Asterios led Miria back to the pond near the stone formation. There was no better place to choose for a memorial than the spot where both he and Mii loved to spend their free time. It was also where he had summoned her for the first time. He would never forget the image of a weak and trembling rabbit which turned into an affectionate and proud beast during their time together.
He came closer to the rocks where the waterfall was flowing and moved away a bit of moss which covered the surface. He stared at the stone wall and contemplated his options. Asterios felt like he wanted to do more than just a simple inscription, but wasn’t sure what else could be done here.
Miria also pondered how she could help him with the task. She asked Asterios to tell her more about Mii and they talked for a few minutes about her appearance and their experiences together.
Getting an interesting idea, she walked up to the stone surface and knocked on it with her knuckles a few times.
「Good. This should be doable. I hope Master likes it.」
She looked back at Ast to get his approval and he nodded. After waiting a moment so he could step away, Miria grabbed one of her blades and positioned it vertically in front of her face while closing her eyes.
Asterios could notice from the side how its edge started to blur a bit. He instantly realized that she was trying to coat it with her mana. He watched as the shifting effect slowly stabilized and almost disappeared. It still existed, but it got pressurized to the point where it could be spotted only from up close.
Finishing her preparations, Miria took a deep breath and pointed the tip of her blade against the stone. She pulled back her right arm and curled her fingers into a claw. Soon after, she pushed it forwards with a lot of strength, hitting the pommel of her weapon with the middle of her palm. With a loud ting, the blade sunk into the rock. She then pulled it back, repositioned at another angle and repeated the motion.
Ast watched as Miria casually broke off chunks of the stone wall, carving something in it. At the twenty-minute mark, she staggered a little and he saw the coating disperse a bit. He walked closer and placed his hand on her back, making her squirm a little at first.
Smiling kindly, he poured some of his mana into her body. Without a contract, direct touch was the only way to achieve that. Miria’s body shivered a little from the pleasant sensation that accompanied the transfer and her tail involuntarily coiled around his hand. He found that pretty cute.
After revitalizing Miria a bit, he stepped to the side to give her more space to finish her work. With newfound determination, she began carving something while putting much more focus into her movements. Another half an hour later, she exhaled heavily, dropped her sword and fell onto her butt while glancing back at Asterios.
Coming closer to examine in detail whatever Miria was doing, Asterios was met with something unexpected. In the stone wall, there was now a small, arched cave. In that cave, a shape of a sleeping rabbit had been carved, presented from its side, with its ears calmly resting along the body. It was simple but beautiful. It wasn’t perfectly smooth and even, but that didn’t matter. It served its purpose.
Asterios extended his hand and brushed over the top of the rabbit statue, thanking his fallen friend for the days they spent together. He then turned to Miria, knelt by her side and ruffled through her hair.
“Thank you. It’s beautiful.”
She pressed her head more into his palm while smiling blissfully. To him, it felt almost the same as when he was petting other animals or magical beasts. He started thinking that maybe her kind wasn’t that far from them and the contract would follow just fine.
While Miria rested a bit, they chatted about their worlds. She was very happy to hear anything about this realm, especially about magic. Where she came from, it was rare for someone to have a magical talent and be able to control it. She could do it to some extent, like when she sharpened her blade with the coating of mana, but she never saw anyone cast spells like Fireball or Lightning Bolt. It usually revolved around strengthening one's body or such techniques.
Then, they moved onto the contract part. Asterios started drawing a big circle with lots of shapes and lines inside, using a special kind of sand - Nitrean Quartz. It was one of medium-grade spiritual and mana conductors used in magical circles. She watched in admiration as he created various geometrical patterns.
Contract magic circle is much simpler to prepare than the summoning one. The latter usually requires a lot of different materials and catalysts connected to the element of the desired beast. Summoners can target a certain kind or species that way, trying to invite a beast to visit them. As for contract ones, they just need a decent material for the base and a bit of blood of both summoner and the summon. The rest is left in their hands.
“Okay. This should be enough,” Asterios said, finishing the last line.
“Come, step into the circle with me.”
Miria followed his instructions and they stood facing each other. He leaked some of his mana into the circuit and it started glowing. The fact that the colour was dark red surprised Ast since his mana always had a green hue. He assumed that maybe this was due to Miria’s nature or something.
“Now, you need to tell me what you want in exchange for your servitude and help.”
“Ummm… can’t I just become your familiar without wanting anything in particular?”
“There has to be something on which our contract will be established. It can be anything. Of course, as long as I’m able to give it to you or make it happen.”
She started pondering over what to wish for but nothing besides being able to visit Asterios’s world and travel by his side didn’t come to her mind.
“What do magical beasts usually ask for in this situation?” She decided to ask for a little help.
“It depends. Usually the stronger the beast the more serious its demands. It may start with just some food or snacks, some wish for blood, some wish for less materialistic things like for example taking care of their fur or body, and it may even end at them requesting the summoner’s soul after his death. The most common thing is the spiritual essence. I think you should know that it’s universal no matter the world.”
“Hmmmm… Then, I want you to pat my head whenever I ask for it. Would that be ok?” she asked with her tail swishing happily behind her back.
“Hahaha, of course, but you can ask for more. I can tell how strong you are. I would feel bad if that was the only thing I had to pay for your help.” Asterios chuckled at her interesting request.
