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Interlude 38.5.1 – Warm Wind and the Lord’s Afternoon Nap (Alfred’s Point of View)
Translator’s Note: So Author-san occasionally does chapters from the point of view from different characters. Readers, I’m gonna level with you. We’re doing third-person past tense from now on. We eased you into it by only switching to past tense last chapter. Please understand, that this is for my sanity.
The later part of this chapter is marked with ※. Please be careful that no one else is behind you (NSFW).
A gentle breeze blew in from the window.
The stormy weather that came in yesterday had passed, and the sky had become blue.
Alfred heard the quiet sounds of someone snoozing. He looked over to see the owner of the room, who was supposed to be reading a book, slumped into the cushions of the sofa in a deep slumber. His hands were still propped up, clutching the book.
His soft silver hair was fluttering in the wind. The collar and hems of his shirt made of soft and light fabric flittered along.
Alfred had been organizing paperwork for the Lord that had accumulated during their trip, but the scene in front of him brought that to a halt. He silently got up from the desk and approached the sofa.
He gently took the paperback book that was about to fall from Lian’s hands and set it down on the side table.
Alfred grabbed the throw blanket that was slipping off of Lian’s lap and gently lifted it to cover his shoulders.
He almost reached over to drape his jacket, which was still thrown over the back of the one-seater sofa, over Lian, but decided against it. It was rather warm today, and that might make him too hot.
The temperature today was especially scorching, as warm as the summer equinox.
Even with only a shirt on, just moving around in this broiling summer air had caused Alfred to sweat.
When Alfred stared into Lian’s face, he noticed how content he looked in his afternoon nap.
His eyebrows were softly relaxed, his mouth slightly agape, and his face had a look of tranquility.
Even the sofa shifting from the movement when Alfred had sat down next to him had not aroused Lian from his sleep.
He was clearly in a deep slumber.
Alfred brushed the bangs that covered his eyes away with his fingers, and Lian let out a comforted sigh.
The chest of Lian’s shirt was slightly open. The skin peeking out of his shirt had red marks scattered across the surface, even across the nape of his neck.
─The marks he made on Lian yesterday.
Last night, he had touched every inch of Lian’s body, but it still wasn’t enough.
If he didn’t mark every inch1 of Lian’s body he touched, he wouldn’t be satisfied.
When Alfred asked Lian to let him hold Lian until he was satisfied, Lian’s face had turned as red as a beet and he told Alfred that it was fine. It was clear he had made up his mind.2
It wasn’t until the dead of night that Alfred’s spirit had found peace, and in the embrace he sought contentment until Lian fainted.
Alfred held him tightly.
But no… no, it still hadn’t been enough.
The next time Lian woke up, he’d embrace him again.
Alfred anticipated that Lian waking to such a request would cause him to exclaim “That’s enough!” He had anticipated that such a request would make him red in the face and angry, but no, no. He had said it was fine.
Alfred had caressed his cheek with the back of his hand.
The soft warmth that was radiating gently from his skin was such a relief that it made Alfred want to cry.
Alfred’s relief: he finally had Lian home, back in his arms.
Alfred didn’t want to pray to the Goddess, so if there were another “good thing” he could pray to, he would.
If even one more day — no, if even one more hour had passed, he wouldn’t have been able to hold Lian in his arms like this.
When he thought about it, when he thought about that day, it had been his last chance to get Lian back.
That was because… because an elaborate-looking carriage had been parked in front of the branch of that cult.
For him, it was that day.
Honestly, Alfred had made it… At the very last moment, Alfred had made it.
He combed through Lian’s silky silver hair with his fingers as that day played out in his mind… He exhaled quietly so as not to wake Lian as he lay across his lap.
It all started when Alfred was picking and pollinating the flowers in the apple orchard. Mrs. Gouda had brought him a large bottle of apple wine.
As soon as he got back, Mrs. Cheddar rushed over, tears streaming down her face. She had told him that Lian had fallen ill with the plague.
It was so sudden that he couldn’t even comprehend it.
When the story was explained to him, he couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
Because it didn’t really add up, did it?
In the first place, he hadn’t heard of an epidemic of disease that was spreading. Also, the weather had become warm, like summer. What epidemic was flourishing in weather like this?
Dr. Kuma also had told him in a raspy voice that warm weather like this was when he had the fewest patients. In fact, he could get in the most naps because of that.
Something like that must be a two-sided story.
Alfred blamed himself, wondering how he could have overlooked the signs of Lian’s illness… He had wracked his brain, trying desperately to remember any possible sign of illness he could have missed. What had Lian looked like the last time he saw him?
But, no matter how he tried to recall every detail… there was nothing he could think of that would indicate illness.
The last time he saw Lian, he looked fine.
It was hard to believe that Lian had been sick.
The afternoon Lian disappeared, it was when he visited him on the ranch, bringing some sweets with him. He remembered it well because it was the last time he had seen him.
