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To the Temporary Duke (May you Rest In Peace)

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“Young master-nim, I think that’s enough for today. You should rest,” The old servant said. He replaced the cold, untouched cup of tea by Cale’s desk with a warmer one. Adding in a slice of lemon and some mint.

 

“In a minute Ron. Let me finish this last piece first,” Cale said as he slid yet another stack of documents onto his desk. He ignored the cup that Ron had just set for him completely, just as he did with the other, and continued to read through the stack. 

 

Both On and Hong were on either side of his desk, fast asleep and all curled up for warmth. Raon on the other hand, was over by the soft, fluffy couches; belly up while dreaming, and very much drooling as he mumbled on and on about something Cale couldn’t quite catch, ‘ Cookies and apple pies perhaps?’ He mused.

 

It was well into the night, with the ceiling high windows behind him being dark, they had nothing but the light of the crackling fireplace and a couple of candles to keep the office lit; giving it a soft warm glow. A sharp contrast to the frigid cold right outside their estate.

 

Managing the Territory was toughest during the late Fall and early Winter. There was so much to prepare and so little time to do it.

 

“Go ahead and rest if you’re tired,” Cale said as he ticked some things off of his clipboard. “You don't have to stay up with me,” He then shifted his chair closer to the stack and continued reading.

 

He didn’t even look up at the servant as he dismissed him, far too engrossed with the documents to take his eyes off of them for even a second. “Repairs…. Resupplies… Oh? A dispute between landlords on Fire ores, okay, interesting...” He mumbled, skimming through the documents, taking notes and writing out replies in order to address the issues presented to him.  

 

Cale smiled. ‘If I finish everything today, then I won’t have to do anything else tomorrow,’ 

 

He planned to finish everything by the end of today, that way he could relax and slack off for the rest of his reign as the temporary Duke. He only had about a week or two left after all. Maybe he’d have to walk around the estate from time to time and speak to the residents in order to appear busy, but apart from that he was essentially a free man.

 

His smile widened even more as he thought of all the sleeping he could do once he finished this week’s work load.

 

The young man picked up a file and swiftly skimmed through its contents with the use of his record ability. It was a bit of a cheat but it got him through work a whole lot faster than it would have normally, had he opted to do things the old fashioned way. Of course, despite now being able to read through a thick 12 page document in less than a minute, Cale still needed to schedule the meetings and write out his replies or sign for approval, all by the very normal speed of his capable hand. Repeatedly. All throughout the day. Perhaps with little to no rest at all. 

 

So it wasn’t that much of a surprise to him when his hand eventually started to cramp up. 

 

He shook his sore hand and gave his arm a quick jerk, hearing the satisfying pop in both his joints. Cale gave a soft groan at the pins and needles that followed after.

 

The old servant took note of Cale’s discomfort. He snatched the pen away from his grasp then snapped it in half. 

 

“R-Ron? What’re you doing?” Cale asked in surprise.

 

‘Why does he need such a vicious way to get my attention? ’ He thought.

 

“Pardon my rudeness, young master. But it is currently three in the morning. You should’ve been asleep by midnight at the latest.” He said. 

 

“You mustn’t forget the meeting that you and young master Basen are scheduled to attend first thing tomorrow morning.” 

 

“Oh.” Cale slumped in relief. ‘So that’s what this is all about.’

 

“You don’t need to worry about that. Two to three hours is more than enough for me to feel refreshed again. Just be sure to wake me up by then and I’ll be ready.” 

 

The young man opened a drawer by the lower left side of his desk. It was full of pens, quills and parchment.

 

Cale took one out and proceeded to sign the awaiting document, as if he hadn’t just been robbed of his writing instrument and threatened by it, but before the nib could even reach the parchment, Ron took it again and snapped it in half. Cale could do nothing but raise his brow at the old servant. 

 

‘I thought we resolved the issue?’ He thought.

 

Ron let out an exhausted sigh. He rubbed at his face and closed his eyes as he thought back on how this had all started.

