TNG Vol. 15 Chapter 1 Part 7

“So, looks like we aren’t getting in anytime soon.”

After distancing themselves from the gate, Shin shook his head and spoke.

“It seems like they are on high alert. If I wasn’t with you, they probably would have resorted to more direct methods.”

Schnee talked while looking in Anaheit’s direction. Shin agreed that, since an elf like them — though Schnee was actually a high elf — was together with Shin, the elves limited themselves to arming their bows.

Even Anaheit looked at Schnee first before speaking to Shin. The elves who hadn’t armed their bows all focused their gazes on her too. Even among elves, known for their beauty, Schnee was probably a special case.

“‘Lady’ Tiera, hmm…”

Shin and Schnee headed away from Lanapacea, to a nearby forest. Despite being surrounded by trees, they felt like they were being watched. The elves were probably using a combination of 【Far Sight】 and 【Through Sight】. Shin had used it often in the game era too.

“Tiera used to be the World Tree priestess after all, it is not strange for her to be addressed with such a title, but…”

“Normally no one would call someone who’s been banished by that title….”

People are respected and revered because of their abilities and status. However, Tiera had been banished by her village once. Shin and Schnee agreed that she likely wouldn’t be treated in the same way as before.

“The fact that the curse has been lifted is visible to everyone, right?”

“Yes, any elf would know right away if they saw her. That is probably the reason, or rather, I cannot think of any other reason.”

“Yeah, that has to be it.”

The curse was the reason she had been banished, something even the priestess Tiera had given up on. Now that the curse was removed, it could be possible for her to regain her title and honor. She could even be exalted even more, as she had accomplished an unprecedented feat.

Furthermore, Tiera’s own abilities had increased exponentially since she left the village. That alone would be enough to completely change how they treated her.

“In any case, we should go meet them soon. I guess we could try contacting Shibaid.”

“I agree. If Tiera herself calls for us, they will not have a choice but to let us in.”

It didn’t feel right to use her authority like that, but joining Tiera and Shibaid was the highest priority. Considering the freedom of movement once inside the village, entering openly from the main gate was surely better than sneaking inside.

Shin attempted to contact Shibaid via Mind Chat right away.

“(O Shin. Looks like the message was delivered successfully.)”

“(Yes, we’re already outside Lanapacea. They won’t let us in, though. What’s going on?)”

“(I thought that things could work if Schnee was with you…but I guess there was no such luck. I’ll tell you the details once we rejoin. I’ll come out to meet you.)”

“(Roger.)”

Shin asked when exactly Shibaid would come, then cut the communication. They hadn’t actually spoken aloud, but Shibaid’s voice seemed exhausted somehow.

“How was it?”

“He’s coming out to meet us. The details will wait until then.”

Shin and Schnee left the forest and headed straight to the village entrance, but at a leisurely pace. Anaheit watched them from the start.

“You’re back so soon? You aren’t thinking of “literally” breaking through the impasse, are you?”

Shin and Schnee had left just a short time ago, but were now approaching the gate again. It was enough to suspect that they were up to something.

“Of course not, we would already be firing magic spells in that case.”

Shin spoke calmly to the wary Anaheit. Shibaid was coming to meet them, so there was no need to start any trouble. If he provoked them and things turned sour, it would only be a problem.

“Let me be clear once and for all, but talking won’t solve anything, do you understand?”

“I suppose. But it would feel wrong to not even try, I think.”

Shin kept talking, hoping to at least get some information out of Anaheit until Shibaid arrived. He kept acting like he had simply come to visit an acquaintance and mentioned that he had traveled together with Tiera before. He first stated that Schnee was his wife and it was through her that Shin had had the chance of traveling with Tiera.

“Captain, someone calling themselves a messenger from the main house wishes to speak with you.”

“What?”

During the conversation, an elf emerged from the forest and whispered in Anaheit’s ears. Shin’s 【Listen】 skills revealed what he said to him.

“Why is a messenger from the main house….agh!”

As to corner the confused Anaheit even further, another elf appeared from the forest. Light blue eyes, blue hair extending down her back. The female elf, wearing priestess-like loose-fitting clothes, walked up to Shin and Schnee, ignoring Anaheit and his elves’ attempts to stop her.

