His whole body was boiling hot. The breath he exhaled while breathing was endlessly hot, and because of that, his mouth was parched dry, making his throat stuffy. The clothes sticking to his body drenched in sweat felt unpleasant. He was burning up with fever, yet he was also too cold. His joints ached. The severe pain spread throughout his body, starting from his head.

    When he barely managed to open his eyes, the world was dizzily shaking like a malfunctioning screen. The eyelids he raised with difficulty were as heavy as if they were tied to stones, and beyond his blurry, out-of-focus vision, people were frantically moving back and forth. They were hurriedly saying something, but his ears were transforming all the sounds he heard into a buzzing noise as if submerged underwater. Even the words he could hear were as distant as if coming from far away.

    Thus, Nathan could not comprehend who the people talking to him were or what they were saying. As soon as his eyelids lifted, they closed again. Occasionally, the hand touching his forehead seemed cool for a moment, but that was it.

    Nathan continued to open his eyes intermittently after that. He might have said something while delirious with fever, but his severely swollen throat could only let out gasping breaths. Whenever he closed his eyes and opened them again, the people around him changed each time, but the familiar blond hair standing on one side seemed to be by his side every time he opened his eyes.

    Bang─!

    “Hah!”

    One day, while he was alternating between falling asleep and waking up on the verge of death, Nathan’s eyes snapped open with a gasp at the loud sound that terrifyingly echoed in the room, as if someone had grabbed his collar and pulled him up.

    “Oh, you’re awake.”

    “…Ali?”

    Nathan frowned while grasping his throat, which was cracked and rough, making it grating. Then Ali, who had just stuffed his mouth full of cake, widened his eyes and ran to the bedside. He was holding a glass full of water in his hand. Nathan propped himself up on the bed with trembling hands.

    “Can you move now?”

    Nathan received the glass Ali handed him, moistened his throat, and roughly nodded his head. Then he rolled his eyes to scan his surroundings. This was the guest room where Nathan was staying, and there were only two people in the room. Ali, who had been quietly watching Nathan, suddenly let out a small exclamation and dashed to the door.

    “I’ll go and call Speni!”

    Before Nathan could say anything more, Ali instantly went out. Nathan, who had been looking at the wide-open door, leaned his back against the bed headboard while brushing his hair back. The half-empty glass of water sloshed in his hand. Just drinking some water seemed to clear his hazy mind a little. Nathan himself knew that he had collapsed with a fever.

    Now he was at least well enough to sit up like this, but for the past few days, he couldn’t even open his eyes properly and could only lie on the bed as if dead. He didn’t know exactly how much time had passed, but it was definitely not just a day or two.

    It was truly the worst.

    Pressing his still slightly dizzy head with his palm, Nathan squeezed his eyes shut. How many days had passed meaninglessly like this? Without even being able to figure out the exact day the incident would occur, he had wasted time like this, and Nathan felt miserable at that fact. He was so pitiful, and he hated this body that collapsed like this at such an important moment.

    ‘This can’t be happening…!’

    The familiar feeling of helplessness tried to devour him. Of course, thanks to that, he felt more rested than he thought. Since he had been delirious with fever and fighting for his life without any thoughts, he slept more than usual, and perhaps because he didn’t have any dreams, his current physical condition was lighter than ever. Although he still strangely lacked strength in his arms and legs, it seemed to be because he had been lying in bed for a long time, so in conclusion, his physical condition wasn’t bad.

    …Well, if he overexerted himself here, who knows what might happen again.

    But Nathan could no longer lie comfortably in bed. He had occasionally opened his eyes while he was sick, and the memories he had seen each time remained in his mind like afterimages. Tracing the sparsely interrupted memories, he realized that the protagonist’s party had practically stayed in his room continuously, just like Ali had been in the room a little while ago. Especially the familiar blond hair had been guarding one side of the room even when other people were moving busily and changing.

    So the fact that they had been stuck in the mansion all this time because of him made Nathan anxious. There was no way to stop his gaze from naturally turning towards the window. He hoped it wouldn’t rain. However, perhaps because it was time for the sun to set, the outside was ominously dark. At that, Nathan’s mind turned cold. The familiar ominous feeling crept up from the soles of his feet.

    How much time was left now? Should he go to the village right now and look for the child? Should he look for the merchant group before that? But how many merchant groups would there be in one village…?

    ‘If I had known this would happen, I should have asked other people in advance.’

    This place was by the sea, so fishing was developed, and trade was also active as they crossed the continent by ship. Not to mention, it was a huge village where airships were operated. Although it was called a village, in fact, it could be called a city without any shame. Finding someone in such a place would certainly be difficult. At least it was fortunate that it hadn’t rained yet. As Nathan’s thoughts branched out, his anxiety also grew in size.

