Lucia Worries Alone
By the time we left the baths, everyone else was waiting for us.
“Sorry to make you wait!” I called.
“They’re men, it’s their job to wait,” Miss Maria said.
Huh? Where are His Highness and Sir Agliardi? I wondered. The only ones waiting for us
were Sir Celes, Sir Gaius, Lord Reynard, and Eric.
Apparently, Miss Maria had thought the same thing. “Huh? Where are Ed and Fer?” she asked, looking around.
“Sir Agliardi accompanied His Highness to the inn ahead of us,” Lord Reynard said. “Now, Sacred Maiden, Miss Lucia — shall we go?”
“Yeah. Sheesh, girls take so long,” Eric complained.
“Come on, little lady!” Sir Gaius added. “Can’t fight on an empty stomach. Time for some grub!”
Yes, let’s go quickly! I thought.
“Celes!” Before we could start walking, Miss Maria, who’d been next to me, latched onto Sir Celes’s neck. She leaned in towards his ear and seemed to whisper something. For a moment, Sir Celes looked shocked, and then his face turned bright red.
Miss Maria, what did you tell him?
Chuckling, Miss Maria let go and grabbed my hand. “Later, Celes! Lucia, let’s go!” “Ah, yes’m…”
Still wondering about the red-faced Sir Celes, I was pulled after Miss Maria as we began to walk. But for some reason, my chest hurt. It was an odd shock, like suddenly being doused with cold water. When I glanced at Sir Celes, I discovered that he was looking at me…but the moment our eyes met, he suddenly looked away.
Eh? Why? What happened? I was confused. I mean, we’d been talking so normally just a little while ago, right? Was it something I did? Maybe he hadn’t wanted me to see Miss Maria holding him like that…?
“Lucia, hurry up! What’s wrong?”
“Oh… It’s, it’s nothing.”
Still with that uncomfortable feeling in my chest, I followed after Miss Maria, heading for the inn.
While Sir Gaius and I were traveling and stopped at an inn, we’d generally eaten in the inn’s common room or at food stands in the town, but now everyone ate in their own rooms. I suppose it would be difficult for His Highness, who’d been raised in the palace, to eat with everyone else. As a result, Miss Maria and I ate dinner together.
“Have you eaten alone until now?” I asked. That seemed unpleasant. “Oh, I ate with Ed,” Miss Maria said nonchalantly.
Wait. Did that mean that the prince was eating alone right now!? “Then, shouldn’t you be eating with His Highness?” I asked.
Miss Maria started to reach for her fork. “Well, for today… Oh, right!” she exclaimed, as if she’d suddenly remembered something. “Sorry, do you mind if I eat in Ed’s room tonight? I need to tell him something!”
“Oh — yes. Yes, of course!”
“All right! I’ll just wheedle him into letting us eat together starting tomorrow! Okay, Lucia? Sorry about tonight!”
“It’s quite all right!” I said lightly.
Miss Maria picked up the tray with her dinner and ran for His Highness’s room, her footsteps echoing in the hallway. She was going to spill her soup, running like that!
After she left, the room was very quiet. Alone, I lifted a spoonful of soup to my mouth. The potato potage was certainly delicious but…for some reason, my stomach felt heavy, and I couldn’t make myself keep eating.
I knew why. Sir Celes.
“I wonder…if Sir Celes is in love with Miss Maria.” The moment the words left my mouth, my chest tightened painfully. I was so ashamed of myself, getting carried away just because he’d treated me like a girl.
He might just have blushed because Miss Maria was holding him. It didn’t necessarily mean he was in love with her. But, Miss Maria was charming and pretty; anyone who looked at her could see she was a beauty. I was ordinary, I just happened to be his friend. If someone were to ask who he would fall in love with…I had the feeling it wouldn’t be me.
“Stop that! This isn’t the time to be moping!” Shaking my head fiercely to chase thoughts of Sir Celes away, I put my spoon down. I wasn’t hungry at all, so I might as well take a walk outside to clear my head.
Amarith was lively at night. Magically-powered lamps were set here and there along the main street, making it relatively bright.
I walked along the slightly uneven cobblestone streets, not really thinking about anything. The main street in the capital had beautiful mosaics, but here it was regular stones. Hasawes had been the same way. It made me feel a little nostalgic.
By this hour, only the restaurants and taverns were open, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was good that people were so lively.
As I walked aimlessly, someone suddenly grabbed my shoulder. “Misshy, you ’lone?”
When I turned around, an unfamiliar man was grinning at me. I could smell the alcohol on him, but it seemed he was a happy drunk.
“Yes, just out for a walk,” I said.
“Bein’ ’lone is dangeroush. Com’n drink with me!” he laughed.
“Thank you, but I can’t drink yet,” I told him. “You seem very drunk, sir. You should probably drink some water.”
“Wateeeeeer!” He laughed even more.
“I think there was a public well in the plaza. Can you make it there?” “Come with meeee. ’Kay?”
…Oh dear. He was completely drunk.
And he had also completely latched onto me. He’d leaned in to embrace my shoulders, so I couldn’t move! He was heavy…!
