Book 6, Chapter 124

Assassination

The forest elves considered the World Tree to be a sort of overgod, the highest of existences in the entire plane. As someone who hailed from right underneath that world tree, Windleaf wouldn’t allow any humiliation. He already had his sword in hand, and was barely holding back. He didn’t believe that Richard would be able to attack so many hunters and druids at the same time.

Richard didn’t even look at him, continuing to stare at the Grand Elder, “This forest is enormous. Just like you can accommodate more trees of life, you can accommodate more world trees.”

These words astonished the three elves; this was something they had never thought about before. World trees were the final stage of a tree of life, and just like any other tree of life they could only absorb nutrients from a certain area. This area was enormous, but even at full evolution they needed less than two hundred kilometres all around them to get all the nutrition they required. This was absolutely tiny when compared to the endless forest, and while a world tree’s influence far exceeded this range everyone present knew that there was a limit. With Richard’s gate 20,000 kilometres away, the world tree could barely exert any control over the area at all.

Even from what they knew, the three elves understood that there could be at least five to six world trees in the forest. On the other hand, Richard had already calculated that there would be twelve possible at minimum. This was his final plan in developing the Forest Plane— he would move his trees of life into specific spots and have them grow into world trees. Ever since he met Tzu, he was planning to use this plane as a jumping board for the return of the high elves.

Windleaf lost his temper completely, lunging towards Richard and swiping at his throat. However, Richard saw it all in slow motion, visualising tens of trajectories that the blade could take. The number of possibilities would narrow down as his blessings strengthened further, but what he had now was still enough to deal with a saint.

Moonlight silently leapt into his hand, and a single thrust pierced through the illusory flowers and leaves around Windleaf’s sword, deflecting his strike before continuing on to his chest. The tip of the blade sunk in, and even though the elf realised it and tried his best to stop, he was going too fast; he was basically throwing himself down on the sword, and it was aimed directly at his nature core. This was an extra organ only children of the forest had, and something that was even more important than the heart. The moment it was pierced, he would drop dead in an instant.

*Whoosh!* A huge force erupted behind Windleaf, pulling him back and away from the sword’s range. The Grand Elder couldn’t help but glance at Richard who didn’t even move his sword in response; it was as though he’d known that the youth would be rescued from the start.

The forest went deathly silent. Windleaf was a son of the forest from the Jadeleaf Tribe, and while he was arrogant he was just as strong. For a single attack to turn into effective suicide proved just how advanced Richard’s skills were, and the Grand Elder saw even further into the exchange. He noticed just how little energy Richard had expended, quickly concluding that the hunters and druids just might not be able to trap and kill him.

The old elf’s eye twitched, “We truly cannot stop you… Alright, we will consider your proposal, but it will take some time to summon a meeting of elders.”

“I can wait,” Richard answered.

The Grand Elder nodded, and with a wave of his hand the hunters and druids waiting in ambush dispersed. The forest went silent once more, and after a few minutes of silent thought, Richard returned.

……

It was still dark in the Evernight Tribe, the only light coming from the faint moonforce in the air and the moonflowers that could only stay in bloom for half a day. Richard stopped in front of one of these bell-shaped flowers that had a few dozen fireflies within, watching the tender green mixed into its milky white light.

In some ways, he understood elvish arrogance. In their hands, even just flowers were the pinnacle of beauty. Perhaps that arrogance was the source of their inspiration, maybe it was their pride that disallowed even the tiniest imperfection in their worlds.

He didn’t notice the unease of the elves, only staring at the flower for a while before calling over a passerby, “Tell everyone to pack and make preparations; we’re leaving in a few hours.”

The elf was shocked but he didn’t ask further, darting off to notify the druids and saint hunters. A short while later, Alice walked over, “Why are we moving so suddenly?”

“Negotiations failed. They’re probably gathering strength; if we leave now, we’ll have a day or two of leeway.”

“But casualties will be immense if we leave just like this. Besides…” Alice glanced at the tree of life.

Richard didn’t bat an eyelid, “The people are more important.”

Alice nodded and headed to the temporary barracks, having the rune knights prepare to leave. She had already instructed them to live off their horses for the most part, so it was a quick affair. Estimating the potential losses, she agreed that the lives of the people were more important than the tree of life.

The elves started packing up as well, many crouching and kissing the earth beneath their feet before walking out of their homes. This land was their haven, but they had no choice but to give it up. Some of them had wanted to stay and die here, but Melia and the two druids had convinced them to move; the tribe needed every elf it could when they moved.

Richard was in an extremely bad mood. He had a hint of hope before the meeting, but neither side had even mentioned Iskara during negotiations. He knew he could no longer hesitate, as an hour’s delay meant an hour more of vicious battle before they could get to Emerald City. Right now, only he himself and the unicorn could even determine directions in the forest, and that was no good.

The tree of life would reach safety once it was within five hundred kilometres of Emerald City. At this distance, he could use his own tree to contend with the will of the forest and pull all of the broodmother’s drones into the defence. However, the journey would be tough.

When the time to leave arrived, many of the elves were still in the midst of packing. They were only arranging a few small keepsakes at this point, but understanding their sentiment Richard had his rune knights hold off from forcing them and gave them another half hour.

As he looked over the sorrowful tribe, an equally sorrowful voice sounded behind him, “Are we really leaving?”

Richard didn’t answer, instead gazing up at the tree of life. The canopy was now trembling as it closed in on itself, the thick trunk rocking to a rhythm as the soil was broken apart. The roots were popping out one after the other; the process had already begun.

“I…” she choked on her own tears, whispering softly, “I don’t want to move! Do we really have to?”

Richard had no answer. He truly was intent on giving up half the plane to let the Evernight Tribe stay; this was where Tzu’s people had lived for over a century and where she had given up her life. Money could always be earned, but kinship was scarce. However, he couldn’t deal in such injustice to the warriors under him; he had his own responsibilities to these rune knights. He couldn’t just sacrifice their lives because he felt like it.

Such was the predicament of a lord. Sometimes, one had to put his people over himself.

Melia suddenly pounced over, hugging him hard. Just as he was about to console her, he felt a chill under his ribs. A dagger passed right through his abdomen and thrust deep into his body!

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA