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Cat Island

While they all knew that Satan would be just as happy to spend the entire day in and out the various cat-themed shops and businesses in Tokyo, his humans - mostly James - told him that it was high time to go to their next destination. The Cat Island, Tashirojima. 

The words were enough for Satan to start rambling like they all thought only Levi could do. “I read that there are more cats than people living there.” He starts as they have found a secluded location in a nearby park where Leila can start with the teleportation ritual. It is late at night and already almost dark in Japan, even though they just ate ‘lunch’ according to their own stomachs. Holding her bag with souvenirs he excitedly tells. “During the Edo period, the island was known for its silk industry. Though of course a lot of pests, like mice, were attracted to the silkworms, so everyone in the two villages of the island took in some cats. When in 1602 it was decreed that all house cats in Japan should be freed…”

Lily leaves it to James and Leila to listen to him while she daydreams. After all, she’s already heard this whole spiel before as he researched places to go. 

He’s still talking as they arrive close to the shrine that is made for the cats in the middle of the island. “Ah yes, Neko-jinja…” Satan nods as if he knows all about it. Showing the surroundings to his humans with expressive hand gestures, brightly smiling and a flush on his cheeks. “The villagers of both settlements built this for the cats, roughly in the middle between their villages to honor the cats. People here believe that cats are good luck bringers and-”

“Meow!”

Satan stops talking and turns on the spot. They all see the large pitchblack cat sitting on a sort of wooden bench near the cat-shrine. Staring straight at them with what seems otherworldly golden eyes.

The cat jumps off the bench and circles around Leila’s legs affectionately. “Go home, little one.” She meows to her. Satan, Lily and James quickly pop in their earplugs to listen to what the cat is saying.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” Leila kneels down before the cat and strokes her. “Do you know me? Is there something you want?”

The cat ignores her and continues to speak as if she’s been trying to communicate with visitors thousands of times, but was never truly heard. “Cherish what you have. Not everyone is able to go home.”

“I’m only here for today.” Leila promises the cat. “James and I will return home in a couple of hours.”

“I can’t go home, because I’m being punished.” They all hear the cat’s melancholic voice as her eyes drift to one of the two villages in the distance. Then she suddenly looks up as if only now realizing that she is truly understood. “Are you here to end my punishment?” She asks. “The lord says I should stay here and try to convince people to help me.”

“Who is the lord?” Lily asks, thinking it might be a Fae. Leila translates for her to the cat.

“He is a powerful, awe-inspiring person.” The cat tells her and Lily nods as if she understands what she means to say. “Someone like him can undoubtedly end my punishment. But there is something that needs to be done first. And I need people to help me with that.”

“How can we help?” Satan is ready to help any cat. “Why are you being punished?”

The black cat purrs, feeling comfortable and pleased that she finally found people who understand her. “Little one.” She tells Leila. “I am not what you think I am. This is not my true form. I’ve been given this cat body. Before I died, I was human…”

“You’re human?” Leila asks, giving Satan a glare for his insensitive huff of disappointment. He doesn’t want to help a human, he’s here for the cats! 

The cat continues. “Yes. If I was still alive, I could probably be your grandmother. Unfortunately it was always just me and my cat. We depended on each other, we were family.”

“She was your familiar?” Leila asks again. “You were a witch.” She then states, as if she knows for certain this is true. She knows about the bond a magician can have with their familiar.

The cat's strange eyes seem to widen in surprise, then it seems like she nods. “Well… yes. Does that frighten you?”

They all laugh. No, not really. They explain to the cat/witch who they are and she seems to relax even more: Maybe this is the day her suffering will end?

“My sweet cat was old too.” She tells them, as she enjoys the cool water that James has poured for her into a thermos cup and the scraps Lily is feeding her. “I dedicated my life to protect this island and the people and cats living here and I always thought that we would leave this world together. But then I was killed by a rivaling witch who intended to harm the cats on this island. He kills them to absorb their lucky energy for himself, to extend his life and to gain power.” It almost sounds like the cat is crying now. The soul of the woman inside her is feeling very sad and helpless. None of them interrupts and Leila is stroking the black fur in comfort. “I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. The Bakeneko - a type of yokai and cat spirit - has given my soul this body to avenge myself and the cats that are being slaughtered by the evil witch. But before I could do that, something went wrong. When I didn’t return home, my cat went out looking for me. The evil-spirited witch that killed me informed her of my death and he performed a spell on her that violates the natural laws of this world.”

