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553 A Proper Meeting III/III

    "I became free of my wish to meet you!"

    Zed stopped and looked at her with the same indifference she first saw in his eyes.

    Perhaps what he did now was venting, emptying the emotions he had built up for over two decades.

    Or maybe, he had really moved on, and what he shared now was his perspective of meeting with her... now that she came to meet him after so many years.

    Regardless of his reasons, Rebecca could see that he was honest when he said he no longer hated or resented her.

    As for love and longing... perhaps they died long ago.

    A droplet of glistening tear slipped out of her eye.

    He thought she had lavish feasts while he struggled for food.

    How can she tell him... she never felt any taste for she always wondered if he had food or not.

    How can she tell him... having royal roofing over her head didn't stop her shivering from loneliness.

    How can she tell him... being powerful meant nothing when she couldn't have him in her arms.

    ~splash~

    The tear droplet splashed on the carpet.

    Behind Rebecca, the female guard from House of Hestia - Heather - was startled. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw her all-powerful mistress shedding a tear.

    Heather then turned towards Zed who showed no emotion. Gritting her teeth, she said, "Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either!"[1]

    Zed eyed her and replied, "I'm not judging her so what truth exactly?"

    "She had been looking for you ever since she lost you!" Heather answered. "And you know nothing of her struggles, sadness, and desperation!"

    Rebecca glanced at her and Heather didn't dare continue. She knew she had spoken when she didn't have the right to.

    "Lost me? Wow! Isn't that a surprise! Guess Red Fox must have been lying when he claimed she went back on her promise... or whatever deal they had regarding me and pretty much discarded me!" Zed replied with amusement in his voice.

    Rebecca's eyes flashed with shock.

    Red Fox claimed she had gone back on her words?! Why would he do such a thing! She was at the promised place, ready to fulfill her part of the deal! It was him who didn't show up!

    Heather clenched her fists. Knowing full well she was defying her mistress' command, she shouted, "Red Fox was lying!"

    "I see. So what you claim is The Truth!" Zed couldn't help but laugh. "And I should believe you why exactly?"

    "!" Heather's body jerked.

    Indeed! When she thought of it, why will her, or even Rebecca's words hold any weight to him? Even if their words have any weight, how can they surpass that of Red Fox's?!

    "If you are speaking the truth... then that would mean whatever anger and hatred I felt from him when he spoke of her... was all a deception! Now wouldn't that be shocking?" Zed continued with a smile. "I guess he must be similarly lying when he said he lost his powers while protecting me... Oh wait! That wouldn't be a lie, unless he pretended to be so weak that I was able to murder him with a knife!"

    "!!!!"

    Heather was alarmed as she realized how difficult a task it would be to override the narrative he had in his mind.

    Even if he knew Red Fox was biased in what he claimed, what was the guarantee he won't feel the same for what she said? After all, every speaker was biased when they shared their stories!

    That was humane nature! They try to show themselves in sympathetic light!

    Furthermore, she knew how mind resisted any statement that tried to change core beliefs! It was psychologically impossible to overwrite the conditioning of over twenty years with a snap of fingers! Perhaps, only in a fairy tale, such a thing might be possible!

    Zed turned towards Rebecca and with a sigh, he said, "I really don't care what's true or lie any longer. Maybe you were right or maybe wrong. It might have mattered to me when I was a kid waiting for you and father to rescue me, but not now."

    "....."

    "Perhaps you found me now to ease your guilt, or perhaps you are here for what your servant claims. Regardless, it no longer matters. Everything is in the past."

    "...."

    "And you can rest assured, I will never judge you or my father for being bad parents," Zed said while rising to his feet. "I have lost that right after almost failing my duty as a father."

    "!!"

    Rebecca was dumbstruck by his last statement.

    Almost failing to do his duty as a father?! Surely he couldn't mean something bad happened to my grandchild!?

    "So if you are here to ease your guilt, there's no need. Even if not for the recent incident, I wouldn't judge you."

    Zed walked to the bar cabinet. He poured himself a glass of whiskey and added ice cubes.

    "We get only one life. There's no need to waste it on judging others or feeling guilty."

    He stepped in front of the waterfall. On it, he could see the reflection of Rebecca.

    "You have my gratitude for bringing me the source crystal that connects to my daughter."

    He took a sip from the glass before continuing.

    "I now owe you for not only giving me life but also this. Someday in future, I will repay you."

    "...."

    Rebecca turned around. She walked to the exit of the hall before stopping as she recalled the words he spoke.

    Without turning around, she said, "It is your right to have a negative impression about me for I failed in my responsibilities as a mother. But not your father!"

    Zed: "?!"

    "He sacrificed everything so that you can have everything, including the name he bestowed upon you! He knew the price he would pay long before you were conceived but he didn't hesitate! No parent can ever do what he had done... sacrifice honor, family ties, respect, and freedom for the birth of his flesh and blood!"

    "!!!!" Zed snapped his head back, a look of deep shock plastered on his face.

    "You are always free to hate me, curse me, despise me, wish me ill... but please don't fault your father for my failings."

    After saying this, she left the hall. Heather and the other guard followed, leaving Zed all alone in the vast hall.

    Zed emptied the entire glass in one gulp. He then went back to the bar cabinet and grabbed the whiskey bottle.

    "I really need something strong."

    [[Sir...]]

    Claudia has heard and seen everything. Even without the sensors in the hall, she knew the emotions that would erupt in his heart. That was the extent of how much she knew him, no matter if he was Zed or Kiba for the world.

    Now seeing him drinking directly from the bottle, she knew how rattled he was.

    "We don't really know if she was being honest!"

    Zed said after emptying half the bottle.

    "She sounded genuine for sure... but then again, in this world, one can fake anything! Love, lust, warmth, longing, anger... every possible emotion and desire can be faked! Who would know that better than me?!"

    [[......]]

    ✼✼✼✼

    Stormseal Island.

    In the last cave, the one-eyed man lifted his head. Despite being confined by burning chains, he broke out into laughter as if he had heard a funny statement.

    "Not everything can be faked!"

    His icy blue eye glowed brightly.

    "Not true warmth and love, kid!"

    [1] Aesop
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