Dokuhakihime to Hoshi no Ishi: Chapter 1
Credits and Translator's Notice:
Chapter 1: Elsa, the Abandoned Child
In the country of Vion, surrounding the wealthy residential areas, there were numerous districts where people lived in poverty. The neighborhood where Elsa grew up was particularly poor. People actually considered it to be more of a slum rather than just a ghetto. Elsa sprinted through these dark streets, her bare feet pounding on dry land as she huffed and puffed through clenched teeth.
She soared over leaking sewage and wooden crates scattered in disorder on the streets. She leaped over a feral dog that was either sleeping or dead, hesitating not even the slightest as she propelled her frail torso and dangerously thin shoulders forward, sprinting effortlessly. Her long black hair was neither trimmed nor neat. The ends of her hair were split and disarrayed. Only the pupils of her eyes did not waver in intensity, almost entirely scarlet red.
Elsa was sprinting home. In these parts, most people lived on the streets, but she had a house to return to. On paper, it actually belonged to Elsa’s foster parents who had raised her, but since they were dead, she had inherited it even though the house was technically owned by dead people.
A hand reached out from the streets and grabbed her by the shoulders. By reflex, Elsa twisted away and cried out:
"Hey! Lemme go!"
"Is there a reason why you’re so tense? I really don’t get you."
The large hand that grabbed Elsa’s shoulder was firm, and the deep voice that she heard sounded familiar. Taking a deep breath, Elsa brought her fiery red eyes to glare at him.
"That's none of your business, Joseph!"
Despite being spurned and identified by name, he was unshaken. The man sighed and furrowed his fine eyebrows. This person who blocked Elsa’s path was quite a well-known man on the streets. Although most people of this area were nasty and lazy folk, he was one of the few more sympathetic individuals who actually tried to keep an eye on Elsa.
Joseph was a bouncer at a local tavern and older than Elsa by about ten years. His muscular build was well-conditioned.
His tall figure sported a collared coat. He had extremely short brown hair and pupils of a similar color. Quite contrary to his body and line of work, his eyes flickered with sense of youthful energy. Suddenly his ordinarily gentle and cheerful eyes narrowed as he lowered his head towards Elsa with astonishment.
"What are you holding in your hands? Show me."
Faced with his menacing tone, Elsa looked extremely uncomfortable. Her eyebrows puckered up as she clutched a leather wallet and rapidly tried to conceal it against her frail chest. Her arms were crossed like they were hiding something, and she spat.
"I didn’t take anything!"
Joseph didn't hesitate to grab her shoulders and attempt to wrestle that purse away from her. A muddy green stone hung from Elsa’s neck, exposed to the outside air.
"Hey, hands off! You creep! Don't you fucking dare touch me. I’ll tell Misery!"
"All you have is that dirty mouth, you little imp. Even a chicken is more feminine than you are."
Elsa clenched her fist in resistance, but it made no more of a difference to Joseph than if she were a insect. He lifted the leather purse high above him and spoke.
Elsa kept struggling over it as she complained:
"Give it back! You thief!"
Joseph let go of the purse, but his astounded expression hardly changed.
"Are we talking about you or me here? But that’s definitely not yours."
Elsa snorted and raised her chin, and arrogantly continued:
"If I pick up something off the ground, it’s mine, right? What’s the difference between this and picking up trash? If you’re going to scold the whole boatload of us, then I’ll gladly listen! Don’t stick your butt in this, Joseph!"
"They’re not the same thing."
"They’re exactly the same!"
Elsa’s mouth blabbered on she stood there.
"If it's ditched in a landfill and wrapped in shoddy blankets, who’d want that? As an alcoholic who can't tell backwards and forwards apart, you’re more useless than an old goat. I ought to tell Misery that if a man like you keeps pouring money into drinks, he’ll keep going back even if he's got nothing left!"
As Elsa’s tirade went on, Joseph sighed as if to surrender.
