After I was born, my mother abandoned my father and I and disappeared. My father raised me alone, and it wasn't until I turned 12 when he met a widow and fell in love. However, in order to protect me, he never married her. I had only called her 'stepmother' in order to blend in with the crowd. And my father arranged a fake marriage so that the family name wouldn't go bad. He kept many secrets from my stepmother, whom I thought he had truly loved. There were also many secrets that he had, and many of them he never even told me. However, before I turned 17, my father passed away. Leaving me alone with my stepmother and 4 other children.
My stepmother raised me in isolation from the other children my age. And instead, I did chores around the house while the rest went outside to play. Enslaved away, I never even knew who my real mother was, or if she was still even alive. My stepmother lived on a small plot of land owned by a rich, young man. We barely made enough, selling vegetables to get by. And I knew that eventually one day, we'd get kicked out. However, it was different from how I imagined it.
One evening, as I was just about to finish picking cherry tomatoes on the vines, I hear a bag rip on the other side of the vines. And after, what sounded like thumps onto the ground and a voice panicking. I quickly ran around the vines to see what it was, and there was an elder trying to collect his lost fruits from the ground. I run to help him and he laughs,
"Thank you, I didn't think there would be anyone around to help."
"Don't worry about it, I just happened to have been on the other side at the same time."
Handing him the fruits that I collected, he smiles again.
"Thank you again, young one."
"You're welcome, sir." I watch him struggle to place the fruits into the other bag that didn't rip. "Give me just a second."
I run back into the yard to grab my basket that I was using to pick the tomatoes and hand it to him.
"This will be much sturdier than those bags."
"Oh, why thank you, child."
I help him reorganize his groceries into the basket and also hand him a small bag of cherry tomatoes that I was picking. He inspects it and looks at me,
"I didn't purchase this."
"Yes, they're from me."
"A good luck charm." I smile.
He kindly smiles back and bows. "I'll swing by again to return it."
"Oh! There's really no need to."
"But it's such a lovely basket, I must."
"Consider it a gift then."
"You are very kind. Thank you again, child. I hope I run into you in the near future."
I wave him off and continue my work. Only this time, I had nothing to carry my tomatoes back in and used my apron. When I got home, my stepmother was weeping in the kitchen. She turned to me with tears in her eyes,
"Child! What are we ever going to do?!"
"What's wrong, stepmother?" I pour the tomatoes from my apron into a bowl that was sitting on the kitchen counter.
"It's horrible!" She hands me a letter and on top it read, 'Eviction Notice.'
"What have you been doing to the money we've made? Have you not been paying him?"
"Of course I have! Do you think that I'd let my children go through this hardship?"
"What are you going to do?"
"Child, you must go ask him for a few more days to come up with money." She grabbed my hands roughly, "tell him... I have children! He wouldn't bring this upon the children."
"Stepmother, you should go tell hi-" Before I am able to finish my sentence, I am slapped across the face.
"You dare tell me what I should do?!"
"Go! You're getting on my nerves now."
The next day, I went over to the mansion in hopes of 'god knows what'. But I did anyways so that my stepsiblings wouldn't get kicked out because of their own mother. Or worst, separated. And I would know... who knows if I even have a relative or sibling at all. I walk up to the gates and a man questions me through an intercom.
"State your purpose."
Hesitantly, "Marcia has sent me."
"...All right. Step back."
I step back for a small gate door to open and a guard, with extremely georgeous eyes, gestures for me to come in. He leads me to another building located inside the yard.
"Mr. Ifrit is not available at this moment. You will be speaking with his secretary instead."
"Yes sir." I obediently follow him.
He stops us at a very specific door, and on the door was a emblem of the family mark. He turns to me for a second, about to say something, but stops himself and turns back. Then he knocks on the door and a softer, more gentle, voice answers.
"Sir, Marcia has sent a speaker." The guard pushes me back when the door opens. And standing there was the same old man who I had helped yesterday with his groceries. He eyes the guard for a second, but mmediately smiles at me.
"Sir?" The guard stands there in confusion while the old man grabs my hand and shakes it.
"Don't worry, Leo. This is a friend!"
"Yes... Sir." He says, rolling his eyes. He bows to me, "I shall make my leave then."
But before he turns away, the old man pulls us in with excitement. "Come in for tea!"
The next moment, I am sitting across the guard, Leo, and the old man named, Jarvis, drinking tea. Jarvis is particularly short, so I watched him swing his legs back and forth on his extremely high chair, while sipping his tea. He smiles at us,
"No, sir. But I really must leave." Leo is about to stand up, but Jarvis grabs his arm, telling him to sit back down.
"So, child." He continues after he is satisfied with Leo, who is back in his seat. "What brings you here today?"
