Sex with Alice remained as difficult as ever, but eventually Richard won the battle. He lay on his back and stared at the ceiling, gasping hard at the exhaustion, while she lay about an arm’s length away doing the same. It didn’t seem like much, but the distance was enormous when on the same bed.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked calmly.
“I’m wondering why it had to be now,” Richard responded. His thoughts weren’t unreasonable; with the possibility of an attack at any time, the mental release of sex was easily dwarfed by the physical exhaustion. It wouldn’t be much with anyone else, but when Alice was involved she wouldn’t give in until she was utterly exhausted.
Alice took a deep breath and patted her chest, “I guess I just wanted to know that you’re really back.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll always be there.” Richard still didn’t know about her plans to follow after him alone, but he vaguely understood the implications of the sentence. It was something he felt all the time as well; the fear of losing those dear to him.
“Is that a promise?”
The Evernight Tribe seemed to embody the name, the little village still covered in darkness when Richard walked out. The only source of light here was moonforce, but as he walked down the tree of life Richard still noticed a young girl standing on the side of the road staring at him.
He walked over to her and knelt down, looking her in the eye. She almost recoiled, but he could see that the fear was drowned out by curiosity.
“Why don’t you go to sleep?” he asked softly, “You need rest if you want to fight hard.”
“Are we leaving?” the girl asked.
“Yes. There are a lot of bad people here that don’t want us, so we have to leave. Don’t worry, I’ll show you a new place to live where these bad people won’t make trouble for us.”
“But I don’t want to leave the Tree of Life though…”
Richard smiled and pointed at the tree behind him, “She’ll come along too.”
“But… But… She doesn’t want to go, I can feel it!”
“Huh,” Richard’s smile twitched ever so slightly, “And what about you?”
The little girl shook her head, “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go at all!”
Richard’s gaze moved up from the little girl to the group of elves that had stopped to listen. He didn’t see the two great druids in this group, he didn’t see the three saint hunters. There was no mage from when they were still on Norland. These were the most common elves of the tribe, those at the bottom of the hierarchy whose bloodlines did not qualify them for any respect.
These elves normally avoided contact with him, so despite the tribe having a thousand elves Richard hadn’t interacted with them at all. At the same time, they were the ones that Tzu had charged him to care for; the hunters and druids would find a way to survive, but those gathered here would not. Judging from the traditional perspective, Tzu really didn’t qualify as a good leader.
Richard returned his gaze to the little girl, “But if we don’t leave, we might be attacked by the evil people. Why stay here? Our new home has a forest too.”
“But it isn’t this forest… I… I like it here…”
At this point, an older man stepped forward, “Lord Richard, forgive her. Most of the tribe has lived on this land for the past century, and this place is familiar and comfortable. This is a special meadow, one not easily replaced; even if the Tree of Life lasts the journey, it will take another century for the tribe to grow comfortable with it.”
Richard frowned slightly, putting his hand on the ground and beginning to feel the aura of the place. He didn’t feel anything special at first, but as his mind calmed further his elven bloodline pulsed ever so slightly. As he tried to capture that feeling, his perception started to warp.
A silken warmth started radiating from the ground under him, the power of nature weak yet extremely pure. He slowly inhaled this energy and felt its strength, realising that it was the power of the tree of life. The tree had spent a century pumping energy into this fertile land, and it had slowly taken on her qualities. The evernight elves would grow stronger just living here.
To the elves, this meadow was a hometown but on a much larger scale. It felt like one’s very soul was meant to be here, and feeling the sheer comfort of it all Richard quickly realised just why the elves were so attached to their trees of life.
Sweeping his gaze across all the elves present, Richard returned to the little girl and squeezed her cheeks, “Well, I’ll try my best to make sure we can stay. Is that okay?”
“Really?” the girl’s eyes immediately lit aglow, as did those of many of the others watching. They did not need resources or luxuries; they just wanted to live where they were comfortable. Looking at them, Richard was reminded of the small village he had spent the first decade of his life in.
“Really,” he smiled, “Now go get some sleep.”
All the evernight elves knew that Richard’s words were for them as well. However, several of the older ones hesitated at his words; they understood what Richard’s promise meant, and what dangers it would pose to the knights currently protecting them.
Richard stood up and walked over to the rune knights, saying a few words before picking up Moonlight and heading into the forest alone.
A short while later, Alice walked out of the treehouse frowning. Her clothes still messy, she headed over to one of the rune knights and asked what was going on. A few moments later, a scream rang through the meadow, “HE’S IN THE FOREST AGAIN?”
She hurried back, eyes spitting fire at the elves who hadn’t yet dispersed. The rune knights agreed with her as well; the forest was extremely dangerous, they had experienced it themselves. The only reason they even let Richard go without contesting him was that they had been conditioned to obey first and ask questions later.
Alice pulled a longsword from a rune knight’s waist, walking over to the evernight elves. Her short red hair was swaying like it was an actual flame.
“Who wanted to stay, stand up! Don’t push the blame on this little thing!” she said coldly, her sword pointing at the little girl who had just spoken to Richard. Sword light was already billowing out half a metre forward; so long as she wished it, the girl would be cut in two.
“Stop!” A tall elf jumped in front of Alice’s sword, glaring at her. His aura was even stronger than her’s, forcing her to step back. The saint hunter glared at her, “What do you want?!”
Alice didn’t even look at him, continuing to ask, “Whoever wanted Richard to stay, stand up!”
Feeling his dignity challenged, the hunter could no longer restrain his anger. His aura burst forth as he screamed, “What are you doing, woman?!”
An invisible force slammed into Alice, knocking her back a few steps. She felt ringing in her ears even as her vision went black, almost coughing up blood.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: OMA
Edited By: Theo