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Everyone gathered around where the healers were busy helping their former comrades who had decided to part ways with them due to their differing views and couldn’t tolerate this cooperation with the other race. There were only a few of them, but their sorry state was pretty telling.
What surprised everyone there was the fact that the group consisted of 3 Onis and 4 elves.
One of them lost one of their hands, another was bleeding profusely from the hollow eye cavity, another had a hole in their stomach, one of the Onis lost their horns completely and was bleeding from their head, another one was burned throughout their whole body and was the most critical patient among the others.
Only one Oni and one elf were sober enough to help the rest of their comrades and find this place. They were also apparently the youngest ones among the group.
“Faro!! Thank goodness you’re alright!”
A female elf caught a glimpse of the returnees and immediately rushed forward to hug the least wounded elf returnee. She didn’t care if the elf male in question was covered in blood and dirty.
The male elf returnee—Faro—hugged his elder sister back.
An Oni who recognized the least wounded Oni returnee addressed her.
The least wounded Oni had a frostbite and one of her hands seemingly broken. Meanwhile, the least wounded elf had some superficial burn marks around his body as well as a seemingly broken arm.
“What happened?” General Nagare and Oriel asked.
“……,” Both Faro and Yasha were silent and there was a steep change in their atmosphere.
“After we left, we found a good place to settle in and started living there, trying to find a way to return,” Faro started.
“Same goes for us,” Yasha also said.
“At first, everything was fine. It was harder to fend off the monsters, but we managed somehow,” Faro said.
“Then one day, an uninvited visitor came to us, and they were… It… That…,” Faro stopped after stuttering a few times and his body trembled.
“That huge, terrifying monster is really something else,” Faro managed to continue after a short pause.
“Even as an Oni, I found that one to be dreadful,” Yasha added.
Faro turned to look at Yasha and said, “The monster was very aggressive and killed a lot of us. Even when the survivors ran and hid, it still chased after us in a craze. We were scattered around and the monster happened to be chasing after me and my friends.”
“Amidst the monster chasing the scattered elves, it found the Onis and we were dragged… No, we were also hunted down and my group happened to run in the same direction as Faro’s group.”
“We met under that circumstances and were immediately pointing daggers at one another… But eventually we stopped,” Yasha said as she closed her eyes.
“We stopped quarrelling when we finally realized that all of us were never going to make it against that terrifying monster anyway. A lot of our comrades were killed and eaten…,” Faro curled up his fists as they trembled, tears fell from his eyes.
“We were too desperate to extend our life, even one hour will do. So in the end we… worked together just to continue running away from the monster,” Yasha said.
“Some of us sacrificed their lives just to stop the monster from chasing the others, while the others ran in scattered direction. The seven of us were lucky that we weren’t chased by the monster and even managed to find this place,” Faro said, and he turned to look at his elder sister.
“Big Sis, I’m sorry. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have become too fanatic with my belief… I should’ve tolerated working together with the Onis…”
“It’s alright, it’s alright… As long as you’re here now…,” Faro’s elder sister comforted him.
“I thought I’d rather die than working hand-in-hand with the elves, but after seeing and risking deaths constantly all the time, the fear of dying finally hit me,” Yasha said.
“What happened with the rest of the Onis there? My son… Is he?” One of the Onis asked.
“……I don’t know. They might still be alive, maybe not,” Yasha only shook her head.
The elves didn’t need to ask the same question to Faro to know that perhaps their other elf comrades were in the same situation as the Onis’.
Then, the surroundings became quiet as slowly, every one of them turned to look at their leaders.
Knowing what they were thinking about, Nagare said, “I will allow the rest of our comrades to return should they want it, as long as they don’t cause troubles.”
Oriel also said, “The same goes for the elves. They just need to abide to the same strict rules we’ve established in the beginning.”
They wouldn’t want anyone to start fire in this fragile cooperation between them.
Thus, a very strict rule was written out so that everyone would be obedient and not cause any mishaps.
Some still tried to stealthily cause trouble to the other race that they despised, but usually it could only happen when they were away from the camp. Due to that, the trouble they caused immediately backfired to them and eventually, nobody had dared to do any harm to the other party at all.
