Chapter 2 My… Part 2: …Brother
Valica rushed all the way to the training grounds, and Shuis was indeed there. Since Elaro had given a command, he definitely wouldn’t slack off. Although it was already evening and about time to rest, the platoon members were still exchanging kicks in pairs. A trace of exhaustion could be seen on their faces, but the power behind their kicks had not decreased in the slightest.
Shuis was the most serious of them all. He was sweating all over, his shirt long since soaked.
Valica slowed down, knowing that Shuis had already noticed him but was purposely ignoring him. This wasn’t anything strange. The relationship between them had been bad ever since that day they had both held Elaro’s hands when they were young—indescribably bad!
With firm steps, he walked toward Shuis. Finally, Valica stood right in front of him, no more than a step away. No matter how much Shuis wanted to ignore him, he could not ignore something that was blocking his entire line of sight.
Shuis stopped pretending he didn’t see him. He looked straight at Valica and asked bluntly, “What do you want?”
Valica didn’t know what he wanted either, but the anger burning within his chest helped him disregard his own uncharacteristic actions. He opened his mouth to press for answers, “Why can’t you return home? You’ve never said that you ‘can’t’ return home, or that you don’t want to go home.”
Even so, why am I so angry? Even Valica, at this very moment, did not understand himself. It was just that even Judge had known about this, yet he had known nothing!
Moreover, he had always thought that Shuis just didn’t want to go home, maybe because he didn’t get along with his family, or possibly because they’d gotten into a large argument. Even though he had suspected that the actual story might not be so simple, he had never thought to investigate further… He simply hated that Shuis obviously had family, yet still fought over Big Bro Elaro with him, who had nothing at all!
A flash of suspicion seized Shuis, but he quickly adopted his usual attitude and coldly said, “It’s none of your business!”
Right after he spoke, Valica abruptly grabbed Shuis’s collar. Although it was normal for them not to get along, Shuis never thought Valica would abruptly lose control like that, especially when they had just angered Elaro. Normally Valica was the one who would keep his cool for a while.
Shuis was rather puzzled, so he did not grow angry over Valica grabbing his collar. He even raised his hand to stop his angry platoon members from stepping forward.
On the opposite end of the training ground, Rhonelin and Dili had seen everything. They knew that Shuis and Valica had just angered Elaro, so it was unlikely they would get into another argument right away. Thus, they hadn’t immediately rushed over. However, once they saw that the situation was getting out of hand, they hurried over.
“Valica, stop that!” Dili shouted sternly. Valica was grabbing Shuis’s collar, but the latter did not retaliate, much to Dili’s surprise. Usually, Shuis tended to be the one who struck first. He wasn’t good with words, so anytime Valica harassed him vocally, he would always retaliate physically.
“This has nothing to do with you two!” Valica growled fiercely at them. He normally never treated them so rudely, but right now… he couldn’t care less!
Rhonelin spoke calmly, “Of course it involves us. Captain is not here right now. As his vice-captains, we are naturally obligated to prevent you two from fighting.”
“As his ‘vice-captains’?” Shuis asked in surprise.
“Captain made the decision just this morning. Rhonelin and I will both serve as his vice-captains.”
Dili glanced at Rhonelin. When their gazes met, both began smiling. Even Rhonelin, whose expression was normally indifferent, had on a faint smile.
“Two?” Valica murmured, “But that’s against the rules.”
“The rules are unimportant. Big Bro Elaro is right!” Shuis said without any hesitation, “But none of that is important right now. Valica, what exactly do you want?”
Dili and Rhonelin were both shocked. Shuis actually said that something related to Elaro is unimportant?
Shuis’s composure influenced Valica too. His anger abated, and he forced himself to maintain a calm tone. “I want to know why you can’t return home.”
When he heard this, Shuis frowned, but he didn’t grow angry. He did feel, though, that the situation was a little strange. Generally, Valica was the one who stayed calm, while Shuis was the one who impulsively lashed out with his hands… feet.
