Huge thanks to kristenanna for the kofi! (3/3)
The second Walpurgis night she remembered was when she was sixteen. She spent it with Emily.
The government and military shamelessly revoked the lie that nothing would happen. After the first raid, a war declaration against Talas was declared throughout the Empire. The South was occupied within a year. Refugees packed up and rushed North towards the Capital, Malona, the last stronghold of the Empire.
It was around the time when news that the front line had been pushed North again was reported every day.
Airstrike alerts were issued almost daily in the middle of the night, and the enemy approached Leoarton, slowly swallowing up the Empire by land and sea. And the planes… Occasionally they flew over the skies near Malona and Leoarton and frightened them.
[It’s okay. I will always protect you.]
The young commander of the Leoarton Squadron repeated the same thing. Surprisingly, he kept that heavy promise. Enemy aircraft were shot into the sea before they reached the skies of Leoarton. Of course, in retrospect, it was more terrifying than great if you thought about how much the Empire sacrificed its young pilots in the process.
But back then, the only thing they could count on was Ian Kerner’s voice. He was always there. After enduring the night and turning on the radio in the morning, she heard his voice. He always survived.
That fact was the only pillar that supported them. So they didn’t think about it too deeply. It would be fine.
Because Ian Kerner said so.
They believed Leoarton would be fine.
A year had passed since she came to Hindley’s house. That same year, the feast of St. Walpurg was hosted.
Even during the war, festivals were held. It was smaller and simpler than it was in past years, but people still baked cakes and lit dimmed lanterns in the square. It seemed to be able to blot out the bloody atmosphere of war for a while.
After the beginning of the war, Hindley went to the racetrack every day to gamble. She liked when he went out, so she hummed as she kneaded the cake dough. Emily and Rosen took their favorite strawberry jam from the cupboard and spread it generously on the dough. It wasn’t a waste because they were going to eat all of it.
As they put the dough into the oven, Rosen whispered to Emily.
“Walpurgis Night is something special for you, isn’t it?”
Walpurgis Night was, after all, the feast of witches. As the times changed, witches had to hide, so they couldn’t participate in their own festival.
“Of course, the meaning is a little different now, but it was originally a Witch’s Festival, and it’s also my birthday.”
“It’s your birthday? Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
Emily spoke so carelessly that Rosen felt sad. Had she known in advance, she would have prepared a small gift. Emily smiled and patted Rosen’s head.
“Rosen, maybe my definition of ‘birthday’ is a little different from yours. Every witch’s birthday is Walpurgis Night. It’s not that I was born that day, but… ”
“Born as a witch?”
“Yes. Rosen, stop eating the dough. Eat it when it is properly baked. And don’t say ‘witch’ too loud.”
Emily slapped Rosen’s hand as she continued to scoop out the uncooked dough. Rosen hid her flour-covered hands behind her back with an innocent expression.
The fact that Emily was a witch was a secret no one knew.
Perhaps if it hadn’t been for their fateful meeting, Hindley would have hidden Emily’s identity from her as well. If she reported it to the government – which of course, she wouldn’t – Emily would be shot immediately.
“Don’t worry, Emily. My lips are sealed.”
Even if someone found out and wanted to report her, Hindley wouldn’t let it happen.
Hindley never let Emily go. Hindley needed Emily. Emily was his only source of money and labor. He was attached to her like a leech.
But did Emily need Hindley? Absolutely not. Hindley was just a parasite. The real doctor at the clinic was Emily.
Hindley was just a figurehead. In the back room, it was Emily who prescribed medicine, processed herbs, and cared for patients.
“Emily heals people without anyone knowing.”
Rosen said, flipping through Emily’s notebook with her flour-stained hands. Like her, Emily didn’t know how to read or write, so her notes consisted of symbols and pictures.
“Yes. But I can’t perform magic in the healing center.”
At first, Rosen couldn’t understand.
Why was Emily, who was incredibly smart, married to Hindley?
Why didn’t she run away and start a new life? It didn’t take long to find out the answer.
“Rosen. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but… I’m worried. You could be at risk too. You know… witch hunters are reckless. If you’re suspected to be a witch, you may die even if you really aren’t a witch.”
Being locked up in an orphanage, Rosen didn’t understand the world. The meaning of the word ‘persecution’ was far more terrifying than she thought. Witches could no longer wield their power as they pleased. Once admired, they were now hunted like cattle and despised.
Science quickly took their place.
But the question remained. The steam engine was a great invention, but that didn’t make magic completely obsolete. There was still a void that science could not fill, and the magic tools left behind by witches were traded at high prices on the black market.
So why did the Empire hunt witches when they still needed magic?
– Old feelings of inferiority and anger.
To quote Emily, it was ultimately due to a power struggle.
