PIASPM Chapter 7
“Oh, please be careful not to make me scared!”
“In my opinion, I won’t make a fuss.. you are the one who is careful, don’t you think so? Because I’m just your servant and you are my lady.”
Millen then gave Linda a broad smile and pointed her finger at the window. Outside, were two white cats and three black cats sitting on the railing of the opened window. They were staring back at both Millen and Linda. It was as if they had come to spy on the two women.
“Meow, meow…” The bewildered Linda and the cats who met her eyes exchanged quick glances towards each other. Although to outsiders, the cats were just ‘meowing’, Millen understood completely what they were saying…
“Why is it the old woman acting like that when she is the cause of most accidents?” One of the white cats started.
Its companion answered, “At least, for the time being, she seems self-aware that she is the main culprit.”
However, unlike the white cats, the black cats were very blunt with their words.
“In the future, I plan to do something grand, hehe. So one day I’ll definitely have to sew shut that snout of hers.”
“Don’t say anything that you know won’t happen! If you do that, you know that old woman will threaten you by not giving you food. That one considers us as piglets, you know.”
“Please, don’t make me vomit in front of the Lady!”
Millen couldn’t help but let out a mental laugh as she listened to the cats talk about Linda and their mischievous plans of giving her a “surprise”, ‘What should I do, they sound so funny!’
The nanny couldn’t understand the cats, but Millen understood everything, and she almost burst out laughing. She covered her mouth with her hands and struggled to contain her laughter.
Cats often go unnoticed and are extremely observant, so there was barely anything they didn’t know about. However, their mouths were as rough as the sheepdogs. Especially the black ones.
Linda, a little embarrassed by the atmosphere, turned to Millen and asked, “Ah, what are they talking about these days?”
“Nothing, I just thought that we’re really fortunate that they are all on our side. Isn’t that right, Linda?” Millen winked one of her eyes at her cats.
“It is, but…I don’t really understand them, they also tend to keep to themselves. They also appear out of nowhere and always seem to follow where you are. Are you not bothered by them always taking your time and invading your space?” Linda grumbled as she started to arrange the basket of herbs and Millen’s books that were scattered on her lab table.
“You’re acting like that because my lady is used to it. You are growing very rude and have become rather tolerant of their selfish ways. I feel like you have to change that habit of yours.” Linda lifted five books at once and put them down with a booming sound. Her motions appeared to Millen as if she was trying to scare someone. Regardless of Linda’s ministrations, the big cats didn’t even bat an eye at her.
“Linda, you have to tell them what you mean so that the cats will understand. Also they’re not growing up, they’re getting older with us. You said it yourself once, that they weren’t children.”
Linda sighed, it was as if the older woman was tired of their conversation because she knew her mistress will never stop coddling her cats, “I know, I know. Seriously, I have a lot of work to do.” The nanny suddenly pretended to be busy.
‘It’s all because the young lady raised them that way!’ She wanted to say this to Millen, but she couldn’t, so she left the lab while pounding her fist against her chest in frustration.
Millen finally let out the chuckle she had been holding in the moment the lab door closed. As soon as she regained her breathing, she turned to her cats and said, “Isn’t Linda cute? She’s fifty, but she’s so cute, right?”
Millen spoke with a delighted expression on her face and proceeded to drink the remainder of her tea. However, unlike their mistress, the cats gave her incredulous looks. Some of them even had their nostrils flared. One of the cats gave her a look and said, “My Lady, it’s not cute to do that when you’re fifty.”
Millen supposes the cats weren’t too fond of Linda’s fussiness. After all, if it weren’t for her nanny, they’d bring their daily catch of mice and carry it in the inn with their mouths.
One of the white cats with a relatively calm personality participated in the conversation of the murmuring black cats and added, “Even though she regards us as piglets, we’ve been very patient with her.”
“But, come on, let’s have a proper talk. To be honest, it is true that you guys eat as much as pigs do.”
At this statement the black cats reacted strongly and appeared deeply offended, “Even so, I don’t want to be treated like those guys! Because they can’t talk to humans like we do!”
“I hate that comparison! I’m not fond of dogs but I will rather be treated like one than be called a piglet. Don’t you guys agree?”
“Me too! But being treated like dogs also gets on my nerves! We are cats, but they keep telling us to play aegyo like dogs and trying to train us in a strange way. They keep saying; sit, stand, and wait, why do they keep doing that to us?”
