“Faster than I expected,” the king said with characteristic lack of expression.
Just as night fell, I showed my face inside the king’s chambers. I was prepared to get yelled at to not be a hindrance, but my expectations were betrayed when he spoke to me with disinterest instead.
“Is that so?” I muttered, feeling drained.
I was expecting him to make fun of me for being late, so I wasn’t sure how to respond. In fact, he probably was making fun of me but I had no desire of getting into a fight.
“Then I have kept you waiting.”
“Waiting, I was not.”
I paused. “Is that so?”
This time the words dripped from my mouth.
I was this close to snapping. I wanted to go back. I wanted to turn around and walk out, BAD.
With no concern for the dead look in my eyes, father picked up a candlestick and began to walk at a brisk pace.
He pulled an antique key from a breast pocket, and inserted it, glancing at me once. He did not speak, but I had a feeling his eyes were telling me to hurry up.
Pushing away my desire to walk back out, I followed behind.
With the exception of the shelves, the only furniture were a table and a couch
Without hesitation, father took a book from the shelf and held it out to me like he was forcing it on me.
Pulling a decanter of wine toward close, he poured himself a glass with sloppy movements and drained the cup as if it were water. After doing so, father extracted a bookmark stuck between a thick book and started reading.
He was really making himself at home.
Who was this person? My father? No, absolutely not. It’s probably his double, I thought.
I stood expressionlessly, confused.
This man before me, Randolf von Wervard, was my real father, but he was a private person and I had nothing to do with him.
I mean, what would my father be like if he wasn’t working? Besides the basic activities like sleeping, eating and the like, I couldn’t imagine him as a regular person. In fact, did he sleep? That was all I could think.
He really made himself at home.
His body sank into the high quality leather couch as he immersed himself in his reading while sipping on a second cup of wine. By no standard anywhere would it be considered good manners the way he sprawled out.
Illuminated by candlelight, his features were softened and my father actually looked like an ordinary human.
“Not reading?” he asked.
“I will,” I automatically responded.
“Then sit. Until when do you intend to stand?”
Even if he ordered me to sit, there was nowhere for me to do so.
Don’t tell me he meant for me to sit on the floor? I stared intently at the dark carpet laid on the floor.
I raised my head to look at my beckoning father. Sit here, he indicated, patting the couch he himself was sprawled on.
I mean, sure, it was a big couch and there was enough space for someone like me to sit on it as well.
I understood, but my mind was screaming NO. What sort of punishment was this, that I’d have to read while sitting so close to my father?
“I can’t let you take it out. If you want to read, do it here.”
I should have brought a chair with me, I thought. In the end, I swallowed my dissatisfaction and all I said was, “Yes, father.”
If I’ve come this far, then I can be serious about it. As for father, let’s think of him as a slightly novel back of a chair.
I set the book on my knees.
I took a deep breath to calm my heartbeat racing from holding an antique in my hands. I gave the darkened indigo blue cover a stroke and opened it.
Turning to the inside of the cover, a page was enough to leave me troubled.
You’re kidding me. NO. This was going to be a problem? Is this really happening? I thought, dumbfounded.
Even if I lamented my lack of foresight, there was nothing I could do now.
I might come up with a solution when I swing by next, but did I even really have a second chance?
I gripped my shaking finger.
Ahh, I’m such an idiot. An idiot, a really big one.
No way, don’t tell me…
Don’t tell me I can’t read it!
I felt sick. The book on top of my knees was written long ago in the past.
Naturally, the characters would differ from modern writing. I couldn’t read it at all.
Why hadn’t I realized something so obvious?
A little squeak popped out of me and I jumped at the sudden voice.
Cold sweat dripped down my back.
My voice failed from nerves.
My head spun blankly. Even if I had a tendency make counter plans, I knew nothing about father.
The answer I came up with was:
“I can’t…read…but I will!”
Before I realized it, I had given him that idiotic response.
I wanted to kick myself. What the hell?
“Can’t read but will”? What was that, if there’s a will, there’s a way? Or sheer effort?
Hold up, no retort?
Raising half of his body, father peered at the book over my shoulder.
“Can you read modern history books?”
If we’re speaking of the library’s history books, then I could read most of them. I’ve been studying since I was five years old, and I believe that alone is an accomplishment.
“Then there should be sections you can read. Look at this part.”
Father reached a hand over and traced a sentence in the book.
“It reads as ‘the Kingdom of Nebel’.”
I–I couldn’t see it.
It honestly looked like patterns instead of words.
“The complicated characters have merely been simplified over time. Naturally, there will be a lot of obsolete geographical names and expressions.”
After he explained that, I thought I could maybe see what he meant…?
When I tried replacing the complex patterns imitating things like ivy or feathers with dots and curves, I did feel like it was similar to our modern language.
The language of my nation, the Kingdom of Nebel, was similar to the alphabet and was comprised of 26 characters.
In other words, if I count the number of patterns, simplified and applied them to the modern alphabet, would that work?
“Father, may I borrow some paper?”
Now that I had a lead, I was suddenly pumped with energy, and I zealously turned around to look at my father.
At my back, father had returned to reading, but I was no longer concerned with him.
All right, all copied.
No matter how many times I counted, there were 30. Four too many?
“Don’t you have four too many?” asked father with exquisite timing, as if he could hear my inner monologue.
I was too surprised to speak. This man has seriously been trying to shave a few years off my life for some time now, I thought, putting a hand to my beating heart.
“Forget the rest. Just know that the four are always together.”
He could have been nicer about it, but it was still sound advice.
When I referred back to the book, true enough, the four always came in a set.
I excluded them and compared the modern alphabet to the other twenty six characters, discovering in the process just how different the four were from the rest.
The other characters were modeled after nature and living things, but that set of four were the only ones I couldn’t even begin to imagine the origins for. And yet, they filled me with unease when I looked at them.
What did they stand for?
“They represent the Dark Lord.”
It was my father opening his mouth to talk again, as if he had read my mind.
“Above all, it was forbidden to mention the Dark Lord by name, so they were careful only to use known characters to refer to him. The set of four characters were created for the express purpose of indicating the Dark Lord and prohibited from other use. I don’t know how to read them. A pronunciation does not exist, or it has even been said to be the name of a person from the time, but it is not certain.”
I jumped on the words, “Do you mean to say the Dark Lord was human?!”
“Didn’t I say it wasn’t certain?” he responded coldly.
Meaning more one theory has been passed down to the end?
“Enough, get to reading. As soon as you’re done, I’m going to sleep.”
Father yawned. I felt like I was seeing something extremely rare first the first time.