Chapter 9 – Becoming Keith Claes
In the spring when I turned eight, my name became Keith Claes. This is the second time I’m changing my name. Even though I say so, I was too small to remember the first time.
However, until I turned three I was always told to stay by myself quietly in a small room, and the room had such a feeling of stillness. Then one day, a man I had never met before sent a fine horse-drawn carriage to bring me to a beautiful mansion.
And so, I met this person calling himself my father, as well as my stepmother and two stepbrothers. Everyone was looking at me with really cold eyes, and even though I was really young, I could tell that I wasn’t welcome. Later, from hearing the servants’ rumors, I learned that it was because my father had me with a prostitute mother.
In the new family that I had come to, calling them mom and dad was not allowed. It was like that with my brothers as well, I was always told to address them with honorifics. Since at first I wasn’t used to using honorifics, I was often punished. I also wasn’t allowed to eat with the family, and instead ate alone in my room.
My father and stepmother just treated me like I wasn’t there, and no great harm was done, but…… My stepbrothers would always relentlessly harass me whenever they saw me. They’re always punching or kicking me, and one time they locked me for an entire day alone in the barn.
Therefore, in order to avoid my stepbrothers as much as possible, I spent most of my time staying still, alone in my own room.
However, that happened.
The weather was very good on that day. There were some birds making a nest in the tree that was visible from the window of my room. With my whole heart, I wanted to see how the cute birds looked making their nest from a much closer distance.
Walking softly, I left my room and went towards the tree. I was found by my brothers that also happened to be outside. My brothers surrounded me and repeatedly hit and kicked me, while calling me “that whore’s child.” I curled up into a ball like always, and waited for them to get bored. It happened at that time. One of the brothers noticed the bird on the tree. “Oi. There’s some birds there.” “Oh, that’s right. They’re making a nest. Let’s knock them off!” The brothers began throwing rocks at the birds as they said so. The nest that the birds had worked so hard to build was about to be destroyed. When the rocks were thrown at them, the birds started screeching in pain and fear.
I shouted. And then, something hot poured out from my body. At that time. Something big fell from the sky. And, before I noticed, the brothers had fallen down prostrated before me. Around them, many chunks of dirt the size of fists were scattered about. It seemed that what fell from the sky was this clump of earth. Rather, there was also quite a few chunks of earth missing from the ground. Apparently, it seemed as if the brothers were injured somehow by all these clumps of earth. What on earth is all this. I stood stunned.
After that, the brothers were carried back to the house by servants that had seen the situation, and the doctor was called. The brothers had bruises all over their bodies, and the worst thing was that they had apparently broken a few bones as well.
And so, I learned that the pieces of earth that injured them were activated by magic that I had used.
From that day on, the place where I originally didn’t belong, became even less welcoming. Except when necessary, I was forbidden to leave my room.
My brothers would no longer come close to me. If they saw me, they would just shout, “it’s a monster!” and run away with fearful expressions. It wasn’t only my brothers, my father, stepmother, and the servants all avoided me. And, although not that obvious, my brothers always had fear in their eyes. I spent every day staying in my stifling room.
I spent time like that for several years. One day, I was told that yet another man I didn’t know had come to see me.
“After hearing about your powerful magic, Duke Claes has decided to adopt you as his son.”
And as such, I was once again taken to a new family in a horse-drawn carriage. Even though I had lived in this mansion for five years, nobody saw me off at all.
When comparing the mansion I arrived at with the one I had been living in, the difference in luxury was so large that it made the previous mansion look like a small house. Everything from the pots to the carpet, was decorated with a terrifyingly high-class feel.
The man who had become my new adoptive stepfather, was the head of this family, a man named Duke Claes.
“Hello, you’re Keith, right? Welcome to our Claes family.”
As Duke Claes greeted me with a wide smile, I was badly embarrassed as I was not used to being greeted like this. Duke Claes immediately introduced me to his family.
Duchess Claes seemed to be somewhat cold and distant.
And then, his only daughter, Katarina Claes. Since I had been tormented every day by my previous brothers, I was afraid of having siblings. If at all possible, I don’t want to get involved with my new sister.
On the day that I arrived at Katarina’s family, I had to rest in my room right after greeting everyone. Since I was brought suddenly from my previous place, I was quite exhausted, and even though the bed was unfamiliar and overly big, I slept deeply that night.
The next morning, I ate breakfast with Duke Claes and the family. It was my first time eating a meal with someone else. It was a more delicious meal than any other I had ever had.
Somehow, I returned to my room with a mysterious warm feeling in my chest. For some reason, Katarina has come to see me. If at all possible, I thought that I didn’t want to get involved with her…… I never thought that she would come to see me.
She said “I’ll guide you around the garden,” so I replied “thank you very much, Katarina-sama” and she immediately started sulking after hearing my courteous reply.
“Keith, because we have become siblings now, it’s fine to just call me nee-san.” I was badly shocked. Since I was the younger brother as well in the previous family, of course I was not allowed to address my siblings without the proper honorifics.
