Episode 204. The Legacy of the Spirit Kings (3)

No matter how severely the boundaries had shrunk, the inside of the forest was a world separate and thoroughly isolated from the outside. Unlike the territories outside blackened by malice, the forest remained lush and peaceful.

However, all of this changed in an instant.

When the Mother Tree’s death was accelerated, the silent Qeishas suddenly gathered in one place.

“Push back the demonic beings.”

There was no further explanation. The fairies did not ask any questions to the elder Qeisha giving the command. They wordlessly took out bows as tall as themselves.

Tug.

They pulled the straightened bows and secured their bowstrings. With that single, simple movement, the previously unarmed Qeishas finished their battle preparations.

The fairies sitting in the forest’s shade singing beautiful songs no longer existed here.

The Qeishas equipped with their bows were expert hunters and ruthless fighters. The eyes visible through their masks were fear-inducing.

Tap. Tap.

Having prepared for battle, the Qeishas gathered in groups and disappeared to the forest’s outskirts.

“I’ll help.”

After silently watching this unfold, Seon-Hyeok told Najima of his intent to join in the battle.

Najima shook her head.

“Please protect the Mother with the rest of the tribe.”

“Will that be all right?”

Hearing the burdensome cries from outside the forest was enough for him to get a sense of the aggression of the incoming horde. It was clear the fighting capacity and numbers of enemies would be tremendous - beyond anything he had ever experienced.

Despite this, Najima refused his help.

“This is the Mother’s forest. As long as we’re here, we won’t lose - even if the Dark Lord himself comes.”

She was not feigning confidence. She truly believed that the Qeishas were enough to repel the onslaught of demonic beings.

“But anyways, what should we do? Mahomed’s participating in the battle too.”

Mahomed was the Qeisha entrusted with the Mother Tree’s living branch. It seemed that the dexterous fairy was among the Qeishas heading to the outskirts of the forest after hearing news about the demonic army’s invasion.

“I can get it when he comes back.”

Seon-Hyeok was curious about the finished spear, but considering he was excluded from the battle, there was no reason for him to be impatient.

“You can look forward to it. I only got a glimpse of it, but it certainly looks the part.”

He wished Najima a safe return as she headed into the treacherous battlefield without losing her composure.

“Then I’ll be waiting.”

“I’ll see you when I get back.”

WIth that, she disappeared towards the edge of the forest with the other Qeishas.

“Redvern!”

When she was completely out of sight, Seon-Hyeok called Redvern and got on. He flew up high to observe the situation outside the forest.

“What the hell!”

He had somewhat expected this. Though the forest was experiencing a sharp decline, the Mother Tree had been completely protecting the area up until this point. There was no scenario in which only a small enemy force would be present.

But the number of demonic beings was so far beyond his expectations.

The demonic horde completely surrounding the outskirts of the forest easily numbered in the tens of thousands.

It was as if a black wave was slowly moving forward and surrounding the forest. Even more worrying was that there were several demons with ominous auras gathered among the masses.

Will they really be okay?

Seon-Hyeok belatedly began to worry about the Qeishas.

The Dark Lord’s army consisted of both demonic creatures and tens of thousands of lesser beings. In contrast, the number of Qeishas sent to fend them off numbered less than 1000.

His worries did not last long.

Whistle!

A loud noise was heard from the edge of the forest, and something that looked like a ray of light was fired towards the demonic horde.

Ack!

The demonic beings shrieked as they twisted their bodies. However, their reactions were too slow.

The Qeisha archers did not give their enemies a chance to escape, and their arrows loudly whistled through the air as they pierced through the demonic beings.

The power of the arrows was overwhelming.

In an instant, hundreds of lesser beings were exterminated. Each arrow only lost its momentum after penetrating a minimum of five and upwards of dozens of enemies.

“Ah…”

Seeing this, Seon-Hyeok realized why Najima was so confident.

The Qeisha archers were powerful beyond his imagination. He almost wondered why they could not transport the Mother Tree’s seedlings on their own despite possessing such power.

“In terms of penetrative force, it exceeds that of senior knights…”

It was only one attack, but it seemed to Seon-Hyeok that the Qeishas would be more than capable of crossing the demon king’s territory.

[Seems like you’re surprised.]

The Mother Tree spoke to him as he watched the Qeishas massacre the demonic beings in a daze.

[Perhaps it would be different after I completely lose my strength and the forest disappears. Right now, they have more than enough strength to deal with the enemies flocking here.]

Come to think of it, Najima had said something similar. She commented that so long as they were in the forest, she was confident they would not lose, even if it was against the Dark Lord himself.

It seemed she was not bluffing.

“That’s incredible.”

Seon-Hyeok exclaimed as he saw a demonic being collapse after turning into a hedgehog from all of the Qeisha arrows.

The Qeishas never once left the forest. They meticulously remained at the forest’s boundary and endlessly fired their arrows.

The majority of demonic beings were unable to invade the lush territory protected by the Mother Tree’s strength, and the occasional one that crossed into the forest was immediately disposed of by a rain of arrows.

After watching the battle for a while from the sky, Seon-Hyeok realized that the Qeishas truly did not need his assistance and returned to the ground.

“Why did you entrust the seedlings to me?”

Standing in front of the Mother Tree, Seon-Hyeok asked her why such powerful Qeishas were not tasked with moving her seedlings to the east.

[They cannot do it.]

She explained that they were only able to exert such oppressive strength because they were in her territory.

It was a simple explanation, but Seon-Hyeok quickly understood that the Qeishas’ strength was directly related to the Mother Tree herself.