“I can’t tell you.”
Valica was silent for a moment and then asked, “Does Big Bro Elaro know why?”
Although he had asked, he was fairly certain that Big Bro Elaro knew. There was no way Shuis could keep anything from Big Bro Elaro. Also, with Big Bro Elaro’s personality, he definitely wouldn’t ignore something like why Shuis wasn’t going home. He would definitely ask about it. Even Judge had asked… Don’t tell me, I’m the only one who hasn’t asked? When this occurred to him, Valica’s mood dampened even further.
I thought so! Valica glared at Shuis. The latter angrily muttered, “It’s not that I told him. He knew from the start!”
“Since Big Bro Elaro already knows, why can’t you talk about it? Are you afraid I’ll blab about it?”
Shuis shook his head. This cooled Valica’s anger just a bit.
“You want to know that much?” Shuis was still rather bewildered. Since when has Valica been so interested in my personal life?
“Fine.” Shuis coldly said, “In the future, when I’m not by Big Bro Elaro’s side, you’re not allowed to bother him either. If you agree to that, I’ll tell you.”
Valica clenched his teeth and said, “Okay!”
Stunned, Shuis stared at Valica, entirely unable to believe that he had actually agreed.
“You really want to know that much?” He was extremely bewildered. They had fought for so many years and both deeply cared about Big Bro Elaro, but they didn’t know any more about each other’s personal lives than the other trainees did. Just what has gotten into Valica today?
Shuis turned toward Rhonelin and asked, “Can you help me lead my platoon members’ drills? They have half an hour to go before they can rest.”
Although Rhonelin nodded, his face showed concern.
“You won’t start fighting, will you?” Dili was a little worried too.
Shuis shook his head and glanced at Valica. “Rooftop?”
Valica knew very well where he meant by “rooftop.” In order to prevent Big Bro Elaro from discovering their fights, they had to look for discrete places to fight. The rooftop of the southeastern corridor of one of the training grounds was nicely concealed by the angle. People below could not see the top, but people standing on top of the roof could clearly see below—if they were to see Big Bro Elaro coming, the two of them could immediately stop fighting and run away.
However, in the end, Big Bro Elaro had still discovered their location. He had jumped down from a tall tower above them, grabbed both of them, and then sentenced them to be shut inside the same confinement chamber for a week.
When they emerged from the room, with all limbs fully intact, the other knights-in-training praised the God of Light, for He was truly looking after His holy knights.
After that incident, they stopped going up to that rooftop. Actually, they no longer searched for places to fight, since Big Bro Elaro would always find them. Besides, if they purposely sought a place to fight in secret, they would be punished even more severely, so it was a waste of effort.
They totally did not ever want to be shut in the same confinement chamber again, with nothing to do all day except glare at the other person as he ate, drank, used the bathroom, and slept—and they couldn’t even fight!
Valica nimbly leaped to the side of the wall, and with a jump he grabbed and flipped himself up to the second floor. Then, repeating the same action, he flipped himself all the way to the top of the roof. His actions were incomparably agile and had always received no small measure of praise from his teacher.
Meanwhile, Shuis dashed to the side of the wall, running straight up the sides with ample spring and explosive power in his strides.
The people watching the scene sighed in admiration. Dili even asked softly, “Rhonelin, when you compare your combative skills with Shuis or Valica, would you be able to win against either of them?”
Rhonelin shook his head. “They’re both stronger than me.”
“You haven’t even won against Valica before, even though he’s an archer who specializes in long-range battle?”
Dili was somewhat surprised. He knew that his strength did not lie in battle, so he did not train much and obviously would not seek either of them out for a spar. He was also much older than both of them, which meant that while winning wouldn’t look very good, losing would look even worse.
However, Rhonelin was only nineteen. He was not much older than them. He also had a talent for battle, so he often crossed swords with the Twelve Holy Knights-in-training to compare skills.
