Pledging a Promise
I managed to return to the Heart Family's mansion before dawn. The fight with the Crown Kobolt followed by the exuberance of the Gluttony skill had left me exhausted. Leaning Greed against the desk in my room, I collapsed onto the bed and my consciousness faded into darkness.
…The bright sunlight streaming in through the window woke me up.
Hm? Seeing the position of the sun, it appeared to be around noon. Could it be that I had overslept like a log? Rushing to put on my clothes, I dashed out of the room. Maya snickered at me as I passed by.
"Overslept-san, you're finally awake. Doing that will make Roxy-sama fire you."
"Ehhh, that's… Where's Roxy-sama? I have to apologise for this blunder…"
Maya seemed happy to see me in a panicked state. What was this? The possibility that I would be fired was not a humorous matter! This was what I thought.
"Sorry for laughing. It's just that your expression was like a puppy that was about to be abandoned. It's amusing, fufufu. Once again, I apologise. But don't be worried. It was a lie."
"What do you mean?"
"It was Roxy-sama's orders to let you sleep."
While I was still surprised, Maya continued speaking. Apparently, Roxy-sama had been worried that I had not woken up in the morning so she had come to check for herself. When she had not received a reply from knocking, she was anxious that something may have happened so she opened the door, only to find that I was sleeping with my mouth wide open. Seeing me like that, Roxy-sama thought I must have been tired from harvesting grapes yesterday and told the maids to let me sleep as much as I wanted. The truth was that I had been fatigued from fighting the Crown Kobolt, though I could not say that.
"Is that so?"
"Since you have received permission from Roxy-sama, it's fine if you go back to sleep."
"No, no, it's alright. I've already slept well enough."
Returning to sleep would be too audacious. For now, I had to apologise to Roxy-sama.
"So, where is Roxy-sama?"
"You've been told yesterday, right? She went Kobolt hunting with the armed men."
Had she left already? To the valley with the destroyed nature. By now, Roxy-sama should have seen it and would be surprised. I was worried about what she might conclude from it. Well, there should be no evidence that it was my doing. Let's remain calm.
"About what time will they return?"
"Let's see. Based on previous years, maybe tomorrow morning. Kobolts are nocturnal, so they trap them during the day and would likely keep hunting them until dawn breaks."
With that said, I was certain that they would be back by today. If they saw the ravaged valley, they would know someone had fought Kobolts there. Moreover, if there were still Kobolts on the other side of the valley, they probably would not come back to the Heart territory after such a fight. Having driven away the Kobolts every year, Roxy-sama should know this from her experience.
Well, there would probably be a commotion when they returned. I should keep this in mind in advance. While I was thinking about such things,
"You really like Roxy-sama, don't you?"
She said such a strange thing so suddenly that I let out a weird sound. As a servant, I was just thinking of my master… yes.
"What are you saying so suddenly?!"
"You're flustered. Fufufu… Oh well."
Maya seemed to have found my reaction very interesting and while trying to smother her laughter with her hands, she went back to work.
"Please wait. Is there anything I can do?"
Here was a chance for me to redeem myself from oversleeping. I may have been treated as a guest here at the mansion, yet I was still Roxy-sama's servant. I could not possibly receive a salary without doing anything. It seemed like my enthusiasm was communicated and Maya tilted her head, "Hmm."
"Well, I wonder if you could accompany Aisha-sama. She seems to be free."
"I understand! I'll do my best!"
After asking for Aisha-sama's whereabouts and thanking Maya, I ran off.
"Hey, don't run down the corridor! It would be dangerous if you crashed into someone!"
I had acted unbecomingly of a servant. I bowed to Maya who had scolded me and walked onwards with quickened footsteps.
Aisha-sama was in her own quarters. It was clearly different to my guest room, as I knocked on a door that was built a few steps higher. A moment later, there was a response from inside.
"Pardon my intrusion."
"Oh, Fate. Good timing. I was becoming bored looking only at the view from the window."
Aisha-sama welcomed me with a smile of a young girl. Her health appeared to be poor today as she rested in a half-sitting position on the bed.
"Come, sit down."
As prompted, I sat on the chair next to the bed. Aisha-sama grinned, then cast her glance towards the outside scenery again. I followed her gaze and for a while, we observed the mansion's garden. Even as an apprentice, I could see that the residence of the territory had a well-maintained garden. I guessed that the gardeners here really liked the Heart Family.
"It's a good garden, isn't it?"
"Indeed, especially the area visible through this window. Even though I've said that they didn't need to do so much, the old gardener still does his best."
I see… Aisha-sama suffered a severe illness and could rarely go outside. So, they were concerned for her being confined to her room.
"I've troubled you…"
Aisha-sama seemed happy as she said that. We continued talking for a while, laughing endlessly. When my stomach growled from having skipped breakfast, she called for a maid to bring a light meal.
Somehow, her kindness felt like that of a mother's. Well, my mother passed away shortly after giving birth to me so I could not say I knew of that. Surely it would have been like this gratuitous kindness.
When Aisha-sama placed her teacup on the saucer, her expression suddenly turned serious and she faced me.
"I probably… don't have much longer."
"Don't say that. Even now…"
I could not say that she looked fine. She was bedridden at this very moment. Aisha-sama continued from my words.
"That's true, I'm still fine now. However, it will definitely happen. After all, I know myself the best."
"…Why do you tell this to me?"
"I thought if it's you, you would support Roxy. Can I ask that of you?"
As I felt confused, Aisha-sama explained. She said that after her husband died in Gallia, Roxy-sama had been greatly shocked. Yet, it looked like when I came to the Heart Family, I had been Roxy-sama's moral support. When she was alone with Aisha-sama, she had said, "I can't let Fate think I'm a sloppy master, so I can't stop."
"At that time, Roxy-sama had a good look in her eyes. Just like him when he was young."
"However, someone like me…"
Our social statuses and positions were too different. Besides, I could not even show my power now that I had some. If I encouraged her from the shadows, could that still be called supporting… It felt dissimilar somehow.
While I was perplexed, Aisha-sama placed her hand over mine. The <Mind-reading> skill was activated and I heard her voice.
(It's alright… It's not such a complicated thing.)
Releasing my hand gently, her internal voice was cut off. The words continued from Aisha-sama's mouth.
"There is no need for a high social status or position. Not even for a Holy Knight's strength. The important thing is in here."
Her fingertip pointed towards my chest.
"The important thing is that you want to be there from the bottom of your heart."
"Exactly. After all, I… was originally a commoner without any useful skills. Even so, I was able to support my husband who was a Holy Knight. If I was able to do it, then Fate would certainly be capable. I believe in this."
There was no doubt that Aisha-sama had a stronger heart than me although she was sickly. Her words felt heavy to me, since I had only sought power after awakening the Gluttony skill. For this reason, I wanted to be like Aisha-sama.