Having heard her explanation, Seon-Hyeok quietly looked up at the giant tree.

“Are you okay?”

Even the last time he saw her, the Mother Tree looked green and lively like a tree capable of existing for one, or even ten, more millennia. Now, however, she seemed powerless.

[Nothing serious will happen until you leave.]

He did not think the Mother Tree could last much longer, given her yellowed leaves and weakly hanging branches.

“Hm…”

But surprisingly, there was one particularly lively section on the huge body of the otherwise lifeless and crumbling Mother Tree.

“That…?”

There were three small and large, white flower buds still yet to bloom. These flowers shyly poking out of the Mother Tree seemed delicate and mysterious.

However, Seon-Hyeok felt more uneasy than awed by their presence. The buds looked as though they grew by consuming all of the giant tree’s vitality.

[These are the Eternal Flowers that the Mothers of the Earth can only create in the time leading up to their death. My predecessor was able to produce six such flowers, but I am lacking even in this aspect and was only able to foster three.] [1]

The Mother Tree explained that these pure white flowers were the most valuable legacy the Mothers of the Earth could leave behind before passing away, and that the flowers contained the purest essence of the earth.

“It can’t be that the demonic beings are invading now because...”

[The demonic horde flocking here now was probably sent here by the servant of chaos coveting the Eternal Flowers.]

Seon-Hyeok had thought it was strange.

He imagined it would be far easier to invade the forest after the Mother Tree passed away and returned to the earth, and so, he had been confused why they would be impatient and willing to suffer such heavy losses.

But he now realized it was not that the Dark Lord could not wait for the Mother Tree’s end - he simply decided not to.

[The fully-bloomed Eternal Flowers are the very essence of the Spirit King, but their energy is not insignificant simply because they have not yet bloomed. I am certain they are trying to take them away before anyone else can.]

“Do I need to take responsibility for those Eternal Flowers as well?”

The Mother Tree did not respond, but Seon-Hyeok knew that her silence was affirmation.

He could not help but sigh. The seedlings were already enough for the Dark Lord’s forces to rush at him, but now he was even responsible for the legacy of the Spirit King herself.

He could not be sure, but he felt leaving the demon king’s realm just became several times harder than he anticipated.

Ugh. What a mess.

All he hoped for was to transport the Mother Tree’s seedlings and help the Qeishas relocate to strengthen the Adenburg Kingdom, but now, he found himself involved in the fight between the dying Spirit King and the Dark Lord.

In addition, he bore responsibility for tens of thousands of refugees.

It was clear it would be a hard road ahead.

“Joon-Min should have come here, not me.”

Seon-Hyeok wished Joon-Min, the warrior and the mortal enemy of the Dark Lord, was here.

“Okay. I will take responsibility for those as well.”

Nonetheless, he worked up his determination and agreed to hold onto the Eternal Flowers.

[Ah, you didn’t know. One of the three flowers is yours.]

“Huh?”

What was she saying now?

Seon-Hyeok looked on in bewilderment.

It was absurd that the most valuable legacy of the Spirit Kings, one of only three Eternal Flowers, was being given to an outsider like him rather than the Qeishas.

[You will be given the smallest and frailest of the three flowers, but it will be more than enough to break the curse on those you care about.]

“Ah…”

Only then did Seon-Hyeok realize that the Eternal Flower was the only cure for the shortened lifespans allowed to those of House Adenstein.

He also realized that the Mother Tree had intended to leave him with those burdensome flowers from the very beginning.

***

The battle between the Qeisha tribe and the demonic beings continued without stopping for three days and nights.

The fairies reattached their bowstrings whenever they snapped, and they snapped branches to use in place of arrows whenever they ran out.

The fourth day dawned. 

The Qeishas fired their arrows until their fingers were in tatters and stained red with blood. By this point, the hands of all of the Qeishas participating in the battle were all completely bloodied.

Despite their blistering attacks, there were countless enemies still remaining.

New enemies flocked to replace all the beings the Qeishas slaughtered.

The battle showed no signs of ending.

It was neither the Qeishas nor the demonic horde that ended the fighting.

Crash.

The sound of leaves rustling could be heard even in the midst of the fierce battle, and the Qeishas busy dealing with the enemy immediately lowered their bows.

“M, Mother…”

They left behind the demonic beings relentlessly streaming into the forest and rushed to the center of the forest.

[The time has come.]

The dying Mother Tree welcomed them.

[May the new forest my children cultivate be bountiful for all time.]

She gave her children her final blessing, and the Qeishas wordlessly sobbed as they awaited their Mother’s end.

[And may the dragon’s companion always shine brilliantly.]

As soon as she finished speaking, the whole forest became bathed in light. When the lingering light finally dissipated, there were no signs of the demonic beings swarming the outskirts of the forest.

And with that, the Mother Tree grew silent.

There were three fully-bloomed white flowers and a small seedling beneath the wordless giant tree.

“The Mother told us to follow you.”

Perhaps they heard the Mother Tree’s will in her final moments? The Qeisha elder approached Seon-Hyeok to speak.

“Get ready to leave. We must depart the forest immediately.”

All of the demonic forces invading the forest were annihilated by the energy of the Spirit King the Mother Tree unleashed with the last of her strength. However, Seon-Hyeok felt an ominous energy fast approaching and ordered the others to quickly evacuate.

“It’s late, but here is the finished product.”

As the Qeishas were finishing their preparations, Mahomed, the Qeisha entrusted with the Mother Tree’s living branch, came to hand him a single spear.


1. Literally ‘thousand-year flower’

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