Chapter 327

Mount Niels.

It was the tallest mountain in the southwestern part of the empire. It was famous for its rugged peaks and was long regarded as a spiritual location. As such, humans dared not recklessly venture into the mountain. However, there was an even bigger reason why the humans did not invade Mount Niels. It was because the largest and most famous factions of elves on the mainland resided in Mount Niels.

The thousands of elves belonged to four different tribes, and the chiefs and elders representing each tribe watched over the elves’ society through consultation and cooperation. 

The Niel Elves lived in conformity with nature, and they were not hostile toward humans. Therefore, they allowed a small number of humans to reside at the edge of Mount Niels – an area equivalent to a decently-sized great territory. However, they denied access to human armies, as well as humans with weapons such as free knights and mercenaries.

The Niels Elves had been living in Mount Niels for thousands of years and were fully accustomed to the environment. They knew the place like the palm of their hands. Victory was not guaranteed for human troops in the rough mountains.

In addition, Mount Niels was of little value to humans. Rather, it would be a great headache if the monsters residing in Mount Niels descended and terrorized the nearby areas. So the Aragon Empire recognized the autonomy of the Niels Elves and established a friendship with them.

However, aside from all these reasons, there was another reason why humans feared Mount Niels.

Ellagrian.

The guardian of Niels and the mother of elves. The nest of Ellagrian was located in Mount Niels. Like all other dragons, Ellagrian was a target of fear for humans.

Ellagrian was known as the Lord of Balance, befitting her status as the guardian of the nature-oriented elves. Just the same as elves, she was not hostile toward humans. However, she considered balance to be the same as the law of nature. All creatures on Mount Niels abided by that law, and she did not allow any external beings to enter to disrupt the balance.

For a long time, Mount Niels was without any invasion by humans and safe from any other threats under the careful watch of the elves serving Ellagrian. But today, an armed outsider entered the middle of the forest.

***

“Stop! This is the Spiritual Mountain Niels. This place is under the protection of the Lord Ellagrian, the Lord of Balance. Turn around and go back to where you came from!”

An elf shouted from a branch located high in the air while pointing their bow towards the invader. There were dozens of elves in total, and all of them were dressed in dark green fabric, which was the same color as the dense trees. However, the uninvited guest maintained their silence as they looked up at the elves. It was the first time an armed intruder had dared to enter their mountain in hundreds of years.

“Siel, what should we do?”

Another elf spoke while looking down with nervous eyes. They wore a bramble headband decorated with feathers.

“I do not think that they are a wizard, but I can sense very powerful mana. It is likely that they own an ancient artifact in the form of a sword or armor. We cannot allow such a presence in the mountains.”

At his words, the other elves nodded and looked down with tense, hostile eyes. An occasional human would lose their way and stumble to this place, but they were usually frightened away by the first warning.

But the one standing below them was different.

It was a female knight armed with silver armor and a sword. She was exuding a powerful spirit that any elf would instantly notice. They did not feel any evil energy, but it was somehow difficult to meet the gaze of the female knight.

The elves had not experienced anything like this in their lives. They could not help but be nervous. 

“I am warning you! This is Niels, a Spiritual Mountain! Those uninvited and armed cannot enter! Go back to where you came from!”

“…..”

The Niels Elves were protected by Ellagrian. A hint of a dragon’s spirit was contained in the elf’s voice, which would scare off even the fiercest beasts, but the uninvited gues did not even budge. Eventually, the elf with the feathered headband shouted with a rare display of hostility.

“This is your last warning! Go back the way you came from right now! If you do not comply, then… Huh?”

He paused for a moment, then became wide-eyed. Simultaneously, all of the other elves who were aiming their bow at the intruder raised their heads toward the sky. In the far reaches of the cloudless sky, something was flying towards them from the towering summit of Mount Niels.

“Heuk!”

“W, what the…!”

The elves were shocked.

All of them were aware of what was flying towards them.

Kwaaaaahh!

No elf had seen Ellagrian, the guardian of the mountain, in recent years with the exception of the four chiefs. However, the dragon was now gliding towards them with her large wings spread wide.

“The Guardian of the Mountain?”

“Mother…”

The elves lowered their bows and bowed their heads with awed expressions.

Kwaaarrruck!

The trees in the area were greatly shaken by the gale caused by Ellagrian’s wings. But the elves maintained their respectful positions on top of the branches with their heads bowed.

“Hmm?”

An elf frowned. He had been looking down at the uninvited visitor. Even though the great ruler of Mount Niels had descended, the unidentified, uninvited guest was looking up at the sky with the same indifferent attitude as before.

“How dare…”

The eyes of the elves’ leader turned fierce. But they could not act hastily in the presence of Ellagrian. The leader had not seen the lord in more than a decade. There was nothing to worry about with the lord’s appearance.

They were merely angry at the fact that the uninvited guest wasn’t showing due respect even when the guardian of the mountain made her appearance.

Kwaaaaaah!

A bright flash appeared in the sky above the trees and dyed the area with light. At the same time, the swaying trees returned to their original positions.

Wooong!

