That man was always half right, half wrong.
That’s twice as bad as being entirely wrong.
It was a drug used by those who put their faith into what was called Voodoo back on Earth.
Made with a combination of several toxins, it was a drug that could induce a dead-like state in humans if enough was ingested due to the Fugu’s tetrodotoxin within it. I’d owned some myself in my previous life. I didn’t actually use it though, of course.
On Earth, it was simply just a poison. Depending on the amount used, it truly could induce a state similar to death, luckily—no, perhaps unluckily? That same process would lead to one’s frontal lobe being destroyed, resulting in a zombie-like state. That was all.
[In other words, it prolongs one’s life by breathing the tree of life into a body that’s reached a dead-like state, is that it?]
[… Probably so.]
Once I’d compiled the information I got from the elf that had guided us, that’s what it seemed to be.
[Is it impossible to breath the tree of life into someone who hasn’t taken this medicine?]
[Without first taking the medicine, it is not possible.]
It had likely already been tried.
[So to put it simply, it destroys one’s foundation of life… what we call the soul?]
The elf stared at me in puzzlement as I said that.
According to what he said, not even he understood the theory or principles behind it. He just comprehended that that was what worked through sheer experience.
[Soul? Livestock have souls?]
It wasn’t contempt, but genuine doubt.
As elves themselves were long-lived, they had no reason to use Zombie Powder on themselves.
It appeared to be something meant for use on goats or cows—livestock.
And although they weren’t actually livestock, humans were in the same category as far as the elves were concerned.
It could be thought of as cruel treatment, but it wasn’t too great of a difference compared to what the humans on Earth did.
Even favorite pets like dogs or cats that humans treated practically the same as other humans would be sterilized through surgery. Neutered males were said to gain a more calm personality, while spayed females would go out of their way to avoid the act of conception. Having the surgery done was even considered a natural thing to do since the culture around it said that it would cause the owners to be even more so the target of the pet’s affections.
From human society’s point of view, it was a justifiable reason. The animals themselves may have had a different opinion on the matter, though.
And in this world, the person I love is on the animal side.
[Thank you. I will try asking Eldest-san for another method.]
He said that he knew of several methods.
It other words, this shouldn’t be the only one.
And besides, I concerned about Nina.
Bidding farewell to the elf that led us here, we decided to return to Eldest’s cave.
Walking through the forest, I suddenly heard something.
It sounded like two hard things hitting each other. However, I couldn’t imagine hearing something like that in a forest where there’s nothing but trees, leaves, and grass.
Continuing to advance after thinking I’d imagined it, I heard the noise even louder than before.
I looked around to see where it came from since it sounded like it was close, but I couldn’t find it.
“Mentor, is something wrong?”
“No, but have you heard any strange noises?”
“Strange noises…? Not really.”
Ai looked confused after seeing me, but neither she nor Darg seemed to hear it.
A fist-sized rock struck against my titled head, making a sound.
When I looked towards where the rock came from, I saw Ultramarine looking at me with an expression that seemed to say, “I’ve done it now…”
So that’s what was making the noise?
[Y-you finally noticed, lizard!?]
It seems like she’d been trying to catch my attention by throwing stones at me. My scales were too hard, though, so I didn’t feel anything from the small pebble. Not even that larger rock from a moment ago made me feel any pain, I only felt that I’d been hit by something.
When I turned to glance at Ultramarine, she added the honorific in a panic.
[What is it?]
[Are you all trying to go to Eldest’s place?]
Now that she mentions it, she was trying to keep us from going there last time.
Is she planning on forcing us to stop now that Nina’s not with us?
[That’s our intention, can we not?]
Raising my head up and looking at her, I looked at her with a simple threat.
It was the kind of stance I took back then with Darg.
It was obvious that I’d managed to frighten her more than intended.
[Are you going… to save Dropout?]
But despite her trembling, Ultramarine asked me something unexpected.
[Save her? Is Nina in a situation she needs saving from?]
[Idiot! Who would use someone’s name as sprightly as that!? Call her Dropout!]
Ultramarine criticized me with an angry look.
She didn’t say it with contempt or disdain, it was more like anxiety and concern.
[What do you mean by dropout?]
I had regarded the term as something to use in derision, but judging by Ultramarine’s attitude, it doesn’t seem to have that meaning.
[What do you mean what does it mean? It’s as I said.]
Ultramarine frowned, puzzled.
[The one whose flowers drop and whose leaves fall out. The princess’ task is to be us forest people’s cornerstone.]
It was just as I began to think that I had no idea what she meant…
[If you don’t do something, she’ll be turned into a tree.]
What crossed my mind in that instant was the method of prolonging life by breathing in the tree of life. And then that huge tree.
[No way, that tree the Eldest lives in…]
[Yeah. It’s become very old, so they have to change it soon.]
No way, were all of the house-trees they lived in here previously elves?
By the time I realized what I was doing, I was already running to the giant tree the Eldest lived in.
“You came to ask about another life prolongation method… at least you had, at first.”
The conversation from a moment ago would be known to Eldest due to the surrounding forest trees. It appeared that Ultramarine throwing those stones at me was originally in an attempt to induce me out of the forest. It’s unfortunate, but that didn’t go well.
“Please return Nina.”
“Speak of something else. The princess is not yours.”
It was a sound argument, but I couldn’t back down.
“She is someone important to me, I don’t want her to become a tree.”
“She’s important to us as well, it goes without saying. Still, it is necessary so that our clan may continue.”
I’ll just destroy it then—is something I very much couldn’t say.
Sacrificing a piece for the whole is not wrong as a survival strategy.
It just so happened that that piece was my friend.
I couldn’t destroy them for the sake of my own ego.
“In that case… I’ll protect you.”
I couldn’t fail Nina anymore.
“I’ll defend you all, help me cooperate with you. There must be some other way than sacrificing Nina.”
Eldest drew his brows together in regret.
“I am thankful for your feelings, oh dragon child. But that is not possible. Be it as it may that you are a fire dragon, you are still too young. With your small body, you couldn’t be even a century old. Far from defending us, you likely wouldn’t even be able to defeat us.”
I didn’t want to admit it, though.
“Well then, this will be easy.”
The one to break into our conversation was Darg.
“How about you and us have a fight?”
“Mortal, it is surprising enough you could learn how to speak. Let alone the dragon, you wouldn’t even make it a fight for us.”
He was neither mocking him nor was he being careless.
Sure, there were no humans that could fight an elf.
Darg laughed fearlessly, his fist held up. He didn’t even wield his crag blade.
[… This one is the company of the dragon we owe. Do not kill him.]
An elf stepped forward when Eldest said that.
At the same time, countless tree roots spawned from the ground and tied themselves around Darg’s limbs.
Elves were all natural-born magi. Humans weren’t a match for them.
—However, that was only if the human wasn’t a magus.
“You’re someone we’re talking about protecting. I won’t kill you.”
Darg threw the words back. He tore off the roots that bound him and sunk his fist into the elf’s stomach, moving almost fast enough to make my eyes lose him.
“Now then, who’s next?”
Darg smiled wildly, like a tiger.