_Running the length of the Fence, Aimi found that her voice was drowned in the cries of war, "Katsurou! I am over here! You must what? I must know what you wish to say! And, please, make it brief, because I, too, wish to say something. Something that I cannot deny any longer, something that is making me ramble on like some fool." She looked around, seeing that the guards grew near in capturing her once more. Even with the danger near, she couldn't find her way to saying aloud what she wanted. She feared the worse, with no answer from the other side of the Fence, she wondered if Katsurou could even hear her anymore.
_"Miss, you are causing trouble, and you are endangering these felines by dragging them into it," one of the guards said. "Since you are a lady and your head is clouded, we will show mercy and let you and these people go if you give in." Easing her shoulders, Aimi took into account the five guards surrounding her in a tight circle. They stood, towering over her as they held their weapons of choice loosely towards her. It was plain to see that they did not wish to fall to such measures as to hurt the simple seamstress. It was petty that she did not feel the same for them.
_Without much thought, relying on pure instinct, Aimi dropped to all fours and rammed her head into the gut of the guard in front of her. The air escaped his lungs, and he fell like a pile of bricks. Standing on her victim's motionless body, Aimi gestured for another to come at her. Seeing that the simple seamstress was indeed a threat, the next guard found no dishonor in rushing at her with his spear. She jumped in the air at the last second and landed on the long handle of the spear. Light as a feather, she crouched down and sprang from the flimsy twig.
_A small smile slithered its way across her cheeks as she stuck one foot out and slammed it against the guard's forehead. He fell with the weight of the red feline onto his back, and she landed with grace five feet away from the damage. The remaining three guards stared at the back of the lady who easily took out their comrades. She turned to them, still smiling ever so sweetly at them. Clenching her fists, she leaned forward and took of with nimble effort. She soared through the air, a good three feet above their heads, somersaulted, and once again landed on her feet, as a cat should.
_After a moment of letting the scene sink in, the guards went after her as she ran towards the brick wall, the Fence. She dodged others and yelled at the top of her lungs, "Oh, Katsurou. Please, hear me! Come to the top of the Fence! Do not let bricks get in the way of what I wish to say!"
"Are you singing your own theme?" "... N-...nooo..."
_Katsurou's ears twitched as he turned his head towards the voice at the other side of the Fence. Gripping the spear in his hands, he ran through the crowd of guards and workers, whom were at each others throats. He could think of nothing else that could prove workers ability to stick together as a family better than the battle going on in that moment. They believed that the injustice of such separation between two souls to one kingdom could go on no longer. Feeling that everyone was on the same side gave Katsurou hope and strength.
He dug the head of the spear into the dirt at the base of the Fence, giving him lift into the air. His upper body rose above the brick barrier as Aimi pulled hers to rest on it. Their face met just inches from one another's; Katsurou's just slightly higher than Aimi's, staring down into her constricted eyes. They slowly dilated as she realized who she was looking at.
Silence fell, and they knew not if the battle had ceased or if it were their heartbeats drowning the chaos out. Together they shouted at the top of their lungs in fear of not being quick enough.
"I love you!"
Then the last sound, their hearts beating, stopped. The sounds of nature rushed into their ears as they realized that all had indeed fallen silent. Katsurou watched in horror as Aimi slowly leaned back and then fell to the ground on her back. He reached out to her, screaming her name when a shock of pain pulsed in his temples. Holding his head in pain, he found difficulty in keeping his eyes open. He strained them to find not Aimi on the ground but a woman with the same velvet red for hair, laying on ground made completely of grey stone and bleeding horribly. A loud, high-pitched noise rang into the background, sending Katsurou in a fit of agony.
The ground soon met his back and shook him back into reality. His friends were now loosing the fight; each being brought to their knees with a weapon resting on the back of their heads. Propping himself on his elbow, he blinked and saw the stone ground once again, empty of all life except for the twitching woman and a fire burning a pile of metal and black rubber. The high-pitched noise rang louder, and Katsurou shut his eyes to stop the pain in his temple. The horrible scene of his friends being taken down returned. A pair of guards dragged him off the ground and away from the scene.
