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Chapter 316 - Towards the World Tree (3)

    Chapter 316 - Towards the World Tree (3)

    'Ah, that's it. The seed of the world tree,' Theodore remembered this fact belatedly.

    It had been several years already. Edwin had come to him after saving Ellenoa and given him a gift from Elvenheim. That was the seed of the world tree which Mitra had eaten. Theodore's gaze naturally shifted to the top of Mitra's head. The sprout of the world tree, the source of all life in the Great Forest, was growing from her small head. If that bud was recognized as the world tree, then it was no wonder that Mitra had power in the Great Forest.

    The world tree, Yggdrasil-in the Age of Mythology, it connected three dimensions and had influence in nine dimensions. Compared to its prime, this forest was nothing more than a bunch of weeds. Even if it was just a sprout, there was nothing in the forest that could rebel against Mitra, who borrowed Yggdrasil's name.

    [Theo, did I do well?] Mitra returned to Theodore's side after opening the path. Her eyes were shining like lanterns as she expected praise. Her innocent face was the same as always. Theodore couldn't help laughing as he stroked her wheat-colored hair several times. "Yes, well done."

    [Hihihi!] Mitra laughed like she was ticklish and started to dance. Someone who didn't know her would've thought that she was a child out for a picnic.

    [Catch me~!] Mitra called out playfully as she plunged down the forest path. Did she want to play tag? Theodore followed her with a gentle smile, while the remaining three people followed with bemused expressions.

    The four people headed through the forest like that. The ankle-height roots of the trees bent, while the branches which could tear at one's skin moved out of the way. Theodore had experienced it once, but it was still amazing. This time, the one exercising the power was Mitra. The vegetation stirred with every step she took, and when she hummed, the wind responded like it was a well-made string instrument.

    'No, it isn't just that. This...!'

    Theodore enhanced his eyesight. Elementals without contractors were given forms, and they danced and sang around Mitra's body. This was an unrealistic scene where the natural world responded to Mitra's will. It might be a trigger to regain believers. The power that overflowed in the Great Forest and the elves that worshipped Yggdrasil might restore some of Mitra's divinity.

    At that moment, Edwin asked from behind Theodore, "...Benefactor, is that an ancient elemental?"

    Theodore read the mixed emotions in Edwin's voice and looked back. There was reverence in Edwin's eyes. It was just like how the knights of Andras felt toward the emperor or how Lairon's followers worshipped him.  Emotions thickened the elf's voice.

    "Yes, that's right," Theodore confirmed it.

    "But this feeling... It isn't possible. How?"

    "What do you mean?"

    However, Theodore didn't hear an answer from Edwin.

    It was Ellaim who replied instead. "We can currently feel the power of the parent tree from her. The size of the power is under the top elementals, but the purity is more profound. I would like to bow down in front of her and give words of thanks."

    "...That much?"

    The two guardians nodded, and Theodore finally realized the gravity of the situation.

    The guardians of the elves couldn't hide their reverence and wanted to drop to the ground. They could barely endure it with the mentality of the master level. In that case, it wouldn't be surprising if other elves immediately bowed down and prayed the moment they saw Mitra.

    'Should I think about putting up some measures?'

    Mitra regaining her divinity wasn't a problem. It was the environment that was a problem. The foundation of her power was based on the world tree, so the elves' limited faith was more likely to bind her to Elvenheim. If so, Mitra's contractor wouldn't be able to escape this land either. There was a lot of work to be done to avoid this.

    Theodore was worrying about it when the uncomfortable Veronica caught his eye. "Veronica."

    "Huh?" Veronica sensed his question and looked down at her left wrist. She was wearing a bracelet with strange characters carved on it. Surely she wasn't feeling uncomfortable because of the accessory? However, that idea quickly vanished from Theodore's mind. It was because his eyes grasped the function of the bracelet in a matter of seconds.

    "Magic power sealing?"

    Veronica nodded and explained, "It suppresses the magic power that leaks out of my body. I'm not in a good mood because I'm wearing this. Sorry to bother you."

    "Why are you wearing this artifact?"

    A magician needed to be able to resonate the mana outside the body and the circles inside the body to exert power. By wearing the bracelet, it was like Veronica had her limbs tied up. Of course, she wasn't defenseless because she had her innate physical abilities and the draconic mode, but she was much weaker than usual. There was no reason for her to wear the artifact.

    "Without this, my magic power will burn the forest."

    However, Theodore was convinced by the explanation. It reminded him of what Edwin said when he visited as the envoy previously. Edwin had said that the world tree had burned because of her.

    "Perhaps it is a problem of my lineage. I heard that red dragons live mainly in volcanic areas and have a great influence over the natural world."

    "Then staying in the Great Forest..."

    "Well, I should wear it until the battle begins. How can I come into someone's house and become an arsonist? It will be okay once a ward is placed."

    Veronica spoke casually. However, Theodore was a magician like her and knew how frustrating it would be to be restrained like that. She was disconnected from her magic power, and it would feel like her hands and feet were suddenly broken. Even if she only spent an hour or two in this state, her limbs would feel cramped. Theodore admired her and couldn't help muttering a few words-words which were spoken with no intentions behind them.

    "I hope we get there as soon as possible. As soon as we arrive, I will set up a circle around you..."

    [Yes?] Mitra, who was walking a few steps ahead, heard Theodore's words and returned to his side. [Theo wants to arrive faster?]

