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After I ended my call with Fina, I unsummoned the Bears and headed back to the village.
I had to report about where I built my Bear House and also wanted to see if they had found out anything about the Sacred Tree.
When I got to the village, I headed to Sanya-san’s home, where I ran into Ruimin.
「Yuna-san, where did you go?」
Ruimin said, sounding a bit angry.
Why would she be angry, though?
「I told you that I was going to look for a place to set up the Bear House, didn’t I?」
「You did, but I looked for you all around the village and couldn’t find you. I even asked a few people, but nobody saw you.」
Well, I had sneaked out of the village, so…
「There’s no way you walked around the village without anybody noticing you, especially when trying to set up your house! Just where did you go?!」
I hadn’t done anything wrong, but was still getting interrogated for some reason.
「I left the village to look for a good spot.」
「You weren’t in the village?!」
It seemed like Ruimin had thought I was going to set up the Bear House within the village.
Well, I never told anyone that I was setting up the house outside the village.
There was a possibility that someone would try to stop me.
「Where did you build it, then?」
「Next to the upper stream of the river, I guess? I didn’t get official permission from Mumuroot-san yet, though, so I’m not sure if that spot is okay.」
「By the river’s source? Why there of all places…」
「Because the Bear House stands out too much. Besides, it’s closer than you think.」
If I ran from there, I would be able to get here in only a couple of minutes, thanks to my Bear Suit, of course.
I didn’t know how much it would take other people, though.
「By the way, did Sanya-san and the others come back yet?」
Ruimin tilted her head before answering.
They hadn’t returned yet, huh.
I really wanted to learn more about the Sacred Tree, though.
The barrier concerned me, so I was a bit disappointed I couldn’t hear more about it.
I guessed would have to wait to get the official permission for the Bear House location and learn more about what was going on. As I was about to head towards Sanya-san’s house to wait for them there, Ruimin noticed her sister at the village entrance.
They came back at a perfect timing.
I was going to go up to chat but stopped in my tracks when I noticed they all wore grim expressions and seemed to be very worn out.
The situation seemed to be worse than we thought.
Ruimin also noticed something was wrong and began to worry.
Should I even be here, in a situation like this?
I didn’t know if I should butt into their problems when I was just an outsider.
I was also of a different race, so that could be considered needless meddling.
Still, if I didn’t at least ask, I wouldn’t find out where I stood.
If they refused, I wouldn’t probe into it any further, but if they asked me for help, I would be willing to lend a hand if at all possible.
「How bad is it, Sanya-san?」
She didn’t even notice me until I spoke up.
「It must have been bad, right?」
Sanya-san looked at Mumuroot-san and Arthur-san, then nodded.
「The situation is worse than we thought; it might even be the worst we’ve ever had.」
「And, did you figure out why it is happening?」
「I’m sorry, Yuna-chan, but I don’t know how much I should tell you. Oh, it’s not because you’re not an elf. We’re going to tell the whole village at some point.」
Sanya-san said and sighed.
I was even more curious now. How bad was it exactly?
「Ruimin, it’s getting late already, so can you keep Yuna-chan company for me?」
「Okay, I will.」
After that, Sanya-san and the other two went towards Mumuroot-san’s house.
In a situation like this, I really shouldn’t bother Mumuroot-san with my Bear House permit.
Ruimin and I were left behind, so we decided to go to Sanya-san’s house and relax there.
There I told Ruimin and Talia-san all about my Bear House I just set up and let them know I would be spending the night there instead.
「That’s fine, but have dinner with us before you go, okay?」
I accepted Talia-san’s generous offer, and just as she was about done cooking, Sanya-san and Arthur-san returned, their expressions looking even more grim than before.
「Father, Onee-san, something must have happened, right?」
Ruimin finally popped the question mid-dinner. As expected of her, she was able to completely ignore even such a bad atmosphere.
Arthur-san stopped eating and slowly responded.
「We will have to tell this to the villagers sooner or later, so I guess I can tell you what we know, or better think we know.」
Everybody nodded to Arthur-san’s words.
「Is it okay for me to hear this? If not, I’ll leave the room.」
「It’s fine, you can stay. However, what I’m about to tell you must not leave the room.」
I had no intention of spreading panic, so I accepted his request with a nod.