"My life has nothing to do with you, Joseph. If you like giving people earfuls of crap, then please preach at that wall instead."
Elsa opened her palms waved them around so Joseph could that see they were empty. As she planned to turn around and leave, Joseph grabbed her shoulders again.
"Wait! I have something something to say that doesn’t have anything to do with with the two of us. Elsa, you skipped out on your shift at Loki’s store again. I helped get that job for you—-"
Elsa shrugged off Joseph’s massive hands and flashed a threatening glare at him.
"I don’t want it! I’d rather die than be ordered around by Loki! Somebody who makes such tasteless food and serves it to people should burn in hell!"
The work that Elsa played hooky on was a job that Joseph had arranged for her. His face twisted into contortion, and Joseph spoke with a coarse voice.
"Did you really get such a dirty mouth from practice? Or were you born with it? If you want to talk all high and mighty, save it for after you get a job and can support yourself!"
"Oh here we have it, another one of Joseph’s frickin' lessons!"
Elsa didn’t bother hiding her sarcastic expression.
He was always like that. In Elsa’s opinion, his lectures was less him trying to be helpful than him nosing around. Deep down though, Elsa understood that Joseph’s words were for her own benefit. However, her own heart was filled with the arrogant belief that she wasn’t a child anymore, so she straightened her shoulders.
"If I make a living off of my reputation as the poison-breathing one, cussing and swearing, what the hell's wrong with that?"
Joseph released a huge sigh as he ran both of his hands through his hair. His movements were crude, and it gave away how shaken he was by the conversation.
"Can a little rascal like you really survive like that?!"
Listening to Joseph’s argument weaken, Elsa released a chortle of laughter. She directed her ridicule at Joseph, but also a little at herself.
"I can do anything!"
As she laughed, words continued to spill out of her.
"I can do it."
Suddenly, the entire world seemed to spin with those words, and the image of Joseph’s face distorted. It was as if droplets of ink had interrupted the picture.
"...As long as I have my words and my voice."
That’s where it broke off.
(No matter what it is, I can do it... as long as I have a voice.)
Elsa’s awoke to the sensation of her lips touching the icy stone floor. The taste of the cold stone reminded her of her despair.
Elsa understood very clearly why she felt this despair.
It wasn’t because she longed for freedom now that she was in imprisoned. Nor was it because she cursed how her life had played out or the people she had met. It was certainly not because of the treatment she suffered as a prisoner and how they had tossed her onto the icy cold ground.
Rather, it was because she had inadvertently been pulled into the dreamscape of her past, when she could talk.
She still wanted to say something. But lying on the ground, only the sound of air came out from lips when she tried.
There was a bed in this narrow cell, but Elsa continued to lie on the cold floor.
She tasted the stone floor in her silent tears. They were tears of despair, but she couldn’t muster up any anger. There wasn’t any point.
In the midst of all this darkness, there was this faint muddy green glow. Elsa groped blindly with her fingers in the direction that green light. Before her eyes, Elsa saw the Star Stone that ordinarily hung at her bosum.
In Vion, as long as an infant is born alive, a Star Stone is assigned based on the positions of the stars. Regardless if one is nobility or a peasant, every person gets a stone that stays with them for life. Each person’s color and shape is unique. Elsa’s stone was glossy and a muddy green color, with traces of red scattered within.
It was said that when Elsa was born, the Seers had interpreted from the stars that her birth was an ill omen.
In other words, they predicted that she would become "the princess who would curse the country, a poison-breathing princess."
But even taboo children and miscarried fetuses were assigned star stones. This was the custom of this country.
Elsa wasn’t quite sure whether this was a blessing or a curse. She delicately caressed her stone with her finger. It didn’t have any particular special abilities, and it wasn’t going to bring her anything.
Within the City of Vion, even inside a prison, Elsa’s hands and feet were free to move. Her mouth was free of any bindings. The only freedom the Seers had stolen from her was the clarity of her voice.
