Chapter 06: Bad Encounters (1)
The academy that hosted countless nobles from all over the country was huge; it was way wider and taller than the Pryster's Castle.
Many buildings, that I didn't know what purpose they had, were showing off their majesty.
From afar, the escort commander shouted and our long journey finally came to an end.
The wagons and escorts stopped when we arrived at the academy's gate.
This was the place, where we had to live for two years, but I didn’t feel sentimental for long.
After jumping off the horse and saying my goodbyes to our escorts, I started walking towards the place that looked like the central building.
I ignored Keirsey's shouts and kept going; I still needed more time.
Of course, my mind had already calmed down a bit, because while riding the horse, I remembered an important point.
There were parts that I couldn’t remember properly, but I could still recall that the political battle between the families was fierce.
When the weakness of a family was known, it was twisted open and attacked again and again.
… I didn’t know earlier, but perhaps I was the weakness that the Prysters had to hide.
So, I understood Asena to some extent, and my intense feelings had subsided, but it was not enough to be able to talk face-to-face.
As I was organizing my complicated mind, I found myself near the reception desk.
After being guided to the dormitory as quickly as possible, I headed for my room.
✧ ✧ ✧
I went inside my room.
It was a spacious place; Luxurious wooden table and chairs, various decorative plants and fashionable carpets, a window with a great view, and a comfortable sofa, and apart from that, there were even two more bedrooms still left for me to see.
And as I read it in the novel, this whole place was reserved for only two people.
… But I wasn’t in the mood to care now.
I put down my luggage roughly, sat on the big sofa in the center, and grabbed my head.
There were still many things to think about.
I put aside the feeling of betrayal I felt toward Asena and thought about what it would be like to return to being a commoner.
…To be honest, I didn’t prefer it.
I was already used to living as a noble, and after being a commoner, technically, I wouldn't even have the qualification to meet grandma or Keirsey.
Asena said there would be no change in my treatment, but if that was the case, there was no need of removing my last name in the first place.
What would grandma say to Asena? Would she get angry like Keirsey, or simply accept Asena's decision saying it’s the duchess' words?
Suddenly, her request came to my mind.
‘Try to seduce the daughter of a great aristocrat.’ —I sighed thinking about it.
For young nobles, the academy was like a rehearsal for the real world.
So it was necessary to be cautious while choosing one's allies.
Not just that, we had to be careful not to show our weaknesses either.
We couldn’t make a mistake here.
At this time, when I had to stick with the twins the most, I couldn’t get farther from them.
If I faltered here, it would only make the Prysters weaker.
Yeah, I’ve only taken the first step now, it couldn’t shake me already.
First, I had to put off my emotions, and I had to accept Asena's words.
I joined the Knights Department anyway.
A knight’s skill was the most important thing.
It didn't matter what last name they had.
Instead, combat skills and commanding the troops were all that mattered.
I joined the knight's department just for my greed to fulfill the promise to be a strong pillar for the twins.
I never thought the decision I made only for the twins would reward me like this in the future.
I calmed myself and accepted Asena’s decision one by one.
After a couple of knocks, the dormitory door opened, and a man with a lot of luggage came in.
He greeted me with a good-natured smile.
I looked at him carefully; Big stature, and an aura that was hard to ignore.
I expected something like this to happen, but when it happened, I started laughing.
“My name is Eric Endra.”
Putting his luggage nearby, the protagonist of the novel walked toward me and offered his hand for a handshake.
✧ ✧ ✧
Eric Endra was the eldest son of a small baron on the outskirts.
He was honest and liked to solve problems amicably; He hated violence.
'Inside the academy, everyone was equal,' the statement was not as true and direct as it sounded.
In particular, the disregard and intimidation received by a powerless noble like Eric were considerable.
The main content of the novel was that he broke that territorial position and played an active role in the academy.
I naturally received the protagonist's handshake.
“Nice to meet you.
