As Damian flipped the page of his book, he heard an odd sound and looked in that direction. The sound came from Chris, who had been sleeping sprawled out on the sofa but fell to the floor when he tossed in his sleep. The sight of Chris climbing back onto the sofa made Damian chuckle.
Even though vacation had already began, Chris remained at the Academy. And whenever it was time to eat, he would knock on the door of Damian’s room. Once it reached the third day, Damien asked Chris why he wasn’t going home, and Chris scratched his head, looking awkward and replied.
[I feel like things got bigger because I got involved and all the blame was shifted to you. I know you never went against those guys before. Because of me, your fight with them got bigger and you were even punished with suspension.]
[It’s not your fault.]
[I feel terrible, I can’t just go home like this. I’ll stay and be punished with you. Uh…Am I bothering you by any chance? If you tell me not to come, I won’t.]
Even though he said that, it was glaringly obvious that Chris was worried that he was really being a bother, so Damian couldn’t tell him not to come to his face.
[…Do what you want.]
And so from the next morning onwards, Chris came to Damian’s room to kill time and stayed until it was late as if it was his own room. He wasn’t doing anything much. He didn’t disturb Damian’s reading, he played with the fox, then picked up a book and if that was boring too, he took a nap. The interesting part was that Asha, who was usually shy of strangers, quickly became friendly with Chris. For Damian, it was his first time dealing with a guy like Chris who approached him so cheekily. He didn’t know how to handle him but he didn’t hate it.
“Is it time for dinner yet?”
“Lunch wasn’t that long ago.”
“Time is moving really slow today, must be because it’s the last day. Is your name your real one?”
According to the academy’s policy, when a teacher called a student, or when students referred to each other, they must be called by their names, not honorary title, regardless of their status. Many of the students who found it insulting to have anyone call their noble name, registered a pseudonym for use only in the academy.
“Yes, it is.” (Damian)
“Mine is my real name too. Will you keep staying at the academy during the vacation?”
“I have to go home.”
“Ah…you’re going home.”
Chris wanted to invite him to his house, but could only smack his lips with regret. After their brief conversation ended, Chris sprawled himself across the sofa again and when he heard a knock on the door, he abruptly lifted his head. Damian put his book down and fixed his gaze on the door too. When the knock on the door came a second time, Chris sprang to his feet.
“I’ll get it.”
Chris ran to the door and opened it.
* * *
Hugo glanced at Chris, who was frozen in place as he held the door open, then he entered inside. Damian jumped to his feet in surprise. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
Chris had been alternating gazes between the Duke of Taran and the small Duke of Taran with eyes as wide as saucers, and when he heard the word that came out of Damian’s mouth, his jaw went slack.
Hugo cast a glance around the room, taking in its sights for the first time. The small decorations that filled up the room had obviously been used for a long time and the interior design of the room hasn’t been changed after it was put in this dorm. Apart from the width, there was nothing particularly eye-catching. Hugo paid a huge amount of money for Damian’s dorm every year. The enormous tuition fees were going elsewhere because this kind of place was definitely not a VIP suite.
‘I have to give my thanks.’
He was looking for a reason to change Damian’s boarding course to something else and this was perfect. Changing a course involves dealing with the foundational rules, so an amendment was difficult. Hugo could exert a great deal of influence over the board of directors, but he didn’t have the decisive vote to change the foundational rules.
Among the courses at the academy, was a two-year intensive course. As long as you wanted to, during those two years, you could attend any course you wanted to. It was part of the academy’s business insight. In exchange, no certificate for graduation or completion was given. In order to prevent the falsification of academic level due to changing from the intensive course to another course, it was stated as a closed construct rule that one course couldn’t be changed to another.
From the way the dorm looked, it was obvious that not just one or two coins were stolen. If this was audited, there was likely going to be a few board of directors caught. From the looks of it, he was going to be able to secure the decisive vote in the board of directors. Since he had now found a way, his wife’s request was practically solved.
Hugo turned to Damian and looked him over, up and down. He looked bigger than the last time he saw him. Whether it was Damian or Evangeline, once he looked away and turned back, something about them had changed.
