~ What has gone before ~
Going commando turned out to be a good thing for some strange reason and I was allowed to freeload here.
* * * * *
The time had come at last. I may be in a different world now but my fundamental lifestyle will not change. I get up early in the morning, I go to bed every night. I take a bath before going to bed. I bathe. I go in the bath. Because bathing is extremely important to me I said it three times in different ways.
Now I stood in front of the door to the bathroom. Somehow I'd gained Sumirena-san's trust... I tried not to think of exactly how that had happened, anyway she had politely given her consent that that I could stay at the tavern free of charge.
"A lot has happened today and you must be tired." Sumirena-san said. "Please take a bath while I prepare a room for you, Richy-chan." She gestured to her younger brother. "Erim here will sort out bedding for your companion animal. We've got a spare horse stall in the stables behind the tavern which we're not using at the moment. Can you groom it too for Richy-chan?"
"Leave that to me." Erim said eagerly. "And if there's anything else you need done just tell me, Richy-san." I was a bit worried about him what with that excessive nosebleed he suffered when he saw my... ahem, was he really up to carrying out a lot of strenuous work after losing that much blood? But he seemed so keen to help out, what could I say? Friendship, isn't it great?
And because of this I, a sudden unexpected house-guest was going to have first dibs on the bath.
"This is a woman's body I'm in, sure enough." I thought to myself. "Even though I'm actually a guy inside that's not how I look to everyone else any more, is it?" I really wasn't sure what I should think about it, it wasn't really real to me yet. But having a bath, I had a hunch I was going to be facing my changed condition head on.
"Ah... I don't want to see it..." but I couldn't take a bath while wearing clothes, could I? In other words for the first time since I had been reincarnated was going to get an clear unobstructed look at the figure of the woman I had become. Yes, it's my own body now, I shouldn't be shy or nervous about seeing myself naked, maybe I'm being overly self-conscious about such a thing. Anyone watching me fret over such a thing might well be amused.
Look, it's not that I'm shy about such things normally, or ashamed. It's just this body is... different. And novel. And intriguing. And tempting. And... well, although I'm still disturbed about my new body I'm just a little bit interested in it too. A bit.
That's normal, isn't it? I am an adolescent boy, mentally anyway. Regardless whether this really is my body or not, man's quest to discover the mysteries of a woman's body is an eternal struggle but for me that search is nearly at an end.
My greatest fear though, was not of seeing my body but my face. From the reaction of Erim and gatekeeper-san on first catching sight of me I had concluded my face was particularly unpleasant-looking. It seemed bad enough to cause people to faint, indeed.
"My body seems to be nice enough, from what I can see..." Letting my gaze fall, undeniably outstanding twin mounds caught my undivided attention for a moment, the shadowed valley between them an enticing unknown. Continuing, below and overshadowed by them, my waist was narrow and tight with little sign of fat. My butt was fleshy but firm, not too big or too small. Of course this was my bird's-eye view, I didn't know how my body would look to others. Maybe my judgement is biased in that regard. However that was only distracting me from my real problem, my face. No matter how cute the "Nice Body!" looked it wouldn't make up for a face like a zombie. If fact, horrible features on a sweet-looking body would double the repulsion in all likelihood. Thinking about it only made my facial features even worse in my mind. Time to find out! I slapped both cheeks to fire myself up and took a deep breath.
There's no running away from this, Riichi, I told myself. You have been reborn, literally. Remember what you said once, if you ever got the chance to start over again, what you wanted to do?
I wanted to change myself, to save myself from being weak. I swore I'd get stronger, didn't I? You can't run away, you can't look away. Face up to what you've become, whatever it looks like. You can do it, you can't hide in fear from it. Compared to the fear of being attacked by the orc this is nothing. Don't look back, look forward and face what is in front of you!
I sighed. I had wasted enough time overthinking the problem as usual, putting off actually doing anything. Right, so my face is homely, no, ugly. So what, I won't die from seeing it for myself and it's what's behind the face that's important, right? I prayed for a second then feeling a bit more cheerful, I grasped the doorknob and opened the door. There was someone already in there.
"I'm very sorryyyyyy!!" I closed the bathroom door at the speed of light, did a right about face and ran off, not looking back. My resolve to face what was in front of me had lasted less than five seconds.
