Delta was in a good mood.
Today, she had hunted with Shadow down a large group of thieves.
Power was everything, and strength was justice.
Hunting was not only a means of survival but also a place to show off one’s strength.
“Boss!! How was Delta’s hunting today!?”
“Yeah, it was good,”
Shadow, wearing a long jet-black coat, said as he retrieved the wallet from the thief’s corpse.
“I did it!! Boss acknowledged me!”
For Delta, hunting with Shadow was the perfect stage.
Gaining recognition from a superior being was an honor for a beastman and essential for strengthening their position within the pack.
That was the beastman’s value system.
“Oh, what should we do with this body?”
Shadow pointed to the body of a beastman.
“Who is it?” (Delta)
“It’s Delta’s older brother. Did you forget already?”
Delta tilted her head, trying to recall. Come to think of it, there was a certain unpleasant individual who had spoken to them recently.
“Do you want to bury him or something? I don’t know the beastman way.”
“We don’t need to!”
“Okay, if you say so.”
Saying that, Shadow resumed searching for wallets.
Looking at the beastman’s body, Delta suddenly recalled an uncomfortable memory from her past when she used to be called Sara.
Despite being in a good mood, Delta felt a sense of unease. It was a distant memory from the time when she was known as Sara.
“What’s the matter?”
In her good mood, Delta leaped onto Shadow’s back and began marking him.
“Hey, get off!”
“No, I don’t want to!”
“Wait! You’re going to make me smell like a dog!”
“No, you won’t!”
By enveloping herself in Shadow’s scent, the memories from the past started to fade little by little. Delta had a feeling that it was working.
“I got it! I’ll fetch it!”
Delta left the hut to get some water for her mother. As she rushed to the water source, the morning sun shone brilliantly, and the grasslands extended to the horizon. By the time Delta reached the water source, her feet were damp with morning dew.
The water source glistened with clear water. However, just as Delta was about to bend down and scoop some water, she realized something.
“Crap! I forgot the water bucket!”
She turned to hurry back.
But at that moment, someone tripped Delta, and she tumbled to the ground.
Delta fell to the ground.
“Hey, what’s the matter, you clumsy Delta? Why’d you suddenly roll over like that!?”
“Haha, did you forget the water bucket again?”
Standing over Delta were two boys slightly older than her.
“Ral-nii and Ren-nii…”
Delta’s ears drooped.
“You really are useless. Can’t even handle household chores.”
“You don’t even go hunting, so what’s the point of your existence?”
“No, someone has to take care of mother…! That’s why Sara can’t go hunting!”
“If someone doesn’t take care of her, who will…?”
“Don’t backtalk us!”
Ral’s fist struck Sara’s cheek.
Even though they were young, their fists were those of beastmen. Sara bounced several times across the grassland.
Blood trickled from the corner of Sara’s lips.
She slowly got up, and her two brothers seemed surprised.
“Hey, I really punched her, you know?”
“Did I hit her in the wrong place?”
They walked over to Sara.
“Listen, Sara. You’re wasting your time taking care of that woman. She can’t even hunt anymore. She’s had only three children and has turned out to be a disappointment.”
“She’s nothing but a burden to the pack. That’s why even Dad abandoned her.”
“Why… Why do you say such cruel things!? Ral-nii, Ren-nii, and Mom are the only family I have!”
Sara shivered but spoke through clenched teeth.
“…You really are a fool.”
The response was cold.
“Weaklings have no value. Don’t you remember the pack’s rules?”
“Weak because…? The pack’s rules…?”
“You forgot something like that, too. I can’t believe this is my sister.”
“But she’s… our mother…”
“She’s not our mother anymore.”
“We forgot to tell you. We were adopted as the Pitt family’s children, recognized for our strength, and are now the third-ranked house in the pack.”
“Yeah, that’s right. We’re now Lord Ral and Lord Ren of the Pitt family.”
“That can’t be… But Mom…”
“We don’t care about some weak woman.”
“The next time we meet, don’t casually call us ‘Nii,’ or we’ll kill you. Remember that.”
The two of them left, laughing mockingly.
For a while, Delta stood there in shock.
“That’s right… the water bucket…”
Wiping away her tears, Sara returned to the hut, head hanging low.
