Chapter 1. Prologue
Like cotton absorbing water, my soul descended in a heap. Perhaps I was dying. The pills, swallowed in larger-than-standard doses, have lavished their efficacy on my death. It was easy. At the end of my life, I think I laughed.
It was dawn when I opened my eyes and the cold air descended. I rubbed my eyes and lifted myself from my seat. What stood out in the clear view was the spacious interior of the room filled with antique furniture.
“Is this a dream?”
And a very vivid lucid dream. I looked out of the window, and the red flower petals, which have just begun to form dew, caught my eyes. The strange sight filled me with desire to go out into the garden. When I got off the bed, I noticed my thin limbs that had not yet grown.
As I lowered my head to get a closer look, a strand of silver hair flowed gently over my shoulders, like moonlight. In my dream I was like a child in a foreign land. What was this dream about? With a self-mocking smile, I approached the door. The door of the room was so huge that I could not reach the end of it even if I connected the two bodies. However, unlike my expectations that the door would be heavy, it opened very smoothly with a gentle push. I glanced out to see the occasional lights illuminating the corridor.
“There’s no one here…then it’s just a dream.” I mumbled to myself and went to the place where I had seen the flowers. It took me a long time to move my body, probably because I was dreaming. But it was worth the effort. The beautiful dewy petals were refreshing and pleasing to the eyes. The garden, so large that I could not see it at first sight, was so beautifully kept. It was strange, because the building I had just left was the same. I had never been to such a palace, and I had never been interested in it, but it was such an elaborate realization of my dream. I felt somewhat bitter. If it had been so beautiful outside the dream, I wouldn’t have gone to such extremes. At the same time I felt strange. I wondered if this dream would make me regret my choice of death. I huddled close to the nameless flowers that were blooming red. I knew that I couldn’t smell it because it was a dream, but I was curious about its scent. The scent of roses? Strangely enough, something like the scent of roses lingered on the tip of my nose. A little confused, I heard the presence of people in the deeper garden.
I took a few steps back in surprise and stared at the man who had emerged from under the archway, surrounded by flowering bushes. He was so tall that I had to lift my head for a moment to see his face. The sun, which had begun to rise some time before, illuminated the darkened garden, which was now beginning to set blue, and clearly depicted the man’s features.
He was a handsome man, with silver hair like this body, and purple, possibly blue eyes, and a cold impression. The spacious atmosphere made him look like a full-figured animal. Our eyes met and he strode towards me with a look of disbelief on his face. I did not feel like he was going to do any harm to me, so I just stood still.
The man knelt down on one knee in front of me, hesitated for a moment and then reached out his hand to my cheek. His hand was very large and rough, it seemed to cover my face, but he was very careful, as if he were touching a fragile piece of glass. His expression was so astonished that all I could do was stare at him, unable to find the words. The man nudged me for a while, then opened his mouth to say something, and my vision went dark.
Two years have passed since the attempted suicide. But the world was still a painful place for me. If I hadn’t contacted them, if the friend who came to visit me hadn’t found me, I wouldn’t have had to suffer any more. I’m sorry for my friends, but they resented me even more. “Why did you bring me back to life when you couldn’t even take responsibility for my life?” My friend just cried at my thorny words. When I saw that, I didn’t feel like I had to die right away. So I survived for two years.
Even in the midst of all this, a sense of melancholy consumed me. As I made the same choices I had made in the past, a deep darkness came over me. For a while I thought: “There is talk of an environmental penalty if I jump into the Han River, but who will pay for it if I die? I thought about this for a while, but it didn’t matter anyway. I’ll be gone today. As I stood at the railing, I could only wonder about one thing: that strange dream I had before I woke up. It was so vivid that I have never forgotten it. I have never dreamed it since, but only in my memory, it was as clear as if it happened yesterday. I could not forget the strange look of pain, distress, and joy, in his eyes.
As if trying to wake me from my reverie, the telephone rang loudly. The caller was the friend who had brought me back to life. I picked up the phone, hoping to say at least one last thing: “I hope you live happily ever after”.
“Hello, are you at home? You said you were going to buy some chicken, so get on with it before it gets cold.”
Again, I was slow to answer, as if he sensed the sadness in my silence. The answer came after a while.
“ …… What?”
“Thank you for everything.”
“You can hate me if you want, but don’t hate yourself. You did the best you could. Now wait a minute! Where are you, now?”
I unilaterally hung up the phone and climbed up over the railing. It was kind of refreshing. With my friend, I felt as if I had just been lifted out of the darkness and was walking into a crowd of light. But I was the darkness. The kind of darkness that could never touch the light or walk with it.
My body plunged deeper into the abyss, and a cool breeze blew.
