Lucia Has Lunch With Celes
We laundrymaids had a brief time off while we waited for the laundry to dry. We used that time to eat and attend to other business. But on a fine day like today, I had a particular place that I always went to. I picked up the lunch I’d gotten from the dining hall, wrapped in my own sky- blue napkin, and called, “Chicca, I’ll return by the first afternoon bell.”
Chicca, who had already turned to head for the dining hall, paused to give me a knowing smile and said, “Eating outside again, are we? It is fine weather, but…well, it must be love!”
“Love! That’s— Uhh… Umm…”
“…the outdoors, I mean?”
“Oh! Yes! Yes, that’s it! I totally love it! Being outside!” “…We’ll just leave it at that, shall we? Go on then. See you later.”
Feeling Chicca’s uncomfortably warm stare, I hastily snatched up my napkin-wrapped sandwiches and canteen of tea, and fled like a startled rabbit.
When I ran to the agreed spot in the back courtyard, the person I was looking for was already waiting under the tree.
“Lucia, you don’t need to run like that! What if you tripped?”
Tousled golden hair the color of the sun, blue eyes the same color as the clear sky. Add in the intense expression on nicely symmetrical features, and any girl who was of age would fall head over heels in love with one glance. Then there was the flattering way that the knight’s uniform fit his well-proportioned, tall figure. Yes, once again Sir Celes is ridiculously dashing.
But when he smiled, that intense look softened, and in those moments he looked adorable. Really, that had to be against the rules. Handsome and occasionally cute? It meant that while Sir Celes was handsome, no doubt about that, he wasn’t unapproachable or hard to talk to at all. He was a bright young man who loved to talk.
Talking with Sir Celes, the time simply flew by.
There was nothing pretentious about what we talked about. He’d talk about the dog his family had, or the time he’d gotten yelled at because he actually liked cats and was keeping one in secret, or interesting things that happened with his regiment. Simple things like that, where even
I could go with the flow and just enjoy the conversation.
Surely this man had to be popular. I mean, he had both good looks and a good personality, right? He could be conscientious without becoming overbearing, and even though he was normally laid back, he could become forceful from time to time. Any girl’s heart would be drawn to him! So surely there were many people who fell in love with him! Even I couldn’t help thinking about it, and I really knew nothing about romance.
Oh, but for someone like me to want him to be with me? No, that would be far too presumptuous of me! We were friends, just friends.
Or…was claiming friendship too presumptuous, as well? After all, Sir Celes was a knight. Based on what I’d heard, he served with the Handymen — or rather, the Third Regiment. With the exception of the First Regiment, which only the noble-born could join, they were the most legendary of the knightly regiments. Sir Celes might laugh and claim that the work they did truly suited the nickname of “Handymen,” but I still doubted you could join that regiment if you didn’t have real strength.
It’s hard to believe that such a person would be having lunch like this with a lowly laundrymaid like me, isn’t it? I couldn’t believe it myself, sometimes.
To explain… Our tradition of eating our lunches together first began when we met on a windy day three months ago. I had been running around the back courtyard, trying to chase down the laundry that had gone flying when I had taken the clothespins off. It was just one of the shirts worn under the uniform, but that still wasn’t something you could just lose! It was just regular clothing, not like the jackets enchanted by the Academy, but even so, the material was both comfortable and durable, and I suspect it was quite expensive. It was certainly a far cry from my flimsy personal clothes. So I had desperately chased after it. I’d been so focused on racing after it that, just as I finally caught it… I ran headlong into Sir Celes, who’d been standing under this tree.
Initially, Celes had simply stared wide-eyed at the laundrymaid who’d suddenly crashed into him, but when he saw my face, he’d looked even more startled. To the point that it surprised me. What Sir Celes said to me then was, “You— You’re that soap bubble girl, aren’t you!?”
At first, I had no idea what he was talking about. I mean, I had no memory of meeting such a bright, handsome man. When he explained, however, I remembered. He and I had actually met once before. Sir Celes had been on his way back from a monster hunt.
To be honest, I only vaguely remembered that I cast Soap on a group of people wearing blue- stained uniforms that I happened to meet. But Sir Celes, who had a very good memory, had remembered my face. That was how he and I had become friends who ate our lunches together like this, on days with good weather. At first, I thought I couldn’t possibly dare to sit and talk to a knight! But Sir Celes went so far as to say he’d come looking for me if I didn’t come, and threatened me with a bright smile until I started calling him by name. And before I realized it…we’d become the sort of friends who talked to each other without any reservations.
“Lucia? Is something wrong? You’re just staring into space…”
I suddenly realized I hadn’t even unwrapped my napkin. “Oh! I was just remembering…”
“Remembering?” Sir Celes peered at me, a worried look on his lovely face. “Are you tired? Would you like to lie down?”
“Nonono! I’m fine! I’m perfectly healthy!”
Sir Celes was a worrywart. If I didn’t refuse, he was the sort of person who’d even offer his lap for a pillow — which he and his handsome face had done before, the cheater! So I hastily denied his suggestion with all my might.
“Come to think of it…you’re in the Third Regiment, aren’t you?” “Yeah, I am.”
