More Than You Know — Chapter Four

That was what Shuell’s father, Kendrick, had said the day before his death. Shuell’s parents would pass away on his birthday.


“Yes?” Shuell looked up from the window he was doodling on with his fingers. His eyes sparkled pink. The boy never listened when it came to putting the potion in his eyes to change their color.

“When’s your birthday?”

“July twenty-eighth,” he answered immediately.

That meant there was still a month and a few days left. If I were to allow two weeks for the journey, Shuell’s parents would not depart from the capital before July fourteenth. The traders in charge of transporting Broschte specialties to the capital would leave June thirtieth, which was in four days.

It was cutting it close, but there was an overlap. Good.

I would only have to wait four days, after which I could board the food carriage with Shuell. Both he and I were small, so we would be completely hidden in a large carriage. By the time my parents discovered I was missing, they wouldn’t be able to pursue us since all their carriages would leave with the traders.

All I needed to do was take Shuell to the capital, return home, tell them I had really wanted to see the capital, and that would be the end of it. Ladies with physical flaws were unwelcome in the marriage market, so my parents avoided hurting me in any lasting way. When they hit me, it would only be across the cheek or on the forehead. They wouldn’t hit me hard lest they ruptured my eardrums.

My plans, which seemed a mess, were finally coming together.

Until that cheerful voice cut through my thoughts. “Oh yes. My name is Shuell. Shuell Severilous.”

My head whipped toward the noise’s source. Only then did I fully process what Shuell had just said to me.

I slowly forced my lips into a smile and tilted my head to the side. Shuell looked perturbed, and he was fidgeting once again. This made me relax a bit. I was sure he hadn’t meant to reveal his true . . .

“The Severilous! Shuell Severilous!”

. . . identity.

“The Duke of Severilous. That’s my dad. I live in the Severilous dukedom.”

Dang it, you.

His bright guilelessness was proving to be an issue. The Severilous name was a double-edged sword. It could protect you, or it could hurt you. If a defenseless, powerless child were to declare himself a Severilous, it would be the latter. If the Broschtes were to find out, it would definitely be the latter. It was hard to admit, but my parents were obsessed with money, power, and glory.

If Shuell’s identity were revealed, he could return to his parents much more safely than if he were to hide in a food carriage, but that would never be the end of it. Without the slightest doubt, my parents would demand payment for saving Shuell’s life. Money, access to the top social circles, aid from the Severilouses, and such. The Severilouses would pay at first, but if the demands were to continue with no sign of stopping, that would be a different story.

The Duke and Duchess of Severilous were known for their generosity, but they were still high nobles. They would have two options: getting rid of a pesky lower house leeching off them or mocking their own name to keep repaying the same debt. It didn’t take a genius to know which they would choose.

Still, even then, I knew Shuell would choose the latter, willingly giving up his own riches and reputation to help the Broschtes. That would hurt both Shuell and me in the end. Even if we weren’t stuck in such a peculiar situation, Shuell should never reveal his identity so easily. The Severilous name was not so inconsequential as to be disclosed to a stranger like me, whom he met just a day ago.

I had already warned him about all this. However, Shuell was too young to understand, which left me with no choice but to punish him.

“Keep your hands up for ten minutes.” Shuell choked up at my curt, commanding voice, but I had no intention of retracting it. “Your parents are not here to protect you, and neither are your knights and servants. But there are countless people here who are willing to use you for your name.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Maybe, Shuell. But you’re not taking it seriously.”

“But you’re—”

“Shu, I’m no different. Can you really be sure that no one was standing outside my door when you said what you said?”

Shuell pouted. He was rather cute, mumbling under his breath and moving his lips around, but I kept admonishing him.

“So keep your hands up.”

“All right.”

Shuell raised his arms. At first, it seemed as though he would endure his punishment. However, not a minute later, he started to twist his body, whining and whimpering.

Was he a child or a puppy, I found myself wondering, what with his little head of curls and the constant whimpering.

He was moving his arms around, so they probably hurt. Still, he kept them raised in the air, which was rather commendable.

Shuell released a whine. I felt like I was committing animal and child abuse simultaneously. It made me feel like a villain, which was not a pleasant feeling. However, if I told him to lower his hands now, it wouldn’t do any good. I closed my hands into tight fists and put on my stern face.

“I told you all this before. Were you not listening?”

“I was . . .”

“I didn’t mean that literally.”

“I was listening . . . hard?”

“That’s not it either.”

Shuell whined again. If he were joking, I could at least be angry with him. Still, his crystal-clear gaze told me he was being completely serious.

“I-I’m sorry.”

And it was exactly his gaze that perplexed me. How could I ever discipline someone like him?

“As I said, this place isn’t—”

Clack, clack, clack.

My sentence was cut off by the sound of heels outside my door, and I froze. My stiff expression must have confused Shuell, but I grabbed his arm and pushed him under the bed.


“Get down, quick!” The urgency in my voice was unmistakable, and Shuell dove under the bed without further questions. I bent down to check he couldn’t be seen. He was so small that the bed concealed him without leaving a hair in sight. I stood up just as the door burst open.

“Arwen! Why didn’t you come down for dinner last night as I told you to?”

Brown hair harshly contrasting against my own silver hair, upturned eyes, and shrill voice. My mother. I wiped all traces of urgency off my face and put on a meek mask.

“I’m sorry, Mother. I fell asleep.”

“But you still ate everything the maid got you.” My mother clicked her tongue as she looked at the empty plates on the table. At that moment, my stomach growled.

Ugh. I didn’t feel so good. I had given my dinner to Shuell, after all.

“Oh, you, you. Tsk, tsk.” She strode over to me and pulled my arm up. “Is there a hole in your stomach? Look at all this flab. A girl has no use for an appetite!”

I let her words slip right past my ears. They didn’t really bother me anymore. I wondered, though, if children my age were usually thin with no flab. As I lowered my head, my mother brusquely released my arm.

“Enough. Go get ready.”

To my relief, she didn’t inquire about Shuell’s whereabouts. Apparently, he was indeed completely concealed under the bed.

“What do you mean, Mother?”

“My, my, listen to yourself!” My mother huffed and puffed at my question. She sounded completely mystified, which wasn’t all that surprising to me. She was prone to criticizing and scolding my every action, wondering contemptuously how I could possibly act in such a manner. “Such a manner” usually referred to trivial matters like being late to the boutique or my lessons. This was probably also such a trivial matter, so I put up with her exasperation.

“Your father and brother will be back from the Academy today.”

I had never imagined it could be something so serious. I froze, forgetting to maintain my meek appearance. My shock must’ve been plain on my face.

“Indeed. You may be an impulsive little thing, but I guess you realize how bad it is to forget something so important.” My mother scoffed derisively, and I struggled to pull my lips into a smile.

“I thought classes were still in session. I can’t believe they’ll be back so soon! When will they be arriving?”

“Who knows. I received word in the morning that they’d be here today, so I’m sure they’ll arrive before too long. We’ll be having lunch together.”

Oh my goodness. God, if you have a conscience, you can’t be doing this to me. I once again cursed whatever “god” that put me here. I was too distracted to conceal my panic, even though my mother was standing right in front of me.


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