“So. Why is… well… this” - and I pointed at the chest - “... so dangerous? I heard a few things from the Akagi family. But apparently, Hin didn’t even tell much to his own.”
Elbert nodded. “It was a secret that he couldn’t share. Only some details.”
“I don’t understand. Why did Hin replant the seed in the first place? Was the greed just so big? Why didn’t he keep it in a chest, locked, hidden away, and never planted?”
“Because that was impossible,” Aldrynte said, taking hold of the glass as well, looking at the liquid. “The seed holds a powerful curse. It wants to be planted. And it will get what it wants sooner or later.”
“I don’t follow,” I muttered. Well, I did have some ideas, but none of them mattered. Aldrynte looked at her father, expectedly.
“Fine,” he said, placing his own glass down.
“Just like you’re thinking right now, the first plan was to never plant it again. But around three months of it being locked away, Hin began to see dreams of the tree. The tree warned him, telling him to plant the seed. It was like a lucid dreaming; he knew it was a dream, but he wasn’t entirely in control. He could also ask questions and get some answers. But those dreams came always back.
“More days passed, and he began to sleep even less. Life started to be all about the seed. And the seed did warn him that if he would not break, he would start hurting others too until someone would do it.
“Of course, Hin discussed it with the observer, Cirgad, and tried to figure out a way to buy some time or keep it locked away. At some point, they even got the seed locked somewhere far away, where no soul lived. But even then, he would see the dreams, getting contacted by the seed. He said that when the seed was on the island, he would see the island in the background, telling exactly where it was located. All he ever felt was the need to find it, and plant it. It was driving him mad.
“According to the tree, it was a curse from the other gods. Hin and Cirgad became desperate. But they realized that they needed to plant it before Hin lost his mind and had no longer control over it. Once planted, it cannot be unrooted, until the tree gives his seed away willingly.
“So they thought of every place where to plant. Perhaps hide it on difficult terrain, somewhere on the mountain, making a dragon to protect it. But as they realized how the tree can corrupt someone heart with greed, it was too dangerous. Even if the dragon has a strong will, there was nothing worse than an old dragon who has been overtaken by the greed. History talks of a few such dragons. Stories of dragons gathering an endless amount of gold...
“There was also an idea of planting it somewhere where no soul lives and just leaving it there. But we knew that someone would find it eventually, even if it was accidental. Someone who flies might see it. It was too risky.
“Then they thought about how the seed managed to survive on the Barren Lands in the first place? They reached a conclusion, that since the surrounding was corrupted and full of evil anyway, filled with greedy monsters, they didn’t care enough. And the land wasn’t fertile, so the tree could grow only that much. But he did try.
“And that’s when Hin finally reached the conclusion. He needed to hide the tree but still plant it away from people's eyes. He needed to make an environment where he could not grow endlessly, but the land was fertile enough so he would keep his promise. He did promise to plant the seed on more fertile land.
“So, without even telling Cirgad, he began to use his earth magic, creating a place where the seed could grow, but only a limited amount. Perhaps they were lucky that Hin could do the earth magic. He planned it as well as he could, while endlessly working on a secret place, barely sleeping at nights.
“And then one day, he came to Cirgad, told him that it was done, and he had planted the seed.”
There was a moment of pause. “The cavern makes sense. But why the holes that lead to his place?” I asked.
“I don’t know all the details, but there’s speculation that Cigrad told us. The red trees appeared a few years later very convincingly in his family garden. He speculated that it was a necessary calculation for the plan to work. Maybe it was necessary to deceive the tree? But he entrusted the red trees to his own family, to take care of them, to harvest them, and to keep the secrets hidden. At least they could reward themselves from all the wood they sold. Until now.
“It was chaos when Ceo'ge managed to reveal so In the process. It was hard work to keep them as made up stories, even if Ceo'ge family supposedly ceased to exist later.”
“What was Ceo’ge’s family name?” I asked as a side note.
“Ceo’ge. Well, it became their family name after him,” Aldrynte said. I gave her a nod.
“Hin sometimes told to Cirgad, that the voices never stopped. He would still occasionally
I nodded. “So, in the end, it wasn’t greed but the necessity.”
“Hin sometimes told to Cirgad that the voices never stopped. He would still occasionally hear whispers of the tree, cursing his name for breaking the promises. But there were never any curses on him. Or at least none we could detect. I only assume that it’s thanks to the fact that he didn’t technically break the promise.”
I frowned. “It also means deceiving it the second time is going to be… a lot harder.”
“For sure,” Aldrynte whispered. “It might be even impossible.”
“Then again. Can’t we just plant it and say deal with it?”
“Hin said it wouldn’t work. The tree told him that he would either not take root, or it would die before expanding fully, repeating the process. Maybe this is why he needed the tunnel to his garden?”
“How long he had before he planted the seed?” I asked.
Elbert shook his head. “Don’t even think of waiting that long. It’s only thanks to his calm mind and rational thinking that he managed to hold on as long as he did. He was a great and calm monk. His ways were good. Till this very day, we can see his culture around the world. And by that, I don’t mean only his children.”
I nodded. “I was very impressed by Lu.”
“But as I said, it took three months before he started to see those dreams and hear whispers. It took a year since he got the plant to finally replant it. But that was a very close call. It took a long time for him to recover afterward. And part of him never recovered.”
“So, I’d say six months?”
Aldrynte sighed. “The seed might be a lot restless this time. It might act sooner than expected.”
