By their very natures, cats and humans are unable to exchange spoken or nonverbal communication. No matter how much a cat meows, no matter how much a human does this and that, a conversation shouldn’t be conceivable between them.
Mitchell watched the spectacle of a cat and a human having a discussion with detached admiration. She had nothing more on her lips than a tranquil secretarial smile.
Aicila glanced at the cat that was aggressively clawing at the hem of her gown. Sharp-tempered. She leaned over to rescue her poor gown.
Slap. This time, its white furry front paw lightly hit her on the back of her hand.
“You mean you’ve chosen your next butler?”
Mer mer. You’re finally using your head.
Ruby nodded, its gaze fixed expectantly on Aicila.
“Okay. Congratulations. But I’m not really interested in hearing you brag too much.”
Aicila responded half-heartedly and stood up. When she appeared to have a bored expression on her face, Ruby quickly clung to her. The hem of her expensive dress, which had been painstakingly embroidered by artisans in the Diera District, was snatched by a pair of sharp fangs.
It caused Aicila to stumble backwards, so she stared down with a frown. The cat was slamming the floor hard with its front paws. The way it wagged its tail wasn’t even funny.
“Did your future butler reject you?”
“You’re a real pain in the neck. I warned you to watch your temper.”
It’s not like that, you idiot!
Ruby’s pretty blue eyes turned melancholy. As it looked like it was about to cry, Aicila let out a long sigh.
“You found your future butler, right?”
When the cat groaned again, tap tap, Aicila attempted to converse by voicing her own speculations. The way she spoke made her sound like a gypsy fortune teller in a secluded alleyway.
“…What the future butler hates about you. Hey. You f*cking cat, one more hit and I’ll leave. Don’t hit me.”
“Why did you catch me when you don’t want to see me so badly? Is it related to your future butler?”
Right, that’s it! That’s the one! Looking down at Ruby blinking its eyes excitedly several times, Aicila snorted indifferently.
“What to do, I don’t feel like it.”
Slap, slap. Aicila sighed as the series of paw attacks continued in succession. While her grandfather was away on business, she was responsible for taking care of the obnoxious family pet.
“Phew, just my luck.”
Mitchell, who up until that point had just listened in on the miraculous exchange between cat and human, knew it was her turn to pose a question.
“Are you going out?”
“Right, the clothes… is it better to wear riding clothes, cat?”
“Just wear a riding suit, mya lady.”
She couldn’t understand how that brief cry could be an affirmative answer, but Mitchell wisely did not ask. She merely moved in order to arrange her riding attire.
Aicila looked back at the cat that followed her.
“Your butler, are they a good person?”
Very nice, Human. Really nice. She laughed briefly because she emphasized that it would sound like that.
Right. I’m curious about who stole the heart of that picky and grumpy cat, so I’ll just go see them.
Dressed in a horse riding suit prepared by her secretary, Aicila mounted atop the white horse.
“Shall I accompany you, Miss Aicila?”
“Um, it’s okay. I’ll just go meet Ruby’s next butler and come back.”
As she held the reins and looked up, Ruby, who had already climbed on the wall, was swearing with its eyes, as if asking what she was doing without haste.
The ungrateful cat revealed its temper without any regrets as soon as its request was granted. At any rate, I can’t let this white-haired punk get away with it.
Ruby sprinted lightly regardless of whether or not it knew how she felt, and Aicila tugged the reins. Suddenly, the horse basking in the late-autumn afternoon sun let forth a tremendous neigh.
While the horse’s hooves began to pound the ground dynamically, Aicila leisurely chased the cat, checking the direction it was running to. The evening breeze grazing her cheeks was pleasantly cool.
Upon learning that her beloved son had been harmed, the Countess’s wrath was unrestrained. Lloyd’s fake and exaggerated cries caused her to grit her teeth.
“You. How dare you!”
When Ronell struggled to stand up, she fell to the ground with a thud. It seemed that her ankles failed to withstand the power of an adult woman and eventually became sprained.
It hurts. It really hurts.
She could only mutter ‘it hurts’ over and over again in a pathetic display of helplessness. Because of the excruciating pain, all she could do was groan. Her gaze fell like a needle on the body that was sitting absentmindedly.
Suddenly, the Countess, who had only been looking down at her, took a step nearer the fireplace.
The sound of her high heels resonated in a dreary way.
Mary bit her lip nervously at the clinking sound, and Lloyd’s cunning grin widened.
Serves you right, B*stard.
He made a silent whispering motion with his lips.
“I’ll never forget the day you arrived.”
A calmer yet more terrifying voice. It was full of vitriolic anger among the mellifluous monotony.
“Your existence is an insult to me.”
Ronell dropped her eyes at the familiar words. She wondered why she couldn’t get used to those words no matter how much she listened to them. Sometimes she wanted to complain that she wasn’t born because she wanted to, but…
She knew very well that no one would hear her voice.
“I’ve been bearing with it for quite some time. However.”
Seeing Lloyd go out at the woman’s command, Ronell had an intuition for the worst.
“You shouldn’t have touched my child.”
