Episode 19


***

Asterian and Nestian belong to the same leopard family, and their territories were adjacent.
Therefore, the interaction between the two was never insignificant.
Asterian, as the current leading family of the leopard tribe, provided supplies and resources to Nestian, and through the trade routes crossing Asterian, Nestian was able to export minerals to other territories.

However…

“What? The trade route has been severed?”

“Yes, and they have also expressed their intention to halt the supply of goods and resources…”

“Why on earth? What the hell did those bastards do to upset them?”

Zender slammed the wooden desk in frustration, veins popping around his neck and forehead.

Asterian had never, until now, resorted to cutting off trade routes or ceasing the supply of resources in a hostile manner, no matter what Nestian did!

So, it was some kind of promise.
Minimum courtesy towards Nestian, stuck in the harsh territory!

Seeing Zender’s furious expression, his advisor Stanley quickly closed his eyes tightly, hoping for this situation to pass, and then opened them.

“Well, a letter arrived from Asterian, and it seems to be related to this…”

“Hand it over immediately!”

Zender snatched the letter that was in Stanley’s hand.
The recoil caused Stanley to lean back slightly, but he quickly regained his balance and stood straight.

Zender roughly removed the wax seal from the letter and unfolded it.

On the smooth surface of the specially made paper, which was as smooth as silk but had rough edges, a vivid red seal imprinted with the proof that the head of Asterian personally wrote this letter was clearly visible.

Zender quickly started reading the letter.

And not long after, Zender’s face turned pale blue, as if frozen.

“… Ha!”

The contents of the letter were truly shocking.

In the letter sent by Asterian, it clearly stated that ‘Thiel,’ who had been lost in Nestian not long ago, is currently staying in Asterian and will continue to be taken care of by them.

Zender, unable to believe the contents of the letter, read the same part over and over again.

[Nestian has deemed itself unfit to raise the child.
From this moment on, Thiel will be taken care of by Asterian.]


“Thiel, it says Thiel…”

No matter how many times he looked, it clearly said ‘Thiel.’ It was written like that.

The name of that mongrel kid was indeed Thiel.
Zender stared at the letter, his mouth gaping open without being able to close it, completely dumbfounded.

How on earth did Thiel end up in Asterian?

Although the territories of Nestian and Asterian were adjacent, it would take over a week by carriage to travel from Nestian’s mansion to Asterian’s mansion.

Walking was simply impossible.
It was nearly impossible to traverse the treacherous snowy plains of Nestian and the harsh desert of Asterian on foot.

“But how on earth!”

At that moment, the day Thiel disappeared came to mind.
The day when a guest from the palace visited Nestian’s mansion.

“No way.”

And Thiel disappeared in the direction of the guest quarters, where the visitors were staying, and the fact that they didn’t thoroughly search even inside the room, fearing that it might upset them, also came to mind consecutively.

Calculating the timing, it seemed to match.
It was clear that Thiel had boarded that carriage from the palace and escaped Nestian.

“Damn it, damn it!”

Zender gritted his teeth in frustration and slammed the table.

The letter crumpled and tore miserably.
Sharp nails dug into his palm, causing it to ache, but he didn’t care.

Thiel should have been killed long ago.
Long ago!

He should have killed the newborn weakling who couldn’t manifest her abilities.

But even though he left her alive because of their bloodline, that little brat has now blocked Nestian’s path.

With the trade routes severed from other territories, Nestian now had to attempt trade through the sea.

The costs incurred in the process would undoubtedly be significant.
Halting the supply of resources also had far-reaching consequences.

Zender pressed his temple tightly with his hand.

It was too great a loss to bear for just losing one child.

“Why on earth! How could you lose that child!”


Stanley bowed his head awkwardly at Zender’s enraged voice.

“… I apologize.”

“… Fire Zayra immediately, and deal with the maids who were in charge of that brat! Right away!”

“Yes, understood.”

At that moment, the door to Zender’s office swung open, and Rowan, with tears streaming down her big eyes, suddenly entered.

“… Rowan?”

“… Grandfather? Are you firing Zayra? What’s this nonsense! Zayra is my nanny!”

It seemed that Rowan had been listening to the conversation behind the office door.
For a moment, a sense of defeat flashed across Zender and Stanley’s faces.

