Late summer passed and early autumn came.
A few days after Nainiae left, the people in the mansion calmed down a bit. Lloyd, who was walking on the corridor by himself, had a serious look on his face.
‘Get a grip, Lloyd. That lass is going to die anyway.’
A few days ago…
Lloyd’s older brother, just watched Nainiae coughing blood on the corridor. The look on Ryan’s face couldn’t be crueler. Lloyd was thinking about that moment.
‘Was that right?’
That day, Lloyd thought he should save the maid. Lloyd was agonizing over if he was really wrong that day.
‘If our father was here… Our father would have definitely…’
Count Stein Fin Iphelleta.
Lloyd was certain that the Count would have thought the same as Lloyd.
Iphelleta house was that kind of house.
Lloyd was certain that saving Nainiae was the right answer.
‘In that case, is it all right to think my big brother is wrong?’
That day, Ryan slapped Lloyd’s face and told him to just watch and let the girl die. Thinking about Ryan’s voice, Lloyd’s face crumpled.
‘No. My big brother always makes the right choices… He could not be wrong. His choice must have been the right one.’
Lloyd grew up always chasing after his big brother’s footsteps.
To Lloyd, Ryan was always right, and Ryan was always cool, magnificent.
From a perspective, to Lloyd, Ryan was more of a father to him than Stein, Lloyd’s real father. Thinking about Ryan, Lloyd bit his lips as he thought that his own conclusion was correct.
‘It’s for the sake of our mother.’
It was for his mother, who was chased out of the mansion while being falsely accused of wrong doings. Lloyd thought about his mother, but then he suddenly stopped walking.
“Falsely accused of…”
Lloyd was not able to finish the sentence.
He was well aware of what transpired during last spring.
Back then, he believed there must have been some misunderstanding. However… looking back at it now, he couldn’t help but to have a question mark float up.
“No, no, Lloyd! Don’t think about it!”
He was getting a headache. It was pulsating. He shook his head hard and got rid of the useless thoughts. He started to walk again.
Ryan said they should just watch and let a dying girl be.
His mother tried to make Iris eat poisoned soup.
Lloyd believed that those were not wrongdoings.
He believed that they all must had reasons.
“My brother did it for the successorship. My mother did it for us. That must be why… That must be…”
Saying them through the mouth was making Lloyd feel like the reasons were even more ridiculous. Lloyd had a displeased look on his face. He slowly turned his head and looked out the window.
He could see the garden through the window.
Riley, the third born son of Iphelleta house, looked sleepy. He was all stretched out on the chair as he sat with guests. Lloyd’s eyes lowered all of sudden.
* * *
Cool breeze was blowing at the garden.
There was an Archbishop that came to visit Riley. With the man sitting in front of him, Riley kept on yawning, big enough to wonder if he was going to tear his mouth from opening it too wide. It was not certain if Riley was listening to what the man was saying at all.
“Ah, yes… So, now that it is fall, I’m recommending that you come to visit Solia for vacation often.”
Until recently, Rebethra had been saying things indirectly. Now, he was directly asking Riley to come to Solia.
“Because of that dragon?”
With sleepy eyes, Riley, uninterested, asked about the dragon in the prophecy.
“It looks like it. Are you asking me to come to Solia because of the dragon that Priestess mentioned?”
“Ah, no! That’s not why! No way. Ha ha!”
Again, Rebethra brought numerous expensive gifts. He handed the boxes toward Riley and smiled like a good man as he continued.
“Still, it is true that the Priestess wants to see you. Please come for a vacation and see her just once. To her, you are the only one that could be considered a friend of opposite gender.”
Rebethra said it with bitterness.
He was saying the words with a look on his face as if he was guilty about something. Riley realized the man was obviously acting. Riley pressed his back on the chair and wiggled his brows.
‘This guy’s acting is top notch. Andal would have totally fell for it.’
He was the existence that everyone in Solia’s Holy Temple, including Rebethra, was fearing because of the Priestess’ prophecy.
Riley was not certain if the dragon in the prophecy really was Andal. Regardless, Riley was certain Rebethra was trying to get Riley to come to Solia because of the prophecy.
“… Ha ha. This is interesting.”
Riley, who had been just staring at Rebethra, started to laugh.
“… What is?’
“It’s just… I think it is so funny that the Priestess said she wants to see me.”
‘I threatened her like that last time, yet she wants to see me?’
Riley was certain that Rebethra was lying, and that was funny to him. However, that was not the only reason why Riley was laughing.
The existence that the people of Solia Holy Temple were fearing was most certainly indulging in the master-and-pupil play right about now somewhere in an unknown mountain.
‘He even handed over the pub management to the guardian spirit. Andal sure has it easy. It must be convenient to be a dragon.’
Riley was smiling as if it meant something. Not knowing the reason behind the smile, Rebethra scratched his head and carefully said,
“I’m telling you the truth.”
“All right. I got it.”
Riley looked at the tea cup on the table, which was getting colder. He thought about the maid that left the mansion.
‘That rascal. I wonder what she is up to right about now?’
Riley wondered how it would be if Nainiae was here. He wondered if she would have used magic in secret and kept the tea warm. While Riley was thinking about it, he heard steps from the back. It sounded urgent. Riley turned his head around.
“… Young Master!”
The familiar voice contained urgency just like the sound of footsteps.
