Lucia is Confused
Wait. What did he just say!?
Something had to be wrong with my ears. I felt like I’d just been told something that could be given an incredibly convenient interpretation. Getting jealous over the hair oil I’d been given by Sir Fedele… Wait, wait just a minute! My mind was jumping to conclusions here!
That, maybe, could it be… At the very least, could that mean that Sir Celes saw me, not as a friend, but as a woman?
No no no! Stop that, I have to calm down. Maybe he meant something else.
Q: I’d been told that he felt jealous because I was wearing perfume that another man had given to me as a present.
A: He didn’t want someone to steal the giver away.
That was it! It wasn’t that he didn’t want me to be stolen away… No, wait, that didn’t fit. If that were the case, if he were jealous that I had been given a gift, then he would have mentioned Sir Fedele’s name, right?
Huh? There had to be some other answer… Oh no, my head was spinning so fast, I couldn’t think!
Eep! Stop that, don’t whisper in my ear like that! Not right now! Don’t grin like this is funny! “You’re so cute when you blush.”
Of course! He’d said that just to see my reaction! That was it! He was just teasing me!
Because if he wasn’t.
If he really saw me as a woman.
If that was the case, then I…
I would have a name for the feelings in my chest.
I enjoyed spending time with him. I couldn’t wait for those clear, bright days. When I’d been terrified, calling his name in my heart had given me the strength to keep going. I’d been so happy when he praised me. I was glad that we could meet again, that we could travel together.
Making up my mind, I started, “Sir Celes—”
“We’re about to reach the next town!” Sir Agliardi called.
Startled, I looked up and saw the walls of a town just ahead of us.
“Already? Shame.” Sir Celes leaned back a little bit, giving me a little more space.
I didn’t know if I was disappointed or relieved.
And so I entered the town of Amarith, the words I’d been about to say to Sir Celes unsaid.
When we had arrived at the inn where we would stay for the night, Miss Maria dashed out of the carriage towards me and grabbed my hands. “Stay with me tonight! In my room!”
“Miss Maria!” Her happy smile was utterly charming. It was no wonder His Highness was head over heels for her! I could relate.
“Celes, I’m taking Lucia back now!” Winding her arm through mine, Miss Maria began to pull me along with her. She was much stronger than I’d expected! “We’ll have a pajama party! And we’ll eat together! Oh, I wonder if they have baths here.” Enthusiastically, Miss Maria turned to Sir Agliardi. “Hey, Fer, is there a bath here!?”
“Inns with private bathing facilities are only found in cities like Arldat,” he told her. “Generally towns only have public bathhouses. But given the safety concerns, I don’t think…”
Private baths were available at inns where nobles and wealthy families and the like stayed, but generally everyone went to the public baths in the center of town. Amarith was not a particularly big city, so it wouldn’t have an inn with baths.
“It’ll be fine, Lucia will be with me! Don’t be so stingy! I want to take a bath every day! I’m bearing with it while we travel, but you can’t just say it’s too dangerous every time! I’m not a baby. If anything happens, I’ll blast it away with magic!” Miss Maria argued.
The commander shook his head. “Nevertheless…”
“Eh, what’s the big problem, Commander?” Sir Gaius interrupted. “Her Sacredness isn’t used
to traveling; bet she’s tired. Let her live a bit. Little lady, if anyone causes you trouble, hit them with a soap bubble. That should keep things in line.”
Sir Gaius was as kind as ever. But…we didn’t know if humans would calm down the way monsters did when I cast Soap on them. Soap had certainly improved Miss Maria’s mood, but I didn’t think we could say for sure that would always be the case. “But we don’t know that it works on people that way…” I started.
“It’ll be fine. Look at what happened with Her Sacredness.” “What? You are such a rude bear!” Miss Maria huffed.
“See? Try casting it on Her Sacredness now,” Sir Gaius suggested. “Should fix up that temper a bit.”
“Shut up, you bear!” Miss Maria stuck her tongue out at Sir Gaius, then attached herself to me again. “Hey, Lucia, let’s go. You’ll protect me, right?”
She looked up at me with huge, glistening eyes. How could I possibly say no when she pleaded like that?
“Oh, let’s try an experiment then!” Eric suggested breathlessly, breaking into our negotiations. He looked like he was having great fun.
“And who would we be experimenting on?” Lord Reynard asked. “This isn’t the Academy, Master Eric.”
“You sound like one of the teachers, Reynard. Still, don’t you think it’s important to try it out?”
“Gaius has a point,” the prince interrupted. “Maria, go on. It’s all right, right, Fernando?” “Awww. You get it, Ed! Thanks! I love that part of you!”
At the prince’s declaration, a resigned look crossed Sir Agliardi’s face, but Miss Maria had her permission to visit the public baths.
“I want dinner, but baths first!” Miss Maria declared, and then we set out for the public bathhouse. It had separate areas for men and women, so the two of us separated from the rest of our group there.
