Chapter 3 – Found
Dragons, elves, beastmen, magic…
That’s right. What’s a talking cat when you already have all these? It’s a fantasy world after all. Nothing to be surprised about.
Nonetheless, I still couldn’t fall asleep after that.
A talking cat? Fine. An abused talking cat? Still fine. But an abused talking cat murmuring “Found you” before disappearing? Not ok. Seriously, what was that supposed to mean? That would imply that he was looking for me in the first place, right? Why? I don’t know you Mister cat. Besides, what was the point in finding me if you disappear right after that? It only makes me even more confused….
Wait… It’s not… one of those creatures that have the ability to detect one’s inner power or something like that, right? Or maybe it was the familiar of some insanely strong mage? Because if that’s the case, I hope you never come back and leave me alone.
It really didn’t come back. A few weeks passed since my birthday party. I had expected the cat that showed up that night to reappear any time but it just sank without trace, just like if everything I saw was just a dream –maybe it was, it was late in the night after all.
Since it didn’t show again, I concluded that it was just a random talking cat and eventually forgot about it. Big mistake. I shouldn’t have let him get away…
The next months passed smoothly and there were a few changes in my baby life.
First, I can finally walk. It’s been a while since I had my first steps, but now I finally developed enough coordination and muscle strength to walk by my own. I also tried to run, but I failed miserably. I guess even a Goddess can’t skip steps. Walking allowed me to go outside more often but paradoxically, I feel like I’ve regressed since I’m never left alone anymore. Now that I can walk, there is always one or two pair of eyes to watch over me.
The second change is mother. I think she’s finally starting to feel at ease in the neighborhood. She’s still very secretive and a bit paranoid, but at least, she started opening herself to the others. She is now the mascot number 2. Since they had the occasion to see her face through the gap of her robe more than once, now people knew her as the “beautiful woman with a hood” and there has been some pretty hilarious rumors going on about her. Some say that she’s a runaway princess while others think that she’s wearing a hood to hide a wound or a scar. My favorite is the rumor saying she’s a criminal hiding herself from the authorities. But in all cases, she became people’s favorite gossip talk.
Currently, I’m in the market place together with mother, brother, Leonara and her son Viran. We were strolling through the street making friendly conversations with the sellers and looking for ingredients for tonight’s lunch.
Leonara was a kind lady. She was an honest person and she treated me like her own daughter. She has been trying to get closer to mother ever since she started working at the inn. Mother tried not to get too friendly with Leonara but since she was the owner’s wife, she couldn’t really avoid her. Eventually, they became friends thanks to Leonara’s perseverance –but the fact that Viran and Aoban are getting along so well helped a lot too.
As we were approaching a shop, an old man selling crops noticed our little group and smiled at us.
“Good afternoon, ladies. What can I do for you today?”
“Good afternoon, Mr Oddin.” Leonara replied. “Can I have two bags of potatoes, please?”
“Of course, right away!” The vendor filled two small bags of potatoes before weighting them on a balance scale. At the same time, his eyes rested on me, who was currently in my mother’s arm.
“Well, well, little Lyni is here too?” He asked with a silly voice. “Are you shopping with your mom?”
I shyly nodded. “Yesh~! Mwommy ish buying nums nums for din din!”
Ah~ Look at him, melting away because of my baby talk. No one can resist my cuteness, fufufu… Ever since my birthday party, I’ve been more careful not to get exposed, using a much more childish way to talk. At first, it was a bit tiring to act like a baby all the time, but as time went on, I eventually got used to it. I also have to admit that I quite enjoy watching people’s silly reactions when I display all my adorableness.
The vendor handed over the two bags of crops. Leonara took one, mother took the other.
“That will be thirty copper coins!”
“Hum… Is there any way to get a discount?” Leonara asked.
“Eh? You know I can’t, my lady, I have to make a living too!” The vendor complained.
“Even for little Lyni?” She added, this time with a huge grin on her face.
The old man turned his gaze one more time on me.
“Pweeeees??” I said as I tilted my head to the side.
“Ugh… Fine…” The vendor reluctantly agreed.
Uhm… I’m starting to feel guilty now. This is actually the third time this month something like this happens. At first, I didn’t understand why Leonara insisted in bringing me each time to the market. I walk slowly and carrying me all day must be tiring. Basically, I’m burden. But I get it now. She sure is cunning! Well, she’s a businesswoman too after all.
“Thanks for your purchase…”
Please, don’t use such a defeated voice. I’m really feeling bad right now.
