It was said that it was not just the weather in this forest that was blessed. Hana recalled asking the priests once whether this place always had such spring-like weather, and the answer she got was that while the current season seemed just right for humans, this place also had its own cycles.
The plants here seemed to be unaffected by such natural disasters. There were also priests who could make the plants grow rapidly before one’s eyes.
It wasn’t just that about this place that made it special. Among them, there was something that seemed outstandingly exceptional. Flowers with magical abilities were one thing, but this place even had plants that seemed to come straight out of legends.
What caught Hana’s interest were the plants with healing properties.
Starting from relatively trivial things like wiping the petals on scars to make them disappear to things like being able to extend one’s lifespan by touching them. Of course, there were some conditions attached and an equal amount of backlash, though it was even more mysterious than entirely unfamiliar magic.
The claim that one could cure any illness in Lár de Ligna Initia didn’t seem like a lie at all.
Even though it might be a little grandiose, people would believe that it was a land where the will of God itself resides. It felt as if someone had tried to create a perfect and ideal world, and this was the result.
While walking, Hana constantly marveled at her surroundings. People might have thought that it would be chaotic to spread such a variety of colors in this way. Or they might have thought it tacky to try to mimic these colors and wear clothes made of such fabrics.
The drooping cherry blossoms, the blooming wildflowers, and the rustling sound of leaves colliding with each other when the wind blew, causing a cascade of dry petals and leaves like a gentle shower. It was beautiful. She couldn’t help but think that no one could truly replicate nature.
Despite the discomfort in her aching feet, walking in such a place wasn’t so bad. In fact, not walking felt like a loss.
Hana stumbled and nearly fell, causing the priests ahead to turn their heads.
Weed, who was right beside her, quickly caught her shoulders, preventing her from falling. He pulled her slightly into his embrace and asked with concern.
“After all, it’s better for me to hold you.”
“I’m fine. I still want to walk if I can.”
She quickly distanced herself from Weed, who looked like he was going to start crying at any moment. Though being held by him wasn’t something that happened for the first time, perhaps it was in the presence of others that made it feel particularly embarrassing now.
“Alright, Weed. Weed, stop here.”
Unexpectedly, the priest who had been walking ahead approached and supported Hana. It was Rutis, with sharp features like those of an inspector or a guardian knight.
“Weed stops here?”
“The plants growing in the area you’re heading to are affected by the surrounding organisms. It would be troublesome if Weed were to influence them. To examine the situation closely, we need to isolate the impact.”
As she gazed up at him, even though he was smiling, there was a hint of dissatisfaction in his expression.
“It’s the same for us. We’ll have to part ways after a while, so for some time, you’ll have to walk alone.”
“Ah… I see.”
Though she would be back soon, she felt a strange sense of regret.
Weed bid her farewell, urging her to take care and assuring her he would wait right there. As she followed the priests, she glanced back and saw that he was still standing there, unmoving, gazing at her. They walked for a while longer. The priests had been kind, to begin with.
Perhaps it was her feeling, but as they spent time together, they seemed to have become even warmer and more affectionate.
“…Well, it’s especially beautiful to humans, they say.”
Lutacea, the priest who had been walking beside her, spoke up. She seemed to show her fondness. Hana nodded sincerely in agreement. It truly was beautiful.
“Still, that’s just the inside. The further you go outside, the more it deviates from human taste, you know? Although there are humans who appreciate that too.”
“Why is that?”
Lutacea didn’t hesitate to answer.
“Well, Hana might not have the occasion to go there, but there are some that use human flesh as nutrients.”
“Just as there are aggressive creatures attacking any moving beings…”
She was aware that not all the plants that grew in a place where all plants flourished were benevolent and beautiful. She had heard of poisonous herbs or slightly dangerous magical plants, and there were even plants that moved on their own and attacked living creatures.
However, she had never seen or felt them around here, and she had no intention of going far enough to encounter them. It was said that those who intruded here were naturally dealt with by such entities, and those who came requesting help politely were either skilled enough to surpass such threats or were in desperate situations.
As she listened to the story, she began to feel the desire to simply enjoy the sights. It was around that time that the priests walking with her stopped.
Before them stretched a field of blooming yellow flowers.
“Walk until we are out of your sight, and take this with you.”
The priest rummaged through their robes and handed something to her. As she extended both hands, a small blue bead-like object rolled onto it.
It was a small fruit resembling a date, with a tiny leaf attached to the stem.
“Yes. Use this to estimate the time. After removing the leaf, it will turn red in about two hours. After that, it will gradually turn yellow over the next half a day. You can sit and pass the time, and when it turns red, you can pick two or three nearby flowers and come back.”
“You can even take a nap. If it’s been too long, either me or Kukurtavi will come and get you.”
Hana nodded politely to them and began walking alone. As she walked, she felt something tugging at her, so she turned around. When she stopped, the priests looked at her with a puzzled face.
“…Did I get the name wrong?”
She had been introduced as Kurtavi, but for some reason, she was called Kukurtavi again, so Hana asked about it. Moreover, hadn’t they both teased each other about it after she was called that by Weed?
The priests glanced at each other and then shrugged at Hana. Lutacea provided an explanation.
“She changed her name.”
* * *
The flower field stretched endlessly. Soft petals wrapped around her bare feet with each step. It was advised not to wear shoes, so she had been walking barefoot the entire time. Her soles were starting to harden, so walking was not difficult.
The slight tickle with each step made her feel quite content.
When she turned around and the priests were no longer visible in the distance, Hana finally sat down in the field.
Perhaps because it was a flat field, she seemed to have walked alone for quite some time.
Somehow, she felt it wouldn’t be appropriate to sit on the flowers, so she searched for an empty spot as best as she could. The scent of tulip-like flowers wafted gently in the air. It was a remarkably quiet place. Occasionally, she could hear the sounds of birds.
Looking up at the sky, she noticed the clouds slowly drifting by.
It was indeed tranquil. She couldn’t help but yawn.
She wondered what Weed was doing. Was he just staying put in the same place? She wasn’t sure if it was Weed’s doing, but the priests hadn’t been talking about sacrifices lately. They seemed satisfied with her not going back.
“Surely they said I could take a nap, right?”
Hana yawned as she had various thoughts on her own. Seeing that the fruit she held was still a blue hue, she decided to close her eyes and take a nap.
Just as she was about to lie down, she heard a voice.
[ Finally, you’re alone. I sense no one around you. It’s getting harder and harder to find you. ]
‘…What is this sound?’