Arrival at the Elven Village
Editor(s): Joker, Speedphoenix
“I’m glad you made it back,” said Phynar. “Why don’t we get right into the details?”
“Right away, sir,” said the commander of the squad that had detached itself from Yuki’s party. He was kneeling before his king, ready to report on his findings. “Before I inform you of the information I gathered while I was out, I’d first like to tell you something else that is just as important. We met with the demon lord named Yuki during our return. He and a companion of his have already dispatched the undead dragon.”
“He’s already dealt with it?” Phynar raised a hand to his chin. “It’s only been a day since we’ve asked for help. I wasn’t expecting him until tomorrow.”
“I’m sure it was him, Lady Nell was also present as a witness, and she appeared to be confident that he was who he claimed to be. I’m also absolutely certain that the undead dragon has perished. I watched them destroy it with my own two eyes.”
“Hmmm…” Phynar smiled. “Always exceeding my expectations, that one.” After chuckling and crossing his legs, the king continued. “What else do you have to report?”
“The survey was a success, sir,” said the guardian devil. “We’ve managed to confirm that there are fiends spread throughout our surroundings, and that they seem to be up to something. Unfortunately, I was unable to contact the forward base we have placed at the southeastern frontier. I suspect they are either in battle, or they have already been wiped out.”
He began thinking of the humans that Remiero had captured. He was convinced that they served as a crucial piece of evidence, one that pointed towards the possibility of a fiend-human alliance. And not a small one.
The Southeastern Frontier Base was one of the demon realm’s most important points of defense, a border they shared with humans. To the fiends, it was a target of little interest. It was far from their base, and the main purpose of it was to defend against a potential human invasion. To that end, Phynar wasn’t able to immediately conclude which of the two parties were responsible. Unless he was to assume that they were working together, that is. At the very least, the attack’s perfect timing was indicative of some sort of deal.
He needed to do something about it. Quickly. If the base was to collapse, it would leave the demon realm open to a possible human invasion. But it was far too difficult for him to deal with the situation while in elven lands. The longer they kept him from returning, the longer it would be before he was able to deploy reinforcements. That was why they had unleashed a creature as terrifying as an undead dragon. Fortunately, their scheme had been dismantled. Yuki had proven himself to be a massive wrench in their plans.
“Now that the undead dragon is gone, we have plenty of ways to deal with the situation. I’d like your squad to take a day off to rest, but once that’s over, you’ll unfortunately have to sortie again immediately. I would’ve liked to give you more time to recuperate, but the situation is too dire,” said Phynar. “I’d like you to deliver a letter I’ll be writing shortly to our southeastern headquarters. Once you’re done, you’re free to pick whomever you want to form a unit for the sake of investigating any sort of suspicious human activity. Focus on anything that relates to military action. Everything else, I’ll be dealing with separately, so don’t worry about it.”
“Orders received, sir.”
The commander stood up and left, only to be replaced moments later. A certain elven monarch burst straight through the door.
“Phynar! Our men bring news. The undead dragon has been defeated. It is likely that the reinforcements have arrived!”
“Yup! I was just told the exact same thing.”
“You were informed already?” She raised a brow. “It must have been the men you sent to scout. Have they brought the information you required?”
“They’ve provided me everything I need to deduce our enemies’ intentions,” he said with a cunning smile. “I’m fairly certain I know exactly what they want.” He got to his feet as he continued. “But enough of that. The people who dealt with the big bad undead for us will be arriving soon. I’d love to show them some hospitality myself, but sadly, I have no power here. That duty’ll have to fall on your shoulders.”
“Do not worry. We have already arranged for it. The best Our settlement can provide shall be put on full display. The hospitality We shall demonstrate is far beyond all that can be experienced within your realm.”
“I’m not so sure about that, but I’m curious to see what you have in store.”
After lightly prodding at each other just to mess around, the two each got to their respective tasks.
“Do you remember the chief of the fiends?” Nell asked as we leisurely made our way over to the elven village. She was still riding the dire wolf that she had borrowed from the queen. “He’s a pretty big guy with a head of red hair. I think you said you fought him before.”
“Yeah? What about him?” I answered with an annoyed scowl.
“I fought him yesterday,” she said. “He escaped by using a necklace to teleport away. And it looked a lot like the ones that you use all the time.”
“So, you’re saying you think he had a warp crystal?”
“Mhm. That’s what made me start suspecting that they might have a demon lord on their side too.” she said with a nod. “It’d all make sense if they did. The demon king mentioned that the fiends replenish their forces abnormally quickly.”
