Chapter 10

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‘A cat?’

Finding cats wherever I went became my specialty, so I instinctively turned my head and looked into the darkness.

The rustling sound could be from an animal about the size of a cat.

I soon found something in the dark and smiled broadly.
Two green eyes glowed in the grass.

“Cats are everywhere, after all.”

Forgetting the situation I was in, I quickly became happy.

As I crouched at a distance, holding my breath for fear of the cat being wary, it jumped up onto the wall that separated the garden and the detached building.

For a moment, the silhouette of a cat with its back to the moonlight appeared.
Seeing that, I exclaimed.

“Ah…!”

At that sound, the cat stopped and gazed at me.

“You’re so pretty.
You’re such a perfect cat.
So cute…”

It was a gray-haired cat.
His shiny hair shone with a mysterious blue light.
He had chest hair longer than in any other body part, as if it was a dignified scarf, and he sat flaunting his beauty with his four feet wrapped around him with a fluffy tail that was like a fox’s tail.

With a fairly large physique, graceful curves, muscular body, long legs, and a well-balanced and healthy body.
He was one of the coolest cats I’ve ever seen.

The gray cat glanced at me with a still gaze, and, as if he wasn’t interested, then crossed the fence and disappeared from view.

Seeing this, I had some lingering feelings of regret and kept glancing at the place where he was standing, and suddenly I felt sad.

My heart, which I had been struggling to comfort a while ago, collapsed in longing.

“My cats were alive and well like that…”

Thinking of the warmth of the little lovely kitties I loved, perhaps my whole life, made me feel helpless and lonely.

When I closed my eyes and pondered about it, the sensation of the soft fur in my hands, the delicate gestures that rubbed my body against me, and the slender voice that made me laugh came to life in my senses.

“I want to see you…”

At some point, even though I had dry eyes, I seemed to have the talent to shed tears to wet my entire face in an instant.

I remembered the days when I took care of my cats, even as they vomited blood.
I hoped they wouldn’t get sick, hoped that they’d live long, happy lives.

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“I miss you.”

Even though people might say they’re just cats, to me, they weren’t only cats.

After my mother, who was my only pillar of support, passed away, my cats were the only friends and family I had left who gave me comfort.
I thought I had no regrets in life.

“Why did they have to die like that?”

It was so helpless to feel that the things I loved had been horribly crushed into the hands of others.

I stood frozen in the dark.
The soil beneath my feet was stained with moisture as if it had rained.

It seemed like I’d been standing like that for a while, but when I came to my senses, the gray cat I thought had gone away was sitting on the wall gazing at me.

He was staring at me with his mysterious green eyes wide open, like a statue.

“…Hi?”

Cats have mystical powers.

The power to make me laugh even after crying so tiredly.

“You are so cute.”

Did I look weird smiling with a teary face?

This time, the guy has vanished arrogantly.

 

* * * 

‘How did she know I was there?’

Dimitri, who had turned into a cat and was wandering around with no direction in mind, was a little surprised.
He only made a very small sound, so he didn’t think Rowaine would find him right away.

It didn’t look like that, but it seemed like she had acute senses, as if she had learned martial arts.

‘She didn’t seem to recognize me.’

She didn’t know who she was calling cute and pretty.

By the way, according to the rumors, she was a woman who was notorious for brutally abusing and killing shapeshifters.

However, he was curious to see her crying desperately in a place where no one was there, saying she wanted to see him.
Even if he didn’t really care about rumors, isn’t this interesting?

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‘They said she was someone evil, but it didn’t seem like the case.’

As far as he knew, malicious people never wept like that.

When walking around as a small animal, he would often see such trivial and interesting things.

Indifferently, Dimitri finished his walk and returned to his office, without realizing that a hint of curiosity lingered within him as he took every small step.

 

* * * 

At that time, the name of Rowaine was being discussed in the mansion of Elbas, which was very close to the Blois estate.

“You mean that Dimitri brought back Rowaine Larscel?”

Sophia, a maid from the Blois estate, bowed her head.

“Yes, Madam.”

The old lady, whose hair was white, set the teacup down on her table with a clack.

She was the former Duchess of Blois.

“Ha.
She’s just a woman from the Larscel family.
Despite it’s an old family, Count Larscel is not a very educated person.
Rather than a noble, he’s closer to a merchant.”

She clicked her tongue.

