Chapter 1.1

Encounter

Picking herbs in the kitchen field at the back of the manor was one of Jill’s favorite tasks. 

Peppermint and chamomile. Dill, basil, rosemary, parsley, fennel. It was so satisfying to enjoy the herbs’ pleasant fragrance, and watch the small insects wander over the land. While he was collecting in a basket, all the different kinds the cook Stella asked for, a voice rose from beyond the shrubbery.

– Excuse me! I’m from the village for a delivery.

A courier always came by to supply groceries. So that he wouldn’t be seen, Jill swiftly turned his back to the voice and climbed the slope behind the mansion. There was a bower that can’t be seen from the back door, if you chose this path,  you’d meet yet another gentle hill to climb and finally would arrive in a place where, emerging in between the trees, was a view from above of the village. 

Jill sighed as he overlooked the town. The peaceful little hamlet was about an hour away by horse carriage from Central, the capital of Barnerude. Nearby, standing on a small hill was the Muller family’s mansion, Jill’s birth family. The town was about 1 kilometer from the residence and could be reached easily walking, as the servants often did. 

However, it was different for Jill.

In fact, he couldn’t even fetch the goods delivered by the couriers. The Mullers’ omegas were forbidden to recklessly show themselves to outsiders. Since omegas were their valuable “products”. In the country of Barnerude, several households thrived by trading omegas with the aristocracy.

 Instead of paying once, cash on hand, the omegas were kept for a given period. If a child was to be conceived in the meantime, both families could then reach agreement on a special reward. Once the baby was delivered, the omega rarely bonded with their partner but most of them would return to their birth family and would be sent again to another harem.

The Mullers, as one of these families, were famous for generations for producing high quality omegas, with powerful noble beastmen as their privileged customers. Jill was born into the Mullers’ main branch as a direct descendant.

With his shining black hair, straight nose, deep ashen eyes and small chin, it constantly seemed like there was a sorrowful look on his face. Thanks to these beautiful features inherited from the Mullers,  several aristocrats wished for him from an early age. 

However, because of his regular “rebellious attitude”, he was now a bit, scrapped by his mother, a left out, working with the servants as punishment. Jill never meant to be difficult. But for his mother, it was inappropriate as an omega of this family to question the point of strict lessons or to say there were other things he wanted to do. He didn’t want to anger his mother or the other omegas so he tried to change that dim view. Unfortunately, today, his work was interrupted, forcing Jill to hide himself.

– …that’s troublesome.

A gentle breeze came, disheveling his long hair and disturbing his sight of the close and yet far away village. Jill unconsciously brushed the ornament around his neck. A necklace at a glance, but nothing more than a collar. When he was finally required to wear it, he understood. Every omega was a crippled bird trapped in an invisible cage. There was no other place than the cage given to him, for if he was to go outside he wouldn’t survive long. Jill already accepted his situation, yet still, sometimes an intense desire to fly away would well up inside of him.

To fly freely, even if it meant to die—how delightful it would be. As his old bird pet’s image appeared in his mind, a voice emerged from behind.

– Jill-sama, Jill-sama? I asked you to pick some herbs, how far did you go? If we don’t hurry, the basil will quickly wither away, you know!

That slightly hoarse and rough yet affectionate voice belonged to Stella, the family’s cook.

– Sorry Stella! I’ll be right there!

Jill replied in a loud voice, ran down the small hill then barged into the underground kitchen through the mansion’s back door, which was left open. Several kitchen maids giggled at that scene. 

– Jill-sama, you have leaves stuck in your hair again.

  – You have branches on the hem of your clothes. Did you return to the forest?

– I just went to the hidden side of the slope for a bit.

Jill laughed with them and as they were busy preparing lunch and dinner, he presented his harvest to Stella. 

– Here, basil and dill, there’s mint too.

– Let me see…aah, you picked only the ones with the finest taste and smell, laughed Stella, her plump body jiggling. Jill-sama’s really good at growing herbs or handling the chickens, huh.

– I’m quite confident in my potato peeling skill too! I’ll help you with anything, just ask.

While one of the maid was preparing a cup of tea, Jill sat down on a chair nearby and started peeling a pile of potatoes with a knife. 

