Chapter 97: People who grew up with siblings tend to be more used to dealing with intrusions to personal space than people that didn’t. Although their methods of ‘dealing with’ differ from person to person.
“Oh? Sir Ragnall. Pardon me for the intrusion.”
Ragnall, relaxing in the men’s side of the bath, shook off the feeling that he had just heard something like a scream of despair from the women’s side of the bath, and looked up from where he was shoulder deep in the bath.
That deep elf Adventurer had come into the baths.
“No, well, it’s a communal bath, so…”
So far it was Ragnall in one corner of the large bath and several wardens, a beastkin and elf, in the other. Both of them looked so worn out that he’d been worried they would fall asleep in the tub…
Anyway, with Desmond’s entry, there were 4 men total in the bath.
… Even the notoriously pale-skinned deep elves had darker skin than he did.
What can’t be helped can’t be helped, Ragnall thought quietly. Out loud he asked,
“What happened to the others?”
“Aislin and Aidin went out to tend Donal and Liam, our animals. Eadan was too exhausted and went to sleep, so Breamond had to retire without bathing in order to be by his side as a bodyguard. Well, Eadan is the fastidious sort, so he’ll probably come here as soon as he wakes up.”
Desmond finished scrubbing down and rinsing off as he spoke.
He seemed eager to sit and soak in the bath.
Well, there aren’t many places that have large baths outside of the cities, after all. Because they had Hibiki, Ragnall had chosen an escort commission that would lead through the best facilities on the way to Inouria. It’s not good to make a girl so new to traveling endure too much… well, he was being considerate of the hardships she had been forced to endure.
Hm? Jun? He suspected she wouldn’t care in the slightest about such things. Although he suspected that she enjoyed having the facilities as well, it’s not like she would be inconvenienced by not having them.
Well, with Jun she would prefer to push through the night to reach their destination even a little bit sooner.
Thank the heavens she was being concerned over Hibiki’s condition. Ragnall was used to forced marches, but if you didn’t have to do them, what was the point in forcing yourself…?
Yeah, Ragnall was relieved that Hibiki was traveling with them.
There was a moments of silence, only broken by the sound of bath water slowly lapping against the side of the bath.
The baths, on both the men and the women’s sides was a large rectangular tub made of wood, slanted towards one end. Although the slant was so subtle that only people with excellent senses would be able to tell.
A wooden spout ferried hot water in from one end, while a hole at the bottom of the lower end carried water out. Water constantly flowed in and out, with the volume being moved just enough to tell that it was occurring.
Ragnall wondered what they did with all this water… ah, no, here was the forest, so recycled water would have some uses with watering plants too. Nyl City was only stone, so recycled water had limited uses.
All of a sudden, a loud commotion sounded from the women’s side of the bath.
“… Just what are those two doing?”
Ragnall muttered with a sigh that sounded like he was giving up.
“You seem to have quite the companions. I thought that the White Demon was mostly a loner now that he left Granwit’s mercenaries.”
“Hm… I guess there’s that sort of rumor flying around too. Certainly there’s some circumstances then, and there’s circumstances now, too.”
“Fufu. I suppose that’s all the reliability you can expect of rumors.”
“Yeah. You get it as well, I’d guess.”
The deep elf and the part-demon. They shared a strange comradery for being misunderstood and gossiped about.
“Come to think of it, I haven’t heard about you. Although I’ve been staying in Nyl for a while, so I might not have heard the rumors.”
Ragnall said, glancing over at Desmond.
“That is true. You’d expect to hear of a deep elf Adventurer… well, it hasn’t been too long since I’ve started, so it can’t be helped.”
Desmond shrugged carelessly.
“I think it’s weird that a deep elf would leave the deep woods to wander about aimlessly, to be honest. I’ve only met one other deep elf before, though, so that might not be an accurate assumption.”
Desmond made a face.
“Of course the Granwit Mercenaries have met with an ambassador… on behalf of my race, I apologize.”
It had been interesting, working with a character like that.
“Well, I’m just the type that didn’t find holing up in the deep woods to be all that interesting. There may not be that many of us, but there are people who think like that among my people as well. Not many leave, though.”
Ragnall shrugged and said,
“Well, I guess that’s the same with people everywhere.”
“Yes. I heard the demons and half-demons to the south tend not to leave their community as well.”
“So I’ve heard.”
Ragnall shrugged again.
