A week of silence plagued us, uneventful to the extreme, adding to the boredom of one undead. I was either working on some easy jobs from the guild or keeping my lady and her friend's company in the Academy, trying out some new mischief with little success. I had been promoted to rank A adventurer in this short time, mainly because I was taking on jobs recommended for multiple people, despite them being easy jobs. Alas, difficulty was relative, so I had yet to learn what the guild thought about a grey-haired guy and his dog.
“Tell me something interesting, Garlan,” I sighed and started eating the fresh pack of bread on his table. He was back to being a guard for the Academy, and I was leisurely sitting inside the booth with enough layers to protect myself from the cold. He was going over some documents, which had ‘confidential’ strapped over them, so I didn’t bother glancing at them even though my bread lad didn’t mind.
When he didn’t reply for a long time, I tapped his shoulder until he budged from his strenuous posture. Not that it mattered much to him, but I bet his slouched back was a significant consequence of his unnatural posture. And portly belly, an effect of overeating.
“Bread lad,” he showed the document to me. “Do you remember the Karleburo Tragedy?”
“What do you mean by remember?” I raised my brows. “Didn’t it happen a few weeks ago?”
“Yes, that,” he grabbed the bread from my hands and wolfed it down, much to my displeasure. “They want me to find out why Karleburo died.”
“Isn’t it because she broke the Sagacious Commandments?” I nudged my lady’s head with my [Devil eye] as she was continually staring at it. I earned a glare, but she started focusing on the incoherent mutter of the mortals.
“It’s way more complicated than that, bread lad,” he touched his chin, lost in thought. “Only a few people can understand the intricacies involved,” he nodded slowly and began pacing around the room.
I rolled my eyes. “Stop it, Garlan. You are just as clueless as everyone else.”
“That might be true,” he sighed and settled back on his seat. “But this is my gateway to S rank. I can sleep around a few more women should I reach this rank. And maybe buy you a few more loaves of bread.“
The latter part immediately enticed me. I grabbed the document from his hand and glanced through the description. “They don’t know we were at the shrine?”
“I didn’t tell them. It was just me who discovered the fanatic while I was helping people out of the fire. As for the reason why I was in the port, it was because of the exotic women of Port Achlon. Their fine skin and big breasts, and tasty-”
There was a smack from outside the booth, and I saw Lady Beth at the entrance. “Stop right there, bastard!”
“I wasn’t praising you, lady Beth,” he swept a casual glance over her and shook his head in disapproval.
That earned him another clout, and I smiled as I skimmed through the write-up, ignoring their exchanges. Joane hadn’t mentioned anything about our journey to Port Achlon in the commendation letter; instead, she had feigned some random task to help my lady with her graduation. It was just days away at this point in time, but I didn’t see any obvious longing on her face.
“Late again, lady Beth?” I asked after I skimmed through all the relevant sections. Karleburo or not, the mission sounded interesting enough, so I decided to ask my lady’s permission to investigate with Garlan. No permission at this point meant no bread, and it was equivalent to no life in mortal language.
Mortals never failed to amuse the undead. The fact didn’t change even in different worlds over different times. At this point, I was very close to concluding that mortals were made just for the sake of the undead and their amusement.
“The house has been too erratic for the past few days, Ruddy. My old man had to deal with the mess you made in Port Achlon, but he wasn’t able to efficiently handle the affair from the capital. Cainur, my brother, left with him today, both hoping to get something done by visiting the locale itself. Mother sneaked out with them for the adventurous lady she is, and I have done all my bidding on my own. The maids are even scared to wake me up in the morning. I’m gonna sneak Casey into my room tonight.”
“I didn’t make the mess in the port, lady Beth,” I concealed my mischievous glint. “I was just a bystander reveling in destruction made by my benefactors.”
“It’s all the same,” she rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I’m running late. Make sure to bring Leti over to my house today.”
I spent the whole morning lazing in the booth, and only in the afternoon did the Academy let the wild horses loose. I met up with my lady at the entrance. Alone she was, but I didn’t see anything amiss.
