“Tsk. Uncle isn’t fair. Right, Chirpy?” Sesha held Nike in her arm with a frustrated expression, her rosy cheeks puffed up like balloons.
Sesha had been elated to find out that she had an uncle. He was generous, just as she imagined her dad would be, and he made a lot of delicious food for her. Sometimes, he even secretly gave her snacks when Brahm wasn’t looking.
He’d even taught her about something called cotton candy that was so delicious that she kept begging for it. However, her uncle was unfair and said he wouldn’t make any more for her since she might get cavities.
Still, she forgave him since he talked with her and read her bedtime stories. However, in the past few days, it had grown more and more difficult to see him. He was busy with something with Brahm, and it seemed very important. Since Sesha was brighter than other kids her age, she quickly caught on that it was something for her.
And so, she pretended that she was doing well in front of Yeon-woo and Brahm, but she was a child not even ten years old, and some of her boredom lingered. She just wanted to play.
It wasn’t as boring as it had been on the twenty-third floor since Edora often came to play with her, and the One-horned tribe people adored her. At first, she found them scary because of their horns, but after realizing how kind they were, she got along with them just fine. She even made friends with other children her age, and some boys were already fighting over her.
And most importantly, she’d found a best friend, Nike. He listened to everything she said and was so cute that Sesha had to take him wherever she went. Nike sighed at being treated like a doll, but he had to admit that he sometimes felt hollow when he wasn’t in Sesha’s arms. However, he was determined to correct some of her bad habits.
『My name is not Chirpy. It’s Ni—.』
“No. Chirpy is Chirpy!”
Sesha pulled Nike closer to her and shook her head. Nike shut his beak, feeling wronged. He had worked so hard to escape that name, and being forced to endure it once more made him miserable. Uncle and niece were just the same. Still, he understood what Sesha was feeling, so he stroked her head with his wing.
『What do you want your uncle to do for you?』
“Umm…” Sesha frowned, deep in thought. She was just upset that her uncle wasn’t playing with her, but it wasn’t as though she disliked him. In fact, she liked him too much, and she just wanted him to do more for her. Her eyes sparkled as she thought of something. “I want him to make cotton candy!”
“Yeah, yeah! Cotton candy tastes so good! Really!” She drooled as though she could already taste it. Nike grinned and wiped her mouth. He found everything about her adorable except for the way she called him “Chirpy”.
『That’s what I heard.』
Yeon-woo smiled wryly as he looked at Nemesis, whom he hadn’t seen a while. Nike had passed on Sesha’s complaints to Nemesis through their connection. Yeon-woo put down his pen pensively.
It was true that he’d been spending less time with his niece lately. He had been busy pulling all-nighters to complete the final processes of the Philosopher’s Stone. ‘I’ve been foolish.’ Yeon-woo scolded himself. Wasn’t he making the Philosopher’s Stone to make Sesha happy? However, instead, working on it had made her feel lonely instead. ‘Cotton candy…’
He thought that he ought to take better care of Sesha from now on and wondered what he could do to apologize to her. He could make her cotton candy, but he wanted to do something more special. Also, cotton candy wasn’t too good for her health.
He felt Nemesis’ eyes on him. “Wait, why aren’t you with Nike and Sesha?”
『Ahem! That’s not important right now.』 Nemesis couldn’t bring himself to say that he always felt drained after playing with Sesha. Unlike Nike, who could just stay in Sesha’s arms because he was small, Nemesis was like a giant entertainment center to her.
He had to fly with her on his head, play hide and seek with her, or show her magic. He had to do all kinds of annoying and difficult things, and afterwards, he felt whatever strength he had left ebbing away when she called him Growl. ‘The uncle and the niece both…’ Sesha was a good and kindhearted child, but taking care of children was too tiring.
Yeon-woo grinned as he looked at Nemesis. He felt like he understood why Nemesis was acting that way.
Brahm closed the book he was reading. It was a book that he’d borrowed from the Head Elder, who had become one of his closest friends. The One-horned tribe permitted books to be lent out as long as they weren’t Mugong scrolls, and Brahm had been reading about the Tower’s history and politics.
He’d always enjoyed reading books in his free time since he was a scholar, but Sesha was more important to him than knowledge. Brahm sighed after hearing that Sesha was feeling lonely lately. Yeon-woo was trying to find a solution to the problem, but the truth was that Brahm was even more clueless about these kinds of things than Yeon-woo. “It’s difficult.”
“I agree.” Yeon-woo sighed. What should they do? It would have been easier if Sesha were a boy instead. He could just think of what he liked to do when he was younger, like playing with robots that his father had brought him and his brother. He had no idea what little girls liked.
Soon, he would grow even busier dealing with the Walpurgisnacht, and he wanted to play with Sesha before then. He’d believed it would be easy when he thought about his ex-girlfriend’s daughter, but he wanted to do more for Sesha since she was his niece. What could he do? He decided that he needed to look for someone else to give him advice.
“How about telling her that I don’t know how to do these kinds of things?” Yeon-woo felt uncomfortable for the first time as Edora smiled brightly at him. He had asked her because she was a girl and might know what to do. But instead of answering, Edora only laughed.
“I guess there are some things you struggle with, too. It’s funny.”
“I’m human too.”
Edora just laughed again. She could feel how flustered Yeon-woo was. He acted like a cold machine all the time, but not to his only relative. She was glad to see his human side, and she felt that the distance between them that had narrowed after she saw his bare face had grown even smaller.
