We entered past the walls that surround the city. The house and buildings were built not from steel or wood, but from pure marble or granite stone. This would likely avoid corrosion from the salty sea air that blows from the open waters nearby. The road from the entrance was wide to make room for the constant traffic that flow past us, an no one seemingly afraid of the giant wolf, but what is stranger still was the birds that flock on the roofs of the buildings, all of which have two sets of wings on their sides. Before I could let my eyes wonder more, Zeyl picks me off from Selsie, places me on the ground and holds my hand out to her as we walk.
“…?” Sometimes I forget that I’m in a child’s body. Ignoring that, we head into a building, an inn to be exact. We leave Selsie outside to wait. When inside, we walk to an old man who sat by the counter. He looks at me first and my hair and then to Zeyl.
“Single room,” she said, putting some silver coins on the counter and in exchange, the old man hands her a small… rectangular piece of wood?
We head deeper inside the building and to a room on the second floor. Zeyl uses the rectangular object and places it near the door, and like magic, mechanisms from inside are heard turning and moving and finally, the door opens. It’s a key. When inside, I look at the back of that same door, but there was nothing behind it. Inside the room are windows that point to a view of what seems to be the center of the city from far. The windows themselves are also very large but neither of two have anything to keep the air, rain, or perhaps even small bugs from entering.
Then I spot that giant dog outside laying down. It spots me and quickly jumps inside the room. Selsie, she lays on the floor and seemingly within moments falls asleep. We’ve been traveling for a long while. She deserves this. That’s when I’m reminded of what happened to Zeyl, her current condition. I look to her and she puts down her bags on the soft sheets of the bed.
“Zeyl,” I called to her attention.
“Lee,” she said, handing me the key, “stay in the building. I’ll be back later, and in the mean time, go take a shower or you’ll start feeling ichy.” She then exits out, leaving everything except a wrapped object.
I take her advice and look for the bathing room. Signs on the walls pointed to the bathing area, or so it seems, but the sign is just an image of what looks like a humming bird bathing in a small pond. Once I walk past all the signs I reach two separate rooms. Likely for different genders, but the signs on them don’t say ‘male’ or ‘female.’ The one on the left has a sign of two lines, straight as an arrow, while the other has two lines that are shaped like the curves of a sea wave.
“These aren’t helpful..” I sighed.
An answer for that is simple. I check each room separately… sadly, while there are some differences, there are nothing significant to tell me which belongs to what gender, not even a person inside to give me the easiest hint. Now outside of the bathrooms, I look in both directions of the hallway, and no one is around. With how crowded the streets are, you’d think that this place would see good business. Since no one is around, then I’ll have to enter one of them, so I head inside the room on the right. There are two separate areas, one for changing and one for actually bathing. The first area houses shelves with large open containers in rows and columns. Small instructions to follow are right by the door.
“Take one towel and leave your clothes in the same container.”
Simple and easy to follow instructions. I take off my clothes and leave them inside the container with the key that Zeyl gave me. As for my stones, I left them in the room with Selsie. Again, I made sure no on else was in the bathing area. After confirming so, I head to the next area with nothing but a towel around my waist. I smell like dirt, leaves, and a little bit like Selsie’s fur coat. Which is strangely pleasant.
There are faucets embedded on the wall, and on closer inspection, the handle to let water out is shaped like a small pyramid facing down.. made of marble, not just that, but it was hovering over the faucet.
“Magic?” There is still too much I don’t understand about magic, but I can see it’s usefulness with everyday life.
I turn the handle, but no water comes out from the faucet. Again, I turn it around many more times, waiting for something to come out. Then suddenly, a shadow creeps from behind me.
“Need help with that?” the voice spoke, and I look around behind me and the voice came from a girl who appears to be fifteen or so years old. She was fully clothed, and not wearing a towel so I was a little relieved at the ominous situation I had for a second.
“Ah- sorry,” she said, “I work here to maintain the building, among other things. Also, you’re in the women’s area, but that’s fine since you’re still a child.” She then grabs the handle and pushes it down and begins to twist it. Water spewed out from above, and not from the faucet. That’s odd because there is no shower head above me! It’s like water is just being created from nothing, but that can’t be.
