*3rd person POV
"Then I'll carry it out as you say. By any chance, do you need anything else?"
Karmeut shook his head. If Galenos could use it to dig a trap, it would not matter.
Not much harm will be done to the Windster family to announce his survival, and above all, he (Galenos) is not the kind of person he (Karmeut) deserves. It was too early to trust him (Galenos) completely under the current circumstances, but... this level of job can be entrusted to him (Galenos) without worries.
"No, I'd appreciate it if you just take care of that. -I'm sorry I can't repay your loyalty right now. I will reward you in the future so that you won't be disappointed."
"Please don't say that, Your Highness. Somehing like this is nothing if it’s for my liege."
"I'm sorry I called you during training. --You can go back and rest."
Karmeut watched Galenos until the door was closed, then he exhaled. He calmed his mind by stroking Rainelle's beak, who was sitting on his shoulder.
The moment he returned to the Imperial Palace, this comfort will be over. Until the moment he bit his brother's neck and killed him.
Listening from the side, it seemed that Karmeut was going to make a life-and-death decision with Luwellin, another imperial family member who was fighting for the throne with him.
... from the looks of it, this person named Luwellin is quite stupid, but he awakened before Karmeut, and therefore, he's competing for the right to succession?
As I ate the yummy cookies, I recalled the conversation I just heard.
I think I'll be bold...
When I listened, it seemed that Karmeut is trying to reverse the situation. If I enter the Imperial Palace, will I watch a real-time drama about power struggle?
Oh, ohohohoh-- That sounds interesting.
I pecked a large piece of cookie with my beak and then swallowed it. This time I was grateful that I was not a human.
Let's say, if I'm a human, I think Karmemut would've sweated a bit while giving a reasonable explanation about my existence.
And since Karmeut brought me, a woman, here, then we can be a good match, or even a hostage. And my life and purity were in danger. Oh, my.
--Thinking of a deep relationship with Karmueut, this is just me drinking kimchi soup before he even thought of giving me a rice cake1...
No, but the other person can do it without thinking like that. I'm not delusional! It's like that when you read novels, y'know!!
Trying to rationalize myself, I wandered around as I wanted.
As the prince's favorite pet, I could fly anywhere.
I was able to fly around in the well-maintained garden, or sit on a branch and leisurely tidy up my feathers. Still, I didn't forget to fly back quickly when Karmeut called. The most important thing to me right now was to be loved!
Oh! He's calling me. Why did you call me?
I flapped my wings eagerly and flew to Karmeut, then I sat on his arm.
--After becoming a bird, it felt like my thinking became as simple as a bird's----. Nope! I'm still smart (?) like a human!! My brain haven't become a bird's ...By the way, arent crows intelligent animals?!
I puffed up my feathers as I felt something poking my chest.
...but why did you call me this time?
When I tilted my head full of questions, Karmeut grabbed my body.
Huh? You want to hug me? You're going to pat my back so I can sleep? Then I like it.
...but it wasn't long before I realized that my thoughts were a mere illusions.
When the cage door was closed with a click, I could only realize that I had been quietly held in Karmeut's hand before and now was kept in a cage.
"Caw! Caaw, caw! Caaaw?! Cawww! (Hey! I trusted you, but you put me in a cage?! What kind of lightning strike is this!!)"
I moved my wings vigorously with a betrayed feeling.
Ugh, it's suffocating! The cage is not small, but it's stuffy! It's suffocating!! Why did you suddenly put me in a cage?! Look, when I get out, I'm going to peck your hand!!
I was terrified that I will be returned to the forest, which counted as a betrayal to me. As I puffed my feathers and cried out, Karmeut awkwardly murmured and scratched my cheek with his index finger,
"I'm sorry, but you have to be patient until we get to the capital."
Capital? Capital?! If that's the case, you can just release me! I won't leave you even if you let me go anyway! Did you think I would make everything I do to be loved into nothing?!
For a moment, I was choked up, but after thinking about it a little bit, Karmeut's action can be understood.
This was because the animals could not tolerate sudden changes in the environment and could run wild, and zookeepers would even administer anesthetics if necessary, then carry them in a cage for the moving.
