Chapter 14 – The Dilapidated Country and Cat God-sama’s Rebirth
I was crying.
I was crying as I flew on my broom along the main street of a dilapidated city that was still teeming with people in the afternoon. The oncoming wind blew the teardrops out of my eyes.
“Stop right there!”
“Don’t let that witch escape! Capture her!”
“Don’t let her leave this place alive!”
The people chasing me were soldiers of this country. There was also a magician among them, who was riding a broom and attempting to catch up to me. However, they were not my only enemies.
“Leave it to me!”
“Damn…! I nearly had her!”
“Don’t let her get away!”
“After her! Keep up the chase!”
All the people in the street were jumping at me from the sides and front, trying to drag me off my broom.
People who had been fawning over cats until moments ago, people who had been having an animated conversation, people who were shopping, and some of them even came out of shops. Regardless of age and gender.
I dodged all their attacks.
At this point, the whole country considers me to be an enemy. They think I’m an evil person who is going to bring their country to ruin.
Unfortunately, that is the truth.
I wiped away my tears and looked forwards. I seem to be in very bad shape compared to usual. The movement of the broom was terribly unstable, and wasn’t moving forward in a straight line. I feel like I’ll crash into the ground instantly if I let my guard down for even a second.
I put more strength into my right hand that was gripping the broom and forced it back on track. I focused on keeping the broom flying while avoiding the people who were trying to mob me.
The girl I was carrying in my left hand probably felt uncomfortable because of my rough flying.
“I feel sick…”
She softly uttered those words in a voice that only I could hear.
“Please try to endure it… I’m struggling to deal with it as well.”
I wasn’t able to breathe properly. Every time I sucked in a breath through my mouth, I felt like something hot and heavy was being poured into my lungs.
The girl looked at me with her round, blue eyes.
“Well, do your best. Look, we’re almost at the gate.”
After saying that, she happily made a “Nyaa,” sound. And rubbed her cheek against mine.
I cried even more. Was I crying because I was happy? Or was it for some other reason? I really wonder.
“Bring Cat God-sama back!”
I could hear such voices reverberating through the street behind me. The girl—cat—that I was carrying once again said “Nyaa,” as if to reject their words.
Let’s go back in time for a little while. Around two entire revolutions of the hands of the clock backwards. Or one entire cycle of the sun and moon. In other words, about this time yesterday.
“Oh, so that country has some pretty strange customs.”
I was at a village that I happened across during my travels. I casually asked the people there if they knew about any interesting countries nearby, and the the villagers told me about that country.
“What exactly do you mean by ‘strange customs?’”
“Apologies, Milady, but I know not the answer. Many souls have departed this place for that country, but nary a single one hath ever returned.”
“Ah, sorry, but can you please speak normally?”
“…I’m not sure what exactly makes their customs strange, either. The only thing we know for sure is that that country is a mysterious place.”
Oh, my. That certainly seems strange.
From what I heard, a few years ago this village used to attract tourists by marketing themselves with the tagline 『The village life is good!』. Furthermore, they earned a lot of money by getting foolish people from the city who misunderstood that life in the village would be free and peaceful, without any conflicts, to move to the village and settle down there.
However, a strange country came into existence nearby quite recently, and this village was all but forgotten.
The village sent some spies to the country to discover their secrets so that they could imitate them, but even the spies were won over by that country. The remaining villagers panicked and decided on the simple strategy of, 『Well then, let’s try and appeal our rural charm by changing the way we speak,』 and so drove their country further into obscurity.
Apparently, that’s what happened.
That sounds like a really interesting place. I’m really curious about just how interesting it really is.
“So, how do I get to that country?”
When I asked them that question, the villagers carefully explained the route to me in a forced, old-style manner of speaking.
Under a midday sky, I took off from the village and flew with my broom pointed to the west. I flew over the plains, crossed over a small bridge that spanned a river, and continued flying over the plains again.
The green lands seemed to infinitely stretch on , but I soon started to see a few thin conifer trees, and the landscape gradually changed from plains to a forest. At around the same time, the country came into view.
The large walls were quite faded despite the fact that this country was supposed to have been formed recently, and the ivy growing on the walls made it blend in with its surroundings.
When I flew closer while avoiding the increasing number of trees, I saw a large, iron gate that was closed. It looked like only this part had been recently refurbished as it looked brand new, and thereby stood out from the rest of the surroundings which had achieved a balance with nature.
After I landed and dismounted from my broom, a small window opened in the gate. I saw the silver-colored helm of a guard through that window.
“Who goes there?”
“I’m a traveler. I’m also a witch. My name is Elaina.”
“What business do you have in this country?”
“I heard that there was a wonderful country here, so I came to take a look. If possible, I would like to stay for a few days.”
The guard gave a small nod.
“…Very well. However, if you want to enter this country, you must answer a question.”
“Do you love cat-samas?”
He asked me that out of the blue.
“Not cats. Cat-samas.”
“…What’s the difference?”
“It’s a matter of giving the appropriate respect to cat-samas. So, what’s your answer? Do you love cat-samas?”
“Umm… Well… I guess I do love them, yes.”
Although I’ve never even touched one before—I can’t say that, no matter what. Well, I do think that they look rather cute, and I have no reason to hate them so it should be fine.
“…Very well. Enter. There are no bad people who love cat-samas.”
“However, we will conduct a check of your belongings before you are allowed inside. Enter through the side gate.”
After that, I finished the procedures required to enter the country, and finally got inside.
I had no idea what I would find waiting for me inside. That’s just how strange it was.
The streets inside the city which were being used by pedestrians were quite old.
