Volume 1 Chapter 4 – Her secret


The sun gradually filled the sky with a warm glow, pushing away the darkness.

It was morning. But this morning was different than the other, this morning, we were running away.

I didn’t get to sleep at all last night, the feeling of insecurity keeping me up. I know that mother never had the intention of settling down here –this is why we were living in an inn and why mother avoided to get involved with others in the first place- but I was born in this city. I lived almost two years here. It may seem like nothing, but right now for me, it’s my whole life. I can’t help but feel insecure about this unsure future. Where will we be going? How will we be living?

I wasn’t the only who was feeling sad about it. Mother and brother both had to leave their friends behind. Aoban had Rivan and even mother, who tried her best not to get attached to anyone, had Leonara and Randy. It’s regrettable, but we don’t have a choice.

Mother didn’t get to sleep either last night. She had to pack our things. We didn’t have a lot since she was planning on travelling light, but she wanted to leave a clean room for the owners. I’m going to miss this messy little room.

We spent the last evening saying goodbyes. Everyone was taken aback when mother announced our sudden departure. We were assaulted by a large amount of questions as everyone demanded explanations. Why were we leaving? Why so suddenly? Where would we be going? But as secretive as she is, mother never gave a clear answer.

In a few hours, the entire neighborhood heard about it and the next hours, the inn was flooded with people. Everyone came to say goodbye, but I’m not good with goodbyes.

I hate those emotional moments. In my past life, I used to have a lot of friends, but as the years passed my number of friends quickly decreased. When I first got admitted at the hospital, a lot of people would come to visit me, but after the first month, most of them stopped coming. Only a few close friends would keep coming regularly. However, growing up, our paths diverged. A lot of them moved away, while the others were busy with their studies. So I tried making friends at the hospital, but that was worse. The kids I got along with at the hospital left me even faster. Some passed away, and those who recovered never came back at the hospital since it was a place filled with painful memories. In the end, I said goodbye to almost all my friends.

I’m used to say goodbye so I’ll be fine. To be honest, besides mother and brother, I’m not really close to anyone, but I know it’s different for them.

Ever since he woke up, Aoban has been really quiet. He has always been a pretty talkative child, talking about anything even when I wouldn’t answer but right now, he seems really down. On the other hand, mother, who usually is pretty silent, started to talk a lot. She kept saying things like “it’s going to be fine”, or “it will be great”. I think she was trying to reassure us.

Having finished to prepare herself, mother turned her gaze to brother.“Are you ready?” She asked.

Aoban did not reply, instead, he simply nodded. Mother picked me up in her arms, and the three of us went downstairs, where Randy and Leonara were waiting for us.

“So you’re really leaving…” Leonara sighed.

Mother politely bowed her head. “Yes. Thank you for everything. We weren’t supposed to stay that long anyway…”

Randy answered with a weak smile. He then pointed at the single bag attached in her back. “Is that all you have?”

Mother nodded. She had packed a few clothes, Aoban’s favorite books, some dried food and all our money. We sold the rest.

Leonara suddenly rushed to us and gave mother a bear hug, while I was choking in the middle. Then, she smiled at me, gently stroking my hair. For the first time, mother did not oppose.

“Take care. Come to visit us sometimes, you will always be welcomed” She said.

“Aoban, boy!” Randy called out. “You must protect them, alright?”

Brother looked up at him. A new glimpse of determination formed in his eyes. He nodded.

“Good. That’s a promise between men!” The owner chuckled.

At that moment, the entrance door slammed. All of us turned in the direction of the noise, as a young man just entered, trying to catch his breath. He was one of the inn’s employees.

“B-Boss…!” He tried to speak up, his face drenched in cold sweat.

“What’s wrong? You look pale.” Randy asked.

“Y-You should come out right. There are people waiting outside. They said they’re looking for Miss Maedis…”

When she heard this, mother blanched. A sudden tremor ran through her body as she could guess the situation. We were too late. Seeing her reaction, Randy and Leonara exchanged glances, without uttering a word. Somehow, they had understood that whoever was out there, it was someone that mother didn’t want to see.

