Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Arc 2 Storm
Chapter 7 Salvation
* * *
—I felt like I was forgetting something important.
His small hands clutched my clothes tightly. He was crying a lot, telling me not to go. I patted the child’s head, not answering anything.
…That’s right, the child’s hair was black. I thought it was unusual. Although back then it looked shaggy from lack of nutrition, I was sure it would look beautiful if he ate properly.
The child looked up at me, his lips pursed in a tight line. Skinny, but with glowing eyes. Red eyes that sucked me in— red— red…
As I awoke with a gasp, the blankets that had been covering me slipped off my body. I looked around and saw that I was in the master bedroom of the mansion. I was tucked into the only large bed in the house.
Outside the window, the sky was overcast. I had no idea what time it was. Ideal was sitting beside me, holding a wet handkerchief. When I saw him, I clung onto him shamelessly.
“Ideal! We need to go get Akane or the rain will…! The wind is getting stronger, we need to go now!!”
I couldn’t forgive myself for falling asleep and forgetting about Akane, despite everything that had happened. I’d told him to stay in a safe place, but no matter how smart he was, he was still a cat. On top of that, it was raining and windy in a storm.
He could be shivering somewhere. Or he might be injured. I was becoming distraught when Ideal pushed me back on the bed.
“Calm down, Shuka-san. The cat has been inside the house since before the rain started. He’s eaten lots of food and is playing with some catnip the servants gave him.”
“Eh? Is that right…? Ah, that’s good…”
It was easy to imagine a scene of the wise and brazen Akane making the maid shake the catnip for him. A relief so profound that I felt like I could cry occupied my heart.
Ideal stroked my head as I gripped my chest. He placed the wet rag in the washbasin on the bedside table.
“Your fever seems to have come down, but you still can’t move. I’m going to change the compress, so please stay calm.”
“Huh? Owww… Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!”
It was only when I was informed of it that I became aware of the pain that attacked my entire body. Even the slightest movement of my arm caused a severe nerve-wracking pain. My whole body was creaking and numb.
“Oh, yeah, I…”
This was my body’s reaction to walking around for a whole day to gather information. Moreover, I’d had to be wary of robbers, and I’d been forced to adopt a posture that was unreasonable for me at this point in my life. On top of that, the wind and rain were like a storm, and it was easy for my body, which was covered with old injuries, to get rattled.
“Did I have a fever?”
“Yeah. You’ve been in bed for two and a half days.”
“Two and a half days?! And you’ve been stuck taking care of me. I feel terrible…”
It had been two and a half days since then, which meant that my curse had long returned. The curse that could be suppressed for three days with sex. Once the effects wore off, the servants would have a terrible aversion to me. There was no way they could take care of me. For that reason, all that burden fell on Ideal alone, for whom the curse had no effect.
“…Don’t worry about it. I’ll get you a blanket.”
“Wait, why am I naked…?! No, no, I’m sorry, I know, it’s easier for you to take care of me this way…”
I was lying naked on the bed. Moreover, I was in the master bedroom — in Ideal’s bed. Compresses were applied all over my body. The herbs were so plentiful and of such high quality that they were immediately recognizable by their aroma. Without them, I would have been in significantly worse pain by now. If Ideal had applied and pasted so many compresses without help, it was only natural that I would be completely naked. Anyway, the room was heated by a fireplace and there wasn’t a trace of cold.
“Ah, my scars… sorry, it’s so ugly…”
I looked down at my body and realized again. Even though it was mostly covered with compresses, my scarred, disfigured skin was peeking out here and there.
“Don’t hide. I’ve already seen it all.”
I tried to curl up and was stopped. It was true that I had passed out in the bath, so it was too late to cover my scars.
—Was Ideal shocked?
Did he regret having held such an ugly body? Time moved on without me finding the courage to ask. The only sounds in the quiet room were the occasional reapplication of compresses and the crackling of the fireplace.
Ideal stood up after all the compresses had been changed. I thought he was going to leave the room as he was, but he climbed onto the bed. Ideal looked down at me and took my arm. There was an incredibly deep scar there. It was a scar from being whipped so hard that it broke my bones and took away my grip.
Ideal kissed it reverently. Respectfully and carefully. His hot lips repeatedly touched the scar, over and over again.
“You aren’t disgusted?”
“Not at all.”
Ideal answered roughly to my trembling voice.
—I felt as if something inside of me had been saved, even though that was all he said.
It was as if that ugly scar was a medal of honor. It felt like something to be proud of. Of course, that was only an illusion. It was just my imagination. Still, the surge of emotions that invaded my heart blew away my complex a little.
“…Shuka-san, stick out your tongue.”
“Huh? Like this?”
Releasing my arm, Ideal pulled me close to him. His face was so close to mine that our eyelashes were almost touching, and his red eyes filled my vision. When I put my tongue out as I was told, I felt something soft and slippery entwining with it. He didn’t overlap our lips, and only our tongues intertwined together. It felt like I was doing something very shameful and my breath caught in my throat. When I tried to look away, he grabbed my chin and pressed his lips against mine.
“Nnn… hah… mmmph…”
Our lips parted before it became too painful and I breathed. As soon as I did, our lips overlapped again. I opened my eyes, which had been closed for some time, and his red gaze was fixed intently on me. My heart pounded loudly. I felt like I was about to remember something, but the tongue caressing the inside of my mouth melted everything away and I forgot.
How much time had passed? When my breathing started becoming labored, our lips parted. Ideal laid down next to me and cradled my head in his arms, letting me use them as a pillow. He stroked my hair, making me feel slow and drowsy. I closed my eyelids and began to drift off into a sea of sleep. Just before entering the dream world, I felt something tugging at the corner of my mind.
Hey, did I— did I ever tell Ideal that Akane is a cat…?
* * *
After about six days, I made a full recovery. I was no longer in pain, and I was even feeling better than before thanks to the long sleep in a soft bed. I couldn’t thank Ideal enough. But there was one thing that was really troubling me.
—He wouldn’t let me leave his room.