“They have to finalize some things before the graduation,” my lady said with a smile. This earned us more than a few glances, particularly from young men of the academy, because my lady’s smile was charming. And reserved for certain undead and two noble ladies. “What about Garlan?”
“On your command, Letitia,” Garlan peeked out from the booth with a grin. He was on cloud nine after he had gained acceptance from my lady for reasons I could hardly understand. Then again, this was an era where nobility could become your lifeline or your worst nightmare.
“Did you get any shins?” my lady asked indifferently.
“Not yet,” Garlan walked out of his booth, and we moved closer to prevent any collisions with ignorant commuters. “I’m expecting the first in a couple of days, but let’s see if they take us seriously. I, Garlan, will rough them up should they needlessly trouble you, Letitia.”
Prince Balar or Lykan weren’t names that could be casually said in public. After all, Arlikia was trying their hardest to get the wasteful first prince to ascend the throne.
“I have my Rudolf for that,” my lady rolled her eyes and moved closer to me. “Don’t yearn for a mile just because I gave you an inch. I’ll break your bones.”
She had already started condensing mana in her hands by the time I finished, and I could see how much she had mastered external casting in this short time. It was just a matter of time before she broke into the Progressive tier and became a strong external caster.
Garlan gave a sheepish grin and glanced in the direction of the Academy. “There they are,” he said, taking a step back.
The rest of the way back home wasn’t a peaceful one. My lady and her friends took the longest route possible, much to my dissatisfaction because I was just one lazy undead. We stopped by Bayle’s bakery to shop for some sweets and cake because Casey was celebrating her birthday.
Yes, I didn’t know. But there was no practice of wishing for birthdays, so I wasn’t denied bread.
“What’s your recommendation, Bayle?” I asked, looking at the myriad of sweets stationed within the glass. Bread, bread, and bread. That’s all I saw.
“We aren’t buying bread for you, Ruddy,” Casey giggled and shooed me away.
The commoners shopping in the store stood at the side with their heads bowed, lamenting the fact that the bakery was famous among the nobility. My lady hated commoners with a passion, but she didn't make things difficult for them. But there were ignorant mortals everywhere.
A man stepped forth from the crowd of three people and began staring at my lady blatantly. It would have been one thing if he was shopping in peace, but he had a death wish.
“It’s her!” he said, almost too loudly for my poor ears. “Letitia Valorat! One who is responsible for the aggression at Etelan!”
Silence filled the room, and my lady’s friends stood before her protectively.
“She refused a marriage with the king of Rynak,” he looked at the commoners in the room, “because of which they declared war on us. And Etelan is suffering every minute we speak. It’s this vile lady that is leading us, commoners, down the road of destruction. Her maternal family was a traitor of the realm, and the same loathsome blood runs in her. She should be sent to the Kingdom Rynak at once! Her demise will be our peace.”
Of course, it looked like he had memorized the words thousands of times. The world was rerunning its cogs to bring down the villainess. It had just been a week since the mage congregation had informed us about the unprecedented crush of the dead prince, and it had become common knowledge now.
He raised his fingers at my lady, and I decided to cut them later. I would torture his family for his disservice today, and they would only have him to blame. If my lady had traitorous blood, then his whole family, that shared his blood, ought to be punished.
I shouldn’t kill innocent people? Then think twice before you speak in front of this undead because your entire families’ lives depend on your words.
“Kick this guy out,” Beth said patiently. They knew about my lady’s death flag, so they weren’t as affected as the other commoners.
I glanced at Bayle, who nodded in approval. He wasn’t just a NPC anymore since my presence had freed his shackles too.
I dragged the ignorant mortal out of the bakery, ignoring his hysterical shouts, and shut him up with one sentence.
“Death awaits you tonight.”
Did he believe me? Every mortal could tell when death was closing in on them. And he was able to because my bone-chilling voice talked in magnitudes.
Nevertheless, I underestimated the impact this would have on my lady because little did I know how fallen nobility get treated in this age.