“Valica is an archer, but long distance battle is not his only expertise.” Rhonelin’s tone held admiration as he said, “At closer distances, his attack power definitely does not lose to holy knights who wield only blades. You wouldn’t be able to imagine what kinds of stance he can shoot from, and in his hands, even a bow without arrows can become a weapon that won’t lose to a blade!”
“So that means Valica’s strength should be near the top of the Twelve Holy Knights-in-training?” When Dili said this, he realized his mistake and hurriedly added, “Shuis too?”
If their strengths differed too much, then they couldn’t have fought for so long and still be fighting, right?
“The Twelve Holy Knights-in-training of this generation are all rather strong.” Rhonelin fell silent for a moment and then added, “But the strongest is still Captain!”
Dili was a bit taken aback. “Is Captain really that strong?”
Of course, he knew that their captain was really strong. During their normal trainings, he could clearly see the gap between his strength and his captain’s. However, the gap was so wide that he was unable to figure out just how strong his captain was.
“Very strong!” Rhonelin looked at Dili strangely and asked, “Otherwise, how do you think Captain is able to keep the others under control?”
“By saying the four words, ‘I am Big Brother’?” The moment these words escaped his lips, even Dili found it funny, but he truly did believe that was the reason.
“…” Rhonelin was speechless for a moment, but then he said, “Would Hungri care about those four words?”
“Nope.” Dili chuckled embarrassedly. He had truly oversimplified things.
Rhonelin thought it over and said, “There was one time… Oh right, Captain had sent you out on a mission so you didn’t see it.”
“See what?” Dili was surprised that he had actually missed out on something major.
“It was around three years ago. Hungri and Captain had gotten into an exceptionally serious conflict. No matter what, Hungri refused to admit he was in the wrong. Captain was so angry his face turned dark. In the end, he actually…”
After Valica jumped onto the roof, he turned around to wait for Shuis. Once Shuis landed on the roof, he walked to Valica’s side and asked in confusion, “Why do you suddenly want to know about my family situation?”
Valica frowned, and Shuis continued indifferently, “If you won’t talk, I won’t either.”
It was just a few simple words, but Valica was fully aware of Shuis’s stubbornness. Since he had said so, then almost no one would be able to force him to speak… Probably only Big Bro Elaro could do it.
Valica chewed on his lower lip and turned his body to face the setting sun instead of Shuis’s face. Only then did he feel he could explain his reasoning.
“In the past, I always thought that you had a home you could return to, an entire family of people, yet you didn’t know how to treasure them. You refused to get along with your family and instead came to fight with me over Big Bro Elaro…”
When he heard this, Shuis snorted coldly, but Valica did not grow resentful like always. Instead, he felt rather ashamed.
“Why can’t you go home?” Unable to be deterred, Valica asked once more. If he had to, he would even ask a thousand times just to get his answer!
A noise came from behind him. When Valica turned his head, he saw that Shuis had sat down by the roof’s ridge and was looking at the faraway setting sun as well.
Valica hesitated for a moment. Then, he turned his head and sat down next to Shuis. Together, they gazed at the setting sun in the distance. He didn’t have any deep thoughts such as, “life waning like the setting sun,” and merely thought that he was being rather foolish. He began to regret his initial action of turning to look at the sunset, and he was even more resentful toward Shuis for copying him.
Shuis said dully, “My parents tossed me at the Holy Temple and told me that the Holy Temple would be my home from then on. I was not allowed to go home.”
“Why?” After Valica asked, he felt that another question was also important. He hurriedly added, “Why can’t you tell me the reason why you can’t go home?”
With Shuis’s personality, if no one asked, he indeed would never bring it up on his own accord. But it was a little strange that Judge had asked before and received “I can’t say it” as an answer.
Shuis fell silent, but Valica did not press him with more questions. He merely waited quietly.
