She was right…’Cats climb the wall, Dogs crawl through the hole’, that saying was intended as an insult in the first place. If Sinmosa and Sasani were to jump over the wall using brute force, that would defeat the purpose of not taking the hole in the first place. The designer of this insidious, ingenious and infuriating trap clearly intended for the cat steps to be main focus and tool to bully the Hellhounds. As long as they do not use those steps, the result would end up the same.
“In that case, let’s just stick to the old way then, let’s walk in.” If I had to stand by and watch Sinmosa and Sasani get humiliated alone like that, I would rather not climb the wall. This husband and wife pairing was our main fighting force against the prince so leaving them outside to wait wasn’t an option either.
Strictly speaking, the only reason we had to go through all this nonsense about assassinations and princes in the first place was because of my request, in other words, it was a personal matter. Furthermore, one could say that the couple already repaid their debt by escorting me into the territory of the Purgatory Shadowcats. Yet the two of them still chose to accompany us all this while. If I had to make them suffer again because of my personal affairs, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself then. As such…we crawled through that hole together.
Under their slightly confused yet appreciative eyes, I took the first step through the main entrance of the castle.
‘Hmph, a warrior’s character won’t be besmirched by such lowbrow insults, such blatant racism and discrimination is in itself deplorable. Not only did they not highlight their strengths, they only made me look on them even more.’
Like that, No.3 and Big 4 entered the hole as well, with Mo Na, still hugging Cinderel in her arms, following closely behind. Last to enter were Sinmosa and Sasani.
“They entered the hole, they entered the hole.”
“I don’t need you to remind me, I can see for myself, can’t I? Haha, they really entered the hole.”
Just as we expected, the mocking sounds of the guards came echoing through the hole not long after we left. ‘I bet that’s probably all they have to entertain themselves with.’
Ignoring them, we calmly entered the castle and found ourselves in a carbon copy of Meisian’s castle. Just like before, Anmi was waiting for us at the entrance to the main hall. This time however, he had on a rather surprised look as we walked towards him.
“What are you guys doing together? You all took the hol…door?”
I bet he thought that us devils would’ve just flown over the wall while Sinmosa and Sasani took the hole themselves. In the end, we came through as a whole and while that might have earned us another round of unnecessary ridiculing, I didn’t think so at all.
All I felt then was a sense of comradery with the two of them, our relationship as a group being strengthened in the process. As the saying went, ‘there are three bonds of steel in life: one where we bore arms together, one where we shared the same window and one where we went to a br*thel together.’ If I might be so bold as to so say myself, that was exactly what we went through just now.
(TL: Depending on who you ask, there may be three, four or five. Usually, there’s four. The five are, if I’m not mistaken about the last one: bearing arms together, sharing the same window, going to the br*thel, sharing an account and sharing a steel window. Naturally, some of the those aren’t meant to be taken literally. Bearing arms means serving in the army together or going through a war together. Sharing a window means living together. Brothel refers to knowing each other’s dirty secrets. Sharing an account means having a relationship involving shared interests. Steel window probably refers to jail. Essentially, the saying just means being a bro.)
Turning to face our newest travelling companion, I immediately vented my feelings, no holds barred: “Maybe the Hellhounds might not be as agile as you all, but does making fun of another race’s shortcomings make you all that excited? Deriving self-confidence by putting another down is just scummy.”
Were I my usual self then, I would have never taken such an illogical action, after all we still needed Anmi for our upcoming mission. In order to force Weiderly to give up his succession rights, fighting was unavoidable. Should he decide not to vouch for us in front of the elders then, we would definitely end up being beaten up into devil pancakes.
In that sense, Anmi was our protective talisman; offending him now was clearly a bad idea. Still, I just had to say something because those cats truly seemed like a crazy bunch to me.
“To be honest, that saying didn’t start out as an insult…” Even after my harsh words, not only did he not lose his temper but instead he calmly explained the situation to us, all the while having on an understanding expression: “Initially, that saying was meant to highlight the different strengths of each race, it’s just that it ended up being twisted over time…”
“So that’s how it is…”
‘Still, how is crawling through a hole, a strength? Someone explain this to me please, I’ll be online all day waiting, anxiously in fact.’
While we were all being honest here, I kind of regretted snapping at him already. I was truly worried that he would simply walk off in an angry fit, thankfully, he did no such thing. The fact that he even tried to explain it to us was surprising in of itself.
Such a method of speaking, where one used words to convey a meaning contrary to their outward meaning wasn’t all that rare to be honest. For example, using words to deliver a praise which ran the risk of being construed as an insult…such situations happened often back on Earth as well…especially given how arcane some Chinese sayings were…
After listening to Anmi’s explanation, Sasani and Sinmosa softened their expressions as well.
