Lucia Goes to Tello
Sir Gaius knew no mercy.
I mean — yes, we had no idea how far the Sacred Maiden’s expedition had gotten. So it was for the best that we catch up as quickly as possible.
But! But-but-but! I’d never ridden a horse before! This sort of forced march was far too hard for me!
I knew it wouldn’t help, so I couldn’t complain, but I was crying on the inside. My seat hurt.
My legs hurt. Even my arms and my back hurt! By the time we arrived at our destination of Tello, I was completely wrung out. Even though we’d set out at dawn, the sun was already beginning to set. I was so tired…!
“Good work today, little lady,” Sir Gaius said. “Think you can eat something?” “I, I’ll…do my best…”
Honestly, I wasn’t the least bit hungry. I just wanted to go straight to bed. But I had the feeling that it was best not to complain, so I bit the words back. If I gave in to exhaustion here, then moving forward I might just become baggage to be dragged along. I wasn’t used to traveling, and I had no combat experience. All I had going for me was Soap and my own determination.
I swore to do everything I could! The very least I can do at this point is make sure I’m not a burden!
There was so much I couldn’t do. Which meant I absolutely must not turn my back on anything I might be able to do. Although that was probably just plain old stubbornness.
In the darkening evening, the town of Tello was full of lively voices talking and delicious smells. Other than my hometown of Hasawes, I’d never been to any town other than Arldat. I couldn’t help staring all around me at this new town. It was a far cry from both the sleepy calm of Hasawes and the hustle and bustle of Arldat. The courtyard just inside the main town gate was full of shop stalls, with a fountain in the center. Chairs had been set up in front of the stalls, and they were full of people with food and drinks in their hands.
Sir Gaius noticed me staring. “Folks sometimes call Tello the town of food stalls,” he said kindly. “There’s plenty of good food here. Anything you care to eat, little lady? If not, I’ll just pick something out.”
The smell of meat roasting drifted through the air. Maybe I was a little hungry after all! “I’ll eat anything!” I said. “Although, anything that’s extremely sweet and bitter…”
Sir Gaius interrupted. “Pretty sure there’s no food like that.”
Oh, right. That had been a medicine. I shoved the memory of the mana recovery medicine out of my mind. I really hoped I would never have to depend on that again!
“Let’s hit the inn first,” Sir Gaius suggested. “We can eat once we’ve dropped our things off. I’m starving!”
We crossed the plaza with all its temptations and headed for a large inn on the far side. I’d worried about whether or not we would be able to find a place to stay, but it seemed they had open rooms, and we were able to get one for each of us! The room that I was shown to was startlingly large compared to my old room in the dorms, but apparently most of the rooms in this inn were the same size. Amazing!
We left the inn and hurried back to the plaza.
“Let’s start off with some meat! And I could use a drink.” Sir Gaius headed towards a stall selling alcohol near the entrance. “Hey there! One black ale!”
“You aren’t worried about getting drunk?” I asked. I’d always pictured the knights as being very serious about their duties. I never thought that they might drink on the job. Was I wrong?
Oh… But come to think of it, this would be a long journey. So taking some downtime to relax on occasion would be important. We’d made it to the inn, so in a way, we were off-duty now. Sir Gaius was even wearing regular clothes, rather than his uniform.
“Black ale is basically water,” Sir Gaius insisted.
“But, I’ve never had alcohol…”
“Good point. You’re still a child, aren’t you.”
“That counts as a child so far as I care. Hey, get me an orange juice as well,” Sir Gaius called. Juice! He really was treating me like a child!
But…somehow, that made me a little happy. I’m sorry, Sir Gaius. I can’t help wondering if my father was like you!
Sir Gaius kept ordering. “After that, we’ll have the beef skewers and sausages. Six of each. And…let’s have three of the fried trout sandwiches.” He glanced over his shoulder at me.
Meat! How many years had it been since I’d had beef? The dining hall for servants generally served chicken at most, and when I’d lived in Hasawes we hadn’t had the budget to buy meat.
I didn’t realize I had a dopey grin on my face until Sir Gaius smirked at me. Augh, I was so embarrassed!
“Anything else you want?” he asked.
“No, that will be plenty,” I said. Six skewers of beef, six sausages, three sandwiches… How much of that was for me? One each would be plenty, but…
Ultimately, I had one of the sandwiches, but Sir Gaius insisted on giving me two each of the rest. I appreciated the thought, really, but that was too much!