"What is happening?" he asked the drones. "I smell smoke, where is the fire? What of the others...? Please don't h-hurt..." He could feel his heart rate dropping as he slipped into unconsciousness. While numb and blind, the noise that pained him finally silenced, but the incredible ache of loss spread through his chest. As he neared the edge of when he could take no more of the ache, he began to feel the guilt of fault wash over him as he drowned in it. He tried to draw his breath but found no air to comfort him. He was sure he was dying, for it was too much for him to bare.
Then, as if hearing his silent cries, a gentle hand cradles his neck and lifted him out of the water. Sitting upright, he gasped for air, realizing that his head was soaked. His eyes rolled around, taking in the magnificent room he sat at the center of. Everything from the floor and above was made of white marble covered with the expensive taste of royalty. The chandelier shinned brighter than the sun itself in all its unnatural glory. And, at the very end of the room, atop of a large throne sat a mess of bright yellow fur with beady eyes that glared at Katsurou.
Feeling the fur along his spine stand on end, he hurriedly bowed. The gentle hand again reached for him, touching his shoulder and pulling him back up. He found a kind face behind the hand; a feline with sad eyes as she shook her head and helped him to his hind legs. A maniacal chuckle echoed through the enormous room as the king stood up.
“Even when you loath me so, you still cannot help but to bow in my presence,” the king said smugly. He took the few steps away from his throne and walked towards Katsurou and the kind feline. “Amazing what power can earn you.” He then turned to the girl and asked, “Lilly? Be a dear and have the guards block all the exits.”
“Yes, sir,” she nodded solemnly and scurried off. Katsurou watched as she ran off then turned to the king with fire in his eyes. The king caught his look and laughed loudly.
“Ah… now I see the hate!” he said with a wide grin. “Tell me, Katsurou, do you know why the kingdom has been kept in two for so long?” He placed his hands behind his back and turned on his heel, walking back towards his throne. Another servant arrived just as the king reached his throne and held out a tray with a bottle and a gold goblet. The king took the goblet and the bottle and poured milk out from one and into the other. He then placed the empty bottle on the poor servant’s head, who was young and afraid, keeping perfectly still as he carefully found his balance.
Katsurou made a face of disgust at such treatment of the poor lad. The king noisily drank from his goblet then balanced it atop the bottle. His eyes half closed, he watched with a smirk as the quiet fire in the middle of the room burned stronger. Folding his hands together, he stated, “It is to protect you.”
“From what,” Katsurou barked. “We are separated from our own brethren for our safety? Who spews such logic? Our kingdom should be one.” The king titled his head back and laughed loudly.
“Do you really think that, Katsurou?” he said, leaning forward. “Tell me, do you know what you are?”
“I am a cat.”
“Are you sure of this?”
“Well, then,” the king giggled, clapping his hands. The servant boy jumped slightly, causing the bottle and goblet to tip over. He caught them in midair then ran off to fetch something else. “If you are so sure that you are a cat, why not drink from my private collection?”
“Th-the milk of the ages?” Katsurou blinked. “But it is for King’s lips only.”
“Others may taste if the king allow it,” he replied. The servant boy returned with a clear bottle of green liquid that bubbled. “This one is the milk of identity. If one drinks it, one will be returned to their true selves no matter the curse. Once you drink this, Katsurou, you will see what I am trying to protect you from.” The servant boy poured the green milk into a silver goblet then walked up to Katsurou. He held the goblet up then mouthed that Katsurou shouldn’t drink it.
With shaking hands, Katsurou took the goblet despite the warning. He stared into the liquid and wondered that if he wasn’t a cat then what he could be. Surely, he could be a human. It has been told that no human has stepped into the Cat Kingdom for six generations. Then he worried if his true self was something of a monster. He looked up at his king and asked in almost a whisper, “What am I?”
