The sun had set. The nearby stores were closed, and the quiet alley still smelled faintly of medicine.
There were no hospital-like facilities in town, and I had no way of knowing where a good doctor was, so I had no choice but to rely on this small apothecary.
Fortunately, there was a light leaking through the closed door, and I knew that there was someone inside.
I shouted at the door while being careful not to drop Rille-nee, “Excuse me!”
Soon after, the door was unlocked from inside and a well-built owner appeared.
From the store’s outward appearance and the occupation, I had imagined a suspicious old woman, but it was a big man who I had to look up to. He seemed twice as tall as me, and his head bumped against the top of the doorway.
Half of his face was visible by the candlelight behind him, but the other half was covered in darkness.
His long, black almond eyes were sharp and emotionless.
Honestly, I was extremely scared.
However, I couldn’t stay scared in this situation.
“Please examine my older sister! I need medicine!”
The man with short hair frowned and folded his arms while blocking the entrance.
“… Do you have money?”
I wasn’t lying. Whether it was enough or not was a different story.
The man jerked his chin and silently told me to enter.
The intricate smell became even stronger as I stepped inside.
There were things stuffed messily on the big shelf, and there was a counter at the back. The man carried Rille-nee further behind this as if she was a small package.
There was a living space which wasn’t visible from the store front. There was a bed in the small room and the man laid Rille-nee down on it.
I stayed close to Rille-nee and carefully observed his behaviour.
I rushed here to ask for help, but I was prepared to immediately run away if I felt like we were in trouble. However, I don’t know how far I can run with Rille-nee on my back.
Whether he knew I was on my guard or not, the man quickly checked Rille-nee’s pulse, looked inside her mouth, pressed her stomach, and examined her with experienced hands.
After a while, he nodded his head as if understood what was wrong with her, then he scooped some hot water into a bowl from the large pot on the stove, took out a few packages from a drawer on the shelf and dissolved the powder into the hot water.
“It warms the body from within and is a nourishing tonic.”
After a brief explanation, the man picked Rille-nee up and fed her the medicine little by little.
Rille-nee was in a daze, so he took his time and slowly fed her the medicine, so that she wouldn’t choke. When Rille-nee had drunk about half of it, the man laid her down again.
“She’ll start sweating after a while. Wipe her sweat off and have her eat something when she wakes up and she’ll be fine.”
“Yeah. Don’t worry, it’s just a cold.”
… I guess I can trust him for now.
I felt like Rille-nee’s breathing had become clmer.
Thank god ―――.
I felt the tension left my body and fell to my knees next to the bed, then the man put his hand on my forehead.
“You’re a little hot too.”
Ah, yeah, I guess I am.
The man’s hand felt nice and cold.
I’ve been holding back, or rather, I’ve been forcing myself by convincing myself that sickness and health start with the mind. The truth was that my whole body felt sluggish, and I was a little warm.
I was offered the half-empty cup of medicine, which I drank obediently.
The medicine didn’t have a strong bitter taste to it, but it left a faint sour aftertaste. I didn’t think it tasted good, but it seemed to contain the ingredients that my body was craving right now.
I drank it all down, handed the bowl back to the man, then I handed him the bag that I was using as a wallet.
“Hmm… I have some money, but not a lot.”
There wasn’t even 100 beles in the bag.
The man received the bag and smiled wryly.
“I knew it would turn out like this.”
It was a nihilistic smile and in the dim light, was plain scary.
If this man had expected that we would be short on money, what did he want to ask for?
“Don’t do anything to Rille-nee.”
The man was stunned for a moment when I said that first, but then he quickly smiled again.
“Do you even know what that means?”
“I do. I’ll pay you back in other ways. If you refuse, then I’ll riot until I die.”
“Don’t threaten me without hesitation.”
“I’ll also curse you after I’m dead.”
I tried speaking in a low voice, hoping that it would scare him a little, but he was still smiling.
“Alright, alright. I’m actually a woman though.”
I heard an unbelievable word and went blank. The woman picked me up and laid me down next to Rille-nee while I was spacing out.
“You’re a woman?”
She grabbed my wrist and pulled it down over her crotch without hesitation.
Oh, oooh, how daring of her to suddenly grab my hand and make me touch her crotch.
There really wasn’t anything there. If there were, then he would have been a perv. I would have crushed them.
“I used to be a soldier, and my build is a remnant of those times.”
It wasn’t just her body; her face also had manly features, and she also had a low voice.
Well, there are all sorts of people in the world. There may be masculine women and vice versa.
Anyway, women can become soldiers? Or was she mistaken for a man?
Whatever the case, being called a soldier suited her more than being called a pharmacist.
“Are you sisters orphans?”
I figured she was asking about our history with that question, so I told her everything since our parents disappeared.
While I was talking, the woman got a clean cloth and wiped the sweat off Rille-nee and I.
What should I say…?
She let us in even though she didn’t know our identities, lent us her bed, gave us medicine while knowing that we didn’t have any money to pay for it, and listened to our life story… Isn’t she the perfect sucker, or even an extremely nice person?
It seemed like it would be worth negotiating with her.
I boldly grabbed her arm as she laid down.
“Please. I’ll do my best to pay you back for the medicine. I’ll work hard. Extremely hard. I will.”
I begged desperately using all the words I knew and also using the fact that I was sick.
If we went back outside, we would get sick again.
I couldn’t let Rille-nee die on the streets like this.
She still didn’t know how good food is, how warm beds are, how good baths are, how safe it is to live in a house where there aren’t any holes, or what a happy family is like. Nothing.
I was desperate to show her.
“I don’t have enough money to hire someone either.”
Her excuse was predictable. It was something that I had been told many times before.
If that’s the case, I’ll try a different approach.
“… You need money even though you opened a store, right?”
One of her eyebrows shot up to show her interest.
“You need to use money in the beginning to make profit. It’s not a waste of money, it’s necessary money. Don’t you think the same about us?”
“Yeah. Kids are your future.”
“That’s a funny way of putting it.”
I’m glad you think it’s funny.
I smiled and continued in a more cheerful voice.
“Both Rille-nee and I are hard workers. We’ll make this place more profitable. We’re good at business.”
“Try us out first. If you don’t think it’s worth it, then you can drive us out. How about trying us for one month?”
She cleared the back of her throat.
“Well, I guess I should have you work to pay for the medicine you took.”
She was joking, but I had managed to convince her.
“Really?! Then, I’d like to discuss the details while we’re at it. This will make it easier for you to pay us. I can do anything around the house.”
“Alright, alright, go to sleep. You’ll never get better if you keep going on like this.”
I felt like she was just giving me a random reply to put a kid who couldn’t fall asleep to sleep, but I’ll take that as negotiations successful!?
Is this the effect of laughing belatedly? I think I’m finally getting lucky!
I don’t have any proof that she’ll hire us forever, but there was hope since she had let us in.
I wish I had come here sooner.
Anyway, I was so relieved to have finally found a temporary shelter that I forgot to ask the name of my employer and fell asleep.