While looking at the crowds going across the streets, Victor started.
「I was born as the second son of a certain noble family, but unfortunately, as the son of a concubine. Considering the legal wife gave birth to the eldest heir, my mother’s position and even the order of birth, I didn’t stand a chance to succeed the house. However, it appears that the legal wife was still uncomfortable with it. After all, my brother and I were born within a year of each other. 」
「Umm, that means……」
「Yes, you got it. I thought to gloss over that part if you didn’t. 」
Luciel’s mutter made Victor smile bitterly.
「Anyways, that’s the case. My father laid his hands on my mother when the legal wife was pregnant with my brother. It was the worst, to say the least, as a husband and father, an act that would be considered a disgrace for an aristocrat. 」
He let it out while expressing his disapproval of his father.
「The legal wife may have been tolerant enough to take a concubine, but there’s no way she would remain silent when there’s a possibility that her child’s position as heir could be jeopardized. Moreover, the concubine’s child was not even a year apart in age and is similarly a male. To the legal wife’s eyes, it was plain at that time that mother and I were clear enemies. It’s all because of father, who made a move on mother before the legal wife could give birth. 」
He explained that with concubines, there are unspoken rules. At the very least, nobles should refrain from putting a hand on concubines until the legal wife has an heir and at least five other children.
If the legal wife’s child is a girl and the concubine’s child is a boy, or if the legal wife’s child dies and the concubine’s child becomes the only child……the order of succession will become clouded very quickly.
The fact that the legal wife’s child and the concubine’s child isn’t even a year apart meant that it was an act completely void of such concerns.
「Was it when I was six years old that the situation took a turn for the worse? At the time, I was still young, and I had no idea how my actions and performance were seen by those around me. Mother was pleased, and I was pleased to receive compliments from the servants. And so, I gave it my all without reserve. Simply put, I was far superior to my brother in every way. Even though my brother was not incompetent in any manner, whether in swordsmanship, arts, horseback riding, lingual, conversations, or artistic abilities, all of the home tutors awarded me a higher score. 」
That’s natural, the three other people thought.
「And that was what made the legal wife’s family anxious. Not willing to let the child of a concubine with unknown background to steal the seat of heir, they started pulling strings from the back. At first, it was tiny harassments, but it soon escalated, till the point their poisonous fangs aimed for mother. 」
「Poisonous fangs…… meaning they killed her? 」
Victor nodded at Ardis’s question.
「I was a fool as well. Even though holding back a little and letting them have a peace of mind was an option, I was insistent on not losing to their harassments……. And because of that, I lost my mother. 」
「That’s why you left the house? 」
Luciel asked with a pained expression.
「Not yet. If that were the case, I would have remained a nobleman’s son till today. It was because of my father’s statements, that I had decided to leave the house. After mother’s passing, father summoned the legal wife’s parents. Their house is a peerage lower than fathers’, so the difference in standing allowed him to summon them forcefully. In the guest room that were void of all others, father declared to them, 『Don’t touch my son until the third is born, I won’t be merciful if you do』」
Ardis lost his words. Hearing a portion of it, it appeared as if it were the words of a parent protecting his child.
However, with the condition of 『Until the third is born』, the meaning was completely different. In a sense, his words equated to 『When the third son is born, there’s no use for the second』.
「I snuck into the adjoining room and eavesdropped at the time. I wanted to know a little more about who was responsible for my mother’s death. In the end, not only did I learn the truth, but I also learned something I didn’t want to know, that my father only saw me as a spare for the eldest. 」
Victor had a scoffing smile on his face, as if he was laughing at himself, yet he tries to put a period at on the story lightly.
「Everything seemed ridiculous to me at that moment……. after running away on the next month and wandering aimlessly, I found Wisteria, that’s the end of the story. 」
Not expecting Victor who seemed to be always carefree to have such a past, Ardis and Luciel both lost their words to silence.
However, it seems like the person himself wasn’t really bothered, as the two were lightly hit on the top of their head, and told to learn from his own failures in a kind tone.
