Chapter 5: Stormy Days at the Castle (4)
Jin’s third sister, Mary Runcandel.
Currently aged 19, she is known around the world as ‘Stormwind Mary’.
In the Runcandel Clan’s thousand-year-old history, not a single child failed to become a 1-star knight before reaching 14. By 16, most would be 3-star knights, and the average would become a 5-star before the age of 20.
Mary’s case was the complete opposite of the past Jin.
She exceeded the Runcandel Clan’s norm. While Jin became a 1-star knight at 25 years old, she achieved the same feat at 12 and was already a 5-star knight at 16.
Moreover, she was currently a 6-star knight.
Despite not being 20 yet, she reached a stage that most people around the world could only dream of attaining.
By exceeding the Runcandel norm, the word ‘genius’ that applied to all Runcandels could no longer do justice to her and her achievements.
Regardless of her talents, Mary was one of the few people who had shown goodwill and compassion towards Jin in his previous life.
‘She may have a screw or two loose in her head, but she’s given me an incredible gift. I was just starting to get frustrated by my slow growth speed.’
One month has passed since Cyron left the Storm Castle.
During that time, the smell of the Phoenix Heart being decocted in the kitchen had spread throughout the entire castle. Moreover, several corridors and halls near the kitchen were scorching due to the special heat released by the Phoenix Heart.
Despite all this havoc, Mary had returned to the southern region as if the heart was insignificant to her.
Normally speaking, a Phoenix Heart was… a rarity similar to an elixir that even kings and queens couldn’t eat often.
The meat was tender and softer than veal, it had a richer fragrance than truffles, and its effects were far more potent than herbal tonics.
“Young Master, within a couple of hours, you’ll finally be able to eat the heart. Good job waiting patiently until now.”
Jin nodded excitedly as his eyes glimmered.
It had taken Mary’s gift a month to be fully cooked. Gilly hadn’t been able to sleep properly during this entire month because she was busy simmering the Phoenix Heart for her young master.
Nevertheless, she was ecstatic. Jin’s happiness was her happiness. A nanny within this clan was responsible for a Runcandel child’s growth, and their future depended greatly on how strong and dependable the child became.
Due to this tradition, Jin felt guilt-ridden towards Gilly. In his previous life, his nanny’s life had taken a turn for the worse after his banishment from the clan. Her future was bleak and her lifestyle had completely crumbled.
“You may not be aware, Young Master, but the Phoenix Heart is an elixir that is especially effective on children. You can increase your tolerance against flames only by eating it at a young age. Lady Mary has given you a truly priceless gift.”
Jin was far more knowledgeable about the heart than Gilly, but he pretended to be interested by her explanation.
He had studied about the Phoenix Heart endlessly during the years when he was training his magic.
‘However, I didn’t do research on it back then because I wanted to eat one, but because I wanted to learn the traits of a phoenix as a magician.’
Summoning a phoenix was every magician’s dream. But Jin had died right before becoming a 6-star magician, the stage at which one can finally summon the bird in question.
“Of course! I hid your eyes when I first saw the puddle of blood inside the box, but once I realized it was the priceless product that even the Vermont imperial family couldn’t easily obtain…”
As Gilly continued her lengthy commentary, Jin began to think about phoenixes.
He couldn’t wait until he could finally summon one during this life. Learning magic as a Runcandel was strictly prohibited, but Jin had no intentions of giving up on it.
As long as he didn’t get caught, everything would work out.
Moreover, if he gained unparalleled power or influence, or if he had a good enough justification, then it wouldn’t matter even if he did get discovered.
Martial arts and magic.
A lifestyle and path that encompassed both of those aspects: the Magic Swordsman. In order to become a magic swordsman, Jin was prepared to shoulder any hardships.
‘If it were me… I would never have let my enemies steal and eat my phoenix’s heart.’
Phoenixes were immortal beings that would be reborn even after death. Even if one were killed by an enemy and had its heart stolen, it would revive 100 years later in nature.