– The other day, Mary told me you even helped her fold the laundry.

– Yes, because there was a lot.

– Jill-sama is probably the only omega who knows how to make a bed.

– Hmm, I wonder about that. Indeed, from the Muller family, I’m probably the only one but if we seek throughout the world, we’ll surely find at least another like me, won’t we?

Thus was Jill’s daily routine, chattering innocently with the servants in the basement while working. Even though it’s been like so for a few years, Stella still had that melancholic look at times.

– Jill-sama really is a hard worker. But you know, no matter how much servant duties you learn, this knowledge won’t be useful in harems. I hope madam will pardon you soon.

– Pardon or whatever, mother simply gave up and rejected me, Jill smiled brightly. But I don’t care since it’s much more fun to work with everyone here than to cultivate some dreary refinement.

Such was his true opinion. The manor’s laboring force was composed of betas, making them more free than omegas, whose existences’ purpose was to give birth to alpha beastmen’s offspring. So working with them all the time was also a way to distract himself from these gloomy thoughts.

After he finished peeling the potatoes, Jill began cutting stale bread next to Stella who was making her special dressing. A housemaid then popped her head through the kitchen entrance.

– Stella, what should we do?, the girl clenched her apron in her fists, a troubled look on her face. The omegas in the salon asked to replenish the juice pitcher.

– Oh, it’s the break between lessons. Before Dan and the others left, it should have been full.

– But they told me it wasn’t enough.

Two other kitchen maids exchanged worried glances. 

– All of the male servants went to town to help with the festival’s preparations and they won’t be back before noon…so in an hour and a half.

The Mullers were a rather conservative household. The work was assigned to specific domestics, so a kitchen maid’s place was in the kitchen helping the cook. And to serve the omega residents was a male servant duty. 

– It’s okay, I will do it. Today is a bit too hot, so the teachers probably drank too much. Stella, can you get it ready at once?

Jill let the bread knife down, stood up and looked at her.

– Yes, certainly, and as she brought out a large porcelain pitcher, she continued worried. But Jill-sama, at this hour there should be a lot of omegas in the salon.

– That’s right Jill-sama! Besides, the madam will surely be angry when she’ll know her son served as a substitute for the missing servants.

– Yet, if one of you handles it, mother will be furious, won’t she? I will take on all of their scoffs. I’m used to people saying whatever they want about me.

The maids looked at each other, some uneasy, some anxious seeing he assured them to rely on him. But they didn’t belie his point. The mistress of the family, Jill’s mother, was the woman in charge in the household and her words were laws. No one would dare to oppose her. Even so, Jill headed out with the juice, leaving behind a restless Stella. As he was heading to the dim, narrow stairs used by the employees only, a wisp of a voice reached his ears.

– Why does the madam treat Jill-sama so cruelly?

– Who knows, Stella replied in a sigh. Jill-sama is…because he’s an atypical omega — let’s just say that he diverges from the madam’s ideal.

While walking up the stairs, Jill smiled to himself thinking about his gentle Stella’s speech. His mother would’ve undoubtedly raised an eyebrow if she had heard it.  Actually, it wasn’t a matter of divergence but since he was an object of dissatisfaction, it was normal to be disqualified as one of the Mullers’ omega. Jill himself felt the same way. 

Constantly feeling out of place among the residents and for as long as he could remember, at the mere sight of his face, his mother would always sigh and his siblings scoff. 

Maybe there was a mistake, maybe he wasn’t really meant to be born an omega. 

At the end of the stairs, there was a door that led to the public part of the mansion. Down the main hallway was a spacious lounge where all the omegas gathered for the lessons, spending their time learning etiquette and the traditional performing arts. The same salon where the omegas were waiting impatiently, basked in the bright sunlight pouring down from the windows. 

As of now, the household hosted more than ten omegas. Besides Jill and his siblings who were born in the main branch, relatives entrusted their children to the Mullers, in hope for them to be sent in the high ranking nobles’ harems. His mother, as the mistress of the house,  thoroughly managed their education and only those she approved of were allowed to sojourn in the manor. 