“Once we enter, how should we act?” Although we had already infiltrated the castle of Weiderly, the next step in our plan was…honestly still a mystery. It was a miss on my part, that much I’ll admit, but I was simply too preoccupied with thoughts about entering Abaddon as soon as possible that I neglected to think this through completely…thus, we had no plan now.
Well, this might seem a little last minute of me, but at least it’s still a minute…“How about we discuss our battle plan?”
“No need for that, just listen to my instructions later on. Trust me, I’m the most reliable cat in the whole clan.”
“Alright, I guess…that’s all we can do for now…”
‘So he’s the most reliable cat in the clan…where should I even start with the tsukkomis…’
Seeing that everyone didn’t object to that, he led us into the guest hall.
Like everything else we saw so far, the guest hall was naturally a carbon copy of Meisian’s as well, even down to the number of guardcats present and the platform upon which a certain black cat sat. In all likelihood, that was the Eldest Prince, Weiderly. Based on appearances alone…he looked exactly the same as Meisian…at least it was so to my eyes. Had it not been for my ability to differentiate souls, I might have even mistaken him for the other, even though they were clearly of different genders…
The prince had a more sombre bearing than Meisian, at least he seemed so at a glance; his sides weren’t filled with platters of food after all. Furthermore, his stiff back and piercing gaze truly gave him the aura of someone superior. If appearances were anything to judge by, he had to be a lot more reliable than that glutton of a princess.
“Your Highness, Weiderly, Anmi apologizes for the intrusion.” Anmi knelt on the floor and paid his respects to the prince.
“Mhm.” The prince nodded his head lightly and in a steady voice, asked: “Your arrival…are you here to aid me, or perhaps to aid my sister?”
Just like with those generals, Anmi’s words were as straight as an arrow; at times, I wanted to ask him if that was a quirky habit of his…
“Her Highness the Princess has dispatched us here in hopes that you will give up your succession rights and acknowledge Her Highness as the next Cat King.”
“Hah, you wish to make me give up with mere words? Unlikely! Why don’t you just ask me to hand over all my territories to that sister of mine while you’re at it?”
Faced with his barbed words, Anmi’s retort was just as piercing, just in a different way: “If you so wish it.”
“…” Anmi’s response left the prince choking on his own words for a good long while before he finally replied: “Anmi, I see you’re still as good with words as ever.”
“You’re too kind, Your Highness.” Anmi fearlessly lifted his head to gaze at the prince, clearly not intending to back down at all.
By now, Weiderly was more than incensed, as he sat on his platform clawing the strange contraption, we could hear the audible screeches echo annoyingly in our eardrums. Still, he didn’t act right away and this tense state ended up lasting for several long seconds as if he was deep in thought. Finally, he revealed a crafty smile before saying: “I just remembered, didn’t my Royal Father once mention betrothing my sister to you…”
The moment the word betrothing was uttered, Anmi’s body stiffened considerably. He started shaking and coughing as if his cat self was going through some kind of terrible episode: “Cough cough cough…Your Highness…we’re discussing the matter of your succession right now…”
“Fine, we’ll return to that question.” While he might have said that, the prince was beaming confidently at the moment as if he was a gambler who had just grabbed that ace he needed to complete a royal flush.
‘Wait, that’s it? Don’t leave me hanging like that, let’s continue that previous conversation instead…that whole part about Meisian being betrothed to Anmi…’ Unfortunately, my internal monologue wasn’t heard by any of them and the two cats naturally proceeded onto the question of succession.
“Do you really wish for me to back out of this succession war? Somehow, that seems awfully unlikely to me, this is my castle after all, exactly how do you plan on threatening me here? Those outsiders standing behind you? Hmmm…hold on, Cerberuses and…devils?” The moment he turned his eyes onto his, they opened wide in shock: “There’s no mistaking that appearance…they are devils all right…how are there devils in the Remnants of Sable Radiance? Don’t tell me the teleportation gate to the Prison of the Dead has been reopened once more?”
“Greetings, Esteemed Prince Weiderly, we come from the Prison of the Dead, my name is Mo Ke.” I took several steps forward up to Anmi and did that same manga-esque bow I showed Meisian: “I apologize for our unruly intrusion.”
“Greetings Devil, I’m the Prince of the Purgatory Shadowcats and the one who will become the Cat King in the future, Weiderly.” He greeted me simply before proceeding to the meat of this discussion: “You’re with Anmi then? In other words, my foolish sister sent you here with the same mission, I take it.”