ATAPOW Chapter 210
Chapter 210: The Belated Letters
A gentle light illuminated the relatively compact room, infusing it with a hint of subtle warmth.
At that very moment, an indescribable atmosphere filled the room. Rather than dissipating with time, it grew denser, making it difficult for everyone present to catch their breath.
“Hahaha. Not only do you humans excel in putting on an innocent facade to deceive others, you’re also good at deceiving yourselves. To utter such words without shame, even the ruthless and conceited trolls are no match for you guys.” Fishbone disdainfully snorted in response to Ji Bai’s ‘rebuttal’.
“However, your attempts to wash this crime off your race isn’t very clever when you’re on Asiatic Cat territory.”
“I recall that the trolls who were causing a disturbance in the store earlier claimed to be searching for dissidents. I wonder if it was Your Excellency who enticed them?” Ji Bai contemplated for a moment and chose not to pursue the previous subject raised by Fishbone.
“…Yes.” Fishbone replied with a downcast expression on his face.
“Do you not feel the slightest sense of guilt, knowing that your actions have implicated your innocent clansmen?” Ji Bai’s counter-question instantly shifted the initiative in his favor.
“My actions were necessary and required. There’s no alternative, even if they are roped in as a result. I will find a way to save them.”
“Find a way?…” Ji Bai shrugged his shoulders, his words laced with an intangible sense of sarcasm.
“What happens if you can’t make it in time? You’re basically gambling with the lives of your clansmen.”
“Human, am I to understand that you are intentionally trying to avoid the topic?” Fishbone lifted his head, revealing a meaningful look in his eyes. “You’re just a human, what right do you have to nitpick and criticize us? The Asiatic Cat Race has no need of your hypocritical sympathy.”
“Enough! Both of you, just stop!” The air in the small room was thick with tension, making it hard to breathe. Nael supported her head, feeling a headache rising. She spoke up, interrupting the intense clash between the two.
“Just give it a break, alright Fishbone?… Also, were you the one who helped resolve the dispute caused by the trolls, sir?”
“Just something minor.” Ji Bai conveyed his nonchalance towards the matter.
“Thank you for your generous assistance. On behalf of the commoners of the Asiatic Cat Race, I thank you.” Nael said and gave Ji Bai a sincere bow.
“Hmph!” Fishbone crossed his arms, making no effort to conceal his disdain.
“Could I be so bold as to ask for your name, sir?”
“This middle-aged man goes by the name of Ji Bai.” Lil’ Sha interjected with a pout before Ji Bai had the chance to speak.
“Mr. Ji Bai, is it? First and foremost, I want to express my gratitude for the various assistance you have provided the Asiatic Cat Race. We deeply appreciate your kindness and goodwill.” Said Nael, affectionately stroking Lil’ Sha’s golden hair.
“Also, regarding the question of history, I believe that our different allegiances may lead to varying access to information and cause us to understand the situation differently, so-…”
“Is your excellency trying to imply that I have been deceived by my own people? Sorry, but I can’t blindly agree to such assertions.” Ji Bai refused to compromise. Even though he was currently in a foreign race’s headquarters, he had not forgotten his former knightly honor.
“There’s no need to talk with him any longer. Did you not hear what he just said? You human knights only exhibit a strong sense of unity when covering for each other!”
“Shut up, Fishbone.” Nael took a deep breath. She knew that if Fishbone were to open his mouth, it would abruptly disrupt the hard-won tranquility in the room and send tension soaring once again.
“Mr Ji Bai. Even though each of us is adamant that our own version of history is accurate, we are still grateful for your actions. That said, a convincing truth is grounded in foundations. While you may have your own reasoning, please respect the truth that the Asiatic Cat Race firmly believes in and is willing to risk their lives for.”
“Grounded in foundations, you say?” Ji Bai shot a deep glance at Nael, who had a serious expression etched on her face. “If I may be so bold to ask, what is the basis of the truth you and your esteemed companions so ardently believe in?”
