༺ Aidrin (3) ༻
The next day, situated before Aidrin’s root.
Vera was watching as Marie manifested her powers while explaining to Renee the scene before him.
“The color of Marie’s divinity is reminiscent of a lush green forest. The divinity flowing out of her fingertips permeates Aidrin, giving life to the once dead leaves. You can also see the torn outer bark regenerating.”
The power of life.
This was the first time he had actually seen it, but Vera was well aware of how useful that power was in war.
Simply put, it could increase the combat capability and personnel efficiency of an army unit.
It was the ability to supply food, regardless of whether the army unit was marching or isolating themselves from enemies.
The power of abundance was the ability to replicate food endlessly with seeds.
Vera remembered clearly. In the days when the war against the Demon King reached its peak, Marie went to an isolated fortress on the front lines and for three months she multiplied food and managed to successfully defend it.
‘Thanks to her, I’ve suffered some losses.’
At that time, it was decided that the forces at the front lines would retreat and as a result, all the black market businesses he had built on the battlefield were taken over.
It was a decision he made for the purpose of preserving manpower. In the end, that decision caused him to suffer losses because Marie supported the front lines while defending the fortress.
Vera stared blankly at Aidrin while reminiscing about his previous life. Renee, who was holding Vera’s hand, spoke.
“…Is it difficult to do this?”
It was a question about Aidrin’s growth. It wasn’t something she could see with her own eyes, but Renee could definitely feel the divinity flowing from Marie.
In terms of the total amount of divinity, it was a much greater amount than she herself possessed.
Even with such a large amount of divinity and the power of growth, Aidrin still couldn’t be treated?
“That’s right. The reason is because Mother’s body must be replenished with essence for her restoration.”
It was Friede who replied.
“No matter how much divinity is poured into her body, only a fraction of the divinity permeates into Mother’s essence. Of course, there are limits to this approach.”
Words uttered in a feminine tone, accompanied by a loose smile.
Renee felt her curiosity about Friede rising again as she heard their words.
“…Are you all right?”
“What do you mean?”
“This is how it all ends. But…”
You seem so indifferent.
She swallowed her last words. Because in the end, it was Renee’s own arbitrary judgment.
However, Friede was able to realize what Renee was trying to say. The long years that Friede lived gave him a sense of discernment.
“…I don’t think it can be helped. All things in the world come to an end, isn’t that right? The long life of our Mother, and the lives of the elves who protect her. We’ve simply reached our natural end.”
Friede sincerely believed that. They were just welcoming death because their time has come, but why did they not have any doubts?
“Aren’t we all mortals in the face of providence?”
Renee thought Friede’s words were sad for some reason because of the monotony, so she continued to speak.
“Still, don’t you want to live?”
“Even if the end arrives someday, it’s natural to hope it won’t be today.”
Her head turned in the direction of Friede.
Renee spoke as she recalled the past years, when she cried while curled up in a blanket.
“Even if it’s out of desperation, even if you see no hope at all, I believe that you can still want to live. Even if you desire an end, I think it’s only natural to want a happy one.”
So she clung to a prayer.
She couldn’t see any hope, but she still hoped for it.
She thought that she might regain the light someday if she lived this way, so she hoped that her end would be reached under a brilliant light.
For Renee, this was only natural.
No one wants to despair. They’ll want to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
She would not want such a depressing end.
“Friede, do you not have any regrets?”
Friede kept their mouth shut as if contemplating Renee’s words for a moment, then gazed at Aidrin and replied.
“I have no regrets.”
It was a firm statement.
“I don’t know if you’ll believe me, but… I have no regrets. Aren’t regrets caused by unfinished matters and desires? But I don’t have any unfinished business. I had the talent to do anything I wanted, and I had plenty of time to achieve it.”
Friede spoke while reminiscing about their younger days.
“Come to think of it, I have never been emotional. Well, I’m sorry I couldn’t empathize with you.”
Renee replied, startled at Friede’s speech.
Friede drew a small smile upon seeing her, then spoke again.
“Well, what the Saint said may not be completely wrong. In fact, just as the Saint said, the siblings who ran away from home want to continue living.”
It was about the Neuters.
“I don’t understand, but…. I’m sure the siblings also have something to call a desire, as the Saint said. Oh, do you call this romance?”
Renee raised another question in response to Friede’s playful speech.
“…Are you not resentful?”
“Why would I be resentful?”
“They betrayed you. I heard they’re after Lady Aidrin, and you’re in the middle of a fight with them.”
“You might feel that way, but I love my siblings and… respect my siblings. Yet, the path they walked was different, so I had no choice but to turn my back on them.”
These words, too, did not contain any emotion.
Renee felt as if these words that didn’t show even a hint of emotions helped enlighten her about Friede to some degree.
This elf lacks emotions.
She didn’t know why, but she could tell that this elf named Friede didn’t feel any longing at all.
For Friede, all of this, life and death, and all the conflicts in between, were just natural events in the passage of time.
Friede was the perfect bystander, merely observing the flow of time.
Renee did not comment further, but she felt sad.
It was sorrow she felt at the life of the elf who had lived for a long, long time without ever desiring for anything, something that Renee couldn’t even imagine.
“…Is that so?”
The voice subsided.
Friede raised a small question about Renee’s somber appearance.
“But why? Is there anything making you uncomfortable?”