“Do you have something left to do?” (Hugo)
Damian had been standing nervously ever since his father’s gaze fell on him, so he quickly replied.
“No, I do not.” (Damian)
“If there’s anything you need to pack, pack it now. We’re going home.” (Hugo)
“But I’m currently under confinement…”
“That’s taken care of.”
“Did something happen at home, by any chance?”
Damian was quickly filled with worry after his surprise over his father’s visit had settled down. The face of his mother and younger sister quickly flashed in his mind.
“‘Something happen’? Well, I can’t say nothing happened.”
As he listened to the pair of father and son talk to each other, Chris stealthily approached and continued to alternate glances between them. When he saw them separately, he thought they looked similar, but seeing them side by side, they didn’t just look similar, they looked exactly alike. Anyone could tell that they were definitely not strangers. Despite that, if you didn’t hear the call of ‘father’, your first thought would definitely not be that they were as father and son. You would think that they looked more like brothers with a huge age difference.
‘So Damian is really the son of the Duke of Taran? But why doesn’t anyone know?’
He could not understand why people didn’t know that someone as famous as the Duke of Taran had a son as big as Damian.
Hugo frowned slightly, seeing the boy who had stopped a few steps away from him, shoved his head forward, and was blatantly and rudely staring at him.
“Who are you?”
Chris realized his mistake and stiffened to attention. His father’s strict eyes flashed before his eyes. If Chris’ father, who was always talking about prudence in appearance, saw Chris’ action today, it wouldn’t just end with a few smacks.
“That was rude of me. I apologize. I am Chris, an academy classmate of Student Damian. It is an honor to meet you.”
Hugo stroked his chin as he watched Chris bend over till he was practically in half.
“You seem familiar.” (Hugo)
“I’m sorry? Ah…I once gave you my greetings at the New Year party earlier this year.” (Chris)
‘Don’t tell me he remembers something from almost a year ago?’
When his father was introducing him to people, he had greeted the ducal couple only once.
‘Oops. I didn’t introduce my name properly.’
While Chris agonized over whether to introduce himself again after realizing his mistake, Hugo’s memory came back to him. Hugo’s memory was extraordinary, the only problem was that he hadn’t really cared about it.
“The second son of Marquis Philip.” (Hugo)
“Huh? Y-Yes, you’re right.” (Chris)
“Academy classmate, you say? What are you doing here?”
“For that, I…”
Chris was going to confess that he had a huge responsibility in Damian’s suspension. But Damian spoke first.
“He’s my friend.”
Chris has stayed in his room continuously for several days but Damian couldn’t define his relationship with Chris. But after he said it, he realized. Chris was his friend. The first friend he made at the academy. He looked at Chris and found the boy grinning at him and he laughed.
Hugo looked at the two boys with intrigue in his eyes. His wife was very interested in Damian’s friendships.
[Damian never mentions friends in his letters. Could he have no friends?]
[Such things aren’t necessary.]
Hugo had never had a friend in his life, nor had he ever wanted one or thought it was necessary. When he said that, his wife looked at him prudishly.
[Well, for me, I hope Damian doesn’t end up resembling you in that area.]
Hugo felt wronged; he was criticized even though he was innocent. He felt like at this rate, if Damian had no friends, he would hear that Damian really took after him to be like that. He had been considering sticking a few similar henchmen-like friends by his son’s side. But with this, his wife would definitely love to hear that Damian had someone to call a friend.
“You said you were Chris, right? Are you also boarding?” (Hugo)
“No, sir. I will be going home soon.” (Chris)
“That’s good then. Come with me too.” (Hugo)
Hugo urged Damian, not answering Chris’ puzzlement.
“If you’ve packed everything, hurry up.”
There wasn’t even time to pack but Damian simply carried Asha in his arms without complaints. And as he followed after Hugo, who was heading to the door, he spoke to Chris, who was just standing there, spaced out.
“What are you doing? Let’s go.”
“You mean me?”
As he looked at this back of his cold-blooded friend, who didn’t bother to reply a second time, Chris followed, still dazed. To him, the way this pair of father and son talked was strange.