“Discover for yourself,” the king said, grinning and waving his hand. Katsurou dropped his gaze back to the goblet and licked his lips nervously. He noticed that as he poured the liquid down his throat that the servant boy backed away. The bitter taste finally hit his tongue with the last drop and his stomach retched with the bitterness. He crumbled to the ground once more, folding in half as he felt his very bones molding to their original design.
The servant boy backed into the wall, shaking in fear as the king laughed hysterically. They watched as the creature in the Worker outfit lost most of its fur, leaving only some on its head, ears, tail and lower body. Though its hind legs’ fur remained, they changed along with the arms to those of a human with claws. Its teeth grew larger to accommodate the human mouth, fangs enlarging slightly while its eyes spread with the dilation of a cat. The face remained in the shape of cat’s with skin on its cheeks.
Dropping the tray, the servant boy found the need to run but found he could not. The king finished laughing and stood up, walking towards the monstrosity that laid in his castle. He gently kicked what was once Katsurou and said, “Do you realize what you are Katsurou? You are the unholy result of two species breeding as if they were the same. There are many like you, whom I am trying to protect from being forsaken by others. If it were not for me, your kind would be unable to live in this world or the human’s.
“You try to disguise yourselves as one or the other, but in the end they know what you are. We of royalty have made it our duty to help you poor souls. We take away your memories and give you the look of us; therefore, you may live in peace with us. Sadly, there are many things that can trigger your memory. The strongest threat is love, so we must keep those who were once together separate. Do you understand, Katsurou, why you and Aimi cannot be together?”
Katsurou shivered and rolled his eyes to look at the king. With a horsed voice he said, “I do not remember anything from when I was young.”
“Soon, you will,” the king chuckled. He clapped his hands and a few servants entered the room with caution. They all whispered and stared at the creature lying in a heap at the center of the room. “Please, escort our friend to somewhere more comfortable and give him the pure Milk of the Felines. Hurry, hop to it!”
“Yes, your majesty,” many replied with a bow. Many were reluctant to get anywhere near the creature; the first to step forward was Lilly. She sat on her ankles and gently stroked Katsurou behind his ears with pity.
As she helped Katsurou to his hind legs, with a few other cats’ assistance, she whispered, “We will help you escape. You must escape before dinner.”
“What of Aimi?”
“You must leave her here.”
“You have to trust us,” Lilly said, her voice cracked as she edged towards crying. “It is too late for her, her transformation was complicated. You have to leave before the king grows angry with you, too.”
_Aimi opened her eyes with difficulty, a throbbing headache rising from behind her eyes. She sat up as if a pile of bricks laid on her chest. Her ears twitched in a circular motion to identify any familiar noises or voices. The sound of paw against brick echoed around her, and she realized she was in a cell. Stumbling a bit, she stood on her hind legs and rushed to the bars. She shook them, knowing it was silly to hope for them to be loose, but she didn’t know what else to do.
_Disheartened, she fell to her knees, her head hung between the space of the bars. The echo of the footsteps grew louder, and she soon found herself watching a guard walk past her cell. Her eyes then drew to the set of bars next to her, belonging to another cell. She could barely make out the silhouette of a body lying within it. Wanting a better look, she tried squeezing herself through her cell’s bars, only to find that they had been placed especially close so that so feline could worm through.
_Pulling back into her cell, Aimi called, “Katsurou? Katsurou are you there…? Please, answer me, are you all right?”
_”He cannot hear you dear,” The king’s voice made her jump. She quickly backed away from the bars and into the shadows of her cell. “He is still asleep.”
_”What have you done to him?” Aimi asked quietly.
_”Speak up, child, I cannot hear you.”
_”What have you done!” Aimi shouted more than asked. She stood tall and approached the bars, looking as if she intended to walk right through them. “What have you done to him? I defy you, my king! I’ll defy you until my last breath, for you reign has come to an end. I know of the evil you have done to many of my people. YOUR CRIMES SHALL NOT GO UNPUNISHED!”
