「What…the hell is that…..」
After hearing my words Kuu’s eyes filled with tears and she collapsed to her knees.
She battered the ground with her hands.
「Father said….he said we’d fight to the end….we had escaped but they would….do their best to drive away the Empire….they would call us back someday…and we could retake our everyday lives…」
「Father was a liar!! If they did this then they intended to die from the start! They all knew they would die…why did they have to go this far!? It would’ve been fine if we all ran away together! We could all still laugh and live together! Their lives, their feelings, and even the entire Village…why did they do such a thing!」
I’m sure Kuu must’ve suspected this…but deep in her heart she hoped and prayed that they were still alive.
Her mind must have been in a mess seeing such everything in such shambles.
「Father’s a dummy…talking about Fire Fox pride…our cheap pride that got everyone mixed up in this…made them die to kill the Imperial Soldiers….it was already more than enough for them to buy us some time. It would’ve been fine as long as they did it properly and ran away after they finished. They could have grouped up with us later and ended things without dying. Isn’t this just dying meaninglessly!?」
「Kuu…I can’t allow you to say those words.」
I smacked her cheek.
Of course I held back. It made a loud sound but it should have barely hurt.
After the slapping sound Kuu’s white cheek flushed red.
I couldn’t allow Kuu to say they died meaninglessly. If she said that then what was the point of them fighting to their deaths.
「If you were just a young girl Kuu I could forgive those words. But what are you Kuu? You’re the Fire Fox Chief right? You were trained for such a thing and you have a good enough mind for it. You abandoned your thoughts, decided that it was some cheap pride, spoke ill of them that their deaths were meaningless, and dirtied the dignity of the deceased. To ignore their feelings and their intentions as they died!? Then they would have truly died for nothing!」
Kuu’s eyes widened as she held her burning cheek.
It seems she couldn’t believe that I hit her.
「Kuu…do you think that the women and children unused to travel could escape Imperial forces? Much less if the men left behind ended their struggle earlier and they were chasing after them as well?」
「Then what if most of the buildings in the village were fine when the Soldiers invaded? Do you think the Empire would convert this place into a base so they could more easily pursue you?」
「…….I think they would….」
Now that the village was so devastated the soldiers were forced to continue camping out in tents instead. They could not utilize any of the village’s resources.
「What is the goal of the Empire?」
「To get magic stones.」
「That’s right. However, this attack didn’t earn them a single magic stone. Since your Father and the rest resorted to such desperate measures when cornered it will force the Empire to be more hesitant in their actions from now on.」
The Empire’s goal this time was to subjugate the Fire Foxes, not to destroy them.
They simply wanted fire magic stones.
But when they attacked and cornered the Fire Foxes, the Fire Foxes committed a suicide attack to prevent them from getting anything.
This invasion didn’t obtain a single magic stone. It was completely not worth the effort.
The Empire won the war if you only observed the result of the battle…but with the great loss of funds, soldiers, and with not a single bit of profit gained you could only say that the Fire Foxes surpassed them.
「Your father did his best to reduce the soldiers they had, crush their opportunity to create a base, and even further completely destroyed the very reason for the Empire’s attack. They fought against their fears and squeezed out the last bits of their courage. Do you have any idea how painful that decision was!? Yet you ignored all of this to focus on your own sorrow and trampled their feelings underfoot.」
Kuu raised her face and glared at me with some animosity.
「Father didn’t tell us anything! How could I know this just by looking at our burnt out village!? My home gone! Everything burnt to ashes! My mind is a mess!」
Kuu laid her own weakness bare to me. Her age and body was that of a mature girl, but suddenly she seemed like a small child.
「Even so, I know that Father would only do what was necessary. But…even then….I wanted to be together with everyone. I wanted them to run. I wanted to meet them again someday! Is that so wrong!?!」
Tears poured down her face.
Kuu’s words were quite natural. Anyone would want to be with their family and friends laughing and living.
No one wanted to die.
No one wanted to be separated.
However, I couldn’t allow this.
「Yes it’s wrong. Right now you have the lives of 50 people on your shoulders. You can’t abandon rationality to emotional wreckage. You have to analyze the situation. If your father had such naive spoiled thoughts then both you and the rest of the Fire Foxes would be captured and made into toys for the Empire. It’s because he crushed his emotions down and sought the very best for you that you can be here.」
「I…I can’t do that kind of thing…….are you saying you can Cyril-kun?」
For a while now she had been calling me Cyril-kun instead of Cyril-sama.
