I finally got to meet the young cat beastman daughter of one of Ashtel’s dukes.
[Rinoa]: “It’s nice to meet you. I am Rinoa Kiel from the kingdom of Ashtel.”
She gave a far more polite greeting than I would have thought. From what I heard from El the other day, she acts much more like a female knight than a duke’s daughter, but I suppose the difference between those two things has nothing to do with a touch of willfulness.
[Sophia]: “I am Sophia Calston. And this”
[Rose]: “Roselia Winsley”
I gave my own name and bowed to the young lady right after Sophia-sama.
[Rinoa]: “Hoh, so you’re Roselia-sama then.”
Rinoa-sama narrowed her gaze, her eyes instantly locking onto my face.
(Did she hear about me from El too? Well it was almost certain we would meet each other eventually, so it’s only natural that he would’ve told her something.)
[Rose]: “You know me?”
[Rinoa]: “Yes, Routh told me everything. The noblewoman who rescued him when he was in this country before.”
[Sophia]: “Rinoa-sama, instead of standing around talking, how about I escort you to the courtyard? We can talk there while sharing a cup of tea. Don’t you think so too Roselia-sama?”
Sophia-sama always just calls me Rose-chan, but since we’re in front of a noble from another country, she has to be more formal and use my full name. No nicknames allowed. But still, it feels a little odd having her call me Roselia when she usually so happily calls me Rose-chan every other time.
It was a short walk for us to reach the castle’s courtyard. A table was already set up for a tea party by the time we got there, and numerous different colored confections were lined up in the center.
[Sophia]: “So Rinoa-sama, we have prepared some of our country’s most popular cakes and cookies. Please pick out whichever one you like.”
[Rinoa]: “Hmm, I’m going to be in trouble if you give me so many different options.”
With her thin cat-like tail swinging behind her as she looked over the plate of sweets, I can say with the utmost certainty that Rinoa-sama is cute.
[Rose]: “Do you like sweets Rinoa-sama?”
I forced out a question in order to beat the growing temptation in my heart to pet Rinoa-sama’s wagging tail.
[Rinoa]: “I do love them although the quality of sweets in Ashtel aren’t very high. Men and women alike are taught the art of chivalry. As such, sweets and anything deemed cute are usually looked down upon……which is why I was really looking forward to visiting your country. During his stay here, Routh told me he tasted all sorts of different delicious sweets and candies, and he saw tons of cute things he had never seen before. …..Plus, I get to see Routh like this.”
That last part was barely more than a whisper, but I heard it loud and clear since I was sitting right next to her.
My chest suddenly started feeling real itchy.
(What is this…..)
Why does hearing Rinoa-sama talk about El like this make me feel so uncomfortable? No matter how hard I thought about it, I couldn’t come up with an answer.
So in order to push that uncomfortable feeling to the side and bury it away, I put all my focus into enjoying the tea party together with Rinoa-sama and Sophia-sama.
[El]: “Ah! Rose”
Just as I realized there was someone coming up from behind us, I heard a voice I recognized and immediately turned around.
It’s only been a few days……almost a week since I’ve seen him, but as soon as El entered my gaze, I was overcome with this nostalgic feeling as if another couple years had passed since we had seen each other.
[El]: “Long time no see Rose. It’s a little weird. It feels a lot longer than it’s been since we’ve been able to see each other. Maybe because I was always thinking of you while I was here.”
[El]: “Right, today was that tea party with Rinoa. How is it? You haven’t done anything careless yet have you? Did you say anything rude to Rose or Sophia-sama?”
There was something about how El was calling Rinoa-sama without any honorifics and how friendly he was when addressing her that I didn’t like.
But, since I couldn’t figure out the reason why it bothered me so much, I kept a lid on my feelings for the time being. Instead I defended Rinoa-sama, telling El we had been having a wonderful time together.
[Rose]: “You are incredibly cute Rinoa-sama. Although, I already knew you were a cat beastman, but nobody ever told me you were actually a panther!”
That’s right. Rinoa-sama wasn’t so much a cat as she is a feline. A black panther to be exact. Which apparently makes her very limber and helps make her one of the strongest swordswomen in Ashtel.
Which, unfortunately, is one more reason why Rinoa-sama isn’t allowed to enjoy sweets and cute things.
[Rinoa]: “Ah~ sure, I get that…..hm? But cats and panthers really are similar! And us panther beastmen have become relatively docile over the years, so the differences that did exist aren’t that prevalent anymore.”
Rinoa-sama straightened out her back and adjusted her way of speaking mid-sentence after noticing El’s frightening glare over her relaxed demeanor.
[El]: “I will be staying with Rinoa in the castle for a while, but I will be coming to school again starting tomorrow.”
(…..so he’s not coming home…..)
I was overcome with a sudden powerful lonely feeling, but not wanting El to notice, I forced on a smile and said, “Then I’ll see you in school tomorrow.”
(…..my smile looked natural right? …..it doesn’t look like El noticed anything. All right! I’ve been feeling a little weird ever since yesterday. I wonder why…..)
My head felt a little hazy, but eventually chalking it up to the excitement over meeting my first panther beastman, I returned home.