Chapter 12 – The Home Visit
After defeating the pair of street toughs and then running away from the suspicious man in black, Ruri gave up on going to Chelsie’s son’s house for the day and decided to retire at an inn. Arriving at the inn and getting to her room, she took off her robe and plopped into bed.
“Aah… I’m beat.” Spending the day running through the city at top speed made her legs feel like lead now.
“Rest well, Ruri.”
“You did your best today.”
Comforted by the spirits’ teensy hands patting her gently on the head, she quickly drifted off to sleep.
The following day, Ruri was ready to find Chelsie’s son—a man named Claus.
She grabbed breakfast at the inn, checked out, and left. Chelsie had given her a map leading to Claus’ house, so she pulled it out of her pocket space.
Just as she began making steady progress toward Claus’ house, asking passers-by for directions when she started to get lost, a stroke of bad luck caused her to run into the same two men from the day before.
Just like the city back near Chelsie’s, she would eventually be familiar with nearly everyone given enough time. Unfortunately, that time was not now. The fact that she’d run into the same duo today, amidst this slew of people in the capital, was beyond a coincidence.
Ruri froze up and grimaced, drawing their attention. “Grk!”
“Heheh. Well, fancy bumpin’ into you, li’l missy.” “Y’know, you sure got one over on us yesterday.”
The pair flashed wicked smiles her way, and it wasn’t long before they were dashing at Ruri with demonic expressions as if saying they wanted payback for the other day. Ruri reactively made a break in the opposite direction.
She got the occasional grumbled complaint from the people she bumped into along the way, and she howled back an apology every time. Though the day had only just begun, she was again running through the capital at top speed.
Although she found herself in the exact same predicament as yesterday, in direct contrast to her heavy breathing, her mind was surprisingly calm.
Ruri purposely went down an alley with few people in it. A single, straight strip of wall, a dead end, was waiting at the end. Ruri’s pursuers knew this and started chuckling in triumph in their minds, but Ruri turned the corner anyway. The men followed her around the bend, but once they did—Ruri was gone.
“What the? Where the hell did she go?!”
“We were right behind her, so there’s no way we lost her! Get lookin’!”
The men continued to barrel down the straight alley.
Watching the pair run off was a pair of lapis lazuli eyes from behind a small crate.
(Crap, crap.) The second she’d turned the corner, Ruri had put on that mysterious bracelet to transform into a white cat and shrink behind some cover. She waited for their voices to leave before coming out, jumping on the crate, and licking down her forearm like any other cat.
It was said that demi-humans and humans had slightly different scents, distinct enough for demi-humans to clearly differentiate between the two. That was why those two demi-humans were able to distinguish Ruri as a human from the moment they met her. Taking this into account, Ruri concealed the bracelet in her clothes for easy access.
Neither of them would suspect that the human they were after was now the cat sitting on a crate.
The bracelet was enchanted with concealment magic that would even keep wolfkin, the race said to boast the keenest sense of smell, from detecting it. It not only changed her physical form into that of a cat but her scent as well. That was an aspect where you really felt the depth of the maker’s obsession, but it was thanks to that obsessive level of feline love, that thought to factor in changing body odor, that Ruri was able to protect herself.
It was a strategy that she’d hashed out just in case she was chased again, but she had to break it out earlier than she expected.
(I might run into them again, so maybe I should walk around the capital in cat form as much as possible.)
Ruri headed to Claus’ house while remaining in the guise of a cat. Since she wasn’t able to hide the spirits under her robe in that form, she had them follow her a short distance away.
When she reached Claus’ house, it wasn’t the normal civilian house she’d envisioned but a stately manor.
It had a sturdy gate, and she could see an entryway off in the distance, but it was hard to get the whole picture from a glance.
Just how much space did this place take up?
Chelsie’s house in the forest wasn’t small, but her lifestyle was secluded and mostly self- sufficient, so it blew her away that her son lived like this.
What surprised her even more, however, was that in front of the thick gates was a tiger. Yes —a tiger. It was no mistake; it was definitely a tiger. The beast possessed a huge frame, was covered in striped fur, possessed ferocious feline eyes, and had palms so meaty that one swipe would be enough to send you to the pearly gates.
However, unlike a normal tiger, it was wearing clothes and standing upright like a person.
If Ruri didn’t know that beast people, sans a handful of sects, were relatively mild-mannered individuals, she would have turned right around and hightailed it out of there.
The tiger glaring at her in front of the gate seemed to be on guard duty. Despite understanding that she was expected, the tiger still intimidated her more and more the closer she got. She recalled her current form and pondered over what she should do.
Ruri had finally realized that she couldn’t turn back to normal.
Although she was fine with having turned into a cat for the moment, she needed to remove the bracelet fit snugly around her wrist in order to revert to normal, which didn’t seem at all possible, what with her cat paws.