My name is Cayden…”
It had already become difficult to add the Pryster surname.
Eric Endra waited for my family's name.
In fact, he must have been curious more about my family than me.
I sighed in my heart and said, “I am Cayden Pryster.”
His eyes widened slightly, and he smiled while waving his hand.
“Ah, you are the eldest son of the Pryster family.
I wish you all the best in the future.”
Unlike me, Eric Endra selected the political science department.
So it was understandable why he knew my name.
A commoner adopted by the mighty Prysters, it wasn't something other families could ignore easily.
Seeing Eric’s reaction, Asena’s choice was even more understandable.
Though it was still surprising that the kind Eric was just like other people in this regard.
“By the way, Sir Cayden, which department did you select?”
Picking up the luggage he had put down, Eric spoke to me with the friendliness he was known for in the novel.
It didn’t even seem like it was because of my family.
“The Knight Department…
As you know, it’s hard to step into politics.”
“The Knight Department?” He looked at me and nodded.
“Oh, that's why you are in such good shape.” He said with a slight smile.
Initially, my heart was heavy because of several worries, but after talking with Eric, my mood lightened a little.
“You are over-complimenting me, Sir Eric, in front—”
“Please, don't talk so formally, you must be older than me.”
…It seemed Eric knew more about me than I thought.
“Okay, I'll talk normally, but then you should take it easy too…
And what's your department by the way?”
I knew he was a political science major, but I couldn't show it, so I asked.
I'm the eldest son.”
The heir of the family unconditionally entered the political science department; Making a relationship at the academy made it easier to negotiate afterward.
“You are in the same department as my younger sisters.
I'll ask Asena and Keirsey to take care of you.” I offered lightly.
Eric looked at me as if he was surprised at my words.
“You seem to get along well.”
“Haha, I’m an adopted child, so did you think that we wouldn’t get along?”
Eric panicked and started making excuses.
It’s just…it’s different from the rumors I’ve heard…Ummm…I’m sorry, I made a mistake.”
Then, he proudly admitted his mistake and bowed his head.
“Rumors? What rumors?” I asked in bewilderment.
Eric blinked his eyes and said calmly.
“There are rumors that Cayden-sama has broken out with the family, and you don't have a good relationship with the rest of the Prysters…”
A question mark popped up in my head.
Although we were currently fighting, it didn't mean we weren't close.
It was absurd because there was no proof to even back such a rumor.
“Why did such a rumor spread? We have a good relationship.”
I guess the rumors can’t be trusted.”
At the same time, I felt nervous.
This rumor must have been spread by other families.
I had no talent for politics.
I didn't know how to prove something with just words.
In the end, if I wanted to get rid of these rumors, I just had to openly show that the rumors were wrong.
In this case, it would be if I and the twins got along.
…It seemed that reconciliation had to be done to not be alienated by these light rumors.
“Hyung-nim, let’s unpack together.
Why don't you choose a room first?”
[T/N: In Korea, Hyung is used by younger males to address acquainted older males.]
Before I knew it, Eric began to call me Hyung and led our conversation.
He was a good guy.
✧ ✧ ✧
It took us some time to unpack and night finally descended.
We were sitting on the sofa and talking.
I wondered who would come at this hour.
Were they Eric’s guests?
I looked at Eric sitting next to me, but he was also shrugging his shoulders.
“Oppa,” a voice came from outside the door.
As soon as I heard it, I knew whose voice it was.
At the same time, Eric also adjusted his posture and sat carefully.
He asked, “…Hyung-nim, why is Duchess Pryster here—”
“It's not a big deal.”
Perhaps, like me, she felt the need to reconcile quickly.
Maybe she didn't like being with me like this.
I opened the door and saw Asena, who had a cold expression.
But I could see the sadness hidden in her eyes.
And the moment I saw her eyes, I felt pathetic and my heart weakened.
Though I still kept my expression firm, I did not want to soften them because of my pride.
She looked at my expression and her eyes trembled.
