Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 6
Claude lived in the attic while his parents, younger brother and younger sister lived on the second floor. His elder brother Arbeit Ferd on the other hand lived on the first floor. There was a guest room and a study on that floor, but the study was only for his father and elder brother's use and he had to have either of their permission before he could enter.
There were washrooms and toilets on both the first and second floors. Claude usually went to the ones on the first floor since there were a little too many people living on the third.
When he reached the first floor, he saw Arbeit coming out of the washroom while stroking his chin with satisfaction. It appeared that he had just shaved and was quite satisfied with how it turned out.
"Morning, Arbeit," greeted Claude.
Arbeit merely glanced at him and hummed a reply before heading downstairs.
Claude didn't mind and went about washing up i the washroom.
Claude didn't have that good a relationship with that elder brother of his. Mainly, it was because Arbeit didn't regard him highly. In terms of studies, Arbeit was their father's pride and joy. He had graduated with first place from the academics stream in Whitestag Town's national middle school and was recommended to become the personal secretary of the only national house member, Sir Yarisla Fux.
(Author's note: Sir isn't a formal noble title, but only an honorary title of knighthood or baronetcy usually conferred to nationals who contributed to the kingdom, but not enough to be granted an honorary noble title. All national house members are granted baronetcies. Knights and baronets are also known as quasi-nobles as most people given a noble title by the king or queen are picked from them.)
Additionally, Arbeit has always considered himself the heir of the Ferd household and didn't have that close a relationship with his three siblings. Perhaps in the eyes of this future head of the household, his siblings are rivals for the assets he would inherit and were burdens to the household.
In some sense, Arbeit had perfectly inherited Morssen's selfish and petty personality, but he was young and didn't know how to hide it well. Unlike his father, who could disguise his selfishness and pettiness as having great visions and wit, Arbeit also didn't learn about the fundamental concept of investment; that a good fish could only be caught with decent bait.
Perhaps, the former owner of the body felt a sense of fear for his elder brother as a result of their sheer difference in academic ability. The current Claude on the other hand, didn't feel anything for his nominal brother and was instead thankful for their distant relationship. That prevented his identity as a transmigrator from being exposed, a scenario he was deeply terrified of.
Given how busy Morssen was, he had never paid much attention to his second son, even during the time he fell greatly ill. In fact, he even exploded with anger when Claude got sick and gave him a harsh scolding. His mother, on the other hand, spoiled him lots. But she nevertheless passed Claude's odd behavior and speech as a symptom of his illness. Given that she paid most attention to Claude's younger siblings, she neglected to notice the oddity when Claude recovered. As for his two younger siblings, they were still young and still wasn't aware of what was what. So, Claude's performance as a transmigrator was still rather decent in that regard.
The ground floor of the building was where the kitchen and the dining room were. Claude saw his father and elder brother seated by the table. His 12-year-old sister, Angelina, brought the food their mother cooked out from the kitchen. Arbeit even had her bring salt and butter to him.
"Good morning, father," said Claude.
Morssen put down his copy of Whitestag Dawn Edition and furrowed his brow at Claude, before nodding slightly. After that, he took the plate of eggs and sprinkled some salt on it before he started to enjoy his meal.
Arbeit snatched the newspaper his father put on the table and began reading as he spread butter over his bread.
Whitestag Dawn Edition was a consolidated newspaper by the rich tycoons in town. They hoped that their publication could emulate those three in the capital of the prefecture to bring them profits and good reputation. It was too bad that while there were more than 60 thousand permanent inhabitants in Whitestag Town, only around a thousand people subscribed for the paper, which was just enough to cover the publication's bottom line.
And so, the newspaper publication that has been going on for three years remained on the brink. To save costs, the publisher retired many of their journalists and editors and used the newspapers from the prefecture capital as a source of news instead. As such, most of what was reported in it was old news from the papers of Baromiss, with there being only one page's worth of local news.
It was said that those investors were looking for people to buy off their shares even at a loss. Though they had asked Morssen whether he was interested in it, he was still considering whether he ought to buy them.
Claude entered the kitchen and saw his sister Angelina scooping out milk with a copper ladle out of a copper pot to put into a glass jar.
"Let me do it, Anna," Claude said as he lifted the pot to pour the milk into the jar, "Where's mom?"
"Bloweyk is making a fuss in bed and she's calming him down," said Angelina.
Bloweyk was the youngest child in the family, being only six years of age. Morssen himself was already near 50, that meant that his wife Madam Ferd had given birth to that child at the dangerous age of 40. With the delivery being such a risky affair, she was considered fortunate enough to have survived. That's why the two Ferds loved their youngest child most dearly and spoiled him badly. He was the little boss of the family and got whatever he wanted.
"Alright. Anna, go get some food. You'll have to go to school as well after you finish breakfast," said Claude before he brought the milk-filled glass jar to the dining table.
Thanks to Stellin IX's education reform, girls were also allowed to enroll in national elementary and middle schools to receive education, even the daughters of commoners, so long as they were able to afford the costs. Morssen was rather open-minded in that regard and prioritized his daughter's education.