That cat, it looks like it’s running for its life. Aicila narrowed her eyes and patted the horse’s mane.
The astute animal obviously picked up on the fact that its master was trailing the cat. Without her guidance, it understood what she was asking, and it took off after the cat immediately.
Thanks to this, Aicila was able to look around and get an idea of where she was right now.
Marquis Erge’s manor. Baron Neran’s manor. Marquis Faubré’s manor.
“This place is where prestigious noble families live.”
A bunch of fools who are too obsessed with their bloodlines to accept the reality that the world has already changed.
The noble households generally despised the House of Duncan and other bourgeoisie* households. As she recalled the underlying irritation and scorn they had displayed, Aicila chuckled sourly.
(TL/N: ‘Bourgeoisie’, in Marxist contexts, is the capitalist class who own most of society’s wealth and means of production.)
No. To be precise, it wasn’t the Duncans whom they despised, but ‘her’…
“That cat’s next owner, I wonder if they called for me because they got annoyed.”
No way. I hope not.
At least that cat takes pride in being a pet of our house. It certainly wouldn’t have randomly selected the next owner. Surely.
If so, that would be the very definition of being ungrateful.
At the same time, Aicila squinted her eyes when the sound of tapping reached her ears. Ruby was repeatedly slamming its front paws against the wall. After she looked in its direction, it was pointing directly towards the mansion.
That’s right, Human. Mer mer, the cat called out a few times before disappearing.
Aicila stopped the horse with a quick tug on the reins, and she hopped from the back with poise. Going around the outside of the mansion, she saw the ornate, light gray front gates.
What’s engraved on the nameplate is—
—a Black Camellia*. The crest of the House of Count Artes.
(TL/N: Here’s what a Black Camellia looks like.)
Aicila pulled the corners of her mouth downward and sighed briefly.
The opponent is mo… No, not as good as I thought.
When she went out on her horse, her cheerful spirits increased. Still, the image of the obstinate Count’s face brought a frown to her brow. Aicila made two tongue clicks, then pulled the rope near the gates.
The unusually crimson sunset served as a backdrop for the bells as they signaled the arrival of a guest.
“Who are you?”
The gatekeeper approached and skimmed her from top to bottom. That act of arrogance immediately drained her sense of humor.
It’s annoying from the start, damn it. Aicila restrained herself from doing what she wanted to do, making a pointing motion towards the mansion with her chin.
“I’m here to see Count Artes.”
“Have you made an appointment?”
In response to his clerical question, Aicila took three gold coins from her bosom and tossed them. When he automatically caught the flying coins, the gatekeeper gaped.
“Didn’t I have an appointment?”
As he hesitated, swish, Aicila threw again. Once a hefty pocket was handed to the gatekeeper this time, he responded immediately.
“You have an appointment. I apologize for not knowing. May I ask for Milady’s name?”
Surely he would be familiar with who the empire’s wealthiest man is. Just as expected. The gatekeeper with wide eyes swiftly thrust the cash bag into his pocket. It was a tendency of trying to cover it up before anyone noticed.
After waiting for a while, the gatekeeper appeared again with the sound of the gates opening.
“I will guide you to the mansion. Miss Duncan, please leave the horse to him for the time being.”
Carefully, a worker made his way over to the white horse. To the human eye, it was a light touch, but the horse didn’t appear to like it. The white animal stomped its hooves uncomfortably on the ground and let forth a loud neigh.
After Aicila stroked its mane to calm it, the white horse went on as if it had no chance of winning.
What’s with all the nitpicking? How come the animals in our house are starting to resemble that nasty white furball?
I must be mistaken… I hope so.
Aicila barely managed to ease her trembling expression. As she followed the gatekeeper, a shadow was thrown in front of her.
“Please stop for a moment, Milady.”
Aicila grimaced deeply for the second or third time—although the exact number is irrelevant—at the tone that was considerably higher than expected. Because she was a stranger there, she made an effort to act appropriately.
Hm. What to do.
“My name is Geran, serving Artes. May the blessings of autumn be showered upon Milady. Good evening, Miss Duncan.”
“I’ve come to meet His Excellency the Count.”
“His Excellency went down the fief. So, please just go back for tod—”
Hearing a small cry, both the butler and Aicila simultaneously looked to the ground. Out of nowhere, a cat arrived and began to meow pitifully.
Aicila, in contrast to the butler who relaxed his facial expression, merely raised one eyebrow. That pitiful facade was nothing but an act to her. That cat’s actual motive would be—
Where’s my butler! Hurry up and find her!
—something like this.
Aicila, irritated by that threat, slowly raised her lips.
“Dear me. If Madam happens to be available, I’d love to meet her, too.”
It was meant as a favor, but it came off more like a command. Her authoritative tone caused the butler to blink twice.
“I apologize. Madam is ill at the mome—”
“You are the one in charge of the Count’s manor, Madam.”
“You can’t possibly mistreat Duncan any further. Am I wrong.”
“…I shall relay Milady’s request to Madam.”
The butler backed away at the pressure.
“The sooner the better.”
Aicila gave sincere advice.
“I’m pretty impatient.”