bit.
Here in this base, there are no innocent but scary children, nor are there any hunters aiming for my fur. There are only knights here. I think it’s a rather safe place.
I can’t imagine a knight bullying a small animal. Even the one-eyed knight was kind.
The way from here to the Capital is endlessly long for my small legs. There might be danger on the way too.
Then, it might be best to wait for Mother here without moving. There are many people here, so I won’t get lonely like when I was up in the mountains, and plus I can have tasty food.
…That could actually be the number one reason.
After using my hind leg to scratch my head with a -kakakat-, I walked around the hole I dug. I will be here for a while, I should take some time to look around.
Moving around stealthily as to not encounter any humans, I arrived at the sports ground that I visited yesterday. To be accurate, a training ground maybe? The one-eyed knight had his subordinates here.
However, today, there wasn’t anyone here, and the snowy ground was silent.
Maybe they ran, since there were many footprints drawing a circle around the field. There were footprints where the knights trained yesterday, but as for the rest it’s all fresh. No one stepped on them.
My big eyes are probably shining brightly. I can’t stop this pounding in my chest.
Who could win against that white temptation.
It’s impossible for me, impossible!
After checking that there wasn’t anyone around, I ran out while my tail wagged -bunbun-. I am going to make footprints on this untouched snow.
About twenty centimetres high. It’s soft and clean, it’s the best. Hwafuhafu. I ran around the field, jumped about, rolled about, buried my face in the snow and dug holes.
“Are you a kid?” you might laugh but I’m still fine if you say that. Because I am a kid.
I wouldn’t have the courage to do this in my previous life’s appearance, but now that I am a fox cub I have no shame in doing this.
Panting about, I rolled around freely on the snow while attaching snow on my fur, my pride and joy.
After I played around until I was satisfied, I went back to walking about the base. It was also fun moving around stealthily to not get spotted by humans. It felt as if I was playing hide-and-seek.
I stalked a knight that was moving, and sneaked up to the sentry knight as much as possible.
I lose if I get spotted, but so far I haven’t been discovered.
Usually, I do have my consciousness as a human, but once my play switch is on, I can’t stop myself. My instincts demand fun things.
Though I am dumbfounded at how childish it is, I still rushed in when I saw fresh snow, sadly.
Leaving paw footprints on the snow, stalking a knight, climbing a small mountain of snow that was created from cleaning the snow, sniffing the horse in the stable, going into some place like a toilet and almost falling in.
I played around for the whole day. When I realised it, the sun was already setting.
When I returned thinking that I needed food, the one-eyed knight was waiting in front of the shed. It appeared that he moved all the shovels away someplace else and laid out blankets.
After placing dinner――some sort of meat, roasted simply――on top of the wooden box, he looked at me and said this teasingly,
“Did you have fun running on the snow? You looked quite excited.”
…You were watching?
For some reason, I felt really embarrassed. Just where did he see that from. Was it when I was on the training grounds.
While slightly shaking my tail as if to hide my embarrassment, I pledged to be careful from here on.
The Vice-Captain feeds the fox.
The group in charge of the Northern Fort was the Ninth Branch of the Kingdom’s Knightly Order.
The Branch Vice-Captain — the second-in-command Grail recently found something joyful.
Though he was someone who was both respected and feared by his subordinates, at the moment his sharp gaze was dulled as he stared at a certain creature.
It was a white fox that had settled in the shed next to the quarters four days ago.
Though he was not certain since he did not investigate, Grail believed that it was a she. Lovely and timid, it felt like a ‘girl’.
Though she was always up earlier than Grail, today she was sleeping in. She was wrapped up in blankets in the old shed, sleeping peacefully.
Though she seemed too small to be on her own, the mother fox was nowhere to be seen. Grail thought that she wandered over here after the mother abandoned the youngling. Perhaps she couldn’t even get food on her own, since he had never seen her hunt.
After glancing at the sleeping fox cub for a while, he left the window.
Having finished changing his clothes, he headed to the dining hall in the base. It was reserved for the knights working in the fort.
Because it was still early, there weren’t many people here. Still, it quickly became crowded over the next thirty minutes.
“Good morning, Vice-Captain.”
After exchanging greetings with his subordinates, who also woke up early, he got his breakfast on a tray.
He sat down alone and ate silently. As he returned the tray, he spoke out to the Chef, a man who had nice physique and had worked here for a long time now.
“Can I get the morning portion?”
“Oh, Mr Vice-Captain. I made sure to set some aside.”
He knew of the existence of the fox cub from Grail’s stories. And he was the one preparing food.
Since it was just making the knight’s food less salty, it wasn’t a hard task. Today’s breakfast for the fox was a soup of turnips, cabbage and bacon with bread. Soup was common for breakfast meals.
They thought that foxes enjoyed meat, but this fox cub didn’t really seem to. Vegetables, bread, fruit, she ate them all happily.
In contrast, she seemed to be bad with raw meat. While she gladly ate meatballs and roasted meat, when she was given fresh, blood-dripping deer meat she looked disgusted and took a few steps away.
Perhaps she thought that raw meat was not food because she only had her mother’s milk so far?
“It’s the first time giving her turnips. I hope she likes them.”
The Chef said as he held out a dish with food in it. He didn’t care too much for the knights since they ate whatever was given, but he took more care for the fox cub. She didn’t seem to like green peas, since she left them yesterday.
“It doesn’t have a strong flavour, so it should be alright. Thank you as always.”
When Grail said that,
“You’re welcome. I’m also happy when she eats it all up,”
laughed the Chef. Though he hadn’t gotten to meet her yet, he was excited like a grandfather who just got a grandchild. It seemed that he was going to make jerky for the fox cub again today.
While smiling at the energetic Chef, Grail took breakfast for the baby fox and headed back to his room.
When he opened his room’s door, the baby fox was by the window.
She woke up while Grail was at the dining hall.
She was stretching out her neck on the wooden box, but from where Grail was he could only see her front paws, her large ears and the top bit of her head.
Maybe she was hungry. Seeing her sniff about and trying to peek into the room was lovely, and was rather destructive towards his stern demeanour.
Though Grail was usually expressionless, even he ended up smiling at the sight.
When Grail approached and opened the window, the fox cub quickly darted off the box and distanced herself. Grail thought that she might have gotten used to it by now, but she still looked afraid of coming near. Even when he placed the dish on the second step, she just hung about and avoided coming closer.
However, when Grail closed the window, she nimbly climbed up the box and started eating.
At first, she became tense just from Grail watching, but now as long as there was the window in between she seemed to be fine.
While lifting up her head sometimes to see Grail, she gobbled with a haguhagu.
“See you in the evening.”
Grail said to the cub while tapping the closed window with his fingers. Everything she did was interesting, and never ceased to amuse, but unfortunately it was time for training. He left the room and headed to the training grounds.
Being the vice-captain, Grail had to work with documents a lot. He also supervised his subordinates, so no longer did he train until he couldn’t move.
Thus, before work began, he would always train alone in the morning. He did the basic routines, like muscle training, running, and swordsmanship training (basic things, but enough for a normal knight to keel over in exhaustion) before going off to work.
Grail did not know that his subordinates called him ‘iron man’ behind his back with fear.
After Grail finished his morning training, he would hole up in his room and focus on paperwork.
Then when it was time for the noon break, he put the pen and paper down and left the room.
In this country, people ate large meals, but only twice a day: breakfast and dinner. If there was something around noon, it was a snack.
Grail, too, was not going to eat even though he left his seat at noon. He went in the other direction from the dining hall in the third floor corridor.
Looking outside the window at the end of the corridor, he saw the training ground. It seems that the 6th brigade was using the ground this morning, but now they were moving inside.
