After breakfast, Shin and Schnee went to Tiera’s room.
As they knocked, Tiera timidly opened the door, as bright red as she was in the hall.
“Shin and…master? You don’t mean that—-”
“Er, yes, we do.”
Tiera seemed to be thinking of something, as seeing Schnee behind Shin surprised her.
“We came to talk about what happened to you last night. Won’t you hear us out?”
“….okay. Come in.”
With a serious expression completely different to when she opened the door, Tiera let the two inside.
Shin then told Tiera about everything he saw and heard.
“I see….so that’s what happened to me…”
“I heard from Schnee that it’s probably not something bad. That’s all I came to say.”
“Wait. The chance is right, it’s time for me to talk about what I’ve been hiding.”
Shin had stood up after he finished talking, but Tiera stopped him.
“You don’t have to push yourself, all right?”
“That’s fine. It’s time I stop hiding things from you and the others after all.”
She probably felt bad about it. In a way, Tiera felt relieved that she could finally talk.
“Munechika also told me that it’s something certain people can perceive easily. Mitsuyo might have felt it too.”
“Really? Well then, I’m listening.”
“Could you please call Filma and the others too? They’re your followers after all, I want to talk about it with everyone.”
Shin agreed to Tiera’s proposal and told Filma and the others to come to Tiera’s room.
After a few minutes, in addition to Filma and Shibaid, Mitsuyo and Kunitsuna arrived too. Shin asked Tiera if it was alright for them to hear too, and Tiera replied that since she had talked about it to Munechika, it was not a problem for Mitsuyo and Kunitsuna to know too.
“I have no intention of stringing you along, so I’ll say the most important thing first.”
Tiera took a deep breath and started talking, her expression suggesting the importance of the decision she had made.
“I am a priestess of the World Tree. In a clan that has the unique ability to communicate with the Sacred Tree, which has its roots in the Ley lines and miasma purification, I am a particularly special existence…no, I was.”
“Was? You mean that you aren’t anymore?”
Tiera’s words were ultimately in the past tense.
“Yes, I can’t be called a priestess of the World Tree as I am now. Well, that title itself, “Priestess of the World Tree”, is something unique to the village I used to live in, though.”
She didn’t know how those with the same powers as hers were called elsewhere, added Tiera.
“The village that was created when elves gathered around the Sacred Tree, a pseudonym for the World Tree, is the place I was born. My clan, the Lucent clan, was originally a clan with especially sharp senses for magic. The clan members with the highest magic senses were chosen as priestess. I think that by now, the next priestess probably already assumed her duties. That’s what I meant when I said I ‘was’.”
Even among the clan, not all members could communicate with the World Tree. At the time, Tiera seemed to possess the highest potential of all the clan members.
“At the beginning, I just had very sharp senses for magic, but gradually my ability specialized in communicating with the World Tree, so now I’m a little more sensitive than the average elf. They used to say I have talent, but in the end if they’re not close to the World Tree, priestesses can’t use much power. The miasma purification I used was possible just because the depths of the dungeon were close to the Ley lines too.”
Tiera stated that her sensitivity towards the Ley lines was a remnant ability of her connection with the World Tree. She could use the miasma purification technique only because it was close to the Ley lines.
According to Tiera, she had powered up too when Filma was freed because she had fulfilled her duty as priestess, or so she thought.
“I see, that’s how it is. I did feel some sort of aura from you.”
“I suppose that the other Supreme Blades felt it too.”
Mitsuyo nodded in understanding and Kunitsuna, holding her chin, stated her conclusion.
“Munechika had asked me about this too. She also told me to be careful, as those with power to influence Ley lines could find out about me.”
Without any more reasons to hide it, Tiera also talked about her exchange with Munechika.
“Yeah, maybe you already heard about it, but Tiera purified both Dojigiri and Onimaru’s miasma.”
Shin explained briefly about Tiera’s purifications to the puzzled Yuzuha.
