The Cat Settlement
Mishka’s father bowed his head so low I thought his ears might touch the ground.
“If you were not such a skilled fighter, I’d have easily killed you in one strike… And so I nearly killed the person who saved my daughter.”
“Well, I’m not going to say it couldn’t have been avoided… But let’s leave it at that.”
I was quite lucky. If I hadn’t stopped using Eyes of the God Wolf when I did, I might have died. Considering that, I couldn’t use Eyes of the God Wolf so light-heartedly anymore.
“Indeed… But you must understand that to us beastkin, humans are terrible creatures. Everyone thinks so. But perhaps I’m the last person who should be saying such things. I will try to keep an open mind in the future.”
“That would be great. But there definitely are humans out there who are up to no good. So maybe don’t be too open-minded either.”
“Aye, I will be careful.”
I had nothing more to say. Regardless of what I felt, I was ultimately unharmed.
“Perhaps you will allow me to make it up to you? Would you come and visit our settlement?”
Aye, he said. He then told us about the beastkin settlement that was deep in the forest. It was in the direction that I had been trying to look. Had I kept going, I might have found it…
“Perhaps this can be the first step for beastkin and humans to come closer together.”
“That may be. What do you say?”
“I want to go.”
“Then we should accept their hospitality.”
We nodded to each other and Mishka’s father laughed happily. Mishka had been watching this scene cautiously up until now, but she too finally laughed.
“…That’s right. I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Mishka’s father, Ash.”
“I am Asagi. And this is…”
“Daniela. It is a pleasure.”
“Likewise. And in spite of first impressions, I hope we can get to know each other.”
And like that, we were invited to the cat beastkin settlement.
While I was looking forward to tomorrow, it was quite late, and so it was decided that Ash and Mishka would rest in the tent. Daniela and I would prepare a different one.
“I will take the watch now.”
“I will not let any beastmen through, so have no fear.”
It was my fault, I admit. And so I swore to do better next time as I lay down in the tent and immediately fell asleep.
□ □ □ □
The next morning, we headed towards the settlement with Ash as our guide. It was supposed to be a little far from here, but it wouldn’t take very long if we went by boat. That just proved how impressive Mishka was to come out all of the way here. Beastkin were tough.
Ash stood in the front of the boat and gave directions as Daniela controlled the engine. By the time that we docked the boat by the river bank, the sun had fully risen.
“It’s a short walk from here.”
“It’s really not far at all so… What just happened?”
I turned around just as I had finished storing the boat in my bag. He looked stunned and then frowned as he saw me sling the bag over my shoulders.
“A bag that can store a boat…”
“Oh… Yeah, it’s a special bag.”
“I can see that. Otherwise, the human world would be considerably madder than I thought.”
He got that right.
He continued to ask about the bag on the way there. And then I ended up talking about Rachel and Lehaty. Though his face didn’t move much, Ash reacted with a range of emotions from surprise to joy at what I told him.
“…I see. While she is not of the same tribe as us, it is good to know that she has found happiness. Still, it surprises me Asagi, that you have beastkin friends. Including one who is a God Wolf.”
“Well, it’s just Lehaty, really. I’ve never been to any settlements before. As for Rachel… Well, it was just a coincidence.”
That back alley… I had just happened to enter it. But then again, I had a feeling that I would have met Rachel in some other place eventually. That’s just how things worked.
“…We’re almost there. I’ll go on ahead and explain things to the others. You wait here for a moment.”
Ash nodded and then ran on top of the snow as if he were running on the ground. I had no idea how his feet weren’t sinking into the ground. Was that some kind of special ability that they had…?
“Father has the Snow Cat’s protection.”
Mishka must have been very relieved to reunite with her father. She was much more talkative now as she stood with us and watched her father run.
“Yes. It’s a monster that looks like a large white cat. But to us beastkin cats, it’s more of a deity.”
A monster’s protection. That could only mean one thing.
Daniela must have been thinking the same thing, as she gave me a sharp look.
It must be somewhere in this sea of trees. An abnormally evolved being that was friendly with the beastkin.
It was as I pondered over this that Ash returned. His feet were as light as ever as he walked on the snow.
“Sorry that it took so long. I had to talk to the chief. You are now welcome.”
“That’s a relief. Well, let’s go then.”
The settlement was right in front of us now. I could see it up close with Eyes of the God Wolf. There were structures made of trees and grass that had been weaved into domes. It made me think of nomadic tribes.
I deactivated it then. I didn’t want to ruin too much of the surprise.
“Ash. Is there anything we should know before entering. Anything we must not do in front of the others?”
I wanted to avoid doing anything that would be rude.
“That’s very kind of you to ask. However, do not worry. We are a free folk. But if I had to say something…”
Ash suddenly chuckled.
“Well, our ears and tails are sensitive. It would be best if you don’t touch them without permission.”
“Ahaha… Yes, of course.”
Ash must have been a little embarrassed. He scratched his cheek awkwardly as we walked. We soon started to see houses appear through the trees.
“Here we are. Our settlement, Cath Palug.”
The trees parted in front of us and we came out into a vast clearing that was covered in snow. Numerous houses had been built here, and from them, we could see the curious stares of the beastkin.
There were three in particular who were walking right towards us. The one in the center was quite elderly, but the other two were young. The elderly one had a long flowing beard and white fur. The ears looked like those of a lion, which gave him an imposing air.
The old man stopped in front of us and looked at me up and down before offering his hand.
“Welcome, human visitor. I am Leonardo, chief of this settlement.”
“It’s an honor to meet you, chief. I am Asagi Kamiyashiro, from the Adventurer’s Guild.”
“And I am Daniela Villsilf. Asagi and I form a party together.”
Apparently, the beastkin here liked to shake hands. When I squeezed back, he smiled at me. Then he moved to Daniela.
“Ah, I see that you are an elf.”
“A light elf, yes. Is that unusual in these parts?”
“Not really. After all, there is an ancient elven ruin not too far from here.”
Daniela and I froze when he said this. We were looking for it, but we didn’t know the exact location. All we knew was that it was in this forest, according to the map that the Karma showed to us.
“…Hmm. I take it that is your destination then.”
“We have important business there.”
“I see. Well, there’s no point in discussing it here. You can come to my house for now. Out here, people will tire their eyes out from staring at you.”
Said Mister Leonardo as he turned around. The beastkin who had been looking all turned away. Daniela and I chuckled at this.
The abnormally evolved being, the location of the ruins, and the red flower. We had come out here in order to find the key and ended up encountering some beastkin.
What would happen next… I couldn’t imagine. But I suppose there was nothing to do but go with the flow…
“What are you doing, Asagi? Hurry up.”
“Yeah, I’m coming.”
Daniela called. And so I ran after them.