Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Interlude 38.5.2 – Warm Wind and the Lord’s Afternoon Nap (Alfred’s Point of View)
Schutzer, who normally worked around the village and in the church, was gone.
The way Marie told the story, Schutzer went along with Lian as his escort.
It was actually that way whenever Lian went out. Lian’s butler had put together a crew of elite guards specifically for that purpose.
That was why, when it came to needing an escort, there was no need for Schutzer to accompany him.
And why would he? He was a cathedral knight who had been dispatched to assist Marie in her time of need, not to help Lian.
Even more so, if he were an apprentice knight like he said he was, abandoning his original mission in order to assist Lian with errands was… no matter how you spun it, not just forbidden by the church but also impossible.
Alfred had heard that the Knights of the Order were more faithful to their order than knights of any other lordship or army because they were zealots who served the Goddess. They swore to the Goddess, so it was absolutely impossible for them to disobey the commands they had been given.
They were forced to obey all commands given to them to the extent that they did so blindly and without reason.
─For him to prioritize his objective to something else could only have happened when he had been given a new mission.
Marie never once interrupted as Alfred and Efa talked. She held her hands together in front of her stomach and kept her eyes down.
Why did she look as if she were praying, repenting, or deeply worried about something? This was extremely unusual for Marie, who was headstrong, always holding looking forward, and smiling despite any hardship. Her face showed tinges of anxiety and even the apple-red of her cheeks had faded.
It could only make Alfred wonder if there was something more that he didn’t know. He asked if that was the case.
Marie made a painful expression and gently shook her head.
She looked up at Alfred with a look of determination.
“Lian had said he was ‘going to find someone who could help us,'” she said.
That tidbit which Marie told Alfred was completely different than any other story he had heard so far.
It was incomprehensible.
Which was the true story?
Alfred asked Marie if Lian had told her that he had gone to the capital to buy something, and Marie shook her head. She squinted her eyes as if she were being pinched on the arm. As if the words coming out of her mouth were painful.
“What I just told you is… well… what is the truth and what is the lie… I don’t know. The only… other person… who could know the truth ─ is Lord Lian. I don’t know of anyone else who would know the truth.”
She had been right. If Marie didn’t know, nor anyone else knew, he was the only one who could set the story straight.
Alfred had no choice. He would have to go see Lian and ask for himself.
If they won’t let Alfred see him… Alfred was determined to use any means necessary.
When Alfred had told Marie he was going to go see him, Marie looked anxiously out of the window. Her eyes looked to the sky as a storm brewed in the clouds that had formed a layer separating the Earth from the heavens. She looked back towards Alfred.
She exhaled with an expression of resignation.
“…Alfred, I know you. I know you’re going to go. Even if I try and stop you, you’ll still… end up going. But… if you do go, be careful. No matter what happens, be thoughtful of your emotions and remain calm. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying to you, and think about it thoroughly. There is a ‘motive’ and ‘reason’ for all behavior in this world. There are also the ‘feelings’ of various people that influence these things… and the Goddess who leads them down that path. You are a smart child. Think about these things, and find the truth and the lie with these things in mind.”
Alfred had responded that he would do that even without being told. She responded that he needed to be careful, and not to be reckless. He nodded and then left the church.
The weather was awful.
On the way back from the apple orchard, Cheddar’s horse had started shivering from the pouring rain and had come to a stop all together. By the time Alfred left the church, it had become a torrential downpour.
At a time of day that was supposed to be filled with sunlight, all that could be seen was pitch darkness.
It was as if the morning had never come and it had been night all along.
The dark clouds that covered the sky were so thick they were like a curtain pulled to block out what could be seen.
The rain had not let up since it had started coming down the day before, and it only had gotten worse. The wind was picking up; it was becoming miserable.
From time to time, a bolt of lightning darted through the sky, chased by a roar of thunder.
Horses hated the sound of thunder. Cheddar had given Trueno to Alfred. Trueno was a horse whose heart was not moved by the sound of thunder, or perhaps the horse was insensitive to it. This was an immense help to Alfred as he would never have made it on foot… He might not have made it in time without Trueno.
As soon as Alfred arrived at the entrance, he slammed open the door of the Order branch with every ounce of his strength.
He told the priest who came to greet him that he had come to see Lian─
Alfred received the same story as everyone else. The priest refused his request, said he was not allowed, and asked him to go back home.
…without even listening to Alfred’s full request, his story, or his reason.
Alfred didn’t give up. He said he didn’t care if he got the disease from Lian and it killed him, that he had to see Lian.
The priest kept saying the same thing over and over, telling him to leave, as if Alfred was some idiot who just didn’t get it.
When Alfred saw the attitude of the priest in front of him, it was as if everything about his premonition was true… He was almost convinced so.
It was the same premonition he had when he spoke with his friends, with Marie… Maybe that was the case all along.
─Maybe Lian had been taken away from him.
By whom? And why?
The only person who would take Lian to a place like this… Alfred could only think of one bastard who would do something like this.
─Only one knight. Only one person, who had a flashy hair color and off-colored eyes.
Alfred yelled that he wanted to meet Schutzer, to bring him here immediately so they could speak face-to-face.
The expressionless priest had finally shown emotion. The priest raised his eyebrows in anger. He was so furious that as he yelled, spit flew from his mouth like arrows.
The priest said, “You insolent person, to come to this Church and show such disrespect.”
“What disrespect?” Alfred yelled back, continuing, “Just get that bastard Schutzer out here. Let me see that fucking kidnapper.”