“Sir Shin, Lady Yuki, I presume? Milady Tiera calls for you. I will be your guide, so could you please follow me?”

“Understood.”

“Lady messenger!”

Shin nodded, but at the same time Anaheit interrupted.

“I wish for an explanation. Surely you must know about the current situation…!”

They probably belonged to different factions: Anaheit couldn’t back down without an explanation.

“Lady Tiera deemed it necessary. In that case, it is our duty to comply.”

“I must insist! Lady Yuki is an elf, but sir Shin is a human! Surely you have not gone senile to the point of not realizing what that means?”

“I just said that such a human has been deemed necessary. Besides, lady Tiera’s companion, sir Shibaid, said the same. You already know that he is someone worthy of trust, do you not?”

“That’s….but, if we let any more races in, the head might be irritated.”

While the conversation was not a heated one, both sides did not relent. Anaheit seemed to be concerned about matters other than the World Tree. Tiera was probably involved too.

“I too am aware of that much. However, the World Tree is the first priority. The head is far too concerned with boosting our forces.”

“…I see it is inevitable, then. I will pretend I did not hear your last words.”

The clearly ominous conversation ended and the messenger resumed walking, after again inviting Shin and Schnee to follow her. They promptly did so, without any more words from Anaheit or the other elves.

After they stepped through the barrier into the village, the forest turned into streets crowded with elves and houses built in harmony with the trees. The border between the forest and the plains literally separated the village from the outside world.

Shin and Schnee followed the guide, named Lyla, and were invited to board a horse carriage waiting for them. The carriage was equipped with cushions and traveled on paved roads, so it did not shake much during the ride.

It was of a quality rare for this world, though it still could not compare to Tsuki no Hokora or Shigureya. Shin thought that thanks to their long lives, elves probably attained high skill levels. 

Lyla, who was sitting quietly in front of them, had the high level of 240. Shin didn’t know if she was a Chosen One or not, but she was very skilled for this world’s standards.

“Is something wrong?”

“No, I was just thinking that we hadn’t introduced ourselves.”

“I am but a guide, you do not need to concern yourself so.”

Lyla did not budge an inch. Shin, who knew of her level, was sure that she couldn’t be just a guide. She was probably an escort for important figures. As there was nothing to do, Shin thought of looking outside, but realized that the horse carriage did not have windows. The interior was lit by light magic crystals set at the four corners of the roof of the carriage.

“This carriage doesn’t have any windows, I see. Are all carriages used by elves like this?”

“No, this is a special carriage used by the Luderia house. Normal carriages are the same as the ones humans use.”

The carriage looked like it could be used to transport important people or prisoners, so it wasn’t clear if they were being wary or they simply had many enemies. Thinking back to the conversation with Anaheit, both hypotheses were probably correct.

Since he couldn’t see outside, Shin used the map and his detection skills and noticed that they were traveling along a large road. There were a few people out and about, but all of them were above 150 in level: it was hard to believe that they were regular citizens. Since the country was small, Shin imagined that military service was a duty.

As Shin was quietly gathering information, the horse carriage stopped. The map showed a large building in front of the carriage. When they got off, they found a building much larger than expected.

The other constructions in the surroundings were more akin to treehouses, but this building’s architecture was very different. The gate and walls around it were made of stone, reinforced by special vines and rare materials.

“This way, please.”

Lyla headed through the gate without hesitation. There were guards posted at its side, but they just glanced at Shin and said nothing.

The interior of the building was very spacious, with many complex corridors. Intersections and doors were built at regular intervals, with each passageway being roughly the same length, so after a few turns it was difficult to know where one really was. It was a structure meant for defense.

“Please go in. Lady Tiera awaits you.”

Lyla stopped in front of a certain door and spoke. She wouldn’t go in with them, apparently. Shin felt five presences inside the room. Four of them were Tiera, Shibaid, Kagerou and Yuzuha. The last remaining one did not belong to any one of Shin’s party members.

Shin thanked Lyla and opened the door. Other than Tiera and the others, an elf unknown to Shin was in the room. Her clothing was similar to Lyla, but wore many more gorgeous decorations.

White, almost transparent skin without the slightest blemish, silver shoulder-length hair and golden eyes. Her appearance was very beautiful, as expected of an elf.

