Chapter 2: The First Night
Several minutes later, Aishia accompanied Celia into the changing room beside the stone bathroom. In contrast to Celia, who removed her one piece dress in a hesitant manner, Aishia instantly released the material form of her clothes and stood in only her underwear.
“...Ah, that underwear’s made by the Ricca Guild, isn’t it?” Celia asked in a bright voice. She had gazed in amazement at how Aishia stripped in the blink of an eye before she realized the design of Aishia’s underwear seemed familiar.
“Yup, that’s right. Miharu chose it for me.” Aishia nodded. She was wearing a pale pink bra and boy shorts with small but cute and elegant ribbons on it.
“Miharu... that’s one of the girls Rio took in, right? It really is an adorable design. Can I feel what the fabric is like?” Celia asked with great interest.
“Sure,” Aishia agreed readily.
“Then if you don’t mind... Oh, and you have a really gorgeous figure, you know? Your skin is youthful and beautiful, too, just like a baby’s... Wait, we were talking about the underwear right now. Underwear...” Celia’s eyes were captivated by Aishia’s good proportions before she shook her head and reached for the underwear.
“Yup yup, this really is good quality fabric. Not only is it comfortable to wear, its design is well thought out. I also have several of these, but the Ricca Guild’s products are popular, so they always sell out of their low stock in the Beltrum Kingdom. It’s pretty hard to get your hands on them,” Celia said.
“They sell lots in Amande. You should just get Haruto to buy you some, too, since we’ll be going shopping in Amande tomorrow.”
“It’s the headquarters of the Ricca Guild, so I’m sure there’ll be lots in stock, but is it really okay? The underwear in the Ricca Guild is fairly expensive.”
“It’s fine. Haruto is rich,” Aishia said, giving her approval of Rio’s financial status.
“S-Still, it makes me feel bad having him buy expensive things for me... There are lots of other things I need to buy, too.” Celia frowned, feeling bad for causing trouble.
“Underwear is a necessity, so it wouldn’t be a wasteful purchase. And Haruto would want Celia to wear good quality underwear,” Aishia said on Rio’s behalf. There was no knowing what kind of expression Rio would have made if he was present, but he probably would have said something similar if he was pressed on the subject.
“A-Ahaha... W-Well, I can’t show Rio my underwear, b-but I’ll make sure to talk to him about it.” Celia must have pictured something in her mind, as her voice squeaked with embarrassment.
“Yup.” Aishia nodded, moving her hands to her bra to take it off.
“...Huh? Come to think of it, how come you have real underwear when your other clothes are all materialized...?” Celia suddenly noticed.
“Yeah. Underwear is complicated to make.”
“Oh, I see... So you can’t make anything complicated.”
“Actually, it’s more like the clothes I usually wear are a part of myself. I can change the color and design a little, but I generally can’t create anything else,” Aishia said, giving a concise explanation of her materialized clothes.
“Huh...” Celia hummed with deep curiosity.
“Let’s get in already,” Aishia said, sliding off her boy shorts in one go before heading toward the bathroom.
...S-She’s a rather bold girl, isn’t she? She doesn’t seem to care about what others think at all. Celia couldn’t help but blush at the sight of the beautiful body that entered her line of vision. However, she had no reason to remain in the changing room by herself, so she took off her cute minisole that she’d been wearing as underwear and headed toward the bathroom, too.
When Celia opened the door that led from the changing room to the bathroom, she looked around the room and froze.
“What... is this place...?”
The sight of the bathroom interior far surpassed anything she had pictured in her mind. It was a wide, spacious room; the walls were bare stone, long in depth and with a high ceiling. Beyond the spacious washing area that was tiled with stone was a wide bathtub, also made of stone. The water spouting artifacts lined along the stone wall continuously supplied hot water, making a white steam rise off the surface of the bathwater. Celia stood in dumbfounded amazement for a while.
“It’s a bath...?” Aishia answered Celia’s question, tilting her head to the side.
“...A-Ah, no, I can see that, but... What?!” Celia objected in a fluster. It was clearly different to a traditional bathroom in the Strahl region.
