“So what comes after the hunt?”
“After the hunt, we have a race, a rock-climbing contest and then an eating contest…”
“Eating contest huh…that sounds like a burden on one’s stomach, what if the contestant becomes too bloated?”
“It’s fine, we give out free antacid at the end of the contest.”
Sinmosa: “…you cats sure know how to play…”
Anmi threw her a look: “Thanks for your praise.”
‘I…just…can’t even find a tsukkomi for these cats anymore. Is this some kind of school festival from those japanese mangas…”
No matter what, the road ahead required us to pass through this battlefield and Anmi had no intentions of hiding our presence either judging from how he openly led us into their midst. Upon noticing Anmi, the two ‘gay’ generals greeted him with a warm smile on their faces.
One of the generals noticed us and threw a curious look at Anmi: “Anmi, who are your friends, They seem to be devils? Also, where are you all heading to?”
“We’ve been tasked to visit Prince Weiderly’s castle to handle some matters.”
“Handle some matters?”
“We’re going to make him give up his succession rights.” Anmi answered truthfully: “Her Highness the Princess wishes for us to enter Weiderly’s castle and defeat him.”
‘Anmi, you moron! That guy is clearly the subordinate of that prince you just said you were going to beat up! Aren’t you afraid of him attacking you for that?!”
To my surprise however, my furious signalling to that dumb cat turned out to be unnecessary as the so-called subordinate of the prince not only wasn’t angered but instead gave us a jovial smile: “Is that true? That’s wonderful! Honestly, we’re sick of this war already, I’d rather plant some Meowberries and catch some Ashen Fur Mice instead…that would be so much more interesting. Oh right, since you guys are going to assassinate the Prince, I assume you’ve made the necessary preparations already, do you guys still need some help?”
‘Ehh? Something doesn’t seem right here…isn’t your boss the Eldest Prince, Weiderly, and not Meisian? You need to get your facts straight here! Maybe you’re just lacking sleep, probably something along the lines of having a damaged brain thanks to being sleep and food deprived for three days and three nights?”
Ignoring my confused look, Anmi continued his happy little chat with Weiderly’s subordinate: “If you can accompany us, I would be extremely grateful.”
At that, the cat in question immediately showed us a pleading look: “Accompany you guys…spare me, please. All I can do is delay the troops and have them return a little later.”
“Well that will do then, best if they march off tomorrow instead.”
“Got it, if it’s just that, I can still manage.”
Just like that, I witnessed a subordinate sell out his prince for basically nothing.
As for the general from Meisian’s side, he passionately invited us to spectate their battle the reason being that since they were planning to stall for time anyway, they might as well make a grand celebration out of it, one that lasted a few days in fact…
‘Seems like the cats on our side aren’t too reliable either…’
Thankfully, I managed to stop Anmi just before he accepted their request.
“How about we finish our mission first, they’re going to be here for a few days anyway, we can come back after that to have some barbecued Ashen Fur Mice.”
“But it’s been so long since I had those…you know this as well, the Ashen Fur Mice in my territory have all been…” As he said that, he licked his lips before throwing a look at Sinmosa. While he didn’t finish his sentence in the end, I basically got the gist of his message.
‘Sigh, his life is pretty hard as well, isn’t it, having to deal with a bad neighbor like Sidarth and all. However, our mission is pretty important as well.’
“We can talk about this after our mission.”
In spite of my resolute attitude, Anmi still seemed rather reluctant to leave.
“You really won’t stay for the barbecue after this?” The two cat generals extended another warm invitation but were swiftly rejected by me.
“Such a pity, I’m rather confident in my barbecued Ashen Fur Mice.”
After dragging away the vehemently-adamant-about-eating-mice cat, I bid a hasty farewell to the two generals and continued towards Weiderly’s castle. Before leaving however, the two generals introduced us to the troops present and told them that we were here to end this unending war by assassinating the Eldest Prince.
‘…is it really okay to introduce us like that?’
