As Sasha looked up at the woman in the illusion with wide, frightened eyes, Rowaine was gazing down at her with an unprecedented coldness.
She felt so distant that Sasha shuddered with anxiety.
Rowaine, staring down at her with a contemptuous gaze, suddenly turned away.
“Rowaine! Look at me… You said you wouldn’t abandon me…”
Even though she rushed towards her, Rowaine stepped away quickly.
“I’ll become stronger, and I’m going to protect Rowaine. I’ll also protect Coco. I won’t fight with Coco, and I’ll call him ‘brother’ from now on, okay?”
Sasha, choking back tears, tried her best to somehow hold onto Rowaine. Still, no matter how close she got to her, her presence seemed to be getting further and further away.
“No, Rowaine! Rowaine!”
She started to chase Rowaine frantically. Despite the fact that she ran and ran, the distance between the two of them only grew.
A demon whispered in a soft and warm voice.
“Oh my, should I persuade her? I can change her mind. Do you want me to?”
Sasha pondered those words.
What was the use of becoming stronger if she was abandoned by Rowaine? Even at this very moment, Rowaine was growing more distant.
Then, without realizing it, the location had changed all of a sudden, and she was at the edge of a high cliff while Rowaine was looking up at her from below.
The demon whispered sweetly.
“There she is. Jump down from here and embrace her. Go on, quickly.”
It was a steep and high cliff.
As Sasha hesitated, the demon kept whispering as if urging her to jump.
“All you need to do is take one step, and you can catch her. Aren’t you brave enough? If you don’t jump now, she will disappear forever.”
The next moment, the perspective of the high cliff that had seemed towering in her view disappeared. Rowaine didn’t feel far away, but rather, she just seemed to have felt smaller.
High rise syndrome
Cats sometimes mistake high places for not being high and jump down due to a momentary illusion*. Sasha, having lost her sense of height, extended her foot downwards to catch the smaller Rowaine.
[ T/N: High rise syndrome refers to the common set of injuries that cats may sustain when they fall from high places! ]
But at that moment…
Dimitri’s voice woke her up.
Sasha flinched and stepped away a little from the edge of the cliff.
As her unfocused eyes regained their focus, she lunged fiercely at the demon by her side, sinking her teeth into its neck.
“Rowaine won’t abandon me! So, I don’t need to think about not wanting to be abandoned by Rowaine! I’m going to become stronger!”
She decided to become stronger, and she had made a contract with the demon with only that desire alone. She wasn’t making a deal with the demon for Rowaine.
…So, everything the demon was saying now was nothing but lies.
As Sasha realized this and regained her composure, all the illusions disappeared at once.
Simultaneously, a pain that felt like it was burning in the center of her chest surged before an emblem-like pattern had etched itself into her skin. On her chest, who had overcome all three trials of the demon, the sigil of Abaddon in the shape of a lion was engraved. The pattern shone brightly in red before it gradually seeped into her body.
No, it didn’t disappear… She could feel that it had penetrated into her heart.
She could feel it even without seeing it.
The next moment, Sasha woke up feeling her heart pounding strongly in her chest. As she blinked her eyes, she could see Rowaine, Dimitri, and Coco in front of her.
“I have defeated the demon!”
Sasha, who hadn’t been aware of lying down for a long time, leaped out of bed as if she had just woken up from a good night’s sleep and then hopped up and down on the bed with a cheer.
For some reason, Rowaine, whose face was stained with tears, hugged her tightly.
“I thought you wouldn’t wake up…”
“Why wouldn’t I wake up?”
Sasha, not understanding her words, tilted her head for a moment and endured the embrace for about three seconds. After that, she wriggled her way out from between Rowaine’s arms.
“I don’t like being hugged! I’m all grown up now!”
Just because she didn’t want to be abandoned by Rowaine didn’t mean she could resist the hug. In the first place, cats don’t naturally like hugs. While Sasha originally liked being hugged more than most cats, that was when she was younger. So now that she had even made a pact with a powerful demon, she felt much bigger.
‘I’m going to become a cool cat captain!’
Then, while making a fist and locking eyes with Dimitri, who was gazing at her intently, she quickly revised her thoughts.
‘I’m going to become a cool cat commander…!’
Oblivious to the pace of others, Sasha exclaimed excitedly.