I immediately felt quite agitated.
Asena did not know how to reconcile.
It was the first time I had been angry like this, so it seemed that she was at a loss as to how to approach me and what to say.
After inviting Asena into the room, I closed the door.
She stood like a statue the whole time.
“Why are you here, Asena?”
I could feel Eric’s eyes behind my back, but he stayed quiet after grasping the situation.
Asena swallowed her saliva.
Then, she looked not at me, but at Eric.
“Leave the room for a moment.”
When I called her name, Asena wandered her eyes like I caught her stealing.
“I told you not to order others like that.”
Considering the power of the family, what she said to Eric was a command.
Though, Asena could not have known this.
She lowered her gaze gradually and blinked anxiously.
She still didn’t seem to be able to decide what to do.
Then, after swallowing the saliva, she carefully raised her arms and tried to hug me.
Eric seemed to have decided to ignore us.
I pushed the hand away.
It was not time yet.
It was still too early to accept her apology.
When I pushed her away, tears began to fill Asena’s eyes.
Even if she tried to hide her expressions, she couldn't help but shed tears.
It had been a long time since I saw Asena crying.
Was it that much of a shock that I rejected her hug?
“I asked why did you come?”
Asena shut her mouth tightly and suppressed her tears.
“Do I need a reason?”
Looking at Asena in such a state pained me, but I tried not to waver.
“Now you need the reason.”
In response to my answer, Asena looked up at me as if determined.
“Oppa, I’m here to reconcile.”
“I can’t go to the academy like this.”
“…I know, you’re angry…but please understand, it’s for our future.”
Even though she was rejected by me, she did not give up, and carefully raised her hand to grasp the hem of my robe.
This time, as I did not push her away, Asena, who accepted it as a sign of permission, came one step closer.
“Just once… please understand.”
I knew it in my head, Asena was only making choices for the family.
Sometimes, a person had to keep emotions aside to make a decision based on their position.
So, Asena was not at fault here.
But because of my childish feelings, I couldn't help but blame her.
Asena, who gradually came close to me, rested her forehead on my chest.
When I didn’t stop her, she opened her arms and hugged me, just like she did at first.
She grumbled just like the young Asena.
To be honest, I was a little surprised.
I didn’t know she still had this side.
Again, I felt weak in front of her.
The twins were my precious jewels, so I couldn't be mad for long no matter what.
I finally sighed and patted the back of her head.
It’s something I couldn't understand right now.
Even so, if I kept fighting with them, we would continue to be targeted in the academy.
Asena flinched and trembled, and her breathing became intense, but I still asked one more time.
“Is it really necessary?”
Asena nodded her head.
“You must do it.”
I closed my eyes and sighed.
At my words, Asena hugged me with trembling hands.
She stayed in my arms for a long while.
✧ ✧ ✧
After Asena left, it was already past bedtime, but we still hadn't entered our rooms yet.
We sat on the sofa and talked about what had just happened.
Eric was the first to speak.
“You sure have a good relationship.”
I answered, but I wondered inside.
Why did the rumors spread that I didn't get along with Prysters?
“Still, I was a little surprised.”
“Even if the rumors about Hyung-nim were false… It wasn’t a rumor that Asena-sama was cold, it was a widely known fact.”
Honestly, Asena was a bit more blunt when dealing with people outside of our family.
Asena was wearing a mask.
So that, she, who rose to a high position at such a young age, would not be easily ignored by others.
Hence, she was extra cold and intimidating.
“…Asena is just a child.”
….I didn’t mean she was soft as a child at all.
She had her strength and values.
I just thought she was softer and kinder than the rumored Asena.
“Though Eric, don’t go to others and talk about what happened just now.”
“Why would I spread such rumors? Don’t worry.”
“Yes, thank you…
Do your best tomorrow.”
I prayed and sent a little cheer for the protagonist of the novel.
“You too, Hyung-nim.”
After that, without a word, we went to our respective rooms.
