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Royal Selection Life from Zero:
The Golden Lion and the Sword Saint


The dragon carriage clattered noisily as it made its way down the road.

The earth dragon pulling it was safeguarded by the Divine Protection of Wind Evasion, which shielded the inside of the carriage from the gusts and rattling outside. However, this Divine Protection had its limitations—it lost its effect once the dragon ceased its stride. It would also take a certain amount of time until it regained its effects again. Such being the case, the rattling wheels were proof that the Divine Protection had indeed lost its effect. But what had caused the sudden halt?

“Oh, Young Master! You have returned!”

“Wow, it’s been a while, Young Master! W-What a pleasure to see you again!”

“Reinhard! Please come and watch my sword practice again! Promise!”

With each resounding cheer, the dragon carriage came to a halt, its passengers engaging with the crowd outside the window. Waving and exchanging words and smiles, they attracted the attention of even more onlookers, approaching the carriage in droves.

With such frequent stops, it was no wonder that the Divine Protection of Wind Evasion wouldn’t reactivate. From the moment they stepped foot in the domain, the carriage had become well-acquainted with both the wind and the rattling.

The dragon carriage started up once more as the high-pitched cheers saw them off. Rattling slightly, a young red-headed man returned to his seat and bowed his head to the person before him. “Apologies for stopping the carriage so many times.”

He was a man of remarkable charm. With fiery hair akin to a flame, and eyes as blue as the azure sky, his countenance possessed an ethereal quality, with a smile that enchanted both men and women alike. His voice was indulgently sweet, stirring the hearts of anyone who heard it.

This captivating youth was called Reinhard van Astrea.

Naturally, the person before him blushed in response to his concern. “If you’re gonna apologize, at least try to look sorry!” admonished a girl donning a dress in irritation, cheeks red with anger.

The girl, too, possessed her own charm. Her shimmering golden locks were adorned with black ribbons, and her eyes sparkled red like the blazing sun. Her lips revealed a fang befitting of her disposition, and her still-youthful figure was clothed in a dress.

Her name was Felt. And she, along with the other man, were the only passengers aboard the dragon carriage. However, the air hanging between them starkly contrasted with their outward appearance. It was only natural. Their relationship was not defined by sex, but as mistress-servant, although the air was excessively bleak even putting it that way.

In such an atmosphere, Reinhard cast a troubled gaze at Felt. “Lady Felt, they are residents of the domain directly under the control of House Astrea. The town and the mansion are in close proximity to each other, so we need to foster a good relationship with them. Besides…”


“Tilmi, the village gossip, is the most dependable of the bunch, while Jonas dreams of becoming one of the Kingdom’s soldiers. And Roswell’s baked bread is the best in town. They’re good people,” Reinhard praised the townsfolk.

“I don’t know why I didn’t hear about them sooner,” Felt blurted out, resting her cheek on her knee, legs spread in a very unladylike manner.

Reinhard raised an eyebrow at her mumbling. “I thought you were angry, my lady?”

“All I’m angry about is your habit of making me look bad first, then making yourself look good. I ain’t got nothing against the people!”

“But you seemed to be in a hurry, so I assumed there was an issue.”

“Oh, shut it! I want to use the bathroom! It’s gettin’ hard holdin’ it in! And these damn clothes! It’s such a pain to use the bathroom in them! You gonna take responsibility if I piss myself!?”

“Isn’t that an issue regardless if I…take responsibility or not?”

“Who cares!? If you don’t want that to happen, then hurry up!”

Sullen and annoyed, Felt extended a leg in an attempt to land a kick on Reinhard, but he avoided it with grace, sitting down with a nod. “Understood.” His gaze then shifted outside the window, directing his attention to the path before them. “Rest assured, my lady, we will be there shortly. Your wish will soon be granted.”

Felt snorted at his pretentiousness, peering out the window next to him. Beyond was an expansive view, with an iron gate atop a gently-sloping hill. It had been left ajar and showed signs of age and rust.

As the dragon carriage entered the premises through a gate that had long abandoned its purpose, a building came into view.

“Your folks’ house, huh?”

“Yes. The place of my birth,” Reinhard affirmed with a smile. “The main Astrea family residence, as well as a temporary abode for Your Ladyship.”

Felt’s crimson eyes reflected the full view of the house approaching before them.

Despite growing up in the slums, Felt was a native of the royal capital, thereby familiar with the grandeur of the mansions of nobles. In fact, she had spent the last two months in confinement in one of those mansions, so she could only imagine the magnificence of the Astrea’s main residence, and the home of the much-lauded Sword Saint, Reinhard.

“Sure is a lot smaller than expected,” Felt bluntly admitted upon beholding the mansion up close. Compared to the other mansion in the royal capital, the main residence was much more modest. Of course, it was still a mansion in terms of size, but it was so simple, it paled in comparison to the stunning structures of the royal capital’s Nobles District.

The rusted iron gate remained as-is, with the building also mirroring its signs of age. The vast garden, once a realm of carefree leisure, now appeared to be devoid of purpose.

Felt’s apprehension had her anticipating a throng of servants upon their arrival. However, the unease plaguing her now was of a different nature.

“This may come as a surprise, but this is what my family was like,” Reinhard confessed.

“You sayin’ you guys were one of those poor noble families?” Felt blurt out in disbelief.

“No need to look at me with such pitying eyes,” Reinhard chided.

Felt’s voice dropped like a weight, and Reinhard chuckled at the look in her eyes. “I understand the misconception,” he reassured. “But it’s too early to pity me. It’s certainly true that I’m not exactly the wealthiest noble in the kingdom. And the domain isn’t particularly grand, either.”

“Sure…” Felt began. “Well, whatever. Live strong!”

“Well… Thank you,” Reinhard said, tilting his head in acknowledgment at Felt’s encouraging thumbs-up.

With that, the two travelers arrived safely at the main residence. Reinhard stepped off the dragon carriage first, turning around and extending a hand to Felt in a gentlemanly gesture. “Lady Felt, may I take your hand?”

“As if!” Shrugging off his concern, Felt landed nimbly beside Reinhard, sticking out her tongue. Reinhard retracted his hand with a wry smile, looking back toward the mansion.

For Reinhard, returning to his hometown, and to the main residence, was a long-awaited homecoming. Felt glanced his way, attempting to discern his feelings. However, something was amiss.

“Where are the three men who came before us?” Reinhard wondered.

“Hm?” Felt swept a gaze around the mansion upon Reinhard’s words. “Oh, the Rachins crew? Huh, yeah, where the hell’d they run off to?”

Their companions were a trio of rogues—Gaston, Rachins, and Camberley. And they had apparently grown impatient with waiting for the sluggish dragon carriage upon entering the domain. Supposedly, they had gone ahead of them to the mansion on foot.

There was also the matter of welcoming them. The trio’s actions had been approved, making it their task to inform the mansion of their arrival.

“Perhaps they are already inside,” Reinhard thought aloud. “I am concerned about the fact that there is no one to greet us, but I will show you inside. Our servants may be few in number, but they are very efficient.”

“You said they’re the granddaughters of that old couple, right?” Felt recalled. “If so, then yeah, I’d think they’d be.”

Felt’s mind reminisced about the elderly couple who tended to the other Astrea family mansion in the royal capital. They were a sweet, pleasant couple, and Felt liked them. When she parted ways with them, they told her that they had two granddaughters at the main residence.

“I was looking forward to meeting them!” she said. “That old couple really did a lot for me…”

“Aaaaahhhhh!” The front door to the mansion slammed open with a bang, and a scream echoed through the courtyard. Reinhard swiftly guarded Felt. Just then, a man—or rather, a group of them—emerged before the vigilant pair, howling uncontrollably.

It was a trio of men—large, medium, and small in stature—each exuding a presence of mischief. There was no doubt that they were the missing troublemakers in every way.

These were the three men who were supposed to have gone ahead of them: Gaston, Rachins, and Camberley. They were lying in the yard in a state of tatters, exaggeratedly screaming in pain.

Reinhard, who had been observing the three, rushed toward them. “Gaston, Rachins, Camberley, what in the world happened?”

“What’s it look like happened?!” cried Rachins. The three battered idiots sprawled out on the ground turned to Reinhard, who was headed toward them. They pointed at the house they had just tumbled out of in unison.

“We went ahead and were takin’ a breather, y’know?” Rachins attested.

“Yeah, a break!” shouted Gaston. “Then we knocked, but nobody said nothin’, so we went in…”

“Then those crazy twins came at us and…!” Camberley trailed off.

“Hi,” came a voice. “Crazy twin here, standing on your right.”

“And your left,” said another voice.


As the trio lamented their state, two figures appeared out of the blue. The men clung to each other in fright. Paying no mind to the trembling trio, Reinhard looked toward the two figures standing at the mansion’s entrance.

They were a pair of petite young girls with peach-colored hair. From the comments of the trio and the follow-up remarks by the girls themselves, they were most certainly twins.

“Flam, Grassis. Did you do this to them?” Reinhard’s shoulders dropped as the twins alternately opened their mouths in response.

“They looked suspicious, so we felt obliged to do something,” Flam confessed.

“They’re delinquents,” Grassis judged.

“They’re not delinquents,” Reinhard defended. “You should have been informed via letter. These men are guests of Lady Felt. Or rather, they will be working for her from now on, which makes them your colleagues.”

“I am sorry for my ignorance, Young Master,” one twin apologized.

“Young Master, my ignorance,” the other concurred.

Reinhard appeared exasperated at the twins’ words. Neither Flam nor Grassis appeared very apologetic at all. Felt, however, sputtered a “pfft” at the exchange between the three. “Ha ha!” Felt interrupted Reinhard with a laugh. Smiling like a fiend, she defended the twins. “As far as looks go, I can’t blame you ladies. If I were you, I’d beat the crap out of them, too, if they showed up at my place!”

“My lady…” Reinhard’s brow wrinkled deeper and deeper at Felt’s words as she folded her hands behind her head.

“What, you gotta problem? I got nothin’ to do with their discipline. That’s your responsibility.”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” Reinhard continued his thought. “It’s just improper for a young lady to laugh in such a way.”

“Oh, quit nitpicking already!” Felt clicked her tongue. “Especially when it’s always with me! And you guys, how long you gonna stand there cowerin’ like that? Get your asses inside!”

Reinhard’s warning fell on deaf ears. Scolding the trio, Felt headed for the entrance with long strides, unsuited to the dress she wore. Her imposing presence pressured Flam and Grassis to make way and welcome her in as the lady of the mansion.

“We’ve been expecting you, Lady Felt,” greeted Flam.

“Expecting you,” welcomed Grassis.

“Howdy!” Felt accepted their warm welcome with a smile, unafraid. The twins made a path, and Felt patted them affectionately on their shoulders. “Your grandparents really helped me out back in the royal capital. I’ll be in your care now!”

“Grandmother asked us to serve you well,” Flam said.

“Grandfather gave us flower seeds,” Grassis added.

Acknowledging their words with a nod, Felt slowly entered the mansion. “Wooow.”

Once inside, she cast a somber gaze around the space, taking in the mansion’s ambiance. The interior did not betray the impression of the building’s exterior, retaining the humble, cozy atmosphere it once held.

“Why’s it so insanely different from the mansion in the royal capital?” she asked.

“The mansion in the royal capital was designed to match the look of the Nobles District,” Reinhard explained. “Originally, it was gifted by His Majesty the King in honor of my grandmother. So naturally, in comparison to that one, this one’s rather…”

“Shabby, huh?” Felt finished his sentence. “In other words, this is where your real strength lies?”

“Yes, correct. The other mansion in the royal capital was intended to live up to the name of the family that bore the Sword Saint. In short, that one is simply a matter of vanity.”

“Vanity, huh? You nobles sure love to soak it all up, huh?” Snorting at Reinhard’s explanation of his mansion’s size, Felt continued on into the building. With Reinhard in tow, they reunited with the trio. However, there was one more person, someone who was like family to Felt, whom they had to meet at the residence.

“Well it’s about time, I was really getting impatient waiting around for you guys.”

“Old Man Rom!” Felt’s face lit up as she looked up at the voice. On the second floor of the stairwell overlooking the entrance hallway stood the figure of a hulking old man, waving his hand in the corridor.

The man possessed a towering physique, surpassing most others in height and width—a testament to his belonging to the giant tribe. This man, lovingly dubbed ‘Old Man Rom,’ was Felt’s foster parent, and the only family member she truly trusted.

Like Felt and the others, Old Man Rom had departed the royal capital to the main residence in a dragon carriage, yet the reason he arrived before all the others was apparent.

“So how was your meeting with the bigwig?”

“Horrible! Well, I mostly stood next to Reinhard.”

“I see, I see.” Old Man Rom nodded gracefully, hand on his chin. “However, all things are an experience, you know.”

Felt’s lips twitched as she recalled the hardships she endured.

On the way from the royal capital, although they hardly made any stops along the way, they did pay a visit to an influential figure’s mansion as a sort of courtesy call. They appeared to have a connection with Reinhard’s family, so he hoped they would cooperate with them in the royal selection.

While Felt and the others went to do so, Old Man Rom had opted to leave separately, departing for the main residence ahead of them.

According to Old Man Rom, he just isn’t a fan of formalities. But there’s probably more to it than that. After all, a lot can happen when you live long enough. It’s a natural process. Even a fourteen-year-old like me can understand that. I guess if he wants to tell me about it someday, he will.

Felt, however, respected Old Man Rom’s intentions, and refrained from pressing the matter any further.

