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    “Cheep!”

    Realizing the situation, the bird was startled and rolled over sideways. Its round body was well-suited for rolling. As the duke extended his hand to support its body, the bird looked up at him with a dumbfounded expression.

    “Peep?”

    How could those round eyes looking at him be so small? Without realizing it, the corners of the duke’s mouth slightly lifted.

    “Cheep?”

    The bird tilted its head from side to side, and as if struck by a thought, it suddenly began shedding droplets of tears. Large teardrops formed in its seed-sized eyes and fell one by one. The bird’s warm tears dampened the duke’s hand.

    “Peep. Cheep…”

    With its eyes tightly shut, its weeping appearance looked truly pitiful.

    What could be causing the bird such misery? The duke carefully grasped the quietly crying bird and placed it on his palm. The eyes gazing at him were still moist. Just as he wondered what thoughts were going through that little head, the bird let out a small sigh. The sigh that escaped from between its tiny beak was so small and cute that it was almost embarrassing to call it a sigh. Seeing the bird sprawled out with a completely dejected look, something came to mind.

    “Come to think of it, I haven’t given you a name yet.”

    “Cheep?”

    As if understanding the word “name,” the bird tilted its head and looked at him.

    Several days had passed since he had started keeping this small creature, yet he had simply been calling it a bird without giving it a proper name. While it was trendy among the nobility to boast about their exceptional and unique animals, he hadn’t heard much about them giving names to their pets. To them, animals were nothing more than inferior beasts and disposable objects compared to humans.

    The duke gazed at the bird making soft “cheep cheep” sounds on his palm. Although he wouldn’t have done it under normal circumstances, every day had been new since meeting this bird. The thought of giving it a name as a small act of deviation didn’t seem too bad. What name would suit this little bird?

    The bird’s cheeping cries were incredibly cute. Its chirping matched its small gestures perfectly. Finding the situation truly amusing, the duke let out a soft chuckle. It was a genuine laugh that he hadn’t experienced in a long time.

    As if hearing his laughter, the bird tilted its head even further to the side. The sound of “cheep,” which never grew tiresome no matter how often he heard it, reached his ears again. Then, half impulsively, he parted his lips.

    “Right. Since you’re chirping and crying, Peep would be a good name.”

    “Peep?”

    The bird seemed to be asking for confirmation, as if understanding his words. With a strangely excited feeling, he repeated himself.

    “From now on, your name is Peep.”

    “Cheep?”

    It sounded like it was questioning him repeatedly. Of course, the likelihood of it actually asking for confirmation was simply the duke’s wishful thinking. However, considering how this bird was different from other ordinary animals and quite intelligent, he thought it might genuinely be asking and said,

    “That’s right. Your name is Peep.”

    Expressing such emotions was truly a rare occurrence for him.

    🐤

    On the day the office was left in a mess, although I thought I would be kicked out, I ended up receiving the strange name “Peep” and was allowed to remain in the house. What’s with that naming sense? Is it really okay? I fell into serious contemplation, wondering if I would have to live with this name from now on. However, it wasn’t easy to continue my train of thought. As I sat with a solemn expression, the duke kept poking me from the side.

    Ah, why do you keep bothering me?

    “Peep!”

    Stop touching me! I’m in the midst of a very serious dilemma right now. Do you understand the gravity of my situation? I glared at the duke with a fierce expression. Perhaps intimidated by my terrifying gaze, the duke refrained from poking me further with his long fingers.

    The duke, who was dozens of times larger than me, didn’t seem to realize how enormous his adult male fingers appeared to me. Just one of those fingers seemed to be the size of my face. Typical humans. Sigh. I let out a small, unnoticed sigh. Instead of poking me, the duke gently stroked my head.

    Fine. Just keep petting me.

    I sat obediently, feeling the duke’s touch. These days, the duke seemed to have fewer tasks to handle compared to when I first saw him, as he was giving me consistent attention. Well, it’s better than being ignored. As I was lazily receiving the duke’s caress, a sound came from outside the office.

    “Your Grace, I’m coming in.”

    It was Claude’s voice. The door opened, and Claude entered. As Claude handed over the documents he had brought, the duke brushed his hair back and slowly perused them.

    “Are all the preparations complete?”

    “Yes. I have already informed the few attendants who will be accompanying us.”

    “That won’t be necessary. I’ll just go alone.”

    Twitching his eyebrows, the duke closed the documents and neatly stacked them on a corner of the desk, ensuring they weren’t tilted. Recently, there had been a lot of talk about the Sabon region and whatnot. What exactly was the issue? I flapped my wings and flew up to the duke’s head.

    Hmm… the Sabon region. It sounds familiar, as if I have heard it many times before… It feels familiar, but I can’t recall precisely. Where and from whom have I heard it? Was it when I was captured by the trader? Tilting my head, I sat with my bottom on the duke’s hair.

    Ah, it’s warm.

    “Cheep.”

