A Fleeting Moonlit Dream (6)
Lorist used to think that relationship of his would last forever and remain blissful and passionate for a long time to come. At that time, he happily moved out of the student dorms in the academy to live with his sweetheart, Wenna.
As he was not favored by many of the Silver ranked instructors of the academy for being appointed a swordsmanship instructor when here was merely at the Iron rank, he had been staying in the student dorms rather than the instructor dorms to avoid any unnecessary conflict.
When did their relationship start to change? Was it because of his stunted Battle Force training? Or was it from that one time when he called her a show-off when she wanted him to design two exclusive night gowns for her to wear to a party? Since then, she had moved to a luxuriously furnished residence located behind the boutique which she used as the headquarters of Windsor Trading Company. From that day onward, she would continue to live and host many parties there, causing it to become a rather famed gathering place for the rich and powerful of Morante City.
On the day before she moved, she lied lazily in his embrace and expressed the expectations that she had for him. She hoped that Lorist would quickly break through to the Silver rank and become a proper knight of the Windsor house so that he could be sent to support the resistance back in the old dominion.
Nowadays the resistance had already taken firm root in the dominion and it was causing the new lords tons of trouble with the costs of fixing the damage highly exceeding the amount of tax and revenue collected. Having no choice but to further squeeze the common folk for more funds, rebel groups formed by the oppressed mushroomed and further exacerbated the already dire situation.
A report from Knight Somm had stated that the resistance had decided to take direct action against the dominion lords and were preparing to attack the households of these lords in an attempt to deal some lasting damage on the rulers' hold on the dominion.
Miss Wenna had hoped that Lorist would break through to the Silver rank soon and aid in the reclamation of the Windsor dominion as a Windsor knight so that he could more firmly establish his position as the benefactor of the family and she would not have to bear the embarrassment of being married to a petty Iron Swordsman. Following that, she can let Lorist manage the affairs of the dominion in place of her brother who had yet to inherit the family head title while she would be in charge of the boutique and the trading company to further increase the income of the Windsor house. She believed that the Windsor house would be more prosperous than ever.
Lorist really wanted to promise the beauty in his arms that he would do what she requested. But deep inside his heart, his pride and stubbornness made him refrain from it.. An apparition of a strong nobleman holding a two handed greatsword seemed to have materialized in his mind and declared proudly that Lorist would not pledge allegiance towards anyone other than the Krissen Emperor and the Norton house.
The stubborn insistence and noble pride carved deep into his soul was a vestige of the body's original owner. Lorist understood that to become a Windsor knight was to shoulder the burden of defending the Windsor house for the rest of his life and to submit to the insignia of the mermaid.
Seeing her lover's hesitant expression, she gently stroked his face and softly said, "Locke, won't you do this for the sake of both of us? When your Battle Force finally breaks through to the Silver rank, nobody can stop us from being together..."
That's right, there's still the issue with my Battle Force, thought Lorist to himself cynically. He couldn't bear to tell his lover that he had been training in the Aquametal Technique which he inherited from his past life up to the peak of the Bright Stage. This was something that he would never tell anyone, including this girl that he treasured so much. Possibly as a side effect of training in it, his hexagram circulation path was no longer able to hold a shred of Battle Force in it and he would possibly never be able to break through the Iron rank in the future.
He could tell Wenna that he was a dual Gold ranked instructor in the academy, or that he could easily defeat all the Silver ranked instructors and easily complete missions even peak Silver ranked instructors couldn't accomplish, but would it be of any use? She did not understand the implications of any of those feats and only knew of the traditions and customs of the nobles. Only when one was a Silver Swordsman could one be entrusted with the hopes and responsibility of fighting for the family's glory.
With the exception of certain special cases, most noble families would not let descendants who weren't able to awaken their Battle Force or reach a minimum level of power in their Battle Force training inherit the title of the family head. Wenna thought that Lorist was one who distinguished himself not by his Battle Force training but rather his wits and intellect. That's why she would rather Lorist not have awakened his Battle Force at all so that he doesn't have to wear that ugly, black Iron ranked badge all over the place. Whenever Lorist was not at the academy or the mercenary guild, she would insist that he not wear his Battle Force badge so that she would be spared the embarrassment.