At the very least, it wasn’t the standard for bathtubs to be deep enough to immerse oneself. Not even the royalty and nobility had bathing facilities this fancy, and it wasn’t possible for them to make hot water come pouring out endlessly as it did here. The climate of the region was rather dry, so they couldn’t secure a water source that could be used so wastefully. It’d be a different matter in a land with hot springs, but nothing like that existed in Beltrum or Beltrant.
“What’s wrong?” Aishia asked Celia curiously.
“W-What do you mean ‘what’? What’s going on with this bath...? What is this — why is the hot water flowing endlessly?” Celia asked, pointing at the stone wall where the water was refilling the bathtub.
“That’s a magic artifact that makes hot water,” Aishia replied.
“A m-magic artifact... No, but... How is the essence supplied to it?! If the hot water is continuously being created, wouldn’t the essence consumption be ridiculously high?”
Celia’s question was reasonable; water sorcery already used a higher amount of magic essence than the other elemental sorceries, but to have a spell formula that created water and heated it up at the same time would use even more essence than that. If it was left running around the clock, it would continue using up essence much like a snowball effect.
“A high quality spirit stone is being used as the core of all the magic artifacts in the house, so as long as that one is replenished with essence regularly, it’s fine,” Aishia answered easily.
“Spirit stone... That’s another term I haven’t heard of before.”
Celia sighed tiredly. Even though she had come to the bathroom to wash away her tiredness, it seemed to have the reverse effect on her.
“Come. I’ll teach you how to use the artifact,” Aishia beckoned in a calm voice.
“...Okay.” Celia put on a smile of resignation and followed Aishia, deciding to put herself at ease for now. Aishia then explained how to use the hot water artifacts placed along the bathtub. “Before you submerge yourself in the water, you first wash your body and hair. This is the soap.”
At Aishia’s suggestion, they started to wash their bodies first. She handed Celia a bottle with body wash inside.
Celia removed the lid from the bottle she received and checked the inside, her eyes widening quite a bit. “Huh? This is soap...? Wait, isn’t this a liquid?! And it smells really nice too!” She was even more stunned after sniffing the scent of the soap.
In the Strahl region, solid soap was the standard. On top of that, it was already considered a high class item — despite the quality itself being only so-so. It often smelled rather bad, too.
“I heard that the Ricca Guild was extending their hand toward the development of soap, but...” Perhaps it was because there had been issues in the development process, or the stock had simply been too low, Celia thought.
“This soap was made by Haruto.”
Celia’s eyes widen in shock. “Huh, really?!”
“Yeah. He made all kinds of soap while Miharu and the others were here. Miharu has approved of the quality of each one.” Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and maybe a face wash was enough if it were just a man living alone, but with Miharu and Aki around, Rio tried to make all the varieties of soap he learned to create in the village.
“Huh... T-Then, can I use it right away?” Celia asked with great interest. She was also interested in this Miharu girl whose name kept on coming up, but right now, her curiosity was piqued toward the unknown but nice-smelling soap.
“Of course. What do you usually wash first? Your hair, body, or face?”
“Huh? Umm, maybe face? I have some light makeup on from the ceremony still.”
“Then use this one.” Aishia handed Celia the bottle with cleanser in it.
She first started with cleansing her face; after slowly and carefully washing off her makeup, she next washed her hair and body.
“Wow! My hair and skin feel completely different! It’s so much better than normal!” Celia said with a fully satisfied expression after everything had been washed.
“Let’s get into the bath, then,” Aishia suggested.
“Okay!” Celia replied cheerfully. Wrapping her hair up in a steamed towel, she carried her feet over to the bathtub and got inside it with Aishia.
“Wah, hah...” At the sensation of the hot water wrapping around her body, Celia unthinkingly let out a coquettish sound.
“So warm.” Aishia also smiled happily beside her.
“...I could get used to this.” Celia sank into the bath water and completely relaxed her entire body, letting the stress drain out. It was her first time sitting in a bath this large and deep.
“You can come here every day from here on out, you know,” Aishia said.
“I see... I look forward to it,” Celia giggled with a smile.
...It still doesn’t feel real, she thought sentimentally. Was it really okay for her to be this happy? When she thought about the family she left behind in the kingdom, guilt rose up within her and made her frown.
“From now on, you can think about the future with Haruto.” Aishia must have noticed the slight change in Celia’s expression, prompting her to speak. Celia widened her eyes.