“Don’t worry, I’ll deal with it” Randy tried to reassure her.

“N-No… It’s fine… I’ll go. I think I know why they’re here…” Mother replied, as her voice was trembling.

She probably understood that there was no point in running away anymore. She put me down on the floor and gently caressed my cheek. Her hand was shaking.

“Stay here, alright? Mommy will be back soon.” She told me.

As mother gave a quick glance to Aoban, he nodded. The two of them went outside, closely followed by Randy and Leonara, unwilling to let them go alone after seeing the fear in their eyes.

As the disobedient child I was, I did not comply. Once they left, I headed to the entrance, silently peeking behind the door.

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The first thing I saw was a huge carriage that could barely fit in the road. A few people gathered around it, wondering what was going on. Then I saw a black cat covered with scars. I immediately recognized Mister cat, who was not in his human form this time.

Why is he already back? Is that what he meant by “let’s meet again very soon”?

But Mister cat didn’t come alone this time. There were three more people with him: two men and one woman.

One of the men was at least six feet tall. Standing by the carriage, he was wearing a light armor that allowed him to move freely and a sword was hanging on his waist. He was probably a guard.

The second man was around his thirties. He had distinct cheekbones and an angular jaw. His tousled dark brown hair was thick and lustrous and his black eyes were like two stones of onyx. His simple yet elegant clothes gave him the look of a gentleman. He was obviously a very good-looking man, and judging by his appearance, a noble.

The woman looked to be in her late twenties. Dressed in a much more fancy way than the other noble, she had the same black eyes and dark brown hair as him. If not for the arrogant expression on her face, she would have been a fairly beautiful woman.

Mother and brother were standing in front of them, clearly intimidated. I don’t think mother could get any paler. She was so white that she almost looked like a ghost. Blood drained from her face, she couldn’t stop shivering as an unsettling chill continued to run down her spine and make her skin crawl. Anyone could see the fear leaping out of her.

Recognizing the crest on the nobles’ chest, Leonara glanced at her husband, her eyes tight and worried.

“T-That’s the crest of the Whiteheart Family, isn’t it…?” She whispered.

Randy did not reply, but seeing his body stiffening, Leonara had her answer.

“W-who might you be…?” He still asked.

“I apologize for the inconvenience; we will soon be leaving once our matter has been settled.” The noble said as he stepped forward. “I am the Marquis Jack Whiteheart, and this is my sister Nora. Please do not mind us; we’re only here on a personal issue.”

“The Marquis himself? Really?”

“Shouldn’t he be in the capital?”

Ignoring the commotion he just created among the crowd by giving out his name, the Marquis turned his attention back to mother.

“Hello Azariah. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? I heard you were leaving the town.”

Randy and Leonara kept glancing at each other in confusion. Just like the crowd that had gathered, they were trying to figure out the relationship between mother and the Marquis. I’m curious too, I also want to know.

“Already running away, uhm? You sure like to make things difficult.” The Marquis sighed. “It’s a good thing I had Yao keep an eye on you the time I got here. You’ll excuse me for taking such a long time, but that’s your own fault. You didn’t exactly pick the nearest town from the capital to hide.”

So Mister cat’s name is Yao. It fits him.

…No wait, what? He ordered Mister cat to make sure mother wouldn’t run away before he arrived? So, basically, this Yao has been stalking us in the shadow ever since my first birthday, and only decided to show up when he was sure that his master would be able to get her before she fled.

… What a jerk!

The Marquis stopped for a moment, inspecting mother.

“You seem… well.”

Is he blind? How in the world does she look well? She looks like she’s about to faint at any moment.

Seemingly ignoring mother’s discomfort, his eyes eventually rested on the small child, hidden behind her.

“Aoban. Where are your manners?”

Hearing the Marquis’ voice calling him out, brother flinched. Then he timidly stepped forward. He looked up at him for a few second, then moved his gaze towards the Lady Whiteheart. He politely bowed to them.