_The king took a step back, too quick for his old age, and tripped on his own feet. Slight fear showed in his eyes as he stared up at the feline standing inside her cell. The two remained unmoving as a few guards rushed around them to protect the king. He held up a single hand, stopping them from taking any action against the girl. Dusting his robe off, he stood back up and glared at Aimi.
_”You… know nothing,” he said harshly.
_”I know enough,” Aimi hissed, pressing herself against the bars. “I know that you have been taking away the memories of past lovers. I know you took away Katsurou’s and mine, and I want them back.”
_”You do not understand,” the king smiled. “I have taken these memories of yours away to protect you. But now, you shall have your wish; your memories will return in time, now that you and Katsurou have proclaimed your love for one another once again. And with these memories shall return the horrors of what creatures you truly are.
_Her stance weakened and she scanned the king’s face, asking, “What sort of creatures…?” A wicked smile crossed the king’s lips as he snapped his fingers. Lilly walked up to him, holding a tray with a silver goblet sitting on it.
_The king took the goblet and held it up to Aimi, “Find out for yourself…~”
"Are you singing your own theme?" "... N-...nooo..."
_The king had not dined with others since the day his daughter disappeared. The dining room was scrubbed and polished just for the occasion, proving how important it was. After Katsurou had been given the potion to once again turn him into a feline he was escorted by Lilly to the feast of royalty. He was seated across from the king, which was odd since the dining hall was round with four long tables, forming a square. So, the two sat fifty feet from one another.
Food was placed on every table, including where the king and Katsurou did not sit. Growing uncomfortable with the service, Katsurou stared at his lap, failing to ignore the delicious smells. There were so many it seemed unfair how much the king could waste while so many workers suffered famine.
“Why do you not eat?” the king asked as he waved the leg of a poor hen in the air. “Surely this banquet far surpasses whatever gruel you’re use to eating.” Katsurou raised his head to glare into the king’s eyes but couldn’t because of the distance between them.
“I prefer Aimi’s home touch, thank you,” he stated then crossed his arms.
“Come now, there must be something you like,” the king said. His whiskers twitched as his mouth curled into a smile. “Tell me, when was the last time you had anything to so much as nibble on?” When no answer was given, the king snapped his fingers as had a few of his servants pick up the food on the two extra tables. They walked over to Katsurou and surrounded him with the delicacies. He held his hand to refuse them when his stomach shook with hunger.
His ears drooped as he stared at the magnificent food around him. Wetting his lips, he turned to Lilly, who was holding a smoked salmon, and asked her, “Is any of it poisoned?”
“If the king wanted to poison you, he would have done it with the drink,” she replied grimly. Katsurou didn’t feel much reassured, but his growling stomach got the better of him and he took the tray from Lilly’s hands. The king chuckled madly as he watched the lowly worker eat his first decent meal in days. When he had seen enough, he clapped his hands and had the servants take the food away. The young worker tried his best not to look too disappointed.
“I have just one last gift for you, Katsurou,” the king announced, standing atop of his chair. Like ants, the servants hurried over to the king’s side to cower. Among them, Lilly looked ashamed and could not look Katsurou in the eye. The fur along his back stood up as he felt danger approaching.
The king continued smiling as he recited, “The spell proclaims that ‘love so strong forgotten shall have its memories hidden within the lips of one another and when touched shall be remembered again. But love hurt so will be forgotten by love once again if their life is taken by their opposite.’ Strictly speaking, I must have you kill Aimi…”
Katsurou quickly stood up, knocking his chair back while doing so. He slammed his hands upon the beautifully carved table and hissed, “Never!”
“Well, there is another option,” the king chuckled, tapping his chin with the tip of his claw. He shrugged and said, “I could more easily just have Aimi kill you.”
The sound of iron shackles dropping onto the marble floor, and Katsurou’s eyes widened in horror. He slowly turned towards the door behind him, pulling his ears back in fear.