Book 4, Chapter 28

Will Of The Forest

Agamemnon was perfectly composed at first, but Nyris continued to stare at him. The Prince’s gaze grew increasingly resentful, the forming tears giving his eyes a glossy sheen.

“Is it that strange?” he asked with a glare of his own.

“It is!” Nyris said with a chuckle, proud that his scheme had worked, “A block of wood like you can actually smile and get mad, huh?”

Agamemnon snorted and stopped speaking.

“Shh, hurry up!” Richard said dully from the front, immediately rendering everyone silent. He shook his head as he spurred the unicorn forward at a comfortable pace, pushing further into the jungle.

As it slowly grew dark, the soldiers who were adept at detection found an empty space within the forest and everyone dismounted to get some rest. They didn’t need any tents, sitting as they were or leaning against trees. With a fair number of mages in the group, some casually roasted some jerky for dinner.

Demi sat down on the ground, but the men’s uniform she was dressed in made things uncomfortable. She hadn’t brought any supplies like the others either. Richard waved her over, spreading some tarp on the ground, “When you’re done eating, sleep here.”

She looked at the people around her, gritting out, “It’s fine, I’ll find somewhere to sit.”

Richard smiled at her obstinance, whispering, “Rest well, you shouldn’t push yourself. You’re not the same as them, if you don’t get some sleep you can’t fight. Your performance will be very important.”

This got her to nod, finishing her food before curling up on the tarp and trying to fall asleep. He grinned at the sight, finding a spot to sit down and rest himself. As everyone finished eating, they slipped into a reverie. There was no nightly vigil in this team, nor was there any need when everyone was so powerful.

……

Early morning the next day, everyone mounted their horses once more. Richard spurred on his unicorn and led them deep into the forest, choosing his direction without hesitation while nobody could tell which way was north.

Richard’s followers had gotten used to this absolute control of the situation; they knew that him not asking for opinions meant he was confident. However, the royal soldiers and sanguinary guards were not the same. Filled with doubt, they exchanged glances with each other before following.

Richard could still sense the elite humanoid through his mental link, which meant it was still alive. The connection was a little vague, indicating that the drone was further than thirty kilometres away, but there would be no problem in determining the approximate direction to take. However, a short distance into their journey the group seemed to pass through an invisible barrier. It felt like a hammer had crashed into their souls, suppressing the troop greatly and applying great pressure on their minds. Thoughts started to slow down and vision started to blur, ground and sky fusing into one as even maintaining balance grew difficult. A few of the soldiers instantly grew so muddleheaded they didn’t notice themselves drifting away from the group into the depths of the forest.

“Careful, this is where my mind was affected!” Scherr warned loudly. He didn’t seem to be in a good state himself. This wasn’t just a single strike. Whatever was attacking them placed a constant pressure on their souls.

The strength of one’s will was a clear indicator of their chances of reaching the legendary realm, and this situation put everyone’s on display. Nyris and Agamemnon were only level 17, not even saints yet, but they were much less affected than Scherr and Pamir. Even Lina was worse off than them, although she was still alright compared to the other two. Demi herself showed the incredible will of a true Archeron, almost on par with the Dragon Mage.

It was Richard’s side that truly astonished everyone. Outside of Olar, who was on par with Scherr and Pamir, every single one of Richard’s followers showed unbelievably powerful minds. Flowsand, Waterflower, Phaser, and even Tiramisu were able to withstand the pain, their movements not affected at all. This put them even higher than Nyris and Agamemnon! 

But that wasn’t even all. Richard himself merely wrinkled his eyebrows, almost completely unaffected by the pressure everyone else had to resist at full strength. Only Flowsand and Waterflower knew just how powerful his soul had become after surviving the spirit lance of the troll warlord. To him, the pressure was like a backpack he had been forced to wear. It didn’t really affect him, but it was a little annoying.

Still, that he was the only one doing alright was not a good sign. They were going into battle soon, and he couldn’t charge into the elves’ den on his own. He hadn’t expected this situation at all; Scherr had said they would be affected by the forest around the hundred-kilometre mark, but he hadn’t thought it would be so severe.

The unicorn seemed to sense his worries. This beast that cost more divinity than even Phaser suddenly gave a long neigh, its clear voice spreading far and wide. Its horn lit up with a silver light, not particularly bright but still penetrating through the mist. The glow covered a range of a few dozen metres around them.

Everyone immediately felt the pressure on their souls fading away, growing light enough that even the weakest soldiers could fight without issue.

“Amazing!” Nyris’ expression was a mix of admiration, shock, and some sadness. He wasn’t just talking about the unicorn.

Scherr and Pamir, who had thought themselves great and mighty and had their noses up in the air, now looked at Richard with shock and reverence. Their eyes scanned through his followers as well, expressions complicated.

Anyone with experience knew how important the power of the mind and soul was. It was a key requirement if one wanted to become powerful; although someone with strong will wouldn’t necessarily succeed, it was a basic requirement to even try.

They could ignore Richard, he was the pride and joy of a legendary mage. However, even his followers were shockingly talented with astounding potential. Although one couldn’t tell how far they would go in the end, it was certain that the realm of saints was not their limit. Even the weakest of Richard’s party was not one whit inferior to a grand mage. How did Richard get a bunch of freaks like that to serve him?

It was this train of thought that led to Richard’s own talent. They realised they couldn’t just ignore Richard, not at all. His soul was more powerful than that of a titled priestess! Where, then, was his endpoint? Would a new Gaton appear in the next decade? Scherr and Pamir exchanged glances, knowing fully well that the appearance of a second freak would make the rise of the Archerons unstoppable.

Richard had already noticed the change in the atmosphere, but just because he knew their thoughts did not mean he would respond. He merely pointed ahead, “Let’s go, there’s still a long way ahead!”

……

Far into the distance, hundreds of forest elves had gathered under an incomparably huge ancient tree, welcoming a brave group of warriors. A robust panther leapt to the front of the crowd, transforming into an elderly druid who waved the nature staff in his hands, “We have returned with an important figure amongst the invading devils!”

The elves instantly grew jubilant, and the druid just as imposing as he exclaimed, “Bring the prisoners!”

Four elven warriors walked over, throwing the elite humanoid knight bound tightly in vines to the ground. The elves all grew venomous at the sight, cursing him in the most vicious language. Some even raised their daggers and rushed over, intending to stab him a few times. It had been less than two months since Richard had arrived on this plane, and most of the elves in this tribe had lost friends or family to his troops.

However, the druid coughed once and some of the elven warriors immediately stepped forward to protect the knight’s life from their kin, “This is a bargaining chip for us to retrieve Jubu with, he cannot be harmed!” The elves gradually calmed down at the mention of that name, but the hatred in their gazes only grew.

A deep, regal voice suddenly rang out from the skies, “Beloved Elder Greenwind, how are my children?”

The one speaking was an extremely tall treant, its trunk manifold the size of an ordinary tree. One almost couldn’t see the end of its lofty crown.

“I feel great pain to say this, but they could not escape the invaders,” the druid said in a heavy tone.

The ancient treant sighed, “I understand. My children knew they were unlikely to return. I only hope their sacrifice will be of some value in the end. Go, the grand elder is waiting for you. I need peace.”

Greenwind bowed low, “As you wish.”

The druid ascended the spiralling path that led to the top of the enormous tree behind him, passing several treehouses built into the natural ridges in its trunk. At the highest level occupied by the elves was a spacious wooden house, within which sat an elf so old he almost could not stand.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: JH

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA