Izumi was exhilarated.
The stone that she had obtained through that strange incident was much handier than expected.
She filled a bath with water, and then tossed in the stone that she had received from the large-bellied Teo Keh. And when she did, after only a few dozen seconds, it had transformed into a bath of the perfect temperature. What’s more, it wouldn’t cool. No matter how much time passed, the water temperature was constant. This was as good as saying there was no gas bill, so to the bath-loving Izumi, it was incomparably valuable compared to those earrings that she couldn’t even take out of the bathroom.
I’ve sure made a killing.
It was natural that she thought as such.
Izumi was enjoying her bath as well today.
In her right hand was a bottle of ice-cold sake, and in her left hand was a sake cup. She had absolutely no plans tomorrow, so this was her reward to herself.
Izumi suddenly looked at the submerged stone by her feet. Since this was a fire stone that heated water, could it be that there was a stone that was used for chilling water instead? IF there was such a drink, then she could bring it into the bathroom and enjoy cold liquor at any time; living the dream.
While indulging in such convenient delusions, Izumi brought the cup to her lips.
“Kuahh~ So good!”
The cool sake flowed into her hot body, and healed her weary body and soul. It was true that Japanese often called alcohol the ‘best medicine’.
Exhaling in delight, her cooled oesophagus warmed up in the next instant like a small flame had been swallowed. It was that moment that it actually felt like reality that she was free all day tomorrow.
And during this moment of supreme bliss, a -gagari- sound completely ruined it.
A wind even cooler than the cup in her hand suddenly blew into the bathroom.
“…You’re kidding me.”
Izumi turned her head towards the window, and fell into silence.
A yeti was staring at Izumi in shock.
“What are you? A mystic?”
The yeti spoke fluent words.
“Uh, no. I should be asking you what you are. A yeti? Bigfoot? A sasquatch? Or perhaps a yukiotoko?”
“What are those supposed to be.”
The yeti groaned. Trying to raise a minimum defence, Izumi raised the sake bottle into her hand. While giving Izumi’s meagre resistance a glance, the yeti placed its hands to its head, before sliding off its fur.
Izumi was wide-eyed.
What she was sure had been its natural form had turned out to be a hat. Because of the fur that had covered everything but the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as the beard that had been the same colour as the fur, she was sure that it was a yeti or a similar looking creature, but once the visitor removed the hat, it had transformed into a proper human man.
“My name is Setsugen. What is yours, Mystic-dono?”
“Uh, no, like I said, I’m not a mystic though,” mumbled Izumi, as she looked at the man named Setsugen. His beard made him look old, but his voice and casual behaviour overflowed with youthfulness.
Setsugen looking about the bathroom in great interest. After observing the lightbulb with great interest, he returned his gaze to Izumi before frowning.
“So you in the middle of a purification ceremony…”
It seemed like it would take an incredible amount of effort to explain the circumstances to Setsugen. Izumi quickly gave up.
“I’m Izumi. And so, do you also… uh, have some sort of problem, perhaps? Like for example, being stranded, or perhaps in the middle of looking for someone?”
Lately, Izumi had been thinking about the mysterious incidents in her bathroom whenever she was free. The result that she arrived at after her pondering was that, perhaps she had been tasked with the role of rescuing that stranded man and then introducing him to Teo Keh.
Izumi was an atheist. She believed in neither God nor Buddha, but she did go to pray at a shinto shrine during New Years, and she listened to the chanting of the buddhist priests during funerals, and vaguely thought that one day she would get married in a church. Neither God nor Buddha existed, so religion was a matter of the person themselves. Even now she still believed this. But despite that, she felt that she had been tasked with a role; she herself felt that this was contradictory. Although she felt so, if those two safely met up, then her role would be finished too, and it would be farewell to this mysterious world, or so she thought. After all, the window was no longer connected to that mysterious world, or so she thought…
But this happened.
Setsugen inclined his head in confusion.
“Well, I’m not stranded, nor am I searching for anyone.”
Oh. I was wrong.
Izumi tilted her head as well. At that moment, Izumi noticed that white snow was fluttering in from behind Setsugen.
Looking more carefully, Setsugen was in a mountain hut that was ridiculously shabby for where it was. The wind blew noisily against the thin looking walls. Even thought it was cold enough that you would need to wear fur indoors, the thing in the middle of the room that seemed to be a sunken fireplace wasn’t on fire.
“Could it be, that you need firewood… or something?”
Setsugen once again inclined his head.
“No, I was actually preparing to leave.”
So that was wrong too. The man didn’t seem to be particularly troubled.
Although the window connected to a mysterious world again, perhaps there wasn’t a reason.
“Where are you going?”
Because she had been wrong apparently, Izumi met a let-down, and asked him out of curiosity.
After falling into silence for a while, the man replied in a low voice, “Zaharya”.
Izumi reflexively stood up from the bath.
The surface of the water shook and spilled, and the water pushed the tray with the sake cup against the wall.
“You want to meet with Teo Keh, right?”
The man’s face stiffened before her eyes.
“Are you a person from Yohk’Zai?”
“Eh-… Eh? No. No, I’m not.”
The man’s naked wariness and hostility threw Izumi into a panic.
She had been so sure that he wanted to meet Teo Keh. Even though she had been so sure that he was searching for the man with the blue earrings as well…
“I just met that Teo Keh uncle by chance and talked to him for a little. We aren’t even acquaintances, to say nothing of me having anything to do with Yohk’Zai.”
“You met by chance?”
Setsugen raised an eyebrow.
“Right, right. I met with this man stranded in a desert and gave him some water, and when I did, the next day Teo Keh appeared, and when I told him about the stranded man he was incredibly happy… It seems he was looking for him. I’m sure it was somebody very important to Teo Keh, don’t you think?”