They had both eaten the sweets while sipping tea that the Mrs. had prepared, and then—
—Lian was playing a game, chasing the little ones around which was something he had always done at the orphanage.
He was running around in the pasture, chasing the little children.
They looked like they were having fun.
Lian, at that time, looked really healthy. He didn’t have a cough. He didn’t look flushed at all. He didn’t look like he was in pain. His complexion was clear. He wasn’t pale either… no, he didn’t look ill.
He didn’t look sick at all.
Still, if he were sick, was it possible he was just trying to hide it? Was he pushing himself too hard?
But even in that case, Lian was far too energetic for such a thing.
Lian had a strong appetite; he was hungry enough to eat a second serving of dinner.
Under those conditions, it was implausible that some illness came out of the blue and infected him.
Cheddar, who sat next to Alfred and listened to the story, groaned with a pained face. It was probably because Cheddar and Alfred were on the same page.
They both had been confused, a mixture of frustration and doubt. The wife, stubborn in her belief and who rarely ever cried, wept.
“Lian collapsed on the way to the capital. He was on his way to buy something. Fortunately, the Fortuna Order branch was nearby and took him in. They said he was in such a bad state that nobody could see him since he was so sick. He’s been under their care ever since.”
Her voice was fraught with sadness as she spoke.
—The Fortuna “Cult” Branch.
The moment Alfred heard those words, his heart started racing.
On the way to the capital, King’s Landing, there really was a Fortuna Order branch.
It was there─
The cult branch was perched halfway up the mountain. It was off the beaten path that led to the capital. It was much easier to head towards town on the other side of that road, unlike the steep hill towards the branch of the Order.
He had made deliveries to both places, and there were some decent doctors in that town.
It didn’t make sense that they would take the “deathly ill” Lian to that cult’s headquarters, which was far away from town with no skilled doctor.
The “healing light” that monks used could heal a lot of things, but it didn’t work on many illnesses.
The part of the story where he was on his way to the royal capital to buy something… Lian hadn’t told Alfred he was going to do that.
When Alfred asked him what plans he had that day, he said “nothing in particular.”
Alfred had never heard a word about him heading to the capital to buy something.
Why would Lian take a trip to the capital without telling him?
…That was when Alfred realized… Lian had lied to him.
It was a… “lie.”
Alfred was sure at some time he had told Lian it was okay to lie. So he wasn’t sure if he could really accuse him of mendacity.
Although Lian had said something that wasn’t the whole truth, Alfred had told him it was okay to “lie” if it was necessary.
—A necessary lie.
Lian had to have thought through this whole situation in his head, thought it necessary, and made the executive decision to lie to him.
—What could have made it a necessary lie?
When Alfred started thinking for what reason, he started having speculations that made him nervous. Guesses one after the other welled up from the bottom of his heart, causing it to overflow and spill into his chest, giving him such a nauseous feeling. His heart was racing, and now he was sick to his stomach.
He was so full of anxiety that his head was spinning; he couldn’t stay still—
He ran off, leaving Mrs. Cheddar in the middle of her story. He rushed to his room and grabbed the jacket he wore when he made deliveries that had a shielding ability and the greatsword he was accustomed to.
He told the Cheddars he was off to see Lian.
He left the house without a second thought.
In any case, he had to know as soon as possible what made it necessary.
There were too many doubts in his mind, and he wasn’t convinced.
No matter how many memories he scoured through, there was not a single one that could hint of illness. There were no indications, no symptoms, no signs. No matter what way he looked at the story, it sounded too rushed.
The memories he had and the tale he was given were so different. It was completely farfetched.
He knew he said it was okay to “lie,”…but he had to know the reason why.
Also, it sounded like the story of being sick was something the people from the branch had thought up.
Being told that nobody could meet Lian meant that they were keeping him all to themselves.
Something like that also meant that nobody could confirm whether the story they were telling was true.
Something you were told; that’s all it really was.
No one had confirmed the “truth.”
If Lian were sitting there in that cult branch, he thought Marie would have been most familiar with that situation among the people he knew. So that’s why he ran at full speed towards the church.
He rushed into the church and caught sight of Marie and Efa, who were in the middle of their afternoon worship.
He asked them if the story was true.
The story they told him was the same story that Mrs. Cheddar had told him.
It seemed Marie and Efa both tried to visit the branch but had been turned away just like Mrs. Cheddar was.
Not only that but everyone: Lian’s friends, the butler, and his family members; they all said they had been turned away at the door. Every single one of them told him the same story with the same crestfallen face.
As he looked at Efa, who looked forlorn and was weeping, wondering if the illness was that serious, Alfred felt his suspicions becoming stronger and stronger.
If he wanted the truth, there was just one person he had to ask.
Because for him, the entire situation only left a bad feeling in his chest.
Translator’s meme in dedication to his wonderful editor. E/N: I’m touched.