“...Yeah, thank you. You always seem to be aloof, but you’re actually rather sharp, aren’t you?”
“That’s not true.” Aishia shook her head slowly. Suddenly, Celia grinned widely. “Hey, Aishia. I know you only woke up recently, but do you know anything about the past Rio?” she asked.
“I know everything there is to know about Haruto.”
“Umm, does that mean you have memories from when you were asleep, too?”
“No. It’s just that the things Haruto saw and heard flowed into me through our contract’s connection.”
Celia’s eyes widened in surprise. “...That’s amazing. I don’t know about ancient sorcery, but that’s an art that cannot be done in modern day sorcery, for sure.”
“It’s hard even with spirit arts. Telepathy is one thing, but sharing memories between each other requires quite a high level of mind synchronization.”
“I see. ...Hm? But isn’t that... It sounds like you’re saying that your consciousness and Rio’s consciousness are strongly tied together, almost...?” It was something Celia couldn’t overlook.
“That’s what a spirit contract is. We’re spiritually bound together on a soul level,” Aishia agreed bluntly.
“Wha...” Celia was at a loss for words. T-That’s not fair! she thought in her mind. Aishia tilted her head curiously.
Celia met Aishia’s eyes; fearing she had been seen through, she flinched, before purposefully changing the subject. “T-That aside, Rio’s been able to use spirit arts since his days in the academy, right?”
“Yup. He was self-taught, so his technical skills were a little clumsy, but he worked hard at it by himself,” Aishia agreed with a nod.
“I-I see. He never showed any sign of that, so I never noticed, but he really worked hard...” Celia smiled somewhat wistfully. Considering how out of the ordinary spirit arts was, her judgment made sense... though she was a little sad that he hid it from her at the time.
“The reason why Haruto didn’t tell you wasn’t because he didn’t trust you,” Aishia uttered simply. She’d hit the nail on the head.
“I-I know that. It isn’t something to tell someone for no reason, and even telling someone trustworthy can be risky. Rio isn’t that kind of person. That is, how should I put it...”
“Even when he’s in trouble, he doesn’t really rely on others. He tries to solve it himself,” Aishia pointed out, making Celia nod along furiously.
“Yes, like that!”
“But, he’s a little different from before. He’s still a little shy about it, but he’s starting to rely on others more,” Aishia said regarding Rio’s growth, which was something that Celia was unaware of.
“Huh, is that so... So he’s grown up that much in the time we were apart...” Celia’s eyes widened in interest as she watched Aishia with envy in her eyes.
“It’s thanks to Celia,” Aishia said.
“R-Really?” Celia blinked, looking shocked.
“Yup. Of course, part of it was also because he met lots of warm people on his journey and grew close to them, but the first person to show Haruto kindness was Celia. Celia stayed beside Haruto throughout his whole academy life,” Aishia said, showing a rare smile.
“...” Celia found herself captivated by Aishia’s soft, warm smile without realizing it.
“Please be kind to Haruto, as you always have,” Aishia said in conclusion.
“...Fufu, of course I will.” Celia smiled gently, nodding happily.
The two girls continued to chat for a while. Then, Celia and Aishia left the bathroom and returned to the living room.
“Rio, that was a wonderful bath. Thank you. Wait... What’s that nice smell?” Celia called out to Rio, who was just on his way between the kitchen and dining table, when an appetizing scent wafted over to her nose.
“I prepared dinner while the two of you were in the bath. You must be hungry, no?” Rio asked.
“Yup, I’m starving!” Celia agreed energetically. Her stomach growled loudly.
“So it seems,” Rio said with a chuckle.
“I-It’s not what you think! Wait, it’s true that I’m hungry, but I haven’t eaten since breakfast, you know?!” Celia excused herself in a fluster, face blushing red.
“I know. I just finished the last dish, so let’s dig in. You can sit at the table first.” With that, Rio headed toward the kitchen.
“Uuh...!” Celia blushed red, slapping her tummy several times.
“Let’s go, Celia. This way,” Aishia called out.
“O-Okay.” Celia nodded shyly, trotting along after Aishia.
“Uwah, it looks delicious...” Celia’s eyes widened.