As we talked, I unpacked my food. Today, I was having potato salad sandwiches for lunch, while Sir Celes had a sandwich overflowing with meat. They were both sandwiches, but still completely different, from the contents to the bread. All that meat… I was a little jealous.
Oh yes! According to Sir Celes, the knightly regiments, who had to keep their bodies strong, often had meat as a main dish in their meals. Oh, I’d love to eat more meat…
The meat aside… As I bit into my sandwich, I turned to ask Sir Celes, who was taking a drink of tea, about something I’d been thinking about since my earlier conversation with Chicca.
“So… What sort of person is the Dragonslayer?”
The moment the words left my mouth, Sir Celes choked, the tea he’d been drinking spraying everywhere.
What was that about? I rubbed Sir Celes’s back as he coughed. “Are you all right?”
“Y-Yeah. Sorry, I’m fine. But what prompted that, all of a sudden?” he asked, eyes watering.
I’m sorry, that was such bad timing! I should have waited until after he finished drinking the tea.
“I was washing the Third Regiment’s uniforms earlier. When I heard that the Dragonslayer handled all the monsters himself on this expedition… I just wondered what sort of person he was.”
I’d heard that the Captain of the Third Regiment, the Dragonslayer, was popular with all the ladies, young and old, common and noble. But I only knew the rumors. I couldn’t really call myself well-informed. He was strong, he was handsome, he was serious, he’d been born a commoner… That was about all that I knew about him. I wasn’t really knowledgeable about the
rumor mill, so someone like Chicca’s friend, the lesser attendant, would probably know more. “What sort of person…” Sir Celes seemed to think about my question a bit, then smiled
slightly. “He’s…an ordinary person.”
His eyelashes, rather long for a man’s, gleamed brightly in the sunlight. “Yes. He doesn’t have any particular hobbies, he likes to take things easy, he’s not so good at flashy stuff.”
“I never would have guessed…” Going by Sir Celes’s description, he sounded much like me. But of course, one was a laundrymaid, the other the Captain of a regiment of knights, and the powerful hero who had finished off a dragon. We were nothing alike.
“He’s the same as you, Lucia,” Sir Celes said, a hint of loneliness in his voice. “After all, he’s human.”
“…I suppose you’re right. We’re both human, aren’t we.” I nodded, and Sir Celes’s face immediately lit up with a bright smile. He really did respect his captain, didn’t he? Although, goodness, “human” certainly covered a broad category!
We continued our idle conversation as we ate our lunches, until Sir Celes unexpectedly went silent. He looked like he was pondering something. Without thinking, I asked, “Is something wrong?”
At my question, Sir Celes turned to me, his expression solemn. “Well, have you heard? About the Sacred Maiden.”
The Sacred Maiden. That was a topic that everyone in the castle had been talking about recently. At Sir Celes’s words, I thought back to the rumors that Chicca had shared with me, and nodded. “Yes. They say that she is a lady who came to us all the way from another world, and that she’s very beautiful.”
To explain the Sacred Maiden, I first need to explain a bit about this world.
Our world is comprised of five countries. First is the kingdom of Banfield, where we lived, followed by the kingdom of Dal Canto, the duchy of Vatis, the duchy of Aquilania, and the duchy of Galiena. Banfield is located in the center, with Aquilania to the northeast, Galiena to the east, Vatis to the south, and Dal Canto to the southwest. Although technically there are five countries, the kingdom of Banfield is overwhelmingly the most powerful, and the four smaller countries are effectively Banfield’s vassals. I would say that of those, only the kingdom of Dal Canto, which has the Tower of Learning dedicated to research and study, really has much influence.
And at the heart of our world are three sacred, mysterious trees made of crystal — the Cristallo Sacro.
The three trees are the Cristallo Sacro of Kyriest in Banfield; Cristallo Sacro of Foristarn in Vatis; and Cristallo Sacro of Maynard in Dal Canto. These Cristallo Sacro trees distributed all the magic in the world, and at the same time were the mothers of all monsters. According to the old stories, the gods planted the trees with their own hands when they created the world, to serve as supports for it. No one knows why such blessed trees would give birth to monsters that hurt people.
Well, even though we call them monsters, they weren’t all that different from normal animals, so until now it hadn’t really been a problem. But for the past hundred years or so, the monsters born from the Cristallo Sacro suddenly had become much stronger, and started to attack humans. Around the time when I was born, they’d become even worse, to the point that humans could no longer handle them.
Take the dragon that the Dragonslayer slew. That’s a good example. The fire-breathing dragons see humans as their enemies, and periodically they attack human settlements, burning many people to death.
Troubled, our king called the rulers of the various kingdoms to Banfield, and they learned that approximately six hundred years ago, a similar phenomenon had happened. Something
strange happened to the Cristallo Sacro, and the world was saved by the power of a Sacred Maiden who came to us from another world.
That’s right — the Sacred Maiden currently living in the castle was a blessed person, once again summoned from another world to purify the Cristallo Sacro. Her name was Lady Maria Nishime. She was no older than I, but a far greater beauty than I could ever hope to be.