“Meow,” purred the cat. The beautiful white cat walked out from behind the tree gracefully and approached Tiana. Its fur was smooth and shiny; a red ribbon and beads adorned its neck. Curiously, it had pink eyes.
Tiana recognized it at once. This particular cat was one of the Emperor’s weaknesses. His dearly beloved pet: Rosemary II. She hadn’t expected to see the cat at all. It had a particularly important role in the original story: the cat had played a major part as a link between Angelica and Rael. Predictably, the cat was a favourite among readers.
Pink-eyed and sly, it never left Angelica’s side. Ever so obediently, it always rubbed against her legs whenever she was called. ‘Rose’ she would say, and the white cat never failed to appear before her, like magic.
In the chapter when Rose had first appeared illustrated, she had instantly become a hit with readers, including Tiana. Seeing the cat approach, right in front of her eyes, Tiana was filled with delight. It was her second most loved character from the book.
“Meow,” it purred again, with its tail elegantly up in the air.
“So cute!” exclaimed Tiana, both hands on her mouth, as though she couldn’t believe the cat was really there. Rosemary was so much more beautiful in person. I want to touch her fur, she thought, but Rael could see me! Tiana felt conflicted. She looked at the cat, unable to act. The cat, in turn, looked at her, tail in the air, and wriggled her nose. Just one pat, she decided. Tiana looked around to see if anyone was present and scooted down slowly, so as to not startle the cat.
The cat retreated, seeing her sit and reach out a hand. “Wait,” Tiana cried.
“Meow?” purred the cat.
“Rose,” she called. She extended her hands, unthreateningly. Rose had gone a few steps back. Now, it looked at her with curious eyes and took a step forward. It sniffed her hand and rubbed its head against her palm. Tiana squealed in delight. Rose didn’t intend to run just yet. It brushed itself against her legs in friendliness. Tiana played with the cat. Rose didn’t mind. She was accustomed to being petted. She always roamed the castle and people couldn’t help but coddle her.
While Tiana indulged Rose, and Rose obliged, a figure walked from behind the same tree towards her, slowly. Tiana only caught herself and looked up when she noticed the shadow fall across her. The man blocked the sun above and stared at the cat.
He resembled Lucius, uncannily, except for the jet-black hair and deep red eyes. He wore a radiant golden robe. Tiana realised a moment later that it was Rael, ruler of the Empire, brother to Lucius.
Shocked into momentary stillness, Tiana quickly stood up and greeted him. “Your Imperial Majesty!” she said, flustered. “I am Tiana Quinn Celeste. I, uh, was just admiring your cat.”
“Meow,” said Rose, in cat language, still brushing against her legs.
Tiana looked down and felt a cold sweat run down her neck. She hadn’t met Rael before; she didn’t know his personality. She didn’t know if he would take offense at her fondling his cat, being the Emperor and all.
“Hey Rose,” he said in a deep voice, “That’s cute and all, but daddy’s here. It’s kinda starting to hurt my feelings that you aren’t jumping in joy after seeing me.” He looked down at the cat fondly.
Tiana was nervous. Rose seemed to like her legs by now. The cat was brushing against her like there was no tomorrow. Tiana hadn’t expected to meet Rael under such circumstances, she would have wanted to make a good first impression. Now, it seemed he would think she was trying to steal his cat. Goddamn, Rose was so cheeky. She didn’t get friendly with just about anyone, and certainly not with humans she just met. But the cat was now stuck to Tiana as though they were long-lost friends.
Rael crossed his arms, looking thoughtful. He looked directly at Tiana now. “Rose likes you,” she said, seriously.
“I, uh,” mumbled Tiana, “I have never been liked by a cat so much before.” She felt like an idiot. She could have said anything at all, anything else in the world but this half-assed reasoning.
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