Her one and only, rich, mellifluous voice, had been tied up as if with string. It refused to appear.
The temple Seers had performed a wicked and cruel act in order to wed a maiden to a foreign country. It was inhumane.
Because of the poison-breathing princess’s vulgar language, they had used magic to snatch away her voice and her words.
Elsa stroked the icy floor as well as the hem of her dress. Without warning, she heard the sound of footsteps, followed by this particularly despicable raspy voice.
The young girl reflexively shot a glance. Actually, she hadn’t intended to make any response at all. She had originally intended to become a soulless doll, or a corpse, but she couldn’t suppress her feelings of hatred and rejection.
"Milady is like this again..."
Their solemn tone of voice didn’t bear an ounce of respect. To them, it was another day in the business, and it was easy to tell they spoke that way out of obligation.
Elsa wished she could block her ears. However, a voice continued in her ears:
"...just like a sinner."
Just then, a new voice spoke out as if it were trying to verify something the speaker didn't understand. It was a voice she hadn’t heard before.
"Can’t you all be a little more respectful?"
Their deep, heavy, and pompous way of speech and voice made Elsa laugh on the inside. She was laughing at them.
Respectful? She wondered to herself what kind of person would actually dare say that kind of thing to the Seers.
"But, my lord Prime Minister…" Elsa faintly detected the deep voice of one of the seers whispering in protest.
The very same one of this country, this city, that corrupt politician—
In her hazy state of mind, Elsa moved her line of sight. She had wanted to have a glimpse at the man who said those words, but in the darkness of the prison cell, she could only vaguely perceive his indistinct silhouette.
Just then, the tender and beautiful voice of a woman surfaced from behind that silhouette.
"Precisely. Her Majesty is the much esteemed princess of Vion. I wouldn’t know what to do if some terrible misfortune befell our dear country..."
The voice continued with a smile on her face.
"...since well, she is the fated person for that neighboring country."
Elsa grit her teeth, and her mouth was filled with the taste of sand.
Elsa didn’t care who the enemy was. She never had any way of knowing, anyways. However, Elsa had a feeling that this woman was mocking her. Elsa instinctively knew it, and she squeezed out a smile from her mouth. She knew it because she was a human being, sort of like having woman's intuition.
Even though her feelings had been numbed long ago, somehow hearing those mocking words kicked up a furious flaming blaze in her chest. Elsa was surprised at herself.
As long as she had a voice, as long as she had words, she wouldn’t let anyone manipulate her even if she was imprisoned. Or so she thought.
However, the man who was called the Prime Minister and the woman who spoke after him turned and left before Elsa was released. Only the sound of their footsteps could be heard.
They didn’t say a word to the princess who would soon become part of the fate of the neighboring country.
She was dragged out of the cell and freed.
The man had said she was just like a sinner. Elsa sometimes thought to herself, wouldn’t it be nice if she was only just a heathen?
Outside of prison, Elsa was instructed in the ways of a princess’s life. From table manners, clothing, how to walk, and the steps to dancing; all things that Elsa had never experienced before now. But Elsa thought to herself -- maybe she was supposed to have had all of this in the first place.
Who knows, if she had been born in a slightly different world...
"Listen, you must behave like a princess. You absolutely cannot embarrass our country..."
The Seer's lessons made made Elsa feel sick and nauseated. Their language was alien and completely different from crude slang that people like Joseph used in the streets, and it made her feel like ants were crawling in her ears. Elsa wanted to fly free and empty her mind.
She daydreamed of impossible versions of the past and future -- like if she hadn't been born as the Poison-Breathing Princess, or if the stars were in a slightly different place when she born -- but even if she dreamed, there was no way to make these blissful fantasies reality.
Elsa's oldest memory is that of death.
Soon after Elsa was abandoned at birth, an old couple from the slums had adopted her. She had no idea what sort of connection this old couple, the royal family, and the temple had, and there was no way for her to find out. Her adopted family didn't give Elsa anything.
