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Ch014-Ooh You're A Cool Cat

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*Ushas

“I respect you. And the work you do, as well as all the help you’ve provided.” Ushas said carefully.

“My teacher used to always say that everything said before the ‘but’ is pure dogshit,” Nyx answered with a sneer.

“But, I can’t allow that thing into the academy. We have very strict rules on who we can and can’t take in, and that boy falls under every single can’t that we have.” Ushas explained.

“I’ve already got his background mapped out, I’ve had it confirmed by testing his parent’s bodies, his core is an untainted as it can be, and if it weren’t for the self-created blockade on his mind, I could guarantee you he’d clear that too,” Nyx explained, trying to be as diplomatic as possible.

“Nevertheless-”

“Just tell me what you want.”

“Nevertheless, I can’t in good conscience let him in. Why do you even want him to join? He’s crippled, he’ll maybe get to tier 2, if he lives that long. What’s the point of all this? You can play house all you want, but leave the Ibis out of it.” Ushas said, turning her spinning chair around.

She had to look away because she knew exactly what she would see if she remained facing Nyx. She could feel the mana condensing behind her, and started putting together a barrier, to at least stall the woman when she heard the sound of her door being gently closed shut.

Turning around Ushas found herself alone, with only a scorched handprint on her door to prove Nyx was ever here in the first place.

She really has mellowed out.

 

*Sylver

“The king of cats?” Sylver repeated, for some reason extremely conscious of the fact that more cats than he had ever seen in one place, were all watching him get dressed.

“Yes.” The grey tabby cat repeated. He was currently sitting on top of the mage’s wrapped up corpse and was licking his paw and cleaning his head.

“Are you sure you have the right guy?” Sylver asked, buttoning up his shirt.

“Sylver Sezari. Necromancer, grey hair, completely black eyes, staying at the Fox Hole, most likely passed out from drinking, and carrying a dead woman’s corpse around,” the grey tabby cat summarized, patting the body in question.

“I don’t suppose you’ll tell me how exactly you know all of this? Or why does the king of cats even want to talk to me?” Sylver asked, gently moving a black cat off his bag, and putting his daggers into their sheaves. None of his uninvited guests reacted, so either this was a show of goodwill to allow him to come armed, or they didn’t consider him enough of a threat for a few daggers to make a difference.

“I don’t suppose I will.” The grey tabby cat answered.

As much as Sylver loved cats, this grey one was starting to piss him off.

“You don’t seem surprised that we can talk.” One of the black cats off in the corner said.

“I’m just very good at not being surprised. And even more honestly, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen your kind talk,” Sylver answered. Cats were always incredibly intelligent, especially in their later lives. Going by his soul sense, the grey tabby was in his seventh or eighth life.

“Why’d you drink yourself silly, if you were so concerned about getting killed or poisoned by followers of Ra?” The grey tabby asked.

“You make it sound like there was a lot of thought behind it. I found myself in a safe environment, with good company, and decided it would be rude to the host to refuse a drink.” Sylver explained, hiding his pouch of materials in his shirt.

“The first one, sure. But what about the rest.” The grey tabby asked, jumping up onto Fen’s shoulder.

“Maybe you should fuck off and mind your business a little? You know what they say about curiosity and cats.” Sylver said, with a grin.

He got to see something he’d never seen before in his life, as the grey tabby cat rolled its eyes.

*

After downing Salgok’s hangover cure, which felt like it worked by shocking the body into line, Sylver left Tom with the mage’s body and followed the grey tabby cat towards the southern part of the city. Somehow the giant group of cats managed to blend into the surroundings, so much so, that Sylver couldn’t even see them as they made their way south.

The grey tabby moved up and down the bridges like it was nothing with the elegance of… well of a cat. Deciding that he didn’t want to be the insane person who’s talking to cats, because Sylver was certain the grey tabby wouldn’t do a thing to prove he wasn’t crazy, he simply and silently followed after him. Why he was following after a bunch of cats, to see their king could be answered by two things. First pure curiosity. He’d met talking animals before, but never in such a large group. And a king of cats was even more interesting to see.

And secondly, he didn’t like the idea of them knowing things about him, without him knowing anything about them. Lastly, they were cats. And he had 14 shades with him and was very confident he could at the least run away from them. His appraisal showed they were all 10 levels higher than him, but given the fact that they were cats, he doubted they could really do anything to him.

Most of the buildings in this area were shops or workshops, people moving around, and either making something or working on something. With the various smells emanating from everywhere, it was almost pleasant. Finally, at the very edge of the city, built directly against the wall, was a two-story house with a very large double door, with a cat flap on either side.