Her appearance suggested she was a young girl in her late teens. She looked younger than Tiera. Her appearance and luxurious jewelry signaled that she had to be of rather elevated status.

“That human is sir Shin?”

“Yes, that’s right. Among us, I think he knows the most about the World Tree.”

Shin’s expectations were suddenly increased.

“(Shin!!!)”

“Whoops!”

Shin wanted to tell them to wait a bit before saying things like that, but Yuzuha rushed to him before he could. She was in a small fox mode, so she jumped and fit right into his arms. She called to him via Mind Chat because of the presence of someone other than the party members.

“Kuu!”

They had been separated for a while, so she wanted to cuddle more than the usual. She had been kind enough to let him have alone time with Schnee, so he let her do it for the time being.

After Yuzuha, Shibaid approached them too.

“You finally made it through.”

“Yes, but the welcome was rather rough, you know?”

Shin mentioned that the elves at the gate armed their bows against them and Shibaid frowned a bit.

“It wasn’t that bad when we arrived.”

“It’s because I arrived, I guess.”

Shin talked to Shibaid while coddling Yuzuha, then Tiera joined the conversation with an apologetic tone.

“So it’s really connected to that, Tiera?”

“It is. Because of that, things turned really complicated, so I had no choice but to contact you.”

Tiera apologized for having to do so. She would have wanted to solve the situation by herself, if it was possible.

“You don’t have to be shy of asking us for help. But it’s not like I know everything about the World Tree.”

“But you know more than us, don’t you?”

“Well…I guess.”

Compared to this world’s people, I guess I do…was what Shin meant to say, but he stopped himself. If the knowledge acquired in the game era was still valid, Tiera was definitely right. Problems would arise if symptoms of sickness Shin was unaware of were present.

“Anyway, let’s take care of introductions before going into the details. I haven’t met the young lady before, after all. As you have heard from Tiera, I am Shin, an adventurer. This is…”

“His wife, Yuki.”

Introduced by Shin, Schnee smiled and greeted the young lady. She casually stressed the “wife” part, causing Shibaid and Tiera to react.

Tiera couldn’t process the new information and stared at them, her mouth wide open. Shibaid quickly understood and smiled.

“Ehm, my name is Lymliss Luderia. Er, pleased to meet you.”

Maybe because it was their first meeting, after introducing herself Lymliss looked timidly at Shin. She was probably shy with strangers. Her surname was the same as the gate guard Anaheit, so they were probably siblings.

“Nice to meet you. So, going back on topic, what’s the situation? Judging from the conversation between the messenger Lyla and the gate guard, it looks like there are factions at odds here?”

Thinking that he would be questioned later anyway, Shin did not say anything about Tiera and Shibaid’s reactions. At the same time, he tried saying what he thought could be the core of the situation. From the conversation between Lyla and Anaheit, he surmised that there had to be several factions in play.

“It’s just as you say. The Lanapacea village was born to supervise the World Tree, so its structures are different than other countries. There is a king, but the ones in charge of the World Tree have more authority.”

Shibaid too judged that it wasn’t the right time to talk about Shin and Schnee’s relationship and plainly answered Shin’s question. Because of the World Tree’s importance, its caretakers had the highest clout.

“What does that say for this country…?”

“Well, up until now it has been functioning normally, it seems.”

“Up until now?”

“Yes, up until now.”

Those repeated words highlighted the fact that no one knew what was going to happen in the future.

“Normally, the World Tree’s caretakers don’t interfere in the country’s politics. The current leader of the caretakers, the head of the Luderia house, seems to be a bit different, though. He seems to be involved with outside forces.”

Why must the caretakers of the World Tree, an existence vital to the whole world, be confined in such an isolated village? This was apparently the focus of the question.

“I have a bad feeling about all of this.”

“But normally, things wouldn’t turn out as bad as they did.”

Tiera, who overcame her shock, joined in the conversation.

“What do you mean?”

“Normally, the caretaker clans are two: if one goes out of control, it is the other’s duty to keep them in line.”

Shin then had a flash of a realization.

“Could it be that the other is the Lucent clan?”

“Yes, exactly. Because of my curse, their duty was terminated, though.”

There still were those who carried the Lucent name, but being the clan who gave birth to a cursed elf, they were treated rather harshly.

