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A father's remorse.

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"How peaceful"

This had been Ron's thoughts for an entire month as he commanded the servants to their tasks, lightly scolding those who weren't fast enough.

"Utterly peaceful."

Tea time was set and served for Countess Henituse and her guests, the weather at a perfect state for those ladies to enjoy the sun without getting too warm because of their extravagant dresses.

"If only it could last longer." He sigh internally, looking at his pocket watch and calculating how long he would be able to appreciate how calm the mansion was without the presence of the first born Henituse. While he never really minded his constant yapping and property damages, it was nice to be able to manage the mansion without having to handle him as well.

Nothing was thrown around, no empty bottles were abandoned at random places. No food wasted and a blissful silence that wasn't disturbed by anything or anyone.

But any moment of peace wasn't meant to last as the messenger announcing the arrival of the carriage, sending everyone in the mansion into a frenzy. Everything needed to be absolutely perfect and presentable for the master of the house's arrival after all. The cooks were informed so they could prepare the meal accordingly, the maids had swiped any specks of dust and changed the beddings. The gardeners made sure the entryway was spotless as Violan, Basen and Lily, dressed in their best clothes waited at the front to greet their husband and brother.

The carriage arrived soon after, the horses snorting tiredly as they stopped to the whistle of the coachman. Ron walked forward to open the door to his masters, raising an eyebrow as he could hear the occupants of the carriage argue. He couldn't quite decipher what it was about but considering one of the stronger voice was the young master's, Ron decided he didn't really want to know.

Instead, he opened the carriage door, forcing the ones inside to brutally stop . Deruth Henituse looked irritated but not by Ron's action, the butler gauged. The count started to walk out of the carriage, head turned towards his son with a light scowl on his face.

"Stop being so stubborn."

"Pot calling the kettle black." Cale's voice sounded from inside as Hans walked out after the count, looking positively nerve-wracked. "I don't need help!"

"Put your pride aside for once, son-"

"I'm not prideful! I'm just saying I can do it myself! Hans, tell him!"

"Well..." The deputy butler tried to say something but the count lift a hand, efficiently shutting him up.

"That's enough, Cale. I am your father and you will obey when I say you will let Hans help you walk."

Oh? So the barking puppy had been hurt during their vacation. Ron was already pitying the poor servants that would be dealing with a short temper until he was healed enough to go back roaming the bars.

“Fine!” He sighed before Hans rushed back inside to help, after Cale supposedly gestured for him. There was some noise of struggle before the oldest Henituse son wobbled out of the carriage, one of his arms clinging to Hans’ shoulders. His left leg was set in a cast, various yellowed hematoma adorned his face and a crutch was set under his free armpit for more stability.

Ron, acting like a dedicated butler, set on to help his young master descend properly, receiving himself a huff from the red haired boy.

“Geez, I’m not disabled, you don’t have to jump on me like that.”

“Yet you nearly lost your legs.” Deruth tutted him before walking towards the rest of his family. “Hans, bring him to his quarters, would you? Ron, I will have a few words after I finish saying hello.”

“Of course, Count-nim.”

Ron let go of Cale as soon as he surmised the young man was able to oble along without problems, aided by Hans. He, of course, didn’t miss the soft “thanks” from the boy as he joined the count back. Thinking he heard wrong, he strained his hearing to listen to his and Hans’ conversation.

“Don’t forget, young master. No alcohol while you’re taking your analgesics. No moving around without your crutches and someone to help you. I’ll tell Beacrox to give you meals easy on the stomach-”

“You know what? I take back what I said earlier.” Cale said. “You’re not fit to be the head butler. Instead I’ll recommend you for head maid.”

Hans gasped hearing that and Ron himself had to take upon himself not to stop in his tracks and turn to look at them. This wasn’t Cale’s usual snidy tone of voice was nowhere to be heard, instead replaced by a teasing lilt that reminded Ron of a cheeky boy copying his mother’s attitude but felt out of place on this grown up, trashy person.

But since Hans did nothing but laugh at it, Ron decided to shelf it for later. For now, he had to attend to his master. Following the count to his office, Ron noticed a strange nervousness seeping from his master, peeking his curiosity.

“How was the trip, count-nim?”

“Good, good. Apart from… well, you saw. Cale had an accident a week ago and has slowly been recuperating.”

“What happened?” Ron asked, deciding to skip on formalities to talk to the count, knowing it would not be minded as he saw the butler as an old friend.

"We were taken by surprise by a storm while hunting." Deruth chuckled lightly, walking inside of his office to look at the papers that had slowly accumulated during his absence. "But thankfully, it gave us time to talk. Or, more like, yell at each other until we couldn't do anything else but face our truths.

"I hurt my son, Ron." The admission from his master - that felt so much like a confession, didn't quite shock the old butler. After all, he had seen through the years how Deruth had slowly gotten distant from his son, how the count had been closer to Basen and Lily than his first child, the child of the woman he loved. “Whether I wanted it or not, I was so enraged by his remarks I lost my temper. Hurled pernicious words back at him with the strength of four years of trying to stomp down what I felt about his vicious attitude and alcoholism.”

The count sighed, sitting down at his desk to pass a hand on his tired face.

“He left the safety of the cave we took refuge in and I… I should have followed him. Ran after him. Thankfully the rain had become light enough I could hear him call for help. Not being able to see anything, he had walked off an edge. The locals said he had been lucky to have been at the lowest point of the ridge or he wouldn’t have made it.”

Deruth’s tone was flat and felt rehearsed, Ron thought but he couldn’t quite blame the count. After all, his son had nearly died and it most likely had shocked him to the core, knowing how much he loved Cale despite the young man’s attitude these past years.

“Cale confessed to acting like trash to get back at me.” A laugh from the count, sharp and short. Something was swirling in his gaze but it was quickly snuffed as Deruth rubbed his eyes. “I hadn’t been a good father to him, Ron. All these years after Jour died… I realized I didn’t want to lose Cale too. That I would do anything to keep him by my side.”

A sigh as Deruth started looking at his paper, his body language changing from friendly and tense to focused on the work in front of him. Ron took this as his cue to leave the office to bring some warm coffee, not hearing Deruth’s last words, muttered low under his beath.

“No price is too high to have my Cale.”