After I regained consciousness and opened my eyes, I was plunged into an unfamiliar landscape.
As I was still sprawled on the ground hugging my wheeled suitcase for dear life, I slowly helped myself up and looked around me with astonishment.
Unpaved dirt paths. Lines of single and two storied houses made with either stone or wood.
Although the region I lived in had been a rural area until recent years, as a prefectural capital, it was still a place with an adequate level of urban development……. Hence, the gap was so huge I was having trouble taking in the situation. Instead of buildings, there were fresh and green mountains in the distance and a boundless blue sky. It was the sort of landscape you’d see in a game. It had the ambience of a main character’s hometown or of a small town an adventurer would stop by during their journey.
What, what, what just happened? I couldn’t understand anything. The only thing I did know was that since the sun was in the middle of the sky the time should be around noon.
No, somewhere in my head I understood.
That I had been sucked into a mirror and that this place might not even be Japan.
After all, the people surrounding me from a long distance, which I noticed after I heard noise from behind me and turned around, did not look Japanese at all. These foreign looking people were wearing clothes that looked like Western clothes from a medieval time period and were whispering something to each other and staring at me. Of course, I had no idea what they were saying. I graduated from high school half a year ago, but I wasn’t so dim-witted that I would forget my English so quickly. They were obviously not speaking in English.
I hadn’t paid an entry fee so it’s not like this was some “Through the looking glass” attraction. Though, it’d be a real bother if they suddenly billed me afterwards. If those surprised looking foreigners really were all extras and someone suddenly held up ‘prank’ reveal sign, it would be pretty amazing in its own way too though.
Ok-ay, they look kind of cautious. Well, even if they’re not cautious, I do look really out of place here. Maybe I should move? Hm, I’m surprising calm, is it because it feels so unreal? Maybe I should say something like “Kyaa! Where am I?” or something. Nah, too lazy.
Ah, I’m hungry. And was thinking of getting a salmon rice ball from the convenience store for lunch today too.
Just as I had that thought, a really delicious scent floated across from somewhere, severely stimulating my hunger. Lured by the smell, I unsteadily wandered towards the source.
I ended up in front of a two storied shop that looked like a diner. Judging from the picture of wine on the signboard, at night, it was probably a pub. It looked like it was around lunchtime, and the diner was lively and bustling.
When I secretly took a peep inside, a large lady, who looked like she could be from my mother’s generation, suddenly came out of the store. She shouted something and pulled my arm. Yeah, I really have no idea what she’s saying.
“You’re wrong. I’m not a customer.”
‘I don’t have any money,’ I tried to convey to her. As I couldn’t communicate in Japanese, I decided to gesture instead, forming a large cross with both of my hands. A cross for NO, I’m fine, no thank you.
Despite my attempt, the lady continued to forcefully yank my arm. She was really, really strong.
My meagre resistance was in vain, and as I gazed along in shock, I was dragged inside and seated onto a seat at a corner. It was inconspicuous seat with a large pillar on the side that hid the seat from view.
I suddenly heard a male’s voice coming from the kitchen, and the aunty answered him while she walked towards me.
Um, what do I do now? My wallet only had Japanese money. I also didn’t know whether this place, which was definitely not a major city, would have any sort of money exchange service. But before that, where was this place anyway? Did I time-leap into ancient Europe?
There were several customers seated all around the diner. There were some who looked like locals, and some that wore travelling cloaks.
I was curiously gazing at the other people, when food, which looked like stewed meat and vegetables, was suddenly placed in front of me. The aunty grinned friendlily as she made eating motions with her hands.
I’m allowed to eat? I have no money, are you sure?
If I am, then I’m not going to hold back. If she demands money later I’m just going to leave Japanese money here and run away, I vowed silently.
After one bite, I couldn’t stop. I emptied the plate in a flash. It wasn’t something I had ever eaten before but it was extremely delicious.
That was when something astonishing occurred.
“Sheesh, not just cats and dogs, you’ve finally upgraded to picking up humans now?”
“Shut up! Earn more money if you’re going to complain!”