“I brought in the luggage,” Rom said. “The twins said I could use any room I like. You don’t mind, do you?”

“No, not at all,” Reinhard allowed. “As long as you don’t enter my, my family’s, or Flam and her sister’s private quarters, you’re free to use any room of your choosing.” With a nod, he looked back at the twins behind him for confirmation, and continued, “You didn’t allow Gaston and the others inside, but let Old Man Rom in without issue, I see.”

The twins exchanged glances at Reinhard’s comment on Old Man Rom’s casual demeanor, appearing to have already made himself at home in the mansion.

“Well, Old Man Rom looks super strong,” said Flam.

“I don’t wanna get hurt,” added Grassis.

“Try not to avoid difficult tasks from now on,” Reinhard chided gently. “It was fine this time, but it could have caused serious problems.”

Suddenly, three voices arose in protest of Flam and Grassis’s questionable work ethic.

“Why don’t you scold them a little tougher!” shouted Rachins.

“Demand an apology!” insisted Gaston.

“Unfair treatment!” cried Camberley.

Felt grinned mischievously at the sight of Reinhard’s poor handling of the situation. “Well, at least we won’t get bored here, huh?”

“If that’s what Your Ladyship desires…” Reinhard trailed off, gaze sweeping across the faces of everyone in the house. At last, he turned back to Felt, who wore a smug grin. “I, too, shall strive to bring a smile to your face, my lady.”


After bringing her scant belongings into her room, Felt completed her move. Having originally grown up in the slums, she had no real possessions of any kind. She had given away most of her household goods in the royal capital, only bringing with her some clothes that Old Man Rom had made for her, and her favorite knife for self-defense, along with the meager savings she accumulated little by little and the change of clothes, including dresses, the old woman from the mansion in the capital had made her bring.

“I’d rather not wear any of these, but at least this one’s better than the ones Reinhard picked out…”

Although Felt had been wearing these fluttery costumes for more than two months, she showed no signs of warming up to them any more than she did to life in the nobleman’s mansion. They just weren’t her style. However, Felt was aware she needed to come to terms with wearing these kinds of clothes. She understood her position.

She had willingly chosen this role and was therefore prepared for it. So, as a compromise between shame and determination, she resolved to wear at the very least the dress from the old woman. If I let Reinhard control even what I wear, I’ll die from frustration!

“Inside the mansion, I’ll dress as I please, though!”

Promptly removing the dress she had been wearing, she tossed it onto the bed. What she wore over her undergarments was the one outfit she always wore in the royal capital, namely a peasant’s best dress. Donning gloves and snug boots, she would have no problem flying and jumping around.

As Felt inspected the conditions of her footwear, someone knocked on the door and spoke up from outside. “May I, Lady Felt?”

“No,” she replied, promptly declining the visitor’s request despite instantly recognizing their voice.

“I understand. Pardon me,” they continued, ignoring her wishes and entering anyway.

Felt scowled in irritation at their stubborn persistence. “What the hell did ya knock for?! What if I was changing?!”

“I could feel you jumping around from outside the room, Lady Felt,” Reinhard said. “I heard you were going to change. I had a feeling I’d find you dressed in that manner.”

“Shut it with the sermons! I’ll dress as I please in the mansion! In return, I’ll wear a dress when the situation calls for it. Consider it a compromise!” Felt declared, pointing her finger at him.

“So like a conditional agreement,” he said, as he considered her proposal for a brief moment before giving in. “I understand.”

Felt folded her arms in front of her in response to the unexpectedly frank reply and puffed out her chest. “Good. So what did you want? I was about to take a nap.”

“Well,” Reinhard began, “I’d be happy to give you a tour of the mansion and the domain if you’d like. However, I’m sure you must be tired after the long journey, so if you would like to rest, that is fine, too.”

“Why the hell are you acting so wishy-washy? You’re being awfully sympathetic, huh?”

“Your Ladyship made a compromise, so I want to reciprocate. I will come for you at dinner time, then, so please rest up.”


After Reinhard retracted his offer, Felt shut one eye in thought.

Truthfully, Felt had no intention of napping. Rather, she had already planned to sneak out and explore the area herself. Reinhard’s proposal was in line with Felt’s intentions, with the exception of the fact that he would be tagging along. Looking closely, she noticed that he had also changed his attire, shedding his armor-like stiffness appropriate for a knight. He now donned a white jacket and black trousers, an outfit befitting of an ordinary young man.

Although this get-up isn’t remotely enough to cover up his great brilliance, Felt thought, looking at Reinhard’s new look. But his choice of attire made it clear to her that he had a certain level of consideration toward her, albeit in his own way.

Consideration, in essence, requires compromise, huh? Felt gave in, and so did he. So I might as well…

“Hm… Okay, Reinhard. I’ve changed my mind,” she announced. “You wanna show me around, right? Then be my guest.”

“Are you sure?”

“Before my mood sours again. I’ve also been curious about the view from the dragon carriage, so why not?” With a twist of her head, Felt gave Reinhard a light prod in the chest and headed for the door.

Reinhard placed his hand on his chest and bowed to her. “As you wish. In that case, I shall do my utmost to please you, my lady.”

“Ugh, don’t say it so awkwardly. You’re gonna make me change my mind again. Let’s get this over with.”

Felt’s words were met with a short “Yes,” and Reinhard stepped up beside her. Side by side, he appeared to be an otherwise ordinary young man without his knightly attire. A person’s dress was often enough to alter one’s appearance entirely, with such changes often extending beyond the price of each garment. Reinhard’s current outfit matched Felt’s usual outfit well, exuding a sense of comfort.

“Um…” Felt began. “You said you knew I’d dress like this before you came into my room, right? Were you peeping?”

“It was merely an educated guess,” Reinhard replied with a wry smile. “Your Ladyship looked uncomfortable in the dress while we were in the carriage, so I extrapolated from that.”

Felt’s lips twitched in frustration. It was far from amusing, making her feel as if she had been manipulated in the palms of his hands. “Let’s get one thing straight, though. I’m not goin’ out with you alone! I’m inviting Rom and the others, too! So it won’t be just us!”

“I never said we were going out alone!” Reinhard insisted. “Indeed, having Rom and the others around does make it much easier to protect you, Lady Felt.”

Such a textbook response did little more than sour Felt’s already bad mood even more.


The Astrea family domain was surprisingly modest, considering the reputation of the Sword Saint’s lineage, which was widely acknowledged throughout the kingdom.

The Astrea domain comprised only of a small fiefdom, with one small town named Hakuchuri, which was centered around the main Astrea residence. The size of Hakuchuri was also modest, primarily engaged in agriculture, animal husbandry, and the local specialty: the earth dragon industry.

“Beyond the High Klara Plateau is Flanders,” Reinhard explained, “one of the five great cities. Flanders is said to be the birthplace of earth dragons, with a long history of its industry flourishing within the city. Hakuchuri also reaps benefits from this, providing homes for many artisans skilled in the craft of saddles, reins, and earth dragon gear.”

“Is that what you were talking about before? We can actually ride an earth dragon? I’m actually kinda looking forward to that.”

“Then I will make that happen,” he assured. “Allow me to find a good earth dragon for you.”

“Cooool,” Felt responded nonchalantly before prancing nimbly down the road. Reinhard could not help but smile at his mistress’s inability to mask her enthusiasm as he continued leading their tour of the Astrea domain.

For Felt, who had been born and raised in the royal capital, this was her first real foray into the outside world. It was no wonder that nearly everything that caught her eyes struck her as fresh and novel. Indeed, merely observing her surroundings served as ample amusement for her stroll.

“Hey, Reinhard. What’s the deal with those things?” Felt asked with curiosity, pointing at something.

“Those are black sheep,” Reinhard replied without hesitation. “They’re not raised for meat, but for wool.” However, it was clear that this simple explanation wasn’t enough to satisfy his mistress’s curiosity, so he continued. “Their sheared wool is in high demand, as it can be spun into cotton or yarn. The majority of farmers in this region raise black sheep, as it’s an ideal location for grazing. In fact, I’d imagine such wool must have also been used in your clothing, Lady Felt.”

“Wow, that’s pretty cool! But won’t someone steal ‘em if they’re allowed to roam free like that?”

“Unlike in the royal capital, in a town of this size, everyone knows each other. People worry more about witchbeasts attacking their grazing sheep than them getting stolen. Also, the wild earth dragons keep them in check. There’s hardly ever an issue.”

“What…? They’re wild, but they protect livestock?”

“They’re rather friendly toward humans. So much so, in fact, that they often support us with our daily routines.”

Felt nodded, impressed by Reinhard’s knowledge. She squinted out at the pasture. The black sheep were fuzzy creatures with dark fur that peacefully grazed in the fenced-in grassland. Reinhard mentioned they were at the ideal size to start shearing.

Felt’s questions about livestock, farm equipment, the ranch, the town, and everything in between, were endless. In fact, she didn’t even have any complaints about Reinhard’s guidance at that moment. Well, except for one.

“It still woulda been better if I wasn’t alone with you, though.”

Reinhard smiled wryly and furrowed his brow in dismay at Felt’s snide remark. “I am indeed hurt to hear you say that to my face, my lady.”

As Felt had grumbled, it was indeed just the two of them, her and Reinhard, strolling through the town of Hakuchuri. Neither Old Man Rom nor any of the three idiots had come along to accompany them. Of course, as she had mentioned before setting out, she did make sure to invite their other party members beforehand. However, everyone else just so happened to be too busy with their own tasks to join them.

“But I didn’t wanna cancel just because of that. I ain’t no coward, y’know!”

“If Your Ladyship was displeased, I would’ve had no intention of forcing to you to come.”

“This is about my mood. It has nothing to do with you. It’s a matter of my own personal victory or defeat. Anyway, I’m having a good time for now.”

Waving a dismissive hand in the air, Felt snickered at Reinhard’s concern. It was unclear how he may have interpreted her response, but nonetheless, he proceeded without pause. That was his own answer.


Felt strolled along, hands clasped behind her head, glancing up at the tall figure beside her. He’s strong. There ain’t no question about that. He also almost always has answers when I ask him something. He’s probably the best servant one could ask for.

And yet, Felt had always felt an itch of frustration toward him, a particular sentiment that always prompted her to act stubborn around him. Such an emotion was baffling to her, which only fueled her peculiar obstinacy toward him.

“Is something the matter?”

“Nothin’,” she replied curtly. “But this area’s your hometown, isn’t it?”

“I was born in the royal capital. However, I grew up here as a child, so you certainly could call this my hometown. Why do you ask?”

“And despite that…”

Reinhard’s answer made Felt close one eye. And then…

“Oh, Sir Reinhard! You’ve returned!”

A high-pitched voice caught their attention. When they turned around, there was a townsperson waving their hand in greeting. Reinhard’s conspicuous appearance, just like earlier in the dragon carriage, made him rather easy to pick out from the crowd. As he waved back, the villager quickly bowed his head, looking immensely pleased.

“That’s Cochran. He’s the heir to the ranch we saw earlier. His friend works as a craftsman of earth dragon equipment. I thought I’d ask him to make some earth dragon gear for you, Lady Felt.”

“It’s crazy how you seem to know so much about everyone you see.”

“Well, it’s a small town, you see. They’re also the residents of our domain. Not to mention I consider them my friends from my hometown. It’s not much to brag about.”

“Friends, huh?”

Felt twisted her head to look at the young man who had greeted them. She had no doubt that he had friendly intentions, as he was the one to approach them. But does he really regard Reinhard as a friend? she wondered. The young man appeared to be the same age as Reinhard. However, it seemed to Felt that he had drawn a line between them due to their different family background and personality, among other reasons.

Reinhard responded to Felt’s musings with a sad smile. “I am in a different position than them, after all,” he said. “It is indeed challenging to form casual friendships. Nonetheless, I’m willing to open up to them.”

“You’re the most powerful knight in the kingdom, a nobleman, and a lord, right? I can understand how they feel. Oh, could it be? Even in your hometown, you don’t have a single friend, do you?”

“I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but I don’t have anyone I could call a drinking buddy”, Reinhard said, shrugging nonchalantly at Felt’s unintentionally sardonic probing. “Even though I am a knight, that title is merely a burden to me here. And yet, it’s not something I can simply discard, even if I wanted to.”

“Have you ever wanted to discard it?” she asked, taken aback by his last remark.

“No. I have never… It’s my fate to carry this weight on my shoulders.”

His response was devoid of any shame or pride, which made Felt feel an itching frustration. She swiftly shook it off, however, quickly smiling to reveal her fang. “I see, you don’t have any friends. No wonder no one came to see ya when ya came all the way back to your hometown.”

“Well, if you put it that way,” Reinhard said. “Also it’s in poor taste for you to derive pleasure from that.”

“Heh heh,” Felt snickered. “No matter what you say, it’s not going to work on me now.” Reinhard had never left himself open, but she’d finally managed to catch him in a moment of vulnerability. I’m gonna keep toyin’ with him for a while.

However, Reinhard interrupted Felt’s plan with some words of his own. “However… It didn’t appear as if you had any friends to bid you farewell in the royal capital yourself, Lady Felt.”

“Ugh!” Felt groaned.

“In fact,” he continued, “if it weren’t for Master Rom, that would mean that you also had no friends, my lady.”

“Ugh, just drop it!” Felt snapped, her face flushing red since he’d hit her where it really hurt. “Old Man Rom is the only one I need!”

