K was sitting atop a branch high up in the tree, ears alert and twitching. His black tail followed his ears’ motions as it swished from side to side. However, an observer would not have been able to see his movements in the pitch-black night.
At the base of the tree, a group of humans were in the process of lighting campfires. The group was large, and the entire clearing was illuminated by the fires. K looked down on this scene quietly from his branch.
Actually, K had been observing this party since the afternoon.
After escaping from the witch’s house, K had wandered around in the forest for three days and nights and was now thoroughly exhausted. Of course, he was tired, but he was starving to the brink of collapse. He had considered hunting, but it was entirely out of the question. Rather than killing and eating wild animals that were teeming with all sorts of parasites and bacteria, it would be better to starve to death. At any rate, in this desperate situation, he had run into these humans. But instead of approaching them, K had decided to follow them silently. The reason was simple. It was because this was a hunting party.
K stared at the boar hanging tantalizing over the campfire.
The smell wafting up from the sizzling boar-meat was extremely appetizing. In the past, he would have approached the group in order to eat the meat without hesitation. But the situation now was different. K couldn’t be sure that the humans wouldn’t kill and eat him as well.
K swatted his tail against the branch as he debated.
It wasn’t common to eat cat meat, but it wasn’t altogether nonexistent. K clearly remembered that his grandmother used to boil and eat cat meat because it was good for arthritis. And just because people didn’t eat cat meat in Korea didn’t mean it wouldn’t happen in other places. Even if they didn’t eat cats, the humans might kill K for his beautiful black pelt. They might even kill him because they believed he was bad luck like in medieval Europe.
Ah. I’m starving.
Looking at the crisply roasting meat, K licked his lips. The thought that he might sneak into camp and steal the meat suddenly came to mind. They wouldn’t even notice him with his black fur, especially if he moved silently. But…
K glanced at the huge swords and shields and bows that the humans had. There was nothing keeping him from becoming a second course for the roasting boar while trying to nab a bite to eat. K looked back and forth between the meat that gave off mouth-watering smells and the humans’ weapons, and he finally gave up on the idea of stealing the meat. Of course, it didn’t mean he had given up on eating the meat at all. Just the idea of stealing. Because there was another way he could eat without stealing.
First, K observed each human below carefully.
In any case, he had become a cat. It was out of question to hunt for mice, so all he could do was to become indebted to a human. Isn’t there that one saying? That a dog’s fortune is good fortune. If he was lucky when getting a human to take care of him, he could even live in luxury for a while. Since he would have to live among humans if he were to find a way to lift the curse and find a way back home anyways, it would be more convenient to stick with a human.
First, the deadbeats who ran around with the spears were rejected. The guys busily working around the fire were also rejected. Also reject the ones in shabby clothes. Reject the dumb and rough-looking ones.
K’s eyes glinted sharply as he looked to choose a human to mooch off of.
After eliminating several people in the group, only a few were left. The ones left were the men sitting around the campfire directly under the tree K was hiding in. Their clothes, weapons, even the way they sat without moving. Without a doubt, they had the highest rank among all the men in the clearing.
K’s gaze singled out one man in particular: the man leaning against the tree.
Even just by looking at his luxurious clothing and the way he carried himself, there was no doubt that he had the highest rank. K gazed with narrow eyes at the man with his eyes closed and swished his tail. The man was quite young and didn’t show anything in particular on his face. His face was so expressionless as to make one wonder what he was thinking.
Would he take the bait?
Swishing his tail side to side, K tried to predict his reaction.
He looked considerably handsome and well-mannered, and it looked like he didn’t have a bad temper. It didn’t seem like K would be killed if he begged at the man with pitiful eyes…probably.
After agonizing for a long while, he ultimately decided to cast off his caution and got up to approach the man.
A pitiful cry rang out from the deep darkness of the woods. The soldiers who had taken up arms at the rustling noises relaxed the tension in their shoulders after hearing this cry, but they didn’t loosen their formation.
As if to notify them of its approach, they heard the thin cry yet again. And soon after, they saw through the dancing light of the fire a small cat padding towards them. Seeing the intruder, the soldiers smirked and relaxed the grip on their weapons.
Stopping at the edge of the firelight, the black cat seemed to be gauging the humans’ reactions, and after making sure of the relaxed atmosphere, it continued walking softly towards them. The cat’s unusual composure piqued the soldiers’ interest.
As if it had already chosen a target, the composed cat treaded gracefully heading towards one person.
“Your Highness, what should we do?”
Unlike the other soldiers, the knight, Simon, did not take his hand off his sword and asked this question in a low voice. At this, Calix, who had been leaning against the tree, slowly opened his eyes.
A cat with a lustrous black coat was slowly, without hesitation, walking towards Calix. Even though it was making its way through the many soldiers, it showed no sign of cowering.
“Your Highness,” Simon pressed.
In reality, Simon had been watching the cat follow them for a while now. He had left it alone merely because it was a small animal of no danger to them. But now that it was boldly coming towards Calix, he couldn’t just ignore it. There was a one-in-a-million chance…but it was still a possibility.
Perhaps it sensed Simon’s gaze, ready to unsheathe his sword and attack the cat at any moment. The cat suddenly stopped in its tracks. From a distance of about three meters, the cat looked at Simon and at his hand gripping his sword and blinked its eyes slowly. As if assessing the situation, it swept its tail to the right then to the left. Calix, who had been watching quietly, slowly opened his mouth.
“Just leave it.”
At Calix’s words, Simon readily took his hand off the sword. Just as he did so, the cat started walking towards them again.
When it had come right in front of Calix, the cat planted its rear to the ground and sat. The knights beside Calix watched the cat, partly out of interest and partly out of caution. From up close, they could see the cat’s coat was pure black without any flecks of discoloration. As if it was not wary of strangers, the way it was sitting with an elegant air and gazing intently at Calix was curious.
The cat, which had been motionlessly observing Calix suddenly moved its head. The cat had shifted its gaze to the cooked boar meat placed before Calix. After looking once at the meat with steam still rising from it rapidly, the cat looked back at Calix. And with a pitiful voice it let out a long meow, Nyaaaa— It was begging for food. The knights saw this and tutted at the cat internally. The little cat was quite cute, but it had chosen the wrong person to deal with. The person this cat was begging to was none other than the Crown Prince Calix. Even since he was young, the Crown Prince Calix was known for being cold and unsentimental. Always wearing an unreadable expression, he never showed his emotions. But there was no way the cat could know this, and it let out another long cry while looking at the meat, Nyaaa—
Calix, who had been watching the mewling cat, suddenly lifted one hand. Seeing the open hand reaching toward it, the cat hit the ground with its tail. Calix’s large hand, which had held a sword since he was very young, was understandably intimidating to the small cat.
The sitting cat regarded the outstretched hand for a moment, then got up. It slowly approached the extended hand and placed its front paw on top of it and cried out, Nyaaa—