There was a moment of pause as I tried to remember the god’s words. “Someplace where I could grow the fruit and be finally free,” I said slowly, looking at the ceiling. “Those were his words.”
“A fruit?” Elbert muttered. “I’ve never heard anything about fruit. The tree never talked about it.”
“Or Hin decided to never speak of it to Cirgad,” I muttered. “But why wouldn’t he?”
“Fruit can mean many things,” Aldrynte said.
“But he said the fruit,” I said, looking at her. “It sounds like something very specific. Like it’s a singular fruit. And he did hint that the world is in danger after I asked jokingly if I had to kill a god.”
Both Aldrynte and Elbert looked at me, worried.
I chuckled. “Either way, it’s a problem we have to figure out within three months. No wonder he was so happy for me to take the seed and help me escape. I wonder why he didn’t let Thomas take its seed instead. He could’ve planted him somewhere better.”
“Perhaps he’s still a god in one way or another?” Aldrynte suggested. I looked at her, not fully understanding. “Perhaps, they don’t want to be placed in the wrong hands? What if Thomas abuses the tree in his own way?”
“It is possible,” Elbert said, nodding.
“Either way, thank you. I’ll think of something. Can I leave the seed with you for now?”
“Of course,” Elbert said, nodding. “But remember, you removed the seed. It’s connected to you, to your soul.”
“Speaking of curses, the seed told me something interesting,” I changed the topic. “It’s also something that I wanted to talk to you about.”
“I’m listening,” Elbert said as Aldrynte barely opened her mouth.
“I’m apparently also cursed. The tree told me because it’s a very… particular one.”
“Excuse me,” Elbert muttered, leaning forward, and taking two long sniffs. “You’re right. You are cursed. But it’s a sneaky one, hiding away, trying to not be found.”
“What? You can smell curses?” I asked.
Aldrynte sighed. “Remember when I told you that every dragon has some kind of power or multiple ones? Besides depending on what type of dragon we are. My father can detect and sometimes even understand the curses.”
I nodded. “Right. I do remember that. Why didn’t you smell it sooner?”
“How would you feel if every person I met, I would lean forward and sniff them? It would be even worse if I did it secretly and someone would notice it.”
I chuckled. “Fair enough.”
“Some curses are noticeable. I don’t even need to sniff to smell it. A lot of high-ranking adventurers have a curse or two, just nothing huge that would make their life any way harder. They are also easy to detect or remove. But yours…” Elbert leaned forward once more, taking another few sniffs. It really did feel uncomfortable. “... yours is very strong. Yet it’s trying really hard to hide itself. Intriguing. To be fair, I can barely detect it. Must be thanks to my age. If I was a hundred years younger, I wouldn’t be able to sniff it out.”
It was time. “Have you ever wondered what’s my name? You keep calling me Hero. Yet you never thought whether it was my real name.” Both Aldrynte and Elbert looked at me, slightly confused. “No, my name ain’t Hero. Just confirming it,” I said.
“It’s not that,” Aldrynte said, shaking her head. “It’s just… it doesn’t make any sense. Yet I don’t know and never even thought about it.”
Elbert chuckled. “No wonder you felt mysterious. I never considered that your name is different. But it doesn’t make any sense.”
I sighed. “Apparently the curse doesn’t allow anyone to know, say, or inquire my name.”
“That sounds, interesting. I want to test it.”
“My name is-”
As I began to say my name, casually, Elwin appeared out of nowhere, having finally reached the top balcony. “Is everything alright? Do you... Oh my, did I interrupt something?” We all stared at him.
“No. Get us some more quality wine, will you?” Elbert said.
“Yes, certainly,” Elwin bowed and walked back to the stairs to go back down.
“Alright,” Elbert said. “That’s… truly intriguing...”
“I can’t force you to hear or see it either, or you might lose hearing or sight. Or you might even die,” I said, sighing. “Apparently I need to find the one to get the curse lifted.”
“The one, huh. Sadly I can’t help you here. The curse is too unique and strong for me to tell you anything.”
I sighed. “But apparently, if you give me a name, you can use it without worries. As long as I don’t say myself. I can’t really introduce myself in any way.”
“Hiro, huh?” Elbert immediately said, leaning back. “No wonder Alice was calling you by that name.”
“It’s quite catchy, don’t you think?” Aldrynte said, smiling.
“I’ll call you Hiro from now on. Might as well. It’s easier for you as well.”
I smiled. “To be fair, I’ve slowly grown attached to that name as well. So might as well keep it for now. At least until I solve this curse.”
“Perhaps in time, I can also sniff something new. Curses usually have multiple stages or tend to weaken in time. You’re right now young and strong, so the curse follows the suit.”
“Yeah. I’d appreciate that.” I took another sip from the wine glass. “But for now, I have conveyed the information.”
“What are you up to now?” Aldrynte asked. “I heard that they want to see you soon in adventurer’s guild.”
I nodded. “There’s also the matter of fire giants and goblins on the other side of the wall.”
“Well, leave all the logistic to me,” Elbert said.
I looked at him. “Are you sure? I mean, it’s a lot…”
“I have connections, and I’ve done this forever. Don’t worry about it. You go and… do your hero stuff. And visit us, talk to us. Or else Aldrynte is going to miss you.”
Aldrynte threw a fiery stare at her father.
“And I would miss you too,” he added quickly.
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
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