This series has been dropped.

    “We don’t know either. We just ran away to survive…”

    Originally, beastmen are unrivaled when fleeing or chasing due to their unique beastly instincts and sense of smell.

    They are excellent hunters and escapees.

    The reason they were caught up so easily by Eldmir was partly because he too possessed superhuman senses that were out of the ordinary, but the fact that this was the elven forest played a significant role.

    For them to obediently say they don’t know is also an expression of their unwillingness to trust Eldmir’s group yet.

    Knowing that, Eldmir simply nodded his head.

    No matter how much it was the elven forest, considering they didn’t notice Eldmir’s group approaching close enough, they really might not know.

    “If we’re guests, what can you do for us?”

    The cat girl asked bluntly while still not dropping her guard. Seeing her behavior, Eldmir became curious.

    He didn’t know much about beastmen. Were all beastmen tomboys like this girl?

    “We can escort you safely to wherever you want to go. At least while you’re guests in this forest.”

    “Escort us?”

    “You keep being wary, but there’s no need for that. If we had no intention of treating you as guests, we would have done so long ago. It’s not a difficult thing.”

    At these words, the girl bared her fangs again. Scratching the back of his head for a moment at the counterproductive effect, Eldmir said to Esiria,

    “Mother, isn’t it normal for them to understand when you say it like this?”

    “Son, just stay still.”

    Yes.

    Esiria stepped forward in place of Eldmir and spoke in a warm tone.

    “Everyone, we are not trying to harm you.”

    “Hmph! Even if we’re in this state, two pointy-ears…”

    “Cerisne.”

    The moment the cat girl was about to continue speaking sharply, the beastman warrior cut off her words.

    The girl called Cerisne stopped speaking and glared at Esiria and Eldmir for a while. The beastman warrior grabbed Cerisne’s shoulder and pulled her back, bowing his head.

    “I apologize. I would appreciate it if you could dismiss it as the nonsense of immature children.”

    “Teya!”

    “Be quiet, Cerisne. This is their territory, not ours.”

    Cerisne closed her mouth with a disgruntled expression. Seeing Cerisne like that, the girls next to her, perhaps anxious, held her hand.

    What was she thinking? Cerisne, who was looking at those girls, bit her lip hard.

    “As I said, as long as you respect the etiquette of the forest, we will treat you as guests. Did you say your name was Teya? My name is Esiria Arhitea. A sentinel of the forest and a child of El Lydarell. And now, I am a sentinel who will guide you in the forest.”

    “We do not seek guidance. We would be grateful if you would just ignore us and let us pass.”

    At Teya’s words, Esiria smiled bitterly.

    “That’s impossible.”

    “…What do you mean?”

    Esiria spread her arms wide.

    “You don’t seem to think deeply about the fact that this is the elven forest. Teya, was it? The elven forest does not simply refer to the habitat where elves live. Absolutely not.”

    It happened simultaneously with the end of those words.

    “I thought I smelled the stench of beasts, but it was the foul odor of wolves and cats.”

    It was so sudden, but.

    “The cats are young. But wolves and cats together. What a strange combination.”

    It was an extremely natural flow.

    “Anyway, intruders are not allowed in this forest. We just need to carry out our roles as sentinels.”

    It was the natural ecology of the elven forest.

    “What?!”

    At the same time as Teya’s bewilderment burst out, Esiria shouted,

    “Brothers!”

    To the elves who appeared like shadows from behind the trees in the forest, Esiria said,

    “These individuals are not intruders but our guests. Are you trying to oppress those who uphold the etiquette of the forest with force?”

    Three sentinels with hoods covering their faces looked at Esiria.

    They were sentinels from another village and had never even met Eldmir before.

    One of them stepped forward.

    “Esiria from the neighboring village of Le Ryuel?”

    “That’s right. Hearing your voice, you must be Istain.”

    They seemed to know each other, recognizing one another. Nodding his head hidden under the hood, the one named Istain said,

    “They are our prey, Esiria. Why do you call them guests?”