The priest standing in front of him had turned completely red with anger from his neck to his ears. The guard standing to his side had also become angry and hit Alfred in the shoulder with his spear, saying, “You have no respect for yourself or others.”
Alfred had become enraged with this exchange of words, realizing neither of them was getting anywhere. He used his arm to brush off the guard who had been holding him back with the spear.
Alfred was so angry he had put too much force into it and the guard was blown backwards, rolling as he hit the ground.
The other guards who had been watching the situation rushed over and surrounded Alfred.
Alfred repeated his words, restating the only thing he wanted: “Let me see him. That’s all I want. Just let me see him.”
No one would listen to a word of Alfred’s request… not a single person.
Since that was the case…
If Lian wasn’t allowed to see him, then he would just have to go see Lian himself.
He tried to push forward by sweeping aside the annoying guards and priests who stood in a line blocking off the door, suggesting that he could not pass.
One guard pointed his spear at Alfred and told him that he would be stabbed if he did not leave immediately.
Alfred didn’t want to leave; he had no intention of leaving. Alfred stepped forward without hesitation and he grabbed the guard’s hand and tossed it to the side.
He decided that there was no point in arguing any further.
The guard spat out, “You fool,” as his face contorted into a scornful look. The guard raised his spear and prepared to lunge forward.
If that was the way they were going to approach it, then Alfred would shake them off.
If they felt like standing in front of him, Alfred would push them aside by force.
Alfred pulled his sword from the sheath.
He knocked each one of them down and aside, one after the other. Alfred saw no end to the guards and knights as they came towards him, but he pushed forward.
He somehow made his way into the building and knocked down the ones approaching from the end of the hall.
Immediately after Alfred made it inside, he called Lian’s name using every last bit of air in his lungs. Even if he didn’t know where Lian was, Alfred wanted his voice to reach him.
Again and again. He called out Lian’s name so many times his throat became raw. He didn’t hear a reply.
Alfred thought Lian must be in a place far enough away that his voice couldn’t reach it.
Had he come too late?
It had already been a few days since Lian left the village.
Alfred didn’t want to think about it… He didn’t want to think about whether or not he had made it in time.
He didn’t want to think about the possibility that Lian had been taken away to a place far from here.
Alfred’s thoughts were filled with every worst-case scenario he could think of and his head was spinning. Each thought was neatly wrapped and tied with a ribbon crafted out of anxiety and impatience. The thoughts filled his mind endlessly. He wanted to get to Lian but had no way of knowing where he was.
As the thoughts in his head were charging towards every thread of his heart, so were the knights in front of him. Not only knights, but now sorcerers and priests had entered the fray as well.
They hurled fire and wind attack magic at Alfred as he deflected them with his blade. Alfred then cast a spell or two of his own right back at them.
A large prestigious statue standing in the middle of the room had been struck by wind magic, toppled over, and broke. The priests who witnessed it screamed from the depths of their hearts.
Alfred had no sympathy for them; they were the fools who had made the first move.
Alfred became increasingly frustrated as the number of people charging to attack him had not dwindled at all. It was becoming more and more troubling to deal with them.
The frustration was building to the point where Alfred thought of casting one of the most powerful attack magics in his arsenal to blow them all away─
But then a voice called out Alfred’s name.
A voice he knew.
The voice that had a silver timbre floated through the air; he searched desperately for that voice.
He looked, but he couldn’t see where it came from.
He couldn’t wait any longer; his mind was racing.
The voice came to him again, and as the sound hit his ear, he heard it from above. He looked up.
On second floor of the atrium, at the center of the corridor─
It was Lian.
Lian looked out of breath. Alfred wondered if he had run all the way there.
He was standing there, leaning precariously over the railing.
He looked at Alfred with a face that was about to burst into tears.
─He was wearing pure white clothes, decorated with pure white feathers.
Why was he wearing… Why was he wearing that color?
Alfred had been there when Marie told the children.
Marie had smiled when she responded to why she always wore black clothes and never white clothes.
She answered that black is the absence of light.
Those who have worked hard to put light in the world can reflect that light back into it. People who have worked hard for that wear those clothes.
The pure white color gives off the light of the heavens.
The white feathers were similar to the wings of the Great Goddess, so only those closest to heaven were allowed to wear them.
White clothes and white feathers were worn by those closest to the gods.
Why, why would he?
Why would he be wearing that?
Alfred immediately bottled up the reason that came to his mind; he pretended as if he had never even noticed the detail.
Lian explained to him that it was all a lie crafted by the bastard of a knight.
Alfred’s horrible premonition had been right.
They had all eaten it up, everyone who was fed the lie that he told.
─All just to take Lian from the village.
Schutzer had never come to help Marie in the first place.
He had come for Lian, to take Lian.
It was all about timing. Schutzer had been waiting for the right moment.
A moment when he could whisk Lian away without Alfred, the villagers, or anyone else noticing or asking questions about the two people who had just disappeared.
Even Alfred could tell who had been giving Schutzer his orders; he didn’t need an explanation.
The one who stood above him, the one higher up, that─
Alfred knew he had to hurry.
He had to get Lian out of this place as soon as possible.
They needed to go to a place far away from the heavens, a place far away from the Goddess.
Before Lian was taken away from him.
Alfred’s impatience left him vulnerable; he didn’t notice the group behind him who were waiting for an opportunity to strike.
He didn’t notice until he was lying on the floor.