Feeling frustrated, Belinda pushed Aymon off, but he was stronger than her. The beast wasn’t shaken at all – rather, his hot breath only stuck to her more.
Belinda whined and struggled under him.
It was just that she’d had enough of Aymon licking her, but why did she feel so strange today? Was it because of what happened?
Aymon’s attitude hadn’t changed, and it was her, on the receiving end, that was different. She got chills every time his breath touched her.
“You’re heavy. Why do you always do these things in your leopard form?”
「It would be more difficult in my human form.」
Aymon whispered, brushing her collarbone.
「I’m giving you time in case there’s trouble, Breedee.」
Aymon mumbled, still clinging onto Belinda’s body.
“Ah, Aymon… Mmmhhhh… Wait…”
「Please understand. It’s mating season.」
Rather than calling him cute as usual, Belinda just tried to escape from the big cat.
Of course, Aymon didn’t let her go. He was a predator that never missed a single prey.
He pressed the hem of Belinda’s dress down with his front paws and swooped over the now immobile girl with his whole body.
“I feel weird, Aymon…”
She grabbed his ear, on the verge of tears.
His hair tickled her every time it brushed past.
It wasn’t that she felt bad, but she wasn’t exactly happy either. Those unexplainable chills rose up from her toes.
“Ah, ah. Stop….”
Belinda, fed up from head to toe, finally escaped Aymon’s arms.
「Shall I turn into a human so we can continue?」
He said, half out of his mind, only reacting to a kick to his snout.
“I’m going to visit Phillip, so get ready.”
Adelai said impulsively, standing up from her seat.
With a flick of a hand, her maid immediately understood her and started to dress her up.
“What if the Duke won’t be there because you haven’t announced your visit?”
The maid asked nervously, brushing her hair. It really was a sudden visit.
Phillip Rodson was the heir to the duke who was propping up the Empire. No matter how high Adelai’s status was, he was not an easy person to visit without an appointment.
Adelai’s expression crumpled.
“It is his duty to return by order of a royal family member, even if he’s attending a previous engagement.”
“I-I’m sorry, Your Highness.”
Adelai shoved the maid who was brushing her hair and threw the brush at her.
The brush rolled away on the floor with a cold sound.
Leave right now.
With the silent command, she left the room, deathly pale.
Adelai looked into the mirror and let out a long, angry sigh.
There’s nothing good about this.
There really wasn’t – Belinda’s relationship with her father, her relationship with Lart, the Shinsu beasts threatening the royal family…
She didn’t like her maid either. She didn’t want someone that was blindly obedient, just someone that wasn’t stupid.
Adelaide glared at the mirror and saw a dazzlingly beautiful woman with glamorous, flowing hair and glowing eyes.
One’s appearance withered over time. What Adelai wanted was to shine like this until she died.
She wanted the ever-glowing honor of becoming Emperor.
Belinda will never take that place away from me.
No matter how much she stole her father’s or brother’s hearts, it was the one thing Belinda could never take from her.
Even though she was a princess, her mother’s origins were humble.
After finding Barahan’s descendant, I will become Empress with the support of Duke Rodson.
Her mood was lifted again as she thought of the throne she would one day sit on. Adelai smiled at her reflection and began to brush her hair with another brush, humming.
Knock, knock, knock.
There was a careful knock on the door.
A man in silver-framed glasses entered. It was Count Otoman, one of Adelai’s loyal helpers and the current empress’s cousin.
His last task was simple.
“I have found it.”
It was to look for Barahan’s descendant, with golden hair and golden eyes.
“Who is it this time?”
“He is a notorious bandit, currently in hiding because of his injuries from an accident with a horse.”
There was something Adelai didn’t like, but she turned to him.
“Well, I doubt those Shinsu bastards will be caught with physical strength.”
“Should I take him to the Golden Room?”
Adelai nodded, fiddling with the gold key around her neck. How much effort had it been already for her to look for the descendant of Barahan for her father?
Yet, none of them could even pluck a string on the harp and died like dogs.
“If he doesn’t react, kill him right away.”
After giving the order to kill as effortlessly as squashing an ant, Adelai turned her back again.
