༺ The Rat ༻
“Young Master, it’s time for breakfast.”
“…Are you done with cooking already?”
“Yes, I was able to finish quickly because the others are skilled as well.”
While I was sitting alone on the patio ruminating about Lulu, Kania announced that breakfast was ready.
“Alright, I’ll go to my room then…”
“Did you know, Young Master?”
I nodded my head and was about to enter the mansion, but Kania grabbed my arm and said.
“Right now, the Young Master is half-dead. If I wanted to, I could use restraining magic to keep you here.”
“You’re good at joking.”
“I’m not joking. If you want to recover, you need to eat a hearty breakfast. So…”
Seeing Kania’s constant nagging, I suddenly burst out into laughter.
People say nagging is quite irritating to hear, but I don’t quite understand that. After all, nagging is something you do because you’re worried about the other person. Anyone who gets nagged at should instead feel lucky that there is someone who cares deeply about them.
In that sense, I guess I liked to get nagged at. Of course, doing something that deserves an earful of nagging is inappropriate behavior, but there is also a good side to it.
“Young Master? Are you listening to me?”
“Oh, yeah. I heard you.”
However, I became so preoccupied with these thoughts that I lost track of Kania’s pestering. Because of that, I started to sweat, but I just gave her a rough nod and replied.
“…I wasn’t even speaking just now.”
However, when she uttered those words while staring at me, I momentarily scratched the back of my head and opened my mouth before heading inside the mansion.
“Sorry, I have something to think about for a while. Anyway, I’ll eat, so send the meal to my room.”
“Aren’t you eating in the dining room?”
“If I eat in the dining room, the others will notice.”
Upon hearing those words, Kania quietly nodded her head and said.
“Alright. I have to do the dishes, so I’ll send a student upstairs.”
“Ah, Kania. Do you know what day it is?”
As Kania tilted her head, I replied to her with a smirk.
“I need to infuse life force into you. You haven’t received any for a while, so I have to do it today.”
“Does it have to be today? The Young Master is…”
“It’s fine. I’ll get better after a few days of rest. Don’t be like that.”
After leaving those words, I quickly headed up the stairs before Kania could refute my words.
After heading upstairs, while I was walking down the hallway leading to my room, I heard a sobbing sound from somewhere.
There are no ghosts roaming the noble and sacred Starlight Family mansion. So, is this another hallucination?
“…Why are you crying again?”
However, it wasn’t the case. As I got closer to my room, the sobbing grew louder; it seemed that Lulu had started crying again.
“I told you to clean, but why…”
I opened the door to my room with a slightly annoyed expression, but my jaw dropped upon seeing the situation unfolding in the room.
Blood flowed freely from her hand.
Clutched in her hands were the fragments of the vase she had broken earlier.
“I tried to reconnect them… but it didn’t work… I’m sorry, I’m really sorry.”
When I found the half-restored vase on the desk, I turned to her with an impassive look on my face.
When I arrived right next to her, I picked up the vase she had painstakingly tried to stick together and threw it hard against the wall.
“I brought your breakfast…”
At that moment, Alice, who came in through the open door, witnessed the scene and froze.
“Did you think placing the fragments back together would fix things? Disgusting woman.”
Of course, without even looking at Alice, I began to coldly stare down at Lulu.
“Once these high-quality ornaments are damaged, their value will be severely reduced. No matter how perfect the recovery magic one used to restore them, nothing will change.”
“Why? Did you think everything would be over if you just put it back together? You lowlife…”
“Lord Frey, I brought your breakfast.”
Lulu was prostrating herself in front of me as the light in her eyes began to fade again, while Alice, who was watching the scene, closed her eyes tightly and cut me off mid-sentence.
“…Leave it there and go.”
“Lord Frey, may I please say something?”
“No. Piss off.”
After a while, Alice tried to say something with rage in her eyes, but I gave her an absolute order.
Then, after looking at me with a cold expression, Alice quietly put down the meal and left the room.
And at that moment, Lulu, who was looking at me with sunken eyes, spoke to me in an exhausted voice.
“I don’t have the ability to pay back 150 gold. I don’t have the ability to live in the future. So just…”
“…You have your body, don’t you?”
Before she could even finish speaking, I looked at her covetously and said.
“Pay back the 150 gold with your body.”
The moment I said so, various expressions began to appear on Lulu’s face.
Disgust, relief, anxiety, happiness, fear, comfort.
Lulu, who had a strange expression created by the blend of various conflicting emotions, quietly asked me a question.
“I… Do you need me? Do you want me? If that’s the case, then I—”
“I need a pet.”
“A pet… an animal?”
But as soon as I raised the corners of my lips to speak, she inquired with a blank expression on her face.
“Yes, these days, I’ve been trying to get a pet… Dogs and cats are too common, while raising wild beasts is dangerous, and beasts don’t really fit well.”
Looking at her, I started talking in a calm voice.
“Then I suddenly thought, how about raising a person? Isn’t it a pretty good idea when you think about it?”
“Anyway, I needed someone to be my pet. You’re mine from now on.”
Having said that, I watched Lulu lower her head.