The brick-faced buildings that faced the main street were neatly lined up, but they all had a faded color and, just like the city walls, they were covered in ivy. I was a little curious about the fact that all the doors of the houses looked like square holes that you would need to crouch down and pass through in order to enter.
The paving stones on the road were all covered in moss as well, and overall, this place gave the impression that it had been abandoned for a long time.
After looking around for a bit, I understood why the guard at the gate asked me that question before I was allowed to enter.
This country is full of cats.
If you just lower your gaze a little, you’ll see cats everywhere. Weaving in between the people, sunbathing in the middle of the road, and playing with the weeds.
Everywhere I looked, I saw more cats. It was so excessive that it could be considered strange. It would be a hellish experience for anyone who dislikes cats, so asking that question before letting someone inside makes sense.
I was thinking of such things while attracted by a pleasant wheat smell from a roadside stall.
“Ah, I would like to buy some bread. This one, this one, that one, and the one over there.”
The kind-looking man on the other other side of the stall replied with a “Sure,” and nodded. He picked up one each of the breads that I pointed to with a pair of tongs, put them in a paper bag, and handed them to me.
I paid. I got the bread. Yay.
It happened right after that.
“—Mister, I would like to buy some bread too. This one, this one, that one, and the one over there.”
At some point, another witch-san had appeared next to me and ordered the exact same breads that I had ordered. She was a grown-up lady wearing a blue robe and a tricorne.
She exchanged four coppers for a paper bag, nodded to the man, and then turned towards me. Her light blue hair was cut short at the back, and swayed slightly in the breeze. Her bangs were longer than average in contrast to her short hair at the back, so I could only see one of her eyes.
“Good morning. I haven’t seen you around before. Are you perhaps a traveler?”
I pulled one of the breads out of the paper bag, took a bite, and replied.
“Yes, that’s right. Who are you?”
“I’m a witch. Also, I live here.”
“Ah, sorry for calling out to you all of a sudden. I’m the only witch in this country, and there are not many magicians here in the first place, so I just started talking to you out of curiosity. I hope I’m not bothering you.”
“Well, I was surprised when you started talking to me all of a sudden.”
She gave me a bitter smile.
“Sorry about that—by the way, have you already finished looking around this country?”
After taking another bite of bread, I shook my head.
“I just got here a few minutes ago.”
When I said that,
“I see—do you want me to give you a small tour? This is a fairly strange place by ordinary standards, so if you walk around without a guide you might get swindled out of your money or arrested for some reason.”
She suddenly proposed that.
True, there are many questions I have regarding this culture that lets cats run rampant. If she’s willing to give me a tour, that’s perfect. It’s very convenient for me.
“I would like that very much. As long as you promise to not swindle me out of my money.”
“Ahaha. Don’t worry, I won’t charge you for the tour or anything. I came here from a different country as well, so I went through a lot of hardship when I first came here. This country has several unique laws, and if you break one accidently you might be sent to prison.”
“Sent to prison…”
This is the first I’ve heard about that.
“Yes. I’ll explain things to you to keep something like that from happening.”
She said, “We might end up living together in this country in the future,” and smiled.
At that time, I still didn’t properly understand what she meant by that.
While eating our bread, we walked side by side around the city.
“I haven’t introduced myself yet, right—my name is Rushie. The Witch of Fair Skies, Rushie.”
“I’m Elaina. The Witch of Ashes.”
I slightly bowed my head in greeting, and she said “Nice to meet you, Elaina-san,” while smiling.
I responded with the same.
“Well then, let me tell you more about this country while I’m showing you around. To start with, there are three laws in this country that you must follow at all times.”
“Well, I say that, but two of the laws are fairly simple and none who love cat-samas would even think of breaking those—the first law is 『Regardless of the circumstances, thou shalt not cause harm to cat-samas.』”
“What happens if you break that law?”
“Eh? You’ll be sent to prison, usually.”
“Isn’t that a bit harsh…”
“Any person despicable enough to harm a cat-sama deserves that, don’t you think? Also, the second law somewhat overlaps with the first… 『Thou shalt only interact with cat-samas with feelings of endless love.』”
“That’s pretty abstract… By the way, what happens if you break it?”
I’ve seen some bad laws, but this really takes the cake…
“Umm… So what exactly should—achoo!”
“Are you okay? Do you have a cold?”
“Excuse me. I’m fine—so, what exactly should I do when interacting with cats?”
“Well… I guess you can just interact with the cat-samas normally.”
“But does interacting with them normally satisfy the condition of showing endless love…?”
I don’t even know what’s going on anymore.
“That’s right, maybe it would be easier to understand if you see it for yourself. Let’s see—ah! Look, over there.”
While I was still perplexed, Rushie-san tugged on my sleeve and pointed at side of the road.
I saw a stall that was selling fish, and a calico cat that was intently staring at the rows of fish in the stall.
The calico cat stalked closer to the stall without attracting the attention of the shopkeeper, and rose up suddenly on its hind legs once it was directly beneath the stall. After adroitly snagging one of the fish with its claws, it popped the fish into its mouth.
However, the shopkeeper spotted it just as it grabbed the fish.
The surprised calico cat glared at the shopkeeper.
Uwaah, he’s going to get angry.
Or so I thought.
“Cat-sama! Thank you for coming! Please, take as many as you would like!”
For some reason, the shopkeeper was overjoyed. What’s more, he grabbed the fish that were lying on his stall and threw them on the ground.
More cats gathered around right away, and started to fight over the fish.
“What’s going on?”
“That doesn’t answer my question…”
I feel like the two of us are on different wavelengths. Are the people in this country changing the way they speak, just like those people in the village? How annoying.
“Ah, over there! Maybe you’ll find that easier to understand.”
With her prompting, I moved my gaze.
