Chapter 212 – We Were Tested!?
After we extinguished the forest fire, we headed towards the palace of the tree king, with Beruna.
“Such a place exists…”
Rienna said as she gazed up at the giant tree in front of her.
Before her eyes, was a great, stout tree. It was about the size of a castle.
“It is not as big as our World Tree, but it is wonderful in its own way.”
“Aye. It is incredibly wide.”
I agreed, and then Baris stared at the tree with deep interest.
“Yes. But it also looked a little strange. Could it be that…”
Baris began to say, and then our guide, Beruna, nodded.
“Yes, this tree is a rootstock of a World Tree. When the original World Tree was burning away, our ancestors managed to save the root alone.”
“So it’s a stump. But there are branches and leaves on the top. Did a new World Tree grow there?”
I asked, but Beruna shook her head to the side.
“No, the World Tree never returned… Those are all different plants.”
Rienna nodded and then answered.
“It looks quite similar to the top part of our World Tree.”
“Yes, because there are also other trees and flowers growing there. Perhaps it has a special power.”
But I didn’t sense anything like magic energy, like I did with the World Tree. Perhaps there was some power in the entire forest that prevented me from detecting it.
In the meantime, Baris seemed to be curious about one thing that Beruna had said.
“So it was burned down. Was it an accidental fire?”
“No. A World Tree can hardly be burned down in a day. There was a battle that was waged for a long time, and its fires ate away at it…or so I have heard.”
“I see. How deplorable…”
Beruna nodded her head.
“Currently, we live in only this part of the forest. Of course, I would be lying if our ancestors were not partly to blame, for being so reclusive.”
And then Haines muttered.
“If they were battling, there must be an enemy…”
And judging by the recent incident, the Vader Dragon Kingdom must be one of those enemies.
Beruna did not answer that question, but said instead,
“In any case, we will go towards the hot spring first.”
“Ah, uh. Thank you.”
And so we followed after Beruna as she headed to the giant tree.
There were several holes inside of it, and they acted as windows and entrances. We went through an especially large one, which was used as a gate.
The moment we passed into the giant tree, Haines let out a gasp of amazement.
“It’s amazing…such a place…”
Within was a space that was decked with plants and flowers of many colors. Luscious grass grew like a carpet, while vines and flowers hung from the ceiling like a tapestry.
“I suppose you don’t use many tools.”
“We have some made from branches or other plants. However, we lack the means to acquire metals.”
As Beruna said, there was hardly any metal in sight here. Even outside, there hadn’t been anyone who was carrying metal weapons. Their arrowheads were not made of metal, but were just sharpened wood.
It seemed like they had a great fear of fire, and that was necessary for smithing, and so they would not be able to acquire metal.
On the other hand, that also meant the metal we had would be very appealing to them.
“If you ask Mappa… Hey, Mappa…”
He was rolling around on the grass. It seemed to be very comfortable.
“You really do have terrible manners… Hey, Mappa!”
Haines said as he picked Mappa up off the ground.
Beruna saw this with an amused smile and said,
“After bathing, I will take you to a place where you can roll around on the ground. Now, come this way.”
Beruna then led us, and we went through a door that seemed like it would take us deeper in.
And then we came out into an area that was filled with steam. There were two holes near the back, and beyond them, I could see bodies of water that were like lakes. This appeared to be a bathing area.
“Mappa, wait! You have to wash your body first!”
Haines chased after Mappa, who ran straight towards the bathing room.
“Everyone, please come this way. Ms. Rienna, over here.”
Rienna tilted her head in puzzlement at Beruna’s words.
“Huh? But we would have to use two, and I do not mind being with the others.”
But I understood, and so I said,
“Well, it’s a rare opportunity, so you should use that one with Shiel. Besides, Haines and Baris are so big, and they might get in your way.”
“If that’s the case…”
Rienna looked like she wasn’t quite satisfied with this, but she quickly picked up Shiel and went to the bathing room.
Beruna was staring at me oddly.
And so I answered frantically.
“N-no, I always bathe separately. But the others, they generally bathe together.”
