“I wonder, what shall I do…” (Zanga)
Muttering that in a small voice, Zanga has no real care about what happens to her as, putting the method aside, she had planned to die anyway, but Puuse who was declared to be exiled was completely haggard.
The guards had disappeared from the room a little while after Laboras left, though they were likely waiting outside.
While having her back gently caressed, Puuse got exhausted from crying and fell asleep.
Watching her sleeping face with its swollen face, Zanga was disgusted at her own powerlessness while thinking if only I was good at healing magic.
“Really, in these matters I’m only a leader in name ~nee.” (Zanga)
She looks at the door where Laboras exited.
Before long the day will dawn.
In a distant place she can hear screams and the sounds of things clashing.
“They are at it, eh…? Will that human be alright?” (Zanga)
Which reminds me, I didn’t hear his name, Zanga smiled. Just how scared of transforming and dying am I?
“N… nh?” (Puuse)
“You woke up? Sorry, but can you handle the treatment of your wounds by yourself?” (Zanga)
Puuse, who was painful to look at with the traces of her tears, silently nodded and cast healing magic targeting her swollen face.
Even after the swelling slowly subsided and her originally slender chin and white skin returned, Puuse’s facial expression didn’t clear up.
“Puuse. It was my bad judgement for having you go meet him ~nee. I considered that he might have been injured in the wastelands since he’s a human, but…” (Zanga)
“For that reason there was no other choice but to send Puuse who is good at healing magic”, Zanga apologized.
“That’s already in the past… Besides, if you look at it differently, I survived while the others got killed by that human.” (Puuse)
Zanga averted her look as it was painful for her to see Puuse’s expression of forcing a smile.
“It looks like that human man is currently getting attacked. Now then, I wonder what will happen to this village and us as result of that…” (Zanga)
Even while saying that, Zanga believes that no matter of him having the strength to come here while surviving the wastelands, he will likely end up getting ganged up with offensive magic while being attacked by a large number of people.
Puuse lifted her head shyly.
“Even if he won, I don’t think the situation will change for the better, however… rather than that, is Shiku alright?” (Puuse)
“I can’t really say ~nee… I don’t think that Laboras is together with that child though. He will most likely be surprised once he gets to know about your situation, Puuse.” (Zanga)
“Even so”, Zanga revises her thinking.
“With me just inviting a single human, it has turned into such an unfathomable situation.” (Zanga)
If Puuse really gets banished, I will also leave the forest together with her, Zanga decided in her heart.
Even Puuse who is bad at offensive magic will probably be able to escape if I sacrifice myself when we get attacked by beastmen.
“If I’m not allowed to do at least this much…” (Zanga)
“It’s nothing. Anyway, for now we can’t do anything but wait.” (Zanga)
As the fire of the sunken hearth was about to die out before she realized, Zanga tossed in a twig.
“What happened here!?” (Laboras)
Laboras, accompanied by several of his followers, searched for Shiku to ask him about Hifumi’s deeds for the sake of Puuse’s denunciation, but since he wasn’t at home, he reluctantly headed out to kill Hifumi.
What he witnessed there were the figures of his comrades who had been minutely dissected by Hifumi.
Even the followers he brought along are vomiting unable to bear it or are holding their mouths shut due to the dense stench of blood and the terrible scene.
Being dumbfounded for a short while, Laboras raised a loud voice at Hifumi who is continuing his work while ignoring Laboras.
“You bastard are the human who was dragged in by Zanga! What are you doing to our brethren, to our friends!?” (Laboras)
Turning around, Hifumi’s hands are once again dyed red.
“What a cruel thing to go this far”, as one of the followers mutters that, all of them shiver.
“Did you guys also came aiming for my life just like these fellows?” (Hifumi)
“If that’s the case, you are very welcome”, Hifumi took out a bottle filled with water from his darkness storage and started to care-freely wash his arm.
“What the hell did you do to our brethren…!?” (Laboras)
Hifumi doesn’t even turn his look at Laboras who says that in a low voice as if suppressing his anger.
“I assembled the parts in a good mood. I tried to examine those guys’ bodies. Look!” (Hifumi)
What Hifumi threw was the small white lump of the pinky from before.
“What’s this?” (Laboras)
“That guy’s.” (Hifumi)
Ahead of where Hifumi is pointing at is the figure of an elf which had its hands and feet cruelly chopped into small pieces.
Laboras’s sight swam for an instant, but his look immediately returned to Hifumi.