– Magic is a power with mysterious properties. It does not flow through blood, so it cannot be used for political marriage between families, nor can it be obtained through money or power. It’s a power that strikes like a lightning bolt from the poor to the wealthy. And it can only be inherited by girls…
They were afraid and uncomfortable with the fact that, in a sense, the power given very fairly is the power of the world. As soon as Rosen heard it, she understood it instinctively, but her chest constricted in anger. She asked a question she knew the answer to.
-So no one knows that you can heal people?
-How did you find this method and why don’t you teach it to people? That’s why Hindley ignores you and condescends. What Hindley doesn’t know is that Emily taught me everything!
-Because one person can’t save the world. There’s no one special enough to do that.
-No, Emily is special. Everyone ignores how special you are, Emily. I don’t think Hindley is amazing.
-Shhh! Don’t forget to always be careful with what you say.
-I’m sorry, but…
-Rosen. I’m a witch. That’s why I started studying medicine. I can’t use magic anymore, but there are moments when everyone needs healing.
Emily did not try to monopolize her knowledge. She always shared recipes and small remedies to those in need without hesitation. Rosen didn’t like that. If it were her…
She wouldn’t have done that.
If it were her, she would use her talents to live well. She would only spare the people she liked and kill the bad guys by pretending to heal them.
“Doesn’t Emily hate the world? It’s so unfair. The world treats you badly, so why do you keep trying to give back?”
Emily didn’t answer. Rosen stared at the necklace that was always restraining Emily. Of course, she wasn’t in a position to say that. Because she, too, was saved by Emily’s goodness.
Emily opened her notebook and tried to teach Rosen a number of useful things on the nights Hindley didn’t come home.
– It would be great if either of us knew how to read…
– It’s okay. If you show me, I’ll study hard. I’m good at memorizing.
Classes, where both the student and teacher were illiterate, were slow and sluggish. But Emily taught diligently, and Rosen studied hard. It was the first class she had ever taken. She learned addition, subtraction, and units of imperial money.
How to say ‘I’m a civilian, help me!’ in Talas.
How to plant seeds in the ground according to the weather.
How to process medicinal herbs to make pain relievers and hemostatic agents.
Emily had also never been to school. She sometimes blushed as she apologized for not having enough to share, but Rosen always shook her head. The knowledge that Emily said was of little value was Rosen’s only hope. The process of her world becoming wider was tearfully overwhelming.
Now she had less of a chance at being scammed in the market. She helped Emily plant herbs in the fields and take care of the sick. It seemed that day by day she was becoming a more useful person.
If Emily had been as strong and selfish as Rosen was, she wouldn’t have stayed in the house.
Rosen was sure that one of them would be killed or kicked out.
“…Well, it’s the first time I’ve ever thought of that.”
“Rosen, you’re smart.”
Emily smiled bitterly and stroked Rosen’s hair once more. Emily looked sad and helpless. Rosen regretted making fun of her without thinking about it.
What did she know about Emily’s life to meddle in such a brazen way?
There must be a reason why Emily couldn’t do it. For reasons she didn’t know or didn’t understand…
She changed the topic to make up for the subdued mood. She sat down at the table and asked in a bright voice.
“If witches aren’t related by blood, what is the criteria for a witch to be born? Is it really random?”
“Witches are not born. They are made.”
“Is it acquired?”
Emily sat across from her, turning on the gas stove and nodding her head. It was the first Rosen had heard of it. Strangely, her heart was pounding.
“Then that means that you became a witch at some point?”
“Yes. At the age of six.”
“How did you become a witch? What are the conditions?”
Emily did not miss the excitement in Rosen’s voice.
Emily squinted her eyes and looked at Rosen suspiciously.
“Rosen, you’re not saying you want to be a witch, are you?”
“Hey, I just want to hear it. I’m curious!”
Rosen shrugged and smiled. Emily was reluctant to use magic or talk about witches, but sometimes Rosen couldn’t contain her curiosity and asked questions. She couldn’t forget the wonder of seeing Emily’s magic for the first time.
Emily answered reluctantly.
“One blood, one wish, one magic.”
What the hell did she mean?
It wasn’t anything like a recipe in a cookbook. Emily used words that were vague, like the incantations of legend.
“…What do blood, wish and magic mean? Am I the only one who doesn’t understand what you mean?”
“Well actually, I don’t know exactly what those conditions mean either.”
So, without knowing it, the conditions were met and she became a witch.
Rosen asked a little worriedly.
“Did Emily choose it?”
Surprisingly, she answered without hesitation. It was Emily’s decisive attitude.
Rosen did her own math. Twenty years ago, Emily was six. It must have been after the persecution of witches had begun.
“Don’t you regret it?”
“Rosen, there are facts that once you realize, you can never go back. Obviously, after becoming a witch, my life became harder, more painful, and more tiring… I have no regrets though.”
Emily turned off the bright gas stove in the kitchen and lit a small lamp on the table. A cozy scarlet light enveloped the kitchen.
“Rosen, you’re holding back what you really want to ask, aren’t you?”
“How did you know? Did you use magic?”
“I don’t need magic. I can tell from your expression.”
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