“Tell her Naut sent you. And take your shoes off.” the grey tabby said as Sylver stood outside the door. It knocked on it with its back legs and disappeared before the door opened.

A very old-looking woman, with hair even greyer than Sylver’s, opened it and with glasses as thick as a telescope lens, looked up at him.

“I uh… Naut sent me.” Sylver said to the old woman. The old woman squinted at him, before walking back inside the house, and very slowly shuffling her way up the stairs. The grey tabby ran past Sylver, and past the old woman, and disappeared up the stairs.

After closing the door behind himself, Sylver removed his shoes and followed the old woman. The interior was surprisingly well kept, a large wall on the left was covered in hundreds of small images of various children, on the right was a small shrine to a god Sylver didn’t recognize, and the whole place smelled recently cleaned.

After making his way up the stairs, Sylver couldn’t see the old woman anywhere, and even more worrisome, his soul sense seemed to be getting blocked completely.

“This way.” The grey tabby’s voice echoed from the left hallway. Following it, Sylver saw only one door that was ajar and entered it.

Inside he was once again surrounded by more cats than he could imagine. Every shade, size, shape, color, you name it, that cat was there. The flooring was made up of various pillows and blankets, and a very large window on the ceiling illuminated the room.

In one of the corners, there was a slightly raised blanket area and a beautiful white-furred cat, surrounded by tiny meowing kittens, it’s tail coiled protectively around them, sat on it. The cat’s eyes were bright orange, pupils contracted to the point that it’s iris almost looked like a solid color.

“Welcome Sylver Sezari.” The white cat said. Going by the voice it was female.

“You’re the king of cats, I take it?” Sylver asked cautiously. Looking around he couldn’t find a chair anywhere, and simply walked up to the white cat and sat down onto the soft mats. Even with his soul sense being blocked somehow, he wasn’t getting the feeling any of the animals here were powerful enough to do it. It could be an enchantment on the house, but it didn’t quite feel that way.

“I am. I apologize if any of mine were rude to you in any way, but I was unable to come to see you personally,” the king of cats said.

“It’s fine. There’s no real way to make this any less weird so why did you want to talk to me?” Sylver asked. A lot of the cats were moving around behind him, but he had Fen watching his back in his shadow right now, so there was nothing to worry about.

“Would you like some tea or anything?” The king of cats asked.

“I’m good thank you.” Although it would be interesting to see what kind of tea a cat could make. “Would you mind telling me how you know about me?” Sylver asked.

He could have sworn he heard something giggling and snickering behind his back, but didn’t want to turn around to see.

“I know about everyone. From those three girls you came here with, Edna, Essa, and Henra, to the fluffy receptionist at the adventurers guild, Shera and her husband Urik, down to Leke and Ron in Arda and Yeva back in your home.” The king of cats replied. She nudged a small white kitten who was trying to escape her tail confine, back inside.

The snickering died down entirely as Sylver’s body tensed up from hearing this. In fact, a few of the ones sitting near him chose to silently move away. If anyone paid enough attention, they could even see as his shadow gradually increased in size.

“I also know you’re looking for your family, but you aren’t even certain if they are alive or not,” the orange-eyed cat continued.

“So either some sort of clairvoyance, very possibly mind-reading, chronomancy maybe, some sort of elaborate setup or some other method entirely I’m not aware of. So I’m guessing you’re offering to look for them, in return for something?” Sylver asked carefully.

“I’m glad we understand each other. I’m not going to ask about your past or even your current circumstances, but as I understand it, you’re more than just a level 19 necromancer.” The orange-eyed cat stated. She hadn’t blinked once since Sylver had sat down.

How much does she know? I was drunk, but I wasn’t drunk enough to start spilling secrets. And I know for a fact I didn't say anything that would give me away. Is it the fact that I spoke dwarvish? Something I did without noticing? If she’s reading my mind, would I even know?

“I’m going to choose to take that as a compliment. So what exactly do you think I’m able to help you with? With how well you seem to be able to gather information, I’m sure there are far more known and trustworthy people who could help you.” Sylver asked.

“They’ve all tried and failed. And the ones we haven’t tried would be problematic to deal with. You, on the other hand, are at the very least unaffiliated with anyone.” the orange-eyed cat said.

“And I would like to remain unaffiliated,” Sylver added quickly.

“As such we are all hoping you would be willing to deal with this for us, quietly and without attracting any undue attention.” the orange-eyed cat finished.

“So you want me to kill someone?” Sylver asked. There wasn’t any malice in the question. He’d killed for less before. Protecting himself, and his friends was a more than worthy enough cause.

