Chapter 3 Part 5
A place where the commoner’s hard-earned money was squeezed out of them and used to decorate with luxurious and dazzling items ── the Portes family’s mansion.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been here.
I always feel guilty and nauseous when I come here after finishing my task or when I’m here for a progress report. As I thought, I still can’t get used to it.
In one of the many rooms of the mansion, I was talking to Abe-san, the representative of the Portes family.
“Still, I was surprised when you came in as a transfer student”
“Um… er… m-me too. I didn’t expect that one of the head family’s lineage is enrolled in Altena Magic Academy…. What’s more, a mock battle was carried out to deliberately make you two fight… it’s unbelievable…”
“Wasn’t that a splendid performance, did you know about that?”
Master… no, I think he’s talking about Ephthal-sama’s power.
Of course, I knew about it. I also indirectly imply it several times, “It’s better not to fight”.
However, he didn’t listen to me and was the one who forced the mock battle to take place.
“…I didn’t expect that… humans to have that much power…”
That being said, I don’t know what kind of resentment Abe-san would feel if I were to tell him I knew about it.
That’s why I think it’s safer to say it this way.
“Well, it doesn’t matter. Still… to give that person the Raikiri, that damn old hag, Merlin, sure took a liking to him, huh?”
“Um, uh… is this really the last time?”
“You make it sound like you are reluctant to obey us?”
“…I’m sorry…. It’s not pleasant to be in thievery”
“The curse of the special slave crest… the thief of our Portes family, huh. Haha, well, it’s all your guys’ fault for losing the war against our family three hundred years ago”
“…We will obey the Portes family in exchange for not beheading my family and retainers… that has been the special contract between my family and yours since way back then…”
“So, as a family of magic swordsmen, have you got what we wanted?”
I then presented the Raikiri that I had stolen from Ephthal-sama.
“…I was sent to the Edwards household and was unable to carry out the task of stealing the former Demon King’s equipment. I’m sorry”
“Oh, I don’t care about that. So long as we get what we want, we have no complaints”
So I asked Abe-san again.
“…Is this really the last time?”
“Yeah, that’s the arrangement. Five artifacts per generation… for the time being, the contract is remitted”
“Finally… finally, this is the end of it…”
“However, the slave crest implanted in your lineage will not disappear. It’ll be the same thing again in the next generation. Anyway, you have done well. I will report to Father and discuss with him how you will be treated in the future. Wait until tomorrow morning… also, as a reward, I’ll let you stay at this mansion today”
“Me…? Is it okay… for me to stay in this mansion? I’m lower than an ordinary slave in this mansion… no, in the first place, I’m a sinner in the eyes of the world, right? Even the fact that I have a connection with a special slave crest should not be known to other families…”
“Yeah, that’s right. So if you want to stay, you’ll stay in the stables”
“…Ah, yes. I knew it”
“Haha, I’m just kidding. Now, don’t get me wrong here. It’s true that’s how we’ve been treating you until now… but we can’t treat the person who brought us the Raikiri the cold shoulder. Just for tonight, we’ll treat you as a guest”
“…Thank you very much”
“But can’t you do something about the way you talk? Also, your timid attitude irritates me, you know?”
How can I have confidence in myself?
Even though it’s coercion, I’m still a thief…. But saying that will make him even more irritated.
“I’d like to hit you like I usually do, but I’ll be nice to you today”
I was then led into a luxurious guest room.
I sat on the fluffy bed and saw some fresh fruits served on a nearby table.
This is also the result of the five artifacts that have been presented to the Portes family, my quota, in accordance with their order.
My older sister presented three, and I presented the remaining two. All of those items were stolen over the time after risking our lives.
“I have betrayed Ephthal-sama…”
It’s always been the case that the rich are good-for-nothings.
That’s why I hadn’t been feeling so guilty before, but this time I have betrayed a decent person.
I felt so bad that not even the black tea and the tea cake that the maid had left for me earlier are going down my throat.
To think that today’s stay in this luxurious room is the price for betrayal… it only makes me feel depressed.
