Part Two: Reunion After Parting
As soon as I came out into the hallway, I hurriedly checked the area where Emil had been hit. There was already a bright blue bruise at the corner of his eye.
“Are you okay?”
“That’s going to take a while to heal.”
Rather than being concerned about the bruise’s pain, Emil inquired about something else.
“You didn’t answer me earlier. Do you think I did something wrong?”
It was a really hard question since I didn’t know what to say. After hesitating, I finally managed to answer.
“You weren’t at fault, but it’s wrong to hit a person.”
“…Then I should apologize too.”
I hadn’t expected Emil to get into such a big fight with someone, as he’s always been quiet and thirsty for affection. I was sure I knew this kid.
‘It was my arrogance.’
I wanted to call a physician, but even if I kept waking, no one passed by.
“Don’t do that next time. I’d rather you hit me.”
“No matter how much I, mom, and dad try to protect you, your real family is Duke Callixst… You’re at a disadvantage.”
‘Ah, I recognize the way from there on.’
Just as I was about to ask for a physician to a servant I recognized from the playroom, a man was coming our way, guided by the same servant.
“Emil Laclen Roncist Callixst.”
Emil’s hand trembled in my grasp. It was Duke Callixt.
The servant exchanged glances between me and the duke.
I pushed Emil behind me, trying to hide him, but to no avail.
“News travels fast.”
It would have been impossible to keep Emil’s altercation with Rastine from the duke’s ears, but I hoped he would find out later rather than sooner. Duke Callixt fixed his glasses and smiled reassuringly at me. It was a smile that somehow came across as kind at first glance…
“Step aside. This is a parent-child matter.”
“Emil has done nothing wrong.”
The glass in the duke’s eyes flashed with a cold light. Eventually, he grabbed me by the shoulders and shoved me aside. It didn’t hurt, but it sent me reeling. What happened next was at odds with his smile. Even with the temperature difference, I had no idea what was happening.
As I tried to prevent it, frightened, a painful noise assaulted my eardrums.
Emil endured the duke’s slap.
Believe me when I say I didn’t think the duke would raise his hand without asking about the circumstances of the situation.
Following that, there was another loud noise. I hesitantly stumbled backward.
“It’s disciplinary. Let’s go, and I’ll hear the details.”
This was weird. Of course, Emil was also at fault. There’s no denying that he used violence first.
‘But hitting your own child without asking for details?’
Emil was calm, as if he were used to this kind of situation. He didn’t even touch his cheek; he just endured the pain. I grabbed the hem of his clothes before he followed the duke.
“Duke, let me explain.”
‘It was because of Rastine Lucretius… But… will the duke truly believe it was Rastine’s fault?’
The same man who had been abusive to his own son beyond indifference. Perhaps Lucretius, the other Ducal household, was more of a priority to the duke than Emil, his own son.
“Duke, I had some friction with Lucretius’ young master, that’s why—”
“Leave it. It’s fine.”
Emil, knowing my following words, took my hand off of him.
“See you later.”
How could he be so calm? He was so calm, it was hard to believe he’d hit Rastine in the first place.
I followed the duke as far as my eyes could see, and Emil didn’t look back even once until the moment he was out of sight.
‘Wh- what should I do…?’
I pondered as the servant urged me to go back.
* * *
“La- lady Lankester…”
What followed was the worst. As I stood there in the hallway, Blensia came to me.
I thought she was alone, but Hildred was with her.
“What about Emil Callixt?”
He looked at my haggard expression and immediately guessed what had happened.
“I suppose Duke Callixt has taken him away.”
“What happened in the process?”
“I don’t want to talk to you right now.”
“Well, if you wish; but if you keep standing here in a daze, when we go to see His Majesty, he will be alarmed at your absence.”
True. After the banquet, we have to go to pay respects to His Majesty and Princess Elsie. Maybe I could see how Emil was fairing.
“Well, I’m sure he’ll be fine, and…” Blensia mumbled, trying to soothe me.
“Because Young master isn’t a weak man…”
I don’t understand. The Emil Callixt I knew was a strong boy who could endure any kind of humiliation without batting an eye, but today he felt feeble…
Thanks to Blensia and Hildred, I came back to my senses and went back to the playroom. As soon as I entered, I saw Rastine cooling his bruises with ice. He spotted me and muttered.
“People might think he’s some kind of treasure.”
‘No, it’s not that…’ Nonetheless, Emil, who had been slapped and snapped, came to mind.
“At least to me, Emil is a better kid than Young Master Rastine.”
Rastine Lucretius proposed to me shortly after my debutante. He was a decent enough partner. I actually became engaged to him, and he was very good to me as a fiance. Even when I was worried about the succession title, he proposed to join the Lankester family. Thanks to that, the wedding was pushed forward. Aside from the fact that I had no feelings for him, I thought he was not a bad person to live with.
But now it’s different.
“So don’t be petty, please.”
“I don’t want to be more disappointed in you, either.”
I have to keep my family alive. For me, Rastine would be a hindrance.
Right now, Emil was far more important. Besides, I didn’t know if Emil’s madness would be stimulated if he kept up friction with Rastine.
“I hope we don’t run into each other again after today.”
I turned away grimly, and Rastine stayed silent.
* * *
As the celebration drew to an end, Emil did not return.
‘Did he already go back?’
But a banquet is bound to attract a lot of important people, including royalty. It was impossible for the duke to have returned, and yet not even a single strain of his silver hair was seen, let alone Emil’s.
‘Has he really gone back?’
The noble children clumsily greeted the royal princess, who could not yet babble. I glanced around surreptitiously. I was in the front row with Rastine and Hildred, but I kept my head down, so it didn’t show much. The Emperor’s lengthy speech came to an end.
“You can raise your head.”
Even under the light of the chandelier, the emperor’s black hair was very dark.
“You have worked hard to come here to please this emperor’s whim.”
The emperor, sitting obliquely on the throne, was the crown prince in the novel I had read. The younger sibling, who saw the royal princess Robellin as a thorn in his side and insisted on her dethronement and execution as soon as her crimes were discovered.
“Still, it’s a great pleasure to see in person the talented children my entourage has spoken highly of so often.”
At the emperor’s side was a small cradle. The noise had been blocked out, and the little baby was sleeping soundly without waking.
“I’m sure my daughter will lead the country with your help.”
It was a long, boring speech, but the bottom line was that the children, the future leaders of the political stage, should take good care of the royal princess.
As soon as the speech was over, my mom came to me.
“I heard about what happened earlier.”
Dad was still seen with nobles.
“Mom, Duke Callixst…”
I asked, wondering if he was still in the banquet hall, but she shook her head.
My foreboding was right.
Even after the banquet ended, I couldn’t see Emil for a long time.
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