“…That’s right. You weren’t from there. My apologies.”
The two men drifted into silence again.
“…Seriously, what are they doing over there?”
Ragnall quirked a slightly irritated look over at the wall dividing the men’s and women’s sides.
Loud splashing and raucous laughter sounded.
… That laugh wasn’t Jun or Hibiki, that Ragnall could tell. But Jun’s probably the one making the protesting sounds.
“I’m amazed they have that much energy.”
“Yeah… well, that’s how it is.”
“The elf, what territory is she from? I haven’t seen an elf with quite those features before.”
Ragnall kind of looked away. He had his suspicions, but in the end had decided to just kind of ignore things. Which is why he hadn’t been looking forward to questions like this.
Couldn’t be helped. Even if they weren’t being racist, elves had a natural curiosity towards people’s, especially other elves’, origins.
“Well, you’ll have to ask her yourself.”
Was what Ragnall decided to say.
“Hm… It’s not necessarily that I wanted to pry, but … I’m a little worried about what Eadan’s intentions are.”
Ragnall understood exactly what Desmond meant. That surveyor had been giving her quite the look.
If Jun had been there, she would have said that Eadan probably had an Asian fetish.
Even though Jun and Hibiki were most likely the first people with Asian features he had seen.
For Ragnall, he’d say that Eadan was into big ones. Hibiki was larger in certain places compared to a normal elf, after all.
“She’s … not in a relationship with you? Or at least that’s what I assumed from your interactions…”
Desmond said, delicately breaking right into the main subject.
“Nope. I don’t really see her like that. Nah, she’s more like a little sister, though.”
Ragnall said, glancing at Desmond. Hibiki made you feel like you had to watch out for her. No matter how womanly she was, somehow she just gave off that feeling of being too young.
Well, it’s not like he felt like she needed to be protected, but if you can help her avoid some troubles in life, it’s still better that way, right?
… Actually, instead of a sister, wasn’t that more like a daughter?
Ragnall felt old all of a sudden.
“Although I think Eadan’s interested, I don’t think would he act recklessly on it. Or rather, I don’t believe he would be able to figure out how to approach her.”
“Ah. He’s the type who doesn’t know what to do with women.”
“Well, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell him that to his face…”
Desmond laughed with his normal, refreshing smile.
“Aislin was surprised that the White Demon was such a womanizer, to have two beautiful women hanging off of him.”
Saying that out of nowhere, Desmond caught Ragnall off guard.
“Haa-?! What’s with that? Sure they’re gorgeous, but like I said, Hibiki is more like a little sister, and she has some circumstances. Jun’s got no interest in love other than swords, so that one’s a strike, too.”
Ragnall snorted in amusement at the thought.
“To tell the truth, I believe they’re with you because they’re the only ones who could keep up with your abilities.”
Although Desmond wasn’t necessarily wrong, for some reason, Ragnall was thinking of four others of Jun’s kin they had left behind at Nyl.
“Aislin and Aidan enjoyed listening to stories about the Granwit Mercenaries, so it can’t be helped that she got jealous, I suppose.”
… What was with this extremely sudden popularity surge?
Ragnall wasn’t amused.
“I find that hard to believe.”
“It’s impressive to have climbed to Rank A without the ability to use any magic. There are still people who value strength over magic. Although, I may have said ‘jealous’, but I suppose it would be more along the lines of wanting to be recognized by a strong person, compared to jealousy in a romantic fashion.”
Once the world found out more about Jun and Hibiki, Ragnall wondered if that opinion would completely flip around to people wondering why someone like him would be with such capable people.
“… Reputation is a fickle thing, isn’t it?”
“Well, that might be.”
Desmond agreed cheerfully.
Ragnall understood then that Desmond had just been teasing him.
“Haa… do all deep elves have such bad taste in humor?”
Ragnall splashed his face as he grumbled.
“I wonder… at least I have been told I have an ill nature.”
He wasn’t even denying it.
“Ah, by the way, you said you and Ms. Jun weren’t like that, but I was wondering; what exactly is the relationship between the two of you?”
“Hm? I wonder… you could say she’s a benefactor, or someone amusing to watch. Comrades, I guess?”
Desmond only said that in response.
When Ragnall and Desmond finally left the bath, they met Toal laughing boisterously, Hibiki quietly standing near with a complicated look on her face, and Jun, who looked like something had died inside.