“I know right? Every time they do that, I get really annoyed.”
Millen smiled broadly, and revealed her teeth because the chatter of the cats was funny.
Thanks to Linda and the cats, she almost forgot about her failure and she began to regain her will to try again.
“Okay, okay. I’ll tell Linda not to do that to you guys.”
Millen often saw them grumble and complain about the humans of the inn because Linda and Kai often did those things to cats. Although they were special compared to ordinary cats, they were still essentially part of the feline family. It was natural for them to be annoyed if they were treated like dogs.
One of the white cats was named Buzz and it had been quiet for a while which Millen noticed. She gave it a sideways glance and observed that it had a rather contemplative look on its face, as if it were waiting engaged in an internal debate. Therefore, Millen decided to ask what was bothering it, with a slightly serious look on her face, “Alright Buzz, tell me, what did you find out?”
Buzz started meowing at Millen, “The horse that belonged to the injured guest was found by the omnivorous badgers.”
Her eyes widened, “Really? Did those omnivorous badgers really see it?”
Just then the other cats raised their front paws towards Buzz, their paws hit each other as if they were trying to recapture Millen’s attention. They looked like they also wanted to tell Millen something else. However, Millen was more interested in what Buzz had to say and so she stared at the others seriously and spoke in a stern voice, “Hey, you guys. If you don’t want to sit still, then go somewhere else.”
Millen’s resolute remark made the cats quiet in an instant.
When she looked at the black cats who were usually not shy to show their expressions to her, they bowed their heads and avoided her gaze instead.
Millen casted her eyes back at Buzz, “Tell me Buzz? Don’t hide it.”
So Buzz relented and told her the news. After hearing it, Millen stood up from her seat and exclaimed, “What?”
She then tapped her table with both of her hands in anxiousness.
The news Buzz brought her was news for other people, but despite that fact, Millen reacted like it was her own. She couldn’t help but feel hurt as well. Millen’s hands trembled softly as they rested on her table.
Just then, the black cats, who had been quiet for a while, raised their front paws again and fired powerful punches towards each other and started nagging amongst themselves, “That’s why I told you not to meddle in other people’s affairs!”
“Why are you getting upset?”
“I told you guys no good can come from being friendly with badgers who eat anything, hehe!”
The cats were being noisy, but Millen didn’t pay attention to them. She was still stunned by the heartbreaking news. Then, she quickly felt her eyes watering. Tears welled up and started to pool in her irises. It really wasn’t her own business, but she knew this kind of sadness better than anyone. She couldn’t help but stutter out between sobs…
“How can I…tell them…”
The cats, who only seconds ago were loudly chattering became silent and gave Millen a sympathetic look. Millen sighed and tried to calm her tears. She faced them and wiped her eyes, “It’s sad.”
The cats’ lavender eyes also looked somber. It was because they did not know where her sorrow came from. When Buzz came to bring the news to their mistress, the others had no choice but to wait for her to process it. When it seemed like Millen wasn’t so upset anymore, she spoke again.
“But…should I tell them?” Millen wiped the tears from her eyes as she repeated her earlier question.
“Even if it died… They’d still want to know, won’t they?” She had gone through the same, so she understood the pain that they might feel, however it also seemed cruel to tell them. Just then, she heard a sound that broke her reverie, ‘Meow…’
A new cat approached and stood by the windowsill. It was Alex, the leader of the cats in the ‘Cat Inn’.
Alex jumped down and told Millen that it wasn’t a good idea to leave a corpse in the woods, so they needed to let the owner know so they could remove it.
“My Lady, you would have wanted to know too if you experienced the same thing.” Alex added.
Millen pulled out her handkerchief from inside the pockets of her dress and wiped her wet eyes dry. She then donned on her hat to hide her hair, “Yeah, you’re right Alex, I would have wanted the same if it were me.”
The truth was, Millen’s cats were originally fifty-six, but the death of one white cat brought the number down to fifty-five. Up to this day, Millen could still not easily forget the sorrow that engulfed her that day.
She remembered that she even refused to eat her food for several days. The only thing she could feel since that day was loss, and she occupied her thoughts with nothing but memories and regret.
In the end her moping was broken when Linda stomped into her room and told her that she had to pull herself together because skipping her meals was not good for her. She remembered her nanny begging her, “Lady, please take care of your health! If you don’t want to see us get away from here!”
During that time, the cats sat in front of her door and some even came by her window every night. They cried loudly at her listless form. She’d hear them weep loudly, and scratch her door and windows.