 

Master Deruth had fallen ill due to the accumulated stress of managing the Territory. After he was made aware, Cale had immediately stepped up and offered to take care of the internal affairs while Basen had volunteered to handle the external.

 

Cale wanted no part in having to deal with overbearing landlords or officials. The internal affairs were a bit of a pain to handle but it was easier since he had that cheat-like ability of his. 

 

And besides, if he had Basen handling the external affairs then people would see him working more, making him seem like the perfect candidate as the future Duke. Cale could hardly stop smiling that night. 

 

Ron looked at the thin little puppy before him. 

 

At first everything had gone by smoothly, the Dukeship he means. The two were adjusting fairly well with the help of their assigned council members, and no issues have been brought up as of today. However, Cale had seemed to be doing far too well.

 

Both the ex-assassin and Hans, the prospective Butler, had watched over Cale as he worked, serving him his meals and offering to review what he had written. Of course, a few of the official members of Deruth’s council were there to assist as well.

 

But after about an hour of doing so, both Ron and Hans, as well as the council members, had found that Cale’s work needed little to no revisions at all. Everything he had written was spotless. Formal and concise, yet elaborate enough to actually address the issues at hand. 

 

Cale was so well adapted to being the ‘Duke’ that some had even questioned if Deruth had secretly been training him to do this for years. 

 

A conspiracy to which Hans, had admittedly, thought was absolutely hilarious. 

 

Cale acted as trash for the majority of his young life, drinking the day away and squandering his wealth over lavish clothes, he didn’t have much time to actually study nor even immerse himself into the affairs of their territory, unlike Basen, the second young master of the Henituse household, who most evidently had. But despite his once abhorrent behavior, Cale had never once been considered dull. His time as the North Region’s Military Commander and their battle against the White Star being a prime example of this and his brilliance. 

 

Which simply led everyone to believe that the young man seated before them was just terrifyingly good at adapting to new situations and that he had undeniable intellect when it came to the things he actually cared about. 

 

But what they had failed to remember was this man had leaps and bounds of dedication. They had forgotten that whatever task Cale was given, he’d complete with a hundred percent efficiency, regardless of its level of difficulty, or whether or not he’d actually enjoy doing it. Of course, he completed them through his own means and methods — which were looting and causing a shit show — but still. They could not deny that Cale was a dedicated man. 

 

A trait that Ron was now starting to find unbearably frustrating. 

 

Like he said, they'd been here since yesterday’s dawn, and Cale, the little bastard, hadn’t taken any breaks. And had said that he was absolutely fine with sleeping for only three hours to Ron, a man that knew he slept an average of 13, with a completely straight face.

 

Everyone in Cale’s party was well aware of his complete lack of skill in self preservation, but this was a bit too much, even by his standards. 

 

However, Cale really would be fine if he had slept only a maximum of 3 hours; the Vitality of the Heart doing well at its job of revitalizing him. But Ron, who had no way of knowing that this feature of his ancient power existed, could only assume that Cale was being stubborn.

 

“Young master, you must sleep.” The old servant insisted.

 

Cale sighed. He had no choice but to resort to guilt tripping. Cale looked up at the old servant and gave him his best ‘I am worried face’. 

 

“Ron, my father is sick,”  He sincerely hoped this worked.

 

“And I have to do my part as the eldest.” What complete and utter bullshit he was saying.

 

“Both Basen and Lily are still far too young to handle most cases — “ A lie, Basen was of eligible age and Lily was far smarter than most children her age. — “ And I don’t want to put any pressure on them by assigning roles that they aren’t quite ready for yet; the leading council alone isn’t enough either. I’m just doing my best to lighten everyone’s load.” 

 

Cale mentally cringed at his cheezy reasoning.

 

“And I know it's late, but let me at least finish this last stack,” The stack that Cale was referring to could reach the old servant’s shoulders even as it sat on his desk. “Then I’ll go to bed,” Cale said. 