Nevertheless, 100 years was a long period of time. The phoenix’s original summoner would’ve died by then.
“You mustn’t forget to thank Lady Mary the next time you see her, Young Master.”
“Yeah, I won’t.”
The Phoenix Heart was ready. A strong and rich fragrance began to spread throughout the castle.
“I must go prepare your meal, so come down in a little while, Young Master!”
Gilly exited the room, humming and skipping in joy as the door remained ajar. Once she left his field of vision, a deep sigh escaped Jin’s mouth.
“Stop loitering around me. It’s annoying.”
The Tona twins had been dawdling outside the room since a while ago. Once Gilly had left, they stood by the entrance, close to the door, and shot glances towards their youngest brother.
Jin let out a light snicker when he noticed the twins drooling from the smell.
‘Geez, look at these cute, little brats…’
When he gestured them to get closer with his finger, the Tona twins dashed inside the room.
“Why are you here?”
Jin asked them coldly despite knowing full well that they were here for the Phoenix Heart. The Tona twins were squirming awkwardly, as if they desperately needed to head to the bathroom.
They wanted to ask Jin to share some of the Phoenix Heart, but were too afraid to do so. The beating from last month and their father’s scolding had traumatized them.
Jin found this situation quite entertaining. In his previous life, the Tona twins would always steal something from him or beat him up if he bumped into them in the hallways. He could never have imagined that they’d be the ones being cautious of him now.
‘They were probably ordered by Emma to convince me to share some Phoenix Heart with them.’
Just like Gilly, she was a nanny living in the Storm Castle. She was in charge of the Tona twins’ growth. However, unlike Gilly who had died a gruesome death during Jin’s first life, Emma had been living lavishly thanks to the well-off Tona twins.
Despite becoming crazed murderers, Daytona and Haytona never forgot about Emma and took good care of her. But that was all part of her plan.
If Gilly was the type to raise children with love and affection, Emma was the type to raise them using the carrot and stick approach. She never taught the Tona twins concepts such as selflessness or morality.
Truth be told, both of those concepts weren’t very useful in the Runcandel Clan, as one’s enemies could take advantage of them. But Jin still believed that Emma’s teachings were distorted.
She was the biggest influence upon the Tona twins’ upbringing, and was the cause of their twisted characters.
“Um… you see… the Phoenix…”
“That… isn’t there… a bit too much to eat… on your own?”
“What was that? I can’t hear you.”
“The Phoenix Heart soup. Could you share a bowl with us? Otherwise, we’ll get scolded by Emma.”
“Do us a favor, brother.”
‘Seems like they’re more afraid of Emma than me.’
Jin snickered as he thought to himself.
“I don’t want to.”
“We’re begging you!”
The Tona twins were on the verge of crying, but Jin had not a speck of sympathy for them within his heart.
Jin already knew that the Tonas were used to the carrot and stick approach, so he planned on making them do some physically exhausting work in return for the Phoenix Heart soup.
“If you’re willing to go that far, then I won’t refuse. But I have a condition.”
“Oh, what is it? What is it?”
“Remember that grave I made?”
The Tona twins shuddered and turned pale at the word ‘grave’. The memories of being pummelled and left out in the rainstorm in front of the grave had resurfaced.
“If you look carefully, there’s a small hole behind that grave.”
“Yeah. Like a burrow. I want you two to dig into that hole and make it deeper. You have until nightfall. Of course, you can’t rest at all.”
The task Jin had given to his 9-year-old brothers was, quite literally, a waste of time.
“Why… do we need to dig there?”
“I want to bury the bird you two killed in a deeper hole and give it a better grave.”
The twins lost strength in their legs and felt them wobble.
However, if they didn’t have to face their terrifying brother in another fight, and could eat the Phoenix Heart soup with such a trifling task, then they had no complaints.
“How deep do we need to dig?”