Hence why the salon was sumptuous, reflecting all of the omegas’ apparent grace and refinement. However, these qualities didn’t extend to their true self. When Jill placed the pitcher of juice on the center table, a flustered voice bluntly stated.

– Oh no…of all people it had to be him bringing our drinks. Hey you, it is best not to talk with that servant.

– Why is that?

– He’s wearing the same necklace as us, see? Despite appearances, this omega is a Muller. However, because he angered the madam, he’s nothing more than a domestic now.

Indifferent to his presence in the room, the girl continued her story while pouring herself a glass of juice. Then with her body faced towards the young boy who arrived recently, she sent Jill a disdainful side look.

– When we were little, a nobleman, enthralled by Jill’s beauty, brought him to his villa for the summer holidays. But that fool ran away, putting the mistress in troubles. The aristocrat was exceptionally furious, so at that time, two of the most beautiful omegas were offered in apologies.

– And that inepte waste was born into the renowned Muller house. With an excellent pedigree and a position of importance, comes the notion of selfsacrifice, right?, added another lovely omega while reaching for the baked sweets, snickers escaping her lips as she looked at Jill.

– Really, what an idiot. That’s why he’s going to be married off into the poor noble family neighboring our territory. My, if it was me, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

– That provincial gentry cat beastman?

– Uh-huh~ that being said, he wouldn’t be able to afford an omega from this household. But guess what? He said he was Jill’s childhood friend, so it means they met outside of the mansion. Truly shocking, isn’t it?

As one would’ve expected, Jill was hurt but didn’t say a word. If he dared to object, it would only bring him unnecessary troubles and pain. In fact, their talk was entirely the truth. Abandoned by his parents, he was to be married to the noble who lived in the manor nearby, Albert Reinhart. 

The Reinharts were all nice people. A diligent landlord family  respected by the serfs as well as the farmers. Albert was a large cat beastman and an important person for Jill. Although he was rather stern looking, his heart was kind since little. When the tiny bird died at that time, Albert tried to comfort the sad Jill promising him a new bird pet. Of course he politely refused but now he found joy thinking he’ll wed such a gentle man. 

Be it working with the servants or being paired with Albert, he wasn’t unwillingly dragged. He was doing it on his own accord, consenting and grasping it all in a way the other omegas would never understand. 

The moment he tried to exit the salon silently, a voice called.

– Say, Jill.

– …yes?

Looking over her shoulder, the young woman said with a grin.

– Your marriage into the Reinhart family is near, so you’ll have to do your best. If your beloved Albert’s child isn’t promptly conceived, the madam said she’ll disown you. You’ll end up being sold to a brothel for whatever price, isn’t that horrible?

All of the omegas around laughed at her jest. It was elegant and delicate almost a hush yet it was profoundly cruel. Jill turned and left without a word. He walked down the servants’ corridor, opened the door at the end. Unlike the public part of the mansion, the path was narrow and the light dim, such that his body faded into the dark. 

– Haa. 

With an irrepressible sigh, Jill leaned against the wall. That sort of mockeries weren’t a first but being used to it didn’t mean his heart was safe. The sharp pain hit him each time he realized he was the topic of their sarcasm. Was he really that different from his surroundings? Was it why his mother forgoed him? 

Usually, even if the omega doesn’t conceive and returns to their birth family, they’d only be dispatched to another harem again. Their value certainly drops but they are never abandoned. However, Jill’s case was different. If he was to damage the family’s reputation a little or lose Albert’s affection for him, his mother declared he was to be disowned and sold to a merchant. 

Instead of being polished up with time and money as “goods” should be, Jill was shunned by her, thus becoming a discarded product. Not only did he hurt the family’s name in the past but his regular defiance led them to a cold war. That long-standing feud passed the point of no return. Well before she considered that marriage of convenience,  he was already working amongst the domestics. 

…and yet, I don’t wish for this quarrel.

This home was suffocating. 

Jill had no way to escape except by this union. This was his only getaway. Although there was no official date yet, Albert still said he was working on the wedding preparations, ready to welcome him. Jill liked this part of him. He was his companion, a constant support when he felt so out of place in his own family. 