“I returned with my curse gone, so things turned problematic.”

“I bet they did…”

The Lucent clan, considered by all an impure lineage. The banished priestess, however, had overcome her curse and had returned, more powerful than ever. She also retained her priestess powers to boot.

“The retainers of the Lucent clan got all excited, saying it’s the rebirth of the clan and similar stuff.”

“Wow…”

Tiera and the other clan members used to be loved by all: if it wasn’t for the curse, they would have been able to stop the Luderia clan.

Shin, personally, thought that it was way too late for such a reaction.

“I am telling them that I have no such intention, though.”

“It depends on what they are planning. Maybe they did not really want to banish….no, sorry, I said something weird.”

No matter the reason, the banished party would feel abandoned. Shin stated his honest thoughts, but quickly realized it and apologized to Tiera.

“No, don’t worry. If I was in their same situation, I probably wouldn’t have been able to stop it either.”

According to Tiera, not all elves agreed with the banishment. That was the reason why she managed to survive until she met Schnee. Originally she was planned to be executed, not exiled.

“But then, right now what is your status here?”

“Well, I don’t have my status or authority as a Lucent, but I am still a priestess, so I have some sort of special treatment.”

World Tree priestess was something that not everyone could become. One had to be recognized by the World Tree and be able to communicate with it. Such a talent was not inherited, but appeared more easily in certain lineages.

“Then I guess the other priestess must be unhappy about it, right? There was another priestess bearing that role before you returned, I suppose?”

“That’s not really it. One of the priestesses is this child, after all.”

Tiera then brought Lymliss before her.

“Ah, er, ehm…yes…I am…”

She was already about to cry. Her job was indeed priestess.

“I apologize in advance for disrespect, but…will she be okay?”

Shin thought that a priestess would have a firmer, dauntless attitude, so he couldn’t help but be worried about her.

“She’ll be fine. They supported this country while I was away, after all. Their talent and skill are proven.”

“I see….wait, are there so many priestesses?”

Tiera had clearly said “they”. It meant that there were at least two or more.

“Of course, why? We don’t know when someone with talent is born, after all. It can happen for more than one to have it in the same generation. Lymliss was like my junior when I was still a priestess. As of now, she has been acting as priestess longer than I did, so she kind of became my senior.”

“Not at all!! Sister Tiera, you are much more amazing than someone like me!! You overcame the curse, became stronger, and still have your priestess abilities…while I’m sure I couldn’t even go out of the village.”

Lymliss retorted enthusiastically. All her former shyness seemed to be gone. Her tone when she listed everything Tiera accomplished was so innocent that it was hard to imagine her fulfilling an important role such as World Tree priestess.

The subject of her retort, however, wouldn’t have it. In contrast with Lymliss’ enthusiasm, Tiera had turned bright red.

“Stop, stop, enough already!”

Tiera had been helplessly withstanding all the praise, but at a certain point couldn’t take it anymore.

“Oh don’t be like that, it means you’re that respected.”

“I mean…it’s all too exaggerated, it’s like they’re talking about a whole different person…”

Tiera’s immature self, as she was before meeting Schnee, was apparently still present within her. While she said it was all exaggerated, Shin knew that she used her abilities without meaning to. She thought she wasn’t anything special, but there was the possibility that the truth was quite the contrary.

“I am not exaggerating at all! Sister Tiera’s spirit channeling can summon the spirits of the deceased, so she becomes like someone completely different.”

Shin wanted to correct Lymliss, saying that an actually different person inhabited Tiera’s body, but stopped himself in time. Apparently, Tiera could now use skills that she did not know before. Shin imagined she was like a spirit medium, but apparently Tiera was now even beyond that.

In the past there were priestesses with similar powers, but unlike Tiera, no one had managed to master their skills during their lifetime. That was the reason why Tiera was regarded as a genius.

“It’s embarrassing to say, but sometimes that caused me to act very shamefully, or so I was told…”

“It’s an amazing ability, but yeah, I don’t really envy that part…”

When her soul returns to the World Tree, some skills become unusable. Tiera cannot retain her memories of that time, so it could be said that she does not benefit much from this talent. She receives the gratitude of the people she could help, but that was it. In exchange, she is granted treatment fitting to her role, though.

