The man had been releasing the sheep when I approached him with Guadang.
“You’re the ranch keeper, right?”
What was his name again? Ranch keepers changed frequently, so I didn’t remember well.
This man had become the keeper not even a year ago, and I hadn’t met him before. There was no need for me to visit the pasture myself, so I had never met him until now.
“What’s your name?”
“Just call me whatever you like. I’ll be leaving soon anyway.”
The man replied in a tired voice. He yawned.
I awkwardly scratched my cheek and handed Guadang to him. The man loosened Guadang’s reins and let him graze in the meadow.
“Guadang, I’ll come back tomorrow!”
“I named him.”
“His name is Vexiadria Larelius, though.”
Why is the donkey’s name fancier than mine?
“I decided on that name.”
I had nothing to say.
“Feel free to call him Vexi.”
“My name is Frer.”
“Alright, Frer. See you tomorrow. Goodbye, Guadang!”
I waved vigorously to Guadang. Of course, he didn’t even glance at me because he was busy munching on grass with his friends.
Bad donkey… but he’s still charming.
I looked at Guadang one more time, the black and white donkey, before returning to the management office.
As soon as I opened the door, I saw the supervisors surrounding an oak barrel.
Wait, an oak barrel?
I screamed and rushed towards the oak barrel, hugging it tightly. I felt several pairs of eyes on my back.
I told Lizzy to keep it a secret! Do you plan to secretly get your revenge, Nelly Pepper? Do you?
I tried to hit my head against the oak barrel, but a hand suddenly slipped between the oak barrel and my forehead.
“What a ruckus from the morning.”
Why is Leonel here? He wasn’t here a moment ago!
I rolled my eyes in surprise, and he withdrew his hand and stood up.
With that, he walked into my office.
What’s going on? What is he trying to say? Is he asking about the oak barrel? Then, what should I answer?
I gulped down dry saliva and went inside.
Leonel, who had been rifling through the papers piled on the desk, sat in my seat. He elegantly crossed his long legs and placed his fingers, knuckles pressed, on his knees.
It’s okay. Relax. Take a deep breath…
That startled me!
I coughed violently, and Leonel jerked his upper body back. I frowned at him, coughed, and then exhaled.
I took a seat and averted my gaze.
“I didn’t drink during the day.”
“Then what is the oak barrel?”
No one drinks a whole oak barrel of alcohol. I looked at him with an indignant expression.
Did he catch on? Is he going to ask? What should I say if he does?
My legs are shaking for no reason. Leonel raised his gaze after lightly tapping his knees.
And then he took something out of his pocket and placed it in front of me.
Leonel gestured for me to open it without saying anything.
I looked at him and raised a piece of paper.
On the exquisite paper, my name was written in the recipient’s space. And the sender was…
It was an invitation to a ball at the palace.
Why would he send me this? I saw him last time, and he didn’t seem to like Leonel!
I hope I’m not suspected as a spy again because of this.
“I have nothing to do with the prince.”
Then why did you bring this?
I tilted my head and stayed silent, and Leonel glanced at the invitation.
“Go with me.”
“Me? To the ball?”
“With the Duke? Why?”
“I’ve been feeling it for a while, and I don’t want you to call me…….”
Leonel nodded as if he understood. After a moment of silence, he spoke again.
“It would be good if you attended the ball. The opportunity to be part of the nobility isn’t given to just anyone.”
“I’m not interested.”
My only interest right now is revenge!
“Are you serious?”
Leonel asked, resting his chin on his hand.
That look. I already know. He’s doubting me again.
“I’ll tell you in advance; I have no intention of associating with the prince. I don’t care to impress the nobles in any way.”
“Who said you had to?”
Fury boiled within me. Words I couldn’t bring myself to say out loud before now spilled out.
“You’re saying it with your eyes! It’s frustrating to be scrutinized every time something happens, you know? I’m working hard…”
Of course, what I’m working hard at isn’t a job but revenge.
I snorted and jumped up from my seat.
“I have work to do!”
Leonel, with a strange smile, put the invitation back into his pocket.
“Well, then, I should decline as well. I don’t have a suitable partner.”
Look at that. He’s checking if I want to go to the ball again. I hate him.
I opened the door and pushed him out. Surprisingly, Leonel didn’t say a word and meekly let himself be pushed out.
It seems he has some conscience left.
Of course, that doesn’t make him any less annoying!
* * *
Another week passed. I was a bit too enthusiastic about spraying the plant poison on the first day, so it ended up running out sooner than expected. As a result, it took me a bit longer to collect enough eggshells.
So, the plant poison was still in the process of being made. But I didn’t miss a single day meeting with Guadang.
“Let’s go see Guadang and play, no, I mean, feed him!”
I knew it would be like this, so I told Mary yesterday, and we managed to find a huge sugar cookie with difficulty.
According to Frer, donkeys can’t resist sugar.
As I chuckled darkly, I spotted a patch of grass. Guadang was quietly munching on the grass amidst his chattering friends.
As I shouted, all the donkeys turned their heads towards me simultaneously. Although all their gazes were focused on me at once, it wasn’t intimidating.
Weren’t they supposed to ignore me, even disdain me, with their noses upturned? Why were they running towards me with their eyes rolled back?
I screamed as I ran, and from behind, I heard the terrifying sound of hooves.
“Frer! Save me, Frer!”
Whether he heard my desperate plea or not, Frer waved his hand and yelled loudly.
“I can’t save you!”
I screamed, and Frer pretended to ignore me, petting an imaginary puppy.
In my heart, I wanted to rush in and let him get caught up in the donkey hurricane with one step.
But my small and precious stamina couldn’t bear it, and I quickly found myself at the center of the donkey storm.
“Ugh, huff, huff.”
While catching my breath, Frer approached with a poker face.
“Why did you bring that with you?”
“I wanted to get closer to Guadang!”
“It seems like you’ve gotten closer.”
I turned my head and made eye contact with Guadang, who had suddenly become calm.
“Our Guadang isn’t usually like this. He’s a well-behaved donkey!”
Startled, I approached again, but this time, he kept stamping his hooves on the ground.
It seemed like he was itching somewhere that couldn’t be reached, or maybe he was writhing in pain.
“Why is he doing this? Did he have a seizure from eating too much sugar?”
With a worried look, I held Guadang in my arms and looked at Frer. He looked at Guadang with a blank face, then shook his head.
What’s with that ominous gesture? What does it mean?
“Is it serious?”
“If you leave it like this, he might just die.”
“Yes. He’ll die of pleasure.”
I muttered in a daze, then glared at Frer, who was faintly smiling.
“Why would you joke about his life like that? You scared me.”
As I scolded him and stood up with Guadang, Frer’s poker face changed slightly.
He paused for a moment before speaking.
“Seems like the estate manager truly cherishes animals.”
“Guadang is cute.”
“Our Vexi is pretty cool.”
“Cool and cute.”
I continued to stroke Guadang’s jet-black fur. Frer fell silent for a moment, then reached out and began to caress the donkey’s large ears.
“Donkeys like it when you touch their ears. They have sensitive hearing.”
Frer motioned for me to give it a try. I carefully used both hands to caress Guadang’s ears.
In response, Guadang nuzzled my face and made happy, purring sounds.