4 Father and Son
After calming himself, Cedar regained his composure and stood still a few steps away from the Crown Prince's chamber.
Half an hour later, the door creaked as it revealed Alexander's figure.
Cedar became speechless for a moment because the frivolous lecher prince had turned into an honorable royalty in such a short span of time.
It wasn't simply an effect gained from wearing the glorious purple imperial clothes which was gilded with golden phoenix emblem of the Yv Empire. In addition, the Crown Prince's demeanor also changed, and somehow, an air of royalty and elegance emanated from him.
Alexander's eyes met Cedar's and it flashed an unknown emotion as the corner of his lips subtly raised as he walked past his knight.
Cedar placed his right hand atop his chest near the heart and bowed lightly before following the Prince's footsteps along with the palace's attendants.
"Cedar…" while walking beside him, the butler in charge of the Crown Prince called.
It was Roki Steinheim. He was on his late 40's but still looked young, with a muscular built and a scar over his left eye, extending to his jaw. Honestly, his image was more fitted for a frontline warrior than a butler.
Cedar casually placed his gaze on Roki.
"I heard that Viscount Ignis is at the palace."
Hearing that name, Cedar's body trembled on its own, frozen on the spot he's standing while his heart beat uncontrollably.
"W-what the heck?" Gale was surprised as well. Because she had Cedar's memories, all of his thoughts, experiences and feelings were like her own. That's why, when she heard the name of Cedar's oldest brother, the anger within almost burst out.
Gale couldn't help but be angry as well when she remembered the memories of him being bullied within the Nightingale household whenever the General was in the battlefield. It wasn't just verbal abuse but they also hurt him physically, making the young Cedar a timid and fearful child.
Also, Ignis gave him a trauma that caused his body to freeze every time he hears something about his brother, as events that took place twelve years ago was still fresh, as though it only happened yesterday.
When General Wolfe died, Cedar was abducted by a group of bandits.
Back then, Cedar was 8 and Ignis was 17.
When the young Cedar saw that his eldest brother came to the kidnapper's hideout, he thought that he's going to be saved. After all, they were half-brothers.
However, his hopes were crushed when Ignis mocked him.
"What? You expect me to save you?" Ignis held Cedar's chin up with the tip of his enclosed sword. "Why would I save a garbage like you when I was the one who wants you dead?" his eldest brother sneered at him.
Then, with a bright smile, Ignis unsheathed his weapon, pointing it to the young boy's neck.
"No! Brother… why?" Cedar's voice broke in extreme fright and from his terrified eyes, tears began to flow.
"Because you're an eyesore?" Ignis replied nonchalantly and ever so slightly traced his sword from Cedar's neck down to his shoulders.
Blood trailed the sword's tip and the boy gritted his teeth in pain.
Unfortunately, Cedar's misery didn't stop with just that.
Ignis Nightingale might appear to be a studious and upright scholar but behind this mask resides a cruel and twisted personality. He inflicted countless wounds on Cedar's body using different blades and several kinds of torture while happily listening to his brother's cries and scream of agony.
It was only after a few days when Cedar lost all of his will to live and didn't react to anything, and it made Ignis bemused.
Finally, the young Ignis ordered his men to kill Cedar and dump him inside the beast forest to become food for monsters.
Thankfully, Cedar's body held on and the 12year-old Crown Prince found his almost lifeless body by chance.
Alexander immediately held out his potion and let Cedar have it. That potion, Golden Dew, which was known for its fast body restoration and healing ability was only meant for royalties with a direct blood ties with the King, since the ingredients for that potion wasn't just expensive, but also hard to obtain as it was made from the core of four high-ranked magical beasts.
Yet, the prince didn't hesitate to use it for a stranger even if he himself might have a need for it in his hunting exercise.
A few days after that incident, news about the last son of General Wolfe Nightingale circulated the town.
It was said that the young noble left and was nowhere to be found, worrying the household—they even issued a search for Cedar.
It was a hypocritical move to wash hands, indeed.
However, the Crown Prince seems to know something—even though Cedar hadn't said anything, as he denied the request for his return to the Nightingale household, insisting that since he saved Cedar with the Golden Dew, the child now belongs to him to pay for its price.
At that time, the nobilities only saw it as the Crown Prince's selfishness and greed. Just like that, after Alexander took the role of a bad guy, the issue died down.
Five years later, Cedar was able to sever ties with the Nightingales when he officially gained Knighthood at the young age of 13, leaving his family name and gained the honorary title of a baronet.
It was only an honorary title that's why he didn't have his own territory. Besides that, he never wanted to have lands in the first place.
"Does it really matter if that clown was here?" Prince's Alexander's voice rang out, waking Cedar from trance.
Right. He was stronger now than he was back then. Besides that, one way or another, the Prince had always protected him from Ignis' clutches.
Watching the Prince's back as he walked gracefully, Gale suddenly felt that this monarch is definitely a reliable person.
She also knew that Cedar had always wanted to be able to face Ignis.
"I promise you. I will break the shackles that asshole had given you." Gale promised to Cedar. "Your hatred and vengeance are mine. After all, you and I are the same person now. Leave everything to this big sister."
Clearing his mind, Cedar beamed at the Prince and stepped forward again. "It doesn't." he answered. "If by any chance that I meet Ignis, I will definitely greet that bastard with my deadliest smile."
Roki also looked delighted and followed along. "Well, that's a relief." he softly sighed.
"Does this mean that some nobles are plotting against you, father?" Alexander asked the man before him while they were eating.
Seated in the middle of the long table was His Majesty, the King, Kraveil Yv. A large man resembling an immovable mountain, possessing a magnanimous yet fierce aura of a true monarch who can easily make someone feel inferior and tremble.
His looks were of top quality—as expected from Alexander's father. He has a wavy shoulder-length victorian pewter hair which made his aquamarine eyes stand out and the stubbles on his face adds a certain charisma.
Kraveil nodded as he placed a small piece of steak in his mouth, carefully chewing it as if the topic was something trivial. "They've planted spies within the castle, so it seems."
"Yeah. Konoki had already confirmed it." the King answered with a bored look on his face.
"What are you going to do then?"
"Nothing." His Majesty smirked and sliced the meat with ease. "For now, that is."
As if reading his father's intention, Alexander chuckled softly. "Planning to scoop everything at once? Aren't you afraid that your net might snap, Your Majesty?"
"That's why you're there, my dearest Crown Prince." the King grinned at his son.
They stared at each other with an amused look for quite a while.
Then both father and son cracked up.
"Hahahahaha!!!" frenzied laughter filled the large dining hall.
Watching this weird scene, Gale didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"I didn't get associated with twisted villains, did I?"
"That damn old geezer!" the Prince cursed when they reached his study.
Cedar just glanced at him blankly, not knowing what was it all about.
"Is there something wrong?" he inquired. "Aren't you laughing your ass off with His Majesty just now?"
"Just so you know, that old man had just pushed the work on me." he groaned and slouched on his chair.
Cedar got confused even more. "Huh? Didn't the King said that he won't do anything?"
"He won't do anything because I was the one who's gonna do the work. Tsk… that lazy bum." the Prince mumbled. "I even had to deal with those backscratchers in his place. This is really troublesome. I won't even have the time to have a good time!"
Observing Alexander's expression, Cedar couldn't help but ask.
"But your highness…"
"Why are you smiling?"