Episode 200. The Mother Tree (1)

Ophelia remained speechless for a while.

The communication stone, so expensive that even wealthy nobles were reluctant to use them outside of emergency situations, began to quickly dim, but Seon-Hyeok did not rush her for an answer.

It was because the precocious princess’ silence spoke volumes.

Her father, King Theodore, chose to live a shortened life as monarch rather than prolong it by becoming a commoner. She respected her father’s decision and voiced no disagreement, but there was no way she would feel comfortable with his choice.

A position as Queen Regent where she could not express her grief even while seeing her dying father fade away. How much had she suffered inside?

The long silence fully revealed the extent of the mental pain she endured.

[You…]

When she finally spoke, her voice was deeply subdued. Though she pretended to be calm, her trembling voice was full of emotion.

[How disgraceful.]

Despite what she said, there was no rebuking him in her voice.

[Doesn’t that just make me narrow-minded?]

It seemed she regretted her attitude in being wary of Najima.

“I don’t think so.”

Seon-Hyeok gently comforted her and asked for her understanding in advance.

“I think things will be hectic here for the time being. It’s possible I won’t be able to contact you for a while.”

As the leader of this expedition, he needed to assist on the front lines, saving the survivors in the west and bringing them back to Adenburg. He simultaneously needed to fulfill the Qeisha’s request, and it was clear he would be unimaginably busy for a while.

[I am shameless.]

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes grew wide at the strange response, but he soon smiled when he realized what she was trying to say.

[Even knowing what you are up to, I will remain stubborn. I will continue to ask about your well-being and confirm that you are safe.]

It was Ophelia’s unique way of expressing her affection - by telling him to put his safety first in all endeavors.

[Still, I will hang my hopes on what you said, so it’s fine if you consider me a greedy monarch.]

After all, how could one try to balance the concerns over a spouse’s safety and affection towards one’s parents? Seon-Hyeok more than understood her desire to achieve both objectives.

“Go ahead and be greedy.”

As such, he answered confidently.

“I will fulfill them all.”

Their conversation continued for a long time, almost as if to make up for their lost time, and it only ended once the communication stone used was completely spent.

“Ahem.”

When their small talk ended, the mage overhearing the secret(?) conversation between the next queen and her spouse was flushed with embarrassment.

“Ahem. Thank you for your hard work.”

Seon-Hyeok cleared his throat awkwardly when he belatedly realized that there was a third party present.

“D, don’t mention it.”

The mage half-heartedly waved his hand and quickly fled the scene with the spent communication stone.

“Hm.”

As Seon-Hyeok watched the place where the mage previously stood, someone knocked on the door. He had already noticed the grassy scent, and he immediately answered.

“Did the talks go well?”

Najima shook her head, her expression complicated upon hearing his question.

“I still need time.”

Clearly, dealing with the demonkin was harder for the Qeishas to accept than he anticipated. She still seemed very reluctant.

The Qeishas’ help was absolutely necessary for the Adenburg Kingdom to take its next step forward, but Seon-Hyeok neither pressed nor rushed her.

In any case, whether they liked it or not, the Qeishas had no choice but to reach a deal with the demonkin.

After all, her tribe would need their help to escape the Dark Lord’s domain, with its swarms of all kinds of evils.

If he was wrong, and they were incapable of reaching a deal until the very end, that did not matter either.

At that point, regardless of his personal fatigue, he could help them traverse the treacherous lands himself.

What was important was the Qeishas’ successful settlement in Adenburg, not the means by which they escaped.

“Is that so?”

Hearing his calm response, Najima gathered her expression and explained the reason behind her visit.

“When will you be leaving?”

She suggested they travel to her tribe’s homeland together, as she needed to speak with the rest of her kind remaining with the Mother Tree before reaching a deal with the demonkin.

“I plan to leave as soon as possible.”

Having decided to accept her request, there was no reason to delay any further.

“Then let me show you the way.”

***

It was decided that the 100 survivors, now knights of Rheinperle, would head to Adenburg via the Iberian Alliance’s fleet.

“Julian. Clark. I'll leave it to you.”

Seon-Hyeok decided to entrust Julian and Clark’s party with this journey. He believed that they, after riding all the way here by traversing the Noctein and Griffindor Kingdoms, would be more than capable of safely leading the survivors home.

“Please come back safely.”

Julian showed signs of wanting to remain, but she understood that she would not be of much help here and instead wished for her lord’s safe return.

“Of course. I’ll see you when I get back.”

The survivors, accompanied by Julian’s party, headed south from the Holy Kingdom, and now left behind, Seon-Hyeok began preparing to leave by visiting Adolph Hochnech and entrusting him with the expedition.

Thanks to his efforts to raise his dragons by fighting foes in all directions, there were no signs of lesser demonic beings in the area, let alone the more powerful demons.

Thanks to this, he was able to complete preparations to leave without any worries.

“I’m not telling you to neglect your duties in leading the expedition for the Holy War, but keep in mind that this is Astoria territory.”

Nevertheless, just in case, he asked the baron to conserve the force’s manpower as much as possible.