"Well, Marcia had asked me to bring you this." I hand him a letter that I wrote last night. Begging for more time so that I could pay him off, but as if I was Marcia. "It was meant for the young master himself, but I- I mean, Marcia wouldn't mind you taking a look into it."
"Oh." He opens the letter and reads it. "I see... there are some struggles at the moment."
For another second, he looks at the guard and then smiles back at me. "Very well. I will make sure that the young master receives this."
"Thank you, sir." I stand up to bow. I then leave them and make way home.
A few days later, while I was in the field working and the rest were playing... A servant of the young man's came by and hands Marcia a letter. I watch her read it in confusion and then asks him what it meant. The servant responds,
"Hand over one of your children to Mr. Ifrit and you can stay."
It was obvious who my stepmother would give away. But she questions it and the servant only responds with,
"It's that or the streets, ma'm. Mr. Ifrit can easily replace this house."
Marcia is obviously offended, but she turns to me and without even asking, I agreed. In cases like this, you wouldn't tell people how relieved you are from getting sold by your own family. But my case is different than most. I've never felt so relieved to be able to get away from that house, forever.
On my way to the mansion with the servant, I was told to never look him in the eye. Or to speak only when spoken to and things like that. To do my job and never anymore and I will be fine. I never thought that it would be so forbidden to communicate with your own master.
When we arrived, the servant walked me to the office and closed the door behind me. It was dark in the room so I stayed put until I was given orders. The only sounds I heard was a pen scribbling across the desk and the clock ticking. And after what seemed like years, I finally heard someone speak.
I slowly walked towards the voice, carefully so that I wouldn't bump into anything. But not being able to see, I just kept walking until they shouted,
I freeze in my tracks and stood there until further ordered. But I just stood there, not being able to really see and do anything. Then, I hear a chuckle.
"You're really just going to stand there?"
I shake my head, "Well, what else can I do?"
"Usually, in my presence, people bow. Or ask for mercy or forgiveness of some kind..."
"I can't even see you, so how do I know if you're the master or not?"
"Your eyes should have adjusted by now." I didn't even notice how close he already was. And I feel a cool hand against my cheeks. "And usually in fear, people are cold." He says as he rubs my cheek with his thumb.
"I'm not scared." I pull myself away from his hand.
"I figured. You don't really look like the type to be scared over something like this."
In a second, the lights are turned on and I see a face just inches away from mine. The master had two different colored eyes, exactly like the guard from before. One was just a solid, dark blue and the other was a rich, opal color. He smiled,
"So you're the runt of the litter."
Not being able to deny it, I nodded. "I've come to pay my mother's debt."
"Your mother doesn't have any debt." He circles back to his desk and sits down.
"What?" I stare at him wide eyed. Not fully understanding what had just come out of his mouth.
"Before your father passed, he had already paid off everything. Not that he was ever behind on anything."
"Then what has my mother been paying off?"
"Your mother is a thief."
"She's been stealing from my company since your father passed."
"What do you mean?"
I only stare back at him, not knowing what that meant. He sighed and leaned forward on his desk with his arms crossed.
"Gregor's Law meant that any one person, or people, may fully be supported by Ifrit's family. Just as long as they are able to do so back with loyalty and honesty."
"And that has anything to do with me because?..." I cross my arms as well.
"After your father passed, your mother, who is still not married to your father legally, has been using his name to get money. And his name was the only name written on the agreement."
"I don't understand, Marcia said that we were moneyless."
"Marcia?" He slowly stands up.
"Oh." I immediately bring my hand to my mouth.
"You are not her child by birth, are you?"
I remain silent, but he shouts.
"N-no!" I shake my head and back away.
Then he is silent as well, and we say nothing but stare at each other. His face changes from anger to relief as he settles back down in his seat. I only stood there with my heart almost beating out of my chest. And watched him grab a new sheet of paper to write on. He looks up at me directly, and then quickly back down while scribbling a few things.
"This is for Jarvis." He folds the paper in half and pushes it forward towards me on his desk. "He will know what to do with you."
I hesitantly take the paper and stare at it. "What are you going to do with me, sir?"
"I'm keeping you."
Shocked by his words, I ask, "Here?"
"You are not Marcia's child, and that says a lot already. I will have Jarvis come get you."
I look away worriedly and he just smiles.
"You've already met Jarvis, so do not worry."
"I know... But-" I nod and in that moment, Jarvis walks through the door.
"Oh!" He looks at me in shock. "This is the new secretary?"
"Yes." The young master stands up and grabs his coat. "I have some business to attend, Jarvis. Make sure to take care of your new student."
"Yes, young master." He makes way for the young master who strolls out of the room.
Jarvis and I are left in silence. And remembering, I hand him the note that the master handed to me. Jarvis reads it and nods, agreeing to whatever was written on the paper.
"Okay." He jesters me to follow, "Come, we have a lot to do."