It was the secret of the Forest of Enchantment that Lydon had told Cadel. They had been ruled for generations by the only fairy who had inherited the power of Pinhai. The forest had been maintained through the sacrifice of a single person.
‘Even if Lydon leaves the forest, the king is still alive, so nothing big will happen right away. But if anything bad happens to Hyron while Lydon’s out there…….’
With the notoriety it had earned, the forest would not fall at once. The Fairy Tribe said they could feel the death of their kind, so Lydon, who felt Hyron’s death, could go back to the forest on his own.
‘But what if Lydon refuses to do that? Or if he gets too far away from the forest, and he gets into an accident on the way back?’
Lydon did not feel any sympathy or obligation to protect the Fairy Tribe. Rather, it was unpleasant for him.
But apart from that, if Cadel and Lydon’s choices lead to the annihilation of a race, if the little land the Fairy Tribe managed to reclaim, the little hope they’ve had, was once again destroyed by humans.
Cadel’s expression darkened. He didn’t want that kind of result. When that result came out, he couldn’t imagine how Lydon, who was wandering outside with him, would react.
‘In the first place, all of this was just a choice for me to survive. It was a situation where I couldn’t live without Lydon. But if Hyron takes responsibility and allows me to escape.’
Now, in return for giving up Lydon, he might send Cadel out of the forest safely.
He only visited the forest to obtain the [Amplification Grass], and there was no plan to recruit Lydon as a knight. If he could do that, he would escape safely while fulfilling his initial purpose.
That was what Cadel thought.
“As expected, it’s hard, right?”
Lydon’s voice, which had been quiet the whole time, broke his thoughts. Lydon lowered his hand that had been fiddling with the crystal ball and put it in his pocket, then looked down at Cadel.
With his usual mischievous grin, he shrugged as if he couldn’t help it.
“I knew it was coming. As much as I love to have fun, I can’t watch the downfall of my own kind with glee, can I?”
“But it’s Cadel, so I thought, just in case. Cadel, if it’s Cadel, I thought maybe you’d rationalize my way out of this goddamn forest somehow.”
Lydon’s delightful chuckle rang in his ears. Cadel stared blankly at Lydon’s face as he patted his shoulder nonchalantly.
“Ahaha! Never mind, never mind. I was already satisfied when you held me hostage and threatened me in front of Mr. Melphis. It was the happiest moment in my life! What now, Cadel? Do you want to go back? Will you get angry if I kidnap you like this? Uhm, but it’s a pity to just break up like this.”
There was no hint of disappointment on his smug face. As if he hadn’t expected at all that he would be able to get out of the forest from the beginning. It was a natural giving up, like a habit.
Cadel thought as he caught that gleaming smile in his eyes.
‘What am I reconsidering about?.’
He was worried about the survival of the fairies that had been relentlessly harassing him since he entered the forest. In a precarious situation where he didn’t know if he could return safely or not.
‘That was hilarious, wasn’t it?’
Lydon’s resignation soon became Cadel’s awakening. He was stunned and dismayed at his own choice to fear for the lives of others and walk away from what he had just believed to be a unique opportunity. And then the absurdity set in.
‘Recruiting Lydon in the game didn’t ruin the Forest of Enchantment. Of course, I can’t guarantee that the flow is the same as the game, but I can’t say that it’s going to be ruined. Isn’t it funny that I’ve been crashing into things so far and now I’m trying to tread carefully?’
He did everything himself, and now, he almost failed at the slightest slip. Cadel, who quickly became displeased, kicked Lydon right in the shin, who kept talking nonsense next to him.
The surprise attack left both Lydon and Hyron open-mouthed in surprise. Cadel turned to Lydon, who held his shin in bewilderment.
“You get out.”
“The adults will have a talk, so the kid should get out.”
You expected me to rationalize your way out of the woods? Good. I’ll rationalize it to the point where you can’t even begin to grasp reality.
Cadel’s gaze shifted from Lydon to the front. Hyron, surprised by such action, looked back and forth between Cadel and Lydon.
A fishy ulterior motive and a confident smile appeared on Cadel’s face as he faced him.
“I forgot this. Before talking about Lydon, there’s something Lord Hyron should know.”
* * *
Hyron’s eyes narrowed.
The slender fingers that caressed his smooth chin slowly bent in anguish. His red eyes no longer looked out the window. What his eyes captured was Cadel, an uninvited guest who came without notice.