Yeah, I can understand, but... still, it's too much to put me it in a cage without telling me! I'll punish you when I get out!
After determining that I would punish Karmeut by pecking his hand when I'm out of the cage, I took a look at the cage.
I don't know if it's real gold or painted gold, but the golden cage was bigger than I thought. The water bowl and feed bowl looked like porcelains, and there were plenty of water and cookies. I'm suddenly locked up, but food came in well!!
"Your Highness, I'll take care of the cage."
A servant next to me lifted my cage.
Aah?! The floor is shaking!
"--No, I'll take care of it myself."
But Karmeut stopped her immediately.
Eh? You're going to take me yourself? My eyes stilled at his unexpected conduct.
No matter how cute I am -at least I think so-, I don't think it's appropiate for a prince to carry a cage on his own...
Moving a cage isn't something nobles or royalty would do.
Perhaps Karmeut did not know what was in my and the servant's heart, because he took the cage away from the servant. I flapped my wings in the rattling cage and gripped the perch.
Oh, come on! Be gentle!
The floor is shaking.
Uh, I'm dizzy... Ugh!
Right now, it was as if I'm experiencing seasickness and an earthquake. My eyes quivered.
I wondered if he was unaware of my situation, or if he didn't have the time to pay attention -- either way, I was angry -- it felt like the cage was constantly shaking and my eyes were spinning. It was only after the cage was carefully placed in a space, which was presumed to be a carriage, that I finally came to my senses.
Ugh---. Uh, I was so dizzy. Oh…I felt like the world was rolling...
"Rainelle -- are you all right?"
The cage door opened, and I'm barely rejunevated with his hand gently stroking my beak.
'Are you okay'? 'Are you okay'?! I'm not okay at all! I thought I was going to die of dizziness!
I opened my beak and bit his finger.
Oh, why am I a crow?! Even if I do it like this, it doesn't hurt at all because I don't have teeth!
I was biting his finger out of anger when I heard a small laugh.
My body became blatantly relaxed by the touch of his thumb gently stroking my neck while he showed a small smile, perhaps he was not in pain at all.
Wow... Seriously, being petted is awesome.
I wondered if I should forgive him with this.
...Yes! I have no backbone! But what can I do with such a wonderful petting?! It feels like my whole body is melting!
If I were a cat, I would have purred. When I made a pleased sound under Karmeut's hand, my body was lifted.
The next moment, I was seated on his lap.
"I'm sorry to keep you in a cage all of a sudden. --But I didn't want to go back to the Imperial Palace without you."
I turned my head to look at Karmeut who gently stroked my back with his hand.
...He somehow had a lonely look, so I couldn't say anything. ...Oh, I can't talk because I'm a crow.
"What are you really? Are you a hybrid? Or a polymorph dragon? If not, are you a rare bird that hasn't been revealed by humans?"
I could feel it instinctively: Ah, this is the true Wolfric Iveld de Karmeut. He's telling me about his feelings that he can't say to anyone.
I'm an animal that can't speak and can only hear, so he was letting out what was in his heart.
"I don't know why you helped me, how you understood my plight, how you found Crobanlock and gave it to me, but..."
Karmeut's hand grabbed my body. I wasn't surprised because he didn't grab me hard. As if wrapping me gently, Karmeut's face and golden eyes came closer.
"--you're my lucky bird, I even wondered if God sent you, though I never thought I would cling to God."
I felt a light touch on my beak. My head went blank at the sight of Karmeut's face right in front of him along with the smell of his body.
Uh, uh, uh, uh, this, uh, kiss, kiss! You kissed me, didn't you?! Kiss? Kiss?! Oh? Huh? Huh?!
The golden eyes bent gently. Karmeut's lips felt soft. He stroked my head with a terribly handsome smile.
"Don't leave me. Stay with me. If you really are my lucky bird... if you think of me favorably... help me, just like you did in the forest."
He’s like a child. Yes, he’s like a child.
Did someone lose a child? It was like a kid was about to cry after losing his mother. It felt like the kid was holding the hem of your clothes when asked.