She went on to explain that Phynar’s plots had crippled the fiends on several different occasions. While he hadn’t wiped their forces out, he’d left them depleted to the point where any further conflict was likely to be impossible. And yet, they would rear their heads again in full force the moment he turned the corner. It hadn’t just been once. The exact same scenario had played out several times already.
As Phynar wasn’t the type to fail at reading his foes’ forces to such a degree, he came to the conclusion that there had to be a reason for their abnormally high numbers.
“So you think they’re using a dungeon to boost their numbers?”
“Mhm. If that’s not it, then it doesn’t really make sense. There are still a few things I don’t really get, but let’s not think about that right now. Because we’re finally here!”
I raised a brow and scanned our surroundings.
“You sure this is the right place…?”
“I don’t see anything,” said Enne, telepathically.
“There is a barrier,” said Lefi, who, unlike us, clearly understood what was going on.
“I knew there was no tricking you,” Nell giggled.
She led the way and took a few steps forward. When we did the same, everything, and I mean everything changed. The trees suddenly grew larger and more organized. There stood rows upon rows of massive, towering plants adorned with stairs to climb their oversized trunks and bridges to connect their canopies. Many elves had made the trees their homes, hollowing out massive sections to turn the natural constructs into buildings. And yet, it was clear they weren’t destructive or even intrusive. The trees remained full of vitality, their emerald green leaves indicative of their good health. The homes built into their trunks almost seemed to embody the concept of harmony between man and nature.
The beautiful flowers that had been planted literally everywhere were only highlighted by the way the sunlight filtered through the trees. The mystical, wondrous scene was exactly like what one would expect of an elven village hidden somewhere deep in the forest. And it instilled in me without question the idea that today was a warm spring day.
But it wasn’t perfect. At least not anymore. The flames of war had ravaged the secret hideaway. Many of the trees were damaged by impact or by flame. Elves and their golems could be seen all around, using a mix of might and magic to restore their homes the best they could. It’s a shame this place isn’t at its best anymore.
It was clear from both what Lefi had said and the sudden change in scenery that the entire settlement was masked by some sort of magic. Troops of all sorts, elves, demons, and humans, had appeared out of thin air the moment we stepped through the boundary, already in the midst of a salute.
A beautiful elf wearing what seemed to be a traditional dress approached, walking between the lines of soldiers as would an individual of great importance. She was dignified, radiating confidence and pride with every step.
“Welcome, dear guests. We thank you for defeating the undead dragon in Our steeeeeeeeeeek!?”
The individual of great importance made an odd sounding squeak as her eyes fell on the person beside me.
“L-Leficios!? T-the Supreme Dragon!?”
The clear shout of recognition led my wife to raise her brow.
“I recognize you,” she said. “Are you not the elf that attempted to challenge me?”
“Guessing she’s an acquaintance?”
My question was met with a shrug.
“An acquaintance indeed, and nothing but. I was once attacked by a group of elves as I passed over their domain, likely as they suspect that I wished to engage. She was among them.”
“W-we apologize,” squeaked the terrified elf. “I-it was not Our intention to inconvenience you.” She literally dripped with cold sweat as she bowed.
As I wasn’t being conversed with, I took the opportunity to put Analyze to work.
Name: Napholahz Faeraie
Race: High Elf
Class: Fairy Queen of the Elven Domain
Well then. I guess she doesn’t just seem important. She is important. And her level’s pretty high too. Seems like she puts her soldiers to shame.
“Worry not, it was an event long past. You are free to forget it. I have little intention of holding a grudge.”
“W-we thank you for your leniency from the depths of Our being,” said the queen.
She finally stopped bowing, but it was clear that she was still on edge. Her behaviour was apparently so abnormal that she was throwing the soldiers for a loop. The elven ones were especially weirded out.
The awkward atmosphere would likely have persisted had Nell not stepped in.
“U-uhm, I’m sure our guests are probably hungry, so why don’t we start heading into the village, Your Majesty?”
“Honestly, I’m sleepier than I am hungry,” I said. “We basically haven’t stopped flying since we set out last night.”
“Indeed. I wish for an opportunity to rest.”
“Oh yeah, you did rush right over, huh? I guess you would be tired,” said Nell.
“Our guests have spoken!” said the still-panicked monarch. “Prepare Our finest guest room immediately. Spare no expense!”
“Y-yes, your majesty! At your command!”
Though still bewildered, some of her men split off to follow her instructions.
“So, Lefi… mind explaining? The hell did you do to the poor girl?”
“It was not I who was at fault. I did little but issue a threat,” she said. “She would do best to be grateful, for I forgave her in spite of an unreasonable assault.”
The only thing I really learned from her explanation was that the elven queen was truly an individual worthy of every bit of pity I had to spare.