“There was a similar white lump in 3 feet and fingers before. You can’t call it bones. Besides, the number of bones in the hands and feet was the same as the other guys.” (Hifumi)
“So, what about it!?” (Laboras)
“I’m investigating the cause for you guys gradually changing once you got old. You not interested in it? How you will die? To what manner of dying you will be exposed?” (Hifumi)
Hifumi points at the scattered corpses.
“It might be your fate to die like that if you throw yourself into combat. It’s like that for me, I guess. But, how about if it isn’t related to combat? If you were lucky enough to survive?” (Hifumi)
“We can return to the forest! We will become a part of the forest as people of the forest! It’s different from you humans!” (Laboras)
“Yea, true.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi discarded Laboras’s frantic objection indifferently.
“Rather than that, try looking at this.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi began to walk quickly and stopped next to a pool of blood which was located at the root of a tree.
Of course it was created by Hifumi diligently carrying over corpses.
“Do you see that only the part close to the trunk of the tree has become slightly white?” (Hifumi)
“White… what’s this?” (Laboras)
Once Hifumi stabs a tree branch he picked up into the blood pool and pulls it back up in front of the elf who is tilting his head to the side, the branch is entwined by white strings, similar to a spider web.
“At first I wondered whether it originally was a component that exists within the blood of you elves, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. The blood pool over there hasn’t changed, right?” (Hifumi)
As Hifumi says, an identical pool of blood had been created in vicinity while leaving some open space in-between. It’s a puddle giving off a dark red colour where one can’t see a change similar to turning white in particular.
As Hifumi prepared a controlled experiment in high spirits while recalling the scientific experiments at school so far, he nodded in satisfaction as he got the main gist of the situation.
“It’s nothing but a hypothesis.” (Hifumi)
The elves’ looks gathered on Hifumi who began to talk while giving such preface.
“One of the reasons is that after you entered the area of the elves the kinds of trees growing here and the atmosphere is unusual. But the cause is this tree which is composing the forest in the vicinity of the village, I guess.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi slaps the trunk of a large tree standing next to the pool of blood.
“I don’t know whether it’s from the trunk or the leaves, but if you accumulate components of this tree in your body, it will likely change your bodies’ composition to something similar to a tree by becoming solid within your body. I guess the flesh and blood which composed your body originally gets corroded by it.” (Hifumi)
Once he finished talking in a way of obviously persuading himself, Hifumi surveyed his surroundings by turning around.
“So, what do you think? Do you guys choose to die by turning into a tree? Will you end your lives and become mere lumps of meat just like these fellows by clashing with magic and drawing your weapons here? Or, will you run away from the curse of this tree before it’s too late?” (Hifumi)
No one is able to return an answer to Hifumi’s words.
Looking at each others’ faces, they are simply talking with each other noisily.
“You bastard are…” (Laboras)
Only Laboras trembles in fury due to his brethren being flustered by the words of the human who was to be their subjugation target, due to the cruel manner of his brethren’ deaths and due to Hifumi toying with their corpses.
“Do you intend to cover up your crimes by lining up incomprehensible theories!?” (Laboras)
“Are you unable to… no, unwilling to understand your mistake?” (Hifumi)
While giggling, Hifumi tossed away the branch he was holding.
“Don’t avert your eyes from death. It’s something everyone, without fail, will experience. There’s no need to be scared of it.” (Hifumi)
Drawing his katana, Hifumi takes one large breath.
“Hey, choose. Will you persist in your obstinacy to fight here? Will you calmly review your own circumstances?” (Hifumi)
Several elves quietly took a distance due to those words.
That matter is irritating Laboras as well.
“Don’t you weaklings have no pride as people of the forest!?” (Laboras)
“Don’t talk such rubbish.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi bluntly tells the enraged Laboras while baring his displeasure and composure.
“Pride or such is a dream bringing people close to death. Thanks to your guys’ stupid ‘law‘ the chance to face death was stolen from the elves.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi showed an expression of ecstasy while gazing at the charm of the hamon.
“Dying is something that completes one’s character. Did they follow their way of life? Or, was it filled with unhappiness? Was it an unnatural death in the middle of their aspirations or did they achieve something?” (Hifumi)
He calmly shifts his attention to Laboras who glares at him and puts strength into his muscled body which is unlike that of normal elves.
“Your desires, your objectives and your future comes to an end once you die. What’s left is a completed life. Being killed is something that completes that life.” (Hifumi)
“Therefore”, he prepares the katana by aiming at Laboras’ eyes.
