1: Laid You in a Bed of Purple Hyacinths
I woke up amidst countless purple hyacinths, disorientated. I sat up slowly while blocking the sunlight so as to not be blinded by the afternoon rays. When I looked around, I noticed I was in a large garden— perhaps a courtyard of sorts.
“To witness my guest come falling out of the sky, what a unique experience,” A honey-like voice hummed from behind me. I whipped my head around to see a woman whose beauty could only be described as ethereal. Her luscious, midnight tresses that danced along with the gentle breeze that made its way through the garden and silver irises that glistened with amusement entrapped me, reluctant to let go.
The woman let out a heart-throbbing chuckle, effectively snapping me out of my thoughtless daydream.
“Who are you? Where am I?” I became both defensive and curious. The woman’s rosy lips curled up into a charming smile.
“Why don’t we head inside before I answer your questions? If you sit in the sun for too long, you could faint,” She held a delicate hand out for me to take. Her calm reaction to my sudden appearance made me hesitant to take her hand, but I had a feeling that I would never be able to escape her even if I tried. The atmosphere that surrounded her resembled that of a ruler, one that could never be defied.
I reluctantly followed her into the palace. The hallways were large and seemingly endless, but it wasn’t as extravagant as I had anticipated. It seemed that the owner of the palace had simpler tastes, with the albatross walls, marble flooring, and glass light fixtures. The only colors that were present were the mahogany doors and furniture along with the crimson velvet curtains, and the occasional vase of flowers. The building was also void of people. In a place that should be littered with various servants, not a single one was present.
“We’ve arrived, darling,” the woman announced as we stopped in front of a door, far more imposing compared to those from before. The door had garden roses and asphodel lilies engraved on it.
The door led to an equally impressive courtroom. Authority oozed out of the untainted marble pillars and crimson curtains. The wood furniture was polished to perfection, furthering the integrity of the room, and the individuals who sat in the spectator’s area held themselves with dignity akin to royalty. The dozens of heads turned to face us, causing my heart to palpitate from anxiety. My guide on the other hand, remained composed, and walked into the room in a leisure manner. As though she had eyes at the back of her head, she also turned around to look at me, who stood at the doorway, frozen.
“Come,” My feet started to move at her bidding.
I stood before the judge’s bench. I clenched my fists together to stop my hands from trembling, but there was nothing I could do when I started to feel a thin layer of sweat forming on my skin.
“There’s no need to be so tense; you are our dearest guest. I simply wanted to introduce my family to you,” Her pleasant smile never left her face, and she continued to speak in a eloquent manner. “But before I do that, I would like to ask you a question.”
“What are the color of my eyes?”
The question she had asked was a rather peculiar one.
“...Silver,” I answered, not knowing any better. I felt my stomach twist when I saw her eyes narrow while she leaned back in her seat behind the judge’s bench.
“How delightful. Though I knew who you were the moment you had fallen into my garden, it is wonderful to receive confirmation on your identity, Krylo Alphaeus.”
“How—?!” A violent jolt shot down my spine. Why did this woman know my name?
“I’m Rosetta Gardens, the Apostle of the Goddess Ophelia,” The woman finally introduced herself, and her eyes became an alluring gold color. Golden butterflies began to flutter around the hall. “And the individuals in this room are a part of my family.”
“We, the Gardens Family, welcome you to the Garden, Miss. Alphaeus,” the men and women in the room greeted me simultaneously just as Rosetta had finished her statement.
My memories were fuzzy, but one thing I could remember clearly was the name “Rosetta Gardens.” She was a woman that I could trust, but she was also a dangerous individual. A human who has received the blessing of Ophelia, the Goddess of Knowledge and Arts, and is known for her calculative nature. She was an ally that could become my enemy in the blink of an eye.
“I thought your eyes were supposed to be red?!” After getting over my initial shock from the sudden appearance of the butterflies, I questioned the head of the Gardens Family.
“The color of my eyes is in the eyes of the beholder,” She replied. “Brown, red, violet, gold, and in your case, silver. They are all the true color of my eyes. It merely helps me identify your true self.”
“My true self?” My curiosity began to grow.
“Well, you’ll find out eventually. For now, why don’t you rest? I’m sure the wounds from falling have taken a toll on your body. So much so that you didn’t even seem to notice the pain, or the blood.”
“W..what…?” My eyesight started to blur, and the last thing I remember after that was darkness.
My body felt heavy, like my muscles in my body had become lead. My face was cushioned by a soft pillow, and my heartbeat caused my back to ache. From what I could feel, I was laying on my stomach rather than my back.
Though I noticed the faint noise of machinery beeping, what caught my attention was the sound of clothing rustling as someone came up to where I was. Their footsteps were silent.
“...Sleep for a while longer,” it was a woman’s voice, one that was a fraction deeper and significantly more soothing in comparison to Rosetta’s. “Your body needs quite a bit of rest to recover.”
Once again, darkness enveloped my consciousness. I did not dream.
The scent of hyacinths is what awoken me from my deep, listless slumber. My body didn’t feel as heavy, and I was able to open my eyelids. I was greeted with the colors of white and cream, along with a dash of purple.
A vase of hyacinths were placed on the table beside my bed. When I tilted my head a little, I could see a woman wearing a lab coat standing next to the bed. She was in the middle of removing her hands off the glass vase when she noticed that I was awake.
“You’re awake,” She greeted me with a neutral expression. It was the same voice as the one I had heard earlier. “It must be uncomfortable to have to sleep in such a position, but your back was injured, so there wasn’t much of a choice. You’ve been asleep for six days.”
“Six days..?” I croaked.
“Yes, so do not push yourself. I will assist you with everything you need, my name is Beatrice Clarke. You may call me as you wish, Miss. Alphaeus.”
