༺ Week of the Midnight Sun (4) ༻
Another day went by.
Renee was walking again today, listening to the footsteps behind her.
Whenever the sound of the cane, ‘Tap’, was heard, the sound of footsteps, ‘Stomp’ followed. As she continued forward, there was always a feeling of movement that followed her every step.
Am I exaggerating if I think I’m already accustomed to that beat? Renee, who found the thought that occurred to her amusing, chuckled a little and continued reflecting on the past few days.
The Paladin, who introduced himself as Vera, was a man of few words.
It could be said that his figure seemed to be knightly or priestly, but Renee recalled how he had a different side to him.
Perhaps the person called Vera wasn’t good at expressing himself.
That’s what occurred to her.
The conversation they had the day before flashed through Renee’s head.
When asked why he became a knight, he answered with fervor.
It was conveyed with some kind of burning and longing avidity.
What made him feel that way? What did Vera mean by the light? The light his sword needs to protect. Why did he feel so enthusiastic about it?
Such thoughts flashed through her mind as the sound of footsteps followed her. Renee unconsciously spoke out a question.
“What kind of place is the Holy Kingdom?”
It was a question that she didn’t think that she would ask by herself.
Finally, realizing that she said something after muttering it out loud, Renee uttered a silent ‘Oops’ and then waited patiently for Vera’s answer, thinking, ‘Since I said it, I might as well hear his answer’.
Renee heard the answer after taking three more steps forward.
“… It’s no different from any other place.”
Out came a deep voice.
Renee halted her stroll. Her head turned in the direction of the voice.
Turning to the direction of the voice was an act that Renee did as a habit when she wanted to express her interest in the other person’s words.
“Is that so?”
“Yes, there are people, there are houses. It is a peaceful settlement.”
“Well, are there any particular features? Or something unique you can only see there.”
The question was followed by silence.
Did I ask something wrong? Is that a difficult question for him to answer?
As Renee was worried with a speculative concern about Vera’s difficulties, his belated answer came as follows.
“…Although there are people there, it’s better to call them monsters instead.”
“Yes, they are people with a way of thinking that is beyond the norm.”
Renee’s head tilted at the following remark.
“What kind of people are they?”
“…That’s not worth mentioning.”
Words that seem determined at first glance.
Words that could be interpreted as ill will towards them, but Renee could realize that there was no semblance of negativity mixed in those words.
‘He doesn’t seem to hate them.’
If Vera had heard it, he would been frightened, but there was no way for Renee to know that.
“Well, that makes me even more curious.”
“…They aren’t evil, but there is no need to be close to them.”
Those were bitter words.
They’re members of the clergy, right? Aren’t they the ones who devote their lives to the Gods? So what kind of people are you even describing?
For Vera, it was a simple warning that he said in the hopes that Renee would keep her distance from them, but everything that transpired in this world was like that. In reality, nothing goes according to plan.
In Renee’s mind, curiosity began to kindle about those people who Vera called ‘monsters’.
“And what else?”
“…All the buildings in the Holy Kingdom are painted white.”
Short descriptive words were heard. Renee almost burst out in laughter.
That’s because a mildly irritated tone lingered in Vera’s words.
Does he not like the color white? While Renee was thinking such a thought, Vera’s words continued,
“Those who built the Holy Kingdom all had a few screws loose… I’m sure you will find a great disparity with their mindset.”
Oh, he flared up.
Renee felt she was about to burst into laughter again and barely endured it when she heard Vera’s cussing tone. Soon, she responded with a smile.
It was a retort that, for the very first time, showed some semblance of emotion, with it being a little mischievous.
“I guess you don’t like white.”
Renee answered, fiddling with her hair.
“Never. Never have I said that I hate it.”
A reply that followed almost immediately.
“I don’t hate white. It’s just that I don’t enjoy something being too excessive because I believe there should be moderation in everything. So the color white… I don’t hate it in the least.”
There was an immense panic while he was stringing those words. He even emphasized the exact words twice.
In the meantime, the rustling sound continued, and Renee had no choice but to think, ‘Vera is a rather tactless person’.
Renee, who answered with a subtle smile, then remembered why Vera was so polite to her.
..Perhaps it’s because of the stigma that was bestowed upon her.
No matter how naïve I am, isn’t it obvious?
Wasn’t that why they came to her, who had no contact with the Holy Kingdom? Because they had a way of knowing who bears the Gods’ stigmata?
Therefore, he is sure that I bear a stigma, so he is treating me politely.
When that thought suddenly occurred to her, Renee felt suffocated.
She didn’t want to think about it, but something revoked her thoughts about her stigma.
A feeling of suffocation filled her heart. Feeling it, Renee moved her cane again to shake off those suffocating thoughts.
Thus, it was followed by another ‘stomp’ of footsteps.