    “Prey, you say? That’s not true. It’s not elves who are chasing them, is it? Are you claiming that the wounds on that beastman warrior’s body were inflicted by us elves?”

    At those words, Istain and the other elves glanced at the wounds on the beastman warrior’s body.

    “Certainly, it wasn’t us who injured those beasts. It’s also not us who are chasing those beasts.”

    “Then…”

    “But that doesn’t mean they aren’t our enemies. We have also been in conflict with them.”

    Istain pointed at Teya.

    “That beastman warrior. He is the one who sank his filthy fangs into the necks of three sentinels from our village. Just because we weren’t the ones chasing them doesn’t mean we have no reason to chase them now.”

    There was a faint tinge of disgust and hatred in his voice.

    The three sentinels simultaneously drew their bows.

    “Regardless of their situation, they dared to set foot in our forest, and we have a duty to fulfill as sentinels of the forest. You said they were guests who uphold the etiquette of the forest?”

    Even though hidden by the hood, Istain’s gaze clearly directed at Teya was palpable.

    “They have existed as our enemies for a long time. They cannot be our guests.”

    He then glanced at Esiria.

    “Or… is a sentinel who has lived in peace and never fought unable to understand even that level of obvious causality?”

    “How dare you…”

    As Eldmir was about to step forward in anger, Esiria stopped him with a gesture. Istain, who glanced at Eldmir, lightly snorted.

    Eldmir, who couldn’t possibly miss the meaning contained in it, barely suppressed his anger while looking at Esiria.

    “How dare you… That’s quite an interesting expression to hear. The ones who should be the target of those words are not us, but them.”

    Unlike a moment ago when he was expressing hatred toward beastmen, this time his voice was emotionless and inorganic.

    It was the voice of a being who had lived as a sentinel for hundreds of years, only to uphold his mission as a sentinel of the forest.

    At this, Eldmir let out an irritated sigh.

    He really didn’t want to get involved here.

    Istain pulled the bowstring. The sharp arrowhead was aimed at Teya’s heart. The beastman warrior and the cat girls all simultaneously bared their fangs sharply.

    At the moment of imminent crisis, Eldmir suddenly barged in between them.

    “Wait, brothers.”

    Then he pointed at Teya and said to Istain,

    “You may have seen this guy before, but you haven’t seen those little ones, have you?”

    “…Who are you? You seem to be a young elf who hasn’t had his coming-of-age ceremony yet, but now is not the time…”

    “I’m sorry, but brothers of the forest, I apologize for the rudeness of interrupting. However.”

    Eldmir smiled.

    But that smile was by no means a warm one.

    “Just as I respect you, I would appreciate it if you don’t treat me as an immature child.”

    Unlike his mild tone, he exuded a presence like a ferocious beast, causing Istain to take a step back.

    And Teya, who was standing behind Eldmir, also felt the same.

    “…No, I haven’t seen them before.”

    Sensing something from Eldmir, Istain obediently answered for now.

    “Is that so?”

    “But what does that matter? Young elf, it doesn’t matter what it is. Those guys are invaders of our forest, and we have a duty as sentinels to protect the forest from them.”

    “No, it’s different.”

    Eldmir pointed to the cat girls and said,

    “According to your logic, brothers, at least those girls are not our enemies, are they?”

    “…What nonsense are you spouting?”

    At Istain’s words, Eldmir inwardly swallowed dry saliva.

    He had just stepped forward recklessly, but this was the first time he had met elves from another village. And having to immediately clash with them in this situation made him feel a bit absurd.

    Having his first communication with unfamiliar people be a confrontation. He would rather fight than have this kind of awkward argument.

    Eldmir became a bit tense. But now was not the time to just be nervous.

    Eldmir calmly traced the thought he had just had a moment ago.

    He had to give concrete form to what had been a momentary idle thought and express it in language. He had to maintain this bluff.

    Relax, puff out your chest, and speak.

    “That warrior has been in conflict with you from the beginning. That’s correct. If that warrior had been our enemy from the start, that warrior could never be our guest.”

    The sound of the cat girls trembling with anxiety could be heard from behind.

    Eldmir inwardly reassured them.

    Both himself and those girls.

    “Then what about those little ones?”

    “…What do you mean?”

    “You said you haven’t seen those little ones before. Then naturally, you haven’t fought them either. They haven’t become our enemies yet, have they?”

    Those little ones must have come here briefly from another village. And then they were humiliated by the orcs.

    “I think they still have the qualifications to be guests.”

    Of course, it was sophistry. It was just nonsense, not even worth calling logic, just a kind of nitpicking. Nevertheless, Eldmir picked up his bow.

    “Just as sentinels have a mission to guard the forest from enemies, protecting guests is also our mission, isn’t it?”

    “…I don’t understand your intention.”

    Istain took off his hood. A handsome man with long blonde hair tied back, thick features, and a deeply furrowed brow was revealed.

    “Young elf, are you trying to protect our enemies? Even turning your back on your kin?”

    “The fuss… When did I ever try to oppose you? I’m just saying we should distinguish between enemies and guests.”

    “…I really don’t understand why you’re doing this.”

    I agree. Why do I have to do this?

    Eldmir grumbled inwardly.

    “According to your words, you mean we should spare those girls and only hunt the beastman warrior.”

    It ended up looking like he was forcing the beastman warrior to sacrifice himself, but Eldmir nodded.

    It’s better to save at least the rest. He couldn’t completely turn his back on his kin either, so compromising to this extent was the best he could do. It wasn’t that he didn’t have any qualms, but he had no choice.

    “That’s right.”

    “Nonsense!!”

    At that moment, a sharp cry rang out.

    “I won’t hand over Teya to anyone! Are you telling us to sell out our kin?!”

    It was Cerisne’s shout.

    “I won’t let it slide. Looking down on beastmen…”

    “Cerisne!!”

    Teya buried her shout. It was a loud roar that reverberated. Cerisne’s ears and tail drooped down as she trembled.

    The beastman warrior said to her with a stern expression as she cautiously looked up at Teya,

    “Stay still. It’s not your place to step in.”

    “B-But Teya.”

    “If it ends with my life, we got off cheap. Remember, Cerisne. Your lives come first. That is my goal.”

    “…”

    Ignoring the girl with tears welling up in her eyes, Teya said to Eldmir,

    “Is my life enough?”

    At this, Eldmir felt something churning inside him.

    Unable to say anything for a moment as his throat choked up, he soon composed himself.

    “…If the sentinels over there agree.”

    He clenched his fist tightly.

    “Brothers of the forest, will you acknowledge it? That those little ones are not responsible. Our only enemy is the beastman warrior.”

    “I really can’t understand.”

    Istain pressed his brow.

    “Young elf, they are beastmen. They are not worthy of your respect. I don’t know what moved your heart, but they will eventually become our enemies anyway. Whether they are girls or whatever, they are nothing more than potential enemies.”

    It was as if he was reciting the very thoughts Eldmir had held until just a moment ago, and Eldmir unconsciously laughed.

    “I also thought that way, but…”

    Eldmir glanced at Esiria.

    Then he recalled those complex, tangled thoughts he had just had.

    What had changed his mind?

    Why did I have a change of heart?

    Eldmir kept thinking.

    Why, what, for what reason.

    He began to unravel the complex tangle of threads one by one.

    The earliest era. The golden age when all races achieved harmony.

    An unknown era he could never imagine.

    The racial war. The war started by all races to achieve a bloody unification.

    The destruction of the elves.

    Harmony with the beastmen.

    Aha.

    The moment he found the answer, his accelerated thoughts returned to their original state.

    Eldmir inwardly smiled at the answer he had found as his thoughts returned to their normal flow.

    It wasn’t anything grandiose. He was just dreaming.

    It was an arrogant thought that didn’t suit him, who had simply been a game addict, but at the same time, Eldmir considered it to be a thought true to himself and a gamer, lightening his heart. And he said with a smile,

    “Dreaming of the earliest era… is not limited to just me.”

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