Everyone shouted. Holly kneeled in the middle of the crowd, couldn't help but look down in fear. Her long blonde hair fell to the ground. Her milky skin was covered with mud. She looked like a pig ready to be slaughtered.
Holly couldn't cry anymore. Her eyes were too dry after she had cried so long. The villagers suddenly dragged her out of the house to kill her. After five years has been passed, they still called her a traitor.
[I want to live.]
Holly just wants to live. Being the only survivor in her family made Holly wish to survive. But she had no choice. Those people forced her to die.
Right before an old lady almost hit her head with a stone, a group of royal soldiers appeared. "Don't touch her!" they said.
The villagers did not accept it. "She's the daughter of a traitor!"
Screams began to sound like birds chirping. Holly had nothing to say. It was true her father was a traitor, but that was five years ago. They had even beheaded him. Now they want to kill her too.
The royal soldier opened a sheet of paper and read it. "Holly Reloux will be sent to The Dark Hill."
"No! She must be beheaded here!" Villagers still insist on killing her.
"Ten years have passed. Our kingdom must send a sacrifice for the beast, or he will destroy this kingdom. Your village will surely be the first to be destroyed."
Everyone started to doubt. Finally, the villagers agreed. There is no more worthy candidate to be a victim than Holly.
Everyone shouted happily while laughing. "Great ideas!"
"Let the Beast eat her!"
Holly wasn't surprised. Being beaten to death here or sent to Dark Hill made no difference. She will die in any way. Seeking mercy was useless. Ever since her father was arrested for treason, her life has been ruined.
Holly lived on the streets for three years until she built a wood house near the forest. Everyone who meets her will throw stones at her. She was looking for food from the trash. And today, the villagers accused her of stealing so that she was almost killed.
Royal soldiers came on time. If they were late just for a second, maybe they would find Holly's dead body in the crowd.
One of the Royal soldiers dragged her roughly to the village border. He pushed Holly out of the village gate. Dark Forest. She had to walk alone through the Dark Forest to get to Dark Hill.
"Hurry up before the beast comes!"
"Do you want this village to be destroyed?"
Holly stared at them for a moment. Their angry faces were a nightmare to her. She was afraid. Very afraid. Holly, who wanted to live the most, was forced to walk toward her own death.
With shaky legs, Holly walked into the Dark Forest. People were still shouting for her to walk faster. The cold made her shiver, even though it was summer. Her torn and filthy dress could not warm her body.
The dense trees and mist make it difficult for sunlight to penetrate the gaps. Daytime felt like night. That was why people called this place Dark Forest. Holly had to work hard to be able to look ahead.
There was no footpath. Holly walked towards the castle on the hill. The Beast castle.
When she was little, her mother told her that a beast lived in the castle. He would eat the villagers if the King didn't send a woman every ten years. None of the citizens dared to approach that place because they had to pass through the Dark Forest. Even the Dark Forest itself was full of mysteries.
Holly paused to look around. She felt like eyes were watching her, but she couldn't see anything in the darkness. Holly rubbed her arm. She didn't know what her fate would be when she arrived at the castle.
Surprisingly, after five hours passed, Holly arrived in front of the castle walls safely. The castle was on top of a hill, the light was better than Dark Forest but it was still dark in the daytime. A cloud always overshadows this castle, adding to the gloomy air that can be seen from the village.
Frightened, Holly opened the wooden door attached to the castle wall. The flower fragrance immediately greeted Holly's nose.
Holly stopped her words. She froze when she saw the inside of the castle walls. There was a garden overgrown with flowers. Small candles were placed around the walkway, giving the castle doors a shimmering look.
"Oh! You really came here!"
Holly was shocked. A man who looked very old approached her. His hand held a hoe. Burn scars damaged all sides of his face.
Holly steps back. She thought he was the beast, but this old man seemed nice. Although surprised, he smiled kindly at her.
