Though the voice had no visible form, Hana deliberately closed her eyes, expressing her refusal to listen.
Perhaps due to prolonged tension or the warmth of the magic flames burning on Calden’s shoulder, drowsiness overcame her. Hana decided to simply sigh. Since she didn’t know where this place was, whether she paid attention to the way or not didn’t seem to matter.
‘Maybe it’s because of my feelings…’
The voice calling her did not stop.
Was it because she now knew a way not to feel threatened? Despite it being a nearly flat voice without much pitch, the calling sound somehow felt poignant.
Ignoring the sound, Hana gradually drifted to sleep.
* * *
It didn’t take long before she woke up.
The sensation of floating caused it. It was an uncomfortable feeling that never became familiar, no matter how many times she experienced it. Hana quickly opened her eyes, anxiously surveying her surroundings.
“Oh, you’re awake?”
She was still held by the person named Calden. It was fascinating how humans here seemed to have such strength, how he supported her with one arm.
He held a long rod-like object in his hand that was not holding Hana. The staff extended from the ground to Calden’s shoulder. At the top, there was a luminous bead that emitted light, and the staff was coiled around it to encase it.
When Calden thrust the staff into the ground, the levitating sensation disappeared.
There was the sound of his two feet touching the ground. His hair rose for a moment and then settled down. Being held by him, Hana realized that her body had been floating in the air, only to touch the ground now.
Looking around, she couldn’t help but be amazed.
In the brief moment she closed her eyes, it felt like they had moved an incredibly far distance. The place they were standing in looked like a cave. The ceiling was made of rock, and light faintly entered from one side.
The surroundings were not pitch dark due to magic flames scattered around.
What was peculiar was that the cave seemed decorated like an indoor space. There was a table and a bed, and a carpet adorned the floor. Although there were no mirrors, there was a dressing table and even a wardrobe.
It seemed like an odd combination for a cave.
It might sound a bit strange, but there was a slight incongruity between the shape of the bed and furniture and Calden’s appearance.
The cave was decorated somewhat awkwardly for a room for a sturdy man like Calden.
“You’re staring as if it’s fascinating.”
“This place is?”
“It’s still within the sanctuary.”
“…Did we just teleport?”
Calden nodded and then showed the staff he was holding up close.
Upon closer inspection, it looked even more unusual. A smooth metal rod had a luminous bead attached to its end, and the rod was coiled around it. Inside the bead, a sparkling light flickered like fireworks, and the metal was covered with patterns or characters that were indistinguishable.
“Wand of Light. With this, it can do what you just mentioned. It’s one of Eatinte’s treasures.”
The name sounded familiar from somewhere.
While Hana was trying to recall, he carried her to the area with a table. Oddly, instead of seating her on a chair, he placed her on the table. He didn’t pull out a chair as if to have her sit, but he stood straight and took a step back, observing Hana intently.
She furrowed her brow.
Calden observed her intently, arms crossed. It made her uncomfortable like he was looking at some exotic creature. Perhaps it was because of his unusual golden eyes.
Deciding to observe him in return, Hana thought about Eatinte. The name seemed familiar. Though the place’s name wasn’t familiar, it had stuck in her memory after hearing it a couple of times. She had a vague sense of who this person might be.
Eatinte… A figure resembling nobility. Eatinte’s treasure, the Wand of Light. A region to the west.
Hana unintentionally exclaimed in amazement. She remembered. Once one thing came to mind, a chain of vaguely heard conversations followed.
“Weed, the human royal family of Eatinte requests an audience.”
“Eatinte is a region at the western end of the continent.”
“I sent them back a while ago, but they came back again in a strange way.”
“This is the third time this year. What they brought this time is the national treasure of that country…”
Facing Calden’s fiery gaze, Hana opened her mouth.
“The royal of Eatinte?”
He didn’t deny it. He simply looked at her with curious eyes. It must have been somewhat unusual for someone who had yet to recognize him until now and, upon hearing the name of a region, immediately asked if he was the royalty.
Even after knowing he was a royal, Hana’s attitude toward him didn’t change much.
“I’m not sure what kind of reward you’re seeking, but it would be simpler and better if you sent me back to where I came from.”
“As you can see, I can’t move my legs, I have nothing to give, and there’s nothing I can do. If you went through the trouble of coming here, wouldn’t your business be with the priests?”
“If you go back to where you came from, will Ligna do something for you?”
“What are you?”
There was skepticism in his questioning tone.
Hana couldn’t figure out how to express herself. Recalling Weed’s faces, the priests, and the precious treatment they gave her, she hesitantly spoke with an uncertain tone.
“A guest… I suppose.”
It was a sneer. This time, it made her feel not offended but a bit uneasy.
Calden’s inner thoughts behind that laughter were unclear. Because of that sneer, she became increasingly uncertain about what would happen to her situation. She initially thought that simply going back would solve everything, but now, a sense of unease was creeping in.
“Ligna doesn’t welcome guests. And even if they did, aren’t you already useless? To poison a valuable guest, make a mess of them, and then be discarded as fertilizer in the forest?”
“No, it’s just… there are circumstances!”
“You don’t know anything about it. Ligna is not that kind to their guests. Nor are they easy for humans to understand.”
He clearly didn’t believe her. Hana didn’t know how to convince him. It seemed unnecessary. If she just went to the priests, everything would be resolved. He asked for an audience with Weed and wasn’t accepted. So this should work as an excuse to meet him.
Wouldn’t it be mutually beneficial?
“Anyway… didn’t you have business with the priests? Please take me there.”
“No, I don’t think I need to meet Ligna.”
“What do you mean?”
Calden rummaged through his pocket and approached Hana.
His footsteps were leisurely as if he were savoring his time in front of captured prey.
“I thought I should just go back this time, but it turned out to be an unexpected harvest. At first, I thought it was just a baseless rumor. But when I confirmed the truth, I found myself getting entangled with it.”
“A story passed down like a myth among the sick. In the sanctuary, any disease can be cured. If you can meet someone with golden eyes, that’s the best answer. I didn’t expect it to be a human who would easily fall into it.”
Any disease could be cured, and golden eyes… With just this information, did he enter this dangerous place alone and ask for an audience?
With a few simple words, Calden allowed her to understand what kind of place the sanctuary was for ordinary people. Regarding the treatment of diseases, it was close to a blind belief. However, one thing couldn’t be denied. She was in a situation where she could confirm the efficacy with her own eyes and body.
Even so, Calden seemed to be mistaken about someone. The authority to cure any disease with golden eyes wasn’t with her but belonged to someone else.
“Rumor has it that their blood has an excellent effect in treating divine diseases. What do you think?”
Something touched her chin.
This time, it wasn’t his hand. Hana had no choice but to lift her chin.
As if trying to draw blood, a chilling dagger was dangerously close under her neck.