༺ The Cat’s Hidden Thoughts ༻
“Frey, wake up.”
I opened my eyes while feeling minor frustration. I saw Serena shaking me in an attempt to wake me up.
“You have to leave now.”
When I heard that unexpected remark, I lifted the blanket and glanced at my watch. It was just half past five in the morning.
“You have to leave before the sun rises.”
I was going to protest having to leave so early, but I quickly got up. I remembered that Serena’s memories would change after sunrise.
As I hurriedly wore the coat that had been lying on the floor, I found the white owl with something tucked in its claws.
I approached the owl cautiously, then retrieved the droopy cat doll and muttered to myself.
“Are you going to be pouting for a while?”
How could I fix the mood of a cat doll? I wasn’t sure.
“Serena, I had a good time last night. I’ll be leaving now.”
“Hold on. I have something to give you.”
I was about to depart while deep in my thoughts when Serena suddenly put on her clothes and got up.
“Come here. Take it.”
I stared at her puzzlingly as Serena offered me something.
“I made it while you were asleep.”
Moon-shaped crystals glittered in the palm of Serena’s hand.
“Um… is it too dull?”
“…No, it’s a hundred times better than the gifts I’ll receive from those pretentious nobles tomorrow.”
I quickly received the crystal from her hand as I uttered those words. Serena smiled brightly and spoke again.
“I’ll guide you outside. I still have enough time for that.”
I replied with a soft voice and held her hand as we left the room and descended the stairs.
‘Somehow, I felt calm…’
I wasn’t quite sure why exactly, but it felt like fiddling with the moon crystal that Serena had given me soothed my heart.
Or perhaps it’s because Serena and I were holding hands.
I descended the stairs and opened the front door. As I fiddled with the moon shaped crystal, a familiar carriage caught my attention.
“Isn’t that our family’s carriage…?”
Since I had to move quickly and in secret, I rode a public carriage found passing by on the streets rather than one of my family’s carriages.
But, why was our family’s carriage there?
The answer came to me immediately once the door of the carriage opened.
“Hello, Young Master.”
I was unsure why, but Kania was sitting inside the carriage.
“It’s time to return to the mansion.”
After staring blankly at me for some time, Kania broke the silence with a faint voice.
Of course, she wasn’t wrong. I nodded and attempted to climb into the carriage but was abruptly stopped by Serena who blocked my path and spoke with a smile.
“Please wait just a moment.”
“There’s something us women need to discuss.”
Serena then shut the carriage door, leaving her and a stone faced Kania inside.
“What was that all about?”
Out of curiosity, I tried to eavesdrop by focusing stellar mana in my ears. Unfortunately, there was a barrier erected with lunar mana and black magic to ensure my eavesdropping attempts failed.
What could they possibly be discussing?
“Ms. Kania seems to be very loyal indeed. You even came to find him at this early hour.”
“Thank you for the compliment.”
Even though they were sharing kind words, an uneasy chill engulfed the wagon.
“Oh, I heard Frey recently found a new pet”
When that pressure began to overwhelm the inside of the carriage, Serena suddenly raised the corners of her lips and questioned Kania.
“Are you referring to Lulu?”
“Yes, that poor girl. How is she doing?”
“I checked up on her before I came here, and she was sleeping soundly. Of course, there were still some scars remaining from where she tore her own nails.”
“That’s a relief. I will also perform research on the ‘Stigma of Misfortune’ in my spare time, so cheer up.”
Serena smiled and responded to Kania’s words as if relieved. Suddenly, her expression shifted to a cold one and she whispered.
“By the way, it seems now you will even lose your place as his pet.”
Kania bit her lip briefly and replied faintly.
“The sun will rise in a few minutes, Lady Serena.”
“It’s all right. I’ve made calculations for everything.”
Serena smiled and spoke as she stared at Kania.
“I have no interest in watching an embarrassment of a skit that has no real affection involved.”
Kania remained silent momentarily after hearing Serena’s words. She broke the silence as she spoke in a faint voice.
“Is there really no affection involved?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“You should know what I mean.”
Kania smirked briefly as she spoke.