“The seal of the demon realm is breaking……. How do you know that? Even if the Fairy Tribe is cut off from the outside world, we can still recognize the disgusting smell of the demons without much information. There was no sign of that.”
“I told you, Lord Hyron. It’s just ‘starting’. It’s only a matter of time. Soon, demons who are not trapped in the demon realm and have been sleeping in the human realm will move to cause chaos. By then, you’ll realize I’m right.”
His polite demeanor, focused on his story, was long gone. The human in front of Hyron leaned back in his seat, crossed his legs, and tapped his toes in a slightly cocky manner.
“Lord Hyron. You have isolated yourself to defend the only land your kind has ever been granted. I think it’s a great commitment. It’s a tough decision to make in many ways.”
“What are you trying to tell me, Cadel?”
Hyron stared at Cadel, his eyes serene.
It didn’t change whether or not Hyron accepted the information about the demon realm or doubted it. The priority had always been the survival of his tribe, and if there was a threat from the outside, it was just a matter of sticking together.
So this information was of no value to him. Hyron was sure Cadel didn’t know that either.
Was this ground bait for another proposal?
He had dealt with a lot of people in his time as king, but he found Cadel to be particularly unpleasant. He was not a particularly good speaker, either. Cadel couldn’t beat Jeffrek for being difficult to talk to, Dot for being subtle about what he wanted, or Melphis for being calculating and driven.
However…… Was it a difference in races?
An inscrutable face. The diverse, shifting demeanor clouded Hyron’s judgment.
Cadel glanced at the ethereal figure, and instead of an answer, he blurted out another question.
“Do you think there’s a meaning to that isolation?”
“……You’re asking a cheeky question.”
“I’m a complete outsider.”
Was there any meaning to this isolation? The maintenance of this forest was the maintenance of the race. Nothing was more important than the prolongation of generations.
His gaze, sharper than it had been a moment ago, swept over Cadel.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it, and as Cadel said yourself, you’re an outsider. There are things that others can never understand.”
“There are things you can see because you’re others.”
“Okay. So Cadel thinks this isolation has no meaning, no value? In order to protect the land that has been destroyed over and over again, a handful of tribes gather to protect each other’s lives. This little pride that we’ve managed to achieve by giving up again and again means nothing?”
There was no need for human understanding. Nor was he asking Cadel to apologize on behalf of humans. No matter what he thought, it was just a fool’s conceit.
Even though Hyron thought about it, he couldn’t shake the feeling of nausea. The years of Cadel’s life were not even close to Hyron’s, but Cadel had clearly experienced a wider world than him. That fact made Hyron uneasy.
The current elders had enjoyed the world before the forest was isolated. So Hyron respected their opinions and followed their cause.
They were the ones who never doubted that it was worth giving up ‘freedom’ to maintain the race. They were those who had experienced ‘freedom’ that Hyron had never experienced before and were willing to give up their ‘freedom’. So Hyron followed. There was no way he could make a different choice with them, who were the only ones who understood him.
Yes. That was the problem.
The fact that isolation for the maintenance of the races was not his own judgment. Even though everyone gathered their will to protect the forest, it was not his will.
“Don’t read too much into it, I’m just trying to let you know that an opportunity for greater value is coming.”
Hyron was suddenly terrified, lest he be swayed by this man’s words. Whenever a hysterical sense of loneliness overtook his entire body, he would think of the one dream he had, alone and secretly. He was afraid that the man in front of him would find out about that dream that was not allowed.
Cadel slowly untangled his crossed legs.
Hyron wondered if he should summon Melphis, who might be able to provide a logical rebuttal to Cadel’s words and ease his discomfort. But before Hyron could summon him, Cadel spoke.
“As much as it pains me to say it, humans are simple-minded. We’re quick to like a power we perceive as a threat to us, if we think it can protect us. Let’s look at an example. For me, it was Lydon. He was the one who tried to hurt me, and I also really wanted to kill him. But look. Right now, in this forest, there is no fairy I rely on more than Lydon.”
Cadel laughed lightly and rose from his seat. His leisurely gait turned toward Hyron.
“So far, what have the Fairy Tribe done with the blessed powers they have acquired? As I said beforehand, it’s not like criticism.”
“……We protected our kind. From the constant attacks of the humans.”
“Is that all?”
“Cut to the chase, Cadel. I’m getting tired of listening to you.”
Cadel, who had been getting closer little by little, now stood side by side with Hyron, staring out the window he was looking at. Cadel leisurely looked out the window and said in a firm tone.
