“What the hell is this *sshole doing here again?”
The boy rolled his eyes and glared at Van. Nephilia stood in front of him, ready to strike at any moment.
“Watch your mouth, Robin. Van is only here to deliver firewood.”
“Why drag him all the way here when he could have just given it to a servant? Hey, beggar, you laid a finger on my betrothed, and I won’t let you get away with it.”
“Can’t you stop? And please stop acting like I’m your property. It’s unpleasant to talk arrogantly about something that hasn’t been clearly decided.”
Kadell shifted his gaze to scan Van’s stony face. Judging by the children’s bickering, the situation was quite simple.
‘Is it a love triangle? It must have been painful for Van to be caught in between.’
If it had been a normal love triangle, Van wouldn’t have had to be so intimidated. Besides, wasn’t Van the one who was favored by Nephilia?
But this was a relationship between two nobles and a commoner. Cadel didn’t know if Van was also interested in Nephilia, but there was no sign of that at all. It must have been a headache.
‘What’s with this kid and his constant bullying of other people’s subordinates? I’m just saying.’
Cadel couldn’t help but feel angry, even though it had already happened. His protective instincts naturally kicked in, especially since this was a young and cute version of his subordinate. Kadell’s anger turned to horror as the next scene unfolded.
In a fast-paced scene, Van was being assaulted by a group of boys.
“Stay out of Nephilia’s sight, don’t approach her! Even if your mug of a face is good-looking, you’re born lowly. Know your place!”
At the center of the group was Robin, who stared intently at the sight of Van being trampled on by the boys who were assaulting him.
In a dark, deserted alley, Van could only let out painful moans and sobbed.
‘You crazy bastards……!’
Kadell’s eyes nearly rolled back in his head at the sight of the poor, frail form of the younger Van. He moved closer, trying to stop the beating somehow, but he was a mere observer. Unable to defend against any of the attacks, he could only watch Van’s contorted face, the tears streaming down his cheeks, and his body heaving with the kicks.
After the one-sided beating. The boys who had assaulted Van ran to Robin.
“Young Master Robin, we did as you asked, so please give us the money you promised.…….”
“Hmph, you hit him lightly yet got the nerve to ask for money.”
“If, if we hit him any harder, he might die.”
“I’m giving you money every time to hit him hard while controlling it well!”
“I’m, I’m sor…….”
“Forget it. Next time, make that annoying face into a real mug. Nephilia only likes his face, so if it’s ruined, she’ll lose interest.”
After collecting the money for beating Van, the boys turned and walked out of the alley. Robin didn’t leave, but walked up to the crouching Van and spat on him.
“Poor commoner. If you catch Nephilia’s eye again, I’ll kill you.”
With a cheeky chuckle, Robin darted out of the alleyway, and when he was completely out of sight, Van groggily picked himself up off the ground.
Every inch of his tiny body was swollen and bruised. Van roughly wiped his face, which was covered in tears and blood, and gave strength to his trembling lips.
“……It’s okay, it doesn’t hurt.”
There was no way his little body would be okay after having taken such a beating, and yet he kept muttering to himself that it was fine, as if brainwashing himself. Kadell looked up at the distant sky, unable to bear to watch the bitterness.
Anger and sadness clenched in his chest.
‘If I could, I would bring them all in and beat them up.’
Cadel resented that he couldn’t. It was all in the past. This dull memory, which could not be changed in a single way, must still be lingering in the back of Van’s mind.
The night sky was cloudless and clear, and the stars twinkled beautifully. It would have been a beautiful night if this hadn’t happened.
The scene changed again, and the quiet scenery that did not fit the atmosphere also disappeared.
Van was pulling a cart full of firewood. He limped along, uncomfortable with his legs, but diligent. The destination was Nephilia’s mansion.
‘Is he here to sell firewood again? What is he going to do if Robin catches him…….’
Cadel was worried, but he understood young Van’s feelings. He needed to earn money for his grandfather’s medicine, and there weren’t many ways for a young boy to earn money.
This time, after being paid for the firewood by the maid, Van moved to the backyard without hesitation.
Please don’t see Nephilia, just leave the firewood and come back. Kadell’s sincere wish was easily betrayed. Nephilia had been waiting for Van in the backyard all along.
“Van! Heaven, how did you get hurt like this? It’s Robin, right? Huh? Did Robin do this?”
She shifted on her feet, her eyes scanning Van’s face. Guilt flickered across her face. Van, on the other hand, smiled softly as if he didn’t care.
“I’m fine. It doesn’t interfere with my firewood chopping. So I can keep bringing it.”
“Firewood is not the problem! Wait, I’ll get the medicine. Let’s treat the wound first.”
Whether or not Nephilia left in search of the medicine, Van pulled the cart in silence, hauling firewood. When he emptied the cart at the barn, Nephilia returned and grabbed Van’s hand, leading him somewhere. The destination was the apple tree in the corner of the backyard.
“I need to make it clear to Robin that I’m not his fiancée yet, and if he continues to harass you, I’ll tell my parents that I’ll never marry him, so you won’t get hurt.”
