“Last time I came to this village,” another patron grumbled, “those monsters were clawing at the walls all night. I could hardly get any sleep.”
“It’s worse the further north you go,” another told him.
Nashtra did not look pleased to hear that.
“How are we going to get to the capital if there are so many noir beasts?” Cerys asked in hushed voice.
“Do not doubt me just yet,” Nashtra told her. “I will speak to the innkeeper later tonight and then decide how we will proceed. Finish your supper so that we can go.”
Cerys had no cause to argue with him. Truth be told, she was certain that he could defeat a noir beast. The problem was that now there seemed to be a lot of them, and they were becoming more aggressive. The party might very well need additional help, but she wondered whether he would be able to find someone trustworthy. She was putting a lot of trust into him, and she was well aware of it.
It was not much longer until they had their tab paid and were heading out the door. The hallway was packed with people who are waiting for a table, and they looked relieved to see someone leaving. Nashtra led them outside, where it was already quite dark, and took them down the road. The streets of the village had few people walking along them; it was not empty, even though it would have seemed normal to see a lot more people walking around at that hour.
The bath house reminded Cerys Of what Himeko (and, she had to admit, various anime) had told her about Japanese bath houses. There was a side for women, and a side for men. One of the young girls attended Himeko and Cerys, escorting them back and explaining to them what they should do.
Nashtra went with Peter and his boyfriend. There wasn’t a changing room like they had expected, but after a long hallway, there was an expansive room. Peter paused in the entrance to look around.
The main room of the bathhouse was wide open, and the boys could see that there were already quite a few people bathing. They were a few, of course, lounging in the water, but also others in road seated at various tables. Some had ordered tea service, which it seems they could drink either at the side of the best, or at their table. Two robed men were playing a board game a little further from the water. Some of the bathers had gone to the deep end of the water, and the younger boys had a shallow corner where they were permitted a reasonable amount of splashing.
Peter stepped into the hall and looked around, seeming t be serching for something. “Do they have an area that’s more private?”
Nashtra gestured across the room. “This is the way this part of the kingdom does things,” he told him. “If you want to get clean, you might as well join in.”
That did not make a teenage boy happy to hear. He shook his head and looked at Bayani. “I can’t do it.”
Bayani looked back at him, quietly observing him, thinking about what to do.
“Listen,” Nashtra said, “everyone else here is used to this sort of thing. You would stand out more if you did not join in. If you want to take your time, you can. Nobody will take your clothes or anything else, if that is what you are worried about.”
“Isn’t there somewhere that I can do this by myself?” Peter asked.
“I am afraid not,” Nashtra told him. “What are you so worried about? The people in this village have been doing this for many generations, and you can trust them, too. If you afraid of something happening, please let me assure you. Nobody means you any ill will here.”