In that crumbling house, how was Elsa raised? How did she spend her days as a baby growing up as a girl? The only thing she could remember was that old couple never looked at Elsa's face again.
The only thing Elsa ever remembered them telling her as a child back then was one sentence:
Elsa didn't know if it was because that old couple was afraid of the Poison Breathing Princess or if was because they hated her. She was forced to stay silent, and if she disobeyed they would hit her with a cane.
Elsa would grip her stone tightly, and endure the pain of being flogged.
In retrospect, it was a miserable life, but those days did not last very long. When Elsa was the age of seven, the old couple died without having given or taught Elsa a single thing since the first day they met her.
After that, Elsa became an actual orphan.
From then on, she survived as a tramp, and spent day after day begging. She scrounged for money, pickpocketed, and stole. If she had any sort of saving grace, it was the fact that the house the old couple owned was left for her to take shelter in.
Ironically, since she had always been viewed with contempt, she came to accept that hollowness and embraced her new life.
"You're the Poison-Breathing Princess?"
Some people would ask curiously, giving her food in charity.
In this country, divination was everything. The higher one's place in society, the more importance they placed on divination. Among all people with noble titles, every single one of them had a private Seer; the amount of money they donated to the shrine added to their status. The long tradition of this activity to obtain grace was simply far out of reach of the poor. Since they relied on divination to determine the fates of neighboring countries, relationships between people could vanish without trace in an instant. Elsa's story had perhaps unfolded in this way.
At first, Elsa had no idea what this meant. However, she quickly learned that if she mimicked the profanities adults threw around, she became popular in the tavern. Though there were some people who were afraid of the girl who was abandoned by the Seers, most people seemed to take Elsa as a freakshow and goaded her on.
Elsa had an acerbic wit and soon discovered that her words had power. With language, she could make her living in the world of adults.
Since she had a reputation as the "Poison-Breathing Princess", she chose to arm herself with foul vocabulary. But apart from this, she could not find another way to make a living.
Though in reality, Elsa never had a shortage for insults.
"You want me learn to be a whore?"
Elsa quickened her pace in the corner of the tavern and straightened her slender waist. She, still underage, would rant:
"You worthless piece of scum! You think just by flashing some money, banging a little child, and getting a blowjob for your flappy penis will you help regain some of that hurt pride as a man? What a joke! I think you better suck your mommy's tits instead! This way you can tell her yourself how she gave birth to a piece of turd! Oh, and you think I'm shoddy? Well aren't you such a shining hero for wanting to screw a shoddy bitch? Hilarious! Only perverts want fuck with shoddy girls. Leave your disgusting money and get the hell out!"
People liked her crude insults, and they probably got a kick out of listening to her cuss. Of course, there were times when she offended some guests. More than once or twice, she was nearly beaten to the brink of death.
"You got quite a dirty mouth, the way you can do this all day non-stop. So the 'Poison-Breathing Princess' isn't just some title, eh?"
Some people would remark that way in awe. Joseph the bouncer had said something similar the first time they had met, when he pulled off a man that had started attacking her.
The 'Poison-Breathing Princess' isn't just some title.
With her smug words, she could make people feel angry and deeply uncomfortable.
Since a while ago, she had thought she'd depend on her words to survive. This was how she was going to live her life.
But those days were long gone. In the middle of the night a few days ago, a few Seers had banged on Elsa's rickety door. Elsa answered the door surprised and with a frown, and she didn't say a thing. The Seers immediately reached the stone that hang from Elsa's neck.
Elsa owned her voice and words, as well as her name. At the time, her only other posession was that stone, a turbid green with flashes of red.
The Seers paid no heed to Elsa's resistance as they spoke, and they wanted to take away the stone. Much like the time when Elsa was born, they spoke similarly:
Essentially a prisoner, Elsa was treated as if she were livestock.
The only thing she had on her person was that stone she was born with. She wasn't even standing of her own volition, as wrinkled hands were pulling her along.
