Belinda sat down on the sofa, drying her long hair with a towel. She finally got a chance to look around the room properly.
Apart from the faded, old sofa, all the cramped room contained was a small bed, a narrow table with chipped edges, and a clothes hanger.
Now she understood why Aymon, used to the vast forest and his luxurious house, was so uneasy. He’d probably never been in such a confined, stuffy space. It was natural that he’d feel trapped.
“Aymon, are you nervous?”
「Yes. This is small. Too narrow. For what I’m used to.」
Aymon awkwardly said in broken sentences.
“What on earth are you talking about?”
There was no answer. Aymon kept on scratching the window frame, producing a sharp metallic noise. The moon rose above the chimney smoke of the village. Its light reflected on Aymon’s fur, making him look like the cutest beast in the world.
I’ll book the biggest room at a nice inn the next time I have to stay in a village.
“Aymon, you should go wash up too.”
Belinda said to the leopard, still lost in thought.
He took his paw off the window frame.
“Do you want me to wash you? You wouldn’t be able to turn on the tap with your paw.”
「Wash me! What do you take me for!?」
Aymon suddenly burst out angrily.
Belinda was dumbfounded.
I was just going to pour some water over you and give you soap, why are you being so defensive?
He started screaming, ears folded back, as he ran around.
The funny thing was, the angrier he got, the cuter he looked.
He went back to scratching the window frame.
「You don’t know anything, Breedee!」
More claw marks appeared on the thick pillar.
We better pay the repair fees for that before we leave. The pet cat had a bit of a tantrum.
“Why are you so angry?”
「You’re just so…」
Belinda sighed and extended her arms.
“I don’t know what’s wrong, but I’m sorry. Calm down and come here.”
She said softly.
Aymon didn’t need to be coaxed much. He leaped onto the floor and walked over to her.
「You really don’t know anything…」
Before he knew it, he’d resignedly curled up in Belinda’s arms.
She smiled. The little animal was warm, and even his grumbling sounded like a lullaby.
So maybe she didn’t know anything, but she could still see that Aymon was lovely. His cuteness was irresistible. But any attempt of nose-booping would surely be met by a (harmless) punch.
Aymon also washed up and quickly dried his fur. Belinda started to turn off the lights until all that was left was a candle next to the bed. The silent darkness made the desolate room feel even more desolate.
Belinda put Aymon onto the bed and pulled the blanket over them. Already half-asleep, she saw the small beast still standing up on the bed.
“What are you doing? Won’t you sleep?”
The room was so dark that she couldn’t pick out Aymon’s figure. All she could see was a pair of eyes.
After some contemplation, Aymon turned around and silently headed to the other end of the bed, settling down at Belinda’s feet.
“Do you really like feet that much?”
Aymon sat up.
He burst out again before lying back down.
Belinda slightly pushed his soft back with her foot.
“Are you upset?”
He pretended not to hear. Instead, he replied with a very unthreatening growl.
She gave him another push.
He scooted away in protest but soon wrapped his tail around Belinda’s ankle.
God, he’s so cute.
Belinda suppressed her urge to laugh. That would really make him sulky.
The little bundle of warmth next to her was the loveliest thing in the world.
After a while, Aymon raised his head and silently scampered across the blanket.
He looked at Belinda’s face and pondered for a moment. The spot under the blanket next to her looked very cozy. He could sleep in her arms if he only took another step.
The impulse was about to outweigh his worries as he lifted his foot to take a step, but he stopped. Lying down by her feet again, he gently sighed, tossing and turning.
He slammed down the blanket and covered his face.
「I’m going insane…」
It was a sleepless night for him.
“Are you tired?”
Belinda asked as she put a hat on the leopard.
He replied halfheartedly, in a dreamy voice. His usually sparkling eyes were overcome with exhaustion.
“You must have had a hard time sleeping in a different bed ‘cause you’re so sensitive.”
「I’m not. You’re the one that’s too easygoing.」
“I sleep well everywhere! Where I used to live, whenever it rained, we’d just get water pouring down on us while we slept.”
Belinda replied jokingly, recalling the old inn.
They stepped out to see Daisy standing proudly, ready to go. His fur seemed especially glossy.
“You’re early. Did you sleep well, Daisy?”
He looked happy. Clearly a night away from Aymon had done him good.
He leaned down to allow Belinda to get on.
Then he saw the leopard in Belinda’s arms, complete with a pouty expression and cute hat. He couldn’t help but laugh every time he saw them like that.
Daisy turned around and set off before they could start a dispute.
It was already afternoon. Aymon’s sleep-deprived state was apparent from his lack of provoking comments towards Daisy. Although it was daytime, the thick pine forest didn’t let much light in.
Before they left, the owner of the inn where they stayed the night warned of bandits, but Belinda didn’t care much. She had Aymon. If a bandit appeared, they’d have to worry about getting hurt, not her. Aymon had been on edge lately, so she doubted the bandits would stick around long.
Daisy walked along a narrow path, trying to avoid the tangled vines of the forest. Aymon was dozing off. The smell of crushed grass surrounded them.
According to the map, they’d be traveling through the forest the entire day. Belinda was used to traveling on bumpy roads, but…
Aymon must be having a hard time.
She always thought he lived out in the forest, but seeing his lavish house proved otherwise.
Would a noble Shinsu, used to sleeping on soft pillows, be able to get by with no option but the floor?
Daisy was a wild horse, so he’d be fine, but…
Her head was filled with these thoughts. In a way, she was using them to distract herself from them nearing their destination.
They only needed to cross a canyon before arriving at the village. Just a few days until she’d need to face her buried trauma.
Her heart was constantly pounding with nerves.
She looked up from stroking Aymon’s fur for a moment and saw a huge log on the road.
It was then.
Daisy suddenly stopped. The stomping noise came closer and closer.
Belinda looked around. There seemed to be someone waiting for them.
The noise surrounded them. It seemed like there were a lot of them approaching.
Only then did Aymon open his eyes.