Chapter 2 Part 1
Chapter 2 – The Poison Queen
‘Keim… You’ve done nothing wrong.’
Those were the last memories spent with his mother… Sasha Halsberg. Keim leaned close to his mother lying in bed, shedding tears as he listened to her final words.
‘I was truly happy that you were born. Holding you in my arms, watching you grow, brought me immense joy. So… no matter what happens, don’t blame yourself.’
Keim knew that Sasha had fallen ill after giving birth to twins. Occasionally, she coughed up blood, and the cause of it all was the faint poison unintentionally emanating from Keim’s body. Not only his blood but also his breath and bodily fluids contained the poison. It was a harmless concentration for a healthy person, but it was a deadly virus for his weakened mother.
Keim’s father had tried countless times to stop his mother. He told her not to meet Keim, not to touch him. Her husband, Kevin, had insisted that Sasha should abandon Keim and raise only Arnette as their child. However, Sasha did not abandon Keim. No matter how much Kevin protested or how much Arnette clung to her, she never abandoned Keim and kept him by her side.
‘It’s your mother’s fault that you were born as a ‘Cursed Child’. You’ve done nothing wrong. So… don’t blame yourself, okay?’
Emaciated and weakened, Sasha held Keim’s hand as she reassured him. With every bit of life she had left, she turned it into words for her son.
‘Please find your own happiness. Someday, have your own family and live together.’
That was the last conversation exchanged between Keim and his mother. Shortly after, Sasha began coughing up blood and endured tremendous pain before slipping into eternal slumber. Kevin, who believed that Keim was the reason for his wife’s death, drove his son away and began raising only Arnette as their child.
〇 〇 〇
“Haa… I’m finally back…”
After walking for several hours from the mansion where he was born and raised, Keim arrived at the cabin in the woods where he was staying. He had taken numerous breaks along the way to return home.
“…Let’s rest for today. My body is exhausted.”
With drooping shoulders, Keim opened the door to the seemingly fragile cabin. Inside, there were no fancy items like lamps. In the darkness, he relied on his memory to find the wooden planks he used as a makeshift bed, but… he quickly came to a halt.
He sensed the presence of someone in the cabin, though the person appeared to be holding their breath, making no audible noise. However, Keim keenly perceived a different atmosphere from his usual home.
(It couldn’t be a thief; there was nothing valuable to steal here, and it was unlikely that villagers would come near.)
The villagers avoided Keim, the ‘Cursed Child’, and would never approach this place. It could be some beasts or monsters, but… it lacked the characteristic smell of a beast.
Keim cautiously grabbed a hatchet and looked around the cabin.
Carefully, with bated breath, Keim stepped further into the cabin, straining his ears and squinting his eyes to locate the intruder.
“Heehh, you’re more sensitive than I thought. I’m surprised.”
The voice sent shivers down Keim’s spine, appearing to originate from very close by. Someone had somehow approached from behind and whispered into Keim’s ear.
Keim attempted to swing the hatchet around as he turned. However, the young boy’s hand was easily caught by the person standing behind him.
“Heehh, your reaction time is not bad. I guess that’s to be expected from the son of the ‘Holy Fist’, huh? Although it seems you haven’t had much training, I can still sense glimpses of talent in you.”
The person standing behind him was a tall woman wearing a white coat draped like a mantle over a man’s suit. Her black hair and the intelligent eyes behind her glasses left a lasting impression.
“If I may offer some advice, it’s futile to notice an opponent’s presence once they’ve already noticed yours. If you realize they’ve intruded, pretend not to notice and seize the opportunity when they lower their guard. If not, running away is the right choice.”
“Damn it… Let go!”
“If you release that dangerous thing, I’ll release you, too. I apologize for the rudeness of barging into your house. I mean no harm. So, can you put down your weapon?”
The woman’s voice remained calm, devoid of any apparent hostility.
If her intention were to harm Keim, she would have attacked him by now. Despite distorting his expression with frustration, Keim reluctantly let go of the hatchet.