"Pour it full for me," said Arbeit as he pointed to the glass in front of him.
"You have hands, right?" Claude didn't bother with him and stopped the little girl from doing so. He pulled her into her chair and said, "Ignore him. He really thinks he's the young master of this family. You are his sister and not his maidservant. He has no right to boss you around like this."
"What did you say?" snapped Arbeit as he put down the newspaper and bread in his hands.
"You didn't hear what I said? What a shame for you to be deaf at such a young age. I really wonder how you even carry out your duties as Sir Fux's personal secretary. Maybe you should get your ears checked by the priests of the moon shrine."
Claude glared back without fear as his hands continued to butter the bread up without pause.
Fuming all over, Arbeit stood up fiercely. "You... you..."
"You what? Oh, did you stand up to spar with me? I really admire your courage," mocked Claude without holding back.
Ever since the transmigration, Claude had tried his best to maintain the guise of an obedient child, much to the shock of his parents, who thought that their son had turned over a new leaf after the illness. His relationship with his two younger siblings even improved so much more than before. Only their eldest child, Arbeit, continued to antagonize Claude, picking at everything he felt he could and never agreeing to him on anything.
There was one time when Claude wanted to get a few books to read from the study when their parents weren't home. However, Arbeit stubbornly refused to let him enter. In the end, Angelina spoke out against Arbeit's behavior, causing her to be given a slap out of embarrassment-induced rage.
Seeing his sister being given a slap blinded Claude with rage. Even though he was still recovering, he leaped and tussled with Arbeit. The two were four years apart in age and Arbeit was a good head taller than Claude, but the latter seemed to be much stronger. Claude initially thought he would end up beaten up, but he didn't think that Arbeit was all bark and no bite and couldn't fend for himself once Claude closed in. After receiving a few heavy punches, Arbeit stumbled to a nearby couch while calling out for help before curling into a ball and letting Claude have his way with him.
Apparently, the former owner of the body had quite the talent for brawls. His memories were rife with scenes of him fighting other kids. The more the transmigrator pummeled, the better he felt, and he eventually beat his elder brother into a swelling hunk of meat.
Even though he was harshly scolded by his parents after that incident, he no longer feared Arbeit since then. Instead, he felt a sense of superiority over him. From that day onwards, whenever they argued about something, Claude would subconsciously show his fists. 'If I can't beat you with words, my fists would have to do', was what it seemed to convey.
And every time that happened, Arbeit would make a strategic retreat. He was traumatized by the beating his brother gave him and asking for his parents' intervention would be nothing short of embarrassing. Like usual, Arbeit gingerly sat back down. "I'm not going to hold it against a savage like you."
Morssen coughed twice as he was no longer able to ignore the scene before him. It wasn't the first time his eldest son got into conflict with his second son. Though he had disciplined them before, nothing changed. No matter what occasion it was, as long as the two brothers were together, they would start to bicker within ten minutes at most.
"Your mother overcooked the eggs a little bit today," Morssen said, feigning ignorance of the argument the brothers just had, "Claude, pour me a glass of milk."
Claude obediently lifted the glass jar and filled his father's glass full of milk. He then took the initiative to ask, "Do you want to add some honey in it, Father?"
"No need. Milk tastes the best right after being heated. Adding honey will make it too sweet and bad for the teeth," said Morssen.
"I want honey." The little girl didn't seem to mind the harm honey could bring to one's teeth.
"Remember to gargle after you finish breakfast. Father's right. Sweets are bad for the teeth," said Claude as he lovingly added two spoonfuls of honey into her milk.
Morssen shook his head slightly. Ever since his son fell sick, it was as if he had turned into a completely different person. Not only did his grades improve, he also read frequently at home and never messed around with his rascal-like friends in the past. Also, he spoiled his younger siblings dearly. The only bad thing was the worsening of his relationship with Arbeit. He couldn't wait to pounce his elder brother and teach him another lesson.
"Arbeit, your brother was right. You have hands and limbs, so do the things you can do yourself. Don't wait to be served by others," Morssen reprimanded in a surprising and rare moment, "While your brother's grades can't compare to yours, at least he's a decent elder brother that takes care of his sister instead of treating her like a maidservant."
Morssen had always thought of his eldest son as his pride and joy who had inherited most of his smarts, as evidenced by his good grades. Ever since he became the personal secretary of Sir Fux, he performed really well and was heavily relied upon by him. The house member praised Arbeit's talents before Morssen on multiple occasions.
However, he soon came to realize that his eldest son was rather petty and materialistic. His relationship with his three siblings aren't that good either. Even though Morssen had reminded Arbeit about it a number of times, it was apparent that he didn't take his advice to heart. Recently, the feud between him and his brother Claude was even exacerbated.
And the deeper their feud became, the more Claude tried to provoke him. Claude was looking for a chance to give Arbeit another pummeling like before and that was something even Morssen could do nothing about.