Medusa, no, His Majesty asked curiously.
I had a feeling he had tilted his head slightly just like Jake-san did. However, this head tilt induced the exact opposite effect and my body fossilized even further.
He’s actually asking me, ‘What’s wrong?’ The reason is precisely you. Do you get it? Don’t you understand? Just a moment ago you tried to end my life without moving a single finger.
This isn’t good. This must be what people call a ‘death flag’. He completely holds the authority over my life and death in his hand.
Ahh, I left a fingerprint on the floor that I just cleaned. How neglectful. Since it’s caused by cold sweat, it’s definitely going to have a dreadful amount of oil fifth. I want to wipe it right now, but I can’t.
Sunlight shone struck the steel mask and my eyes narrowed from the dazzling glare. There wasn’t a single smudge on that hard mask and you could tell that it was maintained well. ……Does he polish it by himself? No-No way right…
I’ll put my life at jeopardy if he realises that I’m thinking up weird thoughts. Please disappear, my little delusions.
I could only see his mouth which was shaded by the mask but, seeing him up close, I could see that he had white skin and thin lips. His body, which was completely covered with his clothing and cloak of a pitch-black that unfitting for the morning, was surprisingly slender for his height. The bigness of his attitude yesterday, no, his intimidating pressure must have made him feel bigger. Judging from his voice, he might also be younger than I had thought.
However, he was still scary. If he was dressed on the street this way in Japan, he would have been arrested as a suspicious person a long time ago.
“Let me see, let me see.”
Is he irritated at me for not moving even one millimetre after so long? The Grim Reaper, no, His Majesty, crouched down just like me. In arm reaching distance, the devil, no, His Majesty is here.
At that very moment, the curse of the stone, which had been binding me on that spot like a hex, suddenly dispelled and I jumped backwards sideways. Nimbly, yet ungainly. My throat was dry and cold sweat trailed down my back.
“Wow, it’s true. That’s a brilliant shine there. I never knew that these tiles were such a bright colour. It must have been really tough to make it this clean, right?”
Yes, yes. I wasn’t lazing off during work, so please don’t fire me. And please don’t kill me. I will continue to work like a horse from now on.
‘It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it so shiny.’ Even though I just received the highest grade compliment, my mouth didn’t move. That was because in my head I was busy seriously worrying about how I would survive this ordeal. I thought over which path to take and how to run but, I could only picture a bad ending in all of the scenarios. Father and Mother in Heaven, I might be by your side… very soon.
Murderous Demon, no, His Majesty, shifted his gaze from the passageway back to me as if he had noticed something.
Gulp. Has he realised that I’m one of the side consort candidates he met yesterday?
“Why are you wearing those clothes?”
The feeling of relief, the feeling of the draining of strength. My heart has been very busy for the past few minutes.
“Because it’s easy to move in them.”
“Oh. I see. That makes sense.”
You’re actually satisfied with that sort of answer? I thought with awe.
Nevertheless, the sentences he’s said so far have all been why why attacks like a little kid.
Is it me, or is his character a little, too different from his character yesterday?
Iron man, no, His Majesty’s hand was clasping a long and narrow white cloth. It appeared to be made of silk judging from the sheen of the fabric, and had a detailed embroidery of roses. You could tell was expensive at one glance. Noticing my gaze, His Majesty opened out his hand so I could see it clearly.
“The Queen’s ribbon flew away. I came to retrieve it.”
I see. That was a hair ribbon. It appeared that he was with the Queen up until now. The rumours that they are in love with each other despite it being a political marriage might be true after all.
Which means, a side consort was not welcome = it was likely my bath road was as impossible as drawing in water.
I was now even starting to think that working hard to build my own bath myself might even be faster. I have no completely idea how to procure the materials or how to make it though.
Should I make that type where you needed to laboriously fetch the hot water with a wooden bucket, or that drum bath type where the bath is heated directly from beneath? They were both excellent choices. It was hard to choose between them.
That was when, I heard a woman from a distance, who sounded like a maid, calling for His Majesty.