“I will ensure that not a single knight is wounded until you return.”

Seon-Hyeok gave a satisfied look at Adolph Hochnech’s straightforward response.

After his short time with the baron, he trusted that the middle-aged knight would excel at understanding any given situation and would not waste Adenburg’s superhuman beings in a foreign conflict.

“Then I’ll leave it to you.”

“I will do my best.”

Having taken care of the chain of command, Seon-Hyeok finally searched for Joon-Min.

“If anything happens, seek out Lee Soo-Hyuk of the Adenburg expedition force.”

Though Seon-Hyeok repeatedly emphasized his support of the warrior, he could not help but remind him one more time, as he could not trust the inexperienced foreigner.

“I’ll do as you say, so don’t worry.”

Joon-Min nodded as though everything Seon-Hyeok said was obvious, as they had spoken about this very situation several times before.

And now, having finished his business, Seon-Hyeok went to find Najima.

“Have you taken care of your business?”

Najima had been waiting for his arrival, and she delightedly welcomed him.

“Let’s go.”

There was no need to waste any more time here.

Redvern had been waiting in advance, and it quickly flew up carrying the foreigner and the Qeisha.

Seon-Hyeok thought the most he could expect from the Qeisha was for her to guide the way to the Mother Tree. However, Najima surprisingly did not show any difficulties in riding Redvern.

“Flying is amazing!”

She even reached out with her arms to enjoy the breeze.

Both the powerful female knight and the mad mage fascinated with aerial bombing her foes struggled to even endure flight on Redvern. Having become used to this, Najima’s reaction was rather refreshing.

It was a relief.

He also found it difficult to travel with someone who struggled with flight. There were even times his companions would throw up on his back.

At the very least, he did not have to worry about Najima throwing up from behind him.

Of course, this did not mean that the flight was smooth.

The demonic beings in this corrupted land did not solely exist on the ground. All sorts of hideous flying beings appeared out of nowhere and blocked their path.

“They’re coming again!”

Seon-Hyeok sighed as he saw the flying demonic beasts flocking to the area.

Redvern! Go straight through them!”

How many times was this?

He had no desire to deal with them anymore.

“Hold tight!”

Instead of responding, Najima held onto his waist.

“Let’s go!”

At his command, Redvern flapped its wings vigorously and dove straight towards the creatures.

Caw!

The raven-like beings snapped their beaks as they rushed in.

Seeing these monstrous creatures, Seon-Hyeok tightly clutched his spear. The cavalry spear he was given by the riders on the front lines was of incomparably poor quality compared to his standard lance, but it was sufficient for casting his dragon rider abilities against these enemies.

“Wind Piercing.”

Wind gathered at the tip of his spear and quickly grew in size. The small crows were swept up in the wind, shrieking as they were torn to shreds, and he and Redvern were soon able to put behind their assault.

However, not all demonic beings were as easily disposed of as these crows.

Among them, there were creatures larger and more ferocious than Redvern, as well as those capable of catching Redvern flying at full speed.

Each time, Najima stepped up to eliminate the demonic beings.

Isn’t this incredible?

Seon-Hyeok was genuinely impressed by her masterful ability to hit the vital points of the quickly moving demonic beings while simultaneously riding on the flying Redvern.

She demonstrably proved why the Qeisha archers were said to be no less capable than senior knights.

With just three arrows, she successfully felled a massive flying beast about twice the size of Seon-Hyeok’s wyvern.

While on Redvern, at the very least, she was the best companion to have.

The only problem was her form while making use of her expert marksmanship.

It was a basic requirement that one had to use both hands while firing a bow. This was not an issue on the ground, but they were currently on the rapidly-moving Redvern. Thus, she needed something to support her so that she would not fall off, and that support was Seon-Hyeok’s waist.

She boldly(?) used her legs, rather than her arms, to hold on.

Thanks to this, she was able to avoid the fate of falling from Redvern even while having both hands off the wyvern, but their appearance was inevitably strange.

“Hm.”

Seon-Hyeok calmly tried to pass the situation off as a natural occurrence during combat.

However, even this became difficult when she swung to the front and did the same, trying to handle the demonic beings catching up from behind.

“This is a bit…”

“Huh? Why?”

The fairy’s expression was rather devious as she responded to his awkwardness.

Seon-Hyeok continued to move on through these numerous difficulties(?).

“We’re almost there! The Mother’s strength can reach everywhere from here on out!”

He was able to tell even without her telling him. At some point, the oppressive demonic energy making it difficult to breathe disappeared.

Well, even if it was not for that change, he would have realized that they were nearing their destination.

After all, how could he not? He could see a huge tree reaching towards the sky in the distance.

“She is the mother of our tribe.”

The Mother Tree of the west was hundreds, no, thousands, of times larger and more mysterious than he imagined.

Seon-Hyeok expressed her admiration over and over again as he saw the Mother Tree, who was much larger than any fortress or castle he had ever seen.

[It seems Najima brought a precious guest.]

But his admiration did not last, as he was quickly stunned by a sudden voice.

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