And I was shocked speechless. This was even worse.
“Ah! Cat-sama! Cat-sama! Thank you! Thank you so much!”
There was a man lying on his back on the road with his arms and legs stretched out. He had an ecstatic expression on his face.
Atop him was a single cat. It was sitting on him with its eyes narrowed, and looked pleased as it poked at the man’s stomach with its forepaw.
I looked away from the reality that was beyond my ability to comprehend. However, the next thing I saw was also an incomprehensible spectacle in the making.
“Arararara you’re so cute~ nyaa nyaa~”
There was a lady carrying a cat like one would carry a baby, and speaking to it in a creepy voice. Why is she talking like that?
“What is that?”
“Love, of course.”
“What exactly is ‘love’ again…”
I continued to walk around the city while feeling confused, but the more I saw—as the number of cats increased, the state of the people plummeted correspondingly.
People who took the effort to walk around cats that were lying in the middle of the street. A devilish cat that stole the main dish from the table of a couple who were having lunch in a restaurant—and the victims in question did nothing but gaze upon it with happiness. Cats that were like the incarnation of evil gathered around clothes that were for sale, climbed up on them and reduced them to shreds—and the shopkeeper and customers just watched them while smiling.
Not a single person tried to stop the rampage of the large number of cats, and they let the cats do as they pleased.
“This is what is meant by endless love.”
Rushie-san spoke proudly.
“It looks like you’re surprised, but the people of the country—no, even the people who come here from outside become that way eventually. Everyone starts to interact with the cats in a loving manner.”
“I can only see it as people losing their sense of reason and pampering the cats.”
“Well, the cat-samas of this country are especially cute compared to the ones outside. It can’t be helped if people feel like pampering them a little. You’ll understand soon enough, Elaina-san.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever understand it…”
Maybe it’s because I’ve never touched a cat?
“Actually, I don’t even see how the cats here are different from the ones outside.”
“Eh? They’re at least hundreds of times cuter than the cats you see in other countries. I originally came here for work, but I couldn’t get away from here because of how cute the cat-samas here are.”
“What kind of work?”
“Eh? I came here to spy.”
“The people in the village where I used to live told me to come here and carefully observe the culture, and steal the ideas that could be useful as a reference.”
I feel like I’ve heard that somewhere before.
“…You say you came here to spy, but you look like you’ve settled down quite nicely here.”
“It’s fine! I’m going to go back someday! I’m just going to enjoy my life to the fullest while I’m here until that day comes!”
“…Don’t you think you’ve lost sight of your original goal? Are you really okay?”
“Does it look like I’ve lost sight of it?”
“Would I ask you that if it didn’t?”
“Ah, a kitten-sama.”
It looks like she has even lost the will to talk to me any more. As soon as she saw a kitten walking towards us with uncertain footsteps, she immediately bent down, stretched her hand out towards it, and started making “chichichi” sounds with her tongue.
I’m not sure if the kitten reacted to that, but it managed to reach her hand.
And then, it started to gnaw on her finger. It firmly clamped its mouth around Rushie-san’s index finger and continued to gnaw at it gently.
Rushie-san started at it in blank amazement for a some time, and then,
“Aaaaaaaaaaaah! So cuuuuuute!”
She looked like she was about to faint. She was wriggling her body, and her breathing became rough as the kitten continued to suck her finger as if it was looking for milk.
Isn’t she enjoying this a little too much? Is this person okay?
“Ah….. Ahhhh! Haaaaaaa!”
It looks like she’s done for.
I couldn’t help but draw away from her because of her sudden change. I felt very uncomfortable.
She had been talking normally with me until now, but now her cheeks were red as she was fawning over a kitten. Looking at this made me feel itchy, and I felt like I wanted to scratch myself all over my body.
It was so bad that I considered just leaving this place then and there.
I sneezed as I was walking. How many times does that make it today?
Did I perhaps catch a cold? My body also started to feel strangely heavy since a little earlier. The back of my throat feels somewhat hot as well…
In any case, let me get a good night’s sleep today.
“Does this country have any good inns that are equipped with the necessary amenities?”
Rushie-san, who was in exceptionally high spirits after receiving the relentless attacks of the kitten, answered.
“Let’s see… I would recommend that inn over there. It’s a heavenly place where you can entangle yourself with a large number of cat-samas.”
“Maybe I asked the wrong question. Please let me know if there’s an inn which provides a high standard of living.”
“What about the cat-samas?”
“I don’t need any.”
After slightly pouting as if she had found my answer to be boring, she pointed to a different building.
“In that case, that inn might be good—”
A little while later.
We continued to walk around the city as before. I had Rushie-san show me a good inn, several good restaurants that served delicious food (however, they were all filled with cats, without exception), and several other things besides.
At some point during our tour of the city, I realized that the sun was low in the sky. The sky is red.
I suppose it’s time to call it a day? Just when I was able to see the end of the city tour, I remembered that there was still something I needed to learn.
“By the way, what’s the third law?”
If I remember correctly, there were three laws that I had to follow at all times, right?
“Oh, I’m sorry. I had forgotten.”
“Please tell me what it is. If not, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep at the inn in peace.”
I definitely don’t want to spend the night without sleeping while in prison.
“Ahaha. But as for the final rule, it’s pretty rare to even encounter that situation in the first place, so I don’t think it will be a problem. Let’s see, the third law is—”
It happened just as she had opened her mouth to tell me about the final rule.
The people who were walking in the streets suddenly started to make a lot of noise. The agitation spread out like a wave, and voices of admiration could be heard from here and there.
When I was looking around to try and understand what was going on, I saw that all the people were facing in one direction without exception.