Surely, this marriage will make him happy. There was no major issue, he didn’t need to move far away either so for a gentle outcast like himself, this should be enough to make him thrilled. Or so he thought.

Then why don’t I feel as happy?

Merry laughters were coming from behind the living room door. Alone in the dark and narrow corridor, Jill pressed his hand against his chest, listening. 

– …why am I an omega?

Omegas.

One of this world’s second genders. It was no exaggeration to say that their existence’s sole purpose was to give birth to alpha beatmen’s children. How great it would’ve been if there was a bridge between beast people and humans, alas, because of the omegas’ heat, they seem to exist as alphas breeding tools. 

If only Jill would luxuriate in living life comfortably, without setting a single foot outside the residence. If only he would accept that he was an omega, take pride in it, and, like those in the salon, laugh innocently only hoping to carry the child of a rich beastman. 

However, he never considered that model of felicity as happiness. Not in the slightest. All the things Jill enjoyed, all the things he wanted to do were rejected and frowned upon for reasons unknown to him. Is the desire to go to a foreign country to enjoy their traditional songs that strange of a dream? Have you ever wished to see, with your own two eyes, the far away place you saw in a landscape painting? 

The salty ocean air, the countries beyond the sea, the other side over the high mountains; although all of these were better left unknown, he always wondered. There was, unfortunately, no chance to satiate that curiosity. Albert was a good man but was still an alpha. 

What was expected of omegas was only to bring beasts’ successors into this world.

Well, I’m fine with it. I also want to repay Albert.

And yet, as he ran down the stairs he remembered how the little bird’s corpse grew colder in his palm. Sometimes, he couldn’t help himself, he was assailed by the urge to run away, fly faraway and rip his chest open. But he shook off this feeling then quickly made his way back to the kitchen.

– I delivered the juice safely. What should I do next?, Jill asked Stella in a cheerful voice.

Smiling brightly as if nothing ever happened and moving on to whatever task is next like so, made Stella worried about him. She sighed but smiled back.

– Then, can you please let the chickens exercise while you’ll clean their coop? You really like animals after all.

– Sure, leave it me!

– Also, take a nice bath when you’re done. You’ll probably reek of chicken.

Stella wiped her hands on her apron, reached into its pocket then took out a letter. Even before seeing the seal, Jill knew.

– Is it from Albert?, his face lightened up and Stella nodded with a sweet grin.

– Yes, indeed.

They would often meet halfway between their two houses to talk and eat sandwiches together. The time they spent chatting idly, just the two of them, was his happy time. The servants of both families thus secretly carried the letter back and forth. 

– You can be reassured, Stella said, looking at him with gentle eyes, like she would do with her own grandson.

Even the kitchen maids were watching him as if they were encouraging him to enjoy himself. Jill, embarrassed, swiftly received the letter. He was so glad he could see his dear Albert owing to the servants’ kindness who watched over them. 

– Thank you everyone.

Had they not been living here, this house would’ve been way more oppressive. His mother wanted to treat him like a nobody as punishment but somehow, by spending a lot of his time with them, Jill found things to smile about. 

Even if it felt suffocating, not despairing, but live on.

The next day too, was supposed to be the same as usual. Just like yesterday, he helped Stella, cleaned the coop as the chickens roamed free in the garden and gathered the eggs for the kitchen. While watching over the birds pecking at insects and grass, he then knuckled down his weeding duties. 

His mood didn’t clear up after meeting Albert as his friend indirectly rushed him, asking to pick an official date for the move out. Jill wasn’t able to reply immediately. The Muller household had a rule preventing omegas to be sent to harems before they reached adulthood. Bearing and giving birth to a child too early would put a heavy burden on their bodies. 

But in Jill’s case, he was offered to Albert.

– You can start living with me without waiting for your birthday, he said.

Albert didn’t pursue further when Jill replied that he had to talk with his mother first and instead, excitedly told him about their bedroom. How he put a new big bed for them to sleep together, how he wanted to change the curtains to Jill’s favorite color and how he should visit once. 

– There’ll also be a room for you to use as you wish. A weaving machine too and a shelf where you’ll be able to store all sorts of origami pieces as well as different embroidery threads. You can move out anytime you want.