Sara opened the door to the cabin with a smile.
“Mom! I forgot the water bucket!”
“Really, you child…”
Her mother was waiting with a kind smile.
“Look, it’s right there.”
Sara went to the back of the cabin and grabbed the water bucket.
“Sara… What happened to your face?”
Sara’s cheek was red and swollen as if she had been hit.
“I… I fell! Hehe!”
Her mother stared at Sara’s face, trying to play it off.
“…Did Ral and Ren do this to you?”
“Is that so? Those two, really…”
“It’s not them! It’s not!”
“You’re such a kind child. Come here, Sara.”
With her tail drooping, Sara headed towards her mother’s sleeping area, and her mother smiled as she stroked her head.
“Mother is so smart. She sees through all of Sara’s lies.”
“Sara’s lies are pretty easy to spot.”
“Sara is not smart. People make fun of dumb Sara. How can Sara become as smart as Mother?”
“Well, that’s not easy. Sara takes after her father…”
“Sara wanted to take after Mother.”
“Don’t say that. You mustn’t say that outside, ever.”
Her mother said sternly.
“You’re a good girl, Sara.”
Her mother gently caressed Sara’s head.
“Oh, by the way, Sara, maybe you should speak more politely.”
“Yes, if you speak politely, you might seem smarter… maybe.”
“Sara can become smarter like that!?”
“You might appear smarter… maybe.”
“I understand! How should I speak!?”
“That’s right, politely… like adding ‘desu’ to the end of your sentences.”
“Like this desu!?”
“Well, um, it’s a little… different.”
“Is it like this desu!?”
“Yeah, that’s right… that’s fine.”
“Will I seem smarter like this desu!?”
“Hmm… maybe more than before.”
“From now on, Sara will speak as politely as Mother!”
“Come here, Sara.”
Saying that, her mother embraced Sara’s face.
“You’re a cute child. So cute, my child.”
“It’s because of me, I don’t want you to suffer.”
“Sara isn’t suffering!”
Her mother shook her head and touched Sara’s swollen, red cheek with her fingers, which were terribly emaciated.
“Sara… please listen carefully. Would you consider being adopted?”
“I’ve already talked to the Dobel family. Since you’re a girl, you couldn’t join the Pitt family like Ral and Ren. But the Dobel family is a big enough family.”
“Eh… Ral-nii and Ren-nii, too? Mother talked to them…?”
“It’s a secret. If they find out I spoke to them, those kids would be hurt.”
“Both the Pitt family and the Dobel family owe me. You see, I used to be quite something.”
Saying that, her mother smiled proudly.
“It’s not true! Why… why, even though we’re family! We’re all supposed to be together!!”
“Ral-nii and Ren-nii, they’re terrible too!! They say terrible things to Mom!! Mom is sick and suffering, but she doesn’t come home!!”
Sara cried out with a voice full of tears.
“Sara, please listen. This can’t be helped.”
“It’s not helpless!!”
“It’s the law of the pack. I can’t go hunting anymore. And Ral-nii, Ren-nii, and you are still children. Even if you go hunting, you’ll just be a burden.”
“What about Dad…?”
“He is the pack leader. He has many other households to take care of. If I could have children, he might have helped us. But I can’t have children anymore… So there is no one here to bring back prey. We’re receiving help from other families for now, but we can’t continue like this forever.”
“Sara is… Sara is your child.”
“Sara will always be my child. But… think about it.”
“I don’t want to…”
Sara clung tightly to her mother.
“Sara is your child. Ral-nii and Ren-nii are terrible.”
“Thank you, Sara. But don’t speak ill of Ral and Ren.”
“Those children are also my cute children.”
“Are they cuter than Sara?”
“No, Sara is the cutest.”
Her mother smiled softly.
“I did it!”
“Ral and Renare still young and have no status in the pack. It’s a shame for those kids to have a weak mother as their parent.”
“So they speak ill of you…?”
“Those children are desperate too. Besides, they are already stronger than me…”
“Is being strong enough?”
“That’s the law of the pack.”
“So please, Sara. Don’t speak ill of Ral and Ren. It would make me the happiest if everyone gets along and stays healthy.”