“Necromancy?” Leila asks.

“Yes. In a way.” She answers. “He used my cat for an experiment. Telling her that if she let her soul enter my body, I would be revived.” She sighs sadly. “My poor faithful cat… She wanted to revive me, but instead she gave up her soul and changed my body. Her features are now a lot like that of a cat. She’s wandering the streets at night in the other village. Capturing cats that don’t hide well enough. A slave to the evil-spirited witch who killed us both.”

“So then, what exactly do we have to do to lift the curse?” Satan asks. “What exactly is the punishment? You know, besides all that…” He seems to be much more interested now that he knows real cats have and are still being harmed.

“The soul of my cat needs to be reunited with her body. And my soul needs to be with hers. I can’t leave this world and leave her behind, because of this curse. We were supposed to leave this world together. But her body is in my house in one village and she’s possessing my body in the village I was killed. I’m bound to this shrine. I can’t bring them together…”

Lily is sniffling at the sad tale. “So you’re both wandering this island, but you can never meet, unless someone brings you together?” Lily silently wonders if the yokai are the same as Fae in this part of the world.

“Yes, that is the punishment. I haven’t spoken to anyone in a long time. As I was unable to make myself understood by humans.” The cat seems to be just satisfied with the listening ears that they have provided her. “Thank you for listening, little one.” 

“It’s so unfair that you are being punished for something someone else did to you.” Leila’s eyes are like flames. “We need to bring that horrible witch to justice.”

“Exactly!” Satan growls. “Especially since he’s been killing off cats and-” He stops talking when he sees his humans stare at him. “Right, killing people and cursing them is bad too, of course.”

“Whoa. Let’s think for a minute here.” James holds up his hands to slow down Leila and Satan who both look like they’re ready to rush  into battle. “After what happened yesterday I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for you two to rush into another cursed scenario!” 

“James does have a point..” Lily seems torn, she doesn’t want anything bad to happen to Leila and her Satan but she wants to help too.

“This is completely different!” Leila argues. “Satan and I are not mates.” She declares as if that could ward off all curses.

“And we’re not walking in blind either.” Satan agrees, but feeling stung after Leila’s declaration. He shakes off the sensation again, however. It’s not logical.



Later, in one of the villages…

James and Lily look up to the small cottage built on a low elevation next to the road, looking abandoned and in disrepair. It wasn’t hard for them to find out where the witch - who is now a cat - used to live. All the cats on the island knew the way. All telling them how much they miss her, but are a little afraid to visit the shrine, because of the curse lingering there.

“So much for our plan to not leave Leila and Satan alone today.” James sighs, sounding a bit worried.

“Yeah. They certainly teamed up to shoot down any objections.” Lily can’t help smiling a bit. But now they have two things to worry about , things turning out similar to the other reality and complicated feelings. 

Even if nothing goes wrong with this mission: If things turn out like it did with Belphegor last week… After the camping trip he’s told her honestly about how he feels about Leila, confirming the suspicions she already had. Only Leila seems to still be oblivious, which Lily sees as a blessing. She’s sure that Leila didn’t do this on purpose. She just wanted to make friends. But she could still have the same effect on Satan as well.

“There’s nothing we can do about it now.” She tells him softly. “It just made the most sense that the both of them would confront that evil witch together. Right?”

“Yeah.” James agrees as they walk up to the front door of the cottage. “Leila has dealt with these things more often in our reality, together with Solomon. I feel better knowing she has Satan’s protection too.” 

Lily chuckles to herself a bit despite the strange turn of events the day has taken. Leila had been confident they didn’t need to involve anyone else and Satan was very quick to take her side, he didn’t want Solomon or any of his brothers ruining his time. This was still his date, he had insisted. 