“The people around me envied me, but looking back at that time, I had barely any free time, all my meals were really frugal, training was super harsh, everyone looked at me with pity until the spirit channeling ended…I really worked hard…didn’t I…?”

“Tiera!! Come back to us!!”

The treatment she received wasn’t enough, after all. Tiera’s gaze went farther and farther as she talked, so Shin hurriedly brought her back to reality.

“Ehm, sister Tiera, are you all right?”

“Eh!? What was I…? My head hurts…”

“I guess it’s better to go back on topic.”

Shin told Tiera to take it easy and summarized the situation.

First, the World Tree’s current caretaker clan was only the Luderia. The clan’s head also seemed to be involved in suspicious activities. Tiera had no authority, but former followers of the Lucent clan, holding her as figurehead now that she had overcome her curse, are starting to move in order to restore the clan.

“(That Lyla we met before is from the Luderia clan, right? Why is someone from the Luderia clan serving Tiera instead of their head? Wait, does it mean that…)”

Since Lymliss, priestess belonging to Luderia clan, was with them, Shin used Mind Chat to talk with Shibaid. As he did, however, he came up with the answer to his question.

Shin had lived in a world where all sorts of stories and tales intertwined. He could recall many similar events like what was unfolding in Lanapacea at the moment.

“(It’s probably as you think. While they are using the Luderia name at the moment, there are many here who used to have the Lucent name or are connected to it. Lyla is one of them too.)”

“(I see, so the Luderia absorbed the fallen Lucent clan in itself.)”

The Lanapacea village was formed by several clans. Among them, those possessing the most authority were the clan of the royal family and the clan of the first priestess, Lu, which later split into two: Lucent and Luderia.

The clans following the Lucent were absorbed by the Luderia, which bore the same role of looking after the World Tree.

“This place too belongs to the Luderia?”

“Yes, at the moment it’s used as a second home of the Luderia clan, but it used to be the place where we lived. It was assigned to me since they thought I would find it easier to stay here.”

The former retainers of the Lucent clan were gathered there at present.

“Some people even abandoned their jobs to come here…it’s getting really problematic.”

Shin wondered if that wasn’t considered neglect of duty.

“Doesn’t the Luderia clan say anything about the situation?”

“Of course they do. Since you are a priestess, start helping with the purification of the World Tree, they said. That’s my goal too, so I have no reason to refuse, but lots of other problems have come up.”

Shin only knew that the World Tree had started dying. As soon as he arrived in Lanapacea he heard of the dispute between the Luderia and Lucent clans, but as it turns out there was more.

“First, about the priestesses with the ability of purifying the World Tree. Other than Lymliss there was one more, but she disappeared a long time ago. She was born after I left, but she was kidnapped, so recently Lymliss has been working hard on the purification by herself. One of the reasons why the World Tree is weakening is that her powers alone aren’t enough to keep up with the speed at which the World Tree is dying.”

The World Tree crisis was not known to all of Lanapacea’s population. Even if someone simply visited the village they wouldn’t know of it.

According to the elves who had inspected the location where the missing priestess was kidnapped, there were traces of miasma, so they suspected demons were the culprits. There were no other clues, however, so it was impossible to go look for her.

“The World Tree cleanses this world from impurity. Because of the decrease in World Trees and increase of impurity, however, many World Trees are gradually becoming contaminated. If Tiera wasn’t here, this World Tree would be in serious danger.”

Shibaid added that Lymliss’ ability as priestess was not lacking by any means, but the World Tree’s contamination had advanced to the point that it wasn’t enough.

“That is one of the underlying reasons why some people are adamantly pushing for the resurrection of the Lucent clan. The kidnapped priestess came from a clan called Lulac, which was supposed to keep the Luderia clan in check: they had the caretaker role in place of the Lucent. Since the priestess was taken, their authority and influence have grown smaller, so as I said before, right now the Luderia are front and center.”

The Lucent clan had been absorbed by the Luderia, but because of the birth of another priestess, the situation had returned to two clans acting the role of World Tree caretaker.

The kidnapping incident, however, put an end to it. Things would be very different if Lymliss was the one to disappear, but the priestess that was taken away belonged to the new clan of caretakers, the Lulac.