Listening to Albert, happily saying he couldn’t wait for the day his companion would settle in the manor, Jill felt miserable. He was about to leave the Muller household, and even so, the same feeling haunted him with this truth: he won’t be able to freely step outside of the mansion. Nothing will change.

At the same time, he was torn since he couldn’t see the bliss in a life with his gentle childhood friend as truly satisfying. Albert wanted Jill but it wasn’t reciprocated. Oh, he liked him! If someone asked who was his favorite person in the world, he would choose Albert without hesitation. He was glad to be engaged with his precious friend for when they were together, laughters always rang out between them. So this honest feeling pushed him to give a vague reply and decide on an official date for the wedding.

 With only three months until his birthday, there was no point in putting it off.

He mulled over these gloomy thoughts while plucking the grass, made the chicken exercise for about an hour then, as he was trying to get them back in the coop, it happened. Just as he picked up the last one in his arms, the bird suddenly flew off.

– AH-, HEY!

The chicken who vigorously jumped off from Jill’s arms was now running around with its wings spread open. The flight feathers were cut so it couldn’t fly but it was still quick on its feet. Jill promptly closed the coop’s door and chased after the chicken who dived into the blooming Genisteae bush.

– Yoyo! Yoyo, don’t go too far!

The runaway chicken is a well-known recidivist that often makes people chase after it. When Jill came out of the thicket, the bird was waiting for him with a somewhat triumphant look and as soon as it saw him, it dashed at full speed.

– Wait for me, Yoyo! Having a great time huh.

Despite his complaints, Jill didn’t dislike this play tag. He could run around, come back covered in mud and put it on the chicken’s bad habit. None of the family’s omega would ever stoop to that. Even for the beta domestics, running after a fleeing bird was childish, a kid’s deed. 

But for Jill, it was one of the few things he enjoyed. Especially on a day like today, where he felt under the weather, it was a good change of pace. Maybe somehow, Yoyo too knew how fun it was for its caretaker. Perhaps it was thrilling to wait to be caught at the very last second but as soon as Jill reached his hands to pick it up, Yoyo jumped once again in the nearby thicket, making him almost crawl to look into it. 

– Yoyo no! That’s the outer garden…geez!

The Muller mansion was originally owned by aristocrats, hence its large proportions. Since it was built a long time ago, the building as well as the garden reflected the ancient fashion. Bordering the back field and the front yard, was a site taken over by nature: the outer garden, as it was called. A place where one could enjoy watching the rustic, pristine wilderness. 

The peaceful scenery was indeed beautiful but it was a bit hard to chase down a fleeing chicken where there was no wall nor enclosures. Actually, the omegas were banned from going to the outer garden alone, however Jill lost Yoyo after it jumped into that bush. And it was problematic if he were to lose sight of it while fetching another servant’s help. 

After passing through the shrubs of Genisteae brimming with yellow flowers, he met a meagre grove of trees. The part close to the manor’s entrance was somewhat maintained to blend in with the outer garden, just so that it offered a good view of the meadow but the backside was completely indistinguishable from the forest. Yoyo was nowhere to be found and Jill frowned.

There was a narrow path down the slope that marked the end of the Muller’s property. It was rarely used by people but if Yoyo did take it and he was to chase after it, he might run into someone. While he was wondering whether to go back or not, the bird popped up from behind a tree ahead. With a sigh of relief, Jill chased after it.

– Yoyo! You can run away but today, you really overdid it. Come out!

Perhaps the chicken, tilting its head a little, understood these words since it didn’t move even when the man approached it. However, when he reached out his hands to catch it, the bird spread its wings open and jumped right to his face.

– —ARGH! HEY! IT HURTS!

Blocking his field of vision, the chicken used Jill’s head as a stepping stone to fly as high as it could, splendidly landed and went back to its race. After he fell on his behind, the omega quickly stood up, strengthening himself to chase once again after the cursed poultry.  