‘Should I thank Sesha for this?’ Edora remembered what Sesha had asked her, and she couldn’t help grinning. She’d been preoccupied by the fact that Yanu’s killer hadn’t been captured yet even after the Martial King joined the hunt, and she felt like her mind was clearing thanks to Yeon-woo and Sesha.
“If you don’t have anything to suggest, I’ll just leave.”
Edora realized that she had teased him too much, and she reached out to grab Yeon-woo’s arm. “Just don’t overthink it.”
Yeon-woo paused while getting up. “Then?”
“Being genuine is more important.”
Edora nodded. “Yes. Don’t feel like it’s a huge responsibility. It’ll just make it harder.”
But being genuine was hard for Yeon-woo, and Edora shook her head to see that he didn’t know what to say. It was obvious to her that Sesha had Yeon-woo twisted around her finger. “Then how about this?”
‘Come here.’ Yeon-woo’s voice spoke over their connection, and Nike’s head shot up. Life swirled in his bored eyes. He didn’t have to be a doll anymore!
『Sesha, Master says to come over because he has something yummy for you. Do you want to go?』
“Uncle did? Yeah! I wanna go!” In case she changed her mind, Nike quickly grabbed her shoulders with his claws and began to fly in the air.
“Hahaha! I’m flying! Zoommm!” Sesha enjoyed flying in the sky. Although she preferred riding on Nemesis because he was like an amusement park ride, it was also fun flying with Nike.
They zoomed and arrived at the location Yeon-woo specified. It was a garden where they often walked. Yeon-woo was waiting next to a table.
“Uncle!” Sesha ran and jumped into Yeon-woo’s arms, which was the second most-fun thing to do after flying. It was so nice because he was so sturdy and warm.
“Did you have fun?” Although Yeon-woo’s voice was often impassive, it was warm and gentle when he spoke to Sesha.
“Yeah, yeah! Chirpy played with me!”
Yeon-woo stroked her head. He thought that Sesha was as adorable as a puppy. She grinned as she looked up at him, and he was sure that there was no other child in the world as cute as she was. He was already beginning to feel concerned about what would happen when she was a teenager and brought a boy home. No, no. Children grew up fast these days, and it suddenly occurred to him that he needed to take care of the boys in the One-horned tribe first.
“Uncle, I’m hungry!”
Yeon-woo grinned as he looked in her eyes, which were urging him to give her a snack. “I made something special today.”
“Something special? What is it?”
“Do you remember the ice cream I gave you last time?”
“Yeah! That was so good!” Sesha shouted with her arms spread out. It was cold and so sweet and tasty. Her eyes had grown bigger with every bite. And there was more than one flavor—chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and many others. She loved it so much that she’d eaten it everyday for two weeks.
“I made a cake with it.”
“C-cake? W-with ice cream?” Sesha looked as though she had learned about a rare holy artifact. She never knew that something like that could exist in the world. She made a quick calculation in her head: ‘Ice cream plus cake equals something very, very delicious!’ Her tail wagged happily.
Yeon-woo couldn’t stop smiling. As he gently set her down, he opened Intrenian to pull out a fork and a plate with a slice of ice cream cake on it.
Sesha rushed to sit on the chair and lifted the fork. As Brahm taught her, she said, “Thank you for the snack!” She stabbed the fork into the cake. Ice cream melted quickly, so she had to eat it fast and soon, her cheeks bulged as though she were a hamster.
She shivered slightly as if she swallowed too much, and her scales stood on end. However, her eyes glowed, and she lifted the fork again.
Yeon-woo wiped off the ice cream on her mouth. He could smell flowers in the breeze. Even though he had a lot on his mind, his heart warmed when he looked at Sesha.
『Master.』 Nike climbed on Yeon-woo’s right shoulder and poked Yeon-woo’s head with his sharp beak.
『Can I have some, too?』
Nike was drooling. He was only a one-year-old kid, after all. Yeon-woo pushed another plate of ice cream cake to him.
Edora’s advice was simple: to reserve a day for Sesha. She said that it would be enough. Yeon-woo hadn’t quite believed her, but he realized that she was right. Sesha didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. It was the expression that he wanted to see.
Just as Edora explained, Sesha needed attention. After the sun set, Yeon-woo told Sesha a bedtime story, remembering one that his mother had told him when he was a child called “The Sun and the Moon”.
“Hahaha! That’s so silly! The tiger is so stupid! Of course he’ll slide down the tree if he rubs oil on it. So stupid!” Sesha burst out laughing to hear about a tiger falling for a child’s trick. Her eyes sparkled when she heard that the children in the story became the sun and the moon after climbing up to the sky on a rope.
“Uncle.” Suddenly, Sesha asked, “Is Dad also up in the sky like the sun and the moon?”
For a moment, Yeon-woo couldn’t speak. His eyes widened.
Sesha smiled. “Mom said that Dad became a star and is watching over Sesha all the time. So I shouldn’t do anything bad, and if I wish on the star, my wish will be delivered to Dad too!”
In the story, the younger sister became the sun, and the older brother became the moon. Yeon-woo thought it was like their own story. His brightly shining younger brother was the sun, and he quietly followed behind him like the moon. The sun shone too brightly and became a star. The moon faded into a half-moon and a crescent moon before disappearing and then coming back as a full moon.
“Of course. Your dad’s always looking out for you.”
Yeon-woo smiled faintly and stroked Sesha’s head until she fell asleep. Then, he got out the pocket watch and rubbed it. He could feel its rough edges on his skin, and the quiet night felt cozy and restful.Previous Chapter Next Chapter