“Ahh… It’s Cat God-sama!”
“Cat God-sama has graced us with her presence!”
“It’s been so many days since we last saw her.”
“She’s so beautiful…”
While saying things like that, all the people knelt down on the spot. Rushie-san was also not an exception.
“Ah… How beautiful…!”
She said that in a feverish tone while sighing, and also knelt down like the other people.
……What’s going on?
There was a single cat in the direction that they were all facing. It had black, glossy fur and blue eyes.
However, the atmosphere around this one was somehow different compared to the other cats.
The cat that was elegantly walking towards us had two tails. I’m pretty sure normal cats don’t have those. Also, its fur looked exceptionally fluffy. It might feel nice to hold.
“Rushie-san, why does that cat have two—”
“Elaina-san! What are you doing? Do the same as me, quickly!”
She didn’t give me time to complete my question. As soon as I spoke, she tugged on my robe.
She wants me to do what she’s doing?
I’m supposed to kneel down and show respect to a cat?
I really don’t want to do that…
But if I don’t do as she says, I might be thrown in prison.
It can’t be helped.
I reluctantly got down on one knee and respectfully bowed my head like the others.
Just what am I doing in a place like this?
“Be quiet. We’re in the presence of Cat God-sama. Make sure you don’t do anything to give offense.”
How am I supposed to react after being told something like that all of a sudden? There should be a limit to this unreasonableness, don’t you think? I don’t even know what might cause offense to a cat. What on earth is a Cat God-sama, anyways?
I held back my words of bewilderment and annoyance in the back of my throat. It was a really bad feeling.
At the same time.
I heard a voice. It was fairly close by. No, it was extremely close by.
The black cat with two tails—the one they called Cat God-sama—had come to a stop in front of me at some point. That cat with an elegant face was looking straight at me.
And then, it waved both of its tails once and suddenly jumped at me. It extended its claws and clung to my robe.
I was confused. What exactly am I supposed to do now?
When I looked around at the other people,
“To think that Cat God-sama would jump up on somebody of her own will…”
“Cat God-sama must have recognized her as somebody special.”
Voices of admiration were raised from all directions.
“I’m so jealous…”
I heard Rushie-san’s murmuring as well.
I don’t really get what’s going on, but apparently it’s not a bad thing.
Speaking of which, this is the first time I’ve touched a cat—no, it has two tails, so I’m not sure if I should be calling it a cat.
I pulled back the knee on which I was resting, sat down on the ground, and hugged the cat that was clinging to me. The cat acquiesced without struggling, and rested comfortably in my arms.
When I lightly patted its head, it looked at me with a sleepy expression and started to purr. It felt like it was saying “Pat me more.”
It really is quite cute.
I felt like I understood why the people of this country were attracted to cats so much.
Well, I still don’t feel like I love them enough to abandon all sense of reason.
“I can’t believe it…!”
While I was having fun patting the one they called Cat God-sama, I heard voices raised around me once again. The people stood up and slowly walked towards me to form a circle around me and Cat God-sama.
What’s going on?
When I tilted my head in confusion, from the corner of my eye I saw Rushie-san also standing up. When I turned towards her, she was looking down at me with an incredibly cold gaze.
“…I-Impossible. Elaina-san… What do you think you’re doing…!”
She muttered as if she was delirious, and while speaking, she pulled out her staff.
It was then that I realized that something was wrong. However, it was already too late.
“How dare you pat Cat God-sama!”
“Get your dirty hands off Cat God-sama!”
“You… Do you know what what you’re doing!?”
The people around me were extremely angry.
“Umm… Please, wait for a bit! Just what did I— ”
I had no idea what I had done to anger these people, and was starting to panic a little. In my agitation, I raised both my hands over my head.
The Cat God-sama whom I was carrying was suddenly tossed into the air, and landed on my lap. Landed neatly on all four legs. I felt pain as its claws dug into my thighs.
That action caused further repercussions.
“How dare you toss Cat God-sama into the air like that!”
“Not only is she rude, she did something no one who loves cat-samas would do!”
“Put her to death! Guilty!”
Rushie-san shouted loudly, in a voice that was almost a scream.
“Rushie-san, please explain to them that I was unaware of the circumstances—”
“There is no point in arguing!”
Ehh… She’s not listening…
Not only did she not explain my circumstances to the others, she hit my hands with her staff and used magic. My hands that were still raised in the air were suddenly pulled straight by an unseen force, and were bound by iron handcuffs created by her magic. What’s more, the handcuffs also came with an unnecessary feature that bound the tips of my fingers to the handcuffs so that I could not clench my fists.
I can’t hold my staff like this.
When I looked up again, I saw that Rushie-san was still extremely angry. She handed the key to my handcuffs to a soldier while glaring at me.
“Everyone! Let’s throw this rude witch into prison!”
Rushie-san shouted, and the people around us raised their voices in agreement.
“Umm… Please, just listen to me—”
“Now, stand up, Elaina-san! If you don’t, we’ll drag you there!”
Rushie-san pulled me by the handcuffs as she started to walk.
“Seriously…! Only people who love cat-samas are supposed to be able to enter this country, so how did someone so rude manage to slip in?”
Apparently, my words were not reaching her.
Still, her behaviour was somewhat strange. Compared to the time we spend walking around the city, she felt like an entirely different person.
She looks like she’s lost her ability to think calmly. Like she’s lost all sense of reason.
It was almost as if she was being manipulated by some invisible agency.
“—I finally found you.”
I felt like I heard that voice from somewhere as I was being pulled along by Rushie-san.
After that, I lost track of how much time had passed.
I was in a cold prison cell.
