< — Damian — > (4)
After Damian arrived, the serenity in Roam remained the same as usual. Lucia’s life did not change either.
During the day, she would take care of the garden and in the evening, she would read books in the study.
Since the Lady of the House was the same as usual, the servants who were a little nervous went back to normal.
Meanwhile, Damian was busy studying hard. He spent the most of the day alone in his room looking through books.
For the boy, the Academy was the only thing that could prove his existence. He could never relax on it.
The boy who had been completely absorbed in his books lifted his head to the sound of knocking coming from his door.
A while after, a servant came in, stood by the door and spoke.
“Young master, dinner is ready.”
He didn’t realize that much time had flown by. Damian close the book without any hesitation and stood up.
He walked out of the room and his steps towards the dining room were light. Twice a day, he had lunch and dinner with the Duchess.
It was just sitting down, facing each other and having a meal but as time passed, Damian began to look forward to this time.
When Damian arrived at the dining room, no one had arrived yet. He sat down and waited for a bit then Lucia came in. Damian quickly got up, took out a chair and helped Lucia into her seat.
“Thank you, Damian.”
Lucia smiled, greeting him and in response, Damian bowed his head slightly then returned to his seat. It was quiet throughout the meal.
There was usually next to no conversation between them as they ate. There were even more times when they didn’t utter a single word.
Damian was unlike a child as he was reserved and Lucia was also not the talkative type. However neither Damian nor Lucia felt the silence was uncomfortable.
While they were eating, Damian accidentally dropped his fork and a maid quickly approached to replace it with a new fork. This minor mistake passed smoothly as though nothing had happened.
Damian glanced at the maid that had moved to serve him. He could tell that the attitudes of the servants that attended to him were very careful.
It didn’t mean that servants were rude to him before he left for boarding school. Even though people said all sorts of things about his illegitimacy or what not, from the point of view of the servants, he was in a very high position.
However before, they seemed like a sturdy robots that only fulfilled their duties. In comparison to that time, they showed a bit more enthusiasm as they served and complied with his wishes.
Damian knew all about the Duchess’ favor and the Duchess did not conceal her goodwill towards him. And since the servants watched and listened as they served, they acted a lot more careful with Damian.
The amount of time that Damian met the Duchess in a day did not amount to much. Most of the time, he was studying, then it was meal time and afterwards, they would take a walk.
The Duchess’ favor was not excessive and she did not try to rattle his mind or bring it down. As time passed in this manner, Damian’s boundaries relaxed.
If Damian was even a little bit older, the door to his heart would have been tightly shut but he was just eight years old. He was a young child that longed for affection but had never even learnt what it was.
After dinner, neither of them said a word about going to the garden for a walk but they naturally began to walk there together.
“You are studying hard most of the time, aren’t you? I find that admirable.” (Lucia)
The tips of Damian’s ears grew slightly red.
“That’s because…I don’t want to lag behind when I return to the Academy.”
“You mentioned this wasn’t a vacation but an outing, right? Can you go out at any time?”
“You have to receive permission and there is a limit of 30 days per year. I didn’t know His Grace wouldn’t be here. I have no way of knowing when he will be back so I’m not quite sure if I will be able to return within the 30 day limit.”
Damian’s expression got a little darker.
The 30 days limit was not going to be a big issue. The Duke would be able to deal with any problems of that sort but by then, the semester would have already flown away.
“Why don’t you call him father? Did he say you can’t call him that way?”
“…It’s not like that. I just…thought he’d dislike it…”
“Why do you think so? That’s just your presumption. Try calling him father, he definitely won’t dislike it.”
“And Damian, you haven’t called me by my name. Did you think I wouldn’t notice you were deliberately omitting my name? When you call me, will you go, ‘hey’, ‘you there’. You aren’t doing that, are you?”
The red eyes of the boy shook.
“No. I don’t do that…”
“Then you can say it. I call you Damian, don’t I?”
Damian grew silent then spoke abruptly.
“May I ask you a question?”
“Any time.” (Lucia)
“Don’t you hate me?”