She even begged “and for me, it’s my dream to be called nee-san. Please, I beg you to call me that!” so I replied “I’ll be in your care, nee-san.” After that, Katarina laughed so so happily.
And then, we went to the garden together. Katarina guided me happily around the garden, and the weather was excellent.
After a while of talking to Katarina, I realized something. This girl named Katarina Claes is a little different from other noble daughters.
“I’m quite good at fishing. Let’s fish together!” She invited me, and also explained about her field passionately. Because I had spent most of my time cooped up in my room, I had never done anything like fishing or making a field, but it didn’t look like my brothers had such hobbies either. I think that most other noble children wouldn’t have these kinds of hobbies.
That’s what I was thinking while being surprised by Katarina.
“Keith, next I’ll take you to my favorite place.” As she said so, she grabbed my arm and began to walk quickly. And then, she took me to the tallest tree in the garden.
“You can get an amazing view of the scenery if you climb this tree.”
She said so while her eyes seemed to be sparkling. Then, she asked me if I had ever climbed a tree. I told her that I hadn’t.
“Well then, I’ll just teach you. First, start off by watching me climb, ok?”
As she said so, Katarina took her shoes off, then rolled up her dress and began climbing the tree.
I watched while stunned as Katarina climbed the tree smoothly. When looking up at Katarina from under her as she was climbing, I could see what was under her dress.
Either Katarina did not mind such a thing, or didn’t even notice, and kept climbing the tree smoothly. Then, around the middle of the big tree. Katarina stopped climbing and turned back to wave at me with a big smile. It was at that time. Her body shook. Watch out! I happened to be right under Katarina.
Katarina fell on me with a loud thud. At the time of impact, I lost my consciousness for a bit.
A little bit later, when my consciousness returned, I was in Katarina’s arms.
“Keith please don’t die~~” As she was crying, she didn’t notice me no matter how many times I tried to get her attention, until I greatly raised my voice and let her know I was okay.
“Keith!? You’re alive, right!?!” and hugged me strongly. I froze up involuntarily. It was the first time someone had hugged me like this.
“Oh no, Keith, does it hurt anywhere??”
Katarina anxiously stared at the frozen me. This is the first time that I have been worried about like this. I was badly embarrassed. Honestly, even though there’s no place that’s really sore, since she is so worried about me, I have no idea what I should do.
Upon seeing my embarrassed manner, Katarina seems to have misunderstood it as me being too injured to move.
“Keith, wait a little bit for me here, ok? I’ll run right away to the mansion and get some servants to carry you back.”
After saying so, Katarina started running towards the mansion while barefoot and with her dress still rolled up.
While watching her back grow smaller in the distance, a strange warm feeling rose in my chest just like what happened during breakfast.
That night, there was a big fuss when Duchess Claes suddenly demanded a divorce from Duke Claes, but the misunderstanding was resolved.
After that, since some misunderstanding about me was cleared up, Duchess Claes started treating me gently as well. Of course, Duke Claes also treated me very well.
Then, my stepsister Katarina taught various things to me. The first thing was fishing. She also taught me how to climb trees while saying “keep it a secret from mother, okay?” And when I was praised by the swordsmanship teacher, she was happy for me almost as if she was the one being praised instead.
Every day was exciting, fun, and happy…… which caused me to forget.
I’m a monster with uncontrollable magic……
One day after finishing swordsmanship practice, I came with Katarina to the field. Katarina was very happy that her crops were growing up successfully.
When the story of the field changed to the story about magic, she said those fateful words.
“I want to be able to manipulate an earth golem!”
An earth golem – magic where a construct made of earth can move freely once you put magic into it. This is the magic that I used. It was a coincidence that I was able to use it. It became possible while I was making a clay doll by myself in my room. Since I barely had any contact with my previous family, I made a clay doll to accompany me during meals and be my friend.
It was magic I knew how to use, but I had made a promise with Duke Claes. I had some powerful magic, but was still unable to control it properly. I’ve also hurt my brothers at the previous family, and until I have been properly taught magic, I should not use magic blindly until I can control it.
However, when I saw Katarina staring at me full of expectations, I decided to use just a little bit of magic. The moving golem made Katarina so happy, that she begged me to make it even bigger.
And so, the earth golem became way too big and no longer moved as well as I wanted it to. Overjoyed, Katarina that was approaching the earth golem was…… sent flying by the arm of the earth golem I could no longer control.
Katarina’s tiny body flew in the air. Without even slowing down, Katarina slammed into the ground head-first.
After the servants got a doctor to check up on Katarina, it seems that she just fainted and got a bump on head, with no serious injuries.
That’s what Duke Claes, who had been watching over Katarina worriedly, told me.
“I arbitrarily broke the promise to not use magic, and even injured nee-san. Everything is my fault. Please, by all means, punish me. I’m truly very sorry. I don’t mind even if you drive me out of this family.”
Duke Claes looked at me with such gentle eyes.
