We spotted a group of three black catkin men on our way to Schwartzkatze walking along the same path as us. Unlike Fran, all three of them were fully grown adults. They looked to be in the midst of returning from gathering firewood as bundles of sticks could be seen attached to the packs on their backs. We approached them from behind and called out to them.
“Hey,” said Fran.
“Wh- Aaaaaaaah!” One of the men turned around and then jumped back in fright when he saw Urushi.
“A-A monster! A giant wolf”
The three men dropped the packs they were carrying and ran off into the distance.
“We messed up.”
“Yeah. It was probably a bad idea to approach with Urushi in his giant wolf form. They’re members of the weakest tribe, so seeing a monster as intimidating as Urushi probably overwhelmed them.”
“Hmm. We should probably chase them down and explain the situation. Things will get hairy if they start reporting that there’s a giant wolf on the prowl.”
“Also, Urushi we need you to stand by for a bit.”
Fran hopped off of Urushi’s back and had him melt into her shadow. We decided to do the three men we’d just scared a favor and store branches they dropped in our dimensional storage. We ran down the path following their footprints until we saw their tracks split off into three directions. We then decided to start by catching the one closest to us.
“Fran, go all out.”
Fran clad herself in wind magic and used it to boost herself towards the fleeing black catkin. She landed right in front of him, cutting him off.
He stumbled back onto the ground. His face relaxed momentarily when he saw that Fran was a black catkin just like him. But then, after looking at her for a couple more seconds, his eyes widened and he began trembling.
“A- a- a- a-….!”
“AN EVOLVED BLACK CATKIN?!”
He rushed over to Fran on his hands and knees and grasped her hand tightly.
“Would you happen to be the Black Lightning Princess herself!?”
The man collapsed onto the ground and burst into tears.
“It finally happened!” he wailed. “One of us has finally evolved! For such a long time we have suffered! It was almost as if we were cursed by misfortune itself, but finally we have someone from our tribe that has a promising future. Uwaaaaaaah!”
His reaction was the most extreme out of all the beastkin we have met. Probably because he himself suffered under the curse the gods have put on the black catkin. He can probably tell she’s a Black Heavenly Tigerkin because they’re from the same tribe.
“I’m so sorry about all the trouble I have caused you,” he said, after calming down.
“Nn, no problem.”
“Also, if you could go get the other two that are still running away. They are probably way too far away for me to catch them.”
Fran used wind magic to boost herself to the other two black catkin and retrieved them. Both showed similar reactions to the first.
“You are our savior! I will follow you forever!” one wailed.
“I-I will never forget this moment for the rest of my life!” declared the other.
They look like kittens admiring a local badass.
After reuniting the three black catkin, we asked them if they could lead us to Schwartzkatze.
“It would be an honor to guide you to the village,” said one of the black catkin. “Let me return first and inform them that you are coming.” He seemed to want to leave immediately, but Fran stopped him before he did.
“Here,” said Fran, taking the dropped firewood out of her dimensional storage and handing it over to the remaining two black catkin.
“Ohh! Thank you very much!”
“You are so generous! Now we don’t have to go back to that forest!”
“Was that space/time magic? I thought that was the stuff of legends. As expected of the Black Lightning Princess!”
After taking his firewood back from her, the man that’d offered to act as a messenger kicked off and started running back to the village.
If this was back in Japan they probably would have asked her to autograph the firewood.
“Oh. Brought companion,” said Fran.
“Huh? I don’t see him.”
“Nn. Can call him?”
“Of course! The companion of the Black Lightning Princess must surely be a person worthy of our respect.”
“Gyaaaaah! It’s a wolf.”
The two black catkin fell back when they saw Urushi in his small form. Despite no longer being a giant wolf, they were still frightened by him. Fran quickly managed to calm them down and we were able to resume our journey.
“Why so frightened?” asked Fran.
“Normal wolves are a danger for us,” said one of the men. “And it’s really obvious from his fur that your companion is not a normal wolf but a monster. Of course we would be scared!”
“My bad,” said Fran. “Big wolf from before, also Urushi.”
“Really? We should tell the villagers that the giant wolf that was spotted is not a threat. I’ll run off ahead and let them know!” A second black catkin ran off, leaving the last one to escort us.
As we walked the remaining black catkin started talking about Schwartzkatze. He explained that currently the population of the village was around 300 people. About 90% of them were black catkin, mostly civilians. The other 10% were guards, adventurers, and their families. The Beast Lord had personally arranged to have the village constructed. He ordered a solid wooden wall to be built, which is normally uncommon for such a remote village.
He seems to be treating the black cat tribe really well. Though, a part of me feels as if he’s just doing it to make Kiara happy.
We started to see the wooden walls emerge from beyond the horizon after walking along the road for about ten minutes. Standing in front of the wooden gate were three people. Two of them were the black catkin that ran off ahead of us. The last one was an elderly black catkin with a hunched back. The elderly man approached Fran, completely ignoring Urushi.
“Oh…. Ohhhhhhhh! It’s true! She really has evolved!” he said with wide eyes.
“See? I told you so, chief” said one of the black catkin.
“And you think I could possibly believe that a member of our tribe had evolved?”
“But His Majesty the Beast Lord already sent us a messenger telling us exactly that, didn’t he?”
“And you are telling me that you completely believed that? That every fibre of your being believed those words and didn’t harbor even the slightest amount of doubt?”
It seems like not all the black catkin believed the news that one of their tribe members had evolved. The thinking that ‘it is impossible for black catkin to evolve’ was so deeply embedded into their minds that they couldn’t even believe the words of the Beast Lord himself.
Fran stepped forward.
“It’s true,” she said. “Have evolved.”
Hearing those words and seeing her appearance, the village chief began to tremble. He finally was able to believe the reality in front of him.
“So does that mean the requirements for evolving that they told us are true?” asked the chief. “That all you have to do is defeat 1000 evil beings?”
“Hooray! I thought it was too good to be true! But now more of us really can evolve.”
It took us a while to calm the excited village chief down.
“Well, it seems like they are happy you came, which is good, I guess.”