Chapter 4 – Past – Kitten
Translator: MadHatter Editor: MadHatter
He had a dream. It was a much younger, fresh recollection from his childhood.
A lone cat was wandering around in circles in a cage.
It was a demi-human cat, to be exact. She glanced around the room from her cage as though she were intrigued, her white ears twitching. One of her eyes was golden, the other silver. With porcelain-white skin and peach-colored lips, she was an innocent girl with an exceptionally striking appearance. Inquisitive and wise-looking.
When the boy stood by her side, she turned her head to look at him, tilted her head, and purred. He lifted the corner of his lips.
“From now on, I’m your master, Kitty.”
Her ears perked up and her tail twitched when the whip was snapped on the ground.
“I am magnanimous. Should you do well, I will reward you. Failure comes with a whipping. Simple, isn’t it? Even you, with your limited intelligence, can understand that.”
She was enthralled rather than terrified as her gaze followed the end of the long, crawling whip in his palm. Her ears and tail moved in unison with the boy’s subsequent whip lash, appearing startled.
“Ignorance is acceptable, Kitty, but failing to follow my directions is inappropriate. I’m going to start by asking you to sit down and behave. ―Sit down! Look, your master has issued an order. Obey me!”
The boy spoke pompously. His cheeks were flushed with excitement, and a strand of unkempt hair lay scattered across his forehead.
The girl stared at the boy’s face unwaveringly with wide eyes, then sat down meekly. She lowered her buttocks to the ground, put her hands in front of the boy, and let out a “meow” as if to say, “I did it, so praise me.”
The young boy’s throat cleared after a strong swallow.
“Good girl, Kitty. Good girl.”
The beast was gazing up at her master with a serene, happy expression as he cautiously inserted the hand not holding the whip into the cage and brought it up to the beast’s jaws. She strained her eyes and meowed cheerily after he flicked her.
Around her neck, the metal clasp of the red leather collar the master had given her gleamed dully and faintly.
Right, the boy―Elias―once had a cat. He had owned a stunning girl, a beast so breathtaking that everyone who took one look at her would gasp and gawk, and he could make her do anything he wanted.
He didn’t even want to be reminded of it, the besmirching stain of his life.
Demi-human. Humanoid but less intelligent and less numerous species than humans.
Elias’ nation was particularly fond of the human beast, which was distinguished by extraordinary physical prowess and the fact that some sections of their body took the form of beasts. Humans handled them; they kept them as pets or purchased them as slaves.
Demi-humans had a propensity to submit to people they regarded as powerful. By taking advantage of this, it was possible for humans to use demi-human who were not human in a relatively safe manner. Young demi-humans would be kidnapped and taught that humans were their rulers; once they became adults, they would give birth to their offspring. Children of demi-humans were born even when they interbred with humans. They occasionally give birth to human children, but only when that time comes, that will take care of itself. In order to satisfy their own lust for dominance or deranged yearning for protection, aristocrats with too much spare time or wealthy merchants seek demi-humans, nurture them, and flaunt them.
It became a pastime to play with creatures that looked almost exactly like human beings. Elias had despised this abominable hobby ever since he was a boy.
One day, however, Elias likewise came into possession of a demi-human.
It all began with a trivial issue. The second son had always been weak and feeble, a hopeless piece of junk who rushed crying to his mother whenever anything occurred to him. He was the successor to the throne when the oldest son died prematurely. What a frail and weak brother he was. The notion that this was his own brother was too much for Elias to take. Yet, belittling him as trash was worthless and would only lower his own dignity. He was generally considerate toward his brother, trying to demonstrate to those around him that he was of a higher caliber even if he was cursing his own younger brother in his heart.
The future of that older brother concerned more than just the younger brother. His mother―the queen of this country―who has always adored the second elder brother, said on a certain occasion, “I suppose the reason he’s always been so timid is that he lacks self-confidence.”
Indeed, his second elder brother, whose face was of high quality but whose studies and athletics were noticeably inferior to his younger brother and half-brother, was the target of ridicule at every opportunity, a man who would cower in fear and withdraw with a frightened look on his face. The sight of this made Elias want to kick him in the butt and throw him out of the castle each time, but his mother, being the doting parent she was, pampered him, saying, “Oh, you are so adorable.” Elias understood perfectly well that it was his mother’s fault that his elder brother, even though he had grown up to a certain extent, remained a good-for-nothing human being.
His doting parents, who were very lenient to his elder brother, had come up with a plan that would make that elder brother a little more self-assured by giving him a beast who would listen to anything he said. Elias was horrified by his father’s quick approval of the request after having been watching with half-open eyes and wondering how foolish people, including his own mother, could be.
“Mmm. As the next king, he should be a little more firm. Wouldn’t that be fine?”