“Everyone getting along… I understand.”
“That’s right. You’re a good girl, Sara.”
Saying that, her mother wiped away Sara’s tears with her emaciated fingers.
“Mom… What should I do?”
“What should you do?”
“How can I live like we used to? How can I avoid being mocked? How can I make sure Mom doesn’t suffer?”
“Sara… I’m sorry.”
“Why are you apologizing?”
“I don’t know either. But if Ral, Ren, and Sara grow up and learn to hunt for themselves…”
“If we learn to hunt, it will be fine?”
“Yes, and if you become strong, too.”
“If I become strong, then will Ral-nii and Ren-nii come back?”
“That… I hope they’ll come back…”
Her voice was small.
“Will Mom’s illness get better too?”
“Yes… it might get better.”
Saying that, her mother smiled sadly.
“I understand! Sara will become strong and learn to hunt!”
“Don’t rush, Sara. When you grow up… cough… cough…”
Sara frantically rubbed her mother’s back as she coughed. Her mother’s back, with protruding ribs, filled Sara’s heart with anxiety.
“I need to hurry…”
“I-It’s nothing! Are you okay now?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you.”
“I’m glad! Well then, I’m going now.”
Sara turned on her heel and ran off.
Her mother called out to the departing Sara.
“W-What is it?”
“…Where are you going?”
Asked the question, Sara lowered her ears and looked down.
“I-I’m… going to fetch water.”
“You forgot the water bucket.”
“I-I was careless!”
Sara hurriedly grabbed the water bucket.
“T-Then, I’ll go get water.”
“Take care, Sara.”
Her mother watched Sara’s back with a worried expression as she left.
Waiting for her mother to sleep, Sara quietly slipped out of the cabin. The grasslands that stretched to the horizon looked as though they had been painted over with dark ink. Still, Sara’s eyes could see far into the distance.
“They’re over there.”
She sniffed the air.
“They’re over there too.”
Her ears twitched.
“They’re over there too. There are many of them.”
Her eyes, her nose, her ears. Sara was sharper than anyone in her family.
“I just need to become capable of hunting.”
However, Sara was still young and couldn’t go hunting yet. Especially for females, it was customary to go hunting much later than males.
But that wouldn’t do.
Sara stepped out onto the dark grassland.
Her steps trembled.
She was more scared than when her two brothers had hit her.
Her brothers had already received training in hunting, but Sara hadn’t even received training yet.
She had no knowledge of hunting.
“I need to become stronger…”
Sara trembled as she advanced on the dark grassland.
After walking for a while, she stopped and scanned her surroundings with her eyes, nose, and ears.
Then she walked a bit more and scanned her surroundings again.
She repeated this process, and Sara went far beyond the village of her pack.
Even when a group of monsters passed very close, Sara held her breath and managed to get past them.
“I’m good at hide-and-seek.”
None of the pack’s children could find her, and even the adults had a hard time finding her.
This skill also worked on monsters. Her trembling stopped. There was no one in this grassland who could spot her. This confidence gave her composure.
“It’s not good when there are too many.”
Using her eyes, nose, and ears, she selected her prey. If she focused her eyes, she could see far into the distance in the darkness.
If she sniffed, the wind would carry faint scents. If she listened, she could hear footsteps and even their breathing. She understood all of it. She somehow understood it.
It was a large leopard hiding in the grass.
It was one of the strong predators in the grassland, and it was usually not targeted due to the high risk involved. But Sara understood. That leopard was weak, a weaker one.
She slowly approached from downwind. As she got closer, the scent of death grew stronger. There was no mistake.
This one… smelled the same as her mother.
The moment, Sara’s concentration was interrupted. What was she thinking just now? She understood, and she was shocked.
“No… it’s different!”
Nothing was different.
She had looked down on the death of her mother and the death of the large leopard, both as weaknesses.
She screamed, losing herself.
Before she knew it, the large leopard was in front of her.
Its sharp fangs and wide-open jaw were closing in on Sara.
—How weak I am.
When she came to her senses, Sara was standing in the grassland just before dawn. The morning sun was painting the distant sky.
At her feet, the lifeless large leopard lay sprawled.
