Ulrike was often the first to rise in the compound, waking with the sun. Thus, she was the first to discover the accident-prone King of Shin Makoku passed out at the edge of the fountain. She had simply stared at the scene for a few seconds before realising that she really was not that surprised. That, in itself, was worrying.
"Heika?" she called softly. "Yuuri Heika? Are you quite all right? Are you quite certain you want to be sleeping there? That cannot be good for your back."
Yuuri didn't respond. Ulrike smiled vaguely at how sound a sleeper the Maou was. She reached out one of her tiny, delicate hands and shook him slightly. "Heika? I think you might be more comfortable in your own bed, although that is just a guess of mine. Heika? Please wake up now." Still no response. She frowned. The water was not particularly warm, and she actually had no idea how long Yuuri had been there. If he developed hypothermia, it would mean nothing good. She touched his forehead, relieved when he didn't feel all that cold to her. It still would be best to remove him from the fountain as soon as possible. For that, Ulrike would need help.
"Niamh should be awake by now," she murmured, more to herself than anyone else.
She entered the compound once more, knocking lightly on one of the doors. It swung open, an immensely sleepy priestess coming into view. "U-Ulrike-sama!" she gasped, straightening.
"My apologies for waking you, Niamh," she said.
"Not at all, Ulrike-sama. I was already awake. Did you need me for something, ma'am?"
Ulrike chuckled. "It would seem our Maou is taking a nap in our fountain, and I am insufficient for dragging His Silliness out. He may not be very heavy, but I am rather small." She gestured to illustrate her point. "If I may ask some assistance, as well as perhaps a messenger to Blood Vow Castle? I'm certain they will send someone to pick him up soon."
"Absolutely, Ulrike-sama! Right away!"
Conrad only slightly confused at how early Yuuri had come back to Shin Makoku. Naturally, being a soldier and unable to shake the old habits, he had already been awake when the notice from Shinou Temple arrived. Gwendal had been awake, as well, but Conrad had happily volunteered to be the one to pick up their errant king while Gwendal kept tabs on the goings-on of the castle. If Conrad just wanted to see his godson as quickly as possible, it was not commented upon.
His horse, a beautiful chestnut gelding, seemed pleased to get out his morning jitters and went a bit faster than Conrad had asked of the beast, so they made wonderful time.
When Conrad first laid eyes on Yuuri, he knew something was off.
"May I ask why he is unconscious?" he said.
Ulrike hid a smile. "When I happened across him, he was sleeping in the fountain. I can only presume that he was transported by accident in the midst of sleep and that the journey did not affect his sleepy disposition altogether much. Please don't wake him. He must need his sleep badly," Ulrike said. She also thought Yuuri was absolutely adorable when he was asleep, but refused the say anything to that effect.
Conrad frowned. "I'm sorry, Ulrike-sama, but are you certain he's only asleep? This is… very unusual."
"Hm? What do you mean?" Ulrike began to pick up on the tiniest whiff of urgency.
Conrad crouched down by the Maou, laid out on one of the guest beds Shinou Temple had. He gently laid a hand over Yuuri's forehead. His eyes widened.
Yuuri was on fire.
Just to be certain, he felt his own forehead, then Yuuri's once more. There could be no doubt. Yuuri had a very dangerous fever. His face was pale, except for two flushed spots on both cheeks. His breathing sounded a little different, a little more constricted than normal.
"I need to take him back to Blood Vow Castle now. He's very ill, and has a terrible fever," Conrad said quietly.
Ulrike gasped. "What? But I swear, there was no fever when I attempted to wake him earlier! I'm certain of it! He felt perfectly normal!"
"After being in cold fountain water for who-knows-how-long?" Conrad asked.
Ulrike's eyes widened as she realised her mistake. He had only seemed normal to the touch because the frigid water had chilled his skin. The fever had raged undetected thus far, and the unexpected nap in the fountain probably had not helped in the slightest. "Oh, Heika…" she whispered. "Forgive me."
"You've done nothing for which you would need forgiveness. I just need to get him to Gisella quickly," Conrad said.
He pulled back the covers, noting that someone had thankfully dried off the Maou and changed him into dry garments. Conrad gently edged his hands under Yuuri's back and under his knees, gently carrying the prone boy out to his horse.
Mounting the horse with Yuuri in tow was something of an adventure, but with some finagling, it eventually happened. They had been forced to tie Yuuri's torso to Conrad's with Conrad's belt to keep him upright. Conrad could only pray his pants were fitted enough that they wouldn't fall the instant he dismounted at Blood Vow Castle. He had no desire to bare himself to the entire establishment.
"Rumi," he said to the horse, "gently now."
The horse listened, for the most part, still a bit tired from the previous exertion. Still, fifteen minutes or so after their departure, Yuuri stirred.
"Mmmmmmgh," he moaned in a keening whine.
"Heika? Are you all right?" Conrad asked.