To him, the truth was indisputable; He had discovered the weapons and armor the Asiatic Cat Race left behind in that burnt-down village and witnessed them attack the border pass. As someone who had experienced the battle himself, he did not notice anything unusual.
Fishbone remained silent this time. It was apparent that the words of the Asiatic Cat woman named Nael carried considerable weight in the room.
“That tragic event was something that every Asiatic Cat can bear witness to… If Mr. Ji Bai desires concrete evidence, there are only some remnants from the past.” Nael spoke with a tranquil and composed demeanor.
“If it’s okay with you, can you let me take a look?” Although initially disinterested in the viewpoint of the Asiatic Cat Race, an inexplicable curiosity sprouted in Ji Bai’s heart.
“It’s not something valuable, so there’s no harm in you taking a look. Mr. Ji Bai, please follow me,” Said Nael, bowing her head respectfully to Ji Bai before leading the way forward.
“Can I also take a look, Big Sister Nael?” Lil’ Sha’s eyes lit up with a strange glow of excitement.
“Of course you have the right to do so, your Highness.” Explained Nael in a soft voice.
“Mr. Ji Bai, please stay close. The passage in the basement is intricate and complex. It’s extremely easy to lose yourself in there if you’re not familiar with it.”
“Mhm.” Ji Bai nodded.
While he would proactively intervene in knightly matters, he rarely meddled in affairs beyond that.
Although he had no doubt that what he believed in his heart was the truth, he still chose to investigate their claims.
Perhaps only his heart knew what was truly in his mind.
The group was led into a room deep in the basement.
Fishbone didn’t accompany them; He had left the basement, using the excuse that the room was too stuffy.
The walls surrounding them were adorned with red wallpaper. The warm color, accompanied with the crackling fireplace, created an abundant amount of warmth which enveloped everyone present.
Although the room was considerably small, the number of furniture it contained was fortunately kept to a minimum: There was only a table, a chair and a small bookcase filled with stacks of yellowed paper.
Nael seemed to know the layout of the entire basement like the back of her hand, as she had skillfully navigated through twists and turns to bring Ji Bai and Lil’ Sha into this narrow study room.
Setting Lil’ Sha and Ji Bai to the side for the time being, she retrieved a small, black box from the third layer of the bookshelf.
She then took out an extremely well-preserved document, which appeared to be an official treaty, from within.
“This is the border demarcation map that bears the signatures of the former Majesty, the King and the higher echelons of the human alliance. Although it is mere waste paper now, the national crest of the Asiatic Cat Race is still engraved on it. I believe Mr. Ji Bai should be able to recognize it, correct?”
Ji Bai received the document from her and proceeded to examine it in great detail.
Other than the document’s prominent focus on border demarcation, the crest of the Asiatic Cat Race and the written signatures of the human alliance representatives were unmistakably present.
‘Mhm, seems like there’s nothing amiss with this document.’
However, having previously held a prominent position, Ji Bai had been in close contact with the higher echelons of the human alliance. As a result, he was well-versed in the regulations pertaining to the signing of foreign documents and the finer details that accompanied them.
As a seasoned veteran, he was able to glean some valuable insights with just a single glance.
“Please pardon my bluntness, but this document seems to only bear the crest from your side. Apart from a crest, signatures or marks can be imitated, can’t they?” Ji Bai shook his head.
It was common knowledge that a treaty required both parties to stamp their crests next to each other. At least, that was the practice in the human alliance.
This made the flaws glaringly obvious. It was impossible for an agreement that was unilaterally certified by a single party to provide any meaningful explanation. Furthermore…
“I believe your Excellency had once mentioned that the King of your esteemed country attended a meeting for talks but never returned. In that case, how did this agreement end up in your possession?”
“The former King had dispatched someone to deliver it to us. However, we have never received any further updates or news from him after that.” Nael explained.