Sara was crying. She cried softly, her entire body soaked in blood. Not a single scratch marked her body. It was all the leopard’s blood.
She realized it.
She had understood.
How much of a sin it was to be weak in this grassland…
Sara secretly carried the lifeless large leopard back to the cabin.
Carefully, she placed it in front of the cabin so that no one would find it and quietly slipped into her mother’s sleeping area.
Her mother was still asleep. Sara loved the warmth of her mother.
Sara decided to keep her hunting of the large leopard a secret.
She was still too young to go hunting according to the pack’s rules, and she didn’t want to worry her mother.
But there was another reason.
Sara had understood.
The sin of being weak in this grassland.
If you were weak, you would be robbed, you would be tormented, and you would die.
“Mom is not weak…”
She was just afraid of becoming stronger than her mother.
She felt that as long as she remained weaker than her mother, she could always be wrapped in her warmth.
And soon, she fell asleep.
Sara heard her mother’s frantic voice, and she woke up.
“Oh my, I can’t handle a big game like this…”
“Mom, what’s wrong…?”
Rubbing her eyes, Sara approached her mother.
“When I woke up, there was a large leopard in front of the cabin.”
“That’s amazing, it’s a big catch!”
Sara showed her amazement, trying not to make it seem forced. She must have done a good job.
“Someone must have given it to us. Do you know anything, Sara?”
“I-I don’t know!”
“Oh dear, what a problem…”
Her mother suddenly coughed, using the pillar for support.
“Are you okay!?”
“Y-yes, I’m fine.”
“Mom, lie down. It’s okay, I’ll handle the leopard! I’ll eat lots of meat, and your illness will get better!”
Sara helped her mother lie down.
“Thank you, Sara… But can you really handle it?”
“I’ll do my best, so it’ll be fine! Mom, rest!”
Saying that, Sara took the leopard and a knife and headed to the water source.
However, she had never processed a catch before. She had observed her mother doing it, but her memory wasn’t that great, and she had barely retained any of the techniques.
“Um… Let’s see…”
She started by cooling the catch at the water source. She should proceed to bleed it and process the internal organs, but her hand with the knife had come to a halt.
“Do I go from the top… or maybe from the bottom?”
She didn’t know the correct procedure for inserting the knife. She had no idea how far to go before damaging the internal organs. If she pierced the intestines or bladder, it could ruin the meat.
At that moment, she felt a presence approaching from behind. Ever since she had killed the large leopard last night, her senses had been sharpened.
Sara quickly shifted her body aside.
Right after that, a stone about the size of a fist passed where she had been.
“Tsk, I missed…!”
“What are you doing, Ral-nii?”
“Shut up will you, I’m just a little out of control! Hey, Sara! What are you doing looking stupid?”
Approaching her were two beastmen.
“Ral and Ren…”
Sara’s ears flattened.
“Oh, come on, isn’t that a big leopard?”
“It’s amazing. I’ve never seen one before! Whose catch is this?”
The two of them touched the leopard without reservation.
“Oh… that’s our catch, for my mom and me…”
“Haa? Is this what you and that useless woman call a catch?”
“Are you kidding me? A big leopard like this can only be taken down by the head of the Pitt family!”
“Haa… It must have delivered it to the wrong house.”
“Who would deliver a big leopard to your house?”
“But, but, it’s the truth!”
“Whatever, it doesn’t matter.”
The two of them ignored Sara and lifted the leopard.
“This catch is not suitable for you useless folks! Therefore, we’ll confiscate it!”
“Rather than consuming it at your useless house, it’s better if we share it just within the Pitt family! That’s the pack’s rule!”
“That’s… that’s so unfair…”
“What’s the matter, Sara? Do you have a problem with it? We’re the Pitt family, you know.”
“Do you want me to show you what happens when you go against a stronger family?”
Sara tried to take back the leopard, but Ral and Ren glared at her.
“Ugh… is it okay to do anything when you’re strong desu?”
Sara lowered her ears, tucked her tail between her legs, and made way for the two of them trying to take the leopard.
“Hey, what’s with that way of talking?”
“That ‘desu.’ Are you an idiot?”
“This is… my mom told me that it makes you sound smarter.”