The ‘division’ at this fort, the 9th Division, was divided into ‘brigades’ that acted on different schedules. The 1st Brigade to the 4th Brigade were guarding the borders, while the 5th Brigade patrolled the city and the 6th Brigade trained.
After people left the training ground, the white fox approached.
It came as expected. Grail smiled. The fox cub looked about to see if there were any people around and crept to the centre.
Because it snowed again yesterday, there were no footprints. The only footprints that were there were those of the 6th brigade.
The cub scanned her surroundings once more, then started running on the snow. At first she was just walking all over the place, but then she started diving into the snow with a glint in her eyes.
Burying herself into the snow with only her ears and tails out, or rolling and jumping into the snow again.
He saw her play along like this before at the training ground so he thought that she might come again, and he was right.
‘It never gets tiring to look at,’ thought Grail.
“Ah! If it isn’t the Vice-Captain.”
At the quiet corridor, a bright voice rung out.
When Grail turned around, his subordinate, who had flamboyant blond hair, was approaching. It was Kix, a promising young soldier, though he had the fault of behaving flippantly.
“Whatcha doing here, sir?”
Kix was one of the few subordinates who spoke to Grail without restraint.
Grail silently pointed to the window with his chin.
“Nn? …Oh, it’s a fox!”
Kicks said after he saw the baby fox playing around on the training ground.
“Huh, I guess that’s the rumoured white fox.”
Truth be told, it was not only Grail that knew of the fox cub.
Many other knights saw the baby fox running about the training ground.
And that rumour spread among all the knights in just four days.
Because of all the snow, in winter the Northern Fort had this depressing feeling, but this lovely baby fox healed the hearts of the knights.
These rough men were happy to find tiny paw prints on the snow.
However, other knights did not know that Grail was taming her. Only the chef knew.
Grail was not hiding it on purpose and would have gladly answered any questions, but no one asked.
“So you like animals, Vice-Captain?”
Kix said as he stared at the baby fox.
He continued talking as his lips were distorted as if to suppress laughter.
“So, like the Branch Captain, you unexpectedly like cute animals? …Pfft, that feels so off.”
To his rude subordinate who finally burst into laughter, Grail flashed a cold smile. He put a hand on Kix’s shoulder.
“Kix, if you have free time, please be my opponent for sparring. I’m not sure if I can go easy though…”
After his work was over in the evening, Grail headed to the dining hall. After having his portion, he went to the chef and got the portion for the baby fox as always.
When he went into his room and lit the lights, the baby fox noticed and let out a small bark. She couldn’t wait for the food.
He opened the windows, left the food and went away. Because the fox cub seemed to get nervous when Grail approached.
While she was eating, Grail took his coats off, unlaced his shoes and prepared to take a bath.
A while later, a cry, “Kyan!” could be heard. It was a signal that she finished eating. When Grail approached the window, there was an empty dish on the wooden box and the baby fox was staring over at Grail a little ways off at the shed.
The food seemed to be good, since she was licking her lips many times.
The baby fox looked to have opened up to Grail, but she didn’t seem to trust him fully yet. The subtle distance between the two is the proof of that.
From the moment they met, that distance did not close that much.
Grail wanted to touch the fluffy looking fur of the baby fox, but she became alarmed when he approached.
However, today, he thought that he just might be able to.
Grail had a secret weapon to close that distance in his hand — a piece of jerky that he got from the Chef.
It was made from chicken breast meat, battered into thin strips and baked in an oven. It didn’t have any seasoning, but the flavour of the meat was condensed, that it probably was good enough for human tongues as well.
Grail held up the jerky and shook it at the baby fox.
The baby fox tilted her head, as if to say “Hm?” and approached Grail to check what it was.
When she arrived at the wooden box, she caught the aromatic whiff of the jerky, which made her tail stand straight.
She was still hesitant to approach Grail, but she was bothered by the jerky. She nervously moved about the window, while having her eyes locked on the jerky.
“Here. It’s good.”
Grail tore off a small piece from the jerky, placed it into his hand and stretched his arm out. Up until now, the baby fox never ate directly from his hand. This was a big challenge for Grail too.
He wanted to tell her that there was nothing to fear about human hands.
Lured by the smell, the baby fox placed one paw on the first step off the wooden box. It was the closest she ever got to Grail.
She desperately stretched her neck out, but it seems that she then realised that she had to move in closer to get the jerky. Trembling, she placed one paw on the second step and got on.
She smelled Grail’s hands and then smelled the jerky. Meanwhile, Grail was trying his best to not move so that the baby fox won’t be surprised.
“She didn’t need to sniff that carefully,” one might have said from seeing her sniff about cautiously. Then, the baby fox took one piece and swiftly got off the wooden box.
After she got an adequate distance away from Grail, she chewed on her prize.
The wet nose of the baby fox touched his hands, just momentarily. Grail was moved by that feeling. It wasn’t as though he had a fetish for noses. He was just happy that she took some food from his hand.
When he tore off another piece, the baby fox approached again, more used to it than last time.
Her appetite might have won over her wariness for people. This time, she didn’t take the jerky and got off, but ate next to Grail.
It was the first time she approached Grail this much. ‘The power of jerky is amazing,’ thought he.
In the end, the baby fox ate the rest of the jerky next to Grail or directly from his hand.
Though it was from food, the distance between the two got closer.
That day, too, began peacefully.
For breakfast, I had the remaining jerky from yesterday, licking every corner to make it softer. To give me something this delicious, as I thought the one-eyed knight is a nice person.
I was now less wary of him because of the jerky. Also, I wasn’t so afraid anymore when I approached him now.
Still, I still got nervous when he stared at me, and still darted away when his rough hands reached out to pat my head.
Every time the one-eyed knight made a disappointed face, I also felt sorry — I’m getting good food, I can let him touch my fur a bit — but my instincts as an animal or as a spirit disallowed humans to touch me.
I understood that I wasn’t going to be hit, but a big hand slowly falling over my head was a scary sight.
“Patting is no good, huh.”
The one-eyed knight smiled bitterly.
I’m sorry, but it’s not possible yet.
I’m not a cheap woman who wags her tail at anyone. You’re mistaken if you thought that! Though I have fluffy fur that does not have a single trace of the wild, I am a noble――
“Then, see you later.”
The one-eyed knight closed the window and headed to work.
I’m still talking!
Having finished breakfast, I cautiously went out of the shed, trying to not be spotted. Now, what should I do to kill time until the sun sets?
As a baby fox, I don’t have to do work, do household chores, or study. I’m so free every day.
Should I have an adventure in the facility again?
I’ve been moving around the base quite daringly, but I don’t think people other than the one-eyed knight found me out so far. Maybe I have knack for being stealthy.
It’s clear this morning, and the temperature seems high for a wintry region. I heard the soldiers say, “It’s a hot day today.”
No, I don’t think it’s hot at all. Even though the sun is out, the snow hasn’t melted and I think the temperature is lower than that of Tokyo in the dead middle of winter.
Maybe their senses are weird because they spent so much time in this cold.
However, as a snow spirit that has resistance to the cold, I also felt that it was warm today.
This region is cool even in summer――on the mountain where Mother and I live the snow never melts――if I go further down south, I might evaporate from the heat. Even after I grow up and can move around more, I shouldn’t go down from the mountains in summer.
It was peaceful again during the daytime.
I waded through the soft snow, and greeted my friends at the stables with nose touches.
Also, these little birds flew around me and picked a fight! I had to fight back…
I thought the animals feared Mother and I because we were spirits, but I found out the unfortunate truth that the animals only feared Mother. When I become an adult and become dignified, I hope won’t be belittled by these little birds.
The incident happened when the sun started setting.
The surrounding grew darker and the air got colder in early evening. If it was me from my previous life, used to heating, I might not have been able to withstand the cold, but now I am a furry animal. I’m staying warm thanks to my natural fur.
