"Which do you think better, a cartman or a teacher?"
"The cartman is certainly stronger. Look at that master of yours, nothing but skin and bones."
"Being a cartman's cat, you look pretty strong yourself. You also seem well fed."
"Well-fed is my own doing. I could live anywhere and never want for food. Come out of your tea grove and see. Stick with me, and within the month I'll fatten you beyond recognition."
"I may take you up on that. On the other hand, it seems the teacher's place is grander than the cartman's."
"Nonsense. What good's a large house when you can't even fill your belly?"
I must have touched a sore spot. He twitched his chiseled ears for a moment then gruffly walked away. Thus it was that I came to know Kurumaya no Kuro.
From then on, I often happened across Kuro. Whenever we met, he would always have some cartman's bluster at the ready. The moral corruption I alluded to earlier, in fact, is an affair he related.
One day, Kuro and I were chatting idly while lazing in the warm tea grove. After repeating his standard boasts as if they were something new, he turned and asked me the following. "Tell me, how many rats have you caught?" While I believe myself much more informed than Kuro, I don't presume to match him in strength or valor. Nevertheless, this question made me uncomfortable. Then again, there was no use hiding the truth, so I answered. "Actually, I was thinking to catch some but haven't yet." Kuro laughed so hard it shook his nose wiskers. The purpose of Kuro's bravado though, when all's said and done, is to obscure his own deficiencies. If one listens attentively to his aggrandizements and purrs along appreciatively, then he's easily managed. I'd learned this trick as soon as I made his acquaintance. In this instance, it would be folly to make matters worse with defense of my own shortcomings. Much better, I decided, to stand down and let him brag on himself.