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    Schedule: Every Saturday, 4 chps max

    The duke had been meeting with various people regarding the recent tax issues. Right after the guest left, he picked up the teacup and brought it to his lips. In his narrowly opened silver-gray eyes, the reflection of another teacup placed across from him could be seen. The contents of the luxurious teacup were neatly emptied.

    He must have been very nervous. The interview lasted only an hour, not very long. Given that he emptied the teacup in that short time, there was a high probability that his mouth had gone dry. What made him so nervous?

    “It seems… the minor lord I appointed is causing problems on my land.”

    He elegantly brushed the handle of the gracefully curved teacup with his neatly stretched fingers. The territory managed by the Barthes ducal family was so vast that it was divided by region, and minor lords were appointed separately to manage it. However, as time had passed, it seemed that problems had arisen, as if people had changed.

    The person the duke had just met was the attendant of the minor lord in charge of managing the Sabon region. He replied that his master was handling affairs very fairly and cleanly. However, his body spoke differently. When the duke focused his attention on his ears, he could clearly hear the thumping sound of an uncontrollable heartbeat due to nervousness. In addition, the movements of his breathing and eyes were unnatural. All of those things informed the duke that he was hiding something.

    Telling a lie in front of the duke was an extremely difficult task. Although it had become much fainter, he had the blood of a different race mixed in him. A race that was now hard to find. Even though generations had changed several times, that blood was stronger than human blood and had persistently continued.

    Thanks to that, the duke’s senses were superior to those of ordinary people, and he could also live much longer than humans. Others called it a blessing, but he found it to be extremely resentful.

    The duke, who had been stroking the teacup, spoke.

    “Claude, prepare for a secret trip.”

    “You’re going in person?”

    “Yes.”

    For him, who had lived several times longer than humans, everything was boring and not new.

    “I’ll inform the attendants.”

    Claude bowed his head and answered. The duke took a sip of tea in the quiet space. The taste that cleanly fell without any aftertaste perfectly fit his mouth. As he was savoring the tea with pleasure, something he had been thinking about recently came to mind.

    “Come to think of it, have you checked what I asked you to find out?”

    “Are you referring to the matter of the bird?”

    “Yes.”

    The duke had ordered Claude to find out the species of the bird because he found its behavior curious and wanted to learn more. So Claude went to the trader and asked about the species, but he also didn’t know, saying it was a bird he had never seen before. Thinking it would be popular if its personality was good, he tried to catch more and searched through books, but he couldn’t find a similar species.

    “I asked the trader, but he also had no knowledge of it.”

    “Were there no recorded documents or anything like that?”

    “Yes. From professional hunters to the imperial library, not a single piece of matching information was found.”

    The duke made a “hmm” sound and crossed his legs. It was a truly curious bird. Its behavior was almost human-like. However, sometimes it would behave in ways that humans couldn’t understand. For example, he couldn’t comprehend why it would passionately try to hit his head. Judging from its face, it didn’t seem to have any malicious intent, so he didn’t cage it.

    Its diet was also interesting. The day after giving it a small piece of steak, when he provided the feed it usually ate, the bird made a “chirp!” sound and threw the feed with its feet. The butler who had been giving the feed was humiliated right in front of his eyes. Its temper was quite fierce.

    “How peculiar.”

    The duke, who had leaned back in his chair, relaxing his body, crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes.

    It was no exaggeration to say that all the known information in this world was stored in the imperial library. To think that no information could be found in that treasure trove of knowledge. It seemed that he had purchased an extremely rare bird that had not yet been discovered. The duke got up from his seat.

    “I’m going to the study.”

    The butler bowed his head and opened the reception room door. The duke passed through the open door and headed to the study. As he walked along the long corridor, the image of the bird kept coming to his mind.

    That creature was very small and round. Also white and cute. Upon closer inspection, there were black eyes and a beak on its small face, resembling a plant seed. When it was in a bad mood, the corners of its eyes would rise sharply, harboring a fierce spirit. It frequently opened its small beak wide and made loud “chirp chirp” sounds.

    That was exactly how it looked when he brought it the feed. It filled its small eyes with intense anger and made a fuss, throwing the feed with its feet. Its temper was truly ill-mannered, but for some reason, he didn’t feel displeased. Perhaps because it was small, it wasn’t threatening at all, and rather… it was close to being cute.

