One Step Forward to the Flower Path - Chapter 1
There is never an advantage for having to live two lives.
Unless you have the capability to escape pain.
Ivanna was reeling on those realizations at the moment.
An extremely thin body fluttered as if it had been electrocuted. Tears streamed down her cheeks and hair, and her blood spattered like saliva from her mouth.
‘It hurts, it hurts! I’m tired! It hurts so much!’
Ivanna wept bitterly because due to the searing pain she felt all over her body. But no one held out their hand to the tiny, slender child.
Including those in the same space with the child.
Because they were the ones who threw her on this cold, painful altar.
“Hahaha! Look at all that concentrated power. Isn’t it amazing!”
Unlike the child, who fluttered in pain, the man wearing a crown on his head was smiling with joy.
The man’s laughter along with the sound of the child’s pain sounds sinister.
“I’ve been pulling out her power every day, but it hasn’t decreased a bit.”
“Of course, since she’s an offering that God gave to us.”
Offering. It was a painfully horrible way to refer to this little girl.
Ivanna was such a being. A sacrifice given by God for humans.
Ivanna was not treated as a human.
“Stop······. Ahh······. Please······!”
(t/n: 컬 translated to curl, but I put please because it sounds better, and it’s an exclamation/sound made to express something like disappointment, or short depression.)
Her body, which was easily fluttering without ease, became stiff little by little. Her wriggling fingers became still and heavy like wooden sticks.
‘This must be my end.’
Tears welled up her eyes little by little. The priest, who was next to her, clicked his tongue in indifference.
“She seems to be at her limit already.”
The child was approaching death, and the priest’s speech doesn’t even give a hint of concern or interest.
He sounds annoyed and irritated like the girl was just a nuisance.
Ivanna’s life was just like that.
“Ah! Ahh, ah, ahhh······.”
With a short command, the light faded from the altar. Even though it stopped, her body still fluttered for a moment. It was too terrible of a pain for such a frail and skinny body to endure.
“Take her out. The only flaw is that she’s still too young, that’s why her body is too weak. Only a small amount of power can be pulled out from her at a time. Let’s take only this much for now.”
A soldier came up and untied the silver rope on Ivanna’s limbs. Her small body drooped helplessly because she had to go through the terrible pain for hours.
“What a shame. I can only keep that offering for 1 year because it’s so weak.”
“I’ll have to pull out as much power from her as I can. We won’t be able to get our hands on an offering like that again.”
The voice was getting farther and farther away, but somehow it sounded clear to her as if it was speaking right next to her.
One year. Ivanna will stay here for a year. It’s already been a month, so there are 11 months left.
It was such a meaningless number.
If I leave here after a year, I’ll be going somewhere else.
And the same pain will be repeated there.
My future was already set.
It never changes.
“Yes, ’cause I’m going to die before I become an adult anyway.”
The lifespan of a sacrifice is short. It’s extremely short-lived. The long life of the offering was something that everyone wanted.
And maybe, even Ivanna.
Drip, drip, drip.
Drops of tears dripped next to the soldier’s footsteps as he walked with Ivanna over his shoulder as if she were a sack.
But as always, no one cared.
* * *
Suddenly, Ivanna’s body convulses greatly, as she was startled by the noise and quickly opened her eyes.
Is the pain about to start again?
I wanted to wrap my arms around me because I was scared, but my body wouldn’t move. A sick body was nothing but a pain.
“It’s alright. It’s just a little wobbly in the carriage.”
I was shaking and suddenly I heard a gentle voice in front of me.
Ivanna was startled and raised her head. A woman who had pretty brown hair was looking at her.
She said again affectionately, it felt as if this was not a dream. Oh, only then I was able to see the view of my surroundings.
Dark brown walls, light green soft chairs, a steady swaying body, and the scenery passing through the small window next to it.
She realized she was in a carriage right now.
“Do you feel sick? Do you want us to stop for a moment?”
When Ivanna didn’t answer and only looked around, the woman’s face stiffened. When asked again if the wagon should be stopped immediately, she only shook her head in haste.
“Are you okay?”
She wasn’t okay. The dream she just had······. She kept thinking of what happened a few days ago. Even though she escaped from the altar where her power was constantly pulled out, she still felt sick.
Ivanna only nodded her head to answer the woman’s question.
“If you’re in pain anywhere, it’s okay to say it. No one will hurt you anymore.”
Despite the woman’s heartfelt worries, Ivanna hid in the corner of the carriage as if running away. Then she hugged her legs and put on a defensive attitude.
The woman could no longer say anything to her after her constant rejection. She wanted Ivanna to be at ease, but the child wouldn’t.
Ten days have passed since she’s been with Mariella. For ten days, Mariella never got angry or beat her, but she still couldn’t open up her heart to another person that easily. She didn’t know how to do that because she never learned how to.
Yes, even if the woman in front of her says she is a friend of my beloved mother.
She’s not my mother.
“We’ll be there in a minute.”
