Chapter 23: The fat aristocrat learns about the situation of the elf hunter
After seeing Canule off outside, Mitrof was approached by Grace, and they stood in front of the shop.
The street was lined with reasonably priced inns. Lanterns hung in front of the shop, casting a faint light. There was no brightness or noisy voices, just a quiet night settling in.
“Sorry for surprising you like that.”
“Coming to the inn, or bringing a porter applicant?”
“No need to worry—I’m not concerned about either.”
Grace said while leisurely crossing her arms.
“I was a bit surprised… but that’s just fate, right?”
“That’s a strange way of putting it—well, elves are known for their stargazing (star-reading) abilities.”
“You think I’m old-fashioned, don’t you?”
Grace laughed and brushed a strand of silver hair away from her cheek.
“Nowadays, they say that the movements of the stars in the night sky are already determined—everything has a reason and is nothing but a combination of movements—there’s no future or destiny there.”
“What does Grace think?—Do you believe in that celestial science(astronomy) thing?”
“Well, it’s difficult for me to understand what smart people say—they say that even the ground beneath our feet is rotating.”
“The talk of elf stargazers is also difficult for me.”
“That’s right—even the words of the elderly elf stargazers are difficult for me.”
Grace laughed brightly. It was a rare sight for her.
“But, as an elf born and living in an elf village, we must follow the destiny set by the stars—it is our mission and the norm for living a good life.”
Grace looked up at Mitrof from the corner of her eye.
Mitrof noticed her gaze and looked back.
The blue brilliance of Grace’ eyes, deeper than the darkness of the night, could be clearly seen because of the soft light of the moon and stars.
‘Sometimes people express what they want to say in a roundabout way,’ Mitrof thought.
His father told him to go to the labyrinth. It was his way of saying to go die in an unknown place; Mitrof understood it correctly.
Implying his true intention and being able to read between the lines, this was the strong suit of the nobility. For nobles, conveying things in a straightforward manner was not something they would do for everyone to understand.
They mistakenly believe that it is because they are modest—modest really means what Grace is now. There is no greed there.
“Did you come to the labyrinth because you read the stars?”
Grace widened her eyes in surprise. She did not expect her true intentions, which she had hidden in their conversation, to be revealed so quickly.
After that, her eyes softened, and she let out a soft breath from her lips.
“Truly, you are astute—perhaps a word has a different weight with you than it does with me.”
“Creatures like nobles just love to play with words—they have nothing else to do.”
Mitrof shrugged his shoulders.
“Grace, what did you come to the labyrinth for?”
“…Do you remember when we first met and I said I wanted to go to the fifth floor?” (TL:CH5)
“I haven’t forgotten—you were insistent on going no matter what.”
Grace nodded in response and looked across the street to the inn. Just as she did, the door opened, and an elderly woman added oil to a lantern.
“There’s an epidemic in the village now—I came to find medicine for it.”
“An epidemic? Then you should go to the clinic. ”
Mitrof stopped mid-sentence.
Of course, medicine can be obtained at the clinic. It was straightforward. If so, Grace wouldn’t need to dive into the labyrinth.
Grace looked at Mitrof again and nodded slightly, acknowledging that her guess was correct.
“It’s not for people—it’s a disease that affects trees.”
Mitrof furrowed his brows involuntarily.
“Do trees and plants get sick too?”
“Of course. Like humans and animals, trees and flowers can also get sick, which usually leads to their wilting.”
“…Is there such a medicine?”
‘Is it medicine made for trees?’ Mitrof groaned. ‘There are also some strange medicines.’
“Nature goes in circles—trees wither, flowers fall, and animal corpses rot and return to the soil—only we create medicine and try to overcome illness because we don’t want to die.”
Grace looked away and stared blankly at the street.
“For the elves, the forest is home, a blessing, a friend, and a designated land—we have an agreement with the royal family.”
“What does that have to do with trees?”
“There is something called a sacred tree in our forest. It is said to have received blessings from the Great Spirit; it is necessary to offer its leaves to the royal family at the beginning of the year.”
Mitrof had heard that story before, the current king favored intangible items such as divination and blessings.
That is why he has a poor relationship with scholars, led by astronomers. But he has remarkable political abilities and governs the country well.
Mitrof’s aristocratic calculations led him to believe that the king would be especially fond of the leaves of the sacred tree of the elves, blessed by the Great Spirit. And if it were not available, how would the king react?
“If you cannot manage the forest…”
“That’s right—we may be driven out of the forest—but we are the only ones who can manage the sacred tree properly, which is why we have not lost that sanctuary.”
“So, is the sacred tree infected with a disease after all?”
“…The tips of the leaves are starting to wither.”
Grace looked around the street.
Mitrof finally noticed. She had been checking to make sure no one else was around and listening in on their conversation. If anyone else knew, what would happen? It was that important of a matter.
“…Do you trust me?”
“You’re the first person I’ve ever confided in—be grateful.”
Grace joked and laughed. However, the importance of the situation did not change, and Mitrof was struck with a strange feeling. His stomach suddenly grew hot.
It was a feeling he had only experienced before when he ate something so delicious that he could not help but cheer. It was the heat of life—the only moment he could feel that he was alive.
Now, a heat that exceeded that was harbored within Mitrof.
He was trusted.
Grace entrusted Mitrof with her thoughts on his existence, his personality, and his life. She trusted his way of being, “Mitrof,” and revealed it to him.
“Boo…hiii,” Mitrof breathed heavily and tried to calm himself down.
His head began to feel dizzy.
“W-What’s the matter, Mitrof?”
Taking a deep breath, Mitrof regulated his breathing. He tried to regulate his breathing. No, it seemed like it was not working. His head was floating.
“Grace, can we continue this conversation tomorrow?”
“Uh-huh? That’s all right, of course… I apologize, I shouldn’t have bothered you with all this.”
“That’s not it!”
Mitrof raised his voice.
“I’m extremely happy right now. I’m also grateful that you trusted me enough to reveal how important this matter is to Grace. It makes me happy to be someone you consider trustworthy enough to confide in, to have that value. It’s my first time in life.”
Mitrof’s cheeks were flushed to the point where it was noticeable even in the moonlight as he spoke quickly.
“To be honest, I’m getting carried away—I might not be able to concentrate on your story or respond constructively like this—let me cool down and listen again properly—goodnight for now—see you tomorrow.”
Even with his protruding belly, Mitrof bowed with refined elegance, then walked away with heavy steps.
Grace repressed a laugh and said, “Well, that was good,” as she was surprised by his urgency.
After watching Mitrof’s back disappear into the shadows of the street with soft light in her blue eyes, Grace returned to her lodging.