On a sunny and warm day, a special class was held for a science experiment.
The topic was quite simply to put fragrance into soap.
There were more than 20 people in front of the classroom, including merchant kids and orphans.
“Aime! I’ve brought the soap, what do I do with it?”
Theo showed me a tub full of soft soap which the kids had borrowed from each family.
“Put all of it into the pot. Gis-nee can you help with this?”
Gis-nee put the large pot that she had brought from home on the stove which she had made by assembling stones. I asked Gis-nee for help since it was the apothecary’s regular closing day. I needed someone to do the hard work of setting up the stove.
“Rille-nee, is the water boiling?”
I looked at Rille-nee who was already working on the other pot.
She was surrounded by little kids and was softly scolding them for throwing twigs and grasses into the pot and making a racket over the fire sparks.
“Hey, don’t get too close. ――― Yeah, it’s boiling, Aime.”
“Then, move it to this pot.”
“I’ll carry it.”
“Don’t push yourself Fabian-sensei.”
I stopped the teacher, who was standing around idly, before he could reach for the pot, and his shoulders dropped sadly. You’re as delicate as a girl. I’m afraid to let you carry a piping hot pot. I invited Gis-nee for this exact reason.
“Can you light this stove for me, Sensei? Can you show him how to light it, Leni?”
“Sure… but it’ll be faster if I just light it myself.”
She grumbled as she taught Fabian-sensei how to use a flint. It’s fun for a student to teach a teacher sometimes, right?
“Guys, now put the wood in this stove.”
The tiny kids ran up to the stove and tossed flammable materials into it. When the fire was started, I poured hot water into the pot of soap little by little.
“First, we have to melt the soap. Put up with the smell, alright?”
I stuck a stick into the pot and stirred it well. An unpleasant smell spread around the area as the soap simmered, and the kids pinched their noses and shrieked. The hardest part was mixing it, and I was the one who was doing the mixing!
If I remember correctly, soap made from animal fats had a strong smell.
In my previous life, my mum had a hobby of making soap, so I learnt a little about it alongside her.
Soap was made by adding alkaline solvent to fats and oils, and the properties of soap varied greatly depending on the type of oil used.
Also, the soap won’t harden properly depending on the type and amount of alkaline solvent used, or even if you used water with high mineral content instead of purified water.
I believe the soap sold in this town was made from an alkaline solution made by boiling plant ashes. The word ‘alkali’ meant ‘ash’ in Arabic. A solution made from plant ashes can only produce soft soap.
I personally feel that hard soap was easier to use than soft soap, so I decided to make hard soap as well as scented soap.
“Rille-nee, add the beeswax.”
There was no need for complex logic. We just simply needed to harden it with wax.
“Okay, like this?”
Rille-nee pinched her nose and threw the beeswax into the pot. I borrowed some of the beeswax from the classroom.
“Thanks. Just let it simmer for a little longer.”
I had the fire put out when the wax had melted and mixed well.
After letting it cool slightly, it was time to introduce the main ingredient.
“Hey, come here. I’m going to put in a magic ingredient that will make it smell good.”
I called the kids who were lingering in the distance and showed them the bottle I had brought from the store.
This was a homemade incense that I had discovered through my experiments with various plants soaked in ethanol and oil. It was neither good nor bad, but it did smell good.
I could smell a strong citrus scent when I opened the lid. It was a refreshing scent despite its black appearance.
“It’s made from soaking the yuwa berries that everyone collected the other day. I soaked them in oil for 20 days. I’m going to mix them together to make nice smelling soap.”
I asked the kids to help me collect the berries that grew on the roadside trees at this time of the year.
“I want to put some in!”
I handed the bottle to Theo, who had raised his hand, and concentrated on stirring the pot. The milk-white liquid mixed with the strange black liquid looked weird, and everyone around me shrieked again.
But the area became enveloped in a refreshing aroma as the volatile fragrance spread from the heat, and even the kids who were peeking from far away came over to take a peek at the pot.
“… It smells yummy~.”
“It’s bitter if you taste it.”
I laughed and warned the drooling kids. Then, I continued to mix the liquid.
“――― Yup, seems good. Now we just need it to chill and harden.”
I lined up the kids in a row and scooped the soap into their cups with a ladle.
Some of them blew on the soap, and some cooled it down in the canal. When the soap hardened, we cut a slit in the cup with a knife and took it out. It was done!
It was dark and a little off-coloured, but the smell of oil-based clay was masked by the citrus scent, and the kids pressed the soap to their noses and cheered.
“Will this do, Leni?”
Leni sniffed the soap timidly and nodded.
“Now, let’s all use this soap to wash ourselves! Cleanest first!”