Having found the maid in panic, Riley tilted his head side to side and asked.
“Young Master, something terrible happened!”
Although there was Rebethra, a guest, present in the garden with Riley, she was acting like this. It meant something big did happen.
“That is… T… The Count!”
* * *
It was at Stein’s office.
Riley sat in front of Stein as he wiggled his eyebrows, wondering what this was about.
“Count… by any chance… have you found the arm that was thrown off?”
Rebethra, who happened to be there today as a guest, looked at Stein’s shoulder. It looked rather empty without an arm.
Stein shooked his head in silence as the answer. Rebethra, with a sad, disappointed look on his face, continued and said,
“It will be difficult without an arm.”
“You are saying it will be impossible, right?”
“It’s all right. I already heard about it, so I was expecting that answer.”
Stein told Rebethra that he doesn’t have to look at the shoulder anymore as a way to tell him to take his leave. Now, facing his three sons, Stein said,
“This is what happened.”
He couldn’t use his arm anymore.
Stein Fin Iphelleta, the father of the three, said that. Having heard the words, each of the sons’ faces changed differently.
“Who dared and did this to our father’s arm…”
Ryan, the first son, crumpled his face in fury.
“Father, are you… really all right?”
Lloyd, the second son, worried with a look of disbelief on his face.
Riley, the third son, was in silence. He looked relatively calm.
“Who did it?”
Ryan, facing his father, asked who it was that did it. Stein, using his remaining arm, brought out a rolled up paper and placed it on top of the desk.
“In the battlefield, I ran into a mercenary.”
Stein talked about the mercenary drawn on the paper. Immediately, Ryan’s gaze turned toward Riley.
“Are you talking about a mercenary?”
One of Riley’s servants was a former mercenary. Also, the guests in the mansion now, Nara’s group, were mercenaries. This was the reason.
“Enough. Do you think I came back to see my sons bickering at each other?”
“But, father… This is a sensitive issue…”
With a hand gesture, Stein glared at Ryan. He called Ryan’s name to suggest he should quit it.
Ryan, looking like he was giving in, lowered his head.
“By any chance, do you know a mercenary who is famous for… his monstrous strength?”
Having heard the question, Riley’s eyebrows got bent out of shape.
It was because Riley knew one.
He didn’t just know one. He ran into one.
Riley was certain… that during the way back from the Rainfield…
“No, I am not sure.”
Ryan and Lloyd said they don’t know. Riley, who was in middle of organizing his thoughts, just kept his silence and looked at Stein in the eyes.
“I ran into a man named Kabal of the Kabal Mercenary group.”
Riley remembered the name. His eyebrows twitched once more.
“He is quite skilled, but I cannot say that he was skilled enough to make me lose my arm.”
Lloyd, with a confused look, opened his mouth to ask,
“Then, how did it happen?”
Stein was a swordsman who represented Solia.
‘How did my father lose his arm? How could Iphelleta’s sword be broken?’
Stein answered bluntly.
“His monstrous strength was somehow abnormal. While exchanging blows with weapons, he was so strong that he caused harsh whirlwind where I could barely keep my eyes open.”
Stein explained that with each clash of weapons, there was whirlwind, and even though Stein poured mana into his attacks, each strike made his fingers, palms, arms, shoulders, and even his legs numb.
“If it was a simple one-to-one situation, I might have been able to handle it somehow, but… it was a battlefield, so it wasn’t just me in there.”
Stein explained that Kabal’s attacks were putting not just Stein, but his comrades in danger as well, and he lost his arm while trying to save them.
Stein said that it is considered an honor since he lost his arm in the battlefield. Ryan and Lloyd, unable to face their father, dropped their heads.
‘So, if I summarize the situation, is it like this?’
Riley, who lowered his head along with his brothers, narrowed his eyes.
He figured he should ask Ian or Nara again, but… Riley was certain that the one responsible for Stein’s arm was the mercenary that Riley ran into on the way back from the Rainfield.
‘In that case, should I tell him?’
Riley was hesitant to tell Stein. In the end, he decided to set it aside for later. Riley tightened his fist and opened it.
‘… This doesn’t feel right.’
Riley decided to not tell his father about it for a reason. It was because of what Kabal said in front of Riley.
‘Right. I heard that an old friend is going to stop by at Rainfield, so I’m on my way there after finishing a job.’
On the way back from Rainfield… During that day when Riley ran into a mercenary named Kabal, who was carefully staring at Iphelleta’s insignia…
Riley thought about how Kabal said he was heading to Rainfield to see ‘an old friend.’ Riley slowly moved his gaze.
‘I came here because just happened to have a business at Rainfield, but I heard that you are here on a vacation. Please don’t misunderstand me.’
Riley looked at Rebethra, who was standing behind. Riley thought about what Rebethra said in Rainfield.
‘… So, there is something.’
They had similarities.
Riley was tying them together because of their similarities.
‘There is something.’
Moreover, there were two similarities. First one was that they both had businesses at Rainfield. The other was…
‘Are purple auras common? I’m not sure? It’s not common. So far, I have only met four of them. There was a homeless at a nameless town, the old fart we met in Rainfield who is an Archibishop, that bastard Kabal who we just saw, and… the dark mage that you put an end to last time.’
It was the ‘people with purple auras’ that Nara mentioned.