The sound of someone knocking got Ezra out of his reverie, prompting him to action as he dressed up with haste.
After putting on a black coat and trousers, he told the guest to come in.
"Oh Mrs. Isabelle, it's you?"
An elderly maid in her 30's, not short but not tall either, came into view. She had brown hair with strands of white and brown eyes to match.
"Huh? What's that supposed to mean?" She asked with a scowl on her face.
Seeing such a thing, Ezra began to make amicable expressions.
"Why, I just thought such a hardworking miss such as you would by mother's side"
"Tsk, your tongue is better at sweet talking everyday" she said, but her facial expression softened up a little.
"Anyway, I came by to inform you that breakfast would be served in ten minutes. Now that you know, my work here is done".
She said so and, without waiting for another comment from Ezra, went out of the room.
Ezra could only chuckle bitterly at the sequence of events.
That was Mrs. Isabelle, his mother's personal maid and most-trusted advisor, a woman who could read and write, as well as a teacher/disciplinarian to Ezra. And most importantly, one of the few people who actually cared for him.
A caring woman who acts harsh on the outside but is very soft on the inside.
As a child, she was the one who took care of him along with his mother from day one. One of the few he would help when he had built up enough strength, as for how? He was already making plans in his head.
We see a tall white door pushed open to the view of an expansive hall whose floors were laid with red carpets with golden embroidery, an adequately long table with a white color lighter than that of the door comes into sight. Laid on it were golden utensils as well as flat silver plates and some covered plates with a pleasing aroma coming from them.
Yet, despite such a sight of grandeur, Ezra's face scrunched up as if he had stepped on shit.
Well, that had to do with the six people seated in pairs on the white chairs at each side along the table.
They were his so-called step-mothers and brothers, to him though, they were disgusting individuals whose arrogance and greed knew no bounds.
They had tried to kill him and his mother multiple times since birth, through poisoning, bribing maids to kill him when the opportunity came and many more, but he managed to foil them.
Tension was rising in the air as they all looked at Ezra, his three step-moms especially, their eyes mirrored out their hatred, a thing which Ezra had yet to understand till this day.
After all, weren't they the ones trying to kill him for no good reason? Shouldn't he be the one that's angry? The ones at fault were the ones angry, it couldn't be more baffling.
'They were probably wishing I died of the illness' Ezra was sure as he thought so, for these mothers were doing whatever it took to put their son as the next Emperor.
Then he looked at his three elder brothers, who had eyes full of hostilities.
Triton, the son of the first wife, the crown prince for short, was just ten years old, with the height of 4'7, short gold hair, round jaw line and blue eyes like his mother's.
Next to him was Connor, the second prince at eight years of age, with a height of 4'6, long brown hair, golden eyes and a round jaw.
And lastly, we have Jordan, the third prince, with a height of 4'5 at seven years of age with short light yellow hair, brown eyes and a curved jaw line.
And then there was him, Ezra, the fourth prince and the most popular child in the Empire, the boy with many names like "Child of mana" because he felt mana from age three, the young man, because of his unnatural mature behavior and the most notable being, "Genius of a millennium".
With a height of 4'6 at five years of age, with newly gained short silver hair, black eyes and a curved jawline.
All in all, the four princes of the Niton Empire were handsome to a fault.
'Now that I look at it, I look nothing like father, hmm, unless I tell someone, they most-likely wouldn't make such a connection'
'This might prove useful for my future plans' Ezra thought to himself.
Thirty seconds went by with Ezra and the three pairs staring at each other, the air being silent as if scared, an eerie silence filled the dining hall, before…
A voice Ezra couldn't miss called out.
He looked away from the disgusting pairs and saw his mother seated a length away, before hastily moving towards her and taking a seat at the opposite side of the table.
Her eye bags were nowhere to be seen as she beamed a heartwarming smile at Ezra.
"How are you feeling?" she asked with a tone laced with concern.
"I'm feeling a lot better, so you need not worry"
She stared at him for a few seconds, before yielding with an "Ok, but be careful".
He nodded to affirm her words.
'She must have been very scared those three days, because I've only ever been ill twice since birth, though it wasn't so surprising considering I felt mana at age three and both times had been the result of food poisoning. She must have thought the same thing happened this time as well, before the healer reassured her'
I thought about all this with my eyes darting around, I could see my brothers doing the same.
You see, we don't normally eat like this, separate smaller dining rooms are what we use on most days, because if I had sat with these disgusting people every day, we would have strangled ourselves at this point.
But the only reason why all the sons and mothers would come to sit at the same table on a day without any special events…there was only one.