“I don’t hate you.”
Without any pause, Lucia responded lightly as if it was an everyday question.
“Do you think I should hate you?”
“…I think if you must, you should.”
“Where is there such a saying? The feeling of hate hurts one just as much as it hurts one’s enemy. Why would I bother myself with such an unnecessary emotion? I don’t hate you and I don’t have any plans of doing so in the future.”
But if the Duchess gave birth to a child, he would become a roadblock in the future of her child and from that moment onwards, the Duchess’s goodwill towards him would change into hatred. Damian couldn’t believe the words of the Duchess.
“Damian, I’ve known about you ever since I married your father. Your father married me on the condition that I acknowledge you.”
Damian couldn’t believe it.
“He is probably not an affectionate father but do not think that he hates you. He is a man clumsy at expressing himself. If he hated you, he would not bother to make you his successor.”
Damian couldn’t believe it but he wanted to believe. Nobody had ever told the boy something like this before.
There was contempt and disapproval towards the crude illegitimate child and faced with the indifference in his father’s cold gaze, Damian had clenched his teeth and worked harder. So, Lucia’s tender comfort squeezed into the gaps in the boy’s heart.
“Do you hate your father?”
Hate. Damian would never think that way. He knew just how much what he had was beyond his means. He was just an illegitimate child with a biological mother that wasn’t a noble. Yet, he was given recognition by his high-ranking noble father and was appointed as his successor.
[Graduate. Then this place is yours.]
The Duke sent Damian to boarding school with only this condition. It was a ridiculously easy condition. And because of his scary father, no one tried to harm him directly even though there were many hateful gazes.
Excluding the Duke, Damian was the only bloodline left of the Taran family so there were no competitors. Harboring complaints was not something Damian would do.
“No, I do not. I…admire him.”
The boarding school that Damian was attending was a prestigious academy where nobles and those of royal blood gathered from various countries.
Because the school system was personalized for each student, there were students like Damian who boarded long term and while the shortest course of study could be two years, it varied greatly.
There was none among the people from all over the world that did not know of Xenon’s Duke of Taram. His remarkable prowess in the war that ended not too long ago was more famous in other countries, especially in enemy countries, than in his home country.
Damian heard that his father’s knights were revered almost like gods. That his father was so great, no one could surpass him. In the Academy, Damian lived without revealing who his father was, as well as his country of origin.
It wasn’t that the Duke had asked him to conceal it but that Damian was afraid of the gazes that might follow. Gazes that would say, ‘Ah, such an extraordinary person only has son like this.’
The boy’s goal was to safely secure his status as the successor and to one day, become the Duke.
But he’d never thought about why that is or what he would like to do after he became the Duke. He only feared that he would be abandoned if he wasn’t useful because his father only needed someone to inherit his title.
Damian never hoped for his father’s affection. He was satisfied with even a little recognition. That way he knew he wasn’t completely useless. If he was accommodated that much, then he had nothing more to ask for.
“I see. It is a desirable thing for a son to admire his father.”
Lucia seemed to have something pressing down on her chest the entire time. The tragic case of the Taran family was an unpleasant incident and it seems like the relationship between father and son wasn’t very good, so she was inwardly worried.
“What part of him do you admire? That he’s a great Knight? Or that he’s a powerful lord that rules over the North?”
“…Because he’s strong.” (Damian)
It was a statement that sounded like pure nonsense but Lucia agreed. Damian was correct. To Lucia, there didn’t seem to be anyone under the sky stronger than Hugo. He was a man that made people want to lean on him, both physically and mentally.
“Yes. He is strong indeed.”
Like a colossal tree, standing firm and unyielding; enough to make one want to lean on it and seek refuge in its shadows.
“Damian, do you wish to become strong?”
“You could be. You are your father’s son.”
The wind blew softly, brushing lightly past the two of them. The scent of flowers carried by the wind was so sweet, it filled Damian’s heart with pleasure.
There were no words but there was a smile on their faces as they continued to walk. It was another peaceful day.
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