A Knight’s Work!
It was a clear, sunny afternoon. Sir Celes had suggested that we eat our lunches together when the weather was nice, so that day the two of us were sitting in a corner of the back courtyard that Sir Celes had suggested, eating lunch and chatting enthusiastically.
“But it’s still chilly. Isn’t the water cold?” he asked.
“Oh, it is! But I use water from the well, so it’s at least warmer than getting water from a magic stone.”
Sir Celes had inquired about my work, so I was explaining the washing areas that we used while I drank my hot tea.
When I did my washing outside, I would draw up water from the well and use that, but on rainy days we had to do the wash inside, so we’d get our water from a magic stone then. Once, it had been paired with a flame stone to produce hot water, but these days we only had the water stone, so we couldn’t control the temperature. It would only produce cold water.
But using cold water when the weather was also cold was problematic. It was hard to get stains and dirt out of the laundry if the water was too cold. And in the winter, it wouldn’t warm up if you waited, so we had to add a little hot water instead. It wouldn’t do to whine, but to be honest, the process was a nuisance.
“Well water, huh?” Sir Celes mused. “Come to think of it, I have noticed that well water seems cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”
“Do the knights use the well water, too?” I asked.
“Sometimes we’ll sluice ourselves down with well water after training,” he said. “There is a bathhouse for the knights, but we can only use it at certain times, and no one wants to crowd in with a bunch of rough-and-tumble guys, so we usually just dunk a bucket of well water over our heads and call it good.”
“You too, Sir Celes?”
Sir Celes scratched at the tip of his nose, smiling sheepishly. “Um, well…yeah, sometimes,” he admitted.
Dousing yourself with well water? Wouldn’t that be cold? Yes, today was relatively warm because of the sun, but this was still Nivose, the snowy month. This was the coldest part of the year! It had even snowed just a few days ago!
“Isn’t that cold?” I asked.
“I guess. Really, usually we’re pretty hot after the fencing and hand-to-hand training. Although in this weather, you do have to dry off quickly if you don’t want to get sick.”
“What is training to be a knight like? Is it just swords and hand fighting, or do you do other things?” I asked.
Sir Celes tilted his head to the side. “Weeeeell… It’s mostly swordwork, but the guys who use magic, like me, also go to the Academy to practice. And I suppose there’s also the etiquette classes…”
“You learn etiquette!?” I asked in surprise. I’d thought knights only trained for fighting, but it seemed they did all sorts of things!
“Yeah. Sometimes we’re assigned to guard important people and royal visitors. The First Regiment also guards the royal family, but they’re all noble sons, so they’re already trained in etiquette. But for the Third through Fifth Regiments, which have a lot of guys from common families like me, we do need to study it regularly.” He laughed ruefully. “It’s a pain, but that’s the way it is.”
He had a point. If you didn’t come from a noble family, it would be hard to keep up with noble manners. Apparently being a knight was more work than I’d thought.
“So are the Second Regiment nobles?”
“Not necessarily. Only the First Regiment is restricted to noble families. But the Second Regiment is a special case. They don’t just study etiquette, they study all sorts of things. Although I don’t know much of the details about that, either!”
“Really?” I asked curiously.
“Yeah. The Second Regiment is special, in a different way than the First. All of their training is done completely separate from the rest of us.”
“I’d always heard that the Third and Fourth were the best of the knights.”
“That’s because the Third and Fourth Regiments are the ones that actually operate as proper regiments. The Second Regiment generally doesn’t work in the open… Um, but that’s kind of a secret, okay?” Sir Celes raised a finger in front of slightly pursed lips, asking for my silence.
Seriously. How was it fair that he could be handsome and cute? I didn’t think I could make that pose look so adorable, if I did it.
“I get the impression that the knights aren’t really what I thought,” I admitted. “Is the work you do like that, too?”
I nodded. “Yes. What sort of things do you do? I mean, I’ve heard you’re called the Handymen because you do whatever needs doing, so what do you generally do, Sir Celes? If I may ask?”
In fact, I’d been wondering about that for a while, so when the conversation had turned to what the knights did, I decided to ask. The Third Regiment were called the Handymen, but what were they actually involved with?
“Me? Ah… Well, I don’t mind, but…I’m not sure it would be all that interesting?” “It’s about you, Sir Celes. Of course I’m interested.”
“Oh! Ah…um, thanks. Let’s see…right, the work we do. Honestly, it’s not anything special. I suppose that most of it is monster hunting.”
Monster hunts… Thinking back, it was true that Jeanne and Joanne, who were in charge of the two Handymen regiments, would occasionally receive uniforms splattered with blue stains.
While I was thinking about my own work, Sir Celes had started talking about a recent monster hunt.
“A fachan came down from the Elkann Mountains,” he explained. “They’re giants, with only one eye, one arm, and one leg each. Have you ever seen one?”
Even if I’d heard a monster’s name, I’d been lucky enough to never actually encounter one before, so all I knew about any monster was what I heard from other people. Naturally, I’d never
seen a fachan. But…
“They’re about twice the size of a grown man, but even though they only have one arm… What’s wrong!?” Sir Celes spluttered, as I suddenly latched onto him, my face white.
“Are you hurt!?” I demanded. “Is everyone all right!?”
Had there been any stains bad enough that they’d asked me to use Soap on them recently? But, if the uniforms were too badly damaged, they’d just dispose of them, not send them to the laundrymaids. If they disposed of the uniforms, then even if someone had been badly hurt then I wouldn’t know about it…
“Sir Celes, are you all right!?”
“I’m fine! I’m fine, so just calm down, okay?” Sir Celes held me firmly, almost embracing me, as his voice rose in surprise. That brought me back to myself, and I hastily let go of his uniform and drew back.
