“Please go ahead.”
“Could you share research information about Avila and the dog shapeshifters with me? The reason why I need that…”
She was cautious, trying to gauge how much of her plan she could reveal to me. However, knowing her plan, I nodded willingly, even before hearing it.
“If Elaine wishes, I’m happy to share it as much as I can. Though instead…”
Originally, Avila’s role was to assist Elaine in freeing the imperial hounds from the curse of the imperial family so her position had returned to its original state. In addition, I thought now was my chance, so instead of sharing Avila’s research with her, I decided to ask her for a favor.
“Could you share information related to curse magic from the imperial library, which is only accessible to the imperial family?”
The key to breaking Dimitri’s curse was there.
“Cursed magic? If that’s the case…”
She hesitated for a moment.
Information related to cursed magic was almost exclusively owned by the imperial family.
The imperial family gained a strong grip by placing a curse on the dog shapeshifters, granting them powerful control. Since they were commanding the Emperor’s hounds like that, they probably had no intention of revealing their secrets to the world.
Therefore, all information about the curse was tightly held by the imperial family and treated as confidential.
The entire world knew that if anyone in organizations like the Wizard’s Association started researching curses, they would practically be considered enemies of the royal family and not left alone, even if they pretended to look the other way.
That was how I confidently made the request to the Princess for the information they were so determined to guard so closely.
“I may not have much authority myself, but when it comes to curses, I can obtain better information than most. However, the truly valuable ones can only be handled by the Emperor. What I can access is mostly useless, but if that’s all right with you.”
She nodded readily, just as I had done earlier.
“I’ll help Rowaine.”
What I needed wasn’t information about the curse on the dog shapeshifters. I was interested in the information that Elaine referred to as ‘useless.’ Among the curses, information about magical poisons would be sufficient.
When I brought that up, Elaine whispered to me, trustingly.
“Why don’t you come to the imperial palace sometime? I have a lot of information.”
We sealed the deal with satisfaction and shook hands firmly.
At the same time.
Dimitri was sitting in his study, recalling the dream where Rowaine’s cats had appeared.
The cats definitely said such words. Even though he hadn’t told Rowaine, Dimitri remembered that one phrase clearly.
He smiled languidly and stroked his chin.
“They sent her to me… It seems that Rowaine had raised quite clever and knowledgeable cats.”
It was a proud tone.
“If the cats sent her to me, then it’s only right that I take responsibility.”
He hummed in satisfaction.
“I can’t disappoint those smart creatures.”
He would hold her so tight that she wouldn’t be able to escape anywhere.
At the thought, he brusquely signed the papers for the expansion of the shapeshifter shelter without hesitation.
“If you put a lot of things you think are precious and important on your shoulders, will you be able to hold them without being crushed by it?”
He was ready to pour out the entire budget of Blois. Dimitri chuckled sinisterly as he glanced down at the stacks of documents.
“You’ll have to take responsibility for all of this, Rowaine, by sticking by my side for the rest of your life.”
He chuckled, sounding like a villain.
Unaware of his true intentions, Rowaine thought that Dimitri was steadfastly supporting her.
A low rumbling sound echoed through the office.
Meanwhile, Sasha, trapped in an illusion by the demon, was being tested. With the intention to exploit Sasha’s weaknesses, the demon relentlessly tempted her.
The first of the illusions was a room filled with the most delicious food that she had never seen before. Spread out as far as the eye could see on a vast table were tantalizing delicacies from all over the world. There were plenty of dishes Sasha would love, like juicy meats, fragrant bread with a mouthwatering aroma, stews, and meat pies that made her mouth water involuntarily.
Sasha, in her human form, was seated in front of it.
With the fragrant dishes placed before her, Sasha felt an intense hunger. It was an agonizing hunger as if she had starved for a week, making her stomach growl and inducing nausea as though her stomach would tear apart.
The demon whispered sweetly to her in such a state.
“Eat and drink to your heart’s content. It’s my favor.”
Sasha gritted her teeth.
She remembered Dimitri warning her not to trust the demon’s favor. The demon never bestowed favors without a cost. There was always a price for the demon’s favor. Despite the fact that the demon may temporarily satisfy the present, ultimately, its goal is the destruction of the souls.
