There was a moment of silence after Killian finished speaking.
What do you know? What is it?
No matter how much I thought about it, I felt like I knew more than he did, and I had no idea.
Killian’s eyes widened in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
I cocked my head, puzzled, and stared at him.
He was staring up at me, his bright red eyes wide and white.
The corners of his mouth quirked upward, but then returned to normal.
“I don’t need to know.”
He eventually mumbled something in English and tucked me back into the inside pocket of his jacket.
“Let me buy you a cookie.”
As we walked out of the boutique, suddenly asked if I wanted to buy a cookie, not sure what he’d seen.
I’d just shoved them in my pocket, hehe.
But don’t let that stop you from giving!
Everything in Killian’s immediate vicinity slipped nimbly into his darkened pockets.
The nonstop thank-you from the boutique owner, the friction of the carriage’s luggage compartment opening and closing, the sweet vanilla scent lingering on the tip of his nose, the conversations of passersby, the slow movement of the carriage as its wheels clattered over the stone floor with the sound of horses’ hooves…….
Killian said, setting me down in the padded carriage chair.
Soon we were back on the road again, the scenery of the town passing quickly through the carriage windows.
I flicked my tongue at the piece of galette in his hand, tasted it, and took a bite.
The caramelized sugar crunched as it crumbled over the buttery galette.
He opened the pink paper-wrapped dessert, revealing square cookies this time.
As he broke one in half and held it in front of my mouth, I flicked another cookie at him with one forepaw.
“I don’t have a sweet tooth.”
Killian responded as if he understood me, and then held out the other half of the cookie to me as if to say, Finish it.
It felt weird, like we were actually having a conversation.
After finally finishing a piece of galette and two cookies, I shook my head to indicate I didn’t want anymore and flopped down on my stomach.
His hand wrapped around mine and pulled me up.
Killian said in a low voice, nonchalantly brushing the sugar and cookie crumbs from my nose, around my mouth, and down my chin.
I closed my eyes, my face relaxing into Killian’s touch.
One good thing about being a cat was that I didn’t have to lift a finger.
Well, in any world, cats are cute. Cuteness was a weapon.
“You look comfortable.”
I made a cold, pitiful sound and slumped my shoulders.
The unfortunate part, of course, was that I was possessed by a novel that required killing cats in so many worlds.
At that moment, Killian’s thumb pressed against my forehead, forcing my eyes to open.
“When we get to where we’re going.”
Our eyes met, and I could see his red pupils clearly.
“I’m going to check on something.”
I tapped his hand once with my front paw, puzzled by the unintelligible sound.
“No matter what happens. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
I won’t get hurt?
The foreshadowing felt like a foreign threat, and my hair stood on end.
“Don’t be alarmed.”
His eyes lingered on my hands for a moment before he lowered me into his lap.
His hand caressed my back, warm but questioning.
* * *
Her long hair fell into Killian’s lap.
He reached for the blanket he’d laid across from him, and silently unfolded it to cover her, trying not to look down at his side as much as possible.
Only then did he look down at the girl sleeping across his lap.
The wagon lurched up and down as if it had stepped on a large stone.
Killian unconsciously grabbed the girl’s shoulder, worried that she might fall, and then withdrew his hand, his face grim.
It was still hard to believe, even with my eyes.
I closed the curtains first, thinking that her transformation from kitten to human would be easier to see from the outside.
Before the light was completely blocked, the noonday sun shone on her face through the half-closed curtains.
His hand on the curtain stopped abruptly.
There was a girl who looked like she might break before the sunlight even touched her.
Her pale skin and silver hair, she was fast asleep on Killian’s lap.
The blanket rose and fell slowly with each gentle exhalation.
Her rosy cheeks and lips looked innocent and carefree.
I’d always found the defenselessness of others funny, but serenity?
With nothing but the whinnying of the horses and the grinding of the wheels against the stone, Killian stared down at her long, full lashes like a fan.
He was in the early hours of yesterday, and now…….
He was confronted with a strange thing.
It was a phenomenon no one had ever taught him about.
There was no other way to explain it.
Killian leaned his head against the wall of the carriage and slowly closed his eyes.
The Empire had forced him to limit and curtail magic.
He, too, had been taught that magic was something to be wary of and that those who sought to make it stronger were an evil that should be eradicated from society.
But had he ever seen it with his own eyes?
In the same way that he kept the cat that was said to be the devil alive, he reserved his thoughts on magic that he had not seen with his own eyes.
Perhaps it was because he didn’t have much of an aversion to it.
When he opened his eyes, a girl’s face came into his already darkened vision.
Killian had been watching her for a long time in the lightless carriage.
* * *
Killian jerked his knees, nearly falling off, and looked up with a start.
When had I slept?
Being a kitten had given her a lot of sleep, and the warmth of her fur must have made her purr and fall asleep.
Killian sighs at me, looking strangely sharp.
What happened while I was asleep?
I slid off his lap, trying to wake up.
