"How many?" James asked.
"A hundred," Ezio answered.
"Only a hundred?"
James closed his eyes as his fingers tapped the armchair. He was thinking on what to do next, for he knew that he couldn't allow William to stay in his current state. The longer he stayed in that condition, the harder it would be for him to break free from its hold.
"Thank you and sorry for troubling you," James said as he looked at his loyal subordinate. "Can you tell me everything that happened in detail?"
"Yes." Ezio nodded.
The man took off his hood and began to narrate everything that happened since he left Lont with William. He told James the places they visited, the people they met, and the things that happened in between.
The old man listened with a serious expression as if he was afraid that he would miss a single word of Ezio's story.
While this was happening, William had already arrived at Celine's house, but instead of meeting with his Master, he went to the goat pen. Once inside, he closed all of its windows, and barred the entrance.
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The young boy went to the corner where the hay was stacked in a neat row and laid on top of it. Soon, he closed his eyes to sleep. His body would twitch from time to time and words would sometimes escape his lips.
He was reliving the nightmares that he had experienced over the last six months in his dream. This was not the first time this had happened, for he had experienced this countless times during their journey.
A few hours later, he woke up from his slumber. His stomach was growling and it was now time to eat.
The boy was just about to take out the fruits he picked on their way back to Lont from his storage ring when the door of the goat pen swung open.
Light flooded the dark environment and the boy had to cover his eyes due to the sudden brightness.
"Stupid disciple, why didn't you come and greet me first?" A sweet and silky voice reached his ears.
William looked at the beautiful woman who was walking towards him. If this was in the past, he might have already backed away in fear, but the current him only looked at Celine with an apathetic gaze.
"Disciple greets Master," William said with a brief nod. "I have returned."
"That's it?" Celine placed her hands on her waist. "No souvenirs? Or gifts?"
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"There was no opportunity to find any gifts suitable for the Master," William answered. "Disciple will do better next time."
Celine clicked her tongue in irritation. She wasn't liking the current William and it was pissing her off.
"Go to the house and cook me an early dinner," Celine ordered. "Make sure to put your heart into it."
"Okay." William nodded as he stood up from the haystack.
He didn't question why his Master wanted dinner at three in the afternoon, nor did he have any intention of asking.
The boy simply followed Celine back to the house and headed straight towards the kitchen.
Oliver, who was seated on his perch, observed the young boy as he prepared the food for Celine. William had left Lont for a little over six months and, when he had returned, he had become like this.
The Parrot Monkey had figured that this was bound to happen. However, seeing the mischievous William turn into an emotionless brat still ruffled his feathers.
An hour later, Celine sat at the dining table facing William. The corner of her lips were twitching as she tried to maintain a smile on her beautiful face.
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"William, what are these?" Celine asked.
"Master, this is a vegetable and fruit salad," William answered.
"You know I like to eat meat, right?"
"Then why didn't you prepare any meat dishes?" Celine inquired. "Although salad is good, this only serves as a side dish for the main dish."
"I don't like the smell of meat," William replied as he casually filled his plate with salad.
He was taking the "eat if you want and don't eat if you don't want" stance which made Celine frown.
The old William would never disobey nor argue with her when it came to her requests, especially food. The red-headed boy would even do his best to impress Celine with his cooking in order to be praised by her.
However, this boy in front of her didn't care whether she wanted to eat or not, which was giving her a headache.
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The beautiful elf grudgingly ate the dishes that William had prepared for her. Although they tasted good, she was someone who liked to eat meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She was cursing James internally for doing this to her disciple.
Celine was regretting the fact that she had agreed to the old man's suggestion to have William accompany Ezio on some of his missions.
'Perhaps we rushed things too much.' Celine sighed as she looked at the boy who had already finished eating.
"William, come to my room tonight," Celine said as she placed down the fork in her hand. "Make sure to bathe properly, do you understand?"
"Yes," William replied. "Master, if you don't need me for anything I will be returning to the goat pen."
"Go. But, remember that you have an appointment with me tonight."
After giving Celine a brief nod, William left the house and returned to the goat pen. Celine and Oliver glanced at each other and shook their heads at the same time.
"So, this is what it means to not cry over spilt milk." Oliver rolled his eyes. "Such an apt saying, don't you think, Mistress?"
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"Cook me some meat dishes."
"... As you wish, Mistress."
Three hours after sunset, William knocked on Celine's bedroom door. He was wearing a plain robe used for sleeping and his body had a subtle fragrance of soap.
"Yes." William stepped inside his Master's room.
Celine gave the boy a brief glance before beckoning him to come to the bed.
William obeyed and laid beside his Master. He then closed his eyes to sleep.
For some reason, the beautiful Elf felt a slight disappointment in her heart because the boy didn't even bat an eye while looking at her in her nightdress. Just a few months ago, William's face would turn beet red whenever he saw Celine in her night wear.
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Now, he was acting as if he was an adult and Celine was just a little girl who had no redeeming features whatsoever.
Celine pushed aside these mundane thoughts to the back of her mind as she pressed her forehead over William's.
Celine almost didn't recognize William's Sea of Consciousness because it was very different from the one she saw six months ago. Last time, William's sea of consciousness was filled with stars that glittered brightly in the sky.
The ocean underneath their feet would reflect these stars and create a world filled with dazzling colors.
Now, there was only one color in William's world and that was red.
Red clouds hung in the sky, and the ocean under her feet had a deep crimson color. Countless weapons were embedded in the ocean's surface, with their handles pointed towards the heavens in defiance.
Swords, spears, axes, daggers, and several weapons both exotic and unique could be seen everywhere. In the center of it all stood a small figure wearing a hood.
Blood droplets fell from his blood-stained hands which made small ripples beside his feet.
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Celine frowned when she saw this scene, but her feet didn't stop moving. She walked up to the boy who was staring in the distance, with his hood covering his face.
"Master, why is human life so fragile?" William asked without turning his head. "Why do the innocent always have to be the ones to suffer? If showing goodwill to other people is repaid with a stab in the back then what is the point of kindness?"
William finally turned his head to look at the beautiful woman who had tortured him countless times in the past.
"I think it would be best if everyone just stopped being nice to each other," William said softly. "That way, you wouldn't feel betrayed if someone were to put a collar on your neck and sell you as a slave."
Celine took a step forward then gently held the back of William's head. She then pulled him close to her chest, giving him a tight hug.
William felt his Master's warmth and softness, as well as the familiar fragrance that was coming from her body. However, it didn't have the same meaning as it did in the past. Nothing mattered to him anymore.
He even missed Celine's torturous lessons. At least, during those times, he could scream and cry out because of the pain. Now, all the tears in his eyes had dried out. He no longer had tears to shed, he no longer cared. For him, the life he had now had lost its meaning.