Sasha spoke sharply.
“Don’t deceive me! I didn’t summon you to eat this kind of stuff!”
The demon persistently tempted her.
“Even if you eat and drink. Aren’t you hungry? Living creatures die if they don’t eat. Aren’t you suffering from hunger? What’s the use of making a contract with me if you die?”
At the same time, Sasha felt an intense hunger and clenched her stomach. The intensity was getting stronger.
The demon’s voice was very soft and sweet.
In this illusion, the demon had effortlessly concealed its real voice. Instead of a grating sound, it was a very convincing and enchanting bass tone that shook her even more.
“It’ll be very delicious. Isn’t food what you want right now?”
The tantalizing smell of food, which blurred her mind with her dizzying hunger, shook her. In the end, unable to resist, Sasha approached the table, drooling as she drew closer.
“It’s food for you. Enjoy it to your heart’s content.”
Sasha raised her hands, which were shaking with hunger.
It was an irresistible temptation.
However, with her eyes wide open, she grabbed the table instead of the food with her outstretched hand.
“This kind of thing… I don’t need this! What I want is to become stronger! Aaaaaaahh!”
Sasha, who had regained her strength she hadn’t used in a long time, lifted the enormous table to the point where the end wasn’t visible. Once she realized that this was an illusion and that there was nothing she couldn’t overcome, she was able to do it.
Delicious foods were scattered on the floor. At the same time, the fantasy shattered, and her hunger disappeared.
Instead, a dark alley appeared.
It was the same unfamiliar alley where Sasha had first been abandoned on the street.
In an instant, loneliness and fear gripped her heart. Like the first day she had been abandoned in the world, Sasha was suddenly filled with fear and ran without thinking. She ran and squeezed her body into the dark and narrow crevice of a dumpster.
Sasha, now in the form of a cat, curled her body in the darkness and buried her face in her tail.
“Oh, you’re an abandoned kitten.”
The demon comforted her with a soft, warm voice.
“You must be scared and lonely.”
Sasha curled into a tight ball. Tears welled up in her eyes as the demon had trapped her in memories of the past.
“Sienna… Why did you abandon me? I’m scared…”
Sienna was the name of the owner who raised Sasha.
Sasha was sold by Sienna’s husband at a slave market. Her husband had married the young Sienna when she was just eighteen, and Sienna struggled to adapt to living in a strange place away from her family.
She was a gift to appease Sienna.
Sasha, who had just been born and was toddling around, was separated from her mother and brought to Sienna as her owner. At first, she took great care of Sasha, cherishing her dearly. She would carry her in her arms, calling her cute, and sometimes even transformed her into a human and dressed her in pretty clothes.
However, after she had a child, Sasha’s status plummeted into that of a troublemaker.
“She and her husband abandoned you because they thought you might have a bad influence on their baby.”
“I… I didn’t do anything. I was just trying to stroke the baby’s face, but…”
“They were angry with you because they thought you were trying to harm the baby.”
Sasha’s face was drenched in tears.
“It must have been lonely and difficult.”
The demon comforted her gently and then made a very sweet offer.
“Shall I get rid of the baby for you so you can go back? You can be happy again like you used to be.”
Then, a loud noise was heard from somewhere. It was the sound of people coming and going in the garbage dump. She curled up even smaller in fear.
She wanted to see Sienna. She wanted to go home again.
The demon continued to persuade Sasha.
“I’ll get rid of the baby if you want, and I’ll send you back. All you have to do is nod your head, and it will be done.”
Sasha opened her mysteriously shining blue eyes.
Sasha thought of Sienna, but what came to mind wasn’t her. In her memories, there was a woman with a fragrant smell of grass.
When she stared blankly, trying to remember who she was, she suddenly jumped up with a growl.
“Don’t play tricks, you damn demon! I have Rowaine. I’ll gain strength and go back to Rowaine on my own two feet! I’ll become strong to protect her!”
Then, the illusion vanished like a bubble.
And this time, before her eyes, Rowaine appeared.
Exhausted, Sasha tried to embrace the figure in front of her joyfully. However, Rowaine’s expression as she looked down at her was incredibly cold.
The demon chuckled.
“Oh dear, is she going to abandon you this time?”
Sasha’s eyes were filled with terror.