“G-Greetings, Uncle Jack, Aunt Nora…” He said with a small voice.

While the Marquis maintained his usual poker face, Lady Nora on the other hand rolled her eyes and let out an annoyed sigh that she didn’t even bothered to hide. That woman definitely hates kids.

But “uncle” and “aunt”, huh? So we’re related? Since they’re humans, I’m guessing they’re on father’s side of the family. So father is a noble –and a high ranked one, that is. I’ve never heard about father, so this actually may be the first thing I learn about him. Still, mother’s reaction doesn’t seem appropriate for someone who just met family. I’ve already heard about some families mistreating their In-laws, but judging by her behavior, it must have been quite extreme. Was it because she was an elf? No wonder she ran away.

“Is that just the two of you?” The Marquis inquired.

“Y-Yes… It’s just the two of us…” Mother finally spoke up.

“Well, that makes thing easier. Get on.” He ordered, as he pointed the carriage with his finger.

The black cat that was resting at his feet suddenly climbed to his shoulder, murmuring something in his ear. “Master. She’s lying.”

The Marquis turned towards the cat. “What do you mean?”

“There was another one with them. A small child.” Yao explained.

Mother’s face blanched even paler.“That’s not true!” She suddenly shouted. But by losing her composure, she also betrayed herself.

“Hum… And where is that child, now?” The Marquis asked, ignoring mother.

“Behind the door.”

As Yao said this, everyone directed their gaze toward the big wooden door of the inn. In the shadow, they noticed a small child peeking from the inside –me. Damn you Mister cat. As I thought I hate you… As if he knew what I was thinking, his lips curled into a smirk -or at least into something that looked like a smirk.

“Come on out, child.” The Marquis ordered.

I glanced at mother. Since there was no point in hiding anymore, I decided to step out and rush to her side. As he took a better sight of me, the Marquis’ eyes widened in surprise.

“Is she your daughter?” He asked, turning his attention back to mother.

“…Yes.” She responded.

“Hum… So you had a daughter…” He whispered. “How old is she?”

“I don’t think that-“

“How old?” The Marquis repeated, as he saw that she was trying to avoid the question.

Mother stayed silent for a while. “… Almost two.”

Hearing her answer, the Marquis’ emotionless mask fell. He frowned as his eyes narrowed. “Could she be… Lloyd’s daughter…?”

This time, mother did not answer. Instead, she simply bifurcated her gaze, looking away. Am I a hidden child…? Taking her silence for a yes, the Marquis clicked his tongue. Lady Nora, who had stayed silent until now, suddenly stepped forward, her face distorted in anger at the revelation. She raised her hand and slammed her palm against mother’s cheek, forcing her to shrink away.

The heck…

“Y-You filthy whore! How dare you…!” She exclaimed.

That’s my line, crazy lady!

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Taken aback by the noble Lady’s sudden attack, everyone watched the scene in astonishment, their eyes widened in surprise, as a deafening silence fell over the place. Then, the Marquis grabbed her arm, pulling her back.

“Nora, that’s enough. Think about your position, we’re in public.” He said, trying to calm his sister down.  But the noble Lady had no intention in backing out. Instead, she shouted even louder.

“Are you seriously going to let his go, Jack?! That bitch! Not only she seduces our brother, but she also dares to give birth to a filthy half-breed!” She exclaimed, glaring at me with her eyes full of hatred and disgust.

Hum. It’s decided, I hate her. One day, I shall kick your ass. I’m not sure what happened between her and mother, but this aunt of mine is obviously being a bitch. Making a fuss and humiliating the others in public… Just like the rotten noble from yesterday, she’s the kind of person I hate the most. That lady deserves a good beating.

Mother did not deny, but frustration surfaced her face. She was biting her lower lip and clenching her fists so hard that her nails almost penetrated her skin. She was holding back her anger. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one irritated by the noble lady’s rude behavior.