“Sir, you’re too heavy! I can’t hold you up! Please walk yourself!” He laughed raucously again. “Don’ wanna! Let’sh drink! My treat!” “I told you, I’m too young to drink!”
“But ’sh so gooood. It’sh even better wi’ a girl to sherve! Lucky!”
Oh, I shouldn’t have gone for a walk! Kicking myself wouldn’t help matters, but there wasn’t much I could do at this point. The capital normally had members of the Fifth Regiment on patrol; I’d gotten careless.
Pulling my hand, the drunken fellow started to go somewhere. I’m not going!
Wait. If I cast Soap on him, would that help? It might just clean his clothes, but it almost might clear his head a little… Maybe. It was possible.
I clenched my free hand tightly. “Soa—”
Suddenly a hand reached around from behind me, covering my mouth. Startled, I whirled around and…there were Sir Gaius and Lord Reynard. Sir Gaius was the one covering my mouth.
“Sorry ’bout this,” he said, “but I don’t suppose you’d leave my daughter alone?” “Wha’ was tha’!”
“Ooo, you picking a fight? Happy to oblige!”
“Brother, please don’t cause trouble in the middle of our journey. Miss Lucia, come with us.” Lord Reynard wrenched my hand out of the man’s grip and started walking, leaving Sir Gaius behind.
Lord Reynard, are you sure leaving Sir Gaius is a good idea?
“Sir Gaius! Please give that man some water to drink!” I called. “He seems to be very drunk!”
Sir Gaius flapped a hand idly, not bothering to turn around. “Gotcha. Now then, Mister, shall we go chat over there…?”
Looking like he was enjoying himself immensely, Sir Gaius started walking with the drunken man towards the plaza. He…wasn’t planning on going off drinking, was he?
“Don’t worry. He’ll be right back,” Lord Reynard said kindly. Apparently he had noticed my worry. Then he let go of my hand. “However, why are you out here alone?”
“Miss Maria went to eat with His Highness, so I… Well, I wanted a little fresh air…”
“It’s not wise for a woman to go walking alone,” Lord Reynard told me. “A short while ago, we learned that there has been a string of attacks on vulnerable women recently, here in Amarith. In the future, speak to someone first. I’m sure if you went to Master Celestino, he would be delighted to accompany you.”
“…I’ll be careful.” I’d messed up. And I’d caused them trouble. “I apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you for helping me.”
Lord Reynard pushed his glasses up with a finger, the corner of his mouth twitching upwards slightly. “Not at all. I’m just glad we happened to be passing by.”
He was certainly right about that. Thank you, coincidence! I’d wondered what to do if that man had managed to drag me off drinking. Given that I didn’t have any money, I would truly have been at a loss.
“Little lady!” At the same time as the voice, a fist dropped on top of my head. By this point, it was a familiar sensation. “Sir Gaius!”
“What did you think you were doing, wandering about like that? This place isn’t exactly Arldat!”
“What do you think would’ve happened if we hadn’t passed by? Don’t overestimate yourself. A woman walking alone around this town right now is practically asking for her life to be ruined!” he said hotly. “Also…I might have joked about it this afternoon, but actually? Don’t use that magic where people will see you. Casting it after something has happened is too late.”
Sir Gaius took his hand off my head, then wrapped an arm around my neck. It was almost as if he was keeping me from running away. He didn’t have to do that, I wasn’t going anywhere!
I waited quietly for Sir Gaius’s scolding. Until now, I’d been assuming that Soap didn’t hurt
anyone. Could it be that it had a dangerous side?
“I was talking about this with Reynard, earlier,” he told me. “That magic of yours pulls people in. You let loose with that flashy stuff, next thing you know someone’s going to take a liking to you and drag you off. Then what?”
“You mean the soap bubbles?” I asked.
“Her Sacredness was all over you after you cast it on her, right? That sort of obsession is dangerous. Kidnapping someone’s easy. Honestly, watching Her Sacredness, I’m a little worried which way I’d go, if you cast that on me.”
At Sir Gaius’s words, Lord Reynard chuckled. “The Sacred Maiden has distinctly changed since you came. She was constantly on edge before. I admit, any power that can influence that Sacred Maiden is cause for concern!”
Put that way, they did have a point. Miss Maria truly did seem taken with me. I couldn’t say for certain that the same wouldn’t happen with other people.
“Well, anyway,” Sir Gaius said. “Watch it when you use that on people. It might make them less hostile, but it might make them obsessed with you.”
“I’ll be careful,” I promised. “Thank you for saving me.”
This really wasn’t the time for fluttering over this and that. I braced myself once again. Once we finished purifying the Cristallo Sacro, there would be fewer monsters. This was an important journey I was participating in. I needed to get it together!
“Well then, might as well head back,” Sir Gaius said. “But weren’t you on an errand?” I asked. “Are you sure?” “Can hardly take you to a tavern, little lady.”
“Miss Lucia, please don’t say you can return alone,” Lord Reynard said. “It truly is dangerous right now.”
“Yes, sir… I’m sorry for the trouble…”
And so, I returned to the inn, escorted by the brothers.