“Aeeda, you will be responsible for cleaning this corridor on your own.”
Cool girl Asti-san instructed while passing over the cleaning tools. The corridor she was talking about appeared to be the roofed passageway that encircled the building, courtyard and other areas.
“Yes. I understand.”
“Wait, Asti, are you serious? It’s impossible to clean that area alone.”
Another maidservant hastily intervened. It was the girl who showed me to my room yesterday. If I remembered right, her name was Sofia. She was a cute round faced girl with caramel coloured hair and green eyes.
“Don’t say anything unnecessary, Sofia. My decision is final.”
“But, to finish it all one day would be almost im-…”
“It’s okay. I’ll do it.”
“See, even the person concerned is fine with it. Alright then, I’ll leave it to you.”
Asti-san gave an intense glance and left. ‘Sheesh, she’s so mean’, I heard Sofia-san say.
Oh, was this being mean? I hadn’t noticed at all. I was even feeling thankful that she had given me a lot of work to do. Perhaps the reason she hasn’t said that many words to me because she hates me? I haven’t talked to her enough to be hated so I don’t know the reason but, I wonder if it’s because I’m a foreigner?
Sofia-san told me if she finished her own work early she’d help me out.
“Oh, right, I forgot to say this yesterday but, I suggest you don’t go near His Majesty.”
The chances of meeting him are slim however, she added as she warned me.
Apparently, His Majesty had a violent temperament. There was an incident in the past where he had immediately fired a higher ranked female servant over a minor mistake. I had to admit that I did feel that the King that I had seen in that short amount of time yesterday had been quite tyrannical.
She also said that because the higher ranked female servant was fired, her family’s reputation was completely ruined, and she was sent away on house arrest to a faraway relative. Her father, who was a high ranking official, was driven out of the royal court, and now even his existence was forgotten. If it were trivial maidservants like us who could be blown away by a mere breeze, our heads might go flying off for real.
……Scary. Too scary.
After sharing her words of wisdom, which was even more terrifying than ghost stories, Sofia-san headed to her own work station.
‘You must not go near His Majesty. If you ever see him, you must run away immediately.’
I must bear that warning in mind.
What a contradiction. Even though I wanted to become a side consort, I needed to tell myself to run away if I ever saw him.
I had even perfectly constructed up my face and body today. Well, I did have to admit, besides the whole side consort thing, another reason for my disguise was so that people wouldn’t think that I was a completely different person from yesterday. The level of my disguise was high enough that I would definitely get stopped at an airport.
The end of my bath road is eternally far.
No. There’s no way I’ll give up. One day I’ll definitely dive into it with a splash and swim right in it.
I’ll have a bubble bath, and tip in essential oil… Heheheh
Just you wait, my dear little bathy!
I promptly carried the cleaning tools and reached my designated passageway. It had sculpted carvings and arched white pillars evenly spaced along the passage. Its atmosphere made me feel as if a pretty girl wearing a pink dress would suddenly peep out from a pillar and smile with a ‘Hehe’. That’s the royal castle alright. Imagining that pretty girl all of a sudden rived up my motivation
Apparently, the pillars and ceiling were cleaned yesterday. Those areas and the floor are cleaned on alternating days or something like that. Just as Sofia-san said, the passage was so long you couldn’t see the end and it seemed like it would be pretty hard labour for one person to clean it all by themselves.
The employee uniform that I received in the morning consisted of a long dark blue cotton dress, white apron, and a white hat with frills. Although I was calling it a hat, it was like a nurse’s cap, so small that I really couldn’t see the point of it.
It was also ridiculously hard to move in. The hem touched the ground when I crouched, and it didn’t allow for much arm movement. If one cares too much about appearance, they will not make much progress in work.
I didn’t want to do careless work. I would rather use every available second to polish up to the very corners. Therefore, this outfit was nothing but shackles.
Alright, I’m going to get changed. Fortunately, I had heard that the castle had very few visitors today and probably very few people would be using this corridor. That was probably why they left this passageway to a newcomer like me and, as long as I changed back again after I finished cleaning, it shouldn’t be a problem.
I quickly returned to my room, dragged out my work clothes from my suitcase and changed. I removed that hat of course.