"What happened to you? Are they bothering you? Those boys really, I told them not to disturb humans." The man grunted as he put down his hoe.
Holly was still silent because she didn't understand. She looked at her own dress. Her appearance now must have looked like a tramp.
"My name is Hugo. I work here." Hugo pointed at the flowers that surrounded the garden. The castle yard was literally filled with flowers. He must be the one who planted them.
"I'm Holly...." Holly paused for seconds. She hesitated to mention her last name. Her father was a traitor.
"Just Holly," she continued.
Hugo escorted Holly into the castle. A bright light immediately greeted her, brighter than the sunlight outside. Holly hung her mouth in awe. The inside of the castle looked beautiful. There was gold plated furniture with lots of candlelight. Whoever owned this castle was definitely not just rich, but too rich.
Holly looked around her. There wasn't the slightest part that deserved to be called creepy. This castle actually looked like a palace.
"Who is this?" A woman in a red dress came out. She looked very elegant and pretty in her middle age.
"The human. She really comes here!" Hugo shouted in joy.
That woman was also surprised, just like Hugo. "I thought you wouldn't come here."
Holly was confused. Isn't it every ten years that a woman comes here? Holly saw it herself ten years ago, the last woman the villagers had driven into the Dark Forest.
"Have those girls never survived the Dark Forest before?"
"No. Those girls never actually came here. They must have fled some other way, out of the woods." Hugo explained.
Holly raised her eyebrows. "Are they eaten by beasts?"
Hugo looked at her in shock. "Of course not. They fled elsewhere, and we have no intention of pursuing them. You were the first to actually come here."
[They didn't kill them?]
Holly lost words. She thought all this time the beast had killed the women. Turns out they ran away. But now, where is the beast?
[Seems like the beast is just made up rumour. This place isn't as scary as people said.]
"Let me introduce myself. I am Adda, the head servant. You will work with me as a servant. As you see, it was just me here." The woman explained gracefully.
Holly lowered her body. "I am Holly. I will do my best, My Lady."
"Just call me Adda, I'm not a Lady."
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. A loud bang knocked that made Holly almost get a heart attack.
"It must be Gilbert." Hugo walked towards the door, grumbling.
"I'm sorry. You can wait here for a moment. Or you can look around. Just remember, do not go upstairs."
Holly nodded then Adda left her. She followed Hugo to the door.
The knock still going when Hugo opened the door. From her place, Holly could see a man outside. His hair was black, but his eyes were as blue as an ocean. He was such a handsome man, Holly was almost blown away.
"I saw a human here!" The man shouted with a panicked face.
"Easy, Young Man. She's just a human," Hugo said.
Holly didn't want to eavesdrop on their conversation. She felt strange every time they called her human as if they weren't human themselves.
Holly looked around. A sweet scent wafted into her nouse. The smell was like flowers blooming in spring but mixed with a gentle fragrance that was difficult for Holly to describe. The scent came from upstairs.
Holly remembers Adda's warning to not go upstairs. It would be rude if she broke the rules on her first day.
But this scent got stronger and made Holly crazy. Like a cat who smelled fish in hunger, Holly was addicted to this scent. She glanced at Adda and Hugo, who were still talking at the door.
They wouldn't know if Holly went upstairs for a second. Holly shook her head. No. She shouldn't do it. But the harder she refused, the stronger this scent drew her intentions.
Before she realized it, Holly's feet had walked to the stairs. Holly seemed bewitched. She had to know where this scent was coming from.
Holly passed through the second floor. She still walked again to the third floor, then through a hallway with sprinkled flower petals on the floor. At the end of the hallway, there was a gold-plated door. Holly was sure this strong scent must have come from that room. Without hesitation, Holly opened it. The door felt heavy enough for her.
She was right. Holly seemed to be blown away by the scent when the door opened. But Holly was glued at the door. In the middle of the room, there was a man lying in a glass coffin.