133. Undecided (3)
As Wolf followed Ellin to Tom’s office, Lulu, who was watching them, felt uncomfortable, thinking that he might have made another mistake. Ellin stopped before the door, opened it slightly, and peeked into the room. Tom, Oskal, and Akareal were having a conversation in a solemn atmosphere. It seemed difficult for her to butt in.
“It seems they are busy. Is it about diplomacy?”
“…No. It’s nowhere near diplomacy.”
Surprised, Ellin looked up at Wolf.
“You can hear their conversation?”
“Werewolves have good hearing.”
“Then tell me what they’re talking about.”
“Why don’t you just go in?”
“But I don’t want to interrupt. It hasn’t even been long since the war ended. I’m afraid I might ruin the contributions I’ve made if I just uselessly butt in.”
Her reputation was finally on the rise. She had even gotten praised by Tom, so she didn’t want to ruin everything.
Wolf pricked up his ears and said, “…It’s something private.”
“I’ll tell you literally. He said, ‘What are you?’”
“‘What’? Is he talking about Tom?” Ellin tilted her head.
Well, humans would indeed wonder what Tom was. Even Ellin herself didn’t understand anything about him. She had no idea whether he was a human, a demon, or something else; what he liked and hated, and even what his past was, it seemed like nobody knew. The only thing she knew was his name, and everything else was unclear. Ellin frowned.
‘Come to think of it, I haven’t been able to ask anything about Tom since I met him.’
Wolf kept eavesdropping and conveyed the conversation to Ellin.
“He said ‘You bastard, I heard you’re a doppelganger, though?'”
“That bastard? No. Doppelgangers can tell themselves apart…”
Ellin shook her head.
“Tom said, ‘Yes, I am.'”
“He’s lying…! I’ll eat my hat if he’s a Doppelganger!”
Ellin keenly caught Tom’s lie.
“‘Doppelganger? It seems like doppelgangers these days also copy others’ swordsmanship and read people’s minds, huh? Don’t lie! You bastard…'”
Ellin nodded at Wolf, who was narrating Oskal’s argument word-for-word.
‘Yes, of course, it was a lie. Where in the world would that kind of Doppelganger exist…’
“He said, ‘What is your relationship with Thoma?'”
Ellin’s expression hardened at those words.
Tom felt like pressing his temples while facing Oskal and Akareal, though he was trying to maintain a calm expression. They were ambassadors of an ally and a vassal state. According to common sense, they had to be polite, but Oskal put that idea on the back burner and pressured Tom.
“Why don’t you answer me? What’s your relationship with Thoma!”
“…I have no idea who that person called Thoma is. Ah, if I remember correctly, isn’t it the name of Your Highness’s colleague in the past…?” Tom smiled and looked at Akareal with a shameless expression, hoping that she would stop Oskal.
“…Yes, it is.”
Akareal nodded. But it didn’t seem like she was going to stop Oskal. She also found it strange in many ways after she listened to Oskal’s description.
Since Akareal refused to help him, Tom smacked his lips and said to Oskal, “…I don’t know anyone called Thoma.”
“Don’t play dumb. It doesn’t make sense unless you’re related to Thoma! His face, voice, attitude, behavior, habits…all of them are the same as yours!”
Tom smiled awkwardly.
“What are you doing by going around observing that person called Thoma so much? Between men? I didn’t know you were into that.”
Oskal realized what he said and waved his hands.
“…I don’t know what misunderstanding I’ve caused, but I’m talking about that bastard’s swordsmanship. Moreover, it’s no use trying to get out of this like that.” Oskal glared at Tom. It seemed as if he didn’t want to hear any joke. “On top of that, it’s not only your swordsmanship that is similar to his. Even that bastard’s strategy and way of thinking are exactly the same as yours! It’s so much like a copy that it’s strange!” Oskal crossed his arms. “Then there are also other possibilities, like you being his student or son. But he doesn’t have students. If there were any, it would be the kids of Abbey whom Akareal is taking care of, but those kids couldn’t learn anything from Thoma. You might also be his son if we take your resemblance into consideration… Still, a long time has passed. Even if he had a son, he wouldn’t have been this young.”