The spirits could touch mana as well as people and things with mana in the natural world, but she couldn’t very well ask them to take this off her right in the middle of the street. The spirits would happily accept any request Ruri would ask of them, so if she were to ask one of them for help, she’d wouldn’t get just one—she would get a gaggle all rushing her at once.
Asking the tiger in front of her to remove the bracelet was always an option, but Ruri wasn’t very keen on that idea—at all. Her teensy-weensy, frail kitty arm was slenderer than the tiger’s fingers. She had no confidence whatsoever in holding it out when faced with those boulder- crushingly massive, ripped arms and beefy palms.
He would definitely snap the bracelet—and her arm—with ease…
She considered putting returning to human form on the backburner. She could easily communicate with telepathy, but it didn’t seem likely that the lord of the estate would meet with someone disguised as a cat.
(Yeah, I’d bet anything that he wouldn’t see me. A talking cat… Well, then again, there are cat demi-humans, so maybe a talking cat wouldn’t be too extraordinary.) As Ruri considered that thought, the spirits started to get impatient over Ruri not budging an inch toward her destination despite it being right in front of her, so they began to approach her.
Likely realizing that coming to her as a group was ill-advised, one spirit came as a representative.
“Ruri, aren’cha going in~?”
“I am. I’m just doing a little thinking beforehand. So hey, about the bracelet, what if… Ah, someone’s coming out.” The spirit had come forward at just the right time, so she considered having them take off the bracelet, but that was when a well-groomed gentleman stepped out from
As soon as he did, the presumed guardsman tiger greeted him with a cordial bow.
Though she wasn’t certain that he was the lord of the estate, he was unmistakably at least a resident of this house. The gentleman in question had straight, vermillion hair and reddish brown eyes and looked to be in his thirties. He had an intelligent demeanor. Considering demi-humans had appearances that didn’t match their ages, he could be much younger or older than she thought, which made it very hard to actually know.
The second Ruri saw him, she knew that he was Chelsie’s son, which didn’t make much sense since his features weren’t at all similar to hers. As she looked at him, perplexed as to why she’d had that thought, the man noticed her staring at him and walked toward her. However, he seemed less interested in Ruri and more so the spirit that was hanging by her side. His gaze stayed on the spirit the entire time.
“A spirit with a cat is quite the uncommon combination. What might you be doing around here?” he asked, directing his question toward the spirit and not Ruri, so Ruri interjected.
“Oh, the little one isn’t the one who wants to talk. That’d be me.”
The man’s eyes widened a bit, startled that a cat was communicating with him via telepathy, but a gentle smile soon formed on his face and he squatted down in an attempt to bring himself as close to eye level as possible. He spoke to Ruri in a gentle manner, as if speaking to a young child.
Though the act of a cat communicating in words was uncommon, it apparently wasn’t too earth-shattering of an event in this world.
“And how can I help you?”
“Are you Chelsie-san’s son, Claus-san? My name is Ruri. I’ve come to see you on an errand from her.”
“Yes, I’d be Claus, but you’re her, eh? Well, my mother did tell me about running an errand, if I remember, but…” Claus looked at Ruri in suspicion, a doubtful look on his face.
In order to show Claus that she was telling the truth, she opened her pocket above Claus’ head, and from it dropped the letter Chelsie had written her son. Claus caught it, took a look at the handwriting and voiced his approval.
“This indeed appears to be my mother’s handwriting. I apologize for my rudeness. You are more than welcome here. Please, come inside.” Ruri wanted him to remove the bracelet before any of that, but she lost her chance to say anything, so she went along with it, entering his huge mansion behind him while still in cat form.
Ruri walked into the new room, at a loss as to where to sit until Claus offered the sofa. She hopped on and parked herself right in the middle of the huge couch.
Right after, a servant entered, placing a saucer of milk on the table in front of Ruri, making Ruri feel a way that was—hard to explain.
She was starting to regret not turning back into a human sooner.
Meanwhile, Claus was skimming through the letter from Chelsie that Ruri was holding on to.
At first, Ruri thought it was just her imagination, but she was pretty sure that the further Claus read through the letter, the deeper his brow furrowed.
He took his time reading it then rubbed at his temple, let out a deep sigh, and faced Ruri once more.
“I have a few questions for you. Would you mind?” “By all means, go ahead.”
“How long have you known Mother for?”
“About two years, give or take.”
He then proceeded to ask a few more questions, all of which Ruri answered. The majority were questions about her life in the forest and how Chelsie was doing. In the middle of this, Ruri handed him the medicinal plants that Chelsie had asked her to deliver.
“Last question: Mother’s letter said that you have enough mana to be beloved by the spirits, but I see that you only have one around at the moment. Care to explain?”
“I’m keeping them all at a distance for the moment. They might cause a public uproar otherwise. I can always summon them if necessary. Shall I?”
The spirits—minus the one with Ruri—were currently holding their far-off positions, but she could feel them waiting outside the window, eagerly anticipating being called upon. Claus seemed intrigued and granted her permission. Once Ruri told the spirits they were allowed to come in, they flooded the room, one after another.
