Hitasya’s heart pounded the whole time as she was being carried down into the deep underground at the back of a stranger, surrounded by darkness. The man kept his silence all the way into the underground, which was much deeper than she first imagined. Hitasya, who was only a little child still, grew crestfallen with worry as she wondered if he was upset because she was too heavy on his back.
When the man had finally reached the bottom of the underground, he let Hitasya down and opened the steel door before them. Hitasya hurriedly followed as the man walked into the door by himself without saying a word to her.
As they walked along the dim corridor, they came to another dead end which was blocked by the barred steel door. The man, however, swiftly unlocked the lock which was hanging at the bar and unchained the door without any sign of hesitation.
“Get inside and you will see a room where you can see lights filtering through from the gaps on the ground. Find the room and go inside.”
With that said, the man pulled out a long iron bar and gave a few taps against the steeled bars.
“I’ll give you a tap to let you know when the time is up. You just have to come back here when you hear the sound.”
Hitasya thought the man’s voice sounded as if he was just reading out the lines from a book, which he didn’t enjoy in the least.
At first, she had indeed hesitated to walk into such a dark corridor all by herself. However, she eventually steeled herself and bravely took a first step forward. Before long, the sight of the steel door and the man was no longer visible behind in the dark although she had only taken a few steps into the corridor.
The girl had no other choice but to take a deep breath and keep forward with both her hands firmly clenched. Then, when she finally spotted the dim light which was coming from the gaps of the door, she swiftly ran for the door.
Another heavy steel door, which looked gigantic since it was much taller than herself, was firmly closed before her. Hitasya then used all her strength to open up the door although she was half worried that it could be locked. But despite the rattling sounds coming from the rusty hinges, the door opened fairly easily, unlike her expectation.
Cautiously, Hitasya took a step and walked into the room.
Almost instantly, she saw a person sitting still on the pattern of light which was beaming through the gaps from the floor. An old lady, whose eyes were closed with her head hung down low, slowly lifted her head up. Hitasya couldn’t help but to gasp when her eyes met with the lady’s.
“Ah…” Alber gave a faint exclamation of joy as she beckoned at the girl, casting a smile for the first time in a long while.
Hitasya meekly obeyed and went up to Alber as she was told. And even when the lady had reached out and wrapped her hands on her cheeks as she groped for her eyes, nose, then her lips, Hitasya remained still since she had somehow known that the lady meant no harm to her in the least.
“How pretty you are. What is your name?”
“Hitasya. What a pretty name. Is Rahan your father?”
“I beg your pardon?” Hitasya only belatedly remembered that Rahan was her grandfather’s name indeed. “He is my grandfather.”
“So you are Rahan’s granddaughter? I see…. time surely has passed. I can’t believe he’s already become a grandfather. Then I guess you must be Thas’s daughter.”
Hitasya was quite puzzled as the old lady looked nothing like how she had imagined. In fact, the lady looked much younger than her grandfather and she had a clearer voice as well. It sounded especially strange when the lady called her grandfather’s name as if she was calling on a little boy.
“How old are you?”
“I’m twelve years old.”
“… twelve? Has Rahan… your grandfather had any message for me?”
“He has just told me to give honest answers when I’m asked questions.”
After a moment’s contemplation, Alber broke into a smile as she gave a nod. “Alright. Let’s hear it from you then. Now, can you tell me about your family?”
The girl’s voice sounded like a bird’s song and she kept chirping on like a little bird. Alber was overjoyed as it’s been a long time since she had last felt this much alive. She felt like all of the sacrifices she had made so far were very much worthwhile as long as this lovely girl could stay as cheerful as she was now.
It’s been more than twenty years since she was visited by a child from the Muen family after Rahan’s third daughter paid her a last visit.
Although it would be best if she could meet with every child from the tribe, she was grateful enough to be able to see the children from the Muen family as this was the result of her compromise with Sang-je.
In the beginning, Sang-je kept a closer watch and even eavesdropped on every single conversation she had with the child. But after realizing that she exchanged no more than an everyday conversation with the child, he eventually stopped caring and allowed her to have a chat with the child, in private.