14.1 To be a Witch (3)
The impact on her back causes Roze to stop.
Roze just returned from replenishing her materials in the Capital. She had finished shopping, she was going to ride the boat near the forest. Just as she’s settling down on the boat and about to row, something hits her back.
Surprised, Roze turns around.
She wonders if it was a bird or something…—
“—Evil Witch—!!! We are not scared of you at all—!!!”
There are a few boys and girls there.
The owners of the young voice hold up their hands. Each of them clutches a ball of mud stuffed with firewood and sawdust.
Before Roze can say anything, one after another, the kids throw their mud balls at her.
The cold mud balls hit Roze’s face and hair. Undoubtedly, it was this that hit Roze’s back.
The mud ball, soggy with water, gives her the sensation of being slapped on impact. The small bits of gravel mixed with the mud balls graze her skin—it hurts…
For a while, the area surrounding the lake is filled with the sounds of mud balls being thrown—some of them splash in to the lake.
Roze has become a good target for them, since she prioritizes protecting the materials she bought over herself. Her clothes are caked in mud.
Fortunately, the attack stop just before her boat is about to capsize.
—it seems like the kids have thrown all the mud balls they brought.
“How do you like that, huh!? You deserve it!!”
After that, the children scatter away, fearing the Witch’s wrath.
Lucky for her, there isn’t much mud in the boat. Most of it fell into the lake.
Roze brushes away the hair sticking to her face. Both her face and her hair are caked in mud. She then wipes the mud from her cheeks using her palms.
“—Ms. Witch? What are you doing here instead of your house? Besides, what’s with the kids just now, they were running—…”
She lifts her face when she hears the voice. Harij is there, bringing baskets with him as usual.
—…what’s with this timing.
Roze is too stunned to answer. She can’t even move her head, and instead, keeps staring at Harij.
In an instant, Harij figures everything out upon seeing the state of Roze. He grins—but it’s a terrifying one.
“…Those kids have guts, huh.”
Harij approaches Roze, then, he lifts her up and carries her to the ground.
—there are too many things she can’t follow. Her head is filled with question marks.
After pushing his handkerchief to Roze, Harij silently runs back to the depths of the forest—as if saying if he stays here longer, dirty words will inevitably spew out.
“Ueeeh—…” It’s Roze who utters so.
Before she can even finish cleaning off all the mud, Harij returns—
—with the children.
“Nooo! Release me!”
“Wah! Release me! Release meee!”
“Oi, Uncle, I told you to let go of them!!”
He is holding two children, while the other two are clinging to him ordering him to release their friends.
Harij has returned with four kids in total.
“Is that everyone…?”
“I’m surprised that there’s this many…”
The children’s cries are too loud, they’ll attract the forest’s beasts.
“Oi, suspicious uncle! You coward! This is unfair! Let me go!”
“Once all of you admit your mistakes, I will.”
“There’s no way we would do that! Let go!”
This kid must be the leader. While clinging to Harij to release his friend, he kicks Harij rather fearlessly.
Roze lets out another ‘uueh—‘. Harij seems to be in pain. The kid is too reckless.
“—they are here! Come here, come on!”
Suddenly, another voice can be heard inside the forest. It’s a different voice, and doesn’t belong to any of the children Harij has caught. It seems like those who managed to escape alerted the adults.
“—look! There’s everyone! They’ve been captured! Help them!”
There are three adults. They seem vigilant at first, but puzzled after seeing the actual situation.
A muddy woman and children with muddy hands. The man holding them is wearing a traveler’s cloak, but he isn’t suspicious looking at all.
They seems to realize something, and speak to Harij.
“We heard that there’s a suspicious person who’s about to kidnap the children…”
“The children threw mud on this woman. High chance it’s one-sided. I persuaded the children to apologize for their wrongdoings, but they showed no remorse at all. That’s why, I have no choice but to exert a bit force.”
Somehow, it leads to something more serious… Roze’s head is truly spinning at this moment.
After listening to Harij’s explanation, the adults flare up;
“What have you done!? I can’t believe you’re throwing mud at a woman!”
“B-but! She’s a witch, you know!?”
One child points at Roze. The adults’ expressions visibly freeze.
“We saw her come out of that dwelling! She went to the town and I’m sure she is about to do bad things! She will probably kidnap all the children, too—so why don’t we defeat her first!?”
“All of you…! Be silence at once…!”
An adult woman covers her child’s mouth—Roze realizes the gesture is more because of fear rather than reproach.
Their stigma regarding witches hasn’t changed since Roze’s last visit to the Capital, which was seven years ago.
“Please… please forgive these children, O Great Witch of the Lake, they are still young, thus they aren’t aware that you’re the great witch…” One of the adult bows while trembling.
What do they think she’ll do, exactly? Use her magic to curse them with eternal slumber? Transform the children into rabbits?
“I…it’s alright, so…” Her voice won’t come out. Roze isn’t used to talking with anyone besides her customers. She’s so ashamed of herself. She doesn’t know what to say; her mind is turning blank.
“Don’t think that by just praising her, all their wrongdoings will be forgiven.” Harij suddenly speaks—it’s unknown whether or not he’s aware of Roze’s current state.
He continues. “It doesn’t even matter whether she’s a witch or not—it’s wrong to throw mud at people.”
“I said it already, it’s because she’s a goddamn bother—!! Everyone is being annoying—!! I just want to go home—!!”
“Shut up! This kid, what a foolish thing to say…” An adult hits child’s head with a thump. The adult’s face is as blue as the lake.
Roze’s face goes pale, as well. She can’t even feel her fingertips anymore. Seeing her in shock, the adult are perplexed.
“Why are you acting like this…? What did Ms. Witch ever do to any of you…?”
Among them, Harij is the only one who continues to speak with a composed voice.
***T/N : Ughh Harij, you Knight-in-Shining-Armor-Prince-Riding-a-White-Horse