    Imagining its furious appearance, a smile unknowingly formed on his lips.

    🐤

    “Chirp…”

    When I raised my head to remove the sticky paper attached to my bottom and wings, when I could see the state of the desk, I felt doomed. Even with my small eyes, I could tell how disastrous the current situation was.

    The papers that had been neatly arranged on the desk were fluttering everywhere, and the black ink bottle that had been next to them was rolling on the desk. Of course, the ink that had been inside the bottle was beautifully splattered on the desk and documents.

    With a feeling of disbelief, I lowered my head to examine my body.

    “Cheep.”

    Originally, the tips of my wings had a slight grayish tint. However, now I could see that they had turned black here and there, probably due to the ink. Unfortunately, because my body was round, I couldn’t properly examine every nook and cranny, but I intuitively knew that my appearance was abnormal. Just like this chaotic desk.

    I was doomed. Faced with a situation that was utterly impossible to handle, my vision went dark.

    “Gasp…”

    I’ll be kicked out. I won’t be able to eat delicious steak anymore. My beak trembled at the bleak reality. Tears welled up in my eyes, blurring my vision. Tears that I had never shed since coming here fell drop by drop.

    “Cheeep…”

    My crying voice, unlike usual, was full of moisture and trembled faintly like a person crying. Was my voice trembling because my body was shaking? I got up from my spot, sobbing. I had been adopted into a noble household that was never in my fate, enjoying all sorts of luxuries. Now it would all disappear like bubbles.

    Tears fell with a plop and flowed down my body. I carefully turned my head and surveyed the room once more. No matter how many times I looked, it was a mess that I couldn’t handle with my power. This was something I had brought upon myself. If I had controlled my emotions well and remained calm, this wouldn’t have happened.

    It was all my fault. I clenched my beak and made a fist with my wings. If a person… no, if a bird did something wrong, it should receive an appropriate punishment. I got up from my spot with determination. I walked carefully so as not to make a bigger mess. The ink must have gotten all over my feet because every time I lifted my foot from the desk, a sticky sound, chap chap, was heard.

    On the sofa, there was a soft cushion where I usually slept soundly. If I was kicked out now, I wouldn’t be able to sleep in such a luxurious place. My head drooped again at the bleak future.

    With heavy, powerless steps, I hid between the cushions. Not being able to sleep in such a warm and comfortable place, not being able to eat incredibly delicious food. Even thinking about it again, it was too upsetting. If I hadn’t known about this good environment from the beginning, I wouldn’t have been this sad.

    “Chirp.”

    I curled up my body as much as possible and squeezed deeper between the cushions. Although it was dark and pitch-black like my future, the soft and fluffy narrow space fit my body size perfectly, giving me a sense of stability.

    “Sigh.”

    I let out a small breath. It was hard to bear the anxious feeling of not knowing when the duke would come in. I tried hard to find comfort by rubbing my body against the soft cushion. I didn’t know if my entire body was hidden, but at least my vision was definitely blocked.

    I hoped the duke would come late. No, if I was going to keep feeling this anxious, it might not be bad if he came quickly. They say it’s better to be beaten first. I squeezed my eyes shut tightly. Let’s cherish this warmth that won’t come again.

    I stayed like that between the cushions for a long time. The room with no one in it was very quiet.

    “Snooze… Snooze…”

    Perhaps because the cushion warmed by my body temperature was cozy, I felt sleepy. It was the perfect place for a deep sleep, so I couldn’t resist the drowsiness. Just as my heavy eyelids were about to close, I heard the sound of neat footsteps. Step step, it was the sound of about two people walking outside the room. Startled by the sound, my body trembled.

    They’re here!

    My small heart started pounding. It was beating so loudly that I thought it might come out of my mouth. I’ll be kicked out soon, right? In the darkness before my eyes, the fluffy cushion and the steak full of glistening meat juice floated.

    “Cheep.”

    Goodbye, cushion. Goodbye, steak.

    As I bid farewell in my heart, the study door opened. The door opening with a click sounded like a death sentence being handed down to me.

    When the door opened, the sound of fast footsteps should have been heard, but there was no sound at all. After a brief, tense silence, a small sigh, “Ah…”, was heard.

    I could tell. Why they weren’t entering the room. Why they lost their words. I tightly closed my eyes and obediently waited for my punishment between the cushions.

    The two people standing outside the study slowly stepped into the room.

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