Just as the entire situation was headed to a stalemate, Reinhard suddenly lost his poise and smiled. His shimmering azure eyes reflected the surface of the nearby lake. Felt pursed her lips. “What?” she asked.

“Nothing. Your Ladyship really respects Rom. It’s endearing.”

“We’re family, you know. Even a great swordsman like you, who can do anything, must have someone he admires, right? Even in the royal capital, it was like that with the old couple, wasn’t it?”

The elderly couple who managed the other mansion had affectionately referred to Reinhard as ‘Young Master’. They loved him. If only in terms of their relationship, they may be his subordinates, but they were practically like family to him. That was why he could act so naturally with them.

“Of course. I admire the old couple, but if you are talking about respect, I respect all my family and ancestors. But of all of them, I suppose I respect my great-grandfather the most.”

“Your great-grandfather?”

“My grandmother’s father. The head of the family two generations ago, Veltol Astrea.”

“Was he also a Sword Saint?” Felt was not too familiar with the intricacies of Divine Protections. All she knew was that the Divine Protection of the Sword Saint was passed down from generation to generation in the Astrea family. If Reinhard, the current Sword Saint, held him in such high regard, then it was only natural that his great-grandfather must have been a Sword Saint as well.

However, Reinhard shook his head at the notion. “My great-grandfather did not inherit the Divine Protection of the Sword Saint. However, he was a virtuous lord beloved by his people for his morality and sound governance. There are no records of him as a swordsman, but I did hear that my grandfather, himself a swordsman, admired him, too. So I imagine that he must have had some skill with the sword.”

“Heh. A virtuous swordsman. I can’t imagine that,” Felt remarked.

Though Felt herself wielded a blade in the form of a knife, it was a personal style vastly different from swordsmanship. When she thought of what a swordsman was, Reinhard was what came to mind. So it was difficult for her to imagine a virtuous swordsman, as she had nothing but complaints about his character.

“Although it’s true that you’re pretty popular with the townsfolk,” she admitted. “Maybe it’s just ‘cause I’m a stray dog with no concept of that ‘virtue’ stuff…”

“Lady Felt?” Reinhard paused and peered at Felt’s pensive expression. Their gazes locked, blue meeting red, when Felt’s lips twitched. Suddenly…

“You’re way too close!” she spat.

“Ah, my apologies.”

She pushed Reinhard’s chin away with her palm, forcing herself past him. Reinhard chuckled as he was shoved aside and turned his gaze to the sky. Above them, the sun had already begun its descent, tinting the sky in gradients of fading scarlet.

“Lady Felt, it’s about time we return to the mansion. Dinner will be served soon.”

“Hmm, fine. We’ve been walkin’ around all day so I am gettin’ pretty hungry.”

“Flam and Grassis are preparing dinner tonight, so I’d like to reintroduce you to them again at the table.”

“True, we only chatted a bit earlier.” The twins, who appeared younger than Felt in age, possessed the ability to easily outmatch the three idiots, as expected of being the granddaughters of the elderly couple. It must have been a testament to the training they received from their grandparents.

“They’re both caretakers of the mansion and may sometimes serve as Your Ladyship’s guards if need be,” Reinhard explained. “They descend from a family that has served House Astrea since the beginning, so their skills are truly impressive.”

“I don’t care ‘bout that now,” Felt dismissed. “What I care about is their cooking skills!”

“They learned from Auntie,” Reinhard reassured, “so you can count on their culinary finesse to be outstanding, as well.”

“Awesome!” Felt clenched her fists in delight at Reinhard’s evaluation. Unbeknownst to her, Reinhard smiled at the sight of the biggest smile she’d shown all day.

As Felt made her way home, a sense of relief swept over her. A feeling she never realized she was capable of. She had been uprooted to a foreign land, surrounded by strangers, and forced to navigate a world she had never known before. Felt was both anxious and determined and resolved not to succumb to defeat.

That half-day journey really cleared up some of my fears. The residence isn’t so big, there ain’t so many servants, the locals are friendly, and the land isn’t so vast. The list could go on, but Felt left it at that. Seeing the reality right before my eyes makes me wonder if those anxieties were all in my head. Thanks to this, I can finally face this new life head-on.

“I’m starting to think you’re pullin’ some strings, though.”

“You overestimate me, my lady. I possess no such ability to control people’s minds or actions. It’s merely happenstance.”

“Well, I can only pray that’s true,” Felt said, mischievously poking out her tongue, despite having no particular deity to pray to.

Everything is in Reinhard’s control. With such paranoid imaginings lingering in her mind, they strolled through town, up the hill, and back to the mansion. Just then…

“You sure you didn’t do anything, huh?” Felt asked with a puzzled look.

“I’m afraid I’m just as lost as you this time,” Reinhard responded to her doubts, equally baffled. For there right before them, at the gate of the mansion, lay a basket containing… a baby.

Accompanying the basket was a single note: “Please take good care of Ilya.”


“Her name’s Ilya. She’s a baby. She was abandoned in front of the mansion.”

Felt delivered the facts bluntly, placing the basket in the center of the table. There, atop the dining room table, a baby girl with golden locks slumbered peacefully. She couldn’t have been more than a few months old. They had brought her back inside the mansion with them, having been unable to come up with another option.


Everyone in the mansion exchanged awkward glances at Felt’s introduction of the infant. Along with her and Reinhard, everyone else had gathered in the room, including Old Man Rom, the three idiots, and the servant twins. Yet the presence of so many people did nothing to diminish the initial shock.

A heavy silence hung over the room. The peach-haired twins were the first to break it, looking at Felt and Reinhard.

“Young Master and Lady Felt,” Flam began, “you certainly wasted no time having children.”

“The fastest birth ever,” added Grassis.

“Listen, you!” Felt exploded. “I! Am! In! NO MOOD FOR YOUR STUPID JOKES!”

What the twins had intended as a joke failed to amuse, only fueling Felt’s anger instead as she slammed her hands on the table. If their intent was to make light of the duo who carried the baby inside, it only fell flat. However, Felt’s aggressive outburst startled the baby, as well.

“Ah…” the baby started to coo.

“Oh dear, Lady Felt, you woke her up,” Flam pointed out.

“She’s awake,” added Grassis.


The baby’s eyes slowly opened, revealing identical blue pupils reflecting the faces of the diners around her. Then, one second passed, then two, then three, then…

“Waaaahhhhhh!” Little Ilya wailed loudly in response to Felt’s outburst. The volume of her cry was so loud, it echoed throughout the entire mansion.

“Oh, shit! She’s crying!” Felt cried, instinctively covering her ears. “Oh, somebody! Anybody, please, do something about that baby!”

“I regret to inform you, but…” started Flam.

“We’re inexperienced,” Grassis finished.

“Useless!” Felt groaned. “Hey, Reinhard!”

“I’ll give it a try, however…”

Flam and Grassis immediately raised a white flag, while Felt was reluctant to do anything from the start. All the girls had abandoned this fight, so Reinhard, appointed in their stead, scooped up the baby, gently rocking her back and forth and patting her back with a soft thump. “There, there, don’t cry,” he soothed. “You’re a strong child. You’re a good girl, Ilya.”

However, Felt protested his method as futile. “Don’t flirt with her! It ain’t like she wanted you to pick her up!”

However, in Reinhard’s arms, the cries gradually subsided.

“There now, settle down,” he continued. “Calm down… There, you’re all better now.”

“That was impressive. Almost as surprising as when you blew up the loot house.”


Felt looked at him in shock. Ilya, now quiet, patted Reinhard’s face with her small hand as he smiled in relief. Perhaps she found solace in their identical eyes.

“Or maybe she’s just happy to be held by a good-looking guy. She’s a girl, after all,” Old Man Rom remarked.

“If that’s the reason, babies are crazy,” Felt replied.

Reinhard cradled Ilya as Old Man Rom folded his arms in agreement. But then the tiny Camberley of the three idiots interjected with a “Wait a minute!” He stepped forward and held out his arms to Reinhard. “Give her to me. I had lots of brothers and sisters, so I’m used to handlin’ babies!”

“That’s good to know, but Ilya’s already stopped crying.”

“Never mind that! I’ll show you how to really soothe a baby!”

Reinhard handed Ilya to the confident Camberley, who peered into Ilya’s face and widened his eyes. “Belobelobelobelobah!”


“‘Really soothe a baby’ my ass!” exclaimed Felt. “Now she’s cryin’ even harder!”

Camberley, making comically exaggerated expressions, only succeeded at upsetting Ilya once again. Despite his attempt to test his soothing skills on her, he was unable to lighten the cranky Ilya’s mood. Negotiations collapsed, and he completely succumbed to the baby’s power.

“Damn! What’s wrong with me? Gaston!”

“Oh, huh? Why ya givin’ her to me?! Uhh… belobeloblaaa—”


Camberley tossed Ilya aside. Gaston, making the next attempt, was also unsuccessful. With Ilya’s face red and tear-stained, Gaston passed her off to the next in line. “Rachins, I’m countin’ on ya!” he exclaimed.

“Whoa, hold up! What am I s’posed to do with a kid…?! Huh?” Rachins protested with a miserable expression as Gaston entrusted Ilya into his care. However, once in his arms, her crying suddenly ceased.


The baby’s unexpected reaction made Rachins break into a chuckle. “Heh, heh… I dunno what’s goin’ on, but she stopped her cryin’. I guess—”


“Hey! Don’t go makin’ me look like a fool! What, ya run on a time delay or somthin’?!”

“No,” Rom chimed in thoughtfully. “She was probably taking her time evaluating you, and after some consideration, she concluded you were insufficient.”

“Shut yer trap, old man! Then you do somethin’ about it, Cromwell!” Rachins, who failed the screening test by a slight margin, yelled indignantly as Old Man Rom preached about the psychology of the baby and passed her to him.

Upon having Ilya pressed into his large palm, the wrinkles in Old Man Rom’s face deepened as he smiled. “There, there, stop crying now,” he soothed.

“Heh, what do you think you’re doing?” Rachins said snidely. “If it’s that easy to make her stop crying, we would’ve…”


“Wha the hell!?”

The three idiots had failed at every attempt, but Old Man Rom appeared to have some sort of magic touch with Ilya. In the end, Reinhard and Rom were the only ones able to pass the bawling baby’s judgment.

“As a girl, I can see why she’d choose the young master, but…” Flam commented.

“Old Man Rom is a mystery,” Grassis finished her sister’s sentence.

“There’s nothin’ mysterious about it!” Felt erupted. “Choosin’ Old Man Rom just shows the kid’s got good taste! I’m not happy about lumpin’ him in with Reinhard, though!”

The trio hung their heads in shame as the girls talked down to them, despite having also been useless. Still comforting Ilya, Old Man Rom turned his head, casting them a sidelong glance, and said, “Even so… No clues but a name, huh? Wasn’t there anything else in the basket?”

“Just a pillow and blanket to wrap her in.” Reinhard inspected the basket, gaze downcast. “There was no signature on the letter, either.”

“If they’re the kinda parents who’d throw away their own kid,” Felt said, clicking her tongue, “you really think they’d sign anything? Ridiculous.”

Prompting a disapproving look, Felt pointed an accusing finger at him for his lack of understanding. “Get it? This brat was abandoned by her folks. They probably saw you in this mansion and thought they’d leave her here to grow up in a big place. It’s disgusting.”


“What about a nearby town? Any chance we might find the parents there?”

Opposite the bitter Felt, Old Man Rom posed the thoughtful question to Reinhard, who pondered the question for a moment before shaking his head. “As far as I can remember, it’s hard to say. There were a few pregnant women in town, but…” he trailed off, squinting at Ilya. Wrapped in a white swaddling cloth and fiddling with the hairs on Old Man Rom’s arm, it was evident that the baby had only been born very recently. “At this rate, Ilya must only be a few months old,” Reinhard analyzed. “Considering the women who have given birth in that period, the potential candidates are very few. Plus, there’s the matter of her appearance…”

“Blonde hair and dark blue eyes, huh?” Felt interjected, running her fingers through her own hair. As far as she knew, hair of this shade wasn’t an unusual sight in Lugunica, nor was blue eyes. Thanks to her job and former occupation, she had developed the habit of observing people, and both were quite commonplace. “Blonde hair ain’t uncommon. Even my hair’s golden.”

“Indeed, it is not unusual to see people with gold hair like you, Lady Felt,” Reinhard acknowledged. “However, that is mostly limited to the suburbs of the royal capital. In Hakuchuri and southeastern regions like Flanders, however, brown hair is far more common. The people we met just earlier were the same, weren’t they?”

“I suppose so, now that you mention it,” Felt said, recalling the townsfolk, still fresh in her memory. Reinhard’s right; everyone we met in town had brown locks, while the elderly folk sported gray. “But why’s that matter?”

“Exactly what this young man is trying to convey,” another voice broke in. “The child’s hair and eye color are quite peculiar for a newborn baby… In this region, anyway.”

“You’re right, Master Rom,” Reinhard affirmed. “Although I do hope my concerns are unfounded…” Reinhard mused thoughtfully, while Felt crossed her arms at his guess.

With a twist of her head, she snorted lightly and scratched her temple. “Ahh shut up! Just what are you tryin’ to say, anyway?!”

“There’s a possibility that there’s more behind Ilya than just being an abandoned child. Therefore, I must ask you something, my lady.”


“What do you want to do with Ilya once we bring her back?”