“I made a pact with the demon! I’ll show you! Come out!”
In response to her shout, a massive demon with the body of a lion and the tail of a scorpion appeared.
As the demon unleashed its power, the building shook as if an earthquake had occurred. At the same time, Sasha’s eyes sparkled at the thought of being able to test the power of the demon that had become her familiar. How strong would Abaddon be? How much of his power could she draw upon?
Just as curtains fluttered and furniture vibrated, there was the sound of a picture frame falling from the wall and breaking. She could see a frightened Coco climbing onto Rowaine’s shoulder and crouching on top of her head.
Sasha’s eyes sparkled with delight.
However, from somewhere, a mysterious figure swung a giant sword down towards Abaddon’s neck, who was unable to resist and disappeared into smoke.
In an instant, the wind and vibrations ceased, and everything became quiet.
As Sasha’s enthusiasm was shattered, Dimitri gave her a loud smack on the back of her head.
A loud noise came from her head. While Sasha wiped a tear from her eye, thinking her brain might have exploded, Dimitri clicked his tongue.
“Are you going to take responsibility if the mansion blows up? Don’t bring it out recklessly until you’ve trained in how to deal with demons.”
Then he pointed at Rowaine, who was still sitting on the bed and crying.
“First of all, say hello to Rowaine and tell her you’re back. Spoiled brat.”
In the end, Sasha held on to Rowaine’s arms for about ten seconds and held her gently under Dimitri’s watch.
“I’m glad you’re safe…”
Hearing Rowaine’s happy voice, a smile blossomed on her face as well. And before she knew it, she had her arms around Rowaine’s neck and was clinging to her like a child.
For a brief moment, she had forgotten that she had become an adult as she was held in that warm and stable embrace.
It was the day after Sasha had successfully completed her contract with the demon and woke up.
I headed to the study, humming a cheerful tune.
‘Oh, I’m so relieved that Sasha woke up safely.’
Just that thought alone seemed to make everything was going to be okay somehow. Despite the fact that there was no real basis for it, my mood was so good that everything felt positively optimistic.
It truly felt like I had been going back and forth between heaven and hell all this time. When I saw Sasha was convulsing on my bed, my heart sank, and my hands trembled. However, the enormous stress that had been weighing on me vanished when I saw her wake up, and my heart felt lighter.
Confirming that my cat was safe made the world look different.
Nonetheless, that was short-lived.
As I glanced at the new report that Baron Placen had sent today on the study desk, thoughts of the cat shapeshifters suffering even at this moment due to malignant rumors crossed my mind. I sat down at my desk and pulled out the stiff paper I use to write official documents and a heavy seal bearing the emblem of Blois on it.
“Now that Sasha has also woken up… shall we start executing the plan in earnest?”
I wrote a letter stating my desire to the local lords to find and take away the cat shapeshifters from each region.
When it was sent to the administrators, numerous copies were quickly made.
Then, the following day, those official documents were delivered along with dozens of carriages, reaching not only the nearby territories but also the distant ones. Inside the carriages, there were cushions made from the fabric of the dresses I usually wore. It was a cushion of catnip, something to let down the guard of the cat shapeshifters and bring them together.
‘They say my scent attracts the cat shapeshifters…’
In medieval Europe, after the slaughter of cats, the rat population skyrocketed, leading to the uncontrollable spread of the Black Death. Taking note of this historical event, I hatched an absurd yet ambitious plan to bring all the cat shapeshifters in this area to our territory before they could be massacred.
‘The rat shapeshifters will go wild, and as a result, the number of people falling victim to the plagues they bring will increase uncontrollably.’
Humans would soon realize that when all the cat shapeshifters were gone, the rat shapeshifters would become even more rampant.
‘They will start missing the presence of the cat shapeshifters.’
At that point, people might inevitably try to buy cat shapeshifters as slaves to keep them in their territories. Nevertheless, there wasn’t much demand for cat shapeshifters initially, and the supply was limited. Even if they increase the supply then, it wouldn’t be possible to create cat shapeshifters like mass-produced goods in a factory.
So, what humans would look to was…
I would embrace the cat shapeshifters and become the master of the world.
That was what I was aiming for.
‘…I’ll ensure that cats are never looked down upon again.’