That day marked the 100th day since the annihilation of the Western’s Continent’s cursed Imperial House of Iver. The members of Iver were said to always appear depressed, were distrustful of others, they bear an obsession with cleanliness, which is why they always swear gloves.
“They must have hated mingling with those of lower status.”
There was no real reason to curse the already ruined imperial family, but people spoke as if they had been waiting for them to fall into ruin. Nonetheless, Iver was their enemy, so the more people trampled upon the family’s achievements, the more superior they felt.
Of course, the story of a fallen imperial family was meaningless to those who resided far away in the outskirts.
The reason that day held a great significance for 17-year-old Ronée, the daughter of Count Rieda, had little to do with the eradication of a distant imperial family. It was all because of the boy she met that day.
It started with a coincidence.
It was by chance that Ronée de Rieda, a daughter of a noble family, encountered a wagon carrying slaves.
The wagon was passing through the Rieda’s territory, located in the outskirts of the Empire. Through the barred windows of the wagon was a scarcely visible visage of a child with an empty expression upon his face.
‘He doesn’t seem like a child.’
That was the first impression he imprinted upon Ronée. His dusty hair, which had a gray-like appearance, had long since lost its vitality. His blue eyes were akin to the darkness of the deep sea
It might have been that child-like appearance that caused him to ensnare her. Or maybe it was the memories of her brother, who died of an illness at an early age, that prevented her from turning away.
“I will buy that child,” said Ronée.
Ronée, a young aristocrat of small statue, focused her gaze on the child. His wrists, trapped in handcuffs, were bloody, and his wounds were covered in dirt and dust. It was quite apparent that the child had been locked up in the wagon for a long time while enduring the journey across the Empire.
“Ah, a buyer has finally appeared. But this child is defective…are you fine with that?” Recognizing that she was of nobility, the coachman glanced at the child warily.
“His pretty face has attracted so many young noblewomen as potential buyers, but they all gave up in the end.”
‘Why?’ Ronée’s attention returned to the child. His appearance was almost obscured by dust. She glanced at his wounds again before dropping her gaze. Suddenly, the child focused his eyes upon Ronée.
Sharp eyes. She didn’t know if it was a suitable expression for a child, but his venomous eyes were directed at her. His glare turned murderous, as if he was going to kill her somehow.
He bit his lip and blood began to drip from his lip, but even then, his malicious stare did not relent.
Ronée could see his pride.
Pride that would not allow himself to be sold.
Unconsciously, she whispered to the boy, “Humiliation is temporary.”
The coachman was busy talking about the boy’s history, Ronée pretended to listen but continued to speak to the boy.
“I’m against slavery.”
But the boy looked at her in disbelief so she whispered again, “You’ll have more chances at escaping if you come with me than you would being locked up here.”
His eyes wavered as he continued to glare at the young noblewoman who dared to buy him. Could he trust her words?
Ronée returned his gaze and watched as his expression began to soften.
She whispered again, “Humiliation is temporary.”
She could see that he understood her this time as he lowered his gaze.
“Huh? What’s wrong with him?” the driver asked in surprise. “He’s usually not very obedient, I guess he’s tired now! Or it could be because he hasn’t eaten…”
The coachman had mentioned the boy’s flaws earlier, but now that Ronée still appeared interested in buying him, the coachman began to boast about his good qualities.
Ronée interrupted him and asked, “How Much?”
Even when she asked for his price, the boy stayed still. The coachman looked at her curiously as he lifted one of his fingers.
It was an incredibly small amount for a person’s life, but the driver’s face held an expression of being relieved of a burden. Ronée offered the single gold coin without any hesitation.
“Be sure to keep the handcuffs on until you get home and ask your knights for assistance! He is too much for a young lady to handle on her own. No, it’s better to call the knights first.”
Ronée shook her head at the driver’s words. The boy stared at her with his eyes filled with doubt.
Ronée shook her head once again to reject the unfavorable assistance of the coachman. Unwilling to refuse the words of a noblewoman, the driver gave her a questionable look before handing her the keys to the handcuffs, and then left.
The maid of the Rieda Family, who had stood by quietly as she did not dare to intervene in her mistress’s conversation, quickly moved to stop Ronée.
“My Lady, it’s dangerous.”
“It’s okay.” Ronée fearlessly extended her hand to the boy.
The bloody handcuffs that bound the boy fell to the ground. It was that moment that their two hands touched.
The boy jerked his hands away, startled by her touch.
“I won’t hurt you.”
Even with her reassurance, the boy just stared at her with wide eyes. Ronée stood still with her hand extended, she didn’t wait long before he placed his hand on hers.
He looked at her closely, as if he was reading her thoughts, the boy began to relax his guard.