Lined on the dining table was a rice container with freshly cooked white rice, along with western main dishes like bread, beef stew, steamed tomatoes with rolled cabbage, terrine, and salad.
“They’re all just made from leftover ingredients lying around. I grilled some hamburg steaks, too.” Rio carried over a plate with the steaks on it.
“This is a whole feast...” Celia gulped.
After they took their seats and finished preparing, Aishia clapped her hands together and gave the Japanese greeting that was said before eating a meal. “Itadakimasu.”
“I-ta-da-ki-ma-su?” Celia tilted her head curiously at the unfamiliar words and action from Aishia.
“It’s a word from the other world, like a prayer before eating, or like a greeting. Kind of like offering your gratitude to the cook and food,” Rio explained.
“Huh. Then, itadakimasu. Thank you, Rio.” Celia imitated Aishia’s behavior.
“No problem. My turn, now. Itadakimasu.” After Rio also said his pre-meal greetings, they finally began to eat.
Celia delicately handled her knife and fork to slice a piece of terrine and bring it to her mouth. She grinned brightly almost immediately. “I’ll try the terrine first... Wow, it’s good!”
“I’m glad to hear that.” As a noble, Celia was far more knowledgeable about gourmet foods than the average person; getting high praise for the food from someone like Celia was something to be proud of.
“I’ll try the steamed cabbage next... The broth looks a little red. What kind of flavor is that? Wait... Uwah, it’s so soft!” Celia lightly pressed her knife into it to see the surface slice immediately. She then pushed a little harder and gracefully cut off a slice.
“I used an ingredient unavailable in the Strahl region called a tomato. Please give it a taste first.”
“Tomato? Okay. Then, I will... Ah, there’s meat and cheese inside it! I can already tell this will be delicious with just this. Geez...!” At Rio’s urging, Celia moved her knife and fork. She moved a small slice of rolled cabbage to her mouth before wriggling a little.
“Is it delicious?” Rio asked as he observed Celia for her reaction with a grin on his face.
“Yup, it’s delicious! So good!” Celia nodded her head furiously like an attention-seeking dog.
“Thank goodness. Please try the stew and hamburg and everything else. It goes well with both the bread and the white food over there.”
“Huh, what’s this white thing?”
“This is called ‘rice,’ a grain used as a staple food instead of wheat in the Yagumo region. It’s possible that a similar grain is cultivated in certain areas of the Strahl region too, though...” Rio explained.
“Hmm. At the very least, I haven’t seen grain served like this before. Well, whatever. I’ll try a little first...” Celia scooped a little rice onto her plate.
“The rice itself doesn’t have any particular taste, so you eat it together with flavorful side dishes,” Rio lectured.
“Okay. Then, with this hamburg... Aah, geez, it really is yummy. Yeah, this is, definitely...” After smiling broadly at the taste of the hamburg, Celia followed it up with a small forkful of rice. She chewed for a few moments, checking the taste. It was her first time eating the food, but she seemed to like it quite a bit.
“There’s lots, so please eat your fill.”
“Thank you. But with a meal this delicious, I can’t help but want to drink some alcohol, too.”
“I have good alcohol as well. Dissolvo.” Rio responded to Celia’s request by immediately using his Time-Space Cache. Suddenly, a wooden alcohol bottle appeared on the dining table.
“You really leave nothing to be desired...” Celia laughed with an almost exasperated smile. Rio poured the alcohol into three glasses and served them to Celia and Aishia.
“Cheers!” With a toast from Rio, Celia and Aishia both raised their glasses and voices. Celia ecstatically enjoyed the scent of the alcohol before bringing her mouth to the glass. Her eyes widening in astonishment.
Her expression changed at once, and she peered fixedly at the contents of the glass. “W-Where is this from?!” She asked, taken aback.
“I picked up along my journey.” To be precise, it was sake made in the spirit folk village.
“Which means in the Strahl region...”
“It doesn’t exist.”
“I-I see...” Celia hung her head in disappointment at Rio’s answer.
“Is it good?”
“It’s not just good. Out of all the alcohol I’ve had until now, this is unmistakeably the best tasting one I’ve ever had — I guarantee it! This must have been quite expensive for a single bottle, I’m sure,” Celia declared heatedly. As a noble, she must have had many types of high quality alcohol before, so her assessment was quite reliable.
