Blinking a full kilometre at a time, Richard was quickly floating a hundred metres above the elf he had sensed. He had planned to go straight to her, but the moment he realised the situation he froze up for a moment in nostalgia.
The elf was quite young, but she was already at level 16. Although it was unlikely for her to ever become a legend, even powerful tribes only ever had two or three people with her talent at a time. Completely oblivious to his presence, she was currently leant against a large tree and gasping furiously for air, armour at her side as she examined a large arrow-hole on her right breast. He could tell that the arrow had been pulled out by force, and despite the pain the half-naked woman managed to focus on healing her wound.
A mangled chant through gritted teeth summoned a ring of green energy, the glow covering the wound and stemming the flow of blood. The flesh started quivering, but it was far from even beginning to heal. The cast seemed to drain the woman’s energy, leaving her without the strength to even put her armour back on as she leaned against the trunk and closed her eyes.
Just as she started to rest, the elf’s ears suddenly twitched and she opened her eyes once more. Richard’s brows arched up as he took an interest in her; she was currently looking accurately in the direction that a dozen hunters and two druids were heading over from. Those chasing her were multiple kilometres away, and sensing them required perception on par with sky saints.
The scenario itself hearkened back to one he had come across decades ago, bringing up memories of a bright girl who had felt almost like a sister despite their brief acquaintance. He had to shake thoughts of Melia from his mind, suppressing the rage as he focused on the situation at hand. He was on a timer, and this was the only lead he’d found since he started.
The woman struggled into her armour, the stretching causing the barely-sealed wound to split open once more. Pallid and with gritted teeth, she gathered her bearings and started to flee in the opposite direction.
“I can smell you, Lora. You can’t run!” a druid’s voice suddenly rang through the forest, but the elf just gritted her teeth and dashed away. Blood started seeping out of her leather armour, but she ignored the pain and continued to move. Richard shook his head at the sight; she was forgetting that her blood left obvious tracks behind. The hunters would get to her sooner or later.
Richard continued to observe as the girl continued her escape, but it wasn’t long before the chase came to a close. A dozen kilometres in, she was blocked off by a large black panther, the same druid that had spoken earlier on.
“Don’t give up your soul for no reason, Lora, come back with me and fulfil your responsibilities.” The panther inched closer even as the young lady stepped back, her back eventually bumping into a tree trunk. However, she suddenly seemed to fill up with rage, shouting loudly, “I’m never going back! The Jadeleafs killed my soul! I’m not going to marry whatever son of the forest!”
The panther growled, “Windleaf was not your soul. Your soul, my soul, they all belong to the Tree of Life and World Tree. Without it, what is the purpose of our existence? The Jadeleaf Tribe are the guardians of the World Tree, and Windleaf injured their child. The World Tree is our everything; execution was a lenient sentence.”
“Gah! How is the World Tree everything? Why do we have to give it our life and soul regardless of treatment?!”
“Because it’s the World Tree,” the druid said calmly. This was a conviction that all elves shared.
“Then what if I tell you there’s another one far away?”
“What? Impossible! The World Tree is the only will of the forest!”
“No, I sensed it. There’s another, and I can feel its call. That tree feels safe and warm, treating us elves like its children. It wants to bring sunlight to this world.” Lora suddenly seemed to lose focus, her expression and tone growing gentle, “Do you know what sunlight is? It was bright and warm, feeling so happy…”
“You’ve gone insane!” the panther growled.
“No, I’m not crazy. I heard its call, I saw the future it wants. Windleaf saw it all too, that’s why the Jadeleafs killed him! They’re afraid!”
“Rubbish! That isn’t a world tree, it’s a demon with a distorted will! The elders of the Jadeleaf Tribe sent word to guard against the will of the demons, falling means expulsion!” The druid’s voice was full of rage, but there were also hints of fear within, “Lora, the elders of the Jadeleaf Tribe have already decided that fallen elves are to be brought to the World Tree and burnt to death. Only flames can cleanse their souls. Return with me immediately, and I’ll pretend you never said anything.”
“The Jadeleafs?” the girl sneered, “They’re scared. They haven’t dared face the invaders ever since the war. They have the most hunters of all of us, the strongest druids, even the support of the World Tree. But what are they doing? They’re cowering far away, avoiding contact at all costs. Tell me, have they sent anyone to fight the invaders? Even I know that the enemy is growing stronger every day, but outside of forcing our tree to move, they do nothing else! They’re simply allowing the forest to be taken over!”
The panther’s voice suddenly turned somewhat hoarse, “Druid Jadering and Hunter Wildrage are very powerful, and they have a dozen children too. They have the strength to kill the invaders, they must be waiting for the right time.”
The young lady threw up her hands, “Don’t even try. I understand my choice, and you know what they did. I’m not going to marry someone who killed my love, and I won’t be going to his tribe. You raised me all these years, just kill me now.
“Once I’m dead, go have a look at the new tree far away. You’ll realise it isn’t a demon, but a real world tree. It’s even more pure and noble than ours.”
The druid hesitated, a look of pain in his eyes as his beastly aura dissipated entirely. It took a few minutes before he decided to move, baring his cold fangs. The girl just sat down and offered her neck, stroking the panther’s head, “Thank you.”
After a moment of deliberation, the panther eventually bit down. However, it was suddenly blinded by an orb of light, finding its fangs crunching down on something so hard that two of its teeth broke off. Richard descended from the sky, landing right next to the young elf, “You can actually hear the call of the Golden World Tree. I’m the chief of the invaders; tell me what else you can hear and see, you’ll get a reward for it.
“Why should I believe you?” the woman quipped back immediately, leaving him a little shocked. He frowned for a moment, but eventually pulled out the sword he’d gained from Michael; the flames erupting on its surface were much better proof than any words. This was a divine weapon that no elf could forge, clearly signifying his status and power.
“Come with me, I’ll show you the tree that is calling out to you,” Richard extended a hand. The young elf flinched at the divine flames, but the doubt in her expression faded away. She continued to glare at Richard uneasily, but she placed her own in his and allowed him to pull her away.
A jade moon suddenly appeared above Richard’s head, a powerful pulse of vitality converging on Lora’s chest. Enormous amounts of life force flooded into her, starting to heal her wounds at a visible rate. The girl looked down at her feet, staring in awe at the flowers that were growing around her.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA