We woke up early in the morning to get ready to leave like we have been doing since the trip started.
We put on the ponchos we had brought and put on trousers underneath. I tucked the bottom of my trousers into my boots to close off any gaps and protected myself against the cold. But it was too hot to wear this outfit while we were having breakfast in the inn’s dining room.
I saw many other people on their way to the pier when we left the inn. There were people travelling there on foot and some horse-drawn carriages with cargo on them. Travellers and merchants are early risers.
We first went to the checkpoint to present our permits when we arrived at the pier. After passing through a strict soldier check, we paid a sailor standing on the pier to take us on board.
Carriages carrying cargo were gathered around the largest boat. I was told that it was a cargo boat, and that people were generally not allowed on board.
The boat that people were getting on was like a large-boat and there were no cabins.
One boat could fit about 20 people, and the boats that had filled their capacity were the first to unfurl their sails and set sail.
Until then, we had to wait for the sailors to help others board the boat. They will leave when it is time to leave even if the boat isn’t at full capacity.
The morning sun shone brightly on the surface of the lake which had countless ripples from the rocking of the boat and the wind. I could reach out and touch the shining surface of the lake because of the shallow draft.
The water was so cold that just dipping my fingertips in was enough to freeze me. I immediately withdrew my hand. The bearded sailor noticed me because I raised my voice.
“Hey, don’t lean forward!”
He yelled angrily. I just wanted to try it.
The sailor didn’t actually seem angry when I apologised and smiled with his teeth showing.
“Behave yourself if you don’t want to be dragged into the lake by a spirit.”
He said jokingly, thinking I was a kid. Even in this world, spirits are beings that only exist in legends, and no one knows if they really exist or not.
More people came towards the pier as we waited, then finally a young couple ran to the pier and quickly boarded the boat, which had reached its max capacity.
The boat unfurled its white sails and left the shore.
I turned around to look back at the shore that was getting further away before my neck started to hurt.
“Aime, are you cold?”
The wind was still a little chilly as the boat sailed along the quiet surface of the lake. Rille-nee took off the poncho that she was wearing and spread it over our knees.
“Thanks. It feels nice now.”
“I’m glad I brought it.”
Rille-nee’s poncho was also rippling like the surface of the lake, probably because she was touching the fluffy wool inside. Wool feels nice on the skin, doesn’t it?
The chill in the morning wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t cold. I felt like my head was clearing up.
I felt completely changed as I inhaled deeply through my nose and exhaled through my mouth. Then, I quickly opened my notebook.
The wind picked up as the boat reached the middle of the lake.
It was spring, but it felt like the cold winter wind. I took off a layer and used it as a lap blanket.
“Is it cool around here even in summer?”
“Yes, that’s why the rich people come here to sail.”
Rille-nee talked to the sailor who had warned me not to put my hand in the water before we left while I was studying. There were five other sailors on board, one near the sails, two at the front and two at the back with oars. Even with their thick clothes on, I could tell that their arms were thick and strong as they had to row the boat when the wind died down.
We were first to board the boat, and sat by the bow, so we did talk to the people nearby.
I could also hear people talking behind me. I also looked at the scenery to pass time, but I got bored of those things after half a day of travelling.
It wasn’t like I didn’t join in on conversations, but I studied while half-listening to what they were saying.
“Helbel Street is full of cheap lodgings for travellers, but Arad Street, which is located near the lake, has luxury lodgings for rich people who come to visit. Why don’t you marry rich and ask him to take you there?”
The sailor was a very friendly middle-aged man. Maybe he likes talking to young girls.
“I won’t marry someone like that, but I’d like to come back here again sometime.”
Rille-nee said while laughing. Then, she looked at the lake and muttered.
“There must be rare plants here. I’d like to stay here for longer next time and take a walk along the lake.”
That’s not sightseeing, it’s work!
I don’t know if that’s a good mindset to have for a girl of marriageable age, but I’d love to harvest them with her. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re sisters, but we’re starting to think a lot alike.
A gust of wind howled.
The notebook was about to fly away, and I fell down to guard it. I’ve flipped through the notebook so many times that the holes where the strings went through were battered and tearing apart.
I heard a scream behind me.
“Roana!? Hey, wake up, Roana!”
“Captain! One of the guests has fainted!”
“Hah?! What’d you say?!”
The Captain was called by the loud voice of his sailor, who was at the stern, and rushed there by passing through the passengers.
