The Doneju Head was a rare specimen in that he did not have much experience in such carnalities outside of his political marriage with his official wife; the measures he had taken would only serve to dig him a deeper grave.
The first thing he did was to hide the matter to prevent a scandal, paying off the woman with a small amount of money to keep her quiet – a money she accepted contentedly to console herself with, reasoning that there was little benefit in stirring trouble with her employer and lord. Especially since suing him would only result in her unemployment.
It was simply too risky to be unemployed in a territory as destitute as the Doneju territory.
Fortunately or unfortunately, she found out a few months later that she was pregnant. Of course, this was none other than Frire.
She was an unmarried woman with no lovers, so she knew at once to whom the child belonged, but the head was too busy to take her seriously.
As far as he was concerned, their relationship was nothing more than a night’s mistake.
He had hid the matter even from his closest aides, so the only one in the know was the two of them.
Moreover, as the head of one of the ten great families, there were many people insisting that they had an illegitimate child with him.
That’s why he thought she was just another one of those clowns, only that this particular clown was trying to take advantage of his mistake to become his concubine.
Unfortunately for him, his insincerity in resolving a mistake he committed would later haunt him.
The woman bravely consulted with him, only to be pushed away with a paltry sum, and this time, unemployment.
Despite that the woman did not have an abortion, not because of motherly compassion and whatnot, but because the child in her womb was now a tool for vengeance.
She wanted to use the child to prove that she had been humiliated one night, that she had been wronged, but unfortunately, only despair would grace her when Frire was finally born in the countryside of the Doneju territory.
Frire did not look one whiff like the Doneju family.
Be it the color of her hair or her looks, everything leaned toward her mother’s side.
She did have a pair of golden eyes common among the 10 great families, yes, but they alone would not serve well as proof of her lineage.
Paternity tests weren’t common yet at this time, so believing she’d lost any chance of proving Frire’s lineage, her love toward Frire died along with the purpose of Frire’s birth.
Despite that she still ensured that the bare minimum care would be provided for her, again not because of her motherly love, but because she feared the consequences of not doing so.
Although the Doneju territory was poor, or rather, it was precisely because it was poor that the laws protecting human resources – in other words, human life – were properly functioning.
Ironically, making her pregnancy widely known to those around her in an attempt to use the child to exact her vengeance prevented her from having any inappropriate outburst.
But because it was the Doneju family responsible for that system, her hate for them grew by the day.
But then again, even without that, it was doubtful if she even knew what motherly love was – after all, she named her Frire.
Although, the name ‘Frire’, which meant white, was now common because of Frire’s popularity, it was originally not a word that should’ve been used for a person’s name.
Indeed, the use of words to name a person was not strange in Garesto, but using a color for a name was strange.
As it turns out, the mother just came up with the name during registration when she remembered the color of Frire’s hair.
Moreover, white was also the color used by the Doneju family for their crest, so she likely associated the colors together and made it an object of hate.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Frire didn’t remember much about that until she was old enough to understand, but by then, a free medical checkup for the poor was held, and her lineage was uncovered.
By the time the Doneju Family got wind of the situation, Frire was already talk of the town, and the Doneju Family had no choice but to accept the scientific evaluation of her lineage.
Unfortunately for them, criticism fell upon them, questioning why they exiled a child with noble lineage.
Being a step too late, the Doneju Family could not conceal the matter.
Perhaps, this was exactly the revenge that Frire’s birth mother had in mind.
There was a bit of dramatization and exaggeration in the process, but there was no denying that word had indeed spread among the masses.
Because of that criticism fell heavily on the Doneju head, who had ignored the pleas of Frire’s mother, thereby abandoning a child with noble blood that should’ve been protected and nurtured.
In an attempt to salvage the situation, the Doneju Family barely managed to spin it so that Frire’s birth mother was originally an official concubine, who had left due to spousal issues.
However, part of the nobles’ duties was to foster new blood and raise them to be guardians.
So try as the Doneju Family might to worm their way out of this, there was no denying that the family head had messed up, and criticism fell on him from both inside and outside the family.
This turn of events brought Frire’s birth mother much joy. She charged into the Doneju Family, got enough money to live comfortably as compensation, and left Frire behind.
Were this on Earth, she would have surely been labeled a wicked woman, but from the perspective of the Garestonians that didn’t know the specifics, all they saw was a woman who birthed and raised a Doneju child in secret, then returned her when the truth of the matter was finally unveiled.
A praiseworthy and selfless act that put aside her own feelings as a mother for the good of the territory.
The family head was too scared of the scandal becoming even worse, so he just kept his mouth shut and took Frire.
Unfortunately for Frire, a child had already been born to the family head and his official wife, so at most, she was a spare.
