The servant’s trembling hand placed a teacup onto the table.
Aymon, the Emperor, and Prince Lart were gathered in the meeting room to ask all their questions and have a conversation.
What was the reason for Aymon’s sudden visit? Why had he come all this way?
Apart from their forced yearly meetings, this was their first official meeting, not to mention that the chief, instead of the elder, had come to meet the Emperor himself.
What is going on?
The Emperor observed Aymon with a stiff face. Aymon, looking at the white steam rising from the teacup, asked him a sudden question.
“What things do you like?”
The emperor had reacted a beat late, not having figured out what the question was about.
After skillfully handling all the delegates, he was now embarrassing himself in front of a Shinsu.
Aymon comfortably leaned back into his chair.
“I mean, what should I give to you to make you happy?”
He asked casually, resting his chin.
He had to do something, just as Shanti picked strawberries for Halla’s mother and got her permission.
The thin sun rays melted into Aymon’s apathetic eyes.
The emperor stared at the twinkling eyes of the beast in human form, pensively humming to buy himself time.
Then, when Aymon slightly frowned, he opened his mouth, seeming to have decided.
“My greatest wish is peace and good relations with the Shinsu.”
Although the reason for Aymon’s question remained unknown, this was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.
The Emperor’s answer was plainly sincere.
The only thing that the imperial family, in power on the continent, feared and couldn’t control, were the Shinsu – whenever he looked at the Shinsu forest, he couldn’t help but feel threatened, knowing how weak a human being was in comparison. It felt like a shadow constantly following him.
However, their relationship had changed recently.
Since Belinda attended the ceremony, there had been rumors that her relationship with the boyish chief in front of him had become very close.
In order to exterminate the Shinsu, who threatened the authority of the imperial family, they needed to find Barahan…
For now, it was better to keep them close than to risk trying to get rid of them.
The empire was more protected than any other place because the Shinsu forest was right next to it – a sacred place no one could invade or attack.
If the Shinsu disappeared, their threat would disappear with them, but so would the Shinsu forest, a huge fortress protecting the imperial palace.
His goal was to get rid of the Shinsu, who hated humans, but it would be better now to reconnect with them using Belinda.
It was both for the imperial family and his own authority. How great would an empire under the protection of Shinsu be?
Meanwhile, Aymon tilted his head, seemingly disapproving of the emperor’s request.
It was an unexpected, philosophical answer. Was this an unique way of talking that humans had?
The most Aymon had seriously considered was free access to the Shinsu forest.
“Peace and good relations?”
“Yes, peace and good relations.”
Aymon gave it serious thought.
Were peace and good relations things that could be gift-wrapped and handed over?
Obviously, he had to give the emperor something satisfying enough to be able to confidently ask for Belinda’s hand, but he was upset to hear such a vague wish.
Humans and Shinsu had never been connected in the first place. They were beasts and people – their race itself was different.
Even though Belinda was a neglected princess, her being part of the imperial family might have made things more difficult.
Of course, all this would be possible if he went straight to using force, but Aymon didn’t want to do that. He couldn’t do it.
He was an arrogant Shinsu who had lived his whole life his own way, but not this time.
He wanted to stay on everyone’s good side. Belinda possibly feeling the slightest uneasiness would be unacceptable.
Therefore, he was willing to give the Emperor anything he wanted.
“Peace and good relations. How can I give those to you?”
The emperor was still lost in thought after the slow, serious question.
Aymon had answered that, but he didn’t know what to do either.
Should they have regular meetings instead of yearly ones? Or what else…
Prince Lart carefully intervened.
“Um, Your Majesty, Shinsu, sir.”
The beautiful middle-aged emperor and the beautiful Shinsu with a boyish face turned their heads at the same time. Lart smiled.
“I have something to say, will you please allow it?”
“So be it.”
Aymon also nodded.
Lart tilted his upper body towards them, whispering.
“There is a precedent in the empire for peace and good relations.”
“What is it?”
The emperor asked. Lart went on lightly.
“To achieve peace, the first emperor of the empire married the princess of the kingdom of Wilhel, which he’d fought to the end to reach his goal. He was my forefather.”
“And Your Majesty appointed the Duke of Vinteum’s daughter as Empress, my mother, for power.”
The Emperor’s puzzled expression faded as he understood what his son meant.
Marriage was the easiest way to maintain union and prosperity, a custom commonly used as a tool for peace.
However, he hadn’t thought of marriage as a simple solution in this case, because the being in front of him was not a human, but a beast and a Shinsu.
Would the Shinsu, who hated humans, ever allow marriage to them? No, before that.
Before that, why did that Shinsu offer reconciliation first?
Suddenly, the belated but fundamental question hit the emperor.
He carefully spoke to Aymon.
“If I may ask you a rude question, I was wondering why you suddenly offered reconciliation.”
However, Aymon couldn’t respond properly.
His emotions burst out as he jumped up from his seat and spoke to the Emperor firmly.
“Good. If Belinda and I marrying is the way to peace and good relations, great. I’ll make sure it happens that way.”
It was a very incoherent answer.
Obviously, everyone had understood the nuance, but the word Belinda hadn’t been mentioned a single time. She was the only person they could have meant.
The Emperor rubbed his chin at the words. It was very embarrassing for the Shinsu, who’d been sitting around with a bored expression the whole time, to suddenly respond so violently.
Aymon, who could barely get his emotions in order, pretended to be calm with his hands behind his back.
“But I don’t want anyone to mention marriage to Belinda, ever.”
The marriage already seemed to have become a done deal. Aymon felt like he had the permission of the emperor and the whole world – ironically, everyone’s except Belinda’s.
“Belinda will marry me because she wants me. That means that the marriage can never be pushed ahead because of peace.”
Aymon said to the emperor, in the calmest voice in the world.
“So never say a word about this to Belinda.”
The emperor looked up at Aymon and nodded silently.
He couldn’t get himself to speak – the situation was so strange that even the deft emperor, who had been in politics his whole life, was confused.
In any case, a sort of deal was made in the absence of Belinda.
In both the Emperor’s and Aymon’s own ways, it was a happy ending.
The empire was in a flurry, in anticipation for Aymon’s upcoming coronation ceremony.
Recently, after becoming an adult, Aymon had also become chief.
Every time a new chief rose to the throne, the empire threw a big celebration. The coronation ceremony formalized the new chief’s position and offered them a lavish and rare gift. Outside the palace, festivals in celebration would continue for various days and nights.
The coronation was due to be held tomorrow.
Belinda leaned out the window and hugged Aymon, who was sitting in front of her.
“You’re really going to be chief now, Aymon?”
「I already am, Breedee.」
“Even so, it will be officially recognized now.”
「I don’t need human recognition.」
To his reply, Belinda gave his ear a tug.
“It was crooked. Anyways, aren’t you happy you’re becoming chief?”
「Being the chief isn’t what makes me happy.」
“What is, then?”
The large leopard in Belinda’s arms soon changed his appearance with a glow. Before she knew it, a broad-shouldered young man was holding her.
Instead of answering, he rubbed her cheek and slowly swept her hair back.
Belinda’s heart pounded every time Aymon brushed against her. Her heartbeat was racing.