Only feeling the cold on my wet nose and on my paws, I returned to the shed behind the barracks.
I moved around a lot today, so I’m hungry. I wonder if the one-eyed knight is still working? Or is he preparing dinner for me?
I panted my way towards him, but danger was lurking on my path.
At first, I only saw a dark silhouette. It was in a far corner in the dark, so I couldn’t discern what it was.
But from the smell that rode the wind, I found out what it was.
A stray dog?
The smell of a beast, and a rough breathing sound. Come to think of it, the silhouette is a that of a dog too.
What I thought of from the word ‘dog’ was the common dog that was leashed and walking down the streets. I almost said, “Where are you from!” like an old lady.
However, when I could see it clearly as it approached, I felt danger.
It was a stray dog, not anything cute.
――A wild dog. It’s a wild beast that is not controlled by humans.
The air is tense.
It’s eyes are bloodshot, looking almost as if they’re burning. From its mouth that was panting heavily, I could see sharp fangs. Its sticky saliva dropping on the ground indicated its hunger. It had bulges between its eyes, and a low growl sounded out of its throat.
From my eye level, the wild dog had an intimidating presence, that I shrunk back in fear.
My waist almost gave out, but I managed to hold on with willpower.
However, my hind legs were shaking greatly, which also caused my vision to tremble.
It was definitely looking at me as a prey. It will move in to chomp off my throat and eat me.
The wild dog took a step forth. It lowered its head and was measuring the timing to pounce forth.
The dog is different from the little birds that played around with me during daytime. If I fight back now, I’ll die.
I felt true fear for the first time in this body. My paws were drenched in sweat.
Fear of death crept upon me.
Even as I was assaulted by terror, I did not turn my eyes away for my own safety. I slowly backed away without agitating my opponent.
However, getting restless, the dog started dashing here, so I too turned around and ran at full speed.
I got extremely desperate.
I ran up a narrow path that did not have snow. My enemy’s legs are longer, so I have to move my feet at a faster pace.
I strained my eyes, and ran――even faster than when I was being chased by those kids.
In the middle, there was a bit that still had snow, but thankfully because it was in the shade the snow had hardened. I’m light, so I was not hindered, but the dog fell in the snow. However, our speeds were still similar.
Here, I had to increase the distance, but because there was mud my escape route was not good. I ran away too carelessly.
“Owah! Wha… What’s going on!?”
On the way, there was group of knights but I had no time to pay attention to them.
I ran right in between their legs and kept running. The dog stopped momentarily, but soon resumed chasing me.
The sound of my enemy’s panting dominated my ears. I didn’t have time to look back, but I could tell that it was chasing me with its tongues out and drooling.
I could feel my enemy’s presence right behind me.
Fear crept into my head.
At this rate, I’ll be caught…!
――At that moment, I noticed a small pond lying bleakly at the edge of the base.
It was probably man-made. Thus, it was not that large, but it seemed pretty deep. Maybe they dumped the removed snow there, because there were lumps of snow floating around.
There’s no ice, but I can tell that it will be painfully cold.
Still, I headed there. If I kept running, it was clear that I could be caught at this rate.
I steeled my resolve and dived into the cold pond.
I dived into the water, but there wasn’t that freezing cold I had imagined there would be. I was worried that I might stop breathing because of the low temperature, but that was just a worry.
The reason I didn’t feel the cold probably was thanks to my fur.
Especially, my undercoat had air underneath it, that my skin didn’t come into direct contact with water.
Then, I don’t have to worry about losing body heat too quickly.
However, unlike when I was on the ground, I did feel cold and my muscles started to contract. Though I don’t think a snow spirit would freeze to death…
With my feet that became stiff from the cold, I desperately dog-paddled about. I thought that my body would become heavy because the fur would take in water, but the air inside acted as a tube of sorts so it wasn’t too hard trying to stay afloat.
The dog that was chasing me stopped at the pond as I thought. While drooling and growling, it circled about the pond so as to not let me go.
Occasionally, it poked the surface of the pond with its legs, but maybe because it was scared of water, or maybe because it was afraid of the cold, it did not jump in. It merely stared at me frustratedly.
For now, I escaped the danger of getting eaten, but it wasn’t about to give up anytime soon. It circled the pond and waited for me to come back out.
I glanced at that dog and moved my short legs under the water to swim to the middle of the lake.
I kept moving my legs in the water, but because I had been running they were getting tired. However, if I stop moving, my nose will be submerged underwater. There’s more danger of drowning than of freezing.
Please give up quickly.
I looked at the wild dog while wishing that, but the famished dog was not about to give up quickly.
I might look round and tasty, but my body is actually mostly fur!
Meanwhile, water started seeping into my undercoat as well. When I felt that cold sensation on my skin, I let out a cry, “Hyah!” like a human. Even though I had resistance to the cold, I could still feel the cold.
My fur gradually grew heavier. It felt as though sticky mud was clinging on to my body.
My legs started to tire out as well.
Dangerous…! I’m in danger now!
I desperately gasped for air.
“Found them! There!”
――At that moment.
The knights I just passed by came.
“The animal in the pond is that baby fox? The one that settled here recently?”
“So it was being chased by that wild dog.”
While saying that, one knight grabbed some snow, hardened it and threw it at the dog. Other knights too hurled snowballs as they approached the wild dog.
After whining a bit from getting hit by hard snowballs, the wild dog eventually gave up.
Even as it sent a frustrated gaze at me, it ran the opposite direction from the knight and jumped over the fence out of the base.
However, I had no leisure to be relieved.
My fur absorbed so much water that it’s as heavy as lead! I’m drowning, I’m drowning!
“Here, come here!”
A knight crouched down by the pond and called me over. Because I also wanted to get back on land soon, I swam there, but upon seeing the knight’s appearance, I hesitated.
Scary, shaggy bearded man…..
“Come on! You’re going to fall in!”
Even that was in a low, gruff voice, that I felt as though I was getting scolded.
This person, he’s scary!
The shout of an adult male made me flinch. My big ears twitched. I don’t want to go there.
I swam towards the shore, but turned around because the knight there was scary. I decided I’ll try somewhere else.
I swam about while spraying water everywhere, aiming for the opposite side.
However, there was also another knight there — a brutal looking knight with a buzz cut.
“Here! Climb up here!”
I think I saw a criminal like this on the tv news in my previous life…
In my arbitrary image, I imagined a knight to be ‘a dazzling young man’, but most knights here were muscular, and had scary faces. If they didn’t have their uniforms on, I don’t think anyone would have noticed that they are knights.
These people, they’re good people — chasing away the wild dog — but their appearances had too much impact.
Please don’t say that with those eyes. It’s scary! I hate low and loud voices.
I tried to turn around again, but the five or six knights surrounded the pond, that I didn’t climb up anywhere. Left with no escape route, I circled about the centre of the pond.
“Why isn’t it coming out?”
“It’s scared of your face.”
“Scared of your face, too!”
Stop fighting! You’re all scary! It’s more or less the same!
“Hey, I got a usable stick!”
Then another knight came. He had a long wooden stick in his hand.
Then he prodded me with that.
Pushing by the stick, I was being moved to the opposite side of the pond.
――Where a brutal criminal awaited…
I frantically paddled about. In panic, I tried to escape the stick.
“Ah, no! Stay still! I’ll push you to the shore!”
I think I was panicking. I was chased into a cold pond by a wild dog, and became agitated. Then, scary surrounded me and pushed me with a stick.
Rationally thinking, I know that these knights are trying to help me.
However, right now, I’m confused and I even have this animalistic cautiousness. Even if my life was in danger, my body refused to go into some unknown person’s arms.
I was desperate trying to avoid the stick and the knights.