“Oh, again…” Rubbing my eyes, I got up and found that gorgeous room. Is this the entrance to the underworld? I didn’t know why I was dreaming about this place again. I sat up and examined my body and saw that my arms and legs had grown a little longer than before. They were still flimsy, though. The time was dawn, just before the sun rose, as it had done then. The gazebo garden was full of beautiful red flowers, just as it had been then. No, apparently they were more gorgeous than before. The red flowers, which shone brightly in the darkness, attracted my attention once more.
“Is that the flowers of the other world, or something?” I said as I walked out of the huge door. In the garden, where I could hear insects singing, the scent of flowers in full bloom strongly vibrated. Despite the sinking feeling, I felt refreshed. I decided to stand quietly, smell the flowers and look a little deeper into the garden through the archway. As I walked along, I might see something like the Three Way River. It’s such a place that can give you complete rest. If I look there, I might be able to see it in this dream. With this in mind, I started to walk.
“Oh,” I looked down and saw that I was not wearing any shoes. I didn’t know that the earth felt so strange under my feet because I was completely unaware of it. It’s all right. It’s the afterlife.
I decided to keep walking. With every step I took, the cold grains of earth tickled the soles of my feet. The situation was bizarrely realistic. After walking for a long while, there was no end to how big it was and how far I could go. I knew I had to give up visiting Three Way River and go back to where I was again, as the flowers and trees on display only increased in variety little by little, and the exit was not easy to find.
“Where did I come from?”
There were so many roads, I had no idea. I was horrified at the thought that I might be left to wander around the nine heavens. I thought I could finally be comfortable, but what would be different from this world if I have to wander through the world like this? Was this some kind of punishment for my suicide? The sun was rising before I knew it. Apart from the approach of light, I was seized with depression. Feeling no better, I huddled at the base of a nearby tree and buried my face between my knees.
The voice came from nearby. I turned around in surprise to see a boy in his mid-teens standing there with a strange look on his face. I didn’t even realize what words had come out of his mouth, but it sounded pretty funny. He had a cold face, very similar to the silver-haired man I had seen at that time, only his hair was a different colour, shining brilliantly, golden like the sun. The Grim Reaper? I scanned the boy inconspicuously up and down. Apparently, he was not the Grim Reaper. So he too had died and been brought here? The child, who had been watching me for some time, mumbled and pinched my cheek.
The boy cheeked her face for a while and teased her like the back of his hand.
“It’s real…it’s real…..” The child, who had been looking into my face with an expression of disbelief, coughed twice and came closer to me. The child, who, like the man before him, knelt on one knee, and smiled faintly.
“Rosiane, you’re awake.”
I had heard that name in a dream two years ago. So this was not the other world, but an extension of that dream? I looked at the boy in silence and he began to introduce himself in a trembling voice.
“I am your eldest brother, Nanuk de Asteria.”
It was a very familiar name. I did not understand how such a dream could have developed in my mind, which could not even see it in my imagination.
“First of all, I’ll go see His Majesty. Come on, let’s go,” Nanuk said, holding out his hand to me. I stared up at his small but firm looking hand. Nanuk, who had been waiting with his hand out for a long time, saw my legs a step later and gave me a quick hug.
“You’ve messed up your feet.”
He was right. The soles of my feet, which had unknowingly developed small abrasions, were slowly oozing blood. Nanuk brushed off the dust with his hand to make sure it was clean. What a strange dream! Even the warmth of Nanuk’s hands felt as vivid as in reality.
We walked without saying a word until we arrived at the room of the one called “His Majesty”. Of course, it was Nanuk who walked, and I was only held on to him, but anyway. The guard who was guarding the gate, which was twice the size of my visit and full of heavy energy, bent down and said.
“It is an honor to see you.”
At length he looked up and his gaze fell upon me. At that moment, his eyes turned wide as if they were about to pop out.
But the door was faster than the guard could open his mouth.
“Tell His Majesty that Princess Rosiane is awake.”
The man opened the door himself and came out. I looked at him with astonishment. It was the same man I had dreamt about two years ago. He took me from Nanuk’s arms with the same expression on his face as then. Soon the three of us were in the room of this man who was called “His Majesty”.
Another man, who had rushed in, looked me over and said, “No problem,” and the two of them, the boy and the man, who had looked somewhat nervous, slowly relaxed. In this way they really do look alike.
“Rosiane, can you hear father’s voice? I read fairy tales to you every day at your bedside,” the man asked in an impassioned voice. But there was no way I could hear him. I was not her. I moved only my toes, and the other man, who had been standing in case of emergency, opened his mouth.
“I’m afraid, Your Majesty, the Princess is no better than a baby. She probably doesn’t understand a word.”
The man’s expression hardened at the physician’s remark. Then he looked back at me as fast as he could hear a whistle. He pointed at my chest with a very serious and solemn expression. I was so nervous that I wondered what was coming out of that mouth. Soon, his mouth opened.
“Come on, follow me. Ah-ppa.”
“Rosiane, please call me father.”
‘What? What is this dream?’