༺ The Villain’s Pet ༻
Frey, who had buried his head in his arms atop his desk, raised it after hearing the loud noise.
Ferloche’s dove was perched on his window, staring with a dumbfounded expression as it pecked at the glass.
“So… where is the letter?”
After quickly opening the window, Frey, who saw the note tied to the dove’s front leg, deeply sighed and stood up from his desk.
– Step, Step
With a contorted expression, Frey left his room and made his way to Lulu’s room.
Lulu, who had been carefully unloading her carried luggage, timidly checked Frey’s reaction.
While staring at her, Frey tilted his head and asked.
“…Why did you come back?”
“I didn’t think there was a reason for you to come back.”
“You told me to, didn’t you, Master Frey?”
Hesitating for a moment at his response, Lulu stared intently at his face before answering,
“… Didn’t you say I was your pet?”
Then, silence filled the room.
“Is that… the only reason?”
After he heard my answer, Master Frey asked with furrowed brows.
As I answered with a trembling voice, Master Frey tilted his head in confusion.
Seeing his reaction, I swallowed forcefully as I fell into silent contemplation.
‘Why am I doing this?’
Something strange had just happened. The stigma had become inactive after a brief light emanated from my shoulder a moment ago—The very stigma that had been tormenting my entire life like a curse.
If that was the case, I could have immediately left this place, right? Then, why was I still here?
When I first approached him, my intention was merely to use him.
After all, I wouldn’t feel guilty if he, the empire’s most notorious troublemaker, suffered misfortune because of my stigma. In return, I thought I could at least become his plaything.
And until he proposed this abnormal ‘pet’ relationship to me, I had only thought about getting rid of the stigma as quickly as possible and finding my freedom.
But… But why?
Even after being offered a place in history as a member of the Hero Party, promises of wealth and honor, and receiving actual affection, why was I still staying here?
“Just a moment ago, weren’t you planning to leave the mansion?”
While I was blankly staring at him, lost in my thoughts, Master Frey suddenly asked this question, looking down at me with a cold gaze.
My once steady heart started to race again.
‘…For what reason?’
Master Frey maintained his cold attitude as I tried to calm my pounding heart.
“Why should I take back a pet that already had a change of mind?”
His words were true.
Until just a moment ago, I had been planning to join the Hero Party and leave the mansion behind.
In fact, any sane person would have joined the Hero Party instead of staying here.
Despite being a duchy, the Starlight Household had lost its honor and was constantly under attack. Moreover, the temporary Patriarch, Master Frey, was also on the brink of death.
There was no benefit in staying here, no matter how you looked at it.
But, for some reason… I told the man in front of me.
“I-I want to be loved.”
“I want to be loved… by you, Master Frey.”
As I looked at Master Frey, who had fallen silent again at my response, I quietly touched the remnants of the stigma on my shoulder.
‘Even though I can’t be sure, either… one thing is certain.’
A few weeks ago, when I interacted with a girl named ‘Ruby’ who had approached me, my head was clearly aware that it was a joyful situation. However, for some reason, my heart didn’t feel happy at all.
I ate as much delicious food and dessert as Master Frey had provided, watched plays and festivals that Master Frey hadn’t shown me, and even received freedom that Master Frey didn’t grant.
And despite receiving normal affection from an equal relationship, I felt no excitement at all.
I should have relished the life I longed for after the stigma disappeared, but I didn’t enjoy any of it.
No, it wasn’t just a lack of joy, I couldn’t feel any emotion from it at all.
Because of that, I had fallen into an inexplicable state of depression. However, looking at Master Frey in front of me, I could feel various emotions.
I felt sorrow when I saw Master Frey, who looked like he could collapse at any moment. I felt restless and afraid when Master Frey showed me a cold expression.
“Master Frey, m-may I… ask you something?”
“What is it?”
“Are you, perhaps, feeling lonely?”
I felt empathy when he stared blankly at his family photo.
Hearing my audacious question, Master Frey frowned.
“W-when you feel lonely… pets are a great remedy.”
With a reddened face, I spoke to him with a trembling voice. Although it carried a tone of disbelief, Master Frey laughed for the first time.
As I stared at him with hopeful eyes, I found myself earnestly pleading with him.
“…Please don’t abandon me.”
‘I beg you.’
I wasn’t sure what this emotion was. Could it be a freakish manifestation of the paranoia and obsession I had been suffering from? No, I would have noticed it long ago if that were the case.
Maybe, it was loyalty? But it feels too different to call it loyalty.
Was it awe? To call it awe wouldn’t be appropriate either, as the emotion was solely composed of astonishment and terror.
Then what was the identity of the emotion I was feeling?
It was like a mixture of emotions, but it was entirely different from anything I’d ever known. As I continued to ponder about it, it suddenly dawned on me.
“Leave my house, Lulu.”
The words that left Master Frey’s mouth in that moment sent me panicking, especially because of my newfound realization.
Desperately grabbing onto his legs, I started pleading with a ghastly expression.
“P-Please! Please! I’ll do anything!”
“Please don’t abandon me!”
Without him, I would no longer feel emotions or sensations.
