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“The silver clan itself is not the problem.”
The oldest of the mothers gestured with her hands and everyone quieted and she remarked.
“When over a 100 lycanthropes attack us, we have nothing to fear. Our husbands and young men will easily suppress them.”
The mothers nodded their heads in agreement.
“But the problem we have to think about is not that. We have to take a bigger picture.”
The eldest of the mothers keeps speaking.
“I am talking about the continuous bad omens that keep happening to us.”
At those words, the other mothers look surprised.
“Yes, that is true, Ellis’ kidnapping not too long ago and also, the humans have been trespassing more frequently.”
“Lycanthropes from the East, and humans from the north…”
“That is not all. From other directions, recently, other monsters have been frequently creeping in.”
“There is but only reason bad omens keep happening to us.”
“It is indeed the tree of life…”
Mumbled one mother as a tear glistened from her eye.
As she says so, the other mothers quickly halt her.
“Yes, this man is a friend, but are you really going to mention things regarding the tree of life in front of a human?”
The mother realized she misspoke and shook her head.
“I’m sorry. My mistake.”
What is this?
Something I’m not supposed to hear?
Thinking back, Jake did tell me that I was not to go near the tree of life.
Even after being deemed a friend, that did not change.
Everyone is on edge about this so I pretend I didn’t hear it and move on.
Then the oldest mother asked me a question.
“Human, let me ask you one thing.”
“Yes, you may.”
“What is your reason for having come to us?”
That moment, my mind recalls my answer.
I had expected that I would receive a question like this.
Because the reason being that I just want to be friends is a thin reason, even from my perspective.
“The place I used to live was a district governed by Viscount Bastian.”
I use the story I heard from Odin in Copenhagen.
“I was sick of being persecuted from Viscount Bastian’s tyranny and left. I would rather go to a place without humans and be one with nature and in that thought, I went to the forests.”
“In my ignorance, I thought that if I had spirits, I would be safe so I headed into what is called the forest of the dead where I was attacked by lycanthrope.”
“So you ran away and ended up here.”
Said the eldest mother.
I nodded my head.
“I barely escaped the forest but I didn’t want to return to the place I once lived. Then I recalled that you all lived on the brown mountain and thought perhaps I could be friends here and came.”
The mothers nodded their heads.
Them seemed to like the idea that I grew tired of humans and wanted to live as one with nature.
Well, it is a story made tailored to elf culture.
But the eldest mother looked at me and made a strange smile.
Her smile made me feel uneasy.
I felt like a kid that is nervous about getting a hidden report card found out.
“… what do you mean?”
“As you have heard, from north, east, south, and west, all directions, bad omens have befallen us. Even from the center of our own village.”
The village center.
She is talking about the tree of life.
“And in this time, you have come to us claiming to be a friend. I am curious as to whether you are a bad omen for us or a good one.”
“Do not misunderstand because I say this. We do not suspect you.”
“I understand that I have yet to prove my loyalty to the mothers.”
“Do not worry about that. You have already proved it.”
The other mothers nodded and agreed.
I have proved my trust?
Is she talking about what I told them about the lycanthrope?
Was that enough to earn their trust and establish myself as a friend?
The eldest mother spoke.
“It is the spirits.”
I stuttered for a second.
In the end, it’s the spirits? As long as the spirits are cute?
“You think it strange that we took you as a friend just after seeing your spirits.”
“… Honestly, yes.”
At my words, the mothers laughed.
The eldest mother made an age defying charismatic laugh as she spoke
“But we are correct. We can tell the summoner based on the spirits.”
“Amongst humans, there are rare spirit summoners. Of course, not all summoners are good. I have heard of despicable humans who use spirits for bad things.”
“But the nature of the summoner is reflected in the spirit.”
“The appearance of a spirit is a mirror that reflects the heart of its summoner.”
To a surprised me, the eldest mother’s explanation continues.
“If you were an evil person, your spirits would reflect that nature and take an aggressive form. Will you show us your spirits once more?”
“Yes. Sylph, Kasa.”
I summon the two spirits.
The cat of wind and the puppy of fire appear and elate the mothers.
The eldest mother extends her hands. Sylph and Kasa approach her and behave adorably.
The eldest mother picked up Sylph and hugged her in her embrace and spoke.
“See this. See what cute and lovable spirits they are?”
I am well aware how cute they are.
The eldest mother continued to speak..
“You were lonely?”
I suddenly feel like I’ve been punched in the heart.
