“Is that not His Highness the Crown Prince’s cat?”
At the Count’s query, the people’s gazes shifted to one direction. At the center of attention was a black cat. Walking with chin held up in a conceited fashion, one could almost imagine it owned the palace.
“Lord Richt. Is it true that that is the cat of rumors?”
Controlling his countenance at that question, Simon nodded his head.
A small wave of awe rippled across the crowd at Simon’s affirmation.
Around the neck of the black cat, boldly cutting across the garden in the radiant daylight, was a jewel necklace that displayed the rank of its owner. Standing out even more on pitch-black fur was the crimson ruby. Of much renown was the jewel. Called 「The Goddess’s Heart」by many, it was a treasure passed down from generation to generation in the Imperial Family.
“They say the Crown Prince really cherishes that cat, and it seems those rumors are not untrue, seeing as he has given a mere cat an imperial treasure.”
“So it seems. Haha.”
Simon, who had been listening to the people’s conversation silently, hardened his expression imperceptibly.
The fact that the Crown Prince went hunting and came back with a black cat in his arms was already well-known. It was common to raise a dog or cat as a pet, but since this was the Crown Prince, such attention was unavoidable. It was because, even now, animals would scare once they came near the Crown Prince. In addition, the Crown Prince was not the type of person to ever be interested in or pour affection upon a person. However, the existence of a beloved cat he kept at his side and the fact that the cat had no qualms about being next to him was what inevitably made it interesting
“In any case, it’s a good thing. With this, His Highness the Crown Prince’s image will become more approachable.”
With the Count’s statement, the people nodded their heads in agreement. However, Simon, who was looking off in the direction of the disappearing cat, wore a dark expression. As he saw it, that cat was not a normal cat. He had thought so since day one, but as time went on, that suspicion became conviction.
Cats were clever animals by nature, but this one was well beyond that level. But as of right now, there was nothing Simon could do. Since the Crown Prince was treasuring that cat more than he had predicted.
“Well then. It now seems the time we must attend the meeting. If you would pass along to His Highness the Crown Prince our greetings. Lord Richt.”
Quickly snapping back to reality, Simon bowed his head lightly. Simon watched the noble relations of the Crown Prince walk away, and he threw his gaze in the direction the cat had just disappeared off to. If the morning briefing was beginning now, the Crown Prince would not be moving from the conference room for a while. It was the perfect time to secretly tail the cat. Simon started walking silently.
Sugar Prince stroked my head and left the room. I flicked my tail a couple times as a greeting. I never flick it more than two times. Because doing that is an uncool gesture.
Every day, Sugar Prince left for work. I wasn’t very sure where he went, but there’s no doubt it was within the palace. I want to check out that place, but I’d rather not be too clingy. To always follow Sugar Prince would wound my reputation greatly. No doubt the humans would really start to think of me as a faithful pet.
As soon as Sugar Prince left for work, the maids got busy.
The maids changed the bed sheets and began cleaning, in every single nook and cranny. They cleaned so thoroughly so that a single speck of dust couldn’t be seen.
As they started singing and dancing while working, I silently made my way towards my path of escape. I slipped out because I didn’t have the slightest wish to breathe in the dust they stirred up while cleaning.
Sugar Prince’s palace was quite large. Even after leaving the room, I had to walk quite a bit in order to breathe in the fresh air. Actually, I could have gone outside through the window in just a few quick seconds, but I don’t do those kinds of classless things. I always go from door to door and exit to the gardens. As I do, the humans guarding the entrances greet me with a look in their eyes that says 「Please, enjoy your stroll.」 If, somehow, there’s a door that is closed, I can resolve that by giving it a few scratches with my claws. Hearing the sound of my scratching, the guards open the door for me happily.
“You mustn’t go up the tree today.”
A maid said this in my direction. I quickly scan her from head to toe. Face, pass; chest, pass; smile, pass. A 95 out of 100. To the passing-marks maid, a meow instead of a smile, I cried amiably to her. The maid’s face blushed delicately, and she fidgeted shyly. I can easily guess the maid’s feelings. The girl had already fallen deeply for me.
It was no hard time getting close to a girl in that position.