As Linda’s pleas and her cats’ wailings continued, Millen started to get the most painful headache in her life. Her body throbbed and she writhed in pain until it became unbearable. It was at that moment that she knew she had to stop her fast.
Millen tried not to recall any more memories of that day. There is no denying that she agonized over that event, but even though it was over, the memories still hurt her. She then walked towards the door before turning to address her cats.
“I’ll be in the garden, so let me know when Thanos returns, Alex.” Millen clenched her fists tightly and left the lab in silence.
* * *
In the early morning of the next day, Todd came out into the garden with his sword securely strapped around his waist. When he was asked by the workers of the inn why he was up at that time, he replied that he usually had swordsmanship training in the mornings so it was second nature for him to get up and practice that early. Especially since he was an escort guard and served someone like Jade, he could not afford to rest easy and neglect his duties.
Fortunately, the inn was situated deep within the forest, so barely anyone went in there. Thanks to their location, he was relieved that he did not have to stay by his master’s side all day, and that he had time to do his personal training seriously as usual.
Furthermore, despite Jade still being bedridden, he was still capable of handling small emergencies on his own. His master was also very good at swordsmanship, so he always had a sword ready by his bedside so that he could pick it up whenever there was need for it.
After training for a few hours, Todd finally stopped to take a break for a while.
Thanos finally approached him as he was wiping off his sweat. The older man was wearing the same clothes he did when they both went out to search for Canto, and was also carrying a heavy bag on his shoulder.
“Todd.” Thanos greeted him, “Get ready and come out.” He added. Thanos had meant that they were going out to search for Jade’s horse, but their steps felt heavier that day compared to the days before.
However, there was something eerie about the sudden haste and seriousness Thanos had about him that made Todd worry. Still, he obeyed his instructions without a word. Before leaving, Todd reported to Jade that he was going out to search for Canto again, and to call for Kai if he needed anything. The young man was tasked to check on him to see his condition.
After he finished preparing, Todd set out with Thanos.
That day, they tread on an unfamiliar path, a route that was completely different from the one they’ve taken the day before. The older man’s steps were resolute. Regardless of the rough road, he continued to walk purposefully in silence. He looked like he had a goal, a clear destination and so Todd just followed him.
The two walked for a long time without uttering a single word. As they progressed their journey, the sun slowly rose until it had completely risen above the clear blue skies.
All this time, Todd followed without any protest, but as seconds ticked by, he felt his chest constricting and his heart became more and more uncomfortable. Anxiousness flooded his mind, and he suddenly felt dread settle at the pit of his stomach.
Todd didn’t have a good feeling about their journey. He called out to ask Thanos, “Where are you going?”
“Just follow me quietly.” Thanos’ tone was curt and the younger man realized he was also being told to remain silent and to just follow. Thus, Todd didn’t ask any more questions, and bit down his tongue to keep his mouth shut.
Thanos was certainly acting strange, but most of all, his steps were much hurried than before.
Thanos by now was barely touching the ground, and he walked like he was flying. Even Todd struggled to catch up to him, and they kept their fast pace until the older man halted in front of him.
Thanos raised a hand and looked at him, “Stop.” His outstretched arms behind him blocked Todd from taking a step closer.
Todd paused for a moment and observed their current surroundings.
They were standing on a hillside, and a slightly rotting smell was being carried by the wind. Todd figured that the shift in the atmosphere was the reason why Thanos had wrinkled his brows. The older man then turned to stare at him seriously, and then gave him a warning, “You must prepare your heart.”
Thanos then let out a shallow sigh, gave Todd a look and pointed in front of them with his chin.
The place Thanos was pointing to was down the hill and a couple of steps away from where they stood. As they stepped closer towards the area Todd realized that at the bottom of the hillside was what he was looking for. He took a step back and lowered his gaze on the ground. He was shocked at the sight that lay before him.
It was a terrible scene!
He glanced at his companion in confusion, “How…this…” He felt his throat clogged up as he tried to form coherent sentences.
Canto was dead, but it wasn’t the reason why he’d become shell-shocked!
It was because Jade’s horse, Canto, had more than twenty arrows stuck at various parts of its body. Arrows were littered all over his flesh, and some were even lodged in his eyes as well as his torso and legs.
To Todd, it didn’t look like they were aiming to kill the horse. It looked like they were sending an angry message or taking revenge.
-To be continued.