“A man Teo Keh was searching for? …Searching for… Searching for…”
The man repeated it over and over as though carefully considering her words.
Izumi timidly called out to the man.
“Is there some problem?”
“Did that man meet Teo Keh?”
Izumi shook her head at the scowling Setsugen.
“I don’t know. Because after that, I never met the stranded man or even Teo Keh again.”
‘But,’ continued Izumi.
“He was saying something about an Oasis city in the east, so if he’s alive, I think they met.”
Izumi’s words were half due to her hope. The man was somebody she had met through some twist in fate, and had given water to. As expected, she really did hope that he was saved.
The man looked to the sky, and closed his eyes.
His clenched jaw faintly trembled.
Izumi couldn’t endure it.
Apparently, Yohk’Zai was not an amicable nation for Setsugen. She had no idea what relation the two had, but it was heartbreaking to see him bear with his feelings of regret.
The man who had kept his eyes closed for a long time let out a sigh, and looked back down.
“I see. So Teo Keh found him, huh.”
“I don’t really know what’s going on, but I’m sorry.”
Izumi lowered her head in a bow.
“Why are you apologising.”
“Because it wasn’t good for you that Teo Keh met the man that I saved, right?”
The man smiled. A bitter smile that seemed to have given up on something.
“It is nothing for you to worry about, Mystic-dono. All you did was help somebody.”
Izumi lost her words. She might have done something unnecessary. But somebody who needed help had appeared before her eyes, and when she had a way to save him, it was hard to look away.
“Now then, I no longer have business in Zaharya. I’ll return to my country.”
Setsugen stood up and put the fur back on.
“By the way――――”
While tying his bags back to his back, Setsugen averted his eyes from Izumi and muttered awkwardly.
“For a while now, it’s been completely visible.”
“… … … …GYAHH!”
Izumi vigorously crouched into the bathtub. When somebody else told her that in embarrassment, it made her embarrassed as well.
The overflowing water carried the tray out of the bathtub.
Hearing the crashing sounds made Izumi fall further into panic.
Did the cup I just bought break?
Hearing her hand out in the direction of the sound, this time she was shocked by her foot touching something hot, and jumped out of the bathtub.
Flustered, she turned on the shower.
“What’s wrong? Are you alright?”
Setsugen asked in pity, as Izumi ran cold water over her leg, even forgetting to hide her body.
“Ahh, yeah. I’m fine. It seems I forgot that about the fire stone and accidentally stepped on it.”
Izumi replied miserably.
Setsugen peered into the bathtub in curiosity.
“This red stone?”
“Yeah. If you fill the tub with water and throw that in, it’ll really quickly turn into hot water. Aahh, this is something I got when I told Teo Keh to bring me a rock from somewhere, you see.”
“…A random rock lying about can change water to hot water!?”
Setsugen seemed to be shocked.
But well, yeah. That’s how you’d normally be. I was shocked too.
Izumi nodded with a ‘Yup, yup.’
“Fire stone. So such a wonderful thing can be found in Zaharya.”
Eyes set ablaze, Setsugen stared at the fire stone.
Getting a bad feeling, Izumi said “W-, Well then, time to get out of the bath I guess. I’m getting dizzy from the heat.” as she tried to put the lid back on the bathtub. And the lid was stopped by Setsugen’s bulky hand.
“Please wait, Mystic-dono. This! Could you please give this to me!?”
Ahh, I knew it.
Izumi hung her head.
“Okay… What do you want to trade it for?”
“Trade? Ah, you’re right. It wouldn’t be any good to receive such a wonderful thing for free. But, I don’t have anything decent on me right now.”
Setsugen took down the bag from his back and peered inside, before sighing.
It was irritating to see him glance greedily at the fire stone.
“Hey, you’re somewhere cold, right? There won’t be fire stones, but what about ice stones or something?”
“Right, right. I’d be pretty happy if I could chill this liquor.”
“You enjoy drinking, Mystic-dono?”
After falling into thought for a while, Setsugen struck his hand.
“Please wait here.”
After saying that and leaving his bag still opened, he hurriedly ran out of the cabin.
The moment that the door opened, the howling wind and snow vigorously blew into the room.
Unable to bear it, Izumi sank back into the bathtub.
Setsugen immediately returned. In his hand was a green grass that shone with a smooth lustre.
Seeing as the roots were still attached, he had apparently gone to uproot them just now.
“This is frostsnow grass. According to legend, when the God of Might and Wine Zauna had his treasured wine hidden by his wife, in his cries and grief, his tears fell to the earth and from that spot appeared the first frostsnow grass. It can be found growing on snowy mountainpeaks, but…”
Crying just because his wine was hidden? To think there was actually such a pathetic God of Might.
Hearing this shameful story that seemed to devalue it, Izumi lost her tension.
Setsugen cut off the stem of one of the leaves.
“Try putting this leaf into your wine bottle. No matter what kind of cheap wine it is, leaving this leaf in overnight will turn it into wine of the highest grade, you know.”
Is he telling the truth?
She couldn’t help but doubt his words. Realising this about herself, Izumi sighed. The fire stone was also something that she had originally gotten for water. Even if Setsugen was making up a lie to get it, wouldn’t that be fine?
“Well, that’s fine.”
Hearing Izumi consent, Setsugen almost danced for joy.
“Our trade is complete. I am in your debt! With this, Triht may yet be saved.”
Izumi was startled. Apparently she had once again gotten involved in something major. Wrapping the fire stone in a towel before handing it over, Izumi hurriedly placed her hand to the window.
“Well then, I’m going to leave. Take care on your journey back, okay?”
“Yes. You take care not to catch a cold, Mystic-dono.”
Waving a hand towards the grinning man who had once against become a yeti, Izumi shut the window. And when she did, she sneezed.