The sun rays filtered lovingly through the huge windows facing Oliver's bed, illuminating the small figure curled up under the quilt as if to urge him to wake up and welcome the new day full of energy and hope.
Wang Shu has been in a half-awake state for a while, tiredly fighting off his sleepiness with all of his might. His body felt even more battered and weakened than yesterday as if a full night of sleep was not enough a rest for him. He has really underestimated this disease of his. If even waking up took this much struggle, then it is a much more serious of a problem than he thought. His eyelids felt as if glued together, and the more he fought to open them to harder his consciousness was gripped by the tentacles of darkness, threatening to engulf him fully in a deep sea of nothingness, never to wake up again.
Just when he thought he lost the battle, a few drops of coolness fell on his face; precisely on his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. They trickled along his meridians leaving a trace of chill in their wake, causing his entire body to tremble, down to his very core.
Surprisingly, his consciousness stirred with the tremor and he could finally awaken with ease. He blinked away the bleariness and could finally focus on the boyish profile of his butler, smiling warmly at him. He noticed the blue vial in his hands and guessed it contained the substance that helped wake him up.
That experience was honestly frightening even for a seasoned cultivator such as himself. No wonder Oliver grew up crooked. He has been fighting death every single day of his life.
"Good morning, young master" greeted the butler softly.
"Good morning" answered Wang Shu dispiritedly. It definitely wasn't a good morning for him…
Butler Walter sighed helplessly and helped his young master up. There's no improving Oliver's morning grumpiness. His surprise to have the kid return his greeting all forgotten in the face of his worry for the boy's state of mind. This is the calmest he'd seen him after waking up. Usually, his reaction would vary from cursing, yelling, thrashing or even hyperventilating depending on how long a time it took him to wake up. The butler isn't really sure whether it has something to do with nightmares or just a symptom of his disease, but he's been instructed to use the crystal ice potion on Oliver every day to help him wake up.
After washing up, getting dressed and having breakfast, the butler led his charge to the manor's library as per yesterday's arrangement.
The library is situated centrally within a deep volt underground and he needs his fathers' approval to set a foot in there. Supposedly, because it has valuable manuscripts and rare magical scrolls, his time in the library has to be monitored and moderated. Such rules should've not been applied to the Elderidge family's heir but, alas, Oliver's position in this household was made clear by such an arrangement.
Wang Shu ignored the pang of hurt and indignation in his heart after he was made known of this. This shouldn't affect him; he is not Oliver, dammit!
Just as he reached his father's study, he ran into their family's new addition, Gustave accompanied by his attendant, clearly intending to meet the head of the household as well.
"Young master Oliver" coolly greeted Gustave, his handsome face set on an unreadable blank expression. Wang Shu blinked, silently staring at the taller teenager and no one spoke for a while.
The situation was getting awkward; butler Walter felt slight embarrassment but covered it up by an unnatural cough while Gustave's attendant furrowed his eyebrows in annoyance at Oliver's blatant disrespect. He, just as everyone else in the manor, already considered Gustave's position to be higher than Oliver's, this ghost child.
Wang Shu wasn't really sure of what to make of his 'rival'. There's no hostility or hate on his part for the other since he appeared in the picture after he took over Oliver's body, but there's something extremely unsettling about Gustave. His intuition was never wrong; he should be wary of him in the future.
Eventually, Wang Shu nodded slightly in recognition and bypassed him straight to the study's door.
Following his soft knocks, the door opened from the inside and he was greeted by the head butler's wrinkly face. The man's subtle change of expression didn't go unnoticed by Wang Shu, but the latter ignored him completely and went in followed by the rest.
Mikel raised his head from whatever account book he was reading and was surprised by the procession of four people in front of him. His eyes eventually settled on his younger child and the grimness that leaked through his darkened irises was almost tangible.
"Is there anything I can help you with Oliver?" the man's monotone voice sounded in the quiet study, though a faint impatience echoed in Wang Shu's ears.
"I came to ask for your permission to enter the library," the young boy answered quietly. His politeness prickled his father's heart.
The man lowered his head as if to skim through his papers and answered in a breathy tone," Granted".
Wang Shu nodded in thanks and turned to leave feeling stifled by the disappointing interaction he just had with his 'father'.
"Take Gustave with you", Mikel said just as he was stepping out of the room. Wang Shu turned to look at the older man, without letting on any of his inner emotional turmoil reflect on his face. "He's unfamiliar with the library's layout, show him around and assist him if need be to find whatever might be of interest to him".
Mikel then looked at the older teenager and his expression softened slightly but noticeably. "your innate magical ability is quite impressive, there are many scrolls and informative books that can help you improve your skills and incantations, do your best for now and I will make sure to get ahold of the best teachers and learning materials best suited for your attributes, go on now, I'm very busy".
Gustave smiled slightly in gratitude and made way to follow the already departing figure of the smaller young master, both unware of Mikel's frustration and broodiness.
"what am I doing?" his pained inquire drew a sigh from the head butler standing at his side.
"your dislike for him is not ungrounded. Master, that child is an abomination and you keeping him here and spending fortunes on his medicine is more than enough to honor the late Madame's wishes" Arlo spat resentfully.
Mikel pursed his lips and remained silent, if it weren't for his promise to Mia, Oliver would've been dead by now.
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