Chapter 1 Part 3
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Kevin Halsberg, the current head of the Halsberg family, was originally a renowned adventurer who engaged in the subjugation of monsters and bandits. Having made a name for himself in various adventures, Kevin was bestowed the title of ‘Count’ and territory for his successful subjugation of a monster known as the ‘Poison Queen’ thirteen years ago.
Rising from a mere adventurer to nobility, Kevin faced strong opposition from the long-standing nobles. However, none dared to oppose him directly, as he was hailed the Kingdom’s strongest, known as the ‘Holy Fist’. Supported by the vassals he had gathered through the connections forged during his adventurer days, Count Kevin Halsberg governs his territory amicably and is admired by his people as a benevolent feudal lord.
“…To think I’d return here one day. Such thoughts never came across my mind when I was driven out.”
Looking up at his family home, which he visited for the first time in a year, Keim, the son of the Lord, furrowed his brow. Though this mansion was filled with memories of his mother, it was also filled with painful memories. If possible, he would rather not visit this place again.
“…Keim-sama, are you alright?”
“…Yeah, I’m fine.”
Keim forced a smile at Tee, who peered worriedly at his face, as they passed through the mansion’s gate.
On their way to the mansion, they walked past the gardeners and guards, all of whom averted their eyes without even greeting Keim, behaving as if they had seen something disgusting.
“How rude of them…!”
“…It’s fine. It doesn’t matter.”
He was accustomed to such reactions. In this mansion, the only people who treated him normally were his mother and Tee. It was better than having stones thrown at him like the villagers did.
As they approached the mansion, Keim noticed two figures moving about in the garden: the master of the mansion, Kevin Halsberg, and Keim’s twin sister, Arnette Halsberg.
“All right, then, I’m going to teach you the combat techniques of the ‘Demon Fighting God Style’ again today!”
Both of them are dressed for ease of movement and appear to be training in martial arts.
“First, let us review the combat technique of the ‘Demon Fighting God Style’ that envelopes the body in magic power and fights without using swords or spears. The body itself is the weapon. While strengthening the body with magic power is a fundamental technique in various martial arts, the ‘Demon Fighting God Style’ is in a different dimension!”
The red-haired, large-built man――Kevin, let out a sharp breath, and suddenly, his body was enveloped in magic power. The magic power gushed out from his body like hot steam, then gradually compressed, becoming visibly smaller. It was not that less magic power was emanating from his body. Rather, the magic power was compressed, increasing its density.
“Compress the magic power enveloping your body to the utmost limit. By doing so, the magic power will be sublimated to a hardness comparable to steel. The resulting ‘Compressed Magic Power’ can even rival a dragon’s scale. And naturally… when enveloped around your fists, the attack power soars!”
Kevin struck a boulder placed in the garden with his fist, which was enveloped in compressed magic power. With a single blow, the human-sized boulder was pulverized into pieces. It was indeed the punching power of a man known as the ‘Holy Fist’.
“See for yourself. But of course, there are downsides to not using weapons. Even talented individuals take at least five years to learn it. However, the advantage is that you don’t have to carry a weapon around with you and can activate it at any time, all while being lightweight. Running with just your own body is undoubtedly faster than wearing heavy armor.”
“I see… You’re amazing, Father! Will I be able to reach Father’s level someday?”
“Yes, because you’re my daughter! If you continue training for another ten years, you should become a top-class martial artist! To that end, we’ll train hard again today!”
“Yes! I’ll do my best!”
The father and daughter continued their training harmoniously.
A little distance away, Keim twisted his expression.
“…It seems the two of them are still in the middle of training. Shall we go inside the mansion first?”
“No… that’s fine. I’ll watch from here.”
Keim shook his head at Tee’s concern and directed his gaze toward his twin sister, who is learning martial arts.
(My only sister… The other half of the twin… Arnette.)
Keim was overwhelmed with an inexplicable sense of emptiness whenever he saw Arnette. Although they were siblings born on the same day from the same mother’s womb, the relationship between Keim and Arnette was never good. It was hostile… or rather, Arnette unilaterally hated Keim.
The reason was that their mother, Sasha Halsberg, had been overly protective of Keim. Sasha had been very worried about her son’s future, who was born as a ‘Cursed Child’, and had hardly ever left his side. Arnette harbored hatred for Keim, who monopolized their mother’s love, and that hatred had only grown stronger after their mother’s death.