Ji Bai shrugged before returning the agreement to the box. While he remained silent, his reaction made it clear that he did not believe this explanation in the least.
Nael heaved a sigh as well.
Indeed, as Ji Bai had mentioned, there was a possibility that these items were forged. Only the crest of the human alliance could succinctly explain the matter at hand.
With the seal excluded from the equation, it created room for conjecture that everything could be a conspiracy orchestrated by the Asiatic Cat Race themselves.
However, Nael had never doubted the truth she was familiar with, as she had personally witnessed the events that unfolded back then.
She had not brought Ji Bai to this place with the intention of making him change his belief.
Satisfying his curiosity was merely a way for her to repay his kindness for taking care of a descendant from the royal bloodline.
After all, it was impossible for individuals of differing opinions and diverging paths to work together.
“…What’s that?” Ji Bai’s attention was drawn to a red-clothed box placed on the topmost layer of the bookshelf as he set down the other box.
“Oh, those are the items left behind by the late Eldest Princess Felina,” Nael explained.
“Her belongings?” A hint of doubt flickered in the eyes of the man behind the helmet.
‘That’s right. As Felina’s personal attendant, it’s logical that she could collect the items used by the former Great Princess.’
“Aunt Felina’s belongings?” Lil’ Sha’s eyes lit up momentarily.
“May I have a look?” Ji Bai blurted out these seemingly impolite words without much thought. Even he himself was somewhat taken aback by his request.
“Of course, feel free to take a look. It’s just a collection of letters, and the information recorded in them isn’t of much use.” Nael did not seem to be overly bothered by his request as she took the red-clothed box off the bookshelf.
“Yes, they seem to be a series of letters from one of Her Highness Felina’s close friends… These were discovered beneath her pillow after her passing.”
“Judging by the signature, they should come from the same person, although the name they used is somewhat strange.”
“…,” Ji Bai fell into silence, as an indescribable sense of familiarity unexpectedly surged within his heart, which was normally as tranquil as an old well.
As the red cloth was peeled aside, a stack of neatly arranged letters came into view.
However, the curious Lil’ Sha standing at the side, as well as Nael, failed to notice the slight trembling in the hand that reached towards the letters.
Despite the yellowed appearance of the paper and the lines of wrinkles left behind by erosion over time, the ink on the surface remained unfaded…
The bold, vigorous, yet slightly archaic-looking font seemed to transport him back in time; As if he had held the pen just yesterday and poured his emotions into every brushstroke.
The signature at the edge of the paper read — Radiant.
Memories began to surge into his mind like floodwater breaking through a dike and rushing through a wide-open gate.
“Middle-aged man? What’s wrong?” Lil’ Sha poked Ji Bai’s waist, but received no response.
‘Why have you always kept these obsolete scraps of paper by your side?’
Ji Bai struggled to understand her motives as he stared blankly at the well-preserved letters.
“When Her Highness goes to bed, she would carefully read through these papers and find secret delight in them…”
“That reminds me, there’s also an abdication request inside here that Princess Felina never had the opportunity to present to His Majesty. If Mr. Ji Bai is curious, you can take a look at it as well.” Despite noticing Ji Bai’s peculiar behavior, Nael could not see his expression, so she was not particularly concerned about it.
Ji Bai raised his head blankly and accepted the letter, which was wrapped inside a red leather bag.
“My Royal Father,
I have come to realize that sentimentality has taken hold of me. Whether it be the swirling autumn petals or the gurgling winter waters, they stir profound emotions within me. It is forbidden for the queen of a nation to be swayed by feelings. However, the yearning evoked by withered petals makes me feel as if my very soul has departed from my body. I believe I may have fallen in love…
Therefore, I hereby tender my resignation as the princess and the first successor to the throne.
Your daughter, Felina.”
The familiar handwriting and presence struck a chord in his mind…
At that moment, it felt as if they had bridged the rift between worlds for them to meet each other once more.