The only things I could see were the grey-colored dirty floor and walls, and the rusted iron bars of the cell. It looked like night had fallen, and I could see some faint moonlight and hear the sounds of insects through a small window in my cell.
The moon in the sky probably looks really beautiful right now—however, I am not able to see it directly. When I look upwards from my seated posture, all I can see is a stake driven into the wall, and my handcuffs that are attached to that stake. I have been sitting against the wall ever since I was brought here. I’ve lost all sense of feeling in my hands.
“Why did this happen…”
The words that slipped out of my mouth echoed sadly for a moment before fading away.
Of course, there was no one here to reply. There are no people here. I’ve been thrown into a prison where there aren’t even any other prisoners. How can something like this be allowed? It’s too much.
No, there’s no point in feeling sorry for myself. For now, let me think of how to get out of this situation.
To begin with, I once again took a look at my current situation.
As I can’t bend my fingers, gripping my staff is definitely impossible. I’m chained to a wall, so even if I was able to reach my broom, I wouldn’t be able to ride it. Even If I was able to ride it, I feel like I’d soon be discovered, and with my hands like this, it would be very dangerous in any event.
I can’t rely on my staff. Or my broom. In short, I can’t rely on magic.
Ah, this is checkmate.
“…What should I do…”
I could only feel despair. It would be nice if I could resolve this situation with money. I wonder if that is possible. Maybe it depends on how the negotiations go?
More importantly, there is something else.
I should have just escaped the moment I was surrounded. Even though I felt that I was going to be sent to prison, for some reason I was unable to deal with the situation calmly.
Why is that? As I thought, I seem to be in exceptionally poor form today.
Is it because of my cold?
My throat hurts, my eyes are itchy, I’ve been sneezing all day, and my body also feels vaguely itchy all over and I have no idea what’s going on.
I don’t think I have a fever, though.
I don’t think that I was unable to deal with the situation calmly because of my cold. Well, understanding that still doesn’t do anything to get me out of this situation.
I let out a sigh.
That’s when it happened.
The moonlight vanished.
“—Hey there, Witch-dono. Is the prison cell to your liking?”
A voice echoed in my jail cell that had become even darker.
It was the calm voice of a woman—I vaguely feel like I’ve heard this voice somewhere before.
I looked around, but didn’t see any people.
“Over here, Witch-dono.”
The voice once again echoed in the cell, but the moonlight returned. It was at the same time that something jumped into my cell through the window above.
The cat that had jumped into my cell made a cute sound and looked over at me.
While waving its two tails in a pleased manner.
“It’s been a few hours since we last met.”
Before me was the existence that the people of this city revered and worshipped as a god.
The Cat Cod-sama, or whatever they called it, was here.
Moreover, it just spoke.
You were lazing around in my arms quietly even though you can talk?
Such a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or should I say cat’s clothing.
The cat looked up at me.
“I’ve finally found you. I’ve been waiting for a human like you.”
After saying that, it tilted its head and said,
“Would you like to make a trade with me?”
In this kind of situation?
“Since you called it a trade, I assume you mean that I stand to gain something from this?”
“Of course. I will free you from this place. That is what you stand to gain. In return, you will have to accept one of my requests.”
“Hoho. What is it that you want me to do?”
“I want you to get me out of this city.”
“—Achoo! …So my gain is merely a byproduct of your own request?”
“Still, I am the only one who can save you from this place.”
“And in return, you are the only person who can save me as well. In short, we both want the same thing.”
I don’t understand what this cat is saying at all.
“Umm, how about you start at the beginning.”
“Very well. Are you interested in taking up my offer?”
“It depends on what you have to say. I don’t want to take the most important existence in the country outside without knowing the circumstances.”
I don’t want to increase my number of enemies any more.
Cat God-sama looked down for a while as though lost in thought.
“In that case, let me start from the beginning, as you asked.”
“Before this country fell into ruin, it had a long history spanning some few centuries—”
“It would be helpful you just explain the parts that have something to do with me.”
“Nuu.. Such a selfish girl.”
And then, the cat gave a sigh.
“In that case, I’ll tell you—putting it simply, this present country was formed because of me.”
She started to speak as if remembering something from long ago.
It was the story of this country.
Very rarely, when a cat that has lived for a long time dies while still having an attachment to this world, it is reborn as a monster with two tails.
This female cat was one such being.
Around forty years ago, she was born in this city as a domestic cat. At that time, this country still interacted with the world outside. She was loved by the people, and lived in the country until she grew old.
However, that all ended when she was fifteen years old.
An epidemic spread throughout the country. The people of the country all died one after the other. Her owners were no exception, and they passed away quickly as well.
A prosperous country that had existed for a long time turned into a place without people in just a few years.
This country without people was abandoned and forgotten by the people outside, and she lived here in peace with other cats.
She didn’t have any interest in leaving the country. She felt that the country would be taken over by the forest and vanish if the cats were to leave as well. She fervently prayed and waited for people to once again come to this country and make it a lively place again. She kept waiting for a long time.
Very rarely, people would happen across this country, but they would leave after capturing several of her compatriots, the other stray cats, or only stay for a few days before moving on. None of them showed any inclination to settle down here.
She continued to wait while hoping for more people to come. And twenty years after she was born, she finally stopped moving.
It was her time—apparently, she was aware of that. At the very least, she wanted to feel loved by someone again. While holding on to that single regret, she surrendered herself to death’s embrace.
And then, she stopped breathing.
Or so she thought.
The next day, she woke up as usual. She wasn’t dead. What’s more, her old body that had become unresponsive due to age now felt light as a feather. It felt as though she had gone back to when she was still a kitten. What on earth had happened?
Once she stood up, she saw that she now had two tails. Also, she was only able to say “Nyaa Nyaa” before, but now she could speak the same language as humans.
