Lucia Does the Laundry
“Oh the soap and the suds wash all the dirt away, Leaving the shirts so nice and clean!
The sun is warm and bright today,
The perfect day to do laundry…!”
Today’s sky was a beautiful, clear blue — it really was perfect weather for doing the laundry. I rubbed the soap into the dirty clothes laid out on the washboard, then scrubbed them vigorously against the ridges to get the dirt out. Seeing one after the other turn clean and white was such a wonderful feeling!
Looking at the next piece of clothing, I sighed. “This one is going to need Soap, isn’t it?”
No one answered — I was working alone in the back courtyard of Arldat Castle. The uniform I held was covered with a massive blue stain, and no amount of hand washing was going to get that out. Under the bright sun, the blue stain had an oily feel to it, nothing like the clear blue sky overhead. Just one look told me that this wasn’t dye; something sticky and viscous had stained the uniform.
I focused on the stain. “Soap!”
At my incantation, a flurry of rainbow-colored soap bubbles floated up out of the stained uniform. The bubbles enveloped the stain, which faded as if they were drawing it into themselves. Then they floated up into the sky, shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow. The stained uniform returned to its original crisp gray color. As the rainbow-sheened soap bubbles danced lightly under the blue sky, I couldn’t help but smile at their beauty. I never got tired of seeing this scene. I mean, it was just so pretty! That beloved blue sky, with my magic floating under it. As the soap bubbles drifted upwards, they sparkled in the sunlight like jewels.
“Now I just need to hang these up to dry!”
The tub was piled high with freshly cleaned laundry. With a huff, I heaved it up, and then left the chilly washing area and set off for the sunny spot where the clotheslines were. Getting around the big castle while carrying a heavy laundry tub was no easy task.
Now, with your permission, I would like to introduce myself.
I am Lucia Arca, sixteen years old. My chestnut-colored hair reaches to my back, with a slight wave to it, and my eyes are a violet color so dark that they look black. My height is average, neither short nor tall. Likewise, I’m not exactly well-endowed or slender. At most, I’m maybe a little bit curvier in the chest than most. Even my face is unremarkable. Just an ordinary person wearing everyday clothing. That’s me, Lucia.
If my eye color were just a little lighter, then at least you could tell that they were violet! But at a glance, they just look black, which makes me feel even plainer.
When my only family, my mother, died a few months ago, I left my familiar home of Hasawes behind and set off to make a fresh start in the royal capital of Arldat. Thanks to an acquaintance, I’m now making use of my special talent, working as a laundrymaid in the castle!
Why would I do that, you ask? Well…I have debts to pay. Mostly from buying medicine for my mother. I’d done my best to ease the cost by gathering medicinal herbs on my own, even from far away. But even so, it was never quite enough. With my mother’s life on the line, we’d had no choice but to pay however we could, even if it meant going into debt. But now that she was gone, I was left with enough debts that even selling my childhood home wasn’t enough to repay them all. Which, well, led me to working as a live-in laundrymaid.
Even a commoner such as myself could get a job as a laundrymaid washing dirty clothes or a kitchen assistant helping the head cook. Of course, there was no way you could get a job as a servant in the royal castle without references. But in my case, one of my long-dead father’s acquaintances referred me. There happened to be an opening for a laundrymaid! Laundry is hard work, so it’s not a popular job even among the servants. So I was able to get a job.
Next step, to pay back those debts!
Ah yes, about that “special talent” I mentioned…
Have you ever heard of a magic called Soap? No? You haven’t? Well, that’s not too surprising. I’ve never heard of it anywhere else, either. It might seem incredibly special, that an ordinary person like myself has a magic that only I can use, but…it’s not, really. My Soap is simply a magic that creates soap bubbles.
It’s only good for children’s games? Yes, when I was small I thought the same thing. Soap may be rather dull, but if I cast it on something dirty, then hey presto! The soap bubbles gather around the dirty part, no matter what it is, and clean it away. So it only makes sense that I would get a job as a laundrymaid, don’t you think? So my days are full of laundry. It is tiring work, but it’s very satisfying, so I actually enjoy it!
And now I’d reached the clotheslines. There were several places where you could wash clothes in the castle, but the back courtyard, which was in the sun most of the day, was the only
place where you could hang them to dry. It was very large, because it was used not just by the laundrymaids attached to the knights, where I worked, but all the laundrymaids who worked on the regular laundry generated by daily life in the castle.
As an aside, the laundresses who worked for the royal family didn’t use the courtyard, they used clotheslines on the castle roof. Unlike we servant laundrymaids, the maids who handled the royal family’s clothes were lower-ranking attendants with references from noble families. So naturally, they used different washing places and clotheslines.
Now then, let’s get these clothes onto the line!
The clothesline was strung a little higher than I was tall. Piece by piece, I draped the items from my heavily-laden tub over the line and secured them with clothespins. It was a clear day, with a breeze. They would surely dry in no time.
Right now, it was early spring, at the transition between the windy month of Ventose and the sprouting season of Germinal. Although there were still plenty of cold days, the sunlight was warm. I’d gotten cold washing the laundry in the shade, but I could feel myself warming up again — especially since hanging the laundry made for quite a bit of exercise. Wiping the sweat from my forehead, I picked up the empty laundry tub. Five fully loaded tubs’ worth of laundry was now all on the line, flapping in the breeze. Oh, that’s satisfying!
“Look at you, all hard at work, Lucia!” “Chicca!”
When I turned around, my coworker Chicca had just arrived carrying her own fully loaded tub of laundry. Her sunburned face was bright with a sunny smile, while her sandy-colored hair coiled at the base of her neck. I always worked in the same place, but Chicca would change her washing location every day, so that she could gather all the latest news.
