ATAPOW Chapter 209(Part 2)
ATAPOW 209.5: Deception and Truth (Part 2)
In the sewers beneath the outskirts of the city, a hollow tile was pried open, revealing a tunnel leading deep underground.
“This is the place. Your Highness, please watch your steps. Do you require any assistance?” Asked Fishbone.
“There’s no need. Obscene Middle-aged man is by my side.”
“Understood.” A trace of chilliness flashed past Fishbone’s eyes before immediately returning to normal. He took the lead and guided them forward.
“Clang, clang, clang…” A series of disorderly footsteps echoed through the stairways.
The collision of stone slabs reverberated from behind them, signaling that the entrance had closed.
As they descended further beneath the surface, warm glimmers of fire emerged like beacons of light in the dark. Gradually, the clamorous sounds of people conversing reached their ears.
At the foot of the steps, they saw a torch suspended before an iron sluice gate.
Fishbone took out a key and opened it.
What greeted them was a brightly lit chamber. Torches lined the walls on each side, casting a brilliant glow that filled the enclosed space and evoking the warmth and brightness of daylight.
The instant the iron gate opened, the noisy voices from within became startlingly close.
The underground chamber was bustling with people. When they noticed the gate being pushed open, the majority of individuals there shifted their gaze in its direction.
“Yo, Fishbone! Have you returned from scouting outside? How is the situation? …Oh? Who’s the friend and the little girl…” Carrying an iron hammer, a lofty Asiatic Cat man clad in plate armor walked towards them with a playful demeanor on his face. After slightly resting his gaze on Ji Bai’s body, he was immediately attracted by the sight of Lil’ Sha standing at the side.
“This little girl seems to be…”
“I’ll give you an explanation later, Ol’ Kang. Is Miss Nael in?”
“Oh, that brat Nael. She is in her room. Seems like she’s busy with something… Why? Are you looking for her?” The towering Asiatic Cat man named Ol’ Kang sized up Lil’ Sha.
Since it was Fishbone who led these individuals here, Ol’ Kang believed he must have carefully thought things out. He trusted that Fishbone’s prudent nature would prevent him from bringing anyone unrelated to their current objectives to this place.
“Sure, there’s something I need to discuss with her. I’ll leave it to you all to keep an eye on the entrance.” Fishbone nodded.
“Leave this trifling matter to us. Since you have something to do, you should go ahead and take care of it. We old fogeys won’t bother you.” The towering Asiatic Cat man chuckled as he patted Fishbone’s shoulder, then returned to his chair.
“Please, this way your Highness.” Fishbone said deferentially.
“Oh…” Lil’ Sha looked around the basement, which felt as if it came from another world, with a curious gaze. A slight trace of warmth filled her heart as she glimpsed at her clansmen sitting at the side, casting inquisitive glances at her. She then quickly adjusted her pace to match Fishbone’s speed.
Apart from the pleasant ‘rustling’ sounds of a pen tip gliding across paper, the room was completely silent.
A cat-eared girl with dark red hair was holding a quill in her hand, her mind focused and her eyes radiating with seriousness.
“Crack.” The wooden door, which separated it from the rest of the base, was pushed open.
“Fishbone, you’re back?” Despite not raising her head, the young cat-eared girl spoke in a confident tone, as if certain who the identity of the visitor was.
“Mhm, how did you…”
“You’re the only person who dares to enter my room without knocking… Did you bring someone with you?” After saying that, the girl briefly paused her work and looked up with a puzzled expression.
“Who are these two?” The girl’s gaze swept over Lil’ Sha and she was momentarily taken aback. Gradually, she stood up and made her way towards her.
“Miss. y-, are you…”
“This is Her Highness Felina’s second niece and the second daughter of Her Highness Yatina. She is the direct descendent of the royal family that we’ve been searching for.” Explained Fishbone.
“The second niece of Her Highness Felina’s… Could you be Her Highness, Sha??” The sight of Lil Sha standing just inches away left Nael, the cat-eared girl, in a daze. This compelled her to extend her hand and gently caress the golden-haired girl’s face.
“…Wh- Who are you?” LIl’ Sha didn’t resist her touch. As she gazed into Nael’s face, a nagging feeling tugged at her memory, as if she had met her somewhere before.
“Have you forgotten? I’m Her Highness Felina’s personal attendant, Nael.”
“Personal Attendant…” Lil’ Sha murmured. Like a cave bathed in light after the entrance had been cleared, memories washed over her once more.
“Did you recall everything?” Nael’s reassuring gaze fell on the golden-haired girl before her.
“You’ve already grown so big in the blink of an eye. It feels almost like yesterday when Your Highness was just in diapers back then… These years must have been really hard on you, right?”
“Uhuhu…” After drifting aimlessly for so many years, Lil’ Sha had met an acquaintance, receiving a level of care and concern which she had not experienced for a long time. Tears streamed down uncontrollably on her face, as the grievances she had accumulated gushed out from within her.
“As long as you’re safe, it’s all right…” Nael reassured her in a light voice as she wrapped her arms around Lil’ Sha, who resembled a fledgling dove that had found her way back to the nest.