"Do I look all right?" Yuuri mumbled. "And 'Heika' ain't my name…"
Conrad almost chuckled. Yuuri would be the type to fixate on that detail even when ill. "You are very sick. We're going to Blood Vow Castle now. Gisella should be able to help."
"Conrad… please slow down. I feel terrible. Like, I can't even see straight. My stomach is going on this massive tirade of 'fuck you' and I just-" Yuuri burst out in harsh coughing – "I just super-duper can't deal with anything right now. Even talking is nauseating. That said, I'm gonna shut up."
"I will try to go slower, Hei… Yuuri."
And with that, to all appearances, Yuuri passed out again.
Laid out in the royal bed, Yuuri looked a hell of a lot smaller and infinitely more fragile. If Conrad's protective streak hadn't kicked in before, it certainly had now.
Gisella pulled up a chair onto which she placed her medical bag. "So… I was wondering when something like this would happen."
"What do you mean?"
She sighed. "The Maou has been awfully resistant to Shin Makoku's diseases, wouldn't you say? How many months has he been with us? In perfect health, might I add? I've only had to see to injuries, not illnesses. I was wondering if maybe Heika was healing his own illnesses and not asking me for help. I was beginning to feel all useless," she said. "Although, of course, I'd rather he keep his health than be seriously ill."
She placed a hand on Yuuri's forehead. Her lips thinned. "…Is his hair wet?"
"Heika travels through water, Gisella."
"And he isn't dry yet?"
Conrad frowned. "Well, according to Ulrike-sama, he was found early this morning asleep in a fountain. It is unknown how long he was there."
Gisella gave him her Sergeant I'm-Going-to-Kill-You-for-Being-a-Thrice-Cursed-Imbecile look. "You could have stood to mention that a little sooner," she said coldly.
"Er – yes, ma'am."
"Anything else I should know about?"
"He woke up on the ride back and mentioned severe dizziness, nausea, and he was coughing as he said it," Conrad said.
"And you were going to tell me this when, exactly?"
"As soon as possible, Gisella." Conrad was starting to wonder if it had been a rhetorical question.
He was saved from Gisella's next vitriolic comment with a burst of coughing from the figure on the bed.
"Heika!" Gisella tried to help Yuuri sit up to more easily clear his throat, but was having trouble. Conrad hurried to the other side of the bed to help. It was obvious that Yuuri couldn't support any of his own weight. "Heika, it's Gisella. Can you hear me?"
"Ngh… mm… Gi-Gisell…a…" Yuuri's head lolled as quiet mumbles escaped him. His voice seemed much higher pitched than it had before.
"Heika, you're ill. Can you tell us how you're feeling?"
Whatever Yuuri was mumbling, it wasn't any recognisable language. His hand groped blindly for Conrad's hand, and Conrad suddenly recalled Yuuri's previous comment about the dizziness impeding his vision. He gripped the young boy's hand tightly in his own. A tiny smile appeared on Yuuri's face, and he leaned into his protector unconsciously.
"This is very bad," Gisella murmured.
"He wasn't this bad off when he woke up earlier," Conrad said. "He was perfectly cognisant then, I swear. He spoke in full sentences that made sense, although it seemed as though he had just as much trouble sitting up then as he is now."
Her jaw tightened. "I think the fountain may have controlled his fever for a time. Whatever he was like before, he's worse now. Lean him back on the pillows. Grab some more from over there. Sit him up. I don't want him choking on something. In the meantime, I'm going to need willowbark tea."
"Willowbark. Increases blood flow and can help to lower fevers. And if you find some pudding, bring that, too. His cough sounds terrible and he'll need something to soothe it." She smiled lightly. "If I recall, Yuuri Heika is fond of chocolate flavour."
Conrad bowed slightly, and left for the kitchens.
As soon as the door closed, he no longer attempted to hide his shaking hands.
He had felt with his own fingers how much Yuuri's fever had grown. It was the sort of fever that, if raised any higher, could potentially cause brain damage. He had seen it happen before, mostly to the very young or the very old, who could do little to regulate their internal body temperatures. He trusted Gisella, but Conrad couldn't help the tight feeling in his gut that something terrible had landed on his doorstep.
As a soldier, one quickly learned to trust that sense, or one died. Conrad had never wanted to be rid of that sense so badly before.
He just had to have faith in Gisella.
And in Yuuri.
He wasn't going to lose to nonsense like a fever.
Conrad was being stupid.
(A/N): I hate how I'm writing this, but I don't know how to fix it. How does one show the formality that everyone in Shin Makoku uses (except for Yuuri and Greta, pretty much) without sounding... well, prissy? Yuuri's normally the one to break that prissy vibe, but he's a bit out of commission right now. Those who are familiar with my writing know that I am boss with informal banter. There's not gonna be any of that here, or if there is, it's going to have to be very light. I am so out of my writing comfort zone, it's not even funny.
On the other hand, when I first thought up the title, you have no idea how much cackling I did. Even if the rest of this fic is utter bollocks (and I have a terrible feeling it will be), the title is genius. For this I accept full credit.