Upon awakening the next morning, Mihail was very displeased to discover that the prior day's events were not, in fact, a dream.

Indeed, as incredulous as it may have seemed, the dusty granary cat that had followed him from the mill had transformed into an obnoxious young man who seemed intent on making Mihail's life miserable, despite all his promises of "wildest dreams" and whatnot. At present, the as-yet-unnamed "catman" was hovering over Mihail's still form, as if anxiously waiting for him to wake up.

"Mihail? …Mihail. …Mihaaail. Get up. …Come on, don't just lie there. …Mihail…?"

Of course Mihail was awake—how could anyone sleep through that?—but he chose instead to ignore him, favoring a few more minutes of sleep to dealing with the pesky furball any longer than necessary. Apparently his tactic was working; the catman ceased his whining and seemed to have gone away. Finally, Mihail thought, preparing to settle into sleep once more…

"I said wake up."

This time, the catman's statement was punctuated not with a poke or mild shove, as per usual, but rather with a pitcher of ice cold water splashed directly onto his face.

This was a sufficient enough shock to send Mihail jolting out of his bed with a high-pitched yelp. "What the hell—?!"

"So, you're awake after all." The catman seemed rather nonchalant about the situation, sitting casually on the table and swishing his tail back and forth in an unconcerned fashion. This sight, coupled with the fact that he was not only soaked but also freezing, only served to infuriate Mihail.

"What the hell was that for?!"

"You seemed rather adamant on staying in bed. I could have taken more extreme measures."

"I'm drenched!"

"So you are. If you don't like it, you should wake up earlier."

At this point, Mihail noticed for the first time that there was barely any light in the room. His eye twitched with disbelief. "…Wha… It's not even dawn!"

"The early bird catches the worm, or so they say. Now, you might not be a bird, and our prize might be a bit grander than a worm, but I'm sure it's the same principle."

"I should kill you!"

"Now, now, no need to be so melodramatic," the catman said, folding his arms over his chest. "You're fully awake by now, and no amount of fussing is going to make you any drier. Here, try this." He handed Mihail a towel, which he begrudgingly accepted. "There. And you might want to change your shirt, while you're at it. Wouldn't want you to catch a chill out there, you know."

Mihail remained silent, half-heartedly drying himself off, before quietly grumbling, "Sure, now you start looking out for me…"

"But of course I look out for you! 'Tis my duty as an enchanted companion, after all."

"And is it your duty to wake me up so rudely?"

"If that's what it takes, yes. The most successful people in Marchosias didn't get to where they are today simply by hiding under the covers all day. You need to improve your work ethic."

"I'm sure they didn't get there by being woken up with ice water, either."

"You never know, some of them may have. Now, hurry up and get dressed. We've both got a lot to do today."

Muttering something unintelligible (but certainly rude) under his breath, Mihail trudged over to the small trunk in the corner of the room, digging around for a change of clothes. He was just about to pull his shirt over his head when he suddenly realized that the catman continued to watch him. "…Do you mind?"

"Hm?"

"You're staring at me."

"So? You're a man, aren't you? Start acting like one." He paused as Mihail, swearing to himself once more, resumed getting dressed. "…And while you're at it, you might want to stop screaming like a girl. Not a favorable trait among men, you see."

"Wha—?! I most certainly do not scream like a girl!"

"Then what do you call that noise you just made upon waking up? There was nothing masculine about it, I assure you."

"Anyone would make that kind of noise after what you did!"

"True, but a man would have woken up when he was supposed to, and thus avoid the entire situation. Hurry up, we haven't got all day."

At this point, Mihail's resolve to skin this cat when he next got a chance strengthened greater than ever. However, he figured that he should probably wait until he got something to eat, first. Sighing, defeated, he sunk down on the bed once more and began pulling his shoes on. "…What's your name?"

"Hm…? Well, that's an unusual question."

"No, it isn't; I just want to know your name."

"Yes, it is, considering the abrupt shift in topic."

"Why are you dodging the question?"

"Who said I was dodging anything?"

Mihail's patience was wearing thinner by the second. "Would you just answer me, already?!"

"Fine," the catman sighed, with an exasperated roll of his eyes. "I don't have one."

A long silence followed. "…You…don't have one…?"

"Did I stutter?"

"But… How can you not have a name?"

"Pretty easily, as it turns out. The person who created me was not apt to think of such things, you see."