At Reinhard’s soft-spoken question, Felt’s voice lodged in her throat. Choking on her own breath, her gaze turned to Ilya, cradled in Old Man Rom’s arms. The baby remained the same, still entranced by the hairs on Old Man Rom’s arms, oblivious to all the gossip about her taking place behind her back. Abandoned by her parents and left in this mansion, with not a single say in the direction of her own future.

“Lady Felt, please make a decision,” Reinhard urged as she pondered.

He wants my input for this decision? Is that his idea of showing respect? Or is he just usin’ the situation to test me and see if I can make decisions on my own without his or Old Man Rom’s help?

“You’re a cheeky bastard, ain’t ya?”


“Nothing. So, you want me to decide what’s gonna happen with this kid, right?”

Whatever Reinhard’s intentions, Felt’s determination was set. Puffing her cheeks, she flashed a mischievous smile and pointed at Ilya. “I got nothin’ against this kid,” she started. “But I’m pissed as hell at the folks who dumped her here. So I wanna find them and have a little chat!”

“A chat, you say?”

“Yes, a chat. I wanna chat with them, and I wanna know what really goes on in the minds of parents who abandon their kids. I wanna have a discussion.” Felt’s expression contorted as she spoke. “I wanna talk to the folks who abandoned their kid, and I wanna know how they feel. And for that reason…” she paused. “I’m gonna keep this kid around and scare the shit outta them!”


Reinhard was silenced by Felt’s proclamation. The others around her were also rendered speechless. However, aside from their facial expressions, their eyes held the same gaze. Simply put, they were eyes conveying warmth.

“What the hell you lookin’ at me like that for? You got a problem or somethin’?!”

“It may have been my fault, but you need to learn to be more honest with your feelings…”

“Shut up!” Felt snapped at Old Man Rom’s affectionate expression with a growl. “I’m serious! Stop makin’ up weird shit!” However, the intensity of her excitement was once again far too extreme for the baby.

“Waaaahhhhhh!!!!” The baby’s cries reverberated through the mansion from the dining room table once more.

“Ahh, goddammit!”


Late that evening, just past midnight, Ilya finally grew tired of crying and fell asleep.

“Kids are something else,” Felt remarked, exhausted, plopping down on the couch. “Where does such a tiny body find so much stamina?”

“Speaking of tiny bodies…” Flam said.

“Like yours,” Grassis added.

As the twins retorted to her rant, Felt glared at them. “Shut up. I don’t wanna hear anything from y’all who are half my size. Just how old are you two anyway?”

“We’ll be twelve this year.”

“Time to become independent.”

“You ain’t independent if y’all’re always together,” Felt mocked. “But still…”

The twins, puffing out their chests, were surprised at Felt’s words.

“That’s true…”

“A blind spot.”

Ignoring them, Felt shifted her gaze toward the back of the room, at the table in the common room, the basket on top, and Reinhard hard at work beside it. “You can even change a baby’s diaper? You really can do anything.”

Anything is a bit of a stretch,” Reinhard replied. “But I once looked after the babies of an acquaintance of mine. So I do have some experience with diapers.”

“Oh, you took care of babies, huh?” Surprised by this unexpected scene, Felt laid back down and rested her cheek on her hand. From the corner of her eye, she saw the twins squirming, cheeks slightly tinted. She cast a dubious gaze between the twins and Reinhard, puzzled by their reaction. “Oh. I get it! You’re the babies of that acquaintance of his!”

“Lady Felt, that’s so embarrassing!”

“So humiliating.”

Blushing, the twins furtively affirmed Felt’s observations. Convinced by her reaction, Reinhard chuckled. “You figured it out? Yes. I’ve known Flam and Grassis since they were both babies…”

“You mean you put your hands on those poor babies!?” accused Felt.

“Wait a minute. Please allow me to explain myself.”

“I’m only kidding. It’s one thing for you to hold me prisoner, but it’s quite another to change diapers for these two when they were babies. It’s also completely different from changing this other baby’s diaper right now,” Felt said, lowering her finger and blowing on its tip.

“That’s a relief,” Reinhard replied, withdrawing his hand. “That said, the diaper is now successfully changed. Flam, Grassis, did you get that?”

“Yes, young master. It’s perfect.”

“The diaper master.”

“I’ll be counting on you,” he informed them. “Now then, let’s change the blanket and mattress. But she might get uncomfortable if we use something she’s not used to, so we’ll keep the original bedding for now.”

At Reinhard’s prompt and efficient instruction, Flam and Grassis bowed and left the common room. Only Felt and Reinhard remained in its confines, just the two of them—or three if you counted the sleeping Ilya.

“With the exception of Old Man Rom, all the men are useless,” Felt complained.

“Even if they can’t tend to Ilya, they should be able to assist in finding her parents,” Reinhard suggested. “Tomorrow, I’ll have those three men aid in our endeavors.” He rested a hand upon the basket, advocating for the trio against Felt’s earlier assessment.

Felt frowned at his response, having only intended to say that comment to herself. “Tomorrow, huh?” she asked. “Are you sure? They’re deadbeats. They might run away, y’know?”

“I’ve already talked to the people in town and at the dragon carriage stop,” Reinhard confirmed. “I instructed them to stop and report anyone in traveling clothes or with similar features to Ilya’s. I also inquired about the town’s recently expectant mothers. But unfortunately, there was no one who resembled her mother.”

“After doing all that,” Felt wondered, “is there anything left for those three idiots to do?” Felt was slightly taken aback by Reinhard’s diligence as she eyed him with skepticism. For starters, Reinhard’s the main one who’s been lookin’ after Ilya since after dinner. Where on earth did he find the time to do any of that?

“If you don’t mind, Lady Felt,” Reinhard said, changing the subject, “would you like to try changing her diaper?”

“Uh, maybe next time if I feel up to it,” she conceded. “I saw how to do it, so I can probably do it.”

“That’s good to hear.” Reinhard nodded, and Felt pursed her lips at his apparent aloofness.

Pretending to teach Flam and Grassis, Reinhard proceeded to show them how to change diapers, with the intention of Felt learning from it, as well. Felt didn’t want to entrust everything to Reinhard, either, so she had planned to learn from the start.

“You knew I wasn’t gonna say anything myself, huh?” Felt muttered. “Shit, you’re so annoying.”

“What’s wrong?” Reinhard asked, raising an eyebrow at Felt’s tongue-in-cheek remark.

“Nothing… Wait, no, it’s not nothing. What do you think it is, really?” Felt scratched her head with her free hand as she lay slumped on the sofa.

“Lady Felt?”

“Bringing the baby here, finding the parents, and taking care of her were my own decisions. You made me choose. But what are your thoughts on it?”


“Oh, and for the record, I don’t want you to include my opinion in your thinking. I am me. You are you. Let’s keep the two separate. Otherwise, I’ll feel really weird.”

She swung her legs up and down to gain momentum. Raising herself up on the couch, Felt straightened and turned to Reinhard. She noticed him shut his eyes.

Then he looked back at Felt, motioning gingerly toward Ilya with his hand. “I suppose that even if you had ordered me to abandon the baby, I would still have gone along with it,” Reinhard finally replied. “There is no truly correct answer in this case.”

“That’s not your opinion, though…”

“And then,” he continued, “I think I would have secretly searched for Ilya’s parents and sheltered her somewhere in the mansion, behind Your Ladyship’s back.”

“Oh?” Felt said as Reinhard smiled softly, arms outstretched. Dumbfounded by his grin, she realized that she had been the one he was stringing along. Her face flushed, and anger welled up inside of her. “Y-You…”

“Lady Felt, Ilya is…”

“Ugh…! Don’t act so superior!” Felt wanted to shout at him, but restrained herself at the very last moment, reflecting on the situation. But the anger lingered, and she glared at Reinhard with indignation, delivering her outburst in that single sentence.

In the end, Reinhard always got his own way. Regardless of Felt’s intentions, he was devoted to this baby whether out of his own desire or not.

“You’re only doing it ‘cause you think it’s best for the baby,” she said.

“Indeed, it is in my nature to help those in need,” Reinhard acknowledged. “But in this case, I don’t think one needs to think so hard when it comes to helping a baby, right?”


“And if you don’t mind me getting a little personal…”

Felt’s eyebrows rose at the sound of the word ‘personal’. It wasn’t very often that Reinhard would preface a statement with his own personal views. And that was precisely the response that she was hoping for on this occasion.

Reinhard smiled thinly at Felt’s anticipation. “It is an honor for me as a knight to be in agreement with you, Lady Felt.”

“I… uh…”

“I remember that moment when you gave me your orders during the royal selection ceremony. I, too, would like to follow my mistress’s wishes whenever possible.”

Felt’s mouth hung open in embarrassment from the sheer audacity of his comment. Reinhard simply shrugged in his usual fashion in response to her reaction. It wasn’t an act of courtesy, nor was it a random slip of the tongue. It was unmistakably his genuine opinion, but that fact alone was what triggered Felt’s agitation.

Felt gritted her teeth with a shudder, and blurted out, “You know, you really are a jerk, ain’t ya? That’s exactly what creeps me out about you!” Her heated outburst echoed throughout the mansion. Then, just a beat later…


And, in retribution for her poor judgment, the mansion trembled with wails all throughout the night.


At midnight, at the same time that Astrea Manor reeled with violent tremors…

“Did you find the woman and child?”

A low voice pierced a dimly lit room. The voice was mature yet robust, despite its gruffness. It held the kind of power attributed only to those who have reigned above others for numerous years, a power one could only call dignity. Naturally, the owner of the voice had his subordinates. As if to prove this point, multiple breaths of air stirred in the air as one man spoke up. “Please forgive me, sir, but we are still in pursuit. We have no doubt that they have already departed the city.”

“Find them. Any leads on their destination?”

“They have no one to turn to and limited resources. We must start from the nearest point and work our way up.”

Upon hearing this report from his underling, the man with the voice issued commands without a moment’s hesitation. “You’re taking too damn long. Narrow it down. Start with Hakuchuri.”

In response, the room rustled with unrest. However, the subordinate making the report quietly bowed. “Understood, sir. I will send someone immediately. Although things may get a tad messy…”

“That’s not my concern. My priority is to secure them, but even if the woman doesn’t make it back, make sure the baby does.”

“So be it. Let’s go.”

With that, the subordinate left the room, accompanied by the rest of the men. The door quietly shut behind him, leaving the lone man in the bleak chamber. He creaked out of his chair, rising to his feet, and walked over to the window behind him to peer out. “I wonder where they’ve run off to…”

Outside the window, the city of Flanders, one of the five great cities, loomed in the distance at night. The room that he occupied belonged to a mansion on a hill commanding a panoramic view of the city.

In his top-floor chamber, the man drew a cigar from his desk drawer and lit it. The faint glow revealed a deeply wrinkled visage. His golden hair had already lost its luster. And his blue eyes brimmed with a fierce glint. “I will find you, Ilya,” the man muttered, his voice drifting away, swallowed up by the dark, starry sky above Flanders.


The past few days in Hakuchuri went by like clockwork. It had become routine to hear the wails of a baby and the intense quarrel between a boy and girl in the Astrea’s main residence, situated atop a hill.

“Waaaaah!” The baby bawled with all its might, causing the townspeople to pause in their work. Exchanging glances, they would laugh and comment, “Looks like it’s started up again,” before returning to their tasks.

Such became the day-to-day rhythm in the town of Hakuchuri.

“Lady Felt, I don’t want to repeat myself too often, but please listen to me closely once more.” With a stiff preamble, Reinhard cut in wearing a serious expression on his face. It was unusual for this man, ordinarily mild-mannered, to carry such stridency in his voice, but it was not necessarily a reflection of his emotional state, rather because otherwise, his voice might miss its intended audience. After all, the baby had been wailing with a ferocity that rocked the entire mansion.

“Waaah!” The sobbing baby, Ilya, had been doing her damnedest to protest her life’s woes with all her might. Felt and the others had also done their damnedest to tend to Ilya over the past few days since deciding to keep her at the mansion. However, Ilya was not one to compromise, using her status as a baby as a shield.

Of course, they could never burden a mere infant with adult matters, but…

“All you do is cry, cry, cry!” Felt exclaimed, covering her ears. “That’s all you do, all day, every day, all around the clock!”

“Don’t exaggerate,” Reinhard said. “It’s not all day long. The actual frequency is every few hours. It’s just that babies can’t distinguish between morning and night, so it’s easy to feel it that way.”

“Did I give you the impression that I give a shit about such petty things?” Felt barked, hands over ears. “If you have time to bullshit, just show her your face and make her stop crying!”

However, Reinhard shook his head. “No. Right now, anything I do to stop her from crying now would only be a stopgap measure. If we don’t get to the root of the matter, Ilya will weep and sob over and over again. It’s becoming unbearable, even for me.”

“Don’t play the victim card now. What do you mean, the ‘root of the matter’?”

“That, of course, lies with you, Lady Felt. That’s why Ilya is crying right now.”

“Me? What the hell are you talking about? What’s this got to do with me?”

“Take a look,” Reinhard said, pointing at Ilya, who was lying on her bed. Felt, annoyed by Reinhard’s remark, glanced at the diaper wrapped around her.

“It’s Ilya’s diaper,” he continued. “Your Ladyship was the one who changed it. But look at how you put it on. It’s quite sloppy. I have no doubt that Ilya is itchy.”

“Oh, who cares?” Felt moaned, refuting Reinhard’s accusation. “As long as it covers her ass and keeps her from shitting all over the place!”

Indeed, the cloth serving as Ilya’s diaper was wrapped around her quite haphazardly, and indeed, it had been Felt who had wrapped it. But that said, the whole idea of changing diapers seemed ridiculous to her in the first place.