Rille-nee and I looked at each other before following him with our luggage. We might be able to do something.
We passed under the sails and reached the stern to find a young woman wrapped in a cloak, slumped in the arms of her male companion.
“Roana! Stay with me!”
The man lightly tapped her cheek, but the woman’s eyes rolled beneath her thinly opened eyelids. I couldn’t tell if she was still conscious or not.
Her face was pale, and her lips were purple.
“Was she taken by the wind…?”
The Captain glanced at her and muttered. She’s not dead yet!
“Please get out of the way.”
Rille-nee and I pushed the passengers and sailors out of the way and sat in front of the pale woman.
“Who are you?”
I answered briefly to the man and touched the woman’s cheek. She felt very cold.
She has hypothermia; a condition where the body temperature drops due to being in a cold place for a long time and blood flow slows down and you freeze to death.
I knew that hypothermia happens in winter and on mountains, but I also heard from Gis-nee that this can also happen in summer or even in the plains, that’s why she told us to wear the appropriate clothing during our trip.
I guess these people didn’t know. The woman was wearing two layers, but her layers weren’t very thick.
“She’s stopped shaking… Aime, her life might be in danger.”
“I know. I’m sorry, but can you give us some space, so that we can lay her down?”
I asked the guests to make space and move closer to each other and laid my cloak down as a comforter in the space that was created. Rille-nee put her own poncho on the woman and I took off my own poncho and placed it over her. This would protect her from the wind for a bit.
“Captain, please hurry to the shore as fast as you can or else, she won’t make it.”
“A-alright. Guys, row as fast as you can!”
The boat moved quickly because the strong men were rowing.
“Roana, what’s wrong with Roana?”
An upset man came up to us as we kneeled by the woman’s side. The man wasn’t wearing a cloak and was looking pale.
“She’s okay. Just try not to move her right now.”
“She was shaking badly earlier. We have to warm her up…”
“Please calm down. She’ll die if you move her.”
I said clearly so that he wouldn’t come any closer. We’ve learnt how to deal with problems like this from Gis-nee.
If the symptoms have progressed to the point where she has stopped shivering, then we shouldn’t try to warm the surface of her body. The blood circulating through her cold hands and feet will cause her body temperature to drop even further. So, we shouldn’t move her. Massaging her hands and feet is also not allowed.
First, we had to make sure that the wind wasn’t hitting her and wait until we got off the boat. She can still be saved since she was barely conscious.
“May I have your name?”
Rille-nee spoke to the man who I had threatened to silence. He had blanked out. When he realised that she was speaking to him, he looked at us.
“Simon. I’m Ridill, a herbalist. Is Roana sick or does she have any medical conditions?”
“N-no, she’s not sick, but she did lose her appetite while we were travelling.”
“Did she skip breakfast?”
“Yes, and she only ate a little last night.”
“That might be the cause. ――― Am I right, Aime?”
“I think so.”
I agreed with Rille-nee’s diagnosis. Your body can’t produce heat if you don’t eat, and you’re more likely to catch hypothermia if you’re tired or don’t get enough sleep.
The boat arrived at the shore after a while.
By this time, Rille-nee and I were cold and shivering, but we were fine since it was only a mild symptom of hypothermia. Simon and the sailors worked together to gently carry Roana off the boat.
“Keep her horizontal and don’t move her arms or legs! Do you have a stretcher?!”
It would be nice if they have a plank or something to carry people on, but no one provided one for us. The people around us were staring at us and wondering what was going on.
There was another checkpoint on this side of the shore, and there was a town beyond it. They also checked people’s permits on this side of the shore and there was a line of people waiting for their permits to be checked.
“Please let us through first! We have a sick person!”
We passed by the soldiers and tried to carry Roana to the inn, but we were stopped.
“You can’t enter the city without being screened!”
The soldier at the checkpoint told us to get in line, and I told him that Roana was close to death.
I heard something snap in my head as I was treated with more red tape than a real government office.
“You can check it later!”
It’s a good thing that I didn’t call them idiots.
But the stubborn soldiers wouldn’t listen.
We couldn’t forcefully remove soldiers who were wearing armour and had a sword at their hips, and even the strong sailors couldn’t resist the soldiers.
――― There was only one thing left to do then.
“Let us borrow a room at the station!”
I announced before rushing out to open the door of the station that was facing the lake.