I couldn’t even dog-paddle anymore. I merely floundered my legs about and focused on staying afloat.
However, I swallowed water many times and choked already. My throat hurt. I couldn’t breathe properly.
My legs are tired, my body is heavy, I think I’ll drown at any moment.
I wanted to cry, that I just let out pathetic voices.
It’s impossible now. The wet fur is too heavy. My legs were still moving, but it did not float back up.
I slowly sank, my mouth and my nose submerging.
I can’t breathe. It’s painful.
My eyes, my head, my ears too sunk into the pond, that my small body was fully submerged in water.
Ah, I’m drowni――!
The moment I felt death, someone grabbed my back and pulled me up with great force.
Owch! My consciousness started coming back. Then, someone’s hand grabbed my belly and lifted me out from the water.
I breathed in oxygen and coughed out water. My legs had become amazingly thin. It’s because the wet fur was sticking on the legs.
Because they don’t have the usual fluffy fur, they don’t feel like my legs.
The person who saves me walked out of the pond towards the shore.
The rather deep pond soaked up to his chest.
Ah, to go into a snow-filled pond at night in the dead middle of winter.
I’m a snow spirit, but a human might get a heart attack.
It’s a really dangerous act, just who is it that dived in to save me?
To see the person who saved me, I raised my head.
Is it the bearded knight? Or is it the brutal criminal?
However, what the moonlight revealed was a horrible scar on the left eye.
――The one-eyed knight.
He dived into the cold pond and saved me.
Even as I felt relieved to see him, I thought something rude.
‘This person is scary, too.’
Why is it so hot. It is winter, right?
Unpleasant. So very unpleasant.
I slowly opened my eyes with a frown.
Huh? Was I sleeping?
The moment I woke, I tensed up.
I was in what seemed to be an unfamiliar lounge. The room was dyed in soft shades of orange due to the flickering fireplace.
Being near that fireplace was probably why I was hot and displeased.
However, it wasn’t why I was tense.
I had woken to find myself on the lap of someone sitting on a sofa.
I was wrapped in a big towel and could only move my head freely, but even without raising my head I could tell from the scent. The person was a complete stranger.
At the very least, it wasn’t the one-eyed knight who saved from the pond.
Through the towel, I could feel the stranger’s body heat. I instinctively held my breath. I was scared because I didn’t know who this was. I didn’t want them to realise that I had awoken.
However, my nose itched. I couldn’t hold it in, and ended up sneezing helplessly.
“Oh, are you awake?”
From above my head, I heard an unknown voice.
However, the voice wasn’t that of a man’s but the soft voice of a woman’s instead. It was a little less scary. Come to think of it, she smelled nice and sweet.
I looked up at her.
“Oh, oh gosh…! It’s staring! How cute! What should I do!”
The person who had me on her lap was a female knight in a neat uniform. Her hair was the colour of milk tea and worn in a long pony tail. Her face had both dignified beauty, as well as the cuteness of a young girl.
It was my first time seeing a female knight here.
“Are you cold? We’re right next to the fireplace but you just won’t warm up” she said as she rubbed my back in concern.
Although it was through the towel, my hairs stood on end from the foreign touch. I wasn’t disgusted. I was just wary, or tense.
As a human, I would have welcomed cute women, but my foxy self didn’t seem to. The female knight looked kind, but she was a stranger, so I couldn’t rest easy on her lap.
I had the impulse to jump off and run off into a corner, but I didn’t have the guts to. Instead, I just turned to stone on her lap.
The one-eyed knight should have been here.
I darted my eyes about and searched around the room, but there was no one else in the room but me and the female knight. I could smell the trace of the men who used this room, but the few sofas were all empty.
My heart beat fast, and my wish that she would let me go seemed to have been conveyed.
“Don’t be so scared. Your heart feels like it’s going to burst. I’m not going to hurt you,” she said with worry.
I guess she could feel my heartbeat.
Her soft voice calmed me, and I could understand what she was saying.
But, my instincts didn’t allow humans to approach so easily.
Unknown voice, unknown smell, unknown person, scary.
My instincts kept urging me to be wary, and my body kept stiffening.
Moreover, I was bothered about the flame from the fireplace. It was my first time seeing fire, but apparently it didn’t bode well with me. Humans might have felt warmth from this distance, but for me it was too hot.
She probably meant to warm my cold body, but I’d have preferred diving back into that snow-filled pond. It’s hot!
I couldn’t bear it anymore, so I forced my way out and took some distance from the fireplace.
The female knight stared at me and looked at the towel I shed in disappointment.
“Come here. Isn’t it cold over there?”
No, it’s not cold.
My body was still wet, but I don’t think a snow spirit would catch a cold from this.
I shook my small body like a dog, letting in air to my fur which was sunk.
However, because I was being covered in a towel, the fur was still stuck to my body. My pride and joy, my fur…
Oh well, once it dried I was back to my usual fluffy fur.
While I was crouching down and licking my front feet to do my fur, the female knight stood up and approached.
Her footsteps were very light, maybe to avoid surprising me, but her figure grew larger and larger, and I couldn’t help but run away.
She wasn’t particularly tall, but for a baby fox like me all humans were big.
I quickly ran away to a dark corner in the room. The female knight looked shocked.
“Am I that scary?”
I felt sorry when I saw her face sink.
Sorry, sorry. I’m not scared of you, but I’m scared of strangers.
When I leaned up against the wall, the female knight stopped approaching.
“Right, it is a wild animal. Of course it would be afraid of people.”
At distance, she crouched down, lowering her eye level.
“I’m not scary. I’m just going to touch you a bit~”
She beckoned me over.
However, seeing that I didn’t budge in the slightest, she changed her plan.
“Hm, I’ll need some food to let her guard down,” she murmured before standing up.
At the same moment, a heavy looking door opened and one man came in.
He had short grey hair, and a long scar down his left eye.
When I realised the man was the one-eyed knight, I felt so relieved that the tension left my body.
So much that I was surprised by it.
Though she was a beautiful woman, I was more anxious than I thought at being alone in a room with a stranger.
The female knight turned around and talked to the one-eyed knight with a crestfallen expression.
“Vice-Captain, it’s afraid of women as well. It was impossible for me.”
“…I see. I thought it would be better than rough men, but it looks like people’s sex doesn’t matter to wild animals.”
The two spoke while staring at me. I was wondering about why I was with a stranger instead of the one-eyed knight who saved me, but it seems that he was being considerate.
“I was planning on keeping her here until it could grow independent, but it’s sad to see her shivering like that. Maybe it might be better to let her out.”
“But what if she’s attacked by wild dogs again… Right, Vice-Captain, you were giving food to her, weren’t you? Wouldn’t she open up a bit to you then?”
“…No, not really. She just ate the food I gave her, but she never opened up to me.”
The one-eyed knight said that without changing his expression too much, but seemed a bit sad.
Indeed, I was attracted by the tasty food, and never followed him for real.
However, it was different now.
I was confident that he wouldn’t hurt me now. Because the one-eyed knight dived into a cold pond to save me.
To think, ‘Won’t he hurt me?’ to person who saved me would be contradictory and strange.
From the beginning, he didn’t feel like a bad person, but from this incident my trust for him rose greatly. My animalistic guard towards him too was almost gone.
With a light ‘tatata’ footstep sound, I trotted towards the one-eyed knight past the female knight.
I felt him flinch slightly, but I paid it no mind and put my nose at this feet. It seems that he changed his clothes after he went into the pond, since his trousers and his boots were dry, and didn’t smell of water. I could only smell the warm reassuring scent.
I wagged my tail unconsciously.
“…You said that it didn’t open up to you, but what’s this! Vice-Captain, it’s unfair! I’m jealous!”
Behind me, I could hear the female knight’s angry voice.
