The first memory of his life was the sight of his mother bleeding from the fist swung by his father.
“You f*cking bitch!”
Profanity poured out of his father’s mouth as his mother collapsed on the ground in front of him, her nose dripping with blood. Then he kicked her again.
“What a great day, your husband is heading out and you’re acting spoiled! You f*cking bitch!”
Wion then was healthier and more robust than he is now. After harshly punching and kicking the woman who couldn’t have been half his age, he spat at his wife and turned away.
“Anyway, you’re just bad luck, you worthless ugly bitch.”
And with that, Wion walked away, leaving the woman in a bloody mess and his son frozen beside her. With a bang, the door slammed shut, and only then was Riven able to approach his mother.
“Mom, are you okay?”
He tried to call out to his mother with his tongue, which was still too young to pronounce well. Her mother gasped, bleeding from her nose and mouth, before finally lifting her head. Her puffy, bruised face was monstrous, but Riven did not cry over it.
“I’m sorry, my son… you’ll have to spend your birthday alone with your mommy.”
With a smile on her mangled face, Riven’s mother, Cordelia, soothed her son, who must have been horrified.
And that’s how Riven’s birthday became a day that he could never forget.
As a princess in a faraway land, Cordelia’s married life was filled with suffocating violence and verbal abuse.
Even before they were married, Cordelia had to endure her husband’s unusual violence and suffocating comparisons.
“I didn’t want to marry a bitch like you.”
Even when sober, in the presence of their son, Wion would often say.
“It was Princess Elsidra I wanted to marry, not you. Damn it, if only you, bitch, hadn’t seized me in my ankle1To have someone tightly tied to a certain task and unable to escape from it..”
Even at the young age of ten, Riven knew that the phrase “seize me in my ankle” was offensive. All the servants in the house talked about it in whispers.
Ten years ago, Elsidra was among the guests who came from all over the world to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday. Like many other men, Wion fell in love with the stunningly beautiful Elsidra at first sight.
The difference between Wion and other men was that he was in a position to truly marry Elsidra.
Vamir was a small country, and the Duke of the Empire, Wion, did not lag behind as a suitor. Young Wion bombarded Elsidra with gifts and nearly won her heart.
But one night, he got drunk and spent the night with a princess from another country. The princess became pregnant, and Vamir immediately sent Elsidra away to be married to King Kaitan, another ardent suitor.
At that moment, the woman who made the wrong choice and suffered the cruel price of that was Cordelia. Since their first meeting, Cordelia had never received love from Wion. Instead of whispers of love, the only things that came her way were curses and punches.
“Remember when you, bitch, offered me a drink that time? Huh? You were planning to f*ck me and have a b*by with me, weren’t you?”
“Stop it. Riven is listening.”
“Ha! Are you pretending to be my wife now? In my house, wearing clothes I bought with my own money, eating the food I give you? A sl*t like you?”
Then came a barrage of profanities that even the lowest of criminals would never utter. The end was always an assault. That day, too, Cordelia had been beaten by Wion and curled up in the corner of the parlor, shaking.
“Just die and disappear, you f*cking bitch.”
Wion spat out as if he was sick and tired of her and stormed out.
Riven approached from the side of his ragged mother.
Forced to grow up too fast, Riven now knew that in situations like this, it was better to leave his mother alone. For the sake of his mother’s trampled pride.
But for today, Riven wanted to say something.
“Let’s go to the abbey. The two of us.”
Cordelia mumbled along, dazed. Riven wiped his mother’s bleeding face with a handkerchief and said painfully.
“Throw away everything, whether it’s your Duchess title or whatever, and leave. It’s better to be a nun for the rest of your life than to be beaten and humiliated like this. I’ll come with you.”
Cordelia nailed2Something like “cannot be changed”, “no objections allowed” or “period”. it sternly, as if in a daze.
“You are the Duke’s son no matter what anyone says. You are the only heir. You have to inherit the Duke’s title.”
“Those damn titles…! Do you think there’s no one to inherit if I’m not there? Do you know how many illegitimate children that man has? Take one of them and put him in his position, or whoever. But I don’t want to be the Duke!”
“What are you saying?”
Cordelia grabbed Riven’s shoulders. Her bloodshot eyes flashed with desperation that bordered on madness.
“Riven, can’t you see why your mom is putting up with all this humiliation? Do you really not get it? Do you think I don’t know how many lovers he has, how many illegitimate children he has? But none of them deserve to inherit the title. None of them but you, born of a legitimate marriage!”
Cordelia’s skinny, bruised fingers tightened around his. Cordelia was crying.
“I live only for you. If you grow up and inherit the title of Duke, I’ll have no regrets. I’m not living with him because I love him. I just want you to live well, just you…”
“So don’t ever say that again. If you give up, if you don’t want to carry on… just endure and everything will be yours.”