If I rubbed my head once against her ankle, admiration-full exclamations like 「Oh my!」or 「What do I do?!」 would be vomited. Add to that a coy Nyaaa—, and in a heartbeat she would scoop me up in her arms and bury my face into her chest. With that, it’s game over. She would gladly invite me to her bed or to bathe with her. But instead of seducing her, I started walking away. Because I’m not an easy man.
The Crown Prince’s gardens were very large. The well-trimmed trees were picturesque and in full-bloom. To take a walk through just the area currently in view would take several hours. But in the past several days, I had already explored through the entirety of the Crown Prince’s palace gardens. Since I checked from high up in the tree yesterday, there was no question about that. And so, right now, I decided to go out of the Crown Prince’s quarter and look around the entire imperial palace. It wasn’t just because I was feeling adventurous. Of course, I was curious to see the imperial palace, but it was mainly to find a way to lift the curse. It was idiotic to just sit around in the Crown Prince’s palace and wait for the curse to go away.
“Oh my, that black cat. Is that not His Highness the Crown Prince’s cat?”
After walking awhile, I heard a small whisper. Turning my eyes to glance stealthily, ostentatiously dressed noblewomen were looking at me and whispering to each other. As my gaze met theirs, they fluttered their fans even more rapidly. I lifted my chin up dramatically and resumed walking. With each step, the overwhelming gazes made my face prickle unbearably, but I ignored them, pretending I wasn’t conscious of their eyes. I was being merciful since if I confronted them, they would be overpowered and short of at least 10 people.
The imperial palace was crawling with humans wherever I went. Everywhere, I was met with the whispers and stares of insufferable humans. A few mannerless humans who didn’t even know me called out to me with 「Here kitty」 and 「Butterfly」. Even worse, there were humans who clicked their tongues and wiggled their fingers, going「tch tch」. I wanted especially to claw at those humans’ wiggling fingers and puckered mouths, but I was in an unusually generous mood and pardoned them. It would be horrific if I were to get some sort of disease from pointlessly getting blood on my claws.
The humans’ curiosity was so extremely irritating that I wanted to find a different route, but that wasn’t exactly working in my favor. What if I were to go through the trees or grass and by some sort of accident encounter a gross bug? Although I am a cat now, I was originally a human living in a 21st century, technologically advanced city, so I was disgusted just at the sight of a bug. I get chills just seeing them, but if one were to actually touch on my body, I would surely faint. And so, I had no choice but to traverse along the walkway meant for humans.
For some reason, my rear-end had felt prickly for a while. It felt like someone was glaring at me intently. I turned to look behind me, but no one was there. Of course, there was no way a human could be secretly following me, who was a cat with sharp senses. My rear-end was probably just itchy.
Anyway, there should be some sort of library in the palace, but where could it possibly be? Where one garden ended, another began, and as I passed one large building, another building appeared. My eyes flicked from here to there, trying to figure out which way was which. If I was in my human form, I could have easily grabbed someone passing by to ask for directions, but in this body I couldn’t even speak one word properly, not to mention ask for directions.
I stopped in my tracks and looked at my surroundings. And I sorted my thoughts.
Where the heck am I?
No matter how hard I thought, I couldn’t figure it out. Of course, nobody knew where they were their first time somewhere. By no means was I lost. I just didn’t know where I was.
My throat grew dry, and my legs started to ache. Come to think of it, on a normal day, by this time I would have eaten a snack prepared by a maid and settled down on a cushion for my afternoon nap.
I scanned the humans walking by. But they merely looked at me curiously. Even though I sent them a look saying I wanted water, there wasn’t any human who gave me something to drink. I suddenly wanted to see Sugar Prince. My Sugar Prince would have understood my gaze saying I was thirsty and immediately placed water before me…
I would go find Sugar Prince; I swept away my momentarily depressed thoughts and hardened my resolve. After thinking about it, it would be more convenient to have Sugar Prince take me to the library rather than looking for it on my own. My legs wouldn’t hurt if I was held in Sugar Prince’s arms, and if I was hungry or thirsty, he would immediately get something for me to eat. Words were words, but there wasn’t a human that understood me like Sugar Prince. The person who knew what I wanted from just a meow would surely understand that I wanted him to bring me to the library. No doubt.
God, I had gone through all that suffering for nothing.
As I turned lightly to go back the way I came, I froze.
But which way do I go again?