As this area was at the very edge, and we were both sitting down, we were probably at that person’s blind spot.
“Some-Someone is calling for you, I believe……”
After not speaking for a long time, my voice was dry and husky. I do think it’s a big feat that I was even able to talk.
“Oh right. I need to go. Hey, can you keep it a secret that you met me here?”
After I nodded bobbingly, that masked person whispered “Thanks. Good luck on your cleaning,” and gallantly left with a crisp wave of his black mantle.
Was I just daydreaming?
His atmosphere was entirely different from the atmosphere of the King I met for a short time yesterday. It was almost like he was an entirely different person. But, would there really be any man other than him who would come to retrieve the Queen’s ribbon wearing a steel mask?
You don’t even need to think. That answer is NO. It’d be a really alarming matter if two or three of those were here walking around the place.
Don’t tell me this is what Sigurd-san meant by His Majesty’s ‘good mood day’? Mood……? Isn’t this change too excessive to be described as a mere “mood” change?
Also, I saw it. I saw that His Majesty mouth slightly slackened, yes, slackened, just a tiny bit.
…..There’s no doubt about it. This is a death flag.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Aeeda! It must have been tough cleaning all by yourself, right?”
A long while past noon, Sofia-san came running to me. Seeing that she was out of breath, she must have rushed here. Even though she probably had her own job to do, I’m sure that she must have worked harder than usual to finish her job and come to help me.
“Sheesh, Aeeda. What happened? You didn’t even come to get your lunch.”
“Ah…… I forgot. I lose all sense of time when I clean.”
“Aeeda, you’re kind of weird, huh. You’re dressed strangely too.”
Sofia-san said in an amazed tone.
I’m weird? ……Really? That was something I had never considered. But if I’m weird, than His Majesty and even Sigurd-san are weird too.
In the first place, what is it that determines a person is weird? What on earth is normal anyway? I started getting confused.
At any rate, I think that I’m normal. If I’m weird then, wouldn’t that mean that everyone in this world is weird, and there isn’t a single normal person in this world?
“Aeeda, eat this. Sorry, it’s just something simple.”
What Sofia-san held out to me was vegetables and grilled meat wedged between bread. In other words, a sandwich. Did she make it for me hearing that I hadn’t eaten lunch? Simple or not, wasn’t important. I was extremely happy for her feelings of consideration for me.
“Thank you, Sofia-san.”
“Sheesh, you don’t need to thank me. Come on, eat and then we’ll go all out.”
I nodded and Sofia-san held out a napkin. She even had drinks.
By the way, the drink was alcohol. I don’t know whether it was a cultural practice or not but, water is rarely brought out as a drink with a meal. Children and adults, regardless of age, drink beer like alcohol in place of water.
At first I was surprised over that fact that they would even give children alcohol but I was used to it now. Furthermore, although it was alcohol, they also had alcohols with fairly low alcohol content. If this was Japan though, by now, I’d have already be put on probation for underage drinking.
While Sofia-san was catching her breath, I stuffed my mouth with the sandwich. The gravy had soaked into the bread and it was delicious. This bread must have been made with that pearl ash too. I really regretted not realising that sooner.
When I was at the Star Viewing House, I had bought bread at a nearby bakery. But that bread was not fluffy, and was hard and closer to a biscuit. That’s why I never imagined that rising agents existed in this world.
Perhaps pearl ash hasn’t deeply permeated into the life of the masses yet. Or is it because Setrovi is a country town? Or is it because it’s expensive? Or maybe because it’ll cost money to transport? I’ll confirm next time.
After I finished the sandwich, and was about to start work again, Sofia-san muttered curiously.
“Oh? Somehow it’s strangely clean?”
“To begin with, even if you skipped lunch, to finish this much, isn’t it a bit too fast?”
“I worked hard.”
This palace passage was extremely long and also wide. Alone, I had completed eighty percent of what would usually take several people to complete.