I could suddenly understand what they were saying. Were they speaking in Japanese? No, that wasn’t it. For some reason, I could now understand their language.
“Where do you come from? What’s your name? …Wait, you can’t understand our language. Hm, what to do…”
After I spoke out to the aunty, her troubled look transformed into a startled one.
“Why, you can understand! You should have told me earlier!”
For some reason, I could speak their language too. But I couldn’t speak it just before, why could I now?
Was it because I ate the food?
The aunty introduced herself as Belinda and asked me for my name again.
“We don’t see faces like yours around here. Where do you come from?”
“Um, I come from Japan. My name is Aida.”
“Aeeda, huh? That’s a nice name. I’ve never heard of Japan before, but I’m guessing you’re from the Granata Continent? I’ve heard that they have a lot of black haired people there.”
It’s Aida, not Aeeda but well, I’m too lazy to explain so I’ll just nod anyway. Granata Continent… I’ve never heard of it but from the sounds of it, it’s some neighbouring continent or something that has black haired people. I don’t really get but, judging from her next line “So that’s why you’re wearing such strange clothes,” she seems convinced and won’t dig any further so I’ll just quietly leave her misunderstanding as it is.
But, I know for sure that Granata something something Continent does not exist on Earth. Maybe this place isn’t even Earth? No no, maybe it’s only me who doesn’t know and it’s actually a nickname or alias used for Japan or Asia. Let’s hold onto hope until the better end.
“You sure are strange to come from such a far land to a remote country town like this.”
No, I didn’t want to come here either. Good question, why am I here anyway?
“So, what did you come to this town for?”
It’s come, a really tough question. Since this place does not seem like a place you can just casually drop by, an answer like “Came to hang out” is probably not going to cut it. What should I do?
“Um, that is, my parents passed away a few days ago, I came to this continent with a help of a relative but we couldn’t get along so…”
“You ran away from home, didn’t you?”
“Eh? Ahh, yes. That’s right.”
After I narrated my life story while interleaving a few truths into it, Belinda’s eyes filled with tears of sympathy and accepted my story.
In reality, my parents died when I was in middle school. I ran away from home after I graduated from high school, which was over half a year ago. Since then, utilizing my sole special talent, I’ve survived living off the money I earnt from my part-time cleaning job. It really is true that lies sound a lot more credible when you mix in a little bit of truth. Though, my naturally blank face, which, to put it nicely, can be seen as a serious expression, might also be the reason for the added sense of authenticity.
“My goodness, that’s horrible.”
Belinda-san wiped her tears with the edge of her apron. Huh? Could this be my chance? Might as well try. I pretended to break down in tears, launching the once in a lifetime performance of my life.
“I ran away from home but, I don’t have anywhere to go…… Would you please let me stay here? I’ll help out at the diner.”
“Ehh? Please don’t ask, you can already see, can’t you? We don’t have the leeway to hire anyone.”
“Is there any way to make it possible? I don’t need pay. I’m fine with just a place to sleep and food.”
Belinda-san reacted to the phrase, ‘I don’t need pay’ with a twitch. Wanting more workers but not having the money to pay them. Even in Japan there were probably heaps of businesses suffering from the same problem.
“I don’t mind sleeping on the floor or a sofa. I’ve slept in similar places up until now anyway.”
“How could they make a child sleep in places like that, what awful relatives! …I got it, yes, you can live here!”
Alright! Found accommodation. I quietly made a guts pose under the table.
As I’ve mentioned many times, I don’t have money, I don’t know how this world’s pricing works, I don’t have job, I don’t have a home; the ‘don’t haves’ can go on forever. I was really lucky that I met a good person like Belinda-san. I know I don’t have any right to say this but I’m really worried that she will be scammed one day.
After a long talk, I found out this place was an inn called Star Viewing House and it was in a town called Setruvi. The first floor was a diner and the second floor was the lodging. Because of the low rates, it was really popular with travellers and was always busy.
I was told, “Your room is here Aeeda,” and was shown to a room on the second floor which had been used as an extra storage room in the past. It was hard to imagine that a room this big, the size of six tatami mats, had once been used for storage. This was a world of difference compared with the small internet cafe room which only had space for a sofa and TV. This room had a bed and even a window; nothing could be more comfortable than that.