“Okay, take it slow. Let the magic power flow on the surface of your body and compress it.”
At the same time, jealousy flickered in Keim’s eyes as he watched his father and sister.
Despite being twins, Arnette, who did not bear the curse burden that Keim did, monopolized their father’s love and was training in martial arts. Keim could not help but yearn for it.
(It’s as if they’re mocking me. They cannot possibly not notice that I am watching… If they are going to ignore me, then why even call me to the mansion in the first place?)
“Alright! Next, I’ll teach you the basic technique. First of all… 【Kirin】!”
“Yes, Father! Like this!?”
With a proud expression, the father demonstrated the technique, and the daughter imitated the movements.
Feeling a strong sense of alienation, Keim continued to watch their training without taking his eyes off them.
As if turning away would be a loss, he watched until their training was over.
After finishing their training, the father and daughter returned to their respective rooms to cleanse themselves. In the meantime, Keim decided to pay his respects to his late mother.
“I’m home, Mother.”
In the room that had been his mother’s bedroom, there was an altar with a portrait of her. Keim knelt in front of the altar adorned with many flowers, paying his respects by offering prayers of tribute to his only family member who had loved him.
As a ‘Cursed Child’, Keim was treated coldly by his father and hated by his twin sister. Even the majority of the servants displayed similar attitudes. Yet, among them, only his mother had continually encouraged him.
‘Keim, please don’t hate yourself.’
‘You’ve done nothing wrong. Don’t think that being born is a sin.’
‘Your father doesn’t hate you either. He just… doesn’t know how to approach you. You’ve done nothing wrong. The curse upon you is not your fault. So, please learn to love yourself.’
“Learning to love myself is… difficult, Mother.”
No matter how Keim felt about himself, those around him treated him as the ‘Cursed Child’. He was immediately driven out of the mansion after his mother’s death and had been living a life where the villagers pelt him with stones.
In such a situation… he had no idea how to love himself.
(If I had a family that loved me, maybe things would have been different… But ever since Mother passed away, I have been all alone.)
“Gau! Keim-sama, Tee is with you!”
“Yeah… Oh, wait, did you just read my mind?”
“Your thoughts are as clear as day to me, Keim-sama! How many years do you think I’ve been serving you?”
“Haha, right… I guess that’s true.”
While smiling wryly at the perceptive maid, Keim finished his reunion with his late mother for the first time in a year. Just then, a stern-faced butler entered the room and spoke in a detached tone.
“…Dinner is ready. Please come to the dining room.”
“It’s fine… I’ve finished my business, so I’ll go home now.”
“The Master and the Young Lady are waiting. Please do not keep them waiting too long.”
The elderly butler said unilaterally and quickly left the room. Although Keim was undeniably part of the Halsberg family, there was not a shred of respect in the butler’s attitude.
“Garrrrr… How rude! What is that butler thinking!?”
“It’s okay, Tee… As much as I feel reluctant, I should at least join them for dinner, and for my mother’s sake.”
Sighing, Keim followed the instructions and headed to the dining room with Tee. When they arrived, both father and daughter, who had finished cleansing themselves, were already there. The two had started eating without waiting for Keim. Although a dish was prepared for him at the corner of the long table, it was noticeably distant from his father and sister’s seats.
“…Father, it’s been a while. I’m grateful for the opportunity to pay my respects to Mother.”
“No need for unnecessary greetings… Sit down and eat quickly.”
“Yes… Thank you.”
With a twisted expression towards his father, who did not even spare a glance, Keim sat down and began to eat.
“This steak is delicious! A meal after exercising is always exceptional!”
“Arnette. Don’t eat too quickly. It’s unbecoming.”
“Yes, I’m sorry, Father!”
While Arnette happily enjoyed her meal, Keim’s expression was heavy.
Although they were siblings who had not seen each other for a year, it was evident to anyone that there was a stark difference in how they were treated.
“Arnette, the food isn’t going anywhere, eat slowly.”
“Young Lady, your mouth is dirty.”
“We’ll bring dessert later. Today, we’ve prepared pear tart, your favorite, Young Lady.”
“Hehe, I’m so happy. I look forward to dessert!”
Next to the smiling Arnette was their father, while the servants surrounded them with warm smiles.
As if to show off and boast, Arnette happily ate her meal.
(What are they trying to show me…? Is this why I was called here?)