“The answer to these two questions is the same.” Shuis’s lips quirked up as he said, “It’s because my father is the Silent Eagle of the Cathedral of the Shadow God, the top subordinate of the Demon King.”
Valica stared at Shuis with wide eyes. When Shuis saw this expression, his heart sank, but he felt no surprise. After all, this matter involved the “Demon King”!
Actually, it wasn’t that he absolutely couldn’t talk about this matter. The teachers and Elaro all knew about it already. There was no point in keeping it from his companions who would become the Twelve Holy Knights with him. Even the Storm Knight had told Shuis to do as he saw fit, but in the end, Shuis had chosen to conceal it. He didn’t want to see… a reaction like the one Valica had just had.
Valica was stupefied for a long while before he finally reacted by shouting in alarm, “Then, you’ve seen the Demon King before?”
Shuis was taken aback. He shook his head slowly and said, “No. I might have seen him when I was really young, but I came to the Holy Temple early on, so I don’t remember anymore.”
Valica let out his breath. “Thank goodness. The legends say, a single glance from the Demon King is enough to transform you into an undead creature!”
Shuis snapped back, “Nonsense. My father and mother are both alive and well, and the dark knights in the Demon King’s Castle are all alive, too! My parents even gave birth to a bunch of kids. Don’t tell me undead creatures can have kids?!”
Valica smiled awkwardly. “That’s what the legends say… Come to think of it, just how many brothers and sisters do you have?”
“I’m the youngest of triplet brothers, and I also have three younger brothers and four younger sisters.” As he answered, Shuis peered at Valica, unable to believe that his reaction would be so… calm.
“Ten kids? And you’re part of a set of triplets?” Valica was flabbergasted. He had heard before that Shuis had a lot of siblings, but he didn’t think it would be that many!
“When I left home, there were only six.” Shuis added dully, “I’ve never even seen the youngest four before.”
Even though he said this, he didn’t even remember the appearances of his twin brothers. He only vaguely remembered that the two of them looked practically the same, while only he looked different.
He’s never even met his brothers and sisters… Valica suddenly felt that something didn’t add up, so he asked, “How do you know that four more younger siblings were born later?”
Shuis’s face immediately fell. “You’re suspecting that I have private dealings with the Demon King’s Castle?”
Valica opened his mouth and stuttered, “No, it’s just that, I… Sorry!” Although those were his suspicions, once he voiced the question and saw Shuis’s expression, he felt extremely guilty. It was probably because even he didn’t believe that Shuis would side with the Demon King.
Shuis said calmly, “I don’t know why, but Father is always able to send letters to the Holy Temple. My teacher also knows about it. Often, he is the one who hands the letters to me.”
When he heard that the Storm Knight also knew, Valica felt even guiltier.
Shuis emphasized, “Other than receiving letters, I don’t have any contact with the Demon King’s Castle. I haven’t even replied to any of those letters these past few years.”
“Why aren’t you replying to the letters?” Valica was suddenly dissatisfied upon hearing this. Although he didn’t want Shuis to have anything to do with the Demon King’s Castle, family was still family. How could he ignore them just like that?
Shuis furrowed his brows, anxiety coursing through him. “It’s because I-I don’t call that place home anymore!”
Valica suddenly recalled the words that Shuis had been saying just now.
He was too young back then. He doesn’t remember them at all. He has four siblings that he has never even met before…
“If we’re talking about parents, only my teacher comes to mind! Although I can still remember Father’s and Mother’s appearances, they’re very blurry…”
Valica empathized with this rather well. Although in his case, the Leaf Knight was actually more like a… mother. Not that he would ever let his teacher find out!
“My brothers and sisters… I don’t remember their appearances at all anymore, and I even have four siblings I’ve never met before. They threw me at the Holy Temple to be the Storm Knight-in-training so unfathomably, and then they stopped caring about me!”
Having heard the truth, Valica calmed down. It was now Shuis who was agitated.