The woman released her grip on his arm, and Keim took several steps back as soon as he was free from restraint.
“Who are you…!? Why are you in my house…!?”
“There’s no need to be so defensive. You act as if I’m some wild animal.”
“Alright, alright. No need to rush. I’ll properly introduce myself.”
The woman in the white coat raised both hands in a gesture of surrender as she responded to his demanding inquiries.
“My name is Faust. For now… I suppose you could say I’m a friend of your parents?”
The woman who introduced herself as Faust smiled amicably at Keim, who surprisedly opened his eyes.
“I’m here today as a doctor to meet with you, Keim. I wanted to examine the progress of the curse known as the ‘Poison Queen’, which was transplanted into your body thirteen years ago… Would you allow me to do that?”
“‘Poison Queen’…? Transplanted…?”
Keim was completely baffled, furrowing his brow.
Faust gave a wry smile in response to the question mark that seemed to float above Keim’s head.
“I see.Have your parents never spoken to you about the curse that has been afflicting your body?”
“Perhaps they couldn’t bear to tell their child… Or maybe they struggled to accept the responsibility?”
Faust rummaged through her baggage and took out a lantern. The room, once shrouded in darkness, was now bathed in an orange glow from the lantern’s light.
“Please, have a seat. Let’s discuss the curse that’s been afflicting your body.”
“…But you’re in my house, you know?”
Faust seated herself on a wooden plank as if she owned the place. Annoyed that she occupied the space he used as his bed, Keim frowned but reluctantly sat down beside her. He didn’t fully trust this enigmatic person before him, yet the story of the curse within his body held a powerful grip on his curiosity.
“Oh, do you have any tea or something? I’m a bit thirsty.”
“Seriously, you’ve got some nerve! It’s in that bottle there, help yourself!”
“Oh, there it is. Let’s give it a try.”
Faust picked up the bottle from the ground. She opened it, sniffed the liquid inside, and blinked in surprise.
“Heehh, interesting tea you have here. Did you brew it yourself?”
“…It’s not tea, just some herbs I picked around here. It tastes awful, but it makes me feel better when I drink it.”
“Well, yes, it’s a medicinal herb called ‘Healing Grass’ that’s also used as an ingredient in potions. You’re pretty interesting to make herbal tea out of it.”
Without hesitation, Faust drank the murky liquid from the liquor bottle. While it couldn’t be called ‘tea’, she seemed to enjoy the bitterness, savoring the taste with narrowed eyes.
“Yes, it’s terrible. But there’s nothing to worry about. They say ‘good medicine tastes bitter’, and things that are good for your health usually don’t taste pleasant. I appreciate your hospitality.”
It wasn’t his intention to be hospitable. She had entered his house without permission and was now drinking his tea without asking.
“So… about examining my body, what exactly does that mean?”
Faust had introduced herself as a ‘friend of his parents’. Keim might have trusted her if she were a friend of his mother, but he could never open his heart to a friend of his father.
“That’s not all… You mentioned having ‘transplanted a curse’ into my body, didn’t you? What does that even mean?”
It was not something that could be easily brushed off.
Keim had always believed that the ‘poison curse’ afflicting his body was innate, a coincidental affliction akin to an epidemic. However, the use of the word ‘transplant’ implied that Faust had intentionally implanted the curse into his body.
(If that’s true… I will never be able to forgive this person…!)
If someone had deliberately cast the shadow that loomed over his life, forgiveness would be impossible.
(No matter what, I will definitely make them pay…!)
“Don’t give me such a murderous look. Explaining the circumstances is also part of the reason I came to see you, after all.”
Faust smiled with a perplexed expression, placing the bottle she held on the ground. It was a carefree smile devoid of any hostility. Her demeanor almost seemed like an attempt to slip into the gaps in his heart, making Keim feel uneasy.
“Now then… The curse residing in your body originated from the ‘Demon King-class’ monster, the ‘Poison Queen’.”
