The families meeting and the dinner began.
After all the families exchanged greetings, people slowly sat down. They remembered the story and rumors around Airn Pareira.
‘A family that’s benevolent to us… it would be better to see them stop growing.’
Of course, not all families were hostile to the Pareira’s.
The Freed family and the Bauer family had personalities that didn’t like fights, and they haven’t had a single problem with the Pareira in years.
But that was it. They weren’t close like friends or anything.
And the other three families…
‘I know well.’
Lester, Russell, and the Gairn family.
Those three families had definite ill-will towards the Pareira family.
‘Be especially careful of Viscount Phill Gairn. We don’t get along well, right from the beginning.’
Airn had a stiff expression.
Even if it wasn’t on the notes from Marcus, he knew.
He had no other choice. He knew that Aaron Gairn was the second son of Phill, who tormented him the most.
Naturally, it wasn’t something that would happen without parental permission.
The boy glanced at Viscount Phill with alert eyes.
‘It was because of him that mom and Kirill didn’t come to the meal…’
White eyes, hooked nose, and a skinny face.
He met the man a few times before, but a really nervous feeling spread through Airn.
The eyes were annoying to look at. Even more so when seeing them up close.
Of course, that didn’t mean he was going to avoid him.
Don’t make a mistake, and be confident.
Gulping, Airn made up his mind.
“Thank you to everyone for giving us your precious time to ensure the safety of the Southern Trade Route. For the prosperity and peace of the six families.”
Following Harun, the other five families’ heads shouted, raising their wine glasses.
Airn, who watched that, raised his glass belatedly.
This was the first time he was drinking alcohol, but all children his age naturally put their glasses to their lips.
In such a situation, it was impossible to sit alone, dazed.
Closing his eyes, the boy took a couple sips of the white wine, which washed down his throat. And put down his glass.
He saw how everyone was looking at him.
‘Is something wrong?’
Sweaty hands and unable to know what happened. The silence lasted for a second, but for a brief moment, the air felt cramped and suffocating.
Even the one who broke the silence was none other than Viscount Phill Gairn.
The person Airn was most cautious about.
The boy waited for the next words as he felt his heartbeat grow. Waiting for words of ridicule and sarcasm.
But the voice of Phill Gairn was more gentle.
“The way you’re holding the glass is a bit wrong.”
“If it’s red wine, it doesn’t matter if you’re covering the glass with your palm. But in the case of white wine, it’s better to hold the long part, the stem of the glass. It isn’t right for the warmth of your hand to reach the cold wine.”⁽¹⁾
“Ah, I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what! Things happen. Now, do it right.”
Phill Gairn spoke with a smile.
A face, kinder than anyone else’s, a face Airn never thought he would see.
The boy fixed the glass with a flustered expression, and Viscount Gairn nodded his head with a happy expression.
“Good. Very good. However, it would be better to take off the little finger as well.”
“Ah… didn’t know? It’s common now, but there were times when spices were so precious that one would only use a pinch of them. And when holding a glass with five fingers, it’s meant to denote that your hands get wet when you try to pick something else.”
“Of course, now pepper and nutmeg are plenty, so we don’t have to save our fingers and keep the little finger off… as a noble, there is such a thing called manners. Hahaha.”
“Haha, right. The difference between commoners and nobles is in such small things.”
“That is right.”
Both Baron Lester and Baron Russell agreed.
Seeing their expressions, Airn finally realized. What Phill Gairn was thinking.
“No, I guess my words came out wrong. Baron Lester, I didn’t mean it that way. Baron Pareira, please don’t misunderstand my intentions.”
“… I haven’t misunderstood.”
“Phew, that is nice. I was just thinking of Airn.”
“Come on, let’s get this done. There is a reason why we are here.”
Viscount Gairn sighed in relief, and Baron Russell changed the topic as if nothing happened. The topic at the table got moved, but Baron Pareira’s expression was still stiff.
And Airn Pareira, who watched all this happen, quietly put his hand under the table. He never touched the fork or knife.
He wasn’t comfortable enough to eat something.
Questions from the families’ heads continued.
But they weren’t important.
Most of them were about liberal arts, such as knowledge in art and music, and the level wasn’t high enough, making it easy for any noble to answer.
However, that was the case for a ‘normal’ noble.
These were the most difficult questions for Airn, who had been locked up in his room all his life.
Whenever the nobles threw questions at him, the boy had no choice but to sweat, and even when there were no questions for him, he had no choice but to wonder if their attention was on him.
Haha. You don’t have to worry too much.“
Baron Lester, Baron Russell, and Viscount Gairn never talked to the boy except for attacking him with questions. But then would suddenly caress Airn Pareira with a gentle attitude which wasn’t their true nature.