“For all these years, I’ve never been able to understand. Even if Father doesn’t want me to be the Demon King’s subordinate, why are all my other siblings allowed to remain in the Demon King’s Castle? Why did I alone have to be tossed here?”
“You want to go home?” Valica was really worried. If Shuis replied that he wanted to go back, then Valica had to stop him with all his strength… Right! He hurriedly said, “If you go back, you might not be able to return. Then you won’t ever be able to see Big Bro Elaro again!”
“I don’t want to go back.” Shuis shook his head and said, “Teacher is my father, Elaro is my brother, and the Holy Temple is my true home.”
Although he received an answer that put his worries to rest, Valica did not sigh in relief. Shuis’s answer had been very resolute, but a trace of grief had appeared on his own face.
If he had a home, but had to leave it when he was young and could never return, was there any difference from not having a home at all?
Although Valica didn’t know why his parents didn’t want him, at least he could always make something up. Maybe they had gotten into an accident, or maybe he had been kidnapped by bad guys when he was young; it wasn’t that they had abandoned him… Since he would never know the answer, there were a thousand “maybes” he could conjure.
However, Shuis didn’t have any “maybes” he could console himself with.
Shuis vehemently said, “I don’t want to return home, but one day, I will definitely personally ask my father why, out of all of my siblings, I was the only one who was forced to leave home.”
Hearing this, Valica thought for a moment but did not dissuade Shuis. Instead, he seriously said, “When the day comes that you want to go and ask this question, I’ll go with you.”
Shuis was stunned but immediately protested, “No way. My father is the number one subordinate of the Demon King. Do you want him to kill you?”
Valica said nonchalantly, “If you don’t agree to it, I’ll go and tell everyone the truth right now. And I will even warn them that you might secretly sneak home. I’ll have everyone keep an eye on you together!”
“You… why do you want to go with me?”
Shuis panicked that the secret would be leaked for a moment. Since Valica’s relationship with him really wasn’t very good, if Valica didn’t want to keep his secret, it wouldn’t be out of character… But wait! What Valica meant was that as long as Shuis let him go with him, he wouldn’t reveal anything? Doing that didn’t benefit Valica at all. In fact, it would endanger his life!
Shuis was puzzled once more. He said bluntly, “Valica, you’re really weird today!”
Valica replied snappily, “The Demon King’s number one subordinate’s son will become the Storm Knight. Isn’t that weird?”
“Very weird.” Shuis glanced at Valica. “But your reaction doesn’t seem to imply that you think it’s weird that I will become the Storm Knight.”
“You’re just the son of the Demon King’s subordinate. That’s nothing! Did you know, novels often have main characters with extremely bizarre backgrounds? I’ve even read a novel about a prince who went undercover. He followed the army to crusade against the Demon King, and met a powerful mage companion. Along the way, the adventurer team’s camaraderie grew deeper and deeper, until in the end, the mage actually turned out to be the Demon King himself!”
It was rare that Shuis actually laughed out loud. “You actually believe that? Stuff in novels is all fictitious.”
Valica’s face reddened. “But Teacher Cloud said that that book was real!”
“To even believe in stories like that! When you read, you’re really different from the usual you. You’re like another person.” Shuis shook his head and stood up, planning on finishing the half hour of training he had missed.
Valica hurriedly stood up as well. “Wait, what we just talked about—”
“I got it.” Shuis didn’t even turn his head to reply.
Valica stilled and then said, “Just saying ‘got it’ isn’t enough—”
“Fine, just come with me then!” Shuis yelled somewhat angrily. However, his tone changed right after when he turned and said, “Valica, come here and take a look at Dili and Rhonelin.”
Valica took a step forward and lowered his head to look. He only saw their backs as they hurriedly left the training grounds. Their steps were rather hasty.
“The direction they’re heading in is—”
The Judge’s Complex!
The two of them exchanged a glance. Although they usually fought endlessly, their rapport was very high at that moment. They jumped down from the roof together and chased after the two vice-captains.