A lie, it had to be a lie. Alex didn’t believe the words to be anything more than cruel lies.
"Don’t lie to me! You have already disowned me, what’s the need of inventing such lies!"
"What need is there for a giant to deceive an ant?"
"My father ordered me to marry the daughter of the previous Viscount Leitner to tell the world that house Leitner could still count on the support of house Kracht.
That was all so that he could repay the man for saving his life at the cost of his own. Their camaraderie was heartwarming but brought my noble name untold disgrace.
Because your mother...is nothing more than an arriviste whore! I knew it from the start, every man of high nobility knew how easy it was to spread her legs in exchange of benefit.
All my peers knew how she fawned on the mighty and disdained the feeble. But I had to wed such a creature...because such was my father’s wish."
There was evident resentment within Count Wolfgang’s voice as he reminisced the past.
"We are all free to live our lives as we choose. Therefore, while promiscuity is not something, I’m particularly fond of, I do not outright despise it. However, those who see others as nothing more than tools to advance their social standing and sex as a mean of entrapment, profoundly disgust me. Thus, while I did marry her, I have never touched her."
"As we walked into the bridal chamber, I recall that she was overjoyed. But when she realized she could be nothing more than my wife in name, she started looking for new, better options. And fifty years ago, she found your father, a Semi-Holy Priest of the Holy Flame Church."
Alex staggered and fell onto his rear with his trembling legs spread and disbelief consuming his eyes.
"It’s not...possible. A lie...it has to be a lie!"
He clenched his hands around his head, his nails digging past his hairs, and almost drawing blood from his skull.
"Believe if you want to. Do not believe if you don’t want to. But know that no matter how evil, a tiger will not eat its own cub. Were you my son, were you my only male bloodline, I would rather kill you than cripple your manhood."
"Your life is a lie. A devilish ploy orchestrated by your repulsive genitors to take over my house. A mixture between an opportunity for promotion and the mean to satisfy their greed. But I pitied you, the whelp that asked for nothing. So, I gave you an education, hoping you could be upright. I taught you martial arts, hoping you could defend yourself. But most importantly, I gave you...my name!"
"Yet, you dare consort with evil to bring harm to the hand that raised you? Ungrateful worm! Even if you were my son, I would still butcher you!"
Wolfgang’s battle-ax cleaved the air, aiming for the stupefied Alex’s neck. But as the blade approached his flesh, droplets of tears streaked down his cheeks. Tears that caused Wolfgang’s ax to stop and his face to contort into a frown.
"What? After decades of existence, you cannot even die with a minimum of dignity?"
But those weren’t tears of fear. They were tears of sorrow and regret. For Alex who had always craved his father’s love and a united family, Wolfgang’s revelations were too much to bear. Thus, unbeknown to him, warm tears drenched his face.
Wolfgang may never see him as his son, but for him, he would always be his father. That no blood connected them couldn’t change that fact. And although he had never received his love, at least there was a time when he could count on his care. A time he clung on.
But Wolfgang’s ax didn’t go further. Instead, his mind, for an instant, drifted to memories he wished to suppress, and his frown grew deeper.
"Dad, dad, look at the words I wrote! Did I do well?"
"Dad, dad, I have mastered the sword stance you taught me! Are you happy?"
"Dad, dad, why do you never smile when you look at me? Did I do something wrong?"
With a kick, Wolfgang sent Alex flying across the air to crash beyond the walls of his mansion.
"Let this be my last show of leniency. In your lifetime, never appear before me again; otherwise, I do not mind executing you!"
Following those words, Wolfgang’s battle-ax vanished, and in a twister of golden light, he flew into the distance, trailing the path Iliana’s carriage should have taken while spreading his holy sense to watch out for her presence.
As for Alex, he dragged his trembling, bloodied form and vanished into the distance.
"The truth...I must find out...all the truth..."
But it wouldn’t be the last time they met. And in time Wolfgang would come to acknowledge that what he now saw as an inexcusable act of weakness, would prove the best choice of his entire life.
Meanwhile, Konrad and Iliana had barely departed for the Kracht mansion when a beam of golden light flew across the sky and stopped above their heads. The light vanished, revealing a tall, handsome man that seemed to be in his late twenties. He was dressed in a long black robe, with windblown green hairs, sharp slit emerald eyes and a stern, restrained stance that showed an outwardly rigid demeanor.
Naturally, he was Iliana’s father, Wolfgang Kracht. And when his eyes met Iliana’s, the sternness of his face was replaced by boundless love.
She muttered, stopping dead in her tracks and staring at the floating form with incredulity.
Wolfgang descended onto the ground, landing in front of Iliana with his six golden wings vanishing into light particles.
"Little girl, Dad must ask for your forgiveness. Dad is useless and could not take better care of you."
Wolfgang’s apologetic tone and eyes caused Iliana’s already misty gaze to be overtaken with tears. Tears of joy that freely trickled down.
She threw herself into his arms and let her warm tears moisten his clothes.
"I’m here. This time, Dad will never let you go."
Wolfgang pledged while stroking the back of his beloved daughter’s hairs. Ten years ago, he was indeed at the ninth step of the Transcendent Knight Rank. But the pain and helplessness caused by the loss of his only child caused him to drown himself in torturous cultivation.
Torturous cultivation that allowed him to go all the way from the ninth step of the Transcendent Knight Rank to the third step Semi-Saint in just a decade. He was now two hundred years old, and if his breakthrough speed didn’t dwindle, he was very likely to become a saint before the age of three-hundred. Something few in the history of the Holy Flame Empire could accomplish.
As for Konrad who observed this scene from the sidelines, his heart was full of grievances.
"Is fate playing a joke on me? How could the first father in law be a third step Semi-Saint?"
"I say you might have hidden strength, and you appear with a hundred times the expected might?"
"In the future, how can I bully your daughter?"
However, shock was one thing. Demeanor was another. Konrad stood straight with his arms crossed beneath his back, giving an air of extraordinariness and nobility that...
"Who might that eunuch be?"
...was entirely ruined by his head eunuch clothes.
Konrad staggered, and hearing her father’s inquiry, Iliana couldn’t prevent a chuckle from escaping her lips.
"Hum, hum...allow me to introduce myself."
Konrad cut, seizing the initiative.
"I’m your son-in-law. Nice to meet you...father-in-law."
He greeted with a polite bow.
But as soon as those words left his mouth, Wolfgang sent Konrad flying with a palm strike.
Then roared in indignation.
Iliana yelped and rushed toward Konrad’s side to check his pulse.
"Father! How could you be so brutal?! He’s your fut...no...my savior!"
She exclaimed with her cheeks slightly reddening as she finished her words. And seeing the care with which she pressed Konrad’s head against her chest, Wolfgang frowned.
To count Wolfgang’s experienced eyes, this scene oddly seemed like an episode of the conquered daughter taking the party of her love in a familial clash.
And as for Konrad who simulated unconsciousness while feeling the softness of Iliana’s chest, he inwardly jubilated.
"Hehe, father-in-law, we’ve just met that you helped me take another mighty step in my relationship with your daughter?
Why didn’t I meet you before?