“What an interesting custom… Of course, perhaps we are the ones who look odd to you people. Well, take your time.”
“Aye, thank you.”
Beruna bowed her head and then left us.
“Well, Baris. I guess we better go inside too.”
I said as I watched Haines wash Mappa.
“Yes. Let’s do that.”
And so we took off our clothes and headed to the palace bathing room.
Hot water poured from the walls like fountains, and after washing myself underneath them, I soaked in the bathtub.
Traditions that meant separating based on gender when bathing… Perhaps Beruna and these Sylphion had been influenced by humans to a degree.
Well, it could be more of an influence from the Vader people…
I asked Baris, who was soaking in the water next to me.
“Baris, what do you think about these Sylphion people?”
“Hmmm… I am still formulating a hypothesis, but my guess is that they are people whose lands were shrunk during the power struggle with the Vader Dragon Kingdom, and this forest is now their final fortress.”
“Yes. However, fighting over territory is very common among both humans and monsters. I don’t think that we should interfere without considering it very carefully.”
For instance, if we offered them Mado Armors like we did with Arancia, the Sylphions might attack and annihilate Vader with it.
Haines opened his mouth while he soaked up to his shoulders in the hot water.
“In other words, we should have some limitations when it comes to our interactions with them. We don’t want to make an enemy of Vader without knowing more.”
“Yes. But we have no idea what they are doing. It would be best to gather as much information as we can on them… Uh, Mappa?”
For some time now, Mappa had been standing still and staring hard at the wall.
Finally, Baris said,
“You do not need to hide, Ms. Beruna.”
I thought I heard a voice echo from the wall, and then our guide, Beruna, appeared.
However, she was not wearing any clothes, and so I averted my eyes.
“How long were you there!?”
Haines said what I had been thinking.
However, Baris appeared to be very calm as he said,
“From the beginning, she was just concealed. It is no surprise to me that she would continue to monitor us, even while we are bathing.”
“You knew that, and yet you came?”
Baris nodded at Beruna’s words.
“Yes. And to be honest, it brought me no pleasure to trick you. However, you have now heard the feelings of our Lord Heal. People become honest when they are relaxing in a place like this… At the very least, you can now see that we have no hostile feelings towards you?”
Beruna bowed deeply.
“Yes. I am sorry for any feelings of discomfort that I caused.”
“Well, it is difficult for both sides to trust the other. I can understand your actions… Lord Heal, I am also sorry for not saying anything to you.”
I shook my head at Baris.
“No, I never had anything to hide. You do not need to apologize to me.”
And then I turned to Beruna, who continued to bow her head.
“Beruna, you heard how we truly feel. We are not hostile and have no intention of getting involved. But…we would like to know more about you and the surrounding territories.”
“Much of it is as you have already guessed, but you will likely hear the details from the mouth of the Tree King. And then…”
Beruna looked like she wanted to say something, but she shook her head.
“In any case, I apologize for my lack of manners… But, uh, as a token of my apology…”
Seeing something in the way she flushed, I answered immediately.
“That is fine. More importantly, allow us to relax here a little longer. The hot water is much better than expected.”
“Indeed. There is a scent that must be from the leaves and sap of the World Tree.”
“If that is the case…please excuse me.”
Beruna bowed her head and then quickly left the room.
Haines watched her go and said,
“Judging by the way she spoke, I think this Tree King is going to ask you for something.”
“Haines. This Tree King is probably listening to us even now. You should be careful that you don’t say anything rude.”
“Ah, of course… Though, I do not know how I feel about someone who eavesdrops…”
Haines said in a dissatisfied voice.
And then a Mandragora came towards us while carrying a tray stacked with delicious looking fruit. It seemed like it wanted us to eat it.
Mappa wasted no time in grabbing some. It must have been delicious, as his face grew slack.
“Well, they do seem to be apologetic about it. I think we should let the matter wash away, just like this water.”
“You have a way with words… And I do want to stay on friendly terms with them. So I suppose I’ll forget…”
“Indeed. And if they are in need of help, I want to do what I can.”
After that, we finished bathing, and were led to the audience hall of the Tree King.