James tries the doorknob and the door creaks open by itself. “Unlocked…”

“Yeah. The cat said that the evil witch brought the body of the dead cat home, to keep it far away from the soul of the cat…”

“I sometimes don’t understand these things…” James tells Lily in a confidential tone. “Why not burn the body? It can never be reunited then, right?”

“I don’t know either.” Lily shrugs. She supposes there’s a reason for it or else someone that wicked wouldn’t think twice about destroying the body permanently. “But let's just look for it.”

They both use the flashlight of their DDD’s and start searching. The cottage isn’t big. Basically only two rooms and a small storage space. It looks to be a big mess inside though. It looks as if someone has been rummaging around in here, taking all the valuables and most likely all the items a witches’ home has. But this happened a long time ago. As they look around, they stir up a great deal of dust, so they keep their arms in front of their noses and mouths.

“Look Lily.” James holds up a broken frame with a photo. “The cat should look like this…” 

She comes over to take a look. Even though the witch told them that she has been given the body of the cat by the Bakeneko, for some reason Lily expected to see the image of the large black cat. But instead they see a picture of a small tabby with white and red being held lovingly by an adorable looking little old lady with sparkling dark eyes, smiling in the picture as she holds her cat.

“Cute.” Lily smiles, even more determined to help these tormented souls. They deserve to move on together!

They keep rummaging around and finally find the small curled up body of the tabby cat. Buried under a pile of rubble, rags and newspapers. It’s clear that the body was not meant to be found, but they don’t understand why it was not buried for real. It must have something to do with the way the body seems to be untouched, though mummified. Perhaps because of the spell, the body has not decayed after all this time. No insects or other pests have been feeding on it. It’s in good condition, considering it has been dead for a long time, even though it looks skinny and filthy.

“Let’s bring it to the shrine.” James says as he takes off his jacket, intending to wrap up the cat in it. “And let’s hope that Leila and Satan have managed to find the evil witch and the body of the old lady.”

Neither of them sense the curse placed on the body until it’s too late. As soon as James tries to wrap it in his jacket, the fur of the cat begins to slide off its body. 

“Oh no! I think it’s decaying!” Lily gasps. 

“Shit!” James curses as they frantically try to think of what to do. 

“What about a preservation spell?” Lily blurts.

“Oh yeah…umm…” James quickly casts the spell that he had invented for his leftovers when he lived with Solomon. Then Lily casts her own version of the spell for good measure. The cat doesn’t look to be in perfect condition anymore but at least they’ve stalled the decay, for now.

“We better get this done quickly!” Lily says with some urgency as she types out a text to Satan to let them know they have the cat's body and the circumstances as James finishes wrapping the cat in his jacket. 

“Okay, let’s go.” James says as he stands.

Lily nods, puts the picture of the cat and the witch in her purse, and they start their trip back to the shrine. They’ve done their part of what has to be done to bring the witch and the cat together and to lift the curse. 



Meanwhile in the other village...

Leila and Satan hurried to the other village as quickly as they could. It was still a long walk and they knew they had to do it again to return to the shrine, with a probably resisting literal cat-lady in tow. But they had to try to save this island from the malpractices of this evil-spirited witch. But they have to hurry too. Her and James only have so much time in this reality. And even if it wouldn’t be really a problem for anyone to get off this island again in case they did get stranded, Leila doesn’t like the idea of leaving things unfinished and leaving it to others to fix the problem.

Arriving in the village, it’s immediately clear to Leila how the magic of this witch is affecting the surroundings. There is nobody around, which isn’t so strange in the middle of the night, of course, but at every house where someone lives there is an omamori with a yaku-yoke spell hanging on the door to ward off evil spirits. And for good reasons. This has become bigger than the curse of the witch and her cat. The village oozes bad vibes. The cats have noticed and don’t come near, anymore. The whole island could be affected soon and there’s nowhere for the cats to flee to at some point.

“Where to…” Satan grumbles in Leila’s ear as he stands close to her. As a demon, it’s harder for him to detect evil. He can, of course. But it will go faster if Leila tries. For a moment she’s distracted by his hot breath on her ear, sending a spark down her spine as if it were her own Satan. She can only hope he doesn’t notice as she blushes and tries to clear her head, now is not the time to be distracted!