“I told you to dig until nightfall with no rest, didn’t I?”
“Alright. So if we dig until then, you’ll share some Phoenix Heart soup with us?”
“Of course I will. But you need to do your best. If I’m not satisfied by the depth of the hole, this agreement is invalid. Oh, by the way, there are plenty of shovels in the warehouse. You should use those.”
“And this is pretty obvious, but you can’t order someone else to dig for you, alright?”
The twins nodded vigorously and immediately departed to begin their work.
While the Tona twins were shovelling in the backyard, Jin was eating the Phoenix Heart soup at the dinner table.
“Is it that tasty, Young Master?”
Gilly asked as she watched Jin gleefully slurping down the meal. She thought that Jin was joyful because of the delicious soup.
“Yeah, it’s so tasty!”
“There’s more than enough to last you for 3 days, so don’t hesitate to ask if you want another serving.”
With each spoonful going down his throat, Jin could feel his bones and skin becoming sturdy. If he ate the soup for 3 days, his affinity and resistance against fire would increase substantially.
However, Jin wasn’t smiling from ear to ear because of the Phoenix Heart.
‘Within a few days, I’ll have access to the secret tomes…!’
The spot where the Tona twins were digging, behind the bird’s grave.
Despite being only 9 years old, the twins’ physical abilities were still far above the world’s average as they were of the Runcandel bloodline.
The Runcandels had special bodies as if they had been blessed by the heavens.
So if the twins continued digging until nightfall using their blessed bodies, the hole would reach the ‘underground wall’.
‘They won’t be able to tell if it’s a wall or just a hard boulder, though.’
Below the Storm Castle was a secret underground area where some of the Runcandel Clan’s ‘wrongdoings’ were hidden.
The secret tomes of other clans.
The Runcandels had subdued and destroyed other clans throughout their history. During these wars, they would steal their enemies’ secret books, scrolls, and records.
It goes without saying that Jin wouldn’t be able to easily infiltrate the underground area just because the Tona twins dug until the wall. He would have to deal with the two protective installations that repelled outsiders first.
But Jin already knew how to disable them. He had technically lived in the Runcandel Clan for 25 years during his previous life, despite being treated worse than bugs. He had picked up some information and a few tricks here and there within the clan.
‘I’ll just study those books until the day I leave the Storm Castle.’
Jin had emptied two bowls of soup for dinner.
“Yes, Young Master?”
“Could you share some of the Phoenix Heart soup with the twins when night falls?”
“Ah, how much should I give them?”
“One spoonful each.”
“O-One… spoonful? Why bother sharing some with them in that case? You should eat it all on your own instead.”
“I must keep my promise. If they complain about it and ask for more, tell them I said this: ‘I’ll show you how kind and gentle Emma is compared to me’.”
Gilly smiled awkwardly as she bowed to him.
‘Young Master Jin… Has the ruthlessness of the clan already started to affect him? He’s still too young to be acting like this.’
As her wry smile turned into a bitter expression, Jin cuddled into Gilly’s embrace.
“Elder sister Mary gave me the heart for my sake, and Gilly carefully prepared the soup for an entire month with dozens of sleepless nights. I don’t want to share such a precious meal with those idiots.”
Despite being drenched from the rain, the twins continued shovelling the earth.
They reached the underground wall around midnight, which was when they finally stopped digging.
“One spoonful only? That’s just unfair! We dug the ground for the entire day!”
The Tona twins belatedly realized that they hadn’t decided upon a proper ‘amount’ during their agreement with Jin, and were enraged by their so-called ‘reward’.
However, they couldn’t voice out their frustrations for too long, as Jin glared at them, as if to tell them to savour the spoonful gratefully.
‘You brats… If one could earn a spoonful of Phoenix Heart soup with one day of shovelling, most people around the world would come running to me.’
Jin truly believed that the twins should be extremely grateful to receive a spoonful of the soup from him.