As mother and Leonara were concluding the deal, Aoban and Viran were fooling around a bit further. They’ve been trailing behind the whole time, talking, playing and messing with each other. With so few attention, they would have been lost a long time ago if mother and Leonara weren’t walking slowly. Ah, boys… Seriously, it’s not a good idea to fool around in the street, you will get in trouble.
… And just as I thought, they did get in trouble.
I think they were playing the soldier and the thief. Brother was the thief. He was running around in the middle of the crowd, avoiding people, while Viran was chasing after him. And in accordance with Murphy’s law, what had to happen happened. Brother eventually lost his balance and charged someone drinking outdoors. He immediately stood up, as the beverage he was drinking spilled on his clothes. That someone was wearing a high-quality silk apparel along with some jewelry screaming “I’m a noble!” and was accompanied by a personal guard.
Oh, dear. Of all people, it had to be a noble. Troubles, troubles, troubles…
“You fucking brat!” Noble guy –that’s how I will call him from now on- shouted.
Startled, Aoban froze for a few seconds. Then he sincerely apologized, understanding what he had done. Viran, on the other hand, did not dare to move.
The sudden commotion attracted people’s attention and a crowd soon gathered, eager for something interesting to watch. As they noticed that their sons were involved, mother and Leonara forced their way through the crowd to rush to their side. The boys quickly hid behind them.
“Aoban! Are you okay?” Mother asked, putting me down on the ground.
“That’s me who you should be asking to, bitch! Are you that brat’s mother?” Noble guy growled.
… How rude! Watch your mouth, you fool! Being a noble doesn’t give you the right to insult people like that. But mother didn’t flinch. She simply bowed her head politely.
“Yes. I’m not sure what happened, but I apologize for the inconvenience. Please forgive my son, I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm.”
Noble guy frowned. “To forgive him? Look at this!” He pointed at his attire. “My clothes are ruined because you couldn’t keep an eye on your damn brat!”
What an asshole! He’s definitely the kind of guy to make a fuss over nothing and who will jump on the first occasion to oppress the weak. Looking at the amount of jewelry he’s wearing, there is no mistake this single piece of cloth is worth nothing to him. He could probably afford a hundred like this. Still, he felt the need to humiliate my mother in front of everyone. Rotten noble…
Leonara stepped forward. “Please, sir. Let’s settle this calmly. There is no reason for us to make a fuss over a simple mistake. You know how children are, we will make sure to scold them later.”
You go girl! Tell him!
“Huh? What did you say? Are you saying that I’m over-reacting? You damn commoners, then how about you pay this back for me, mh?”
He-did-not-dare! Is he using the opportunity to extort us right now? Don’t you have enough money already? Noble guy grinned wickedly. This asshole. He perfectly knows that we can’t pay.
“What’s wrong? Why aren’t you saying anything anymore?”
Noble guy stayed silent for a few second, then he started to inspect mother intensely from head to toes, which made her really uncomfortable. He approached, placed his finger under her chin and lifted her head up, forcing her to look at him in the eyes.
“Well, well, look at this. Such a beautiful face. Why would you be hiding it? You know what, I’ve got an idea. How about we settle this just the two of us? Alone.” Noble guy said, looking at mother with lustful eyes.
WHAT THE HECK IS HE THINKING?! Get away from her, you lecher! This has gone too far, I am SOOO going to kick your ass! Why isn’t anybody saying anything? That rotten noble is clearly in the wrong, but he’s taking advantage of the situation. There are so many witnesses here, yet no one is defending mother. The passers-by, the vendors who were so friendly just a moment ago, and even Leonara. Everyone is watching, but no one is daring to move. Are they seriously going to let this happens, just because they’re afraid of one noble?
…Umh? Wait… Is that the moment where Super toddler –in other words, me- is supposed to jump in and rescue the maiden in distress? This won’t do… I can’t do that… It’s not even a matter of keeping up the act of the normal human baby. Even if I wanted to, how am I supposed to help mother? Now that I think about it, I am supposedly a Goddess, but I have no idea how to use my power… I mean, I don’t know any magic incantation. Ugh… Such a useless power…
“That’s enough.” A dull voice ordered.
Finally! Someone decided to step in! I turned away in the direction of the voice, trying to catch sight of its owner. Suddenly, high-pitched screams could be heard as someone was making his way through the crowd. What are they so scared about? Then I saw him…
Oh… Oh! Ooooooooooooh!