“You will have lived a lonely life up to now. I am sure you must have wanted comfort from someone.”
My voice was shaking and I could not go on speaking. Many thoughts cross my mind. Things buried under a deep sleep, awoke.
The lonely days I spent for years while I studied for the civil exam.
One by one, getting jobs, getting married, the friends that disappeared from my side for one reason or another…
That was all met with a sudden death.
My destiny of having to fight to live.
I returned to the harbor of my family, but no one knows my agony.
I have to fight alone.
‘Is that why Sylph came to me?’
I look to Sylph. The eldest mother who was holding Sylph and adoring her, handed her to me.
“Here, she is yours.”
“She is a dear friend that came to you to comfort you.”
Sylph jumped into my lap.
She came up onto my right shoulder and rubbed her face into my cheek.
Kasa quickly jumped atop my left shoulder and wagged his tail and does his aegyo.
The mothers looked at the spirits and laughed.
‘So that was it.’
You guys came to me in your forms to comfort me.
… I had been lonely. From a long time before.
Embarrassingly, tears came to me.
The eldest mother looked at me with a benevolent smile.
I am thankful to her for having taught me the meaning of the spirits, this precious truth. I want to thank her somehow. Not because of the exam, but from my heart.
‘There is no coincidence.’
It was no accident that I got the spirit summons, nor that I got Sylph and Kasa.
Then, nothing so far has been an accident for me.
At the end of my thoughts, I spoke.
“Excuse me, but there is something I wish to ask you.”
“What problem has arisen with the tree of life? Is the tree of life ill?”
If that is the case, all the skills I have are not by chance, but an arrangement of the gods.
The faces of the mothers that had looks at me and my spirits in happiness, all turn dark.
The eldest mother nodded her head.
“Yes, your guess is correct. For decades, the tree of life’s health has been deteriorating. We did not want to believe it, and as long as it didn’t wither on the outside, there was no definite way to tell, so we tried our best to deny it. But the time has come for us to accept it. The tree of life is growing weaker.”
The sadness is evident on the mothers’ faces.
A few of them are shedding tears. It is because the tree of life is a very important existence to them.
“I do not know anything about the tree of life. I know neither what it means to all of your nor what will happen if it disappears.”
“The tree of life is the foundation that maintains nature. To us elves that love and live with nature, is it like a parent.”
“Even if the tree of life disappears, us elves can still live. But we will have lost a great meaning. And in more realistic terms, the energy of the spirits will become weaker.”
“The tree of life is the great basis of nature, and as a great life force, it gives strength to the nature surrounding it. It is the same for spirits. If the tree of life disappears, the spirits will get weaker.”
Listening to it all, the tree of life is to the elves that live in nature, their very identity.
“When that tree of life withers at the end, is there no other way?”
I was worried it was a rude question, but she is undisturbed by it.
“That isn’t the case. We can find a new tree of life and nourish it.”
“So the seed to a tree of life exists somewhere?”
“It is somewhere. Because every tree has the possibility of becoming a tree of life.”
The eldest mother points to the great tree of life a little way away.
“What tree does that look to you?”
“Um, I’m not sure. Other than it being the tree of life…”
“It is called a zelkova tree.”
I am shocked.
A zelkova tree grew this great and large as a building?
It is unbelievable.
There are tons of zelkova trees on Earth too!
The eldest mother smiles and speaks.
“Of course, not all zelkova trees grow that large and become a tree of life. Out of all the trees, those that can grow into a tree of life are very few.”
“Then we have to find a tree that has the potential to grow into a tree of life.”
“Finding it is not hard. They are few but we can find them. On this brown mountain, there are a couple that we have found.”
“Then can you not grow those into them?”
“We already are. The young men scout the east and north but our husbands care for those trees every day in the east and south.”
The eldest mother sighs.
“But because they have potential does not mean they will become a tree of life. We can put our heart and soul into nurturing them but in the end, most die before becoming a tree of life.”
According to the continuing story, 30 years ago, a pine tree that almost became the tree of life withered and died.
60 years ago, and even 200 years ago in her youth, the same thing happened.
‘This is it!’
This is the real exam!
If I hadn’t found this and even if I cleared the exam, I would have only received a very small amount of karma.
At my smile, the eldest mother looked at me doubtfully.
Hearing a regrettable story and then smiling, of course it’s weird.
“I am not sure if this will help. Would you look?”
Then, I make what chairman Park Jin-seong goes crazy for, the flame of life.
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