Then Sir Gaius said, “Eat your vegetables,” and ordered a hearty vegetable stew from a nearby stall, and then he said, “Children like their sweets, I suppose,” and bought me an apple pie. If this keeps going then my stomach’s going to explode! He was the sort of person who liked to fuss over someone, apparently.
Sir Gaius was sitting back with a pleased look on his face, yet another black ale in his hands — I’d lost count of how many he’d had. He didn’t seem at all interested in returning to the inn. I suppose it made sense that a knight would have far more endurance than I.
As I struggled against my sleepiness, Sir Gaius exclaimed, “So the Sacred Maiden herself came through here!”
“That’s right! Seeing her standing with His Highness the prince, why, you’d never seen such a beautiful couple!” the stall owner said.
“Though she and the prince went straight to the inn and stayed cooped up in there; didn’t come out to the stalls. Pity; I’d have liked to serve them some of my fried dumplings,” another commented.
“As if! Your stuff wouldn’t suit a prince’s refined tastes anyway.”
“What was that!? Not like anyone asked for your fried fish, either!”
So the Sacred Maiden passed this way, then… I thought.
“So when’d all this happen?” Gaius asked.
“I’d say it was about seven days ago.”
“Yep. Now our Tello can be known as a town that the Sacred Maiden herself graced!”
Wait. Was Sir Gaius gathering information!? He’d done it so casually, I hadn’t even noticed!
Seven days… Sir Celes had told me that if you went by horse along the back roads, then it would take about seven days to reach the nearest Cristallo Sacro. In that case, by now they had probably arrived. Oh, but he’d also said that they would be using the main roads. In that case, it was much harder to guess where the Sacred Maiden and her companions might be right now.
“Hey, what about that daughter of yours there, mister? She looks about the Sacred Maiden’s age. Hey miss, what do you think of this fried dumpling?” The man with the dumpling stall handed a package of dumplings to Sir Gaius.
“Good thought! Lucia, try one of these.”
Try one? But I was already so full!
“Awfully cute daughter for a big bear like you. Your wife must’ve been quite a beauty!”
“What do you mean, been? The missus is holding down the fort back home. We’re just taking a little father-daughter trip.”
I knew he was just playing along with the merchant’s assumptions, but being treated like Sir Gaius’s daughter made me a little bashful.
All right, time to step up to the challenge! I’d do my best, as his “daughter.” Trying to placate my already over-full stomach, I took a big bite of the fried dumpling Sir Gaius handed me.
Wait, I don’t need the fried fish, too! It’s quite enough, really!
In the end, we didn’t return to the inn until very late. I was so tired, I fell asleep the moment my head touched the pillow, and slept until morning without even dreaming.
And when the sun rose the next morning, I found myself back on the horse again. “You sleepy, little lady?”
I was used to getting up early, but between the unfamiliar work of riding and the late night, it was a struggle to wake up. I’d tried to hide my yawns, but Sir Gaius noticed anyway.
“All right then, I’ll support you, so go ahead and nap on the road.”
“That’s impossible!” How could anyone sleep with the horse jolting them about like that? Waving off Sir Gaius’s ridiculous suggestion, I straightened. “So, if the Sacred Maiden passed through Tello seven days ago, does that mean they’ll be reaching the Cristallo Sacro about now?” I asked.
“I doubt that,” Sir Gaius said. “They were near Tello when they sent the soldiers and attendants back, you see.”
“Eh? But…we only left Arldat a day ago…”
“It’s a four-day journey to get here by the main roads. We got here so quickly by taking the back roads,” Sir Gaius explained.
Oh. Come to think of it, when we’d been riding, we’d taken paths that barely counted as roads. Cutting across fields and such.
“You can get to the Cristallo Sacro in seven days by taking the back roads, but the expedition is taking the main roads, and they’re resting as they go. I’d say it’ll take them…about twenty days to get there, maybe?”
“Is it safe to go so slowly?” I asked, cocking my head to the side. After all, outside city walls, you might encounter monsters.
“Who knows what they’re thinking. Although it sounds like they’re stopping in towns to avoid the monsters.” Sir Gaius twirled the long hairs of his beard, then shook his head. “Well, if they’re taking it easy, that means we can catch up that much faster. Now, hang on and keep your mouth closed. If you’re not going to sleep either way, then we might as well ride hard!”
Wait, I almost managed to yelp, but the horse picked up its speed first.
Oh, I hoped we caught up with the Sacred Maiden soon! I didn’t know how long I could survive this!