“No… I think she just thinks that I’ll give her food…”
Even as he said that, he looked surprised to see me wag my tail.
His voice was shaking. It was the first time I approached him this closely when he didn’t have food or jerky on him.
He already helped me at the pond. Those rough hands weren’t scary anymore. It wasn’t too hard after that first contact.
The one-eyed knight’s big hands wouldn’t hurt me. Rather, they would protect me.
I shook my tail which was half as fluffy as usual because it was still wet. I raised my head and stared into his eyes. My neck hurt.
The one-eyed knight stared at me absent-mindedly for a bit, then started rummaging through his pockets as though he thought up something.
Then he brought out a piece of jerky, then he held that out. Because he crouched down, his face came closer.
“I see, you came because you could smell this.”
Though he was smiling, he looked a little disappointed when he said that.
However, the jerky that was held out didn’t stimulate my appetite. I wasn’t hungry now.
Rather, I was surprised that he thought it was because of the food. I didn’t come because I was attracted by the jerky.
I just thought I would feel relaxed around him. Also, I wanted to thank him.
Seeing me not go for the jerky, the one-eyed knight looked puzzled. “What’s wrong? You like this, don’t you?”
He poked it at my nose to make me confirm the smell.
I know! I know it’s a tasty piece of jerky!
I ignored that jerky and stared at the one-eyed knight.
“Vice-Captain… she’s not attracted to the food. She’s grown attached to you,” said the female knight from behind me.
Good, explain that well to this dense man.
“But, she wasn’t this this morning. Why would she suddenly like me now?”
“She understands that you helped her. Isn’t she saying thank you?”
Amazing! The female knight spoke for me so well!
‘Thank you for helping me back then,’ or so I wanted to convey, so I licked his fingers.
Get across, my feelings! After licking his fingers intently, I ended up licking my nose from habit.
Then, I looked up at the one-eyed knight.
For a moment, he looked astounded and was frozen in place. He then brushed back his short hair and hid his hair.
But I saw. I saw his expression loosen up into a happy one. It was a rare expression.
“How nice, I’m jealous,” the female knight suddenly said.
She didn’t seem like a bad person.
I think I can open up to her after some time. Let’s get to know each other slowly. Please wait a bit more until my instincts are no longer wary of you.
“It’s already late today. It doesn’t seem to be hungry, so we should get her to sleep.”
Having regained his composure, the one-eyed knight said that while looking at me. I was unconscious until just now but I was still sleepy.
“It’s dangerous outside. Even though this is a base for knights, there are still many dangers around. Like today, there might be more wild dogs that came for food.”
Though he probably saw me as just a baby fox, not a spirit that could understand human words, he stared straight at me and said that. I was so happy about that, that my tail wagged faster.
Seeing this, the two knights laughed.
“What is she so happy about?”
“Too cute. She shouldn’t wag her tail when she’s being told that it’s dangerous.”
“Anyhow, I don’t think it would be good for a wild animal to be raised by a human, but I have no plans to turn you into wild dog food. Until you grow up, I’ll raise you.”
I was happy to hear his declaration.
The wild dogs were still scary. It was much better to be protected and safe inside the buildings.
However, I think I could only stay for about ten more days. Mother was coming back soon
I couldn’t stay here ‘until I grew up’.
I was happy that Mother was coming back, but it would be sad to part from the one-eyed knight.
Then, at least until then, I’ll get spoiled by him and enjoy the life here.
I thought that and wagged my tail wildly.
Since the one-eyed knight waved his hand in beckoning, I parted with the female knight and followed him out of the room.
My legs are short.
Even though I am moving almost as if I am running, it is slow compared to the one-eyed knight striding through the hallways.
I desperately moved my legs to not get separated from him.
Of course, he wouldn’t have heard my mental cry, but the one-eyed knight turned around and looked at me.
Then, seemingly realising that I was far behind him and desperately running, he stopped and waited for me, then moved with slow steps.
Ah, what a relief.
Then, from time to time, he glanced back at me to check if I was following him properly, but it looks like there’s some other purpose as well.
He’s usually expressionless, but when he looks here his expression loosens up.
Well, I am very cute in this world! Or so I thought narcissistically, but it seems that he’s also happy that I am following him.
From the fact that a baby fox was following him even without a leash, his expression loosened.
After many intervals of him turning around, we arrived at a door. It’s a simple, but sturdy wooden door like the ones I saw in the hallways on the way here.
When the one-eyed knight opened the door, there was somehow familiar room. It wasn’t that wide, and only had the necessary furniture and lighting, along with few books and a sword.
However, when I followed in after the one-eyed knight, I noticed that the room smelled like him.
I see. So this is the one-eyed knight’s room. Because I always looked into this room from the window, which is opposite from the door, I didn’t realise that fact right away.
“Living inside might be uncomfortable, but sleep here today. During daytime, I will let you out as much as possible. I’ll also make you practice hunting so that you can get food on your own.”
The one-eyed knight spoke to me softly.
Uu—, I don’t want to hunt. As if I can catch mice. Rather than my reflexes, there’s the problem of a biological detest… I don’t even want to bite it, nor less eat it!
As my ears and tail drooped, the one-eyed knight said, “Wait a bit,” then exited the room.
Then, I sensed people’s presence outside.
I perked up my ears.
“Vice-Captain, how was the baby fox?”
“Rather, when did you tame it?”
“You left us behind.”
Soft whispering voices denounced the one-eyed knight.
Come to think of it I did feel that there were people following me. So it wasn’t just a feeling.
It seems that the story of me getting attacked by the wild dog spread quickly among the knights here. So like primary school boys wanting to see the dog that sneaked into school, they gathered here.
“You guys, it’s too loud.”
The one-eyed knight sighed dumbfoundedly.
“As I said, the baby fox is not used to people. I am taking care of it, but don’t get too close. It will get scared.”
From that, I felt happy that the one-eyed knight was being considerate for me. Maybe there weren’t people in the hallways or in the corridors — though they were secretly tailing us — because the one-eyed knight was being considerate for me. I was greeted by a kind female knight when I woke up.
Outside the room, the young knights complained for a bit, but suddenly everyone started mumbling. The one-eyed knight probably silenced them with his sharp glare. Shut up, or so.
“…Oh, oops, it’s already this late! We have to return to our rooms.”
“R-Right. Sorry we bothered you late in the evening, Vice-Captain…!”
After some time passed in silence, a young knight purposefully raised his voice in a somewhat scared tone. Other knights anxiously followed suit.
The presences of people busily dispersed. He only has one eye, but the one-eyed knight is amazing.
A while after that, the one-eyed knight did not come in straight away, but went somewhere with soft footsteps.
To calm myself from the fear of being alone, I munched on the bed legs. With my small fangs and my weak jaws, I could only make shallow marks, I felt annoyed for some reason.
While I was playing around, the one-eyed knight came back. Because my big ears caught his footsteps already, I stopped biting the bed legs and sat down on the bed. In addition, I even wagged my tail. I waited like a good kid~.
When he opened the doors and saw me, he smiled softly.
Wahaha, he got fooled so easily!
The one-eyed knight had a basket in his hand. He placed that next to his bed and beckoned me over. What is it? When I went over, there was a blanket over the basket.
Could this be my bed?
I kicked the floor and hopped into the basket. Because I didn’t like that the basket was folded so squarely, I shook it around.
It’s much fluffier and better when it’s a bit messed up like this.
I did realise that the one-eyed knight was smiling bitterly, but feeling very satisfied I rolled up my body on the wrinkled blanket.
The basket, being made from natural materials, smelled of plants.
The size wasn’t too big, and fit me. This somewhat tight feeling made me very calm.
As the one-eyed knight said, I closed my eyes.