Hoping that she would understand him, Lorist had tried to convince her to ignore such things about face and public appearance and told her that it would be alright as long as they had each other to no avail. From her viewpoint, the reputation of the family was paramount and nothing should be allowed to undermine it. She could not endure having her family's reputation tarnished even one bit. Wenna wanted to be able to show herself in front of her peers with Lorist without him being ridiculed for his rank of an Iron Swordsman.
A similar thing also happened two years prior, after Madam Windsor gave birth to the child whose father was unknown. Immediately after the delivery, Wenna sent for someone to give to child away to a local farmer in an attempt to cover up the embarrassing affair. Having not even looked at her newborn child even once, Madam Windsor eventually became depressed and was driven to the brink of her sanity. It was not until when Lorist arranged for a meeting between the mother and child out of pity that Madam Windsor's state of mind returned to normal.
Lightly shaking his head, Lorist told Wenna that he would be willing to do anything for her. He even considered going to the dominion to provide support to Knight Somm and Knight Hurd in the resistance against the dominion lords. But with him having trained in his family's hereditary Battle Force technique, he was unable to use any other technique to break through to the Silver rank.
Also, he also mentioned that he could not accept to serve as a knight under the Windsor house as he still had to heed the summons from his family should a time like that arise even though he was an exile. Though, that was more of an excuse for Lorist. Being the dimensional traveler he was, he naturally treasured unrestricted freedom and couldn't afford to accept binding oaths of service like that of a knight's. Just like Charade once said, it was Lorist's dream to simply spend the rest of his life blissfully in Morante City after settling down there with Wenna.
Having heard Lorist's reply, the girl stood up without a word, dressed herself and headed for the door. Before leaving, she said, "Lorist, you know very well that you don't actually love me. You're just like other men who talk about how much they cherish me but in fact, you only care about yourself..."
Laying on the bed, stunned, Lorist questioned himself whether he really felt true love for Wenna. Of course I do, you're the only one I have ever loved in my current and past life. Having been forced into marriage by his father in his previous life, he didn't truly feel any shred of true longing for his wife. While he did treasure the son he had with her, they merely spent their days in tepidity. It was not until he had crossed over that he discovered that the love and romance he had so often read about in novels were real after all, having experienced the burning passion and willingness to devote himself to Wenna. Feeling the intense connection of the heart, the heart-shaking whisper of his lover as well as her mesmerizing gaze, he came to understand that to love someone was to hold the other in the most important place in one's heart and only have eyes for one's other half.
Since when has his relationship become single-sided with only him giving it his all for both of their futures? Has his initial goals and determination changed as a result of that? Wasn't love about mutual tolerance and acceptance? Was Lorist the selfish one for having his own reservations about devoting himself to the Windsor house? Or was it Wenna who had changed over the course of time? Sigh, I won't get an answer no matter how much I think about this. It's best to wait for us both to calm down before we talk it out with each other.
What Lorist didn't expect was ever since that night, Lorist wasn't able to meet Wenna in person anymore; even the collection of the designs for the dresses was handled by Suzy most of the time. Whenever he went to the head office of the trading company, he was given the cold shoulder by Wenna who often cited her occupation with her work as an excuse. Initially, Lorist thought that Wenna was only throwing a childish tantrum, until he saw her together with a middle-aged nobleman in the garden of the trading company, happily chatting and flirting away.
It was also on that night when she formally asked Lorist to break up with her. The pain and agony he had felt following the breakup had tore through his heart, greatly imprinting the suffering that could not be put into words into the depths of his soul.
The only thing that was on Lorist's mind at that time was the cold, smiling expression on her pale white face as she hid behind that nobleman. The noble gentleman spread his arms to shield her and asked warily, "Mister, what's going on?"
Looking at the girl who hid behind him and turning back to Lorist, the man's expression turned grim as he said, "Who are you? What do you want?"
Without a word, Lorist only pointed a finger towards Wenna.