“Tiera, amazing! Kuu…”
Yuzuha praised Tiera, the tails poking out of her priestess robe and her ears twitching. Even for Yuzuha, what Tiera did was worthy of praise.
“I’m sorry for cutting in. Is what you said the reason behind your fast growth or the fact that Scoruas and the demons targeted you?”
“I don’t know about the growth, but that’s probably it for the demons. The World Tree purifies the impurities of the earth, which makes it a natural enemy of the demons. Those human-like demons probably felt the remains of the World Tree’s powers still lingering within me.”
“Its power is still inside you?”
“Because I used to communicate with the World Tree very frequently. In order to communicate more deeply, part of priestess’ magic becomes similar to the World Tree’s magic. Only part of my hair turning silver could have been caused by the World Tree’s magic power influencing the curse. It wasn’t caused by miasma, but the World Tree’s magic power reacts strongly to impurity and curses.”
Tiera continued talking while fiddling with her silver bangs.
However, because of the World Tree’s great powers, Tiera’s position as priestess changed drastically after she received the “Cursed Gift.”
“The priestess, a cleanser of impurity, ended up being cursed. It was an unprecedented situation.”
Tiera’s expression darkened as she was reminded of her past.
“But, it’s weird you know, even after receiving the “Cursed Gift”, I could communicate a little bit with the World Tree. It was different from before though, it was like listening in to someone else’s conversation. I can still remember it clearly.”
Tiera added that the communication was usually just a hazy exchange of thoughts, which wouldn’t express clear words or symbols. The priestess’ task was to translate such unclear thoughts for people to understand.
“I think I heard fragments of words. Though, I don’t remember what they were.”
She wasn’t in the right state of mind to focus on something like that, after all.
“Hey, Tiera. What does it actually mean to communicate with the World Tree? Is it just a translation of the World Tree’s thoughts? That’s not all it is, right?”
Shin tried to shift the topic so Tiera wouldn’t focus too much on her expulsion from the village.
“It also depends on what you are good or bad at, but it’s possible to control the weather in a limited range, create barriers, scry far away locations, and all sorts of things. It varies a lot from person to person. I heard that one of the past priestesses could even predict the future.”
“….it’s kind of similar to the ‘Star Reader’ title.”
What the words “predict the future” reminded Shin of were Millie’s words, which predicted Yuzuha’s danger. The World Tree could probably grant this ability even without a title.
“What were you good at, Tiera?”
Hearing that abilities depended on individual talent, Filma asked Tiera about her particular talent.
“My talent was spirit channeling…to temporarily bring back the spirits of the dead. I’m not sure if I could actually do it though.”
During channeling, she would be almost completely unconscious, so she could only learn the results from others.
Tiera added that one of her most important duties was to channel past priestesses to borrow their powers and to recall the spirits of those who died from accidents or disease, so they could say their last words to their loved ones.
“So you were channeling someone that time? It did feel like it wasn’t actually you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I couldn’t see clearly, but when your face came closer, I saw someone else in your eyes, looking at me. Well…I didn’t feel any hostility though.”
“She came in for the kiss, after all…she wouldn’t if she was hostile, right? But it really is weird…why kiss?”
“Don’t ask me! But she was crying too. Well, Tiera was the one actually crying, but those tears were caused by that person’s emotions, no?”
Shin took advantage of Filma’s interruption to express one of his doubts.
It was difficult to talk about the kiss itself, but he could probably get away with the current flow of the conversation.
“One possibility is that you simply mistook who you saw. Or it was someone you know. I’m sorry to say, though, but that person is probably already…”
“I know, don’t worry. That’s not something you need to concern yourself with.”
Tiera hid her face apologetically, but Shin replied in the most cheerful way he could.
Channeling a spirit meant that the target had to be already dead. Tiera had explained that it was not possible to call upon the spirit of someone still alive.
“That’s bizarre though. My ability shouldn’t work away from the World Tree. Why is this happening even though I’m not a priestess?”