All the other cats had only one tail, but she had two. Also, she could speak. Incredible.
Even though she was still confused, she went to show off her new skills to the other cats.
Ever since that day, the environment around her started to change visibly. The people who came to the country became unable to leave.
For example, a merchant who came to the country for vacation and only intended to stay for a few days. A traveler who got lost and somehow ended up there. Refugees who were driven away from their home countries.
The number of people increased one by one, but not a single one of them tried to leave. Also, they showed a lot more love for her and the other cats compared to the people who had come to the country before.
This must be due to the fact that she now had two tails.
Both the other cats and she herself realized that. In fact, even just lightly touching her caused most people to love cats at a level far beyond what was ordinary.
She had no choice but to use this power. There was no need to hold back, either. If this caused the country to become lively again, she had no reason to hesitate.
Ever since she became an existence different from a cat, the population of the country steadily increased. Most of the people who just happened across this country ended up living here.
Very rarely, there would be a person who was unaffected by her power. After some observation, she found that her power had no effect on people who rejected cats because they were allergic to them.
It took a long time, but the people who had been entranced by her formed a new country.
The people built a new gate, developed the country, and at some point started to worship her as a Cat God because she had two tails.
She continued to live in that country while feeling the love from a large number of people.
And then, twenty years passed since she had been reborn.
“—The population has grown too much. If it grows any more, the country will pop like an overinflated balloon. The country will fall into ruin once again. So, I have no choice but to leave.”
That is the story that she told me.
She said that it was the main reason why she had to leave the country.
“Do you understand the situation now?”
Cat God-sama asked me while tilting her head.
In front of her, I sat with my eyes full of tears.
“Ooh, you’re crying for me? You’re a good girl.”
I shook my head and said,
“I’m sorry. I don’t feel like crying, but my eyes are watering anyways.”
“Hmmph. I know. I was just making a joke. That’s one of the identifying features of people who are allergic to cats—you’ve been feeling under the weather ever since you came to this country, haven’t you? For example, feeling that your body is itchy, or your eyes hurt, you have a runny nose, your throat hurts, you feel sick, and—”
“…you keep sneezing. It looks like you’ve already realized.”
I nodded while sniffing hard to stop my nose from running. I hadn’t realized that I had this condition because I had never interacted with cats before, and never even so much as touched one.
It looks like I’ll have to avoid being near cats in the future.
“So what do you say? Do you feel like cooperating with me?”
She once again prompted me to answer. Her blue eyes stared intently at me. Seeing her expression, I feel like she was silently saying, “I told you about the situation, so just help me out already.”
I looked up as if escaping from her gaze, and shook the handcuffs.
“You’re a cat, right? How do you intend to remove these?”
After hearing that, her eyes widened, and after a little while,
“Fufu. I have a plan regarding that—give me some time.”
Even before she finished speaking, she had already turned around and slipped out through the bars on the cell door.
I had nothing to do while waiting for her to return, so I amused myself by stretching out my legs and tapping my heels on the floor. It also helped to nicely stretch my legs since I had been sitting in the same posture for a long time.
“Can’t you just wait quietly?”
She returned after a short while. Holding a keyring in her mouth.
I expected her to have some brilliant idea because she said that she had a plan, but it looks like she just went and stole the keys. I was a little disappointed.
Just like she had done when she left the cell, she slipped in once again through the bars on the door, walked over to me, jumped up on top of me, and started to claw her way up my body.
Just like before, it was quite painful because of her claws digging into my skin.
“The operation starts at noon tomorrow. I want you to take me out of the country while going on a rampage.”
After reaching my shoulders, she jumped up on my tricorne causing the keys on the keyring to jangle. It felt like I was being pushed down from above.
“Are you sure you don’t want to leave right away? I think it would be much safer to leave the country if we go now.”
“That won’t do. We need to publicize the fact that I have left the country. Otherwise, there might be people who will continue to worship me without realizing that I have left. We need to make the people realize without a doubt that I have left, and then it will be fine if only the people who still want to stay here remain. So feel free to rampage as much as possible.”
“…If I do that, I’ll turn into a wanted criminal.”
“You’re already a criminal. What nonsense are you talking about?”
“Don’t you know? There are different degrees of sin.”
“I’m saying that it doesn’t matter as long as you manage to get away.”
“That’s definitely the thought process of a criminal…”
While making an unpleasant jangling sound with the keyring from atop my head, she snorted.
“I have cheated a large number of people, so I might be a criminal. Although I’m not a person.”
Hearing her self-deprecating laughter, I laughed as well.
“I know a foolish person who said that even if you commit sins, it doesn’t matter as long as you manage to run away.”
“…Sounds like that person is pretty strange.”
“Yes. It was a very strange person.”
I heard the sound of something being unlocked above my head.
Well, that’s what happened.
After spending the night in the prison cell, we waited until noon and went outside after destroying the prison in an overly flashy manner.
I went on a rampage, and made sure that this incident would be remembered for quite some time, but ensured that no one was actually injured. I flew slowly and at a low height on purpose to make it easy for the people to attack me.
Maybe it was because I spent a lot of time here, but my allergies were getting worse and tears spilled out of my eyes only to be blown away by the wind.
“Dammit! I can’t catch her!”
“Hey! Close the gates! Don’t let her leave, no matter what!”
“Do whatever it takes to save Cat God-sama!”
I was at the center of the vortex of chaos as I sped throughout the city, and my ears were assaulted by the shouts of the people. People jumped out at me many times, but, as expected, none of them managed to touch me.
My chest feels hot as if it’s on fire, my eyes are swollen, and at some point the itching had turned into pain. Even so, no matter how bad my condition, I was still a witch. There’s no way any of them can catch me.