T-Those black fluffy ears! This little tail waving behind him! They’re real! It’s a cat-boy! A real one! I’d give him fourteen years old, maybe fifteen. He had short black hair and green eyes.
“A demihuman!” A man shouted with a note of indignation in his voice. “What is a demihuman doing here?”
“Hiiiiiiii! Don’t let him get any closer than this!”
… Right. I had almost forgotten about this. The racial prejudices. Clearly, seeing all the disgusted looks directed toward him, I was the only one happy to see the beastman. But he couldn’t possibly be a bad person. Out of all people present here, he was the only one who raised his voice against the rotten noble. I already knew what to expect, but it was still really striking to see such a strong discrimination, even though he only wanted to help. Back in my old world, he would have been worshipped for those ears and tail.
When he saw him, Noble guy’s face distorted in disgust. He was not even bothering trying to hide his aversion. His personal guard immediately tensed up, holding the grip of his sword, ready to strike if needed. But Noble guy glanced at him and raised his hand before him, signaling not to intervene.
“Be careful my lord, it’s a demihuman…” The guard murmured, loud enough for everyone else to hear.
Noble guy stepped forward. His lips curled into a smirk as he finally spoke up. “What do you think you’re doing, playing hero, slave?” His eyes eventually fell upon the slave collar the cat-boy was wearing. “Did you lose your master?”
He’s a slave? I was so absorbed by his fluffy ears and tail that I hadn’t even noticed the collar around his neck. Looking carefully, it should have been obvious. His skin was covered with scars and his ears were in a pretty bad shape. He had clearly been mistreated.
Uhm? Wait… That looks familiar? Those matted confetti ears, those scars and that locking steel collar… Mister cat? That’s totally Mister cat, from the other night. But why is Mister cat in a human form now? Huh? I’m confused…
The cat-boy didn’t reply. Instead, tilting his head to the side, he absentmindedly looked at the noble, just like a rebellious teenager forced to listen to his parents’ lecture. This rude behavior did not escape Noble guy, as his upper lips twitched a little.
“Haha… First it’s a commoner, and now even a slave disrespects me? What kind of bad joke is this?”
Noble guy stepped forward and grabbed Mister cat by his collar. “Let me show you how to respect nobility! I do not remember allowing you to look at me in the eyes. A dirty slave like you should be begging for-“
Before he could finish, the cat-boy bent backwards and suddenly head butted the noble, forcing him to let him go. Under the impact, Noble guy fell on the ground. Not understanding what just happened, he blanked out for a few seconds, staring bluntly at the cat-boy who was now looking down on him –literally.
Everyone was dumbfounded by what they just witnessed. A slave –and a beastman in addition-attacked a noble, in the middle of the day.
Fufufu… Serves you right, rotten noble. Mister cat, you’re my hero.
Coming back to his senses, Noble guy’s face suddenly reddened in indignation. He had probably never been humiliated like this before. He stood up, pointing the cat-boy with his finger.
“Y-You! Did you just dare to attack me?! What are you waiting for, Bruno?! Kill him!” He ordered his guard.
"Y-Yes!' His escort responded, as his employer's voice suddenly pulled him out of his confusion.
Immediately complying, Bruno threw himself on the cat-boy, pulling out his sword. He tried to bring the slave down with a diagonal slash but the boy effortlessly avoided it, twisting his upper body. As the slice cut through the air, the cat-boy brought his knee to his assailant’s nose before taking him down with a swift sweep in the shin. A loud CRACK sounded. His leg broken, the guard was unable to fight anymore. The battle had been over almost as soon as it began.
“You useless guard! What do you think I’m paying you for? Get up and-“ Noble guy started, but the cat-boy slammed his flat palm against his face, immediately interrupting him. Losing his balance, he almost fell backwards.
Fufu… This is hilarious. He completely overpowered them. They never stood a chance. So this is the famous strength of beastmen? They sure live up to their reputation.
Slowly recovering, Noble guy could only gaze at the cat-boy in astonishment. He was no longer looking upon him with disgust; instead, a glint of fear could be seen in his eyes. His previous arrogance was now completely gone.
“Y-You… You think you will get away with this…? Look around you! With so many witnesses, you’re already a dead man! You attacked me, not once but twice!”
Ignoring his words, the cat-boy stepped forward. “W-What are you planning to do…?” Noble guy asked, as his voice was wavering. I’m almost starting to pity him…
Mister cat then threw something at the noble. It was a pouch filled with gold coins. As he saw the content of the bag, Noble guy’s eye widened in confusion.
