Inexplicable Rumors—Kai Lodos
The next day at noon, several Radols showed up with the people who delivered lunch. They had slips of paper in their hands and wanted the prisoners to write their name and select their future choice.
There were three choices.
One was to return back to their country with a letter from the Radols. They would thus swear to cause no further harm to any and all Radols.
The second was to side with the Radols. As such, they would not be able to return home until the war with the kingdom ended, however, they would be treated normally. No warm hospitality, but no cold shoulders either. After a certain amount of time had passed, they would receive the rights and duties of a normal citizen within the Radol territory.
The third stated that the first two options were limited only to those who hadn’t committed any crimes against the Radols in the past. Those who had done so would be subject to Radol trials and punished accordingly.
Naturally, chaos descended onto the prisoners.
Basically, the Radols were saying that they’d consider allowing Kai and the other prisoners to side with them.
The prisoners of war consisted of first and second division soldiers.
The second division soldiers consisted of outsiders who had lost their homes to the kingdom and thus had no particular attachment. At most their families might be held hostage.
On the other hand, Kai as well as the other first division soldiers, were true soldiers of the kingdom. Staying here meant throwing their motherland aside, and the ones they’d be siding with were the Radols who had killed many of their own people. It wasn’t that difficult of a choice.
“What are you going to do Kai?” asked Martha. Kai didn’t know when Martha had snuck up on him.
Ever since Martha had become a prisoner of war, his previous arrogance had disappeared as if it were never there and he often came to talk to Kai.
“No other choice but to return.”
“You’ll be executed!”
Kai was an officer with commoner origins. He’d be a perfect scapegoat for the lost war. Once he returned home, he’d be court-martialed and executed.
“Then why?” Martha asked.
“I have to.”
His grandfather and grandmother were still alive. Remaining here would mean treason, and that stupid law would have his entire family executed. He couldn’t let that happen.
Besides, another officer would have to take the blame. Now that Kai had took on Martha’s responsibilities, he couldn’t just push them off to someone else.
“Geez, you’re so—” Martha began but was cut off by some shouting.
“Remaining here would mean treason! I have no other options! There’s nothing, alright!” yelled Riemann Chardonnay, one of the few remaining senior  officers.
Some people agreed with him, but most soldiers hung their heads down awkwardly.
Kai finally figured out what the Radols were up to.
Basically, they wanted information on the kingdom. That’s why the Radols brought these soldiers into their own camps. That’s why they kept serving that ridiculously good food every day.
Under the Radols, even prisoners would be able to eat well.
Many soldiers here were still attached to their motherland, but they knew how terrifying it could be.
Any soldiers of commoner origin that had waltzed back in after defeat wouldn’t receive any compensation. At worst, they’d get slapped with treason and be imprisoned. Their life would be full of jeers and rocks being thrown at them. They had seen it happen to others after all.
Of course, staying here would be betraying the kingdom, so it wasn’t an option that anyone with family back home could take.
Recently, however, several villages had been razed to the ground to prevent the spread of smallpox and many didn’t even have homes to return to. No matter what reason the kingdom might have had, it was their enemy. The kingdom had killed their family and friends. Their choice was obvious.
And if any of them had information on the kingdom’s plans—
“So they took us in to make use of the kingdom’s internal turmoil? That Wise Mountain King of theirs is a crafty one,” Roze said in admiration.
“What about your former subordinate Tosh?”
“His entire village was razed because of smallpox.”
From what Kai had heard, Roze didn’t see Tosh’s betrayal coming at all and welcomed the Radol forces into Fort Arkroy’s first division.
He wouldn’t have been surprised to see her furious when she found out, but she didn’t seem to hold any grudges against Tosh.
Her hometown was one of the few that had been destroyed by the kingdom, so she probably would have done it herself if Tosh hadn’t.
“Why do you think they’re taking us in Kai?” asked Roze.
“For an all-out war, of course.”
The fact that the Radols are already trying to get every last detail about the kingdom proves that they’re already considering a war against them.
And the kingdom had only one way to fight back against those abnormal weapons: The Seven Petals Knight Battalion led by Hero Shichika. Currently, they were a group of outsiders under the protection of the hero. And there was a rumor that the hero had a trump card.
Kai didn’t doubt for a second that it would turn into an all-out war.
“Everyone, this is an evil and foolish plan that savages thought up. We need to return back to our kingdom and reinvade these savages!!” shouted Riemann Chardonnay in a trance. He raised a fist into the air, but this time, nobody agreed.
Of course they didn’t: anyone who had experienced that nightmare would never dare to attack this land again.
“So that’s how I looked like just a while earlier……” Martha pitifully trailed off. He shook his head and headed off towards the cafeteria. Really though, Martha’s changed. It was like an entire part of his personality had disappeared.
“Bold of you to say that when all you did was hide.” a woman remarked with disdain. A female soldier with short black hair, who had been entranced by Riemann until recently, was standing right next to Kai.