    The duke’s head was warm and fluffy, making it comfortable to settle on, thanks to his body temperature and hair. The duke must have found my warmth pleasant as well, as he didn’t put me down.

    Looking down at Claude like this reminded me of the first time I climbed onto the duke’s head. Although the owner of the head, the duke, showed no reaction, Claude’s expression in front of us was quite a sight. His mouth gaped open, and his pupils darted around busily. Now that I did this often, he seemed to have adapted to it a little.

    Since I started perching on the duke’s head, I developed a hobby: nest-building. As I felt the texture of the duke’s hair, I recalled the birds I had seen on television in the past, using twigs to build nests. So, without realizing it, I began constructing a nest using the duke’s dark blue hair. Even though no one had ever taught me, I could do it instinctively. I carefully picked up one strand at a time and piled them around me.

    As I chirped and enthusiastically picked up the strands one by one to weave my nest, Claude, who had been watching, slightly shifted his gaze. I felt proud, as if he finally recognized my artistic spirit.

    With me on top of the duke’s head, the two of them continued their conversation as if nothing had happened.

    “There have been changes.”

    “Yes. According to the preliminary review, the list of workers, taxes, and other records are all inaccurate.”

    “Well, I expected as much…”

    The duke interlocked his fingers and stretched them. A refreshing sound of bones cracking could be heard. I was in the midst of vicarious satisfaction, as I could no longer do that myself. The duke, who was leaning against the chair, grabbed me while I was diligently building my nest.

    Ah, my nest!

    “Cheep!”

    I thought I could finish it this time!

    Whenever I was building a nest, the duke always picked me up and put me down. That sly fellow. You can touch me, but why can’t I do the same to you! I glared at the duke with eyes full of discontent. Feeling extremely angry, I flapped my wings vigorously. The duke placed me on his palm and asked,

    “Are you angry?”

    Yes! I am angry!

    “Cheep!”

    I stuck my bottom out and shouted. Seeing me like that, the duke gave a gentle smile. Recently, the corners of his mouth had been softening more frequently.

    “I have a schedule, so I can’t have my hair ruined. I’m sorry.”

    A schedule?

    I tilted my head quizzically. The duke only smiled at me without providing any explanation. What! Why do you start saying something to pique the bird’s curiosity and then stop! If a human has already spoken a word, they should at least give an explanation to the bird!

    Do you know how much effort I put into building my nest? I carefully balance each strand of hair to create a perfect circle! I raised my eyes fiercely and glared at the duke, trying to intimidate him a little. It didn’t seem to have much effect.

    “Peep is full of anger today as well.”

    “Cheep!”

    “Today as well”! While I may have been a bit angry at times, it wasn’t to the extent of being “full of anger.” Moreover, my anger was always justified. As I denied it and flapped my wings, his eyes slightly curved.

    “Shh. Wait a bit, and I’ll give you some delicious meat. Will that do?”

    Meat?

    “Peep.”

    Well then, I’ll consider it.

    I nodded slightly and decided to postpone my anger for a moment. It’s not because of the meat… I’m just being lenient because I’m kind-hearted. I obediently folded my angry wings and sat calmly. At the same time, I made a firm resolution in my heart. One day, I would definitely build a nest on the duke’s head.

    I settled myself in a corner of the desk. It seemed there were many things to review besides the documents he had been looking at earlier, as he took out other papers from the drawer. Then, someone knocked on the office door. Without raising his head, the duke gestured to Claude.

    Claude, who had been standing by the duke’s side, walked over to the door with large strides and opened it. Then, three or four people who appeared to be wearing uniforms of the ducal house entered. As the duke rose from his seat and sat at the head of the table in the center of the office, the people who had entered hurriedly took their seats on either side.

    Judging by the pens and papers they were holding, it seemed they had come for a meeting. It was my first time seeing a meeting, so I excitedly flew and landed on the table between the chairs. The duke was in front of me, and the attendants were on either side.

    Everyone placed their papers on the table and began discussing. Although I didn’t know the details, they were talking about internal matters of the mansion.

    I hopped around, observing people’s faces. That person has abundant hair! I blinked my eyes while looking at them. With those curly locks, if I picked them up one by one and secured them, it seemed like it would make a good nest. Without hesitation, I spread my wings and flew up into the air. Then, as expected, I landed on top of the curly-haired attendant’s head.

    I opened my beak wide, picked up strands of hair, and circularly piled them around me like a tower. Although I had never succeeded when I was on the duke’s head, I had a good feeling this time. As I diligently picked up the strands, a person’s hand slowly crept up.

    Where do you think you’re going! I spread my wings and swatted the hand hard. Perhaps finding my wings too fierce, the hand slowly retreated. After repeatedly striking the hand that kept coming up, it finally stopped. Thanks to that, I was able to complete the nest without difficulty.

    As I had predicted, curly hair was convenient for nest-building. After finishing, I raised my head and made eye contact with the people. They weren’t working and were sneaking glances at me. I carefully observed them, intending to remember their faces, when one person’s head caught my attention.

    It was none other than a bald head.

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