“Good, good. Go rampage some more.”
However, please fly more safely if possible. That was the unnecessary comment by the cat, who was sitting on my arm, said after her words of praise.
“If I fly safely, we might get caught, you know?”
“What are you talking about? Look, we’re nearly at the gates. Make sure you hold out until then.”
“No, that’s pretty difficult. I mean—”
Just when I said that,
“Elaina-san! I misjudged you! I already felt contempt for you yesterday, but even so!”
Rushie-san appeared. She dropped in on me from above.
Sitting on her broom with staff in hand, she landed in front of me and blocked my way. She looked like she was guarding the closed gates.
So she showed up, as I expected. I was sure that she would come to get in my way. It’s a major incident for this city, there’s no way she would not come.
She pointed her staff at me.
“Not only were you rude to Cat God-sama, you also broke out of prison! Really, what on earth were you thinking!? I will definitely never forgive you! You will be executed! Guilty!”
She waved the staff.
As if responding to the motion of the staff and her words, a circular portion of the ground immediately below Rushie-san started to glow white with her at the center. The light made an unpleasant sound as if something was boiling, and in the next instant, seven pillars of water appeared and headed towards me at high speed.
I avoided them by tilting my broom to the side, but immediately realized that they weren’t just made of regular water. Each one of the seven pillars moved independently as if they had minds of their own, and they twisted in the air to attack me again. They’re like snakes. The more I avoided them, the more they continued to attack me from all directions.
If I fly upwards, I get a concentrated attack from all directions. If I fly close to the ground, they coil around me and try to close in.
I jumped around here and there like a small insect, and looked towards Rushie-san. She was holding her staff while sitting on her broom, and glaring fiercely at me.
It looks like I can get the attacks to stop for now if I manage to get her staff away from her. Without a staff, a magician is no different from a regular person. There’s nothing to fear from them. Well, the same holds true for me as well.
“Umm, Rushie-san. I’m holding Cat God-sama right now. Are you sure you want to keep attacking me?”
“Shut up! Die!”
I quickly glanced down at Cat God-sama.
“It looks like she’s not ready to talk it over.”
She was saying something like that, as if this didn’t involve her.
I ignored her, and continued to avoid Rushie-san’s attacks, and then Cat God-sama spoke to me again.
“What are you going to do? Are you just going to stay on the defensive?”
“Both my hands are occupied right now, after all.”
I made my broom fly up to a height where I could look down at Rushie-san—but not high enough to kill me if I fall.
“You don’t have to worry, though. I have a plan.”
“Ho. Judging by the way you said that, I assume you have a brilliant idea.”
“Yes, of course.”
I immediately started to prepare while twisting through the air to avoid the attacking water serpents.
Well, I say preparation, but all I had to do was grab Cat God-sama in my hand.
“Please don’t extend your claws.”
Because that hurts. After I said that,
Her eyes widened as she said that. At the same time, she extended her legs as far as they would go.
By the time Cat God-sama realized what I was planning to do, I had already done it.
She left my hand, and slowly started to fall towards the ground while yelling.
What I did was extremely simple. I don’t know if it can be called a brilliant idea, but I simply threw her off the broom.
I wonder if she was disappointed in me because of my simple idea? No, this action is guaranteed to have a great effect on the people of this country.
“Eh? A-Aah! Cat God-sama!”
In that instant, Rushie-san who went into a panic below me weakened her attack on me.
That is exactly what I had been waiting for—I immediately turned my broom into a steep dive. I made my staff appear in my free hand, fired off magic in an instant while aiming it at Rushie-san—and then immediately put my staff away.
The magic I used was a wind-based magic. It whirled like a tornado as it agitated the dirt on the ground, and headed straight for Rushie-san.
Rushie-san had extended her hand to catch the falling Cat God-sama, but before she could manage that, she ended up taking my counterattack head on.
Caught in the raging vortex of wind, Rushie-san was blown away while spinning out of control. With a loud noise, she came to a sudden stop as was slammed into a hard object made of iron.
I flew beneath Cat God-sama who was still screaming and flailing her legs in the air as she fell.
The tip of my broom scraped against the ground as I flew beneath her, and I grabbed her in one hand and held her close.
After she returned to my hands, I could feel that her heart rate was abnormally high.
“…I-I thought I was going to die!”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
“That’s judging after the fact!”
“That holds true for most things.”
I glanced at the gate, and saw that Rushie-san had passed out with her eyes rolled up in her head. After confirming that, I got off my broom.
Some of the people were dumbfounded, and others were still emitting hostility towards me, but they were continuing to surround me.
I put on my best evil expression and spoke to them.
“Right, then. The most powerful witch from this country just lost easily to me. Does anyone still want to have a go?”
The people raised a commotion, but not a single one of them took a step forward. Very wise.
“In that case, I think I’m just going to run away from this country as soon as possible. Now, please open the gates. If you don’t, this cute cat will—you get the idea, right?”
I quickly glared at the gate guard, and could tell that his shoulders were shaking, even under his flamboyant chanimail. He quickly started to open the gates.
The scenery outside slowly came into view.
“Hey, what are you doing? I am going to leave as well. If you’re going to treat me as a hostage, there’s no point in doing all this.”
Cat God-sama raised her voice in protest.
“Don’t worry. I have a plan for this as well.”
“I’m not going to believe in your plans anymore.”
“I’m not going to throw you off the broom this time. Don’t worry.”
One the gate opened fully, I started to walk. I took each step carefully, while paying careful attention to everything around me.
In the end, none of the people tried to do anything to me until I stepped over Rushie-san and out of the country.
