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Chapter 7: Wheel of Fate
The first to regain himself from the sudden surprise and greet Augustus with a salute was Deputy General Brandt. “It’s been awhile, Count of Brungwurth. My thanks for such a generous welcome,”
“This year as well, we’re pleased to have you, Deputy General Brandt,” Augustus replied with the same courtesy to his guest.1
The prime minister followed next and greeted the host by placing his right palm over his chest and bowing in a manner befitting of a nobleman. “Lord Augustus, for all the hard work you, your family, and the people of your domain have done each and every year for the festival and for always welcoming us, truly, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“The pleasure’s all mine, prime minister. Welcome to Brungwurth.”
After exchanging greetings with Augustus, the two took Maia’s hand and greeted the Mistress of Brungwurth in turns. Following her were the young masters of Brungwurth who proceeded to greet the guests in order. It started with the eldest son, Oriano, then Yohan and Gauff. Each was given a nod of acknowledgement in response by their esteemed guests.
Finally, it was Leorino’s turn to greet the noble guests.
“It’s an honor to meet you. I’m Augustus Cashew’s fourth son, Leorino. Welcome to Brungwurth.”
Nervous of the strangers’ unmoving gazes, Leorino snuck a glance at his father, Augustus, who gave him a light nod and smiled. His brothers were also watching over him with pleased expressions, reassuring him that he had done his first greetings properly.
I thought they would immediately move into the castle once the greetings were over? Leorino thought to himself, watching as the men remained where they stood, staring at him intently.
“No, no, this is unprecedented, Count Augustus! I’ve heard rumors of there being an angel in Brungwurth, but I had no idea one really existed!” exclaimed the general.
“Oh, good heavens! This is unbelievable! How could such a beautiful being be born?” the prime minister questioned, fully in agreement.
Leorino, who had never before received direct praise from any adult male outside his family, felt so shy suddenly that blood seemed to rush his cheeks, painting them a bright red. However, his pride would not allow him to be flustered by such things. Even though his violet eyes were threatening to tear up, Leorino managed to hold them in.
“Thank you for the compliment,” Leorino said, smiling as sweetly as he could. I’m so glad I wasn’t wearing a dress today! Had he worn one, it would have resulted in nothing but tragedy. Leorino felt immense relief at the thought of not being misconstrued as a boy with a peculiar penchant for cross-dressing or even as a mysterious young lady who claimed to be the fourth son of the count.
“Thank you for your generous words to our lovely Leorino, but he’s still much too naive to be teased in such a manner.”
Leorino’s father and three older brothers’ overprotectiveness towards him suddenly reared up at the thought of the prime minister and deputy general having possibly developed inappropriate feelings for their youngest who was so beautiful that his appearance transcended gender.
With a stiff look on his face, Augustus urged his guests into the castle and gave the chamberlain a knowing glance. He then smoothly steered Leorino away from the crowd of people going into the reception area and safely returned him to a room exclusively for the private use of the Cashew family.
While it was untrue that either Brandt or Vinter harbored any ill will towards the young boy, they had genuinely been admiring his exceptional looks. However, when they saw Leorino’s violet eyes dampen, they were shocked in a different sort of way.
“Marshall, did you see that child’s eyes?” Brandt asked.
Perplexed, Vinter replied, “Tell me it isn’t so; I can hardly believe it myself.”
The violet color of those eyes was dusky, as if it had captured the exact moment when day turned to night. It was as though they were the exact same eyes of a loved one whom they had lost forever back in that fateful day at Zwölink.
As soon as Vinter and Brandt were seated in the parlor, Augustus dismissed his family and the attendants from the room after instructing them to prepare tea. Turning to face his guests, he said, “Deputy General Brandt. Prime Minister Vinter. Once again, I welcome you both.”
“Come one, Augustus. It’s not as though we don’t know each other. We may have not seen each other for some time since you rarely visit the capital these days, but we’ve always been good friends, have we not? Please, keep calling me Marshall and him, Lucas, just as you always did in the past.”
Hearing that, Augustus’ stern expression relaxed a little. For Brandt and Vinter, Augustus had always been the object of their respect as he was the great aristocrat who had led Brungwurth’s Autonomous Army and guarded its borders. He was even the one who had striven to take great care of the two of them back when they were still newcomers to high society. Now as then, that very admiration remained unchanged even after the two of them had earned their current status with the other aristocrats.
“Then, Marshall, Lucas… It seems to me that the both of you may have taken an unusual interest in Leorino. If I may be so bold, please refrain from doing so. He’s still much too young for that sort of attention.”
Both Brandt and Vinter chuckled good naturedly at Augustus’ sudden remark. While it was true they had been shocked by Leorino’s exceptional and unusually delicate beauty, especially his violet eyes, they were not such perverts to feel any sort of inappropriate attraction toward a young boy. Rather than feeling anything untoward for Leorino, they felt something genuinely more wholesome for the youth and couldn’t resist the urge to sing him praises.
“Fret not. While it is true that your son is worthy of being declared an unparalleled beauty in all of Fanoren, no, maybe even the entire continent, rest assured, we bear no ill will toward children, more so to those who have not even come of age,” Vinter replied, reassuring their worried friend.
Augustus, now assuaged by the friends in front him, couldn’t help but share his worries concerning his youngest son and told them everything. “Forgive my rudeness. I’m terribly worried about the future of my beloved son. He’s still just a child and such an adorable one, too. Although he’s more mature for his age, I’ve begun to worry if I should ever let him leave the castle once he does come of age let alone seek a job in the royal capital one day.”
“After seeing your son in person, I know exactly how you feel,” Vinter replied in agreement. Before now, it had always been unnecessary to be concerned for the safety of other men, but now that they’d seen the “angel” himself, they couldn’t say that it was unnecessary either. Rather, it wasn’t possible to tell the count that he was worrying needlessly. Even them were convinced that no amount of growth or maturity would hamper Leorino’s beauty; in fact, he might even look more refined as he grew older.
“This will be his first time attending the memorial service. The thought of my child having to be exposed to such gazes from now on makes me nervous. Again, I apologize for my impudence,” Augustus reiterated, still worried sick about what his youngest child might experience in the future.
“Will he be twelve this year?”
“Yes,” the count replied without hesitation.
“Say, the reason why he’s called ‘the angel’ within this territory is not merely because of his beauty, is it?” Vinter pried further, curious if there were any other reasons why Leorino had been christened with such a name throughout Brungwurth.
“That,” Augustus paused in thought before saying, “it’s because… twelve years ago, like a ray of hope sent from the heavens above, he was born on the eve of Zwölink’s ‘Flame of the Fallen.’”2
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