 

Ron allowed a slight crease to form between his brows as he divided the stack into four and slid one over to Cale, “This much is all I can allow, you can finish the rest tomorrow.” He said.

 

The servant then piled up the remaining documents and set them onto the edge of the table right next to Cale’s, it was slightly shorter than his desk but it served its purpose of holding the documents meant for that week’s load. Unfortunately, this table was now completely barren, save for the shortened stack that Ron had just added.

 

Cale would have finished about a week’s worth of work on his first day as the temporary Duke had Ron not stopped him. 

 

“Young master Cale, you and Young master Basen are scheduled to meet with a lot of people tomorrow. You must get your rest,” Ron said as he moved back to his original position beside Cale. He heard the young man mumble out his reply, nonchalantly agreeing to whatever words left his mouth.

 

However, Ron was starting to regret ever agreeing to all this. 

 

Cale was sweating and he seemed to have caught a light fever, much like that time they had snuck into the Eastern Continent’s directory in order to find the White Star’s origins. “Young master Cale, if you keep this up then you’ll end up like the Duke,” Ron comments.

 

Thud!

 

“What?!”

 

“Huh!”

 

“Why?!”

 

This seemed to have caught the attention of the children averaging nine years old, since Raon startled himself into a fall and the kittens snapped their heads up in surprise, eyes forming slits and ears perking up at the news. 

 

“Human! You aren’t allowed to be sick!” Raon flew over to Cale’s desk “Go to bed now! ” And stomped his little paws onto it, effectively leaving small indents on the previously smooth surface.

 

Hong jumped onto his lap and used his arm as leverage. “I agree with our youngest!” He screamed. The tiny red kitten hung onto Cale’s sleeve and prevented him from writing any further.

 

While On simply moved to sit on his still drying parchment, uncaring if she got any of its ink on her pristinely brushed — courtesy of Mr. Hans — silver fur. “Don’t sit there,” Cale said. He tried to pick her up but she hissed at him and swatted his hand away. “Only if you promise to sleep,” She scolded, ears cast down in disapproval of his negligence to his own health.

 

This surprised Cale. On had never hissed at him before, not even when they were still strangers, sure her agitated meows served as warnings for whenever he had gotten too close to her younger brother, Hong, but she had never gone as far as to hiss at him. At least not until today.

 

Seeing his sister’s example, Hong gave him a broken — almost silent — hiss as well, (Cale had a fleeting thought of it being absolutely adorable) before adding in. “You better listen to noona, Cale! Go to bed!” 

 

Raon fervently nodded his head in agreement. “That’s right! Go to bed, Human! It’s late!”

 

Cale didn’t know how to feel about being scolded by all three children at once. He turned to look at Ron, hoping to find some kind of help seeing as he agreed to let him finish a fourth of his last pile. However, Ron simply smiled and offered him no help whatsoever.

 

‘Traitor’ Cale thought.

 

He turned to look at his desk again.There, he saw Raon by the edge of his table, impatiently blowing out small puffs of smoke through his nose, On sitting directly in front of him with a disapproving stare, and Hong desperately clinging on to his sleeve, refusing to let go and digging his tiny claws in deeper every time he tried to pry him off.

 

Cale loosely closed his hand and rubbed his thumb over the side of his index in thought. ‘Maybe they’re just cranky because they had to sleep in an office while I worked?’

 

Cale’s eyes widened at the thought ‘ Yes, that must be it,’ 

 

Cale felt a bit of guilt for allowing them to sleep at such a late hour with nothing but couches and a few throw pillows to rest on. 

 

“Alright, I’m sorry I did this to you guys. I’ll be better next time, I promise,” He said.

 

The children that averaged nine years of age nodded, thinking that the redhead had understood their sentiments.

 

“Come on,” This time On allowed Cale to pick her up, despite her slight suspicion of him not fully understanding what they meant. 

