「Permission to go to the Great Tree has been granted?」
On a day some time after Rio held the first cooking class, he was notified by Arthura that permission to approach the Great Tree had been granted.
「Uhm it seems that the cooking class started by Rio-dono was very well received and your reputation jumped quite a bit. In addition to that, when I was explaining the reason why you wanted to go to the Great Tree, I told them you were contracted to an unidentified spirit. Because our faith is centered around spirits, we respect all who are able to contract spirits.」
Arthura told Rio the details about how she managed to obtain permission.
Hearing the story, Rio let a bitter smile creep onto his face.
Although the level of distrust against Rio was not alarming, it had been greatly abated recently.
While Rio only started the cooking class for Latifa’s sake, he found it rather amusing that various benefits for him also emerged as a result.
「Then, we can go to the Great Tree during the next Spirit Festival?」
Based on what he knew, the next Spirit Festival was scheduled to be held in two weeks.
「No, I’ve arranged it so that we’ll go before the Spirit Festival. Otherwise you may be unable to keep calm with so many people watching.」
Almost the entirety of the Seirei no Tami population would gather around the Great Tree during the Spirit Festival.
Arthura was being considerate for Rio since it was not an issue that should be discussed in public.
「That’s… I’m truly grateful for your consideration.」
Rio thanked Arthura’s consideration with a smile.
「Hoho, a youngster like you wouldn’t be able to keep calm in front of such a massive amount of people. Besides, I also regard Rio-dono as my benefactor. This much is just a simple matter, you know.」
Arthura floated a gentle smile while talking.
「That’s why, aside from me, there will only be four people tagging along: Oufia, Sara, Alma, and Uzuma. The condition for permitting you access is that we’re to accompany you as guides, so I hope you don’t mind.」
「Sure. I don’t mind.」
As for Rio, he did not mind the condition so he immediately replied.
「Umu, then departure is in 3 days. It’s not far so it’ll only take us 30 minutes to get there.」
And so, 3 days later, guided by Arthura and the others, Rio proceeded to the Great Tree where the Quasi High Spirit, Dryad, resided.
By the way, Latifa also tagged along with them in order to meet the spirit for the first time.
Though he saw the Great Tree on a daily basis during his time in the village, Rio became overwhelmed by its presence as he got closer.
「I’m not sure how to describe this, but, while the surrounding trees are also really big, none of them emit a divine and majestic presence comparable to the Great Tree.」
Mesmerized by the Great Tree when he witnessed it, Rio voiced his impressions.
「Ara, I’m so glad that you say that.」
The charming voice of a woman was heard.
Arthura, Uzuma, Sara, Oufia, and Alma immediately knelt the moment the voice was heard.
Rio and Latifa also followed suit.
「It’s a pleasure to meet you. I am Dryad, the spirit residing in the Great Tree.」
Introducing herself with an innocent smile, a young woman appeared before Rio wearing a one-piece dress adorned with beautiful flowers.
Possessing wavy, long green hair that reached the ground and emerald coloured irides, she gave off the impression of an ephemeral beauty, yet was wrapped in a gentle atmosphere.
「Excuse my rudeness for the late introduction. I am Rio.」
At Dryad’s sudden appearance, the bewildered Rio respectfully greeted her.
「Un, Rio right? Nice to meet you.」
Dryad let out a sweet smile, that would captivate anyone who witnessed it.
「Now, I wonder if you have some business with me？The Spirit Festival is coming up, right? 」
Gently floating in the air, Dryad directed her gaze towards Arthura and the other three who were kneeling behind Rio.
「Yes. We’ve come today to seek assistance of Dryad-sama regarding a dormant spirit residing in Rio’s body who is of the human race. It is unfortunate but none of us know anything in regards to that spirit.」
Looking at Rio, Arthura stated the reason of their visit.
Dryad’s eyes moved back to Rio.
「A spirit inside this child? Certainly I can feel something like that from this child but… do you really not know anything about the spirit sleeping in your body?」
Dryad said that with a curious expression.
「Yes. I really don’t know anything.」
No matter how hard he tried, he was unable to recall anything related to a spirit from his memories. That was the reason for his simple reply.
