Even if it was living wood containing the essence of the earth, Seon-Hyeok could only feel lukewarm towards the gift, as he did not know how great it could possibly be.
[All Najima and the other children needed to protect themselves from demonic energy while crossing the cursed land was a single small leaf.]
Seon-Hyeok could not help but exclaim.
He had wondered how the fairies were able to endure the Dark Lord’s realm, one in which even the powerful dragon subspecies were eventually corrupted, and it was all thanks to the leaves of the Mother Tree.
[The living wood is like my life force itself. The nature of the energy contained within is so huge that those small leaves couldn't compare.]
He now knew that the energy contained within the branch would be tremendous, but he still did not know how to make proper use of it.
[If you were a farmer working the lands, you would be able to create abundance even in the wilderness, but as you are the dragon’s companion, such benefits would be of little use to you.]
It was as she said. He could increase the crop yield at Rheinperle by keeping this branch in his territory and greatly help its prosperity, but that was it. Rheinperle was already reaching stability in its operations, and without any issues in the food supply, the use she suggested was not particularly helpful.
[What you need is a more powerful weapon.]
“I won’t deny that.”
Maybe it was because he had gotten off on the wrong foot, or perhaps it was his nature. Right now, all he knew how to do was to find and take part in battles.
For him, the best gift was not a tool to turn a wasteland into a land of prosperity, but a powerful weapon he could wield.
[Among my children, there is one who is particularly talented with his hands. He would be able to turn that living wood into a form that suits you.]
The Mother Tree seemed unhappy about the prospect of the branch containing her energy being used as a weapon, but fortunately, as it was a gift, she showed no signs of insisting on how it would be used.
Hearing her words, Seon-Hyeok peered at the branch.
It looked straight enough to be used for a spear, and he could imagine turning it into a weapon if it was properly crafted.
“Won’t it break?”
However, Seon-Hyeok could not help but be suspicious given that it was just wood.
Even the lances painstakingly made by famed craftsmen of the capital using special materials were unable to withstand his fierce battles and repeatedly broke. He wondered how a wooden spear would survive such a battlefield.
The Mother Tree sighed as she responded.
[Just because it looks humble doesn’t mean it is.]
She seemed offended that the gift she bestowed out of her own generosity was accepted in such a lukewarm manner.
After all, who would dare doubt the utility of a gift bestowed by a Spirit King? It was normal for her to feel offended.
[I assure you, there is not a weapon in this world that can break one made from my own branches. At least, not until the essence of the earth contained within runs dry.]
Seon-Hyeok finally smiled brightly after hearing this.
[In addition, even holding the wood will allow your earth spirits to exert greater power, and so long as you are on the ground, you will enjoy a constant flow of vitality like an endless stream]
The Mother Tree continued her explanation, saying that the value of the living wood did not end there.
“Hm. A weapon that amplifies the power of earth spirits and imbues constant vitality in its user…”
He gave an awkward look when he heard the rough explanation.
He belatedly understood the devastated feelings of the Mother Tree, who had to sell him on the value of the powerful, unbreakable magic weapon she granted him like a seedy salesman selling cheap goods.
The Mother Tree let out a long sigh as Seon-Hyeok belatedly thanked her out of embarrassment.
Originally, Seon-Hyeok planned to leave for Adenburg as soon as he received the seedlings from the Mother Tree, but he was forced to remain in the forest longer due to unforeseen circumstances.
The Qeishas were not yet able to reach a consensus on whether to accept a deal with the demonkin.
“We cannot leave the Mother Tree behind.”
“And to deal with those horrible demonkin!”
The Qeishas expressed their reluctance to leave the Mother Tree’s side, as she was as important as their own lives, but they were all aware of the need to have protectors to watch over her young seedlings.
As such, they gathered every day to find a solution to their predicament.
“It’ll be decided by the time your spear is completed, so please wait a little longer.”
Najima seemed worried that his schedule would be disrupted by the ongoing meetings of her tribe.
“That’s all right.”
Seon-Hyeok was concerned about the expedition force and the dragons left on the front lines, but for him, the work here was no less important than the situation there.
It was necessary to wait a little longer to bring these powerful Qeisha archers to Adenburg.
In addition, even if the demonkin agreed to open up a path, the party needed to be prepared to fight against demonic beings as these negotiators were unreliable.
Seon-Hyeok believed the Qeisha tribe would be capable of fulfilling this role.
The Qeisha archers, with power exceeding senior knights, would be more than capable of defending against any attack from these demonic beings.
How much time had passed?
The Qeisha tribe’s meetings, which showed no signs of ending, surprisingly concluded much earlier than he anticipated.
[Follow him out of this place. You do not have to remain here waiting for me to return to the ground once my last breath is gone.]
After patiently waiting for the Qeishas to determine their own future, the Mother Tree resorted to ordering their migration.
“Mother! How could we leave you alone in the middle of this terrible land?”
