Chapter 11. Bad News
Ch. 11 Bad News
The rest of the road offered no troubles. Benjamin had brought along twenty soldiers, relieving Luke and Kurotan from having to be on guard.
“Have there been any events in the territory?”
“I am sure you have heard through our messenger, but the Lord has retired due to his health and Sir Reynold has become the new Lord.”
“It looks like my big brother has finally inherited the territory.”
Benjamin looked at Luke with pity.
“You would become a big strength if you stayed with the House… How wonderful would it be if you used the experiences you have built up during your service for the territory?”
“It can’t be helped.”
Luke smiled bitterly and shook his head. He had already decided his future would be outside of Esteban Earldom five years ago.
Luke’s plan was to enter Lea Marquisate after retirement. He would have started a second life as a Knight of the Lea Marquisate.
Benjamin couldn’t hide his disappointment, but said.
“You have a calm composure and think things through thoroughly before you act. You will become a respected figure even at Lea Marquisate.”
“No one can know for sure, Benjamin.”
“I wish to plead for you to reconsider, but I will respect the decision you have made out of love.”
“Thank you, Sir Benjamin.”
Lea Marquisate was the House of Luke’s fiancée, Isabelle. His becoming a Knight of the Lea Marquisate was the prerequisite for his marriage to Isabelle. Benjamin knew this and therefore held his tongue.
After a while, the familiar castle of the Esteban Earldom came into view. Luke’s face filled with nostalgia.
“It’s been exactly five years since I’ve seen that castle.”
He couldn’t help but feel relaxed in the place he had run around as a child. As they approached, the soldiers guarding the castle door by the moat smiled brightly and greeted Luke.
“Congratulations on your retirement and return, Young Master Luke.”
“Thank you all.”
The inside of the castle had barely changed since he had left. Luke gazed over the sights with a look of reluctance. Luke did not find it easy to leave the castle he had visited for five years for a new life as a Knight of the Lea Marquisate.
Kurotan had been walking silently with the reins of Luke’s horse in his hands. Luke dismounted from the horse when they reached the Lord’s residence.
Kurotan bowed silently, and Luke pointed to the training field that stretched in front of the Lord’s residence.
“I will go and meet with the Lord. You can train in the basics of the sword in the meantime…”
Kurotan saluted and ran towards the training field, sword in hand. Benjamin’s eyes shone at the sight.
“Then, Sir Benjamin, I am off to see the Lord.”
“Yes. I shall have a stable hand take your horse.”
The Lord’s residence remained the same as it had from Luke’s childhood. Benjamin guided Luke towards the office of the Lord.
A low voice vibrated out of the office at the knock.
Luke opened the door and walked into the office. A middle aged man with sharp eyes looked up from his desk. It was Luke’s older brother, Reynold.
Reynold stood up with a bright smile when he saw Luke.
“Luke. You have finally returned.”
“We are not in a formal setting, call me big brother. So, the past five years must have been rough for you? You have had a hard time, my brother, in faraway territories.”
Luke scratched the back of his head as an awkward expression crawled onto his face.
“It was not too difficult. It seems you have grown more white hairs?”
“There are a lot of things to worry about after becoming the Lord. Sit.”
Luke sat on the sofa while Reynold called a chambermaid to prepare tea. Luke met eyes with his brother, older than him by more than twenty years.
They came from different mothers. Earl Esteban, their father, had lost his first wife to illness and remarried.
Reynold was the son of the first wife and Luke the second. That was why Luke and Reynold were born with twenty plus years between them.
However, the four sons and three daughters did not cause any chaos within the family and were close with each other. Reynold handed Luke a cup of tea as he asked.
“I have heard you took in an apprentice knight?”
“I am curious as to why you would take in an old commoner without even a payment from him, but I won’t push. I believe that it was a well thought out decision, considering your disposition.”
“Thank you for believing in me, big brother.”
“That aside, let us talk about the sacrifices you have made for this House. Do you wish for anything from the House?”
“I have something to report to you first.”
“What is it?”
“I have passed down the House’s sword art to my new apprentice knight, Kurotan.”
“You have probably passed down the basics, once again considering you don’t make irrational decisions.”
“Good. I won’t make this issue a problem as you have reported it honestly.”
Luke continued on carefully.
“I ask this very reluctantly, but I do so anyways.”
“What is it? Speak.”
“I wish to pass down an Aura flow method to my apprentice knight Kurotan. Would it be possible?”
Reynold’s eyes widened. From his perspective, Luke was asking something completely ridiculous.
An Aura cultivation technique did not get passed down to even the branch families of a House. How could it be passed down to a mere apprentice knight?
“I don’t understand what you see in a mere apprentice knight.”
“I trust you are not asking this without reason. Explain your reasoning to me.”
Luke opened his mouth immediately.
“I am not asking in regards to the Aura cultivation method of the Esteban House.”
“It is to my understanding, however, that the House is in possession of other Aura cultivation technique. Those are the methods I was referring to.”