Because of this, the authority and influence as World Tree caretaker clan once again concentrated in the Luderia’s hands.

“Since the purification is lagging I was welcomed in the village, but as you can tell the situation is pretty complicated.”

Tiera’s expression was clouded. Because of the situation, however, her standing was rather strong. She used to be a priestess, so she knew what had to be done. Her abilities were also much superior to Lymliss.

It was thanks to Tiera that the situation was now somewhat stable. It was obvious for the Luderia to request her assistance.

“I am sorry, if only I wasn’t so incompetent…”

“It can’t be helped, the World Tree is in a much more terrible state now than when I was here. It’s not something one person can solve by themselves.”

Lymliss looked down in shame, but Tiera defended her. Shin knew of the extent of Tiera’s purification powers. If Tiera and another priestess could only barely keep at bay the contamination, the situation was indeed dire.

“I see now why you’d call for me.”

“Exactly. Please, we are in your hands.”

Shin first had to see the World Tree before being able to say anything, but he was ready to do anything he could.

“By the way, Tiera…there is something else you need to say, isn’t there? Something very important. You should speak now.”

“Ugh…! I didn’t forget about it, really! But I wanted to act like it didn’t happen…”

Shibaid’s question turned Tiera’s expression sour. If Tiera wanted to act like it didn’t happen, it had to be something serious, so Shin prepared to listen to her seriously.

“What happened?”

“Well…the current head of the Luderia clan has a son, and he…says he wants to take me as his bride.”

“…..oof.”

Completely surprised, Shin could only emit a sort of whimper. Schnee’s self introduction as his wife probably contributed too.

“Does he plan to pull you in with them before you become the clan’s leading figure?”

“Actually, it seems that’s not the case. When I returned here I had the chance to talk a bit with him, but he proposed to me then and there.”

After the purification, the son of the clan leader with the Luderia retainers coming to accompany Lymliss and proposed to Tiera on the spot. Tiera added that he didn’t say anything about causes such as the purification of the World Tree or the world at large, but simply appealed to her persistently.

“For real?”

“Before you ask, I refused.”

Tiera half glared at Shin and replied. Shibaid later said that she refused immediately, without even the time to act surprised.

“Did you know him already?”

Shin thought that a sudden marriage proposal would leave anyone surprised, so there had to be a reason why Tiera wasn’t.

“Yes, I knew him since I was a priestess, well he’s kind of a childhood friend. Elves have few children, so it’s not like it was only him, though. Since I was the daughter of the Lucent clan head, because of customs and things like that…well, a lot happened. To put it simply, he’s my childhood friend and former fiance.”

“Oh, so that’s it.”

Shin had heard that high-ranked families used to marry their sons and daughters in order to preserve their relationships. It wasn’t something that could ever have occurred to him, but it wasn’t unheard of in the real world.

He didn’t know that Tiera was the daughter of the head of the clan, but that explained the situation well. In that world kings and nobles existed, so it wasn’t strange for such things to happen among elves as well.

Shin wondered, however, if it was okay for the children of the two different caretaker clans to marry.

“When I was cursed the marriage plan was dispelled just like that, but now that the curse is gone he acts like nothing happened! It’s just horrible!”

Tiera recalled the proposal and her temper flared up again. She was now utterly furious.

“Calm down, Tiera. Your anger is definitely justified, but this is not the time to cause a ruckus.”

“Y, yes…I’m sorry, master.”

Schnee’s words calmed Tiera instantly, as expected of her mentor.

“Ehm, sister Tiera…what exactly is your relationship with lady Yuki?”

“Oh, I didn’t tell you about it, did I. When I was banished from the village, master rescued me. She took care of me until the curse was gone. She taught me not only skills, but also new ways of thinking, ways of looking at things, many things I didn’t know.”

“W-wow! Amazing!”

Lymliss, who had great respect for Tiera, looked at Schnee, Tiera’s master, with sparkles in her eyes. Her shyness seems to disappear when she turns like this.

“By the way, is it okay for miss Lymliss to be here?”

In order to help Schnee, who was feeling awkward because of the young elf’s burning stare, Shin asked about something he wondered since his arrival. Lymliss addressed Tiera with the same respect as the Luderia retainers who planned for the Lucent’s revival, after all.