Keim scooped some soup with his spoon and brought it to his mouth, but it hardly had any taste. Whether it was intentionally made bland as a form of harassment, or his mood was so down that he couldn’t taste anything, he wasn’t sure.
“…Yeah. I’m fine.”
Encouraged by Tee, who was standing behind him, Keim mechanically consumed his meal and finished it quickly.
“Well then, Father… I’ll take my leave now.”
After finishing his meal, Keim tried to leave the mansion in a hurry, but Kevin called him to a stop.
“…Recently, there have been complaints from the villagers. It seems you’ve been throwing stones at village children?”
“…I have not. I was the one who had stones thrown at me.”
“Silence! How dare you hurt innocent children when we’ve kindly allowed you, a ‘Cursed Child’, to stay here!? I don’t remember raising you like that!”
I don’t remember being raised by you. He almost said that in response but quickly realized it would be futile and shook his head. Instead, Keim sighed and muttered words of resignation.
“…If you say so, Father. You’re always right.”
“What’s with that tone! Is that how you talk to your father!?”
Enraged, Kevin stood up and strode toward Keim, clenching his fist and ruthlessly aiming a punch at him. Keim instinctively tilted his head to the side, dodging the blow.
Kevin, who had initially looked surprised, quickly kicked Keim in the torso. Keim could not dodge it this time and was sent flying to the dining room’s door.
Tee hastily rushed over, lifting Keim’s body.
As Keim endured the pain and got up, Kevin spoke with animosity.
“Why was a ‘Cursed Child’ like you even born? If it weren’t for you, perhaps Sasha could have lived longer… Damn it!”
Kevin’s words were cut short as he collapsed in exhaustion onto a nearby chair. Seeing the fatigued appearance of the mansion’s master, Arnette and the servants rushed over.
The servants, including Keim’s twin sister, glared accusingly at him, as if he were the one responsible. Ironically, it was Keim who had been kicked, making the situation absurdly unjust.
“Keim-sama, please hold on!”
“…Yeah, I’m fine. It’s not that painful.”
Supported by Tee, Keim slowly got up and quickly exited the dining room.
“Keim-sama, are you alright? This is terrible! Why must you suffer this way!?”
“…It’s okay, let’s go home.”
While offering a reassuring smile to the concerned Tee, Keim checked himself. He seemed to have taken a powerful kick… yet surprisingly, he wasn’t significantly hurt. Perhaps Kevin had moderated the force to avoid causing him serious injury.
(As expected of the ‘Holy Fist’, I suppose? Such a waste of talent.)
“…Please wait, Keim-sama.”
As Keim tried to leave the mansion, a butler approached and called out to him.
“There are duties for Tee to attend to, so please go back alone. I apologize, but she won’t be able to send you home.”
“Gau! You intend to send Keim-sama home in this state all by himself!?”
In protest against the butler’s provocative statement, Tee retorted fiercely.
“I am Keim-sama’s maid! What’s wrong with accompanying him on the way home!?”
“Please do not misunderstand. You are a maid employed by the Count’s family. Have you forgotten the favor of being taken in by the late Lady?”
“It was the late Lady who entrusted me with Keim-sama! Why does the heir of the Count’s family get treated so poorly!?”
“Tch… This is why beastfolk are so bothersome.”
The butler clicked his tongue in response to Tee’s persistence. In this country, beastfolk were subjected to discrimination and received poor treatment. For Tee to be employed by the Count’s family was remarkably fortunate for her.
(I cannot allow Tee to be burdened any further.)
“I’ll be alright. Tee, please return to your duties.”
“I’ll go back on my own… That settles it, right?”
“…Very well. Take care.”
With a mocking smirk, the butler turned and swiftly returned to the mansion.
“That’s how it is, Tee.”
“This is unreasonable! It’s reckless! How can you return alone in this injured state…!?”
“I’m fine. Although it looked severe, I’m not in much pain. I can walk home properly.”
Keim tried to convince the teary-eyed maid.
“I’ll be okay. Please take care of the mansion my mother loved.”
Though Tee appeared torn and bit her lip… she eventually conceded. Tearfully, she saw Keim off as he left the mansion.
“Seems just like a loyal dog… but you’re not a dog, you’re a tiger, aren’t you?”
With a wry smile, Keim made his way home. The sun had set, but the moon shone brightly, illuminating the night path. Slowly, yet steadily, Keim headed back to his cabin in the woods.