“Lady Felt… Please be more attentive to Ilya’s feelings. Otherwise, you’ll only get further away from your quest for the throne.”

“Quit talking nonsense! What’s a diaper got to do with becoming queen? You get off on watching me change a brat’s diapers or something? Pervert!” Reinhard’s argument was swapped for a polemic, and Felt clawed at her head in frustration. “Why do I have to deal with this? Where are those twins? What about those three idiots? What the hell are they doing?”

“Flam and Grassis are occupied with the mansion’s chores. Rachins, Gaston, and Camberley are looking for Ilya’s parents, and I’m sure Your Ladyship knows what Master Rom is up to.”


Felt could not say a word as Reinhard drove her into a corner. At the same time, he turned to Ilya, asking, “Are you all right?” He proceeded to readjust her diaper. “There, there, we’ll take care of you now.”

As aggravating as it was to listen to Reinhard, Old Man Rom was currently away from the mansion. He had left to meet an acquaintance outside of the royal capital, so he was quite busy on his own. Consequently, with Old Man Rom absent and Felt left to care for the baby, her spirits had all but spiraled down the drain.

“So it’s just me and you who are available right now, Lady Felt,” Reinhard concluded.

“If that’s the case, why don’t you search for those parents instead of those three morons?” Felt asked.

“Those three can barely do a thing for Ilya,” Reinhard explained. “So if I do that, you’d be left to deal with Ilya all on your own. Don’t you see?”

“What have I done..!” With her head in her hands, Felt sighed at the sight of Ilya, now in a cheerful mood after having her diaper changed.

It had been five days since Ilya arrived at the mansion, and the baby’s tyrannical tendencies were only getting worse. How carefree you are, despite the turmoil you’ve been causing for everyone around here, all the while wearing the smile of an angel. What do ya think you are, a queen!?

“We gotta find her parents quickly,” Felt lamented. “Otherwise, even I can’t tell what I’ll end up doing to them for making me go through this.”

“In such moments,” Reinhard suggested, “just look at Ilya’s face. Doesn’t her innocence wash over you and make you feel at peace?”

“It’s exactly that face that’s driving me insane right now.”

Although Felt was tempted to snap back at him out of habit, this situation called for something different. There really is no way to win over a baby whose life is bound by neither day nor night. Can’t help but wonder if her folks abandoned her not because of poverty, but because of her incessant wailing.

“Good grief, if that’s the case. Give me a break.” If crying alone was reason enough to abandon a baby, then the world would be overrun with abandoned kids. Before even discussin’ whether I’ll become the queen or not, I don’t wanna believe the country I’m living in is such a cruel place.

“Ah, it’s a beautiful day.” With Reinhard fretting over Ilya, Felt gazed out the window absentmindedly. The blue sky, white clouds, and idyllic scenery spread out below them. It was not particularly tranquil, but her lack of sleep from the previous night’s crying made her feel a bit dazed.

“If you want to sleep beside Ilya, I can sing you a lullaby,” Reinhard offered.

“Don’t treat me like a child,” Felt snapped. “I’ll kick your ass.” What, does this guy have eyes in the back of his head? How’d he know I was dozing off? Leaning against the windowsill, the wind tousled her golden bangs as she drifted off to sleep…

“Hmm?” Felt squinted against the breeze and sunlight, clearing her throat with a sudden sense of discomfort. She spotted someone skulking around the landscape from her elevated position. The moment they caught sight of Felt, they turned around in a panic and scrambled away.

“What the hell! That bastard!”

“Lady Felt!”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Felt vaulted out of the window. Reinhard was startled by her swift reaction but was unable to catch up to her since she’d already landed in the garden. On all fours, Felt turned her attention downhill, where she could still see the figure’s back, receding into the distance. Determined to chase after them, she broke into a run, when suddenly…

“Lady Felt,” Reinhard said, appearing beside her a split second later with a hand on her shoulder. “If you need anything, please let me know. That is what I am here for.”

For a moment, Felt wanted to shake him off, but she dismissed her spontaneous reflexes. Taking stock of the situation, she pointed down the hill. “Some weird-ass creep was gawking at the mansion. Go get ‘im!”

“Yes, ma’am!” Reinhard exclaimed, accepting her command. “Please take care of Ilya,” he added, thrusting the baby into her arms.

Reinhard’s figure faded with the wind not a moment after Felt received the baby’s limber, warm body. Kicking the ground, he caught up to the man in a flash. The suspect seemed confident in his ability to escape, but he was no match for Felt, let alone Reinhard. After all, this was a man of iron defenses that even Felt had not been able to escape over the last two months.

“Oh, it’s settled. That takes care of that.” Felt nodded as she put her hands under Ilya’s armpits, letting her legs dangle. A cloud of dust rose at the end of her line of sight as Reinhard pinned the man down, rendering him incapable of resistance. It all happened so fast, Felt couldn’t exactly see what he did to the man, but she figured that wasn’t important.

Waiting, still holding Ilya, Reinhard returned at a leisurely pace, dragging the man back by the scruff of his neck.

“Lady Felt, this way.”

Without pausing to catch his breath, Reinhard threw the man he had dragged to the ground. He was a middle-aged man with an unremarkable appearance, staring at Reinhard with blank, trembling eyes. “Ugh, you’re even more of a monster than the rumors say, you…”

“Though I’m accustomed to being called such things,” Reinhard interrupted, “right now, I’m Lady Felt’s knight.”

“Quit giving that answer whenever you’re called that.” Felt clicked her tongue at his textbook response. “It’s hard on the ears.” She then turned her attention to the trembling man. Observing his nervous smile, she tilted her head and asked, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve been spyin’ on our house, haven’tcha?”

“Heh, heh. Well, I heard that the Sword Saint had returned, and I was curious to get a glimpse of him.”

Felt glanced at Reinhard. “Reinhard, do as you please with his fingers.”

The panic-stricken man’s face paled. “Wait, wait! You’ll what?! Don’t hurt me! What are you doing?”

Reinhard really left an impression on him, huh?

Reinhard rubbed his brow at the sight of the hysterical man, begging for mercy. “Lady Felt, you’ve portrayed me as a rather terrifying being…”

“That’s just common sense. You should know the trouble you’ve put me through.”

Shrugging at Reinhard’s troubled frown, Felt smiled, flashing the man her fang. “Anyway, it’s your turn now. Who are you, where are you from, and why are you here? Answer, or else.”

“O-Or else…?”

“I’ll sic Reinhard on ya.”

Reinhard no longer defended himself against Felt’s ruthless proclamations. He chuckled, accepting the harsh orders. “If that is my duty as your knight,” he acquiesced.

Sensing something far greater than a threat in this alliance, the man exclaimed in a panic, “Alright, alright! I got it, I got it! I’m from the Black Silver Coin! I was ordered by my higher-ups to find the baby!”


“The Black Silver Coin, huh?” Felt put a hand to her forehead as the man recounted his story in full. To be honest, having grown up in the royal capital, I’m not so familiar with the affairs outside of the area, but even I can guess who these Black Silver Coin guys are and what they do for a living.

“The Black Silver Coin is an organization based in Flanders, one of the five great cities,” Reinhard explained. “On the surface, they can appear in a bar in the city, or as an earth dragon goods dealer…”

“But in reality, they are the underworld of the city, the leaders of the dark forces of society. A common trope, ain’t it?” Felt surmised.

There were similar entities in the royal capital with different names, but the reality was the same. Felt had tried to avoid getting involved, but society was not big enough for her to remain completely unaffected.

“But not even the underlings seem to know much more than that.” She sighed. “We have no clue who from the Black Silver Coin is looking for Ilya, or why. Also…”

“We have no idea why Ilya was left at my residence,” Reinhard added.

In the end, they obtained no further information, other than that Ilya was the target. The man they had captured was rolled up in a bamboo mat and shoved into a storeroom, but that was another issue.

We could go directly to the Black Silver Coin, Felt thought, knowing it was a rather rough method. I can just go to their headquarters, use Reinhard as a shield, and uncover the truth. However, Felt quickly abandoned this idea. Not only due to her reluctance to rely on Reinhard but also because she knew it wouldn’t solve the root of the problem.

“But if we don’t do something, we’ll be stuck like…” Pondering over what to do, Felt sank into the weight of her thoughts as she lay on the sofa. Standing by her side, Reinhard looked affectionately at Ilya sleeping peacefully on her bed.

But all Felt could think about was taking action to break through this stagnation.

“Woo-hoo! We’re back! Raise your hands and give us a warm welcome!”

A cheerful, high-pitched voice carried upstairs from the front door of the mansion.

“…Those idiots!” Felt growled. They were supposed to be on duty looking for the parents! Seeing Ilya’s sleeping face twitch at the commotion, Felt clicked her tongue and left the room. Standing in the doorway, she raised an eyebrow. “Shut up, you damn idiots! You’re gonna wake Ilya up!” she shouted at them.

Camberley puffed out his chest and laughed. “You’re one to talk! Besides, you should be talking to us with gratitude!” he cried, before pointing at the front door with all the strength his small frame could muster.

Felt shot him a dubious look. “What? What did you just say…?”

There, Rachins and Gaston appeared, and with them, a beautiful woman with long grayish-brown hair. She appeared to be in her twenties and exuded a soft and gentle aura. Intimidated by the imposing atmosphere of the mansion, her eyes darted around the room with an air of dread. Noticing Felt’s gaze on her, she hastily bowed her head.


The woman’s appearance deepened the quizzical wrinkles between Felt’s brows.

The fearful woman and the three idiots basking in their triumph were nothing but trouble—well, the trio, anyway.

“Reinhard, tie ‘em all up.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Hold on with that order! Look closely! It’s the brat’s mom!”

The instantaneous reaction nearly overlapped with the swift verdict, but that, too, quickly unraveled at Rachins’s words—his declaration that this woman was none other than Ilya’s mother.

“How did you know…that she was Ilya’s mother?” Felt asked.

It was undoubtedly a welcome revelation. But this was not the time for complacency. There remained a strong possibility that the trio had made a mistake in their haste. In response to Felt’s misgivings, Rachins smirked with a “Heh” before adding, “Dumb people might not have caught on, but I figured it out as soon as I saw her clothes. Parents usually abandon kids ‘cause of money. That’s why abandoned kids are usually so shabby. But this kid had clean clothes an’ a nice basket, so I knew right away somethin’ was off.”

“This guy was brought up properly. Unlike us,” Gaston chimed in, standing beside Rachins.

Rachins, embarrassed, immediately cleared his throat and interjected, “Nobody cares ‘bout that now. The reason for abandonin’ her wasn’t the money. Also, she was left on the Sword Saint’s doorstep. So the story’s simple. Lives were at stake. That’s why her folks left her here.”

If she were taken in by the Sword Saint’s family, the chances of her being traced were significantly reduced. Indeed, an assassin from the Black Silver Coin had been repelled. If his speculation proved correct, everything was going according to plan.

“It’s great that you figured out that much,” Felt started, “but what happens next?”

“Well if I was a parent who left my kid with the Sword Saint,” Camberley began, “y’know what I’d do? I’d run far, far away acting like a decoy to protect that kid! So while monitoring the dragon carriage stops wasn’t a bad one, we took it one step further! By setting our sights on long-distance dragon carriages, at last, we were able to come up with this deciding factor!” Exaggerating his gestures, Camberley thrust his hands out before him. Felt, however, had no idea what this ‘deciding factor’ was. She tilted her head in confusion.

“Take a good, good look!” Camereley continued. “This is it, this!”

“This… Hmm?” Stepping forward at Camberley’s assertion, Felt finally grasped the situation. In his outstretched hands, he held a long, thin thread of some sort. No, not a thread, but a strand of human hair.

The hair was long and had a grayish-brown hue. Camberley gripped it tight, proud of his victory over Felt. “This hair, found in that kid’s basket, belongs to someone else! Its color is different from the kid’s, which must mean it came from one of the parents who dumped her here! Which means… This hair is her mother’s!”

“That’s a creepy method…”

“Is that all you have to say to us after we’ve made it this far!?”

Camberley tore the lock of hair in his hands and glared at Felt for her offhanded comment, but she quickly brushed it off with an apologetic wave of her hand. “Whatever, good job. But it’s still not enough…”

“An outsider, a hair match, and a long ride in a dragon carriage. Not to mention—” Interrupting Felt, Gaston listed out their reasoning, then gestured at the woman with his chin.

“───” Looking closely at the woman once again, Felt saw what he was referring to. The woman standing before them had a bandage wrapped around her neck and chest, hidden by her clothes.

“So it wasn’t only the daughter who was in danger, but the mother as well…” Felt clicked her tongue. “Hey, twins!”

“You called for us?”

“Lady Felt wants us.”

Flam and Grassis suddenly appeared as if they had literally sprung out of the water. The trio was startled by their sudden appearance, and the woman also looked at them incredulously. Felt, however, accepted it as a matter of course. “I hope you’re ready to patch up that injury,” she said. “I’m not doin’ it. You want her bandages to come out lookin’ like one of my diapers?”

“Lady Felt, you’ve acknowledged your guilt,” said Flam, one hand covering her mouth.

“Burn in your own sins,” said Grassis, one hand covering her mouth.

“Shut up!”

Following their banter with Felt, the twins approached the nervous-looking woman. They took her by the hand and began to guide her to the parlor. However…

“Ah, before that,” Felt stopped them in their tracks. “What’s your name?”