“…To be frank, Jun-kun, most girls won’t do that kind of skinship.”
Thanks, Hibiki-chan, but that doesn’t help matters any at all.
I flop on my bed, face first.
Somehow, I’m more exhausted now than when pulling three all nighters.
I managed to make it through all that by forcing myself to not think about anything, but what was that torture?!
I don’t remember anything that was said at all!
That dang Toal… You know, even if I wasn’t formerly a guy, that kind of treatment would make anyone uncomfortable with strangers freak out!
Just getting naked without trying to cover up, trying to help others take off their clothes, insisting on washing others’ backs, then getting way too close and hugging while in the bath-!
Resistance was completely futile, and I only succeeded in making a mess of the bath area.
It was HORRIBLE.
Even Hibiki-chan was a little weirded out by that kind of thing, although she said that there just were some girls like this.
I get it. I get it, since there are guys like that too, but this and that are two different things.
Or maybe they’re not, because I always ended a guy’s horsing around with a punch to the stomach back in the day, since they made everyone uncomfortable.
… Nonono, it’s different after all. I can’t justify hitting a woman in the gut just because I’m uncomfortable. Although with Toal’s six-pack, I wonder if it would have done anything.
Well, I did learn several things.
I think the scene in the baths was more stimulating for me than Hibiki-chan assumed it would be.
Compared to her lesbian friend, I think as a person who had been male, it’s easier to be aroused just by sight and proximity. Hibiki-chan said it was fine as long as I don’t fantasize about them, but… it’s different, you know?
I think it’s easier for guys to be aroused without thinking about things while girls have to be mentally into it too, so Hibiki-chan still doesn’t really understand what the problem is.
If you think about it that way, it seems I still have the mentality of a guy.
Then we had the problem of Toal forcing us into touching proximity while being naked. Even Hibiki-chan was uncomfortable, so you can imagine the torture that I was going through.
That said, because I didn’t have something annoyingly drawing attention to my arousal, it was easier to not be so fixated on any sexual feelings. It was a LOT easier to try to switch my attention to something else that way.
Well, this also might be because I’ve always had a thinner sexual fascination than most males, but just not having THAT made the situation 75% less painful.
But what made the experience truly painful was the guilt.
I mean, as a guy, you’re told that if you look at a woman in any state of dress less than the norm, even if it’s an accident, it’s not good. It’s not like it is in manga, with (all) girls blaming guys for things out of their control, although there are some, but it’s pretty ingrained in you that you’re doing something wrong just for seeing.
It’s also ‘wrong’ to be aroused at women you’re not in a relationship with.
Yeah, if I was a pervert it would have been different, but I’ve always felt like it would be better if I avoided looking at women with any sort of sexual undertones. Although guys with girlfriends said that’s not always helpful…
Anyway, I’m not trying to say those sentiments are wrong or whatever. To be honest, someone like me in Japan didn’t really care about it as long as the girls weren’t teasing me about ecchi things, but being forced into a gender swap like this… it’s too much.
The final issue is related. I’m just not used to a woman’s body. Ha? I have one now so I shouldn’t be freaked out?
… Are you crazy? I’m not a pervert who’s going to be sexualizing myself, and my chest compared to the others’…
Yeah. It’s still uncomfortable.
You know, if you’re not used to communal bathing, even if it’s the same gender you’ll be uncomfortable getting naked with them. It’s like that.
If I think about it, guys with lazy sisters are pretty desensitized to seeing women’s underwear and stuff.
I’m beginning to be really confused about what’s my natural reaction, what’s my reaction that’s influenced by society, and what part of my reaction is just due to the uncomfortableness from being unfamiliar with everything.
All I know is … I don’t want to go back to the communal bath any time soon. And definitely NOT with Toal, ever again!
*Teases female bath scene. Does male bath scene instead.*
This wasn’t on purpose, I swear.
But I guess I should have expected it. I feel like DURING the bath Jun’s thoughts would have just been a@!sdf#$%ghjk!
Thnk you patreon patrons! I… wasn’t expecting the sudden influx of support, so let me just say… thanks! And sorry for the scurrying-around-while-still-optimizing-the-patreon-site stuff. Don’t forget to check the posts for the already posted perks.
Cursed chap 13 and 5th son chap5 also posted
…AH. I got too into translating OVRMMO and forgot to finish the picture.