Rio spoke the truth displaying a wry smile.
「So that’s how it is. N—, may I examine you a bit?」
「Yes. Rather, I’d be grateful if you did.」
After receiving his consent, Dryad gently touched his body.
Rio felt a foreign substance entering his body but did not attempt to resist.
「Oh my, you possess an amazing amount of Odo. Such delicacy too. Are you really from the human race? Moreover, yep, there’s no doubt that you’ve formed a contract judging from your completed circu— …eh!?」
While she was confirming the condition of the spirit residing within Rio, her body flinched in surprise.
「Did you find something?」
Noticing Dryad’s odd behaviour, Rio asked her.
「…the spirit residing within you is a humanoid spirit.」
Dryad said in a baffled voice.
Hearing Dryad’s words, everyone present except Latifa had an astonished look.
「A humanoid spirit?」
Sensing the apparent change in atmosphere, Rio inquired Dryad further since he was left out of the loop.
「In its current state, I’m unable to figure out anything more other than that it’s a humanoid spirit. U~n, just that the humanoid spirit is of considerably high rank. It’s not impossible for it to at least be equal in rank as me. I just about as surprised as all of you are since since it’s not a type of spirit one usually comes across.」
Dryad briefly explained the situation.
「…By any chance, did you arrive at the Seirei no Tami village around one year ago?」
As if remembering something, Dryad suddenly asked him.
「That’s right, I certainly did arrive at the village around that time…」
While affirming Dryad’s question, Rio slightly tilted his head to the side, wondering how she knew of that event.
「At that time, I briefly sensed the presence of a powerful spirit. Perhaps it was something akin to a resonance between powerful spirits. The spirit sleeping within you feels similar to the one I felt then. It may have been brief, but the spirit within you should’ve awoken for a short while. Do you really have no recollections about that time?」
「…No, there isn’t.」
Raising his hand to his lips, Rio vigorously searched through his memories but could not recall anything related.
「U~n. I see. If it’s like that, then I give up…」
Dryad said so with a troubled expression.
Her resigned statement struck Rio slightly off balance; it was such an anticlimactic answer.
「Dryad-sama, is the spirit sleeping within Rio-dono’s body really a High Spirit?」
At that moment, Arthura gingerly cut into the conversation.
「That can’t be possible… According to the legends, the Six High Spirits disappeared from this world over 1000 years ago. No High Spirits have been born after that.」 [TL : Dryad rank is Quasi[Fake] High-rank, while Rio spirit rank is High-ranking[True] spirit]
While Dryad made a gesture, as if thinking about something, she emphatically shook her head towards Arthura’s question.
It was an event which occurred over 1000 years ago.
The human race lived in the western parts of the Yufilia continent. They lacked the prosperity of the current era and magic did not exist. By forming many small communities, they were barely able to survive. It was a period referred to as the Dark Ages. During this time, six Wise Gods, or seven according to the Seirei no Tami, appeared in mankind’s history.
And then, as if to oppose the Six Wise Gods, a power emerged during that time, one that opposed the six wise gods.
It was the demon army, led by their King.
They, the demon race, emerged from the depths of the labyrinth situated in the Peninsula of Death, the westernmost point of the Yufilia continent. They rampaged across the surface, annihilating all who opposed them, and begun a campaign of world domination.
Opposing them were the human race lead by the Six Wise Gods.
The Gods bestowed upon mankind the means to wield magic and sacred artifacts. With their newly acquired gifts, the human race waged a long and bloody war against the demons.
The great war was recorded in history as the Demon-God War; a devastating war lasting over a hundred years.
Though the records did not go into great detail about the war, it was known that countless numbers of lives were lost during the struggle. In addition, many magic tools and artifacts used during the war were lost and current technology could not reproduce them.
As the Demon-God War raged in the west of Yufilia, the Seirei no Tami living in the central part of the continent could not remain unaffected for long.
The theatre of war continued to spread and eventually the demon army turned their attention towards the Seirei no Tami. Although they managed to repel the demon army’s invasion, the Seirei no Tami suffered heavy losses.
