Part 35: Cent's Story: The Jewel within My PalmCent's Story: The Jewel within My Palm
Are you all right, Cent? You're not hurt, are you?
My master, Lady Two, is referring to the monster we just split in half with a sword. Though I knew what she was about to say. It's only natural for a disciple of my caliber to be of one mind with matters.
I am completely fine. But, Lady Two...
I need her to worry about herself first and foremost. We had just slain several minotaurs two to three times her size, after all. In the middle of this desert, no less. We had slain the minotaurs while battling against the scorching rays of the sun and the sandstorms to boot. I feel that there is no battlefield the world over that compares to the ferocity found here. I'm certain of it.
Yet, Lady Two's next words are a bit of a surprise.
Don't call me "Lady Two"! You promised you'd call me "Two" when we're alone!
Now she's make a pouty face. Ummm... I was going to ask if she was all right, but I think this issue takes precedence. However, seeing her pouty face makes me want to forget everything and just poke those puffy cheeks with my fingers. She's so cute.
Understood. Well then, Two, are you hurt?
Her face instantly changes to a grin from ear to ear. And, oh, how her puffy cheeks relax! It's not that I had forgotten our little promise, you know. I pretended to forget to see those expressions of hers: her adorable pouty face and that wide grin that surpasses even her pouty face. I'm able to see her cute expressions twice. I am a brilliant schemer, you see.
Trivia time-- there are two reason to refer to someone using a title, the first being proper etiquette. We must draw a line between our public and private interactions, after all. It wouldn't be prudent for me to refer to her simply as "Two" in some occasions. That's why I suggested referring to her as "Lady Two" why in the presence of others. As for the other reason? It's simple, really. You do so when the person you're talking to is more important than you. People naturally refer to an important person with a title like "Sir" or "Lady."
Lady Two is vastly more important than I, the handsome and skilled disciple, Cent. There aren't many people I regard as being above me, you know? That is why Lady Two is so unique. I would still think of her that way even if she weren't an Intoner. Yes, that's right. Our relationship as Intoner and disciple matters not. Let's say my master were another Intoner. I would merely serve her as a subordinate, nothing more. I gather it'd be the same regardless if I were serving Lady One, Lady Three, Lady Four, or Lady Five. It would merely be a job, a task. I would not spend every second of every day by the side of my master if it were any other Intoner. I would simply carry out the tasks given to me and then spend the rest of the day as I pleased. Is there anything more to ask of a disciple?
Lady Two is not important because she is an Intoner; she is important because she is Lady Two. That is why I refer to her as Lady Two at all times, at least in my mind. However, her face becomes glum whenever I refer to her as "Lady Two," you see. Her pouty face is adorable, indeed, but I hate to see her depressed. That's why I occasionally pretend to forget our promise and call her "Lady Two," but I don't get too carried away with the charade.
Now, then... Two, Er... Lady Two? What should I call her now? Darn it, I really seem to have forgotten where I was at in our conversation...
She gazes at me in wonder, her eyes busily scouring about. From glee, to anger, to surprise--her expressions constantly change. She may be a better schemer than I! It is not as though she has a plan or uses the power of her song to enthrall me so. She captures my heart by merely changing her expression ever so slightly.
Come on, Cent. Stop playing around with my cheeks! Stop it. My cheeks'll fall off if you poke them so much.
You're mistaken, my lady. I am not playing. This is an exercise to maintain your lovely complexion by stimulating the muscles in your face and improving blood flow.
Really...? That's amaaazing! Do it some more, please!
That's an obvious lie. My apologies, Lady Two. I couldn't help myself. Your cheeks are so cute and soft.
N-No! No grinning like that!
The way she prances about in that flustered manner makes my heart flutter. Everything she says and does is adorable. It's no wonder that everyone adores the Lady Intoner. Everyone in this land wishes to please our beloved Intoner in some way. However...
Our soldiers would seem out of work with how easily you conquer these beasts.
The majority of our troops wish to protect Lady Two, and so they volunteered to serve as soldiers, but...
Huh? Why, I couldn't possibly let everyone handle such a dangerous task! What if someone got hurt?
I knew you'd say that. You did slay several minotaurs all by yourself. I did lend a hand, of course. Whatever the case, all of our troops combined would pale in comparison to Lady Two's might. Our troops must first train and become stronger if they wish to realize their aspirations of protecting an Intoner.
But what a surprise. Who would have thought that minotaurs would nest in a place like this?
True. However, there is a watering hole nearby; so it's not all that surprising for monsters to nest here.
I guess. Now that I think about it, we're close to a path, so it makes sense.
A caravan from the east came rushing in dismay after they had spotted the nest. However, they lacked communication skills, so we weren't able to decipher what kind of monster had nested. But the results would have been the same, even had they been articulate. Lady Two stormed off as soon as she heard the news of the monster's nest being found. I'm certain she couldn't sit idly by with the thought of someone possibly being attacked.
Those minotaurs sure were tough, weren't they? Let's see... one, two, three, four... There were seven of them, after all. I guess I got caught up in the fight. I wasn't myself since I was so worried you'd get hurt.
Do not worry. A scratch here and there wouldn't be a problem, if it were while protecting you.
You have that look as if you want to say I'm wrong. I know what to say:
But that would sadden you. As you can see, I am perfectly fine. Not a scratch.
It is my duty as a disciple to protect my Intoner. I would be a failure if I did not fulfill that duty.
So, what should we do with these?
You mean the minotaur carcasses?
We couldn't possibly carry seven of them by ourselves. I could carry two, and then you could carry one... So we could only carry three back in one trip. Hmmm... What to do with the rest?
