I throw off my shirt and pants and underwear in one fell swoop, so fast that the clothes haven’t even hit the ground by the time I’ve grabbed a towel and wrapped it around myself. Delta sneers at me, but Francis stares in amazement.
Francis attempts the same maneuver, but then trips over his feet trying to get his pants off.
I put away my clothes and belongings (which so far include just my phone, a granola bar, and a ziploc bag with paper currency) into a bin and slide it into a shelf. There appear to be no protective measures against someone stealing these items if they so wished, though I assume the Yuletide Lounge has other security measures that can prevent theft. At least, I hope so. Otherwise I will have overestimated the intelligence of the people of Earth even further. Don’t they know gremlins or other such non-sentient beasts could enter and take all the items in an instant?
“I’ll be the first to enter,” I say, “since if there are any heinous villains or vile traps, I will be the one to fend them off before letting you come to harm.”
“Okay,” Delta says. “Just don’t cannonball into the bath please.”
“Uh, very well then.”
I enter the bath room, which consists of a few buckets of water to wash oneself off with, a pleasant blue tile floor, and steam permeating every inch of the air. There is a wide glass-free window-like opening. I’m not quite sure if it counts as a window if there is no glass. But either way, right in front of the bath is a window that lets out all the steam and also allows a great wide look at the Great Grape Gardens of Paso Robles, the same vast vineyard I viewed a few minutes earlier in the front entrance.
This is not quite a natural hot springs like I would have wished for, though the creepy woman at front promised that the water is from a natural hot springs and the building was simply designed around it. But I must say I prefer a bath built from rocks, one where the calming sense of nature surrounds you completely. One of the downsides of Earth’s magnificent societal advancements is that the path to nature is quite a lot harder. Even the vineyard out there is man-made, as beautiful as it may be. It gives me some sense of longing, but one I can’t quite describe.
Well, a bath is a bath, especially one with the enriching properties of scalding hot mineral water. If it is as powerful a bath as the ones I sometimes partook in back on Mystix, soaking for long enough will give me the [Soothed] status effect, which will slow my non-combat Life Points drain for around a day. That’s great!
So I take off my towel and set it on a rack, and then wash myself off with the shower to rid myself of the germs and gunk accumulated over the day. And then when I am ready, I stand up and—
Oh, Francis is in here now.
We meet eyes.
And then I look down instinctively and back up at him.
Francis is completely naked, and so am I. His body is curvy and soft, just like I always expected, but much hairier in the chest and elsewhere. He has the figure of a hearty lumberjack after a winter’s break, more powerful than a video game player should be. And... While I can never say I have felt this way in my life before... I am somewhat uncomfortable. Also I haven’t taken my eyes off him in upwards of fifteen seconds.
He blinks a few times in response to my staring and steps into the bath without washing off first.
I gather my bearings and do the same.
The water is extremely hot—
Ouch, for a second. I’ll have to acclimate myself and step in slowly—
Amazing. Just fantastic. If baths counted as a Class Action for [Adventurers,] I’d probably gain two Destiny Points right here on the spot (this is a joke; one cannot gain two Destiny Points for the same action in almost any case.)
My body heats up and relaxes in exactly the way it always needed. It’s been approximately one week since I came to Earth and I’m incredibly tired to say the least. This is a much-deserved break from the rough and tumble world of the Destiny Deck System. No Dragons here. No Persian Mob. No disconcerting Paso Robles fans. No wondering about the mysteries of what Miss M was trying to bring me to. Just sitting (laying?) in this large pool of mineral water.
Francis gives me a weird look, probably from how I was acting earlier. I try not to meet his eyes.
I blame Delta for all of this.
She’s the one who told me that whole spiel about how Francis thinks extremely highly of me and considers me a great friend, or even a “sweetheart” or whatever. She used the word “crush,” but I’m still a bit unsure of the meaning behind that. Either way, now I have to wonder...
Wait minute, why did he not stare at me when he saw my naked body? What, am I not chiseled and muscular enough to warrant an emotional response from my appearance alone? Does he not appreciate the fine form of the human body as much as I do? If so, that is a sad case. The human body is beautiful in all shapes and sizes. It is our own artwork which we carry around with us, and I will not—
I see Delta enter the bath room. She, of course, removes her towel and shows off her naked, nearly completely hairless body. With a flat chest, prominent abs, and wide hips, Delta is picturesque in the classical sense—I have seen few paintings that have captured the essence of feminine beauty in such a way as her. I stare at her and take in the art that The Goddess crafted before she steps into the bath and her features disappear below the murky water.
She glares at me harder than I’ve ever seen her do before.
“You have literally not even a speck of decency in that shriveled up cranium of yours,” Delta says.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“You know exactly what you mean, you pervert,” she says.
“Pervert? What did I do to offend you so?”
“You’re gawking me like a real creeper,” she says flatly. “I thought we... you know, after Chasing Amy...”
“Chasing Amy? Francis asks.
My face lights up with the distinct burn of a blushing face. “Ah, yes, that’s right... Chasing Amy...”
“My apologies,” I say. “I did not mean to imply—Well, I will admit I find you very physically attractive—that I was examining you for lewd behaviors. I was simply taking in your physical form, which is at the peak of womanhood. You deserve to have your likeness sculpted into a statue and put on display in a gallery.”
She sighs, and leans back at the edge of the bath, putting her arms behind the back of her head and looking slightly upwards. “I get it. You’re from a different world and all, so it’s not quite the same. It’s super fucking weird, but I’ll take the compliment.”
“Maybe I’m desensitized from seeing Delta naked like a billion times since we were six,” Francis says, “but I really don’t see where you’re coming from with all this.”
“Hey!” Delta shouts.
“Just kidding.” He giggles.
“I have doubts about that...”
Francis scoots across the bath and gets up right next to Delta, resting his head on her elbow. “Isn’t this great?” he asks. “It’s so relaxing.”
“Besides Eryk being here, yeah I guess so.”
He lets out a long, pleasant sigh, completely unlike the one Delta just gave towards me. “This was a good choice, Delta. I’m really starting to feel better.”
“Yeah. Being with you, just spending time hanging out with my bestie. It’s been forever since we could just... You know, have fun.”
“It does feel nice,” she says. “But are you sure you’re...” she trails off, apparently not to directly bring up how upset Francis was yesterday after something he didn’t want to tell us about.
“Yep, for sure,” he replies. “Rest, relaxation, and adventuring across the United States.”
“Or at least California. I don’t know if we should go all the way out past LA, should we?”
“And not let Eryk see the Grand Friggin’ Canyon?”
“True, true,” she says. “I haven’t even seen the Grand Canyon.”
My mind puzzles with the possibilities of what such a grand canyon could be like that it’s become its own proper noun. That interests me a lot.
“Well then, it’s decided,” he says.
“I guess it is, Francis.”
The two continue leaning back and soaking in the steamy atmosphere of the hot springs.
I watch them and a small smile grows on my face. It’s starting to become clear to me why they were so eager to help me, why they were so happy to go on this big adventure with me. Sure, I’m in great need of help and they are the ones who will bring me into becoming the first S-Rank Hero in generations. But I think they just wanted to escape the pressures of Earth’s stressful adult life and hang out with each other.
I really respect that.
Hanging out is really fun, after all. Taking a nice relaxing bath with your friends in a mineral water pool and—
[Achivement Unlocked! Soak in 15 hot springs.]
[Visit the Achievements Board to collect your reward.]
“I did it!” I exclaim. “I got a new achievement!”
Both of them look at me with absolute confusion and speak in unison: “Achievement?”