Looking around, I saw that the people all had frustrated expressions. Some of them were accusatory, and seemed to be hurling abuse at me, while others had dissolved into tears.
After looking at them for a while,
“Well then, we’ll be on our way.”
I mounted my broom after saying that.
I called it a plan, but I was actually just lying.
I didn’t really decide where to go next. I just flew away in a random direction as fast as I could, while holding the black cat.
I flew away so fast that no one would be able to catch up to me.
The agonized cries of the people who had lost their god faded away as time passed and I left them behind.
I somehow managed to get away.
I don’t really remember how long I ran.
After getting through the woods and running through the vast plain filled with greenery, we found ourselves in a gloomy forest.
There are no people nearby, and no countries either.
“We should be fine after coming this far.”
We’ve traveled quite some distance.
Looking up, I caught a glimpse of a red sky through the branches.
“Thank you for your help.”
She jumped out of my hands and stood on the ground.
I spoke to her while massaging my sore arms and wiping my eyes.
“What do you plan on doing now?”
“Nothing. I’m just going to live quietly and avoid all contact with people.”
“What about you?”
“I’m just going to continue my travels quietly and avoid all contact with cats.”
“That’s good. Make sure you do that.”
She snorted, and I spun around and sat on my broom.
“Well then, I hope we meet again—that reminds me, I don’t know your name.”
“I have no such thing.”
“Weren’t you a pet cat?”
“I already died once.”
So I don’t have a name now—that’s what she told me.
“In that case, would you be willing to tell me what your name was when you were still a regular cat?”
After looking conflicted for just a second, she opened her mouth and said her name, just that single word.
It was incredibly ordinary and commonplace, but it was still a good name.
I laughed and said to her,
“It’s a nice name.”
“No one is going to ever call me by that name again, though.”
After saying that, she laughed as well, and turned her two tails towards me.
She turned her neck, looked back at me, and spoke.
“This is goodbye. I should be on my way—I’m glad that you’re the last person that I met.”
After just saying that, she disappeared into the depths of the forest.
I flew up on my broom as well.
I wiped my eyes, touched my sore throat, and flew towards the light.
After I left the forest, I was greeted by the wind on the plains that were dyed a deep red color by the sun that hung low in the sky.
Let’s talk about what happened just over a month later.
I received a summons from a certain country—and because I had promised to return, I once again returned to this land.
I didn’t really have any reason to do so, but I also stopped by at the village where I had told the people about the country full of cats.
I went back there, but…
“Traveler-san! Welcome, nyan! This village is a place that has achieved a harmony between cats and the countryside life, nyan! Stay as long as you like, nyan!”
They’re talking in a weird manner once again.
Along with that, the village has changed a little as well. I didn’t see a single cat here before, but now cats are popping up everywhere I look.
“…What on earth are you doing, Rushie-san?”
“………Please. Just don’t ask.”
The person who greeted me was none other than The Witch of Fair Skies herself. She’s still wearing a robe like she was back when we met in that country, but instead of a tricorne, she’s wearing a headband with cat ears attached to it. She was probably once again forced to do it by the other villagers, but it doesn’t suit her at all. I feel sorry for her. I cannot keep myself from crying at this cruel reality.
Rushie-san lightly rubbed her head.
“Elaina-san, thank you for what you did one month ago. Thanks to that, I came to my senses. It looks like I was acting quite strangely when I was living in that country.”
You still look plenty strange to me—I decided not to say that.
“What happened to that country after I left?”
“Everyone left the country, one after the other. After Cat God-sama was taken away, the people’s love for cats also strangely disappeared—maybe we were all being controlled by that cat with two tails. There were even people who started to say things like that.”
So, in that case…
“Does that country no longer exist?”
She gently shook her head in answer to my question.
“No. The are still quite a few people there who love cats, and people who really had nowhere else to go, so it’s still functioning as a country. They’re promoting themselves as a country where you can live together with cats, and right now the number of tourists visiting there is gradually increasing.”
“And this place is imitating that country, so that’s how you ended up in such a state”
“……I brought a few cats back with me because they were cute, but the other villagers also fell in love with the cuteness of the cats as well…”
“I hope it doesn’t cause them to lose their sense of reason.”
And then, after a short pause in the conversation, Rushie-san suddenly clapped her hands once.
“Ah, please wait here for a bit, Elaina-san.”
“Hmm? Ah, okay.”
She hurriedly ran off and entered one of the houses. She came back in less than a minute while carefully carrying a large wooden box.
“Elaina-san, look at this!”
She was very excited for some reason, and turned the box towards me.
Looking inside, I saw a number of cats.
The mother cat had a pure white coat of fur. Three of the kittens had fur that was randomly patterned in black and white. One kitten had jet-black fur.
“These kittens are less than a month old. Aren’t they cute?”
Most of the cats looked at me for an instant with a fed-up expression and went right back to sleep, but one of them seemed to have a surplus of energy.
The kitten had black fur that looked like it would be nice to hold and blue eyes. Only this kitten stretched out its legs and tried to get out of the box.
“This one looks pretty energetic.”
I just gave some random praise, but Rushie-san smiled and looked very happy.
“I know, right? Do you want to touch it?”
“No, thank you”
I’m allergic to cats, after all.
“Have you decided on a name?”
“The kittens don’t have names yet—that’s why I’d like it if you picked out names for them.”
I replied while looking into the eyes of the black cat that had been born very recently.
“If it’s just one of them, I don’t mind.”
The black cat with a surplus of energy made a “Nyaa” sound.
“Well then, the name I have in mind is—”
I said it.
I told her a name that perfectly suited the black cat in front of me.
It was incredibly ordinary and commonplace, but it was still a good name.