“Your name, lady. Your daughter has one. You have one too, right? At least…”

Just as Felt was about to say, tell us, the woman pointed at her own throat. She then proceeded to shake her head sideways, indicating she cannot speak.

“I said her wound needed treatment, an’ she gave in. At first, she mistook us for her pursuers,” Rachins explained to Felt as the woman disappeared into the parlor.

Felt nodded in agreement. “Not surprising. You don’t look like the type of person you’d expect to find in the Sword Saint’s household. But thanks for finding her. It really helps.”

“Heh!” Rachins was momentarily taken aback by Felt’s praise, responding with an immediate smile. Gaston and Camberley mirrored his sentiment from behind.

Yet, there stood one figure, feeling excluded from the picture entirely.

“So, what’s with you looking so dumb? It’s weird,” Felt remarked.

“I must confess, I am surprised,” Reinhard responded hesitantly as Felt turned around. The woman’s presence, Rachins’s efforts, and the twins’ duties—in each case, Reinhard observed them in silence. Evidently, his heart was filled with a rare sense of surprise.

“What do you think?” Felt asked. “They’re not so bad, huh? Not for a bunch of street punks, anyway.”


“I didn’t anticipate anything like this, though. Well, I suppose there are times they’re more useful than you, the not-so-almighty Sword Saint.” Folding her hands behind her head, Felt gave Reinhard a devious smile.

Reinhard exhaled softly at the expression and continued. “However, we don’t truly know if that woman is Ilya’s mother, do we? We haven’t been able to glean anything from her yet, so long as we can’t talk to her. At this rate…”

“Proof, right? Piece of cake,” Felt interjected, closing one eye, addressing Reinhard’s unnecessary worries. “We just gotta get her to meet with Ilya. Then we’ll have no problem.”



Seeing Ilya happy in her mother’s arms, Felt looked at Reinhard, expecting he had admitted his defeat.

“It’s not a defeat at all,” Reinhard remarked. “Through this reunion, Ilya is safely back in her mother’s arms. It’s an unprecedented achievement. It’s a victory for all of us. Rather, for Ilya.”

“Why you gotta be so fussy about it?” Felt retorted. “Anyway, now we know for sure.”

The woman sitting on the sofa in the center of the parlor was indeed Ilya’s mother.

Such was evidenced by both Ilya in her arms and the compassionate gaze of the woman watching her baby. There was nothing to doubt about that.

“A woman who embraces her daughter so lovingly would never want to abandon her, would she?” Reinhard mused.

“And she’s beautiful, too,” Gaston remarked.

“Yeah, that’s important,” Rachins agreed.

“I’m open to older women,” Camberly added.

Reinhard’s convictions lost their emphasis with the trio’s petty judgments layered on top. Flam and Grassis shot them a disapproving glare for their extra commentary, causing them to shrink back. Seeing this through the corner of her eye, Felt snorted and turned her attention to Reinhard. At that, he lowered his head reverently under her gaze. “Please rest assured, Lady Felt. I am your knight, and my loyalty to you is unwavering.”

“What are you talking about? I didn’t even say anything, so quit actin’ so concerned. Also, your focus should be on the lady and her kid now, not me. For now, anyway.”

If what she wants is the Sword Saint, then the best thing we can do now is grant her wish. The woman’s injuries were attended to without incident, and she found herself more at ease. At this point, Felt’s curiosity extended beyond her well-being, as she wanted to know just who was responsible for harming her and putting Ilya in danger.

“It would’ve been easier if it was simply the case of a bad husband who got violent with his wife and child,” Felt remarked.

“Easy is a stretch, my lady. That’s one of the most painful tragedies in the world.”

“I don’t mean to imply that I wish such suffering upon this family. I merely suggest that resolving it would have been more straightforward.” Rebuking Reinhard for his stiff take on the matter, Felt shrugged her shoulders. It definitely would’ve been less complicated if the problem had been limited to this mother, daughter, and husband, or rather, to a single family. We’d only have one person to prosecute. However… “The Black Silver Coin is involved. This isn’t just about them anymore.”

“What? The Black Silver Coin?” Rachins, Gaston, and Camberley, who had played a major role in the hunt for the parents, were astounded upon hearing Felt’s verdict.

Felt briefly explained the story to the incredulous trio. She mentioned the assassin who was after Ilya, and his affiliation with the Black Silver Coin.

Hearing this, the trio’s faces paled as they exclaimed:

“You’ve gotta be kidding! The Black Silver Coin is the governing entity of one of the five great cities.”

“They don’t give a shit who crosses them!”

“And those who do cross them end up in the river!”

The three of them desperately appealed to the others, blaming their adversaries. Felt, roughly scratching her head, concurred, “That’s right. If those guys are so bad, we can’t even have a proper conversation without first thinking of a way to deal with them.”

“That’s not what we mean!” the three idiots protested in unison, but Felt’s stance was unyielding.

“If you wish for me to open up an escape route, I shall risk my life to fulfill my duty…” Reinhard offered.

“That’s not gonna solve this whole problem,” Felt replied.

“Indeed, I am acutely aware of that.”

If the problem could have been settled by brute force alone, there would be no hand more powerful than Reinhard’s unparalleled strength. However, Felt was well aware such means were not always the best course of action. The event unfolding before them was one of them.

“Hmm?” Suddenly, Felt, lost in thought, looked up, feeling the weight of someone’s gaze. The source of the stare was the mother, holding her daughter in her arms. Her hazel green eyes were filled with a mixture of anxiety, hope, and uncertainty. The root of her complex sentiments became apparent. “Are you wonderin’ why we’re trying to help you?” Felt asked, her tone firm.

In response, the woman nodded her head.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Felt continued. “We…or at least, I, am not doing this for you. If there’s anyone I’m concerned about, it’s Ilya.”


“I’ve had to deal with her crying at night for days on end. I’m on the verge of exploding from lack of sleep. I thought I’d have no mercy on the parents once I found them, but when I finally found the mother… I realized she was in a messy predicament. It’s a pain in the ass.”

The harshness of Felt’s words caused the woman to stiffen up in anticipation of what she might say next. Ilya, however, oblivious to the tension in the room, reached out her hand towards Felt, smiling faintly in her mother’s bosom.

Felt noticed herself relaxing at this sight. “Damn it…” she muttered.

Unlike her mother, nothing was out of the ordinary for Ilya. Ever since she came to this mansion, she had only seen Felt exude explosive anger from her petite body, always raising her voice.

“I’m getting impatient,” Felt said. “And I won’t be satisfied until I unload this onto those responsible. Hey, you… What about you?”

The woman pointed at herself in surprise, expression puzzled.

“You left that brat here so you can be a decoy, right? Aren’t you angry that they made you do that? Aren’t you pissed that you have to run all over the place?”


“You think Ilya wants to grow up hearing that her mom was basically running around with a sign on her back saying ‘loser’?”


The woman’s expression changed at Felt’s provocation. Her face reddened, her eyes widened, and with the exception of the arms holding Ilya, the rest of her body tensed up. Not with words, but with her whole body, she expressed that she did not want that to happen. Felt laughed at the sight. “Twins! Get some paper and a quill!” she commanded.

“Here’s some paper.” Flam handed a sheet to Felt.

“Here’s a quill.” Grassis handed her a quill.

Felt extended her hands as Flam and Grassis quickly responded to her request. Receiving the paper and quill, Felt offered them to the woman.

“Write down your names. Both of them. The names of Ilya’s mother and father.”


“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It’s your decision. This is it,” Felt explained.

The woman closed her eyes, contemplating Felt’s words. Then, opening them back up, she offered Ilya to Reinhard. Reinhard gently took the baby into his arms and gasped. Before their eyes, the woman ran her quill over the piece of paper. The mother’s name, her own, was Kalifa. And in the remaining space, she wrote the name of a man—Ilya’s father.

“Doltero? Is that her father’s name?” Felt asked.

“Nooo!” The moment they heard that name, the three idiots collapsed behind them in shock. They screamed and shrank back, clasping their hands together and shaking their heads frantically in disgust.

“What’s your problem!? Quit being so fussy, would ya? You’re losing the respect I just started to have for ya!”

“Take back all the respect you want,” Rachins exclaimed. “But Doltero? No way! That’s the name of the Black Silver Coin’s leader! Oh, wait! I know! It’s gotta be someone else wit’ the same name! Talk about confusin’!”

Perhaps out of desperation, Rachins and the others desperately tried to rewrite the reality of the situation. However, the woman, Kalifa, proceeded to write Doltero’s family name after his first.

“Doltero Amule.”


This time, the three idiots were out of moves, and they deflated into a heap on the spot. Apparently, the family name also matched the head of the Black Silver Coin as they knew it. In other words, Ilya is indeed related to the head of the Black Silver Coin…

“No wonder they’re after her… Wait, something’s not right,” Felt said.

The Black Silver Coin was trying to retrieve their leader’s daughter. I get that. But what about Kalifa? She’s his lover or something like that and fled because she feared for her life. Isn’t that the exact opposite of wanting to come back?

“If the enemy had been anyone other than Black Silver Coin, I would’ve understood. But the guy we caught was also from the Black Silver Coin. How can that be? Generally speaking…”


“Why didn’t Kalifa turn to the leader of the Black Silver Coin?”

If his mistress and daughter were in danger, the boss of the Black Silver Coin wouldn’t remain silent. Wouldn’t Kalifa naturally seek his help for the sake of Ilya’s safety? But she didn’t. So what could’ve happened?

“It’s starting to smell fishy, isn’t it? I’d like to give this Doltero guy a good beating.”

“I understand what you’re thinking, Lady Felt, but it won’t be that easy. When the other party is the Black Silver Coin and its leader, you need to be prepared when making contact with them.”

“Were you just talking about Doltero?” A gruff voice suddenly interrupted, causing everyone in the parlor to turn their attention to the entrance. There stood Old Man Rom, having returned from his earlier meeting.

“Old Man Rom, you’re back!”

“Just got here. So what’s this about Doltero? And who’s that young lady over there?”

Rubbing his bald head, Old Man Rom frowned as he observed the unfamiliar Kalifa.

The situation unfolded just as it appeared. Everyone in the mansion gathered in a single room, each wearing a complicated look on their face. The trio had all but lost their usual vitality. The twins held out a piece of paper with two names written on it. Reinhard cradled an infant in his arms, and Felt sat on the sofa. Old Man Rom nodded deeply and spoke. “Hmmm. So you’ve made some progress. But what does this have to do with Doltero?”

“I’d like to ask something, too. If this is true, then you’re truly extraordinary, Old Man Rom.” Jumping off the couch, Felt nimbly ran up to Rom and looked him straight in the eye. “Are you acquainted with that Doltero guy from the Black Silver Coin?”

“Not only do I know him, but he’s the one I just went to see.”

“Hell yeah!” Felt jumped for joy at Old Man Rom’s response, closing one eye.

“What the—?” Old Man Rom quickly caught her lightweight body, wearing a dumbfounded expression as he asked, “What’s this all about?”

“That’s great, that’s great, that’s great! I knew you’d be the one to come through for me!”

“That’s a flattering assessment, but I still don’t get what’s going on…” With Felt in his arms, Rom searched Reinhard for a clue to the missing information.

Reinhard held Ilya under his gaze and addressed Felt. “Lady Felt.”

“Yes, you heard that, right? Now we got all the keys we need. All that’s left is to figure out what to do with those keys, right?” Felt’s crimson eyes sparkled as she grinned with satisfaction.

Reinhard bowed in response to her smile and spoke again. “Lady Felt, right now, you look just like Ilya the way you’re being cradled by Master Rom.”

“Shut up! Hurry up and get your ass ready!!”



The air in that one room gave Felt a strange sense of déjà vu. It carried a stifling sensation, caused by an eerie sense of oppression that filled the large space. The thick walls, dim lighting, and crude furnishings seemed intended to intimidate guests—coupled with the absence of chairs for anyone to sit on—and after some thought, Felt understood the true nature of the déjà vu she felt.

It reminded her of the royal castle. The atmosphere of that hall, the stage where she stood when she was forced into the royal selection, all of it was very similar.

“In other words, it’s full of enemies, just like back then. Only this time, I’ve managed to get this far on my own. That alone makes me feel so much better.”

“Don’t worry. No matter what happens, Lady Felt, I guarantee I will protect your person…no, everyone here. If anything happens, and if I have to pick you up, please bear with it and hold back your screams.”

“I feel the same as before. Having you next to me ruins my mood.”

Felt snorted at Reinhard’s statement filled with loyalty as usual and casually crossed her arms. Reinhard chuckled at her response, also emanating his usual self.

Their boldness was evident in their capacity to have a normal exchange.

The two currently stood in a room within Doltero Amule’s mansion, located in the heart of Flanders, one of the five great cities. In other words, they were in the very heart of the Black Silver Coin.

Naturally, it should have been expected that a sudden visitor would be turned away at the door. However, tonight, Felt and her party were granted entrance into the mansion where they were treated to the hospitality typical of the underground world.

The reason for this special exception was soon revealed.

“Apologies for keeping you waiting…” The door to a large room opened, and a stern voice accompanied by a solemn bow was directed at them.

A slender man in a black suit appeared. His entire body radiated a piercing sense of intimidation, his eyes like a serpent. Truly the image of an adversary.

The snake-eyed man turned his gaze toward Old Man Rom, who stood behind Felt and the others. “The Boss is here. Lord Cromwell, consider this a special exception.”

“I appreciate your efforts, Safis… Anyway, it’s not a bad deal for him.”