“… Rowan, let’s talk later.
This is adults’ business.”

“No, I don’t want to! You can’t send Zayra away! No matter what happens, you can’t!”

“We’ll talk later!”

As Zender shouted out angrily, Rowan jumped back in surprise, her shoulders jerking back.

“…”

Then, glaring at Zender, she swiftly turned around and left the office.

“…sigh.”

Dealing with Thiel alone was already giving him a headache, but why was Rowan being so stubborn today?

Zender sighed and wiped his face with his rough palm.

Silence hung heavily in the air.

***

“…!”

Thiel huddled behind Lia’s wide skirt, shrinking her body.
She peeked up at Alpheus with cautious eyes.

“So, his words were true.
The child is very wary of strangers.”

Alpheus withdrew the hand he had awkwardly extended.


Lia gently stroked Thiel’s back and whispered to her.

“He’s the grandfather of the young lady.
He is Lord Cassius’ father.”

“… Yes.”

Thiel nodded.
She knew that Alpheus was her biological grandfather to some extent.
However…

‘… I’m scared!’

In Thiel’s eyes, Alpheus appeared similar to Zender.

When examined closely, they had no common traits in terms of abilities or personality, but to the eyes of a seven-year-old child, they seemed similar.

The fact that both were elderly men was the only similarity between them.

‘I know he’s a good person.’

Just yesterday, I was going to say, ‘Thank you for giving me a beautiful room.’

Is it because of her Grandfather, Zender, who abused her? Whenever she saw someone around Zender’s age, she would become so distraught.

Thiel couldn’t approach Alpheus directly, and instead peeked at him from behind Lia’s wide skirt.

Alpheus, who watched Thiel with pity, suddenly seemed to remember something and clapped his knees, saying,

“Yes, Thiel.
I have a gift prepared.
How about that?”

“A gift?”

“Yes! Hurry up and bring it in!”

Alpheus’s voice as he shouted seemed excited.

After Alpheus finished speaking, the servants began to bring large boxes into the room one by one.

The boxes, tied with pretty ribbons, came in various sizes.
Some were small enough to reach Thiel’s knees, while others were larger than Thiel.

Curious about the various gift boxes coming in, Thiel discreetly peeked her head out from under Lia’s skirt.

‘They’re similar to the ones Rowan used to receive.’

The gifts were similar to the ones Rowan received on his birthday.


Rowan used to receive boxes that looked just like that from Zender.

Of course, Thiel had never received anything like that before…

“Now, Thiel.
They’re all yours.”

“A-All of these here?”

“Yes, these are gifts from your grandfather.
They’re all made by the best toy craftsmen.
Some of them were personally made by Lorenzo, the toy craftsman who only makes twelve toys a year!”

Alpheus pointed to the room filled with gift boxes.

“He only knows how to tease children with toys.”

From what he heard, Cassius gave Thiel a precious dreamcatcher as a gift, but Alpheus was confident that Thiel would prefer these toys over the dreamcatcher.

Usually, children at this age prefer toys over jewels.

Therefore, on the day Thiel first arrived at this mansion, Alpheus, with excitement in his heart upon seeing Thiel’s sparkling eyes and curly white hair, inquired about toy craftsmen and placed a massive order for toys for his granddaughter.

Throughout the process, he had never once thought that Thiel might not be his granddaughter.
It was natural.
Thiel’s mischievous face resembled Cassius’ when he was young.

Lia took Thiel’s hand and gently whispered, as if soothing a child.

“Now, young lady, why don’t you open the gift boxes? Shall I help you?”

Thiel nodded.
Lia took Thiel’s hand and sat down on the floor, about to pull the ribbon of the gift box, but at that moment…

“Just a moment, let me do it.”

Alpheus urgently interrupted Lia’s actions and sat down next to Thiel, taking the gift box into his own hands.

Thiel’s eyes briefly showed confusion, but they quickly faded away due to the anticipation of the gift.

After Alpheus pulled and untied the ribbon, he handed the gift box to Thiel.

Thiel glanced around for a moment, then opened the lid of the large gift box.

As the lid opened, what came out from inside was…

“…!”

A large doll in the shape of a black cat, adorned with yellow sapphires in its eyes.

As Thiel faced the fluffy and large doll, a bashful smile spread across her face, accompanied by laughter.

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