But Killian’s hand lifting me up was quicker.
His pomegranate-red eyes met mine with a mixture of annoyance, frustration, and a hint of exhaustion.
“Onward. Don’t sleep anywhere.”
I looked at him, wondering what he meant, but Killian didn’t say anything more.
Come to think of it, you seem to be in a bad mood whenever I sleep.
Oh, because you can’t sleep and I can?
I had heard in a previous life that people who don’t sleep well sometimes have that reaction.
I leaned my head into his palm, indicating that I understood, and pulled away.
Soon the carriage slowed.
A secluded mansion glimpsed through the window.
As I entered the garden, violets and poppies bloomed in profusion, and a green flag with a lizard on it, the expected family crest, fluttered against the stone wall.
“Open the door, Your Grace.”
A polite chamberlain’s voice sounded, and I quickly slipped into his jacket.
“Baron Duchsen. Greetings to Your Highness, the Sun of Wiper. It is an…… honor to see you here in Winston, Your Highness.”
The man’s voice trailed off for a moment as he addressed Killian in a trembling tone, and then he thanked him, suppressing a small flutter of excitement and excitement.
‘Duchsen,’ I said, wondering if I had misheard.
The voice of a young man followed, ordering everyone to kneel as the patriarch knelt.
“The honor comes, Your Highness.”
There was the sound of grass hitting rainwater.
Everyone knelt to greet Killian.
I held my breath as I realized how exalted the position of crown prince was.
Killian began to walk ahead of me, followed by a steady stream of footsteps.
It wasn’t long before the sound of a door closing behind them was heard, and as a dead silence descended all around them, the man spoke.
“Does the Imperial Palace know of your presence here?”.
The voice was similar to the middle-aged one she’d heard here the first time, but she guessed it was younger.
“I wonder about that.”
Killian asked idly, turning at an angle to face the direction of the sound.
“I’ve never been out of Wingston in my life, and I don’t even know what the Imperial Palace looks like, because my ancestors told me that magic is nothing more than a trick, and so they’ve kept all wizards hand and foot locked up until now, and now I suddenly find myself in the presence of His Highness the Crown Prince, and how can I not be surprised?”
“You look resentful.”
There was a strange mockery in Killian’s tone.
There was something unfamiliar about his low, reactive voice that sent shivers down her spine.
“Harrid, shut your mouth. Your Grace. Please have mercy on my son, he has not yet been taught, and his disrespectful behavior is due to his lack of education…….”
“It does not matter, Duhsen. It is natural for your son to be disrespectful to the palace. The reason I came here unannounced today is that I have some business to attend to.”
“If you ask me ……, I will answer to the best of my ability.”
As the righteous Duchsen finished speaking, Killian slowly pulled me out.
Why me suddenly?!
I stood there on all fours, startled by the sudden chill in the air, but more than that, bewildered by Killian’s behavior in showing me to others.
Was it okay to just show me to other people like this?
As soon as Baron, who had been waiting on his knees, saw me, I could see his gray eyes widen.
At the same time, I heard another voice, one that exuded cold fury.
Gritting my teeth, I stared at the source.
“How dare you bring such an ominous thing…… to us!”
It was a man with auburn hair and gray eyes.
As soon as I heard the surname Duchsen, the character I’d always envisioned glared at me, looking exactly as he was described in the original.
The young wizard who would one day rebel against Emperor Killian and lead a rebellion against him is the young Count Baron Duhsen.
But their paths would cross years later. What happened?
No, more importantly, what was Killian’s motive in sending me to them?
I tried to figure out how to live with Killian without being seen, but I had never imagined a situation like this.
I shuddered in maddening fear.
“You don’t want anyone in the palace to have blood on their hands, then I’ll kill them for you!”
Harrid immediately became filled with hostility and drew his dagger without hesitation to kill me.
A piercing fear immediately hit my eyes like a broken pane of glass.
At that moment, a fierce blade was pointed at Harrid’s neck.
“Who gave you permission to have this knife?”
Killian’s low voice pierced the air.
Baron, who had been kneeling, called out urgently to Killian.
Killian’s sword was poised to slice through Harrid’s throat with the slightest movement.
Killian called Baron’s name, and he pressed his blade further under Harrid’s chin.
“You should be looking at the cat, not your son, shouldn’t you?”
The red eyes beneath the black hair looked down at Baron lazily, and the contemplative Baron forced his head to turn to me.
When he saw me, his eyes began to tremble again in disbelief.
“Confess now, without a shred of falsehood.”
Killian’s demeanor was uncharacteristically cruel and cold, unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
“Without touching a single hair.”
The tyrant Killian that I had so complacently dismissed as a distant prospect felt like an immediate reality.
“And if anything goes wrong, I’ll make sure your son does the same.”
Killian was the only one who could afford to smile now.
With Harrid as his hostage, his grip on the hilt of his sword loosened, then tightened to a sharp edge.
“Find out about the curse on that cat.”