Soon, the crowd of lights subsided, and a figure slowly descended from the sky along with a light vibration. It was a woman with vibrant green hair and blue eyes. Her hair was vibrant and full of life, just like the new sprouts of early spring, and her sapphire eyes were filled with a subtle glimmer. Her appearance brought peace and tranquility to those who saw her.

“Guardian.”

Recognizing the woman as the human form of Ellagrian, the elves jumped to the ground and fell to one knee. They expected a response from the guardian of the mountain, who was making her appearance for the first time in more than a decade. They had no doubt that she would drive away the bizarre, unwelcomed guest.

But the situation played out completely different from the Niels Elves’ expectations. Ellagrian turned a blind eye to them and walked past them before stopping in front of the uninvited guest.

The elves became flustered. They stared at their guardian’s back with confusion and embarrassment.

What followed was the most amazing thing they had ever witnessed.

 [My Queen.]

Niels’ Guardian, the Lord of Balance, the strongest being on earth, had bowed first to the uninvited guest.

“…..!”

Although they could not hear her voice, the elves were shocked breathless. They could only watch with their mouths agape and eyes wide open.

Something even more shocking happened.

[Ellagrian, forgive me for rudely barging in without saying a word.]

It was clear from the movement of her lips that she was saying something, but the words of the uninvited guest could not be heard. She slowly stretched out her hand and touched the top of Ellagrian’s head.

Then, Ellagrian looked up with a cool gaze and asked.

[Did the Queen come because of the matter with our exiled brother, Biskra?]

[That is right. There are other issues as well.]

[It must be very important, seeing as the Queen personally came all this way. Is it related to your companion, the one possessing the energy of the Dragon God and the Demon God?]

Being courteous to the head of a tribe was only natural, but all dragons were considered equal. As such, Ellagrian was outspoken in dealing with her lord.

[Yes and no. This matter is directly related to the lives of all living things in the world, including even us dragons.]

[…..]

A glimmer appeared in Ellagrian’s eyes.

She stared at her monarch and the most powerful being in the world in silence for a moment, then nodded.

[I understand it must be important. Since Queen did not say much even when the Alcantian witch Elsaroa was making a big fuss. Come on in.]

[I am grateful for your permission, brother.]

The uninvited guest bowed her head slightly. Although she was the head of all dragons, dragons needed permission before entering another’s territory. 

It was then.

Boooooo! Papapapat!

Hundreds of elves flitted through the forest with the sound of horns.

“Chief!”

The elves became delighted at the appearance of their chief. They had been shocked speechless by the sight in front of them.

Only the chiefs of the four tribes were able to communicate with Ellagrian.

“Guardian of Niels.”

Although he was over hundreds of years old, he appeared to be a middle-aged man by human standards. He bowed deeply to Ellagrian.

[Raise your head, my child.]

The chief raised his head.

Then he shifted his gaze towards the one standing next to the guardian of the mountain with trembling eyes.

[I see. It is your first time seeing her. Give your greetings. This is Lord Soldrake, the Queen of All Dragons.]

“Heuk!”

The chief became ladened with shock and hurriedly bowed his head.

“I greet Lord Soldrake, the Immortal Queen and the Master of Mana!”

“…..!”

At the cry of the chief, all of the elves froze in their spots. Soon, they bowed as deep as possible, their heads almost touching the ground.

“The Elves of Niels greets Queen Soldrake!”

It was shocking enough that they got to see Ellagrian for the first time in more than a decade. But now they were greeting the White Dragon Soldrake, whom they never thought they would see in their lives. A thought struck their heads at the same time.

A big change was nearing Niels, which was quiet and peaceful for a long time.

*** 

A dim dawn.

Raven left his room with the Widow’s Scream and a scimitar in his hands.

As soon as he left through the back door of the monastery, a gust of cool air greeted him.

“Your Excellency.”

“Good work.”

Two knights guarding the door greeted him, and Raven nodded lightly before continuing to the backyard.

The two knights shared a gaze after looking at Raven’s back.

“He never takes a single day off from training.”

“Right. It’s easy to say, but how many noble knights would be so diligent at that age?”

They had been a part of the southern expedition. As such, they knew how thoroughly Raven trained, even when he was in the South. However, they had been at war in the South, and even other knights and soldiers participated in tactical and large-scale training every day at the garrison.

But this was the peaceful mainland. A great noble like the duke was a hero who annihilated the army of traitors. He could afford to live comfortably. Nevertheless, he always trained at dawn without taking a single rest day.

“His men must be strong because the duke personally sets an example.”

“Well, looking at our commander…”

The two knights shared a wry smile.

Thanks to Viscount Moraine, who would soon be conferred the title of count, the knights of the 7th regiment had to train thoroughly.

“But even so… that is a little rare, isn’t it?”

“Little rare does not do it justice. It is something you would never see anywhere else.”

The two knights looked on as two figures greeted Duke Pendragon as the morning fog slowly dispersed. Certainly, they would never see a similar sight in their lifetime. The next emperor, the Knight King of Valvas, and the undefeated duke were training together from early morning.

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