Chapter 6: Encounter at the Watering Hole
After finishing the morning training while feeling drowsy, I was eating lunch with Riley when I said,
“Oh… I forgot to give the laundry staff the sweat towel.”
When I said this, Riley looked at me while drinking his squid soup.
“Why don’t you just go give it to the staff now? It’s pretty tough to use the same sweat towel from the morning to the afternoon.”
“I think so too…”
When I checked the wall clock, the lunch break was already half over.
“The laundry staff will probably be withdrawing by this time… I’ll wash this sweat towel myself. See you later, Riley.”
I stuffed the remaining bread into my mouth and stood up.
“Okay, see you at training.”
I lightly waved to Riley, who had called out to me, and quickly left the place.
In the Knight’s Order of the Duke of Moore, there are various positions such as cook, server, and bath attendant,and so on, and their responsibilities rotate every week.
It seems that in other knight’s orders in other territories, they hire servants to do such tasks, but there is no such servant in the Knight’s Order of the Duke of Moore.
It is because they want to cultivate the strength to take care of themselves, such as during expeditions or camping, on a daily basis.
The laundry staff is also one of them, and it is customary to wash sweat towels during the lunch break and clothes after training.
Additionally, it is a rule to wash one’s own laundry if it is not the designated laundry.
As expected, the laundry staff had already withdrawn, and the water place was quiet.
I heard the faint noise of knights from a distance as I fetched water.
When I squeezed the sweat towel tightly in the bucket, the dirt spread out in the clear water I had just drawn.
As I was washing clothes with single-minded concentration, a figure appeared at my side.
I thought it was probably someone from the knight’s order and continued washing the clothes without paying much attention, but when the figure didn’t move, I looked up in surprise.
And as soon as I recognized the person’s face, I was struck with a shock as if the world had stopped.
The figure had sleek, glossy hair, deep sapphire-colored eyes like the sea, and smooth, porcelain-like skin. The gaze from his drooping eyes conveyed a deep intelligence.
Though not flashy, the figure had a refined facial structure that became more captivating the more you looked at it.
Though his face looked younger than what I knew, there was no mistake.
This person was…
Without thinking, I whispered his name and he raised his gaze from the bucket and looked towards me.
His eyes were slightly open.
“Do you know who I am?”
Unable to deny it after calling his name, I nodded.
“I don’t often go outside because I’m sickly, so there shouldn’t be many people who know my face within the territory…”
Saying this, William-sama had a suspicious expression.
Hearing this, I inwardly sweat and said,
“…I am just an apprentice, but as a member of Duke Moore’s knight order, I am familiar with the faces of the people from the Duke’s house.”
After looking at me for a moment, William-sama narrowed his eyes and said,
“I see… you are very studious.”
I wondered why William-sama, someone I should be protecting, was here.
I thought I might be dreaming, but no matter how many times I blinked, the scene in front of me didn’t change.
… Apparently, this is real.
William-sama, who wouldn’t have known what I was thinking, turned his gaze back to the bucket and started to speak.
That was when it happened.
“Duke Moore, let’s go to the Knight Commander and hear what he has to say, instead of speaking with such a person.”
A man with a high-pitched voice echoed through the water area.
Surprised, I looked behind William-sama and saw a tall man with a butler-like appearance staring at me with stern eyes.
There were also several other people dressed like servants standing nearby, all looking at the man who had spoken with surprised expressions.
“You must not approach such a dirty person. Duke Moore already has limited time to be outside, so it’s important to use it wisely. You don’t have time to talk to a dirty apprentice who is washing sweaty clothes, do you?”
The man finished speaking and fell silent, snorted.
A sharp silence enveloped the area and the other servants looked at each other with uneasy expressions.
William-sama looked at the servants for a moment, but when they didn’t say anything more, he turned his whole body towards the man.
“…It seems like you have a misunderstanding.”
The man tried to speak, but was struck by William-sama’s strong gaze and inhaled sharply.
“The reason we are able to live our daily lives is thanks to the knights who maintain public order. Whether they are the knight commander or an apprentice knight, their roles may be different, but their efforts to maintain public order do not change… Yes, the person there is covered in dirt. However, that is evidence that he has been training hard.”
William-sama gave me a sidelong glance and shot the man again.
He spoke in a quiet voice.
“Can’t you see his battered body? Does it look dirty to you, covered in wounds, covered in smoke and dirt, going through all that training? Really?”
The man froze for a moment, his face tense, but eventually he bit his lip and lowered his head.
“…Thank you for caring about this weak body of mine. But you just said something you shouldn’t have. I hope you’ll think carefully about what you said later.”
William-sama was looking down at the kneeling butler, but suddenly turned to me.
“Is this sweat towel yours?”
Asked and pressured, I nodded silently.
“I see… It’s heavily soiled. I’m sure you go through grueling training every day. I respect you for being able to endure such harsh training at the same age as me.”
Then he slightly distorted his handsome face and whispered to me,
“Sorry for making you feel uncomfortable.”
And he left the water area with the other servants.
I was standing there in a daze, but the bell for the start of training rang, and I hurried to the training field.
That night, I couldn’t fall asleep even when it was deep into the night.
What I remembered was the sight of William-sama at the water area today.
(William-sama was alive)
I had heard that the heir to the Duke of Moore’s family was named William.
(Was the heir to the Duke of Moore really the William-sama I knew? I wasn’t sure)
William was “him.”
The “him” I knew was definitely alive in this world.
As that fact sank in, my heart was swept up in a wave of joy.
(Glad… I’m glad, I’m glad, I’m glad, I’m glad!!)
My heart was screaming with joy.
(William-sama is alive! He’s definitely alive in this world! He’s alive…!)
I was so happy that I couldn’t help but cover my face with my hands.
Although I couldn’t fall asleep for a while, tossing and turning, my tired body must have wanted rest, because eventually my consciousness sank into darkness.