“As I said, it’s only a matter of time before the seal of the demon realm is broken. I guarantee you, a year at most.……. During that time, the demons will be more active than ever. Collision between the human realm and the demon realm is inevitable. So then, please lend me the power of the Fairy Tribe.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’m not talking about bringing in the entire race, Lydon is enough. If the Fairy King’s successor were to stand on the side of the humans on behalf of the Fairy Tribe, they would no longer envy the power of the forest. They’ll be busy cheering.”
To think that humans would support the Fairy Tribe, it was nonsense.
He had heard the same stories since childhood, stories in which humans were treated as ‘better’ for not killing the Fairy Tribe.
“That’s not even funny. To side with the humans who ruined my people? Right now, Cadel’s words sound like you’re telling me to send the only heir to our race out on a limb to beg humans for our lives.”
“Oops, I guess you misunderstood. If so, let me say it again.”
A pair of brown eyes that were completely unreadable. A serious face, devoid of a hint of laughter, looked back at Hyron.
“Be a hero to the humans. Turn their envy into awe. If the forest is what they fear, then isolation is always the best thing for fairies. So, we need to change the target. Wouldn’t you like to bring freedom back to your people?”
“It’s not like begging. It’s just a process of imprinting the power you have. Being afraid when you’re on someone else’s side, but being reassured when you’re on their side……. Humans like this kind of stuff.”
If Elder Melphis was here, not himself. No, if there was even one elder who went through that ‘tragedy’.
Hyron knew in his head that he needed to cut Cadel off firmly, but it was hard to ignore the cry from deep in his heart.
He was the king of the Fairy Tribe. He had been imprisoned in a tower all his life, drawing power for his people, and sustaining the forest at the cost of his life. The king of the Fairy Tribe, who had endured his whole life clinging to a dream he never told anyone about.
“……Do you think that’s possible?”
That was the reason for this stupid answer.
“I don’t know.”
It was too lax for an answer to a question that had been brought out by crushing a lot of things. Hyron, who lost steam for a moment, let out a short breath. Cadel smiled meaningfully at Hyron.
“It must be difficult to do it with only the power of the fairies. It would be difficult to risk everything and abandon the forest on such an adventure. If you send Lydon instead, it’s unclear whether that selfish guy will be able to properly act as a hero.”
“So why in the world would we be talking about―”
“But I’ll be with him.”
Cadel, who said so, suddenly reached out. Then he said to Hyron, who looked down at his hand in the distance.
“Even if Lydon can’t be a hero, I can. Even if this forest doesn’t become the ‘Forest of Heroes’, it can become the ‘Forest of Knights’ with the hero. This is unmistakable, so you don’t have to doubt it.”
Hyron instinctively realized that this was the answer he had been waiting for. His heart raced. His heart had always been beating, but it had been a long time since he felt it ‘beat’.
He tried to stay calm. And he worked his way through his messy head, trying to stick to the attitude that the ‘Fairy King’ should have.
“Those who are jealous of Lydon may try to covet the power of the forest again.”
“It’s the home of a hero who saved humans. If they do that, they’ll be socially buried, but I’ll give them a physical burial first.”
“While acting as your knight, he may be misunderstood as a human’s servant and familiar.”
“Does Lydon tend to bow down that easily? He’s a tough guy to handle. The human he follows is, and always will be, Cadel Lytos. I’ll be the only one. Isn’t it amazing that a member of the great Fairy Tribe is only loyal to one human? As expected, it would be faster for me to become a hero than for Lydon.”
Hyron let out a laugh.
“……Really. That’s an absurd amount of confidence, Cadel.”
It was impossible. He’d already been a gluttonous king since he’d come this far without interrupting Cadel. No, maybe even since he first dreamed of it.
“A strong king responsible for the lives of his people and a loving father who respects the life of his son. A chance to kill two birds with one stone? If you don’t take it now, you’ll regret it.”
Dreaming of freedom.
He wanted to fly unhindered through this wide world, to breathe soul into his hardened wings. He wanted to live, but he wanted to live freely, if possible, at least he thought he did.
He couldn’t abandon an entire race for a single desire. But if it was his own son.
If only his only son could fulfill that ‘dream’ while he was trapped in this small, cramped tower, guarding the lives of his people.
It was nauseous. Hyron was able to identify this nauseous belatedly.
Anticipation. It was an emotion he had never felt in his life.