Lucia Says Goodbye to Celes
“So, when will you set out?”
At my question, the bright smile that had graced Sir Celes’s face faded. Looking glum again, he sighed as he replied, “In half a month… I’ll be busy making preparations, so I won’t be able to come here for a while. Sorry, Lucia.”
When he became dejected, the dashing and handsome Sir Celes somehow became cute and dashing. Although the “dashing” part never changed, no matter what his expression. I had no idea how he did that. He was just always handsome. I would never manage that, no matter what I tried, not with my plain looks.
But if he was that dejected about it, then could I take that to mean that he enjoyed our time together as well? I wasn’t the only one looking forward to it, then? If that was so, then I would be elated. So truly, truly happy. Which made not being able to see him even more lonely. I mean, I always enjoyed this time we spent together so much.
“How long will it take?” I asked.
Sir Celes sighed again. “Who knows… We’ll be guarding the Sacred Maiden as we travel to purify the Cristallo Sacro, so I suspect it will take a while. To get to the Cristallo Sacro of Kyriest, it takes about seven days on horseback, if you take the back roads. But the Sacred Maiden has never ridden on a horse or in a carriage, and we’ll be traveling along the main roads, so I have no idea how long it will be…”
These days, your options for traveling were to go either on foot or horseback, or by carriage. With monsters so prevalent in the last hundred years, the number of carriages traveling between cities had diminished. At this point, there were no civilian carriages at all. However, the kingdom did send out carriages on occasion. There weren’t many, but people could move about by riding with merchants or the kingdom’s carriages. The kingdom’s carriages were protected by magical stones created by the students of the Academy, and were also protected by soldiers as they traveled, so they kept the cities connected. When I had come from Hasawes to Arldat, I’d used one of those kingdom-owned carriages. Apparently the royalty and nobility would hire guards and travel using their own carriages, but of course, that wasn’t an option for we common-born folk.
But, the Sacred Maiden from another world had never ridden in a carriage before? Perhaps she had lived in a way that didn’t require her to travel. Or maybe she’d used some other means of transportation. I would never have the opportunity to meet her, of course — but if I did, it would be interesting to ask. Although, a common-born person like myself had no business asking idle questions of such an august lady, anyway.
“They’ll be announcing this publicly tomorrow, but His Highness the crown prince will travel with us. So we’ll be traveling by carriage, but that means we won’t cover much ground each day. I suspect it will take six months, or a year…maybe even longer than that before we return to the capital.”
“Yeah… I would like to come back sooner, but the purification of the Cristallo Sacro is vital.”
A whole year… It seemed like such a long time to go without seeing him, but once the Cristallo Sacro were purified, the rampaging monsters would be contained and the world would be at peace again. Put in those terms, a single year seemed like the very near future indeed.
“I wish you luck on your journey, Sir Celes. Travel safely.” Praying that my beloved friend would be safe, I lowered my head deeply.
In response, Sir Celes thumped his uniformed chest once and gave me a brilliant smile. “I promise, I’ll come back to you. And then we’ll meet here again,” he swore.
I couldn’t help but be happy at that promise.
“Welcome back, Lucia!”
When I returned to the laundrymaids’ break room at the ringing of the first afternoon bell, Chicca, the Second Regiment’s laundrymaid Rossella, and the sisters Jeanne and Joanne, who were in charge of the Third and Fourth Regiment, were all there.
“That’s not the ribbon you had this morning!”
Feminine eyes were quick to notice feminine changes. Jeanne and Joanne were twin sisters, four years older than me. They were kind and beautiful, and they’d taken good care of me ever since I joined the laundrymaids assigned to the knights.
“So where did this come from?”
“It’s so cute! You’re always wearing cool colors like indigo and blue, but this sort of warm pink really does suit you, Lucia!”
The two sisters, who’d circled behind me to inspect the ribbon, rested their hands on my shoulders, identical faces drawing close on either side of me.
“So, was it a present from your boyfriend?” “Boyfr— No! Don’t be ridiculous!”
Honestly! Hearing it put like that, I found myself blushing. I mean, Sir Celes was a man and he was my friend, but we weren’t lovers! We were just friends who ate lunch together! Nothing more than that!
“Come now, be honest with us. Is this from your lunchtime fellow?”
Jeanne and Joanne chuckled as I flailed. Oooh, with them holding my shoulders I couldn’t get away even if I tried! Those cute faces were turning into villainous grins! Meanwhile, the older Chicca and Rossella were simply looking on from the other side of the room with great interest. Clearly, they weren’t about to help me.
“Well, it was a gift — but it’s not like that!”
This was a ribbon from Lily Blitz, and while it was certainly finer quality than my usual ribbons, it wasn’t meant to be a hair ribbon at all! The whole thing was a little awkward, so I’d meant to keep it to myself — but there was no denying those two. Resistance was futile. In the end, I had to explain what had happened during lunch. When I pulled the tin out of my pocket to
show them, the twins shrieked in delight.
“My, but that’s remarkable!” Chicca said, her eyes wide.
Even the normally taciturn Rossella commented. “…Amazing.” Lily Blitz really was incredibly popular!
“So, he wasn’t certain what to do with it, so he gave it to me. This ribbon was just tied around the Lily Blitz package.” When I explained that I was just wearing the wrapping ribbon until I could get back to my room, since I’d given away my usual one, the sisters looked at each other.
“A Lily Blitz ribbon?” “This?”
With those surprised comments, they held up the tail ends of the ribbon, which had been dangling under my chestnut-brown hair. Well, it made sense that they would be surprised. After all, you’d never expect such an elaborately decorated ribbon to be used for packaging! But in fact, it was my turn to be surprised.
“This…is a regular ribbon,” Rossella said, lightly touching the pink ribbon and its transparent little flowers. “I bought one for my daughter’s birthday. One small silver piece.”
For a small silver piece, you could buy a splendid lunch! You could even buy dinner, if you went somewhere cheap! I never would have thought this ribbon could be so expensive — that was a far cry from my cheap ribbon that I’d bought for a single copper coin!
“That’s right! Lily Blitz’s ribbons are a basic pink!”
“Besides, you’d never use a fancy ribbon like that for packaging!”
Put that way, I did have to agree. After all, it was incredibly cute.
As I was gaping, I heard Chicca murmur, “He must have deliberately switched the ribbon.”
Hearing that, I suddenly panicked. Eh? He’d put that much thought into it!? Maybe it would be better if I returned it? Oh, now I was getting worried about it!
“I’ll go return it! The ribbon, at least!” I pulled the ribbon out of my hair and went to turn around, but Jeanne and Joanne hastily stopped me.
“Now, now, none of that.”
“That’s definitely a ribbon meant for a girl,” Joanne added. “And is your fellow’s hair long enough to use a ribbon? If not, then he must have gotten it specifically to give to you.”
Prompted by Joanne’s words, I pictured Sir Celes. His hair was long enough to shade his eyes and brush his collar, but it wasn’t long enough to tie with a ribbon. Then…Sir Celes got this for me?
“It compliments you quite well, Lucia. He must pay very close attention.” Rossella’s words were the finishing blow. I turned as red as a boiled tomato. For a moment, my heart skipped a
Because— I mean— It never occurred to me that he’d gotten that ribbon for me! It was so very pretty! Oh, what should I do, I was so incredibly happy… Would it be all right if I danced around the room? What were his intentions in giving it to me? I wanted to ask, and at the same time, I was terrified of asking.
But even if I wanted to thank him, it would be quite a while until I saw him again. We’d promised to meet again, but I had no idea when that would be… When I remembered that I couldn’t meet him, my giddy feelings withered away as though I’d been dunked in cold water. A year was far too long. I missed him already.
“Are you going to get him something in return?”
“You said he was a knight, yes? From the Third Regiment? Maybe you could invite him to visit the town for the next holiday… Lucia, what’s wrong?”
At their words, I shook my head dejectedly. “He’s being sent with the Sacred Maiden on the purification expedition. So I won’t see him for a while. Maybe a year or more.”
“What!? You mean he’s just leaving this hanging with no way to move forward? What’s with that!”
“I suppose it’s hard for him, too. Maybe he wanted to leave a mark, so other guys will know she’s taken!”
While the twins were talking, Chicca stepped past them, smiling, and held out a hand. “Here, Lucia, hand me the ribbon. I’ll fix your hair for you.”
While Chicca gently tied the ribbon in my hair again, I thought about Sir Celes. In my heart, I promised myself: I would thank him without fail when he returned.
So please, Sir Celes — come home soon!