Just as Luke had said, the Esteban Earldom possessed multiple Aura cultivation techniques that were not the unique Esteban Aura cultivation technique. There were techniques that had been spoils of territorial wars that they had won, or techniques bought off of fallen Noble Houses.
Of course, this fact was a closely guarded secret of the Esteban House, but Luke was a direct descendant of the Esteban House.
“I will need to considerate this issue carefully.”
“What relation could you possibly have with the apprentice knight that you are willing to go such lengths for him?”
“There are no special relations between us. I just wish to raise him up properly.”
“Seeing as how you passed down only the basic swordsmanship to the apprentice knight, it doesn’t look like he has been officially trained in the sword. The reports also say that he is a middle-aged commoner, which makes harder for me to understand this situation.”
Luke remained silent without answering. Even he knew that Reynold’s questions were not unfounded.
‘I wonder what kind of expression big brother would make if he knew that Kurotan was an Orc in the guise of a human?’
Reynold nodded, oblivious to Luke’s thoughts.
“All right, I will look through the Aura cultivation techniques in the House’s possession. You have made a large sacrifice for the House, and I will try to grant this favor if possible.”
“Thank you. Big brother, also…”
“Let me ask for a mid-level sword technique to pass on to the apprentice knight.”
Reynold couldn’t hold back the bitter smile and ruffled Luke’s hair with a fist.
“You bold bastard, is your plan to empty our House’s coffers?”
“I don’t believe the Esteban House will go bankrupt from giving out one mid-level sword technique…”
“Your military service has really changed you! All right, I’ll try to make it happen.”
Having accomplished his goals for the meeting, Luke made an apologetic expression.
“Anyways, my apologies. I would like to lend you my strength besides you…”
Luke was referring to the fact that he would soon leave the House to become a knight of the Lea Marquisate.
Reynold’s face turned serious.
“Ah… That brings up another issue that I wanted to talk to you about.”
Luke realized that the situation seemed to be serious.
“Has something… happened?”
“Do not be surprised. A messenger arrived from Lea Marquisate a couple days ago.”
“Yes. The contents of the message…”
Reynold hesitated as though it was difficult to start talking. But it could not be stalled forever.
“It was a request for breaking off your engagement with Isabelle.”
Luke’s expression turned astonished. The news hit him like a lightning in the middle of the night.
“How-How could that be?”
“It’s true. This is the letter from the Lea Marquisate.”
Luke took the letter from Reynold with trembling hands. The letter’s contents confirmed what Reynold had just told him.
The letter crumpled in Luke’s hands.
“Thi-This doesn’t make sense.”
“Be calm, Luke.”
“What reason did they give?”
“The letter says Isabelle has had a change of heart.”
“That can’t possibly be.”
Luke shook his head with disbelief. Isabelle and Luke had continued to exchange love letters until just a month ago.
‘If Fort Potellan allowed visitations, Isabelle would have run to me hundreds of times.”
The last letter Luke had received had contained the heartfelt wishes of Isabelle to see Luke. What could cause her to have had a ‘change of heart’ and break off the engagement?
Luke stood up in hurry, his disbelief of the story evident.
“I will go to Lea Marquisate to meet with her.”
“Calm down, Luke. Nothing will be accomplished in a hurry.”
Reynold gazed into Luke’s eyes.
“Do you truly believe that Isabelle has not had a change of heart?”
“I do. She is not a woman that would change so easily.”
“I will trust in your decision. There must be something else.”
Reynold patted Luke’s shoulders calmly.
“Bide your time in the Earldom for now. I have already planted informants in the Marquisate. It will not be too late to act after receiving their report.”
“You’ve planted informants?”
“They have already proven themselves capable. Their reports will be accurate.”
Luke finally calmed himself after listening to his brother’s words.
“Thank you for taking care of me, big brother.”
“You’ve already served in the military for the House, how could I possibly be lax in taking care of you? Do not fret, and wait calmly.”
Luke looked at Reynold with shaky eyes, and pulled him into a bear hug.
“Thank you, big brother.”
“You little rascal, huhu, it’s been a while since I’ve hugged my little brother.”
Reynold smiled generously and patted Luke’s back.
Luke’s expression, however, turned dark as he walked out of the Lord’s office.
‘Why would Lea Marquisate request breaking off the engagement?’
No matter how he thought, he couldn’t think of a reason.
Isabelle was an illegitimate daughter, born from a mistress of the Marquis, not the first, official wife.
Originally, illegitimate daughters were not targets of political marriages due to their low status. Instead of becoming wives, they tended to be married off as mistresses to already married and old Nobles.
Because of this, Lea Marquisate had jumped at the opportunity to take Luke in as a Knight of the Marquisate by allowing him to marry Isabelle. It was not easy to take in well-educated Knights from the bloodline of a prestigious House.
‘Why request breaking off the engagement now?”
When Luke had chosen to represent Esteban Earldom and serve in the military, Lea Marquisate had been even more thrilled. After five years, the Marquisate would have a Knight that was also a veteran officer.
“I just don’t understand.”
Luke went out to the training field with complicated thoughts. It seemed as though only exhausting himself would allow him to suppress the rage and confusion boiling in his head.