    "Huh? Ah. Well, the quicker the better?"

    [Understood! Theo, believe in Mitra!]

    "Y-Yes."

    Mitra smiled brightly like sunshine and raised her voice. Her tone was light, like a bead rolling around on a tray.

    [Shorten, hoing!]

    *     *     *

    One hour.

    "..."

    "..."

    "..."

    "..."

    During their last visit, this journey had taken half a day thanks to Ellenoa's assistance and Orta's magic. It would take three days when walking normally and one day when flying over the trees. Yet Mitra had shortened it to just one hour. Theodore's group was moved to the center of Elvenheim in a manner that the two 8th circle magicians couldn't understand.

    "Y-You got here quickly. Theodore?" Lumia came to meet them and couldn't hide her dumbfounded face. Her surprise was greater because she had continuously grasped the position of the four people using Ratatoskr. They had moved a few kilometers per minute, sometimes jumping from one point to another. Unlike Orta's space movement, this method involved the direct manipulation of space.

    'Space movement-no, space distortion...? I thought there was no one who could handle the space around the world tree...'

    Mitra, the cause of this, had already been recalled. It was an action to avoid having elves fall in front of her. However, this result left Lumia feeling confused. The wards of the world tree were enormous. It was a transcendent existence, but in the end, the world tree was just a lifeform. The immunity inside its body was just like that of any other life form.

    So, it wasn't strange that it had moved according to Mitra's will, since Mitra was recognized as part of its body. Lumia didn't know about Mitra's existence and was confused, but she soon opened her mouth and said, "...Please follow me. It isn't quite ready yet, but I have prepared a room for Theodore and your companion to stay."

    "Ah, thank you."

    "Additionally, Guardian Edwin and Guardian Ellaim, both of you worked really hard. As soon as the Ceremony of Evergreens is finished, we will start the healing process for both of you."

    "Parent's grace, the will of the dancers thanks you."

    The two guardians accompanied Theodore and Veronica up to here. Theodore conveyed his heartfelt thanks to these two people, "Both of you can visit at any time. Meltor and I, Theodore, will never forget your commitment."

    "It was an honor to join you on the meaningful journey."

    "I will see you again tomorrow, Benefactor!"

    The two guardians, Edwin and Ellaim, moved boldly without caring about the aftermath of their injuries. Would they be all better the next time he saw them? Theodore looked forward to the reunion as he followed after Lumia with Veronica. Lumia's walk was rather slow, perhaps in consideration for those who were unfamiliar with this forest.

    Then Theodore suddenly had a question. "Lumia."

    "Yes?"

    "What is the Ceremony of Evergreens? If it is a secret, you don't have to teach me."

    Lumia shook her head with a gentle smile. "No. It isn't anything big. The world tree sometimes drops leaves that have reached the end of their lifespan. These are collected and recycled as fertilizer for the forest. However, the scale is so large that two people must go out."

    "Two high elves... Ah, perhaps?"

    "Yes, it is as you thought."

    Ellenoa and Alisa had been absent when he connected to Ratatoskr not long ago. There was one high elf Theodore hadn't met yet, but there was no way he could think of someone he didn't know. They chatted for a while before Lumia brought up the topic first.

    "Theodore, can I ask why you came here like this?" She squinted at Veronica and lowered her tone by an octave. "It must be an important issue if you came with her."

    "...Sigh, it is as you said."

    The existence of Veronica was, after all, a threat to the world tree. Theodore wouldn't have her accompany him if her power wasn't needed. Theodore confirmed Lumia's words and carefully selected his words.

    Where should he start explaining? The fact that the evil dragon Nídhöggur was aiming for this land? Or that a 9th circle warlock had resurrected and was aiming to sacrifice the world tree? It was a heavy story, so he didn't think he should say it while they were walking.

    Then at that moment...

    "―Hello." Someone suddenly appeared in front of Lumia, Theodore, and Veronica. The two magicians reflexively stepped back, and Veronica stared toward the front with her finger on her bracelet.

    "...Elf?"

    The person who appeared had black hair, golden eyes, and white fur clothing. The beauty, who was different from the earthly beauty of elves, gazed at Theodore. She was around 160 centimeters tall, and her weight was unknown. The distribution of her center of gravity and her standing posture demonstrated that she was trained in fighting. Theodore evaluated the other person to be at least on the level of Edwin and Ellaim, so he couldn't help feeling alert.

    "Ah, wait a minute!" Lumia interrupted their confrontation. "Ah, Theodore! Is this the first time you've met her? She is the third dancer, the shaman of the Dry Pine Tribe―"

    "Titania," Titania said her name in a dry voice and stood in front of Theodore without hesitation. "You are the contractor of the ancient elemental?"

    "That's right." Theodore's eyebrows frowned slightly at the high elf's unfriendly attitude. Veronica was also unhappy, judging by the rise in temperature. At this rate, a fight would break out before they could talk. Titania ignored the harsh tension and looked at Theodore with strange eyes. "I see. If so, you are the one my master has chosen."

    "...Master?"

    Titania nodded to his reflexively question with an emotionless face. "I will introduce myself again. I am the disciple of Sage Myrdal Herseim, the successor of the ancient elemental Geros."

    She concluded her shocking self-introduction, "I, Titania Herseim, have been waiting for you."
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