To Elias, this was difficult to grasp, but the king, his father, seemed to be a man of unwavering beliefs and faith, even though he seemed to take everything in stride and smile.
For example, the heir to the throne.
The prince, the king’s heir, had a record of being a failure, but the king magnanimously laughed it off and did not seem to have the slightest intention of passing the throne on to another outstanding child. Even the sons born to his mistresses were divided into two groups, one for this and one for that, and the king did not want to hear anything more about them.
“The successor goes to the Second Prince in place of the First Prince who died. The Fifth Prince, the son of my legally married wife, shall inherit whatever befalls the second elder brother.”
In his mind, the rule was so simple that when someone else raised a complaint against it, it was met with a dismissive response, and he never changed his mind.
The second oldest brother nonetheless proceeded to acquire a demi-human on the advice of his parents, and his younger brother, Elias, accompanied him.
It was there that he met Kitty.
Unable to bear the sight of his older brother walking by his mother’s hand, he quietly left his mother alone to view the pitiful instruments of the trade on display.
Kitty was a white feline beast. At first sight, it was clear that she was not of the same magnitude as the other animals in the area since she was crammed into a small cage at the opposite end of the room. She may have been too young to grasp the situation by the way her tail waggled in boredom in the crude prison, but Elias could tell she was not too concerned about it. Her blinking, her yawning, and the way she scratched behind her ears. All of it was as refined and graceful as if she were a separate creature, yet still endearing.
The kitten was nevertheless treated in an odd manner despite this. She was positioned in a corner, out of sight, and not in the least bit appealing, contrary to what one might have initially anticipated. One would have expected that she would be priced highly and placed in a prominent location, where everyone would be eager to acquire her.
“You have a good eye, Your Highness.”
A filthy merchant rubbed his hands together and whispered to Elias as he fixed his intense gaze on the cage.
“Are your eyes blind? The price is two orders of magnitude higher than what this kitten could fetch. This kitten will sell for more.”
Elias, the boy, must have been incredibly arrogant considering he was only twelve years old. The merchant, who was undoubtedly accustomed to the haughtiness of the nobleman’s son, remained humble and did not lose his demeanor.
“But this beast, you see… has a fascinating history to be told.”
“Fascinating history? Is there a curse on her?”
The boy’s eyebrows furrowed as he realized that his joke had elicited an unexpected response.
Despite the fact that he must have made a fair amount of money from his human trafficking business, the man’s appearance was modest for a wealthy merchant. Even the ring on his finger was only a wedding ring, and his voice was hushed as he turned to the boy, who was observing the other party in his spare time.
“About this beast. I bought her from another country…”
“Stop your pretentiousness, you fool. Get to the point.”
“I apologize… The truth is all of the previous owners of the beast have died.”
“All of them?”
“First was a trader. The next was a nobleman. Then a doctor. After that, it was a dubious drug dealer…”
“Enough. I’m not interested in the previous owners. So you are saying that all of them died after buying this beast?”
“Yes, Your Highness. Three years ago she first appeared on the market, but as you can imagine, a string of coincidences like this spooked the public into staying away from her.”
“Coincidences. Do you think so?”
The merchant smiled ambiguously and stammered. Elias was inclined to dismiss it as a silly thing based on the way he was acting, but he also couldn’t shake the sensation that it was actually the case.
Elias snorted and brought his face close to the cage. The girl seemed to be drawn to the boy in front of her, and when Elias peeked in, her ears perked up as she stared at him. Her eyes sparkled each one a distinct hue.
“Are you bored?”
She cocked her head as Elias called out to her. Her white tail wagged.
“I am bored, too.”
The girl remained still. The boy stared at her through the cage, but then his face twitched and he whispered to her.
“You are lovely and beautiful. Will you be mine? Your curse won’t kill me even if it included maintaining a domestic animal past its usefulness. It’ll help relieve some of the boredom. For both of us.”
Then, at that moment, the girl made a single cry as if to reply, “Meow.”
Elias could hear himself proclaiming his purchase, the people surrounding him expressing confusion, and then, in the background, the commotion of grownups running around while he was watching the girl. The girl pressed her face into the boy’s palm as if being caressed, his dark eyes glued to her.
Yes, I’ll buy her a collar. A red collar to match her thin neck.
He thought absentmindedly as he gazed at the white neck.
Why did he decide to purchase Kitty at that time?
Inquisitiveness. Contempt. Possessiveness. Self-esteem. The fact was that the beauty of Kitty attracted him, and he wanted to hold her in his hands.
…And then there was a faint sense of sympathy, perhaps.
The way the tail was wagging in the cage was superior but unjustifiably filthy and being bored. It may have overlapped with someone else somewhere―or maybe it was merely such an illusion.
Either way, Elias regretted his decision.
If he had taken a wrong turn, it was by choosing Kitty.