The hot spring that bubbled out of the mountain depths, flowed slowly down levels carved into the rocks until it reached the river below. As there was a lot of water, the midway levels had the most comfortable temperature. And here there were partitions that allowed them to be used separately.
However, the locals did not care for these partitions, and men and women and families used the baths together. Those who liked hotter water would go to the higher levels, and those who preferred it cooler would go down.
“Its normal for local families to go in together, so you two can go on ahead.”
Said the innkeeper.
“But, we’re 14 and 12.”
“Oh, but you are still children. Besides, the locals will leave you alone if there are families or women there already. Now, I wouldn’t advise that you go late at night, but if you go to the top baths early in the morning, you can watch the sunrise.”
They were sure that you were allowed to drink at 14 and 12 in Garonce. Sometimes they were treated like children, and other times they would be treated as adults. Maki wondered at just how lax things were here.
But Chiharu’s eyes were sparkling.
It couldn’t be helped. They would have to give up drinking wine in the hot spring and make do with a toast of cider in the morning light.
And so they didn’t raise any more arguments that night and quietly bathed alone. Then, while it was still dark, they snuck out of the inn. They followed the path up the mountain for 10 minutes until they reached the recommended spot. Thankfully, there was no one there.
They held their bottles of cider as they relaxed in the hot water and stared out as the sky grew brighter. They were close to the place where the water gushed from, and so it was quite hot. After a while, they would sit outside and allow their bodies to cool off as they drank. They felt like they had been released from everything, like they were free inside and out.
“Well, we should get out soon.”
“…I thought I heard Norfe’s voice from over here.”
It was Kaider.
“Wait a minute, Kaider. You worry too much.”
“But it is too dangerous for children to be alone.”
“You should respect Norfe’s wishes a little…”
The locals would leave them alone. But people that weren’t locals?
Both of them had washed and dried their hair yesterday, so they had it tied up to keep it dry. Just now, they were sitting on the edge of the bath as they were considering getting out. Kaider and Nyran’s eyes went first to their hair and were just about to go down to their pale bodies.
The smaller one screamed.
The two frantically turned around and hurried away.
“Maki, let’s get out while we can.”
“Maki! Hurry up and get changed. We’ll return to the inn from the other side.”
“The other side?”
Chiharu rushed Maki into changing, and they quickly made their way down the other side. When they were sure that no one was watching, they put on their wigs. Maki was still in shock.
“Maki, they probably didn’t realize that it was us. It’ll be fine if we pretend.”
“Oh, yeah. Pretend?”
“Yeah. We weren’t wearing the wigs, so we would have been seen as two women.”
“Yeah, yeah you’re right.”
Maki was still not in control of herself.
“Come on! It’s not like either of us are that memorable while naked!”
“Hey, now. I wouldn’t go that far.”
She was recovered enough to make a rebuttal!
“Alright, you’re fine now.”
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
“So, we’ll just act like we enjoined a morning bath. Let’s pretend to be excited as we return. And of course, we didn’t meet anyone.”
Now, time for some acting.