Sara clenched her fist tightly.
“Is saying ‘desu’ supposed to make you sound smarter? That’s ridiculous!”
“That useless one would come up with something like that! Mother and daughter, both idiots!”
“Don’t disrespect my mother…”
She uttered, growling in her throat.
Her voice was barely audible and didn’t reach the two of them. But it was fortunate for them that it didn’t. If they had heard it, she might not have been able to turn back.
“Did you say something, Sara?”
“Hey, what’s with those eyes?”
The two of them said that and punched Sara, sending her rolling in the grassland without resisting.
“Ugh, what a creepy kid.”
“We’re already part of the Pitt family. We can’t stand being with that idiot.”
The two grumbled as they walked away.
Sara gazed up at the blue sky over the grassland.
The punches from the two had left no physical pain whatsoever. Sara felt she could withstand a hundred punches without a problem. However, her heart ached.
“Mother said… that’s why I sound smarter…”
She gritted her teeth.
“Mother said that in a family, everyone should get along… that’s why everyone should be nice to each other.”
She clenched her fist tightly and spoke to herself, as if reminding herself.
The big leopard had been taken away.
But that was okay. She could just hunt another one.
“It’s okay because I’m good at hunting.”
She said with a confident smile, the same one as always, and returned to the home where her mother waited.
From that day on, Sara occasionally sneaked out to the grasslands to hunt for prey.
She hunted small game, trying not to be noticed and ensuring that she could process the prey herself, just like her mother had taught her.
Occasionally, her brothers would take her catch, but it didn’t matter to her. Sara had become skilled at hunting, and she could always find more prey.
With her mother’s guidance, Sara learned how to process the hunted game.
She was clumsy at first, but she persisted and gradually improved. Her mother’s health continued to deteriorate, and Sara could instinctively sense that her mother’s life was drawing to a close.
Sara held her mother’s frail arm, and her mother, with a raspy voice, spoke softly.
“Sara, you’re such a kind child…”
“Mother… I don’t like it. Mother and I should always be together.”
“Sara… you are the kindest of all. I’m proud to have given birth to you.”
Tears streamed down Sara’s face as she buried it in her mother’s chest.
“Even though I ate so much meat, your illness didn’t get better.”
“It’s okay. This is my life. Thank you always, Sara…”
With those words, her mother gently stroked Sara’s hair.
Sara savored her mother’s warmth for a while, and they spent some time together.
Her mother’s breath grew shallower, and with her last difficult breath, she spoke.
“The meat you cooked was delicious… Thank you.”
And then, she breathed her last.
Sara cried all night, holding her mother’s lifeless body.
The next morning, she buried her mother on the grasslands, away from prying eyes.
She created a secret grave for herself and her mother.
“Why, Sara, all covered in dirt?”
“Haha, look, she’s crying!”
On her way back from her mother’s burial, Sara was confronted by Ral and Ren.
“… Mother… she passed away.”
Sara spoke with her head bowed.
“I see, she finally kicked the bucket!”
“If you’re weak, you die! That’s the law of the grasslands!”
The two of them laughed cheerfully.
“Don’t mock my mother.”
It happened in an instant.
Sara’s hand blade pierced through Ren’s chest.
“Cough… How dare you…”
Sara looked down on the gasping Ren with an indifferent gaze, as if he were trash.
“My mother won’t laugh anymore… She won’t be sad anymore… That’s why I don’t have to endure it anymore.”
She spat out those words and crushed Ren’s lifeless body.
Snap, crack, the sound of bones breaking and organs being crushed could be heard.
“W-what are you doing? You killed Ren!”
“Weakness is unacceptable.”
“W-what are you talking about? I’ll tell my father about this!”
Ral trembled in fear as he stepped back.
“If you’re weak, you get robbed, you get oppressed, you die… That’s the law.”
Sara, who had hunted many prey on the grasslands, deeply understood the rules of the land.
“But if you’re strong, you’re forgiven. That’s the law too.”
With these words, Sara casually slit Ral’s throat.
“Hey, you… Argh…”
“Sara will become the strongest on this grassland. That way, surely…”
Bathed in their splattering blood, she smiled.
On her throat, there was a small black mark.