Suddenly, the bed creaked. I woke up from the shaking. Yawning and raising my head, I saw Mamela with an astonished expression.
“Why is this happening?”
Mamela repeatedly checked outside the window with an incredulous look. Was there something delicious outside?
I followed Mamela’s gaze with anticipation. However, all I could see was the sun slowly setting.
Mamela let out a dry laugh, looking puzzled.
“How many hours did I take a nap? It was morning… Why is it already evening?”
What? Was that the reason?
I examined her condition. She had rosy cheeks and looked quite healthy. It seemed like Mamela had slept for a long time, probably because I had chased away her bad thoughts.
“Isn’t it good to sleep well?”
I thought so, but it seemed like Mamela felt differently when I saw her astonished expression.
Mamela let out a sigh and looked at me. When our eyes met, her expression softened.
“Well, it’s not bad. I had a good dream.”
Mamela stretched her arms above her head, yawned, and got out of bed. I felt relieved.
‘Thank goodness, she really had a good dream.’
I rolled around on the now larger bed as Mamela got up. I unconsciously scratched Mamela’s pillow, remembering the last time I had torn up the couch, and I even started to put my front paw down.
‘No, I have to resist the urge to scratch, crush, or bite.’
I was determined. Just then, I heard Mamela’s voice from behind.
I turned to look at Mamela, startled. She was sitting on the corner of the bed now. Did she see me scratching the pillow?
Just to be safe, I sat down with a polite sinner’s posture.
But I did give her a gift to scratch. Maybe I should apologize a bit. The front paw is the problem. Should I just eat it?
Mamela stared at me with a determined expression and said, “Aril, it’s just not going to work.”
I closed my eyes tightly. It seemed like today, I really needed to scold myself.
I waited for Mamela to continue speaking.
I gave her a puzzled look at the words that seemed to have completely deviated from the expected trajectory of our conversation.
Mamela, with a serious expression, gently touched her chin and continued,
“I mean, let’s prepare so I can show you to my brother anytime soon.”
“Brother likes smart things. So, Aril, you can show that you’re a genius by training!”
Excited, Mamela clapped her hands down on the bed.
Feeling the vibrations from the mattress, I looked at Mamela with a puzzled expression.
There was only one thought that came to mind as I heard her words.
If she wanted to show me, why emphasize being smart? If she wanted strengths, couldn’t cuteness be enough? To my eyes, I might have looked like a fluffy puppy, but humans seemed to find my appearance appealing enough.
Why didn’t I reveal myself to her family from the beginning? If I was going to be seen eventually…
At that moment, I recalled something Mamela had said when I had just arrived here.
“Our brother dislikes animals. I don’t know why, but he gets scared whenever an animal comes near.”
“So, I want to hide you for a while.”
Back then, I couldn’t understand her words, but now it was different.
I opened my mouth in surprise.
“That was the reason…”
It was something I hadn’t thought of, and it left me a little disconcerted. My feelings were in turmoil.
Mamela’s family dislikes animals…
Strangely, I felt a flutter in my chest. Amidst my confusion, Mamela’s voice continued to resonate.
“Our Brother’s name is Idilos. You must remember it. Because you’ll become a part of our family, along with me.”
I looked at Mamela while pressing my pillow against my chest.
Could I really become a part of your family, even though he doesn’t like animals?
Mamela’s expression seemed to convey that she was already confident that I could. If I trained, would I be able to change his feelings towards animals, as she suggested?
I, too, wanted to become a part of Mamela’s family. I wanted to get closer to him, whom I had secretly observed.
With that desire in my heart, I looked at Mamela. Training, let’s give it a try.
Coincidentally, Mamela extended her hand to me with a victorious smile.
“Aril, let’s start with this. Hand!”
I stared silently at her palm, tilting my head.
Hand? Are you asking for my hand when I only have paws?
I looked down at my front paw, then back up at her in bewilderment. Mamela patted me, as if to reassure me that it was possible.
Could there be hands hidden somewhere on me…?
I examined my body, chasing my tail for a full circle, and even checked between my legs, just in case.
But there were none…
“It’s okay. You might not be able to do it.”
Mamela nodded as if she understood my reaction.
She gently took one of my front paws in her hand, placing it on top of her own hand. Then she explained kindly,
“When I say ‘hand,’ you just need to extend it like this.”
What? Hand? Shouldn’t it be called a ‘paw’ instead of a ‘hand’ if that’s what they want?
Do humans consider hands and paws the same thing?
Maybe they can’t distinguish between hands and paws. It seems I’m less delicate than I thought.
Mamela called “hand” again, and this time, I extended my front paw as she had shown me.
Mamala’s expression brightened.
“You succeeded after just one explanation! Our Aril is indeed a genius…!”
I shrugged and let out a snort. This was a piece of cake. Was this all there was to it? If not, was I a fish?
Mamela showered me with affectionate strokes and then pulled out a treat bag.
I widened my eyes in surprise.