    “I brought him!”

    However, soon Ali entered the room with Speni, and Nathan was able to escape from his thoughts.

    ‘So Speni meant the physician.’

    Convinced inwardly, Nathan sat still while Speni examined him.

    “Still, you’ve improved a lot now. If you rest a bit longer without overexerting yourself, you’ll soon be fine!”

    “That’s a relief!”

    “…Thank you.”

    While receiving the medicine bowl brought by the maid during the examination, Nathan nodded his head. Watching Speni bid farewell, saying, “Then, rest well!” and leave, Nathan drank the medicine in his hand. The dark, murky liquid with a foul smell like herbal medicine was a struggle to drink. Without even thinking of suppressing his naturally frowning face, he shuddered.

    “Nathan, ah~.”

    When he slightly opened his mouth, wondering what it was at the voice heard from the side, a sweet cake was swiftly inserted through the gap. As the softly melting cream neutralized the bitterness, Nathan had no choice but to move his mouth as Ali fed him.

    “Should I give you more?”

    At those words, Nathan shook his head frantically and left the bed. Lightly stretching, he headed towards the bathroom attached to the room. After shooing Ali, who had followed him into the bathroom, out the door, Nathan hastily washed himself. It was because he had made up his mind to go to the village now, even if it was late. In fact, he wanted to go out immediately, thinking that even the time to wash was a waste, but his body felt icky after not washing for several days, so he had no choice. Yes, at least he had to look presentable, right?

    Nathan quickly dried his wet hair using magic and went out of the bathroom. He rummaged through his luggage placed on one side and quickly changed clothes. Just as he was buttoning the sleeves, he called out to Ali, who had been constantly peeking around him.

    “Ali, where’s Azar? Where did the others go?”

    Come to think of it, it was strange. As soon as Nathan opened his eyes, Ali called Speni, but he didn’t call Azar. So Nathan, finding it odd, looked for those who had been out of sight for a while.

    “Ah, they went out for a bit.”

    Abruptly, Nathan’s actions paused for a moment at those words. Unaware of Nathan’s unusualness, Ali moved his hand towards the cake placed on the table and said,

    “Speni said the ingredients for the medicine would run out soon, so Azar went to the village to buy them this morning? He had other things to take care of, so Laya and Remberton went with him, and I was in charge of taking care of Nathan today, so I stayed here!”

    Then Ali, who had been swallowing the cake with a wide-open mouth, saying “Mmmm,” tilted his head.

    “Come to think of it, it’s strange. They left a while ago, but they haven’t come back yet! It’s going to rain soon too…”

    “Rain…”

    Nathan’s face instantly turned pale.

    “That’s right! Come to think of it, you asked me to tell you before, right? I forgot to tell you because you were sick all this time! It’s going to rain today! In the evening!”

    The brightly smiling face confidently predicted that it would rain.

    Nathan squeezed his eyes shut. He had to calm down. If he showed any strange behavior here, it would be of no use. Nathan slowly exhaled to calm his complicated feelings. Shifting his gaze to the sleeve he had been buttoning, he finished buttoning it and asked Ali, pretending to be calm.

    “Ali.”

    “Yes?”

    “How long will it take to get to the village?”

    “About 20 minutes by carriage? But why?”

    At that, Nathan wanted to shout that he had to go to the village right now. But he had to choose his words carefully here. Even if he said he would go to the village right now, would Ali readily agree to that request? There was no way. How could he let someone who had just gotten out of sickbed go outside like that? But he couldn’t go out secretly without Ali knowing either. That would raise strange suspicions.

    “Well… I was thinking of going to the village.”

    He forcibly lifted the corners of his mouth that had stiffened. It was better to speak directly. It was tiresome to beat around the bush, and in fact, no other way came to mind. So it was better to persuade Ali and go to the village with him.

    “What? What are you saying, Nathan? Where are you trying to go with that body!”

    At those words, the expected reaction burst out from Ali. The cute face instantly furrowed in puzzlement. Ali waved his arms and shook his head firmly.

    “Absolutely not! Azar will scold me!”

    “I just remembered something really important. You know Professor Melchiel too, right?”

    “Professor Melchiel?”

    When an unexpected person was mentioned, Ali widened his eyes and asked back. Facing that face, Nathan slightly rolled his eyes.

    ‘I’m sorry, Professor.’

    Recalling Melchiel, who would be busily working at the academy today, Nathan used his name.

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