I was so deeply moved, I immediately asked Belinda, who had just brought in sheets and a quilt, to let me clean the inn as thanks. Even though Belinda-san was the only person who did the cleaning in this inn, even the minor places were cleaned properly.
However, possibly because they had lots of travellers as customers, dirt and dust would gather up on the floor, there would always be new food spills, and the place would constantly get dirty. A place that will rapidly become dirty even if you clean, what a wonderful environment. Fills me with pure motivation.
I didn’t want to be too pushy because this was someone else’s home. Cleaning in front of them would be like showing off which would be rude, but luckily, Belinda-san wasn’t offended and happily agreed, “Are you sure? That’ll be a lot of help.” I was told that I could clean my room first so I changed into my work clothes, borrowed a duster and broom, brought out my own seven tools and started cleaning. Perhaps because the room hadn’t been used for a while, it wasn’t particularly dirty, and so cleaning didn’t take long.
I decided to clean the hallway of the second floor first and leave the diner for later as there were still several customers there. There didn’t appear to be any customers in their room in the afternoon. As a result, in contrast to the lively first floor, the second floor was extremely quiet. If someone was in their room and came out, they would probably be creeped out if they saw my flaming eyes.
I carefully dusted the wall with the duster and swept up the dust that came down with a broom. I foamed up a sponge with soap and sprinkled it with baking soda. When I beat the wall of the sponge, it lifted the filth. I then wiped off the filth with a cloth I had sprayed with citric acid. The last thing I had to do now was dry it and then it’d be flawless.
Ahh, that felt good. This is the life. The anxiety I had felt coming to an unknown place seemed to lessen just by doing cleaning.
I cheerfully polished away the fingerprints and blots on the door one by one. Just as I was about to eliminate the last one, the door opened from the other side with a clack.
Bonk! As I was standing in front of that door, my forehead took a direct hit. That wasn’t all; I was pushed backwards from the recoil and landed on the ground on my bottom.
Who? Who on earth holes up in their room in such broad daylight? No, no, the person’s a customer. You can’t get mad at them, I warned myself. I held my forehead and looked up at the culprit.
The person who opened the door was a man. He had slightly longish silver hair that covered his ears, and narrow blue eyes that looked like indigo blue depending on the amount of light. He had a well-featured face that didn’t have a single pointless feature. There was a leather strap on the neckline of his white long sleeved shirt, which opened up slightly at the neck. Even over his clothes, you could tell that he was moderately muscled. Judging from his slender navy pants and rugged boots which looked like mountain climbing boots I could conclude that he was probably a traveller.
But he sure was gorgeous. I had only been in this world for a short time but, because I had seen nothing but simple townspeople faces, I was stunned by his looks for a brief moment. However, because he was too pretty, my heart didn’t throb in the least. If I had to give an example, it’s the sort of feeling you get when you appreciate a piece of art.
“I deeply apologise.”
Even though it was clearly him who was in the wrong, I apologized anyway. If I complained, my comfortable sponger life will be brought to an end on day one.
“…You’re in my way.”
Unable to understand the words that came out of the beauty’s mouth, I answered back without thinking.
Whoa, the beauty-san’s eyebrows were so creased it was almost funny. I understood perfectly that that steepness of his brow was clearly an indication of his annoyance.
Since I keep sitting in front of the door, you can’t get out of your room, right? Okay, I’ll move out of the way.
The beauty gave my cleaning tools a glance and went down the stairs like he had instantly lost interest.
He’s kind of unpleasant. As a matter of courtesy, couldn’t he have lent a hand? Without a choice, I stood up on my own and brushed the dust off my bottom.
Now then, it’s not the time to be standing around, time to restart cleaning. The impurities are waiting for me.
Wait for me, little dirties!
 Direct Translation: ‘The other side of the mirror is connected to a dream world’. Although I’m not too sure, judging from the context, it sounds like some sort of amusement park attraction so I’ve translated it accordingly.
 One tatami mat is 1.653 square metres.