“No, it’s just…”
Renee carefully chose the words she spoke. She thought it would be rude to express what was on her mind.
“…I think it’s a little pitiful… a fight between siblings.”
That’s what she barely uttered after thinking. It was regarding the dispute with the Neuter.
“Yes. It’s really pitiful. The intentions of the siblings are currently unknown.”
“Yes. Currently. Until the siblings cut off their ears, albeit vaguely, we had a glimpse of their intentions.”
Renee’s head tilted.
“What does that have to do with your ears?”
“Hm, yes. It’s natural not to know. Elf ‘ears’ have a high concentration of nerves and are therefore very sensitive. At the tip of the ears is a nerve that connects to Mother, through which the elves share the feelings of Mother and the other siblings.”
That’s what it was. As she thought about the meaning of Friede’s words, Renee’s expression began to take on a slightly strange form.
For some reason, she felt that the romance about elves had disappeared. It was not a very pleasant feeling to discover the tales from her childhood were fiction.
Friede continued with a smile at Renee’s strange facial expression.
“Disappointed? Well, that is nothing out of the ordinary. All the outside guests who heard this had the same reaction.”
“Elves have a deeper academic depth than you think. It’s because there isn’t a hobby as good as this one to alleviate the boredom of countless years.”
Renee nodded and then asked another question.
“So, do you still share your feelings with those who haven’t cut off their ears?”
“Yes. The siblings who are scouting the entrance of the Great Woodlands are feeling nervous, and the siblings who have gone out to harvest fruits are feeling proud. And…”
A speech that by adding artificial emotion, changes the tone.
To Renee, Friede’s words sounded like that of a bystander providing a report on their observations.
A few more days passed.
Renee and the party did nothing during this time.
There was nothing Renee could do for the elves, and the elves wanted no help from the party.
That led to Renee killing time by taking walks in the woods with Vera, or doing frivolous activities, such as listening to Marie explain what it was like to live in the woods.
Unsurprisingly, Renee’s heart was filled with frustration.
In such a helpless situation, it was embarrassing to just eat food like a parasite. She wanted to help, but she felt helpless because there was nothing she could do.
So today, despite such frustration, while sitting at the roots of Aidrin, Renee felt a different atmosphere than usual.
“The surroundings seem noisy.”
More noises than usual intertwined. There was a sense of urgency at the sound of footsteps.
Though the conversations between the elves were hushed and unclear, even Renee could determine the cause of this atmosphere.
The scent of blood.
Far away in the wind, a scent of blood lingered.
“What’s going on?”
Vera hesitated at Renee’s question.
He contemplated whether it would be right to explain to Renee what he was currently seeing.
The personnel of the reconnaissance team who had gone out early in the morning were returning with serious injuries.
Some had their arms amputated, and some had nothing below the knee.
Among them, some had already died and become corpses.
Vera continued to hesitate.
Renee pressed Vera’s hand tighter.
“Vera. Tell me the truth.”
The expression on her face as she spoke was hardened. Hesitating while seeing Renee’s determined attitude, Vera lowered his head slightly and replied.
“…Members of the reconnaissance team returned with severe injuries.”
“Are they seriously hurt?”
Vera replied, licked his lips a few times, then spoke again.
“…There are also a few deaths.”
Suddenly, Renee’s body froze.
“Looks like there was a confrontation.”
He meant that there was a skirmish with the Neuter.
Renee bit her lips at the words she heard and stood up.
“Please guide me.”
Renee thought that she shouldn’t just stay still. There had to be elves who placed their hopes in her, so she couldn’t just stand there leisurely. Even if she couldn’t save Lady Aidrin, she could at least provide as much help as possible.
She firmly believed in her stance.
Vera knew that Renee, with such a determined expression, would never listen to him.
A large glade.
Friede tilted their head as they noticed Renee and Vera approaching from afar.
“What’s going on?”
“We came to offer assistance.”
“I heard there are people who were injured.”
Renee concentrated her senses on what was being transmitted in her surroundings.
A suppressed groan. An occasional futile breathing. The metallic stench of oozing blood.
The sensory information, along with the deep pain from the victims, were all conveyed to Renee.
“I’ll treat them.”
The power that Renee had, the divine art that Renee learned, could heal them.
Friede looked at Renee with a hardened face and spoke.
Rattle. Renee’s body stopped. Vera narrowed his eyes and looked at Friede.
Friede received his gaze and made an ‘ah’ sound, then spoke again.
“Don’t misinterpret my words. You must not cause a nuisance as guests. The siblings would have expected such an injury.”
Friede had their own reasons for saying that.
“The siblings are willing to accept death. They believe it is unavoidable because they are dying to protect Mother”
Friede thought their logic was infallible. The mind-set was one of resolve and acceptance. The siblings had already anticipated their own deaths.
However, no words could convince Renee.
Renee knew why Friede was saying that.
She knew it was wrong.
“No one wants to die in pain. Accepting it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.”
Just because you’re dying with determination doesn’t mean you’re not afraid of death.
Renee knew how weak people can become in the face of despair and the kind of aspirations lying within them.
She found that Friede’s judgment based on logic was useless now.
“I’ll treat them.”
Renee wanted this apathetic elf to know.
You’re indifferent because you can’t feel emotions, but nevertheless, I wish you would understand that this end is different from happiness.
Renee’s power, unbeknownst to her, was responding to a new wish.
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