Episode 191. Gardeners of the Forest (1)

These figures were wrapped in robes from head to toe, like the assassins of old from the other world, and looked quite suspicious.

“You don’t have to be wary of us.”

Perhaps sensing their mistrust, the leader of the group added a comment.

Of course, it was far from convincing. Nobody would ever self-identify as suspicious.

“I don’t know who you are or where you’re from, but we’ve been through far too much to welcome those not even willing to show their faces.”

Julian, experienced in conducting herself in such situations, pointed out the suspicious behavior of the group and insisted they reveal their identities.

Strangely, the stranger simply offered an excuse and did not even consider removing their hoods.

“Please understand that I cannot show my face because of the circumstances.”

In contrast to their fresh, grassy scent, the stranger’s tone was surprisingly dry. Seon-Hyeok grew increasingly on alert the more they spoke.

He wondered if the figures from Astoria knew their identities, but they were likewise wary of the unrecognizable group.

Seon-Hyeok agonized.

On one hand, he was too curious about their intentions to simply pass by, as these strangers claimed to have waited for them, but at the same time, he could not bring himself to speak with individuals not even willing to show their faces.

“Hm.”

As he thought about it, Seon-Hyeok decided to step back. This was Astoria territory, after all, and he had no reason to go out of his way for others.

[Qeisha.]

If the small fairy dragon did not suddenly speak to him, he would have left this matter to the people of the Astoria Kingdom.

“Qeisha?”

Geheimnis added an explanation as Seon-Hyeok stopped moving.

[They are the natives of all forests, fields, and verdant lands. They are fairies descended from the blood of spirits.]

“Fairy?”

Seon-Hyeok found himself glancing at the robed group at the word fairy.

Seeing their dusty robes, it was clear the group had run significant distances to arrive here. Despite this, it was strange that they smelled of fresh grass rather than sweat, and the Qeishas’ slender bodies seemed different from humans’.

Then again, in this world with magic and spirits, it was not strange that there would also be fairies.

However, he could not help but be fascinated.

[If those are truly the Qeishas I am familiar with, then it is normal for them to cover their faces. Qeishas never reveal their faces unless it’s to their eternal partners.]

“Ah…”

Hearing the fairy dragon’s explanation, Seon-Hyeok now found the suspicious, robe-wrapped figures even more interesting.

“Hyung, who are these people?”

Park Joon-Min managed to catch the few words Seon-Hyeok spoke to his fairy dragon and inquired about the identity of the Qeishas. Seon-Hyeok, having no reason to hide anything, explained what he heard.

“So they’re like elves?”

Joon-Min’s face was flushed for some reason as he looked at the Qeishas. Seeing his hazy eyes, it was clear he was imagining things.

“If those are the good gardeners serving their Mother Tree, then information about them is also in our holy texts. Of course, I never imagined I would see them during my lifetime.”

The representative of Astoria likewise seemed fascinated by the existence of these fairies. The entire party found it difficult to look away from the Qeishas.

In the meantime, Seon-Hyeok continued to converse with Geheimnis.

“So I get who they are, but why in the world were they waiting for us?”

Now that he had sufficient information about their identity, he was curious about their reasons for seeking him out.

[It’d be better for you to get an answer from them.]

Geheimnis stuck out her pointed jaw towards the Qeishas’ leader.

[However, I will say that the Qeishas only leave their lands if there is a threat to the safety of their Mother Tree, or if it is the Mother Tree’s will. I simply hope it is not the former.]

For now, the party, exhausted from repeated battles, headed to the temple where the priests treated those addicted to demonic energy. The Qeishas followed.

Seeing these fairies following them without a word, Hansen shook his head.

“How frustrating. If they have business with us, they should just tell us. What are they waiting for?”

The others nodded, feeling the same way as Hansen.

The Qeishas were silent until Seon-Hyeok and his party arrived at the temple. It made them wonder if the fairies really wanted something from them.

[The Qeishas are famous for being reticent. However, they will definitely talk to you first if you wait.]

Even if it were not for the fairy dragon’s words, Seon-Hyeok did not have any alternative. He did not know how to get the Qeishas to speak, as they remained quiet even when he directly addressed them.

“Oh! The bishop and the Indomitable Duke’s party have returned!”

When they arrived at the temple, those waiting welcomed their return.

“We are glad you are all safe and sound!”

Perhaps because those arriving earlier at the temple alerted others about the demonic beasts, the priests there were visibly moved by the party’s safe return.

“We were surprised when we saw the repeated flashes of holy light from the western sky.”

Hearing the words of this middle-aged priest, the old priest from Seon-Hyeok’s party laughed and briefly recounted preceding events.

“It’s all thanks to God’s protection. It was why you were able to defeat those terrible creatures and return safely.”

The middle-aged priest repeatedly offered praise upon hearing the story.

With that, he showed consideration for the exhausted party by immediately guiding them to their accommodations.

