Learn what a genkan is.
If you watch anime or drama, you should have seen these many times already, but again, a concrete block wall is:
“The heck are you? A peeper?”
“Would it be possible for you to spare me a cup of water?”
This conversation that was obviously mismatched at a glance, was the meeting between the Japanese company employee, Tamano Izumi, and the one who would later be known as the Sacred Kingdom of Yohk’Zai’s strongest and greatest king, Huuron.
Baths are good.
Baths are soothing.
No matter how tired she was when she come back from work, once she got in the bath, half of it was forgotten.
Neither the nitpicking of her boss, nor the pressure of a crowded train could match the powers of baths.
Aahh, baths really are sublime.
Even though her room was messy enough that she couldn’t even find a place to tread, she never failed to clean the bath.
Today as well, the bath was polished to a sparkle, and filled with hot water and a refreshing aromatic bath essence, Izumi was enjoying herself in the tub.
The feeling of the prickling heat that her skin was gradually acclimating to was enjoyable enough that she couldn’t bear it.
In other words, it was worth it that she had come home with her face buried in the scarf in the terribly cold weather.
With her favourite tankoubon in one hand, she carried a slice of mikan to her mouth.
The juice in her mouth was an exquisite balance of tang and sweetness, and it was the moment when she swallowed it down seed and all that it happened.
Just as she was wondering what the sound was, a hot wind blew in with a roar.
Caught by the wind, the pages of the book she was holding flipped about.
Aah-, even though I still have no idea what page I was on…!
The fact that she was still thinking about such carefree things might have been a form of escapism.
However, when she turned her head to see what the cause was, Izumi who always thought only of books, the bold and by no means sensitive Izumi, glanced towards the cause――towards the bathroom window in the northern side of the room.
There was a person who was wrapped from head to toe in a navy blue cloth, with only the exception of his eyes.
A MUMMY!? …or so Izumi initially thought, but around those slightly slanted eyes was youthful skin, and more importantly than anything, the colour of the cloth was blue.
While gazing at this intruder dumbfoundedly, the eyes gazed back with a sharp light.
First those eyes stared right at Izumi’s face, then they slowly moved downwards, stopped again by her chest, then once again headed further down… When they reached her feet, the intruder tilted his head, before returning his gaze to her face, meeting her eyes.
At this point, Izumi finally remembered. She remembered that she was in the bath, and that she was fully naked.
“The heck are you? A peeper?”
“Would it be possible for you to spare me a cup of water?”
“Yeah. I haven’t had a drink the whole day. It’d really help if you could spare me a cup.”
The man looked at the hot water that filled the bathtub, and gulped.
Of course, Izumi was sitting in that bathtub, and so whether that gulp was from seeing her naked body, or whether it really was because of the water, was something Izumi couldn’t tell.
But well, even if the man really did just want the water, asking for a drink from water that somebody else has just bathed might make him a pervert after all.
Was she supposed to scream “KYAAA” or “MOLESTER!” in this situation?
The man’s face was covered, but had it not been an oft-used blue cloth, and instead a stocking or a balaclava or perhaps a full-face helmet, then Izumi would probably have screamed without a doubt.
However, the unique atmosphere that the man had held her back.
“Umm, water, right?”
Having said that though, she couldn’t give him water that she’d bathed in.
Izumi picked up the cup that she used for brushing her teeth while in the bath, and filled it with water after turning the tap on.
The cold water flowed into the cup and filled it.
Around the time that the cup was filled to the rim, she turned around.
The man’s gaze was aimed at Izumi’s butt.
Maybe I really should scream.
After clearing her throat with an ‘ahem’, the man raised his face as he suddenly realised what he was doing. When Izumi’s half-open eyes met his gaze with disdain, the man quickly lowered his eyes.
While using her book to discreetly shield her chest, Izumi got up.
“Here you go.”
“Sorry for this.”
As expected, with the exception of his fingertips, the man’s hand was covered in that blue cloth.
No, it wasn’t only his fingertips. His shoulders and hips were wrapped in a large navy cloth as well.
Right, it was like he was somebody travelling in the desert with a camel.
Izumi who was often gazing at the man’s outfit noticed that her cheek was being stroked by a hot and dry wind, and turned her eyes to what was behind the man.
“What the heck?”
Izumi widened her eyes and took in the scenery that spread out behind the man.
It was not a desert. Though it wasn’t a desert, you could tell that the land was dry from a glance, and that this desolate land continued into the distance.
Sparse grass, and a glazing sun. There wasn’t a single tree, nor any buildings. In this great expanse with nothing to block your view, the distant horizon was visible.
The man had drunk the water in one gulp with just the cloth around his mouth lowered and a line of water running down his lip. Izumi timidly called out to him.
“…What is it?”
The man gave a forceful wipe of his mouth.
“Where, are you?”
“Zaharya. Is there a problem?”
The man tilted his head in confusion, and held out the cup straightforwardly.
“You saved me. …I’m sorry to ask this, but may I have another cup?”