(Don't you fucking touch me!)
She wanted to punch him so badly. She wanted to spit at him, and pummel him with her fists. Even if she missed, she didn't even care if she hurt herself.
However, she always preferred expressing the feelings that she harbored with words. Before any spitting, fists, or glares got involved, her spiteful language always came first. To be denied like this, she only felt tormented.
The physical pain, suffering, or the disgrace, didn't even bother her.
(I don't have my voice.)
Without her voice, she didn't have anything else.
Whenever she wanted to say something, she would immediately be struck with aching self-pity. She shouldn't have been born. Her existence was meaningless.
"Come here. It's time to be cleansed."
And so she was dragged down a very long corridor. On an ordinary day, she'd simply be escorted, but today was different.
In the giant hallway ahead of her, she could hear the sound of many disciplined footsteps marching by. In the wake of this, the seers in front of her all stopped.
"...Please wait here."
Elsa lifted her head slightly. The deep voice heard sounded unfamiliar. Elsa listless eyes surveyed the vast hallway, and she saw some dark figures passing by.
It was a man with several guards. Elsa only caught a glimpse of the side of his face; however, she got a very clear view of his back, which made Elsa stop breathing. She had seen him before, although never directly herself, but via the many portraits that decorated the city. She didn't know how many times she spat on these portraits when she saw them, thinking unflattering thoughts.
The ruler of this city, and also the king of this country, was walking right before her eyes.
Elsa suddenly felt fear and goosebumps. Her mind raced, and she couldn't calm down.
The people around her quickly noticed her intent to dash forward. They seized her shoulders and twisted her wrists together, restraining her.
But she wanted to shout, scream as loud as she could, and howl at the figure who wore king's attire.
Elsa didn't even know what she wanted to say. But she tried to yell anyways.
If she was a princess... a princess of this country in particular, then that man... the man who is king... he should be her father.
She never cared about him. Apart from disdain, she never had any feelings for him, and never wanted anything from him either. As matters stood, yes, that was the way things were, but at this point was it any different?
She didn't hope he loved her, and she never wanted him to return the affection she was deprived as a child. That was because those were things that never belonged to her.
She had no desire to ask him about the identity of her mother. That was of little consequence.
Elsa just wanted to curse him. She wanted to take all the hatred and the feelings she had collected until this day, and curse it all at the king.
Why? Why did he give birth to her? And after abandoning her, and then...
But the king did not come back. He didn't even look back, and he was completely oblivious to the restrained Elsa.
She was a cursed princess, the Poison-Breathing Princess. She was also Elsa the orphan. No matter how people despised and hated her, she received it gladly.
She wanted to curse him. She wanted to curse him with everything she suffered and hatred equivalent to the sheer despair she experienced.
(He can't hear.)
Esla thought. Wrinkled hands already had her tightly trapped.
(He can't hear anything I say.)
She gave up thinking about it. If only she could have make a sound, and if only she could say some words.
Afterwards, she was ordered to walk along a deserted corridor.
Pulled on by the tight grip around her wrists, she dragged her feet as she advanced step by step.
The shreds of despair were making her insane. Someone rinsed her with cold water, and another used a fine comb to brush her hair. Ointment was scrubbed over her skin, and her nails were manicured. Once upon a time she used to run around barefoot, but today the soles of her feet were soft and tender.
Elsa slowly opened her eyes and looked at herself in the mirror. The figure of an orphan had disappeared, and she finally experienced for herself what it meant to be beautiful.
She's a vulgar, scrawny orphan that people jeer at on the streets.
(I think you...)
Her birth was the farthest thing from happy. She's a dirty and repulsive girl that's covered in grime. But, even so.
(...aren't so disgusting.)
It took her great difficulty to come to this realization. However, when she remembered she would never see the king again, she slowly closed her eyes.
Translator's Notes and References
- Misery (ミザリー), in this context, is a name.
- The text is vague, but I believe the Seers are referring to her uncooperativity.
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