Inside was a breakroom, with a fireplace, and chairs and tables. A few soldiers who were chatting raised their eyebrows when they saw me, but I ignored them. Luckily, there was a bed against the wall, presumably for them to take a nap.
“Everyone, please carry her in here!”
“What the hell are you doing?!”
The soldier from earlier came rushing over to me, so I thrusted my hands out in front of him. He was surprised by my sudden movement. Meanwhile, Rille-nee was ushering the sailors inside.
“What’re you complaining about? We’re not in the city.”
“We are loyal to our mission as humans just as you are loyal to your duty. Say nothing if you don’t want an innocent person to die.”
I glared at him and quickly told him this, then I went inside.
As soon as they got her to the bed, I asked the sailors, who probably didn’t want to fight with the soldiers, to leave, and Rille-nee, Simon and I looked after Roana.
I drew water from the lake with a pot I got from the station and put it on the fireplace to boil. The pot was probably there so that the soldiers could have tea or hot water while they were resting.
“Rille-nee, your flask.”
“Here you go. You’ll need a towel too.”
I poured the hot water into the leather flask and wrapped it with a towel, so that I could put it under Roana’s armpit, neck, and other places where large blood vessels ran. I was improvising. If we do this, then we can gradually raise her internal body temperature.
I moved around quickly like it was my own house and the other soldiers didn’t interrupt us.
We can take care of the patient as long as we have a bed and a place to boil water, so it was probably better to stop here rather than running around to find a place to stay and moving the patient unnecessarily.
When Roana’s consciousness became a little clearer and she started to respond to our calls, I boiled more water and took a small bottle from our luggage.
There was honey in the bottle. Gis-nee gave this to us to use as emergency rations or to apply on our wounds. It was expensive, but life was even more so.
I dissolved honey in a cup of hot water and handed it to Rille-nee. She gently woke Roana up and gave her some of the honeyed water to drink.
She’ll be fine as long as we keep her warm inside while letting her take some sugar.
Simon, Rille-nee and I also took a sip between nursing Roana. I lent him my poncho and cloak since it was pretty cold in the latter half of the day.
A few hours later, I was relieved to see that colour had returned to Roana’s face. Simon hugged Roana while tearing up. He hasn’t told me anything about them, but I wonder if they’re a couple.
At the end of the day, the soldiers at the station helped nurse Roana and were genuinely happy to see that she had recovered. I can also tell that they wanted us to leave.
It was almost nightfall by the time we passed through the checkpoint and safely entered the city.
I wanted to thank the sailors who helped move Roana to a bed, but they had already returned to the other side of the river.
“――― Thank you very much.”
Simon and Roana, who felt better, bowed deeply to us on the street in front of the inn. They’ve been thanking us for a while now.
They told us they were siblings and that they were on their way to visit some relatives who had opened a store in the capital.
“We should repay you for saving her life but…”
“It’s alright, don’t worry about it.”
Rille-nee said kindly once again to Simon, and Roana looked at Rille-nee with a strong emotion in her eyes while smiling.
“I’m just glad that Roana is feeling better.”
They probably weren’t wealthy judging from the way they were dressed, and we hadn’t expected them to repay us back in the first place.
“Instead of thanking us, you should stay in the inn for at least two days, and you must eat. I mean it.”
I pointed at them with my finger while advising them and they smiled at me for some reason. I’m being serious here.
“Okay. Thank you, brave herbalists.”
We waved each other goodbye, then Rille-nee and I went to search for a place to stay. The place where Roana and Simon were staying only had one spare room, so we gave it to them.
“Ah, I’m still nervous.”
Rille-nee suddenly said while clutching her chest as we walked through the city at night.
“I was wondering about what I would do if I can’t save her. We’ve never had a hypothermic person at the apothecary before, have we? I was surprised when you ran into the station.”
I was a little surprised when I heard that.
“Really? You didn’t seem nervous at all, Rille-nee.”
She acted very quickly and even brought Roana in while I was stopping the soldiers.
“I was really scared. I thought we were going to be thrown in jail.”
“We didn’t do anything wrong. There’s no law stating that we can’t nurse someone at a station.”
“I know, but don’t be too reckless, alright?”
I responded cheerfully to the worried Rille-nee.
“But you know, I’m sure Rille-nee will be able to get into the medical department at this rate. You were able to diagnose symptoms you saw for the first time. I’ll also do my best.”
“You’ll be fine.”
Our journey to the capital was almost over.
The two of us were going to pass the exam together now that we’ve come this far.