“Aeeda-chan, take this to table two~”
I accepted the piping hot plate from the inn’s master, Horz-san, and moved busily around the bustling diner.
It has almost been a week since I started living here. Horz-san and Belinda-san didn’t appear to have children of their own and treated me like their real daughter.
When I suddenly came to this world I had no idea what to do so I was really glad I was able met them. If I hadn’t, it would have been very unlikely that I would be able to pass my days so peacefully. They didn’t seem mind my expressionless face and I felt motivated every time they said to me, “We don’t know how we could have done without you, Aeeda”. I’m the type that grows when praised.
The interior of the inn was built out of solid wood and had a cosy atmosphere which I really liked. After I carried the food over, I set up the empty tables. I straightened out the time-worn tables and chairs, and carefully wiped them. As a finishing touch, I placed a flower, which I had picked from outside of town, into a cup to form a lovely interior decoration. It made me happy that something that cost nothing and was so simple, could brighten the diner and soothe the customer’s souls. This was an exact example of high cost performance.
Nearing the end of lunchtime, a man came down from the second floor and silently sat down on a side table. It was the man who landed a direct hit on my forehead with his door the other day.
I had wanted to start finishing and clearing up already so his coming down at this time was really a nuisance. However, as he was a customer I didn’t complain. Just like the past days, the man did pay any heed to his surroundings. This man always stayed in his room until this time, came down to eat lunch and then returned to his room again. Who on earth was he?
“What is it, Aeeda?”
“Do you know who that man is?”
Hiding my finger behind a plate, I pointed to that man. Belinda-san responded with an “Oh,” and lowered her voice.
“His name is Wilfried. It seems he drifts from place to place around the country.
“Who knows? Customers have circumstances of their own.”
You mustn’t pry too much, she softly chided me.
Opps, I was too nosey and accidently asked too much. I should have known better. ‘Being in the service business, you must not interfere in the customers personal life’, was one of first rules she taught me.
“I’m sorry for prying.”
“With a man that handsome, you wouldn’t be the first to get carried away, Aeeda.”
Belinda-san replied, nodding many times with an all-knowing look on her face. No, I didn’t ask because he’s handsome, I asked because I found him extremely rude. I tried to explain that to her, but Belinda-san had completely misunderstood and wouldn’t listen. She seemed to think that I was embarrassed. Which wasn’t even true.
A misunderstanding is extremely hard to clear. As proof, even though I denied many times, in the end, she still didn’t believe me.
“Aeeda, what do think of these clothes? I think they’ll look great on you.”
The person who just spoke to me was Natalysia-san, a woman living in the neighbourhood. She used to work in the capital as a beautician but moved here, to her husband’s hometown, when she got married. Even though she had already retired as a beautician, seeing me in my work clothes appeared to have lit a fire in her, and she was always trying to look after me. She was a freckled red head with a cute atmosphere and was similar to a heroine of a story I liked when I was little so I warmed up to her almost immediately. She was like a kind older sister.
With a smile, Natalysia-san held up an undyed knee length dress with colourful embroidery and a pair of ankle high laced boots.
“What I’m wearing is perfect already.”
I looked down at the clothes I was currently wearing. A full length brown dress and white apron. The apron split into two parts above the waist, making it look like a vest. It was something Belinda-san wore when she was young.
“No offense to Belinda-san but, that style is a bit old fashioned. Aeeda, you’re still young, you should be wearing cuter clothes.”
“Haah…… But I… don’t have any money.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. You’re always helping me out with my housework anyway.”
Natalysia laughed loudly. She was pregnant and suffered from terrible morning sickness. I would help her out with housework that ended up being neglected because of that. Even though I could only help her out with stuff like cleaning, or cleaning, and also cleaning, and going on some simple chores, she always treated me so kindly.
After she asked me if I was lonely living away from my family and I answered that I wasn’t lonely because I didn’t have any family and there wasn’t anyone I was close to, her kindness became even more prominent. I was trying to relieve her worry but instead ended up making her worry and fuss about me even more. I felt extremely guilty and apologetic for that.
“Come on, try this on. Is it a little too big?”
“I think it fits.”
I looked at Natalysia with all my feelings of gratitude. I was worried that it wouldn’t get through properly because of my expressionless face but Natalysia gently smiled back. Natalysia is definitely an angel. No, since she’s going to be a mum soon, yes, a goddess.
“Natalysia, you haven’t had lunch yet, right? Come eat!”
Belinda-san, who was doing the dishes, suddenly peeked her head from the kitchen.
“Wow, I’m so happy! I have eating pregnancy sickness~”
Apparently, eating pregnancy sickness is a sort of morning sickness where you feel sick if you don’t eat all the time. I had always thought that if people had morning sickness they would feel nauseous after eating but it seems the symptoms vary person to person.
Since imposing on the Star Viewing House, I have been smoothly gaining weight. In my previous lifestyle, it was rare for me to have three meals a day, thus taking in nutritious meals has completely spoiled my palate.
