“What drew you to the traghetto, Ayumi?” Atora took a sip from her mug, holding it with gloveless hands. “We know just how much you like the traghetto, but I don’t remember asking you when you started liking it.”
Late spring in Neo-Venezia. The air is still cool enough for coffee and company - something the three girls haven’t gotten to do recently. The sun hangs low in the horizon, coloring the white linen of their table and the canal aside them a pale orange.
Ayumi chuckled. “Yeah. I never told you guys about that, did I?” She took a moment to look fondly at her right hand, clad in a white glove with a green bar at the center. “Well, it was at this one lecture when I was a Pair at Himeya...”
“As Undines, you are trained and will work on the traditional gondola, featuring a platform at the stern for the gondolier and the space for the passengers aft,” the instructor pointed to a small model gondola. “This design was made in Man-Home in the nineteenth century and was meant to be rowed by one person, while larger older designs featured a cabin and were rowed by two or three persons.”
She then pointed to an adjacent model, a larger gondola featuring an additional space at the front of the boat for another gondolier to stand on. “These older designs were the base of the Neo-Venetian traghetto, which is used as a ferry or transport. Singles can try their hand at a traghetto, and it’s very recommended as it tests the rower’s strength and endurance at a higher level than a normal gondola. More importantly, having to work with another gondolier to handle the boat promotes teamwork and communication skills. Most, if not all Prima Undines have worked on a traghetto at least once when they were Singles.”
A hand was raised in the room. “Yes, Ms. Jasmine?” The orange-haired girl stood.
“Are there Undines that like the traghetto better than the gondola?”
The instructor nodded. “Yes, though not very many. That said, traghetto work pays consistently, even more so than as a Prima. Most of the Undines that do stay on the traghetto say they just prefer the work, however, rather than mentioning the pay. It's hard work, and definitely not in the spotlight like the work of an Undine, but traghetto workers get to see a side of Neo-Venezia that few Undines and tourists see.”
“Thank you.” Ayumi sat down, her eyes shining with excitement. For the rest of the lecture, she hardly paid attention - but she was hard at work, making notes off a textbook opened at the chapter on traghettos.
“I never really liked rowing alone, you know.” Ayumi looked at the water with a pensive look. “It felt very lonely, rowing alone. I always loved it when we practiced together, and I would make excuses if I had to practice by myself. When I see my fellow traghetto gondoliers, and the familiar faces of the passengers who take the traghetto day by day...there’s nothing that comes close.”
“The pay did help a lot though.” The girls giggled into their mugs and sipped, looking on at the canal - now a deep orange-red. The voice of an Undine singing a barcarole wafted from afar - a soft and gentle sound. There was silence around the table as the three girls listened in.
“Atora..isn’t that Alice singing the barcarole?”
Atora looked at the dark-haired girl and nodded. “You’re right, Anzu - it’s Alice. She’s still having a bit of trouble raising her voice, but she doesn’t need it tonight.”
Evening had started to settle in, and the light was fading fast. The three girls did not move, however, seemingly ignoring the cue.
Ayumi smiled. “Nobody wants to be the first to leave. But I have work to do tomorrow!” She got up, stretching her arms. “The one thing you Undines have going are some pretty nice off-days..maybe I’ll get myself a couple if Green Dream gets some more gondoliers.”
Atora giggled. “Would you mind if we show up as your customers?” The remark drew a stare and a laugh from Ayumi.
“We’re not that desperate!”