“I hate to ask you to do my job for me, but could you cast Soap on this? I got most of it out, but the rest of it is beyond me.” Setting her tub on the ground, Chicca reached inside and pulled out one shirt.
Is that ink? The shirt had a black stain on it. It had already been thinned, but that did look challenging.
“Of course, it’s no trouble at all! Soap!”
I focused my attention on the remaining stain and cast my magic. The dark spot vanished together with the rising soap bubbles, leaving a pure white shirt in Chicca’s hands.
“Thanks! Sorry about that. That magic of yours is such a big help!” Pale blue eyes sparkling, Chicca thumped my shoulder.
Soap really was the perfect magic for a laundrymaid. Maybe my magic didn’t have any other use, but professionally, it was incredibly popular among the laundrymaids who were in charge of
the knights’ laundry. So I tended to get requests like this a lot. The laundrymaids in charge of the royal family didn’t have anything to do with us common-born servants, so they didn’t know about it.
Setting the clean shirt aside — for some reason, my magic got rid of the water as well as the stains, so there was no need to line-dry items I’d cast Soap on — Chicca began hanging the other items in her tub on the line. My hands were free, since I’d already finished my load, so I went to help. In response, Chicca turned a warm, friendly smile towards me, laugh-lines crinkling the corners of her eyes.
“The first regiment always seems to have a lot of pigment stains,” I commented, standing next to Chicca to secure a clothespin. “Did that happen again today?”
“Pretty much,” Chicca agreed. “But it’s better than dealing with the Handymen and their monster gore!”
The laundry that we dealt with had different kinds of stains. What I dealt with was mostly mud, but Chicca usually had stains from sauce, cosmetics, and also ink and pigments. Because Chicca was a thirty-year veteran, she had charge of the laundry of the First Regiment, the knights who acted as personal guards to the royal family of Banfield.
The knights of Banfield were organized into the First through Fifth Regiments. The First Regiment were the royal guards protecting the king and his family, the Second Regiment was the intelligence corps in charge of investigations and negotiations, the Third and Fourth Regiments were the mobile combat units, and the Fifth Regiment was the defense force charged with maintaining law and order in the capital. On top of that, there were regular soldiers serving under the knights, but the laundrymaids assigned to the knights’ regiments were only responsible for the knights themselves, so we only did the laundry of the fifty knights assigned to each regiment. Because I was the most junior of the laundrymaids, I was normally in charge of the Fifth Regiment, whose laundry was usually the dirtiest. But since the mobile Third and Fourth Regiments — usually called the Handymen — sometimes went on monster hunts, when they came back I would switch over to them.
As Chicca had said, the gore from monsters was very troublesome. It simply would not wash out. I had no idea what that stuff was made of. Once that blue blood had stained something, regular soap was useless. Because of that, they used to throw the uniforms away, even though the uniforms of Banfield’s knightly regiments were specially enchanted by the mages of the Academy for magic resistance and physical defense. I’d heard that the knights of other kingdoms wore armor, but here in Banfield, the knights only needed to wear their uniforms. Given how special they were, it was best to reuse the uniforms if at all possible.
Thus, everyone was overjoyed when I became a laundrymaid and we discovered that with Soap I could clean the stains. So thanks to me, they’ve really managed to reduce the clean-up
costs. My magic may be boring, but it’s useful!
“Come to think of it…aren’t you covering the Handymen today, Lucia?”
“I am. Apparently the Third Regiment went out on a monster hunt, so I’m doing the uniforms from that. Still, they actually weren’t too bad this time. Although one of them was terribly stained.”
“According to a friend of mine among the lower-ranked attendants, the Captain dealt with all the monsters himself this time. That’s our Dragonslayer for you!”
Unlike we servants, the attendants who worked in the palace were mostly young noblewomen learning etiquette. In addition, although I’d never spoken with them, among their number were the daughters of wealthy commoners. In other words, the royal attendants were nobles, the lower-ranked attendants were upper-class commoners with references from noble families, and general servants like us were middle-class commoners or lower, more or less. Naturally, many of the lower-ranked attendants from common-born families gave themselves airs when it came to us servants, but others were willing to share gossip like this.
“In that case, the uniform I used Soap on earlier must have been his,” I commented, thinking back to the blue-stained gray uniform.
I never bothered to check the names sewn into the uniforms every time I washed them, so I hadn’t paid attention to whose uniform that had been, but given that only one person’s uniform had been stained, it must have been the clothing of the famed hero, the Dragonslayer.
“Dragonslayer.” That was the title given to Sir Celestino Clementi, Captain of the Third Regiment. According to the stories, when the knights had set out to slay a dragon, he had been the one to deliver the finishing blow. It had been a massive expedition, made up of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Regiments. But dragons were powerful creatures, and the Third and Fourth Regiments had taken heavy casualties, while the Fifth Regiment had been almost entirely wiped out. As a result, the Fifth Regiment whose laundry I handled was a newly formed unit, made up of members drawn from among the soldiers. I wasn’t entirely clear on the details though, as I hadn’t been working here a year ago.
“Is that so? Oooh, if the other young girls heard that you got to lay hands on the clothing of the Dragonslayer, they’d go absolutely green with envy!”
Looking at the laundry waving in the breeze, I tilted my head to the side. “Really? But they’re just clothes.”
I could understand shrieking if you met the man in person, but…clothes are just clothes, right?
Chicca looked at me and sighed heavily, “And you a young girl yourself… Haven’t you ever been in love?”
Chicca, don’t look at me with such a sad face! I do actually have someone that I rather like, you know!