Leila doesn’t have much trouble sensing the direction they have to go. Where the evil witch has made his home on the island and where his magic concentrates. Either he doesn’t know how to conceal it, or he just doesn’t care. They quickly make their way to his residence. Satan can’t help feeling a sense of pride for how quickly Leila has managed to find the witch and how confident she is. She is truly a worthy mate for a demon like himself. His other self, he corrects his own thoughts quickly. 

The house is a bit away from the main village. It looks fairly modern too, compared to the other houses they’ve seen so far. The garden looks to be well kept and in good shape, with lights next to the path that’s leading to the front door.

“It’s here?” Satan asks Leila, though he already knows the answer. “I expected something… different.”

“You can’t judge the outside of things.” Leila shrugs. “Something beautiful can cover up something rotten…”

“Yes, but not for long.” He growls. Satan wants to barge right in and get things over with, but Leila stops him by placing a hand on his arm. Satan is suddenly hyper aware of her gentle yet powerful touch. His arm tingles even after she’s removed her hand.

“We don’t want to spook the cat’s soul.” She tells him as he looks at her with an odd expression, he almost seems embarrassed but she can’t fathom why? Then she unlocks the door with a spell.

It’s dark and quiet inside. It seems that the witch is either not home or is sleeping. But then they hear a soft growling sound. The sound of a feral angry cat howling and hissing. But it’s not a cat they see, as the shadows in one corner of the room start to move towards them. It's the shape of a human. A small human female, even smaller than Luke, but still. 

Her hair sticks out in all directions. Her ears seem to be pointy and fuzz grows on them. Her eyes are glowing like green slitted cat eyes in the dark. As she snarls at them, they can see the cat-like canines in her mouth. But Leila is most horrified by the way her neck looks to be broken, even if she appears to be alive. Not to mention the gaping wound in her chest where she was stabbed with a knife. This body is being kept alive somehow and Leila can’t help being scared. 

“Don’t be scared.” Satan notices it and quickly lets her know she’s safe with him, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. “It’s not a ghost, it’s a cat soul in a human body and we can handle this.” Leila looks up to him with trust and nods. She can always count on Satan to protect her from the things that scare her.

Then suddenly the female launches herself at Leila and Satan with a yowl. Hands outstretched like claws. “Go home!” She shrieks at them. The same words the black cat has used in their encounter. Leila quickly stops her in a time-freezing spell, before she can scratch out their eyes.

“Why do they all say that?” Satan whispers as he picks up the frozen cat-lady under his arm, ready to walk with her out of the door again.

“I think they want to go home.” Leila explains. “Home, as in where their souls belong. I think?”

Suddenly the light flashes on and they both are frozen for a moment as they try to get used to the sudden brightness. “How dare you break into my house!” Someone yells at them in Japanese and Leila has no idea what is said, but Satan does. “Do you know who I am?!”

“No.” Satan growls back with contempt, carefully placing the still frozen, still growling cat-lady back down. “Do you know who I am?” He asks threateningly, ready to show his true demonic form to this lowly human witch that steals the souls of cats. His potent green aura building around him.

Leila sees what he plans to do and quickly yells. “Satan, no! Don’t kill him!”

He whips his head her way, looking furious. She stopped him, somehow. But why should he listen to Leila? Sure, he likes her and he doesn’t want to see her upset with him. “Why not?! He deserves nothing less!” He growls at her, annoyed with the situation and himself.

“Did… she say Satan…?” The witch questions, sounding much less confident now, making his way to the door to escape. Satan has caught him by his throat almost immediately, however.

“We don’t know what effect that will have on the magic!” Leila pleads, seeing as how Satan starts squeezing the witch’s throat. “Please don’t do it. Maybe the curse can’t be broken if you kill him…” She tries to get past his anger by pleading with his logical side.

“That’s right! That’s right!” The witch squirms in his hold, but still manages to choke out the words, desperate for his life.

