Chapter 1. I Love You (1)
Translator: Aura / Editor: Tiny Zebra
I didn’t pay much attention to other people’s opinions. I didn’t care what they thought of me.
Whether someone liked me or not, didn’t matter much to me.
People often branded me as indifferent and contemptible by nature.
That wasn’t true, I was not always indifferent and contemptible.
There was a time when I longed for attention and love, the kind which reciprocates openly and sincerely, with genuine displays of affection.
I became this way as time went on.
My mother was the first person who said ‘I love you’ to me.
My father died in an unfortunate accident just a month after leaving home to another city to earn a living, so my mother raised me alone.
After several years of hardship, my mother disappeared one day, leaving only a letter that said, “I’m sorry.”
I wandered all over the city for ten days and ten nights. I was run over by a carriage while crying on a main street and bled from my forehead, but even then I didn’t stop looking for my mother, fearing that she would disappear forever.
Every night I cried on the sidewalk until I fell asleep. When the sun came up, I would resume the search for my mother. By the eleventh day, I was so hungry and exhausted that I couldn’t shed any more tears. It was then that, in a desperate act, I tried to steal fruit from a street market and was discovered. Despite my pitiful state, I was beaten for the theft.
I had been thrown half-dead in an alley in the slums, but I was lucky enough to cross paths with a priest from the Temple of Acates, who took me in.
From then on, I lived in the Temple of Acates, in the orphanage located in the Lorail Pavilion.
We were dozens of orphans. Although most of them didn’t even know their parents’ faces, none of them lost hope that one day their parents would come looking for them.
I missed my mother every night. I asked myself how she could abandon me so ruthlessly after she said ‘I love you’? I was still too naive to understand it.
I cried for months every time night fell. I felt desolate, alone in the world. But as time went by, I got used to life without my mother. Only then did I realize that no matter how terrible the sadness, there will always come a day when one can cope with it.
I couldn’t deny that sometimes the sadness of abandonment hit me as hard and suddenly as lightning. Especially when I saw children my age walking the streets with a happy smile holding their parents’ hands.
The orphans at Lorail Pavilion had similar scars to mine in their hearts, which probably made it easier for me to relate to them. By spending time with them, I was able to fill the emptiness in my heart, if only a little.
It was there that I met Liza. She was my age, and her care had been entrusted to the Temple of Acates a year before my arrival.
She was a girl with dull gray hair and large bright eyes.
Liza was a descendant of a prestigious family of mages who had connections to the Imperial Family. She was at the orphanage even though she had a family who could take care of her.
Her parents lost their lives in the war, so her uncle succeeded them as head of the family. Liza told me that her uncle was violent and mistreated her, and after all kinds of acts of rebellion, she was sent to the orphanage.
Ever since Liza and I became friends, she often poured her heart out to me.
“I envy you.”
“I wish I didn’t have a family.”
“You don’t know how lonely it feels to not have a family.”
“So, do you think it’s all right to marry a member of your own family?”
“What are you talking about?”
“My uncle says that we are the most powerful wizarding family on the continent and, in order to preserve the blessings bestowed upon our bloodline, marriages must exclusively take place between family members.”
“He also used to refer to my mother as a slut due to her lack of powerful bloodline and status.”
“He’s a wicked man.”
“Shh! Be careful with your words. If you are caught badmouthing my uncle, it will be the end of you.”
Then she pretended to cut her own throat with her hand.
“My uncle beat me up every night for the insults I spoke. You wouldn’t be safe either.”
I nodded and asked curiously, “Will you have to marry your uncle?”
“Yes, but I refuse. My uncle will come for me when I grow up. It’s horrible. I’d rather die or become a nun than marry my uncle.”
Liza didn’t interact much with the other children. The other children knew that Liza belonged to a noble family, which made it difficult for her to integrate into the group.
I don’t know exactly why, but I was Liza’s only friend. Maybe she liked me because I was a good listener, while she liked to talk. She sat next to me at worship services, religion classes, liberal arts classes, and meals. Even when we played with the children, she always teamed up with me.
Liza loved flowers and medicinal herbs and studied her biology in her spare time. She took me for walks in the woods after class and enthusiastically told me about the uses of the medicinal herbs we came across.
For most of my childhood, Liza was by my side. Although her presence certainly helped me cope with my sadness, our friendship wasn’t always a source of happiness.
If I sat next to another child or spent time with other children after class, she would pout and become cranky, lock herself in her room, and not come out for hours.
When she was in a bad mood, I would go out into the woods to pick Liza’s favorite flowers and medicinal herbs for her. The one she liked the most was a flower called Elcanto, which had no use, but she loved its beautiful petals and sweet scent. Giving her flowers and medicinal herbs quickly cheered her up.
However, there were times when Liza would get so angry that even flowers and medicinal herbs couldn’t calm her down.
When she saw me spending time with other girls, she would express her jealousy and anger with violent actions.
Sometimes she threw sand on my quilt or tore my clothes and papers to shreds. It was even worse for the girl with whom she saw me. She once was severely punished for secretly sprinkling poisonous herbal powders on another girl’s pillow.
I became fed up with extreme actions, so one day I firmly told her that I didn’t want her near me anymore. As a result, Liza completely stopped eating and drinking, locked her bedroom door, and went into seclusion for a week. The priests said that during the day she was silent, but they heard sad cries whenever they walked past her room after midnight.
When Liza’s health deteriorated, the Abbess intervened and forced a reconciliation between us, putting an end to her seclusion.
Since then, Liza and I have always been together.