“I-I’m sorry,” I said. My fingers were trembling; I clasped them together. No doubt my face was practically bloodless; I probably looked terrible. Feeling Sir Celes’s worried gaze on me, I looked down.
“I can handle a fachan on my own,” Sir Celes said. “Don’t worry, my regiment is…” “My father…”
It felt so cold all of a sudden. Like a cloud had covered the sun.
A fachan. A horrible, one-eyed giant. A terrifying monster that had taken something precious from me. Biting my lip, I stared at my clenched hands.
“A fachan killed my father.”
My father had been a guardsman in Hasawes. I’d heard that he’d died from a fachan’s blow, trying to buy time for his wounded comrades to escape. I only had vague memories of my father, but I remembered the way my mother had clutched at me as she fell to the ground in tears.
“I’ve heard that giants are dangerous, because they’re both strong and well-protected. They say that even if you strike them with a sword, the edge won’t penetrate.”
I was still staring at my hands when Sir Celes reached into my field of vision. Slowly, gently, he wrapped my work-roughened hands in his sword-callused ones.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up,” he said.
“No, I should apologize… But, I’m so glad you’re all right, Sir Celes. If I’d lost you, too…”
After my mother died, I hadn’t smiled for a long time. I’d been hurting, scared, lonely. It had taken everything I had just to hold the tears back. But then I’d come to work in the castle with Chicca and the others, finally my life had returned to normal. Then I’d met Sir Celes, and every day had been a joy.
When I heard the name fachan, though, I felt like my ordinary life was about to shatter to
pieces. Like I was about to lose someone else I cared about, the same way I’d lost my mother, my father…
“But, you’re strong, Sir Celes.” I looked up, to find sky-blue eyes staring at me in concern. “You’re strong enough to defeat a fachan, right? You didn’t even get hurt, right? You won’t…disappear, right…?”
“Right. I’m… Well, I’m pretty good with a sword, so I’ll be fine. Only the genuinely strong get into the Third Regiment,” he said, as if willing confidence into me. “I’ve got some wind magic, even if it’s not all that powerful, and I’ve always been pretty lucky. I won’t get hurt. I won’t die. Don’t forget, I fought a dragon and lived to tell the tale!”
Come to think of it, the man in front of me served under the Dragonslayer himself, and he’d been a member of the expedition that had defeated the dragon in Aquilania. He had such a warm, comfortable air about him that I had forgotten, but Sir Celes was strong.
“I’m sorry, that was rude of me…” I started.
“No, I’m sorry, for bringing up such painful memories. I never wanted to make you look like that…”
Hastily, I arranged my face in a smile. At least, I hoped I’d managed a smile. I didn’t want to make him worry. I wasn’t looking for sympathy. I just wanted to smile and laugh with him.
Smiles answer smiles. Uneasy faces cause uneasy faces. The reason Sir Celes had looked so uneasy was because I had looked that way. I had to smile.
A fist thumped lightly on the top of my head.
“Don’t force it,” Sir Celes told me. “If you’re hurting, say something. You don’t need to worry about me. There’s nothing wrong with crying when you want to.”
“…You’re too kind, Sir Celes,” I told him staunchly.
“Only when it comes to you…” he muttered under his breath, and turned a smile as bright as the sun to me. “If you ever encounter a monster, Lucia, I’ll come to save you.”
“It’s very encouraging to hear that from a knight.”
“I’m not kidding. I’ll come save you. So stay where I can protect you, okay? If you went back to Hasawes, it would take me forever to run all the way over there.”
I laughed. “I can’t go back until I’ve paid off my debts anyways.”
Suddenly, I realized that while we’d been talking, I’d begun smiling without even thinking about it. The wind against my cheeks was cold, but my heart was warm, as if basking in sunbeams.
I hugged that warm, bubbly feeling to myself, and grinned at Sir Celes. “You really are amazing!”
“Eh?” He blinked.
“All I had to do was look at you smiling, and I cheered back up! You’re like the sun, Sir Celes. Bright and warm. Being with you makes me happy.”
Sir Celes made a startled noise as I grabbed his hands. His hands and fingers were hard and strong, unlike mine. They were hands trained to hold a sword.
“These hands protect a lot of people,” I said. “Including me.”
It was a funny thought, but a happy one.
“Lucia, I…!” Sir Celes started — just as the bells tolled the first hour of the afternoon.
“Oh no! That’s the afternoon bell!” I yelped, interrupting whatever he was going to say. I couldn’t afford to be late for work. “I’m sorry, Sir Celes, I know you were saying something, but I have to get back to work. Tell me next time, okay?”
At my rueful words, Sir Celes smiled and shook his head. “No, it wasn’t anything important. Not…really…”
Quickly tidying up, I said, “Really? Well, please excuse me, then. I really do have to go. Good luck with your work, Sir Celes!” Waving, I set off running.
I needed to work hard, just like Sir Celes worked hard. I didn’t want to be embarrassed the next time we met!
A few days later, Jeanne commented to me that the Third Regiment’s training regimen had gotten extremely strict recently. Apparently, the captain of the Third Regiment, the Dragonslayer, had said that they were getting soft, so he was going to drill them like rookies.
Oh dear. I hoped Sir Celes was all right. His training had sounded hard enough before. If it got even harder, would he have trouble finding time to come to the back courtyard for lunch?
If only the sun would come out! I looked resentfully up at the gray, cloudy sky. If the clouds would just clear and let the blue sky show, then I would be able to meet the man with the sunny smile again. I’ll have to reward him somehow for his hard work the next time we meet.
Decided, I turned my eyes back to my own work in front of me. I’m working hard too, Sir Celes! Don’t give up!