“Fine.” Satan growls, throwing him on the floor to Leila’s feet. “Shackle him and we’ll bring him with us. I’m not leaving him here on the island.” 

Leila wants to give Satan a piece of her mind about commanding her like this, but decides to think better of it and let it slide, giving him an unimpressed look. It’s honestly more Lily’s problem. She thinks and shackles the witch’s upper body and then sweetly asks Satan if he could carry both him and the still hissing woman back up to the shrine. She can’t teleport them there, if she also has to teleport everyone back home soon.

He nods at her, hoisting the cat-lady under his arm again and yanking the end of the shackles as if the witch is on a leesh. Both of them make an enormous racket in the silent village, but nobody comes to see what it is all about. The residents are too scared for the evil spirits that wander the island at night. 

Satan’s phone starts buzzing but his hands are full so he ignores it. “You should answer that.” Leila tells him. “It could be Lily and James.” She can only hope they haven't run into any trouble of their own. 

“My hands are a little occupied.” He grins at her. “You can reach in my pocket.” Leila only responds with another unimpressed look and folds her arms. “Fine.” Satan huffs, setting down the mutant cat-lady so he can fish out his phone.  “Hmm. They found the cat but its body began to decay as soon as they touched it. They said they were able to halt the decay but urge us to hurry.” He explains while he types back an update to Lily.

They begin the trip back at his quick pace and Leila tries her best to keep up with him. Glancing back now and then and stopping for her, Satan can’t help thinking he would rather carry Leila, instead of the spitting cat-like female. She’s such an enigma to him. As fragile as she looks right now, tired from the uphill climb, he knows how powerful she is, having sensed it whenever she uses magic. Stubborn too, the way she’s not complaining about the quick pace, but trying her best to keep up, because saving the island is more important. She’s afraid like Mammon of the unnatural, but not at all afraid to go up against a demon like himself. He shakes his head and smiles softly, understanding exactly why his counterpart chose her as his mate. What’s not to love?

There’s not much conversation between them as they make their way towards the shrine, Satan is lost to his inner musings while Leila concentrates on her breathing as she keeps up a grueling pace so they can meet up with Lily and James in time. They can’t come this far and have it all be for naught! 

“Satan! Leila!” Lily’s voice calls out to them and Leila is relieved to see James and Lily running towards them. James has a bundle wrapped in his arms, cradled carefully against his chest. 

“No! You can’t do this to me!” The witch begins to struggle in his bindings again when he realizes what James is holding. Satan gives an extra hard yank on the shackles in response. His shouting only causes the cat-lady to start up her own yowling and hissing again.

“Woah.” James and Lily’s eyes are wide when they really notice the old lady for the first time. “Not what I was expecting.” 

“She’s not herself.” Leila explains, sounding very out of breath as she stands with her hands on her knees. Lily is quick to support her, worried she might pass out. “She’s a scared cat, trapped in the wrong body…”

“Poor souls. Let’s put this to rights.” Lily says as Satan threatens the witch into silence again. 

As they get closer to the shrine the witch becomes so distressed he drops his body to the ground, refusing to budge, pleading for their mercy. Satan is happy enough to drag the man through the dirt but instead Lily insists that Satan carries the man after he’s been gagged. Fortunately the area is empty of people and they aren’t likely to be discovered. 

Leila didn’t want the evil witch near the poor old lady’s body longer than needed, so James passed the cat to Lily and was forced to carry the hissing-spitting body himself. The tiny body weighed next to nothing but he found it a bit disturbing nonetheless. They were all relieved, well everyone except the witch, when they finally entered the shrine. 

They are immediately greeted by the large black cat who is really the soul of the old lady. The cat practically has tears in her eyes as she sees them return. “I never thought this day would truly come!” Lily carefully lays James’ jacket on the ground and unwraps the body of the cat while James lays the still time-frozen old woman’s altered body next to it. The black cat stands on the other side. “Thank you, and bless you, little ones” The cat cries over and over to them. The cat’s soul in her body starts finally calming down and the cat-lady starts purring, as she recognizes the soul of her person.

“What now?” James asks. 