Her expression fluctuated briefly before she stopped hiding behind that man, and spoke. "Locke, I'm so disappointed in you. I know you have your own goals and you have never intended to sacrifice them for my sake. While you have indeed been a major help for me and my family, after much consideration, I still think that we're not suited for each other. For the future of the Windsor house, I have no choice but to part with you. I know you're a good person and hope we can still remain friends."
Was this how it felt like to be betrayed? thought Lorist with his heart already in shambles.
Never would he expect to be friendzoned in his first romantic relationship in another world. That suffocating feeling made him want to sprawl on the ground to recover his breath. But, his pride prevented him from doing so and he turned around and left, staggering.
All that happened after that was a blur. He did not even know how he made it back to the house. He only remembered seeing Lina's shocked expression after witnessing his pathetic, messed up state.
He woke up drowsily on bed the day after, following which Lina informed him that he had a visitor. It was that nobleman who was together with Wenna yesterday.
He spoke in a gentle and calm tone and informed Lorist that he had heard all about his situation. While he expressed his sympathy for Lorist's plight, he said that he would not give up on Wenna as he truly loved her and deeply apologized. Now that he had already broken up with Wenna, Lorist made no to objection to the man's courting of Wenna but neither did he offer them his blessings. The man also mentioned that it was quite unappropriate for Lorist to continue living at Wenna's house and asked if he could do anything to reimburse Lorist for having to ask him to move away.
Lorist took note of the gold badge that depicted a fiery bird which signified the man's prowess as a Gold ranked combatant with a fire attribute Battle Force. He did not expect that polite, gentlemanly man to be an expert, given his demeanor.
Shaking his head and refusing the man's offer, Lorist thanked him and also mentioned that he would move away even if nobody told him to. The nobleman left after he exchanged another round of pleasantries with Lorist.
Casually packing away some clothes, he left the place that he lived in for the past three years for good. In there was countless memories of her smile, the oaths they shared, the laughter and happiness they experienced, the arguments they had as well as her cold, icy betrayal.
He went back to the Red Grace Inn and got a room there before asking his good friend Els to get a background check on that middle-aged nobleman. Els brought him the report rather quickly. That man was called Lorf Fustat, a 38-year-old One Star Gold ranked expert who was a marquis of the Jigda Kingdom that was greatly valued by the royal family. He came from a long line of distinguished military commanders with his father being the captain of the kingdom's royal guard as well as the cousin brother of the Jigda king.
Having been sent to Morante City on a mission to exchange the Jigda Kingdom's gold and silver reserves for the currency of the Forde Trade Union, Marquis Lorf got to know the mistress of the Windsor house on a shopping trip with his wife. Being of the same kingdom, they had a lot of common and got along pretty well. He had already been fervently courting Wenna for half a year following the completion of his mission.
"Does his current wife not know about it?" asked Lorist.
"Of course she does," said Els, "She also seems rather supportive of it too. Apparently she is also a great friend of Miss Wenna who can share all their secrets together."
Good Sol, that woman really has some issues.
Shaking his head, Els said, "Forget it, brother. I've witnessed tons of stuff like that. When the man's feelings change, the woman suffers, but there is still a chance for them to get back together. But when a woman's heart is swayed, there is almost no way for their relationship to ever work out again. Additionally, how would you be able to rival someone of the likes of him? From his family background to his wealth and strength, he beats you in almost every aspect. Having many powerful contacts and being a One Star Gold expert at the age of 38, it's almost a given that his future would be bright. It's no wonder your lover had her heart stolen by him.
"Let me tell you something you might not want to hear. That man is not like your average lustful greedy young noble that would ambush or challenge you to a duel after finding out that you were the young mistress's ex. To him, you're just a small-fry who's not even worth his attention. Even if you were to challenge him, he would only cream you without breaking a sweat given the difference in Battle Force strength," warned Els solemnly.
Lorist only kept quiet at Els's warning. Three days later, he joined the academy's expedition to the Relic Islands in hopes that half a year later, things over here might change. Though, in the end it still remained the same.