Admiration Is the Emotion Farthest from Understanding
Entwined around the Great Spirit Tree, in a room clinging like a ripened fruit, was a masterfully crafted table and chairs, all placed haphazardly.
These furniture pieces, intricately carved from withered wood using magical craftsmanship, would have been a fortune if brought into human society.
Though the sun had long set, the room was illuminated by a fantastical light. Firefly-like creatures were packed into woven baskets, and makeshift lanterns made of grass skins emitted a glow.
Seated on a chair, Liellamires sensed a presence and lifted her face.
Kurususarina, dressed in priestess attire without any accessories, pushed aside the curtain made of beast leather hanging at the entrance and entered.
“High Priestess, it seems today’s duties went smoothly…”
“Stop it, Liella! If I’m elevated like this even when we’re alone, I’ll lose my mind!”
Standing up to greet her respectfully, Kurususarina showed genuine dislike.
Liellamires stuck out her tongue slightly and pulled a chair, gesturing for Kurususarina to sit.
Former High Priestess Salesaya. Current High Priestess Kurususarina. And one of the tribe’s warriors, Liellamires.
These three, almost of the same age, received priestess education simultaneously during their childhood.
While Salesaya and Kurususarina blossomed in their talents as priestesses, Liellamires, lacking enough aptitude, honed her magic for combat and became a warrior. This resulted in a significant gap in their positions within the tribe, yet the three maintained a somewhat troubled friendship.
In this tribe, the high priestess typically assumed the role between 200 to 300 years old, not only due to accumulated magical training but also for the physical demands of many magical rituals. Thus, the position wasn’t simply given to an elder, but rather to someone physically robust.
From a pot that seemed to have polished white wood into gemstones, Liellamires poured herbal tea into two out of the seven cups prepared, then casually bumped the pot into the remaining three cups.
The water in the pot was conjured with elemental magic, as elves, living in the forest, generally avoided using fire in their daily lives. They compensated for this using magic.
“…Well done. Taking free time is tough too.”
“It’s completely different from being the vice high priestess. I thought I was keeping an eye on Sale, but it was beyond my imagination. Sale’s greatness… no, the greatness of all the previous high priestesses became apparent.”
Sipping the tea with a gentle fragrance, Kurususarina let out a heavy sigh.
“If it were Sale… What would she do in times like these?”
With just that question, Liellamires could deduce 80% of Kurususarina’s inner thoughts.
“About the alliance, maybe?”
“Yes. I deeply respect and trust the Elder Council, but I think they’re wrong about this. I want them to reconsider.”
Liellamires had also overheard about the oracle.
The battle against the “Rose Princess of Hellrage” prioritized over the war with the Imperial Blue Army. The Elder Council hiding the prophecy. And although nothing official was said, there were rumors that the Elder Council had formed an alliance with the “Rose Princess of Hellrage”.
The Elder Council often interpreted vague prophecies arbitrarily, and with the abnormality of being in the midst of a war, Liellamires accepted it with slight surprise, saying, “It’s something drastic.”
“Liellamires. May I ask for your opinion?”
In Kurususarina’s pleading gaze, Liellamires chose her words carefully.
As a warrior on the frontline of the battle, she wanted allies desperately. Moreover, Liellamires had been saved by the forces of the “Rose Princess of Hellrage”, witnessing their incredible power.
“…The ‘Rose Princess of Hellrage’. Without their intervention, I would have died in vain.”
“But, to come in person even in this way, with such great beings. It’s something that cannot be ignored.”
“Yes… even so. The Elder Council decided on an alliance with the ‘Rose Princess of Hellrage’. And… everyone welcomes it.”
Kurususarina seemed convinced that the tribe faced impending doom. But no matter how she tried to convey it, she couldn’t get them to listen.
However, expressing desperation and frustration like shouting due to loneliness was unacceptable as the high priestess.
“Do the Elders think I’m unreliable? That I can’t unite everyone’s hearts?”
Receiving the prophecy from the ancestors and conveying it to everyone in the tribe was the high priestess’s duty.
But what was the point if the high priestess couldn’t get her words heard?
Such distress echoed in Kurususarina’s voice.
“Hey, Kurus. It’s a good thing that you’re serious, but don’t get too overwhelmed. …You’re not Sale, after all.”
They say, “A branch that does not bend will break in the wind.”
