The earliest memory I can recall is of a journey through a vast desert.
Father was driving a covered wagon, and I looked out at the vast golden earth and blue sky in Mother’s arms behind him.
“Now, Kamil. Come with Mother.”
Mother took me by the hand and entered the temple as soon as we returned to our kingdom.
I followed behind her, thinking we were just going on our usual walk, but how could this happen?
Mother’s face looked like that of a stranger’s as we walked through the unfamiliar white building.
“Welcome back, Ilysis-sama.”
It was eerie to see women dressed in white as if they were funeral attendees, bowing to Mother as she walked past them.
“Mum, where are we?”
Feeling anxious, I pulled on Mother’s sleeve as she walked in front of me. I had recently started growing faster, and was almost caught up to Mother, who was short for a woman.
“What is it, Kamil?”
The voice she had uttered as she turned around was cold and made me doubt that it was really her voice.
“Hmm… Where are we?”
“This is the Temple of Shanak. It is Misorua’s castle which is ruled by the priestess. It’s my home… and yours as well from today onwards.”
I couldn’t understand half of what she was saying. This is my home? But Father hadn’t mentioned that our home was a temple when he told me about it during our journey.
Father had built a huge mansion with the money he had saved since he was young. He told me that all the servants were working happily at the mansion. I’m sure they weren’t the lifeless women that I’ve been seeing as we walked.
“… Where’s dad?”
Why hadn’t she come back with Father? He was in the middle of dinner with a customer the last time I saw him. We could have slept in the carriage at night like always and came home tomorrow.
Mother refused to answer my question, her faint smile not moving in the slightest.
I was extremely confused. The mother in front of me seemed like a different person and the white building that surrounded me felt suffocating without a single window.
Everything was unfamiliar to me. Everything felt natural during our journey, but I wonder why it feels uncomfortable now.
“I can’t let that man, who doesn’t even have the power of God, step into this sacred temple.”
I don’t understand what she meant. ‘Who is ‘that man’, do you mean dad?’
She could only have been speaking about him, but I couldn’t believe that Mother had called him that.
“… Kamil. You are my son, and you will devote your power to Misorua.”
I was born while Father, a merchant, was travelling through various kingdoms. The business knowledge that I had learnt from him was so natural to me that I don’t even remember when I had first acquired it.
The knowledge and skills Mother had taught me were also something that I had learnt without realising.
Mother would wake me up at dawn, when everyone else was still dreaming, and we would sneak around behind the caravan tents and wagons to learn martial arts and knife handling under the guise of exercise.
During the daytime when Father was busy with his business, I studied among the merchants. ――― I learnt how to read, write, count, about money, how to handle goods and how to treat customers.
And at night when Father was out stocking up and negotiating, I studied again. ――― Mother taught me about our motherland, about the God she believed in, about poisons and about the human body.
Ever since I could remember, this was my daily life.
I didn’t think there was anything unnatural about it.
“Now, Kamil. Do it like I taught you.”
Mother whispered as she pointed at the woman’s white neck. The woman had been restrained by Mother. She couldn’t even scream, and her face was white with fear.
Mother’s hand rested on my shoulder.
Keeping my head as empty as possible, I raised my right hand which held the short sword and swung it down.
The tip of the sword pierced the woman’s neck without swaying. I knew that blood would gush out if I pulled it out, so I took my hand off the hilt.
“Wonderful. That’s my boy.”
――― Amazing. You did well. That’s my boy.
The sound of Father’s voice overlapped with Mother’s satisfied laugh.
I brushed Mother’s hand off my shoulder while feeling exhausted. It felt tiresome to talk lately, and I really didn’t want to talk to Mother.
“I’m sure Misorua will be delighted.”
How the fuck would I know?
I spat at Mother in my mind.
“You can follow me if you want to get out of here.”
My whole body felt languid. I couldn’t be bothered to turn my head, so I rudely turned my eyes to the man.
He still looked tall even though he was old, and he spoke in a hale and hearty manner. Everyone here was lifeless, so I could tell at a glance that he was different from the people in the temple. I had been fed up with the sudden arrival of this man, but I was a little interested now.
“… Who did you say you were again?”
I hadn’t listened to his self-introduction, so I asked him sluggishly.
“I am Siegmund Thelesia, a noble.”
“Ah… a noble? No wonder.”
The man raised an eyebrow questioningly at my one-sided comprehension. He might be angry at my lack of politeness since he said he is a noble.
Even that didn’t matter to me anymore. He can whip me or behead me if he thinks I’m being disrespectful.
I killed Mother a month ago.
I was already exhausted by her presence. I poured the poison she had taught me about into her food.
So, I didn’t think I could really kill her. Mother probably didn’t expect that her son would kill her with the same technique she had taught him.
Then, Father died two months later.
He had fallen to ruin after Mother and I had left him a year ago.
He degraded greatly. He was a great merchant who was allowed to travel around the kingdom, but then he started hanging around rotten nobles and did whatever he wanted.
I heard that he was executed for poisoning the very noble who he was hanging around.
Poison, was it? Using the same technique, it seems like I am my father’s son after all. I had doubted this though since Mother had changed so much.
“I’ll say it again. Come with me if you want to get out of here.
The old noble said in a firm voice. I looked back on the past year for a few seconds. The days I spent living in this beautiful, cold white temple had killed my spirit, just like Mother when we had come here.
I couldn’t find much difference in my corpse-like self when I compared myself to the lifeless priestess who seemed eerie at first.
I’ll just die like this if I stay here, maybe in the same way that Father and Mother had.
That much I was sure of.
“… Alright. I’ll go with you.”
I replied and the man nodded firmly.
The kingdom I had been waiting for, the place that was said to be my homeland, was like a land of winter for me.
Maybe because the temple where I had spent time with Mother was as white as snow.
I was always freezing there.
It was cold and lonely and I’m sure that ‘I’ froze to death in that winter kingdom.
“――― Isn’t it painful to take someone’s life because of your fears?”
――― It wasn’t thawing or the sun breaking through the thick clouds.
It was fire. A fire that would never go out even in the snow was burning in front of me. It was small, but dazzling and hot.
“It’s painful for me, so much so that I even think it’s fine for me to die.”
My frozen body was instantly thawed by force.
It was the first time my breath didn’t come out white in this kingdom.
That was the beginning of ‘my’ life.