But there’s no time to answer and no spell needed. The souls, recognizing their own bodies, make the journey back to where they belong. Other than the black cat’s body dissolving into a soft glow as she bids her final thank you, and her real body transforming back into its original form, there’s no big visible magic that happens. 

Except that as soon as every soul has gone back ‘home’, both the body of the little old lady and that of her cat start emitting a white bright glow. When the glow dims, the bodies are gone and a small Japanese Maple with purple leaves has started growing in their place. Forever a reminder that the spirit of the witch will watch over the cats of this island, even now that she’s gone. Their punishment has ended. All that’s left is the clothes the old woman was wearing and James’ jacket.

“What are we doing with him then?” Satan growls, pointing a finger at the struggling and panicked looking evil witch, whom he had dumped on the ground when they entered. He’s happy that the spirits are at rest now but he doesn’t feel as if rough justice has been served to this cat murderer.

“Lily can hand him over to Solomon-” Leila begins to say but is interrupted when the witch begins to twitch and convulse. A dark black aura of evil oozes from his orifices, his screams muffled by the gag as they all watch in horror when the witch begins to dissolve away as the evil consumes him body and soul. It seems that with the disappearance of the bodies of the old lady and her cat, made the magic of the witch diminish in such a way that it lifts the curse of the evil spirit that possessed him, completely.

Leila invokes her ring and banishes the black cloud of evil with Celestial light. She’s not going to take the risk of letting it possess someone else on the island and continuing doing evil.

“I guess I won’t need to contact Solomon after all…” Lily says, looking a little pale. 

“You should still tell him about this.” Leila insists as she sits down on the bench where they found the large black cat upon arrival, to take a breather. “Maybe there’s more of these witches possessed by evil spirits doing these things on the other cat islands. We should check them all with Solomon when we get home…” Lily nods in agreement: This might not be over yet.

“Speaking of home…” James suggests, seeing his cousin so exhausted. “Let’s go home. We can worry about that later.” Earning eager nods from everyone.

Before they leave, Lily digs up the picture she’d taken from the old woman’s house from her purse, repairs the frame and sets it up among the cat statues. Leila helps her cast a spell on it that will deter anyone from trying to remove it from the shrine. Then Leila conjures a small wreath of flowers to honor them by. 

As they begin to leave the shrine, everyone, but mostly Leila can immediately tell the difference. The oppressive dark vibe has lifted and the island has been freed of the curse.

“Wait!” Lily stops as they are about to walk out of the forest into the meadow where Leila will make her circle to transport them back to the Manor. “Look! Do you see that!?” 

They all look to where Lily points. There’s a shimmering in the woods, reminding them of a mirage. At first it looks like a tall dark man is standing there, except it’s no man. While it stands upright as a man would, wearing a decorative yukata and haori, the hands clasped over its waist are not hands but paws and the head is that of a black cat, looking very similar to the one that had the spirit of the old lady inside, except much, much larger! It’s eyes are the same otherworldly gold and a slim black tail sways behind its body as it bows to them in silent thanks.

“That must be the lord that the witch spoke of.” Leila whispers. “The Bakeneko.” 

They all find themselves bowing respectfully in turn. “With wisdom and restraint you will find what you seek.” It speaks softly, looking Lily directly in the eye before vanishing. 

“Wait!” Lily calls out again, running towards the woods. But the Bakeneko is gone leaving no trace of ever being there. 

“Come on. Let’s go home.” Satan tells her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and guiding her back to the group. 

“Well, that turned out better than yesterday but I’m sorry your date didn’t go as planned.” Lily finally says to Satan as Leila puts the finishing touches on the circle. 

“Are you kidding?” Satan says with a laugh. “This was even better than expected.” 

“Really?” James asks, even Leila looks up.

“I spent the day around cats, with my favorite humans and brought justice to a heinous killer of cats.” Satan declares with triumph. Everyone was a little too horrified by what happened to the evil-spirited witch that they didn’t notice the gleam of satisfaction in Satan’s eyes as it happened. 

“And don’t forget the human.” Leila reminds him again. 

“Yes, of course that too.” He says smiling, only to placate the woman that he’s found himself completely and foolishly enraptured by.