Lymliss called Tiera “sister”, but from her behavior everyone would think that Tiera was of higher standing. Regardless of Lymliss’ feelings, the Luderia clan surely did not view the situation positively.

“It normally wouldn’t be okay, but since we are purifying the World Tree together, she comes here with the pretext that it wouldn’t be bad for us to strengthen our relationship.”

“Sister Tiera taught me how a priestess should act and use my abilities, so…”

All her enthusiasm when looking at Schnee vanished: in front of Shin, Lymliss lost all of her momentum. She seemed to act differently when talking with elves and other species, or maybe she wasn’t used to talking with men.

“I see, she’s your senior as priestess then.”

“I didn’t teach her anything special, though. The way a priestess should act, manners and such are different in the Lucent and Luderia clans, and a priestess’ abilities are learned more through practice than theory.”

“That’s not true!! Your teaching is very easy to understand!!”

“R-really? Well, I’m glad then.”

Tiera succumbed against Lymliss’ momentum, even stronger now than how it was with Schnee.

“Anyway, won’t it be bad if you don’t go back by now? They’re not very happy with your presence here, right?”

“But…”

“Don’t worry, we’ll be able to meet again soon.”

Pushed by Tiera’s smile, Lymliss returned to the Luderia clan’s main house. Her escort was waiting in another room.

“It’s a fine mess, more than I expected.”

“Right…it was too much to write by letter, I didn’t know when to start…”

Less tense now that Lymliss was gone, Tiera looked quite tired.

“At first, I was just worried if I could visit my mother’s grave or not. But the aura of the World Tree was totally different from before, so I couldn’t leave it alone. Poor Lymliss was really emaciated when I arrived.”

The World Tree is always protected by elven warriors, so normally it isn’t possible to get close to it. Thanks to Shibaid’s skills and equipment, however, they managed to get close enough to inspect it. Since Shibaid did not know many concealment skills, it had taken considerable time to do it, though.

When they finally managed to slip inside, they found Lymliss, on the brink of collapsing for using too much strength to purify the World Tree.

“We carried Lymliss back and asked her what was going on. She remembered me, so we weren’t treated as intruders. I then revealed who I was officially, and here we are.”

“Here you are, admired as priestess and turning into the trigger for a feud…”

“Don’t say it like that, please. As soon as the World Tree is healed, I plan on leaving this place.”

Lanapacea was Tiera’s hometown, but she had no intention of staying there.

“Okay, now I know how you feel. Next is the World Tree, is its condition that bad?”

“I think that if I didn’t come back, it was a matter of time until it dried up completely. I’ve never seen it in such a sorry state.”

Part of the trunk had lost all gloss, as if it was dry, and had started changing color. Tiera said that during the time she was a priestess, it had never turned like that.

“It’s really strange. I learned about the World Tree from the previous generation’s priestess, but no one ever said anything about such a phenomenon. If something happened to the World Tree, they would surely record it for future generations…I asked Lymliss too, but she said she never learned about anything like that. It probably never happened before.”

Tiera said that according to elven knowledge, the only countermeasure available was purifying the World Tree.

“Part of the World Tree had dried up and fell on the ground, so we recovered it.”

Shibaid then took out two item cards and materialized them. One was an orichalcum plate, the other the World Tree fragment he mentioned.

It was probably part of the World Tree’s bark. Laid on the orichalcum plate, it had a sickly dull color.

“This is seriously bad…”

Shin was almost speechless. In the game there was a rescue quest that involved healing sick World Trees, but he remembered that they never turned in such a horrible state.

“This is miasma…? No, it feels like a devil’s aura, but it’s also different.”

In the game era, the affected World Trees were enveloped in a dark aura visual effect, but now that the game had become reality he could feel the aura from the fragment. It was an aura similar to the many kinds of “noxious presence” Shin had felt in this world, but it was also different from each of them. It could only be defined as impurity.

“Does it return to normal after you purify it?”

“It depends on the state. If it gets like this, we can only cut off the contaminated part. Maybe you would be okay, but an average elf will be confined to bed for days after just touching this a little. Some even become paralyzed or confused.”

Tiera said that whoever touched it was affected by serious status effects. The fragment had been recovered by elven warriors, under the priestess’ supervision. During the process, one of them had touched it by mistake.