But there were also some harmless quarrels from time-to-time that emerged from their differing values and culture. Luckily, the quarrels that had happened under the monitor of others would be mediated by the others quickly to reach a point of agreement.
And thus, the returnees were accepted by the elf-Oni alliance with open arms. All of them had to be healed first, as their condition was worrisome.
Just like the members of the alliance that were heavily injured, not all of the returnees managed to be nursed to good health. Some breathed their last, but at least they were surrounded by their friends and possibly even family members who were present. And they could hold a proper funeral for them, not just leaving them to be eaten by the monsters.
That simple fact was consoling enough for those who were dying.
Although they had announced that they’d welcome the rest of the Onis and elves should they return, they didn’t receive any other returnee since then.
One of the expedition team actually encountered a member of the non-allied team, but sadly they were unable to be convinced to join.
As for what fate awaited them, nobody had an idea. They couldn’t help it, they didn’t want to force the unwilling members to join them as it might cause harm to them instead.
With the passing of time, the atmosphere around them inevitably warmed up due to their intense interaction and the need of cooperating every day. Some of the more lenient fellows already befriended members of opposite race with the same lenient mindset. They began to interact more than what it was necessary.
Perhaps infected by these lenient fellows’ good friendships as well as feeling tired of being tense around the other party, the rest of them slowly followed suit in forging friendships.
“I can’t do this anymore… Living like this is tiring… Why must I experience this?!”
The air of desperation sometimes caused some of them to have a breakdown and at this time.
“I feel that way, too.”
The surrounding people or their teammates also felt for them and nobody turned a blind eye to such meltdown as they saw their own selves in the others feeling like this.
“You know, I wonder if the time we spend here is the same as the time that has passed in our original world… I have a newborn back at home.”
“I left my pregnant wife, thinking that it won’t take long…”
“My old parents…”
They would then have some deep, heart-to-heart talk that contributed to them getting even closer.
Eventually, they all had warmed up to each other and before they even noticed, they didn’t feel as prejudiced as they were before.
The Onis that had a generational dislike for elves and their light magic—since, because of them, the Onis with their dark magic were always portrayed as sinister and bad—eventually thought that the elves weren’t as bad as they thought. Not all elves were looking down on them.
The elves that thought the Onis only there to cause problem realized that the Onis weren’t actually that bad and that they had kindness in them. Just like the elves, there were good and bad Onis.
“Ah, is that why you hate us? Being seen as bad though you’re not doing anything… It must’ve been hard, sorry.”
“What for? It’s not like you actively spread such rumour.”
“Well, I just feel bad. I also had misunderstood you.”
“…Likewise. I thought you elves were all arrogant, but you actually listened to us, Onis.”
Discussions about why their races and countries were at odds with each other would sometimes emerge from time to time, causing them to eventually think more about the two’s relationship…
Nobody knew who exactly suggested it, but they had been routinely having nights where they’d all gather in a circle, sitting around the campfire or a warm, giant lightball that the elves created. Some would sit in silence, some would share stories, some would dance and sing.
Perhaps someone started it with their small group at first to lighten their mood, but everyone was then attracted to this activity and it had turned into a routine activity that included almost all of them.
“Hey, don’t you think we’re actually not so different?” Fideline suddenly blurted during one of such nights.
“Onis and elves are very different, what do you mean?” Osamu quickly snorted.
“I mean, sure, we have different race, magic specialty, appearance, and even culture. But our core is the same, right?” Fideline gave a sidelong glance at Osamu before she said.
“We all simply want to live a happy life and live to the fullest. There are good and bad in each of us,” Fideline casually said.
Then, a sudden realization dawned on her as she slowly said—as if she herself was trying to understand what she was saying—, “Just because our magic specialty is on the opposite spectrum of each other and our culture values different thing, it doesn’t mean that we must fight to see who’s right. Rather, the differences make it that we complement each other, don’t you think?”
“We’re actually not meant to compete against each other, but to complete each other?” Osamu slowly said this conclusion as his eyes widened.
The other Onis and elves who were also listening to this random topic had their eyes turn wide.
After so many days and nights going through thick and thin together, most of them had a hunch that it was how it should have been.
“…,” Hearing that, Oriel only hung her head down silently before she got up from the ground to move to a slightly distant place from the crowd, sitting all by herself as she continued to gaze at the crowd’s merry-making.