“Maybe you only think it shouldn’t work, and it actually does. Could it be possible?”
“I don’t think so, but…like this time, maybe it happened already and I just don’t remember.”
It was difficult to detect when Tiera’s ability manifested.
Even if someone was channeled through Tiera, as long as that person didn’t do something unusual, it would be difficult to notice.
“You can’t use that power by yourself?”
“I could if the World Tree was close. But I can’t even feel its presence around here. I tried in Tsuki no Hokora too, but never succeeded.”
Tiera answered negatively to Mitsuyo’s totally reasonable question.
“Schnee, do you have any idea what this could be?”
“…no, nothing unfortunately. At least, I have never witnessed something like what Shin talked about.”
Even Schnee, who had lived with Tiera, answered contrary to Shin’s expectations.
“That can’t be helped. While master trained me and taught me about the store in the beginning, she normally was busy somewhere else, so even if my ability had manifested she wouldn’t have been there to see it.”
Tiera saw Shin thinking deeply and mistakenly thought he was dejected, so she hurried to defend Schnee.
“Hmm? Ah, no, don’t worry, I’m not feeling down or anything. I was just thinking that if it didn’t happen in Tsuki no Hokora, it must have been caused by you coming here.”
Even close to Bayreuth -where Tsuki no Hokora was located- there was Yuzuha’s territory, which had decently sized Ley lines.
That territory had been tainted by miasma, but the mutated monsters had been defeated by Shin before Tiera could come close. Furthermore, the miasma had already disappeared along with the monsters.
Because of that, Tiera -who couldn’t leave Tsuki no Hokora- did not have the chance to go to such an area, as it happened this time, or so Shin thought.
“Is this place that special? I know it’s weird that it’s full-blown winter outside while it’s spring in here, but being a guildhouse, it’s understandable.”
“The earth has been revitalized thanks to the Ley lines. It’s probably due to the power of this guildhouse. Nothing of this degree happened at Fuji after all.”
Tiera presented a theory in response to Filma’s question. Elven senses were even capable of perceiving the earth’s activities.
“That’s incredible…Schnee, can you feel it too?”
“My senses are not that sharp. I can feel something through plants, that’s it. I think this is also related to Tiera’s natural abilities.”
Schnee explained how elves’ senses depended on the individual too. Senses as sharp as Tiera’s were not common by any means, apparently.
“There might be something else, something that not even Tiera herself is aware of.”
“Could it be…?”
Something other than her natural abilities as priestess. Tiera tilted her head, failing to understand what Schnee’s hypothesis could mean.
“What about miasma purification? Isn’t that something you do through the World Tree’s powers?”
Shibaid, who had been silently listening finally spoke.
“That’s the correct way of doing it, originally. But when the World Tree’s power isn’t enough, I use the Ley lines’ power. I revitalize the remaining power in the Ley lines and amplify it within my body. Then I use it against miasma, to make them cancel each other, pretty much.”
“So that’s why it looked like it was taking its toll on you.”
Tiera explained that the thicker miasma is, the more there is, thus the greater the burden on the purifier. With the World Tree’s assistance, the amplification would be done by the tree itself.
“Is that something we can’t do? It would be ideal if we could split that burden, I think.”
“If it’s Shin and the others, I guess I can say it…that’s something only those belonging to a lineage of priestesses like me can do, or so I heard. It’s something different from a skill, so I’m afraid I can’t teach it.”
Tiera answered Shin’s question by explaining that it was something tied to one’s bloodline. As it was not a skill nor a title, it was probably something unique to this world.
“Hmm, wait, now that I think about it, there were skills…rather, abilities that we couldn’t use, abilities limited to NPCs in certain quests…can anyone remember?”
“Hmm, I think I have heard about that before…what was it again…?”
“It was miasma related, right? I remember it was something about defeating people that adored demons.”
Shibaid and Filma tried to recall what Shin was referring to.