Some things shouldn’t be taken away, even as a joke.
That was even more so, if the thing that was taken away could spiral someone’s whole life into the abyss.
Renee woke up feeling warm heat all over her body.
Renee didn’t know whether the heat was caused by the sun or whether something was really burning around her.
There was no way to know because she lost her vision.
Just guessing through the calm surrounding atmosphere, she muttered out loud, ‘It must be the sun’.
…When she realized that the world could only be recognized through sounds or senses like this, she felt so many emotions seething inside her.
The past bothered her again.
Her light was suddenly stolen one day. As a result, she couldn’t walk a single step properly.
From that moment on, it reminded her of the past, as now she had to live her entire life in total darkness.
The misery of living a life where she could barely recognize her surroundings by matching the scenery. The place Renee remembered now was trying to devour her mind.
Renee was always afraid.
She was afraid of the invisible world and her unforeseen future of living like this for the rest of her life.
So Renee prayed.
There was never a day when she didn’t pray.
She has never missed a single prayer.
With every moment of every day, she prayed that the light in her eyes would return.
I wanted you to save me from this poor fate.
I thought they were those who could do that much for me.
…So, there must be a moment when her prayers would be answered.
The week of the midnight sun.
The power and divinity of the Gods.
Renee could certainly feel them, despite being blind.
Things she had never felt in her entire life. But the moment it began to wrap around her body, Renee clearly realized what it was. It would be correct to say that she was intuitively aware of it.
There was hope in her heart. She was filled with joy.
Oh, at last, her prayers have reached the sky.
That vast emotion spread throughout made Renee shed tears and earnestly pray more, the moment she felt that presence.
Please return my light.
I want that brilliance back in my life.
She clumsily extracted her poor divinity as she prayed for the wish to come true.
Thus, her reserves of divinity had dried up fast, and she felt her lungs being choked.
She felt her head was going to burn from wielding a power she did not know how to use.
But nevertheless, she couldn’t stop.
She didn’t think of stopping the light that may not come back again, hopefully thinking of herself being able to run without worry again.
So she squeezed out everything she had within her and made a wish, but…
No matter how much divinity she used, no light returned to her eyes, even if she desperately used all her divine powers.
The world was still engulfed in darkness, and Renee was a blind girl who could not walk a single step without a cane.
Hope quickly changed its visage and took on the form of despair.
Renee felt immense sadness after that despair shattered her hopes.
She could realize first-hand how miserable her hope seemed.
At that time, she, for the very first time, realized how deep her resentment could be.
After that day, Renee no longer believed in the Gods. She didn’t pray either.
The Gods made her miserable, and it was to such a world that all she could give back was resentment.
For Renee, who was dying of hunger, the Gods were wicked beings who ridiculed her with breadcrumbs, placing them out of her reach. They were the evil of the world who poked fun at her for being so despondent and giggled delightfully at her misery.
Therefore, she will no longer seek the Gods’ help, and no matter what they want, she will never follow them. Renee recalled that clear resolution in her mind.
Suddenly, a sigh came out of Renee’s mouth.
As soon as she opened her eyes, she felt a myriad of emotions surging through her.
Renee felt a sense of irritation all over her being and closed her eyes to shake it off.
She decided not to think about it and ignore it thoroughly. She couldn’t afford to give a single emotion to the pain.
Wiggling around. Renee’s hand found the cane.
She felt so dizzy that she reckoned that she needed some fresh air outside.
Pivoting herself with the cane, she raised herself up and proceeded to open the door.
“…Are you alright?”
She heard a familiar voice that followed her for these past few days.
A Paladin Knight from the Holy Kingdom, who was one of the Gods’ servants Renee despised.
But nevertheless, he was a strange man who she couldn’t seem to hate.
Renee turned in the direction in which she heard the voice and greeted him.
“Have you had a peaceful night’s rest?”
“Yes, what about Sir Knight?”
“It wasn’t bad.”
Renee smiled gently upon hearing his answer and asked,
“Are you going to follow me today as well?”
“… I apologize.”
What are you apologizing for? Renee smiled subtly at Vera’s reaction, repeating the words ‘I apologize’ like a parrot. Then she began moving her cane forward.
The gentle weather warmed her up. In the breeze, it felt like her pent-up frustrations from earlier were being washed away.
Renee breathed a sigh of relief but felt a vague sense of guilt rising from hearing the sound of footsteps that followed her.
He followed her these few days to take her to the Holy Kingdom. Of course, the sooner he knew she didn’t like the Holy Kingdom, the better, but he never talked about it.
Guilt welled up inside of her for deceiving him.
Renee bit her lips with such heavy feelings for a while, then squeezed her heart and composed herself.
‘… I apologize.’
No matter how much she thought about it, she didn’t want to be a servant of the Gods.
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