 

Raon flew over as Cale stood and clung to his back while Hong retracted his claws and shifted to make himself more comfortable in Cale’s arms.

 

Once Ron finished cleaning up, everyone left the office and went to bed at the heavenly hour of 3:45 in the morning.

 

***

 

“Go ahead and rest if you’re tired. You don’t have to stay up with me.”

 

“Ron, my father is sick. I have to do my part as the eldest.”

 

“I’m just doing my best to lighten everyone’s load.”

 

“I’ll be better next time, I promise.”

 

These words were stuck on both Nathaniel’s and Nathan’s thoughts for the remainder of their scheduled service as guards. The twins were stationed by the Duke’s office — or temporarily the young master’s — and had heard the entire conversation. Of course, the doors were a bit thick so there were a few things they couldn't quite make out, but the sound of their former Commander’s voice was crisp and clear. 

 

Right after those two heavy doors had been opened, the twins saw Cale carrying two little kittens in his arms, one silver with some ink splotches all over her paws and the other a deep crimson red, as well as a tiny black dragon clinging to him on his back. 

 

It was a well known fact that their young Commander had taken them in prior to the War.

 

‘The young master cares so much about his people,’ The younger of the twins sniffed.

 

‘He’d much rather serve his Territory than take care of his own health,’ The older added.

 

Yes, Cale would most definitely grow up to become a great Territory Lord on day. He had all the necessary qualities; he was smart, he was kind, he cared about his people, he knew how to manage money, and most of all, he was hailed as a just and right noble. Rain City would undoubtedly flourish even more when the Duke eventually decides to pass down his title on to the young master. 

 

‘I just hope he learns to take care of himself more though.’ They thought. 

 

***

 

Word had quickly spread about how Cale had worked tirelessly into the night for their Territory. Courtesy of both Nathan and Nathaniel’s doings. 

 

Hushed whispers and respectful gazes had been sent Cale’s way ever since he woke up. Maids were smiling up at him and their servants were giving him firm nods of approval. 

 

Cale found it scary. 

 

Honestly, genuinely, truly scary. 

 

He got goosebumps every time it happened. And it wasn't even 7 in the morning yet. He was going to have to have a word with Ron about all this nonsense. What was with everyone? Why were they all acting so weirdly?

 

Was this some sort of new trend that he hasn’t been made aware of yet?

 

He and an oddly proud looking Basen made their way over to the meeting hall with the council members. The meeting was set to happen in about twenty minutes. 

 

As they walked, Cale was reminded of how little he had left to take care of. Sigh. He was going to have to find something else to keep him ‘occupied’. 

 

Cale leaned over to tell his younger brother of his request. “Basen,” He said. 

 

“Yes hyung-nim.”

 

“After the meeting, give me a list of all the disputes that happen within the northern part of our territory.”

 

His younger brother raised a brow. That was an odd request. “Why so?” He asked.

 

“Why else?” Cale replied. “I’ll be visiting them.”

 

“Ho!” The council members behind them had nothing but pride in their eyes. However Cale was  too focused on operation ‘look busy so no one suspects you’re slacking’ to notice. 

 

Once they arrived, the leading official that was meant to escort them inside, shook his hand and gave him a firm pat on the back. 

 

“Cale Henituse.” He greeted.

 

“Marquis Terry.” Cale greeted in return. 

 

The marquis’s hand lingered a bit and Cale stared at it then raised a brow.

 

The leading official was a few years his senior but he was very respectful. The older man gave his shoulder a firm squeeze before patting it again and nodding as if to give his silent approval. 

 

“Come this way.” He said. 

 

“...?” Cale hoped the confusion wasn’t visible on his face. 

 

He turned to look towards his younger brother to see if he was confused as well. 

 

Nope. He wasn’t. 

 

Basen had a prideful look on his face. Cale opted to not to mind it since the meeting was about to start. He could always ask later. 

 

They walked through the heavy doors and prepared for the meeting to go underway. 

 

Sigh. 

 

This was going to be a long day.