Lucia Does Laundry to Calm Herself
“I’m so sorry to have bothered you. Thank you for seeing me back,” I told the brothers when we arrived back at the inn.
“Not at all,” Lord Reynard told me. “I’m simply glad nothing happened to you.”
“Besides, I can go drinking anytime,” Sir Gaius said cheerfully. “The night’s long, so don’t you worry about it, little lady. Now, spring might be here, but the nights are still cold. Hurry back to your room.”
After they saw me off, Sir Gaius and Lord Reynard turned and headed back into town. Sir Gaius, it’s not good to drink too much!
When I returned to our room, Miss Maria still hadn’t returned. I decided to finish eating dinner before she got back. By then it had gone cold, but I still quickly filled my stomach. I was hardly going to waste it. Besides, the fried fish was still delicious, even if not warm.
As I tidied the dishes, I made up my mind. This was not the time to be fretting over Sir Celes’s and Miss Maria’s behavior. I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, but I would do my best to ignore it, and aim to treat both of them as normal. And as for the unsettled feeling in my heart — I would wash it away with the laundry!
I borrowed a tub and washboard from one of the inn staff, picked up some soap and a bit of the laundry, and went to the garden patio. It was paved with stone, and there was a well with a pump in the center. The public well in the plaza used a magic stone to easily produce water, but here you had to draw the water up from the well. It made me feel a little nostalgic; there weren’t any wells like this in the capital, but they’d been common in Hasawes.
I filled the tub with water and put the laundry in to soak. It would be easy to wash everything with Soap, but I did like doing it by hand. Seeing something that you could make clean with your own hands was such a refreshing feeling!
For a while, I focused completely on the laundry. Even with the light from the magical lamps, doing laundry at night made dirt and stains hard to see. Still, I wanted to do laundry right now. I wanted to simply immerse myself in the work, without thinking about useless things. I wanted to watch the dirt wash away and leave things clean and white, and to clear my own head in the process. Besides, once it was washed, I could always hang it up in the room to dry.
I was wringing out the last of the laundry when suddenly I heard a voice behind me, “Miss
I started and turned, to find Sir Agliardi standing there. Hastily, I wrapped the laundry up in a cloth. Most of it was underwear — not something you want to show people.
“What are you doing?” he asked. “…Ah, laundry?”
“Yes, my lord,” I said. “I thought it would be good to wash it while we had a place to hang it up.”
“You aren’t cleaning it with magic? I thought your magic could remove any stain.” “I only use Soap on things that won’t come out any other way,” I told him.
“Really?” Commander Agliardi’s bright green eyes sparkled with interest. The faint wrinkles at the corners of his eyes were kind. “So even though you have such a useful magic, you don’t use it.”
“That’s right. I would rather not depend on magic…and I like doing laundry.” “You like it?”
“Oh, yes! It feels good, to know you can clean something with your own hands. It’s refreshing. And it’s a chance to clear my head.”
Sir Agliardi laughed with a clear, carrying voice. “That’s good. It’s certainly far better than expecting magic to fix everything.” With a final, “Come inside soon; you don’t want to catch a cold,” he left.
I was done with the laundry, so I’d best head back to the room myself!
Maria still hadn’t returned to our room. Perhaps she and His Highness were deep in conversation and lost track of time?
At least, that was what I thought as I hung up the clean laundry to dry. But when one hour passed, and then two, I began to get worried. No matter how deep in conversation they were, wasn’t this much too late? Well, I supposed sweethearts would find it hard to be parted, maybe.
However, given that we would be setting out again in the morning, I thought that it was probably about time to go to bed.
Looking at Miss Maria’s bed, still tidy, I made up my mind. I might be intruding, but I thought I should at least go and check on them. And if Miss Maria said she still wanted to continue talking with His Highness, then I would make my apologies and ask permission to go to bed first.
Decided, I stepped out of the room and headed for where His Highness and Sir Agliardi were staying. But when I went to knock on the door, I hesitated. After all, His Highness, the Sacred Maiden, and the Knight Commander were all inside. I wasn’t sure if I really should disturb them.
As I stood fidgeting in front of the door, someone said, “What’s wrong? Did you need to speak to His Highness or the commander?”
I didn’t have to turn to see who it was. I knew Sir Celes’s voice.
“Well, Miss Maria still hasn’t come back… She said that she would be taking dinner with His Highness and came here, but it’s getting late and I was a little worried,” I said.
At my explanation, Sir Celes’s brow furrowed. “The Sacred Maiden? Here?”
I’m sorry. Of course he wouldn’t be happy to learn that the woman he liked was spending a long time with another man. Trying to ignore the little sparks dancing in my chest, I turned to look at Sir Celes.
He fixed me with a hard, serious stare. “She hasn’t come back all evening?”
“That’s right.” I nodded.
Without the slightest hesitation, Sir Celes knocked sharply on the door in front of us.
Sir Agliardi opened the door. “Who’s there…Celestino? What’s wrong? And Miss Lucia as well.”
I went cold all over. He must have been getting ready for bed; he wasn’t wearing his uniform, just a simple shirt.
I didn’t know him very well, but at the very least, I could not imagine him being dressed so casually in the presence of both His Highness and Miss Maria, who he was meant to protect.
Sir Celes must have had the same feeling. In a voice tight with tension, he said, “Commander, the Sacred Maiden is missing.”
In an instant, Sir Agliardi’s expression stiffened. “When was she last seen?” he asked.
“At dinnertime,” Sir Celes told him. “She said that she would take dinner with His Highness and came here. She has not returned since.”
As they talked, I was frozen with horror. What should I do? Where could Miss Maria have gone?