As you can tell, Lady Two has no intention of leaving the carcasses behind. Minotaur meat is edible, after all. It actually tastes similar to buffalo. I'm sure those who reside in bountiful lands would never dream of eating a monster, but things are different here. Obviously, there are those who lose their appetite when it comes to gigas or goblins, but Lady Two strives to create unique recipes and serve rare foods on occasion to familiarize everyone with these options.
You're right. For starters, why don't we move the carcasses back into the nest?
Unlike sandworms, minotaurs can't dwell under the sands of the desert. That's why they use cracks in the rocks as dens. That means this location provides some shelter from the blazing heat.
Since this is a shaded area, the meat should keep for about half a day. What about having the troops transport the meat back home during that time?
What a great idea! You really are a genius, Cent! Okay, let's get this done quickly!
One of Lady Two's strong suits is her quick take to action once a decision's been made. And just like that, Lady Two lifts the minotaurs with ease and throws them back into the nest. I had to hand it to her.
Are you tired, my lady?
Nope, not at all. Oh, could you do that thing again?
Remember? You massaged my shoulders after we played with the kids.
As you wish.
Ah, now I see. That's right. I had given her a massage the other day to relieve the tension in her shoulders after we had played with the children outside. I don't think she realized that her shoulders and arms were as stiff as bricks. To put it simply, Lady Two's muscles are more developed than an average person. It's no surprise, seeing as how easily she was able to lift those minotaur carcasses. It's not uncommon for her to underestimate her strength and break doors or snap doorknobs. That's why she give the utmost care when playing with the children, to ensure that they don't get hurt. She unconsciously tenses up whenever she handles something fragile. She never relaxes her arms or shoulders the entire time, so I'm not all that surprised that she gets tired.
Yet, the thought of spending less time with the children never crosses Lady Two's mind. She is always busy fulfilling her duties as an Intoner, but never lets them become an impediment. In fact, the busier she gets, the more she wants to spend time with them so that they don't feel lonely. That is how precious those children are to Lady Two. To her, they are family. Furthermore, Lady Two loses her appetite worrying if even one child gets a fever or a stomach ache. Children often suffer such maladies; it's only natural. I've reminded her on countless occasions that she herself will grow weak if she doesn't rest or eat while tending to the children, but she never seems to listen.
I'm sure Lady Two understands, but she just can't seem to stop herself. To her, that's the only way to nurse a sick or injured child back to health quickly. Though it is frustrating to think that the only thing I can do for Lady Two is to relieve her of her fatigue.
Good as new! That was perfect. Thank you, Cent.
You're welcome, my lady.
All right! Let's go home.
She picks herself up off the ground with a small leap, like that of a small animal. I sometimes worry that she'll just wander off like a wild rabbit or squirrel. Of course, my fears are unfounded. There is no way she would abandon a vital country such as this.
I'm glad we were able to deal with those monsters before leaving for our trip. It wouldn't feel right to be away if those things had settled here in the desert.
True. Especially having been summoned by Lady One, we have no idea of how long our absence will last.
I may have misspoken. She must have thought of her upcoming battle and the person she must face. That must be why she seemed depressed. Even if for only a split second. The upcoming battle will no doubt be a difficult one, even with my assistance.
Please, do not make such a face. Sadness does not suit you, my lady.
Don't worry. The world Lady One strives for is one where everyone will live happily. Therefore, the world is our ally. Defeat is impossible.
That's better. Now that awful frown is gone.
You're right. Everyone can live happily if we do our best.
Always remember that I will be by your side. I will protect you at all times, Lady Two.
I know. Please stay with me, no matter what.
I swear it.
She's finally smiling again. Yes, that suits you much better than a frown.
How about taking a little trip once the battle in the Cathedral City is settled?
Really? Oh, but, I don't know. I don't think it'd be right for just the two of us to go on a trip.
Then what about a journey to rid the world of monsters? It seems we're close to eradicating monsters from this country, so why don't we do the same for the other countries?
That's a great idea! Then everyone would be happy!
Yes, that's exactly what I wanted to see--that pure, childlike smile of yours. I want to always see you smiling like that. I will do anything to keep you smiling, absolutely anything to protect that wonderful smile.
But I'm worried about leaving the little ones alone...
You're such a worrywart. Especially, when it comes to those children. But I guess that's what makes you who you are.
Then what about leaving them in the care of Lady One? The Cathedral City is the safest place in the world.
You're right! I didn't even think about that!
We could have several of our soldiers accompany them to lessen the burden on Lady One, as well.
Yeah! I'll ask One about it! I'll check out the cathedral while I'm there, too.
What a relief. This should relieve you of the anxiety you had over your upcoming battle. There shouldn't be anything clouding your judgment anymore.
It's set, then. We'll travel the world and eradicate monsters--wherever they may be hiding. You mentioned wanting to travel the world, just the two of us.
A disciple as smart as I may forget things that transpired five minutes ago, but I never forget the words my precious Lady Two speaks.
There's no doubt. I'd remember your smile even if my memory was wiped. I'll hold onto those memories no matter what.
<pouts> Oooh, you said "Lady Two" again!
We are in the presence of others.
I see our soldiers in the distance behind Lady Two's shoulders, kicking up sand as they approach. I told them we'd be fine. I'm with Lady Two, after all. They were probably worried about her and followed us. I guess it can't be helped. I do understand how they feel.
Perfect timing. Let's have them carry the minotaur carcasses back.
I see! We can use the meat for dinner if we carry it back now. Hmmm... What should I make? Would shish-kebob be good? Or maybe something grand, like a roast?
My how your expressions change. Everything about you is wonderful. Truly.
What is it?
I just wanted to say your name, really. I wanted to see you turn around. No, that's not it.
Let's go home. Lend me your hand.
I want to hold your hand. I won't let go. Ever.