Cadel led his weary subordinates back to the castle. The entire mercenary corps was to be present at the banquet, and the Emperor had ordered them to gather to ensure smooth preparations.
Lydon was sent to the Imperial healers. They told him he would recover quickly, but they couldn’t leave him without a healer.
Van compromised by using the room next to Cadel’s. His only request was that there was no need for any attendants and that no one be sent unless it was to prepare for the banquet.
After hearing the servants’ grateful murmurs of relief at not having to take care of a commoner, Cadel did not tell him to live more comfortably. Every night Van would leave the castle and spend the night somewhere else, and Cadel would turn a blind eye to it.
Garuel expressed regret at Cadel moving to another guest room but did not hold him back. He simply asked for some time after the appointment ceremony was over.
He was a man who was like a benefactor to Cadel. Cadel had no reason to refuse, and after arranging a meeting, Garuel did not seek him out.
Things were moving forward. He couldn’t say it was all in a good way, but it was clear that they were moving forward.
Cadel lay on the bed in his spacious room, staring blankly up at the ceiling.
‘Three days from now, it’s the Knighting Ceremony.’
Even though a lot of things were going to change, he didn’t really feel it.
‘I wonder how Lumen will react when he hears the news. Hopefully, this promotion will help him get out of the family.’
Cadel had a personal plan to expedite Lumen’s departure, and he hoped it would help him, but he couldn’t help it if that plan didn’t. If he had decided to wait, he couldn’t just go and find Lumen.
‘When we become a Knight Order, the first thing I’ll do is recruit Garuel.’
Coincidentally, he had offered to meet with Cadel first. If he was lucky, he would be able to get Garuel on board right away. He wondered how he should approach him.
‘Since he’s so openly in love with my face, why don’t I kiss him hard?’
After fantasizing about things he wouldn’t be able to do even if he had to, Cadel seriously considered his options.
‘I should first reveal that I know his identity. How should I approach the subject, and do I have a good way to break the ice?’
Garuel was trying to end his ties to the Twilight Knight Order anyway. This was evident in his irresponsible behavior as the commander of the Order, and in the way he was slowly ceding power to his vice commander, Modeleine.
‘If I could change his mind, the recruitment itself would be easy.’
In a game, they would have been earned through hard work and money, but this was different. They were people like him. Cadel had to win their hearts, and he knew that was harder than any battle.
‘Actually, there’s no need to rush, but…….’
Now that it had been determined that something was amiss with the Demon Realm’s seals, the countries would send their knight orders. From the White Kingdom would come the Twilight Knight Order, and they would prioritize checking the seals centered in the Empire. So, unless the Emperor could get Cadel out of the Empire, there were still few chances to interact with Garuel.
Cadel shook his head as he thought about it.
‘Still, I need to bring him in as quickly as possible.’
The absence of a healer was too great. It was a fatal risk not to have a healer in a mercenary group that fought life-or-death battles every time. After several battles, Cadel felt that fact keenly. Even though he knew how to solve the problem, he couldn’t just postpone solving the problem.
He stared at the ceiling and rubbed his stiffened eyelids.
“……Van is sleeping outside again.”
Cadel couldn’t stop him from staying out overnight. No matter how shameless a person he was, he had at least some conscience. In the White Kingdom, he asked questions that made Van suffer just to ease his loneliness, but that was the first and last time.
Because of a self-indulgent commander, he became a knight of the Emperor, something that was not in his destiny. Cadel didn’t want to make him suffer any more than this.
“How much does he hate nobles that can’t even stand being in the same space?”
The same was true in the recruitment story. Van at that time judged Cadel Lytos to be a nobleman, and as such, he refused treatment even though he looked like he was about to die. He chose death rather than the help of nobles.
Suddenly, curiosity arose. Why did he come to hate nobles? Coincidentally, Cadel had a means to satisfy that curiosity.
‘Anyway, the appointment ceremony is in three days. There’s no problem with being a little tired.’
The worries were short and the decision was quick. He adjusted his posture, laid down neatly on the bed, and closed his sore eyes.
As soon as Cadel entered the familiar empty space, the system window immediately popped up.
「You have entered a state of unconsciousness.」
「There are stories that can be watched.」
「Van Herdos’ Memories – Past Story (Favorability over 70)」
「Lydon’s Memories – Past Story (Favorability over 70)」
“Now I can see Lydon’s past.”
Cadel didn’t realize it, too busy canceling the story watching each time and falling asleep. His gaze lingered on Lydon’s name for a moment, then shifted to Van’s.
There might be a more appropriate time to look at Lydon’s past. Now he was more curious about the cause of Van’s hatred of nobility.
After making his selection, Cadel began to watch the story, and his vision flickered.