Mariella said as softly and quietly as she could. Still, Ivanna trembled with anxiety.
The girl, sitting in the corner of the carriage as she hugged her legs, was so small and thin that at the mere sight of her Mariella felt sorry for her.
She wanted to reach out and comfort her, but forcefully approaching a child who hasn’t opened up their heart was also abuse.
“Do you miss your dad?”
Mariella asked in the softest voice she could do.
Ivanna bowed her head between her knees instead of answering. Mariella decided not to say anything anymore.
Right now, Ivanna was on the way to the house of a man called ‘dad’.
For Ivanna, ‘dad’ was a very unfamiliar word. There had only ever been her mother with her from her birth and until her death.
Sometimes her mom brought up stories about her dad, but she’s never seen him so she’d never wanted to see him.
Even when she wandered around for two years after her mother’s death, she never thought of her father.
There was something more strange than that though.
In her “first” life, her dad never showed up, so why did he show up in this life?
Yes, she’s currently living her second life.
She bowed her head down and wriggled her fingers. Even though she was surprised to see her father who was not in her first life, she wasn’t really looking forward to it.
Whether it be her dad or anyone else, everyone only wants her power, and not her.
She’ll just repeat the same life she’d lived before in her dad’s house. Repeating the same pain.
Will she live there for only one year as well?
After that will she go somewhere else too?
That’s all Ivanna was curious about.
Soon, the carriage stopped. Mariella looked out the window and frowned.
“Would you wait for a moment?”
Ivanna didn’t answer. Mariella smiled affectionately and got off the carriage, saying she wouldn’t take long.
She’s finally alone. Only then did I unwrap my arms, which were holding my legs together, and crawled to the chair near the window. I clung to the window, half-covered with curtains, and looked out of it.
The first thing that caught my eye was a black-haired man. He was the tallest man I’ve ever seen.
Long legs, black hair. And, uh······.
Ivanna murmured unconsciously.
His eyes glistened beautifully like his hair, which fluttered in the wind.
He had vivid yellow eyes like a cat. Ivanna opened her mouth without realizing it because it was the first time she had seen that eye color.
“The Duke’s hospitality is quite thrilling.”
Mariella’s voice, which was always friendly, sounded extremely cold at the moment. Ivanna alternatively looked at the two.
“I’ve been receiving very courteous letters from you every day, telling me not to go anywhere and stay still for ten days.”
“I didn’t expect much, actually. But still, I would like to thank you for accepting my request.”
“I can’t believe I’m getting a thank-you from Countess Irene. I’m quite impressed.”
The man sarcastically said at Mariella.
“So, what did the countess, who never came to this side of my estate, come here for? And you came with the Guardian of the Great Spirit.”
Both Mariella, who was still standing in front of the man, and Ivanna trembled.
She hasn’t even seen him before, so how did he know?
“You knew right away, too.”
“It’s hard not to know. This feeling, I can only feel it from the Guardian. It’s like a young Guardian who hasn’t even summoned the Holy Spirit yet.”
“······Yes, that’s right. I also found out because of that. Your Excellency’s involvement is absolutely necessary.”
Mariella hesitated for a moment. There was a bit of anxiety in her hesitating gesture. His cat-like eyes became thinner.
“What is it?”
Only after one more push by the man, Mariella managed to move. As she approached the carriage, Ivanna retreated to the back.
“······Would you like to come?”
Mariela opened the carriage door and beckoned her. However, the child, who had completely retreated to the opposite side of the wall did not move.
Mariela did not forcefully approach this time either. Instead, she stepped back with the door wide open.
Beyond the fully open door, the figure of the tall man was clearly visible. His line of sight was on her.
Ivanna looked at such a man and slowly came out. The carriage was so high that I had to bend down with my hands on the floor of the carriage so I could get out.
And when I raised my head and made eye contact with the man, I was startled and immediately crawled under the carriage. The child’s small body was completely concealed behind the carriage’s footrest.
“She’s a child with a lot of wounds. It will take a long time to open her heart completely.”
Mariella bent over without hesitation. The soft hem of her dress rubbed against the dirt on the ground, but she didn’t care at all.
She lowered herself and watched the child, who hid under the carriage as a barrier.
“But please love the child and care for her with the best that you can. That’s something only you, the Duke, can do.”
Tears formed in both her eyes as her hands clutched her skirt tightly. Mariella looked up at the man with a sad face.
“Your Excellency, Duke Vicente.”
“This is Louise’s daughter.”
The man, who had not changed his expression even after seeing the small girl, opened his eyes wide for the first time.
At first glance, the man who seemed bored with this situation looked under the wagon in disbelief.
He couldn’t move his eyes away from the little girl’s body that was completely covered by the footrests, which is something he wouldn’t usually care about.
“She’s the daughter you never knew about.”
She’s his daughter.
She’s his daughter that he didn’t even know existed until now.
That too, of the only woman he ever loved.
The man’s eyes shook violently.