I decided to forget about what happened in the shower. I didn’t want to remember it. I’m pretty sure Alicia didn’t want to remember it either. She didn’t speak to me after we had both finished cleaning off. We also didn’t take a shower together. There had been enough embarrassing things happening for one day.
The fuuton was set out when I entered my room, so I guess it meant Alicia had put it out before deciding to try and wash my back. I had crawled into it without ceremony and attempted to fall asleep.
Attempted was the keyword.
It wasn’t easy.
An eight tatami mat room wasn’t all that spacious–about 12.24 square meters. Most of my room was taken up by my bed and other furniture like my dresser. That meant my fuuton was less than a meter or so from the bed, upon which Alicia was sleeping.
Well, trying to sleep, I guess.
“I’m really sorry about what happened earlier… with the shower and stuff…”
I tried not to blush. I wasn’t sure I succeeded.
“It’s okay,” I said, hoping that if I just told her not to worry, she would stop talking about it.
“The thing is… I really wanted to thank you for taking me in and helping me out. I know you said it was nothing, and maybe it is nothing to you, but it means a lot to me. I also want to get to know you better, and in the manga I’ve been reading, one of the things that the main character likes is when girls take a shower with him.”
Part of me did understand where she was coming from. It was natural to want to thank someone when they helped you, and while I still didn’t think what I did was that big a deal, to her, it was. She was grateful, and she wanted to show that. I got it. At the same time…
“Just what manga have you been reading?” I asked.
There was some quick shuffling above me, and Alicia’s voice was suddenly much louder than it had been. “It’s a really good series called High School DxD. It’s a story about a human boy who gets reincarnated as a devil and becomes a part of this devil girl’s peerage.” She paused. “There’s a lot of stuff in it that isn’t actually true. For example, devils can’t reincarnate someone with chess pieces and stuff, and there’s no way we would ever ally ourselves with the angels and the fallen. But, I still think it’s a really good series. I have all nine volumes.”
“Uh-huh. And… does the girl in that manga take a shower with the main character or something?”
“Several girls in that manga take a shower with the main character,” she said in a matter of fact tone. Had I not been lying down, I would’ve done a double take. “But, yes, the main female heroine does take several showers with him. It’s because boys like that sort of thing. That’s why I wanted to do it as a thank you… but I, uh, well, I don’t think I quite have the confidence to do that.”
“You had enough confidence to step in the shower with nothing but a towel,” I mumbled.
She must have heard me, because there was more shuffling, and it sounded agitated. The next thing I knew, a pair of hands were turning my head, and I found Alicia practically in my face.
“I was still really embarrassed, okay! It’s not as easy as the manga made it sound! She just got in like it was nothing, but I was really, really embarrassed.”
“Okay. Okay.” I tried looking away, but her blushing face was filling my vision. The hands on my cheeks didn’t help. “I believe you. Look, I was really embarrassed, too.”
Alicia removed her hands, and her face disappeared from my personal space as she leaned against the bed. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“I know,” she said quietly. “That’s why I wanted to apologize properly.”
Calming down, I turned around in my fuuton so I could face Alicia properly. “Thank you for apologizing, but I think, maybe, it would be best if we just forgot this whole thing ever happened.”
“I guess so…” Alicia’s shoulders slumped, and her lips fell into a frown. “I probably didn’t do it right. I mean, I don’t have her confidence, and I’m not as pretty as she is. You probably didn’t want to see me like that, huh?”
While I was somewhat frustrated that Alicia was continuing to talk about this, I didn’t want to be rude. This was obviously troubling her more than it should. If I could alleviate her concerns, then I’d put up with this continued line of conversation.
“I don’t know anything about the characters in that series, but you’re prettier than any girl I’ve ever seen, and that includes the models you see in magazines at bookstores and stuff.”
There was a pause. Alicia curled her legs up to her chest, wrapped her arms around her legs, and buried her face into her knees. With the only light coming from the moon, all I could see was her bright red eyes, which were surrounded by strands of crimson silk.
“Do you really think I’m pretty?”
“I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t think it.”
“I see.” Alicia remained in her strange, curled up position for several more seconds before lifting her head. She was smiling. “Thank you.”
I had no idea what she was thanking me for, but I wasn’t sure it mattered either. I was beginning to learn that there was only one proper answer I could give her when she said thank you.
“You’re welcome,” I said, smiling back.