“I see.”

According to Old Man Rom, the name of the snake-eyed man was Safis. His gaze shifted to Kalifa, holding Ilya, accompanied by Felt, Reinhard, and Old Man Rom. Behind those cold eyes, no one could discern what impression Safis had of the mother and daughter.

The answer was never revealed, as the sound of the great door creaking interrupted the silence.


The moment the figure appeared, the air in the room grew noticeably heavier.

The air was bitter in taste, black in color, and low in resonance. The figure sat down heavily in the single chair at the far end of the room, surrounded by this aura of intimidation. He had shimmering blond hair slicked back and deep blue eyes that perfectly matched Ilya’s. However, there was a stark contrast in the rest of his appearance. It was vastly different from that of an ordinary human.

“Are you a demi-human?”

“In every sense of the word. But what importance is blood here, human girl?”

“Well, nothing, I guess?” Felt replied, looking at Ilya peacefully asleep in Kalifa’s arms. “I guess it’s just a good thing she didn’t inherit too many of her father’s traits.”

The man cleared his throat in response to Felt’s comment. “You’re an honest brat with a lot of guts. I agree with you, though.”

Agreeing with Felt’s irreverent remark, the man touched his nose—not a human nose, but a pig-like one—and smirked. It was visibly obvious at first glance that he was a pig-human.

The Pig King, Doltero Amule, as he was known, sat before them in all his dignity.

“Now that we’re done with the introductions, I’d like to proceed,” he said. “You know why we came all the way here, don’t you?”

“Of course I do.” Nodding gravely at Felt’s question, Doltero called out the name of the silent mother with her child. “Kalifa.” Kalifa’s expression hardened at the call, but she stoutly made eye contact with the man.

The exchange of looks between this man and woman, the father and mother, carried complex emotions that were hidden from the eyes of anyone else.

“Why did you run away?”


Kalifa could not answer that question with words. It was impossible for her to say anything. Her larynx had been destroyed. Such was the reason behind her bitter decision to leave her daughter at the mansion of the Sword Saint and use herself as a decoy.

test alt

The cause that had driven Kalifa to such extremes could be nothing else.

“You ran away with Ilya. I sent my men after you, but you wouldn’t return. I didn’t think I’d get a chance to ask you why. But now that you’re here, tell me.”

Doltero’s question was cruel to Kalifa, who was clearly unable to speak, and his posture revealed another side of things: the hidden circumstances of the aging Pig King, Doltero.

“Why did you run away? Why did you return with the Sword Saint?”

“Don’t blame her for running. She had no choice but to flee. She and her daughter were threatened with death, so she turned to the Astrea family. That’s all,” Reinhard answered on Kalifa’s behalf. He looked across at Ilya’s peaceful sleeping face in her mother’s arms before stepping forward. “When her life was threatened, she put her trust in us to protect her daughter at the very least. That’s why she left you.”

“Nonsense. She fled because her life was threatened? Then why rely on you? If something had happened, why not turn to me first? I am…”

“Shut it, big shot. How can she rely on someone who can’t see his own two feet?” Felt mocked provokingly, butting into their conversion. “That’s why the woman and child have given up on you.”

A tremendous rage swelled up in the room at Felt’s words, but it was not Doltero himself who was enraged. “You’d better watch your tone. You are forgetting that this is the headquarters of the Black Silver Coin. I do not recommend that you cross the line, even if you are a guest.”

Felt locked eyes with the source of the cold voice and icy stare with her crimson eyes: Safis. Standing at the back of the room, Safis was the only member of the Black Silver Coin that Doltero allowed to be present. A testament to his level of trust in him.

“Do you think there is no danger just because you have the Sword Saint at your side? If that’s what you believe, then you greatly underestimate us. We have our own way of doing things. You can count on that…”

“Hey, I’m not kidding. Do I look like a coward who can’t fight without a guardian? I don’t care if he’s here or not.” Felt pointed at Reinhard beside her, clicking her tongue in response to the insulting remark. “And don’t you dare speak to me so blatantly, you two-faced snake bastard.”

“What the hell are you talking about? You’re making baseless accusations.”

“Oh really? I applaud your acting ability.” Felt commended the performance of Safis, who had slightly furrowed his brow.

Doltero touched his pig nose with a bony hand amidst the swarthy exchange between his guest and his subordinate.

Old Man Rom opened his mouth in thought, saying, “Well…” The wise old man, who had been quietly observing the proceedings behind Felt and Reinhard, lowered his gaze and spoke. “If this mother and daughter were targeted, Doltero, you couldn’t possibly be unrelated. Anyone hostile to the Black Silver Coin would be drooling over her. And yet, this mother and child did not turn to you. Not simply because they didn’t want to inconvenience you. No, there was a different reason…”

“They didn’t consider the Black Silver Coin an ally, did they?” Absorbing the final part of Old Man Rom’s statement, Doltero’s blue eyes flashed with understanding.

The organization that dominated the underworld of Flanders had bloodthirsty enemies who would seize any opportunity to exploit a weakness that could lead to the downfall of its leader. And the word ‘enemy’ did not always have to refer to those on the outside alone. If the boss were to fall, certain individuals on the inside might reap benefits as well.

“You were the only one I confided in about Ilya being my daughter, Safis.”


Doltero’s deep, rumbling voice bore down on Safis, his confidant. The snake-eyed man took it in stride and returned his superior’s stare. There was no hint of confusion or doubt there, nor anger or pretense.

“If the Black Silver Coin targeted them,” the Boss said, “Kalifa would have no choice but to flee with her daughter in tow. And you’re the only one who knows that they are my weakness. Do you have anything to say about that?”

It was not an invitation to plead his case, but rather an offer of mercy to leave a last will and testament. Doltero’s heart must have been churning with emotion after the betrayal by his most trusted confidant. Felt watched with bated breath to see how it would all unfold.

Then, in response to the Pig King’s question, Safis ran his hand through his dark green hair and replied, “Everything is true. There is nothing to correct, sir.”

“I’ve had my eye on you,” Doltero said with deep anguish to Safis, who plotted this opposition against him. “You were the man who was most loyal to the organization. That is still true.”

Upon hearing these words, Safis let out a bitter laugh, catching everyone in the room off guard.

“What’s so funny?” Doltero asked.

“Your eyes are not clouded, sir,” he responded. “I am still loyal to the organization…or rather, to you. I have pledged my life to the organization and its head, and I will not lie about my allegiance.”

“Huh? What the hell are you talking about?” Felt was taken aback by Safis’s peculiar response after confessing his betrayal. If he’s tryin’ to reconcile the situation, he’s missing the mark. Confessing his betrayal and then emphasizing his loyalty? He’s just makin’ excuses! “You took advantage of your boss’s weakness and attempted to overthrow the organization by usin’ his daughter and mistress, didn’t ya? And you’re saying this now? Do you really think you can get away with such excuses?”

“Correction. The words you just spoke are only partially accurate. That mother and daughter are a thorn in the Boss’s side. They posed a threat to the security of the organization and the head of the company. That is the truth.”


Felt frowned deeply, trying to process what he had just said. Her head was occupied with question marks, and Old Man Rom nodded on her behalf. “I see,” he began. “The man I knew was never one who would attempt a rebellion. I wondered how you could have gone to such great lengths, but your loyalty has gone too far, Safis.”

“I was indebted to you and swore allegiance to the organization,” Safis replied, straightening his posture. “I owe my life and pride to this place, and I have nothing else left to call my own. It is my duty to eliminate liabilities for the sake of the peace of the Black Silver Coin.”

Then, Safis took a knee on the spot and with a single wave of his arm, a dagger appeared in his hand as if by magic. For a moment, the air crackled with tension. In its midst, Safis placed the dagger against his own neck. “Sir! I am prepared to pay for this disloyalty with my life. But once again, I urge you to consider this as you stand over my corpse. What is the meaning of keeping Miss Ilya by your side!?”

“Damn it! Reinha—” Felt cried out for Reinhard to stop Safis in his haste, but before she could, the sharp blade tore through the skin of his slender neck. Immediately after, a gust of wind swept through the room.

A shockwave blasted through the air, followed by the delayed roar of a sharp impact piercing through flesh. When she turned to see what had happened, it was not the lifeless body of Safis in a puddle of blood that she saw. Safis had been struck in the face by a fist and was sprawled against the wall with his eyes rolled back. The one who delivered the fatal blow was none other than…

“The name ‘Pig King’ is very much alive and well, huh?” Old Man Rom remarked.

“If that were the case,” Doltero responded, “he would have never allowed Safis to do anything so stupid.”

Doltero, with a gigantic frame comparable to that of Old Man Rom from the giant tribe, moved faster than the wind. Casting his eyes down, the Pig King withdrew the fist that had struck his subordinate and slowly turned around to face them. His calm blue eyes fixed on Kalifa and Ilya. The sound of the blow brought a frown to the sleeping Ilya’s face, but she soon returned to peace.

“Nothing fazes her, huh?” Felt commented.

“She’s a heavy sleeper,” Doltero remarked. “Must take after her father in that sense.”

Doltero’s face relaxed as he lightly mocked himself for his subordinate’s lack of control, but only for a moment.

“Boss! What’s all the commotion?” As the grand doors swung open, the members of the Black Silver Coin who had been waiting outside appeared. They looked around the room, their eyes falling on the unconscious Safis and Doltero withdrawing his fist. They were unable to conceal their shock.

“This is… Boss, what happened… Mr. Safis?”

“Don’t get worked up. You’re before guests. Take Safis with you. I still need to speak with him. Ensure he receives treatment and doesn’t die,” Doltero ordered his perturbed subordinates with no further explanation. Neither did they ask for elaboration, and they quickly left the room carrying the fallen Safis.

After witnessing this, Doltero sat down again in his chair with a heavy thump of his feet. The eyes of Doltero—or rather, those of the Pig King—turned to Felt as he pressed his thick arm into the armrest, hand on cheek. Seeing the color in his eyes, she sensed an unpleasant discomfort, as if someone had rubbed their fingers over her internal organs. The cause of this discomfort was apparent.

“Thank you for coming all the way out here, Royal Selection Candidate. But you’ve wasted your time.”


“I have no daughter. Therefore, consider it a wasted trip.”


For a moment, Felt’s mind went blank, trying to comprehend what had just been said.

Seeing the change in Felt’s expression, Doltero asked, “Don’t you get it?”

He continued, “Get the woman and child out of here at once. They are an eyesore.”

The moment she grasped Doltero’s true intentions, Felt bared her fang in anger and shouted, “You’re an eyesore! You’re a pain in the ass!”

Doltero had taken Safis’s advice to heart. He acknowledged that the very existence of Kalifa and Ilya, the mother and daughter, was a thorn in his side. And he sought to cut them out of his life in order to prevent those around him from realizing this weakness.

This man, his mistress, and his daughter—he was a parent on the verge of abandoning his own child.

“I didn’t come here to have you abandon Ilya!” We came to make you pay for what you’ve done! So why’d it have to come to this? “You have a home, you have money, you have power! If you’re a parent, you should at least take care of your kid! You toss ‘em aside so easily once the going gets tough! If that’s the case, then why did you even bother to…?”

“Felt.” Old Man Rom’s large hand gripped Felt’s shoulder from behind as she erupted into a furious rage. He shook his head with a somber expression as her crimson eyes flashed with anger.

The wise old man silently urged Felt, not to give up, but to step back.

Felt’s heart was filled with indignation at this attitude. “…Yeah, you’re right,” she said. “All right, all right!” Her anger quickly subsided, and she stopped fighting back, clicking her tongue in frustration. Once again, there was no anger in her eyes as she glared at Doltero. Only disappointment and contempt. “She’d be better off without a shitty father like you anyway. I’m the same way.”

Kids are better off apart from parents who can’t even be bothered to protect them. As someone who grew up without knowing her parents, Felt sympathized with Ilya who was about to be on the same boat as her. She wanted to get Ilya out of this place as soon as possible. Ilya can’t find happiness in a place like this. She shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

“Lady Felt.”

Felt, who was about to pull back Kalifa’s arm with a snide remark and a snarl, was accosted by Reinhard. Looking up at him in annoyance, her gaze met his clear blue eyes. She waited for his next word, curious about what he wanted to say, but his lips quivered. Nothing could be said. Even the knight among knights, the Sword Saint, could not speak.

“Let’s go…” Felt said to the silent Reinhard, tilting her chin up. Reinhard lowered his eyebrows at her words and silently stepped forward to follow her.

“I’m very grateful for your help, Royal Selection Candidate.”

“I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not. What do you care, you pig-nosed bastard? I don’t want to see your face again, and I certainly don’t want anything to do with you ever again,” Felt spat at Doltero, who’d left her with that parting remark, without turning around. With a tug on her arm, she turned to escort Kalifa and Ilya out of the room.


Just before leaving the room, Kalifa stopped in her tracks, turned to Doltero, and bowed her head. As if to show him the sleeping face of the baby in her arms, for the very last time.

“…You, too, will regret it someday,” Old Man Rom said to Doltero as they left.

“No, I won’t.” Doltero’s response was firm and demanded nothing more.

With a sigh, Old Man Rom departed the room.

In the empty chamber, after all the guests had taken their leave, Doltero brought his hand to his face. He looked at his wrinkled palms and closed his eyes. “Ilya,” he whispered in a voice only audible to himself.


“In the end, we didn’t get anything for it, did we…?”

