Chapter 1. Prologue
After being scolded to the point of tears by Erdos because I was taken out without a proper bodyguard, Eryrte was placed under house arrest in his own Palace. I didn’t think we would get caught, but I didn’t expect to find Erdos waiting for us in the room.
Of course, Eryte wouldn’t succumb to such punishment, but at least he would not be able to leave so easily while under surveillance. I walked through the garden after supper holding Erdos’s hand.
“Rosiane, it’s not safe out there. Don’t go out like that ever again, do you understand?”
During the hour of our walk, Erdos was explaining to me the dangers of the outside world.
Just as I was getting tired of it, Erdos made a completely shocking suggestion.
“If you want to go out and look around, I’ll go with you. Your body is a little stronger now, you can express your wish.”
For an hour, Erdos talked about going undercover with him. Actually, I had no intention of looking outside. I just went along to place Eryte’s compulsion to rest.
His thoughts were naturally ignored, as I needed to maintain the concept of “a child who can’t talk yet”. Eventually, to my annoyance, my first outing with my father was scheduled without knowing the exact date.
Autumn and winter in this strange world passed by in a flash. Before I knew it, a year had passed and it was early spring.
I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night, my grandmother sat quietly on the ground. My mind still stuck in a dream, placed me in a daze. For the first time since I arrived here, I dreamed of the past. It was a dream from when I was a child.
The room was dimly lit with incandescent bulbs, and there was something gloomy about it. There was a faint musty smell that struck my nose. It was the smell that damp walls emitted when it rained. There were insects that periodically came up from the sewers, but no matter how much insecticide was sprayed. It was ineffective so we eventually gave up. Whenever it rained heavily, there would be so much water that it drenched everything. Occasionally, the power would go out, and sometimes the water was cut off. It was fairly normal for the gas to stop. At such times, my grandmother would take out the rice and kimchi that rested in the rice cooker when the electricity shut off. If I didn’t eat, she would shout at me.
‘You will starve!’
This was the world where my grandmother and I lived. A place where no light shone.
I thought this was how everyone lived. Alone in a house where the air was suffocating. No one to confide in. No one to talk to. However, I realized in elementary school that this was not the case, after I was invited to the group leader’s home. There was a mother who cooked a delicious meal for her because it was her birthday, and a father who brought her a neatly wrapped doll that she had asked for. The house was bathed in warm sunshine and delightfully smelled of air freshener.
‘What am I? Where are my parents? Where’s my grandma? Where is my house?’
I lifted my face, which was in my palms, and looked around the room. The expensive tapestries with woven figures of gods located in a corner of the room, gorgeous silver damask curtains with delicate trimmings on the edges, the soft carpet made of unidentifiable animal skins, everything was different from there…
Suddenly, It was hard to breathe and tears welled up in my eyes. I didn’t know why. It was too scary and painful to be alone in the room where only darkness lay. I couldn’t stay in the room any longer and ran out, and the guards standing at the door rushed after me. I ran as fast as I could to get away from it all.
As I reached the garden, breathing heavily, I saw Nanuk in front of me. He took turns looking at me and the guards, but then came closer to me.
“Did you have a nightmare?”
He hesitated for a moment, as if he didn’t know what to say, but then he wiped my tears away and asked. His hand on my cheek was warm.
“It’s okay. You’re not alone.”
Nanuk patted my head with a careful hand.
‘Not alone…?’ That was the most strange thing I’d ever heard, because I was always alone.
“I’ll be with you. Come, let’s go for a walk.”
He took off the thin cardigan he was wearing, buttoned it over me meticulously, and hugged me tightly. The warmth that was started with Nanuk’s hands circled my body and then lingered in my chest. Just as my breathing stabilized, Nanuk’s heartbeats sounded in my ears. It sounded very calm and nice. He had not said any comforting words during the walk, but this paradoxically gave me a sense of security. It was strange being consoled by someone who was much younger than me and who was just a character in the book.
“Will you come to my palace?”
Did he notice my reluctance to return to my room alone, that’s why he asked? Without replying, I grasped his sleeve firmly and, thinking it was an agreement, I turned to the right side of the garden. Unlike the garden of the Palace of Hegatheon, where the flowers were in full bloom, the garden of the Palace of Rafinas, where Nanuk stayed, were drooping green. There was not a single flower, the garden was made up of trees taller than an adult.