“Now that’s enough; you two can go back now. Razvan and I will take care of the rest.”
My twin brothers hurriedly dispersed the servant who was waiting in the hall.
As I stood there, looking at the chubby dolls, one of the twin brothers who had finished tidying up approached me.
The two brothers stood closely on each side of me, whispering anxiously while keeping an eye on the surroundings.
“We bought those mouse toys that those Inola guys were selling.”
“Even though they’re dolls, they’re your friends, right? It bothered me that they were being sold everywhere to be used for hunting practice.”
…They’re not my friends, though?
I’m currently a hamster due to magic, but I’m still a tiger.
Of course, it might feel strange to see a hamster doll that looks exactly like me being used for hunting practice, but even then, it’s just a doll.
But what came after was even more absurd.
“The problem is where to put them. We can’t just stuff them anywhere, and when we tried to display them, it looked too bare. It would be so embarrassing for you if we just displayed them. They’re your friends after all.”
“Yeah, that’s why we bought all the accessories that <Inola> was selling as well. To decorate the dolls.”
They bought all of that just for that reason?
And what does displaying bare mouse dolls have to do with me being embarrassed?
Thinking of the size of the moving carriage that Winnie brought, I furrowed my brow.
“No matter what, how are you going to deal with all of that? Tigris might get angry.”
“He’ll be fine.”
My twin brothers with the same face pursed their lips with a serious expression.
“Because it was Tigris who told us to buy all the mouse toys.”
I knew Tigris pampered me, but I didn’t expect it to be to this extent.
I sighed, looking up at the two brothers.
“Ugh. Why do you have to display all of that? Instead of that, let’s donate them to the Gladwin Kindergarten or Orphanage.”
“We’ll just keep them for occasional viewing. There are plenty of spare rooms in Gladwin, right? We’ll renovate one room to use as a storage room for mouse dolls and toys. Every day we’ll live surrounded by fluffy mouse dolls.”
“There are so many fluffy cats in Gladwin, so why not just share the mouse toy?”
“No way! I’m not sharing!”
“How old are you guys that you’re so stubborn about a toy?”
“Nineteen! It’s the perfect age to appreciate a mouse toy!”
“…That was being a bit too confident, wasn’t it?”
“Well, we never want to see our mouse toys being used for hunting practice! We won’t allow it!”
How did it come to this?
While pondering what to do, I walked briskly and lightly kicked a hamster toy that was rolling on the floor.
Thud! The toy flew and landed near a basket full of other toys.
The mouse toy fell to the ground, its belly exposed, and twitched.
The twins, their faces turning pale, shouted in horror.
“Ah! No! Not Chikchiki!”
“We knew Sisthy was cruel because she’s like us, but we never expected her to kick Chikchiki!”
I put my hand on my waist and spoke.
“If you guys really love toys, I won’t stop you from displaying them or cuddling with them. But just understand that you’ve outgrown the age of playing with toys.”
“I thought you guys enjoyed petting my fur, but if you prefer petting toy fur over mine, then I can’t do anything about it.”
With a pouting lip and lowered shoulders, I felt a surge of disappointment. But the twins quickly jumped up. Perhaps it was because they were twins; even in moments like this, their synchronization was impeccable.
“That’s not true!”
“Yeah! We only need Sisthy. We don’t need silly toys like Chikchiki! Right, Razvan?”
“Of course! Tavian, I’ll gather the teachers from Gladwin Kindergarten and the caretakers from the daycare center. I’ll ask the chief of staff for a list of beastmen, and if there aren’t enough, I’ll see if we can send them to other kindergartens in different regions.”
After the two brothers rushed off to do their tasks, I waved my hand towards the top of the stairs leading to the second floor.
“Hello, Winnie! Did you sleep well?”
“Good morning, Lady Sisthia.”
Winnie’s voice trembled like a flower blossom swaying in the wind.
Welcome back. It’s the first time I’ve seen her so flustered in front of a mouse toy, right?
I smiled warmly at Winnie.
* * *
Winnie sat at a sunlit desk, filling out an invoice.
Her usually tidy face was a bit disheveled today.
With a restless mind and lack of proper sleep, coupled with the scene she witnessed in Gladwin Castle Hall this morning, it kept flashing before her eyes.