I thought that he would of course go to sleep on his bed, but he did not budge from his position. I was somewhat bothered, but I still started falling asleep. As I was sinking into a dream, something gently stroked my head.
The one-eyed knight’s hand?
Maybe it’s the first time he’s petting me.
Half asleep and half awake, I thought that. Though that’s because I fled.
Maybe because I didn’t open my eyes in rejection, he started stroking me a bit more confidently.
Over and over again so that he can enjoy my fur.
I can’t sleep.
The next day, I woke up first. I gaped my mouth and let out a yawn.
Being a young fox, I fall asleep easily, but I wake up just as easily. I stood up and climbed out of the basket. My white fur was fully dry now. 20% dryness, 80% comfort, it was back to the usual feeling.
Now this is more like my fur.
I turned my head to the bed next to me, and saw that the one-eyed knight was still sleeping. Since he was sleeping while looking over here, I could see his face as well.
Usually, the defenceless sleeping faces are cute or funny, but the one-eyed knight was different.
The moment I saw his sleeping face, my hairs stood straight.
The one-eyed knight was sleeping with a serious expression, his mouth shut tight, and with a frown.
His eyes are closed, but it almost feels as though he’s glaring at me.
If I was an assassin, I probably won’t be able to kill him. Is he really sleeping? Or so I would get jittery. The moment the knife was swung to take his life, he was indeed awake and the one who was killed was the attacker. I could imagine such a scene.
I collapsed on the floor — my waist gave out — and was staring at his face, but suddenly he woke without any sign.
Then I noticed that he was staring at me with a frown on his face.
“Hyan…” or “Hin…”, an incomplete cry escaped my throat.
I-Is he angry? Did I do something wrong?
The one-eyed knight took his eye off me, slowly rose and scratched his head.
His face was still scary. His eyes are too sharp.
Then, for a bit, he stared off into vacant space absent-mindedly.
When he turned around towards me, the frown was gone. His eyes weren’t sharp either, and he was looking at me with a kind gaze.
“Ah, right, I made you sleep here. Morning.”
I let out a sigh in my head. It takes about 20 seconds for his brain to come fully awake after he opens his eyes.
When he’s unconscious, he’s about 30% scarier. Tomorrow, I’ll take greater care to not let my waist give out.
The one-eyed knight got off the bed and walked barefoot on the cold floor. From above, a hand came down gently and stroked my head.
For a moment, I shut my eyelids tightly. Seeing me like that, the hand moved away slightly.
However, when I didn’t run away and looked at him again, the warm hand softly stroked my head again. I dislike the heat of the fire, but I don’t dislike the warmth of this hand.
Having stroked me enough, the one-eyed knight started changing.
Panicking, I pretended to chew on the blanket inside the basket. I didn’t see~, I didn’t see~.
After that, the one-eyed knight briefly left the room, maybe to wash his face. He came back in soon and picked up the sword. I wonder if he’s going out to train? Indeed, his clothes were light for a knight going out to work. To train his body even though he didn’t need to, how amazing.
“I’ll be back soon. I’ll give you food then.”
Picking up the sword, he went out. I would gladly stay quietly in the room —— not, so just before the door closed I sneaked out. Because I didn’t make a sound, the one-eyed knight didn’t notice me.
After waiting for him to lock the door, I followed him through the cold hallways.
It went well, but just after we headed out the one-eyed knight suddenly turned around.
He looked down here and opened his eyes wide.
Why is it here? was what his expression was saying.
“When did you… you want to come along with me? It’s not going to be fun though.”
It’s going to be more boring to wait inside, so I want to tag along.
Thinking that, I wagged my tail once.
With a faint smile, the one-eyed knight let me follow.
It was clear in the morning.
However, it was very cold.
Well, I didn’t feel the cold that much, but it probably was painful for humans. If they breathed in the crisp dawn air, their lungs might freeze. It’s a refreshing morning, but it would be impossible to breath in deeply.
On the training grounds, the snow was still piled, and some of the melted snow from yesterday had frozen up.
I’m saying this again, but I don’t feel that cold. I have my fur, and I’m a spirit of snow.
And I’m saying this again, but it’s painful for humans. It’s strange if isn’t cold for them…
The one-eyed knight started off with light stretches and ran laps around the grounds. Then, suddenly, he took off his shirt and started swinging his sword.
His body probably did get warm from running around, but… not in this cold! It probably cooled off already.
…The one-eyed knight must be an iron man.
Female Knight Tina.
Tina is the only female knight at the Northern Fort.
To begin with, there aren’t many female knights, and this is the frontier.
However, Tina was not demoted here, but volunteered to come here.
She came out of the thought that if she can survive the harsh life of the Northern Fort surrounded by snow, her willpower will grow as well as her confidence as a knight.
In the knightly orders, women are scorned, but it would be different if she survives the Northern Fort. Everyone will acknowledge her.
That’s just how hard life here is.
Which is why Tina is about the only one who came here by her own will.
Other people came here because they caused accidents at the Capital or at other branches. “Go grow some backbone!” Or so they were chased out to this place.
There is only Mother Nature around the fort, in winter there’s the endless snow-clearing work to do, and one has to survive the terrifying training of the ‘Iron Man Vice-Captain’. Thus, some young knights even look grimly resolute on their first day here.
After tidying herself, Tina slowly exited her room.
Though she is a female knight, it wasn’t as though a separate building will be prepared for just one rookie knight. Like the male knights, Tina too is assigned a room to sleep in. However, while other young knights share a room among two to four people, Tina uses hers alone.
Furthermore, the ‘Icy Branch Captain’ lives in the room next door, and the ‘Iron Man Vice-Captain’ lives across her room. It may be thanks to the the Branch Captain and the Vice-Captain that Tina never felt danger to her person even as she lived in a building full of men.
Tina suddenly looked at the door across from her room. The room of the admired Vice-Captain Grail.
Grail did not come here because he was demoted like other knights, but came here from the request of the Knight Captain in the Capital to fix things up here. He has been the Vice-Captain here for some years here.
There aren’t that many superiors that are this trustworthy, Tina thought. The same went for the other knights as well. Even though they feared him, they also respected him.
It was still early in the morning, but there was no presence of anyone sleeping inside. It seems that the rumour that he trains before the sun rises every day is true. Today, the weather is clear but the temperature has dropped a lot.
Tina puffed out white breaths as she shivered.
To have breakfast at the dining hall, she locked her doors and passed in front of the room of the ‘Icy Branch Captain’. It seems that the Branch Captain also wakes up early, but he isn’t training outside like the Vice-Captain. Maybe he’s reading inside.
As for the Branch Captain…… Tina thought that she was the only one who came here by her own will, but she recently learned that it was not.
She didn’t hear it directly from him, but it seemed that Branch Captain also volunteered for the Northern Fort. Though Tina did not know the reason because she was not that friendly with the Branch Captain.
As Tina quietly proceeded through the hallways, a door suddenly opened in front of her.
A blond knight who still had a boyishness came out. His name was Kix, and he joined the knights in the same year as Tina did — though he was two years her senior when it comes to living here.
In this fort, there are only about eighty knights, so most people know each other.
“Oh, it’s Tina. Morning.”
She greeted the young man in front of her, even as she felt that something was off at meeting him so early.
“What is it? You still have time to sleep. You woke up quite early today.”
She doesn’t wake as early as Grail, but Tina also wakes up quite early. Around thirty minutes afterwards, everyone else wakes up and the quarters become noisy, so she wakes up early to prepare.
However, Kix was weak in the mornings…… To Tina’s words, Kix replied with a yawn.
“Night shift. I’m going to have food then sleep.”
“Ah, I see. Border patrol last night?”
“Right. Boring as always.”
