“I thought I told you not to act without my permission.”
I warned, pointing to the head of Agaliaept that Coco was clutching with his paws. By now, Agaliaept had shrunk to just the size of a peach.
‘He said the connection was unstable.’
According to him, because he didn’t make a contract directly with me, the connection was unstable. As a result, sometimes his voice wouldn’t come through, his appearance may be distorted, or he may not be summoned even when called.
The demon chuckled, struggling between Coco’s front paws.
“Kikiki, I just showed you what you wanted to see.”
It was because of Agaliaept that I remembered the conversation with my mom so vividly a moment ago. It was quite unpleasant that the demon had tampered with my memories without my knowledge.
“When did I ever ask for that?”
I glared fiercely at the demon, who grinned slyly.
As I gestured to Coco, he swiftly scratched the demon’s head. Even though Coco was far too weak to defeat Agaliaept, since he was my demon, he was bound by my commands, and he had to yield to him obediently.
“Quit the theatrics. If you use your powers against me again, I’ll destroy your body and won’t summon you for a while.”
I learned from Dimitri that I could oust the demon’s heart even from Agaliaept.
I heard that a demon’s heart wasn’t an actual heart but rather a condensed energy mass where demons store their power.
Since demons kept their main bodies in another dimension and projected only their will into this dimension, they needed a central point of condensed power to manifest physically in a way similar to their main bodies.
It seems that once you break it, it takes some time to rebuild it.
Low-level demons like dream demons might need up to hundreds of years, while higher demons like Samael or Agaliaept might need a few days.
However, in the case of Agaliaept, the problem wasn’t rebuilding the heart but rather the matter of crossing dimensions since the connection with me was unstable.
‘Sasha said we should draw a summoning circle and summon him like when she made a contract with Abaddon.’
Agaliaept, who can delve into my memories, would know well how I climbed that dark mountain path that day and reached the suitable place to draw a summoning circle.
‘I was a mess of tears and snot, clinging to Dimitri. How can I do that again after that?’
It was something I couldn’t do even more now that I was rejecting Dimitri.
Agaliaept would’ve probably realized that I couldn’t bring myself to ask Dimitri for help.
That was why he was worried that his body, small and weak as a peach, would explode in Coco’s hands due to the unstable connection.
“Kkiiik! I could be useful! You’ll need my help! You almost got swept off your feet by that cat shapeshifter just now…!”
“S-Shut your mouth and go away!”
As I ordered him while glancing at Coco, Agaliaept smirked and vanished into my shadow.
‘D*mn it, I’ve been tricked again!’
He truly was a cunning demon.
̊ · : * ✧* : · ̊
When I went to the shelter, I gathered all the cat shapeshifters who had applied to join the mercenary group. There weren’t many applicants, perhaps because they didn’t trust me yet.
The applicants gathered here seemed to have applied out of curiosity rather than a genuine desire to work hard as they could legally earn money as shapeshifters. Their eyes were filled not with a determination to work hard but with curiosity about what exactly they would be asked to do.
“Tonight, our mercenary group received its first request.”
At those words, around ten or so gathered cat shapeshifters stirred with excitement.
“Who would do such a strange thing?”
“Is it really a genuine request?”
“There’s an idiot out there who wants to hire us, hahaha! How foolish is that?”
The murmurs gradually turned into conversations among themselves.
“What is it, what is it? Who are we supposed to kill?”
“Hey, do you think we are gathered here to assassinate? I thought I was coming to catch rat shapeshifters!”
“Ugh, who would be crazy enough to spend money on such a boring thing?”
“Ah, did you just touch me?”
“Huh? No, I didn’t. I was just passing by. What, are you trying to accuse me?”
I smiled as I watched them chattering distractedly, almost grabbing each other by the hair. As I jingled the bag filled with silver coins, they all lifted their heads and turned to me, their heads swiveling like cats, hearing the rustle of a snack bag.
“This is the advance payment for this request. If you successfully complete the request, the payment will double, and I’ll divide the payment among you at a fair rate.”
“A fair rate?”
“A base salary plus a performance bonus.”
The eyes of the cat shapeshifters sparkled with enthusiasm at the words, which had seemed disinterested until now.