According to Roze, Senior Officer Riemann-dono had been enjoying the pleasures of the night with that girl when the Radols had attacked. He had hid in his room under the bed and used her as a decoy, prioritizing his own safety above anything else, and mixed in with the soldiers once the commotion died down where he was taken in as a prisoner.
Having hid in his room the entire time, Riemann didn’t witness that hellish landscape. He didn’t realize how terrifying the Radols really were.
“Still, he’s really changed.”
When Riemann had first entered the army, he spoke politely to Kai and the other superior officers of commoner origin. He often asked them for advice and his character was so admirable that one wouldn’t think he was a high-rank noble. But all that had changed in just a few years. The kingdom’s army was truly rotten.
“Listen up! Our kingdom’s pride is on the line. It’s a holy war!” Riemann gloated as he raised his arms. “Throw away your cowardice and egotism! Stake your life for his Majesty and the Hero Shichika-sama!”
There wasn’t anybody as unfit to say those words as Riemann. In fact, Kai could barely hold in his laughter.
And it wasn’t just Kai, but everyone in the room, so they all just ignored Riemann and headed off for the cafeteria.
“Let’s go. We haven’t eaten yet,” said Roze.
“Right,” Kai said, and they followed the crowd into the cafeteria.
His head still fuzzy, Kai looked up to see one of his subordinates shaking his body.
“Oh, it’s you, Nils. Sorry, I’m still sleepy. Come again tomorrow.”
“Geez! Officer Kai!”
The owner of the voice grabbed his collar and shook him up in order to wake him. He opened his eyes to see the female soldier with short black hair from before.
Kai had been picked up by Wimp and rose all the way to an officer. Nils was one of his subordinates, and Kai sometimes gave advice to her and Roze.
“What’s up? Is this about Riemann again? You’re not a kid anymore. Have the people related to the problem deal with it.”
“That’s not it! Well, it’s not totally unrelated, but……”
She was beating around the bush, but one look at her determined face was enough to tell him that this was a serious matter.
“What happened?” Kai asked.
The female soldier, Nils, gripped her fists.
“After Riemann’s speech yesterday, I gave a testimony that he had been among the chaos!!”
“Ah, yes. That’s where he used you as a decoy before shamelessly surrendering, right? Didn’t you say that earlier?”
“Yes, that’s what I had thought until just a moment ago. I mean, he immediately hid under the bed and ran away the moment he found a chance to. That’s what I said, but now that I think about it, there’s something strange.”
“Strange? Take a deep breath and collect your thoughts.”
Nils took several deep breaths before starting again. “Like Riemann had said, we didn’t run into any enemies on our way to the refuge he had talked about!”
“But in the end, there was an ambush there, right?”
“Yes, but that’s not the problem……”
So that’s what it was. Kai began to piece together what she was trying to say.
“It’s strange that you didn’t run into any enemies on your way there, correct?” Kai said.
“Yes, I thought we wouldn’t be able to run away when those nightmarish explosions drew closer. But I’m safe, and I made it to the refuge.”
“And it wouldn’t have been possible without a decoy?”
Nils gulped and nodded.
“But that’s strange. If Riemann was the decoy, there’s no way he could have lived.”
If he unconditionally surrendered, he wouldn’t have served as a decoy. According to Nils’s assumptions, Riemann must have drawn the attention of the Radol soldiers, who wouldn’t let someone like him escape. So he was definitely dead.
Nils bit her lip and grasped at her coat while trembling.
Kai had a bad feeling about this. Things weren’t adding up. It was a unique kind of discomfort.
“Nils, answer me!”
“Today, one of the soldiers in the third squad told me that they saw Riemann on the floor with blood pouring out of his chest……”
“But he’s completely healthy? Were they sure it was Riemann?”
“Yes, but he’s changed as of late. Sometimes he was so arrogant and cold it was like he was another person, but other times he clung to me and trembled like a child…”
He had been fastidious before suddenly becoming engulfed in lust. And the day after, she noticed that he had become violent. His personality was too different. This was one of the rumors that the other senior officers had been whispering about.
If, like that soldier had said, Riemann was already dead……how idiotic. Then who was the person he saw today? It was impossible.
Kai shook his head several times before grabbing her shoulders. “Tomorrow I’ll start looking into Senior Officer Riemann-dono, so go back to your room and get some rest for now.”
Somewhere along the line, Nils had begun to cry. After managing to soothe her down, Kai gave Roze a brief rundown and left Nils in her care.
The personalities of Riemann and the other senior officers had changed too much. And while he had testimonies that Riemann was dead, he was alive the next day. Kai couldn’t ignore the intense unease that nagged at him.
Several more days passed, and the Radols came into the prison camp, ordering for about ten people to come for investigation. Among the ones who accepted were Riemann, Nils, Kai, Roze, and Martha.
Since the Radols were on edge, Kai had a good idea about what he would be asked— probably something about criminal acts towards Radols.
“Officer Kai……” whispered Nils, uneasily glancing at Kai.
“It’ll be alright. They’re just suspicious. Nothing will happen immediately,” he assured her as an intense unease ravaged his thoughts.
 Changed high-rank to senior