Wang Shu sat dazedly observing the beautiful room with wonder. The formal meeting hall's extravagance was beyond his imagination. In his memories, Oliver was never allowed in. So this is his first impression of the place and it made him question his Azure cloud continent's ascetics. He thought Wudang sect's main hall was unparalleled in the world with its jade columns and marble flooring, designed in an imposingly grandiose style. It was the kind of place that made people hold their breath for fear of disturbing the solemn element it lumbered its occupants with. Then again, every building within their esteemed sect inflicted that sort of feeling, instilling an absurd sense of unworthiness of being there. Similarly, this place also weighed intimidatingly on his spirit but since he grew accustomed to it, it didn't affect him much. However, this hall alone would put their entire sect to shame. These people really know how to live well. From their foods to their clothes, their culture and sophisticated etiquette, every aspect of their lives seemed marvelous. It was honestly enviable how much importance they allotted to their comfort and pleasure. This kind of life, Wang Shu was sure to try and experience as much as he can before going back to his world.
As long as he recultivates to the nascent soul stage, he'll attempt going back. But before that, he can be as undisciplined as he wanted to.
Mikel looked at his son whose curious eyes roamed over the hall, his interest and bewilderment especially endearing. His features softened unconsciously, his son was really cute. The kid would sometimes fixate on a particular item, blinking his eyes in thought as if trying to make sense of how it came to be. Granted, Mikel never allowed him in before, but that was solely because he was afraid the pressuring arrays would worsen his disease. Since he recovered, it wasn't really an issue anymore.
Seeing the longing and doting eyes Mikel used to look at his son, Lady Eleanor's hate intensified a thousand folds. She hated this kid more and more. It wasn't a secret before that Mikel didn't care much for this son of his. After all, Oliver was the reason his wife died. But what was the fatherly love that's overflowing from his eyes at the moment?
Eleanor glared hatefully at Oliver, wishing she could tear at his gorgeous face and disfigure it into a heinous mess. Maybe that would quench her sudden thirst for blood.
Wang Shu clearly felt the poorly disguised hostility of the lady seated across from him, if her previous insult and current eye daggers were anything to go by. What had he done now?
He looked her right in the eye, with none of the cowardice or timidness she expected, then rolled his eyes in annoyance. Manners be damned. He saw her widen her eyes in shock but paid her no mind and looked at his father who was now staring coldly at the still standing Priest.
High priest Phlios awkwardly stood in place, eyebrows furrowed clearly puzzled by the blatant disrespect of those present. He wasn't offered a seat, so he didn't move from his spot by the door. His mind gears rolled as he was thinking of what might've angered the man before him. His wizened self had no problem perceiving the cold treatment and stiff atmosphere in the hall.
Everyone remained quiet until the sound of footsteps was heard from outside the hall. Not long after, priestess Valdis appeared, sandwiched between head butler Arlo and butler Walter followed by four of the manor's guards, each escorting one shivering attendant. Valdis had her head lowered, red locks blocking her face from view.
When everyone was present, Mikel opened, "Gustave, tell us clearly what happened and don't leave any detail out. Your claims might have serious consequences that might shake our trust in the church and might trigger animosity and instability in the kingdom. My boy, be sure not to accuse others wrongfully and I would seek justice for my Oliver should you present clear evidence incriminating your stated offender." The uttered words rang in the hall, instilling fear and trepidation in the brought in servants' hearts.
Gustave who had no reason to hold back either, methodically reasoned, "After everyone left Oliver's room this morning, I chose to accompany him for a while longer. We had lunch together and then I left for my sparring lessons. Along the way, I met the Priestess lurking in the proximity of Oliver's room but didn't think much of it. Later, during my fight, I felt unwell and then collapsed all of a sudden. In fact, had I not experienced it before, I wouldn't know what was wrong. A few years back, I mistakenly ingested a narcotic drug and almost died so I took it upon myself to research its detoxifying method which happened to come in handy this time." This was obviously untrue; the almighty magic would naturally fight off any aggressors without his conscious intervention, but he wasn't about to reveal that.
"After I woke up I knew the meal I had earlier must've been spiked. That was supposed to be Oliver's and I happened to share it with him so it was obvious who the drug was originally intended for. When I reached his room, I found the priestess hunched over Oliver while he was stuck in an illusory spell, hallucinating. I helped him break off the spell and disperse the drug but when I looked back the priestess was gone. Priestess, do you mind telling me why you ran?" Gustave looked at her, his inquiry wasn't of one expecting a believable explanation. It was obvious who the blame would fall upon, the way he worded what happened was implying that she was the culprit.
"What are you saying?" high priest Phlios exploded in fury, though he was panicking inside, he knew to hide it well. No wonder his apprentice sent him an emergency signal, and he thought it was to inform him of the kid's awakening. "Young boy, you obviously don't know what's good for you. I won't allow you to bully my apprentice with unreasonable words!"
"Priest Phlios, are you threatening my boy with no regard to my presence? Do you think our family's at your church's mercy?" Mikel interrupted, his face gloomy.
"N-No… lord Mikel, that's not what I meant. But you can't expect me to take my apprentice's unjustifiable condemnations lying down."
"Your defensiveness makes me wonder whether you were in on the plan or not," Oliver quipped.
Everyone fell silent, looking at him in surprise. Wang Shu felt slightly uncomfortable with so many eyes on him. It wasn't until he felt a reassuring hand squeeze that he realized his hand was still in Gustave's. He tried taking it back, but it was like the other had a grip of steel. A scoff sounded in the hall, ceasing his futile struggles to free his hand.
It was the woman.
"You have so much courage to offend the high priest. Your boldness was really an eye-opener for me today. To dare say such a thing so openly…" she shook her head somewhat helplessly, "Forget it, you had no one to discipline you growing up, what can one expect?"
"Lady Eleanor seems very concerned with my kids' upbringing, is it because you don't have one of your own that you want to meddle in mine's rearing?" Mikel was now staring her down as if daring her to add another insult.
"To have none is better than being burdened with an ill-bred waste!" she exploded. Even if she loved him still, this man only knows how to denounce her and humiliate her time and time again! Her pride could only take so much before shattering.
"Eleanor, shut up!" the ever silent Eryk erupted all of a sudden. He stood up and held her wrist forcefully, gritting out, "apologize."
Eleanor looked at her husband in surprise, eyes wide in shock. "How dare you, lowlife…"
"I. said. Apologize," the man's hardened features and beastly eyes seemed to scare her out of her mind. Her face blanched and it looked like she could hardly keep standing. In a meek voice, she said, "I'm sorry."
Hearing that, Eryk regained his gentlemanly smile instantly and gazed at Mikel somewhat embarrassedly: "Sire Mikel, you know how spoiled and outspoken she is. I also apologize on her behalf. Please don't let her mindless outburst affect our relationship."
Mikel looked between the two thoughtfully. This was surprising. These two always put on the perfect image of a loving couple. No one knows what happens behind closed doors, though.
This little interaction proved that might not be the case. Eryk's decisive chiding was in a way very crafty. The man would rather expose their not so harmonious marital life than antagonize Mikel, which in turn might harm his social standing. Was this the so called wolf in sheep's clothing?
Updates will slow down because of exams. Might stick to once a week, but we'll see...
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