However, horse hooves arose suddenly. In a hurry, he hid himself behind a tree and before long a horse appeared on the road nearby. Jill, who discreetly peeped, covered his mouth to muffle the cry he was about to leak. Standing on the immaculate chestnut coat stallion was a wolf beastman. A rich black fur, big and sturdy with a majestic stature. From his strong forehead to the bridge of his nose, the wolf’s appearance was intimidating, giving off a sense of contentment and confidence. Serene pale blue eyes reminiscent of ice were exuding a high level of intelligence. An overwhelming presence that could freeze one’s heart and body in a single glance.

…he’s probably an alpha.

The only alpha beastman Jill ever knew was his childhood friend. Albert was blessed with a good build too, but despite his really tall and reliable look, the wolf in front of his very eyes had a completely different atmosphere around him. He had something that made people want to trust and serve him, magnanimous and still unquestionable, the sign of a ruler. As he felt his hairs stand up, Jill wrapped himself tightly in his arms. Beastmen’s sense of smell was said to be excellent but Jill was hoping he’d pass by without noticing him. 

However, he wished in vain. The wolf halted his ride.

– You there. I wish to ask for directions.

– …

– Is the Muller’s mansion right up this road?

The tone didn’t match the image of a ruler, it had such a gentle feeling. Jill was wavering but asked so politely, he couldn’t ignore him. So he slowly came out of the grove. 

On closer look, it became clear that this man was a wealthy aristocrat. The rider’s fine clothing was cut in the beastmen’s traditional fashion with inconspicuous embroideries. The horse’s coat, well-groomed and glossy. The mouthpiece along with the bridle were delicately engraved, humble decorations. Such a high-quality harness has certainly been crafted piece by piece. When his eyes met Jill’s, the man got off with ease, like he’s done it a thousand times, and bowed. 

– I’m sorry for calling you suddenly. I’m from Central and couldn’t find my way on these unfamiliar lands. I heard from someone I met en route that I could reach the mansion while avoiding the village by this road.

Odd, that wasn’t really aristocratic-like. Even as he saw Jill, the wolf kept a polite demeanor. Although his clothes were made of silk, they were full of grass and dirt since he chased after the runaway chicken. Besides, with his disheveled hair, Jill probably looked like a mere servant. 

– …that’s right.

Cautious, Jill replied briefly embracing himself, the goosebumps still apparent. From the slope and with his arms folded in front of his chest as if protecting himself, he overlooked the wolf beastman who was standing on the road below. 

Truly, regardless of how you look at it, this man was an alpha. If his visit was expected, even Jill, despite his status in the masion, would’ve known about it. For instance, he would’ve been ordered to stay in the kitchen at all cost without coming out, to hide himself, never to show his face to their important visitor. Maybe there was a possibility the man wasn’t an alpha. 

No, he can’t be anything else.

A peculiar atmosphere was cladding him like a coat, one that Jill never witnessed before.

– …what kind of business do you have with the Mullers? Are they expecting your visit?

To Jill’s sudden sharp tone, the beastman smiled, slightly embarrassed.

– I’m aware this is quite rude. There were certain circumstances-…or rather, maybe it’s more accurate to say that it was on impulse? If possible, I wanted to get through with it quickly, so I raced here from Central on horseback.

– On…impulse?

He couldn’t bring himself to picture that dignified wolf letting his urges drive him. The man smiled seeing Jill’s dubious glance. 

– Why the suspicious look?

His laugh made him sound friendlier, easier to talk to. Thanks to this little joke, the atmosphere somewhat cleared up a bit. Jill relaxed. —at least, he didn’t look like a bad person.

– Then, if I can’t meet the Mullers’ mistress without an appointment, how about I leave and come back after making one? 

– Well, it’s not that you cannot visit-

The Muller household only sent their omegas to aristocrats they were associated to or those that have been introduced to them by said associates. However, since it was pretty clear that this one was a high ranking noble, Mrs. Muller would never drive him away. 

– But if you’re here to pick up an omega…

As he tried to say that today wasn’t a good day, a wild Yoyo suddenly jumped out of the bush nearby, vigorously clucked and raced down the slope, straight towards the beastman.

Enjoy! ヾ(๑╹◡╹)ノ »

・゜゚・ Love, little caramel ・゜゚・

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