So, we made an enclosed areas with wooden sticks and cloth dividers, and had everyone wash themselves, even the merchant kids.
After all, the best way to get along is to work together and get to know each other naked! I hope this will help break down the barriers.
Rille-nee, Fabian-sensei, and I washed the little kids and Gis-nee boiled water with the leftover firewood.
“Is it alright to let a noble teacher do this?”
Rille-nee looked at Fabian-sensei with concern.
It was discourteous to have him help with the experiment, but it was even more discourteous to have him wash a commoner kid, but he firmly replied, “It’s alright.”
“I’ll do anything for the children.”
“… I see.”
Gis-nee didn’t say anything to the passionate teacher who was brimming with love.
He was a ‘teacher’ before he was a noble. It was a good thing that he was helping because there were boys and girl students.
Their clean white skin was revealed when their grimy skin was scrubbed with soap. It hardly lathered, but it cleaned well. Well, it’s not like the lather of soap had anything to do with its cleaning ability.
But if this was used on hair, then it would remove too much oil and dry it out. So, I put a little bit of the perfumed oil from the bottle onto their hair and used it instead of treatment.
Their hair became shiny and their whole body smelled good which made the girls very happy.
“… This seems like it’ll sell well.”
A refreshed Leni sat beside me after she had washed her body. She stared at the perfumed oil.
Her hair, which I had thought was black, was now a beautiful chestnut colour after a good wash.
“Maybe someone is already selling it somewhere. It’s easy to make.”
I wiped my hands on a towel and handed her a piece of paper from my pouch.
“I’ll give you the grimoire, or rather the recipe. You might use it someday.”
Leni frowned as she looked at the detailed instructions on how to process the berries for its fragrance. I hadn’t done this in front of everyone else.
“I can’t read it.”
“You’ll have to study.”
“It’s a pain in the ass.”
She was always sleeping whenever I saw her in class.
“So, you don’t want it?”
“I never return anything I get.”
She rolled up the paper and put it into her pocket.
I smiled at her and went back to washing the kids, but Leni stayed there for a while.
Then, I heard her muttering blankly, “… Can I make money if I study?”
After that, the number of kids coming to school increased again.
Kids from different backgrounds were getting to know each other a little better, and the aura in the classroom wasn’t bad. Fabian-sensei was getting more and more energetic.
“――― Is it alright for me to not go anymore?”
Rille-nee expressed one evening after seeing that the school had stabilised, and the students had increased. We were getting ready for bed after finishing dinner.
“The apothecary is also busy.”
“You don’t have to worry about that.”
Gis-nee said as she did the ledger at the table.
Rille-nee made the bed as she looked at Gis-nee.
“I think I’ve learnt all I need to know. I can read now, and I’ve learnt how to greet high-ranking nobles.”
Rille-nee suddenly corrected her posture, put one leg behind her and slightly bent the leg in front. She greeted me with the noble greeting that Fabian-sensei had taught her.
“How do you do, Aime-ojousama?”
“Oh my, how do you do, Ridill-ojousama? Would you like to join me for some tea?”
She seemed to be having fun, so I replied in the same way. Gis-nee laughed.
“Looks like you can even become a noble tomorrow.”
Rille-nee also chuckled and continued.
“I’ve been so busy learning that I haven’t really thought about this… but after learning different things at school, I think I want to learn more about medicinal herbs.”
“Yeah, it’s thanks to Aime.”
Rille-nee nodded deeply.
“You showed me a lot of interesting things, so I want to learn more and more about different things. But the thing I want to learn about the most is medicinal herbs.”
She smiled as she said this, and I had nothing else to say to her.
I made the decision to live in the apothecary, and Rille-nee just went along with me, and she studied to be allowed to stay here, but now she wanted to study about it more.
This was the first time I’ve seen her be proactive in her own affairs.
I was happy to see her act this way.
“So, please take care of me from now on Gis-nee.”
She bowed her head again and Gis-nee looked a little embarrassed.
“Alright, alright. I’ve already taught you nearly everything I know though.”
“You have to teach me everything.”
“Oh, then I’ll give my poisonous plant notes to Rille-nee.”
Although Gis-nee stopped me, I was proud of my data, which I had collected over the span of several years, so I gave it to Rille-nee anyway.
Rille-nee told Fabian-sensei what had happened and stopped going to school. Or rather in this case, I should say that she graduated.
Soon after that, I learnt most of what had been taught, and I started to hear the same things over and over again whenever I went to class, so I borrowed books from the teacher and learnt by myself while working in the apothecary.
I can easily read any book with difficult words now. Natural history was my favourite at the moment.
A little less than a year has passed since I started studying and I am now 12.