James tried to give everyone their own rooms, insisting that the manor house had plenty to spare, but Bayani did not want to be away from Peter, and Cerys felt responsible for looking after Himeko, so they spent several minutes arguing that two rooms would be plenty. Eventually th baron’s son saw to reason and let them choose rooms across from each other. He showed the girls into their room and waited as they looked around at what they had.
“Should I show you how the faucets work?” he offered, not sure what else to say.
“I think we can figure it out,” Cerys told him, trying not to let her exhaustion make her sound too upset.
“Very well,” he said. Then after a moment he asked, “So those two make a nice couple. What about you? Are you and Himeko…”
“Are we what?”
Cerys gasped and looked around. Himeko was in one of the antechambers, possibly the bathroom. She breathed a sign of relief. “She is my best friend,” she explained. “We grew up together, but that doesn’t make up a couple.”
“I hope I didn’t offend you,” James said. “It’s just that I haven’t seen you with a boyfriend, so I wasn’t sure what to think.”
“Do you think that every girl needs a boyfriend?” Cerys retorted, realizing too late that her voice had more attitude in it than she had meant to use.
“Well… no,” he admitted. “Listen, I don’t mind any which way. I just wanted to get to know you better. So those to; have they, em…”
Cerys seemed to understand what he was trying to ask. “James, even if it was any of your business, they’re only fifteen! Speaking of which, why did you invite them to game with us if you planned on using it as a way to bring us here?”
James blinked at her harsh tone, but realized that she did have a point. Besides that, he could not blame her for starting to become cranky after such a long day. “I had the impression that I couldn’t not invite them. Besides, having a bard and an archer will be really useful on our journey.”
“Are you really seventeen?” Cerys asked, once again sounding as though she had gone off on a tangent. “There’s nothing strange about traveling between your world and mine that affects your age, is there?”
“Nothing of the sort,” he told her. “Why do you ask?”
“Because you don’t seem like a normal seventeen-year-old. Ever since we arrived in your world, you’ve seemed… older.”
He shrugged, remembering in the back of his mind how much she hated shrugging. “It must be because I was raised among the nobility.”
“That might explain it,” she sighed. “Still, I wasn’t, and I don’t understand why you chose us to take this journey.”
“You will understand in time,” James assured her. “For right now, get some rest. I can explain more in the morning.”
Cerys did not look entirely satisfied, but she agreed. She was too tired to argue she bade him good night and showed him to the door.
“Good night, Himeko!” he called, hoping that she would be able to hear him.
“Good night to you, too!” she called back.
Then Cerys hurried him into the hall and shut the door. After a moment’s thought, she locked it, then pressed her ear against the wood. She could hear footsteps fading down the hallway, and then a peaceful quiet; he had gone. She hurried into the next chamber through an inner door.
“Himeko,” she said when she found her friend already in the bathtub.