Mihail still found it a bit hard to believe. "Well… You served my ancestors, right? What did they call you?"

"Oh, they called me many things, all right…but not a single one of them could truly be considered a name," the catman said bitterly, starting to frown. "Fleabag, furball, gato, cat, man-cat, cat-man… Except for one, I suppose. He tried calling me 'Puss.' Puss! Really! What kind of ridiculous excuse for a name is that?!…"

He continued to rant, and Mihail came to the conclusion that if he kept on mentally calling him "catman," then he would eventually slip and verbally call him "catman," and thus potentially invite much wrath and bodily harm upon himself. Something had to be done before such a tragedy occurred. "…Hm… If we're going to be working together, you're going to need a name…"

"Well, nice to see you think of some things all by yourself."

Mihail flashed a glare at him, but continued to think; however, try as he might, his not-spectacularly-imaginative mind simply couldn't come up with anything fitting. "…Um… Oh! How about 'Katze?'"

"…Katze?" The only word that could describe the look that came over his face would be "offended." "Is that really the best you can do? You might as well go back to calling me gato, or just plain cat…"

"Er… Well, it's better than Puss."

"…I suppose." He sighed, conceding. "Really, though, I had hoped for something a little more original… Ah, well. Katze it is. Come on, let's get going."


Within the next few minutes, Mihail and the newly-named "Katze" were walking down the road that led into downtown Marchosias. There was surprisingly little traffic to be had—the occasional merchant or farmer, traveling by either foot or sarnés, but no trains of carriages as was customary—but the sun had already risen, and Katze was lamenting the fact that they had missed "a truly spectacular sunrise" due to Mihail's laziness. Although he felt the urge to point out that there was no way of knowing just how spectacular it was since they hadn't seen it, by now Mihail knew better than to protest, and so remained silent.

Marchosias was one of the largest cities in Salvin, and easily the largest in Carabas, but it shared few similarities with the other metropolises that dotted the continent. It retained an air of antiquity, with tall, graceful buildings modeled heavily after Sythian architecture, and much of its style hadn't changed since the rapid expansion following the Marquis's death; however, there were many Carenzan flourishes to be found, such as winding, narrow back streets and the occasional extravagant fountain or two. In all aspects, it resembled a centuries-old city of the Altarean continent rather than a modern city of Salvin.

They walked through the marketplace, which only just beginning to stir with activity. The sights, sounds, and smells of the various food stalls opening up shop for the day beckoned enticingly to Mihail's empty stomach, but Katze adamantly led him past every single one, seemingly determined to head towards the center of the city. It wasn't long before Mihail could no longer ignore his hunger, and, seeing as how Katze wasn't paying him any attention otherwise, he felt the need to bring it up. "Er… Katze?"

"Hm?" He barely glanced at Mihail out of the corner of his eye.

"When do you plan on getting us something to eat?"

"Oh?" At this, he turned his full gaze back to Mihail, but only slightly slowed his pace. "When do I plan on getting us something to eat? Dear Mihail, I am afraid you are dearly mistaken."

He didn't like the sound of that one bit. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Katze turned his head again. "It means that today I begin teaching you some proper fundamentals for becoming successful. One of them in particular is fending for yourself, rather than relying on others all the time to respond to your every whim."

Mihail wasn't sure of what he just said, but he still didn't like the sound of it. "…And what's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that if you want a decent meal, you're going to have to earn it. No reputable vendor around here is going to feed you just because you're hungry, and you certainly can't expect me to do the same."

"What?!" Mihail exclaimed indignantly. "But… What about last night, then?!"

"Last night was a one-time occurrence, primarily to curry favor with the innkeeper. Besides, I had surplus."

"What do you mean, I have to earn it?!"

"I mean that you're going to have to work for your food, just like everyone else. What else?" Katze sighed. "My, my… Your family wasn't rich at all, by any means, and yet it still managed to produce a spoiled child like you…"

"Spoiled?!" Mihail glared daggers at him, even though it wouldn't do much good since Katze had his back turned to him. "Just where the hell do you get off calling me 'spoiled'—?!"

Suddenly, before he could give the words that passed from his mouth a second thought, Katze whipped around and snatched his wrist, twisting his forearm in a way that Mihail had previously thought impossible. Ignoring the resulting painful yelp, Katze growled, "Watch your tongue, brat. You won't fool anyone with that self-centered attitude of yours."