“Compensation. For the clothes.” Mister cat simply said as he pointed his dirtied apparel with his finger.
Not sure of what to do, Noble guy simply stared at the cat-boy. I could guess what he was thinking. Why would a slave have so much money? Did he steal it? He didn’t seem to find the answer, but he started to regain some confidence, as he mistook the cat-boy’s action as an attempt to gain his forgiveness.
A grin appeared on his face. If the slave had so much money, then his master must be even richer. Everyone knew he was going to use this opportunity to threaten him.
“You think this is enough? You attacked me, a noble! This is a serious crime!” He shouted.
People like him never learn, do they…?
“Don’t think you can get with just a few coins. Who is your master? He will hear about this! As his slave, he should take responsibilities for your actions!”
Mister cat sighed.
“Fine. I’ll tell my master that you request a meeting with him. You just have to head towards the Whiteheart Estate. I believe you know where it is, right? My master will receive you in his mansion.” The cat-boy answered with a flat voice, as he looked away, not impressed.
“Did he say the Whiteheart Estate?”
“He is a slave of the Whiteheart household…?”
These simple words caused a commotion in the crowd. People were whispering to one another. Noble guy’s face suddenly paled and his grin vanished in a second. For a few minutes, he stayed silent, staring blankly at the cat-boy, trying to put his thoughts in order. This abnormal rudeness and this arrogance despite being a lowly slave... He should have known the beastman wasn't a just normal servant and had some backup. Noble guy frowned. He was cursing himself for getting involved with him.
“I-It’s fine… You don’t have to bother your master… Everyone makes mistakes… I feel like forgiving you today, be g-grateful…” He changed his mind, trying to keep his composure in order not to lose face in front of the others –which was useless since he already lost it a long time ago.
…. Wow. I’m not sure how much influence this Whiteheart household has, but it must be a really powerful family seeing how fast Noble guy backed down. His confidence vanished in an instant!
Not even waiting for an answer, he quickly disappeared in the crowd, leaving the poor Bruno behind. He was probably afraid that Mister cat would insist in him meeting his master, but he obviously couldn’t care less.
Anyway. Troubles avoided!! I’m grateful, Mister cat, you saved us! If there is something I learnt from novels, it’s to never piss off nobles. They always bring more troubles than necessary and they’re a real pain to deal with. I’m not sure what would’ve happened if not for Mister cat. I’m sorry for trying to chase you away the other night…
The unpleasant episode finally over, I rejoiced myself but turning to mother, I noticed that something was wrong. Was she sick? She really didn’t look good. Shouldn’t she be happy that we avoided the worst? Actually, it’s wasn’t just mother. Even Aoban didn’t look well. Why were they so pale?
I was naïve.
Back then, I didn’t know. We did not avoid the worst, quite the opposite actually, we directly walked into the lion’s den… Mother and Aoban perfectly knew that.
As I was staring at my family, trying to understand their strange behavior, the cat-boy casually approached us. He stayed silent for a while, then he smiled.
… Huh? He knows mother? So it wasn't me whom he was looking for? Well, that makes sense, I mean I don't know him...
As his smile was widening, mother, on the other hand, kept getting paler and paler. I immediately understood: Mister cat was not an ally, he was an enemy.
Seemingly enjoying mother’s reaction, he quietly approached his face and whispered something in her ear. “How long did you think you could keep running away from us? I told you I would find you…”
He stepped back.
“Let’s meet again very soon, alright? I missed you!” The cat-boy said as he showed us his brightest smile. Since he knew he probably wouldn’t get a reply, he simply walked away.
“Ah, and you're welcome by the way!” He added before disappearing in an alley.
If not for mother and brother’s reactions, I would have thought that he was a very friendly person. But they felt threatened. Obviously, something was up with him and I didn’t know what. However, I could at least understand this much: Mister cat meant troubles, big troubles.
That afternoon, we returned home in silence.
Leonara kept apologizing on the way for not having spoken in her defense, but mother would only reply with a sad smile. She didn’t blame her, how could she? She was a mother too so she understood her feelings perfectly. She had a family to protect and couldn’t take the risk to endanger them by angering a noble. Actually, mother had already forgotten about that. She didn’t listen to a word Leonara said, as she kept thinking over and over about Mister cat.
When we arrived in our room, Aoban was the first one to break the silence.
“Mommy…” He looked up at her, full of worries. “Are we leaving…?”
Mother reluctantly nodded after staying silent for a while. “Yes… We will be leaving tomorrow in the morning.”