I hadn’t thought it was necessary to mention this till now but, my work clothes are overalls. Not the fashionable type you see youngsters wearing on the street, but the hidden buttons, one-piece, super uncool type which you can tell in one glance are for work purposes. Possibly to express a sense of cleanliness, the overalls were a water blue colour. If I had a baseball style cap as well, I would look just like a moving company workman.
On the back were the words “Sawaguchi Cleaning Services” in very large print. Every worker is forced to buy one when they register into the company as a dispatched employee. It was right after I started living in the internet cafe so this expense hit me very hard. That’s why I vowed to myself that I would continue wearing it until it completely wore out.
The floor in question was composed of large tiles of a material that resembled terracotta. Terracotta is a material formed by firing clay and is used for pottery and construction. Hence, even in Japan it is also often used for places like entrance porches. However, unlike the brick colour distinctive to terracotta, the tiles used in this passageway were a whitish cream colour. The surface was also slightly glossy. Furthermore, after a closer look, as it also had marble patterns, perhaps, like how marble is formed from limestone, it might actually be natural stone cut from building stone. If that was the case, it was probably tremendously expensive. As one would expect of the royal palace.
Either way, I could not use acidic detergent as the main ingredients are substances like calcium and potassium. If I did, there was a risk of discolouration or damage. In that case, I would have to use baking soda after all. However, with such a long passageway to polish, there was no way the baking soda I had in hand was anywhere near enough.
The only tools I had been given were a bucket, a brush with a long handle, and a mop. However, I wouldn’t feel satisfied if all I did was add water and scrub. Doing that would merely spread the fifth around.
So, what to do? I crossed my arms and pondered. That was when I suddenly heard a rattling wheel sound which sounded like something heavy was being transported.
A young man appeared from behind the trees. He was a head taller than me and had short hair that was almost black. Below the hair were dignified eyebrows which could be described as masculine, and sunflower coloured eyes. And, those yellow eyes met smack with mine.
“…….Are you… a suspicious person?”
After a long staring contest, the other side spoke first. His voice was surprisingly soft and the way he tilted his head made him look like a puppy. He was similar to the boy who was my classmate in elementary. Bad at studying, excellent reflexes, always the mood-maker in the class. The man standing in front of me, like my former classmate, had the atmosphere that seemed like he would be popular with younger and older women.
After I held up the cleaning tools, he finally seemed to understand that I was a maidservant and approached me while pushing the one wheeled wheelbarrow like object. On top of that thing was a thick heap of whitish grey powder that looked like sand.
“It’s pearl ash.”
Probably noticing that I was looking at it curiously, he told me what the powder was. It was ash extracted from the lye produced when burning wood and could make bread rise.
Wait, isn’t that like baking soda?
Originally, baking soda was only used for cooking. I believe it was only in the recent years that it started being used for cleaning. Furthermore, pearl ash is a substance that should produce a similar effect as baking soda. This was knowledge that I had obtained from the internet so I didn’t have definite proof though.
As I had paid to use the internet cafe with money, whenever I had free time, I would work hard to get my money’s worth by doing stuff like reading manga or playing one-person darts. I mostly watched movies in the booth but since it was available there for use anyway, I did try going on the computer there. However, I couldn’t think of what to do on it, so I searched up stuff that would be useful for work like baking soda, citric acid and the like. I have a feeling it mentioned something about that in the things I read…… Probably.
By the way, using baking soda for cleaning was Chief Sawaguchi’s business policy. When he started the business, he had no work requests. Whenever he helped out with residential house-moving, he would offer to clean for a small additional charge.
Of course, Chief Sawaguchi used detergent in the beginning but, one day, a client told him in advance, “I don’t want you to use detergent because I have small children.”
It was true that the scariest thing about cleaning was leaving behind detergent residue. Children like to put everything into their mouth and lick anything. But if you didn’t use detergent, then you wouldn’t be able to get rid of the fifth. And he didn’t find it right to simply wipe with a damp cloth since he was charging money for it.
Chief Sawaguchi worried over this problem and then remembered that his own mother had used baking soda to clean. After that, after he studied the methods to clean that utilized natural materials and put it into practice, the clients was extremely delighted. That was how his business became popular and grew to the point he could hire workers.
