“Tiera, are you alright?”
Shin called out to Tiera, who was staring at where the demon was before disappearing with an empty look in her eyes.
“In any case, the dungeon has disappeared and the holy area is back to normal. The items seem to be having an effect too. Just in case, let’s get some sap and go back.”
Tiera’s response showed that she had not yet recovered, but Shin did not press her and went to collect the World Tree’s sap. He thought Lymliss would say something, but she seemed to be worried about Tiera and did not look in Shin’s direction. She looked distraught, probably regretting not being able to do anything.
“Oh yeah, I’ll give you this just in case Lymliss.”
“It’s an item that can temporarily protect you if you are attacked again. I made it, but Schnee Raizar can vouch for it, so don’t worry.”
An incident had happened right in front of the World Tree, so it was safe to assume that nowhere was safe in Lanapacea. The item Shin gave Lymliss could only provide temporary protection, but it was still better than nothing.
A few minutes later, elven warriors approached their location. Now that the dungeon was gone, there was only about one kemel of distance between them. Elves riding horses were leading the group, most of them over level 230. Shin assumed they were Chosen Ones or captains.
“Lady Lymliss, Lady Tiera, are you safe!?”
The older elf leading the group inquired about the priestesses’ safety. Lymliss replied, but Tiera was still looking down, standing next to Shin and Schnee.
“I am the Luderia clan’s warrior chief, my name is Ordoss Luderia. Let me give you my thanks for saving our priestesses. As expected of lady Schnee Raizar, your prowess surpasses even your great fame.”
Ordoss probably thought Schnee was the group’s leader: after expressing his gratitude he bowed to her.
“No, it was not only my own strength. The World Tree itself resisted and the priestesses’ purification was effective as well.”
“I see. It is unprecedented for such an event to occur in the holy area. We suspect the increase in impurities may have caused it. What is your opinion, Lady Raizar?”
“I do not believe that is the only reason.”
They didn’t know what kind of person Ordoss was, so it was difficult to judge whether they should mention the demons or not. However, he did not seem charmed or confused.
“Perhaps…demons could be involved…”
Schnee was still trying to gauge him, but Ordoss spoke first. His words alarmed Shin and the others.
“Do you have any information?”
“As you probably already know, among us warriors there are some whose personalities changed…no, I should say that they became completely different people. Some elves that were born before the Dusk of Majesty hypothesize that they are under the effects of forbidden mental manipulation techniques.”
Ordoss continued talking, making it clear that he was revealing such information only because of Schnee’s presence. Lymliss had just been attacked by a demon, so she did not show any surprise. Ordoss probably thought that she needed to know too, so he decided to speak while she was present.
“Your clan head is also acting strangely…do you know anything about it?”
“Indeed, I do. In the past few months, he has not shown himself to anyone except a select few retainers. Some warrior chiefs view this with suspicion, but there is nothing unnatural in the way he talks and he carries his daily duties as usual, so any accusation or doubt would be regarded as unfounded.”
Ordoss’ words were consistent with what Herald said. Apparently, there were rifts among the warrior chiefs.
After Ordoss mentioned that, another group of elves arrived.
“Let us stop here for now. The approaching warrior chief is one of the changed ones.”
“Understood. We will investigate the matter on our own too.”
Ordoss bowed again, then stood beside Lymliss. Soon enough, another elf arrived, accompanied by troops. The newcomer looked still young.
“Lady Lymliss, are you safe!?”
The elf leading the group then rushed to her, but Ordoss stepped in front to stop him.
“Sir Ordoss, what is the meaning of this?”
“Lady Lymliss’ protection is my duty. Yours is to inspect the holy area, is it not? Let us both carry out our duties.”
Ordoss apparently had no intention of letting the newly arrived elf approach Lymliss. It was true that it was Ordoss’ duty to guard Lymliss, so the other elf did not object.
“We’ll go back to the residence, then.”
“Please wait a moment. Lady Tiera is the priestess of the now defunct Lucent clan. Now that the Lucent are part of our Luderia clan, is it not proper for her to come with us?”