To a young man like Mihail, who had never even been struck in his entire life, such a gesture was excessively violent. His mind could hardly form words from the shock. "…You—ow!"

Katze tightened his grip. "You see these hands? They're as soft as a maiden's brow. With hands like these, you won't be fooling anyone into thinking you've done even a day of hard work in your life." At this, Katze finally released him; Mihail quickly drew back, clutching his wrist. "In fact, with your lousy—or, shall I say, nonexistent work ethic, it'll be hard enough for you to find a decent-paying job. Hell, considering that attitude of yours, it'd be hard enough just to find an apprenticeship…"

Mihail only barely heard him at this point, concentrating solely on easing the pain in his arm. "…You don't have to put it like that…"

"Apparently, I do," Katze said dismissively. "How else am I supposed to get you to listen to me?"

"Well, you didn't have to break my arm!"

Katze suddenly grabbed his collar. "That was nothing," he growled. "But if you want me to break it, I'll only be too happy to oblige."

An unbidden sense of fear swept over Mihail as he realized that Katze's threats were sounding dangerously less hollow by the minute. "I—I'm sorry," he managed to stammer nervously.

Katze held Mihail for another few moments, his stare full of contempt. Then he dropped him just as quickly as he had snatched him in the first place, then turned on his heel and continued to walk casually as before. "So! Let's hurry, shall we? These streets are only going to get busier, you know…"

Mihail followed him more carefully this time, even though his tone had quickly lost its earlier malice. "…I suppose."

"Don't sound so listless! Who would want to employ someone with such a lack of enthusiasm?" He stopped, his tail swaying from side to side, in front of a sign that read "Swarston District"—so named for the huge swordstone that acted as its centerpiece. "Ah, yes… And this is where we part."

"…Huh?" Mihail had thought that the possibility of him being rid of Katze's presence was too good to be true. "What do you mean?"

"Don't be alarmed," he said, turning back to face him, "I'll only be gone until sunset." (Of course it was too good to be true.) "I have some…important matters to take care of. In the meantime, you are going to look for a job. And if you're still unemployed by the time I return to the inn, at dusk…" His expression darkened ominously. "There will be consequences."

Mihail, with a sense of dread, wasn't keen on discovering what he meant by consequences. But at the same time… "S-sunset?! H-how do you expect me to get a job by then?!"

"Marchosias is a large city, and there are plenty of opportunities to be found. If you work hard enough, anything is possible!" He turned and started to walk down another street, leading out of Swarston. "Ciao!"

At these words, Mihail could see his doom spelled out before him—it was the exact same thing his brothers had said to him before he left home.

Sighing heavily, Mihail sat down on one of the benches that ringed the district, hanging his head and trying to ignore the incessant growling in his stomach. However, he did have to concede that at least something Katze had said was indeed true—sitting around and moping wasn't going to feed him, so he might as well try doing something about it.

Hmph… Katze. His arm still twinged with pain. He didn't care much for his self-righteous, authoritarian attitude, and he somehow felt motivated to prove Katze wrong about his assertion that he was a lazy, selfish brat.

Of course, no the only question was how. He would have to get a job, obviously, but how would he get one of those? He doubted, somehow, that a "Help Wanted" sign would miraculously fall into his lap. As if hoping otherwise, he lifted his head to better examine his surroundings. But, alas, no luck; Swarston district was large, but, being the arcanic center of Marchosias, it wasn't nearly as bustling as other parts of the city. The only true building in the district was the arcanjasa, its Altarean-styled arches and tall spires looming impressively behind the equally grand swordstone.

Since his father had chosen to live far from the city, Mihail had only ever seen the swordstone once in his childhood, during a short trip to Marchosias for d'Antonia. He understood the significance of it—being intended to depict the Sword of the Destroyer, and therefore of the utmost arcanic importance—but it struck him as odd that the statue really looked nothing like a sword, or even like much of a weapon in the first place. Perhaps in the most abstract sense it could be considered a sword—in the center was a particularly slanted edge that could possibly be seen as a blade—but it mostly seemed to consist of fluid figures surrounding the central, irregularly-jagged edge.

As he stared at the statue, he had to squint his eyes against the sun; the swordstone was crystalline, and so the glare it produced was even sharper than the supposed edge itself. A small offering had been left at its base, and, once he properly shielded his eyes, he could see that it was a loaf of bread.