“Let me bestow that end upon you, if you so desire.” (Hifumi)
“This human is…”
Half of the followers are gradually withdrawing while the other half is waiting for Laboras’s judgment.
Laboras who had the looks of his comrades gathered on him quietly took the knife at his waist into his hands.
When Shiku observed the state of Zanga’s house from the shades of a tree, the two elves in front of the entrance stood there listlessly.
Shiku who moved his lips with a *monyumonyu* while lowering his eyebrows frantically performs a chant within his mouth.
His magic is at a level where Shiku might be able to barely use hypnotism magic. On top of requiring a chanting time to the degree of making an elf yawn, it hasn’t much of an effect on a completely awake opponent, however it will somehow work on opponents who are only standing around absent-mindedly.
“I-I did it.” (Shiku)
Confirming the two guards sliding down to the ground after leaning their backs against the wall, he quietly enters the building.
There he found the figures of the leader Zanga and Puuse sitting next to each other.
“Shiku? You were safe?” (Puuse)
Shiku who lost strength in his knees sits down weakly.
“Excuse me for telling Laboras about the human after he asked about it…” (Shiku)
Puuse snuggles up to Shiku who sheds large drops of tears in a rush.
“It’s alright. I healed the injuries by myself, okay?” (Puuse)
“B-But, I was told that Laboras will banish you, Puuse-neechan…” (Shiku)
Noticing Shiku who has a pale face quivering, Puuse comforted him by hugging him reassuringly.
However, her words aren’t coming out smoothly.
It’s because she’s truly scared of being banished.
“Shiku, do you know what that human is currently doing?” (Zanga)
Shiku corrected his posture upon Zanga’s question.
“I don’t quite understand, but he spoke about comprehending the reason why elves get absorbed and arbour or something like that. However, many adults were killed…” (Shiku)
“Come again!?” (Zanga)
Zanga raised her voice which was unusual for her.
Due to the two staring at her in surprise, Zanga dropped her half-risen hips and gazed at the small fire in the sunken hearth.
That gaze seems to be looking in the far distance.
“The things that human is pondering about is something I didn’t understand well either. Don’t tell me, it’s because of our conversation… So, did you hear that reason?” (Zanga)
“Umm, I don’t know whether it’s really true or not, but bad stuff is entering one’s body from the forest’s trees or something like that…” (Shiku)
The explanation of Shiku who honestly didn’t understand half of it either is ambiguous. Puuse who was listening next to him was only cocking her head in puzzlement, but Zanga was able to grasp it.
“I see. It’s because I lived for a long time.” (Zanga)
Zanga who laughs with a *hi hi* slowly speaks to Puuse and Shiku.
“You know, as child I was afraid of the forest. I practically never left the house.” (Zanga)
“The reason I heard is that you complied with the location which was decided in order to listen to the stories of many villagers at all times, but…” (Puuse)
“That is, well, an excuse in concern of my dignity. It’s story which was used to cover it up. In truth I had only become afraid of the forest.” (Zanga)
“In spite of being an elf”, she laughs at herself.
“Being afraid of the forest, you say. What’s this about?” (Shiku)
Zanga muttered a small 「Will they let me speak, I wonder?」 due to Shiku’s question.
“You guys also saw it in the forest, right? The manner of an elf’s death, that is.” (Zanga)
Once being told, Puuse recalled the elder elf who begged Hifumi to kill him and gulped.
For Shiku it was faint due to his half-awake state, but he has vague memories of it.
“Me too. When I was younger than Shiku is now, I saw it in the forest. The figure of an elder elf heading towards death. … And in addition to that it was my grandmother’s death.” (Zanga)
“Fuu~”, she exhaled.
“My grandmother, you know, told me that it was painful and agonizing and that she wanted me to give her relief, but… the me who was nothing more than a small child couldn’t do anything. In the end I ran away from grandmother while she continued to call my name.” (Zanga)
“And then it reached the point of even feeling disgust towards being an elf, unable to get rid of my dread of the forest”, she says.
“However, if what the human has said is really true, I will be saved a little bit as well. If it’s really because of the forest’s nature and not because I’m an elf…” (Zanga)
Breathing out once again, Zanga turned her look which was fixed on the fire towards Puuse and Shiku.
“I wish for that human to survive. I want to talk with him once more.” (Zanga)
Those were, in short, the same words as if desiring the death of her brethren.