She sighed and looked down at the invoice she was working on. The amount written on it was unimaginably high. Considering the dozens of bottles of the elixir they bought, each worth a servant’s annual salary in the castle, her reaction was only natural.
Moreover, due to Tigris and the twins buying a few more items besides the growth elixir, the amount on the invoice quickly skyrocketed to an enormous sum.
It was not selling the growth elixir that caused Winnie to feel guilty, but rather the fact that the amount was much larger than usual.
It seemed like it might be because of the tiny mouse toy that Gladwin cherished, or perhaps it was because of Lady Sisthia.
With her petite size, round eyes, lively voice, and even the sweet scent that wafted from her when she approached, she reminded Winnie of the youngest sibling she had left behind at home for a long time.
Winnie brushed her brown hair, which had fallen down, behind her ear with a self-deprecating smile.
‘Gladwin’s successor and my sibling look alike. That can’t be right. Is it because I haven’t gone back home for so long? I’m having strange thoughts.’
As Winnie lowered her head and continued with the invoice, her eyes caught sight of a snack placed on one side of the table. It was a fruit and a mild soup that Karin had secretly brought and left.
“Winnie, are you feeling okay? I saw you suppressing nausea during mealtime… I prepared this just in case, not sure if it’ll suit your taste.”
Even though she had visited countless mansions of predators and had never been caught, Winnie couldn’t figure out how Sisthia had noticed. She couldn’t make sense of it.
The fresh fruit she hadn’t eaten in a long time was so sweet that it made her nose tingle.
Winnie covered her face with both hands.
“I… I can’t do it, really.”
But she had to.
She had sent a message to Iveth earlier, stating that the amount was too large and she needed more time to complete the invoice. Yet if she kept delaying like this and didn’t finish her work on time, a scolding from Iveth would follow suit.
If it was only Winnie who would be scolded, it wouldn’t be a problem… but…
As she thought about it, someone knocked on the door.
“Winnie, are you in there? It’s Sisthia.”
“Lady Sisthia? Please come in.”
Winnie quickly cleared the scattered invoices from the table and greeted her.
She sat on the sofa, holding a few pouches in her hand, looking very cheerful and happy.
She even decorated her headband with an empty bottle of growth elixir.
Guilt flooded Winnie once again.
“Welcome, Lady Sisthia. What brings you here?”
“I came because there’s something else I want to buy!”
“Something else you want to buy?”
It couldn’t be the growth elixir she was talking about, Winnie thought, feeling a chill down her spine.
No way, that couldn’t be true.
Suppressing her emotions, Winnie asked politely, “Are you referring to the items mentioned in the advertisement? They haven’t been inspected yet, so we can’t import them to Gladwin.”
“No, I’m not interested in those. I want to buy more of this! The growth elixir!”
“I can buy more, right? Huh? I really want to buy a lot!”
As she shook the pouch containing the coins with a bright smile, Winnie was overwhelmed with a sense of conscience.
Oh dear, what a lie she had told such an innocent child.
‘I wanted to say that it’s not some potion of growth, but boiled water with common dandelion roots,’ Winnie desperately wanted to say, but she swallowed her words to the back of her throat.
“…I know this may sound absurd, but Lady Sisthia, I think it would be better if you stopped buying the growth elixir.”
“There is none left. The one you bought was our last potion of growth.”
She lied again, but she had no choice. No matter how wealthy Gladwin was, Winnie didn’t want her to spend any more money on things like dandelion root tea.
She didn’t want to deceive the innocent little child, who resembled her youngest sibling.
However, Sisthia blinked her large, black eyes and tilted her head.
“Why are you lying? This isn’t the last growth elixir.”
“No, it really is the last growth elixir…”
“Then go and make more.”
With a chilling voice, Sisthia commanded, and Winnie froze in surprise.
Sisthia was still cute and lovely, but her words were not.
“The field beyond the hill is covered with dandelions, right? Go and make more.”
“L-Lady Sisthia, what is this about…?”
“Why did you pretend not to know when you’ve been selling it all this time? I want more growth elixir, or rather, more dandelion root tea. A lot of it, a whole lot.”
Watching Sisthia continue speaking with her small hand resting on her hip, Winnie thought to herself.
Gladwin’s heir apparent was nothing like her sibling. Read ahead here.