Chapter 1 Part 2
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Why in the world am I going through such an ordeal? This question had been contemplated, agonized, lamented, and grieved over countless times… yet it remained unanswered.
“Ah, the ‘Cursed Child’ is here again!”
“Stay away! The curse might spread to us!”
As stones thrown by the children hit the back of his head, Keim Halsberg winced in pain.
Keim is a thirteen-year-old boy. With gray hair and eyes, and a handsome and well-formed face, it is likely that he will become a handsome young man that many women will not be able to ignore in a few years.
However… his face and limbs are marred with purple bruises, ruining his handsome appearance. The marks that cruelly cover his pale skin are the traces of a curse. They have been there since birth and are the root cause that burdened him with the fate of being oppressed as a ‘Cursed Child’.
“Run! We’ll be infected with the curse!”
“You monster! Get out of the village!”
The boys ran away, laughing heartily.
As Keim touched his head, blood oozed from the back of it, causing him even more pain.
Keim lives in a small village on the outskirts of Count Halsberg’s territory. Although he lives there, Keim resides in a cabin in the woods outside the village. Besides visiting occasionally to buy groceries, he had no interaction with the village.
“He’s here again… the ‘Cursed Child’.”
“The ‘Poison Queen’s’… Ugh, how detestable!”
“I hate it, he’s so disgusting. Can’t he just leave already?”
While the adults in the village didn’t pelt him with stones like the children did, they whispered and gossiped whenever they passed by Keim. This happens all the time.
When Keim arrived at his regular shop, the male shopkeeper glared at him.
“…You’re here again. Can’t be helped, I guess.”
“Um… I need some food…”
“Yeah, take it, take it. Grab that and get out of here!”
The shopkeeper tossed a sack at him, spilling bread, fruits, and cheese onto the ground.
“I’ll bill the Lord as usual, so leave quickly! The other customers will run away!”
“What’s with that look? You’re not glaring at me, are you? Even though I’m graciously giving you food, you, the ‘Cursed Child’, dare to hold a grudge against me!?”
Intimidated by the shopkeeper, Keim packed the fallen food back into the sack. No matter how dirty or moldy it was, the food was precious to him. He needed to eat to survive.
Struggling to endure the humiliation, Keim picked up the food and quickly left the place. Slandered by the passing villagers, Keim left the village and walked along an animal trail in the woods. Feeling pain here and there as he walked, Keim’s mind was haunted by the same question as always.
(Why…? Why do I have to go through such an ordeal…?)
Keim had been living in a cabin in the woods for a year. At first, he had been cared for by an old man who lived there… but since the old man died of illness three months ago, he has been living alone.
Since then, his days have been filled with malicious voices, even when he goes to the village to get food, despite having done nothing wrong.
“Why was I born a ‘Cursed Child’? What have I done to deserve such a fate…?”
Even if he mutters it aloud, nothing changes. Keim has always been the ‘Cursed Child’ since birth and will probably continue to be so.
He had to live all alone, without anyone looking out for him.
Suddenly attacked by chest pain, he dropped the sack filled with food. Covering his mouth with his hand, he coughed repeatedly, and as he did so, his palm got covered in sticky thick blood.
As the blood fell to the ground, it made a sizzling sound, emitting a foul smell. Looking at his feet, he noticed that the pebbles on the ground had dissolved as if melted by acid.
“A poison curse…”
Keim’s body had been afflicted by a ‘poison curse’ since birth, and occasionally, he would cough up blood like this. The poisonous blood has the toxicity to dissolve stones.
(Because of this curse, they drove me out of the mansion where I was born and raised. Right after Mother passed away…)
Though now living in a cabin in the woods, Keim was actually the son of the Lord who ruled over the neighboring territory. Until last year, he lived in a spacious mansion with his mother, who had passed away.
(Things were better when Mother was alive. I was never pelted with stones then…)
His mother was one of the few people who loved Keim. Even when his father and twin sister refused to come near him, his mother would show him a carefree smile.
(Come to think of it… Mother occasionally muttered, “I’m sorry”. I wonder what she was apologizing for…?)
In her lifetime, his mother often apologized to Keim as if confessing something. Although Keim, being a ‘Cursed Child’, felt he should be the one to apologize, what was his mother sorry for?
When Keim looked up, he saw several wolves growling in the shadow of the trees a few meters away. They bared their ferocious fangs, ready to attack.
“Wolves…? I haven’t seen them around here lately. I wonder what’s going on?”
Keim tilted his head and raised his blood-stained hand.
The wolves then emit a cry like puppies and run away. The smell of the poisonous blood alone can drive away beasts and monsters. Although there used to be frequent wolf attacks in the area, it had quieted down considerably since Keim started living there.
“I can at least keep the beasts away. I wish they’d appreciate me a little more…”
Keim muttered self-mockingly as he picked up the food he had dropped on the ground.
(My body is more contaminated than the mud, anyway. What is the point of worrying when my body is filled with a poison curse?)
Keim slowly made his way home with drooping shoulders, carrying the weight of uncertainty about whether he would continue to face days filled with malice and contempt.
As Keim arrived at the cabin deep in the woods, he saw a woman standing before the crumbling and ragged cabin.
She looks to be in her early twenties and is dressed as a maid. Her long silver hair is distinctive, but even more eye-catching are the triangular beast ears on her head and the tail extending from the hem of her long skirt.
