The Elven Princess
Those beings are exquisitely elegant and do not grow old,
shining ever brighter as the years elapse. As for a certain princess of theirs… hah.
“Are you complaining?”
[What are you doing, returning here so shamelessly?]
[There’s a question I want to ask.]
Nina responded to the elf she called Ultramarine—who’d reacted with an expression that looked like she was flaring up—with an almost uninterested tone, as though she didn’t mind the comment.
[I figured that since you call me Dropout, you’d obviously know the answer.]
[Hmph. Obviously. There’s nothing I don’t know.]
Ultramarine thrust her chest out haughtily.
[What is the reason we live so much longer than rabbits, deers, and these ones?]
Nina glanced at Ai and Darg as she gave her question.
Ultramarine laughed derisively.
[… Why should I bother teaching you about that?]
With that, she diverted her eyes. A drop of sweat slid down her face.
Yeah, she doesn’t know.
“Doesn’t look like she knows…”
Entirely similar to my thoughts, Ai and Darg muttered at the same time in a low voice.
[Well, looks like you don’t know either then.]
[I do know! I know, I just don’t feel like telling you is all!]
[So this girl is Ultramarine. She’s a bit of an idiot, but she’s not too bad, she did greet us.]
[Who’s an idiot!?]
Nina turned her back to the girl and spoke to us, ignoring Ultramarine’s clamor.
“I know the way inside, let’s go.”
[Hey, what did you just say!?]
Ultramarine ran over to Nina, who’d started walking at a brisk pace.
[Listen to someone when they’re speaking! You’re not about to try going to Eldest, right? He isn’t a person someone like you can just go and see! Hey! Are you listening to me!?]
Ultramarine continued trying to stop Nina, but she ignored her.
[… Huh? Can she really not hear me? Heeeey! … Maybe she can’t see me either? A-am I invisible?]
Misunderstanding something due to Nina entirely ignoring her, Ultramarine started dancing about in a way that looked comical. Almost pitiful, actually.
Even so, despite not seeing anyone else, I felt people looking at us. It appears that there are quite a number of elves living in this forest.
I’d thought that elves lived solitary lives, but it looks like Nina was the exception.
Nina continued walking while ignoring the yapping Ultramarine. Before long, we saw a huge tree.
The biggest trees on Earth were baobab trees, around ten or so meters in diameter if I recall. But this tree here, its diameter was easily beyond a hundred meters. I can’t even begin to guess how tall it is.
Fruits growing in clusters along its branches, there was a large cavity opened up in the middle of its trunk. A broad stairway led into the cavity, making it look very much like a temple.
It was a wonderful tree. If I had to express my feelings about it, it was like a fusion of an orchard and a dwelling. I wonder how many people could live comfortably in just one of them. It’d probably take a considerable amount of time to grow, but I wonder if I could get them to give me a seedling?
Showing no hesitation, Nina went up the stairs as I thought about that.
[Come on, stop! Bearmonkey, stop Dropout!]
Ultramarine shouted that out, appearing as though she had no intention to continue and enter the tree herself. Her voice continued to call out from behind us as we stepped into the large tree.
“This… is amazing.”
Looking around, I was amazed.
The tree’s cavity was filled with light coming down from the sky. The wood’s thoroughly polished white surface reflected the sunlight, leading to an even more mystical atmosphere.
Within the abundant light was an elf whose whiskers were as long as he was elderly. Given that his white beard was long enough to cover his entire body, the elf was obviously rather advanced in his age. Nevertheless, his figure betrayed no signs of the standard withering of old age. His body simply held an austere atmosphere, similar to this tree or some sacred mountain.
“I have already heard of your story.”
Hearing the elf who appeared to be referred to as Eldest speak, I opened my eyes wide.
Because he was speaking in Japanese.
“You can speak our language?”
“Plants exist anywhere and everywhere, oh dragon child.”
Is he saying that so long as there are plants, he can monitor the area?
I’d honestly like to take it as a bluff, but at the very least it appears that he understands what we have been doing to some extent.
