Neko no Ongaeshi
(The Cat Returns)
|Synopsis - Page 3|
Haru thought for a moment. She thought aloud about how it might be possible that being a cat might be great after all, eating and sleeping all the time, but then said that marrying the prince was going too far. Too late, the cat interpreted Haru's babbling as a yes and was already leaving. A panicky Haru fell over another barricade as she tried to stop it. By then, the cat was long gone.
Haru was in serious trouble now with seemingly no way out. Her head filled with images of her and the cat prince in a marriage ceremony when suddenly, a voice called out to her, telling her that the only way out of the mess was to go to the 'Cat's Business Office'. A fat white cat at the Crossroad would lead her there.
Haru went to the Crossroad after school in search of the said cat. After walking for a while, she decided to take a break at the nearby cafe and sat on- of all things- a big white cat. In the confusion, she accidentally called it 'buta neko' or pig-cat. Realizing that it could be the cat she was looking for, she whispered to the cat that she was looking for the Cat's Office. The cat turned its head around and stared at her as she stared back. After a long moment of no reaction from the cat, Haru decided that she was talking to the wrong cat and was about to leave when the cat told her to follow it.
The cat led her across alleyways, parapets, walls and rooftops, anywhere but an open space. Haru shouted after it if it was doing it because she had called it fat earlier on because it seemed like it was taking the hardest route on purpose. At the end of an alley, Haru bent down and peeped around the corner at the cat. There was an arch ahead of her. As soon as the cat passed it, it immediately stood on two legs. Haru gasped in surprise, then followed it.
The town was exceedingly small. Everything, from the buildings to the tower in the middle, was of miniature size. The cat she was following was walking up to one of the smaller houses, took out the newspaper from the letter box, and sat down on the chair outside it to read. It completely ignored Haru as she complained about her problem.
A cat figurine in the window caught Haru's eyes. Admiring it, she soon came to realize that the house might be the Cat's Business Office after all. As the sun set, every single window facing the sun reflected the sun's rays in a glimmering display at that particular house. The white cat shouted at "Baron" and told it that he had a visitor, so stop with the pretence already. When the sun disappeared completely, the lamp post outside the house lit up and the door opened.
A figure in smart European clothing walked up to Haru. It introduced itself as the Baron. The cat was the same one that had been standing in the window, so Haru asked how come it was alive. The Baron explained that when an artisan creates something full of hope and soul, the creation itself will have a soul. Like the gargoyle crow on the tower. Haru spun around just in time to see the gargoyle turn into a living crow. The Baron introduced her to it as Toto.
The Baron asked Haru why she had come to see him. She explained her predicament about how she saved the prince of cats from an accident, and how in trying to return the favor, she was to marry the prince.
At this point, the white cat stopped reading his newspaper to scold Haru for saving the prince, and quoted Haru's predicament as an example of what happens to a busybody. The crow starting arguing with the cat, Muta, and a brawl ensued, of which the Baron took no interest in, and invited Haru in.