Can't Come Back - Side Story 3
Side Story 3 – Their History (1)
“Again, Cain Hildayden is this semester’s top scholar.”
“Again? How often has this happened?”
The news made Young Count Cartel sigh. The other nobles surrounding him were sighing as well. The subject of the debate among the noble boys gathering in the academy’s corridor was none other than Sir Cain Hildayden. That’s because the academy’s winter semester grades were released today.
“Can you please give way just once?”
“No, what I mean is, even with one or two times as a top scholar, there’s a solid path after graduation.”
“And he’s one of the empire’s few duke’s children.”
“To be the same age as Cain Hildayden, being a top scholar is almost the same as giving up for us, right?”
I’ll take a year off. I won’t have to take the exam with Sir Cain if I go back a year.”
The academy was open to children of noble families between 14 and 17. Except for the poorest of the Notium Empire’s male noble offspring, most of the Imperial Capital’s academy, ‘Linteblem,’ was attended by most of the male noble children. Even if they were not wealthy, they generally sent their sons to the academy.
The reason was self-evident. How could one’s child be excluded from this gathering of the empire’s future leaders? Mainly if he was not the eldest son and hence could not inherit the title. It would be considerably easier to work as a bureaucrat if you graduated from Linteblem with good grades. If all went well, you might be made a knight, given a title, or even work close to the Emperor.
As a result, because academic results may considerably impact life, the noble Young lords were preoccupied with tests.
They couldn’t even take first place in one topic because of Cain, who passed practically every subject first or second.
“Even the few young ladies’ eyes are all on Sir Cain.”
“That is correct. Sir Cain has completely bewitched my fiancée.”
‘Linteblem’ was attended by half of the noble families’ daughters. Women still held few critical jobs in the Notium Empire. Even though the number of women attending the academy and holding prominent positions in the empire was increasing, it was still distant from reality.
As a result, the gender ratio inside academia was highly unequal.
“What?! Lady Kisel, daughter of Count Kisel? Isn’t that a little problematic?”
“Well, yes, marriage is three years after graduation, so I’m powerless. Sigh…”
A noble lad who had expressed his worries sighed. Cain Hildayden, who was capturing the attention of the few female students, was a bad influence on his male classmates.
Cain, on the other hand, could be deemed the target of unrequited love by female students.
“Isn’t Sir Cain Hildayden fantastic?”
“He completed this spring, summer, autumn, and winter semesters as a top scholar, right?”
“How is he able to do that? Men must take swordsmanship classes.”
The lovely young ladies were yelling and flowering with Cain’s stories. Hearing this talk, other male students would have wanted to pound their chests.
“Isn’t anything ideal with both intellect and strength? Truly incredible.”
A young lady exclaimed ecstatically. Their discussion concerning Cain was still ongoing.
“I saw Sir Cain studying in the library yesterday, and his side profile was really… I couldn’t do anything, and an hour passed.”
“Oh, why didn’t you tell me if you saw something like that? Yesterday, I was near the library.”
“I have even sat next to Cain, the scholar, during ‘The History of Notium’ class.”
“Oh my goodness, how could that happen? It had to have been fantastic.”
“I was so nervous that I don’t know how the time passed.”
“I’m sure I would have felt the same way.”
“I’m so envious.”
The talk progressively shifted toward whether Cain had a fiancée, with stories ranging from not reading a single word while spying on Cain studying in the library yesterday to sitting next to Cain in class and being too scared to focus on the subject.
“I heard he doesn’t have a fiancée. Is that true?”
“I heard that as well.”
A young woman from the House of Kisel nodded, and a red-haired lady reprimanded her.
“Oh, Lady Kisel, please don’t do that. You’re engaged.”
“But, but still…”
There was little to say if a young lady with an engagement was likewise charmed with Cain. As the argument seemed to drag on indefinitely, a young lady with a smile piped out.
“However, even though he has no fiancée, there is Princess Claudia. Isn’t Cain almost certain to be the Princess’s fiance?”
Everyone was stunned by her statements. They couldn’t come up with a means to oppose her.
“Indeed. Rumors abound that he will be the Princess’s future partner.”
A noble young girl with dark brown hair nodded bitterly. The young girls were happily engaged in fantasy till one word made them frown. It was too challenging to desire someone who stood at the side of a princess.
It was at that precise moment.
“Hold on, what are you all talking about?”
Another female voice interposed among the girls. They shifted their gaze to the source of the vote. Claudia stood there, her golden hair gleaming and eyes as deep and blue as the ocean, with an uneasy face.
When the young ladies discovered Claudia, their faces hardened. They bent their heads quickly.
“We extend our greetings to Your Highness, Princess!”
This was an academic academy, not a noble ladies’ tea gathering or a ballroom. They were all students, so they didn’t need to show the princess such adoration. They were so taken aback that they bowed and greeted Claudia, despite having gossiped about the princess behind her back.
“Oh, there’s no need to be so agitated. I didn’t mean to spoil the vibe… But I feel compelled to correct one point.”
“Yes, Yes?”Claudia, a 16-year-old girl like them, emanated a grace seldom seen in other noble young girls. They sucked their saliva. What could Princess Claudia have to say to them?
‘Is she gonna say anything about her future fiance?’
‘Perhaps she’ll warn that considering the princess’s future fiancé is presumptuous.’
But the words that came out of Claudia’s mouth presented a completely different picture than they had expected.
“I have no ties with Young Master Cain. I’d like it if you didn’t speak to me as if I’m engaged or had some arrangement.”
When they heard Claudia’s statements, the nobles looked at her, puzzled.
“Um… why are all of you looking at me like that?”
The nobles exchanged blank stares in response to her query. Lady Kisel eventually had the guts to speak quietly.
“That… is it no relationship at all?”
Claudia responded as though struck dumb by her remarks.
“Of course. Everything is foolishness.”
“It’s true, isn’t it?”
They asked her with expectant expressions.
“I told you so. Cain and I have no relationship.”
As a result, Claudia could only depart after repeatedly nodding her head in response to their questioning.
“What a battle to clear up this misunderstanding.”
Claudia reflected as she strolled through the academy’s garden. It was beyond her comprehension how she had become intertwined with Cain in rumors. Even last year, her father, the emperor, inquired if she genuinely had Cain in mind and offered to speak with Duke Hildayden or anybody else she desired, causing her great humiliation.
Claudia, unable to predict the years of agony resulting from such a misunderstanding, bumped into Cain in the garden. Cain was reading a book on a bench in the garden.
‘Cain? Excellent timing. I should also tell him to clarify.’
Claudia went up to him right away.
“Right. Do you realize how much trouble you’ve caused me?”
She spoke angrily as she stared at Cain, who turned his head to face her. Of course, the previous event was the catalyst, but her resentment was also fueled by the fact that Cain had grabbed the top spot away from her yet again.
It was the winter term of their 16th year, with less than a year till graduation. Cain’s year might be named thus because he had won practically every time. Unlike last year, when they split first place, Cain had won it all this year.
Although, as a princess, such grades meant little to Claudia, the damage to her pride was unavoidable, especially when she was beaten repeatedly by the same individual.
“I have no idea. How could I possibly know what just happened to you?”
As if Cain’s bitter response wasn’t awful enough, he had already won the top position this winter term.
Claudia sighed and looked at Cain in reaction to his response.
‘Well, he did turn out well.’
Anyone would have to admit he was attractive. It would be unusual if he weren’t famous, what with his dark green hair, high nose, tall stature, and broad shoulders sharpened by swordsmanship.
‘I’m unsure how I got entangled with Cain and caught up in such rumors. At this rate, it will be detrimental to my marriage.’