「Listen, Ardis, Luciel. It’s natural to try your best in living but holding back in something that may cost your life is what a foolish person would do. Trying your hardest in a situation where it isn’t required, on the other hand, may not be the ideal way to live either. When it doesn’t matter to be taken lightly or underestimated, it’s more important to hide your own capabilities. It’s one of the best tactics to bring your opponent’s guard down. Make sure to remember it. 」
「Yeah, got it. 」
Joan, who had been waiting silent for so long, blew away the heaviness of the atmosphere with his loud voice.
「Alright, since the talk is over, let’s go grab something to eat and continue walking! 」.
「I suppose. Enjoying a delicious meal and a good night sleep in the inn will be the best for today. Oh right, before that, Ardis. 」
Victor who agreed with Joan’s suggestion called to Ardis.
「What is it? 」
Victor’s gaze was drawn to Luciel for some reason as Ardis, who had just risen, replied. Victor then untied Luciel’s wrist ribbon and handed it to Ardis.
「This ribbon, I will let you buy it for ten cal.」
「Haa? Why me? 」
Ardis’s brows frowned as the unexpected offer hit him.
「What an unperceptive child. Listen here, Ardis. 」
Victor’s arm circled around Ardis’ neck and drew him closer after saying so. In a soft voice that Luciel couldn’t hear, he explained why.
「It’s pathetic for a man to remain silent after watching another man gifting something to your important person. Rather, it’s up to a man to demonstrate his resourcefulness by gifting something else with which to fight back. 」
「The heck’s that. Another one of nobility’s quirks? 」
「It’s the same for nobles and commoners alike; simply take it as advice from your senior in life.」
「In the first place, why is it ten cal? You bought it for three cal just now, right? 」
「Seven cal is your tuition fee. Don’t be so naive to think that my precious advice is free of charge. 」
「……Haa, alright. 」
Ardis hesitantly removes coins from his pocket, having given up because he didn’t know how to rebuke.
「What is it, whispering between yourselves? 」
「Of course there’s nothing. 」
Dismissing Luciel who was suspicious at the two, Victor stretched his hand out to Ardis. Ardis put a piece of coin on that hand.
「Your ten cal. 」
「I have certainly received it. And the ribbon is yours now. Please handle it as you wish. 」
Ardis accepted the ribbon from Victor with a skeptical expression, and Luciel, who seemed to notice something, now stared at him with a somewhat expectant gaze.
While receiving strange focus from the others, Ardis eventually managed to open his mouth after hesitating on what to say in front of Luciel.
「Aa―. ……Uhh, Luciel. 」
Luciel, whose voice seemed to be on the edge of bursting with laughter, responded.
Unsure of what to say, Ardis just offered the ribbon he had just bought, with no explanation.
「If you need…… this. 」
「You will give it to me? 」
As if reading a predetermined line from a script and reading his intentions, Luciel tilts her head slightly. Ardis didn’t have any control over the initiative.
「It’s…… I can’t use it anyways.」
「Idiot, that’s not it. 」
A critique came from Joan from behind, directed towards his excusing words. Ardis’ anger grew for the person who was saying whatever he wanted from the backseat.
Having zero experience in such things, Ardis could not think of any smooth lines.
Moreover, it was suddenly brought forward by Victor like a surprise attack, and his escape route was completely sealed away.
It makes sense to feel confused. Although Ardis’ desperately searched for words since he knew he had to say something, Luciel accepted the ribbon without saying anything further.
The ribbon that had escaped Luciel’s grasp for a moment had returned to her. The piece of ordinary cloth that was purchased for three cal from a random stall was still the exact same piece of cloth from before.
However, the mundane violet ribbon in her hands had now taken on a new meaning following the brief exchange.
「Thank you. I will treasure it. 」
Faced with Luciel’s blooming smile, Ardis’s unbearable shyness averted his gaze. At that pathetic action, two large sighs came from behind.