“Do you still have a lot of that pearl ash?”
“Huh? I do but…… Are you cooking something?”
“No, I want to use it for cleaning. Please, share some with me.”
To dispel his curiosity, I got him to give me a little bit of ash and gave a cleaning demonstration. After I sprinkled some ash onto one tile, scrubbed it with a wet brush and wiped it with a cloth, the cleaned tile emitted a shimmer clearly different from its neighbouring tiles. He gave an excited cheer of ‘Ohhhhh’ and clapped his hands. He then immediately, borrowed a suitable bucket from the Uncle-gardener and shared some of the pearl ash with me. What a nice person.
He watched me clean with a look of admiration for a while but then suddenly gasped and stood up.
“Oh crap, gotta go. My name’s Jake. I’m a cook here. Nice to meet’cha!”
“I’m Aeeda. Nice to meet you.”
I grasped back the hand Jake held out. There were hard calluses on his palm of his big hand. As he said that he was a cook, those calluses were probably formed from brandishing pots and frying pans. That hand, which showed that he undoubtedly worked hard every day, gave me a very good impression of him.
Jake said “See you later!”, and left with a smile while pushing his wheelbarrow. Yeah, I think we’ll get along very well.
Aida Kiyoka has just made her first male friend in this other world.
Alright, let’s do it!
I fired myself up and rolled up my sleeves.
The fundamental principle of cleaning is to steadily retreat backwards. If you move clean forwards, you’ll leave footsteps and ruin the places you have just painstakingly cleaned. Like a fish in the water, I wholeheartedly started polishing the floor.
I wonder how much time has passed. I had finally reached the end of the straight corridor. There was still a long path to clean around the corner. However, I decided to take a breather at this point.
Hmmm. I stretched and patted my back. My body had become stiff from bending forward for too long. After I loosened my body, I deliberately crouched down a few steps away from my original spot, and sat onto the floor grasping my knees. By looking at the floor at this angle, I could gaze at the passageway that sparkled without end.
I let out a sigh of admiration. How beautiful!
The beauty of a just-cleaned area can only last a mere moment of time. Even if there was only a small breeze of wind, it would be covered in dust in a blink of an eye. But, that was what was good about it. A transient and fragile moment of beauty existed there. I even felt like it would be a sin to look away from that sight.
“―――What are you looking at?”
A voice spoke out to me from behind. However, because the corridor was too sparkly, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. Which was why, I answered the voice without moving my eyes away for even a split second.
“I’m looking at the tiles.”
“Tiles? ……Is it fun?”
“Yes! I can’t even- The sight of the sunlight reflecting off a cleaned floor is more beautiful than any view in Mother Nature. It’s perfect! It’s supreme!
The person sounded slightly taken aback. ‘Creeped out’, might be the word for it. Opps. I had gotten too hyped up and might have slipped out too much of my true thoughts. The excessive beauty had made me forget myself.
“May I look too?”
“Sure, go ahead, go ahead―――”
Please look at it. Look at the magnificence.
And together, we shall relish in this irreplaceable beauty.
I turned to look back at the person for the first time…….and there stood, a man wearing a mask.
The moment I realized who it was, my body froze up like stone with a snap.
‘You must not go near His Majesty. If you ever see him, you must run away immediately.’
Sofia-san’s warning whirled around in my head.
I’m so sorry, Sofia-san. You even took the time to tell me, but it appears that I have failed on the first day.
Now what will on earth will happen to my maidservant life? No, not just my maidservant life, I have a feeling I have exposed my life as a human to danger too. You see, that masked guy has a splendid sword hanging on his waist. If I mess up, it is really possible that with a single stroke of that sword I will……
In the worst case scenario, it’s possible that everything will crumble to dust without me even accomplishing my bath dream……
My fossilized head went creak-creak-creak as I forced it up and locked eyes (I think) with the person wearing a steel mask which was casting a dark grey light…..
Steel vs Stone, jokes. ……..Haha.
 吹けば飛ぶような軽い存在 – Direct Translation: Light existences that will go flying if you blow it. Meaning: Mere Nobodies
首が飛ぶ – means ‘to be sacked’. The literal translation is ‘head go flying’. So she’s saying that the words may literally come true instead of as a figure of speech for being fired.