Chapter 9: I Think, Therefore I Am (3)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
A few hours later, the decision was made to transfer Mahoro from the military base. When Mary and her men infiltrated the base, apparently they had destroyed major parts of it, and it was determined that the base could no longer guarantee his safety. The transfer would be made to avoid the risk of Mahoro’s abduction.
“For the time being, you will be left in the care of the St Johns estate. The top officials have determined that it is the closest location to the base with proper security. We will provide additional soldiers for your protection. The enemy will not give up on you so easily.”
There was a slight tone of dissatisfaction in Lieutenant General Abbott’s voice. Noah had really worked to get Mahoro out of the base. Although Noah hailed from the direct line of the Five Noble Houses, it was surprising that he had the power to negotiate with the top military officials in the kingdom.
“This is a magical accessory that allows the military to track your location. You are never to remove it.”
The Lieutenant General fitted a thin metal bangle around his ankle. It appeared to be a transmitter, and Mahoro could not refuse it. He abided by the order although it felt strange to have something around his ankle.
“Once we have determined a new location for your transfer, we will come for you,” Lieutenant General Abbott told him before issuing orders to the soldiers.
Mahoro changed into a white dress shirt, black trousers, and a black coat and walked over to the main entrance of the military base. It had been a while since he had been outside, and he inhaled the air deeply. It felt wonderful and fresh. Mahoro had been confined to a room with no windows for so long that he realised that he had been on the verge of slight madness from the lengthy isolation.
“This way please.”
A handsome black-lacquered carriage was parked in front of the entrance. A crest was inscribed on the carriage depicting a symbol of sword and flames and pulling it were two dappled-grey horses with beautiful coats. The coachman opened the door for Mahoro, and he peeked inside to see Noah sitting there. Noah beckoned his hand to indicate that he should come in, and Mahoro nervously boarded the carriage. Noah had saved him when he was nearly abducted, and Mahoro remembered that he hadn’t thanked Noah yet.
Just as Mahoro spoke up, Noah wrapped his arm around Mahoro’s shoulders and pulled him in close. The door of the carriage closed, and Mahoro blushed as his heart raced. Noah quietly held him and breathed in the scent of his hair.
Noah played his hair and whispered, “…The smell is terrible. Your hair is scorched.”
His hair was a battered mess due to Mary’s attack with fire magic. Apparently recovery magic could not fix it.
“I’m sorry. Um… I wanted to thank you, Noah. If it weren’t for you…”
Mahoro somehow managed to give his thanks, his heart pounding in his chest as Noah held him close. The carriage left the military base accompanied by guard carriages in front and behind them and soldiers astride horses. Mahoro fidgeted with his knees bashfully.
“I’m sorry that it took longer than expected. Your existence has become rather special, and it was difficult to get to you even with my father’s power.”
Noah’s hand pulled Mahoro’s chin towards him. Mahoro had been looking down, unable to bring himself to meet Noah’s eyes, and Mahoro held his breath, now that he was forced to look at that gaze. The year had already ended, and it was January. Mahoro hadn’t seen Noah for a long time, and Noah was so terribly beautiful that looking directly at him was just too much for Mahoro.
“Look into my eyes. Don’t look away.” Noah pinched at Mahoro’s cheek.
Mahoro murmured, “Yes,” and looked back at Noah, and for some inexplicable reason, his emotions overwhelmed him, and Mahoro had to look back down again. His face became warm, and tears welled in his eyes. Mahoro lost all strength in his body, and he didn’t understand what he was feeling. It felt like his emotions that had disappeared from him while he was locked up at the military base had suddenly returned to him all at once.
Maybe it was because he had finally felt safe— Mahoro bit down on his lip.
“Huh? What is this face?” Noah asked quizzically, seeing Mahoro’s crumpled up expression. Mahoro was trying his hardest not to cry, and apparently it looked strange.
“T-Thank… Thank you.” Mahoro barely managed to get the words out, and he could no longer fight off the tears.
The military hadn’t used any violence against him in their interrogations, but Mahoro hadn’t been hardened against such actions, and it had frightened him. He had suppressed all of his emotions to endure his time there, but now he didn’t have to endure it any more. Mahoro desperately tried to hold his tears back, but they fell one after another and wouldn’t stop.
