Baron Provalum hurriedly fled the scene of his “negotiations” with Joshua.
“When did my master become the devil?” Cain shook his head.
“What are you trying to say?” Joshua wore a bored expression like he was too lazy to piece together Cain’s meaning.
“The Orbis heirloom finally landed in your hands… but it seems like you had to use dirty tricks to get it. What’s worse, you seem completely indifferent about it.”
“I had to.”
Joshua tossed him a lazy glance and shrugged. “If you’re implying that I extorted the heirloom from him, I didn’t… I gave him a chance to prove his worth as a lackey, so it’s only natural for him to pay me for my time.”
“How can you say such a shameful thing—”
“What do you mean, ‘shameful’?” Joshua returned Cain’s stare with a bewildered expression.
“I’m surprised at how far you’ve come… You couldn’t even look me in the eye, before.” Cain shrugged. “Do you think I’ll ever become like you? No, wait… I think it’s already happening.”
“Aren’t you always like that?”
Cain carefully avoided Joshua’s gaze and whistled nonchalantly. “What a sight. These girls from Arcadia are real eye candy. The way they walk and talk is so elegant!”
“Yeah, enjoy yourself.” Joshua chuckled and turned his attention to the object resting in his palm.
This is the Orbis family heirloom, known as the “Elf’s Tears”. It had a distinct leaf shape and a subtle green hue. The only reason this apparently-unremarkable ring received a moniker like that was because of the legends of the Orbis family’s relationship with the high elves.
For now, it’s just a pretty relic of a defunct family. That information only comes to light much later. The world would learn that the inheritance contained exceptional powers thanks to the words of the high elves, who had appeared on the continent for the first time in centuries.
The head of the Orbis family had made yearly pilgrimages into the Elven Forest, which, for the most part, was adamantly opposed to human visits. Only the Orbis patriarch could think about such a thing.
The elves had an isolationist attitude. In the eyes of the elves, who value nature and the trees, humans are animals who destroy the elves’ beloved forests and kidnap them for their beauty—and then use them as sex slaves to sate their vile desires.
To protect themselves and their homes, the elves gathered in the great forest at the southern tip of the continent and erected a massive barrier the size of several major cities put together. Even the elves, naturally born with magical abilities, found it nigh-impossible to construct such a barrier. Dozens of high elves died in the process—except one. One high elf didn’t die.
Fast forward a hundred years, and the elves’ hate for humans had spiraled out of control. They rallied around the single remaining high elf, dubbing it the “Elenbers”, their ruler. The issue is that humans were practically poisonous to the elves, who shuddered at the thought of even meeting a human.
The rest of the story was a bit blurry in Joshua’s mind, but he knew the essential details.
“Jerath Dick Orbis,” Joshua grumbled. The last head of the Orbis family had vanished ten years ago along with the rest of the family. He’d been reported missing, but Joshua knew he was dead. In all of the forty years of Joshua’s previous life, Jerath had remained absent. It was quite likely the entire family had died as soon as the household collapsed.
I’m sure he was tormented. He was the only person on the continent who could enter and exit the Elven Forest—those dogs and pigs in power couldn’t leave him alone.
Jerath Dick Orbis had said nothing about the Elven Forest until his family was wiped out. Then he vanished from the face of the continent. The Elenburs came to the continent after hearing the news and found Jerath’s child in dire circumstances, serving as a servant to another noble household.
She wept, apologizing, and the tears streamed down the back of her hand, seeping into the ring she was wearing. That ring would eventually be known as the “Elf’s Tears” to the rest of the world.
Then she became seriously ill and died not long after… I guess it’s an honorable story because they died protecting what they cared about the most.
What a terrible fate.
“Young Master?” Cain’s voice drew Joshua away from his thoughts. “Can you tell me what you’re thinking?”
“It’s—” Joshua swallowed his words and just shook his head. “It’s nothing, I’m just a bit tired. Did you say something?”
Cain tilted his head curiously. “We’re home? We’ve been here for quite some time.”
“Ah…” Joshua nodded. They’d arrived at Joshua’s home for the foreseeable future.
Regardless of whatever else is happening, it’s a terrific area to practice in peace. But… Joshua’s expression hardened as he glanced over the building. It was absolutely terrible if you were trying to protect someone. The thought had been making his head throb since he’d arrived in the capital.
Joshua finally came to a decision. “Cain.”
“I believe it would be best for my mother to live in Duke Agnus’s residence, since it’s more central and closer to the Palace.”
Cain paused for a moment before nodding in understanding. “As the Young Master says, this is clearly not the right place for Lady Lucia to live. Even if you’re displeased, I believe it is correct for her to live where the Duke is. More importantly, she’d be truly alone when the Young Master enters the academy.”
“I’d like to ask you a favor.”
“Yes?” Cain was taken aback by Joshua’s abrupt reply.
“For the time being, I want you to protect my mother on my behalf.”
“You mean you want me to be Lady Lucia’s escort knight?”
“Yes, I do.” Joshua nodded.
“However, if I do that the Young Master will be in serious danger,” Cain replied with a stiff expression. “Even low-ranking aristocrats from the countryside with unknown ancestries have at least two knights beside them. Ignorance and contempt are the bare minimum you could expect, among a slew of other annoyances… Given the Young master’s nature, I know you’ll never stand for what will take place before your eyes. You’ll need me to stop you from acting, ahead of time.”
Seeing as Joshua’s mouth remained firmly shut, Cain took it that he’d hit the nail firmly on the head.
“Additionally, Veron Shen Villas is also an academy student. It might be a stretch, but I’m concerned.”
“Don’t be. I truly desire to be ‘silent’.” Joshua grinned at Cain’s apprehensive expression. “I’ll spend my time quietly, like a dead mouse. I specialize in solitude, believe it or not. I’ve had more than my fair share of being ignored and insulted.”
“Is that… true?” Cain struggled to wrap his mind around Joshua’s words.
It was true. The bastard pariah… the stable… Cain had forgotten about Young Master Joshua’s history.
“I hate to see your miserable expression.” Joshua chuckled at Cain’s stiff expression.
“Young Master.” Cain pressed his head against the floor.
“May I ask a favor of you? It’s for me, but it’s also for you.” Joshua’s words made Cain raise his head. “I need a subordinate that I can trust to watch my tack. I don’t need a weak or drowsy guy who dies before I do on the battlefield.”
Joshua grinned widely. “We should ask Duke Agnus to teach you the sword.”
Cain’s pupils dilated—that only meant one thing. Cain knew it was not in Joshua’s nature to bow or apologize to anyone. Yet here he was, making such a promise.
“Cain,” Joshua interrupted. “This is a request, not a demand… Listen carefully to what I’m saying.”
Joshua quietly bowed his head, startling Cain. Was there anyone else like this in Cain’s life?
Cain sighed heavily.
“Raise your head,” Joshua said. “I don’t want to see you bowing your head to anyone—me included.”
“This is fine for me… but this is my Lord’s request.” Cain smirked sarcastically. “Shouldn’t debts be repaid? I’m hoping the Young Master will also grant me a wish.”
“I’ll listen,” Joshua said with a laugh.
The smirk fell from Cain’s face, replaced with a solemn expression. “Please don’t force me to bow to anyone but my master.”
Joshua and Cain looked deeply into each others’ eyes for a while. Cain bore witness to the burning passion in Joshua’s deeply sunken eyes, hotter than an erupting volcano.
“Yes… I will do that… In the name of Joshua Sanders,” Joshua whispered just barely loud enough for Cain to hear. But that was enough for the knight.
“My lord,” Cain said with a smile and a vigorous nod. “I wish you all the best in the future.”
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