* * *
Unlike the recruitment story that began with him possessing the body of Cadel Lytos, his perspective in appreciating the past story was free. He could move around at will and had no restrictions on his movements.
To use an analogy, he felt like a flying insect observing the situation from the sidelines.
‘Where am I?’
Cadel moved his eyes around, scanning his surroundings, but he couldn’t make head or tail of the story.
It was a cabin adjacent to the forest. There was a pile of firewood in one corner, a small vegetable garden, and a well.
The cabin was small and rustic, but it didn’t feel shabby, and it blended peacefully into the forest. Cadel wondered if this was Van’s home, and if so, should he go inside, and could he do that.
Just as he was thinking about it, the door to the cabin opened.
A boy stepped outside. Cadel recognized the boy at a glance.
He was so short that he barely reached Cadel’s chest, but his light gray hair, vivid golden eyes, and slightly tanned skin were exactly the same as the current Van.
Perhaps because he was young, Cadel didn’t feel the sharp aura Van had now. There was no baby fat. Although Van was rather thin and had a prominent bone structure, he still had a warm aura about him.
“I’ll be back, Grandpa!”
With a cheerful farewell, he ran to the firewood pile.
Did he live with his grandfather? Cadel peeked inside through the narrow gap just before the door closed. He saw someone lying on the bed.
He tried to go inside to see who it was, but the door was closed and he couldn’t get in. Cadel wistfully followed Van out of the forest, pulling a cart full of firewood.
‘Handsome guys are different from the beginning.’
Cadel, who was looking at the face of young Van across from him, let out a small exclamation.
His already self-assertive features didn’t need any further refinement. Even now, Van had grown more mature and robust than then. Life was absurd after all.
While Cadel was still thinking, Van arrived in front of a mansion. It looked like the mansion of a wealthy family.
After wandering around the neighborhood for a while, Van spotted a maid exiting the mansion and ran toward her. Puzzlement flashed across the maid’s surprised face when she spotted him.
“Oh my, you’re here again?”
“The thing is……. I don’t need any more firewood. I told you the last time was the last time.”
“But it’s winter soon, right? Lady Nephilia said that the more firewood the better.”
Even though he knew that he was not welcome, Van did not give in. The maid took in the bright eyes of Van and sighed as if she was troubled.
“What is My Lady’s true intention…….”
She mumbled something like a lament, rummaged through her purse, and took out a few coins. Van put both of his hands together and took it carefully, smiling brightly. He had a smile so pure that even the most vicious person would not be able to utter a bad word, let alone spit.
The maid saw the same thing, and with a faint smile and a shake of her head, she carefully scanned the mansion’s front yard.
“Hurry and leave it behind when no one is around. Do you know where to store firewood?”
“This is really the last time because if someone else catches you, you’ll get beat up and kicked out.”
Van didn’t seem to understand even though the maid warned him. With a cheerful greeting, he pulled the cart across the mansion’s courtyard. Finding the familiar winding path, Van made his way to the back of the mansion.
“I think that’s it for now.”
Van took a deep breath and looked around. His expression was dark as if he couldn’t see where he had to go. How many minutes did he stay like that? A young girl’s voice came from above.
“Van! You’re here again!”
Cadel moved his vision that had been capturing Van this whole time and looked up. Then, through the open window of the mansion, the figure of Nephilia, a girl with half her body outside the window, was revealed. She was a pretty girl with long blonde hair braided into two pigtails.
Nephilia waved her hand as if she was happy to see Van, then went inside. She appeared a moment later, not upstairs but in the backyard.
“There’s a lot of firewood. Did you sell them all?”
“Because you said more is better.”
“The money? Did you get it?”
“You got a lot, right?”
“I don’t need much, just enough to pay for the firewood.”
“What are you talking about? You need a lot of money to pay for your grandfather’s medicine. Next time you come, triple the price.”
Nephilia, who spoke resolutely, snatched Van’s hand as he stood indifferently.
“Triple it, and come back every day.”
“To provide firewood every day, we would have to cut down all the trees in the forest.”
“Who wants you to bring it every day? I’m just asking you to come see me.”
“See My Lady…?”
Nephilia let out a laugh as she looked at Van’s bewildered expression, but Cadel snorted at Nephilia.
‘This young one is very bold.’
Clearly, Nephilia had her heart set on Van. Since it was unlikely that Van would come to her of his own volition, it was likely that she had convinced him to come sell firewood instead.
Well, it must have been a good thing for Van since he said he needed money for his grandfather’s medicine. Cadel watched them, feeling a little uneasy.
And the next moment.
An angry voice came from the other side of the yard. Shifting, Cadel’s gaze caught sight of a boy running across the backyard.
The boy, who looked to be around Van and Nephilia’s age, had a troubled look on his face as much as his voice.
And his sharp gaze was not directed at Nephilia, but at Van next to her.