I recalled the day before my first pay-check when I stood in front of the convenience store lunch box section drooling. The shop assistant, who couldn’t bear to watch, secretly gave me a lunch box that was going to be thrown away. He might have only done that because I was ruining business standing there and he wanted to drive me away but, at that time, that young man looked like a god to me. However, after going every day, the shop manager eventually found out, I felt awkward and I stopped going there. I wondered how that young man was doing. What I want to say is, right now, I’m surprisingly happy.
Belinda-san called my name. I responded and headed towards the kitchen.
The moon cast a gentle light in the dead of night. That said, the time was probably only around 10 o’clock at night. The people’s mornings were early and accordingly their nights were also early. In the unlit inn, I slowly went down the stairs as to not make a sound. As I proceeded downstairs I was greeted with complete stillness, a complete change from the unceasing presence of life in the upper floor. I tiptoed towards the kitchen sink area, and brought out a small bottle from the pouch I was carrying under my arm. I helped myself to some of the pre-drawn well water, and I soaked my long hair in it. I then tipped out some liquid from the bottle, and applied it to my hair.
There was one thing that surprised me after to coming to this world. That was that people here did not bathe often. This town had only one public bathhouse but the entry fee was a bit high, a price that ordinary people wouldn’t be able to afford. Even if one could pay, they would only be able to go several times a month at most. Then, what could be done? There were three options. First option, wipe your body with a wet towel. Second option, swim in the lake outside of town. And last but not least, don’t wash at all.
When I heard that, I felt my future turning black before my eyes. I was still fine with other people not bathing, as long as they didn’t emit some extremely nasty scent. However, for someone who loves taking baths as much as me, it was a serious matter of life and death. When I lived in the internet cafe, even if I didn’t sweat, I would still have a shower at least twice a day in the morning and at night. In the summer I would have even more. Wash up only occasionally? Hide the odour with perfume, you say? Unbelievable. Incomprehensible. Absolutely.Imposssible.
Therefore, I rejected the third option with everything I had.
However, I didn’t have any money so I couldn’t go to the bathhouse. On the other hand, bathing in the lake was also unacceptable because there are too many micro-organisms. It’s swimming in germs and parasites. Disinfection by Sunlight? There’s no way the sunlight could keep up and kill them all. I also couldn’t possibly boil the lake like I would boil drinking water. With two options eliminated, my remaining choice was to secretly wash up at night.
I had soap as it was something I had pilfered from the cleaning company office but I didn’t have shampoo. Therefore, as the last resort, I mixed up something similar using the materials I had in hand. The shampoo was created by mixing baking soda and honey and diluting the mixture with water. I already had baking soda and I had gotten honey from Belinda-san and Horz-san. It didn’t foam up at all but it could still remove the grease from my scalp, and felt refreshing.
As a finishing touch I applied a solution made from citric acid mixed with water and a few drops of essential oil to my hair as conditioner. The imitation conditioner made my hair smooth and silky and had a nice scent. The only drawback to this method was that the fires had been put out so I could only use cold water. However it was a lot better than not washing up at all.
I would have to work out another solution if the weather got colder and colder but, for the time being, I had no choice but to endure.
Uwah, I feel refreshed. I wiped my water from my hair. Now, I only needed to wash my body with a soaped towel and then I’d be done.
“…What are you doing?”
My shoulders gave a start at the sudden voice. I hadn’t sensed any presence at all. Not even a footstep. With the towel still on my hair, I timidly moved my gaze towards the kitchen door and standing there, frowning, was the man named Wilfried. He was no longer dressed in the casual clothing he was wearing in the afternoon, but was clad in thick leather armour and was wearing a sword at his hip. What on earth is he? How did he move so silently even though he’s so heavily armoured?
“I’m… washing my hair.”
Not knowing what to say, I honestly explained the situation to him.
The man stared at my hair dubiously, and sighed as if to say ‘Don’t do something so misleading.’
“It’s late. Go back to your room.”
“Wil-Wilfried-san, are you going out somewhere?”
“That’s none of your business.”
I was cut down in one stroke. I had only asked in order to keep the conversation going, but this was his attitude.
Wilfried-san turned around, and opened the entrance door without making a sound.
You’re not bringing a lamp?
I was about to ask but stopped. —————He looked too ethereal.
The moonlight coming in from the gap illuminated him, and his bluish silver hair shone glisteningly. His side view I caught for an instant before he closed the door was his usual hard expression, but his face looked like it was bearing some sort of pain. It might have been just my imagination though.
At any rate, where’s he going at such a time anyway? Is it possible that he goes out like this every night? Is that why he’s always in his room until noon? I stared at the silent closed door for a while.
After an unknown amount of time, I came back to my senses with a sudden shiver and goose-bumps all over. As one would expect, nights were chilly.
Ahh, it isn’t the time to be doing this. I should hurry, wash up and go back to my room. I don’t know who might appear and I need to get up early tomorrow.
I dipped the towel into water, rubbed on some soap and quickly washed my body.
The next morning, Wilfried came down when lunch time was nearly over again. He sat in his usual seat like yesterday was just a figment of my imagination.