[Thank you for your undying support, but I am not the one needing your care.]
The Qeishas voiced strong opposition to her words, but they could not turn a blind eye to the mission of caring for the young seedlings.
In the end, it was decided that only the old Qeishas nearing the end of their own lives would remain by the dying Mother Tree’s side.
Matters moved more quickly once this was decided.
The Mother Tree asked the Qeishas to prepare to leave at a moment’s notice, and somehow, she seemed anxious to the point of impatience.
Seon-Hyeok soon realized why she was in such a hurry.
“The forest is shrinking.”
One day, Najima came to visit him and sorrowfully told him that the forest’s boundaries were quickly shrinking.
Hearing this, he climbed on Redvern and looked around. It was as the Qeisha said.
When he first arrived at this forest, it was so large that there was no end in sight, but it had greatly shrunk since then.
“Why in the world…”
To Seon-Hyeok, the giant tree still looked healthy and with green foliage, and he thought she would easily last a few more years.
However, the current situation made it seem as though her end was just around the corner.
He could not understand.
Seon-Hyeok went to visit the Mother Tree and ask her himself.
[If I tried to endure as-is, I could have lasted another 10 years. But given that I am destined to return to dirt, what would be the point of hanging on for another decade?]
Perhaps anticipating the reason behind his visit, the Mother Tree calmly explained her perspective.
[I wanted to leave behind something meaningful in my final moments.]
Seon-Hyeok had a hunch the moment he heard these words.
He instinctively realized that the reason for her suddenly shortened lifespan concerned him.
“It can’t be this branch…”
When handing him the living wood, the Mother Tree had told him it contained her life and the essence of the earth.
[That is one of the reasons.]
At the time, he considered it to be little more than a metaphor, but in reality, that was not the case. The Mother Tree’s branch truly did contain her life energy.
[But it is not the only one. You do not have to look so apologetic.]
She tried to comfort him.
[I should have done this a long time ago… I feel as though I was too late.]
She regretted the fact that even if it meant a shortening of her lifespan, bestowing more energy to the seedlings of the next generation earlier would have eased her concerns now.
[But I am glad that I met you.]
She was relieved that the dragon’s companion had appeared in this world. Seon-Hyeok was not sure whether this was due to her memories of the dragons of the past, or for a different reason.
[I am sorry. I will be unable to fulfill your final request.]
He had once asked her if there was a means of rescuing the demon king, Park Sang-Jin, who was completely consumed by the Fragment of Chaos. She apologetically responded that in her current state, nearing death, she lacked the energy to make that a reality.
[The Mothers of the past sacrificed so much, and I do not want my children to suffer like the children left behind by the Mothers of Wind and Water. And so, I intend to pass on all of what is left of my energy to my children.]
She wanted to remain the Mother of the Qeishas and the spirits until the very end, and Seon-Hyeok had no intention of persuading her otherwise for the sake of a foreigner he did not even know.
In any case, the Dark Lord was not even his fated opponent. It was up to Joon-Min, the warrior and master of the Holy Sword, Balmung, to face the Dark Lord.
While the Mother Tree prepared for her death, Seon-Hyeok and the Qeishas were forced to spend busy days getting ready to abandon the forest.
“M, my lord, have you returned?”
The refugees who encountered Seon-Hyeok several times during their stay in the forest found him incredibly difficult to address.
It was not strange.
Unlike the relatively moderate eastern nobles, their western counterparts were known to treat the common people horribly. Thus, the commoners from the west, after suffering for so long, even had nightmares about the nobility.
To them, Seon-Hyeok, in his ornate armor engraved with dragons, was such a high-ranking individual that they dared not even look at him.
They could not even breathe peacefully, worried that he would be offended.
Seon-Hyeok’s heart grew heavy once again when the refugees, rather than being grateful to him for saving them from starvation, remained terrified of him.
However, he did not try to soothe their feelings.
“Prepare to leave as soon as possible.”
There was no time to console them and get on the same page. Right now, it was of paramount importance to leave the forest as soon as possible, even if it meant taking advantage of their past trauma regarding the nobility.
“I am telling you once again, but the protection of the forest will soon disappear. If we are not prepared by then, we will all suffer terrible fates.”
Without such threats, it would not be possible to lead the refugees terrified of stepping out of the forest.
A few days passed, and now, the forest had shrunk enough for even the refugees to notice.
Only after seeing the once-dense forest now contaminated with demonic energy did they begin to believe Seon-Hyeok’s words.
The sluggish refugees hurriedly prepared for their long journey.
“M, my lord. We are ready.”
“We’re ready too.”
A few more days later, both the refugees and the Qeishas finished their preparations, and with perfect timing, the Qeisha entrusted with the Mother Tree’s branch notified him that the weapon production was complete.
“The demons and their hordes are coming!”
And almost as if they were waiting, the demonic creatures and beasts began to flock towards the forest.Previous Chapter Next Chapter