༺ Aidrin (1) ༻
Aidrin was on the verge of death.
It was nonsensical.
Aidrin was a member of the ancient species. Members of this species are nigh omnipotent beings among the creatures of this continent that have existed since the genesis of this world.
Such knowledge was unquestionable, even the brainless orcs knew of their immortality.
Friede’s words left Renee perplexed, therefore she attempted to inquire for more details from him.
“Let’s go to the Great Woodlands first before we recount the situation. Wouldn’t it be better for all of us to tell our side of the story once rather than repeat the same story to Marie?”
Friede dismissed Renee’s persistent questioning.
They must be referring to the apostle of abundance.
Renee struggled to suppress her curiosity and responded by nodding her head.
It wasn’t long before they reached the Great Woodlands.
Considering Renee’s stamina, it was only natural that the distance that ordinarily would have taken a day to traverse instead took two days.
“From here onwards, we must travel by foot. There’s no road wide enough for a wagon to pass through the Great Woodlands.”
Following their departure, the party left the wagon at the entrance of the Great Woodlands and hung their baggage on their horses. They proceeded through the woodlands in this fashion.
As Renee grabbed Vera’s hand and took a step, she tilted her head and opened her mouth at the sound of ‘Crunch’ when her foot sank to the ground.
The piled up fallen leaves were reaching almost to her ankles. However, it wasn’t just fallen leaves, but also dried leaves that were crushed with each step.
“Vera, the leaves here are falling?”
Disappointment swelled within Renee.
According to the records of those who have visited the Great Woodlands throughout history, the Great Woodlands had always been a land full of lush vegetation and vitality.
This is not a land where leaves fall like rain.
“… Yes, it would seem that the ground had been littered with fallen leaves”
Vera gazed ahead with a serious expression and illustrated the scenery.
“Their color is darker than blue. Most of the trees here are bare, like those in the winter. ”
Vera’s thoughts paralleled Renee’s own. .
Something was amiss, this place was too barren to be labeled the Great Woodlands.
That would mean….
“… All the vegetation in sight is withering away.”
A dead land, it was a scene that mirrored the land of the dead at the eastern end of the continent.
Naturally, the question ‘why’ popped up in Vera’s head.
‘I don’t recall this landscape being devastated like this.’
Because it reminded him of his past life.
He didn’t recount any instance of the Great Woodlands withering away in his previous life. .
Even after the elves including Friede departed the Great Woodlands to subdue the Demon King, news of such an incident didn’t circulate around the continent.
Something was amiss.
If the ground was so noticeably withered, anyone passing by the Great Woodlands would have perceived the change…
“No need to be perturbed, it’s still not too late.”
A faint sound.
Those were the words of Friede, who overheard Vera and Renee speaking for some time.
As Friede took the lead, he turned his head back and glanced at the pair before continuing.
“The barrier is still in place. The reason the trees here are wilting is due to Mother absorbing the life of the trees to preserve her own life.”
It was an answer accompanied by a refreshing smile.
A very relaxed attitude. After that remark, Friede turned their head forward and continued.
In response to those words, a questioning look appeared on the faces of the members of the party. .
The scenery had been unvarying for some time, what did Friede mean when they said that they’d arrived?
She turned towards Friede with that thought in mind.
The surrounding landscape was distorted in an instant.
Norn and Hela drew their sword while Vera pulled Renee into his embrace and began emanating his divinity. Renee hiccuped, ‘Hiik’, as she was suddenly trapped in Vera’s arms.
A feeling that the whole world is distorted.
In the midst of a worsening atmosphere.
“Don’t be so nervous.”
With those words, the landscape changed in an instant.At the end of the new landscape towered a gargantuan tree whose top can’t be seen, even when you turned your head to gaze all the way up.
Those words came out of Norn’s mouth.
It wasn’t just Norn. Hela and Vera. Astonishment appeared on everyone’s faces except for Renee who could not see.
Dozens of enormous trees overlapped one another and soared up into the sky.
The only emotion that the party could feel was astonishment in the presence of the colossal tree that wore a crown of red leaves. .
Friede smiled very happily upon witnessing their expressions before parting his lips to speak.
“Welcome to our motherland.”
The Deepest Root, Aidrin.
It was that root in particular that drew the group’s attention.
Hearing Friede’s voice, Vera turned his gaze towards where Friede was looking.
In the distance, Vera saw Marie stroking Aidrin with her back facing them.
Marie raised her head upon hearing Friede’s voice. A bright smile formed as she recognized Friede and the party that stood behind them. .
“Oh! The kids are here?”
Marie stood up and spoke in a lively tone.
Norn and Hela bowed their heads when they recognized who the person was, Marie, the apostle of abundance.
Vera bowed his head slightly to greet her. He then described Marie’s appearance to the bewildered Renee.
“She exudes the impression of a rich country woman. She has short brown hair that’s neatly tied up. She has straight wrinkles and has a bright aura. Her priest attire has stains here and there, but it’s more accurate to view it as the effect of the passage of time rather than it being due to uncleanliness. Her clothing gives off the impression of someone poor.”
It was an explanation that focused on the aesthetic aspects of Marie so that Renee could easily imagine it.
Using Vera’s description, Renee constructed an image of Marie’s face in her head. She then nodded and bowed her head to greet her.