There weren’t too many people in the bathhouse; we must have arrived before the truly busy period. In the changing room, we pulled off our clothes and left them in the baskets, and put on bathrobes that opened in the front — according to Miss Maria, they were very similar to something called yukata in her homeland.
“This is a bit like a Japanese public bath,” she said. “Or…maybe not? It’s a little different.”
“It is?” I asked, handing over my basket and receiving a tag to wear around my neck in return.
“Putting our clothes in a basket, that part’s the same. But here, you hand them over for
safekeeping. Back home, we’d leave them in the changing room.”
As we talked, Miss Maria and I headed for the bathing room. “Wait, where is the bath!?” she cried in surprise.
Immediately on entering was a place where you could wash yourself before soaking, but you could also get massages or loofas there; it wasn’t the actual bath. It was a big room, with hot water pipes running under the tiled floor to warm it.
Apparently, Miss Maria found that quite surprising. “Heated floors! And…they do beauty treatments here? Wait, where are the dividers?”
“Is this your first time visiting a public bathhouse, Miss Maria?” I asked.
“Of course it is! This is completely different from the castle. Oh, this is exciting!” “Well then, let’s get washed up and then we can go soak,” I suggested.
We found an open washing spot in one corner of the washroom. I filled my bucket with hot water from the spout and began cleaning myself.
“Do you just…leave it running?” Miss Maria asked.
“Eh? I mean, it’s always flowing…”
“Where I come from, you turn it off unless you need it. Isn’t this wasteful?”
“They use magic to provide the water, so I never really thought about it…” I admitted. “This world of yours is so careless. It’s inefficient!”
“Being able to stop and start it whenever you wanted would require separate magic stones. That isn’t efficient, either.”
“Hmph.” Miss Maria upended her bucket over her head, dousing herself. Then she smirked — and that mischievous, childlike grin was even more impressive on her beautiful face! “But seriously, you’re pretty fair-skinned, aren’t you. You’re just really tanned on your arms and face.”
Miss Maria, you’re one to talk about fair skin! Her skin was smooth and white all over, without a single blemish, as if she’d never once been out in the sun. It was enough to make me jealous.
I had just finished washing and was pulling my bathrobe back on when Miss Maria reached out and pulled my robe open again. “And what is up with these!?”
“Ah! What are you doing? Stop that, you’re supposed to keep the robes closed!”
“I bet those even float in the bath, don’t they. Augh, that’s not fair!” Stubbornly holding my robe open, Miss Maria glared at my chest. Seriously, stop that!
“Anyway!” I said hastily. “Let’s go to the bathing room. Which would you prefer? The hot baths, the cold baths, or the sauna?”
“What, they have all of those? Anyway, I want a hot tub! I want to soak in hot water!” “The hot baths, then. This way,” I said, and opened the door that was labeled “Hot Baths.”
Warm air wafted against my face.
Miss Maria looked at the large tub and cheered. “It’s huge! Yes, this is what I wanted!” She was pleased! Thank goodness.
“Let’s get in!” she said eagerly. “Everyone’s dressed like this, so we just get in as we are?” “Yes, just as we are.”
“Yes! A bath at last! Oh, I’ve been wanting this for so long… No matter where we went, it was always just hot water in a pail and things like that. I’m so sick and tired of it. Men do not get it at all! I want to take a bath every day!”
“You really like bathing, don’t you?” I commented.
“Of course I do! Are you really okay with not taking a bath every day? I’ve been wondering, do you people even have a sense of hygiene? I mean, I’ll grant that this bathhouse is cleaner than I’d thought, but it’s kind of dim, and… Well, I’ll grant that it does feel wonderful.” Miss Maria let out a long sigh, as though she was trying to empty her lungs of air.
I exhaled softly as well. I could feel the fatigue from the day seem to melt away into the hot water as I soaked.
“So, how did things go with Celes?” Miss Maria asked.
“Oh, we sorted everything out! Did you get the prince to spoil you a bit, Miss Maria?” “What are you talking about! I’m not a child, he’s not spoiling me! All that’s a secret!” “I don’t think there’s anything to be ashamed of about having a man spoil you a bit?” “What, and you don’t get embarrassed?”
Chatting with Miss Maria as we soaked in the hot water, I found myself thinking back to Hasawes for some reason. I hadn’t had any money, but I’d had many friends my own age. How are they doing?, I wondered.
Still…I really did think that spending time with someone like this was what it meant to be happy.
“You know…it’s nice, hanging out with someone like this,” Miss Maria commented. “It really is,” I said with a nod. “I was just thinking the same thing.”
I received a soft, happy smile in response. It was so wonderful to be on the same wavelength as someone!
“Oh, hey!” Miss Maria said, still smiling happily. “When we get out, cast that spell on me again. Your Soap.”
Why would she need Soap if we’d been in the baths? “But…you’re already clean?” I said, puzzled. “We just washed ourselves.”
“Those are completely different things! Got it! This is an order!” Miss Maria countered instantly. But even as she tried to make herself seem stern, I could see the corners of her mouth twitching.
This Sacred Maiden from another world was so very cute.