The sight of the large army of spirits suddenly filling up the entire room made Claus wrench himself backward and scrunch up his face. The number of spirits actually exceeded even her expectations, and she too found herself grimacing, which translated to twitching her cat whiskers. In addition to the spirits that had come with her from the forest, there were spirits from the capital who were curious to see what was going on. The room quickly became extremely busy.
“Wowie, this is Ruri? Nice to meet you.” “She’s a white kitty cat!”
“She’s tinier than what they said, ain’t she?” “Her mana feels really comfy.”
And because they were all talking over one another, it was also quite noisy. Making this even worse was that they were all talking directly into her brain via telepathy. Their voices were forced directly into her head; shutting her ears would be completely useless.
Ruri desperately tried to cover her ears with her paws anyway, and, sitting across from her,
Claus suffered similarly with his hands over his ears as well. Though they knew it was futile, the reflex was as natural as breathing.
“Everyone, stop! Stooop! My head is gonna split opeeeen!” After a few tries, she finally got the spirits to quell themselves. Fearing a repeat performance, she kindly asked the spirits, other than the ones who followed her from the forest, to leave the room.
Catching their breath, Ruri and Claus slumped in their seats. Soon after, they resumed their conversation.
“You do indeed appear to be a Beloved—one adored by the spirits,” Claus said, finally accepting this fact. He then, however, seemed to ponder something for a moment before delivering some news with a serious expression on his face. “In that case, I cannot have you stay here.”
Claus’ unfortunate statement caused Ruri, whose plans revolved around staying in his home, to immediately shoot a startled question back at him.
“Huh?! But why?!” Ruri exclaimed, assuming that the torturous clamor of the spirits was to blame.
However, that wasn’t precisely the factor that Claus perceived as dangerous. As he explained, “Mother might have informed you, but your existence is extremely valuable. To both the Nation of the Dragon King and other nations alike. This place is severely lacking in security, meaning you need someplace that does have more apt security. And the most secure place I can think of is the castle.”
“No, really, don’t you think you’re blowing this out of proportion…?” Of all the places he could have suggested, he picked the castle. …Where the Dragon King resided.
Ruri thought that just being in this mansion made her feel awkward enough, so there was no way that she could comfortably live in some royal palace.
“No, I think the proportion in this case is exactly right. We must assure that no harm of any kind befalls you,” Claus said, “so I will go to the castle and request His Majesty’s approval. I will return shortly, so, please, do not leave this room under any circumstances.” He walked briskly out of the room, without giving Ruri a chance to reply.
“Oh, before that, this bracelet needs to come…” Ruri started, but the rest of her sentence was drowned out by the hard slam of the door as Claus left.
What should I do…?
◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
Lydia, the entity that lived in the space of time that no one other than Ruri could visit, was sorting through the pocket spaces that were now owner-less.
“I don’t think I have a use for this. But… maybe Ruri might?” Lydia pondered to herself, holding a mysterious vase in one hand.
In this place, the terms “respect for the dead” and “restraint” didn’t exist.
The last words Lydia’s former contract-bearer had said to her were that when a room is slated to be erased, she should take anything useful from it.
Lydia sorted each item into wanted and unwanted piles, sending the ones that Ruri might be able to use off to her pocket space. She would then take the useless items and erase them along with the room they were in. Any item that seemed like it could be useful, but that neither herself nor Ruri had a use for, would go someplace different.
Lydia took the mysterious vase, opened the door to the neighboring room, tossed the vase inside, and shut the door. Thus, an artifact that would have been lost to the sands of time lived to see another day.
Once this room check was finished, she stood in front of the door and held out her hand. She made the door dissolve into the darkness, erasing it completely and leaving a wall so blank that anyone would think there had never been a door there at all.
Lydia stopped suddenly. The spirits from the outside world had news for her.
Spirits had a unique communication ability between one another, so Lydia was able to pick up information from the outside despite not being able to leave the dimension. But since it wasn’t worth her time (and depressing besides) to take in every little piece of information from all spirits worldwide, she only paid attention to the pertinent bits. She usually kept the connection cut off when it wasn’t necessary, but ever since she’d made her contract with Ruri, she got updates from the spirits near Ruri on a regular basis.
These were the spirits who had reached out to her.
“It seems Ruri reached the royal capital. And it also seems she met with the person she needed to meet safely. …Still, I wonder if she’ll be all right.” She was confident that the dragonkin wouldn’t try anything foolish against Ruri since, unlike humans, they fully comprehended the chaos the spirits could unleash if provoked. That being said, every nation and every race had its fair share of fools. And if said fool was a statesman, then they might try to manipulate her to suit their interests.
Lydia was sure that Ruri understood the chance of that happening, but from her perspective, Ruri seemed to lack a proper sense of caution. Unless something changed, Ruri was bound to be bent to someone’s will, sooner or later.
“Looks like I need to keep things in check, just in case,” said Lydia with a self-satisfied chuckle, telling something to the spirits on the outside.