‘Obviously she lacks affection, but she also pushes others away? So… how would she react in this situation?’
I was watching Lulu quietly while trying to predict the outcome, and after bowing her head for a long time, she slowly opened her mouth.
“Do dogs speak?”
As I looked at her lying on the floor while barking, I gulped and fell into deep thought.
‘…Why doesn’t she push me away?’
Judging from her expression, she is obviously disgusted with me. Then why won’t she push me away?
It’s a bit of a stretch to say that she simply succumbed to my power. According to Ferloche, who I was pestering for a while, Lulu even fiercely resisted the approaching nobles.
Lulu didn’t just resist. She even harmed herself and acted violently, so the nobles had no choice but to back off… then why doesn’t she act that way towards me?
While my mind was preoccupied with such thoughts, Lulu started rubbing her cheek against my leg with a horrifying expression.
Her expression was neither happy nor sad, but simply looked akin to a blank canvas. Soon, I smiled and began patting her head.
Lulu closed her eyes tightly as her body shuddered.
‘What the hell?’
After seeing the relief and disgust on Lulu’s face, I lifted my hand from her head, feeling quite curious about her mental state.
“Come on, eat.”
“Speak like a human. I’m tired of hearing a dog barking at me.”
“Why are you giving this to me?”
Eventually, I served her my breakfast and answered her question with a grin.
“Do you know the reason people feed their pets? It’s because they’re just domestic animals, so they feed them. There’s no other reason.”
Of course that’s not true.
I just couldn’t bear to see her skinny and malnourished self. I was wondering if she ate anything at all, so I served her my breakfast.
Lulu, who was staring at the breakfast that I served, put her head down and started eating her food.
“That’s right. Good job.”
I stroked her hair once more, this time, her miserable expression only appeared for split moment.
‘I’m sorry, but I can’t leave you alone.’
I also don’t want to do this to Lulu, who is quite misfortunate, but it needs to be done.
According to the prophecy, if Lulu is not given ‘affection’ and ‘attention,’ she will inevitably commit suicide in the second semester of her first year.
Of course, even if you give her sufficient affection and attention, nothing is certain beyond the second semester since no one made it past the first semester.
“I really enjoyed the meal.”
“Yes, well done.”
I got up from my seat and stroked her head as she thanked me. But suddenly my expression distorted and I began pounding my chest.
Some blood leaked from between my lips. I’ve gotten a little better compared when I first woke up after being in a coma for 3 months, but these occasional instances where I cough blood are unavoidable.
I hurriedly took out the handkerchief in my pocket and began coughing as I watched the white handkerchief gradually get stained with blood.
“Frey… is that blood?”
However, Lulu, who was watching with her eyes wide open, hastily asked questions.
“For a mere pet, you sure have a lot of questions.”
“No, that’s not it—”
“Don’t ask too many questions and get rid of the remains of that vase.”
I dismissed her question and instructed her in a deep voice.
“And warm up the bath water. You’re now my maid and my pet, so do your best from now on.”
Hearing Lulu’s timid voice, I sighed and left the room as my mind drifted away in deep thought.
‘I’ll ask Kania later.’
I think we need to get rid of her stigma as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, at that time.
“Was that… blood?”
Left alone in Frey’s room, Lulu began to mutter in a daze.
“After all… my curse… again…”
Lulu, who was pulling her hair out with a guilty look, soon changed her expression as she raised the corners of her lips laboriously.
‘No, no… Frey is a villain, right? Even if he is hurt, that’s good..’
Lulu, who had stopped pulling her hair, smiled painstakingly and quietly got up. She then muttered under her breath.
‘There’s nothing I can do to break this damn curse. Frey is a villain, so there’s no problem if he’s involved in my misfortune.’
After wandering around the room for a while, she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her foot. As she frowned and looked down, she noticed a shard of the flower pot got stuck in her foot.
“…This damn series of misfortunes will end soon, right?”
Time passed, and nightfall approached.
“Yes, a stigma.”
As promised, I went to Kania’s room to infuse life force, and I asked her if she knew anything about a ‘stigma’.
I’m not sure, but if this ‘Stigma’ is a concept similar to a curse, I thought that the ‘Warlock’ Kania might know something about it.
“Well… I’m not aware of any such curse.”
But Kania shook her head in response. Looking at that, it seems that a ‘Stigma’ is not related to black magic.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be of any help, Young Master.”
“No, it’s a big help to learn that it’s not related to black magic. Thanks for always helping me, Kania.”
Having said that, Kania looked at me blankly, then opened her mouth with a blush on her face.
“…Then, I’ll take it off.”
I answered as such in surprise, then quietly turned my gaze to the side as Kania began to undress.
“Young Master, I’m asking just out of curiosity… are you embarrassed?”
“No, it’s just that it’s not polite to look without permission.”
“…It feels strange hearing the worst womanizer in the Empire say such a thing.”
After exchanging pointless jokes with her, I gazed at the moon floating outside the window for a moment and fell into deep thought.
‘…By now, Serena is recovering her memories and working hard on something, right?’
I don’t know what kind of plan she has, but as the Hero with the goal of saving the world, I think I’ll do my best to help her.
So, from now on, I’ll have to make the Demon King’s Army run all over the place.
“Oh, you’re already ready…”
I was so engrossed in thought that I turned my head involuntarily upon hearing Kania’s words. And then my gaze met her eyes as Kania was done taking off her clothes.
Silence lingered for a while.
Kania remained silent for a while until she turned her body around and lay down. She then spoke in a calm voice.
“…I’m ready, Young Master.”
“I’ll get started then.”
After a moment, I took a deep breath and reached out to Kania, who was lying down with her pale white back exposed.
“If you have any abnormal symptoms, please take your hand off immediately. Don’t do the same thing as you did in the past. Young Master has had his life force cut in half by three times now…”
“…Alright. Don’t worry too much.”
In response to Kania’s worried voice, I immediately placed my hand on her back, right over her heart, and began infusing life force into her.
Then, suddenly, Kania began to moan.
“What’s wrong Kania?”
“Oh, it hurts…”
I tilted my head in confusion as she spoke in a trembling voice, then realized that stellar mana was hovering around my hand.
“It seems that the stellar mana that I absorbed in the cave is difficult to control while injecting life force.”
Originally, when I shared my life force, I also passed on stellar mana. Of course, it was poisonous to Kania, so I purposely controlled it, but it seems that I’m currently overflowing with stellar mana due to what happened last time, and that’s the root of the problem.
“Then there is no choice. We should stop…”
“No, I’ll infuse as slowly as possible… I’ll filter it.”
Of course, having dealt with stellar mana all my life, I immediately found a solution and started injecting life force again.
“Still, it’s not painful, right?”
Kania complained because of the heat, but she didn’t feel any more pain, so I decided to proceed with the infusion of my life force more quickly.
As I continued to inject life force, I began sweating hard. The mana control required to infuse life force is a quite delicate and complex task, so a lot of energy is spent during this procedure.
“I-It’s hot… Young Master.”
Kania took off the rest of her clothes she was wearing and continued with the infusion procedure while only wearing her shirt, but her body began to sweat as well.
Although I filtered the stellar mana in my body as much as possible, it seems like an anomaly was caused by the residual mana.
“Hold on a minute… it’ll be over soon…”
I decided to try and finish the infusion quickly because I was almost done, so I began to put more strength in my hand.
“J-Just a little more… just a little…”
But something was strange.
I suddenly had no strength left in my hands.
No, not just my hands, but my whole body seemed to have no strength left.
“Damn… damn it.”
Realizing how much my vitality had decreased, I spat out swears and tried to remove my hand from her back, but for some reason my hands felt so heavy.
I continued to infuse life force, and eventually, my consciousness began to fade.
From now on, I will never overdo it.
Frey lost his balance and stumbled forward after losing his consciousness.
Before long, Frey fell on Kania’s back. His shirt, which was drenched in sweat and her back, which was equally sweaty, produced a splatter upon contact.
Kania, who screamed in surprise at the sudden foreign sensation, began to tremble upon realizing that Frey was clinging to her.
– Knock, knock!
“Kania! What’s going on!!”
For a moment, Kania was at a loss as to what to do, but when Irina rushed to their room upon hearing her scream and started knocking on the door, she froze.
“Oh, nothing! I’m fine!”
“Oh yeah? That’s good. I thought we were being attacked again.”
Kania, who hurriedly yelled out to Irina, was greeted with a sigh of relief.
“I’ll leave then? If something happens, make sure to call me.”
In response to Irina’s words, Kania began to whisper to Frey, who had been lying on her back until then.
“… Young Master, wake up.”
“I told you to take your hands off as soon as you felt something strange… Ugh.”
Still, there was no sign of Frey waking up, so Kania turned away from him, but the unconscious Frey wouldn’t let go.
“You shouldn’t do this…”
It took a long time for Kania to separate him from herself.
When I opened my eyes, I felt a familiar touch.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the cat doll.”
A black cat doll was twitching inside my clothes.
Gently touching its chin and staring blankly at the ceiling, I got up and started looking around.
“It must’ve been hard for Kania.”
I don’t remember anything that happened the moment I was done sharing my life force with Kania. And now I suddenly find myself lying on my bed, while Kania is sleeping on the spare bed beside me.
Seeing that Kania had even changed my clothes, it seems that she worked hard.
“I have to treat Kania better…”
I had a sullen look on my face as I thought I hadn’t been doing enough for her. Before long, I noticed that the cat doll had grabbed onto my clothes and climbed up to my face. It then stuck its head out and began licking me.
“Hey, that tickles!”
I smiled and started reaching out to the cat doll, but something abrupt happened.
Suddenly, something flew right in front of me and started pecking at the cat doll’s head, and only then did I realize it was a white owl sent by Serena.
Serena’s owl grabbed the doll with its claws and started pecking the doll’s head in full force.
Then the cat doll also brandished its claws and started to struggle, while I was trying to stop them, I suddenly noticed that there was a letter in front of me.
I carefully opened the envelope and checked the contents. Soon I raised the corners of my lips and muttered coldly.
“…Would you look at this?”
It seems that I have found the identity of the rat hiding in my house.