“So, this is…” Nael shifted her gaze to the man in a metallic helmet who had been standing silently by the side throughout the conversation.
“This person… is Your Highness Sha’s human friend,” Fishbone said, his tone growing notably grave when he uttered the word ‘human’. It was unclear whether that was a mere coincidence.
“A human?” Nael paused for a moment.
“It’s this man who safely brought me here, Big Sister Nael.” Lil’ Sha rubbed her nose. Despite that, she made sure to help Ji Bai explain the situation.
“Oh, I see. We’re greatly in your debt, sir, Human Knight.” Nael gave Ji Bai an extremely formal bow.
“No worries.” He did not feel the need to correct her, even though he was no longer a knight.
“You don’t have to worry, Big Sister Nael. Even though this obscene middle-aged man is a slob, he’s a good person. Plus, he is no longer a knight of humanity.” Lil’ Sha explained, as if she had seen through the hesitation in Nael’s eyes.
“Is that so…” Nael dispelled the hesitation showing in her eyes and slowly heaved a sigh as she looked at Lil’ Sha nestled in her arms. “It would be great if Her Highness Felina was still alive. Her Highness Yatina, the eldest princess, and the Asiatic Cat Race would never have encountered such a devastating calamity.”
“Isn’t that all thanks to humanity?” Whether by coincidence or design, Fishbone’s gaze swept towards Ji Bai as he coldly interjected.
The atmosphere instantly turned awkward the moment he uttered those words.
“Fishbone, don’t be so extreme. No matter what race, it’s incredibly foolish to generalize and judge all of them based on the actions of a few individuals,” Nael said after taking a deep breath, breaking the awkward atmosphere.
‘Mhm, there’s logic in her words. I used to think the same as Fishbone until I stumbled upon a troll yelling ‘Magical Girl Takes Flight’.’
“Extreme? Hah, wasn’t it mankind who broke the pact and unleashed hostility against us in the first place? Our friendliness and trust had all gone to the dogs! Not only did those crafty and despicable humans conspire to kill Princess Felina and Her Majesty, they also seized our cities…” As he mentioned mankind, countless grievances and hatred welled up in Fishbone’s chest.
“But it was the higher echelons of mankind who were involved in all of that… Most of the population is innocent, aren’t they?” Nael let out a sigh.
“Currently, the trolls remain our most significant enemy. While we need to engrave the vengeance of the past into our memories, now is not the time to carry it out. Neither should we impose this debt on people who weren’t involved in that incident.”
“Hmph!” Fishbone let out a cold harrumph and turned his head away.
“That man in magical armor…” Lil’ Sha lightly gritted her teeth and bit her lips, seemingly recalling some painful memories as she cast a distant gaze in Ji Bai’s direction.
“Obscene Middle-aged man… Were you also such a knight in the past? A knight like that man in magical armor…” She deeply hoped the answer Ji Bai gave her would be one of denial, but the result disappointed her.
“Yes.” Ji Bai gave a firm answer.
‘It’s my duty to strike down invaders for the common cause of my compatriots, what is there to regret about?’
Unwilling to deceive Lil’ Sha, he chose to be honest with his words.
“Huhu~” Lil’ Sha whimpered as she lowered her head.
“Haha!” Fishbone let out a series of cold laughter.
“I apologize, sir. Fishbone is usually very conscious of his etiquette.” Nael apologized to Ji Bai in embarrassment.
“No matter. But there is something I am not sure about.” Ji Bai paused for a moment.
“If my memory serves me right, your esteemed nation was the first to violate the treaty and initiate the conflict, am I mistaken?” Ji Bai’s words instantly turned extremely formal.
“Is that how they proclaim it on your side, your excellency? …That’s understandable.” Before Fishbone could finish his sentence, he was interrupted by Nael.
“Don’t tell me that things were different?” Despite his question, Ji Bai’s tone carried a sense of certainty, as if what he believed was undeniably the truth.
“That’s right. If we were to go by your words, the Asiatic Cat Race was indeed the one who initiated the conflict.”
“However, there is a reason behind this.”
“Oh?” Ji Bai knitted his brows slightly.
“Back then, you know that the two border cities that the human alliance currently occupies originally belonged to the Asiatic Cat Race, right?”
“Mankind had dumped hazardous chemicals into the forest of the Asiatic Cat Territory, indiscriminately cut down its trees, and plundered its resources. This caused a large number of Asiatic Cat people to contract a peculiar disease, and severely damaged the land they depended on, making it inhabitable.”
“Therefore, the Late Majesty decided to personally go there and negotiate with the human alliance. To show his sincerity, he brought only a small group of bodyguards to the human checkpoint. However, they never returned from that journey…”
“Lies,” Ji Bai interjected, cutting off Nael in an extremely impolite manner.
His current emotions were far from the calmness expressed in his words.
He felt anger and confusion over these ‘false accusations’.
‘Lies, these are definitely lies. How can there be things I do not know about?’
Ji Bai was resolute in his heart.