“Quest” was just a single word, but its contents were not only numerous, but also diverse. It was difficult to recall a specific one right away.
“The content is a bit different, but could it be the ‘Seven Sages’ Bloodline?’ I remember that it featured a clan with a special bloodline that hunted demons. I think there was also something related to purifying miasma.”
“Ah! Yes! Yes, that’s it.”
Shin felt the haziness disappear from his memories.
The “Seven Sages’ Bloodline” quest Schnee mentioned had the players assist NPCs, set as descendants of the first 7 species that appeared in the world, in their battles against demons.
Working together with the NPCs, who possessed skills effective against miasma and demons -difficult foes for even advanced users- the players had to locate the origin of the miasma and defeat the demon that appeared with it.
Quests were categorized by level of difficulty; clearing one would allow the player to try others with higher difficulty. The rewards, naturally, would increase in level too.
“There was a quest like that, yeah…”
“Why are you getting lost in your memories like that?”
“Well, you see, there was this really annoying elf…this one time I carried her like a doll while I went charging against the demons. My stats were already maxed out when that quest appeared, and the NPCs weren’t much help in battle. The main thing was to fight while protecting them, really. Honestly, I could have crushed the enemies with sheer power at that point, even without the NPCs around.”
While Shin’s actions were possible in a videogame setting, during the death game or in the current world, he wouldn’t act in such a dangerous manner now.
Of course, at the time he was criticized by other players too, who called his behavior “totally absurd”.
“Well, that has nothing to do with this. If it’s as Schnee said, Tiera could be a descendant of the Seven Sages’ bloodline. The demons could have felt the World Tree’s power and the Seven Sages’ aura, or both. Both their natural enemies’ abilities together…it was a great threat to the demons.”
The high-ranked demons Scoruas and Adara’s atmosphere had changed completely when they saw Tiera; it wasn’t something that could be explained simply with the words “natural enemy”.
The way they changed was as drastic as a change in eye color.
“In this case, we need to power up Tiera’s equipment more, to prepare for whatever may happen. Your level increased too, so you should be able to equip weapons and armor of higher quality.”
“The equipment I’m borrowing now seems high-level enough already, though…”
The equipment Shin lent to Tiera was worth a small fortune in this world. Hearing that Shin wanted to power up such luxurious gear, Tiera’s expression stiffened.
“Oh no, please, that’s just the start. Depending on the method, I bet you could even equip Mythology-level gear. If you tell me the exact numbers, I can give you much better stuff even within the same grade.”
“I’m a bit scared to equip it…but yes, please do.”
Tiera nodded to Shin’s proposal, albeit with some hesitation.
In order for Tiera to continue traveling with Shin and the group, improving her equipment was absolutely necessary. Shin’s group was overpowered and clad in Ancient-grade gear, after all.
She didn’t know how strong she would ultimately become, but if she had a chance to improve, she wouldn’t let it go.
“We kind of trailed off in the end, but I’ve said all I wanted to.”
“World Tree Priestess…I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about this world, but I guess I have to think again.”
“Kuu, so many, mysteries”
“Mystery, hmm…well, I suppose it is a mystery.”
After his casual comment, Shin noticed that Tiera sighed while looking at him and Yuzuha.
Schnee was an Elf like her and was already aware of her circumstances, but maybe Tiera feared that we would act differently after knowing the truth, or so Shin thought.
After revealing a secret, no matter what it was, one was always worried about how others would react.
“OK, now we know about Tiera’s situation. Thanks for telling us. Even if you’re a World Tree Priestess, I have no intention of changing how I act towards you, so there’s that.”
“….o, ok. Thanks.”
Shin stated his intentions in a slightly rough manner, but everyone nodded.
Looking at them, Tiera choked a little and thanked them, tears welling in her eyes.
“OK, let’s go back to the topic of Tiera’s equipment. I’ve been choosing it until now, but I’m sure you want to start deciding by yourself, right? With higher stats, you have more options about what to equip. Come with me later.”
