That warm and reassuring voice enveloped Thiel’s wounded heart. A faint light seemed to emanate from deep within the chest.
Thiel’s eyes sparkled. The girl, who had once been afraid of Nestian’s abuse and harsh treatment, was nowhere to be found.
At that moment, everyone in the room, including Cassius, felt a warm feeling.
The door swung open with a coarse noise. It was clear that the door nearly shattered in the process.
All eyes in the room turned in surprise toward the spot where the door used to be. The presence of a tall figure had all but replaced what had been a giant, sturdy door, which had entirely vanished.
“Is this really happening?”
Everyone in the room tilted their heads in disbelief. Alpheus’s face flushed red rapidly, as if it were about to burst.
Seeing the swift transformation of colors—red, blue, and various shades—Ludian quickly covered Thiel’s ears, shielding her from the explosive sounds.
“Nestian, you son of a…!”
A roar erupted from Alpheus’s mouth. His fleeting golden gaze was sinister.
Ludian, who had expected this, covered Thiel’s ears and closed his eyes as if he had foreseen the sequence of events.
He had sacrificed his own hearing, but he managed to protect his little sister’s ears. It was a commendable strategy.
After shouting loudly, Alpheus finally realized that all the people were gathered in the room.
“Grandpa! Why are you shouting like that! Oh, my, I thought my eardrums were going to burst.”
“But what you said was correct.”
“Then, let’s just tear into them and settle this…”
“Olivia… you should choose your words carefully.”
Cassius sighed. His niece, who had grown up alongside his sons since childhood, possessed a rougher manner in such situations than Perdi and Ludian.
“Oh, right. Anyway!”
“And if resolving it by assaulting Nestian won’t solve the problem, how should we approach this? Should we demand entry into Nestian and immediately refute all the lies about the legend?”
“Such a course of action won’t solve the matter. The rumor has already spread. What we can do is…”
Cassius’s clear gaze encompassed the little girl entirely.
In that warm and responsible look, Thiel stared quietly at him.
“Do our best to protect Thiel. And besides, Asterian…”
“Has experienced loss.”
The voice was firm and heavy. Everyone present fell silent. Feeling the gaze of those around him, Cassius looked at Thiel.
“Don’t worry, Thiel. Those who have experienced loss know how frightful it can be.”
“We won’t lose you.”
“Still, it’s okay. We don’t know what’s inside the room.”
Thiel spoke steadily and with composure.
The ‘room’ being the secret chamber where Alpheus had taken Theil before.
A secret room for those with the ‘ability of light.’
So it should be fine. They vaguely knew the contents of the legend.
“I’m not sure if I can actually calm the madness.”
Although the room stated that Thiel could calm madness, it was unlikely that this fact was known in Nestian.
Certainly, the secret room responded to the ability of light. Furthermore, Thiel was the sole possessor of the ‘ability of light,’ which extends beyond the empire’s boundaries to the entire world.
“So, I’m okay, Grandpa. Besides, you’ll protect me, won’t you?”
Thiel reached out with her small hand. Alpheus, slowly closing and opening his eyes, held her hand.
The face, wrinkled from age, softened tenderly. It was hard to believe that this was the same person who had just been shouting.
“Well then, don’t worry. Grandpa will protect you, dear.”
“Yes, don’t worry!”
“Even if you have to risk your life.”
“Uh, I didn’t ask for that much…”
He didn’t ask to such a degree, but Thiel didn’t insist.
Due to Alpheus’s determined gaze focused on Thiel.
“But be careful. When you go out from now on, always go with your brothers and take the knights of Asterian with you.”
“Thiel, you have to be careful. I’m even more worried because your ability is an ability that can’t harm others.”
It would have been better if it was those guys… Alpheus murmured quietly.
“Harming others is something these kids should worry more about. Instead of fretting over being harmed by others,” Olivia asserted firmly.
No one refuted Olivia’s words, including Perdi and Ludian.
“At any rate! Be careful, very careful. It might be best to refrain from venturing out until this ‘ability of light’ situation is resolved. Cassius and I will find a way to solve this predicament.”
