"Those who control the education of our youth, control our nation's future." ~ Nico Telesti

"Supervisor Hansk hasn't returned to his barony," reported Howard.

Lorist had given the boy the position of deputy department head of Furybear's investigative division instead of making him the vice-commander of the guard brigade. The division's investigative capabilities had decreased significantly with Tarkel's departure for the Union, which dissatisfied Lorist a lot. He hoped the kid could get everything back on track.

"Oh, where's he gone?" asked Lorist, his expression shifting.

"He's gone to Maplewoods. Madam Irina had someone pick him up. She said she wanted him to tutor Young Master Koboshik in the basics."

Koboshik was Lorist and Irina's second son. Lysecott had been sent to Malek's home for his re-education, but his younger brother had not been moved. Lorist was almost always out in the field doing one thing or another, so he rarely saw or heard from or about the kid. He had heard that he was very similar to his mother. He was small and resembled a ball. Lorist had recently started to think about finding him a proper teacher since his eighth birthday was around the corner, but it seemed Irina had gotten the jump on him and had hired the exiled supervisor.

Lorist shook his head after a moment of silence.

"Whatever. What the heavens will shall come to pass. Let them do whatever they want."

"Why is Your Grace tolerating Supervisor Hansk's impudence and letting him off scot-free? He hasn't just disobeyed your orders, he's even accepted Madam Irina's invitation. He is acting as if Your Grace doesn't exist. He doesn't deserve his title," inquired Howard.

"Some things aren't as simple as they appear. He's done everything on purpose, he wants me to take his title. He needs a reputation far more than a title, exchanging his title for a reputation as a loyal subject would be very profitable for him. If Lysecott inherits my titles, Hansk will get back everything he's given up and then some."

"Your Grace always sees the worst in others, don't you?" Charade chirped in, "Hansk is truly loyal to the house. His loyalty is just misplaced in term of the individuals within the house."

Lorist snorted.

"Did Tarkel say when he'll return?"

"I got an eagle message just earlier today about that. Sir Tarkel is onboard a ship bound for Silowas as we speak. He should be back in The Northlands in about 15 days. We also received a dossier on Young Master Lysecott's behavior recently. It wasn't labeled as urgent so the agents didn't give it special attention. I only noticed the report when I checked..."

Lorist took the folder, shaking his head, a bitter smile on his face.

"You see?" he said, looking at Charade, "Furybear became a mess the moment Tarkel left. The aides don't know what's important at all."

Charade cringed.

"The blame shouldn't be on Tarkel's aides. This happened because Supervisor Spiel had the agents focus on gathering information for his annual financial report. The division can only do so much, so they had to loosen their grip on other matters."

Lorist nodded slightly. He opened the file and started going through it. It didn't take long for his face to contort and his eyes to start burning.


He slammed the report down on the table and shot up, shooting the chair behind him into the wall.

"Ridiculous! Howard, bring Reidy! Also, send Jinolio to bring my horse whip!"

"What's wrong, Your Grace?" Charade couldn't help but be curious after seeing Lorist's sudden explosion.

"It's a tragedy. Just look!—" Lorist handed the document to his friend. He retook his seat and finished off the fruit wine in the bottle in two large gulps. "—I'm a failure of a father."

Lysecott had entered Nico Academy late the previous year to learn some basic knowledge and noble etiquette. House Norton's descendants had always been taught in Maplewoods. They only had to be somewhat literate and have a rough grasp of proper etiquette. The main focus f their training had always been martial arts. After all, martial power had always been the most secure way to ensure the house's survival.

Lorist had changed this because wanted to fix the house's problem with lacking heirs, especially those left by his deceased elder brothers. He made it compulsory to attend Nico Academy and be schooled in basic culture and etiquette when they turned twelve. They would only begin martial training at the age of 15. He needed the next generation to have a broader view of the world.

Nico Academy was a boarding school. It aimed at developing independent people who could function on their own. It also wanted to build circles of common interest and identification beyond the family or town, to build a sense of unity between people from all across the Norton lands.

Lysecott, after enrolling at the academy, broke free of Madam Malek's discipline. He returned to his old ways almost immediately after getting used to the academy. In the couple of months he'd been at the academy he'd gotten into numerous fights and was now the academy's worst terror. Even the young female instructor in charge of him couldn't control him. She'd punished him a few times in the beginning, but he quickly started cursing at her and using his position as the duke's son to threaten her. He'd threatened to torture her until she died once he grew up.

It eventually escalated beyond anyone's control. The instructed ran to the headmistress, crying. Telesti had since sought the young master out numerous times to try and reason with him, but he acted very differently in front of her. He was always humble, polite, and willing to accept criticism, but returned to is cruel ways the moment she left. With those above him unable to keep him under control, he'd become the academy's little boss.

He thought he was free to do what he wanted, that he was out of his father's gaze. He did not know that Lorist had sent people to keep an eye on him. Furybear's informants noted his performance and recorded and passed on everything to their lord. Lorist became more and more dissatisfied with his eldest as he read through the dossier.