“The reason Lady Serena erased her ‘love’ for Young Master Frey when the sun was up was because she was shocked by his affection for me.”
“It’s just an ‘act’ that Frey does in front of ‘me’. No more, no less.”
“Is that really the case?”
Kania was now faintly smiling as she spoke. She gazed directly at Serena who partially covered her face with a fan.
“Until now, Lady Serena has often been cheated on by the Young Master. Nevertheless, you were able to maintain your cool because you noticed that it was just him pretending.”
Kania continued to speak with a sharp glint in her eyes as Serena remained silent.
“However, the fact that Young Master Frey decided to ‘cheat’ on you with me to erase your ‘concern’. And that calm Lady Serena was now ‘shocked’…”
“I know what you are trying to say but…”
“…The Young Master harbors some form of affection for me.”
Kania ignored Serena’s words and finished speaking. Serena opened her mouth to speak and tightly grasped her fan.
“His love for you as a pet?”
“I don’t believe that Lady Serena, the Greatest Genius on the continent, would fail to make that distinction.”
“Well, I wouldn’t know, would I?”
Serena tilted her head with an ambiguous expression. She whispered in a faint voice to Kania who’s face became solemn in front of her.
“When I shared ‘real love’ with Frey this morning, I couldn’t distinguish such trivial affection well.”
Kania unknowingly clenched her first in response to Serena’s provocative words. Serena smiled radiantly and continued speaking.
“Frey doesn’t care about appearance, Kania. Regardless of how much you try to improve your appearance and stick by his side, there will always be an insurmountable wall.”
“I’m just improving myself for the sake of Young Master, I don’t have any ulterior motives… Ugh!”
Kania, who was blushing in response to Serena’s words, abruptly stopped speaking and grasped her belly that Serena had poked with the end of her fan.
“Well, I won’t say anything about you sticking close to him. It is indeed true that you have been helpful to Frey.”
“…I am Young Master Frey’s aide. I only receive orders to perform tasks from him. I don’t need the permission of someone like you.”
Serena watched Kania speak as she wore a relaxed expression on her face. Kania’s expression had morphed into an amusing one as she clenched her teeth.
“But if you cross the line… You’ll have to be prepared then.”
Kania questioned Serena in a faint voice as she stood to leave the carriage.
“What happens if the Young Master crosses the line first?”
As Serena turned her head comically at those words, Kania continued with a calm expression.
“I am a loyal butler and aide of the Young Master. I have no choice but to submit to his requests. Therefore, I ask for your understanding if that does happen.”
“It is unnecessary to ask for understanding regarding a situation that will never occur.”
Serena replied to her question with a smile before departing the carriage. She emanated lunar mana to tear apart the soundproof film that Kania had set.
Serena left those final words and kissed Frey before she leisurely walked back towards the front door.
The moment the front door opened and she entered the mansion, the sun rose from the horizon.
“…Uh, Kania? What were you two discussing?”
The Young Master inquired.
I couldn’t bear to give him an honest reply and began to mutter to myself with my head down.
‘Why on earth did I utter those words?’
I spoke too much and demonstrated shameful behaviour unfit for someone in my position; it was so unlike me.
After reprimanding myself in my head for a long time, I slowly raised my head and met the gaze of the Young Master that I felt on me the entire time.
“…Are you alright, Kania?”
Ever since the penalty, the Young Master had been constantly looking at me with a worried gaze.
“Come to think of it, it’s already been more than a week since I shared life force. Is that why you’re not feeling well?”
“Young Master… I don’t need…”
“No, it’s been three months since the last time I infused life force. I will share life force every week for the next six months. Otherwise, you may end up in a predicament.”
The Young Master had generously been providing me with his life force ever since I had been discovered on Starlight Street at a very young age.
Even though my existence had cut the Young Master’s lifespan in half, even though he only had about two years and six months left, he was still worried about me. Even though I was just like a mosquito, draining his life.
‘What if the Young Master crosses the line…’ What delusions were I speaking of?’
Why was the Young Master worried about me anyway?
In the previous timeline, I made every attempt to get in his way. I would curse him and sabotage him, and even committed suicide in front of his eyes, placing a heavy burden on his heart.