I wasn’t seen naked so I acted the same as always, took his order and carried over his food. But, it’d be a troublesome if we crossed each other again so from that day onwards, I shifted my bath time. Or accurately speaking, I made it a rule to check that Wilfried-san had already left the Star Viewing House before washing up. We probably wouldn’t bump heads ever again.
Or so I thought.
It was extremely busy that day and when I went back to my room I accidently dozed off, causing me to be late for my usual bath time. It was probably already past midnight when I finished. I wiped down the wet areas and was about to return to my room.
Kachak! The door opened with a rude clank. Under the cover of the moonless dark night, a black silhouette appeared from the other side of the door. I pointed my candlestick towards that direction and, as I thought, it was Wilfried-san. The air froze instantly and there was a strange smell. A metallic rusty smell like spoilt tobacco.
Wilfried-san noticed me, and his brows knitted so much it was almost funny. I held out both hands towards him.
“Please pass that to me.”
“Hurry, if you wait too long, the stains won’t be able to come out.”
When I repeated hurry once more, Wilfried stripped off his armour and shirt. Seeing that his toned upper body didn’t have a single scratch, I secretly let out a sigh of relief.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t scared. I didn’t know in detail where and what this person had been doing up until now but I understood that a large amount of blood had been shed. And, that the blood was also not his.
The more time passes, the harder it is to remove blood stains. Too late, and it would end up permanently stained. It was a fight with time.
I dipped the clothes I took from him into water and the water changed into that colour before my eyes. I changed the water twice, added baking soda and immersed it once more.
“You can go back to your room. I think it will dry by lunch time so I’ll deliver it to your room.”
I said to Wilfried-san who was standing at a distance. Having him near me while he was still seething in bloodlust would only make me feel suffocated. It was also quite uncomfortable to have a half-naked man so close. After all, I had just finished bathing and was in my night-wear.
Wilfried-san nodded once, and went up the stairs to his room.
I nimbly washed and wrung the clothes out. After I had gotten rid of most of the moisture, I headed towards the second floor laundry drying area. The drying area was inside but it had a good exposure to the sun and was connected to the balcony through a door.
I wonder how the weather will be tomorrow. I opened the door and glanced outside and noticed there was something that wasn’t usually there. It was a ladder. This ladder, which would usually be stored in the storehouse, was standing, leading towards the roof. It was highly unlikely that anyone would go up the roof at this time so someone must have just forgotten to put it away.
Should I put it away now? No, it’ll disturb other people if I make noise this late at night, I thought and was just about touch the ladder when I was suddenly driven by a certain temptation, Should I go up…? The happening just before, which blew away my sleepiness, might have been one of the reasons.
Alright, I’m going up. I made up my mind. When I placed my foot on the ladder, it made a faint creaking wood sound.
I reached the top and had just peeped my head above the roof.
“What, you again?”
Wilfried-san’s exasperated voice came down from above.
Being called out in a place where I thought was empty, my body jumped with a start. The ladder rebounded by inclining the opposite direction.
“…….What are you doing? Do you have a death wish?”
A large hand reached out, grabbed the ladder and returned it to its original position.
“Th-Thank you so much……!”
When I thanked him for my narrow escape from death, Wilfried, who had, without me noticing, returned to his original position on the roof, coldly said, “Come up if you’re going to come up.”
For some reason I said ‘Excuse me for the intrusion,’ before I climbed up onto the roof and sat myself a small distance away from him. He appeared to have come here after returning to his room and changing his clothes.
“What are you doing here?”
I actually wanted to ask about the blood. But, I couldn’t.
“It has a good view of the stars.”
The clouds had at some time cleared and the night sky, which I had thought was pitch black, sparkled with millions of stars.
“Stars are so bright.”
“You’re stating the obvious.”
“I lived in a place where you couldn’t really see stars. Also I… never looked at stars at all.”
I’m sure there were plenty of stars. You simply couldn’t see it because of those night neon lights.
I had never realised that stars were so bright, so beautiful.
Because I was always only looking down, desperately trying to live.
Same, as in we both live in places where you can’t see the stars? Or is it because we don’t have time to look at the stars?
Unable work out the meaning behind his words, I moved my gaze from the stars to Wilfried.
I was almost sucked in by those transparent blue eyes. I couldn’t move my eyes away. His eyes evoked a somewhat familiar and nostalgic feeling. Even though I had thought that he was scary, for some reason that feeling had already faded.
“It’s late. Go back to your room.”
Hearing exact words as the other day, I returned to my room. That night, I couldn’t sleep until dawn. ―――My heart beat just wouldn’t calm down.
Whenever I closed my eyes, I would see the boundless starry sky from before.
 Probably Anne of Green Gables
 A Balmoral
 Pregnancy sickness or morning sickness (same thing) is “nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP)”and can occur any time during the day.
 Disinfect something/kill germs by airing in the sun
 Put this here just in case it isn’t clear. She’s thinking of ways to kill all the germs and bacteria in the lake so she can bathe in it.
お邪魔します is a greeting used when entering someone’s home.