As such, the family head decided to just keep her at home to hide her from the public, while pretending to raise her properly.
Despite the tests, he simply could not accept that she was his child because she did not look like him at all.
And even if he did feel parental love for her, there simply wasn’t anything he could really do for her as the head.
The nobles of Garesto followed the principles of a meritocracy, yes, but children born out of wedlock did not have any right to the inheritance.
Save for some special circumstances, the child of a concubine would have no opportunities to compete for succession.
Such children were born merely to increase the number of people with exceptional blood.
To the nobles, creating an heir was a completely different matter from creating future warriors.
However, a child that has officially been adopted would have a legal claim to the succession.
That’s why without Frire knowing, a race that was originally already won had suddenly found itself with a new, unnecessary competitor.
The influence of the main wife was already overwhelming within the Doneju Family, but with the family head losing influence everywhere else except the military due to the scandal, the influence of the main wife reached a point where it was actually ambiguous who the head of the family was.
And humans, no matter the origin, were humans.
They would gather around power.
It would’ve been one thing if the official wife could manage that power well, but alas, she was nothing more than a vulgar woman intoxicated by her position as the wife of the family head of one of the ten great families.
It was also too easy to see that Frire was a problem in the Doneju Family.
What’s more she didn’t have any allies, she was just a clueless little girl, making her the perfect target for those wanting to cozy up to the main branch.
That’s why she was also an outlet for anger in the Doneju Family.
Although she no longer had to worry about the cold or the hunger, the treatment she received hadn’t changed all that much. In fact, it was actually a lot worse for her because she was no longer free to do as she pleased.
Fortunately or unfortunately, she was not able to understand her situation too well because of her lack of knowledge of the world.
Only her older brother, who also didn’t understand the thoughts of the adults, was elated to have a younger sister and played with her whenever he was free.
Compared to the painful training that would leave him in wounds, the time spent with his sister, who would be elated whenever he visited, was one of his few moments of reprieve.
That’s why their time together was the only happy childhood memory they had.
And that was also why it was only natural for Frire to end up with a brother complex and continue to pine for him despite being estranged.
In a sense, Frire growing up to be a decent person could actually be credited to him.
But this too made one wonder if their time together was truly fortunate or unfortunate.
For the family soon found out that Frank had no talents in martial arts, and the main wife, whose position was strengthened by the birth of the heir, fell from power, while the other daughter, Frire, who had only been playing with the practice blade her older brother had given her, overshadowed every attribute of her older brother’s Status.
When their respective abilities came to light during a routine inspection, the people reacted as though they were playing a role in some kind of twisted comedy.
All the sycophants that had nothing but flattery for the main wife and her son suddenly started clapping as though they’d always known that things would turn out like this.
Frire’s opinion of their reaction then could be summed up in a single word, ‘disgusting’.
Until just yesterday all of these people have been hurling abuse and slander at her to the point that even a child like herself could understand, and yet now, here they were praising her as though she were some kind of treasure.
Frire was terrified.
Everything was changing too quickly for a little girl like herself to keep up.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t rely on her older brother because he was on the receiving end of the other side of this sudden shift.
If she had suddenly found herself in heaven, he was in hell, and the person responsible for that was none other than her.
But of course, she didn’t understand that, and without her knowing, she was alone once again.
With her unable to trust anyone or meet her brother, the only person she trusted then, there was no way she would be able to accept it when the education to be a successor was suddenly thrust at her.
To the little girl, the Doneju Family was enemy territory.
With no one to confide in, who knew just how painful it was for her to be there?
She saw everyone as an enemy and denied them all, the only friend she had was the sword her older brother had left her.
When the distinguished soldiers saw her like that, they took her away from her family and enlisted her under the pretense of training.
That was one of the few fortunes that graced the little girl.
As she grew up and became able to see things more objectively,
she finally understood what had happened back then, but it was already too late.
Her mother had completely vanished, and considering how she hadn’t contacted her even after becoming famous, it was evident that she had no intention of being a part of her life anymore.
Frire hadn’t given up on her half-brother just yet, but the gulf between them was too big to bridge, while her relationship with her father was so cold they didn’t seem related at all.
As for the sycophants that blatantly changed ships the moment the flow changed, she had nothing but hostility for them.
Indeed, the relationships of the person known as Frire Doneju were too cold compared to what her reputation and image might suggest.
There were still too many things she didn’t know, too many things not experienced, and too many things unnoticed.
Though her body and her mind might seem to have grown, deep inside, too much of her was still that little girl from back then.
But it was precisely because of that that there was something that Frire could understand──
────────Because that was the one thing unmistakeable to her.