Tiera equipped bows and daggers until now, but the range of available equipment is far wider. Tiera’s main job, Tamer, allowed her to use also whips, rods and throwing weapons.
The range of available equipment is small at low levels, but at her current level Tiera should be able to have more choices.
“What are you going to do, everyone?”
“Can I come with you? I’m curious to see what equipment Tiera will choose.”
“Let’s go together then.”
Mitsuyo was apparently interested to see what weapons and gear Shin possessed. The other Supreme Blade, Kunitsuna, had something to do with Kotone.
“Okay, we’ll just kill time until Tiera decides her new equipment, then. We’ll have to stay here until the day after tomorrow to check on the progress, after all. I guess I’ll take a look around the guildhouse, maybe.”
Filma said she would look around the guildhouse while waiting; today, she planned to visit the buildings other than the main one.
“I have been asked to lead a training session. If anything happens, just contact me.”
Shibaid wielded a halberd, so he was asked to impart training to the priestesses, who used similar long weapons.
“Got it. Schnee, Yuzuha, what about you?”
“Move, body! Play, snow!”
“Then, I’ll keep an eye on Yuzuha.”
Yuzuha had returned to her expressionless face, but pointed excitedly at the silver-colored forest. Schnee then proposed to accompany her.
Via Mind Chat, she also told Shin that she’ll make sure Yuzuha doesn’t run too wild.
“OK, free time until noon then.”
Thinking that everyone needed free time once in a while, Shin and the others went their respective paths.
“If we want to choose items, we need the Tsuki no Hokora. Let’s ask Kuchinashi, just in case.”
Shin’s item box contained a large quantity of weapons and gear, but it had few choices for Tamers. He then decided to open Tsuki no Hokora’s warehouse.
“My, curious to see you three together.”
Kuchinashi was surprised to see Shin, Tiera, and Mitsuyo visit her room.
“Yes, we thought that sometimes it’s good to just act on our own like this.”
“I thought that Schnee would never leave your side though.”
Kuchinashi teased Shin.
“It’s not like we’re together all the time, you know. Today I’m having her watch over Yuzuha.”
Schnee’s feelings towards Shin were apparently crystal clear. If Yuzuha hadn’t said she wanted to go play, Schnee would have probably joined Shin and the others too.
“So, what brings you here today?”
“I wanted to pull out Tsuki no Hokora, so I thought of asking if there is a wide space without people around. I wouldn’t want to surprise anyone, pulling a building out of thin air.”
Different from the former player Kuchinashi, the Black Priestess Shrine members would never think that it was possible to carry buildings like that.
They could have asked other priestesses too, but Shin’s group knew only very few of them, namely Kotone and Suzune. Even if the priestesses knew about them, they couldn’t say the opposite.
In Kuchinashi’s case, they didn’t have to explain things in detail for her to understand.
“I know just the right place. If you’re going there though, would you mind if Kotone and I came along?”
“That’s fine by me, what do you say, Tiera?”
Shin and Tiera had no objections to Kuchinashi’s request.
“Can we call Kotone first then?”
“That’s all right, but what are you planning? If you’re going to call Kotone, does it mean you want me to temper her weapons?”
“I can’t say I wouldn’t want for you to strengthen our weapons…but if you helped us more, I’m afraid we’d start to rely on you too much.”
Shin asked the question in a casual tone, but Kuchinashi’s expression as she replied looked grim.
“Some other trouble, then?”
“Something like that. Let’s continue the conversation in the Tsuki no Hokora, with Kotone too. The soundproofing here is good, but I want to keep the risk of leaks as low as possible.”
Kuchinashi’s words, which suggested that she did not want even her comrades to know, were slightly different than what Shin had expected.
What she was going to talk about must have been something only a few in Black Priestess Shrine knew.
“Looks like it’s something really serious. I see, let’s go right…wait, let’s call Kotone’s first.”
