Book 4, Chapter 24

Behind The Forest

The communication formation dimmed and Blackgold leapt off his chair, snickering as he muttered to himself, “The old coot wants to compete with me! He’ll show his true colours now, let’s see if you get any sleep in the next week!”

Blackgold then took out the list Richard had given him, at the very top of which was a breakdown of the gunpowder formula from Faelor’s dwarves and a request for improvements to it. Richard had stated that he would be willing to pay an extra 200,000 gold if the research could be completed in a month. If the elf actually did succeed, Blackgold would still get 150,000 gold!

A look of pain appeared on the grey dwarf’s face and he finally sighed deeply, taking out the accounting books for the Deepblue and recording the number 149,900 under the credit section. “Your Excellency! Your most loyal treasurer will only take a hundred gold as pay!” he mumbled to himself, “At this rate, I’m going to starve…”

……

Night fell upon the Forest Plane once more. The soldiers retreated into the city, with the stonewood that couldn’t be transported back cast aside as usual. The woods were exceptionally dangerous at night, with the elves growing far more powerful. This was especially true because of a special technique they could use that made their arrows seem like spectres, becoming incredibly difficult to sense. Thus, even though the druids continued to move the trees from deeper within the forest, Lina never organised the army to stop them. The nightly attacks of the elves would be fatal to the ordinary soldiers and officers.

Thankfully, this type of arrow was only effective in the forest. Its power dropped drastically outside, making it even inferior to ordinary bolts. If not for that, Lina would long since have been beaten back to Norland.

The trees began uprooting themselves as they did every night, but this time Richard was seated in an empty space with the Nature’s Domain rune activated. The only weapon he had was the nameless elven sword. He had already fused into one with the forest, but was still careful not to approach any large tree as he placed himself by some bushes. The trees were the companions of the forest elves, and any unassuming trunk could become an eye of their druids.

Waterflower was crouched on the ground in the distance, like a wolf waiting for its prey. Phaser had abandoned her cloak and partially buried herself into the earth. The former was used to darkness and the forests from the Archeron death camp, while the latter was naturally adept at concealment. He was confident that neither would be seen by the elves.

The three of them were several kilometres apart from each other, their locations based on some analysis of the information he’d gotten from walking through the woods over the past month. He had marked down the regions that were most likely to be hidden; at the very least, the elves had to pass through them.

Agamemnon was already lying in wait elsewhere. He’d mentioned that he would be fine alone so nobody was accompanying him, although Richard still hadn’t seen him go all out.

There were a few other regions as well, but there were no suitable candidates. The elves were too familiar with Lina’s aura, and Nyris was great at everything except waiting. The Prince’s mind had been everywhere recently, so he wasn’t suitable for a stealth mission like this. In the meanwhile, Scherr and grand mage Pamir had no talent at concealment.

The forest started rumbling once more as ancient trees started to cross through to the open space. The woods were walking once more. A few agile figures were leaping from tree to tree, eyes glowing a light green while their agile bodies fused with the dark colours of the canopy. Most beings wouldn’t even be able to see them; the forest in the night was their natural battlefield.

Richard remained unmoving where he was. Hunters were extremely sensitive towards motion, but in exchange they normally neglected the still ones. Richard had already been sitting in the same place for a few hours, his aura completely melded into the surroundings until one couldn’t perceive him without a large-scale detection spell or plain sight. However, as someone with exceptional senses himself, he knew that the more astute a person was the more sight became a blind spot. Eyes were tools that caught active prey. In extreme circumstances, he could be sitting by someone’s leg and they wouldn’t notice him. There was no question that the druids were people with very keen senses.

The trees had already left, and after some time the tremors of the earth stopped as well. They had walked out of the forest and reached their destinations, setting their roots down in the cleared space. However, Richard still remained immobile. It seemed deathly silent as a few figures flitted back across and disappeared into the forest, the elven warriors making no sound despite moving like the wind. Even a long while after they disappeared Richard remained quiet and unmoving, his breath barely even discernible.

It took half an hour for him to suddenly open his eyes, a demonic blue flashing within. Hundreds of metres away, a moving shadow suddenly stopped and turned almost completely invisible; only when it was moving could one see the silhouette of a panther.

The panther turned towards Richard and its hair immediately stood on end. It could see Richard’s lips open slightly, and being able to lip-read it recognised what he was saying, “Got you!”

Richard sprang into motion, the dark green facade that was covering his body all this time cracking apart. His lips quirked up in a smile, revealing spotless white teeth. With the elven sword in hand, he charged towards the invisible panther.

The panther was startled at first, but then it bared its teeth while growling as its eyes filled with immense hatred. After some hesitation, it turned to run towards the depths of the forest.

However, it was too late. A lot could happen in a moment of hesitation, and this time a streak of lightning pierced through the sky to land upon the panther. Its invisibility was immediately broken and it was sent to the ground, rolling around in immense pain. A green flash appeared around it before it stood up, form now changed into a young man with a delicate face.

The remnant sparks disappeared after the green light flashed and the youth turned to glare at Richard with poison in his eyes.

Eyes that went wide as saucers. Richard was already less than a hundred metres away, flying over like lightning. This was a pace even greater than the elven warriors!

The young druid had assumed that there was no way a mage would be able to catch him in the forest. That was the sole reason he had been able to maintain his calm despite the disadvantage. However, now he was scared out of his wits. He couldn’t help but shriek; there was no more time to transform back into the panther and hide himself, while the speed of his human form wasn’t enough to outrun this human.

He waved the branch-like staff in his hands in a hurry, pointing it at Richard. Green light flickered at the top, numerous vines suddenly growing out from under Richard’s feet to try and wind around his legs like an octopus’ tentacles. However, Richard suddenly seemed to defy gravity as he began to mysteriously float. He went horizontal in the air, stepping over the vines and continuing to fly forward at the same speed.

The young druid turned terribly pale, as though he’d seen a ghost. But then again, he might not be this afraid even in front of an actual apparition. Seeing his spell rendered completely ineffective, the inexperienced fellow’s mind went blank. He forgot to continue casting his spells, and Richard didn’t miss the chance. Now, there were less than thirty metres until he reached the elf.

Despair flashed in the youth’s eyes and he suddenly released a sharp whistle that sounded far into the distance. The nearby trees shook, almost leaving the earth. Sadly, his mana was too weak; a great druid might have been able to summon dozens of treants with a whistle, but his only caused the trees to half-uproot before they stopped moving.

The druid’s eyes were still fixed on Richard. He suddenly planted his staff into the ground as he started a loud incantation, green specks of light gathering around him unceasingly. The trees illuminated by those rays let out low cries, swaying in great pain, but the youth still didn’t stop as the light continued to grow stronger.

Nature spell, Light Explosion. This was a spell that could harm the self, shooting destructive rays of light in all directions by burning away one’s mana. At the limits of its power, everything in a ten-metre radius would be lit aflame.

Richard quickly realised the intentions of the young druid, but he laughed mysteriously. Light flickered around his own body as Eruption came into effect, doubling his speed. The elven sword went straight for the druid’s throat.

The blow was quick as lightning, and although it didn’t have too much strength behind it, it would still be able to cut through the youth’s throat before he finished casting Light Explosion. He had no choice but to stop his spell halfway through; it would stop if he died anyway. Now brandishing his staff to boost himself with a barrier, he quickly chanted a shorter spell to attack Richard. This was quite common amongst spellcasters, stylistically the most correct choice available to them. However, the druid was facing someone who had visited a battlefield of despair!

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA