Buying Second-Hand Clothes
After filling my body with mana, I’m able to move enough to eat the bread porridge that Mark had made for me, which, finally, helps get me moving as well as I usually do .
“Maïne,” says Benno, “do you want me to handle getting some street clothes for your attendants? You could do it yourself, too . What do you want to do?”
“Where would I go to buy everyday clothing? The second-hand store my family usually uses isn’t going to work, I assume?”
No matter how poor commoners may be, and no matter how hard it is to make new clothes from scratch, children (with the exception of me) are constantly growing up . They always need larger and larger clothes to wear, and at the same time, the clothes that they’re growing out of aren’t useful to them anymore .
Our homes are already cramped, so there’s no room to let things that aren’t being used pile up . So, with the exception of our nicest, most expensive outfits, when a garment becomes unusable, then we take them to a second-hand clothing store to sell them . Then, at that same store, we purchase the next set of clothing . When we do that, we’re effectively only paying the price of the transaction, letting us acquire new clothes cheaply .
Since the only real requirement is that they’re basically wearable for now, it’s only natural that they’re going to be stained . Patches should be thought of as decorations . Design? As if anything like that existed . The only things that matter are the strength and thickness of the cloth . Garments whose cloth has become too thin to be usable anymore aren’t sold, but are instead cut up for use as diapers or cleaning rags .
“Idiot,” says Benno . “Don’t make them walk around the north side of town wearing anything like that . ”
My attendants will mostly be accompanying me between the temple and the Gilberta Company, so they’re going to be walking around the high-class northern side of town . There’s no way we’re going to get away with our street clothes making us look like we’re destitute .
“I don’t know where a high-quality second-hand clothing store is,” I say, “and I also don’t know what kind of clothing would be appropriate for my attendants, so I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d take care of it for me . ”
“I’ll bring you along if you don’t have a fever tomorrow . While we’re at it, we’ve got to stop at the restaurant along the way to check in on how things are coming . Come with me . ”
“Alright,” I say, nodding .
Benno looks over at Lutz . “I know you’d usually have the day off tomorrow, but come with us, too . ”
“Understood,” he replies .
“I’m sorry for dragging you into this,” I say .
“No, it’s okay, I’ve been wondering where I could buy something other than my work clothes for cheap, so this is perfect . ”
It seems that since Lutz is going to continue coming with me to the temple, he wants some clothing to wear on his days off from work . Unlike our regular street clothes, the Gilberta Company’s apprentice clothing must be washed every day . Because apprentices interact with clients, they need to maintain clean personal appearances, and that starts with their clothing . However, if a garment is washed every time it’s worn, then, of course, it’ll start wearing out quickly . Even though Lutz doesn’t want his apprentice’s clothes to wear out, he doesn’t have anything else he can wear when walking around the north side of town .
“If I don’t have anything other than my work clothes to wear, then it’s going to get to the point where I’ll need a new set made, right?”
Hearing that makes me think that I’d like some clothes for myself, too . Just like him, I don’t have anything to wear but my apprentice’s clothes if I want to go to the north side of town .
“Mister Benno,” I say, “please help me pick out some clothes for myself, too . ”
I’ve never actually shopped for my own clothing since I’ve come here . As I think gleefully to myself about how I’m going shopping tomorrow, Lutz and I make our way home .
“See you tomorrow, Lutz!” I say, beaming brilliantly .
Lutz stares grimly at me . “We’re not done yet . I still have to deliver my report . ”
I grimace, but, of course, there’s no way I can actually stop him from reporting anything .
“Why didn’t you take care of yourself!” yells Tuuli, tears in her eyes .
“Tuuli, don’t cry!”
“I’m not crying! I’m mad!!”
I know that Tuuli has still been very worried all this time about whether going to the temple would really cure the devouring or if I was still going to suddenly drop dead, so I feel incredibly guilty seeing her cry as she yells at me .
“I’m sorry . I’m really sorry . I won’t do it again . ”
“…You’re make sure you eat lunch?”
“Of course!” I say, nodding vigorously .
“You’re going to ask someone important all about mana?”
“You promise you won’t forget, even when you’re reading?”
“Maïne?” she says, staring fixedly at me .
No matter how hard she stares, though, I can’t make her a promise I know I won’t be able to keep . I’m self-aware enough to know that all reason leaves me the instant I’m in front of a book .
“…I, I’ll tell my attendant to make sure I don’t forget . He’s a really serious person, so it’ll be fine!”
She sighs, shrugging and shaking her head . “So you can’t promise it yourself, then?”
No matter how disappointed she seems, though, I know I can’t keep that promise .
My family’s still in shock, but they’re no longer quite so angry about it, so I decide to change the subject .
“Hey, Tuuli . If you’ve got the day off, do you want to come along with me when I go out?”
“Huh? Where are you going?”
“I’m going to go buy some clothing for my attendants . We’re going to be looking at the kind of clothing that people in the north side wear, so even though we’re going to a second-hand store, it’ll be a good studying opportunity, you know?”
On top of that, Benno’s going to be the one picking things out . He’s the proprietor of a shop that sells clothing to the nobility, so this would be an extremely valuable experience for her .
“…It’s okay for me to come?”
“Well, we’re going to be going to a bunch of places tomorrow, so if you’re okay with having to follow us around for all of it, then it should be . ”
“Okay! It’ll be fun . ”
She beams delightedly . I let out a sigh of relief, seeing her smiling her usual smile . Thank goodness . She’s not mad anymore .
“What, so you’re skipping out on going to the forest too, huh Tuuli?”
As Tuuli, Lutz and I head out of the plaza with the water well towards the main road, hand in hand, someone calls out from behind us, a bit of a challenge in his voice .
“Ah, Ralph,” says Tuuli .
“Ralph!” I say .
When we look over our shoulders, we see Lutz’s older brother Ralph standing behind us, dressed casually, with a basket strapped to his back . He looks like he’s going to the forest . When he sees that Tuuli’s put on her nicest clothes to go to the north side of town, and that Lutz and I are in our apprentice’s clothes, he frowns at us, just a little bit .
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to go look at clothes and do some studying . Ralph, you’re going to the forest, right?”
Tuuli still goes to the forest fairly often on her days off, using the chance to exchange information with her other friends who’ve also started working . Unlike before, though, our family’s finances are in much better shape, so it’s not absolutely critical for her to do so . Compared to a few years ago, I’m stuck in bed far less frequently . That, as well as the fact that Tuuli and I are both working, means that our finances have started looking significantly better .
Lutz’s family, however, is saddled with the expenses of feeding four growing boys with hearty appetites . Even though all four of them are working, their family’s financial situation hasn’t gotten much better at all . An apprentice’s wages are low, so since their gathering trips to the forest haven’t been going so well, their eating situation has been particularly painful .
As such, it’s obvious that all four boys need to be going to the forest on their days off to gather food . Lutz, however, despite supposedly only being an apprentice, still goes to Benno’s shop even on his days off . His family doesn’t think too well of this . He’s grumbled to me before about how his family has told him they’d rather he go bring things back from the forest than him bring back double his apprentice’s salary, with how much he’s working .
Tuuli and Ralph walk side by side as we head towards the main road . Lutz, looking displeased, follows a little ways behind . As Lutz and I walk along, holding hands, Ralph occasionally glances back at us . When he does, I notice Lutz sighing a little .
“Alright, see you later, Ralph,” says Tuuli . “Good luck!”
“Yeah,” he replies .
When we reach the main road, Ralph starts to head south, and the rest of us turn to head north . Tuuli waves enthusiastically at Ralph, then holds my free hand . We start walking towards the north side of town . Tuuli chatters enthusiastically about studying clothing . Lutz, perhaps having been told by Mark to become a good listener, listens carefully to what she’s saying .
I feel someone’s eyes on me and look over my shoulder to see Ralph still standing where we’d parted ways, watching us, looking like there’s something he wants to say . When our gazes meet, he makes a face like he’s seen something irritating, then quickly turns around and runs off to the south . As I watch the distance quickly grow between us, I think of how quickly the distance between Lutz and his brothers is growing too, and cast my eyes downwards .
When we arrive at the Gilberta Company, I see Benno, looking like he’s already gotten ready to leave, giving instructions to Mark and several other employees .
“Ah,” he says, putting on a very believable smile, “are you coming with us today too, Tuuli? I heard from Corinna that you’ve got the potential to be a very excellent seamstress someday . ”
“Really?! I’m so happy!”
Today, Benno will be the one bringing us along, rather than Mark . It seems like he needs to go to the Italian restaurant to take stock of how the remodeling is coming, to see if it’s being done as he’s ordered, to make sure the construction materials haven’t been swapped out for something cheaper, and so on .
“Construction’s already started, then?” I ask .
“It’s because I was able to find a place much faster than I expected . Right now it’s at the state where they’re expanding the kitchen so they can start putting in some ovens . ”
Benno has purchased from the foodservice association a building in the north side of town that had already been used as an eatery . It’s currently in the middle of being remodeled, first to get the kitchen ready, then to swap out all of the floorboards for high-quality ones, to match the image of a shop that sells food that nobles would eat .
The concept of the restaurant is that it should be so high-class that patrons can feel as if they are really nobles as they dine . It also seems that one of the intended uses is going to be to hold tasting events, the patrons of which would be the proprietors of the large shops that do business with the nobility .
“Ahh, so following along with what the guild master’s doing—”
“No! Tasting events were your idea, so I’m not following the guild master’s lead at all . ”
“…I see . ”
Judging from appearances, the lumber, the brick, and iron seem alright, and there aren’t any real problems with the workmanship . The ovens aren’t finished just yet, but once they are, it looks like the cooks will be able to come in and practice until the restaurant’s official opening .
“It’s great that it’s coming along so well,” I say .
Benno holds me in his arms as he walks around the under-construction restaurant, which gives me the chance to look around myself . When I comment on the progress, though, Benno grimaces, then grumbles to himself, in a voice so low that only I can hear it .
“No, there’s a huge pile of problems . ”
“…Never mind, it’s not something you need to know . ” He raises his voice, calling out to Lutz and Tuuli . “Hey, we’re going to the next shop . ”
We start heading towards a second-hand clothing store that apparently has deep ties to the Gilberta company .
“I wonder what that restaurant’s going to serve, if it’s food like what the nobles eat? I really want to try it sometime…”
Tuuli keeps looking back at the unfinished restaurant as we walk, causing her braid to bounce around . I look down from Benno’s shoulder at her and Lutz as they follow a couple steps behind him, and think back on the recipes that I’ve come up with .
“Hmm, I’d say that about thirty percent of it is recipes you’ve eaten at home, fifty percent are new recipes for both food and sweets that require an oven to make, and the last twenty percent are things I created by putting some of Ilse’s recipes to practical use… or something like that?”
Tuuli scrunches up her face, looking doubtful . “…So you’re saying that what that restaurant is going to be serving is your weird cooking?”
“Tuuli, that’s so mean! You always say you like it, too!”
It’s a real shock to hear her say that the food she always eats with a big smile is weird . Tuuli frantically amends her opinion .
“It’s good! It’s really good . It’s just that your recipes are kind of surprising for people trying to make them for the first time, you know? I’m used to it already, though . ”
“Whatever’s fine,” adds Lutz, shrugging his shoulders, “as long as it’s tasty . ”
Lutz said “whatever’s fine” and Tuuli never retracted her “weird cooking” comment . To be fair, there are a few things a little bit different about how food is cooked here, so I can’t disagree with them entirely .
“…What’s that?” asks Benno . “You’ve eaten Maïne’s cooking before?”
Since the restaurant’s under construction and the cooks can’t yet use the kitchen, Benno hasn’t been able to try any of my cooking yet, making him the only person here who hasn’t .
When he says that, though, Lutz and Tuuli exchange a very complicated glance .
“Hmm… well, the recipes are Maïnes, but… Right, Lutz?”
“Yeah, it’s always us that make it . So I guess it doesn’t really feel like we’ve been eating Maïne’s cooking, right?”
Of course .
Since the two of them are rapidly growing and I really am not, our physiques are very different . To pull an example from my Urano days, it’s about the difference between a kindergartner and kids already halfway through elementary school . With just that much difference, it means that their reach is much greater than mine, as is their physical strength . That means that their scope of the things they can do is much greater than mine . I haven’t really become able to do all that much more, but the two of them are quickly becoming able to do more and more without parental assistance .
“I really want to get bigger…” I grumble to myself .
The only ears my words reach are Benno’s . I actually didn’t even notice that I’d said my thoughts out loud, so I’m a little bit startled when he pats me on the back comfortingly .
The reason that I’m not growing much is because it’s a symptom of the devouring, so nobody can do anything to change it, but if Tuuli or Lutz were to hear my grumblings, I know that they’d get worried about me for sure . I sneakily look over Benno’s shoulder at them, checking to make sure they didn’t hear . When I see that they’re busily chatting about how tasty my recipes are, I breathe a sigh of relief .
Since both the under-construction restaurant and the second-hand clothing store are in the north side of town, it doesn’t take us very long to get between them . When we arrive, I can see that, just as expected, this second-hand clothing store is entirely unlike the one that my family goes to . The store that I know has dirty gray and tan clothes piled in baskets, sorted roughly by size .
Since the goods here are so much nicer, this store has all of its vividly-colored clothes, except for the underwear, neatly hung on cross-shaped wooden hangers . Since all of these clothes were once made to order, the sizes and colors are all different, but the atmosphere of the shop reminds me of my Urano days, when I saw a clothier in a small town, filled with whatever the proprietor liked to sell .
When the four of us enter, a lady who looks like the shopkeeper looks up at us, wide-eyed, and immediately rushes over . Her tightly bundled hair is dark brown, and her similarly brown eyes glitter brilliantly when she looks us over .
“Oh my, Benno . What’s all this? Since when did you have this many children—”
“Now, what do you mean by that?”
“I mean, the loveless Benno just brought a bunch of kids to my shop, didn’t he? That’s the kind of juicy little tidbit that can take on a life of its own . I’m sure our friends would love to hear all about it . ”
“Aw, give me a break for once . ”
These two look like they’ve known each other for ages . Lutz, Tuuli, and I stare dumbfoundedly at their casual, friendly banter . Ultimately, though, Benno cuts her off, turning things to business .
“I came here to buy some clothes for these kids . While we’re here, I thought my apprentice might be able to learn a thing or two, too . ”
“You mean Lutz, right?” I ask . “What can he learn here?”
“Alright, listen . If an apprentice at my shop can’t even pick out a single outfit, what do you think’s going to happen?”
Lutz, startles, seeming to be at a loss for words . He and Tuuli come from a commoner’s background, where the most important thing about a garment is how thick the cloth is, so they don’t have any eye for clothing themselves . It looks like Benno wants him to realize that and do some studying to fix it .
“Maïne, something like this should be good for your attendants . This is a relatively recent style, and its sleeves are fairly short so it should be easy to move around in . ”
“If we’re looking for something like that, then I think that dark green and brown one over there would work well, wouldn’t it? He’s got a really earnest seriousness to him, so I’m thinking that he should wear something that doesn’t clash with his hair and eye color . ”
“…Yeah, that’ll do, won’t it? As for the other two, I’ve never seen them, so I don’t know what would work for them . If you keep in mind the general feel of what you picked out for Fran, you shouldn’t be too far off the mark . Go pick out something you think will work . ”
Benno sets me down, and I start digging through the racks of children’s clothes, searching for things that might fit Gil and Delia . Although, even though we’re calling it “picking something out”, there aren’t actually that many things in each size, so selection is very limited . This, of course, means that it’s pretty quick to come to a decision . All that I need to do is hold these up against Lutz to make sure that the size will be more-or-less okay .
Argh, if only there was a bigger variety to pick from…
My excitement has largely dissipated since finding out that picking things out is pretty meaningless . What kind of luxurious times was I living in back in my Urano days? There was an overabundance of clothing everywhere . I didn’t really have a lot of interest in clothes back then, but it’s like they say, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone .
“Lutz, Lutz, can I borrow you for a second?”
“Gil’s basically about your size, so I want to hold these up to you to see if they look like they’ll fit . ”
I quickly go through three boy’s outfits that I’ve found, holding them up to Lutz . The size looks about right . Out of the three, though, I found one that matches Lutz pretty well .
“Out of the things I found in this size, I think this would look best on you . What should I pick for Gil, though…?”
As I compare the outfits I’m holding, trying to figure out what would be better for Gil, Benno sighs .
“Maïne, where did you learn how to pick out clothes?”
“Where? …It’s not really something I ever studied, you know?”
I’ve read books on color coordination and a variety of magazines on fashion, but I never formally studied it . If you really forced me to answer, I guess I’d say art class in school .
“I really shouldn’t think too hard about you, should I?”
“That’s right . Please just accept it and leave it alone . Lutz, let’s try these next . ”
I hold out a dress that I picked out for Delia . Lutz quickly shakes his head in refusal . Staring at the cute, predominately red dress, he makes an enormous X with his hands .
“Isn’t that something better to do with Tuuli?! I don’t wanna . ”
“I mean, Tuuli’s bigger than you, isn’t she? Delia’s a little smaller than you are, so using Tuuli wouldn’t work at all . ”
Lutz clearly hates it, but I manage to get him to let me hold the things I’m picking for Delia up against his back . After all, neither Tuuli nor I are the right size .
“Alright, Lutz,” says Benno . “Start looking for something in a color that would suit Maïne . Take that green and that green, for example . They’re both green, but they’re different shades of green . Which would look better on her?”
Just like Lutz had been subjected to before, now I’m the one having clothes held up to her . Lutz and Tuuli both look back and forth between the clothes and me, serious expressions on their face . After a moment, they both point at the same piece of clothing .
“That’s right . This one matches her skin tone better . What about these two?”
Benno starts explaining all sorts of aspects of color theory, holding various outfits against me as examples . He covers monochromatic colors, analogous colors, complementary colors, hue, saturation, lightness, and more . As I sit in my chair, listening in awe, wondering if piling up all of his accumulated knowledge would equal the book on color coordination I read, more and more clothing is held up to me .
“Now, after you pound all this information about which colors suit which clients into your head, the next thing you’ll need to do is learn what styles to select . Clothes are the greatest indicator of one’s social standing and position . If you wear clothing that doesn’t match your station, then that will cause all sorts of trouble . You’ll remember Maïne’s baptismal ceremony, of course . ”
“Ahh…” I moan .
“This time, the clothing we’re picking out is clothing that Maïne will be wearing to go to and from the temple . This is the clothing of someone who has attendants, so the important thing here is the length of the sleeve . ”
Now that I think about it, when we went to the temple, Benno was wearing a shirt with especially voluminous sleeves . They were so long that they looked like they would get in the way if he tried to do anything at all .
“What long sleeves show is that she doesn’t have to do anything, because her attendants do everything for her, so she doesn’t have to worry about her sleeves getting dirty . Basically, people who have to work can’t let their sleeves droop like that . ”
“Huh? Wait, didn’t Mark have long sleeves too, though? They were about half the length of yours, though . ”
“Those were the sleeves of an attendant who you’d take with you to meet with a noble . The other party already had attendants or subordinates to do the work, so Mark didn’t have to do much of anything . On the other hand, if a noble were to visit us, Mark would wear short sleeves, to show that we’re giving them a warm reception . …We haven’t had any nobility come visit us, though . ”
I hum appreciatively, nodding lightly to show comprehension . Lutz and Tuuli, on the other hand, are paying rapt attention, their eyes glimmering .
“Well then, you two, now that you’ve learned all that, pick out something for Maïne . I wonder, which of you will do a better job of it?”
Lutz and Tuuli shoot each other a brief, sharp glare, then start circling the shop, looking for clothes . Benno looks on, smirking .
“Good work bringing your sister along, Maïne . Having a rival makes people learn surprisingly quickly . ”
“I’m happy that this is such a good study opportunity for her,” I reply .
While we watch the two of them taking to their education with zeal and trying their hardest to pick the best outfit, I try asking Benno about anything I need to be paying attention to when I’m interacting with noble society, but he just shakes his head .