“I see. Well, there are no plans for it to be sold as of right now. The only ones who can drink it in the Strahl region are us,” Rio stated proudly.
“...How utterly extravagant.” Celia muttered quietly, her smile twitching.
With the soap from the bath earlier, the magic artifacts contained in it, and all the other things today, Celia’s idea of reality was crashing down around her. They were hogging all this knowledge and technology that could produce tremendous riches all to themselves, so an indescribable feeling of guilt rose within her.
That aside, their meal time passed by harmoniously until most of the food was eaten in the blink of an eye.
“Gochisousamadeshita.” Rio and Aishia clapped their hands together and gave their end of meal greeting.
“Gochisousamadeshita.” Celia imitated the two of them with awkward pronunciation.
“Here, have some tea to help you digest.” Rio poured some tea he had warmed up in advance into a teacup and served it to Celia and Aishia.
“Thank you. This tea uses some good quality tea leaves, too.” Celia’s nose twitched as she sniffed before she smiled with satisfaction.
“I’m just pouring it the same as always, though. You’re free to drink as much as you want in this house, and there are many other types of tea leaves available, too,” Rio said, laughing loudly.
“Honestly, the longer I stay in this house the more my sense of reality flies out the window.” Celia smiled wryly with a sigh.
“By the way, I was thinking we should go out tomorrow to buy the daily necessities you need. Is there anything else you want to do, Professor?”
Celia frowned and hesitated for a long moment before speaking up timidly. “...Umm, I was hoping I could at least inform my father of my safety. Would that be okay?”
“Sure, I don’t mind,” Rio agreed immediately.
“...Is that okay?” Celia’s eyes rounded, as she was taken by surprise.
“Yes. Judging by your reaction, you must have worried about this. I should have brought it up first. I apologize for my lack of consideration...” Rio said with an ashamed expression.
“N-No, not at all! I should be the one to apologize. I’m causing nothing but trouble for you.” Celia frowned apologetically.
“You’re no trouble at all, Professor. I told you before we left, remember? That I’ll do whatever I can to make sure everything returns to its proper place.” Rio shook his head gently and smiled cheerfully.
Celia was moved to tears. “Y-Yeah. Thank you, thank you so much. I was hoping there’d be some good way of informing him of my safety, since it’s not like I can meet him in person, but I couldn’t think of anything, so it was hard to bring up... I’m sorry for putting this on you. It’s not your fault,” she said sadly.
“...Then, how about writing a letter? As soon as we finish tomorrow’s shopping,” Rio suggested in a soft voice.
“A letter?” Celia blinked, her eyes widening.
“I’ll personally deliver it to your house. Just like when I snuck into the castle,” Rio said, grinning mischievously.
Celia gazed at him in surprise and understanding. “Ah, I see... Th-Then, can I come along too?!”
Rio nodded easily. “Yes, of course!”
After Rio had his turn bathing, it was time for bed. With Celia’s room decided, all that was left was to go to sleep.
“Good night, then.”
“Yes. Good night, Professor.”
They said their farewells for the night and left the living room. Celia watched Rio’s departing back with a pleasant smile, before turning on her heel to leave, too.
“W-Wait! Wait, hold on a minute! Hold it right there!” Rio and Aishia were about to enter the same room together, so she called out to them in a panic.
Rio and Aishia both froze mid-step, turning to face Celia. “Is something the matter?”
“D-Don’t give me that. Why are you two trying to enter the same room so naturally? W-What do you intend on doing — I mean, you’re going to sleep, right?” Celia asked in a high-pitched voice.
“Huh? That’s right... Ah, I’m sorry. This is what we always do.” Rio looked at Aishia and gave a strained smile, scratching at his head awkwardly. It had become so natural for Aishia to always be beside him; Aishia tilted her head curiously.
“A-Always?! Always sleeping together?!” Celia’s eyes widened in shock.
“N-No. Well, yes, but please calm down first, Professor. We aren’t doing anything weird,” Rio said hesitantly, first trying to calm Celia down. Aishia only slept in the same room as him on the condition that she was in her spirit form, but he wasn’t able to explain that on the spur of the moment.