Because of Tiera’s presence, the elf that came after Ordoss stopped Shin’s group when they tried to leave. However, his request was not one they felt willing to accept.
“Tiera is our companion. We’ll protect her no matter what happens.”
“Who are you, human? I am speaking to Lady Raizar!”
The elf clearly looked down on Shin. They couldn’t know if that was his original personality or his transformed one, but it was clear that their interaction would hardly be friendly.
“I agree. If anything happens, we are capable of protecting Tiera. Or do you say that you cannot trust my words?”
“Hm…no, if Lady Raizar says so, then I suppose her safety is guaranteed.”
The warrior chief was probably aware of Schnee’s strength, so he did not object any further. Thinking that staying any longer would only lead to more trouble, Shin turned around and headed towards the residence. They walked normally through the streets this time.
When they returned, they found the female elf in charge of the residence waiting for them, clearly distressed. She had heard of the appearance of the dungeon and was very worried.
Tiera was in low spirits because of her father’s matter, but she smiled brightly.
“So…here we are. It’s really hard to ask, but we can’t ignore it, unfortunately. Tiera, you said that the demon took the appearance of your father? What does that mean?”
Shin wished he could leave Tiera alone, but the matter had to be addressed.
“I have no idea what’s going on either. But yes, that appearance was definitely my father, Crissot Lucent.”
Shin’s group gathered in the residence after taking a short break. It could be said that they took some time for Tiera’s sake. She seemed to have calmed down a bit, but her expression was still stiff. Her tone was also different from usual.
Even so, they needed to talk about it. After all, a member of the Lucent family, a World Tree caretaker clan, could be allied with the demons.
“Now that I think about it, you’ve told us about your mother before, but never about your father.”
“Of course. I never said much about him to master either.”
Shin looked at Schnee and she gave a small nod.
“My father was the Lucent clan’s head. It might be biased coming from his daughter, but he was well-loved and trusted by everyone. He was a really admirable person.”
He treasured Tiera and his wife Irene, without ever spoiling them. Tiera continued, saying he was a good, strict father.
Those happy days, however, ended abruptly. Without the slightest hint or notice, Tiera was stricken by the curse. When she was still allowed to live in the village, she witnessed Crissot being slandered or insulted many times.
The day Tiera’s exile was decided, her mother and father made another important decision. Tiera’s mother, Irene, would take Tiera and flee from the village, while her father would remain. It was a painful, heart-rending choice made by parents trapped between the heavy burden of responsibility as a World Tree caretaker clan and love for their child.
“I don’t know what happened to father after that. When I returned here I learned that he died due to an illness a few years ago, but nothing else.”
His grave was apparently located in a location separate from Tiera’s mother’s, but Tiera did not feel ready to visit it when she returned, so she had not gone to see it yet.
“Did anyone take care of him before he died to this supposed illness?”
“Despite the circumstances of my curse, he was still the head of a caretaker clan, so they tried curing him. During that time, the doctor took care of him. I knew him, so I went to ask about it, but he told me that there was no mistake about it.”
Elves are a species with high longevity: as long as they are not killed, they could easily live for hundreds of years. That is the reason why Tiera could talk with the doctor who oversaw her father’s care. Crissot’s funeral services were held and he was properly buried.
“In this village, people are buried by—”
“They’re buried in the ground, yes. Elves and Pixies believe that after death one should return to nature.”
“I see, so it’s just like that guy…”
Shin recalled Eline, who in Palmirack killed himself and turned into a demon. This time the host died by illness instead of being killed, but the dead body was clearly being manipulated.
“It kind of feels different from that time, though.”
“The demon reacted to seeing Tiera. It might retain some memories or will from the past life.”
“Wait, that can’t…no, it might be.”
Shin listened to Schnee’s hypothesis and recalled something. In the game era, he participated in a demon-related event that involved rescuing NPCs resisting possession by demons. Ultimately the NPCs would die, but thanks to the players’ intervention they could be freed of regrets and leave items behind.
In other words, as Schnee said, it could be possible to retain one’s memories even after a parasite-type demon inhabited one’s body. It would explain why it seemed to recognize Tiera. However, that would also cause suffering to both him and Tiera.