Even though I cut his lifespan by half, and am akin to a mosquito that periodically eats from an evaporating source.
‘If I recall his reaction at that time properly, he probably already knew.’
When he discovered what was hidden in the forest near the mansion, the Young Master himself stated that he had already guessed the truth.
The horrifying truth about the relationship between my parents and the Young Master’s mother.
And yet, the Young Master’s affection for me never wavered.
“Look at yourself. From the look on your face right now, you must be tired… It’s all because you don’t have sufficient life force. Therefore…”
“…Excuse me for just a moment, Young Master.”
As my thoughts raced ceaselessly, I stood from my seat and moved beside the Young Master who was still speaking with a worried expression on his face.
“Apologies, Young Master.”
As I sat beside the Young Master, I clung to him and fell deep into thought.
‘I believed that it was a sin to even have these feelings…’
My mind was overwhelmed with the feeling of guilt.
That’s why I decided to confess everything to him and join him just before everything came to an end.
I believed I had no right to stand by his side, that I just needed to help him silently.
‘I guess there’s nothing I can do about my heart.’
Yet, no matter how hard I try to suppress these feelings, they continue to rise to the surface.
It’s so sinful and profane, but now that my mind is trying to overcome that guilt.
“What’s wrong with you? It’s embarrassing.”
As I stared at the Young Master with such thoughts in my mind, he smiled at me with an awkward expression.
It was something I had never witnessed in the previous timeline. It was a pure, innocent, and beautiful smile.
“Can I count on you for the time being, Young Master?”
The Young Master gladly accepted what I said without realising the underlying intentions of my words.
After a brief moment of hesitation, I leaned my head gently on the Young Master’s broad shoulder. I silently thanked him and came to a conclusion.
“Thank you, Young Master.”
‘You have every right to despise me, yet you care for someone who deserves nothing but misery…’
‘I think I’ve fallen in love with you.’
The coachman cheerfully announced the arrival of the carriage at the Starlight Mansion. Kania, who had fallen asleep while leaning on Frey’s shoulder, slowly opened her eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Young Master!”
“No, no, no. It can’t be helped since you were exhausted.”
Shortly after, Kania noticed her drool marks on Frey’s shoulders. She swiftly bowed her head as she blushed in shame.
“Wouldn’t it be better to receive life force as soon as possible?”
When Frey questioned the anxious Kania, she responded and swiftly waved her hand in denial.
“I’m unsure why, but my mind suddenly became clear. I think it is fine to skip treatment for this week.”
“I promise you, Young Master.”
Frey stared at Kania with a face riddled with suspicion. He muttered to himself with a smile of satisfaction as he quickly departed the carriage.
‘I knew you would act like this, so I infused life force while you were sleeping.’
Frey was very familiar with providing lifeforce to Kania while she was asleep. He was able to stably infuse the necessary life force, only coughing up a minor amount of blood as a result.
As Frey got off the carriage however, he was suddenly plagued by an unexpected dizziness. He was still not free from the influence of the two penalties and one special penalty.
“This… I have no choice but to prepare for tomorrow.”
As Frey stood holding the carriage door while reading Kania’s face, the system window materialised before him.
Description: Permanently slightly increases the life force recovery rate. (Total amount does not increase)
“…I didn’t want to buy it, but I guess I have no choice.”
Frey muttered under his breath while gazing at the window in front of him. He purchased the skill and suddenly, he felt his heart become rejuvenated.
Frey grasped his heart and fell to his knees. Kania, who stood beside him, supported him as he wore an expression of embarrassment.
“Oh, this is a reaction that occurs when I buy the increased life force recovery speed. So you don’t have to be concerned.”
“I’m telling you it’s true. Look, I didn’t even cough up any blood.”
He spoke words to relieve Kania of her concerns as her gaze became increasingly suspicious. Frey began to walk into the mansion with a relaxed expression on his face.
“No way… Did…”
Meanwhile, Lulu sat quietly while gazing out the window.
“…Did you end up like that because of me?”
She muttered to herself in a trembling voice as she witnessed the scene.
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