“Oh, welcome back, Keim-sama!”
Upon noticing Keim’s return, the woman’s expression brightened, and she rushed over to him.
Her name is Tee. She is a maid serving at Count Halsberg’s mansion, where Keim was born. She is a ‘Tiger Beastfolk’ with the distinctive feature of being a rare ‘White Tiger’. Her beast ears and tail had a black-and-white fur pattern. She was the exclusive maid serving Keim’s late mother, and she also took care of little Keim.
While the Halsberg family’s servants despised Keim, Tee was the only one who was kind to him. Even after he was driven out of the mansion, she occasionally came to check on him out of concern.
“Were you out shopping? I was worried since you were coming home late today!”
“Ah… you mustn’t come close! Please don’t touch my body!”
He hastily stopped Tee as she was about to embrace him out of habit.
Tee is very affectionate, always embracing Keim whenever they meet. However, Keim was currently injured and bleeding from his head. If he were carelessly embraced, Tee might be contaminated by his poisonous blood.
Tee, who had been approaching with a friendly smile, noticed Keim’s injury, and her expression clouded over.
“…Keim-sama, what happened to that wound?”
“Oh, it’s… I tripped just now and accidentally bumped my head…”
As Keim awkwardly made up an excuse, Tee had an angry look in her eyes.
“Lies! The villagers did this, didn’t they? Those people… to treat Keim-sama of the Count’s family like this…! I’ll go and beat those fools right away!”
“N-No… stop it, please! I’m fine!”
Keim hastily stopped Tee, who looked as if she was about to run off.
There had been a similar incident before, and Tee had angrily stormed into the village. She had spanked the village children and yelled at their parents, demanding an apology. However… later on, she was scolded terribly by Keim’s father, Count Halsberg.
The village chief had protested to the Count, and Tee was blamed for unilaterally berating and attacking the villagers.
‘That village is taking care of the ‘Cursed Child’. Do not make such foolish commotion!’
The Count neither defended Keim, who was oppressed, nor Tee, who stood up for Keim. On the contrary, he sided with the villagers who had persecuted his son.
“Tee has caught Father’s attention. He lets you off because you were my mother’s favorite, but… if you cause any more trouble for my sake, you might be driven out of the Count’s family.”
“B-But… if we leave them alone, those people will get carried away and bully Keim-sama!”
“…There’s nothing we can do. It’s my fault for being born as a ‘Cursed Child’. Besides, if I’m driven out of this village, I’ll really have nowhere to go.”
With Keim’s gloomy expression, Tee’s face also seemed on the verge of tears. She looked as if she wanted to say something, but… she bit her lip and slowly shook her head.
“…I will tend to your wound. Please come over here.”
“No, this is… um, okay. Just be careful not to touch the blood.”
Keim was about to refuse, not wanting Tee to touch his poisonous blood, but… he felt the unwavering determination in her eyes, so he reluctantly entered the cabin with her.
The cabin was devoid of furniture. It was a modest space with only wooden boards placed on the ground.
“I’ll clean the wound. It might sting a little, but please bear with it.”
Tee began tending to the wound on the back of Keim’s head, holding it against her chest. Keim blushed bright red as he found himself burying his face in her ample bosom, covered by her maid’s uniform.
“Keim-sama, please endure it a little longer.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. The wound only hurts a little, I can endure it.”
“Just a little more, and I’ll have enough money saved up. Then, we can leave this place right away…”
Unable to catch Tee’s murmurs, Keim looked puzzled with his face buried in her chest. Eventually, the treatment was finished, and Keim raised his head with a sigh of relief.
“By the way, Tee. What brought you here today?”
Keim asked the question to hide the embarrassment of having his face buried in her chest.
Tee would come to check on him once a week, even without a particular reason, so the question was unnecessary. It was a diversion.
“Gau… right, I almost forgot.”
However, as Tee put away the medical tools, she blinked her eyes as if she remembered something. It seemed she had come with a real purpose.
“Today, the… Master has ordered me to bring Keim-sama to the mansion…”
“From Father…? That’s unusual. Does he have something to discuss with me?”
“…It’s almost the anniversary of Lady’s passing. He wants you to show up at the mansion before that…”
“…Ah, so that’s what it is.”
Keim realized his father’s intention, and his expression clouded over. In a week, the anniversary of his mother’s passing will come. It must be a request to return home beforehand and offer prayers for his mother.
Why does he insist on getting it done in advance rather than on the day itself…? It’s likely because his father doesn’t want to see the face of his disgraceful son, the ‘Cursed Child’, on the important day of his beloved wife’s passing.
It’s a selfish demand with a mixture of slight obligation to his son, Keim, and the love for his late wife, along with the self-centered convenience of a heartless father.
“…Okay. Let’s go back to that mansion.”
“…It may be strange for me to say this as a messenger, but there are only people there who look down on you, Keim-sama. You don’t have to force yourself to go back…”
“It’s okay. I want to pay proper respects to my dear mother who did so much for me. Even if I couldn’t get permission to go home, I was planning to pray in front of the mansion’s gate anyway… but now this has saved me the trouble.”
Keim showed a dark smile and decided to return to the mansion where he had lived until a year ago. The mansion of Count Halsberg――where his father, known as the ‘Holy Fist’, and his twin sister reside.