Her emotional state was too battered to keep up her facade.
Kuu’s question was a simple one.
I unhesitatingly answered.
「I can. That’s why I am the Leader of Erucy. That’s what I seek from the Leader of the Fire Foxes as well. That leader is you Kuu.」
Kuu looked at me desperately seeking for help.
She must’ve wanted me to give her a push.
「Kuu…I already decided to help you where I could. However, you can’t abandon your duties to me. If your will isn’t strong enough you can quit and throw away the title of Chief…you can just live as a normal Fire Fox.」
「But…without me the rest will…」
「I’ll take care of all of them.」
It was the last resort.
「It will make it difficult for the Fire Foxes to live as equals with the Elves in Erucy…It’d be much too easy for the Fire Foxes to end up used by the Elves in this situation…I mean it can’t be helped right? Since you can’t think for yourselves you will turn into tools. Without a representative or leader you’re simply refugees. I can only give appropriate treatment.」
Not thinking, simply opening their mouths and waiting. It was also a valid way of using the Fire foxes.
「You won’t have to think about the others anymore Kuu, I’ll give you jobs and orders from beginning to end. Even when fighting the Empire I’ll use you well. That’s the minimum guarantee I can give. How about I solve the lack of population for the Fire Foxes as well?
I had a way that would maintain respect for both parties but it feels like too much effort now. I’ll just make a brothel for you. I’ll forget about the minimum guarantee for now. In exchange for sleeping with the elf customers you can get food and protection…how about it?
Just by sleeping with some people you can eat til you’re full. Those who don’t do so we can feed so they don’t starve.
Fire Foxes and Elves are quite beautiful after all. Many elven women have a strong sense of virtue so I’m sure there’s a demand for some easy women they can sleep with freely. I’d stop by too.
When the new Fire Foxes are born you all can take care of them so it doesn’t bother us elves. Once you get pregnant you can’t work so we’ll provide some special pregnancy meals. You like you’ll be popular Kuu so I’m sure you’ll have plenty of kids. Good for you right? The Fire Foxes can live peacefully like this!」
「That’s just living as slaves for you elves!」
Kuu shouted furiously.
Certainly that’s true. It was slave treatment not treatment as a citizen of Erucy.
「That is what it means to abandon your ability of self-determination. If you don’t like it then think of what you can do. Worry over what you can do to protect yourselves. Then show me what you are worth as the Leader of Erucy.
If your plan has greater merit than what I mentioned then I can treat you as equals.
You don’t have to think of it on your own Kuu…you can ask the other Fire Foxes. If you plan to work hard then I can even lend you a hand.」
「Cyril-kun…why’d you say such terrible things…?」
「I didn’t say anything cruel. I just brought up common practice. Plus I only said it because I believe in you Kuu. Let me ask one more time…are you going to run away from this Kuu?」
Kuu wiped the tears from her eyes fiercely.
Then she turned to me with red eyes.
「I am…the Fire Fox Chief. I’ll protect everyone.」
「I see…then forget what I said. We’ll move with the plan that respects your rights.」
「…..Cyril-kun is similar to Father….」
Kuu hadn’t fully recovered but her gaze had softened a bit.
She spoke with a peevish tone.
「Stubborn, obstinate, stern, high-handed…」
She said pointedly.
I’d gotten hot-headed and lectured her.
「however you’re righteous, prudent, and in truth nice. Fundamentally a soft-hearted person…altogether just like him.」
「Well…I am the Chief. In a sense I am everyone’s father.」
I said and Kuu snickered a bit.
「I won’t stop thinking. I won’t shed my emotions. But if it gets too painful could you help support me?」
「That’s fine. If you’re working hard Kuu I’ll support you.」
「Is that for Erucy’s sake?」
「Of course…but also as your friend Kuu.」
「You even told me not to act based on emotion…how unfair.」
「I said not to make decisions solely based on emotions, but I never said to ignore your emotions entirely. If you ignore emotions then you fail as a leader. If your reason and emotions are in alignment then you can do your work happily. You should go forth full force!」
「Just before you said you’d treat the Fire Foxes harshly ignoring feelings…」
「If I treated you practically then it would seem fairly humane on the surface.」
That was the end of that conversation.