After the whole thing was over and they had returned from Flanders to Astrea Manor, Felt scratched her head in the dilapidated garden of the mansion and let out a sigh. As for the mother and child, what transpired at the headquarters of Black Silver Coin became the truth. Doltero and Ilya were not related.

They were complete strangers. Ilya had become a baby without a father.

Thanks to this, both mother and daughter no longer had to fear for their lives, so it was all the better for them. It was safe to say that nothing bad had happened to them, but rather that some connections had simply gone missing from their lives.

“Still, it’s a feeling that I can’t shake.”


Felt was lost in thought, and beside her, Reinhard was equally pensive. They were the only two people in the garden of the mansion at the moment. Normally, Felt disliked having him tag along, but this time, she turned a blind eye to the fact.

Right now, Felt simply wanted someone to talk to, even if it had to be Reinhard.

“It beats talking to a wall,” she huffed.

“I am honored. It is a privilege to have Your Ladyship confide in me.”


“Quit saying such annoying things…! By the way, Reinhard.” Felt frowned and looked up at Reinhard. She recalled the last time she had been stopped by him, just before she ended her conversation with Doltero. He couldn’t say anything. And I couldn’t say anything to him, either.

She was unsure whether they couldn’t say anything because there were no right words at that moment, or they simply were unable to find it. Either way, she remembered that there had been nothing she could say to him.

“Well, I don’t have parents, and you have a messy family situation. We just ain’t the family type, so I guess it was too much for us.”

“I don’t know how to respond when you put it so bluntly.” Reinhard laughed at Felt’s comment, revealing that she hit a sore spot.

Felt knew only a little about his complicated relationship with his parents. She knew his mother had an inexplicable illness and had remained in a state of sleep ever since he was a child. As for his father, she regarded him as the worst kind of human being, to put it mildly. In her actual words, he was a scumbag.

Reinhard had grown up in such a family environment, and the orphaned Felt had been brought up by Old Man Rom. As a result, neither of them was very good with this family stuff.

“But despite being a Sword Saint with no formidable enemies, if you find yourself in a situation that can’t be solved by just beatin’ up your opponent, it’d be a stalemate. Shall we reconsider your title as the ‘best knight’?”

“I admit, the results this time were rather disappointing. I could not be of any help to you, and made you feel I was unworthy of the title of ‘best knight’.”

“Don’t take me seriously, moron. It’s a joke, a joke. I’m not saying I’m happy to be with you. It’s not about that. But as far as being a knight goes, I guess you’ll do for now.”

After chewing out Reinhard for not getting the joke, Felt plopped down on the unkempt lawn and crossed her legs. Reinhard, usually quick to nitpick about soiling her clothing, offered no comment. The two of them simply spent their time together in silence, bathed in the grassy breeze, gazing up at the same sky.

“Just as we were thinking about makin’ a move, feels like we were the ones hit with a blow, don’t ya think?”

“What? I, uh… no, Lady Felt, you see…”

“So, it won’t go like this next time,” Felt said emphatically, fists clenched.

“What?” Reinhard asked, taken aback.

Hearing his stunned reaction, Felt arched her neck back, viewing his face upside down. “You just made a stupid noise, did I say something strange?”

“I didn’t say that. I was just thinking that you might be depressed, my lady.”

“Me, depressed? Hey, hey, what the…”

Felt’s head snapped back up and she turned her hips around to face him directly. Still on her haunches, she looked up at Reinhard’s tall figure and stared into his sunlit countenance.

Felt recognized the shadowy look on the knight’s face. “You’re the one who’s depressed, Reinhard, not me.”


“The fact that you are unaware of it is a serious matter. Well, you don’t have any experience with losing, do you?” Shaking her head in dismay, Felt stood up and dusted off her bottom. Then she directed her fist at Reinhard’s chest, wearing a troubled expression, and gave him a light prod. “Oh, I hit you.”

“I didn’t feel the need to avoid it. Besides, it’s your hand.”

“Now, was that part really necessary? And remember this. If you’re gonna keep following me from here on out, you’re going to have to deal with this kind of defeat more than once.”


“What the hell, man? You didn’t really expect me to win all the battles and rise to the throne so easily, did you?”

Reinhard was blindsided by Felt’s declaration that he could possibly lose.

Even though she framed her question in a sarcastic tone, Felt was only partially convinced. Reinhard had never considered the possibility of losing. It was not so much his trust in her, but rather his immense confidence in the path he himself tread.

He must have carried a sense of omnipotence where he believed we couldn’t possibly lose as long as I was with him. However, even with Reinhard’s presence, situations could still arise that were beyond his control. In fact, they were hit with such a situation right after the royal selection had just begun. He was forced to face the disparity between his perceived ideals and the reality before him, and was subconsciously experiencing a dissonance between these contradicting worldviews.

“You really are like a little kid sometimes, aren’t you? You’re no different from Ilya.”

“That’s…a bit much, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s not too much or too little. I’m sure there’s a lot you don’t realize. Let’s get you into diapers, Reinhard.”

“My lady!” Reinhard got slightly emotional, and Felt snorted at his reaction.

She wasn’t necessarily trying to pick a fight, she simply wanted him to be prepared. “Reinhard, what did you want to happen with Ilya?” she asked.

“I…wanted Ilya to be safely reunited with her parents. We believed she had been abandoned by them, but our assumption turned out to be wrong. When it comes to Ilya, both Kalifa…and even Mr. Doltero…”

“Well, Kalifa, sure. But Doltero abandoned Ilya. He tossed her to the side like trash.”

Deep down, Felt herself couldn’t not understand Doltero’s reasoning. His decision to keep the mother and daughter away wasn’t motivated by a desire to protect the Black Silver Coin or his own position.

“But it doesn’t matter to the one who was thrown away whether the reason was protection or abandonment.”


“He never even said he loved her. Absolutely inexcusable!”

Reinhard fell silent, struck by the anger in Felt’s voice. Despite his complicated family background, he had never experienced abandonment. He was not qualified to interject in the abandoned Felt’s words of concern for the similarly abandoned Ilya.

“Ah, shit! This ain’t what I wanted to talk about. I’m not saying that not having parents is an instant misfortune. I met Old Man Rom thanks to not having parents,” Felt hastily clarified, sounding somewhat embarrassed.

Felt had never known the faces or names of her parents, nor did she particularly care about the reason they abandoned her. If it had been their abandonment that had led to her death, she may have harbored a grudge or two. But fortunately, it was the strongest man in the world who had taken her in.

“If blood is the sole factor that determines familial bonds, then I’d much rather have a family of my own choosing. Even Ilya, whose father is gone, can choose her own family.”

If Reinhard’s account held any truth, Felt’s family may have been part of the royal lineage of the Kingdom of Lugunica. But all the royalty were dead. The fact that she could no longer speak to them because of that was no reason for her to deny her blood ties. Even if they had still been alive, she doubted she would have wanted to meet them—not out of ill will, but for entirely positive reasons. She had chosen her family. She was content. There was no need to seek them out. That was all.

“I don’t know what that bastard was thinking. Nor do I want Ilya to know.”

“But what if Ilya wishes to meet her father someday?”

“Then that’s her choice. If she grows up and gets annoyed by my fussing that she shouldn’t meet him, then that’s her choice too.”

She had no intention of embellishing her words by claiming to be an outsider. How Ilya chose to live her life was solely up to Ilya. It was none of Felt’s business what Doltero or Kalifa desired for their daughter. Nor was it her business how Ilya would choose to respond. Felt’s only concern was ensuring that Ilya could live her life to the fullest from this point forward.


Upon hearing Felt’s response, Reinhard once again found himself at a loss for words. Yet, this silence was not born out of surprise or confusion, but rather the result of another emotion. As evidence, he nodded several more times to himself. “Yes, yes,” he said. “I am honored, Lady Felt.”

“Huh? What? Don’t just come outta nowhere with your weird ass comments.”

“You just said that what you choose is important.”

“Oh, oh, well, yeah. I guess so…”

There was no room for denial. As Felt nodded, Reinhard offered a thin smile and placed his hand over his heart. “It was Your Ladyship who chose me as her knight,” he declared. “I was reflecting on that fact…”

“Eh? Stop making everything about yourself! When the hell did I choose you? You practically forced me into it!”

“I left the decision to you. I am proud to say that, even if it wasn’t your true desire at first, it was you, my lady, who chose me.”

“Guh, guh, guh…!” Felt grunted, face flushed, at the loquacious knight who responded with such words.

However, Reinhard, haranguing Felt in such a manner, seemed to have returned to his usual demeanor. It appeared he had recovered a bit from his previously despondent state.

“…Hmph. I’m the mistress who declared that you’re gonna experience countless defeats from now on. You’ll regret becoming my knight soon enough, won’t you?”

“I’m confident that will not happen. Based on what occurred with Ilya and Kalifa, I am convinced of that.”

Ilya and Kalifa severed ties with Doltero and returned to the mansion with them. Though they were no longer in danger, the life of a single mother with a baby was nonetheless a challenging one. Although it only lasted for a few days, Felt couldn’t help but watch their departure down the road, this mother and her baby whom she had reluctantly cared for, as a melancholic dream.

“So,” Reinhard began, “you helped her secure a live-in job at a ranch in Hakuchuri.”

You’re the one who talked to the ranch,” Felt retorted. “I had no part in it.”

“Then what about the money you gave them?” Reinhard, blocking her escape route with amusement, made Felt give him a genuinely disapproving glance.

It was true that Felt had given Kalifa a sum of money to prepare for her newfound life, as she needed some support to get back on her feet. It just so happened that she possessed a considerable amount of unspent cash on hand, remnants of her plan to climb up the social hierarchy, which terminated upon her unforeseen departure from the slums.

“I hope Ilya finds happiness,” Reinhard expressed to Felt, who turned her face away from him with a pout. For some reason, it sounded like a fragile hope, and it drove her crazy. “We’re close enough to see them again if we wanted to, jackass,” she huffed.

“Yes, indeed,” Reinhard said, responding to Felt’s profanity with a smile.

After all, this banter was typical of their relationship. Felt, though oblivious to her own feelings, had grown to find comfort in such a relationship. Growing irritated by the silence, she turned her attention to the desolate garden that lay before them. “Not that I care, but look at this garden! Doesn’t it look like crap in such disrepair?”

“Originally, there was a big flower bed here,” explained Reinhard. “My grandmother adored it. However, after the family stopped tending to it, it deteriorated and ended up like this.” Bending down, he parted the patchy grass and revealed the remnants of a brick circle there. It was evident that this space had indeed once been home to a flourishing flower bed, although no trace of its former glory remained.

“Why do flowers die? Why don’t they keep on blooming?” Reinhard mused in a melancholic tone while gazing at the former site of the flower bed.

Felt tilted her head and pondered this, but she quickly recomposed herself. “I don’t know. Isn’t it because they want attention? If they are always blooming beautifully, they will be neglected, right? That’s why they’re always busy blooming and withering. Just like Ilya.”

Reinhard fell silent at Felt’s response.

Felt scratched her cheek absentmindedly, sensing that her words might have unintentionally struck a chord with Reinhard.

“Lady Felt,” he started. “Do you like flowers?”

The sudden question caught her off guard. Felt contemplated Reinhard’s question, tracing one of the bricks buried in the ground with her finger. “No, I don’t like them…”


“Or so I thought, but I never really spent enough time looking at them to say I like or dislike them. So I neither love nor hate them.”

Her response carried an ambivalent tone, in which at that moment, a sudden realization dawned upon her. Before her eyes was a desolate flower bed, devoid of anything save for recollections of the past. So Felt suggested:

“You should make a flower bed here. Then I can decide whether I like flowers or not.”

“Me, flowers?”

“If you want me to like flowers, then grow some beautiful flowers,” Felt selfishly demanded, her posture slightly straight. “Until then, I’m not gonna give you an answer.”

It was amusing to picture Reinhard, the gallant knight, tinkering in the dirt at Felt’s behest. Such a sight would undoubtedly enhance the landscape of the mansion.

Reinhard was taken aback by the unexpected request.

“What the…? Why do you look so happy?”

“Oh, well… This will be my first attempt at tending a garden, too,” Reinhard explained, his restless demeanor indicating newfound possibilities.

Felt widened her eyes at his reaction, followed by a laugh that exposed her fang. “Yeah. Remember to keep that attitude for our next loss,” she quipped in response to Reinhard’s smiling face, prodding him in the chest. He didn’t dodge her fist. “Oh, but I won’t give up on winning in the end. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that.”

“Understood, my lady,” he responded. Felt rose from where she sat, noticing Kalifa leaving the mansion. Trailing behind her were the three idiots, carrying large bags and staring adoringly at the nervous Kalifa.

The trio had been assigned to transport the myriad of household goods they had prepared over the past few days for Ilya and Kalifa’s new life at the ranch, and they certainly did not seem dissatisfied with their orders.

Flam and Grassis, who had toiled to prepare these goods, cast disheartened glances at the three idiots, while Old Man Rom gently patted the two on the head.

Felt was a little miffed at this sight but quickly set aside her frustration when her eyes met Ilya’s, carried on Kalifa’s back. Nestled against her mother, Ilya watched Felt and Reinhard standing in the garden with her blue eyes, then broke into a joyous smile as she waved her tiny hand.

Reinhard’s words echoed in Felt’s mind. “I hope Ilya finds happiness,” he’d said. She shared the sentiment and knew precisely how to make that happen. And so, resolving to articulate her thoughts to the baby, this child that she found so similar to herself, she opened her mouth wide, and bellowed with all her might:

“Ilya! Live strong!”


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