“Ah, yes, you must have worked really hard to get here, haven’t you?”
A very warm greeting for their first meeting, Renee smiled as she recalled that Marie was a very friendly person.
“Not really, other people suffered a lot more than me.”
“Dear Mother! How could you be so kind!”
Marie smiled cheerfully and tapped Renee on the shoulder. She then greeted Vera.
“You’re Vera, right? My, how handsome!”
Vera was flustered.
The reason was due to her personality. In his previous life, he had been told of her countless deeds during the war with the Demon King. Vera, who was ignorant to the type of person she was, locked his shoulders and bowed his head. He was unable to respond to Marie’s smile.
“Norn! Hela! My oh my! When did little Hela grow so big! Come here, let me give you a hug!”
“… Long time no see.”
Hela hugged Marie with her characteristic blank face as if she was familiar with Marie’s attitude.
She resembled light shining through a storm.
Marie’s personality shone through the depressive mood that had engulfed the group like daybreak after a harsh storm. It was just what the group needed to shake off the anxiousness that enveloped them when they witnessed the sight of Aidrin, the World Tree, wilting.
Troubled expressions formed on the party members’ faces due to the long greetings and chatter. Friede, who stood in the back and watched the scene unfold, opened their mouth to speak.
“Marie, may I speak now? My friends still don’t know about Mother’s condition.”
“Huh? Didn’t that old man say anything about it?”
“Ah… yes… about that… .”
Renee nodded her head slightly, her face and mind dazed due to the constant chatter.
Unfortunately, Marie trembled and began to converse again, likely not noticing Renee’s situation.
“Ahh! I guess that old man had gone senile again! I knew it! I told him to eat a balanced diet, but it seems he didn’t listen!”
Words were pouring out of her mouth like a storm.
Renee’s face lit up with embarrassment.
After a long time, Marie’s chatter came to an end.
It was more accurate to say that Friede’s multiple restraints played a big role in stopping her.
Friede responds to Marie’s words in a soft tone, carefully pinching her when the chatter started to diverge from the main point so that she doesn’t stray any further from the topic.
One of the roots of Aidrin.
Renee sat on the roots protruding from the ground high enough for a person to sit on. She listened to Friede, who was now able to speak without interruption.
“Hmm, yes. Did I ever mention that Mother was dying?”
“You said you would tell us the details here.”
“Well, to add to that, Mother’s death doesn’t mean complete annihilation.”
Renee tilted her head in response to Friede’s words.
It’s because she was curious about the distinction of their wording.
Friede smiled brightly at Renee, who looked dumbfounded and continued speaking.
“It’s an event that occurs once every millennium. Mother is currently preparing herself for her next life.”
“Yes, how do you feel about the root you are currently sitting on, saint?”
Hearing Friede’s words, Renee stroked the root that was beneath her.
“Well…. It’s hard, and a little bit dry…”
The bark was dry enough to crumble with just a slight stroke. It wasn’t just that,the inside of it the root is also dry due to a lack of moisture.
Friede glanced at Renee, who responded while stroking the root, and then nodded and continued.
“It’s because the lifespan that constitutes Mother’s body is coming to an end. Mother’s existence is eternal, but the trees that make up her body are not. So, every 1000 years, when the trees that act as her vessel reach the end of their lifespan, Mother creates a new body and is reborn.”
Astonishment appeared on Renee’s face as she listened to the story.
It was a story she had never heard of.
“Then if Aidrin… If she were to be reborn again, will the Great Woodlands regain its vitality?”
“Normally that’s the case.”
There were hints in those words.
“Yes, normally. Things are a little different this time around, and that’s what’s causing problems.”
Having said that, Friede went to Renee’s side and stroked the root of the tree before continuing.
“It hasn’t been a millenia yet. Mother’s body is only 900 years old”
The sheer absurdity of that statement dawned on me as they implied that 900 years was too short of a period of time.
“The seeds that will construct Mother’s new body can only be obtained after at least 900 and 80 years. She still needs 80 more years, yet the lifespan of her current body is already coming to an end. This ruins the process of rebirth.”
In the words that followed, Renee understood what Friede meant.
Her voice naturally became tense.
“… Does that mean she can’t reincarnate anymore?”
If Aidrin dies without bearing seeds, then she couldn’t reincarnate. That’s what Friede meant.
Friede smiled at Renee’s words and responded.
“That’s correct. If Mother withers like this, it marks the end for both the Great Woodlands and the elven race.”
“Yes. It is because we elves are a race that share our lifespan with Mother. That’s why we can live for thousands of years. However, when Mother dies, all the elves that no longer receive sustenance will also perish.”
“The elves will forever disappear from the face of the continent. That’s why Marie is here. She is holding on to Mother’s life with the power of abundance. Hmm, this is an emergency.”
Renee’s movements stopped.
Her head turned towards the direction where she heard Friede’s words.
A question occurred as they continued to tell the story.
Renee was blind, so she couldn’t see facial expressions or other visual information. However, as a result, she perceived other things more sensitively.
Just discerning the undertone of someone’s voice based on the change in pitch and tone.
Renee sensed a strange aspect in Friede’s voice as they continued the story.
You’re speaking about such a serious predicament, but…
Although Friede was talking about Aidrin and her potential passing, Renee did not perceive any semblance of emotions.
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