Hana was startled and glanced around.
She was supposed to be alone here, and it would be awkward if someone approached. However, besides herself, there was no one else in the vast field.
[ I told you I couldn’t wait any longer. ]
It wasn’t a voice she heard through her ears. It felt more like her very skull was resonating, creating discomfort from the unfamiliar sensation. Moreover, the voice sounded familiar, as if she had heard it somewhere before.
[ Why didn’t you die back then? ]
A chill ran down her spine.
It wasn’t as though the clouds were covering the sun, but the surroundings felt dark. Hana trembled and wrapped her arms around herself.
When she exhaled, a white breath emerged.
Something was unsettling. Could it be that she was hearing things? The voice grew sharper, repeatedly asking something. It felt like several people were speaking at once, urging her to respond to just one of them.
Just giving some sign that she was listening seemed to be enough.
Unable to bear it any longer, she spoke up.
Instantly, she heard a sound that seemed to tear through the air. Simultaneously, a piercing headache hit her, causing her to groan.
The voice that had been reverberating in her skull suddenly stopped.
[ Found you. ]
And then she heard a very grim, resonant voice from directly above her head.
‘What, what is it?’
Hana shivered and quickly got up.
For a moment, a fleeting memory passed through her mind. This voice was not something she was hearing for the first time. She had heard it two or three times before, maybe even more. She had thought it might be a hallucination or a dream and had brushed it off.
Certainly, whenever she heard this voice, strange things happened.
After Weed collapsed from using his power, Hana spoke with the priests to give an explanation for everything. She should have started by explaining the cause of why Weed had to use his power in the first place.
What on earth had happened?
‘What happened? How did you get so high? As if you were going to fall at any moment.’
It was then.
She had heard this voice at that time as well. Hana had heard that when she smelled a certain flower, the senses would be heightened, allowing her to better perceive the surrounding scenery and sounds.
Out of curiosity, Hana had tried it once.
After smelling the fragrance, she unconsciously responded to a faint voice that spoke to her. And then her body was swiftly lifted into the sky. The shock was so intense that she didn’t remember much afterward.
When she briefly regained consciousness, Weed was smiling faintly through her tear-streaked vision. And then she lost consciousness for a while.
When she opened her eyes again and saw him, he was covered in blood. Hana had to ask the priests about Weed’s condition. After listening to all the explanations carefully, this was the only question she had left to ask them.
‘What is a sacrificial ritual?’
She didn’t particularly imagine anything cruel. It didn’t seem like they would sacrifice her on an altar, cutting open her chest and extracting the heart.
And as expected.
They said that the method of dying varied for each sacrifice. They even suggested that the sacrifices might choose their own methods. The priests respectfully sent the deceased sacrifices down into the void, and that was all there was to it.
‘What happens when a sacrifice dies?’
Unexpectedly, she couldn’t get a precise answer to this question. It was the first time a human had come as a sacrifice, and the priests said it was also their first time directly communicating with one.
‘We couldn’t know exactly what happened to the sacrifices that came here until now. However, one thing is for certain…’
All the sacrifices had ended their lives here. It was the first time that Weed had shown such a firm attitude, insisting that the sacrifice must be sent back.
‘All the sacrifices have chosen to end their lives here of their own will. And after that, the void has been disappearing one by one.’
When she had planned the two-month trip, even when she was on the verge of dying in a traffic accident, Hana was thinking about it.
The trip had started with the intention of finding a place to die.
She had sorted out all her affairs. Lastly, she had thought of taking a trip to a good area with mountains and water, so this place was more than the vacation spot she had wanted. So, she had no dissatisfaction at all.
While she was briefly contemplating, the priests provided some more information about the sacrifices. Not much more was revealed than she had expected. They didn’t have the authority to delve deeply into everything.
Weed had made all the decisions, they said.
And then, finally, Hana heard the most unexpected statement.
‘What we do is just open a gateway to another dimension. If you heard any voice, it wasn’t us. The sacrifice’s choice is not our doing either. I don’t want to admit that we knew nothing until now, but…’
It was said that it was rare for the priests’ abilities or magic to not reach someone on this land.
Driven by their strong pride, they tried everything they could to pull Hana down from the air. However, the magic didn’t work, and their own abilities seemed to bounce off as if hitting a barrier. It was only much later that they sought help from Weed, who wielded divine power.
The priest spoke with an uncertain tone.
‘I can’t help but think that there was something else, not us, calling the sacrifice.’
Probably something with a close connection to God’s will, like Weed with his very high power.
A gust of wind blew above her head. Reflexively, Hana fell to the ground. Flower buds were cut off in the path of the wind and bounced into the air.
[I’m curious. Since your body is destined to die, why are you resisting? ]
It was a dry voice… not a hallucination.
It was clear that it was speaking to her.
Hana, terrified, shouted into the air, demanding to know who it was.
“Who, who’s there?! Answer me!”
This time, her body felt like it was floating.
The eerie sensation… it was just like before! Her face turned pale. Feeling like someone was pulling her into the sky again, she screamed for them to let her go.
As she struggled in the air, she felt as if her body was about to fall to the ground.
Her frail body trembled from the impact. Although she had managed to land, it felt like she was going to be pulled up again. She couldn’t stay lying down like this. Hana got up, limping, and ran. She thought that she couldn’t handle this alone.
[ You said you would come to us, didn’t you? We’ve been waiting for this day. ]
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! If you have something to say, come out and talk to me!”
The place where the priests or Weed were was too far away. Yet this voice stubbornly followed her. She didn’t feel like she was getting any farther from it. It felt like she was completely playing in its grasp.
[ I could wait longer, but after tasting your blood once, I couldn’t bear it any longer. ]
Laughter. Light laughter. The sound was clearly audible, but there was nothing around. Not being able to see its form sent shivers down her spine.
Yes, that was right. There was a time when they had drawn her blood and poured it out as a makeshift measure into the last remaining void. Weed had temporarily regained vigor from that blood, and then it rained, and then…
The excruciating pain, as if her whole body were being torn apart, had come then. The voice asked, ‘Why didn’t you die then?’ Was that question referring to that time? Did the owner of this voice create the pain that felt like her body was being torn apart at that time?
It had been a while since she ran, so her breath was too short.
While running through the field where the end was barely visible, she suddenly realized that she had lost her way.
Instead of the bright forest path where the priests were waiting, she found herself in a slightly darker and gloomier place.