“It would be easier to show you.” The orange-eyed cat said. Once she got up, a much slimmer white-haired cat jumped next to her and sat down on the small fluffy white kittens.

It led Sylver out of the room, and down the hallway, stopping at a closed door. Quietly opening the door Sylver peaked his head inside and saw a small girl being tended to by the old woman who had let him inside. She lifted her large glasses up to meet him and scurried out of the room quite quickly.

Following the cat, Sylver approached the girl and felt as if someone was trying to peel his skin off. Wrapping himself up in his own mana, the sensation receded and he could approach the girl normally now.

She looked horrible. Her skin was dried out, she was unnaturally thin, her nails were brown and cracked, and her head had clumps of hair missing. A wet towel lay across her forehead, covering her eyes. Her breathing was labored and haggard, and there was a raspiness in the sound that didn’t belong there.

“You do understand, I’m not a healer? If I had to, I’d categorize myself as the exact opposite of one.” Sylver said to the cat. It was sitting near the girl’s arm and was staring at the girl’s face.

“We’ve tried healers. And shamans and druids, and witches, and wizards, and sorcerers, and warlocks, and clerics and even mystics. They all said there was nothing they could do.” The orange-eyed cat said.

“So I’m just a random magic user, in a long line of magic users? As in, fuck it, let’s see if the necromancer does any better?” Sylver asked, lifting the girls incredibly thin and pale hand up and inspecting it. Sending an exploratory pulse of mana into it, told him exactly what he was expecting.

“Of course not. I just have a feeling you’d be able to do something all the others hadn’t.” The cat said.

“Why do you think I’ll be able to do anything? Because you saw me perform a few complex spells for Salgok? You do understand that’s the equivalent of assuming a master swordsman, must also be a master blacksmith. Offensive dark magic, is as related to curse magic, as fire magic is to water magic. People always mix them all into one big bowl, and never bother differentiating them.” Sylver explained, staring down at the cat who was staring right back at him.

“I can see you’re on edge from hearing your friend’s names. And I apologize for that. I did not mean it as a threat, and I want to make sure you understand that I will not force you to do anything. If you wish to end this conversation and leave, you will not be bothered by us again.” The white cat said.

“Good. Because we would be having a wholly different conversation if it was. You’re luckier than you can ever imagine that you brought me here. Bloodline curses are tricky. Incredibly difficult magic. Especially something that’s been given so much time to grow and fester.” Sylver said, letting the girl's hand go.

But I wouldn’t be able to call myself an arch necromancer if I couldn’t deal with something of this level.

“I’m assuming the source is nearby somewhere? Because something on this level has a very limited range.” Sylver asked.

The white cat rubbed it’s face against the girl’s and jumped over her onto the floor. Sylver followed after it wordlessly, putting his shoes on and walking behind the white cat, followed by a small army of cats behind him. The white cat led him around the house, and to the wall, squeezing effortlessly through a tiny gap in it.

Sylver checked behind himself and looked around. “Is anyone watching this wall?” he asked the cats behind him.

After they all mimed no, he placed his foot on the wall and then the second one. Walking upwards completely parallel to the floor, he got to the top and continued walking downwards, ultimately releasing himself and letting him fall to the small patch of land separating the wall and the river.

He could see the white cat on the other side, and looked around but didn’t see a bridge or crossing anywhere. “Is anyone watching us?” he asked the cats who had crossed over through the same small hole. After they all mimed no, he took a very deep breath, and with great care stepped onto the fast-moving river.

His foot went through the water initially, before he got it under control and stepped onto the artificially flattened surface, and carefully walked across. At first, his shoes kept going under the surface, barely high enough to keep him upright. But by the time he had reached the halfway point he was already walking with steadiness and confidence on the rampaging water. It felt strange to use his mana in this way, after all the years he just floated around from place to place.

Walking to the other side of the river had cost Sylver half of his MP pool. The white cat didn’t appear the least bit phased by whatever method it had used, and carried on walking away from the river and city.

He barely felt the barrier that he crossed, but all of a sudden there was a small lake in front of him, with a tiny island in the very middle. He could both see and feel the mana being pulled towards the island. And with a little concentration, he could even see the trickle of the girl’s life force being pulled in as well.

“How long does she have?” Sylver asked.

“3 weeks. It always starts off with a mild fever, then she stops being able to walk, then talk, then see, and finally, she falls into a deep sleep. Any attempts to move her further away from here, result in her losing even more strength.” The white cat explained.

“And her mother?”

