I Hope You Understand the Indifference - Chapter 1
‘What kind of being is a saint?’ a wanderer from the wilderness asked about what it meant to be a saint.
‘She is the purest woman in the world who embodies the virtues of peace, love and the willingness to sacrifice’, replied a shepherd boy in a barren yard.
Who could refuse such a great proposition?
Saint. Blessed person. Holy Mother.
When there is a saint on earth, there is hope.
-Canerianism Book 14; verse 1-7
Dew drops fell from white petals.
The white lily was a symbolic flower of Canerianism. Thus, fragrant white lilies could be found at temples and places where the Canerian people lived. Even this prayer room was filled with white lilies.
A statue of the Canerian Goddess stood in the midst of the decorations made of white lilies and shellfish. Sunshine seeped through the narrow window of the room. A speck of dust that floated near the statue glistened like gold under the sunlight.
The slow movement of the sunshine as the day goes on was calming in the silence. Within the shadow cast by the statue of the benevolent goddess, there was a woman kneeling.
The woman called out to the goddess whom she believed in. However, just like always, it was the same. The terrible silence was like an iron wall that could not be broken through by any means.
“… peace be with you.”
The woman knew better than anyone but simply could not avert her gaze from the statue. This was the only thing she could do.
After all, she was the vassal of the Goddess. She kneeled, unmoving as she continued to pray. She removed the veil that was covering her face.
The woman blinked. Her eyelashes looked like golden threads. A pair of sky blue eyes looked up towards the statue. The colour of her eyes matched well with her long hair that looked like golden *tarae.
*Note: ‘타래’ (tarae) means ‘honey skein’. It is also known as Korean court cake; a dessert and variation of Dragon’s beard candy.
With a slender figure and fair skin, she was beautiful. Her small, white face looked no different than the white lilies that were decorated around the room. After a while, she lowered her gaze from staring at the statue.
Beautiful blonde hair that looked like woven golden thread.
Blue eyes that resembled sapphire gems.
Even the luxurious and intricately decorated shoulder pads that only four people in the nation were given.
These three points were clear proof of who the woman was.
‘Niniya- the 48th Saint.’
A baby who burst into tears alone under a shining star on a moonless and dark night. With a great willingness to sacrifice, she was born to be the saint who will take away the sufferings of all the beings on this earth.
A month had passed since then and Niniya’s role had been determined without a shadow of a doubt.
She was a product of benevolence and a symbol of sacrifice. Niniya’s final step in fulfilling her duties as a saint would prove to be different than her predecessors.
For other Canerian saints, the beginning and final steps were always the same.
The first step was to be acknowledged as a saint in the temple.
Within the Peirchen Empire was a temple built by a saint who lit the torch of the temple when the world was in turmoil and darkness. All saint candidates were raised in the temple until they had fulfilled the requirements.
‘What does it mean to be a saint?’
Niniya grew up listening to the same words there were repeated all her life at the temple. She was obedient to the Holy Father and the other believers who had raised her under the arms of the Goddess. Sacrifice as a saint was always natural and of the Goddess’ will.
It was an event that is celebrated over a course of three days. The celebration this year will be its 996th anniversary, commemorating the day when the Goddess first descended to this chaotic land. Niniya would be making her debut as the saint in the public’s eye.
She blessed people with a benevolent smile. The main day of the Caner’s Day celebration would be on the third day- the last day. At midnight on the day the Goddess first descended, Niniya was on the altar of the temple.
People did not know that the existence of a saint is to be a sacrifice.
They only knew that being a saint is to have the virtue of sacrifice.
‘Your sole existence is to be a sacrifice.’
When the succession orders were issued, two high priests flanked Niniya on both sides to forcibly draw out her power. Standing at the altar, Niniya looked around at the people below. Amongst the crowd, there were countless noble men, including the Emperor of Pierchen and the kings from different countries.
The commoners did not know that being a saint was to be wholly dedicated to the Goddess. Only those of higher status were more aware of the circumstances.
It was largely assumed that watching the ‘end’ of a saint would be the closest thing to the Goddess. The spots from where they stood were arranged in the order of the largeness of the donation they had given to the church.．
“Goddess, we offer you flowers as a sacrifice.”
Instead, the high priests began to forcibly draw out Niniya’s power. Niniya struggled as the pain assaulted her. She felt her bones and body breaking as the priests repetitively hit and cut her skin with a knife.
As she screamed in agony, there was a bright and brilliant light. A man exclaimed loudly in wonderment of the beautiful light.
Eventually, drained of strength, Niniya collapsed to her knees. Her body leaned sideways and her breathing was faint. One of the new priests approached her and confirmed that she had exhausted her all of her strength.．
‘There is not a shred of power left.’
Upon the priest’s report to the Emperor, the great festival was ended and the saint’s breath was cut off.
Her cold, lifeless body was drained out at the altar. Eventually, it would become ashes and be used for the temple’s purposes. That was the last of the saint.
The Emperor and distinguished guests from different countries turned around. After the long ritual was done, it was time to leave. However, their steps stopped before they crossed the threshold.
The Emperor frowned upon the new priest’s exclamation. Then everyone’s faces turned red with shock.
The saint, who was supposed to be dead, rose from the altar and wobbled.
Niniya staggered again and again but straightened up and continued walking towards them every time. There was a deafening silence.
The saint was still alive.
Niniya was locked up in the spire of the temple under the Empire’s commands. There was a discussion within the temple of what action was to be taken but they were silently hoping that Niniya would pass away before a decision was made.
To their disappointment, Niniya was still breathing when they checked on her later.
I should have died then.
How should a person feel upon finding out that the way they were to be sacrificed was set?
‘I understand’ Niniya replied with a face as serene as ever when a priest relayed the whole situation to her.
Then, as soon as the priest left, the smile disappeared from her face.
Should I be relieved or sad?
I can’t remember very well, Niniya looked down at her pale hands. I am alive, but I don’t feel the same as before.
I’m sure that there’s something different with my body after exhausting it of all my strength for that ritual. I’ve been locked up in this room every sleeping and waking moment. I’m still feeling tired even though it is a normal day but it is better to stay awake for as much as I can.
Niniya was plagued with nightmares of the day she was sacrificed every night. The nobles who came to watch applauded her death with their blood-red eyes.
The memory of suffering and witnessing her death will never be erased. It was forever imprinted in the mind and body.
What sin did I commit to deserve this?
I’d done my best in life under the name of the Goddess. Proudly and with unwavering loyalty, I’d practiced all of the Goddess’ teachings.
Of all the saints sacrificed in the past, only I have survived. Perhaps it was my sin to survive that ritual.
I wonder what happened now.
Niniya curled up against the wall. She was now an ordinary person and no longer a saint. Even so, it was also a problem.
Since she was locked away in the spire, there was no direct access to Niniya. She has been cut off from the outside world as well.
Furthermore, news of the nature of Niniya’s sacrificial ritual has spread like wildfire throughout the empire since it was not only watched by the people of the temple but by the Emperor himself and the distinguished guests from the other countries.
Why am I alive?
Even Niniya was full of suspicion. She tugged at a lock of hair and checked on the ends. The tips of her hair which were once vibrant golden colour have turned white like the tail of a weasel.
Niniya had always thought that pure white, which spreads farther than black darkness, was a closer colour to death.
The embrace of the Goddess meant death.
Perhaps that was why the Goddess was always bathed in white light.