“I’m alright, I could see the demon’s name too. I am not going to plead you to save my father…I wish for him to rest in peace as soon as possible.”
Tiera spoke with a brave smile on her lips, without showing her sadness and anger, so Shin and the others responded in earnest.
“Tiera’s father, Crissot. Did he really die of an illness? In Eline’s case, he was clearly controlled and killed by a parasite demon.”
“That seems to be clear. The illness itself was a common one. Anyone can catch it, but normally people get better. If you push yourself too hard or are in bad shape, it can get worse. That’s the kind of illness it was.”
Tiera’s explanation made it seem it was a sort of cold. If it worsened it could be lethal, but it all depended on the person’s condition.
“The doctor said that he was already at his limits, in more ways than one.”
His wife and daughter were lost, his clan disbanded: reason enough for him to be extremely distressed, both physically and mentally. However, Crissot’s suffering would not end so easily.
At the time, he was about 400 years old: as an elf, he was still young.
Because of that, he continued to live — or rather, was kept alive — as a “stud”, needed in case the bloodline of the caretaker clans began dying out or the Luderia and Lulac clans failed to produce new priestesses.
In the end, he didn’t give birth to any offspring, but, while necessary to preserve the bloodline, it had to be a harrowing, painful decision beyond Shin’s imagination. He thought that he would have probably abandoned his duties to flee with his family.
“That might have made him a target for the demons.”
“That’s right…for them, he would have been an ideal host.”
Schnee nodded in response to Shin’s words. The conditions necessary for Crissot to be possessed were all there, almost too conveniently.
“It is strange, however, that despite targeting Tiera’s group, he faltered after seeing her. I would understand if he had been hiding to spy on us though.”
“Demons sometimes fight among their ranks too, or it could be that he was just told that their target was a priestess, with no other details…though it sounds a bit out there.”
Demons often acted independently. Even in the game, the miasma lords’ lineage or each demon’s powers could provide a hint, but were not enough to accurately predict their actions. In the current world their level of freedom was even higher, so even making a general guess would be difficult.
“We won’t get anywhere just thinking about it at this point. What we know is that Crissot is being manipulated and we have to defeat him. I’m sorry, Tiera. I wish there was something else we could do.”
“It’s okay. I know that there are things that not even you can do, Shin. Besides, I’m furious that they would use my father’s body like that. Please, don’t hold anything back.”
Tiera still seemed a bit down, but her last request was spoken with strength in her voice.
“Okay, I guess this is all the information we needed. I’ll go back to Shibaid and the others, they might worry if we take too long.”
“I was wondering why he wasn’t with you.”
“I asked him to guard the Lulac priestess. Though very few people know of her return, it’s just in case.”
Shin entrusted Tiera to Schnee and headed towards the Lulac residence. This time, he didn’t feel the bizarre sensation he had as the first time.
After making sure no one was around, Shin was about to knock on the door of Herald’s room, but the door opened first. It opened just like an automatic door, so Shin was frozen in a “knocking” pose.
Yuzuha had opened it. Shin had reached and defeated the demon quickly, so he lost the timing to summon her.
“Ah! Sir Shin! You’re safe!”
“Ah…er, yeah. We defeated one demon, for now.”
Behind Yuzuha and Lina, happy to see Shin back, Herald cocked his head to the side, wondering if taking down demons was so simple. His reaction was the most normal one.
“At the very least, there is another one in hiding somewhere. Please stay safe.”
He knew that there were limits to what Herald could do, but Shin said so all the same. Resisting the demon possessing Crissot and escaping would be difficult even for a Chosen One. Although the items Shin offered could provide some assistance, there was nothing else he could do if he wasn’t with him.
However, Herald refused to accept the items offered by Shin.
“Okay, brother, I’m off.”
“Yes, make sure you fulfill your duty.”
Shin returned to the residence with Lina. Before he left the residence, Herald told him — careful not to be heard by Lina — that if he was ever manipulated by a demon, Shin should kill him without hesitation. His expression showed that he accepted that it might be the last time they met.