The ‘Poison Queen’. It was the same word he had heard earlier. Looking back, Keim remembered that the villagers who persecuted him had also muttered those words.
“…Your parents really didn’t tell you anything…? That’s so irresponsible of them…”
“…What do you mean?”
“The curse that has invaded your body originated from the ‘Poison Queen’, and… your parents. Of course, I bear some responsibility in this as well and deserve to be resented.”
Faust began recounting events from thirteen years ago, just before Keim and Arnette, the twin siblings, were born.
Once upon a time――the ‘Poison Queen’, a ‘Demon King-class’ monster, appeared in the northern part of the Kingdom of Jade.
The ‘Demon King-class’ is one of the ranks that indicates the strength of a monster, starting from Commoner-class, Knight-class, Baron-class, Viscount-class, Count-class, Marquis-class, Duke-class, the Demon King-class, and so on. The higher the rank, the stronger and more dangerous it becomes. The Demon King-class is a calamity that can destroy an entire country.
The ‘Poison Queen’ posed a grave threat to the Kingdom of Jade, but it was ultimately saved by the adventurer’s party known as ‘The Fist of Iron God’, hailed as the strongest at the time.
Led by Kevin, the ‘Holy Fist’, ‘The Fist of Iron God’ succeeded in subjugating the ‘Poison Queen’ at great cost.
Kevin, the leader of the punitive force, was rewarded with the title of ‘Count’ and granted a territory. It is said that other participants were also generously rewarded by the king.
“However… in exchange for such glory, there was a great misfortune. The woman who delivered the final blow to the ‘Poison Queen’, Sasha Halsberg, ended up cursed.”
Faust spoke calmly, her words flowing into Keim’s mind like water seeping into sand.
“The final curse unleashed by the ‘Poison Queen’ was so powerful that Sasha could die at any moment. It wouldn’t be unusual. No doctor or mage could cure her. That’s why, as a doctor, I proposed an idea to them: to transfer the curse into one of the twins Sasha was carrying…”
“You can’t be serious…!”
“This concerns you, Keim Halsberg-kun. Your parents made the decision to transplant the curse of the ‘Poison Queen’ into you so that your mother and your twin sister could live.”
Keim was rendered speechless, his breath caught in his throat. If Faust’s words were true, then Keim being born as the ‘Cursed Child’ was not his fault, nor was it due to bad luck.
(So, she’s saying it was all my mother’s and that man’s fault…!?)
Throughout her life, Sasha had repeatedly apologized, as if repenting for something. Could it have been about burdening Keim with the curse?
“Such a thing… Such a thing CAN’T BE TRUE!“
Keim couldn’t help but raise his voice. He stood up and let out the emotions surging within him.
“I’ve been blamed my entire life for being born a ‘Cursed Child’! And now…! You’re telling me it’s not me, but my parents who are to blame!? That’s just too cruel! If that’s the case, then why have people been blaming me all this time!? Why have they been throwing stones at me and saying hurtful things about me!?”
“…You haven’t done anything wrong. The ones at fault are your parents and me.”
Acknowledging the boy’s lament, Faust bowed.
“As a doctor, I did my best to save as many lives as possible. However… I deeply apologize for the burden I have placed on you alone. I truly am sorry.”
Keim gritted his teeth in response to Faust’s sincere and honest apology.
At thirteen years old, Keim was at an age where he was becoming more discerning. He understood that Faust was not the one to blame, but that didn’t mean he could easily forgive her. The malice he had endured throughout his life couldn’t be dismissed with mere apologies.
“So, let me at least take responsibility as your ‘attending doctor’. I came here to save you.”
Contemplating Faust’s unexpected words, Keim looked up to meet her gaze directly.
“There is a way to lift the curse of the ‘Poison Queen’ that has been placed upon you. It couldn’t be done thirteen years ago, but now, with you, there might be a chance. Please, will you let me save you?”