“I asked the Templar Knights and warriors not to bring up the Holy Sword in conversation. Please do not be disappointed if your treatment isn’t up to expectations.”

Joon-Min was rather pleased by the old priest’s comment.

“Disappointed? I’m just glad they won’t be chasing me around asking for the sword back.”

Seon-Hyeok smirked at the satisfying response and turned around.

“They left.”

The Qeishas had followed close behind until his party’s arrival at the temple, but now, they were nowhere to be seen. It seemed these fairies had disappeared without anyone noticing.

“Well, they’ll be back.”

He had no reason to fret, given that he knew the Qeishas had business with him.

After all, they’d be the ones bothered by the delay, not me.

It was as expected. The missing Qeishas had not returned to their lands, but instead soon revealed themselves. However, the time of their reappearance was a surprise.

Knock knock.

Seon-Hyeok had been just about to fall asleep, and he was jerked awake when he sensed an individual outside. He frowned at the sight of the Qeisha knocking on his window.

Knock knock.

The figure stared at him and politely knocked once again. If the Qeisha was knocking at his door, and not his window, Seon-Hyeok would have praised the individual’s manners.

However, the Qeisha’s appearance, wrapped in her cape and shrouded by darkness, was unsettling. It could have been mistaken for an assassin trying to sneak up on him in the middle of the night.

Knock knock.

Seon-Hyeok sighed and opened the window, thinking that Qeisha would never stop otherwise.

“Excuse me.”

It was clear that this fairy had not learned proper manners. Otherwise, there was no way she would so shamelessly greet him despite the inappropriate time and place of their meeting.

“Ugh.”

Well, it’d be strange of me to impose human norms on a non-human creature.

Seon-Hyeok sighed in resignation and asked why the Qeisha visited him.

“Why did you come to see me?”

The Qeisha did not respond. She simply stared at him.

What the hell is she planning?

Seeing the individual remain silent for a while, Seon-Hyeok was about to ask once again when the Qeisha suddenly raised her hand and lifted her hood.

Swish.

White hair resembling the pale moonlight poured out of her hood.

“What are you doing…”

He did not have the chance to stop her. By the time he realized what was happening, the fairy had already revealed her face.

He unknowingly inhaled deeply at the sudden, fresh scent penetrating his nose. As he was filled with this herbaceous scent, Seon-Hyeok stared at the Qeisha woman as though he was in a trance.

Perhaps because she had covered herself her entire life, the Qeisha’s skin was so pale that it was almost transparent to the point of exposing her blood vessels. Her blue, star-like eyes were incredibly clear. Her small face under the long, straight hair shining blue in the moonlight was truly beautiful.

The Qeisha was mysterious and alluring like something not of this world.

“Ah…”

Seon-Hyeok innocently admired the Qeisha’s appearance. However, this soon disappeared, as he soon came to his senses and froze.

Qeishas never reveal their faces unless it’s to their eternal partners.’

‘... never reveal their faces unless it’s to their eternal partners.’

‘... faces unless it’s to their eternal partners.’

‘... it’s to their eternal partners.’

‘... eternal partners.’

The fairy dragon’s words resonated in his head.

‘Extramarital affairs are forbidden.’

He also recalled the voice of a strict, yet affectionate woman.

“Damn it…”

Should I blame the fairy dragon for telling me about the Qeishas’ unwillingness to reveal their faces? Maybe I should rationalize this as something I couldn’t avoid?

As Seon-Hyeok remained unable to do anything, the Qeisha in question spoke.

“My name is Najima bint Algharb Al'umm.”

The strange dissonance Seon-Hyeok initially felt at the Qeishas’ fresh scents compared to their dry voices immediately disappeared. Unlike when they first met, Najima’s voice was lively as though she was singing.

“I would like to know your name.”

Well, Ophelia, companions like the dragon aren’t necessarily relationships with the opposite sex, so this isn’t cheating.

He repeatedly pondered excuses that Ophelia would never hear, but his thoughts on the Qeishas’ customs were cut off by Geheimnis’ interjection.

[Hm. It seems my bad feelings were justified. The ‘Algharb Al’umm’ in her name means “Mother of the West’.]

“It can’t be…”

Seon-Hyeok immediately froze at the word ‘west’.

[She must be a Qeisha serving the Mother Tree in the west.]

***

The Qeishas did not only seek out Seon-Hyeok.

Joon-Min likewise received a late visit from the Qeisha, and this individual likewise revealed his bare face.

Swish.

The warrior, upon recalling Seon-Hyeok’s explanation that a Qeisha would only reveal his face to his eternal partner, was completely baffled.

His expression was not one of admiration for the beautiful fairy’s face, but more that of someone who saw something he should not have.

“Maram bin Algharb Al'umm.”

The Qeisha revealed his name as he watched the pale, recoiling warrior.

“Please tell me your name.”

Maram, the Qeisha visiting Joon-Min, was a handsome-looking male.

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