✧ ✧ ✧
The day of the entrance ceremony was bright.
I walked out of the dormitory wearing an academy uniform with my family insignia on it.
Perhaps she heard the news that Asena and I had reconciled because as soon as I went outside, I had to meet Keirsey who was waiting for me.
She flew into my arms and hugged me tightly.
She was showing aegyo here and there to pretend to be bright, but her voice was trembling.
She seemed to be very worried.
I accepted her antiques with a smile.
“It’s fine now.”
Keirsey stopped her tears and giggled uncontrollably, “Hehehe”.
Behind Keirsey was Asena.
The emotions I had seen yesterday were erased, and she stood there again with a cold face.
“Did you sleep well?”
I asked Asena to solve the still awkward atmosphere.
It was the first time in a long while that I didn’t wake her up.
Asena looked around while approaching me.
There was no one watching us.
“Keirsey, can you look over there for a moment?”
Asena pointed in a strange direction.
There was nothing where she pointed.
Keirsey turned and looked at the place Asena was pointing.
I also kept trying to find out what it was.
And at that moment, I felt a soft touch on my cheek.
Asena narrowed the distance and approached me to kiss the cheek as she did every morning.
She also seemed to be trying to solve the awkwardness in her way.
Even though I was dumbfounded for a moment, I laughed at her cute behavior.
At the sound of my laughter, Keirsey turned around.
“Oppa, why are you laughing?”
✧ ✧ ✧
While we headed to the plaza where the entrance ceremony was held, we talked about a few things.
I didn’t know that even if we were apart for just a single day, so many topics of conversation would pile up and that the words would never stop.
Among the many stories, the most memorable story was about the dormitory.
Asena and Keirsey shared the same room.
It was the same as the novel.
If it had been a different room…well, it wouldn’t be a problem with their current personalities, but I would have been worried nonetheless… So it’s good.
Soon we reached the square.
Many nobles had already gathered.
I could hear whispers pointed at us from all over the place.
It's because our family was that strong.
Kirsey couldn’t even hear those hushed voices and was still showing her excitement nonstop.
Hugging my left arm with her right arm, she babbled like a bird.
I’m so nervous, Oppa.
Aren't you a little anxious about how would be our academy life?”
I looked back at Asena to see if she wanted to join the conversation.
Only the three of us were standing in a circle to talk.
“It’s just the beginning.
Don’t worry too much.
The kid who shares the dormitory with me is in the same department as you guys, but he seems like a good guy.
Others must all be kind people.”
Keirsey asked me, but Asena answered.
“The eldest son of the Endra family, Eric Endra.”
She had come to my room yesterday and saw him, but Eric had not introduced himself.
“How do you know who he is, Asena?”
“When I left, I saw the family crest.
I also heard that the eldest son of the Endra family is going to the academy this year.
It was surprising though.
How did she remember the emblem of the Endra family, which was considered the weakest among hundreds of families?
We stopped talking for a moment and looked around.
The atmosphere was becoming chaotic.
“It's starting soon… huh?”
Then my eyes were fixed on one place.
As my gaze was frozen to a single place, Asena and Keirsey expressed their doubts.
But I did not answer them for a long time.
She was at the end of my gaze; blonde hair, and a warm, gentle smile.
At the same time, as if nervous, I took a deep breath.
She was my favorite character in this novel.
The eldest daughter of the family that supported the orphanage I lived in; Daisy Hexter.
In fact, the aura she exuded was so gentle, as soon as I saw her, I knew it was her.
Without realizing it, I spoke out loud.
Then, Keirsey's anxious voice woke me up.
“Ah… uh… um… sorry.
Did you call?”
Suddenly, Keirsey put her hand on her chest and looked at me in confusion.
“..uh..huh..why is my heart like this? …that…Oppa, why were you looking at her like that?”
Her eyes glared at me anxiously.
I said, scratching my head shyly.
“…because that girl looked so pretty.”
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