Now, Mia faced a new dilemma, one unrelated to any fighting – how was she supposed to clean herself and her slime, Whimsy?
Technology was at a lower level in this world. There was no such thing as a running shower or a bathwater drain. Maybe it would be worthwhile to look into if she could invent a makeshift showering device later in the future, but for now, it was low on Mia's list of priorities. After all, she already had the equivalent of personal air conditioning with her breeze magic.
Normally, she would just climb into the barrel of hot water and soak herself while the water was still hot. But this time, she had to figure out a way to get rid of the bat guano first – otherwise, she would be bathing in guano-stained water. Who would enjoy such an experience?
After the servants that brought the barrel left, Mia decided upon her course of action. She'd give herself an "air bath" first!
Since magic took the place of technology in this world, why not use it to make life more comfortable for herself? Her magic all cost miniscule amounts of mana, and it was even useful to practice it as much as she could. Mia didn't know if more powerful spells would be more taxing on the body, but she could maintain her wind spells all day without any trouble. There was no reason not to use magic whenever she could.
And so, Mia surrounded herself and Whimsy in a gentle breeze that whisked off the bat guano and into a dustbin that Mia brought over. She'd only used her breeze magic to help dry herself after bathing before, but this felt pretty nice as well! She could definitely get used to this!
Unfortunately, in her eagerness to become clean, Mia forgot about Whimsy's penchant for jumping on to any area with wind mana in it.
*Boing!* Whimsy bounced straight onto Mia just as she was climbing into the barrel for her bath. Mia was knocked off balance, and she fell right into the hot water together with Whimsy!
"Ptui! Ptui!" After spitting up some water and righting herself, Mia found to her pleasant surprise that the water didn't feel nearly as hot as she was expecting. Yet, the water that she just spat out had been scalding!
Meanwhile, Whimsy was having fun even in the water. It would appear that the slime wasn't hydrophobic at all. Instead, it was even splashing around, causing some water to splash out of the barrel. Or was it dancing? Wriggling? Mia was unsure how to describe its current actions.
"Oh, Whimsy. Warn me next time you want to bathe together with me!" Mia wasn't really angry with Whimsy, though. She was more bemused than anything. Would Whimsy ever be able to control its hunger? She was going to have to look into how to teach Whimsy to differentiate between situations in which it could absorb wind mana as it pleased and inappropriate or inconvenient situations like this one.
Mia was wondering more about why it was that the water didn't seem as hot as she expected. Did it have anything to do with the layer of wind mana she just surrounded herself with before she was suddenly knocked into the barrel?
As a small test, Mia canceled her control over the wind, but she soon regretted doing so.
"Ahhh!" With a yelp, Mia jumped out of the bathing barrel. The water was so hot! Normally, when entering a hot bath, she would do it slowly so as to gradually get used to the water temperature. This was just like having jumped in all at once!
Yet, the minor scorching sensation Mia felt on her skin was nothing compared to her inner excitement. Thanks to Whimsy's antics, she'd discovered that her wind had some minor heat-insulating effects, even if only slightly.
Was this due to activating her so-called [Resistance] stat somehow, providing some minor defense against the elements? Or did her wind have some magical effects she didn't know of?
To confirm, Mia surrounded herself in a slight layer of wind again before reentering the barrel. Whimsy once again attempted to wrap itself around her, but Mia was prepared this time as she lightly pushed Whimsy back into the water. The Wind Slime deserved a good washing!
As expected, the water now felt merely hot – but not scalding. It was now much easier for Mia to ease herself into the water. Some seconds later, Mia felt the heat against her skin again as her control over the wind around her dissipated, the air around her having been replaced by water. Still, it was much better than what just happened one minute ago, as she only felt the water's heat gradually this time around.
There was still so much that Mia didn't know about how things worked in this world. Was what just happened a magical effect, or a physical effect having to do with thermodynamics? She didn't know, as she was no science expert. Perhaps it was even a combination of the two, some type of magical science?
This was precisely why she needed to obtain an upgraded Status Stone. It would be difficult to make the best use of her abilities, after all, if she didn't know the full specifics of what they did.
Magical experimentation, sword training with Colson, teaching and raising Whimsy, meeting with Dega, planning for the duel against Barnaby and also to eventually overthrow her own father, Count Hart… Not to mention, she also wanted to eventually travel to the neighboring Rodan Kingdom to make use of her prior knowledge and get involved in the game's storyline. There were so many things she wanted to do. Why had her life turned out like this? Weren't game worlds supposed to be fun and relaxing?