No matter how delicious the food, how beautiful the jewels, or how abundant the love I receive, everything would be meaningless if I were no longer able to stay by his side.
I wanted to eat with him and feel satiated. I wanted to be caressed by him and feel secure. While holding his gifts in my arms, I wanted to feel his affection.
I also wanted to forever be in his embrace at night, to receive a kiss on the lips, and to fall asleep as he whispered, “Sleep well” in my ear.
I wanted to be loved by him. I wanted to be scolded by him. I wanted to be dominated by him. I wanted to be controlled by him. I wanted to be bound by him.
Even if I would be treated without respect as a pet, I just wanted to be held by him.
“I-I’m begging you…”
So, why was I being like this?
The reason, which I realized just before, was rather simple and clear.
He had introduced me to an emotion I had never experienced–it was my first taste of “true love.”
As time passed, this feeling had grown stronger, and he had played a big part in eliminating the repulsive stigma that had tortured me since I was a child.
However, the influence of my stigma had worsened his already critical condition, and his body was now rapidly deteriorating.
Despite his reputation as the empire’s most notorious rogue and the source of countless unsettling rumors, he had always shown me inexplicable warmth and kindness. For some reason, it was his warmth that ultimately transformed the feelings I held for him.
Up to this point, I had only regarded him as a means to rid myself of my “stigma,” never once considering that I would come to feel this emotion. An emotion called love.
As I found myself unconsciously shedding tears, wanting to confess this recently discovered truth to him…
“Don’t make me say it again.”
Master Frey slightly bowed to match my height, whispering,
“…Get out of my house, now.”
As Master Frey left the room, I blankly gazed at his departing figure, unable to utter a word, before limply staring at the ground.
It felt like the pain in my shoulder, which had disappeared, was already returning.
What should I do now?
What should I do…
Master Frey’s voice suddenly called out from somewhere. What was it? Where was it coming from?
Master Frey had definitely left the room… However, Master Frey, who had clearly just left the room, was somehow standing in front of me.
I didn’t know what was happening, so I stared at the person in front with a confused look, drily swallowing. But that wasn’t what was important right now. Somehow, Master Frey was once again standing before me.
“Please listen to…”
I desperately tried to express my feelings, but Master Frey placed a finger on his lips, stopping me.
“…It was a joke.”
Then, I finally heard his gentle voice again— the one he used when feeding me and whispering goodnight.
“This incident made me realize that I needed to test your sincerity…”
“…You passed. Congratulations.”
With that gentle voice, Master Frey softly stroked my head.
At that moment, only one thought crossed my mind.
I felt truly fortunate that I could become this man’s pet again.
However, those thoughts shattered into pieces the moment Master Frey coughed.
Eventually, my confusion, guilt, and fear pushed aside the other emotion from before. The man I had come to love only had a little time left in this world.
And because of me, it became even less.
My face paled once again in realization as Master Frey quietly stared at me. With a low voice, he asked me a question.
“Do you really want to stay here?”
“Yes, yes! I want to stay here…”
“…I might not be able to give you delicious food anymore.”
He had a desperate expression as he spoke.
“All the chefs have left. There’s no one to manage the warehouse full of food supplies.”
“You still have me. I’ll cook for you!”
“…I might not be able to give you any more gifts. Soon, the imperial family might seize my assets, and on the surface… no, anyway, I might become a beggar.”
“I don’t need any of that!”
Master Frey’s expression slightly stiffened as I continued to promptly respond to his words. He seemed to be on the verge of saying something before stopping himself.
“If you stay here, you might be in danger…”
“You could be deeply involved in the dangerous, terrifying, disgusting, and cruel things I’m getting into.”
And then he continued with his cold remarks.
“Being my confidant, you might face undeserved humiliation and even bear false accusations. Perhaps, I might even have to directly involve you in such matters. As you know, the situation has become quite dire, and we are short on manpower.”
When I didn’t respond to his words, the corner of Master Frey’s got lifted before he asked the final question.
“Are you prepared to get dirty, Lulu?”
We shared a brief silence. After staring at Master Frey in that state, I finally answered.
“Get me dirty. Ruin me. I don’t mind it at all.”
Now, I no longer care about how things will turn out.
No matter what happens to me, I just want to be able to become the pet of the man in front of me.
As I swallowed my saliva and stared at Master Frey, he let out a sigh. Then suddenly, he guided me towards the bed.
“Let’s just end the day and get some sleep for now.”
“I-it’s still evening…”
“You need to rest first. We can think about it again tomorrow.”
Soon after, Master Frey forced me to lie on the bed, then left the room with a stern expression.
“Well then, I’ll go now.”
As I fixed my gaze on Master Frey, I asked with a trembling voice.
“A-Are you not going to do… What you have done every night?”
Then, Master Frey stared at me for a moment. Despite appearing quite tired, he entered my embrace just as he always did to hug and kiss me gently.
His embrace was as warm as ever.
Similarly, it turned out his tongue was just as warm.
As the insomnia that had bothered me for the past few days seemed to wash away, I closed my eyes and quietly murmured.
‘I want to feel this warmth… for a long time.’
Even though the world condemned him as a villain, I should still try to find a way to save him or extend his life.
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