Roland found it hard to answer Cage's questions.
His relationship with Andonara was complicated. They weren't exactly lovers, but they were definitely more than friends.
As long as Roland was willing, he could take the final step anytime he wanted.
Therefore, Roland did not reply but simply stood in silence.
After waiting for a long time without hearing a reply from Roland, Cage was slightly disappointed. He looked at Roland and said solemnly, "Anna grew up under my watch. I'm both her sword art teacher and her uncle. To some extent, I'm half her father. I barely stop her from doing what she wants, but why do you think the royal family would allow you to take her away?"
Because of the slow transmission of news, and because the royal family had been keeping the queen's elopement a secret, Cage didn't know that the royal family had given up on the queen.
Roland said with a smile, "There's no need to worry about the royal family."
Eyes wide, Cage observed Roland suspiciously for a while, before he frowned and asked, "Are you being confident, or cocky?"
"It's been a couple of months since Andonara came to me." Roland stepped forward and said with his hands against the stone guardrail on the balcony, "If the royal family had intended to deal with us, our lives would've been much harder."
Cage patted the guardrail and said, "You're quite good. I can sense that you're one of the best in the younger generation, but you're not as good as Anna. The royal family couldn't have backed off because you're strong."
"What if I'm undying?"
Cage was shocked at first. In silence, he understood everything. "So, you are a Golden Son. That explains a lot."
Isolated as Reed Village was, there were still travelers here, and Cage had heard about the Golden Sons.
Not just other people, even Cage would feel scared if he had to fight a Golden Son, who could be resurrected even if he was killed.
Roland smiled at Cage modestly.
Cage turned around. With his back against the guardrail, he held his arms and said, "Since she's willing to give up her title as the queen and go with you, she must trust you very much."
Roland nodded. He had sensed it too.
"So, live up to Anna's expectations for you."
Roland secretly sighed and asked, "Andonara is very strong, but why is she troubled by a sense of insecurity?"
It was what puzzled Roland.
Supposedly, a woman as strong as Andonara should be confident and determined, but she was very clingy.
Cage thought quietly for a moment and said, "My brother Cassel did not inherit the bloodline abilities of my family. He's not good at fighting. Though he's a minor noble, his was rather poor, so he became a merchant, leading a team and doing business everywhere to make money for his family. His wife and his daughter stayed at home in the capital. They were too poor to afford a maid. When Andonara was about five, her mother suddenly fell ill. I don't know the details, but she probably died before she could send for a Priest."
Roland's heart palpitated.
Cage, however, continued with a peaceful tone. "Their manor was in a remote corner in the capital. After my sister-in-law died, the four-year-old Andonara spent a month in the manor on her own. A month later, Cassel came home with a fortune, only to see the gravest tragedy."
Roland clenched his hands and subconsciously squeezed them.
Taking a deep breath, Cage said, "Cassel saw his wife's body on the bed, half-rotted, with maggots everywhere on the wet yellow blanket. Anna, who was nothing more than a bag of bones, was sleeping in a corner with her mother's clothes. Many maggots were crawling in her hair and clothes too.
"At that time, Anna was already dying, and if my brother had come home a day or two later…
"Later, we estimated that Anna had not been fed for a whole month. My brother even found a lot of rotten fruits and stems next to his wife's pillow. Anna must've picked them in the manor. She ate some of them and placed the rest next to her mother, probably hoping that her mother could wake up and play with her again after eating those fruits.
"We couldn't imagine how frightened she must've been alone in that gigantic manor, unable to wake up her mother at all. Nobody answered her call in the dark nights, nobody comforted her, and her mother was getting smellier and weirder after each day. I can't possibly imagine the horror, not to mention a four-year-old girl."
Roland raised his head at the sky and blinked his eyes hard. He felt that his eyes were moist.
"My brother asked a Priest to save Anna and buried his wife. Then, he burned the manor to the ground and bought a much bigger mansion in a rich neighborhood with the money he made. After Anna woke up, she started looking for fruits on the lawn, claiming that she was doing it for her mother, and her mother would play with her again after eating them. But she couldn't find her mother in the new home and she kept running away. She would yell at whoever tried to stop her."
Roland asked, "Is that why Andonara has always felt unsafe?"
"It took a year before Anna finally stopped looking for fruits and forgot about her mother." Cage sighed and said, "She has been cold to her father since then. They weren't close in the first place, as my brother traveled a lot for business, and after the incident, Anna subconsciously kept her father at a further distance. She had forgotten a lot of things, but she still blamed her father in her heart for not coming home sooner to save her mother. Things weren't improved until she was twelve."
Roland had heard and read a lot of tragedies in the information society.
But those victims were all outsiders, or people he wasn't familiar with. Though he was sad when he learned what happened to them, the feeling was never real.
He only felt sad because of his empathy, and those victims were in fact nothing but strangers to him.
But this was different. Andonara was a friend that he was very familiar with.
Listening to a tragedy that happened to a friend was completely different from listening to one that happened to a stranger.
Roland really didn't know that Andonara, who was always needy although she was strong, had such a tragic past.
No wonder she left with him so easily when she was the queen. It was only because the royal family "abandoned" her and he promised to protect her.
She was really a woman with simple needs.
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