One the main duties given to the knights of the Northern Fort is border patrol. However, there wasn’t any recent war with the neighbouring country, nor were there any illegal immigrants.
It’s because there is a mountain range between this country and the neighbouring country. With Mt. Snowlea as the centre, the mountain range is hard to cross.
These mountains are snowy mountains with high altitude, that there’s even snow in summer that people get lost or die of cold. Long time ago, there may have been people trying to sneak into the country, but they would have all lost their lives before the knights at the fort found them.
Thus, border patrol duty is hard because one does not need to do anything.
One of the other duties is the patrolling of the nearby towns and villages. Not only do the knights just observe the people’s lives, they hunt down stray beast that wandered into villages and also help with clearing the snow.
Also, patrolling the foot of Mt. Snowlea is also an important duty.
Having immense power, the spirit would be an attractive target to greedy people.
There are people who come to Mt. Snowlea to pray to the spirit, but there are also those who visit with wicked intentions to make the spirit’s power their own.
Of course, even if someone did try, they would exhaust themselves from the cold before they reach the top, but we still can’t let our guard down.
Because the Snow Spirit Snowlea is a thankful spirit that protects the country. Even the king himself ordered that we knights should pay more attention to protecting Mt. Snowlea than the borders.
Indeed, if a spirit is captured by an individual or by another country, that in itself is a great loss to the country. There aren’t many spirits that are cooperative to humans like Snowlea.
For good or for bad, spirits are cold-hearted. Fundamentally, they do not intervene in human affairs, but Snowlea is different.
Tina has never seen the spirit, but according to the rumours she is a breathtaking beauty.
It’s not just Tina wants meet such an existence that transcended humanity. Her colleague knights also joke, “I want to see for myself how beautiful she is.”
“If you’re going to the dining hall, let’s go together.”
To Tina’s words, Kix cheerfully said “Yes,” and nodded his head.
When they arrived at the dining hall, there weren’t many people. For Tina, it was the usual scenery, but Kix murmured, “Looks easy to find a seat.”
Kix suddenly stopped and looked puzzled. Since Tina knew that he had surprisingly good observation skills, she also looked around.
Indeed, it is strange. Their colleague knights’ gazes were pointed at one direction.
While they ate bread and soup, their facial muscles were all loose.
“What the, how unpleasant.”
Kix bluntly exclaimed. Tina felt the same.
However, when she turned toward where their gazes pointed at, she too understood.
“Ah! Yesterday… Mil-chan!”
At one end of the dining hall, Vice-Captain Grail was eating after his morning training, but there was also white fur by his feet.
On closer examination, that furball had proper ears and tails. It was the baby fox.
Tina felt relaxed and comfortable. Just by seeing that lovely animal, she was healed. She couldn’t possibly criticise the other knights.
“Mil? …Aa, the rumoured baby fox? But why is it here? And why is it following Vice-Captain?”
As she explained what happened last night — How it was attacked by a wild dog, and how it came to be placed under the protection of Vice-Captain, who had already been feeding it — Tina approached Grail and the baby fox.
It seemed that the baby fox had just finished eating, since it was dejectedly licking the empty dish. However, it became alarmed by Tina’s approach and hid in the shade of Grail’s long legs.
“Mil-chan, it’s me~ Remember me from yesterday?”
Tina made the kindest voice possible.
Then, the baby fox twitched its ears, and cautiously peaked out from behind Grail’s legs.
From that, Tina almost got a nose bleed. The same probably went for the other people in the dining hall.
How the baby fox was so naturally stepping on Grail’s boot was irresistible. The baby fox had its attention focused here, that it did not realise it either.
“You named it?”
Tina, who was breathing hard in front of the baby fox, came to her senses from Grail’s cool words.
He had finished his meal and was looking here.
“G-Good morning, Vice-Captain! Sorry for making a fuss.”
“Good morning, Vice-Captain.”
Tina greeted him in panic, while Kix greeted him as usually.
“Ah! The name…… well, I just named it in my mind after I saw it in the base.”
While she was breaking out in cold sweat, she gave an excuse. It was not as though she was trying to be a godmother.
Kix asked interestedly.
“It’s embarrassing since it’s so simple…… because it’s white like milk.”
When Tina explained while blushing,
“Come to think of it, I forgot to name it. It’s easy to remember, so Mil is good, don’t you think? Right, Mil?”
Grail briskly gave an okay. The baby fox also wagged its tail in approval. Though it might just have been their imagination, its eyes looked to be gleaming, looking happy.
“Is it okay? The name I thought up…… I-I’m happy.”
“Anyway, Vice-Captain, you never told us that you were feeding it. Why were feeding it in secret for. Unfair.”
“I just didn’t tell you because you never asked.”
“That kid is the idol of the Northern Fort, you’re monopolising it. Unfair. Low.”
Kix’s good point is that he is friendly to anyone. That is also his bad point.
When Vice-Captain said, “How about training after a night shift,” he finally shut up. However, he did not seem dejected. With an energetic voice, he called out to the baby fox.
“Come here, Mil~!”
Seeing Kix approaching it without hesitation, the baby fox hid behind Grail’s legs again.
“Stop. Don’t scare it.”
“Don’t raise your voice like that.”
Tina and Grail simultaneously warned Kix.
“Sorry…… but I still want to touch it. It looks so fluffy.”
Kix crouched down and stared at the baby fox with a boyish expression.
Feeling that gaze, the baby fox curled up even more. It was almost as though its heartbeats could be heard where Tina was.
“It takes time to get close to Mil. She didn’t open up to me yet either.”
When Tina said that a little sadly, the baby fox peeked out and let out a cry -kyunkyun- as if she was making an excuse.
She didn’t know what the baby fox was trying to say. But she knew that its cries are cute. That was a fact.
Then, Tina and others talked for some more time, but when the baby fox started getting tense because there were more people started coming into the dining hall, Grail stood up.
“Now, I’ll get it… get Mil back to the room. It still doesn’t seem used to having people around her.”
When Grail went to return the food trays, the baby fox followed in panic. Maybe it was afraid if it wasn’t near Grail, since it was moving its short legs desperately, which was also lovely.
At the counter, the chef asked, “Was the food nice?” The baby fox flinched a bit from the low voice, but she quickly let about a cry,
“It’s as if it’s replying.”
“How does it know that it’s being talked to?”
Observing that, Tina and Kix gave their impressions. The two of them were still here for breakfast, but Grail quickly left after returning the trays and having a short conversation with the chef.
The knights stared as they left the dining hall. Since they knew the circumstances well unlike Kix, they were quietly observing.
The baby fox became a source of joy for the Northern Fort which did not have much in terms of entertainment. Tina thought so as she saw the men whose expressions had melted as they watched the baby fox.
In this land trapped by snow, it was always somehow depressing, but it was different this winter.
Just from seeing the baby fox chase after Grail, everyone softened. From seeing it move busily, the mood brightened.
However, seeing Grail only slow down not pick the baby fox up even when he saw it chasing after him desperately, Tina smiled wryly because it was so like Grail.
If it was me, I would have gladly hugged it, but that wouldn’t help the baby fox, Tina thought.
Grail was being both strict and kind because he knew that it had to return to nature some time.
“By the way, does the Branch Captain know?”
While seeing Grail and the baby fox off, Kix asked.
“Vice-Captain must have made a report, no? Even if he didn’t, I think he would within the day.”
“I see. I want to see how ‘The Icy Branch Captain’ would react when he sees that baby fox.”
Kix said with a grin.
The tragedy of the fox cub and the unmanageable clothes.
I was named.
The female knight Tina named me.
My name here is ‘Mil’. It’s Mil from Milk, but coincidentally it was the same as my real name Milfiria.
Since I’m not able to talk yet, I couldn’t introduce myself, so I was happy that I was called by the name Mother gave me, even if was a coincidence.