Honestly, there was that one moment where I truly feared that they would rip us to shreds in a fit of anger. Instead, we were greeted with an uproarious round of cheers…
With that done, all the Purgatory Shadowcats sent us off with a hero’s fanfare as if we were about to assassinate their hated enemy instead of a Shadowcat prince…just from that alone, I could tell that this so-called prince really wasn’t all his title made him out to be…
‘I guess it’s true when they say you experience more the longer you live…those cats though…’
For the most part, the castle of Prince Weiderly was strikingly similar to that of Meisian’s, as if they were cut out of the same mold.
The main entrance was a panelless hole as before and the wall was filled with cat steps. Just as before, there were two guardcats stationed there but unlike Meisian’s castle, these two were just flat out sleeping.
Given that we were already at their front door, there really wasn’t much subterfuge left to pull so we simply greeted them. The following few minutes basically proceeded the same way as before with Anmi greeting the two guardcats as if they were friends. After a short chat, one of the guardcats climbed over the wall and leaped back over an instant later.
“I really didn’t expect you to be such a socialite, do all the Purgatory Shadowcats know you?”
The fact that every cat we encountered so far recognized Anmi was honestly enough to make him a winner cat in my books.
And yet the cat in question didn’t seem to think so: “It’s nothing, we Purgatory Shadowcats aren’t natives of this land so our numbers aren’t many to begin with, a thousand at most. With so little cats, it’s only natural that the majority of them know me.”
‘There are only a thousand cats here? Somehow, I thought there would be a lot more Purgatory Shadowcats.”
“Don’t give me that look, I’m sure you aren’t so stupid that you can’t figure out the reason why.”
His words immediately cleared the doubt in my mind: “Because of the environment?”
“Ever since our ancestors arrived in this scorching land, an additional element appeared within our cat bodies in order to help us acclimatize to the temperature. While we might have gained some powers because of that, we lost a portion of our original powers as well. Rather than an evolution, it would be accurate to say that we mutated.” Having said that, he paused for a moment before continuing in a hesitant tone: “Within the clan, there are some cats who feel that this change isn’t even a mutation…rather it is a serious regression…”
“Because only Shadowcats can claim the throne?”
‘I get it now…being the original form of the Purgatory Shadowcats, the Shadowcats were seen as a lofty existence within the clan and had always been tasked with the crown. The reason was simple: because only they possessed the ability to Dreamwalk. Like humans, these cats only realized the value of their ability after losing it.’
“His Highness the Prince has agreed to grant you all an audience in the guest hall.”
“Well then, I’ll be off first.” Perhaps it was because of the heavy mood, but Anmi seemed rather eager to climb over the wall; doing so with merely a few agile leaps.
“Then we’ll be off too.” I gestured to my companions behind me after which Mo Na happily hopped onto my neck while No.3 and Big 4 acknowledged the order as usual. Only Sinmosa and Sasani seemed to be at a loss as to what to do. Beside them stood a carefree Cinderel, clearly oblivious to the conundrum facing her parents.
Out of concern, I asked: “Sinmosa, what’s the matter? You guys seem to be acting a little weird.”
“We…” She glanced at the dense cluster of cat steps before turning her head back onto the panelless castle entrance. Nothing more was said after that but I roughly got the gist of it.
‘‘Cats climb the wall, Dogs crawl through the hole.’ That saying of the Purgatory Shadowcats was truly a hurtful one to others…I mean dogs…’
Speaking of which, I was rather confident about my own agility. For me, climbing up the wall like a cat probably wouldn’t be much of a problem. Mo Na, No.3 and Big were all Four-stars devils and possessed wings to fly. Cinderel was still little so she could still be carried. Sinmosa and Sasani however were different. They were all mature dogs with bodies nearing that of a bull’s. No.3 and Big 4 might have been able to lift one of them up together but that sight would be, well…unsightly.
That saying made fun of a hellhound’s clumsiness. If the two of them weren’t able to scale the wall through their own abilities and had to rely on our help instead, the Purgatory Shadowcats would still tease them anyway. At the end of the day, a racial trait such as this wasn’t easy to overcome.
“Can’t you two jump over the wall?” Being Five-stars, a ten meter tall wall shouldn’t be too much of a trouble for them.
“With enough distance to build up speed we can, but still…” Sinmosa sighed at that point: “That’s just because we are Five-stars, a Purgatory Shadowcat on the other hand can freely scale the wall even as a child…”