“About this incident, after Katarina wakes up, I also have to hear about it from her. Let’s continue this after Katarina wakes up. Keith, your complexion looks terrible, as if you could fall over any moment. Since Katarina is alright now, you should also return to your room and rest.”
As he said so, Duke Claes urged me to my room.
That night, I was sincerely relieved to hear that Katarina awoke with no problems. Even though I want to go see her immediately, I can’t…… I was afraid……
When the next day arrived, I couldn’t move from my room. It’s the first time I’ve missed breakfast since coming here.
Around the time that breakfast would end.
“Keith. It’s me. Katarina. Since you didn’t come for breakfast, are you in bad shape?”
Katarina came in front of my room.
I replied on reflex.
“Yes, it’s me. What’s wrong, Keith? Does your stomach hurt? Are you okay?”
Even though she almost got seriously injured because of me, Katarina still seemed worried about me.
“Nothing’s wrong with me. More importantly, are nee-san’s injuries okay?”
“Yep, I’m fine. It’s just a little bump on the head. Anyways, Keith, I have something to say. May I come in?”
I was relieved to hear Katarina sounding so energetic. In truth, I want to see her face right now, but……
“I’m sorry. You can’t.”
“I can’t stay by nee-san anymore.”
I really really want to see her face now. The last time I saw her, she had lost her consciousness and her head was limp. I want to see her when she’s healthy.
But, I cannot stay by Katarina anymore.
If a monster like me that might lose control of his magic at any time stays by Katarina, I might hurt her again. I don’t want to hurt this friendly Katarina that taught me so many things anymore.
Katarina was talking a lot outside my room, but I just stayed in my bed, curled up into a ball.
I had been living alone in my room originally anyways. And if I’m by myself… I won’t hurt anyone important to me anymore.
After a while, I couldn’t hear Katarina’s voice anymore.
She probably gave up on my coldness after I stopped replying to her and returned to her room.
As I was thinking that absentmindedly…
“Keith. If you’re close to the door right now, get away from the door.”
I heard Katarina’s voice again after I thought she had already given up.
By itself, the door that had been locked was making a crackling sound, then broke. At the entrance, for some reason I saw Katarina standing there with a desperate face while holding an ax. I just looked at her while stunned, and she came inside the room. And then……
“I’m so sorry about yesterday!!”
Katarina kneeled in front of my bed and bowed her head until it hit the bed.
“Unreasonably asking you to use magic you could not control yet, I’m really sorry!! Moreover, not listening to your warning and trying to touch the earth golem…… Sorry for making you worry!!”
I got out of bed, and crouched next to Katarina.
“……Why is nee-san apologizing…… It was all my fault……”
“What are you saying? It was my fault! Because I asked such an unreasonable request of Keith!”
Why, is this person still coming to me? Why is she saying things like this? She should be scared of my magic, and she even got injured…… And yet……
“……Nee-san isn’t scared of me?”
“……In my previous home, I injured my stepbrothers with magic. And this time, I’ve injured nee-san. Even though my magic is strong, I can’t control it properly. ……Because I can’t control my powerful magic, it might keep hurting people. ……Nee-san isn’t scared of me?”
I even told her about my past incident. This way, Katarina shouldn’t be getting close to me anymore.
I was scared. That I might hurt Katarina…… And, even more than that, that Katarina would have eyes full of fear towards me like my previous family…… To be hated as a monster…… That was my greatest fear.
Then, I looked properly into Katarina’s eyes for the first time since she had come into the room. If, there was fear in her eyes……
I was waiting for Katarina’s next words with bated breath.
“……Oh, so it was something like this~~”
The words were so unexpected, that I involuntarily raised my face. I met Katarina’s light blue eyes.
“If you can’t control your magic, all you have to do is just work hard at mastering it now. Since our magic tutor is coming soon, won’t you keep practicing magic together with me?”
Katarina said so with no fear in her eyes and a smile on her face…… her eyes were so gentle.
“……Nee-san still wants to be with me?”
“Of course! I’ll always be with you.”
Being alone was so sad and painful…… I always wanted someone to be with me. But, nobody would be close with me. Anyone that got close to me would only call me names like “that whore’s child” and “monster.” I thought nobody would ever be with me…… I had already given up……
The girl in front of me had said with a smile, that she’ll be with me forever.
“As such, even if something’s wrong, in the future don’t shut yourself in your room…… Uh, Keith, what’s wrong?”
Katarina had a surprised voice as she anxiously peered at my face. When I touched my face…… it was wet for some reason. Tears were overflowing from my eyes. Ahh, I’m crying.
Before I had always cried silently in my room. Tears had always flowed when it was lonely or painful. Crying to the point where my chest hurt, it was painful. And yet……
Something about these tears. As I cried, the more I cried the warmer my chest got. I learned for the first time that tears also come out when I’m happy.
Katarina was peeping at me anxiously, while stroking my back. It was a very warm and gentle hand.
While feeling her warm hand I thought strongly. I want to be with this girl named Katarina Claes. I want to be with her as long as it is permitted.
I will train my magic, and learn how to properly control it. And, I want to stand by her side one day and be able to protect her.