“She’s fine. It jumps to the child once it is born. I sent her parents away so they wouldn’t see you. The old woman is blind and trusted. I have a way to slow it down, but there’s nothing more I can do. In three weeks, she’s done.” the white cat said.

“How long has this been going on,” Sylver asked, staring down the tiny island.

“My predecessors managed to protect her mother and grandmother and as far back as we remember. At first, it asked for a life every nine years. We had lives to spare and had enough love in our hearts to give them up to protect them. We asked the temple for help, and they did their best but couldn’t do anything..” The white cat explained.

“And when they couldn’t do anything the temple sealed it shut, and called it a day,” Sylver added.

“At some point, we just got used to it. It seemed like such a small price to pay, to protect our family.” The white cat said.

“And then it wanted a life every 8 years, then every 7 and now you’re down to your last life, and no kit to replace you,” Sylver said completely dispassionately.

The white cat looked up at him, with tears in its eyes. “Their eyes haven’t even opened. I can’t let them give up their lives before they’ve even seen the sun. If I die now, the girl won’t even get a year before it starts again. And my children are too young to do it, even if they wanted to. I would waste my last life, for nothing.” The white cat pleaded.

Sylver looked around for a while before he spotted it. Walking past the white cat he made his way to the left of the pond. Through overgrown grass and still standing dead trees, he made his way deeper into the forest, following the trail only he could see on the floor.

After only a few seconds of walking, he found it, hidden underneath a fallen tree branch, with its door wide open, and the miasma so strong, Sylver could feel it from here. Walking into the darkened building, he pulled the tree out of the way to get inside.

Long rusted hooks hung loosely from the ceiling, various bowls now filled with lichen and moss lay broken on the floor, completely destroyed books stood in neat stacks on the walls, and a single table at the very end of the shack remained completely untouched by time or nature.

The roll of tools was in pristine condition. Titanium edges, steel alloy bodies, and it even had room for enchantments that had remained blank. The next item was in equally good shape. A long glass needle, connected to a perfectly round glass flask. Both didn’t have so much as a speck of dust on them and were covered in intricately carved frameworks.

And lastly was the book in the very middle, propped open for easier use, and a giant splatter of blood across the page.

Flipping through the book Sylver recognized a lot of the writing. He even knew a few of the spells and rituals in here himself. He’d even used a few in the past.

“So?” The white cat asked after Sylver had stepped outside with the large book in hand. It seemed to have calmed down while he was inside.

“Is anyone listening to us?” Sylver asked.

The white cat closed its eyes for a moment and Sylver felt a very strong barrier form around them.

“You may speak freely. I swear on my name what is said here, will never be repeated.” The white cat said.

“I’ve got three conditions,” Sylver said.

“You can lift the curse?” The white cat asked, its eyes completely wide for the first time since Sylver had met it.

“I’m fairly certain I can. Condition number one is that no one knows about this. You don’t tell other cats, you don’t tell the king of rats or the king of dogs, no one knows I was involved with this in any way, shape, or form. Succeed or fail, this never happened. I walk away untouched and unmolested, as does everyone associated with me.” Sylver said carefully.

“There’s no king of dogs. But I can agree to that.” the white cat answered. Sylver could hear the strain in its voice to interject.

“Condition number two. I want 120 gold coins. I can accept getting paid in installments, but I’m not budging on the price. And I’ll want a few people found for me. Or their corpses at the very least. Like you initially offered,” Sylver said, his eyes moving between the book and the tiny island. It felt wrong to put a price on a life, but he wasn’t about to mess with something this dangerous for free, he wasn’t that altruistic.

“If they’re somewhere in this world, I’ll find them. And I can pay in full if you succeed.” the white cat answered without a pause.

Sylver hid his surprise at this and continued. “And condition three. I want protection for Yeva, and her husband when he comes back. Not for as long as you live, but until the day they die.” Sylver said.

There was a long pause during which the white cat’s ears twitched multiple times. “I thought you were her husband?” The cat finally asked.

“I am not. Do we have a deal?” Sylver asked finally.

“It will take me a few weeks to move people in to protect her. But if you can accept that, I accept your conditions.” The white cat said.

“And one last thing. I can’t promise I’ll succeed. I can only promise that I’ll give it my best shot.” Sylver said. Although he already had a plan formed in his head, that he was 99.99% certain would work. As the cat had said, he wasn’t just a level 19 necromancer.

“That’s all I can ask for. But what are you going to do?” The white cat asked, dropping the barrier around them.

“Well, the curse wants the girl’s body. So that’s what I’ll give it.”

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