“So, Thiel, don’t worry and go rest. Or maybe play a bit. That’s what children should do.”
“Yes! Thank you, Grandpa!”
Thiel briefly hugged Alpheus and then let go. Alpheus chuckled and looked affectionately at his granddaughter.
And there were two brothers watching that scene with a subdued expression.
“…Didn’t he tell us to practice using our abilities?”
“But he said that’s what children should do…”
Ludian and Perdi murmured quietly.
However, no one listened to them again.
Well, one person did.
“Huh? Really? He just told me to rest or play!”
Thiel discerned that not listening actually helped, even proving advantageous.
* * *
After all the children had left the room, Cassius and Alpheus sighed heavily.
“That Zender, I’ll tear him apart…”
A deep voice erupted, akin to the roar of a savage beast.
“I didn’t expect it to turn out like this.”
No matter how much they distanced Thiel from Alpheus, the existence of that secret room could only be known by Nestian, Asterian, and the Leopard Clan.
Yet Nestian divulged this fact, along with the existence of another legend related to the ability of light in the Leopard Clan.
And that legend pertained to breaking the curse that had bound the Leopard Clan for a long time.
Even though he pretended to be fine in front of Thiel, the situation was more dire than he originally thought.
In a situation where the temples and each family cast covetous glances upon Thiel, if the imperial palace were to harbor similar ambitions, it would be arduous for Asterian, no matter how powerful they were, to perfectly protect the child.
“I didn’t think he would go that far.”
“What could be more frightening? Perhaps the fear that Thiel’s presence would serve to further bolster Asterian’s might.”
Cassius’s words were accurate.
What Nestian dreaded the most was Asterian ascending to even greater power.
Thinking about that repulsive aura, even more anger welled up. After all, Thiel was his granddaughter.
Moreover, the kid was only seven years old! To orchestrate such a situation involving a young child? Did they have no shred of conscience whatsoever?
“So, that guy will live like a loser for the rest of his life! Like a perpetually defeated one!”
A porcelain teacup shattered into pieces in Alpheus’s grasp. A residue of white powder clung to his fingers.
“Well, it was something that had to happen sooner or later. As long as Thiel has that ability, even if the rumor hadn’t spread, other families would have targeted her.”
“That’s true, but…”
Why did it have to unfold in such a way?
Cassius still didn’t know, but Alpheus did.
The emperor had set his sights on Thiel as Iandros’s companion.
But now, with this turn of events…
They had inadvertently caused the emperor to covet their adorable granddaughter in their attempt to restrain the clutches of other families.
And until dirt got into their eyes, they had failed to foresee the looming reality.
“The only way to keep them from laying a hand on Thiel is…”
Alpheus wiped his face with his calloused hand, his expression a complicated blend of emotions. His rugged skin scraped against his touch.
Cassius, too, turned his gaze, as if organizing his thoughts to seek clarity. A momentary silence passed between the two.
“…Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. It’s just…”
Cassius fiddled with the shattered teacup in his hand. It was the same cup Alpheus had just broken.
“It’s cruel to Perdi.”
Cassius’s words were correct.
The course they had come up with was cruel to Perdi. Therefore, Alpheus and even Cassius couldn’t reach an immediate decision
“Alright, for now… fix the rumors.”
Rumors, with their elusive nature, often swelled and propagated more than the truth.
Moreover, the rumor in particular concerned the ‘ability of light’ in the legend. The potential ramifications once this rumor took hold were undeniably grave.
“Yes, I’ll fix it.”
“Assign the elite knights of Asterian as Thiel’s guards.”
“It’s imperative. Or have Perdi and Ludian escort her directly.”
“Yes, that seems neccesary…”
“…a repetition of what occurred before must not be tolerated.”
Repetition. It could not happen again.
They had not forgotten the incident of Lena being taken.
Although the incident did not lead to any accusations against Nestian…
If something similar were to befall Thiel this time…
‘They will definitely be held accountable!’
Alpheus gritted his teeth.
His resolve emanated an ominous, grim aura.
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