「In short, the Sacred Tree got infected by a Parasitic Tree.」
I had seen such tree-type monsters appear in games before.
They would infect other trees in the forest, steal all their nutrients, and eventually take their place.
When the process was complete, there was no way to tell whether the tree was parasitic or not, but when those Parasitic Trees ran out of nutrients, they would start eating animals, monsters, and even people who got lost. They used long branches or vines to catch their prey, and then consume them.
「Are the surrounding trees also parasitized?」
It would make sense if that was the case, and it would also mean the area was more dangerous than we could tell at a first glance. The trees might even attack us out of nowhere.
「No. From what we gathered, the surrounding trees are still fine」
Arthur-san explained, and Sanya-san nodded in agreement.
「Then, how could the Sacred Tree be parasitized?」
「We don’t know. Maybe a seed from somewhere else invaded our forest and ingrained itself upon the tree. It could have been done by a bird, but there are also countless other possibilities. Instead of trying to find out how, we have to figure out how to deal with it, and so far we got nothing.」
How could one possibly deal with something like that.
Defeating it might work, and the best way to deal with plant-based monsters was to burn them.
Sadly, that would also mean destroying the Sacred Tree.
「Still, how did nobody notice it until now?」
If somebody had just noticed earlier, then there might have been a way to prevent the damage in time.
「To enter the barrier, we needed three people with our bloodline; that’s why we had decided to have to Sanya come home first. Doing that backfired, howerer. We should have taken Ruimin, or even Luca, and went to check on the tree straight away.」
Well, hindsight is 20/20, so their actions were logical at the time.
The Sacred Tree had protected the Elf Village and itself for more than a thousand years, so who could possibly even considered that it was infected by a Parasitic Tree, which caused its power to wane.
The chief, Mumuroot-san, thought that it was just a case of the barrier failing and becoming weaker, and based on history that conclusion made sense.
「Onee-chan, what is going to happen to the Sacred Tree, then?」
「At this rate, the Sacred Tree will lose all of its power and the barrier will disappear.」
After that statement, no one spoke for a while.
At least we now knew that the reason the barrier had weakened was because of the tree itself.
「Father, is it possible to remove the parasite?」
Arthur-san responded by shaking his head.
「We tried all sorts of things: used magic, cut it with a sword… Yet, nothing worked. The Parasitic Tree just absorbed the Sacred Tree’s magic and regenerate itself.」
If it could regenerate that easily, didn’t that mean there was nothing we could do?
「We racked our brains for a solution but couldn’t come up with anything practical.」
「So it’s just impractical? Doesn’t that mean there is at least a small chance?」
Someone famous once said: If the probability isn’t zero, that means there is a chance.
(Note: Anybody have an idea who said it? I didn’t find anything on google.)
Sanya-san shook her head, however.
「The barrier that protects the Sacred Tree is in the way. The only ones who can enter the barrier are the chief and his blood relatives, which limits the amount of people who can even do anything to help the Sacred Tree.」
Yeah, that certiantly limited out options.
「Also, even though the Parasitic Tree is weak to fire, us elves cannot use fire magic, so… we’re out of options…」
It sure sounded like there was nothing they could do. They couldn’t get outside help nor was their wind magic strong enough to deal with it on their own.
They couldn’t even exploit Parasitic Tree’s weakness to fire.
If I could somehow enter the barrier, I could burn it with my Bear Fire Magic… No, using that would surely destroy the entire Sacred Tree, so I couldn’t even do that.
「Wait, if the Sacred Tree’s barrier has gotten weaker, doesn’t that mean other people might be able to enter too now?」
After all, the outside barrier was letting monsters in, so maybe the inside one would let people in as well?
「From what we’ve seen, it doesn’t actually look any weaker.」
「Well, to begin with, the Sacred Tree put up a barrier to protect itself from its surroundings. We elves only borrow that power to build our own barrier. The Parasitic Tree seems to have hijacked the barrier. Grandpa and Father both say that it’s possible even our family might not be able to enter it anymore.」
Things took an even more troublesome turn, huh.
「We plan on going there again tomorrow to try some other things, like flaming arrows and oil.」
Flaming arrows sounded a bit crude, but the oil? Was the Sacred Tree going to live through this?
Hmm, this setup is a bit contrived
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