There was something strange about the sudden change in Crow’s demeanor, and the maid peered at him closely.
“Are you alright, Your Highness?”
But Crow’s eyes were only fixed on the maid’s neck.
Dugeun, dugeun, dugeun.
The red blood pumping underneath her skin made him feel greedy.
‘I want to drink.’
Only one thought occupied his mind. Just as Crow’s reason faded and he was about to tackle the maid, a voice called out to him from behind.
A scolding voice spoke, and Crow turned back. There Carlisle stood with a fierce look. The maid belatedly realized the Emperor’s presence and hurriedly bowed her head.
“Greetings to His Majesty.”
Carlisle stared at Crow as if the boy was guilty of something, and spoke in a low voice.
“How long has Crow been like this?”
“What? What do you mean…?”
Carlisle gave up on extracting further information from the maid, then turned to Crow. He seemed to know what Crow was hiding. The boy was terrified.
‘W-what should I do?’
But Crow’s worries were useless. Carlisle left his escorts behind him and picked up Crow’s small body.
“Son, there is something we have to talk about as men.”
Crow looked up in Carlisle in despair, worried that he might be in trouble. Carlisle walked forward with his son in his arms, and issued an order to his escorts.
“I have something to say alone to Crow, so leave.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
And so, Carlisle took Crow somewhere.
Carlisle went inside a room. The palace was so large that there were countless unused spaces, and this was the nearest one. After confirming that no one else was here, Carlisle released Crow from his arms. He looked at his son and spoke in a serious voice.
“Tell me honestly. When did it start?”
“Father, I, uh…”
“Since when did you start feeling the thirst for human blood?”
Carlisle really did know about his condition. Crow’s eyes immediately began to fill with tears.
“I’m sorry, Father.”
At the same time, Crow pulled off his shoes and showed his scaly feet to Carlisle.
“When I woke up from a nap my feet suddenly changed like this. And when I came out, the people smelled good, and it was hard to hold back.”
Carlisle carefully listened to Crow speak. Fearing his father’s presence, Crow cried even more.
Carlisle rubbed Crow’s back to settle him.
“Why didn’t you tell me or your mother right away?”
“I’m sorry. I thought you would be like this.”
Carlisle’s face hardened. It was as if Crow had hit some sensitive spot.
“…You don’t have to worry about that.”
“Papa, why am I different from other people? I’m afraid I turned into a monster.”
Carlisle stared at the Crow for a moment without answering. Then, he raised his right arm and struck it hard on the desk.
A crash rang out that sounded as hard and as heavy as iron. The loud noise startled the young Crow so much that he stopped crying. Carlisle rolled up his sleeve, revealing a black arm. He couldn’t control his abilities freely, so this was the only way to show Crow the scales.
Crow stared at Carlisle’s scales with wide eyes. They were the same as the ones on his feet.
“You’re not the only one, Crow. If you’re a monster, it’s because you’re my son.”
“Do you hate being like your father?”
“No. I like Mama and Papa the best in the world.”
Carlisle patted his son’s small head.
“As do I. I didn’t explain this to you yet because you’re too young, but I didn’t think you’d find out all on your own.”
“Papa…you don’t hate me for looking like this?”
“Of course not. You’re my son.”
Crow smiled shyly and wiped away his tears. If Carlisle and Elena continued to love him as they did now, nothing else mattered. Carlisle smiled faintly as Crow looked up at him cutely.
“There was a time when I hated myself for this. But now I’m glad. Because I inherited this blood, I was able to meet your mother.”
“Yes, your father saved your dead mother once.”
Crow looked surprised to hear that his mother had died, and Carlisle hurriedly corrected himself.
“Forget what I just said. The important thing is… I would be born a hundred or a thousand times like this just to meet her.”
Crow stared at his father with his pure, innocent eyes, as if trying to understand his words. Carlisle looked at his scaled black arm with an emotional look on his face.
“So I appreciate this now.”
Carlisle turned to Crow with a soft gaze.
“Crow, you are the fruit of our love. I believe this power will help you one day, like it did me.”
Crow smiled back.
“Thank you, Papa. I love you.”
His sweet words drew a faint smile on Carlisle’s lips.
“Yes, I love you, too, son.”
Crow and Carlisle looked at each other and smiled with the same expression. Anyone could see that they were father and son.
It was then that the door burst open. Carlisle’s and Crow’s heads jerked towards the entrance, and they saw Elena standing there, breathing hard. She looked like she had ran all the way here.
“Haa, haa. What happened to Crow?”
“How did you know?”
“I heard from the maids that you disappeared somewhere with only him. I came straight here because I worried that something had happened.”
“News travels fast. Crow started feeling thirsty for blood, so I took him away where there were no people.”
At those words, Elena rushed towards her son and frantically looked him over.
“Are you alright? Are you hurt anywhere?”
“Yes, Mama. I’m fine.”
“You should have told me first when you started feeling those urges. What if your father found you too late? Well?”
Elena’s worried tone gradually turned into a scolding, and Crow glanced at Carlisle for help. However, Carlisle shrugged as if to say, I’m sorry, but your mother is the scariest person in the world for me too.
After the busy events of the day, Crow, exhausted, fell asleep next to Elena and Carlisle. Once again, he met the black dragon in his dream.
Crow tried to approach the dragon first, but the latter didn’t respond.
However, Crow could see that the dragon was observing the black scales on his feet. The boy sat down next to the dragon and talked about what happened that day. Although the dragon didn’t say anything, Crow knew he was listening.
“So my mom gave me a big scolding.”
For the first time, the dragon answered in a rumbling voice.
『That is not the end of your potential power. Well, of course, that’s because you ate someone’s heart.』
“What did I eat?”