“Yes, I’ll call her right away, so please wait just a moment.”
A few minutes after Kuchinashi gave the order, Kotone joined with the group. Now she was wearing, unlike the priestess clothes she wore at the banquet, the Black Priestess Shrine’s usual black robes.
“You called for me, milady?”
“Yes, we were waiting for you. We’re leaving right away, so please act as an escort.”
Whenever the guildmaster goes anywhere, generally one or more guild members act as an escort. Kuchinashi called Kotone also for her to take this role.
Shin and the others did not know what Kuchinashi wanted to tell them, but since she called Kotone, it was likely that the latter already knew, or Kuchinashi thought it was something she could tell her.
Kunitsuna, who had some business with Kotone in the morning, was with her too, but that was not a problem so Shin didn’t say anything.
“Shall we go then. I’ll lead the way, follow me.”
Shin’s group followed Kuchinashi through the guildhouse. Strangely enough, they didn’t meet anyone else on the way to their destination.
The place Kuchinashi led the group to was a thicket located right across the barrier delimiting the guildhouse’s territory. The woods appeared to slip through the barrier, but actually the trees were simply growing on both sides of the barrier.
“No one will see us here.”
Shin and Kotone flattened the ground in a clearing without trees, then Shin materialized Tsuki no Hokora.
“We can talk later, so do what you planned on doing first, Shin.”
Judging from Kuchinashi’s words, it wasn’t something they could expect to wrap up quickly.
The equipment selection could be done later, so Shin thought of just collecting the gear first, and went to the storeroom with Tiera.
Kuchinashi and the others said they wanted to take a look around, so Shin allowed them to, albeit with limitations.
“So that’s what this place was. I never saw this door open since I came here, so I was kind of curious.”
Tiera nodded knowingly when she saw which door Shin stopped in front of. She had wondered before about that eternally locked door, which Schnee had never opened either.
“It gives off a kind of eerie feeling, but is it really safe?”
Mitsuyo commented as Shin was opening the door.
“It’s Shin’s weapon storeroom, so there could very well be things that shouldn’t be allowed out in the outside world. Shin can even use cursed weapons without problems, right?”
“L-lady Kuchinashi! Do not leave my side!”
Kotone, shocked to hear the words “cursed weapons”, swiftly stepped in front of Kuchinashi as to protect her.
“Stop talking like this is a den of monsters or something…Kuchinashi, Kotone, the contents of this room can’t be touched anyway, so don’t worry about touching them by mistake.”
Shin’s eyes shot a glare as he explained one of the limitations affecting the warehouse.
“A room chock full of Ancient-grade and Mythology-grade weapons is pretty much a den of monsters, though…”
“They’re just high-quality weapons, all right? Kotone, I’m telling you that no one’s life is in danger.”
“I have my concerns about your word choice, sir Shin…however, is it really alright for us to enter a place that might contain cursed weapons?”
Still worrying about the fact that Shin considered legendary weapons as nothing more than high-spec items, Kotone posed a reasonable question.
“It’s alright, nothing happens as long as you don’t equip them. Plus, if anything happens with one of the weapons here I will take responsibility and melt it down.”
Shin replied with a grin, but at the same time a “thud”-like sound was clearly heard from inside the storeroom.
“H-hey, Shin. I’m sure I just heard something move from inside just now…?”
“I heard it too…”
“Hahaha, don’t worry so much. Some cursed gear was probably a little scared, that’s all.”
“Can you imagine, a blacksmith that can scare weapons…?”
“As a weapon myself, I can’t really laugh at that.”
Tiera and Kotone flinched after hearing the noise from inside, but Shin reassured that there were no problems.
Kuchinashi sighed in disbelief, Mitsuyo and Kunitsuna knitted their brows.
Ignoring Kuchinashi’s, Mitsuyo’s, and Kunitsuna’s reaction, Shin finally opened the doors.