There was one thing that everyone knew.
“What you don’t know, you will have to learn them one by one. Isn’t that right, Baron Pareira?”
Warm encouragement and praise.
They were all indirect attacks on the laziness and ignorance that Airn had lived in and an attack on his father, who neglected him.
“Sorry. But I am not feeling well, so can I leave first?”
“… go ahead.”
Airn couldn’t stand it, and Harun couldn’t force him to stay.
For an instant, there was silence at the table. Every family head watched it silently.
Baron Lester was the first to speak.
“He’s become very dignified, but… will he be fine in the monster subjugation?”
Baron Pareira remained silent.
Rather, it was Viscount Gairn who answered.
“What do you mean! Of course, he will be fine! Who has a good start? Airn will learn it all one after another. This is going to be a good opportunity.”
“Ah, right. Haha.”
“Well, there could be some daunting tasks, but once we adults begin to move, we will be able to overcome everything. Isn’t that right, Baron Pareira?”
Hearing that, Baron Pareira nodded his head lightly.
Contrary to his positive behavior, his expression was rather dark.
“Pant, Pant Pant Pant…”
The place where Airn went after leaving the dinner was the training grounds.
He was breathing rashly and leaned on a tree. He had a place to turn to, yet his heart wouldn’t ease.
Rather, he felt a deep sense of shame restricting his body.
Airn was confident.
He never seemed like it, but he knew that he was different from his past self.
Although he relied on the dream rather than his own strength, he was clearly aware of just how strong he had grown.
And it was right.
He wields his sword a lot better than before, interacts better than before, and experienced the world a little.
Just as Aaron Gairn’s taunting passed, he thought that he would be able to overcome the pressure of the other families with ease… at least he thought so.
All an illusion.
Phill Gairn was far more sinister than the boy. And was dangerous.
The subtle pressure he put on Airn by never actually crossing the line and being too vague for Airn to rebuke. It was something Airn had never faced before, so he couldn’t even say a word to the man.
No, even if he did experience it, Airn wouldn’t have been able to say anything.
As long as the Pareira’s power can’t overwhelm the three families, including the Gairn’s, Airn wouldn’t have a way out.
That must be why his father was silent.
A groan escaped from his mouth as he thought that hard.
He didn’t know.
He didn’t know what pain he was going through. He didn’t know what kind of pain his family faced all this time.
He had no idea just how much of a burden his existence was for them.
No, they never let him know.
They let him lock himself up in the room because he looked comfortable there.
And now it was difficult.
The mistakes which he always knew about hurt more when Viscount Gairn was pointing them out.
A streak of tears flowed from Airn’s eyes as he realized this all too late.
The boy who burst into tears stumbled and walked somewhere.
To the weapons rack. A sword made of wood. Picking up the familiar weighted sword, he took the stance.
He knew what he was doing.
An act to escape from the harsh reality.
Rather than thinking about the subjugation and the families’ meeting, he realized that relying on his sword wasn’t that bad.
Knowing that Airn swung the sword.
Without that, he wouldn’t be able to stand.
It was then.
“What, you were here?”
“Oh, you seem to be in good shape? I guess it wasn’t a lie that you went to swordsmanship school?”
It was Baron Lester’s twin sons, Kevin and Caesar.
And Baron Russel’s eldest, Martin.
All three of them were about the same age as Airn, and they were children who set foot into the path of the sword much earlier than Airn.
Martin Russell, the oldest, spoke.
“How did you get here? We had to leave first. The adults said that they had to talk amongst themselves.”
“I’m bored of waiting for the grown-ups to finish their talk. Are you going to have a match?”
“What? Why aren’t you answering? Not only do you not know how to hold a wine glass, but you don’t know how to hold a sword too?”
“Yah, you’re being too rude to him.”
“So? 1 year is a tight time to learn how to hold a sword. Especially for a lazy noble.”
“Hahaha, it could be!”
As they laughed amongst each other, Airn stared at them.
He had already run away once.
A few words from Viscount Garin and his determination to stand had collapsed into pieces.
He couldn’t stand it, so he went to the training grounds to rely on his sword. It was embarrassing.
“Oh, what? Are you really going to do it?”
“Oh, oh, this is great!”
“But, is this fine? How about you wipe the tears off your face first?”
He wasn’t going to do something embarrassing twice in a row on the same day.
With a flame burning in his heart, Airn spoke.
“Come at me.”
⁽¹⁾ - Just down the wine, then you don’t need to worry about it getting warm : ) It’s better like that anyway.
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