But Leaf could not hear her from so far away.
The red dot zoomed even faster and became brighter as well.
What should she do?
"Right, right... telephone! I can call Leaf!"
Sylvie slid down the pole into the underground boardroom and yelled at Morning Light, "Call Leaf, now, and tell her to run!"
Realizing something serious had happened, Ferlin immediately picked up the receiver without further questions. He asked, "Run... where?"
"Anywhere! Neverwinter, the south of the forest... as far away as possible from the terminus station!"
All the people in the boardroom rested their eyes on Sylvie.
"Have you found anything?" Edith asked.
"We were all wrong. The demons' real target is Leaf, Leaf only!" Sylvie looked toward the southwest restlessly and said, "Leaf needs to concentrate to control the forest. When she does so, she turns into a physical entity, and the demons would be able to see the flow of her magic power and thus locate her! They burned the forest just to flush her out!"
"What?" Edith asked, her brows furrowed. "Can you actually see the demons from here?"
"Yes, because they're... too powerful," she muttered.
"But Ms. Leaf is powerful too," Ferlin cut in. "If the forest wasn't on fire, she could have rivaled an army of Mad Demons."
"There must be something else we haven't anticipated..." Sylvie said as she made her hand into a fist. She saw the red dot rise rapidly like a provoked serpent. "Has it got through yet?"
"No... nobody is picking up the phone."
It appeared that Leaf had been completely diverted by the fire. If they did not do anything right now, the red dot would reach the forest in one or two minutes!
"Call the terminus station," Edith ordered. "Let the First Army stationed there notify Leaf and also tell them to support her."
"OK." Ferlin thus turned to another telephone.
While they were waiting in agitation, Sylvie saw the red light pass the treetops and plummet like a sinister shooting star.
"Is it planning to break through the defense directly from above?"
Sylvie somehow thought of the worst scenario.
It was probably — a Magic Slayer!
Leaf clapped her hands and heaved a sigh of relief. "It should be fine now," thought she.
The trees at the edge of the campsite were now completely separated from the north. The fire would no longer pose a threat to the terminus station by any means.
Nevertheless, she still felt sorrowful for the burned, smoldered trees.
How many memories would she lose if the forest under her control was ablaze? How much precious, important experience would thus sink into oblivion?
Leaf could not bear the prospective loss.
"Cheer up, Leaf!" she encouraged herself in silence.
"You need to help quench the fire later!"
She was about to look around the campsite to see if there was anything she could help when suddenly, a whistling sound in the sky caught her attention.
Leaf gazed up. It was almost nighttime. The sky was a bruised purple, and it was hard for her to discern what that thing was.
"Watch out! Run!" someone shouted behind her.
Having no time to see who that was, Leaf disappeared into the trees immediately. At the same time, a shadow dived to the ground and brushed past her. The leaves and twigs around it were instantly pulverized into dust.
Instead of producing a loud noise, the shadow landed quietly. Leaf felt a lurch of fear. Before she could react to the attack, the air rippled around the shadow.
Her flowing magic power froze in a second.
Then it cracked like a mirror!
Leaf was pushed out of the tree trunk by an immense force and sped backward in a swirling color.
She fell heavily on the ground and coughed out blood.
Then she saw what the shadow really was.
It was a tall demon with pretty sharp facial features. Other than its deep blue skin and strange clothing, it looked no different than a normal human being. However, its mere presence made Leaf's chest constrict.
The air seemed to become thick and unbreathable.
Leaf straightened up breathlessly. She mustered all her strength to summon the forest, but the forest was unresponsive.
It was not her first time to be forced out of the Heart of Forest.
"Magic Slayer..." she murmured, her heart sinking to the bottom.
The Magic Slayer did not sneer or howl. It simply stretched out its sharp-clawed hands and lunged at her.
Leaf closed her eyes in despair.
But she did not feel the anticipated pain.
A huge, strange-looking sword appeared and blocked the blow. Leaf could never forget the signature giant blade and the golden sun mark on the sword.
"I'm your rival, monster!" Ashes yelled as she escaped the clutch of the Magic Slayer and stood magnificently before Leaf.
"Ashes?" Leaf exclaimed in surprise and stared at her. "Didn't you return to Neverwinter with Princess Tilly? I saw you board the 'Seagull'—"
"Yeah, that was our original plan," Ashes replied without giving her a backward glance. "but I feel there's something out of character in this fire, so I requested to stay here, just in case something happens."
"So it was her that warned me earlier."
"This is the Magic Slayer you encountered the other day?"
"Yes, but you have to be careful. It's much stronger than that Senior Demon!"
"I've noticed that," Ashes said, with the giant sword in front of her. "Don't worry. I may not win, but I can earn us some time before reinforcements arrives."
The Magic Slayer swept over the encampment with a contemptuous glance and stared at the two witches coolly. "Are you... an Extraordinary?"
To their great astonishment, it was speaking the human language, although its pronunciation was a bit off. This was even more incredible than the appearance of the Magic Slayer itself!
During the previous Battles of Divine Will, demons and witches had never communicated with each other!
"Can you... speak our language?" Leaf could not help asking.
"Learning is the first step of evolution. Only you guys will be surprised at our progress," the Senior Demon replied as it spread out its hand. "Thousands of things changed in the past hundreds of years, but you still live in the old way. Demons, Extraordinaries, even these titles remain the same. That's really... pathetic."
"What did you say?" Ashes snarled.
But the demon did not respond to her. Instead, it conjured a gust of wind.
Ashes took a few steps forward and flailed the giant sword in her hand. The magic cyclone dissipated under the influence of the God's Stone of Retaliation, but the Magic Slayer was already gone.