Nephilia carefully applied the ointment to Van’s wound and bandaged it over. Van accepted her care but said nothing. He did not argue with Nephilia’s outbursts of frustration on his behalf, nor did he encourage her.
“It’s done. It hurts a lot, right?”
“No, I’m fine. Thank you, Lady Nephilia.”
“……Why, why are you up? Going already?”
“Yes. I need to buy some medicine with the money I got today.”
“Ah……. Then take this one too.”
What Nephilia gave was a ring with a small blue gem. When Van hesitated without taking it, Nephilia personally placed the ring in his hand.
“I don’t need it. If you sell this, you’ll get enough money to pay for the medicine, so don’t work while you’re sick and rest for a while. Instead, you should come back when you are healthy. Understand?”
Looking down at the ring, Van’s expression was complicated. He didn’t want to accept such a burdensome gift, but if he sold the ring as she said, he would not have to worry about paying for the medicine for a while.
Eventually, Van put the ring away.
After thanking Nephilia and assuring her that he would be back, Van headed straight for the market, his limp but cheerful gait as he pulled his empty cart.
Van made his way to the pharmacy, even though his eyes were drawn to the tempting food and novelty toys.
Kadell followed him at a leisurely pace, looking around the marketplace in Van’s place. Suddenly, he caught a disturbing gaze following Van.
‘……Why did that bastard follow him here? Is he a stalker?’
It was Robin, and he was following Van at a respectable distance. Cadel didn’t know if he knew Van would come to see Nephilia or if he was just looking for trouble, but his eyes were vicious. It was amazing that a young boy could have such a vicious look on his face.
Kadell sighed inwardly, lamenting his inability to inform Van of Robin’s presence..
“Uncle, I’m here.”
“Oh, Van is here? Did you come to have medicine again today?”
“Yes. And this…….”
After entering the pharmacy, Van pulled out the ring.
“How much medicine can I have if I sell this?”
“Um…? This ring looks expensive. Where did you get it?”
“I got it from Lady Nephilia. She told me to sell it because she doesn’t need it.…….”
Excitedly explaining the ring’s provenance, Van stopped talking. He turned his head as if he sensed something wasn’t right, and as if waiting for him, Robin pounced.
He grabbed Van’s wrist holding the ring with the force of breaking it, and gasped with wide eyes as if he couldn’t believe it.
“You, you this……. Where did you get this?”
“Young, Young Master Robin.”
“Answer me! I asked you where you got it!”
Van’s face turned white at Robin’s murderous expression. He seemed to instinctively recognize the ring for what it was.
‘Don’t tell me that ring was Robin’s gift……?’
Cadel hoped it wasn’t, but it seemed to be. Robin was enraged by Van’s silence, and he snatched the ring from his hand, roughly. Then he grabbed Van by the collar and dragged him to the ground.
“You thief! Where, oh where, do you rats lay your hands on noble goods?”
Van did not steal the ring. It was given to him by Nephilia. Robin must have known that. He just couldn’t accept that Nephilia had rejected his gift and that she had given Van that abandoned gift.
His petty anger fueled his sense of entitlement, and in a fit of rage, Robin publicly insulted and kicked Van in front of everyone.
“Disgusting bastard! I told you to know your place, didn’t I? How dare you take a nobleman’s thing…… and covet my person? You bastard is not even allowed to peek at Nephilia!”
It was a one-sided assault. A child was being beaten without being able to fight back. Anyone with common sense should have stopped it, but no one in the market did. They just looked at each other and mumbled.
“Isn’t that the boy the young master of the Solace family?”
“Aigoo, that’s right, that’s right. What did that child do wrong to be beaten so hard like that?”
“I don’t know, nobles do that every day or two. If they’re offended by sarcasm, they’ll grab anyone and fight. No matter how young they are, nobles are nobles. It’s hard to stop someone for no reason and then get caught up in it. I guess I’ll do it in moderation.”
The commoners were too afraid of Robin’s family to intervene.
“Oh my gosh, what on earth is going on? I have to go and stop him.”
“Leave it alone, Madam. After looking at it, it looks like that child stole something from the youngest young master of the Solace family. A child with such bad hand habits needs to be taught a lesson.”
“Oh my……. I know that feeling. I caught one of my maids looking at herself in the mirror with my necklace the other day, and it was so offensive.”
“Oh my God. So what did you do?”
“Well, I gave her a good slap and kicked her out.”
The nobles took a wait-and-see approach, saying they had to get used to it.
No one stopped Robin, and no one saved Van. He had to listen to all that pontificating in the middle of the market ground.
Even though this was not something he had experienced, Cadel could feel Van’s despair. He wanted to shove Robin away and get Van out of this hellhole, right now.
How could he put up with such injustice, Cadel wondered. He could see Van’s rapidly disintegrating heart, wondering why no one was helping him. Van resented everyone here.
Cadel closed his eyes, unable to bear to watch the trampled Van, and the sounds around him began to speed up. Kadell opened his eyes hesitantly, the noise whistling in his ears like the wind, afraid to see another of Van’s dark past.
However, when Cadel opened his eyes again, what appeared in front of him was not a helplessly beaten Van.
Van was on top of Robin, frantically punching him in the face.