“Would you help me sit up?” Though I didn’t feel weighed down, I couldn’t muster any strength in my limbs. Beatrice did as I requested, and assisted me in sitting upright in a comfortable manner. My back felt sore but there was no pain due to the drugs that Beatrice had administered while I was asleep. “Thank you…”
Despite her piercing gaze and neutral expression, I felt much more comfortable with her than I had with Rosetta and her devilishly bright personality.
“It is best to eat while you’re awake; do you have an appetite?” Beatrice took a step back.
“No, not really,” I admitted. My stomach felt hollow, but I didn’t feel any hunger.
“I’ll get something easy on the stomach then,” Beatrice stated before walking out of the room.
“How did I get into this type of situation?” I groaned.
Beatrice returned with a tray of food while I was in the middle of my internal crisis.
“You are probably too weak to feed yourself, so I’ll help you,” Beatrice went straight to the point as she set the tray of food down onto the table beside my bed. She pulled out the stool from under the bed and sat down gracefully.
“I can try to feed myself,” I became flustered at the thought of being fed like a child.
“You’ll just end up spilling it all over yourself.”
I couldn’t deny it.
Just as I finished my meal, someone knocked on the door. Beatrice voiced her approval to enter, and a young girl with bandages wrapped around her eyes came in. Her hair, which was pulled up into a vertical French twist, was a gorgeous reddish-brown color with a tinge of copper.
“Edith, is there something you needed?” Beatrice asked the adolescent female.
“I was wondering if you could give me some more bandages.”
“For your eyes?”
Beatrice got up from her seat and went over to her desk. She opened a drawer and pulled out a box that contained cotton bandage rolls. She walked over to Edith and placed it in her hand.
“I’ll bring some more over to your room tonight.”
“Thank you, Bea.”
“Do you need help going back to your room?”
“No, my brother is waiting for me in the hallway.”
“Alright,” Beatrice kept an eye on Edith until the door was closed.
I thought of the sparsely furnished hallways. Was that why the palace wasn’t adorned in riches? I almost jumped when Beatrice turned her attention to me.
“For the next few days, you’ll be staying here. Rosetta has prepared a place for you to stay, but I do not plan on letting you go anywhere until you’re mostly recovered.”
I nodded my head; there was nothing else for me to do. I couldn’t do anything— not with how injured and weak my body was.
“Why does that young girl cover her eyes?” I decided to continue the conversation.
“She’s blind. Bandages just happen to be the most comfortable for her.”
My injuries on my back healed well, though two large gash-like scars remain on my shoulder blades. I couldn’t remember how I got the injuries, and though Rosetta appeared to have an idea, she refused to tell me.
“You’ll figure it out in due time,” she said.
It was vexing, yet somehow I was grateful. Trauma could’ve been the reason for my amnesia, and if my mind didn’t wish to remember, I could be better off not knowing for the rest of my life.
On the day that I was to head over to the residence that Rosetta had prepared for me, she had decided to join me for breakfast. In front of me, was a lavish meal, but all Rosetta had was a single cup of rose tea.
“Don’t mind me and enjoy yourself,” Rosetta caught me staring at her. “I don’t partake in breakfast often.”
Her smile was as sinister as it was benevolent. I thought that she always had that carefree smile regardless of the situation— and I was naive to believe such a thing. Crimson took over her mahogany irises, like a river blood flooding a wooden pier, while her smile transformed into a displeased frown. The atmosphere within the dining room became suffocating, and the golden butterflies started to fly around frantically.
“Please excuse me,” Her voice was tight from anger. “I have some business to take care of.”
She vanished along with the tempest of butterflies.
Rosetta grabbed the fleeing woman by her nape, hurling her on to the ground with little effort. When everyone realized who had arrived, even their breathing hitched to a stop. The Apostle now wore a black cloak, a black mask with a single golden butterfly on the left temple, and a pair of black gloves. The woman she had just thrown down was shaking from both pain and fear, having realized her mistake too late.
“I-it was an accident..! Please have mercy..!” The woman pleaded as Rosetta stepped to stand right beside her head. Rosetta looked down at the helpless woman, her expression hidden behind the mask.
“If you have time to beg for mercy, why don’t you just try to kill yourself?” Venom dripped from her every word. “It would’ve been far less painful.”
“P-please, please have mercy! I really didn’t mean to..!”
“Lying through your teeth will only make matters worse, darling,” Rosetta grabbed the woman by her blonde hair, “Didn’t I tell you when I first arrived? That my eyes and ears are everywhere, and that I’ll torment you to the point that you’ll voluntarily die when the chance appears.”
“No, no, no! Please don’t do this to me, please forgive me! I didn’t mean to, I didn’t mean to!” The woman’s pleas became more desperate and frequent. “Mercy, mercy! I beg of you!!”
Distressed cries, the sound of something being dragged across the floor, and the familiar rhythm of heels caught my attention, but when I tried to see what was going on, Beatrice covered my eyes and ushered me into the infirmary, which was actually an extension of her lab. She released me after closing the door, but I got a glimpse of Rosetta through the small window in the door. Beatrice had her usual expression on, with the exception of slightly furrowed eyebrows.
“What is happening?” I mustered up the courage to ask.
Beatrice’s cinnamon colored eyes made eye contact with mine, “Those who go against the laws will be punished with something greater than death.”
It was then when a real sense of dread finally settled in the pit of my stomach.
“In this country, it doesn’t matter who or what you are,” Beatrice continued, “Rosetta is the law. Unless you are the gods themselves, you cannot defy her. That is the most important thing to remember during your stay.”
“Do not attempt to cross any lines; you will not survive Rosetta’s genuine wrath.”
That was Beatrice’s warning.