< — Truth & Lies — > (1)
It was afternoon tea time when Damian went to find Lucia. Lucia was on the way downstairs to have her tea when she encountered Damian. She greeted him with a smile and walked with him to the receiving room.
The two of them sat in the receiving room, drinking the tea that Jerome had skillfully prepared.
“Do you need me for something? What’s the matter?” (Lucia)
Around this time, Damian was usually studying in his room.
“I have something to tell you. I’ll be going back to the Academy.”
Lucia’s hand lifting the teacup to her lips froze and she didn’t say anything for a moment then she lowered the cup back to the table.
“Could it be you still have the garden party on your mind?”
“No, I have to go back now to keep up with my course.”
It wasn’t strange for children at Damian’s age to throw a tantrum that they didn’t want to go to school. Lucia felt somewhat sorry for the overly mature Damian. Her initial thought that it was cute had changed. After conversing with the child numerous times, she’d come to realize that the child’s thinking ability was like that of an adult’s. Damian was a genius.
Because his intellect was extremely high, the usual babyish childhood did not suit him. Lucia knew a child similar to Damian in her dream. It was Bruno, the third son of the husband in her dream, Count Matin. A tutor who had taught Bruno for only a short while called him a genius.
‘At that time, he was only a year older than Damian.’
Lucia met Bruno for the first time when he was 12 years old. Bruno did not resemble the Count Matin whether it was in intellect or appearance, making one doubt if he was really Count Matin’s son. His rebelliousness against his father was also quite huge so he caused both little and big troubles. One of these troubles was chasing out his tutors with clever and mischievous plans.
In the end, Count Matin drove Bruno out to study as a scholar. The Bruno who was cynical and rebellious in everything was very precocious. So Lucia knew what a grown up genius child was like. Apart from the name of ‘genius’, Bruno and Damian were completely different. Damian was a much more, cute, loveable and kind child.
“Right. I should be glad you’re going back to study. When are you going to leave?”
“Preparations will be done quickly so I will be setting out tomorrow morning.”
“Tomorrow morning? So soon?”
Lucia did not expect to be suddenly separated from Damian. To her, Damian was her son and friend. Just like Damian was comforted by Lucia, Lucia was also comforted by him. Because of the appearance of the boy that looked just like Hugo, she was able to endure her longing and as her affections for the child grew, she realized her love for Hugo grew even more.
Will you be back next year? Lucia was about to ask that and stopped herself. Next year, the King would die and they would have to go to the capital. After which they would have to call Damian to the capital but if Damian wasn’t even accepted in the North which was the Taran Duke’s fief, one could not say how much he would be accepted in the capital.
Until Damian got older and could debut in the social circles, it would be better for him to stay in boarding school, that way he wasn’t under the people’s scrutiny like now.
‘Maybe things will change as time passes.’
She didn’t think that Hugo appointed Damian to be his successor without putting any thought into it. He must have some thoughts of his own.
“Since you are setting out tomorrow, is there a lot to prepare?” (Lucia)
“I just have to pack my books.”
“Then, do you want to talk a bit more? Tell me about your life at the Academy.”
Over the course of the afternoon, the mother-and-son pair stayed in the receiving room and talked about several things.
The next day, people were gathered around a carriage that looked set up for an early morning departure. A coachman sat ready to depart on the journey, a servant stood waiting and all the servants were out to send off their young master. Even Hugo was outside too.
After hearing the boy was leaving, Hugo sent his well wishes but Lucia nagged him saying ‘what kind of send-off is that’ and dragged him outside. In front of the open door to the horse carriage, Damian and Lucia stood face to face to say their goodbyes.
“Take good care of your health. And study hard.” (Lucia)
“Take your meals regularly. Don’t get hurt. Ah…I’ve already mentioned health…”
It was quite the sight to see Lucia looking for the words to keep going. Damian’s heart grew warm and a smile naturally formed on his lips.
A servant came up to them with a basket. Lucia received the basket and held it out to Damian. Asha was in the half-open basket. When its eyes met the boy’s, its ears perked up and it moved.
“It seems Asha already thinks of you as her master. You should take her.”
“You are raising her for the fox hunt, aren’t you?”
“It’s fine. I can just watch the hunt.”
“But…at the academy, pets are…”
“Don’t worry about that. Your father took care of it.”
Right? As though asking, Lucia turned her head to look at Hugo standing a few steps away and Hugo nodded his head. For Hugo, it was simply killing two birds with one stone. There was no better way to take care of the baby beast.
Changing something like the school’s regulation of no pets allowed was nothing much to Hugo. It was not widely known but he had contributed a considerable amount of money to Ixium when he placed Damian in the school and so he was entered onto the executive board.
And because Hugo had bought out many of the board members who could make decisions beforehand, he was able to change the school regulations as much as he liked. People may think of the Taran Duke as a power-seeking knight but in actuality, he was a pretty thorough person.
“I hope Asha will become a friend close to your heart in your life at the academy.”
“Yes. Thank you.”
A servant received the basket and placed into the carriage.
“I’ll be leaving now.”
“Ah…Right. You have to go. Damian, can I hug you as my last farewell?”
Lucia reached out and embraced Damian. Damian’s hands floated in the air for a bit then he relaxed and placed his hand on her back.
Damian was a tactful child so he knew quite well that the Ducal couple’s relationship was good. He had already thrown out his previous idea that the Duke only married out of necessity. He also knew that a child would be born someday from a good couple relationship.
If a child was born from the ducal couple’s relationship, Damian’s position would become like that of a sandcastle. A legally registered illegitimate child. There was no way Damian could stand up to a child truly born from the legal wife. But it didn’t matter. The position as the Duke, no matter what, was good.
If his younger brother was born and wanted to take his place, he would gladly give it to him. All Damian wanted to do was to protect. He wanted to protect the caring warmth that surrounded Roam and he would try his hardest to gain the power to protect his mother’s laughter. The two of them separated after the hug.
Lucia’s eyes widened to circles and she looked at Damian, stunned. The boy suddenly took a huge stride forward and Lucia was slightly startled. Damian grabbed Lucia’s hand, leaned down and politely kissed the back of her hand.
“I don’t know when I’ll see you again so please remain with peace and comfort.”
Damian smiled as he looked at the frozen Lucia who was unable to give a reply. It was the first time she had ever seen a mischievous smile on the boy’s face.
Hugo’s lips turned crooked watching this scene but after a moment, he chuckled.
‘I’ll let it slide.’
If someone else had done that, he would’ve broken all their limbs. Damian climbed onto the carriage and it began to set off and Lucia stood watching until the figure of the carriage could no longer be seen. Hugo came up to her and patted her shoulder.
“What are you doing?”
“…he called me ‘mother’.”
“If he doesn’t call you mother, what would he call you?”
“B-But, that’s the first time he’s ever called me that…”
‘This child honestly, he only calls me that once till he leaves.’
When Damian called her mother, Lucia’s feelings were in conflict because she was sad over him leaving and touched feelings over being called mother.
She abruptly turned to face Hugo, revealing reddened eyes that were as though she would start crying at any moment.
“Did you see that?”
“He’s your son indeed. Already being a ladies’ man.”
Lucia cast a wistful gaze in the direction that the carriage disappeared, mumbling about how her son shouldn’t grow up to be a bad man that made women cry and how she wouldn’t raise him that way.
Hugo stealthily stepped away from her and darted to his office.
*4/week effective starting next week. Huge thanks to all my patrons!!