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2: The Hated Boy

 On another morning, Rudel ran out again. Having turned ten, Rudel had learned to control the Mana throughout his body to run at a breakneck pace. If he ran in the yard, his parents and the servants would complain, so now he would leave the castle, and run along the city's outer wall... to be more precise, he would run perpendicular to the wall. Such was the amount of speed he put out.

He would run until the time came that his stomach rang out, and trusting in his stomach's clock, he would return to the castle only to find breakfast had been prepared right on time. In a room without any other, he would eat his breakfast... Rudel's daily life hadn't changed in five years.

He would uphold proper manners as he ate, and without fail,

"Thank you for the meal!"

He would say his prayers. Seeing him like that, the servants found Rudel to be eerie. As he talked to himself in an empty room... even with five years gone by, Rudel's treatment hadn't changed.

But even so, Rudel wasn't sad. To Rudel, who simply dreamed of becoming a dragoon as soon as possible, he had no time to worry about anything else, and he didn't know what kindness was to begin with. The only time he ever studied it was within the realm of his books.

Lately, he was asking his tutor less and less. His tutor concluded that he had given up trying. But Rudel had seen through his home tutor's ability. It became more often that he wouldn't get much of an answer even if he asked, so he had switched over to self-study.

He had made numerous requests to his parents for a new tutor, but they wouldn't take him seriously. The reason being, that tutor highly praised his younger brother Chlust. They had taken quite a liking to the tutor who would say, Chlust has a great future ahead of him...

But even Rudel had someone he could respect. His former mercenary swordplay instructor. He had no relation to young Chlust. Chlust was off being taught by some other famous swordsmaster.

A martial art and swordstyle close to real combat reliably trained up Rudel's body. It was because he could experience it first-hand that Rudel respected the soldier... though he was still mocked nonetheless...

And one day a turning point did come to his life. The birth of a younger sister. His 'two sisters' who would turn three this year were by no means twins. Rudel's father had sown a seed elsewhere.

The first was Erselica, born of his own mother, and the other was Lena. The two of them received complete opposite treatments. Erselica was doted on to no end. Yet while that went on, Lena received only the minimum interaction.

In Courtois where blond hair was most common, Lena was a girl who boasted a rare set of black hair and black eyes. She was holed up in her room more often than not. Yet between Lena and Rudel, a strange stream of meetings would repeat. Rudel's room was on the second floor, while Lena's was right below it.

While Rudel would start moving each day with the rise of the sun, exiting through the front door soon became a pain... he had taken to jumping out of the window. The first time Lena spotted him, she thought of him as a suspicious character. And from that day, she would wake up at that time to observe the suspicious one.

Waking up at sunrise, going out, and returning every day at the same time. It was only a while later she learned he was her brother born of another mother.

At the time, Lena's impression of Rudel was,

"Cool..."

The young girl was somewhat of a strange one. Lena had a nature closer to Rudel. The sort of person who's body would move before her mind, a girl who would eat well and sleep often... and Lena had an interest in Rudel. She would follow him around each day to watch his back.

Perhaps because of that, the name Lena got in the mansion's gossip was the, 'lingering shadow'. The strange Rudel paired with his strange younger sister, it continued on regardless of the servants' disdain.



"... What are you doing over there?"

"Hah!?"

One day, having finished his sword training, Rudel decided to turn to Lena before returning to his room. He had noticed her for a while now, purposely keeping it off his mind. But as it went on day after day, he was beginning to run out of patience...

When he turned, he found a girl he had never seen before... that was Rudel's impression. As Rudel was fundamentally uninterested in the human relations within the mansion, he didn't even know of the existence of his sisters.

"Y-yo!"

While Lena gave something greeting-like, staring inquisitively at him, Rudel was troubled. He had never expected such a greeting to come in. And he grew some interest.

"... Yo?"

From that day forth, Lena got around to boldly approaching Rudel's side. Rudel had some interest in the girl who hung around him so restlessly, and approved of it.

And they got around to eat breakfast together.

"Bwo, this is bitter..."

As she bit into a vegetable, Lena complained to Rudel. Rudel had eaten it for five years, so he didn't mind it, but generally speaking, Rudel's meals tasted terrible.

"It's full of nutrition, so you have to properly eat... chew well... no, don't just swallow it, you have to chew!"

The bitterness opening a hole in her stomach, Lena swallowed before she could taste the flavor. That was quite a surprise to Rudel... so such a method existed! Thought he... it seems Rudel and Lena were idiots all the same.

And he taught her studies as well. The home tutor was now nothing more than an existence that merely existed, and even if Lena was in the room, he wouldn't say anything.

"One, twoo, three... lots."

"... It's four."

Perhaps Rudel thought her a nuisance at first. But he learned how large her existence had become to him when Lena caught a cold. When the one who always followed him around wasn't there, he couldn't help but worry to no ends.

And seeing her following the following day, Rudel felt relief. Realizing that, Rudel...

"Were you lonely?"

"Why?"

"Nothing. Now don't be picky, you have to properly chew and eat... as I was saying, don't just swallow!"

At the fact he was able to have such a conversation over breakfast, Rudel gave his first heartfelt thanks.



On yet another day, Chlust and a girl he didn't know came walking down the corridor from the opposite direction. Rudel and Lena had business ahead, so of course they walked on. But Chlust and that girl walked right down the center of the passage.

Rudel was the eldest son. So when he walked down the hall, he rarely conceded the road to another. He walked towards Chlust head one... behind Chlust, a few servants held back as they watched the situation.

"Brother, won't you step aside?"

"Chlust, I'm your older brother, and I think my position here is higher than yours."

Brothers separated by a year, but those around thought of Rudel as an idiot, and Chlust a prodigy.

"Rudel-sama, Chlust-sama is in a hurry, so if you don't concede the way..."

One of the servants said it, but Rudel wouldn't stand down. He expressionlessly stood on the spot as he waited for the other party to stand down. The one irritated by it all was Chlust. Chlust would always hear it from those around,

'If only Rudel wasn't there... the one worthy of being head is Chlust.'

They would say. So he held an excessive dislike of Rudel's attitude. And before his cute little sister, conceding the road to Rudel was unthinkable. Erselica gripped Chlust's hand as she glared at Rudel, the brother she didn't get involved with.

The servants in the area knew this wasn't good. So while it would be a detour, they sent Chlust down a different path. Chlust turned his back to Rudel as he walked off...

Seeing her brother, Erselica spoke,

"You just have to do away with him..."

Blood brothers with a large wall in between them... Rudel and Chlust would end up feuding a number of times after that.
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