Even trained warriors, with levels much higher than regular elves, could not withstand its effects.

There weren’t Chosen Ones among those affected, so they didn’t know if the impurity would affect Chosen Ones as well.

“They just touched it and couldn’t move anymore…is it any different from paralysis?”

“The paralysis is the same as the normal one, they just can’t move. But they also lose all their energy. I asked Shibaid to check, and it looks like, what do you call them? HP and MP? They were both in the red.”

“Indeed, I believe it either robbed them of their life force or absorbed it.”

Shibaid added his hypothesis to complement Tiera’s words.

“We can try solving the problem with skills then. The World Tree bark is treated as a material, so it might tell us something.”

All creation-type jobs had a skill in common, 【Analyze Material】, which could tell all creation-related information of the analyzed material. If used, the item explanation window listed when that material was used in the creation process and what effects it would have on the finished product.

For example, if used on medicinal herb it listed that it was better to cut them into small pieces and that they boosted the finished product’s effects. Such information was often vague, however, so an extensive process of trial and error was still necessary. Nonetheless, they were helpful hints for effective item crafting.

Shin was thinking that he would have no use of that World Tree bark as material as he activated the skill. The information was displayed to him on a semi-transparent window.

“Ah, no good.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s bugging…I mean, it’s a jumbled mess. The information was probably ruined by the impurity.”

Shin looked at the displayed information, then raised his arms in surrender. There were letters, numbers, and unrelated symbols mixed in it, making it unreadable. The barely readable parts seemed to describe the original World Tree bark.

“Nothing to see here. I suppose that even if it was used to craft something, it wouldn’t even work.”

“I hoped we could find out something, but I suppose it will not go so easily.”

“Can’t be helped, we would have been lucky if it worked.”

Just in case, Shin tried using all sorts of status healing items and skills on the World Tree bark fragment. As he did, the discolored part gradually regained their original color. When Shin and Tiera purified it, the effects were clearly visible. As they might have expected, Tiera’s had a greater effect.

“This is strange…I tried purifying it when we recovered it, but it didn’t have this much effect.”

“Maybe it’s because it’s separated from the World Tree now. I guess the World Tree was acting as a source of impurity.”

Impurity from the whole world gathered in the World Trees. Shin thus thought that it would be difficult to purify it entirely.

“I see…no wonder. Me and Lymliss would never be able to purify the whole world after all.”

“….can it be that…we can’t do anything?”

“No, wait, I’m just listing possibilities. As far as I know, it’s not possible to completely annihilate impurity. But it should be possible to erase enough impurity so that the World Tree can purify it by itself or to increase its purification abilities.”

In a past event, Shin had set purification boosting devices and created nutrients specific for the World Trees. The problem was how different the increase in impurity was between the game era and now. He could think of possible countermeasures, but there were many unknown factors in the game, so he couldn’t guarantee they would be effective.

“We can’t just do nothing, though. First of all, I will get permission so that you can enter the World Tree area to inspect it.”

They wouldn’t be let through simply because they were a priestess’ acquaintances.

“If it turns out to be necessary, we can use my real name. I’m an elf too and I’m pretty well known, after all.”

“In that case, I will do so too.”

“No, Shibaid, you used to be the monarch of another country after all. They might become needlessly suspicious. I will go by myself first.”

“Hmm, indeed you are right.”

Shibaid nodded to Schnee. At present, he was simply an adventurer, but he was still widely known as emperor Shibaid of the dragon empire of Kilmont.

Even if he was not related to Kilmont anymore, if his identity became known not only the Luderia clan, but also Lanapacea’s king would be forced to make a move.

“Not that the news of your real identity wouldn’t cause a stir, master.”

“Right. I bet that there’s not an elf that doesn’t know Schnee, after all.”

Shibaid nodded, but Tiera and Shin remarked that Schnee’s fame was not to be underestimated either. She was well known among the royals of several countries, so it was an understatement to define her as just “pretty well known”.

“I do not belong to a specific country, though, so we could just say that I came out of concern for the World Tree.”

“I doubt they would refuse, but the current clan head is a really stubborn person.”

Tiera expressed her concern and Shin couldn’t help but wonder if such a person was fit to be the clan’s leader.

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