Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 20: Care
The Emperor passed through the dark corridor, his body driven by instinct. Beneath the canopy hanging above the bed, a concubine trembled with anticipation and anxiety, wearing only a single layer of nightwear. He embraced her. In the next room, the remaining two concubines waited with a maid. But by morning, all three wished for some kind of compassion, feeling faint from exhaustion.
The Emperor, naked, was in the middle of a short nap when he suddenly woke up in search of the chamberlain, who was also in the room.
“―Where’s my brother?”
The bedroom was spotless as if all the madness from the previous night had been a lie. Slowly, the chamberlain approached the Emperor, wrapped under soft silk bedding.
“He’s being treated by a doctor in another room. He’s still asleep.”
“I want to hear about his condition. Call the doctor.”
“Very well, Your Majesty.”
As the Emperor got up, the chamberlain appeared with the day’s clothes and quickly dressed him while he moved about impatiently. As soon as he put on his shoes, he was out in the corridor waiting for the chamberlain to lead.
Upon noticing the brilliant morning sunlight, the Emperor paused. Squinting his eyes, he looked to the sky.
“―Ah… What have I done…”
The air was refreshing and pure, heavenly.
His whole body, from his fingertips, tingled with power. If he wanted to, he felt like he could destroy a mountain at that very moment, moulding the earth to create a spring. There were no cuts on his face or body despite being struck last night. Instead, he looked refreshed and his golden hair shone brightly against the sunlight.
It should have been a joyful morning, but the Emperor covered his face with a hand and continued walking. The room initially prepared for Ashiyowa had a view of the pond and was right across from the Emperor’s, where they could see each other. It was the second largest room in the palace and was meant to be used by the Emperor’s spouse. However, the place he was being led to was not there but a smaller room near the bathhouse.
He opened the door narrowly and slipped in. All the doors were closed so it was dark inside, and it reeked of incense, meant to aid sleep. Past a thin translucent curtain, Ashiyowa was lying down on a bed, his face turned to the left with a wet cloth on his forehead. At the sound of rustling clothes, the doctor approached.
“How is my brother?”
“After treating the tear, his right leg has had severe cramps. I’ve applied a compress and bandaged the leg to suppress inflammation, and I’ve also given him some pain-relief medicine. He seemed to have developed a fever this morning, so I’m trying to cool down his forehead. For now, I’m letting him sleep and rest, but once he wakes up, I’d like him to take some additional pills for his fever.”
“How long will it take to heal him?”
“For the laceration, we must let it rest for ten days, but he shouldn’t be overdoing it for the next thirty. His right leg is harder to predict. Because the pain is caused by the curvature of his feet, fits of spasms may happen occasionally. Please forgive me, Your Majesty. The fever will probably last for a while but should be gone in the next three days.”
As the doctor backed down, the Emperor stood behind the bed and stared at Ashiyowa, asleep behind the translucent curtain. He approached the bed from the left and lifted the curtain to allow himself in. As he turned him over, Ashiyowa’s lower limbs peeked out of his white nightwear. The Emperor sat down on the bed and reached out, stroking Ashiyowa’s right leg from his knee to thighs. Even beneath the cloth, he could tell that his leg was firmly bandaged. Except for his left leg, everything from his waist onwards was wrapped.
“Aniue… Let me take the pain away,” the Emperor thought aloud, power circulating through his fingertips.
Upon saying that, he moved closer to Ashiyowa and laid down on the bed.
In between the pain and the fever, everything was a blur.
His body had shrunk. He was back at his home in the mountains, running around.
As he looked up, he saw a hut and a rugged-looking old man in rags.
“Ashiyowa, have you gotten the Kewarei leaves?”
Suddenly, the hand he stuck out was struck with a wooden stick.
“Wrong! This is Gloay. It’s similar, but it’s poisonous. Why can’t you remember? Stupid child.”
After saying that, he was hit twice more and sent out to look for the leaves again. At the time, he wondered why the old man had hit him and cried.
He only understood why after the old man passed and he was left alone.
When it came to the mountains, there was nothing Ashiyowa didn’t know. He knew everything that could and couldn’t be eaten. That stick he’d been struck with was both a blessing and a curse; the more he was hit, the better he remembered.
That was what the man called himself. His hair and beard were pure white, and his spine always stood straight. His eyes were sharp, and his words were always clear when he spoke. Ashiyowa had eventually grown taller than him, but at times was still overwhelmed by his presence.
Ashiyowa woke up, his eyelids rapidly blinking.
“Haa…,” he sighed as if he had remembered something sad. As consciousness flooded back, he registered that his mouth was dry.
He felt something wet drip down from above and moved his face. Reaching out a hand, he grabbed a bag of water.
He tried to get up, lugging his sluggish body, but the moment he did so, a flash of pain cut through his hazy conscious. Though the room was dark, light shone through the curtain gaps. Night had lifted. His lower body was heavy. He could hardly move.
“Aniue-sama, you’re awake. Would you like something to drink?”
A terribly hoarse voice came out. As if it had been prepared in advance, Ashiyowa was quickly presented with a tray carrying a cup. He gulped the water thirstily.
“Please take the medicine on the small plate. It should help relieve the pain and cool down your body.”
And with that, Ashiyowa was presented with another tray. While sweating from the pain, Ashiyowa did as he was told and swallowed the strong-smelling pills, washing them down with a large amount of water.
As he placed the cup back onto the tray, he plopped his head down onto the pillow as all energy left his body.
Attempting to move his body, Ashiyowa came into contact with someone else’s hand. Slowly he lifted his upper body and turned around. In his rush, he hadn’t noticed earlier that someone’s arm was around his waist. He turned further, but upon seeing gold hair, a moan escaped his lips. The Emperor seemed to be sleeping next to him. Ashiyowa’s whole body trembled. He couldn’t tell if it was from disgust or fear.
He tried to move the Emperor’s hands away from his hips with only his arms but was only hugged tighter. He couldn’t breathe. He wanted to yell and kick him off the bed or knock him down and jump out of the room. But his right foot peeking out from his nightwear was tightly bandaged, and the pain in the body warned him otherwise.
After all he had done, it was hard to believe he was so shameless as to be clinging onto him like this.
Haa… Haa… He’s a monster. The royal family really are beasts. It was exactly what the old man said!
He’s become prey to the beast’s fangs. His arms withered as Ashiyowa came to the realisation, no longer having the strength to support his upper body. It was impossible to pretend as if nothing had happened. Memories of that night remained clear in his head, and he couldn’t ignore the pain and fear he felt as he was being hurt. Ashiyowa turned his face to the door.