Maybe that wasn’t the right illustration...but that feeling kept coming to me.
Is this the other side of the character Karmeut? Or is this his true self? His less mature self when he hadn't become an emperor? He was desperate, like a child. Even though it doesn't fit him... Strangely, I could understand.
If I were a human, would I be able to see this?
No, it wouldn't have been possible. For some reason, I felt proud that every corner of my heart was filled with elation.
On the other hand, I couldn't say that I would help because I'm not a human being.
--but I know how to convey the meaning without having to say it!
I raised my head and put my beak on his lips. I could feel my face burning.
Thank God...! Because my face can't blush because I'm a crow!
Um, by the way, it's really soft. I'm so sorry to touch it with my hard beak......?
But Karmeut didn't seem to think so. His round golden eyes bent gently and he kissed my head.
Unlike on my beak, the clearer and warmer contact brought a shameful feeling more than before, which caused my feathers to puff up.
Seeing me like this, Karmeut just smiled and stroked my back tenderly.
I could hear the small rattle of the carriage moving, but all my nerves were focused on Karmeut's smile and gentle hand.
*3rd person POV
A luxurious carriage pulled by four horses entered the capital of the Wolfric Empire. While caressing Rainelle's feathers, Karmeut saw the well-organized roads, lively atmosphere, and the magnificent Imperial Palace in the distance. It was just as expected of the capital of an empire.
Rainelle, oddly enough, didn't refuse to enter the cage except for the first day.
As if it understood that it had to be like this, when Karmeut opened the door of the cage, it often walked in on its own and sat comfortably on the perch or dozed off.
Karmeut was worried that it would fly away if it was taken out of the cage when they were camping or staying in a town, but surprisingly, I didn't do so.
Even if it fly, it wouldn't fly far, and it was surprising for other people who saw the bird hovering around Karmeut and quickly sitting on his shoulder or arm when it was called.
It could have flown away as many times as it wanted, but it unexpectedly came to Karmeut as soon as it was called, which gave him a satisfied feeling.
It took them five days to get to the capital. If they go there using magic, they can arrive quickly, but there were Luwellin and his followers there. For Karmeut, it was an option that was best to be ignored, as it would be risky if there were tricks done to his group when they were moving through space.
It replied by cawing, and its violet eyes were shining. Karmeut showed a small smile at the crow's action.
"You must remain to be quiet when we entered the harbor, okay? Otherwise, you might get hurt."
It was half meant to scare the crow, but he was half sincere. He knew that Rainelle wasn't an ominous bird, but a lovely and lucky bird, but other people didn't know that.
In addition, since all kinds of rare animals and plants are kept in the Imperial Palace, it was possible for Rainelle to be mistaken as to have accidentally snuck in and therefore would get beaten by people, or Rainelle might get caught by carnivore animals.
Maybe his sincere words worked, because Rainelle's body stiffened a little and it nodded hard. The sight inadvertently made Karmeut laugh.
‘Ah, really, you can understand words so well and act so cute’, thought Karmeut.
He opened his mouth to speak to a servant.
"Put the cage in my room. If you treat it like a mere wild animal, you know the consequences."
It was threatening to say something like that to a woman who had never had even a small weapon in her hand. Since she was a servant, she knew very well that those words meant something much grimmer than death, so her face turned pale. But she soon regained her composure and acknowledge his words.
After answering, she moved the cage which contained the crow with a careful movement.
The crow in the cage showed anxiousness in its purple eyes, but it did not struggle or cawing, which was in line with Karmeut's words that told it to be quiet.
No, to be precise, it seemed to be a little frightened. Karmeut felt sorry for it and thought, 'I'll comfort you properly after work.'
An unwelcome voice came to Karmeut's ears as he said that in his mind.
1 Korean idiom: Someone doesn’t even think about giving you a rice cake, but you already have drunk Kimchi soup. If you eat a rice cake too quickly, you may choke. To prevent this, you should drink some water, or in this case, Kimchi broth. It would be equivalent to the English expression ‘to count one’s chickens before they hatch’, which means to assume success before it is actually achieved. ↩