My eyes snapped open. I was lying on what appeared to be a bed made of moss. I was deep in a forest. I raised my hand to my head.
Just how did I get here?
I was in a fight against bandits. They had a reserve force in hiding that I didn’t predict. I got overwhelmed, but I still managed to hold my own. I think I defeated them all, but in the end, I had taken too much damage. I succumbed to my wounds and collapsed. I should be dead, shouldn’t I?
Yet, here I was, lying in a forest. I heard giggling a moment later, and I lifted my head carefully to see bubbling water coming out of a tree stump and then falling down into a pool that surrounded it. Above it, countless lights flew around in circles, buzzing excitedly.
No, that wasn’t lights. They were… fairies? Fairies that appeared to be buzzing around this source of water.
“Human!” A beautiful voice suddenly cried out, and I felt a weight on my legs.
I glanced down to see a beautiful woman kneeling on my legs and looking up at me excitedly. I quickly realized that she had large translucent wings.
“You’re a human, right?” She said again, leaning even closer to the point her chest was pressing against me.
“Wh-who are you?” I got out, my voice sounding hoarse compared to the melodic voice of her own.
“I’m the ruler here!” She responded, pointing to herself and giving a smug expression. “Everyone must do what I say!”
“You’re… a queen?” I asked.
“Queen…” She worked the word in her mouth like it was the first time she had ever heard it, and then she nodded in satisfaction. “I like that! I’m a queen!”
I had meant, rather, that she was a fairy queen. It was a type of mana creature that was said to exist, but they were rare and I had never seen one. In fact, she was probably the only one of her kind in all of Aberis. Although, the wilderness wasn’t really part of Aberis, was it?
“What am I doing here?” I asked, rubbing my head.
“My ladies, they found you and fixed you.” She explained, laying down on my stomach, her soft chest pressing against me with a complete lack of awareness.
“A-ah…” I made a strange noise.
It wasn’t that I had no experience with women, but it was rare that I was around a woman so beautiful and so innocent. Most women who acted as she did usually wanted something. However, her eyes contained no deception. As a hero, I had a predisposition for sensing evil and bad characters, and I could tell that this creature’s soul was as pure as one could be.
I stayed with her for two months while I recovered. I didn’t know what a fairy queen’s duties were, but she seemed to not ever be busy because she spent most of her time with me. We spoke about many things, and she always found my stories fascinating. She cared for my every need. When I was hungry, she fetched fruit from the forest. When I was thirsty, she let me sip from her spring. I knew this now to be a fairy spring, and that must mean that the water bubbling out was the so-called water of life.
If they had been giving me that, then I understood how I had managed to recover despite all of my injuries.
Eventually, I felt like I was over-welcoming my stay. Yet, the queen never acted like it. In fact, she seemed to be infatuated with me. She tried to keep me there as long as possible. When she ran out of excuses, she resorted to crying. I couldn’t say that it wasn’t flattering. However, I had responsibilities back home. As surreal as this place was, I couldn’t live the rest of my life in the wilderness.
“What is this?” I asked, my last day attempting to leave.
“If you keep drinking it, you will stay young.” She insisted, handing me as many gourds of liquid as she could carry.
“I-I can’t take this…”
It was the waters of life. They were important to a fairy spring, and fairy springs were important to the magical ecosystem of this forest. If someone was too greedy and took too much, then the forest’s mana would decline. There was a rule that if someone ever managed to get a fairy spring, they were only allowed to take a single bottle. This was about 100 times that amount.
“You must!” She insisted. “Drink every day, and you will remain young.”
Fairies were believed to be immortal. Was that their trick? Did they consume this water daily? The human world knew this water to be a powerful healing agent, curing ails that even spells could not and restoring vitality in the weak and elderly. However, if someone truly drank it daily, would they never age? In a way, they’d be replenishing the vitality they used each day. It was a dangerous secret, one that I knew I shouldn’t have learned.
“But, your home…”
“I will work extra hard to replenish!” She insisted, showing her bicep playfully, “As long as, when you’re done with the mortal world, please join me in the immortal world.”
That was her desire. She wanted me to live for a hundred years as a human. Once I had completed my mortal responsibilities, then the rest of the time I could spend with her. What could I say? I was charmed by the queen. I was a little tempted at her offer. Furthermore, if I didn’t take it, I wasn’t sure if she’d ever allow me to leave her domain.
So, I took the gourds and I left, knowing a secret no mortal should know. Enough water of life to be a Lord for all eternity! It was too dangerous. It threatened to break the balance of this world. I sold the waters of life as they were, an expensive alchemy ingredient and a healing potion. The world could never know the truth, and I could never allow myself to fall into temptation.