On the other hand, the crowd was much more interested in what my aunt just revealed rather than her actual behavior. “Half-breed” she said. People were glancing at each other, trying to figure out what she meant. Eventually, their eyes, full of doubt, rested on me, the small child that caused the noble lady to erupt in anger.

“I understand your point, but it’s not a reason to make a spectacle of yourself. We’ll settle this once we return home”, insisted the Marquis.

Lady Nora clenched her teeth. “Fine…” She reluctantly accepted after thinking a while.

The Marquis let out a sigh of relief. Then he looked at mother, straightening his face into a more serious expression. “Get on. The three of you”, he ordered one more time.

Expecting mother to follow him, he started to head to the carriage, where the guard was waiting for him. But he stopped half-way, as a hesitant voice spoke up.

“N-No…” Mother said with a small voice.

The Marquis’ lips twitched and his eyelids fluttered. “Sorry? I think I misheard something, what did you just say…?” He asked, turning to mother.

Unable to withstand his irritated look, she lowered her gaze. For a moment, she regretted contesting his order. But then, her eyes met mine. She took a deep breath, lifted her head and glared back at him. She was not shaking anymore; instead, she had a new look full of determination.

“I said I refuse”, she said. But this time, she was not hesitating.

Most of people gasped in surprise, seeing mother directly defying the Marquis’ order. Some looked at her in awe, while others looked at her with bewilderment, like if she was crazy. Of course, the first one to react was Aunt Nora. That was the breaking point of her patience. Blood rushed to her head as a swelling vein formed on her temple, threatening to explode.

She approached mother, emitting menacing vibes. “You lowly slave! How dare you-“

She raised her hand, ready to slap her again, but the smack never came. Before she could hit her, mother grabbed her wrist and sunk her eyes deep in Aunt Nora’s, which caused her to flinch. It only lasted a moment though, as Aunt Nora soon came back to her senses and realize the humiliating situation she was in.

“Let go of me! At once!” She ordered as she forcibly pulled out her arm.

Aunt Nora glared at mother, her eyes full of hatred. But as she was about to say something, mother spoke first.

“I am not your slave anymore, I have no orders to receive from you”, she said with a resolved voice.

Anymore… So mother used to be a slave after all. While I didn’t expect that, I’m not surprised. I mean, as an elf in a human kingdom, I could’ve anticipated this much.

These words of hers caused Aunt Nora to redden even more, filled with anger and indignation. If this keeps going, she will soon turn into a tomato. But Aunt Nora wasn’t the only one outraged by this declaration. Yao, who had been silent for a while now, suddenly hissed at mother.

Before Aunt Nora could retort anything, the guard, who had been watching everything until now, stepped in.

“I’m afraid she has a point, my lady,” he said. “That woman has already gained her freedom, we can’t force her to come against her will.”

Aunt Nora clenched her fist, understanding the situation. She was not going to withstand this humiliation, but she couldn’t force mother to comply. I’m sure she couldn’t care less about the laws, but there were witnesses and she couldn’t bring any shame to the family’s name. As she glared at mother, thinking about what to do, her eyes fell upon the small boy shivering behind her. It was Aoban. Suddenly, her lips curled into a mischievous grin, as she came up with an idea.

Whatever she was thinking, it was not in our favor.

“Actually, I think we can,” she said. She pointed at brother with her finger. “This is my nephew, my brother’s first born son, and his only heir.”

She marked a pause, then she turned to mother, as her smile widened. “Additionally, he is the son that he had with his first wife, Lady Mello, who unfortunately died in childbirth. Which means that you, Azariah, have absolutely no blood ties with him.”

Eh? Is that so? So brother is actually my half-brother? Well, that explains why he looks so human! Unlike me, he IS a 100% human.

“Azariah, you never got married to my brother, did you?” She added. “This means that to Aoban, you are neither his mother nor his step-mother. You had no right to take him with you, yet here he is. You understand, don’t you? This is kidnapping.”

Suddenly understanding where Aunt Nora was going, mother’s face lost its colors –again. She couldn’t find anything to say since according to the law, the bitch was right. What she did was a crime.