“What do we need to do?”
“Your job is to drive out the rat shapeshifters from the designated location tonight and capture their dream demons. Everyone can do it, right?”
The cat shapeshifters tilted their heads at my words. While some people were puzzled by being asked to do something easier than expected, some were enthusiastic, and some were relieved. And there were some who were curious about the client.
“So, who exactly is the client?”
“Well. It’s good for us, but who is this rich person who is spending money on things like this?”
“Keke. ich people do strange things because their money is getting rotten*.”
[ T/N: An idiom which means ‘To have too much money to use up.’ ]
I replied nonchalantly.
“The client for this request is me.”
Instantly, the room fell silent. An awkward silence ensued, with some avoiding eye contact and others trying to feign indifference. They were the ones who had been making fun of the client.
“Where… where do we hunt?”
“Co, come on, let’s leave quickly!”
“Capture? C-capture dream demons? Haha! Th-that’s easy! You’ve given us a very appropriate request!”
With a merciful smile, I gave them orders.
“The requested location is Blois. You all need to completely drive out the dream demons from Blois once and for all.”
̊ · : * ✧* : · ̊
There was a sad history in Europe where cats were massacred. It happened during the time of the Black Death, which killed half of Europe’s population. The rumor spread that cats were the carriers of the disease, leading to a massacre of cats. However, the disease was actually spreading through rats and fleas.
With the disappearance of their natural predators due to the massacre of the cats, the rat population surged even more, causing the disease to spread at an alarming rate.
‘It’s similar to the situation here now.’
Due to rumors spreading about cat shapeshifters in this country handling dream demons, their lives were in jeopardy.
So, I decided to utilize a hint I picked up from a page of history I learned from. According to Agaliaept, it was something he supposedly told me, but well, anyway.
‘If I manage to get rid of the cat shapeshifters, the rat shapeshifters and their dream demons will rampage across the country. The number of people affected by dream demons will skyrocket in no time.’
Such thoughts of mine turned out to be spot-on.
The territories that lost their cat shapeshifters were suffering greater damage from the dream demons.
‘I wonder what kind of expression will everyone make if they find out what role the cat shapeshifters they despised and chased away play?’
After leaving the mercenary group to their work, I returned to the Duke’s mansion and prepared a rare floral arrangement for the banquet.
The guests attending today’s magnificent banquet were the lords from the northern territories who had actively sought out and driven away the cat shapeshifters, believing in the rumors. I had been observing how much they suffered from dream demons.
‘I should give them a lot of medicine tonight.’
̊ · : * ✧* : · ̊
Many people gathered around the table set up in the mansion’s garden. It was a gathering where everyone invited attended without exception. Curiosity about what kind of important announcement the Duke and Duchess of Blois would make tonight could be seen in their eyes.
Before the meal, I greeted the people lightly.
“As a new member of the Duchy of Blois, I still have a lot to learn, so it may be inadequate, but I hope everyone enjoys it as it has been carefully prepared.”
With that, I leisurely glanced around the room and smiled.
‘That went well. It felt like a scene from a drama just now.’
Something like a scene from a rich people’s family party.
I was proud of myself, but Dimitri, who had been staring at me with a smirk, snatched the notepad from my hand.
“Give it to me.”
When I put on a smile and spoke in ventriloquism, Dimitri laughed lowly and handed me back the note.
“Did Baron Placen teach you how to speak boringly like this?”
“It’s a natural way to say it. Why are you laughing? Is my effort amusing?”
“Because it’s cute.”
When I flinched and looked at Dimitri, he smiled like he was trying to charm me. I swallowed dryly and quickly returned my gaze to the front.
‘Maybe he’s not a cat but a fox?’
It was possible, given his recent behavior.
‘I’ve never seen him transformed into a cat, so who knows.’
How should you deal with a situation where you have to see each other every day, even bound legally as a married couple, yet your partner remains unaffected despite you rejecting their confession?
Embracing an unanswerable question, I occasionally followed the advice given by Baron Placen and asked people questions or inquired about their well-being.
Until then, I hadn’t anticipated how much I would be tormented by the fox by my side tonight.