“What was all the commotion about?” Bayle asked, treading the dark waters carefully. I ignored him, and we walked out, deciding to forgo buying a cake.
“Letitia?” Casey called out when she noticed that my lady was silent.
“My mother,” Letitia glanced at me, clutching my shirt. I didn’t like that she was yet to overcome her mother’s death, but I decided not to push her. “Was she treated the same way?”
I patted her head and pulled her cheek. “Your mother yearned for acceptance from everyone, my lady. Are you the same?”
Letitia inched closer to me, her eyes cold. “Answer me, Rudolf! I asked you one question.”
I sighed. “Yes, she was. It had become almost impossible for her to stroll through the streets without getting berated.”
“The commoners,” her eyes turned cold, “are no different from fodder, after all.”
“Don’t worry about those bastards, Leti,” Beth said, holding my lady’s arm. “Let’s have fun at my place today. If we can’t buy from this store,” she stared at me, “then destroy it, Ruddy.”
I stared at them, aghast. Why were my machinations backfiring? This offered the tastiest bread in the kingdom. I’d rather have them ask for my arms.
My lady glanced at me and sighed. She unhooked Beth’s arms and came to my side. “We’ll drop by in the night. Is it okay if I bring Arabell with me?”
“No problem,” Casey smiled brightly. “The more, the merrier. And she has become really sweet, somehow.”
Beth glared at my lady, who just shrugged and dragged me through the vacant streets of the winter.
When we reached home, my lady entered my room straight away and hugged my waist tightly. I cautiously shut the door behind us and ruffled her hair.
“What happened, my lady?” I asked. I was hoping she wouldn’t be affected by the commotion of the day, but I guess I was expecting too much from Letitia.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you,” she said.
“That wasn’t yelling, my lady,” I chuckled and loosened her hands around me. Yule wasn’t in my room, as it had become its habit to follow Igan wordlessly.
“I was annoyed at you. The way you deftly avoided the question, trying to control my emotions, not letting me decide for myself. It annoyed me, Rudolf,” she said with a conflicted look.
“I have always done that, my lady,” I replied.
“I know!” she was frustrated at herself. “But I don’t want you to do that. I don’t know how to put it, but I just can’t handle the fact that you… you treat me like a plaything.”
I stared at my hands and then at her. “What else are you?”
She looked hurt, and it somehow pained me to her that way, but she resolutely stood there. “I’m your person, Rudolf. Just like how you are mine.”
“I don’t understand, my lady,” I said. “Mortals are nothing more than playthings to us. They are made for our amusements, to quell our boredom-”
“Didn’t you call me beautiful?” she cut me short, the pain in her eyes too evident for me to just ignore.
“You are,” I said honestly.
“Why?” she asked, staring at my face.
Why indeed. I didn’t have an answer.
“You don’t have an answer,” she completed for me. “That’s how feelings work, Rudolf. You don’t understand the reason behind your actions. Your selflessness takes over before selfish thoughts can plague you.”
She paused for a while before continuing, “It pains me to see you hurt; it fills me with rage when I see someone else touch you, it hurts me when you say things like this. But, irrespective of how you'd treat me, I’ll tie you down to me and force you to stay with me for eternity. Whether you want to or not.”
“I just don’t understand, my lady,” I said. “The feelings, the selfless thoughts, they are too human for me to accept. They shouldn’t exist in me in the first place.”
“Then let’s take it one step at a time,” my lady hugged me again and ran her hand over my hair. “Don’t treat me like your plaything. I’ll do what would be best for both of us.”
I didn’t know what else to do other than nod my head in approval. There were times when this undead was left speechless. And this was one of them.
“But I will cut the commoner’s fingers,” I said, breaking the stillness in the room. “No one should insult you because you are above all the mortals.”
She laughed and kissed my cheek softly. “Leave his family out of this.”
The kindness toward women and children was my lady’s deep rooted weakness. She didn’t know how deadly women in the nobility could be, but I decided to wait silently and let her experience it herself. After all, experience was more convincing than words alone.