He wanted to see his mother’s face without any wounds more than any wealth, honor, and power he could endure.
But his mother was crying so desperately as she spoke those words that Riven couldn’t say them. Little did he know it would be his lifelong regret.
It has been three years since then.
Riven wandered from an early age. He always hated going back to the mansion where his mother was beaten and helpless, and he hated seeing his father strutting around with a smug look on his face. Since then, he has had the urge to stab his father.
He didn’t want to see his mother either. It was painful to see his mother muttering like a ghost, “just endure it a little longer, just a little longer,” even when he tried to persuade her to leave with him. He even had the wicked thought that it was her fate to be beaten like that.
“Aren’t you going home, young master?”
Riven replied harshly, downing the bottle without a care. The alley boy who spoke to Riven whistled.
He despised associating with aristocrats. Whenever he saw those born with privilege who never knew hardship, effort, bloodshed, insult or misery, he felt an urge to give them a good beating. And that’s exactly what he did.
Riven was nicknamed the Mad Dog of Aidelus, and none of the aristocratic children approached him. Riven naturally found himself spending time in the back alley where the people of the lower class lived.
“F*ck, I was just thinking of you. I thought it was your birthday.”
“What’s the big deal about a birthday? Who asked to be born into this shithole world? It’s worthless to be born.”
Riven chuckled, casually insulting the person he loved most without care. But none of the guys in the back alley dared to say anything about it. They all snickered and laughed.
“You’re right. To celebrate your birth in this shithole world, cheers.”
They laughed and clinked bottles instead of glasses and drank.
But as with any good drinking party, arguments were bound to come up.
“But you’re really something.“
One boy muttered, slamming his bottle down on the dirty table with a loud clatter.
“Have you ever been hungry? Have you ever begged? Have you ever cried because you couldn’t afford medicine? What did you accomplish by just yelling and causing trouble? Aristocrat bastard.”
“Why does an aristocrat m*therfucker always have such a stick up his a$s and act like he’s suffered all his life? How f*cking absurd.”
And the boy imitated Riven’s frowning expression by pulling his own cheeks and the other boys roared with laughter. Riven smirked.
“Huh? What? Does it hurt your ego?”
“You want me to worry about the cost of medicine?”
And without warning, Riven hit the boy’s head with the bottle.
And the drinking party became a mess. The other boys pulled Riven away, and the boy who was hit in the head with a bottle lunged at Riven. They were causing a commotion like crazy, until law enforcement came and stopped them.
Riven mounted his horse, which he had stashed nearby, and rode back to the Duke’s mansion, wiping off the blood and alcohol stains on his clothes.
He was blind to the fact that the boy’s words had hit the nail on the head. And he was also turning a blind eye to the fact that what he had done was no different than what Wion had done. Riven was ignoring everything in life during his period of wandering.
And the moment he stepped into the Duke’s mansion, that reality that he could no longer ignore hit him.
“Young master! Where on earth have you been!”
The butler yelled at Riven, who was still drunk and lost in thought. Riven answered back in a grumpy tone.
“What does it matter where I go? Why the fuss?”
“Something has happened to Madam!”
That completely sobered him up.
“The Madam fell down the stairs, and she said her head hurt badly, and then she vomited… and then she complained of dizziness, and now… she can’t move her body…!”
The butler explained frantically, running after Riven as he ran toward Cordelia’s bedroom. But in the middle of his explanation, something bothered him. Riven stopped abruptly in his tracks.
“Why did she fall down the stairs?”
Riven asked in a sharp tone. The butler was taken aback by the question for a moment.
“S-She just l-lost her footing.”
“Mother is afraid of the stairs. She always holds on to the railing and walks carefully down them, and you say she lost her footing?”
Each word he said to him gave Riven a clue. And the butler’s pale face. And him averting his gaze.
Riven gritted his teeth.
“Was it Father?”
The butler could not answer. That was the answer.
Riven ran straight to Cordelia’s bedroom. The door was open, and the servants who were supposed to be bustling in and out of the room stood there ominously.
Riven hastily grabbed the servant by the shoulders and shoved him aside, then strode to the bed.
On the bed, Cordelia seemed to be sleeping.
Her eyes were closed, and she was calm, a look of unprecedented serenity on her gaunt face. She wasn’t breathing.
She was no longer breathing. Cordelia found eternal rest where she didn’t even need to breathe.
Now there was no response even if he called her. With trembling hands, Riven held Cordelia’s thin hand.
Even then, the fact that there were bruise marks and swellings on her face made his heart feel like it was being torn apart.
Cordelia was beaten to death.
- 1To have someone tightly tied to a certain task and unable to escape from it.
- 2Something like “cannot be changed”, “no objections allowed” or “period”.