Crow’s innocent expression made the dragon sigh and shake his head.
『…Very well, then let’s not speak of it.』
“But, Mister, can I be stronger?”
The dragon was about to answer, but then he caught himself and frowned.
『You expect me to teach you?』
“Well. Not now, but maybe later.”
『I won’t teach you.』
In face of Crow’s optimism, the dragon’s scaly brow crinkled even further. But Crow didn’t care and went on telling stories about himself.
“Mister. I can’t actually eat carrots, but this morning at breakfast…”
As Crown regaled the dragon with his stories, his body gradually started to become transparent. He instinctively felt that it was time to part from the dragon again.
“Well, Mister, I hope your wound is healing quickly. See you later.”
Crow waved his hand and said goodbye to the dragon. Just before the boy’s body disappeared completely, the dragon mumbled in a very small voice.
Crow’s eyes widened at the noticeable change in the dragon’s attitude. The idea that he could be close to the dragon made him smile. At the time, Crow did not know how miraculous it was to communicate with the dragon in his blood…
And the incredible power this bond would grant.
The story of Crow Walter Ben Ruford, one of the wisest emperors in the history of the Ruford Empire, began now.
After talking for a long time to the dragon, Crow’s mind slowly began to return to reality. Elena’s and Carlisle’s were talking near him.
“I’m so glad that eating the Zamida fruit made Crow lose his thirst for blood.”
“Since we’ve been feeding it to him as a child, we can see the effects.”
Carlisle’s words drew a smile from Elena.
“Chief Chyanatha said he would come here in person. He must be very curious about Crow’s condition.”
“Yes. Both the curse and power coexisted inside of me, but with the Zamida fruit, Crow will just be left with tremendous power.”
“Come to think of it, that’s true.”
“I’ve already experienced how unbearable the thirst for blood is. But Crow produced the Dragon’s Orb without human blood, and he’s been holding up. At this rate, the curse may indeed end.”
“That’s great, but…it still rests heavily on me that you suffered.”
“You’re next to me now, and that’s all that matters.”
Crow could hear Carlisle’s body shifting around.
“You are the greatest reward of my life. All I need is you.”
Crow lifted a heavy eyelid as he heard his father’s warm voice. Through his blurred vision, he saw Carlisle kiss Elena’s cheek.
Elena hurried over when she heard her son call. She gently rubbed his back, and it felt so pleasant to Crow that he buried his head further in his pillow. When he fully opened his eyes, he saw Elena smiling beside him, while Carlisle had a slightly grumpy expression. Crow spoke through a sleep-muffled voice.
“What were Mama and Papa talking about?”
Carlisle answered the question in a low tone.
“About me? What did you say?”
Carlisle came near and ruffled his hair, and laughed at the adorable sight.
“My son may be a greater man than I thought.”
Crow smiled happily, and Elena spoke with a gentle smileon her face.
“Does Crow want to be a great person?”
“Yes! I will become a wise emperor and receive a lot of praise from my people, and be a good son to my Mama and Papa!”
“Really? To do that, you have to listen to your teacher and study hard.”
Elena smiled at Crow’s answer. At that moment, Crow got out of bed and began to search the pockets of his jacket. Elena looked at him questioningly.
“Crow, what are you looking for?”
“Just a minute, Mama.”
He rummaged through his pockets for a while, before he finally found what he wanted. He handed a piece of white paper to Elena and Carlisle with a bright expression. They unfolded the paper, and saw a picture that Crow had drawn himself. He pointed to the largest person in the drawing.
“This is Papa.”
Then he pointed at a woman who looked like a princess.
“This is Mama.”
Finally, Crow’s short finger pointed to a small child between the two.
“And here I am. This is a picture of my family living happily together.”
Elena looked between the drawing and her son with indescribable joy. Although Crow’s drawing skills were juvenile, the warm emotions poured into the picture moved her.
“I didn’t know that my Crow draws so well. You’re good enough to be a painter.”
Elena’s praise made Crow smile, and he scratched his nose in embarrassment. His adorable, child-like gesture made the smile on Elena’s lips widen.
“Yes, we will live together like in this picture you drew.”
Elena dropped a gentle kiss to Crow’s forehead.
“I love you, son.”
Crow snuggled deeper into his mother’s arms.
“I love you, too, Mama.”
Carlisle watched the two of them, and spoke.
“You’re leaving me out?”
“Come here, too.”
Elena extended her other arm which was not holding Crow, and Carlisle laughed and drew the both of them into his embrace. The three of them hugged each other with identical expressions of happiness on their faces. Crow lifted his head, and saw that his parents’ faces looked the same as the one in his picture.
“Tch, I’m jealous because Mama and Papa are so happy together.”
Crow wanted to sleep with his parents every night, but when he had grown a little bigger Carlisle set him down and spoke in a serious voice.
Parents needed time alone.
Crow wasn’t allowed to tell Elena because it was a secret between men, but Crow continued to pout his lips in resentment.
“I want a little brother or sister, too.”
Carlisle smiled at Crow’s words, then glanced at Elena’s face.
“Son, then I don’t think you should be here tonight.”
Elena shoved Carlisle in the ribs.
“You can’t say that in front of a child.”
Carlisle burst out laughing at Elena’s embarrassed expression. Then he kissed her cheek lightly and whispered in her ear.
“It’s true, my wife.”
At the sweetness of the atmosphere between the couple, Crow reached out and gave a cry.
“Me too, kiss me too.”
Carlisle and Elena chuckled at the same time, then bowed their heads together to kiss Crow’s cheeks on each side. Crow’s red-and-blue eyes squinted in happiness.
The three of them were a happy family together, just like in his drawing.