“Let’s go home and eat first. We’ll be leaving soon. That’s okay, right?”
His dusty hand gripped Ronée’s soft hand. It was then that she noticed that his dusty gray hair was actually golden.
‘Come to think of it, the Imperial House of Iver was known for their golden hair”
Ronée recalled a noble golden bloodline from the neighboring country but dismissed the thoughts from her mind. The House of Miltan had recently replaced the former imperial family whose bloodline had been eradicated.
She had no reason to think this story had any relation to the boy. It was now the Miltan Empire, with every Iver member gone, silver hair was admired the most.
The child followed behind Ronée carefully.
Her father, Count Rieda, did not like the child.
For Count Rieda, Ronée was a useless burden which caused harmful rumors for the family.
“Once you lose interest, toss him out. I can’t believe you brought in filthy trash?”
“You brought in the same thing as yourself.”
Her stepmother, a wizard, only held intentions of stealing the wealth of Count Rieda. She, along with Count Rieda, were the ones who hated Ronée the most.
It was something that Ronée had been hearing since she was five years old. It began the moment it was discovered that divine magic had no effect on her, the moment that led to the priest shoving his cross at her and declared her as a child forsaken by god. It was then that the eyes of her parents began to look at her filled with disdain.
“Look, there’s dust flying around everywhere.”
Her stepmother, the Countess, beckoned a knight nearby and motioned towards Ronée and the boy.
“Take these filthy things and lock them up in her room, let them shake off the dust there,” the Countess ordered. She gave them a look of contempt before turning away to cough exaggeratedly.
“Yes, my Lady!”
The knight grabbed Ronée’s arm roughly. His behavior showed no signs of respect towards her.
As the knight tightened his grip, Ronée gasped as her arm erupted in stinging pain. However, the knight ignored her obvious discomfort and dragged her across the hallway as if he was hauling away a criminal.
When the boy’s hand was jerked from her grasp, she looked back at him in surprise. His eyes held a more brutal gaze than the one he had when he was trapped behind the bars of the wagon. His eyes, which mirrored the intensity of a young wounded beast, were fixed on the knight.
“Go in please!”
The knight’s words were the only sign of any respect.
The knight, who threw Ronée into the room, grabbed the back of the boy’s neck and threw him into the room as well.
Ronée caught the flying child and hugged him as they rolled onto the floor in each other’s arms. The shock of hitting the floor made her entire body ache in pain.
Bang! The knight slammed the door shut.
She heard it clearly as well. Listening carefully to the footsteps, she waited until they left. After they were gone, Ronée looked at the boy.
“This always happens, so I don’t mind it.”
But the boy still seemed shocked by the recent events.
“You can leave whenever you want.”
Cursed mansion. It was how Ronée referred to this place. Even if god didn’t listen to her prayers, she still didn’t believe that god had abandoned her.
‘I wouldn’t have been born if god had forsaken me’ That was the conclusion that she had come to long ago. Her eyes, which she had closed as she sorted through her thoughts, opened again.
“…. or you can stay here.”
This was not a good environment for a child, but it was better than the streets or the inside of a cage in a slave wagon.
This was pure kindness, kindness that she didn’t benefit from at all. It was an act that she thought was okay sometimes. It was a small favor to offer the boy a corner of her room, but it wasn’t even close to what he deserved.
What did this young child do that was so wrong for him to end up a slave? He must have been a child of slave parents.
That was his only crime.
Ronée hated slavery as she told the boy before. Maybe it was due to the memories of the countless number of slaves her father had beaten in her place. Her father would tell her how he would have beaten her if she was not of noble blood. Instead she was forced to stand and watch him beat children her age until they were bloody with broken bones and a bruised and battered body.
All these atrocities were committed for one reason. Because Ronée was a cursed girl, unaffected by divine magic, and abandoned by god.
The boy looked up at Ronée and then nodded his head.
“Okay, let’s get you cleaned up first.”
Ryne was only one maid who followed Ronée. Ryne’s mother had been close to Ronée’s mother.
The servants, who were paid a certain amount of money for their work in the household, and the slaves who worked while being treated less than human, were clearly different in status. But her maid Ryne, took the boy’s hand without hesitation at Ronée’s order, and led him into the bathroom with a gentle touch.
The boy did not resist, instead he said to Ronée, “I will never forget this grace.”
It was the first thing the boy had said to her since meeting her.
His eyes were still filled with darkness and turmoil, but as he looked at Ronée, his hostility was completely gone.
“Of course.” she nodded without knowing what her grace meant to him.
“My name is Nabel.” After offering his name, the boy headed towards her bathroom.
“It’s a name I have told no one else.” he whispered as his feet, covered in wounds, stepped onto the clean bathroom floor.