Mikel Elderidge reached his residency after an arduous journey from the farthest bordering town in the kingdom, his late wife's hometown; Snowford town. Evidently going back there in the first place was the hardest thing he ever did in his entire life.
Though he never intended to do so, emergencies call for different measures. The neighboring kingdom whom they were at peace with suddenly attacked without notice. The incident was so sudden that the unprepared border soldiers couldn't react in time and suffered an inevitable bitter defeat at the hands of the enemy. When the backup was sent, it was already too late to do anything to save the townspeople. Though the Nearyn kingdom won the battle at last and got the bordering lands back, no one was in the mood to celebrate the hardly satisfying win amidst the corpses of their comrades and innocents. This was undeniably an act of war, but things aren't just as simple.
Everyone knows that the Nearyn kingdom is the strongest kingdom to ever exist. From the time it was established no one was able to seize it. That is of course because of the heritage of the powerful magician ancestors who made the kingdom what it is today. As such, declaring war on it is like jumping off a cliff; you think you'll fly but end up being a lump of meat plastered to the ground. So why would they do that? surely no one is stupid enough to incur the wrath of such a frightening giant. What could their purpose be then?
Although nothing was confirmed yet, Mikel had other things to worry about. His in-laws. Snowford town is his sweetheart's hometown. Even after moving to the capital to live with her husband, Mia's family still resides there. When the news of their death reached his ears, Mikel almost lost his mind. He hastily traveled all the way to the border without rest for a full week, only to be met with a frighteningly desolate bloody graveyard instead of the beautiful heaven where he met and fell in love with his beloved. It felt like his heart was being torn to pieces, mirroring the state of the town, shrouded in darkness and despair.
Mikel still isn't sure how he managed to go through with the funeral arrangements without collapsing. It was very painful to glimpse at his happy past and see it crumble all over again. It's like the world was out to get him. Even the place that holds his most endearing memories wasn't spared. The lump in his throat and burning of his eyes accompanied him throughout his entire journey.
It's only when he reached out to help his companion out of the carriage that his mood improved a bit. Though the kid doesn't look happy to receive his help, he begrudgingly held on to the offered hand and hopped off, landing steadily on the ground.
Mikel smiled indulgently at the youngster's energetic antics. He then looked up to greet his attendants only to have his smile frozen at the sight of his son standing quietly to the side of the entrance, staring blankly at him. That face that he hadn't seen for a good while now appeared more and more like his late wife's, it's paleness only served as a reminder of hers on her deathbed. The man whose memories have been stirred back lowered his eyes willing his tears not to fall, he steeled his heart long ago not to care for this child of his, he won't start doing now.
"Welcome back master," said the head butler while motioning at the servants to unload the carriage.
"Thank you, Arlo, it's good to be back" replied Mikel weekly, successfully managing to mask the shaking of his voice.
Though nobody seemed to notice the man's vulnerable state of mind, the one still holding his trembling hand feigned ignorance and remained quiet. Everyone's got their own demons to deal with, it's not his business to meddle in.
"Welcome back father", Oliver's soft voice sounded at this time, respectful but perfunctory. There was none of the usual bitterness in his tone, no poisoned sarcasm or a ridiculing saddened gaze either. His eyes remained clear and steady without a single ripple as if looking at a stranger.
Mikel felt uneasy looking at his son's unperturbed expression. The only thing that usually gave him a sense of relief was Oliver's unlikeable personality. It was a very good excuse for him to not care for the child and avoid interacting with him guilt-free. If that changed then… Mikel didn't dare think about it.
He could only lure the beast out to help contain his guilt and not let it eat at him, tearing his insides to bits.
"Oliver, this is Gustave; your cousin. Unfortunately…he lost his family not too long ago so I decided to adopt him. You must treat him well in the future"
The servants tensed at the news and lowered their heads even lower awaiting Oliver's outburst. The man who hated his own flesh and blood, taking in a healthy alternative to hone as a future heir is definitely a slap in the face to the sickly, often ignored Oliver. This definitely wouldn't sit well with the easily riled up kid.
Wang Shu's eyes opened wide in surprise and looked to the teenager standing at his father's side.
The boy wore a loose black silk shirt with golden cufflinks and black trousers. he was the kind of person that looked better the more you looked. His rich chocolate hair that had tousled griminess which promised finesse would make anyone wish to run their hands through the gorgeous locks. He had strong arched brows and eyelashes so thick, it could be illegal. And then his eyes- they were deep and catastrophic, a vivid emerald with flecks of shining silver peeking through. They held such intensity to them, very incompatible with his young age. He had distinct cheekbones and an angular jaw, his sun-kissed skin made him look devilishly handsome.
Wang Shu stared at Gustave for a while, the handsome kid appeared to be only a year or two older than he. He suddenly felt very sympathetic towards Oliver. His father never smiled at him even once and here he is, holding another kid's hand tenderly welcoming him into the family that he never felt part of. Oliver was more probably to die angered by his father than by his actual illness.
Though Wang Shu was a little inclined to make a snarky comment, he felt it wasn't really his place to do so. He doesn't need to feel offended on behalf of Oliver and this man isn't actually his father.
"Okay" he answered at last "I will be going back to my room if you don't mind"
Mikel nodded automatically without registering what Oliver actually said, and only coming back to his senses after his son turned to leave." Wait!"
Wang Shu turned back at his father's call.
"You… don't seem to mind?" Mikel questioned, his uneasiness seeping through with the slight urgency his voice held.
Wang Shu was really confused by his question but decided to answer nevertheless:" your house, your rules…father" he deadpanned than left with butler Walter who remained at his side the whole time. Though the butler was as surprised as everyone else, he still dutifully followed behind his young master all the way back to his room.
Mikel stood rooted in place for a few good minutes, trying to digest Oliver's underwhelming reaction. The man's old heart suffered so many blows lately that he could barely keep himself standing. He staggered a bit, alarming the surrounding servants.
Head butler Arlo hurriedly supported him and led him inside the manor.
Through the whole ordeal, no one noticed the burning gaze Gustave etched onto Oliver's frame. He closed his eyes, trying to contain his deep-rooted hatred and hostility then followed everyone in, silently enduring his anger.
Naturally, there's a time for everything.
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