When she did as she was asked and filled the cup with water, the man once again drained it in a gulp. He seemed to drink it as though it were delicious wine from the heavens, and Izumi felt that he really hadn’t had any water the whole day.
“Um, and so, what are you doing in that Zaharya place?”
“I was stranded here.”
“It’s not funny.”
“Mn, sorry. I just wanted to try saying it.”
The man was looking at Izumi with cold eyes. Izumi obediently apologised.
“Do you have any containers? I’ll fill it with water.”
“Ah, that would help. Could you fill this?”
What the man held out to her was a withered bag that seemed to be made of tanned hide.
When Izumi took it, the sand that had covered it fell into the bathtub.
When she slowly moved it so that no more sand would fall, she rinsed the inside before filling it with water.
After filling the bag that held more water than expected, Izumi turned back to the man.
This time, it was Izumi’s turn to send a cold look.
The man’s gaze was once again turned to her butt.
“Ah, umm… Sorry.”
Quickly turning away so that he wasn’t look at Izumi’s naked body, the man received the bag.
His rather suntanned skin had turned just a little red.
“Don’t worry. It’s already too late for that. By the way, you’re stranded right? Do you have food?”
“Yeah, I have hard biscuits and salted jerky, and dried fruits as well. I’m fine for food.”
It was a menu that seemed like it’d make you incredibly thirsty.
“Hahh, then… can I close the window yet? Sand has been blowing in for a while now, you know?”
“Y-, Yeah… Ah-, please wait!”
The man’s large hand grabbed her hand as she touched the windowframe.
“I’d like to thank you.”
“Nah, it’s fine. It’s was just water after all.”
“Where I come from, there’s a saying that things you receive without paying back for will end up hindering you, you see.”
“Ahh. Like ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’? But even if you want to thank me, …you know?”
Izumi gazed at the man closely.
What kind of thanks could you get from a person stranded in a wasteland?
“How about this?”
The man took off the cloth that was covering his face.
“Oh? A handsome one…”
Looking at the man’s face again, his finely chiseled features overflowed with a wild manliness.
“I am honoured to receive your praise.”
The sharp-eared man who picked up on her accidental compliment, flashed her a grin.
His mouth was wrinkled in a cynical looking smile. He might have been older than the impression she got from his lively eyes.
“Please take this.”
After taking off the blue stones that decorated his ears, the man dropped it onto Izumi’s palm.
They rang out with a refreshing sound as the man placed his hand on Izumi’s.
“They’re earrings made of lip’se.”
“Oh-, na-, nah, it’s fine. They seem kinda super expensive. I’m not going to accept such an extravagant gift! All I gave you was water, you know?”
“What are you saying? That water saved my life. If you consider their values, these earrings are still lacking by far.”
“Well, I guess if you think about it that way, you’re right, but…”
“Our trade is complete. Sorry for disturbing your bath.”
The man unilaterally ended the conversation in a way that kept Izumi quiet.
“Then… I’ll accept them. Ah-, wait a minute!”
Izumi called out to stop him as he was about to shut the window.
The man raised an eyebrow, as if to ask ‘What?’.
“Water, is that enough?”
Wouldn’t a stranded person always be in need of more?
“Yeah, it seems that I’ve already left the desert, you see. There’s an oasis city to the east. If I continue walking, I’ll probably get there at some point. I’ve been in your care.”
After the window shut, the scene in the bathroom went back to normal.
An orange wall. A white floor. A yellow bathtub. A shower, a mirror, and a shelf with bathing items, and a bath sponge that hung from that shelf.
It was the scene of her bathroom that she was used to.
Amongst all of this was just the earrings that gave off an uncommon light, and seeing this, Izumi came back to her senses.
What the heck was that? What happened just now.
Hearing the ring of the earrings in her hand gave her this unsettled feeling, as though she had awoken from a dream, yet she hadn’t.
Izumi stared hard at the earrings. Embedded in a well-crafted gold base were deeply coloured stones. The area like a curved needle meant that this was a hook-type earrings, and the dark stains attached to the hook section gave this a strong sense of reality.
Slowly, a strange anxiety crept into her from the tips of her toes.
When Izumi threw the earrings away at the edge of the bathtub, they floated up.
She hurriedly dried herself, put on her clothing, wrapped her wet hair in a towel, and hurried into the genkan.
Throwing on some sandals, she went around to the back of the house.
There was the bathroom window.
The scenery around her was, unmistakably not a wasteland. There was only a plain concrete block wall, and the hedge from the neighbouring house peeking over the wall.
Between the block wall and the wall of her house was a small path covered with gravel.
While observing her surroundings so carefully that she wouldn’t miss an ant, she walked slowly forwards until she was in front of the bathroom, and then forcefully ripped open her window.
From the bathtub filled with hot water, rose steam that filled the room.
In her misty field of vision, she found a shining blue stone, and Izumi leaned against the window. Her legs had lost their strength.
Just what, was going on…?