As my thoughts got to this stage…
"Rise for the Emperor" the royal-advisor cried out to get our attention as we hastily stood up.
A man with long gold hair and beard which were filled with strands of white, indicating his old age, wearing a coat made from a feral lion, which was practically reeking of majesty, stepped into the dining hall, before taking a seat at the table's extreme end.
Only then did we sit down, with maids removing the plate covers to reveal a variety of dishes, after all, the Emperor eating wasn't a common occasion.
This was due to his level of power.
'Has he become a grandmaster? No, it's…maybe a great knight or Grand knight' Ezra thought, after all he had seen the power of a grandmaster once in his past life, and the aura he emanated wasn't anywhere near it.
For the next five minutes, only the sound of cutlery moving and cutting could be heard as we all waited for the real reason for this gathering.
After all, even if he wanted to eat, there wasn't any real need to have called for everyone to come together.
So that meant he either had something to announce or a verdict to give. i𝘯n𝚛𝑒α𝚍. C𝐨𝓶
The other wives were thinking the same thing, while the other boys hadn't grown enough to think such complicated thoughts.
I was carefully watching the Emperor's movements, trying to see if I could discern any sort of behavioral pattern like I did with my mom, step-moms and brothers, but I couldn't find any trace of such a thing, only grace and regality.
It sounded absurd for sure, but this was the only way to describe it.
'I need to find out more about the Emperor, it's going to be needed if I am to succeed him' I thought as I kept stealing glances every once in a while.
The silence continued until the Emperor spoke, or should I say, called out.
'My name? Why is he calling me?!' I almost freaked out before I calmed down and answered, after all, I knew I hadn't done anything wrong and it's not like he could read minds right? Well I hope he couldn't.
"Yes, your Majesty"
"Call me Father"
"Good" he said as he continued.
"The royal healer informed me of your illness, and that your body released a black substance, is this true?"
'Why are you asking me a question you know the answer to?' I asked inwardly and answered.
"Yes Father" I said, wondering where this was going before I saw something crazy.
My father had a smile on his face.
This was something I had never seen on his face, though I should mention that I had only seen him five times in the past five years, well, six with this encounter.
My father, who had no idea what I was thinking, continued.
"Well, you might not know the significance of such a thing, but that's expected" he paused, then continued…
"That body of ours is unique and the envy of others, so I cannot allow it to rot in this castle any longer" he paused again.
"How would you like to begin the study of Magic?"
When the Emperor dropped this question, I momentarily froze with my mind going into overdrive, multiple thoughts went and came as I stood expressionless for a good thirty-seconds before…instead of answering, I threw a question of my own.
"Will I still be able to practice swordsmanship if I do so, Father?"
When I looked at the faces of my mom and step-moms, they all had shocked expressions, which only made me sure that the situation wasn't normal, nevertheless, I forged on. I had already said this much so I couldn't stop now.
Yet, contrary to my expectations, I didn't hear any scolding, nor did I see him frown, instead…
"Hahahaha" a boisterous laugh like thunder echoed throughout the Miller castle causing the knights, maids and anybody else nearby to almost have a heart attack.
"Hmm, that's a very good question" the Emperor answered in a loud tone, oblivious to the havoc he caused, but well, even if he knew, he wouldn't bat an eyelid at the death of a few nobodies. His thoughts churned as he gazed at the boy who looked nothing like him, but was his son, no doubt.
'Most children jump at such offers because they are easily captivated by the grandiose illusion of magic. And yet…he wants to practice swordsmanship?' he thought, baffled by it all.
'Well then, shall I test him some more?' the Emperor hadn't got such a good laugh in years, and he hoped that this wasn't the end of it.
"What do you think is the answer to such a question?" he asked.
'If I knew, which I do, would I have asked you?' Ezra couldn't be more annoyed at the question and answer session before it clicked in.
'He most likely doesn't expect a mature answer, soo, he's testing me?' As Ezra got this point, he composed himself, before throwing out yet another question.
"I do not know father, as I have yet to accrue any experience beyond the people of this castle, and the books of the library, which is why I need someone as knowledgeable as you to help show me the way, Father"
"Hahaha, of course you do, you're definitely my son, that's for sure" he said in another thunderous echo that caused those nearby to curse.
The Emperor finally settled down, gazing at the boy for a minute, because he saw his younger self in him, well, not the five year old him, but eighteen years old him.
A five year old child talking like an eighteen year old.
'It seems my days won't be too boring after all' he concluded, before clearing his throat as he moved to explain things to his ever-so-curious child.
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