Chapter 17: Bonds
「Fuu~, it feels so nice…」
Muttering to herself with empty eyes, a half-empty bottle of alcohol threatened to spill from her hand onto the floor. There were already three on the table.
Aria drank too much. Apparently, she was really happy about Tama being her pet. As for Tama himself, having been shocked by Aria’s drinking yet not really having anything to do since he’s a cat, he decided to quietly groom himself on the bed.
「Hey, leaving your master alone and cleaning yourself… Tama’s so cold… If that’s the way you want it, why don’t we just take a bath together?」
Tama froze, tongue stuck on an outstretched leg. Aria ignored him, leisurely cleaned up her mess, then tossed a towel and change of clothes into the basket beside her bed.
「I’m going, so are you joining me or not~?」
She picked up her basket and turned to Tama with a somewhat lonely look on her face.
I… suppose I have no choice. She is the master of this knight. I swore that no matter when or where, I wouldn’t leave her side. Yep, there’s just no helping it!
Overcoming his chivalry with his pride, Tama came up with just the excuse he needed to convince himself to enter the women’s bath. After all, there was no telling if some lust-crazed men would trespass and assault a beauty like his master… So, he jumped into the basket, moving light as a feather.
「Ah, Aria. Coming down for a bath?」
「Yes. It’s a bit late, but may I?」
The second floor of the inn consisted of rooms, and most of the first was a bar-slash-reception desk. After coming down from the second floor, Aria was addressed by the inn’s landlady, carrying a tray of dishes.
「Sure, it’s okay. You’re the last one for the night, so feel free to take your time. And please wash the kitty well.」
「Thank you very much!」
Aria gave the landlady her gratitude and left for the back of the inn. It was an alternate-use room, but the size of the washroom and bath weren’t small at all.
Some less-than-righteous men tried to follow her, too, but the landlady successfully warded them off.
I… Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned…
Alone in the dressing room, Aria shamelessly and erotically undressed, followed by a deep scrub of her entire body to clean up. Of course, Tama took in every inch. A captivating figure that just begged to be touched, and not a single blemish or mark on her supple skin… but there was something that grabbed his attention more than anything else.
It was those little devils on Aria’s chest, floating on the water’s surface. Drifting and swimming in the water, Tama couldn’t help but sneak peeks at them whenever he could.
While staring at the ceiling, Aria came out of her bath-induced daze and called to the cat. Tama was flustered for a moment, thinking his peeping was caught.
「Tama… Do you think I can become strong?」
With an anxious look in her eyes, Aria started to talk.
「You see, the country I used to live in was attacked by a demon army a long time ago. At the time I was too small and weak to do anything but hide… But, the demons and their sharp noses found me in no time…」
Aria trembled while she spoke, evidently remembering what happened. But soon her lips curled up into a smile.
「But right then, the “Sword Saint” appeared! She showed up in front of me, and using two swords she cut down the demons one after another.」
Sword Saint… Could that be the one I’m thinking of?
The name wasn’t unfamiliar to Tama. The Sword Saint is the title of an elf girl who popped up out of nowhere a few years ago. She went Dynasty Warriors on the demon armies and single-handedly saved an entire country.
As Tama realized that Aria was likely saved by the same person, she continued.
「Back then, I decided that someday I’d be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Sword Saint, and I’d be the one doing the saving… That’s why I became an adventurer.」
Aria’s noble wish touched his heart and brought a tear to his eye. Yet not a minute later, she fell back into a mild depression.
He could guess what she wanted to say. Aria wasn’t anywhere close to saving someone in need. She got ahead of herself and into unnecessary danger, and had to be saved by Tama. No doubt it got to her.
It’s okay, Master… You’re still young. You have a long road ahead of you to getting stronger, but I know you can get to the finish line. Plus, you have me. As long as I live, I’ll protect you until you reach your goal.
Once again, Tama steeled his resolve to keep Aria safe. Now swimming more skillfully, he approached Aria’s side. He gently climbed onto her shoulder, then rubbed his head against her cheek.
「Tama… Fufu, you’re too kind.」
That night… An elf girl and her pet Behemoth deepened their bond.