‘Was I too distracted by the paper and misheard it?’
Riley couldn't believe what he had just heard and asked back.
"No, wait... What did you say? Leave?"
Stein did not reply.
He was simply waiting for Riley's response with his right arm still extended.
Riley, who had his brows furrowed in shock, narrowed his eyes and stared at the piece of paper Stein was holding out.
"What is that?"
Stein was wordlessly shaking the paper in front of him.
It seemed it was originally a rolled up message, seeing as the sides of the paper were curled inwards.
"Hm, the capital?"
Riley mumbled to himself the word which stood out the most on the paper.
The large city located outside the Iphelleta's domain.
In the centre was a large palace and outside its white walls, the citizens, merchants and nobles lived in a beautifully decorated city.
[Information Regarding The Capital's Swordsmanship Tournament]
[At our 17th tournament starting next week, we invite one of the sons of 'Finn Iphelleta,' widely acclaimed for their swordsmanship. We would be honoured if you were to attend and set an example for this event.]
The words were difficult to see from afar, so Riley approached Stein’s desk and took the paper to read its contents.
In summary, the message on the paper contained what Riley despised the most.
‘Leave the mansion.’
This was most likely the reason why Stein has said such words.
To compete in the swordsmanship tournament.
'I mean, even if you were to be a man of few words...'
You, go to the capital's swordsmanship tournament.
It would have been much easier to say it that way, and there was no reason for him to say 'leave the mansion' now was there?
Riley, who was complaining in his mind, placed the paper back on the desk and began to slowly walk backwards.
"Father, you know what my answer is right?"
"It will be a good experience."
"But I don't need experience?"
"Your brothers have been there too."
"Why don't they go one more time? It's a nice place."
"This letter was for you."
"What, no way."
"It's what they refer to as a love call."
What did he say now?
To think such words would come from the hard-headed Stein.
When Riley stopped his backwards pacing as if he was struck by something, Stein pushed his chair back and stood up behind the desk.
"I... won't go."
At the sound of the chair scraping against the floor, Riley's mind came back and he shook his head as he stated his thoughts.
Crying will not work since he's not so young anymore.
Therefore he must state his intentions clearly.
"I won't go to the swordsmanship tournament."
"For how long will you live so self-centredly? You should put an end to such a lifestyle soon.
"I don't have talent."
Riley looked at his hand and replied with a tired tone.
"I'd tried it last time with a wooden sword. I was worried about my mother. I wanted to defend her. But... my sword was pathetic. Ha! You should have seen Ian's face that time, father. What a sight that was!"
Some of it was true, some of it was false.
Although it was unknown if Stein could find out which part was the lie.
"I know. I've always known. That I have no talent for swordsmanship. So I'm giving up. Let me give up. Please don't force me on this path anymore."
‘Because I really like reading. If anything, I'll find a path to become a wizard,’ Riley added in his head.
It felt like Stein would give up after hearing those words.
‘I just want to live a leisurely life. I want to avoid receiving high hopes from others.’
Riley bit his lips because the vow he had made and kept ever since he was born anew was about to slip out.
Riley flinched at Stein's voice.
An average person would not have noticed it, but under that bland dry voice of Stein’s was a small hope.
Riley's five fingers which were pointing down began to twitch.
His hand was damp with sweat.
'If it's you...'
'We believe in you...'
'You can do it. Because it's you'
'Of course you can! You're the hero!'
The voices of his past companions echoed in his ears.
He could remember their bloodied bodies with their gaping mouths in his head.
Riley swallowed loudly.
Don't look at me with those eyes.
Riley's mouth was gaping as he thought to himself.
Slowly, Riley began to step back with cold sweat on his head.
"Riley... There's a difference between a novice's tournament and the capital's tournament. When we told you to compete in the novice tournament... You made all sorts of excuses to not go."
Stein grabbed the paper titled 'Capital Swordsmanship Tournament' and walked toward Riley.
"But, this place is different. You have come of age as well, so I won't go easy on you anymore. You have to attend to at least show your face to the king..."
Stein opened his eyes in surprise as he heard the door open during his lecture.
It was because Riley managed to sneak his way to the door without him noticing.
After the creak of the door, a scream came.
It was Ian's.
"Ah, no! I wasn't eavesdropping at all! The door felt really good so I just had my cheek on it!"
It seemed Ian was curious about the conversation and tried to snoop in, as you could see a clear red mark on one side of his face.
"Huh? Y-young Master? Where are you going?"
Ian tilted his head questioningly at the sight of Riley who was slowly retreating without lowering his guard.
"Ian. I leave father to you!"
It seems the door had excellent soundproof quality and Ian couldn't listen to the conversation, as Ian was confused to what was happening.
His actions of pressing his ear to the door was for naught.
"Ian, grab Riley!"
‘I will discipline him later.’
Stein ordered Ian who was lying on his chest.
As Ian replied in confusion, Stein shouted.
He's going to play hide and seek again.
Stein knew very well that whenever Riley was driven into a corner, he would hide himself in the mansion like a herbivore and reappear when everything has ended.
Therefore, to not miss him, he had to catch Riley before he lost him.
'This is like-'
Isn't it just like the assassin which the mansion despise?
For the child of his lover to act like an assassin.
Stein frowned and grinded his teeth in anger.
"Riley, you better stop now!"
Considering his lack of interest in the sword, he was an unusually bright child.
There was no weakness to use against the third child.
If anything it would be his mother Iris.
But that's someone Stein cannot touch either.
Riley knew that too.
-he can ignore his father's words and run like this.
"Damn it, Sera!!'
Stein shouted at Sera who ran into Riley just around the corner.
Sera flinched with surprise.
"Riley, get Riley!"
"T-the Young Master?"
She had no idea why, but it was her master's order.
Because she couldn't ignore it, she turned around to grab Riley but then widened her eyes in shock.
"Huh? He was just here..."
Just three seconds ago he was standing next to her.
Riley had disappeared all of a sudden.
"Just... a moment ago?"