Immediately, the girl covers my hair with a sticky and flowery smelly substances. Shampoo? Before I realized it, I forced my eyes shut trying to avoid the created bubbles from entering my eyes. It was long too late for me to protest what she was doing, so I let her wash my hair. After five minutes, she starts washing from my chest down, but I managed to clean a certain area myself, avoiding the dangerous situation when it started feeling as if she wouldn’t stop going south. And finally, it was over. She takes the towel and begins to dry me head first.
“Oh- you must be a Talician,” she said, glancing over at my very dark purple hair and eyes. She then continues slowly to dry from top to bottom, but again, I stop her.
“I’m fine,” I said, “I can dry myself.” She proceeds to wrap the the towel around me and picks me up on her arms and carries me to the first area from before where I left my clothes. This girl isn’t reading the mood!
“Oh wow!” She yells in excitement. “A phoenix birds with open wings.” She kept looking at my clothes, but for only a few seconds and picks them up and we head outside the to the hallway. “I’ve never seen an insignia of a bird with open wings before.”
We then reach my room and no further than that.
“Could you let me down?” I ask, and she does. She hands me my clothing and key, and I proceed to open the door and head inside the room. “Uh… sorry, I don’t have anything to tip you with.” That was the only reason why she would be so assertive. She laughs.
“It’s part of the job,” she said, “there should be a bell inside the room. Ring it and I’ll be here to serve you in a moments notice.”
“Th-thank you.” I close the door gently, but quickly realize that I don’t have any clean clothes… or any money for it. I don’t want to use Zeyl’s money, so I’d like to sell my last stone soon. I open the door and the girl was still there.
“We didn’t introduce ourselves,” I said.
“My name is Isla,” she said, and bows.
“You can call me Lee,” I said, and return the greeting. “Uh, Isla?”
“Yes? How may I be of service?”
“I don’t have any other clothes,” I said, “does this building have somewhere I can wash them?”
“Then allow me to wash them for you,” she said.
“No, I couldn’t possibly let you do that.”
“It is part of my job, my dear customer,” she said.
“Then.. I’ll be in your care,” I hand her my clothing.
“I’ll return when I finish, unless you call before then.” She then leaves before I could thank her.
After a while, I sit on the bed with nothing but my towel. A few footsteps outside my room are heard and they increase in number as time goes by. After a few hours, a knock is heard on my door. I go an open it. It’s Isla.
“Here are your clothing,” she said, and hands them to me. These are now clean, dry and smell nice.
“So when is master Koinsol returning?” she asked.
“Yes, the lady who came in with you.”
“Does she come to this inn often when she visits Aria?”
“She didn’t mention when she was returning, just some time later,” I said, “did you have some business you wished to speak to her about?” She smiles.
“No, not at all,” said Isla. Then suddenly, as if having heard a calling. “I have to go back to work. Well, until next time that you need me.” Isla leaves.
I close the door and with nothing to do I lay on the bed. There is a nice breeze coming from outside the window, as well as many different voices speaking to each other. I fall asleep moments later.
* * *
“Are you asleep, Lee?”
I wake up from the voice. I open my my eyes and sit upright to look at my surroundings. A quick look outside the windows and it’s already dark. Then I look over to where the voice came from. it was Zeyl.
“I am now.”
“Sorry,” she said, “I didn’t think it would take so long.” She takes a seat by the bed. “Anyway, I’ll be leaving back home by then end of the month.”
“Have you thought about what you want to do?”
“I’m going to sell my last magic stone, and see what happens next.”
“Then I’ll help you,” said Zeyl, “I know a dealer that will make an offer. We’ll go first thing tomorrow.”
“But before that,” she said.
“Can you tell me whose family you belong to?”
“… And what are you going to do if I tell you?”
“Nothing, the rest is up to you,” replied Zeyl,
“Then, can I ask that this be the only secret I can keep to myself?”
“Of course,” she said. “Then my next question my next question will be.. what is your real name?”
“…” That’s like telling her who my family is. “That’s cheating.” Zeyl laughs, and it is perhaps the first time I’ve heard that laugh. It is gentle and warming.
“Then, Koinsol,” I said.
“Who told you that?!” she gets serious, but embarrassed as well.
“A very assertive little bird told me,” I said. “My name is Liel. Nice to meet you, Koinsol.”
“Nice to meet you, Liel.”