“To get to the point—I know several paths that could be taken to reach the life extension you desire.”
Hearing him speak without beating around the bush, I practically jumped into the air.
“Please, please tell me! I’ll do anything!”
“There is no need for that. I am already in your debt.”
“In my… debt?”
Hearing something I couldn’t understand at all, I tilted my head.
I’ve burnt the forest with a beam before, but I don’t remember doing anything that would cause the elves to be thankful.
“After saving our princess, you even returned her to us.”
All of our gazes immediately turning over to Nina, her expression changed to look more uncomfortable.
“Nina, you were a princess?”
“… Kind of.”
Nina nodded with an unpleasant expression.
It seemed to be a topic she didn’t really want to talk about.
“Allow him to guide you.”
When the Eldest suddenly raised his hand, another elf came to lead us away.
I started to follow him, but I turned around.
Because Nina hadn’t moved with us.
“This—this is where we part.”
“Remember? I’d ran away.”
The Eldest said that he was in my debt for returning her… oh my.
Did she come back here so that my wish could come true?
That calmness she had, composed to the point of looking pale, was that because she didn’t want to do this?
“Don’t look at me like that. It’s not like we’ll never see each other again.”
Guessing my thoughts, Nina spoke.
But, contrary to her words, she appeared to be in some kind of pain.
“Hurry up and go, leave!”
Shouting out with a voice that sounded more like a cry, I flinched.
Had she ever raised her voice like that in all the time I’ve known her?
“Goodbye. The past ten years I spent with you… I was happy.”
She followed up with that and a smile.
It was a smile fragile, though, like someone laughing despite being in pain.
Before I could say anything, the guiding elf urged us forward in a tone that seemed to leave no space for denial.
Nina waving her small hand to our backs, we left the large tree’s den.
As soon as we left the cave, I saw someone staring at us with a hatred. It was Ultramarine.
She looked like she wanted to say something to me, glaring at me intently.
But she instead took off into the grove, not saying anything to me in the end.
“Mentor… was that really alright? Leaving Nina-san?”
I wasn’t able to answer Ai’s question.
She was a princess, so she also probably had a role to fill in this community.
If she didn’t accomplish that role, the elven settlement itself might be troubled.
If that doesn’t match up with what she herself wants… I don’t know which side I should back.
[Please wait here. I will prepare the medicine.]
As soon as the guiding elf arrived at a tree that was similar to the one before, he had us wait outside as he went inside. It was similar, but this tree was quite small compared to the Eldest’s. Even so, it was still a large tree at around ten meters in diameter. It seemed that elves liked to open caverns in still-living trees to live in.
[It’s complete. Please swallow this.]
A while later, the elf came out of the tree with a wooden bowl.
There was a powdery medicine inside the bowl.
It looked like several different things were ground up in a mortar to make it.
It was ground into fine grains, but there were a few colors mixed together in it.
[What was this made from?]
[Desert spider tail, the root of a white spring flower, clubfish liver, as well as several varieties of mushroom.]
That wasn’t all I wanted to ask.
I wanted to ask if there were any side effects, but I didn’t know the Elvish word for it. Besides, I was also just a little hesitant in asking the maker himself if it had any ill effects.
“I’ll take it, then.”
Putting her mouth to the bowl, Ai tilted her head back.
Immediately before the powder reached her lips, I knocked it out of her hands.
Both elf and Ai were surprised by my sudden behavior.
[That clubfish, was it something like this?]
I picked up a tree branch and drew a picture of it on the ground. I’d thought of something right before Ai started to take the medicine.
No, rather than thought of something, maybe I should say I remembered something?
[You know of it?]
The fish definitely did look like a club.
Before it inflated.
[This medicine, does it only extend longevity? Are there any other effects?]
[There are. In addition to extending one’s life span, the one who drinks it will also become quiet and obedient.]
The elf answered as if it was natural.
So that was it after all. I knew the name of this medicine.
It didn’t have the life prolongation effect on Earth, but its name made me recall it.
The medicine’s name… was Zombie Powder.