But still, this was the only choice I had.
So, I lay on the bed, turned off the lights… and slowly closed my eyes.
── I’m sure I’ll have that dream again today.
But this is the last time.
After all, my atonement is… over now.
And so I fell into a deep sleep.
── I had an older sister.
She was ten years older than me. When I was little, she was always hard on me.
And that’s because my elderly parturient mother gave birth to me, and a few days later ── she passed away.
“You caused our mother’s death. I wish you had never been born”
For as long as I can remember, I was always hurt by those words.
Naturally, as I learned to understand more and more, I began to hate my sister.
── When I was seven years old.
My sister left the village and went to work in the outside world.
We used to be a noble family, but now it has fallen into ruin. We are not affluent, too.
And so, about every six months… my sister would come back home, but she didn’t seem to bring any money back home.
However, her clothes were always pretty, and her hair was properly maintained.
Even though our father works every day from morning to night on the farm, so I thought she was really a shameless and foolish sister.
As a bonus, she would always find fault at me by saying, “You caused our mother’s death. I wish you had never been born,” to me.
Then one day, when I was twelve years old… as my sister accosted me as usual ──
“I hate you. Please don’t come back home ever again”
I said to my sister.
My sister was a strong-willed person, so I thought we would get into a huge fight. But, she only said gently with a sad tone, yet still looking glad ──
“…Don’t become someone like me”
I felt refreshed when I said that, but at the time, I didn’t think that my sister would never come back alive.
As it turned out, a few months later, my sister’s corpse was sent back home.
It was then that I learned the truth from my father.
One, that my sister died from being tortured in retaliation for the failed theft of an artifact.
Two, our family was once the royalty of a small country and was cursed with a special slave crest as war responsibility.
Three, we must decide who among the direct descendants of the current generation will receive the curse of the special slave crest. It doesn’t matter if they’re the eldest daughter or the younger sister.
In short, not only did my sister never tell me, but she took the brunt of the family’s curse alone without letting me know anything about it.
She was deliberately making me hate her… so that I wouldn’t be saddened by her constant absence or shocked when she was caught as a thief.
With pretty clothes and great hair care, for the task of stealing artifacts… it was inevitable to use women’s beauty as a weapon.
When I heard the truth, I had a thought.
── She really was a shameless and foolish sister….
If her younger sister will eventually find out the truth….
── Just how much regret and sorrow does she think there will be for those that were left behind?
I cursed my sister one last time without realizing that I was surrounded by deep, profound love.
I can no longer take back… the last moment abusive words that I spat up.
All I could do was just shed tears for my sister’s corpse.
── The next day.
After breakfast, I was called to Abe’s room.
As one would expect, it’s a uselessly luxurious room, decorated in poor taste. I even felt slightly nauseous.
“I didn’t know this either, so it’s no wonder you didn’t know… that if you present five artifacts in one generation, you would be let go in that generation, right?”
“Er… I’m pretty sure my sister has presented three, and I have presented two. We should have finished the quota now”
“Sure, some people have won their freedom by doing just that, but it’s actually just a private promise between individuals in the past generations”
I titled my head, whereupon Abe’s lips twisted into an amused smirk.
“According to my father, don’t let someone so outstanding that they can bring the Raikiri to you end right there”
“…What do you mean…?”
“What I mean is that you’ll be doing the same thing for a while”
“…Then… what did my sister die for?”
“Huh? I don’t even know your sister”
“…We have presented five artifacts in our generation. Three of them were presented by my sister”
“So? What’s your point?”
“Er… I think my sister… stole for me with no regard to how it is done ── and died as a result”
Hearing that, Abe just keeps on smirking.
That’s right, even though I told him my sentiment on the dead, this man just….
“Um… uh… er… I’m sorry. I’m going to ask you again, okay? What did my sister die for? How do you think my sister would feel when she believed that meeting the quota will bring us closer to freedom…?”
When I grabbed Abe’s shoulder and tried to question him again ──
“Hell if I know!? Get off me, you dog!”
He kicked me in my stomach, and I collapsed to the ground.