“Your situation is different from mine . I could tell you about what you should do as a merchant that’s doing business with the nobility, but if you want to know how to behave yourself when you’re working in the same circles as nobles, then you should ask Fran . Do what Lutz is doing and ask about even the tiniest things . He’s not going to know what you don’t know otherwise . ”
As I nod in comprehension, Lutz and Tuuli run up, clothing in hand .
“Which would you pick, Maïne?”
The two of them press in close . I lean back, a little overwhelmed, and look at the outfits that the two of them brought over . Tuuli has picked a cute pink dress . Lutz picked a dress as well, this one using blue as its main color .
“If I were to be just walking around outside, then I think what Tuuli picked is cuter, but if I think about how I’m going to be going to the temple, I think the dress Lutz picked would fit that job better . Choosing is hard…”
“Try them on,” says Benno .
At Benno’s direction, I take the dresses Tuuli and Lutz picked for me and follow the shopkeeper into a changing room . The shopkeeper helps me into the dress that Tuuli picked for me, then walks me over to a highly polished metal mirror .
“…Whoa . ”
This is the first time I’ve seen my own face . My skin is pale, but not the kind of pale that would draw out the contours of my egg-shaped face . It comes across as more of an abnormal pallor, but part of that is due to the influence of my straight, deep blue hair .
In the mirror, I see my large, full, ochre-yellow eyes, so bright they’re almost golden, opened wide with astonishment . My high-bridged, shapely nose and the plumpness of my lower lips matches my mother’s, but apart from the skin around my eyes, I don’t look that much like Tuuli .
If I were to be childishly honest about it, according to my sensibilities from my Urano days, I am a cute little girl . However, I don’t know what this world’s standards are . Lutz calls me cute, so maybe my sense of aesthetics isn’t that off?
As I brood, I’m brought out to show off the dress I’m wearing .
“Whoa, Maïne, you’re so cute! That looks super good on you . ”
Tuuli gives me high praise as I wear the dress that she picked out for me, but Lutz just hums thoughtfully, his head cocked to the side . However, he looks a little bit annoyed about this, so he’s probably thinking that this matches me well enough that he can’t really find any fault with it .
Benno, smiling wryly, waves his hand, silently directing me to try the next one on .
“Yep, this one is definitely a better look!”
I change into the dress that Lutz picked out and head back out to show them, and this time it’s Lutz who is beaming brilliantly as he praises me . Tuuli looks a little vexed, and peevishly says that her pick suits me better, which sparks an argument about which dress really is the better one . I tug on Benno’s sleeve, trying to get him to intervene in the rapidly intensifying quarrel, but he just looks around the shop, thoughtfully stroking his chin .
“You got to see what you look like in the mirror, right? So, what do you think would suit you the best?”
“Hmm… if I keep usefulness in mind, then maybe this, this, and this, I think?”
The first thing I pick is a white blouse . The sleeves are long, and both the cuffs and collar are decorated with lace, so even though the design is simple, it looks like I could wear it in front of nobility . After that, I pick a blue skirt that looks like it would be perfect to wear when going to the temple . It’s embroidered with a floral design, but when I’m wearing my apprentice priestess’s robes, it’ll be covered up entirely . Finally, I pick a red, bodice-like vest that’s embroidered with flowers and adorned with lace .
“If I do this, then if I make any additional purchases, or if I buy any replacements, then I can really change the look of the outfit, and I think that these pieces would work well with pieces of the apprentice’s clothes that I already have… what do you think?”
When I look up at Benno, he smiles slightly at me, then turns to look at Lutz and Tuuli . The two of them look over the outfit I’ve picked with hollow faces .
“Lutz, Tuuli,” says Benno . “There are more clothes here than just one-piece dresses . Abandon the notion that dresses is what girls wear . ”
The girls of poor families generally don’t wear anything but one-piece dresses . After all, they’re very easy to make, with a single seam from top to bottom, and they don’t use a whole lot of cloth . Even though we wear many layers to ward off the cold, we don’t put any effort into making it actually look good . Nobody has any blouses whose collars could be replaced or whose sleeves can be changed out for a different kind of lace .
“Study hard until next time,” says Benno .
Tuuli and Lutz, who had been looking so dejected moments ago, raise their heads, the fire of rivalry burning in their eyes, and then, for some reason, look at me .