The High Spirits protecting the world at the time became worried about the Demon-God War that was quickly engulfing the whole continent. They decided to ally with mankind and the Six Wise Gods in the ongoing conflict.
Thanks to the participation of the High Spirits on the side of the human race, the demon army was overwhelmed and pushed back to the westernmost point of Yufilia. Unfortunately, the High Spirits were caught in a trap laid by the retreating demon army and all of them vanished.
Then, with the advent of the heroes and their divine armaments, before long the demon army was destroyed bringing an end to the great war.
That was the extent of knowledge known by the human race.
Thinking back to the Demon-God War, Rio pondered about the possible High Spirit Dryad said to be residing in him.
「Perhaps it’s a Quasi High Spirit similar to me, but I can’t find out anything more about it in its current state.」
Learning that there was a High Spirit possibly residing within him, Rio held an undescribably complicated feeling.
It was only natural that he felt that way because up until now, he had been completely unaware that such a great existence resided in his body.
「Can it not be wakened?」
Thinking it could be awoken like from any natural slumber, Rio threw out a suggestion.
「Since it’s fallen into quite a deep slumber, it’d take a considerable amount of power to forcefully awaken it. It’d be best to refrain from doing so though since it’s still in the midst of recovery, absorbing your Odo through the circuit connecting the two of you.」
Worrying about the spirit inside Rio’s body, Dryad admonished him.
「So that’s how it is… I understand.」
Although he still did not completely understand the situation, Rio nodded at Dryad’s words. Or rather, there were no other alternatives.
「Seeing how you weren’t aware of that spirit, you probably possess some sort of connection with that child before you gained awareness. Because its condition is quite stable during its sleep, it should be recovering at a steady pace. I believe it will awaken in the not too distant future.
Dryad told Rio her conjecture to alleviate some of his worries.
In the end, the investigation into figuring out the true form of the spirit residing in Rio’s body was put off because he did not want to trouble Dryad any further. Since it could not be helped, Rio left it as is for the time being.
「Even so, never in my wildest imaginations did I ever think Rio-dono may have contracted a humanoid spirit. Now that it’s come to this, Rio-dono’s position within the village do a complete 180 turn.」
Arthura who fell silent in deep thought earlier calmly stated her assessment.
Rio parroted her statement, questioning what she meant by those words.
「Umu, Rio-dono should already know that the Seirei no Tami honour the spirits. That’s why those who are able to form contracts with spirits are highly regarded and attain special standings within the country. You should’ve already known everything up to this point. However, that distinction is elevated even further if the contract is with a Quasi High Spirit or a High Spirit. Rio-done will most likely be treated like a saint among us. No, you will definitely be.」
Sara, Oufia, and Alma all nodded their heads in response to Arthura’s words.
「E~tto, a saint…?」
Rio became nervous because even though he had not done anything noteworthy, his status was going to be elevated to such an outrageous level.
「Haha, you don’t have to feel so alarmed. Rather you should should consider yourself fortunate. Rio-dono received special permission to come to this place because you were contracted with a mysterious spirit. Now that we’ve come to know of this, just take heart in the fact that your treatment will improve.」
Arthura laughed cheerfully telling him not to worry.
「But if that’s the case, then the next in Spirit Festival…」
Arthura started mumbling to herself seemingly lost in thought.
On the other hand, Dryad subtly directed her attention towards Latifa, who was happily chatting with Uzuma, Alma, Oufia, and Sara.
「You’re called Latifa, right? So cute. Please look forward to the upcoming Spirit Festival, I’ll give you a blessing kiss.」
It seemed that Dryad took a liking to Latifa, who looked like a small animal.
「Yes! Please treat me well!」
Latifa returned Dryad’s greeting with a beaming smile.
「Haa haa. So adorable… Nee, can I hug you for a bit?」
Looking at Latifa with a slightly passionate expression, Dryad eagerly threw her arms around her.
It seemed the rumour that she had a free spirited personality was true.
Rio smiled wryly at Latifa who was in panic at Dryad’s childlike behaviour.