I was glad that I wasn’t getting called ‘Shiro’ because I’m white, or ‘Chibi’ because I’m small, or something simplistic like that.
Well, Mil from Milk is pretty simple too.
But still, getting called Chibi but growing big is a bit awkward, you know?
Anyhow, I safely escaped from the crowded dining hall and was following the one-eyed knight through the hallways with quick footsteps.
When I encountered someone on the narrow aisle, I hid myself as much as possible behind the one-eyed knight’s legs. Meeting strangers is nerve-wracking.
I wasn’t like this in my previous life, but I am afraid of strangers in this life. Maybe it’s because I only saw Mother since I was born.
The one-eyed knight was saluted by everyone passing by. Maybe he has a high position. Also, he was called ‘Vice-Captain’.
Come to think of it, I still don’t know his name.
We returned to his room. The one-eyed knight took his shirt off, and was preparing for work.
Will he take me along? Or am I to stay here?
While thinking that, I silently observed the one-eyed knights actions. It’s not going to be fun staying here, so if possible I want to accompany him.
“I’ll come back once, at noon.”
I looked at him with expectant eyes, but it was in vain. The one-eyed knight said that, looking down here while preparing for work.
My ears and my tail visibly drooped.
“I’m going out patrolling this morning with my subordinates. You can’t ride a horse.”
The one-eyed knight smiled slightly.
I can ride a horse. If you life me up, I’ll balance myself. Also, I’m quite friendly with the horses at the stables.
However, I do realise that I might bother him if I’m there. I’ll behave well.
I gave up and headed to my bed, the basket with a blanket.
Then, the one-eyed knight hastily came over here.
“I’ll be back by noon.”
He said that and patted my head.
I heard that already.
After that, he patted me for about five more minutes, then headed to work with slightly sad looking eyes.
“I’ll be back by noon.”
I know, I know. It’s the third time I’m hearing it.
I’ll be a good kid until noon.
The moment the one-eyed knight left the room, I climbed into bed. What a lovely body not related in any way to insomnia.
However, I did sleep well yesterday, so I couldn’t sleep until noon.
I woke up about an hour later — though this is just a guess since there weren’t any clocks — and rolled around on the blanket or chewed on the basket handles. However…
I’m bored to death!
If I at least had a toy. In the one-eyed knight’s room, there wasn’t anything like a toy.
I climbed out of bed and stared out the window. However, I could only see the sky. It’s because the window is placed quite high.
In the morning, it was clear, but now thick clouds covered the sky and pouring snow down. Big and wide ones.
Flutter, flap flap, flutter.
When I stared at the snow, my tail started wagging on its own. I could find a pattern to the wagging. Watching snow fall makes me excited. Though I don’t feel that when rain falls making a *saa* sound.
I joyfully looked out the window for a bit, but ultimately got tired of doing that so next I looked around the room.
I wanted to play around so I climbed onto the one-eyed knight’s big bed. It’s soft and fluffy so it’s fun. However, the bed was full of the one-eyed knight’s smell, and that was a bit embarrassing so I hurriedly came down. What am I doing.
The next target is the table by the window. I could see documents, a feather pen and an ink bottle on top of the table. There were also some old, thick books.
Come to think of it, I wonder if I can read the letters of this country?
I got interested, so I first tried to climb the chair. Since I don’t yet have the jumping power to climb directly onto the table.
I first put my paws on the chair and hopped many times, trying to get up.
But it wasn’t going very well. My hind legs, do your best!
Let’s get up now! I jumped with all my strength. At the same time, I supported my weight with my forelegs.
The upper half of my body made it up, but the lower half was still hanging midair. I rapidly fluttered my legs midair to climb up with the momentum.
If I become careless, I’ll fall right away.
Uooh, to your best, my forelegs! Life up the lower half!
When I somehow managed to climb up the chair, I felt a sense of accomplishment. My forelegs trembled.
Thankfully, climbing onto the table from the chair was easier since the height difference wasn’t that much.
The scenery from the top of the table was somewhat fresh. Looking from a high ground made me excited.
Now then… I thought and headed to the books. I tried to read the letters on the covers, but I couldn’t. It’s as if someone took the latin alphabet and made it more complicated. I don’t remember seeing this in my previous life either.
So I need to study properly. What was that… I was wondering if I can read it with the spirit’s power — going -paa- — or something, but it’s impossible, I see.
Indeed, it wasn’t as though I understood the spoken language either. I practiced from listening to Mother, or so should I say. However, I do think that my learning ability was better than human babies. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a spirit or if it’s because I have knowledge from my previous life.
I opened the book on top skilfully with my nose. The smell of paper wet with ink spread.
I traced the letters with my eyes. Yup, I don’t know!
When I grow older, I’ll learn from Mother.
I gave up on reading and turned around on the small table. To go back down on the chair, and onto the floor.
However, when I turned around, my front foot collided with something small and hard. The thing kicked by me was a bottle of ink that wasn’t closed properly.
Needless to say, ink is liquid. It’s not very viscous either. So the moment I knocked it over, the ink started spreading over the table. I couldn’t stop it.
Also, ink is black. There’s nothing blacker that it.
I merely stared at the black thing spill over important documents.
I heard that people actually become calm in emergencies.
While watching the black ink seep into the white paper and the wooden table, I only calmly watched and thought, “Ah, what should I do…” My brain wasn’t admitting the fact that ink was spilled.
After the ink arrived near the books, my brain finally started working. I pushed the books with my nose to put it far away from the menace of ink.
However, I pushed too much and they fell off the table.
-basabasabasa- With impressive sounds, the books fell on the floor. My brain stopped working again.
It’s okay, it’s okay.
I consoled myself and cautiously peeked down below from the table. There, I saw the the horrible corpses of the books that were forced to perform death leaps. Ah…
For now, I came down as well. I can’t do anything about the ink that was already spilled on the table. It can’t be saved.
However, reorganising the scattered books would be possible for me, with my front feet that have paws.
With the tip of my nose, with my mouth and front feet, I organised the books on the floor. I also properly closed the books that flipped open when they fell on the floor.
While working I noticed something.
The books were soiled with ink.
Strange. I did drop them from the table, but I thought I saved them from the black menace.
But I soon found out the ugly cause of this tragedy.
Could my front paws… be dyed black with ink…
Stupidly enough, it seems that I failed to realise that my feet were soaked in ink.
I swallowed hard. My heart beat fast.
It’s okay, it’s okay.
Even as I trembled nervously, I looked around the room.
The floor, the chair, wherever I walked, black paw prints dirtied the room.
On the table, the ink was dripping down from the table on the floor, making its mark.
This is… Well…
Calm down, calm down.
I have to make up for it, let’s run my little brain on full power.
It doesn’t seem like something so convenient like tissues exist in this world. There isn’t even a rag in the room. Even if there was one, I won’t be able to handle it well with my hands, and I won’t be able to wipe away all the ink.
It will merely continue to spread.
Cold sweat formed on my paws.
W-W-W-What should I do!!
At this rate, the one-eyed knight will become angry. I have to clean this up before he comes back!
I anxiously walked back and forth on the spot.
However, I saw that the floor was getting dirtier from that, so I hurriedly stopped moving. It’s better to not move rashly. My legs are currently cursed by ink. Let’s not spread the damage.
Ink spilling from the table, documents dyed in black, traces of black pawprints on the chair, the floor and the scattered books…
From this devastating scene, I just wanted to cover my eyes.
The icy Branch Captain.
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 him, 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 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 sing 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,” said he, 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 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 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.
Free time in the lounge.
Mr. Branch Captain’s secret face.
At the northern fort
Proof of Trust.
Child of flame.
Lots of guardians.
ty for help cleaning one of the pictures, soli!