The Saint of Arcadius — Prologue
“What a useless child you are.”
I remembered how frightful it was to hear my dorm mother speak those words, and then sigh afterward.
Any time one of us children failed in some way or didn’t try our hardest for fear of failing, our dorm mother would curse at the culprit, calling her “useless”, and make her go without food as punishment. All she could do was watch the others have their bread at dinner from her place in the corner. It didn’t matter if she were to collapse from hunger; once the meal was over, she would be struck until she got up, and made to wash everyone else’s utensils alone.
That was undoubtedly how a dorm mother showed her love.
Orphans too, once they left the orphanage as adults, would have to live alone. Such was why she singled out and tormented the most useless of us. The dorm mother hoped to imprint upon us orphans the idea that, if we didn’t spend their lives working and being useful to others, we too would wind up receiving the same treatment.
Thinking back now, it was an admittedly efficient method. All of us in the orphanage worked desperately each day, and not a single one dared to laze around.
But even then, no matter how frantically we worked, there was bound to be one slower than the rest.
For instance, my younger self.
“You’re such a dumb kid, you are. More worthless than any other kid there is!”
“I’m sorry,” I begged forgiveness. Each time I did, it felt as if my heart inched closer to death.
“It’s because you’re so dumb and useless that your mother and father went through so much and—“
The two of them had fallen ill.
I had gone searching for a doctor even as tears wet my cheeks, but no doctor would meet with a child of the poor.
I brought my parents fruit I had scavenged from the forest and bread I had stolen in desperation, but they no longer had the strength to eat any of what I had. I wanted to cook a soft stew for them, but I had no idea how to light a fire.
The second time I tried stealing, I was caught. A vicious beating made sure I didn’t steal again.
All I could do then was bring my parents water I drew from the well, and watch as they grew weaker day after day—
The word my dorm mother had hurled at me lodged within the depths of my heart even now. It had taken root and refused to leave.
I could have saved my parents if I had just been a more useful human being. I was responsible for my parents’ deaths. I killed the mother and father I loved and cared for.
I have to be of use to someone. I have to find work to do.
If I help even more people, I’m sure even my lost parents—
As long as that is my goal—
—a few sacrifices are no matter.