Count Otoman bowed and left the room.
Aymon called him quietly, and the bird, playing with his tail, slipped off in surprise.
“I won’t do that anymore! I’m sorry! It’s my fault!”
Mazetto threw up his chubby body, yelling an apology even though Aymon had never really threatened him. If Mazetto had really felt threatened, he would have fled instead of playing with his tail.
Still pretending to be dead, Mazetto finally opened his eyes and lifted himself up towards Aymon, who was still staring at him.
He tilted his head, wondering why the Shinsu would look at him like that, and excitedly hopped around.
“Why did you call Mazetto?”
Aymon stared at him and crumpled his nose.
Mazetto jumped back.
“Why are you suddenly angry? I haven’t done anything!”
However, Aymon’s state of mind seemed to be more of hesitation than anger.
「I’ve heard that humans generally can’t mate before marriage. Because it’s a custom.」
He asked in a subdued voice, rubbing his face with his front paws.
「I’m asking how human marriage works.」
Mazetto tilted his head with a chirp. What was he talking about all of a sudden?
“Is Aymon, a leopard, asking Mazetto, a sparrow, about human marriage?”
Aymon didn’t reply. Indeed, as Mazetto put it, it was a question transcending species.
After a while, lost in thought, he curled up again, wagging his tail.
「Okay, okay, go ahead.」
Mazetto climbed onto his back and ran around, laughing.
“Go ahead where? My house is up there! You’re so weird today, Aymon!”
Mazetto’s nest was in a tree right next to Aymon’s house.
Aymon wagged his tail and flashed his fangs at the sparrow, but he’d already have taken his nest somewhere else if that scared him.
Mazetto flew up, pretending to escape, and climbed back onto Aymon’s back, scurrying up to his ears.
“Shouldn’t you go ask a human? Why don’t you go ask Belinda how humans have s–”
「Don’t do that! Ever!」
Before Mazetto could even finish the sentence, Aymon cut him off and crashed against a bush.
「Don’t you ever dare!」
Pink petals fell onto the ground from a flower that fell victim to Aymon’s temper.
Aymon’s purple eyes flashed.
「If you say a single word, I will gulp you up down to the last feather.」
The giant leopard was threatening a sparrow smaller than its claw.
Mazetto stared at him.
He pecked Aymon’s nose with his beak and flew up into the sky as if he was running away.
It was a fearless attack from the small bird, a great act of rebellion that he could now do because he knew that Aymon wouldn’t hurt him.
“You want to eat me every day! Bad! I’m going to tell Belinda!”
Complaints poured out against Aymon in the chirping protest.
“Is it enough for a bird to be strong? I’m moving! I’m not going to live here!”
Mazetto flew into the sky, apparently offended, after a good while chirping near Aymon.
「I’m serious! I’ll kill you if you tell her! I’ll destroy your nest!」
At the Shinsu’s childish threats, Mazetto vanished with a last chirp of protest.
After a long time agonizing in a flower bush, Aymon thought about something and slowly lifted himself.
He reached a dark pine forest within half an hour of running.
There were no green leaves under his feet anymore, and a fresh smell tickled his nose.
A butterfly passed by the trees and reached a grassy open space. Shanti’s marble mansion was visible.
Aymon approached without hesitation and opened the door, not thinking to knock. There were two intertwined Shinsu – Halla and Shanti, who had recently started dating.
Shanti leaped up in surprise at the sudden visitor.
「Wh, what, all of sudden?!」
Leopards were very individualistic creatures, sensitive to invasions of privacy. If it hadn’t been Aymon that came in, he would have had to deal with some fangs.
But it was Aymon.
Shanti stood still, only gawking at the powerful yet tactless chief.
「You. Come out here.」
Aymon called him as if he was starting a fight.
Shanti didn’t answer, and Aymon soon dragged him out by the neck.
「There he goes again.」
Halla, left alone, muttered, dumbfounded.
He was referring to Aymon just as much as his lover.
However, he’d been used to seeing it since he was a child, so he just shook his head and curled back up as always.
Outside, Aymon put Shanti down and asked a question out of the blue.