"I should have asked, I should have asked if anyone was in the bath before me." There was a girl inside the bathroom, but it wasn't Sumirena-san. I thought that only Erim and Sumirena-san lived here together? She had told me to go into the bath but... I was confused. Sumirena-san appeared carrying some neatly folded clean laundry in her hands.
"Oh, Richy-chan, haven't you gone into the bath yet? You're not even undressed-"
"I can't, there's someone already in there!" I exclaimed.
"Well, there shouldn't be..." Sumerina-san said with a puzzled expression. "Maybe it's Erim sneaking in to peep on you?"
"Believe a little more in your younger brother! Besides it was a girl, not Erim!"
"What kind of a girl?" she enquired.
"She was blond, a really cute-looking girl!" I said. Sumerina-san's puzzlement cleared up suddenly.
"So she's cute with blond hair? That girl, was she wearing a white one piece dress by any chance?"
"I can't say if it was a one piece dress but I think that her outfit was white." In a 2-D manga or anime when a boy like me opened a bathroom door and discovered a girl inside, she'd be naked or at least she'd be in her underwear. This girl was fully dressed though. Did Sumirena-san know who the girl was?
"Were her breasts really big?" Sumirena-san's face was stiff as if she was trying to hold back some emotion.
"...Well, her chest did look like it was big. Do you have any idea who it is?"
"I have no idea who they might be." she said with a strange smile on her features. Was she playing with me? She seemed quite unconcerned about the intrusion of a stranger into her home. "If there's someone in the bathroom, Richy-chan then it can mean only one thing." She paused, leaving me trembling in anticipation.
"A robber." she declared ominously.
"As I thought. I couldn't be sure though."
"Waah! What'll we do? I'm scared..." Sumirena-san said but she didn't sound scared for some reason. Her slender shoulders shook a little and for a moment I thought she was laughing but I decided it was my imagination.
Seeing the terrified woman before me, the male protective instinct which remained an indelible part of me burst into flaming life, fuelling my fighting spirit and calling me to duty. Yes, even though my male body had been destroyed my male essence was immortal. It will always be the purpose of a true man to protect a weak woman.
"They've not come out this door, Is there any other way to escape from the bathroom?" I asked.
"No," Sumirena-san said. "There are only small windows in the bathroom, they're not big enough for anyone to get through." That meant the robber was still definitely inside. Should I call Erim? But if the opponent had any weapons it's unlikely Erim's limited physical strength could overcome them, indeed it was possible he could be badly hurt. Or even killed...
"Stand back, please Sumirena-san." I declared. "I'll catch the sneak thief inside the bathroom." I swallowed. "If I don't succeed, then go down to Erim in the stables and escape on Minoko, please."
"Richy-chan, you're so brave." Sumirena-san said, eyes sparkling.
"Please be ready to run away at any time. I'll need to borrow a towel." When an opponent possesses blunt instruments or even knives the shonen mangas I had read suggested a good makeshift form of protection is to wrap a towel several times around a forearm. I did this on my left arm leaving my right free to grapple with. But what if they could use magic or maybe fly...? I decided I'd deal with that if it happened.
My opponent was a girl just like me but as long as I could surprise them then I was sure I could win. A girl though, and cute-looking too... I hardened my heart. No matter how pretty you are, home invasion is indisputably a crime. Don't blame me if you get hurt and start to cry.
I stepped up to the bathroom door as before but this time with a burning heart filled with justice ready to protect this house. I gripped the doorknob and stepped boldly into the bathroom.
"You're trapped! Surrender!" I cried. As expected the dirty sneak thief was still inside the bathroom. Her hair was identical to mine in colour and length but her face was... gorgeous. Her wide red eyes were beautiful like scarlet jewels and her tiny mouth with tightly clenched lips was lovely like a cherry bud. Right now she was frowning but if she laughed I thought she would surely make the flowers bloom and the surroundings glow.
Even seeing her for the second time I was startled by her appearance. I could look into those scarlet eyes forever, I thought to myself. Why such a girl was a thief... the question grew in my mind. However she was my opponent but it didn't look like she was going to fight and there was no sign she had tried to escape. She didn't have any weapons but she had a towel wrapped around her right arm like the one I had wrapped around my left.
I was suddenly startled as another figure appeared behind the girl with blond hair, another person...
"Sumirena......san?"It was another Sumirena-san. What? I turned quickly and Sumirena-san was close behind me in the doorway. Huh? She was holding her sides and shaking with laughter.
* * * * *
I quickly learned that Erim's older sister liked to make fun of stupid youngsters like me.