When she changed into her swimsuit
“Alright, Claire-sama, try sticking your head underwater.”
“You mustn’t let go of my hand! You absolutely mustn’t, you hear me!?”
With the water all the way up past my shoulders, I made my distress apparent, emphasizing my words.
Rei gave a nonchalant nod and rushed me on.
Rei and I had come to the beach in a place nearby Rei’s home.
The pure white and emerald ocean was of course very beautiful, but I really didn’t have the luxury to admire it.
That was because Rei was teaching me, a perennial sinker, how to swim.
I certainly wasn’t proud of it, but I had difficulty even sticking my face under the water.
Rei cast me a warm gaze, watching me confront my aquaphobia and told me to get my head under the water.
After two or three deep breaths, I plunged my head under the surface with my eyes, of course, closed.
Urgh… The water was so salty, and felt so sticky on my skin.
We should have gone to a lake, that would have been much better!
Nothing made me feel more anxious than being unable to breathe.
While I had not remained under for very long, I had still done as I was instructed.
“How’s that!? I got my head under the water, did you see that!”
“Yes… Yes you did.
Now, let’s try keeping yourself under the water for around ten seconds.”
“Wha!? We’ve just started and you’re already going to ask me to do something so advanced!?”
“No, it’s not advanced at all.”
Rei wore a wry smile, it was clear that she was thinking something rude.
Speaking of, though we were only in shallow waters, we were still in the ocean so both Rei and I were wearing swimsuits.
I was wearing a bright red bikini with a pareo made of white cloth.
I had heard this style was the latest fad this summer among nobles, so I rushed to obtain it.
Rei on the other hand was wearing a one piece swimsuit with two white lines stretching down the sides.
While it was a simple design that one may expect commoners to use, it was strange, because it somehow looked very attractive now that she was the one wearing it.
Her nape, peeking out under her neatly bundled hair and her brilliant white thighs sent my heart racing.
Without a clue of how I felt, Rei quickly moved on.
“Our next goal will be for you to keep your face underwater for ten seconds, okay?”
“Krh… Very well.
I am a perfect individual after all, to me, nothing is impossible!”
Making that bold declaration, I again plunged my head beneath the surface.
I was unable to breathe, and the darkness was scary.
Even so, I tried to keep submerged as long as I could.
“Phew! How long was I under!?”
“Krh… This is far too difficult… Just how many people in this world are really able to pull off this feat…?”
“No, this is actually easy for most people!!”
Could it be that these other humans descended from a species of fish?
“I would like to take a short break.”
“A break from what!? You’ve only just dipped your face into the water twice, you know!?”
“Isn’t that quite enough? If I can keep my head underwater for five seconds, I’m sure I’ll figure out how to swim eventually!”
“It’s not just magically going to happen!”
Rei objected, but in the end I convinced her to let us take a break from swimming practice.
Suddenly curious to where Relaire could be, I saw her further out to sea.
“Doesn’t Relaire seem… A little larger than usual?”
“She’s a water slime, so it seems she’s absorbing the seawater.”
As I wondered if that was really all there was to it, Relaire shot water out from her mouth.
“Re-Relaire’s traversing the ocean’s surface at incredible speeds!?”
“She’s just like a water jet.”
“What was that?”
“Ah, no, nothing.
More importantly Claire-sama, are you okay losing to Relaire like this?”
“I certainly am not, but how do I compete with that!?”
Just as we shared that little exchange,
“Rei-chan~, Claire-sama~, I brought you lunch~!”
When I looked in the direction of the voice, I saw Mel-san waving at us with one hand and holding a basket in the other.
She was in a swimsuit as well.
It wasn’t as though anything was out of place, but Rei’s gaze seemed awfully distant.
“What perfect timing, we were just thinking of taking a break.”
I responded as I wiped myself off with the towel Mel-san offered.
Relaire too, who had returned from her oceanic playtime, shook excess water off of herself back on shore.
So? How far are you able to swim now? This is Claire-sama we’re talking about, after all, so a hundred meters should be easy, right?”
I knew that Mel-san wasn’t speaking out of spite.
After all, her smile contained not even a shred of malice.
“Y-Yes… That’s about right.”
When I tried to gloss the situation over, Rei gave me the cold shoulder.
Hey…! If she figures it out, I won’t forgive you, okay!?
“Fufu, just as I’d expect.
Ah, here’s your lunch, I made sandwiches.”
Mel-san removed the cloth covering the basket, revealing canteens and sandwiches.
“… Thank you.”
Though I had been able to say thanks, my expression may have been a little stiff.
Though I appreciated she went out of her way to make them for us, I was concerned that they wouldn’t suit my tastes.
I wasn’t at all upset, I just felt bad that I thought that way.
“It’ll be fine, Claire-sama.”
Rei gave me a reassuring whisper.
“Today’s sandwiches use mayonnaise, mustard, and the like.
I gave her some suggestions.”
“! Very nicely done!”
To think that I’d be able to have mayonnaise even while staying in the house of a commoner.
My Rei really was so attentive.
“Please, take a bite!”
Mel-san said that as she offered me one of the sandwiches.
Still a little wary, I took my first bite.
“! It’s delicious!”
“My, oh my, I’m so glad to hear!”
The mellow taste of mayonnaise and a tinge of mustard to accent the flavors.
I would certainly have no trouble eating this.
“This condiment, mayonnaise, it really is delicious isn’t it.
Rei-chan, is this what’s popular right now in the capital?”
A shop called Blume was the first one to use it.
Since then it’s become really popular among the nobles.”
“Is that so! To think you’d know of this condiment used in such high class cooking, Rei-chan, Claire-sama must have taken you to some pretty nice places.”
“…? Have I?”
I had the feeling that Rei knew about mayonnaise far before I could’ve influenced her… Even as I pondered, I offered Relaire one of the sandwiches.
Perhaps this child too had developed a refined taste of her own.
“But wow, Claire-sama, you’re so adorable.
Is the swimsuit you’re wearing popular back in the capital too?”
“My swimsuit was made-to-order.
The cloth wrapped around my waist is called a pareo, and is at the forefront of the trends this year.”
“Mom, calm down.
If you let your bad habit get the better of you here, Claire-sama will be in big trouble.”
I panicked, embracing myself before carefully backing away.
Mel-san had a habit of unconsciously stripping the clothes right off of someone’s back.
Right now, I was only wearing a swimsuit.
If it was pulled off of me now, I would find myself in quite the situation.
“I know that… You’re so mean, Rei-chan.
That aside, Rei-chan, your swimsuit is… sigh…”
“Hey, could I ask that you refrain from sighing like that?”
When Mel-san sighed, Rei raised her voice in protest.
“The swimsuit aside, even though your mother is so well endowed, Rei, you’re…”
“Don’t say it, please, for the love of the Spirit.”
Despite what I said, my heart was actually beating so fast that I couldn’t look directly at Rei.
The only reason I said that was to hide my embarrassment.
“I’m still growing, I’m sure they’ll get bigger.”
“Well, do your best then.”
“Could you stop looking at me with that look of pity!?”
As we shared that playful exchange―
Clouds suddenly covered the sun as a chill crept through the area.
Before I could realize it, the area around us was enveloped in a thick fog.
I could sense traces of magic within the mist.
Relaire wobbled and shook, as though afraid of something.
“!? Rei, look!”
I shouted to direct Rei’s attention.
Beyond the fog, just a little ways offshore, I could see a battered boat making its way toward us.
“Is that a… ghost… ship…?”
The words that Mel-san spilled in her surprise described the situation just as I saw it.
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