“A-A-Anything weird... B-But, you’re sleeping in the same room together... right?” she questioned in a barely audible voice, unable to look Rio and Aishia directly in the eye. Celia seemed to be imagining something as she blushed.
“We’re in the same room, but its impossible for something physical to happen accidentally between us since, well, Aishia is in her spirit form.”
“Spirit... form...” When Rio explained the circumstances succinctly, Celia simply blinked.
“Spirits like Aishia use magic essence as their source of energy. By binding a spirit contract, they are able to replenish their essence through their contract connection. And the closer they are to the contract party, the more efficient this is... Right, Aishia?”
“There’s that, too, but being beside Haruto is calming.” Aishia nonchalantly revealed her true feelings, tightly clinging to Rio. At such an easily misunderstood statement, Rio froze.
Celia came to a sudden stop and stiffened, too. “...H-Huh, is that, so... H-How close of you,” she said in a horribly upset squeak.
Worried about Celia, Rio hurriedly called out to her. “P-Professor.”
“W-What?” Celia once again feigned composure and awkwardly inclined her head.
“No, umm, how should I put this...” Rio scratched at his head with a troubled expression.
“Do you want to sleep with us?” Aishia suddenly suggested.
“E-Eeh?” Rio’s eyes rounded in surprise.
“Celia should just sleep in the same room. Then I can sleep in my physical form, too. It’s no big deal.”
“No no no...” Rio murmured. There was most definitely a problem.
“You don’t want to, Haruto?”
“That’s not the problem here...” Rio looked at Celia with an expression that was borderline pained. Celia froze, her face turned bright red. She returned to her senses when she noticed Rio’s gaze, making her yell in astonishment.
“...W-What are you saying, Aishia?!”
“We went into the bath together,” Aishia stated simply.
“Huh... What do you mean?” Unable to understand the meaning of the sudden statement, Celia looked at her questioningly.
“During naptime earlier, Celia said you have to take a bath before sleep. Since we had baths, that means the three of us can sleep together, right?” Aishia explained, peering at Celia’s face.
“N-No! T-That wasn’t what I meant when I said that!” Finally understanding the meaning of her statement, Celia shook her head in a fluster.
Aishia tilted her head curiously. “Then what did you mean...?”
“I-I mean... That’s not what I meant. Got it, Rio?!” Celia found herself at a loss for words. She looked over at Rio to seek help.
“Ah, ahaha... I know.” Rio agreed with an uncomfortable laugh.
“...In other words, Celia doesn’t want to sleep together?” Aishia seemed to come to her own answer as she looked between Rio and Celia.
“Uhh...” Celia mumbled, not really wanting to reply.
“Umm, I guess so?” Rio nodded nervously as he cocked his head in confusion. He had the feeling someone had missed the point somewhere, but he figured it was better not to think too deeply about it.
“Then, let’s sleep. I’m sleepy...” With a small yawn, Aishia pulled at Rio’s arm.
“W-Wait, Aishia?!” Rio tried to stop Aishia, glancing at Celia.
After a brief moment of conflict, Celia made up her mind and called out to Rio and Aishia. “...G-Geez! I get it, I get it already!”
The two stopped and turning around to face Celia. “Umm... What do you get?” Rio asked timidly.
“I-I’ll sleep in the same room. I-I just can’t overlook the two of you sleeping together. I need to check if it’s really problematic or not!” Celia declared with a squeak of embarrassment.
“E-Eeh?!” Rio let out a hysterical noise. He had never imagined Celia would say something like that.
“W-What? Aishia can sleep in the same room as you, but I can’t?” Celia glared at Rio’s face reproachfully.
“I-It’s not a matter of whether you can or can’t. Aishia sleeps in her spirit form anyway...” Rio said, trying to persuade Celia.
“If Celia sleeps with us, I won’t turn into spirit form. It’s no fair for only Celia to be in a material form,” Aishia said without missing a beat.
“N-No no no... Are you sure, Professor? I feel like this might be the worst possible situation I can think of?!” Rio questioned in a panic.
“Uhh... I-I don’t care if it is! Geez!” Celia said unflinchingly.
“W-Why?” Rio asked in shock.
“Then it’s decided. Let’s go.” Aishia pulled Rio’s arm once more.
In the end, the three of them decided to sleep together on their first night of cohabitation.