She fed me a piece of meat. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to accept this into my mouth.
“Was it this easy to get me to do this?”
Just by extending my front paw once, they gave me something delicious. What was all that fuss about? Seriously!
My brief moment of rebellion disappeared as soon as Mamela opened her mouth.
“One more time, hand!”
I promptly extended my front paw as if waiting for her. In response, Mamela praised me and gave me another meat treat.
I was enraptured by the heavenly taste of the treat. It seemed like I was going to open my eyes to new things.
“I love this ‘hand’ thing!”
From now on, my front paws would be hands, not paws.
* * *
Ansel Rosette, the aide to Duke Cadellarotte, took a deep breath before knocking on the door of the Duke’s study. He always felt nervous standing in front of it, as if it were the door to the afterlife.
Ansel cleared his throat and said, “Your Grace, I have something to report.”
There was no immediate response, but Ansel, as usual, let himself in and stood before the Duke.
Idilos didn’t look at Ansel, his hand moved the pen while his other hand was extended towards Ansel. This indifference was also familiar.
Ansel handed the letter personally to the Duke. It was only then that the Duke raised his head.
For a moment, he paused from writing and looked at the seal on the envelope. A large eagle seemed ready to take flight at any moment.
Idilos threw the letter onto a corner of his desk.
“Dispose of it.”
“How can you not check? It’s from the palace, isn’t it? Then you should at least open it…”
When Idilos stared at Ansel, who was speaking in a formal tone, he quickly closed his mouth. Ansel silently cursed.
‘Why do I always feel uncomfortable…?’
The Duke was always difficult to deal with, but today he seemed unusually irritated. Ansel remembered this morning when the Duke went to meet his younger sister and returned with a sour expression.
Come to think of it, it was strange. Normally, he would be in a good mood after meeting the young lady, but today, his judgment seemed to be distorted.
‘Maybe he received some bad news again.’
Ansel thought it was plausible.
A while ago, the young lady complained about disliking her lessons, even though she usually followed the Duke like a chick would its mother. After that, she had difficulty sleeping due to her homework, and the excessive workload even caused her to bleed.
Although she seemed fine when he saw her from a distance during their last meal, the fact that she didn’t greet the Duke today meant she was definitely angry.
‘It’s strange that he’s not angry, though.’
Perhaps Idilos was also suspecting that fact.
After preparing himself mentally, Ansel, as a trusted aide, began to speak.
“Your Grace, it’s still a letter from the palace, isn’t it? There might be important content in it, so we should check it.”
Having successfully spoken, Ansel anxiously waited for Idilos’s response.
He won’t declare something like “I want to be cut off” again, will he? Ansel suspected that there was a 98 percent chance Idilos would say something like that.
“You’re being bothersome.”
Idilos let out a heavy sigh filled with displeasure and picked up the letter.
He took out a paper knife from the drawer and opened the envelope. Idilos’s expression became peculiar as he read the letter. His straight brow furrowed.
“…An application for admission? There’s still a year left before Mamela can attend school. Why did they send this from the palace now?”
Ansel glanced at the admission application, which had the seal of the “Sacred Cordell Royal School” prominently displayed.
“According to the palace messenger, it was sent by Her Majesty the Queen.”
Idilos responded as if in disbelief to Ansel’s explanation.
“Looking at it again, it’s not just an application for admission; it’s an early admission application.”
A sly smile played across Idilos’s lips.
“That crazy woman… She’s still as enthusiastic as ever.”
Ansel mumbled with caution. If anyone overheard, it could lead to trouble.
Edilos picked up the admission application from his desk and casually threw it.
“But… Is it alright to do that? Just in case, shouldn’t we keep it…”
“…I’ll burn it right away.”
Ansel quickly left the room. He wondered why the Duke always looked so intimidating. This was probably why Ansel’s nights were always sleepless.
As Ansel watched the dwindling sparks in the twilight, he let out a sigh.
“It won’t be long before I become like that…”
He had served as the Duke’s close aide for a long time, helping him through thick and thin.
Now, it seemed he might be severed at any moment.
After wiping away a tear that had welled up in his eyes, Ansel got up. It was a gloomy return to the mansion. Unexpectedly, he encountered someone.
It was the hope and light of this mansion, Mamela. Ansel, delighted, rushed over and shouted.
“Lady Mamela! It feels like it’s been a long time!”
Mamela, surprised by his sudden appearance, seemed quite taken aback. She dropped the basket she was carrying.
Seeing her confused expression, Ansel was equally flustered.
Ansel quickly picked up the basket. It seemed Mamela was also bewildered by his sudden appearance.
“Lady, I apologize if I startled you. Haha, I haven’t seen you in so long, I was just too happy…”
Suddenly, Ansel felt an odd sensation from his hand. Why did the basket seem to be shaking on its own?
As he wondered, something suddenly jumped out of the basket.
Ansel, wide-eyed, let out a scream like a gorilla.