Telesti had refused Lorist's proposal and given up her claim to a position in his family. Her daughter, thus, didn't have his family name, but their mother's instead. Lorist was very unhappy with this state of affairs, but he couldn't do anything about it; he at least had to respect his lover's decision.

His eldest daughter, Nico Olijess, was eleven years old, and her younger sister, Nico Freycia, seven. Both were wonderful cute little girls. They had grown into two little princesses loved by many under their mother's intensive care and tutoring. Lorist didn't visit them at the academy often, but sent gifts frequently. He also had them come visit him wherever he was from time to time and would always spoiled them when they did. Telesti hadn't let the girls visit him since his marriage, however.

The last entry in the dossier recorded an incident which had happened 20 days earlier. The two girls had been playing in the garden in the rear of the academy. They ran into Lysecott, who'd been skipping class. The little tyrant didn't know the two fairies were his half-sisters. Seeing their beauty, he started harassing them. The informants watching over him couldn't stand by idly, knowing the identity of the two girls. They were just about to take action when someone else stepped in.

Lorist's nephew, the son of his eldest brother, Helias, 15 years old, stepped in to put a stop to what was happening. He was about to transfer to Dawn Academy the following year for his martial training He was considered one of Nico Academy's honor students, and had graduated only a short while before the incident.

Lysecott left fuming. He returned to his room and took out his shortsword. He hid it under his clothes and confronted Helias during lunch. He suddenly started stabbing and slashing the boy during their confrontation. Caught off guard, Helias couldn't react in time and was severely injured before the nearby instructors managed to subdue his attacker. Telesti was completely shocked by the incident and had Lysecott imprisoned. Whilst being taken away the kid threatened to kill anyone who crossed him when he became duke.

It was a horrible scandal. Fortunately, Helias survived. Worried that the news would affect the house's reputation, Telesti silenced everyone who witnessed or knew of what happened.

"Why wasn't I informed immediately?!" shouted Lorist furiously.

"Maybe Miss Telesti is still fretting over how to punish your son. I don't think, considering his identity, she knows what to do. She's no doubt very afraid that others will think she has some personal vendetta since she also has your children."

"That's her academy. What does she have to worry about? If she can't even deal with something like this, how can she run the academy? Lysecott should've been disciplined when he left Madam Malek's care. I'd like to know why starting assuming he was my heir de jure after going to the academy. Who put that idea in his head? He's always talking about what he'll do once he takes over. He didn't even think that I might not let him inherit my title."

Lorist paced around impatiently.

"Maybe I should revoke his position as heir apparent..."

Charade choked a few times.

"You can do anything but that, Your Grace!"

"Why not?"

"You have to think about Anderbael's welfare."

Anderbael was Lorist's youngest son, and his firstborn with Sylvia.

"What does this have to do with little Andy?"

"If you revoke Lysecott's title as heir apparent it'll look like you're preparing things so Anderbael can take his position. If this is done before everyone learns what Lysecott did to merit this, people will think that you're favoring Anderbael and going against your oath. It won't just hurt your vassal's loyalty, it'll damage the house's reputation. And if an outsider decides to interfere things will only get worse. It's fine to punish Lysecott, but don't take away his title, at least not until we can be sure others will understand why and support your decision."

Lorist nodded slowly.

"You're right. I was a little too quick to decide what to do. I can come back to this when the children are older."

The study's door opened at this moment and Lorist's three disciples entered.

"What are your orders, Your Grace?" asked Reidy.

Lorist took the elegant gold-laced horsewhip from Jinolio and waved it around a few times. The whip clapped loudly each time it whiplashed through the air. He handed it back to Reidy.

"Take this to Nico Academy and tie Lysecott up. Give him 30 lashes in front of all the students. I want each lash to draw blood. Don't stop no matter who tries to stop you. If they want to know why you're doing this, tell them I told you to do this myself. If they don't listen, kill them on the spot!"

"Understood, Your Grace."

Reidy accepted the whip and turned to leave.

"Reidy, hold on a moment. Send him to Maplewoods afterwards and tell Irina he doesn't have to attend the academy anymore."

"By your command."

When the three had left, Charade smiled bitterly.

"This is the same as revoking his title in all but name. What will he learn in Maplewoods? You know exactly what he'll become without proper training and several more years of Irina spoiling him."

"It's what they deserve," Lorist said, his eyes abyssal, "I remembered a report I saw soon after Lysecott went to Malek's family. They had frequent visitors. At the time I thought they were just household friends visiting the couple, but I now realize they were there to influence Lysecott. No wonder he didn't change at all despite them teaching him properly for several years."

Charade creased.

"Isn't this a conspiratorial, Your Grace? I visited Baron Malek's household several times as well."

"Hahaha... You only visit once or twice. The people I'm talking about sometimes went there even several times a week. I thought Madam Malek was just very popular but that clearly wasn't the case. We should know soon as Howard goes through Furybear's records."