“Mommy is my mommy!” Aoban suddenly shouted. “She did not kidnap me! I was the one who wanted to come with her!”

T-That’s cute. Brother is defending mother. He really is mature for his age. So he knew?

“Shup ut, brat.” Aunt Nora immediately replied, irritated.

But only a few seconds later, her hard expression softened as a fake smile formed on her face. “I mean, Aoban, sweetheart? Why don’t you let the grown-ups settle this? You’re still young and confused. This woman is not your mother. She deceived you in order to manipulate you, just like she deceived your father. Have you already forgotten what happened to your father?”

Aoban flinched. “Th-That’s not…”

“Don’t forget who your real family is, Aoban. You’re a Whiteheart.”

Brother lowered his head, holding back all his frustration. He clearly did not agree with Aunt Nora, but there was nothing he could do. He was just powerless and he knew it.

“Kidnapping the heir of the previous Marquis… This is a serious crime, you know?” Aunt Nora added, returning her attention to mother. Then she calmly approached and whispered into her ear. “Azariah, you understand, don’t you? Whether you like it or not, you’re returning with us. If we can’t bring you back as a slave, we’ll bring you back as a criminal.

Seemingly enjoying her new control of the situation, Aunt Nora chuckled, amused by the sudden turnaround. Then her smile slowly disappeared, as her attention focused on a particular detail. She raised her arm to reach mother’s face, as she picked a strand of her hair, staring at it intensely.

“Black hair… How ridiculous…” She muttered.

Hum…? S-She’s not going to…


With a swift move, Aunt Nora grabbed mother’s robe and pulled off her hood, revealing her elven features.

Within a second, the crowd went in an uproar. Seeing her ears, people went crazy. Shouts could be heard everywhere in the place. Seeing a beastman was something, but seeing an elf was of a whole other level. Some looked at her in awe, others in repugnance. But one thing was sure. They all saw mother differently. The friendly merchants, the employees of the inn, even Randy and Leonara. They were just blankly staring at her, without uttering a word. I’m not sure what they’re thinking right now, but it can’t possibly good.

Dammit, dammit, dammit. They know. They all know.

Mother didn’t even flinch. Despite all the commotion around her, she didn’t move an inch. At this point, she didn’t even care anymore. She had already lost hope when she realized that she would have to return with that family.

“How about you try running away now, elf?” Aunt Nora chuckled.

That’s right. It’s because of her. It’s all that woman’s fault. She didn’t have to do that. Not only she came to threaten her and her freedom, but she also had to take away from her the only place where she felt at ease, and the people she befriended.

If there was a Nobel Prize in being the biggest bitch in the world, then this stupid Aunt of mine would definitely deserve it.

Seriously… A woman like you…

I hope you go bald.

At that moment, a single spark appeared as my dear aunt’s head became scorched by a wall of heat. Her hair is on fire!!

The sudden appearance of the flames caused widespread panic. It was chaos, as people started running everywhere, trying to get away from the fire. Aunt Nora, barely understanding what was happening to her, tried to extinguish the fire with her hands. It was probably out of reflex, as she soon stopped once she felt the intense heat of the flames burning her flesh.

Could it be… My fault…?

The flames had no pity. Hot and violent, they consumed whatever they pleased. The nascent fire played like a child with a new toy, its flames leaping in excitement. Within a moment, it had spread on her dress.

As my dear aunt kept screaming in panic and confusion, the Marquis suddenly shouted. “Someone help her!” He ordered.

But even though it was on order from the Marquis, no one was willing to approach the fire.

“Doesn’t anyone know water magic here?!”

Finally, after a few seconds –very long seconds- the guard managed to extinguish the fire. Rushing out from a building where he had found a bucket of water, he threw its content on Aunt Nora. Exhausted, yet relieved, she immediately collapsed on the ground.

She’s alive, but she has some serious burns on her body. Her face is a mess and, additionally, she no longer has any hair.

Hum… Oops…?

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