“Besides, Rowaine Larscel is surrounded by bad rumors.
That boy sure took after his father.
He’s already disgraced the family name, but he must be trying to demean the Blois family.”

Then, she tilted her head as if she had suddenly remembered something.

“Wait, come to think of it, wasn’t that girl the one who was fluttering about to catch the Emperor’s attention? Why is she suddenly marrying Dimitri?”

Her eyes narrowed as she folded her arms as though she wasn’t happy with the fact.

“Suspicious… There must have been some sort of deal.”

At that, Sophia turned to the maid.

“I’ll have to meet her at once.”

 

* * * 

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At noon the next day, the butler came and told me that the Duke had asked to have a meal together.

“The Master wants you to have breakfast together.
I brought maids to help.
From now on, these two will serve the Madam.”

After the butler left, two maids still remained.
There was a look on their faces that clearly said they were wary of me.

It was understandable.
The rumors about Rowaine weren’t very good, so they’d be worried about how picky and haughty the new wife would be.

With a small sigh, I decided to offer them a compromise.

“I know you hate me because of the rumors about me.
It’s uncomfortable to be with people who don’t like me, so just get me ready as quickly as possible.”

Because of my words, their expressions became awkward since they didn’t think I’d be straightforward.

“It’s alright if you don’t say anything.
I don’t mean to make it difficult.
I’ll wash my hair alone, so can you just help me get the clothes on?”

One of the two maids, who was shorter than the other, glanced at me, then the other maid in turn with her big eyes, and muttered something under her breath.

“Please tell us your orders.”

I nodded awkwardly.
I grew up in a place where people spoke politely to each other when it’s the first meeting, it was quite unsettling that I suddenly had the upper hand.

After I washed up by myself, the maids watched quietly and dried my hair with the magic stone they brought, then I went through my luggage and put on Renée’s dress.

When I first arrived, it was Renée who was supposed to come, so I only brought her luggage.
Her clothes did not fit well and it was rather uncomfortable.

Since Renée had a thinner frame and Rowaine had a voluminous body, the chest area was too tight and it felt like I was choking.

‘I need to buy some clothes.’

Yesterday I had a chance to get some of Rowaine’s dresses, but I regretted not paying attention to her clothes because I was so focused on bringing her gold jewelry.

Barely holding my breath, I tucked my body into Renée’s clothes and somehow made my way to the dining room in the main building.

The Duke, who sat at the head of the fancy table, was waiting for me.

He was basking in the midst of the sun’s rays without giving the order to pull the curtains down.

I thought it was too cat-like, so I giggled at the thought that he was ‘cute’ even though he had a human form.

“…?”

“…!”

All of a sudden, he opened his eyes at the sound of my laughter.
I snapped out of it as well.

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Why did I think ‘cute’ while looking at an adult man? How can such a big man be cute?

‘He’s human, but he has cat eyes, so my brain is having some cognitive dissonance…’

Shaking my head slightly, I came to my senses and apologized to him.

“I apologize if I made you feel bad.
It wasn’t a laugh meant to ridicule you.”

“Forget it.
Please sit down.”

He replied politely.
Somehow, he had a nice expression.

He was wearing the same happy expression he had on the carriage we rode yesterday right now as well.

‘He smiles pretty well.
I thought he was a frightening person.’

We didn’t have a good first impression of each other, so I was surprised by his gentle face.
Though it was good for me to spend time together.

“We didn’t seem to be able to have the conversation we needed due to the hectic situation, so I invited you for a meal so we could talk.”

“Alright.”

There were some things to sort out.
I’d want to hear about the curse, too, and we had to talk about what to do next.
And anyway, now that I’m the Duchess, there will also be things for me to do, too.

As soon as I sat down, trays of food started coming out as if they had been waiting for my signal, so we stopped talking for a moment and stared at the dishes the servants were carrying busily.

Meat-based foods were set in front of him.
He didn’t even pay attention to the vegetables on the table.
Apparently, I guess those were just for me.

‘Cats are carnivores.
This man is a cat.
So, he would be eating meat, too.’

Those thoughts kept running through my mind.

Every time he took the shredded meat to his mouth and chewed it, his sharp fangs could be glimpsed.

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Somehow, it seems that large fangs like a lion would suit him, but his fangs reminded me of the cute fangs of a cat.

“Cute…”

As the word I wasn’t aware of escaped, I quickly covered my mouth with my hand.

However, as if he heard my murmur, he raised an eyebrow.

“Was that directed at me just now?”

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