“Then you can give me some of your essence too. I don’t really care what it is as long as I can stay with you. This is really enough for me.”
The circle began glowing even more, signalling that the demands phase has been finished. Ast looked curiously at Miria. He never saw any beast forcing this phase to end on their own. It always was the summoner who guided both of them through the process. Whatever the reason, anything they did that involved her was different from the things he experienced in the past.
“Very well. Let’s finish it up then.”
Ast brought out a small, ornamental knife and unsheathed it. He cut his finger a little and allowed some of the blood to drip onto the drawings. Stepping closer to Miria, he passed her the blade and she did the same before handing it back.
“Is it complete now?” she asked.
“Almost. We just need to show our final will to establish the contract.”
“And how can we do it?”
“Well, in the past I used a kiss as the proof, but since you are—”
“It’s fine! If that's necessary…”
Her tail started swishing the fastest it ever had since they met and a faint blush appeared on Miria’s cute face. She kept shyly averting her gaze so as to not stare Asterios into the eyes.
Asterios pressed his punctured finger against his forehead and drew a sigil. Next, he placed his right hand on Miria’s cheek and used the left one to create the same mark above her eyes. He smiled at the slightly embarrassed girl and started to move his mouth closer to her head.
Time seemed to slow down for Miria as she clearly heard her heart thumping inside her chest. Not being able to keep calm any longer, she pushed her face forwards and connected Asterios’s lips with hers before he did it first.
His eyes widened in surprise when his lips received a gentle peck from the catgirl. The contract circle glowed the brightest and they both felt a connection being established between their very souls. They soon started sensing each other’s presence and also a little bit of the surfacing emotions. Asterios noticed how embarrassed and determined Miria was while she noticed his shock and surprise.
She quickly took a step back after the glow disappeared, blushing furiously.
“It didn’t have to be… on the lips…” Asterios informed her with an awkward smile.
Miria froze on the spot realizing her mistake. Only now she understood that he was not going for her mouth but forehead, and she was the one who tilted her head upwards and dived in for an intimate kiss.
She covered her face with her hands, squirming from embarrassment. “I’m sorry!”
Asterios shook his head with a smile. He stepped closer and brushed through her hair with his hand to calm the flustered girl.
“It’s fine. I didn’t expect my first kiss to be stolen like that, but I’m quite happy it was done by such a cute girl.”
“It was my first too…”
“I’m sorry for not stopping you in time then.”
“No! It was my own mistake. And I don’t really mind too...”
She slowly regained her cool under his pats. A little bit of rosiness remained on her cheeks though. She was cursing herself in her mind for making such a stupid assumption and hoping that Asterios didn’t think she was some easy girl who would kiss anyone. Somehow, she felt really nice around him and didn’t mind a little kiss if that allowed her to stay here by his side.
Asterios in turn was a little bit embarrassed too, but he always had good control of his emotions. At least until they didn’t reach dangerously strong levels like after Mii’s death. He never even held hands with a woman other than his mother and receiving a kiss from such an adorable girl made him feel happy, even if that was partially the result of a misunderstanding.
~Anyway, now everything should be finished. Can you hear me in your head?~
Miria’s ears stood up and she looked around a little startled. Her gaze stopped at Asterios’s smiling face.
“Woah, I can now hear your voice in my thoughts?” she asked, amazed.
“You can speak to me the same way too. Just think about sending me some kind of a mental message. To make it easier since it’s your first time, try imagining yourself moving your lips and speaking to me in your head, or something like that.”
Miria closed her eyes and followed his advice. She soon sensed his presence and focused on it.
~Like this? Hellooooooooooooo. Am I Master’s familiar now?~
“Looks like you are,” Ast answered vocally after receiving her message.
She jumped into the air merrily, quickly regaining her composure to not act too childishly in front of Asterios, but her excitement was clearly visible thanks to the twitching and swishing parts of her body.
“What do we do now, Master?”
“Let’s head home. I need a bath and a new set of clothes. Ah shit… This was one of the academy’s uniforms I was supposed to hand back…” He examined the cut and torn jacket he had on himself. “You should be able to traverse back to your world at any time now. We can talk mentally when separated. It also works with thoughts, emotions, images and such. You just need to focus hard enough. Staying here for too long can strain both yours and my spiritual circuits since I’m like an anchor for you. Well, it depends on the strength and affinity of the summoner mostly. Since I’m quite weak and you are plenty strong, you should still be able to be here for… eh? Like two hours ago?”
Asterios furrowed his brows, checked his mana reserves and spiritual circuits and got really confused. There was barely any strain on the latter and his energy was around half of his capacity which felt suspiciously bigger than before. He decided to investigate that later. It didn’t look like Miria would be forcefully sent back in at least another few hours.
“Anyway. You can also kind of hide inside me too if you don’t want to leave completely. That way you can still experience things around me more clearly than through the inter-dimensional connection.”
“I’ll do that then! I’m really curious what your village looks like!” she said with excitement in her eyes.
“Okay, but don’t forget to go back to your friends or family. They may get worried if you disappear for too long without a trace, right?”
“Ah, yes. I’ll do that too.”
And they went on their way towards Rosewind, with Miria hiding in Asterios’s shadow.