Book 6, Chapter 120

Blood For Blood

The first day of battle quickly drew to a close, and despite a lack of casualties Richard was not happy at all. His army had been trapped here, and the will of the forest had grown smarter and stopped attacking their minds directly. Now, it was strengthening the hunters of the alliance; even a level 16 archer’s arrows could match a saint’s blow. The barrier knights had been forced to take on these attacks repeatedly and were growing exhausted.

It would take two more days for the unicorn to recover its strength to the point where it could escort the entire Evernight Tribe back to Emerald City. With its help, Richard was confident in being able to kill his way out of the encirclement they were in. However, the road to Emerald City was long and many of the elderly and children of the Evernight Tribe would not survive the trip. The Tree of Life itself could not provide much shelter while moving, and the rune knights themselves couldn’t be stretched so thin as to protect everyone.

Things would be much easier if his followers were present, but they were still lost somewhere in the forest. The only thing that let him rest easy was the fact that Phaser, Tiramisu, and Mountainsea were all abnormally powerful and wouldn’t die easily in the forest.

On the other hand, he didn’t want to leave too early either; he had transferred Alice and all of his rune knights to this plane, and would at least terrify the locals before he left. Blood would flow into a river to teach these savages their place.

However, the forest grew unexpectedly calm over the next few days. Outside of a few occasional arrows, the alliance didn’t make any moves at all. However, the sky above the Evernight tree of life remained dark and foreboding, the suppression refusing to fade. The elves felt it the most; the moment they even approached the edge of the meadow, they started feeling a chill down their bones.

The elves knew that entering the forest would only mean death, and Richard was even more thorough with his defence than they had expected. All of the hunters crouched at the edge of the meadow were pulled back and forced behind the wall of trees, with the rune knights manning the actual walls. Many wanted to fight and petitioned for it repeatedly through Melia, but Richard treated them like flowers in a greenhouse and wouldn’t let them so much as peek outside.

The calm lasted a few days before the alliance changed tactics. Richard didn’t know where they learnt their new strategy, but a few druids and hunters started using mana to have their voices resound throughout the forest and hurled insults across the wall. It was a childish move, but an effective one nevertheless. Elves were a proud species to begin with, and the expletives enraged them beyond measure.

 Richard himself lost his temper once Tzu’s name was mentioned, taking two hundred rune knights and charging straight into the forest. Waterflower naturally followed behind.

The woods were so dark right now that one could barely his arm before his face, but to the elven hunters who relied on their perception of nature it still seemed as bright as ever. The charging force met an expected ambush only a few minutes deep, a sharp whistling resounding through the woods and being echoed from countless directions. The forest itself shook as numerous trees were brought alive, with several true treants rushing in from the distance.

An enormous sense of pressure settled on the small force, but all Richard could think of was three simple words: that whore Tzu. His blood boiled as he drew his blade, the lava in the depths of his eyes on the verge of eruption. He didn’t know who had shouted to kill, nor did he know who drew first blood, but a melee erupted within the forest.

……

Far in the distance under the tree of life, almost all of the evernight elves walked out of their homes and touched their mother tree with hand and body. They could feel the trembling of the earth, and the stronger amongst them could even sense the turbulence in the will of the forest. The distant battle was raging so fiercely that the forest itself was crying out in pain.

It didn’t matter to them whether he had rushed out for the late Grand Elder or he had done it for himself; Richard had rushed out into an ambush to protect her pride. Even if he lost the fight, his glorious figure would be imprinted in their minds unto death.

Under the tree of life, Alice was sitting at a whetstone struggling to polish her sword. It was already so thin the edge was growing brittle, but she continued to grind away almost as though she wanted to turn it into the sharpest blade in existence. Sweat was covering her forehead and now-matter red hair, but she seemed to pay no mind.

“Are you worried, my Lady?” One of her generals walked over, glancing at the sword that had been worn down completely.

“No!”

“Alright… If Lord Richard doesn’t return, what do we do?”

*SCREECH!* The sword in Alice’s hands was immediately twisted apart, her gaze fixing itself on the general who had followed her for many years. Her mere voice sent shivers down the man’s spine, “How do you know he can’t come back?”

This general was quite experienced. Although he was only level 17, that was due to multiple instances of near-crippling wounds in his youth. While he had respect for Alice, he would not cow away from faithful advice, “The will of the forest, the number of enemies, and their might… Victory is unlikely.”

Alice froze up, her cold rage dissipating ever so slightly. She knew he was right and couldn’t fault him for it, “If Richard doesn’t come back, then take the remaining rune knights and the elves and return to Emerald City. I don’t care how you do it, but you are to get them to safety.”

“Then… what about you, my Lady?”

Alice took out a new longsword and started polishing it, “I’ll go take a look at where he died.”

The general gasped, words failing him completely. There were a number of things he wanted to say, but he didn’t have the voice to state any.

……

Minute after minute passed by, then hour after hour. Time seemed to slow to a crawl, but somehow the day came to an end. There was no news of Richard or his rune knights, making it almost certain that he had disappeared in the forest. The elves started to grow chaotic.

Yet another day later, Alice had completely worn down seven longswords. She finally gave up on waiting, arming herself and preparing to go out. Richard had left 150 Rose Knights to help guard the tree of life en route to Emerald City, and she was responsible for this task. She had never disappointed Richard before, perfectly taking care of his requests in the past and developing his territory on a primary plane like Norland, but this time she felt like she would have to renege on her orders a little.

The red-haired warrior saddled her horse under the sweaty gazes of her generals, mounting it to get a better view of the tribe. All of the elves had packed their belongings and put them on the mounts of the Rose Knights, and the tree of life was swaying its branches as though in farewell to the land it had lived on for a hundred year. When the horn sounded, it would move its huge body and uproot from the earth, embarking on the long journey to Emerald City. It was just that this journey was sure to be a difficult one, with the number of survivors unknown.

It was when Alice reached the edge of the forest that the black mist lingering within suddenly split apart, a magic mount jumping out of the fog and landing in the meadow. The horse’s head was lowered and its steps were unsteady, breath constantly spurting white mist. Large drops of a dark liquid that looked like blood were constantly dripping down its legs.

It was only then that Alice noticed the straight-backed man atop the ride, almost dropping her prepared sword. Even with his face pale and a wound that ran from the ear to the chest, it was difficult to look away from his charming smile.

“RICHARD!”

The battle had been won.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo