Lucia Makes Maria Cry
Miss Maria’s pink lips trembled. “Why…” she whispered, as if the words had been wrung out of her. Tears welled up in her large, dark-lashed eyes. “Why, why, why!?”
Eh? Wait, why? Had I said something that I shouldn’t have!?
“Why are you the one to say that to me? Isn’t that supposed to be the sort of thing that a prince says, or a knight? Why are you…why are you the only one…!” Tears began to roll down her cheeks.
“S-Sorry!” I babbled, completely flustered. D-Don’t cry! Please, don’t cry! But, as if some inner dam had broken, Miss Maria burst into sobs.
“Why are you the only one to care about me!?” she wailed, sniffling. “Everyone has expectations about the Sacred Maiden, they only stand by me because I’m the Sacred Maiden, no
one notices or cares if I’m scared! They didn’t even ask me if I was scared! The people of this world just dragged me from my world and pleaded ‘help us, help us!’ Not one person said they’d help me…!”
When I reflexively reached out for her, she threw herself at me, clinging with all the strength in her slender body.
“I’m scared!” she cried. “Why do I have to fight? Ed and Celes and Eri-kun and Reynard, they all act like fighting is so normal, so why do I have to fight, too!? Until just a little while ago, I was just a high school student! Just because I suddenly got dragged to a different world, it doesn’t mean I know anything about fighting! Yes, I’m pretty. Yes, I got into fights with girls who were jealous, but I’d never had anything scary happen to me! I’d never seen something die in front of me before!”
Miss Maria’s sobbing broke my heart. I found myself remembering Sir Celes’s face as he told me, “After all, he’s human.”
Of course. Even if you had a special power, that didn’t mean you were accustomed to fighting. You’d still think it was scary. You still wouldn’t want to fight.
“When those soap bubbles wrapped around me, I felt safe. It was like my mother was hugging me. I haven’t felt safe since I came to this world. I don’t care about handsome guys or being a Sacred Maiden or whatever, I just want to go home…!”
The girl I was holding…was a normal girl, just like me. She had an unusual ability, but she was still afraid of fighting. We weren’t exceptional. Miss Maria and I, we were both ordinary girls suddenly forced into exceptional circumstances.
Clasping her small, delicate hands, I threaded our fingers together. “I’ll protect you,” I told her. “I don’t like being scared either, but I’ll do my best to keep you from being scared.”
Raising her head from my shoulder, Miss Maria gave me a small, winsome smile. “Please do. When things get scary, hold my hand and show me those soap bubbles. If you do…I think I’ll be able to try, a little.”
Then she scrubbed her tears away with her sleeve, straightening her expression as though nothing had happened. Her eyes were still a little red, but even so, she was strikingly beautiful. “I haven’t cried in front of someone since I came here. I’m so embarrassed. This was just between you and me, got it?”
“I understand. I won’t tell anyone,” I promised.
“I’ve been so ticked off ever since they brought me here,” she said. “Everything’s so inconvenient, and people were always watching me, and no one let me do anything. At least I can somehow speak the language, but since I didn’t know anything about this world I’ve had to study nonstop, and they made me drink that awful medicine over and over again… I just felt wretched! Everyone tiptoes around my feelings, but no one sees me as a person. It makes me so mad! But then, when that soap bubble of yours touched me, I suddenly felt so much better. What is it, anyway?”
“I don’t really understand it myself,” I admitted.
“You’re kidding me!” Miss Maria tumbled back onto the seat, cackling gleefully. “You’re weird. Everyone here keeps their distance, like they’re scared of me or as if I’m some sort of goddess. Why don’t you? I mean, I’m hardly one to say this, but I am the Sacred Maiden, you know?”
“Well…someone told me once that even if someone seems exceptional, they’re still human, just like me,” I explained. “When they said that, I thought that they had a point. It’s so easy to declare that someone is special. But then suddenly everyone keeps their distance from the ones they’ve decided are special. I started thinking, maybe those people are lonely, maybe they don’t like it…”
I had to think about the person who had led me to notice that.
Come to think of it, Sir Celes was the one who told me, “The Dragonslayer isn’t special, he’s just an ordinary person,” wasn’t he? Which meant, that was the way he wanted to be treated. Which meant I must have hurt him just now, keeping him at arm’s length like that.
Oh no. What have I done!? It wasn’t a matter of how other people would see it. I’d done something horrible to a dear friend.
I have to apologize! I didn’t know if he would forgive me, but if I didn’t properly talk to him, that would just leave bad feelings between us!
“Miss Maria! I’m sorry about this, but may I step outside for a little while?” I pleaded. “What’s this all of a sudden?”
“I need to apologize to someone.”
“Huh?” Miss Maria blinked.
Oh, I even blew him off when he tried to talk to me earlier. He might be angry at me. I couldn’t bear it if he hated me!
“Are you…talking about Celes?” Miss Maria asked. “You seemed to know each other.”
“Yes, Sir Celes,” I said. “He’s a very special friend to me, but I treated him very badly… I realized that just now, talking to you. So I’d like to go and apologize.”
“Hmmm, so Celes is a very special friend. Is that so.” A grumpy look crossed Miss Maria’s face. “So do you like Celes?”
“Well…of course I do?” “You’re friends?”
“It might seem strange — our stations in life are so very different — but we do eat our lunches together. So yes, we’re friends.”
“Is that so. You know, since I wasn’t going to be able to go home and had to live my life as the Sacred Maiden, I figured I should at least get myself a reverse harem of hot guys to wait on me, but…Celes was so serious. No matter what moves I put on him, he never wavered. I mean, I was wondering what kind of complete wuss wouldn’t be attracted to someone as cute and gorgeous as me, but… Yeah, I get it now.” Miss Maria set her hands on her hips and sighed. Then she turned away, making a shooing motion with her hand. “Well, I feel just a little bit sorry for Celes, so you can go today. Besides, I have Ed, Eri-kun, and Reynard.”
“Thank you so much!”
“But once you’re done making up, come straight back here! I’ll get mad if you don’t stay by me! You’re my attendant, got that?”
Leaving Miss Maria by herself, I leapt out of the wagon. Now, where would Sir Celes be? Looking about, I soon saw him standing next to a white horse.
At my shout, Sir Celes whirled about to face me. When our eyes met, Sir Celes’s usual smile spread across his face. “Lucia!”
I was so eager to talk to him, I ran as fast as I could. We had to talk as soon as possible. I had to apologize, and if he would forgive me, there were so many things I wanted to talk about!
Sir Celes had to grab my shoulders to keep me from crashing into him. Oops — I’d been running too fast to stop!
“Sir…Celes…! I, I’m sorry!” I blurted immediately. Sir Celes’s eyes widened. “Lucia?”
Hoping he would listen, I let the words pour out. “I’m sorry for acting so distant towards you. I’ve only ever talked to you when it was just the two of us, and it never occurred to me that you might be the Dragonslayer…and I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to behave in front of Miss Maria and His Highness. Even though you’re still the Sir Celes I’ve always known, I treated a
dear friend very badly.”
“A friend…right, I suppose so…” Sir Celes smiled weakly. Oh no. I had hurt him!
Sir Celes let out a long sigh, then leaned in to look at my face. “Say, Lucia. If you care about me, then try to treat me as the same ‘Celes’ you’ve always known. I don’t want you to start treating me like a hero now. Please don’t make a wall between us. I want you beside me.”
Sir Celes’s beautiful blue eyes stared straight into mine. Oh no. Having such a handsome man looking at me so seriously was not good for my heart! It was pounding so hard, I was certain Sir Celes could hear it!
Hoping to calm the pounding of my heart, I pressed my hands against my chest. My face was so hot that I just knew I was blushing! While I was standing there trying to contain myself, Sir Celes reached out for the nape of my neck and fingered the pink flower-ribbon that he had given me.
“You’re using the ribbon, I see. I’m glad. It looks good on you.”
Did Sir Celes even know what he did to people with his serious expressions and full-faced smiles!? If not, then there were probably many girls who got the wrong idea. No, I mustn’t get the wrong idea either! It was impossible that a dashing, grown man like Sir Celes wouldn’t have a single sweetheart. We were friends. It would be conceited of me to mistake my position.
Besides. I didn’t have the time to worry about romance. We had to make sure this journey succeeded!
“I did say that when we met again, I’d return your ribbon. But, you know…” Sir Celes pulled my ribbon out of his pocket.
Looking at it properly, it was so battered and worn-out that I regretted ever giving it to him. I felt like my face was about to burst into flame when Sir Celes looked at it. Stop, please don’t stare so intently at that threadbare thing!
“Lucia, would you let me keep this?” Sir Celes asked.
“Eh? No! It’s so threadbare, I’m embarrassed!”
“Didn’t I tell you that this was the one I wanted?” he reminded me. “You did, but…”
“Exactly. I’m fine with this one. Anything else wouldn’t be a proper token. So it’s fine, right? Right?”
Y-Your face is too close! That’s practically coercion! “Lucia?”
“Um, I-I understand, so could you please step back a bit…?”
“Thank goodness! Thank you, Lucia!” Sir Celes turned a blindingly bright smile on me as I stood there, trying to remember how to breathe.
When he got serious, Sir Celes might be…a little scary.