But, you can’t blame me. I mean, a place that you can clean and clean but still never ends is like eating a cake that never gets smaller. The more I clean the more enthusiastic I get. Because I had put my undivided attention into cleaning, the time had truly passed by almost instantly. That was why I forgot about lunch though.
“It’s more sparkly than usual too.”
You’ve noticed, I see. As expected, Sofia-san is a brilliant woman with a discerning eye. I pointed at the pearl ash I received from Jake.
“A cook who happened to be passing by shared some of his pearl ash, and I used it for polishing.”
“Really? What a surprise, I never knew that pearl ash could have that sort of effect.”
Judging from Sofia-san’s surprise, it was clear that this country did not have the culture of using pearl ash for cleaning yet. She readily believed me when I told her that we normally use it in my home country and with extreme curiosity, barraged me with questions on how to use it.
“Let’s see, it’s suited for cleaning places like drains and oil stains. For stubborn stains, you can sprinkle it straight on in powder form, or you can add a little water and mix it into a paste. If it’s for simple cleaning like getting rid of smells or wiping, it’s okay to just make a diluted water solution and wipe.”
“Is that so? You sure know a lot~”
If this was high purity baking soda, it might have become even cleaner.
But, as the palace is clean in the first place and doesn’t have that many people who will come to dirty it, pearl ash should probably be sufficient for the job. If stains and fifth can be removed easily, it will no doubt decrease the burden on cleaning servants like us. If I have the chance, I want to see if check if I can spread the use of pearl ash around.
“I can see why you rejected a court lady position to become a maidservant.”
“You know about that?”
“Of course. After all, that’s the reason why Asti is in a bad mood.”
That was news to me. Why would Asti be angry that I became a maidservant?
Sofia-san must have noticed my misgivings, and explained the reason, but not before warning me that this was all her own conception and might be wrong.
“Asti, you see, can’t become a court lady even though she wants to. Even though she is more than qualified, it’s a problem of social status. So I think that she doesn’t like you because you rejected the court lady position that she wanted so easily.”
It felt like my head had been dealt with a heavy punch.
I never would have imagined that my refusing to become a court lady could taken that way – that it would be seen that I refused it because I found a court lady’s job to be too tough. But I couldn’t possibly now say, “I will become a court lady after all,” and going to apologise to Asti-san would be baking up the wrong tree. Also, if I asked Sigurd-san to recommend Asti-san to become a court lady in my place, she would probably be even angrier. Even though I hadn’t come in contact with her much, even I could tell that she was a woman with that amount of pride.
Human relations are complicated no matter the world, huh…….
I shook my head to scatter the surfacing memories my past that I had long decided to forget.
“What are you doing?”
At that moment, Asti came out from inside the building with rolled sleeves and a scary look on her face. It appeared that she had come to give us a warning because she had seen us two standing around talking.
Seeing her zeal for work, my good impression of her rose even more. ……It’s probably not something she would be happy about though.
“Asti, look! Aeeda used pearl ash to clean! Isn’t squeaky clean?”
Sofia-san said brightly to smooth things over but Asti-san’s brows still furrowed. Was that towards of my outfit, or towards me, as a person? ……Or maybe it was both.
“Refrain from using strange substances. If anything happens, I will be the one reprimanded. Sofia, what are you doing here?”
Asti-san did not look at the cleaned passageway, and after she finished warning us, she returned back into the building. This is what you call unapproachable.
When I silently stared in the direction she had left, Sofia-san, who was next to me, comforted me by telling me not me to worry about it. Even though the person who was stuck in the middle, and was dragged into this mess was her.
Being involved into the quarrels between other consorts, being persecuted by the queen, I was prepared to have to bear with that type of hardship but, I never thought that I would be troubled by co-worker relationships.
……I hope we can get along one day.
“Now, let’s pull ourselves together and finish this.”
Even if you worry, time and work will not wait for you.
We restarted cleaning again.
But, even though it had always worked in the past, no matter how much I cleaned, my chest felt like it had been covered by a haze, and my heart didn’t clear up at all.