Tom leaned backward, as if he felt uncomfortable because of back pain. For Oskal, who had a simple mind, his thoughts went too deep. Tom wasn’t used to that.
“There’s something else too.” Oskal looked at Akareal. “…Akareal, the magic you researched on. Is it possible to save Thoma, who was dying, with that?”
“…It is. Also, it can keep one’s youth. But it’s impossible without a sacrifice.”
“Any other methods…?”
“I’m not sure. But…considering the Devil of Lania’s might, it’s probably a totally different power from the existing magic.”
Oskal knew about Akareal’s research to some extent, including the fact that she was keeping her youth…
Tom, who was listening to their conversation, broke out in a cold sweat. Although he could guess their thoughts, he still feigned ignorance.
“What the hell are you talking about…?”
Oskal went straight to it without beating around the bush as Tom smiled awkwardly.
“I’m asking if you’re ‘Thoma’ yourself. This damn bastard!”
Tom’s smile disappeared. He narrowed his eyes with an icy cold expression.
“There are not only one or two things that are strange. There’s something else in common between you and Thoma except for what I just said: the hate you both have for Pope Salem and the time the Devil of Lania appeared. Thoma was on Salem’s bad side, and he was tortured as a result. Something happened to Thoma, making him hate that bastard. And the day Thoma was released, the previous capital of the Holy Kingdom, Lania, collapsed. Reason? The Devil of Lania, you, appeared.”
Oskal shrugged his shoulders and fixed his gaze on Tom. He was glaring at him, as though he would bore a hole in him if he found anything unusual.
“Isn’t it strange? Too many things are overlapping to just write it off as a coincidence. You look like him, your swordsmanship is similar, your way of thinking is the same, and you both share a grudge against that damned Salem. Coincidences happen once or twice—okay, say around thrice at most, but still, this is…really strange? Isn’t it? Also, more than anything, there’s crucial evidence.”
While Tom was perplexed, Oskal smiled unpleasantly and said, “You testified when we fought. You called me ‘friend’.”
Tom’s cold expression loosened up. He smiled and shook his head, dejected.
“Ha…haha…that can’t be called evidence. It was a critical situation, and I might have said it to make you lower your guard by using your past and the fact that I look like the person called Thoma. Haven’t you thought about th…”
Tom trailed off while looking at Oskal. Oskal didn’t say anything, just keeping his eyes on Tom. Tom knew what his gaze meant. He wanted the ‘truth’—nothing else. Tom, who had the eyes that could see through lies and truths, knew how desperate Oskal was.
In the end, Tom closed his mouth and said a totally different thing, “…You really beat me, stupid, dull boy. It’s nice that you’re honest and simple, but…I hate how sometimes you’re really quick-witted. to the point it’s scary.” Oskal and Akareal’s eyes grew wide as saucers. “You were the same in the past, someone who couldn’t hold back. When you thought something was right, you would blindly try to butt in, even by being stubborn. Just how much I had a hard time whenever you did that…” Oskal’s jaw hung open, and Akareal covered her mouth with her trembling hands. “Sometimes, I couldn’t even get out of it. Various problems happened because of that personality. Well, since I can now call it a memory too… It wasn’t all that bad. Instead, it was really fun. There was also a time when Oskal, Akareal, Salem, and I, the four of us, formed a party and went on a thrilling adventure of subjugating the Demon Lord.”
Tom smiled brightly at the two shocked people.
“It’s really… been a long time. Oskal. Akareal.”
While holding a tray with tea and refreshments, Lulu looked at the duo standing in front of the office door. Wolf was whispering something in Ellin’s ear.
“What are you doing here? Mr. Wolf? Miss Ellin?”
Wolf was startled and looked down at Lulu.
“We’re out here because it seems like they’re having a serious conversation inside. The atmosphere just feels like we can’t barge into the room. I heard them talk, but I don’t understand what it’s about.”
“Isn’t that eavesdropping?! You can’t do that!” As Lulu rebuked him with an arguing tone, Wolf stroked the back of his neck. “Miss Ellin, you too. Please stop standing here and eavesdropping! As an Apostle, where’s your dignity…?” Lulu tilted his head while mumbling the end of his sentence. “Miss Ellin?”
Despite Lulu’s calls, Ellin just stood there in a daze while muttering to herself.
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