Melia had no idea how to react to Richard’s answer. She had never seen someone outside of him ever since they met, and a crowd would still be suppressed by the will of the forest.
Richard himself wasn’t too keen to elaborate. Questions about the Grand Elder’s identity clouding his mind, he was happy to just have a roof and some dinner. He tried to rest, but distant memories kept flooding his thoughts. The Grand Elder was certainly related to Gaton and Elena, while the Evernight Tribe likely took its name from the Evernight Forest that the silvermoon elves once occupied.
He’d assumed the Grand Elder was just an ordinary legend, but she was only a small ways off from the strength of Emperor Philip. He had detected a noxious smell coming from her during their meeting, a sign of serious injuries, but he just couldn’t fathom what kind of being could injure someone of her power in this plane.
Night came and left amidst these unsolved mysteries, and right at the crack of dawn he set off to see the Grand Elder once more. The woman was sitting in the room with a new table in front of her, holding both the sword and her spear. Sending Melia out, she turned towards him and her eyes lit aglow, “My name is Tzu. Yes, I knew your parents, both of them. Your mother was like a sister to me, but I hadn’t been able to contact her ever since your father invaded the forest…”
Tzu continued relating the events of the past, and Richard listened with all his heart. He learnt about the young warrior who cleaned dishes and washed horses just so he could pay for the wine his love and her companions drank. He learnt of how that love had sacrificed herself to save her sister, about how he had sacrificed a heart to save her. He finally learnt the story of love and hate that had led to his birth.
Once she parted from Gaton, Elena had returned to Evernight Forest and reconvened with Tzu. She had fallen for the young man, but as the future Shaman of the Moon and the heiress to the Silvermoon Kingdom she had to maintain the purest of body, mind, and soul. She had sealed her love deep within her heart, only ever mentioning it once when in the depths of despair. Neither of them had thought they would see that youth ever again. Being completely distracted, her progress in mooncraft had been extremely slow.
While the Kingdom still ruled in name, Evernight Forest had already devolved into a number of feuding factions that were ripe for the taking. There were only ten thousand elves remaining in Norland proper, but many of them wanted to retake their lands from the human empires. Fed up with all the chaos, Tzu had left Evernight Forest to explore the myriad planes.
And then, Gaton had come back into their lives just as unexpectedly as the first time— by launching an attack on the Evernight Forest. Elena had seen Gaton once more, and this time it was in the most unpleasant of circumstances.
Tzu had returned to a scene of utter despair— the throne captured and the world tree sacrificed to the Church of the Eternal Dragon. A few tribes banded together and crossed the Sacred Tree Empire to make their way to Lithgalen, the Ashgreen continent. Gaton himself had pulled out after realising what he had done, but with Elena nowhere to be found the survivors were fighting amongst themselves for the throne.
If only the tribes had united to fight Gaton’s troops, he might have been held back. They refused to aid each other properly just to see their rivals destroyed, and he had happily played along to decimate the entire race. Having had enough of the infighting and losing faith in the current elders, she rounded up those willing to follow her and led them to a plane that her ancestors had once explored.
However, the journey was a terrible one. Unlike the powerhouses of the ancient elven empire, her ragtag group was made of those with all levels of power. Only a hundred managed to survive the journey, reaching the Forest Plane.
As the most powerful warrior of them all, Tzu had been made the grand elder. She ruled that there would be no mention of Norland or Lithgalen in the future, ensuring that future generations would be brought up like they were natives. Twenty years in Norland amounted to more than a century here, and the young sapling tree of life she planted had grown tall and strong. It hadn’t completely adapted to this plane, but it still had the potential to become a world tree. Tzu herself had matured into a legendary warrior.
A hundred years… Looking at his mother’s best friend, Richard felt a strange detachedness from it all. The faint smell of rot seemed ever more disgusting to him, and he couldn’t suppress his questions any longer, “Gra— Aunt Tzu, what is this injury?”
Tzu sighed, “A curse left behind by the demon god Iskara of the Annihilation Plane. Its power is far more than I can bear, I’m afraid my days are numbered…”
“The Annihilation Plane?” Richard had never heard of the name.
“It is a world in the depths of the myriad planes, a place where destruction rules supreme. Few creatures can survive it, but those who do gain such frightening power that even an ordinary inhabitant can weather spacetime turbulence without issue. The arch-enemy of the Goddess of the Moon comes from that plane, wherein it goes by the name of the Sixteenth Night. This also makes the Annihilation Plane the entire race’s nemesis.”
Richard frowned, “This demon god you speak of is here?”
Tzu shook her head, “No, I stopped him halfway, facing off with his conscient in the void. That is where I was— cough— cursed. Iskara is a master of lies, deception, and curses, and he does not just target random planes. A local must have summoned him, or it might be the world tree itself.”
“I don’t know, but be careful of the world tree here. I suspect its conscience has been warped.”
“Whatever, you don’t need to worry about your injuries anymore. Come with me, I’ll take you back to Norland and we can get you healed at the Church of the Eternal Dragon. Even if the High Priestess herself has to do it, I can make it happen.”
Tzu laughed. She was nearing two hundred years of age, but as a high elf she was equivalent to a human in her mid-twenties, at the prime of her life. Seeing his confused expression, she explained, “The curse has left me marked. The moment I try to escape this plane, Iskara will detect my movements and pursue. If I go with you, that will just be your death. Anyone can leave, but not me…
“Hmm… I should show you the extent of the curse, if you have the stomach for it.”
As Tzu took off her mask, Richard was stunned silent. In place of the dreamy features of a normal elf was a skeletal face lacking all colour and fat. The skin clung to the very bones like a thin sheet of linen, her ghastly visage a stark contrast from her youthful voice. Every breath released a tuft of grey smoke.
“You see?” she said before sucking in all the grey smog that escaped her lips. From the one moment he saw her mouth open, he noticed that her insides were just as ravaged as her face.
“Iskara needs a great amount of energy to maintain this curse. The longer I can hold on, the more time he will need to recover. By the time I lose, he should have lost a century of time.” Tzu put her mask back on, pride radiating from her cold voice, “Now, show me how well you have developed your bloodline.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Hazel
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA