Chapter 16 – A Quiet Night
I let out a sigh as I immersed myself into the bathtub. I quickly drew a bath after returning home from the Guild. The temperature was regulated by using a magic stone placed into a wall socket, which raised the temperature, and by adding water from the house’s water system, which lowered the temperature.
I made the water slightly hot today.
Although I didn’t know whether I should say that it was the first time for me, or that it had been a while, I felt like soaking in a hot bath because of the tension and fatigue I got from diving into the labyrinth.
What was there to say? A part of me even understood the reason. The inside of my head was spinning, more or less.
Aah, that’s right. I had forgotten to receive the information about the Alchemist.
Good grief. I have to keep it together.
I should confirm it the next time I go to the Guild. I’ll try not to forget the various things that need to be done, like arranging the furniture and tidying up the garden.
As I looked up at the ceiling, absorbed in my thoughts, a reserved knock resounded from the dressing room.
I took a deep breath and changed the feelings I had to something else.
It’s fine. It’s fine. I swallowed those words and proceeded onwards.
“Hm, what’s wrong?”
“I’ve prepared a set of clothes for you.”
We conversed through the door.
“…Thanks. Although I think you understand, you should use the bath as well, Grace.”
I had to say, even though she could use the bath with the magic stones that was in the house, it seemed like she had resolved to take a bath outside.
If this was the house of a Count…there were various people who would have talked wearily about things like, “It’s unthinkable to have a servant use the same bath as their master”, or “They shouldn’t have a meal at the same table.” People like Katherine and her butlers.
Although it might be correct, in terms of being common knowledge, I had shown no signs of living such a formal life before coming here, and there weren’t any people around to say such things. Perhaps it was understandable if it was for the sake of appearances. Such things never happened when I was living with mom though.
“Thank you. But, is it fine?”
“…Yeah. We did it before, when we lived together with mother, right?”
“That’s true. How nostalgic.”
On the other side of the door, a small smile appeared on her face.
“In the past, we also entered the bath together.”
“…Did such a thing happen? I don’t remember it very well.”
“Theodore-sama was young, after all. It’s not strange that you don’t remember it.”
This was a story about a time when I was five, huh.
As for things I remembered, rather than saying that we entered the bath together, Grace had helped me with my bathing. This was just for a little while, since I was taken in by the Count.
At the Count’s House, the servants were taught things like helping out with bathing and changing the clothes of the children of their employers, and although that had included Grace as well…I refused her, saying that neither was necessary.
Needless to say, it was because of my endless bruises and wounds. I didn’t want to show Grace such things.
However, when I informed her that it was fine to not help me, since I could do it myself, I clearly remember the sad expression she had on her face.
“Ah. If it’s fine with you, shall I wash your back, like in the past?”
That, what was wrong with her? Though, the tone of Grace’s voice felt like she had remembered something nostalgic.
…I’m no longer at an age where I should need help with things like bathing, but the original reason I refused her has disappeared. If Grace ended up remembering something sad because of what happened today, I’m willing to say that the current situation was a good thing.
“It sure has been a while…this feels nice.”
I answered after I wrapped the cloth I had placed on my head around my waist and sat on the edge of the bath.
“Please excuse me.”
After looking over my shoulder towards the door of the bath, Grace rolled up the sleeves of her maid outfit and entered.
She dipped a cloth in some hot water, lathered some liquid soap onto it, and began to carefully wash my back.
Speaking of liquid soap, although it was something that appeared to resemble soap, this was something we bought at the market after returning.
One is able to go to an area called the Twilight Forest somewhere on the 20th Floor, and find a tree, the Sabona Tree, that grows there naturally. The sap of this tree was quite exceptional, and, after attempting to mix and compound it into things like perfume, medicine, and the like, it became something that could be used as soap.
“You have scars on your back.”
“They’re from a long time ago.”
Perhaps the new bruises had disappeared already.
I happened to know of the scars that Grace touched.
She touched the scars with her slender fingertips as if she was tracing them.
“Grace…I’m a bit ticklish.”
Although she apologized to me like that, for some reason, she put her arm around my shoulder and lightly hugged me.
“I’m sorry. This is the same as it was in the past. I’ve been feeling the reactions from the cursed artifact releasing at times today…I knew about it, so please let me calm down like this. Allow me to stay like this for a bit longer.”
The same as it was in the past, huh.
We had hard times when Grace would come hug me after returning from a hunt, and times when we would sleep together.
Though the memories of that time were really vague to me, I do remember about Grace. I could sleep peacefully at night if I was with Grace, even though it was a bit unsettling.
It took a short while for Dad to let me know about this after mom passed. It was because Dad was absent from Termuilles at the time. He was rather slow in informing me about Mom’s death.
Anyways, I didn’t rely on anyone. Did Grace plan to imitate my mom? We had survived by…hunting demons and animals and the like in the forest with her Released State.
So Grace’s reason for hugging me was from that time, huh?
It was like Grace was feeling anxious about me or was contemplating over me…Though I understood that from her.
“Besides…I’ve been feeling that Theodore-sama has recently been running around by himself. You musn’t be like that, or else someday you will end up going too far. Really…Don’t do the impossible, ok?”
Anxiety…I wonder if that was what connected her reactions to her blood-sucking impulses?
Had I been unreasonable with her?
Though Grace had been saying that, is it because I seemed to have taken some mental damage from the events today?
“I haven’t been unreasonable, you know…Grace came with me to the Labyrinth. I’ll let you know if something is unpleasant.”
Perhaps it didn’t sit well with her to let me head off into the Labyrinth by myself. Well, I understood that.
That’s why I wanted her to properly ask me for my true intentions.
“Didn’t Risa-sama make her living by fighting Demons? I, too, think that this is fine. That’s why I don’t want a single complaint about you diving down into the labyrinth. This time, I was able to go it with Theodore-sama. So I will always…be able to understand it, compared to when we were at that house.”
“It’s fine…if it’s that.”
Although she had been hugging my back from behind for a while, she finally separated from me as she said that.
“Thank you very much. I feel like I’ve calmed down.”
“Mm. I’ve also calmed down, you know?”
“…As I thought, were you worried about it?”
“It’s not enough for me to be worried about it. It’s the same with Grace, right?”
“Yes. I don’t think I’ve mistaken it.”
This…is the same with Grace. Whether or not she had been considering it inside her heart until now, neither of us have ever been able to ask about it daringly.
Prior to understanding this, it was probably better to proceed ahead. I didn’t want to be deprived, nor did I want to be the one depriving others. It’s because I didn’t want to stoop to the same level as those people.
After my back was doused in hot water, the soap bubbles flowed down.
“…Shall I wash your hair as well?”
“Yeah…I’ll ask you to do it this time.”
Today has already…returned to how things were, so shall we spend today slowly with Grace?
I thought about such things while Grace washed my hair.
After this, Grace would probably enter the bath. After that…let’s have a meal together. It’s different now from the past when I relied on Grace.