“N-… no way…”
“Regardless. You will present the remaining five artifacts, and when you bear the next child and engrave the slave crest on the next dog, I’ll release you. I really do promise you this”
Finally, with a mocking grin on his face, Abe said ──
“And with that, you can get started with the next task”
A bunch of paper with a list of artifacts that the Portes family wanted was thrown down in front of me as I crumbled down to my knees.
“What is your answer?”
“…Um, er… er… I… I…”
“What is your answer?”
“Er… uh… um… I… my sister… uh…”
“I’m just going to say this one more time, okay? What is your answer?”
The slave crest is absolute. If I oppose it, death awaits me.
At that moment, hot, burning emotions started to flare up inside me, deep in my heart.
From the very depths of my heart, I felt it, “── !!”. The voiceless wailing, the cries of my soul, were about to flood up from my throat.
“Oh? What’s with the defiant look?”
“…U… u… u! *Growl* ── !”
But my anger didn’t translate into any meaningful words, it was just a… soft growl.
“Oh? What, are you going to cry? Why are you blushing? Ah, you are crying?”
Just as he said, I noticed that tears were endlessly running down my cheeks.
“Haha! This is seriously funny, you know?”
All I could do was a scowl.
All I could do was cry.
I couldn’t talk back.
I couldn’t hit him back.
── I just had to get out of here.
“Whatever. You can’t escape. As long as you still have the slave crest, you have to come back soon, or you’ll die. The time limit is three days. In the meantime, cool your head”
As soon as I finished listening to the words that were hurled at my back, I opened the door and left.
After leaving the mansion ──
I was wandering in a half-dazed state.
I couldn’t put my thoughts together. All I could see in my hazy state of mind was a sepia-colored landscape.
Before I knew it, I noticed the time was well past dusk.
At a water fountain in the middle of the main street in a park.
I sat on a bench and looked up at the starry sky.
── Even though I thought I was going to be free, he easily reneged on his promise….
Without single care of how my sister… and I felt…!
They don’t think of us as people. No, I doubt that they even treat us like dogs.
I could feel my tears ready to burst out.
“It’s not safe for a woman to be alone this late at night”
Before I knew it, three men had surrounded me.
With a flicker of a knife, the man grabbed my shoulder.
“Too scared to speak?”
“Hey, we’re not going to kill you. Just have fun with us for a couple of hours, and then we will let you go”
Hearing that, I laughed to myself.
“…Um… er… you will let me go? Where’s the guarantee that after those couple of hours… I’ll really be free?”
If I continue to listen to them, I still have no guarantee of freedom.
The only thing I am sure of is that if the slave crest is passed on to the next generation, my children will feel the same way.
── In the end, as long as we have this ancestral special slave crest… there would be no future for us.
“Well, anyway… let’s have you head to the back alley for a bit”
He grabbed my arm and dragged me halfway into the back alley.
I didn’t even have the energy to resist.
I felt like anything, and everything was too bothersome and ambiguous.
It’s like I’m not in control of my own body. I feel like… I was standing on the sidelines somewhere far away like a stranger.
It doesn’t matter what’s going to happen anymore.
── I might as well just go with the flow.
Feeling desperate, I also know that I’m not in a good situation right now.
But I just ── felt weak and exhausted.
And so, after being dragged into the back alley, they started unbuckling their belts.
“We are so lucky to have such a beauty walking around by herself”
“You’re right. I guess this is what happens when you’re always well-behaved…!”
“No, no, I’m pretty sure we’re always ill-behaved! Well, anyway, we’re lucky!”
The world is full of malice.
The irrationality of this world is that… time changes and places change, but malice is surely still there, unchanged.
While still deep in my thoughts ── the face of that person came to mind.
He was the only person who could brush away the malice that had appeared before me.
That’s right, only that person… had the power to blow away all the irrational things in front of me.
If I had that overwhelming power of his… I could… no, or if I had told him everything and relied on him….
However, it’s all too late now.
I have betrayed him, and I don’t deserve it anymore.
When one of the men started trying to forcefully tear off my clothes ──