He swallowed nervously. There was nothing that could move him to steal an offering to the Destroyer, absolutely nothing. He couldn't imagine the ill fortune that would befall him if he took even something so small as a single crumb.

Still, the temptation was great, and his stomach was growling in protest.

With an exasperated groan, Mihail got up from the bench, heading aimlessly in the opposite direction of Katze's earlier route. If he didn't get out of here, then soon enough the temptation would prove to be too great; besides, he had to find a job, and there certainly weren't any to be found in Swarston district.

He kept on walking for a bit, trying to count among his qualities what would be considered useful by a potential employer—there really were very few, he thought miserably—when he finally noticed that the crowds in this area were just as sparse. Strange. A nearby sign told him that he was in the Market district, which was just as strange considering that he and Katze had just entered Marchosias through a large bazaar. But this place was different. Instead of vendors and stalls lining narrow, crowded streets, calling out their wares in loud, booming voices, the atmosphere here was comparatively peaceful. There were a few people milling about—probably well-to-do, judging by their manner of dress, and the tall, white townhouses on either side of the streets suggested a similar air of splendor.

Few people glanced his way, and for a moment Mihail felt self-conscious. He had to admit that his own appearance was somewhat shabby, and he was sure that he stuck out like a sore thumb in this fancy neighborhood. Again, his thoughts turned to Katze. It was perfectly all right for him to go off and buy expensive new clothes for himself, but did it matter at all whether or not Mihail looked presentable, especially when he had to find a job? No, of course not, so long as Katze was satisfied, Mihail fumed to himself.

As he walked further along the streets—it was pointless to return to Swarston at this point, and he had a feeling that if he ran into Katze again, he'd be likely to do something he'd later come to regret—he noticed that the buildings he'd assumed to be townhouses were actually small, quaint shops. Here was a florist's, there was a cobbler's, and further down the street he could see an unusually long line of young girls trailing out of what appeared to be a tailor's. Suddenly reminded of his appearance, he hastily moved on; it would do no good to linger in front of such a place with a money pouch that was just as empty as his stomach.

It wasn't long, however, before a pleasant scent caught Mihail's attention, bringing him to a halt in front of a bakery. But this as a sort of bakery he'd never seen before—various-sized loaves of all different kinds of bread were placed on shelves in the window, between cakes and pies and all other sorts of desserts on glass platters line with Ellsian lace. The sight was enough to make him stare; his father never fussed much with bread, figuring that as long as it was edible it was just fine, and the only time in his memory that he had ever eaten cake was at d'Antonia. The smell of the bread baking wafted from the open door, bringing Mihail back to his senses and fully aware of his intense hunger once more.

Suddenly he heard footsteps nearby, and a light voice: "I'm very sorry, sir, but we're not quite open yet… Give me a minute and I'll be happy to help you, all right?"

The voice was feminine, and of such a pleasant tone that Mihail felt compelled to look. A girl was standing in the doorway of the bakery and looking directly at him, her clear blue eyes filled with an expression of curiosity. She was as young as her voice has suggested, possibly around Mihail's own age, and he was paler than anyone Mihail had ever seen in Marchosias—in his entire life, even—from her cream-colored skin to her blonde hair that fell in a plait over her shoulder.

She was the most beautiful girl Mihail had ever seen.

"…Sir? Is there anything I can get for you?"

Mihail snapped back to reality, and remembered his lack of funds. He sighed heavily in defeat. "No, don't trouble yourself… I couldn't pay for it, anyway. I'll just leave…"

The girl hesitated for a moment as Mihail turned to leave. "…Oh! Wait, I have a favor to ask!"

He stopped, wondering what she could possibly need from him, and turned to give her a questioning look. "What is it?"

"Er, it's a little embarrassing, but…" A rosy blush entered her cheeks. "Are you any good at sums?"

Mihail paused in wonderment at this stroke of luck—Mihail's father hadn't exactly been wealthy, but he had been able to afford a basic education for his children. "…Yeah, pretty good."

"Oh, wonderful!" she said cheerfully. "I'm all right, myself, but it's so hard to manage the ovens and the cashier all at once… Would you mind helping me out?"

Mihail was amazed at this turn of events. It looked as though he had found opportunity in Marchosias after all.