The three of them headed toward Rio’s bedroom.
“Good night, then.”
On the giant bed custom-crafted by Dominic, Aishia, Rio, and Celia settled down next to each other. Even with the three of them, there was still plenty of empty space on the bed.
After saying good night to each other, Rio and Celia lay in nervous silence. Meanwhile, as for Aishia...
She was sound asleep and breathing peacefully within several minutes, still in her material form as she said she would be.
Celia timidly sat up. “T-That girl really just wanted to go to sleep quickly...” she said as she looked at Aishia’s face, half-exasperated and half-impressed.
“Ahaha, that’s why I told you. We don’t do anything weird. Do you want to sleep in a separate room now?” Rio said with a faint smile, giving Celia an out.
“N-No.” Celia pouted delicately and shook her head.
“Umm, you don’t have to be so worried. Almost nothing problematic ever happens.”
“Almost?” Celia said, staring.
“N-No, I mean, nothing ever happens.” Rio rescinded his statement with an oddly high-pitched voice. He couldn’t tell her that sometimes, Aishia would materialize half-asleep and naked.
“I-I’m not worried anymore. It seems like this girl is a bit airheaded, and I do trust you...” Celia began to say, slightly sulking.
“...Then, why?” Rio asked, hesitantly prodding for what was really on Celia’s mind.
Celia blushed, turned away, and spoke. “B-Because... It’s l-lonely having to sleep all by myself when the two of you are sleeping t-together under the same roof.”
“...I see.” Rio couldn’t help but relax and smile with amusement.
“Ah, you laughed!” Celia pouted further.
“I’m sorry,” Rio apologized with a chuckle.
“Geez. It’s no laughing matter to me, you know?”
“Is that so?” Rio asked, looking up at Celia’s face.
“...Yeah.” Celia nodded nervously. Her face darkened with anxiety. “B-Because if everything had gone according to the original plan, I would have been in that person’s bed around this time.”
“Professor...” With an indescribable expression, Rio looked at Celia’s face. The person she was referring to was undoubtedly Charles Arbor.
“It scares me to imagine that this happiness right now might just be a dream I have to wake up from. That’s why, for today... at least for tonight, I’d like you to let me sleep beside you like this, Rio. When I wake up in the morning, I’d like to see your face first and be reassured...” Celia said, clutching onto Rio’s pajamas tightly.
“...It’s okay, this isn’t a dream. If it were a dream, then I’d just come save you again, no matter how many times it takes,” Rio promised with determination, squeezing Celia’s hand.
“Rio...” Celia teared up. The two stared at each other for a moment.
“Now, then. If you’re feeling better, shall we get to sleep soon? We’re going to have an early morning tomorrow.” Rio smiled gently.
Celia also smiled as she nodded, lying back down once more. “...Okay. You’re right. Now that I feel better, I suddenly feel very sleepy. If we talk too much, we might wake Aishia up too... Good night, Rio.”
“Yep. Good night, Professor,” Rio whispered softly into Celia’s ear.
The next morning...
“Nguh...” Celia was the first to wake up. She blinked her eyes open to see Rio’s sleeping face right in front of her.
“?!” Celia started with a shake. Ah, that’s right, I said I’d sleep with Rio last night... She immediately remembered the series of events that led to this situation and slowly relaxed. Rio was breathing peacefully in his sleep. On his other side, Aishia appeared to be sleeping, too.
“Fufu...” Celia giggled with amusement and gently reached a hand toward Rio’s cheek. She was afraid he would wake up if she touched him, so she stopped a hair’s breadth away from making contact.
Rio’s warmth could be felt, making her realize anew that this wasn’t a dream, much to her relief. Rio’s body seemed to twitch for a moment.
“Thank you, Rio,” Celia said. “If there’s anything I can do to pay you back, I’ll do anything. Just say the word,” she muttered quietly.
After that, with a small sigh, Celia closed her eyes once more and gave in to her sleepiness. The idea of continuing to stare at Rio’s face was tempting, but right now, she felt like she could get some decent rest. Sure enough, Celia fell into a peaceful sleep minutes later, her breathing coming out in soft wisps.
I guess she fell asleep, huh? Rio opened his eyes hesitantly, checking Celia’s sleeping face and smiling gently.