While thinking that Kurususarina’s earnestness was her strength, Liellamires also believed it could be burdensome.
However, Kurususarina’s troubles were understandable to Liellamires.
Sale, who became the high priestess fifty years ago, was an overly perfect high priestess.
Always calm yet solemn, every word she spoke was gentle yet weighty. Sale was the epitome of a person of great character.
She was adored and revered by everyone.
If she guided them, regardless of the path the tribe took, everyone’s hearts would be united. That was the impression she gave.
Sale had led the tribe for fifty years, but she died.
She was killed.
And, her soul returned to the ancestors who issued the prophecy, becoming one with the forest.
Death is a return to the flow of great life. It is not a tragedy to be avoided at all costs.
However, Salesaya’s existence should not have ended like this, and at this moment, the tribe needed her.
Kurususarina was staring intently at the water’s surface in her cup.
＊ ＊ ＊
Regarding the contract negotiation between Salesaya and René, two conditions were set as the soul’s price.
Firstly, the killing of the Blue Army soldier (referred to by Chenxi as “Sekichin”) who murdered Salesaya. This was somewhat expected.
Secondly, the killing of 20,000 Blue Army soldiers. This was to make the Blue Army pay in blood for killing the elves, inflicting indescribable sorrow on the surviving parents, children, spouses, and friends.
Salesaya originally wanted to make the condition “repelling the Imperial Blue Army,” but due to the difficulty of specifying the requirements and the possibility of changes in the war situation, it was rejected.
Killing 20,000 soldiers would be a significant blow to the Blue Army, potentially rendering them unable to continue their operations. Even without that, it would be enough as retribution for bloodshed, or so it was deemed.
In a room serving as the front-line base, a compact audience room with a portable bone throne, Salesaya’s spirit and René were present.
The Elven Pristess Princess, with a faint bluish-white appearance even in her spirit form, continued to wear her priestess attire. The priestess attire of the elves consisted of a simple headdress, yet the accessories she should have worn during her lifetime had vanished.
With a gentle and serene demeanor, her features exuded a kind atmosphere. Despite having the slender and tall physique typical of elves, she had flesh in the right places.
Floating in the air, she sat at eye level with René.
“So, um… ‘Projection’? Was it? You knew about that, right?”
In a slightly interrogative tone, when René asked, Salesaya responded softly.
Salesaya’s soul had been bound to René since the moment they entered into the contract.
However, this connection didn’t grant Salesaya any special abilities. She could only share information about what she knew.
Nevertheless, Salesaya remained silent as if she had fallen asleep. Even though she undoubtedly saw René attempting to inquire about the ‘Projection,’ she stayed silent.
It was only now that Salesaya began to speak at length.
She spoke about the phenomenon of the “Projection”, where the ancestors returned to the forest in a temporary form, and the oracle to defeat René.
“May I ask why you remained silent?”
‘I may not have the right to introduce myself now… I once held the position of High Priestess, overseeing everyone. Even though I rejected the flow of life and was ready to offer this soul as a sacrifice to you, there is something I cannot abandon.’
Salesaya remained unwavering.
She calmly and gently stated her position.
‘I don’t have the right to remain silent now, but… Defeating you is the prophecy handed down from the ancestors. Considering what might happen if everyone chose to fight against you, I judged that providing information would not be wise. Besides, my cooperation with you is not included in the terms of the ‘contract,’ right?’
“Yes, unfortunately, that’s correct.”
Salesaya smiled cheerfully.
While radiating an aura of pure innocence, Salesaya proved to be quite a difficult puzzle.
‘But now, it doesn’t matter. I’m delighted that our tribe has allied with you. It turns out, unexpectedly, that my selfish desires and everyone’s decision are pointing in the same direction.’
“…Stop calling it selfish desires.”
René sensed a hint of guilt from Salesaya.
Even at this point, she couldn’t fully affirm her own grudge.
René found it frustrating.
“You had a reason to hold a grudge. So, you did. It’s as simple as that.”
‘Is that so? …Perhaps, yes.’
As if trying to feel a heartbeat that no longer existed, Salesaya placed her hand on her chest.
‘I’ve always disciplined myself as the High Priestess. Without harboring grudges, jealousy, or anger… aspiring to be a good guide… But now… even though holding a grudge feels as painful as being burned by flames, for some reason, it feels very liberating.’
No longer the High Priestess, Salesaya smiled sadly.
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