Hei Lian loved referring to her father with the epithet ‘late’. It reminded her that the man was dead and gone, taking the shackles that had bound her with him into the afterlife. She was free.
“Xie, my late father’s retainer was sent to butcher the waiter who had served my foolish little brother his drinks,” she said as if it explained everything.
Mars Felidae and his three wives, sitting across the table from her in a private room of an abandoned restaurant, were understandably confused.
They had been lumped together so they could talk everything out and clarify the situation while grandma negotiated with Veer and Epione Felidae.
She felt her little boytoy stiffen beside her. He probably didn’t want his past misdemeanour dug up. Not in front of the main victim of his indiscretions.
Should she hide his part in the affair from them? Gloss over it?
She shot a glance at him from the corner of her eye. She caught the entreaty in his eyes as he made a cramped face.
Idiot. This way, they’d know that he had a part in things even without her mentioning anything.
She didn’t know why she put up with the stupid cat. Probably because it was so much fun bullying him. His embarrassed expression always managed to improve her mood.
“Yea… So?” asked Mars tentatively as she took too long to continue her explanation. His eyes kept flicking between her and Steven and he seemed to be hesitating to bring something up.
Curious. Had he figured out their relationship? It shouldn’t be possible without him seeing their marks. Even if he was a Tamer.
“After your father offed mine, all of us were busy returning to our homeland as soon as possible. We met him then, as we were fleeing Regiis. I got this tidbit of information from him.”
Hei Lian leaned back into her chair and continued, “The family of the waiter had been moved away before he could lay his hand on them. All records of them had been written off. The only ones with sufficient motive to have the waiter vanish were us, your clan, and the Duchess.
“As it wasn’t us and no one from your clan except little Steven here knew of his involvement in the matter, it had to be the Duchess. So, you see? She was the one who sparked the confrontation between us. What reason did she have to orchestrate her employee’s disappearance if not to cover her tracks?”
Steven cringed slightly at the mention of him. When they got some privacy, she’d be whipping him into shape. He needed to grow a spine. Dare to do, dare to acknowledge. Why live life sneakily? The truth would come out sooner or later, he should just man up and own up to his part in the matter.
“Wait,” interrupted Mars, “You mean to say that the Duchess had planned to get Young Master Lupin intoxicated and use him to shoulder the contradiction between our two clans?” He turned to Steven. “And Steven, man, what were you doing, going incognito for all these months? Your parents were worried sick. You could’ve written a letter at the very least.”
Steven sighed and rubbed his face with his hand. “It’s not that I didn’t want to write to pops… I couldn’t. He’d come for me; force me to go back home.” He turned to her, “I couldn’t leave her at that time. It was the most crucial period for her to be accepted as the next Alpha of the pack.”
Maybe she’d dispense with the whipping… just this once.
He took a deep breath and looked Deimos in the eye. “Look… the thing is… I kind of was the cause for this whole mess. I found the guy drunk and in a fit of utter idiocy directed him to you.”
Deimos’ expression changed to one of incredulity. Steven sped up his words, almost slurring them together in his haste to get them off his chest without interruption. “I don’t really think that the Duchess aimed at us specifically. Now that we know that she has ties to the Shogunate, it’s easy to guess her goal. She wanted to weaken one of her political opponents with the aid of the Heavenly Wolf Mercenaries. Probably the Lutrinae. My bumbling just derailed her plans a bit.” He waved at the Vulpine wife of Mars… what was her name again? Right, Ceres. “It’s clear that the Duchess wanted the Felidae on her side.”
“It was you!” exclaimed Deimos as Steven paused for breath. She stood abruptly, toppling her chair. Reaching out, she grabbed his lapel and pulled him up across the table. “How could you!?” she snarled as Steven held up his hands in surrender.
Hei Lian narrowed her eyes. Now, that’s not very nice, she thought. Only she was allowed to make him submit. She clutched his shirt and pulled. His clothes burst into dark flames, making Deimos let go hurriedly and step back. He fell back into his chair and the flames extinguished, leaving his clothes untouched.
“Aiya… I’m so sorry,” she said as she covered her cheeks and turned away mock-bashfully. “My powers do run wild once in a while. Especially, when people don’t give me face.” She glanced up at the wary Deimos through her lashes. “What to do, do you say?”
Mars caught Deimos’ wrist and pulled her down onto the armrest of his chair, circling an arm around her waist to calm her.
Hei Lian blinked innocently.
Shooting her a warning glance, he turned to Steven, a hint of steel in his voice, “Then?”
How interesting. A Tier 2 tamer was warning her. Where did he get his courage? She suddenly felt a strong urge to show him his place. Her bloodline seethed at the challenge. Her lips curved up into a strange smile.
Forcibly suppressing her urges, she leant back into her chair. Let him get his answers for now. There would be a lot of time for challenges after the Calamity was dealt with.
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