Mahoro tried to stifle his sobs. His shoulders shook, and he began to cry. Noah gave a wry chuckle and ruffled up Mahoro’s hair.
“Don’t cry so strangely. It’s not very cute, but yet somehow it is.”
Noah held out a handkerchief to him as he chuckled, Mahoro accepted it and wiped his tears. Noah held Mahoro close, his arm around his shoulders, and waited for him to finish crying.
When Mahoro finally got his tears under control, he looked out the window and asked, “…Umm, are we going to your home, Noah?”
Mahoro didn’t want to cause Noah’s family any trouble by showing up unexpectedly. But Noah immediately dispelled his worries.
“To one of our villas. There’s one with suitable security.”
Apparently Noah’s family owned a number of villas.
Mahoro became worried and asked, “What about the Academy? When does it start?”
Noah gave a wry chuckle. “Today is January 4th. It is still winter holiday.”
The Academy was still on holiday?
Mahoro had other things that he wanted to ask, but he fell silent. Noah continued to hold Mahoro close to him; sometimes combing Mahoro’s hair with his fingers, sometimes pressing a kiss to his temple. Mahoro thought that Noah was strange for showing such affections for someone like him, a man who was under military surveillance. He was concerned that his existence would bring Noah trouble.
Before long, the carriage left the military grounds and entered a public road. They took levelled tree-lined streets and passed through unfamiliar towns. When they had crossed several bridges, sometimes Mahoro could see signs displayed outside, and he knew that they were in a city called Ys. The carriage headed north from there and entered Durham Park. Durham Park was 1,000 kilometres1 from the capital city, and it was a well-known place where snowbirds came to spend the winter.
A large classically-styled gate towered ahead of them. The carriage stopped momentarily, and the sturdy-looking gate opened for them with a harsh, grating sound. Behind Mahoro and Noah’s carriage, several guard carriages followed after them and passed through the gate.
The long road extended far past the gate. Mahoro could see a spacious lawn and a magnificent manor tucked in the back of the grounds. They had to pass by two more gates to reach manor, and there were checks performed at each one of them. Each of the gatekeepers carried rifles on them.
The carriage drove for another five minutes and finally reached the manor. A grey-haired man dressed like a butler and Theo, dressed in a suit, were standing outside of the manor’s front entrance waiting for them.
“Welcome back, Lord Noah.”
When the coachman opened the door to the carriage, Theo bowed and gave his greeting. Noah stepped out of the carriage, and Mahoro followed awkwardly after him. Mahoro had served at the Baldwin estate, and so he was used to seeing mansions owned by nobles, but with this grand manor in front of him, Mahoro was reminded once again that Noah was a noble.
“Mahoro. Let me introduce you. This is the butler, Alan.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you. I have heard all about you from Lord Noah.”
The butler exuded a kind and gentle demeanour about him.
“And you already know Theo, my attendant.”
Theo smiled at Mahoro.
“Theo, deploy the guards as you see fit. Honestly, they’re a bother. Just assign them anywhere.”
Noah issued his instructions to the soldiers in the guard carriages and took Mahoro by the hand. Mahoro was worried about the situation behind him, but Noah led him inside the manor.
The entrance hall was grand and spacious with vaulted ceilings. The floors were laid with chequered marble, and on the walls hung portraits of what appeared to be generations of the Lords of the House. Two sets of staircases lined the left and right sides of the entrance hall, and a row of middle-aged women dressed as maids stood in front of one of the staircases. They all bowed in unison when Noah walked in.
“Prepare a bath for him. His hair is tattered and needs a haircut,” Noah ordered the maids. His tone of voice sounded accustomed to giving orders. The maids answered, “Yes, milord,” and showed Mahoro down a corridor.
“You probably haven’t eaten much of anything. After you finish bathing, I’ll have a delicious meal waiting for you, so go and get cleaned up.”
Noah looked at Mahoro with amusement as the maids led him away. Bewildered at the unfamiliar treatment, Mahoro headed towards the bathroom.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.