Mia kept her mind busy as she bathed together with Whimsy. When the bath was finally over and Mia was satisfied with how clean they both were, she couldn't help but stretch the slime's cheeks, tempted by the soft pliancy. Whimsy had a mystified expression, as if to say, "What are you doing?"
"Hahaha, sorry, you just seemed like such a great de-stressor. I mean no harm. How about some more wind mana?"
After Mia dressed herself again and put Whimsy away on her body, she went to go look for Colson. She needed to talk to him about the upcoming duel as well as what happened today with Dega.
Mia considered what to tell him as she headed downstairs. The second floor was reserved for the direct Hart family, which meant her and the Count. Only a few servants and guards were permitted to be there, while Colson had a room on the first floor in the servants' quarter.
Colson seemed to her like the honest, hardworking type who didn't know much about how the world actually was. If he didn't get along with Dega due to his sense of knightly honor or whatever other reason, she would have to do her best to keep them away from each other.
Well, she would just have to see how he would react. It wasn't like she had known him long enough to know him inside and out.
Mia reached Colson's room and knocked on his door. "Hey Colson, it's me, Mia. You in there?" Actually, she could already sense that he was inside his room. It was just that nobody knew about her minimap ability to detect others' presences, so she had to keep up the pretense.
"Milady! Where have you been all day! I know that you told me to take a rest day today, but I still expected to see you!"
"…I'll tell you about things over dinner. I'm starving. Have you eaten yet? How about some food first?"
"Sure thing, Milady."
Mia and Colson went to the kitchen and grabbed some simple rations before returning to Colson's room to have a discussion. Mia wanted to talk in a place where nobody was around to overhear.
"Colson, have you heard about the duel scheduled between me and my half-brother Barnaby?"
"What, a duel!? Milady, why? That's completely unfair! You're too young! How could you possibly duel against your older half-brother, Lord Barnaby?" Colson's astonishment indicated that he hadn't heard at all.
"Well, it's like this…" Mia explained the situation regarding her upcoming birthday duel to Colson. "…So, I'm going to be preparing for this duel. Do you have any advice for me?"
"To be honest, I don't think you have a chance, Milady. Must you go through with this?" Although Colson now understood what caused there to be a duel in the first place, he was still mystified why Mia was going through with it.
"I'm sure things will be fine. Do you remember the Wind Slime I tamed recently? I named it Whimsy. My slime will be helping me out in the duel. All I have to do is to feed it some food."
"Are you really sure that will work?" Colson was quite doubtful of this strategy.
"I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but nothing's guaranteed. That's why I'm preparing as much as I can for the upcoming duel."
Colson came to a sudden realization upon hearing this. "…Milady, winning may be important, but remember that your body is the most important. There's no need to resort to drugs in order to win! Temporary strength gained will only set you backwards even farther!"
"…I'm really not resorting to drugs in order to win, Colson. Where would I even get any?" Mia really didn't know what Colson was talking about. "There's something I absolutely wish to obtain, which is why I'm going through with this duel Not only that, this is a good chance for me to do something about my half-brother Barnaby. Are you familiar with him?"
"I know that he's Milady's older half-brother, that's about it. I've never met him."
Well, he would have to find out sooner or later. Mia decided that showing Colson how things actually were around here would be a lot more effective than telling. It was time to break his naivete. She needed someone by her side who could make informed decisions while truly supporting her.
"Well, you can think of it like an inheritance dispute. I'm currently the heir to the noble title for this domain, and he considers me to be in his way. Since your job is to primarily act as my bodyguard, you may come into conflict with him sooner or later. You told me before that I should rely on you to protect me. So, let me ask you this. Are you willing to kill someone who threatens my life, no matter who they are?"
"You don't have to answer me immediately. I want you to take your time with your answer. Also, go to the barracks tonight and ask the guards when the next scheduled 'tax collection' excursion will be. We shall be joining them the next time they go out." Mia decided that it would probably be best to not tell Colson about Dega yet for the time being. She would wait first to hear what he had to say after he saw what the Hart army was really like.
"Oh, loan me your Status Stone again. There's something I need to check."
Colson nodded and handed Mia his Status Stone. Before Colson left, Mia had a sudden idea regarding magic experimentation and called out to him again. "By the way, do you think you can catch a rat for me? A live one?"
"A rat? Is that what your slime eats in exchange to help you out!?"
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