Vera began crying out loud.
Leguna relaxed when he heard the sound the dagger made when it fell — it didn’t sound like steel piercing flesh.
Slowly opening his eyes, he saw Vera had thrust the dagger only two centimeters away from Kurdak’s neck. He was unharmed.
“I can’t do it… I really can’t. Cyranos is dead… Will I let you leave me too? What should I do? Kurdak, what should I do?” cried Vera.
Leguna looked at Vera’s shivering form, and Kurdak — who was only barely staying alive — and understood what it felt like for blades to cut through his heart.
What should I do? What can I do? Where could I find a priest? Where would someone who could rescue Kurdak be?
After repeating the question over and over in his head, he went over all sorts of scenarios concerning the things they had, Kurdak’s injuries, Nightsong Forest…
All of a sudden, his eyes flashed. He hurriedly took Wayerliss’s notebook from his chest pouch and began reading like a madman. Fortunately, it wasn’t made with normal paper. Otherwise, it would’ve torn from his rough handling.
“Sis, I found it!” called Leguna excitedly.
“What? What did you find?” asked Vera, surprised, before she approached him.
“This. Look,” answered Leguna as he pointed to a passage in the notebook.
Vera rubbed her eyes. She could see words written in the common script on the pages. But she couldn’t recognize any of it. She didn’t have the time to care about how weird it was.
“I can’t read a word of this. Quick, tell me what you have,” asked she quickly.
“It says there’s an elven settlement somewhere in Nightsong Forest near Shimmer Lake. If we can find it, maybe the elves could save Boss,” explained Leguna excitedly.
The more Vera thought of it, the brighter her expression became.
“Oh, that’s right, I heard people mention they saw traces of elves in Nightsong Forest. Maybe they do have a way to save him! They’re a race with a high affinity for magic, after all. Maybe they know some divine healing techniques! They can definitely save Kurdak!”
While Vera seemed to regain hope the more she talked, all of a sudden, she thought of something that caused her gaze to dampen slightly.
“But elves have always been really guarded against outsiders… How will we make them help us? Also, I heard that some humans do horrible things in this forest. I heard some even offended the elves a lot…”
“Sheesh, there’s no point in thinking so much about this now. Staying here will only be waiting for Boss to die. Let me give his injury some basic treatment before we leave. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” urged Leguna before he promptly took bloodclot grass and trigreen leaf from his bag to make some ointment.
The ointment’s preparation was rather simple. Despite that, he couldn’t help but grow more anxious after he finished. Kurdak really had too many fatal wounds. All the ointment Leguna made wouldn’t be able to cover them all. That was also why a whole bottle of potion didn’t do much to improve Kurdak’s condition.
Leguna picked the three worst-looking wounds on the right side of Kurdak’s lower torso, the left side of his chest, and back, and poured the remaining potion into his mouth. Vera finished packing up their luggage shortly after. The two found two thick tree branches and made a simple stretcher. Kurdak was carefully moved onto the stretcher and the group began traveling at a slow pace.
Dawn soon came. Cyranos’s loss weighed on both Leguna and Vera’s minds. The night-long battle had also tired them considerably.
A youth of slender build and a woman not specialized in endurance were using the last of their energy to head to the point recorded in Wayerliss’s notebook. Even though the two were already at their mental and physical limits, a deep fear drove them forward: losing Kurdak.
The two moved onward for about eight hours before arriving at their destination. On the way, they began to worry that Kurdak would not survive the journey, that he’d pass on mid-way. They stopped and inspected him; they were relieved to see he was still alive. They despaired, however, for there was no elven settlement to be seen.
“It should be here… Why don’t I see anything?” Leguna hurriedly opened Wayerliss’s notebook. He couldn’t help but want to find the man who wrote it and interrogate him about the accuracy of the information.
“The elves should’ve laid a magical formation.”
Even though Vera knew the reason they weren’t able to locate the settlement, it didn’t change how much she worried at all. Just like Leguna, she was also an impetus-using fighter and both had not the slightest inkling when it came to enthymema and magic.
“Darn it! Is this all we can do? Come here and stare at a non-existent entrance?!” cried Leguna, red-eyed.
“Let’s think of a way to draw them out,” decided Vera.
The elves were Kurdak’s only hope of making it through the day.
Thus the two called out for a good while in that part of the forest. Apart from drawing a few beasts, however, the elves they hoped would appear were nowhere to be seen.
“I guess there’s only one option,” said Leguna as he removed a fire starter from his bag.
“Are you going to burn down the forest?” asked Vera, having figured out Leguna’s intention.
“It should definitely draw them out.”
“Don’t forget the elves worship nature. All this will do is piss them off. Will they still save Kurdak then?” reminded Vera, though that didn’t stop her from handing Leguna some fuel.
“We can’t be bothered with that right now. If they don’t come out, Boss will die,” said Leguna as he took the fuel.
He found a spot a bit further away from Kurdak and prepared to light the fire. He didn’t doubt the location provided by Wayerliss’s notebook at all. If it said there were elves here, there were elves here. Leguna wasn’t worried that the forest fire would eventually grow so big it would roast him and Vera alive.
Jelanoe, the patrol squad of Nightsong Settlement’s captain, had been protecting the forest with his kin for the past 20 years.
His kin considered him one of the younger generation’s most talented archers. It wasn’t far from the truth either. He had already joined the ranks of the high-order rangers when he came of age. Nobody else in the settlement could claim the same achievement. He still recalled how touched he was 20 years ago when Elder Eiron passed the patrol squad’s captain’s badge to him. Back then, Jelanoe had taken a solemn oath to protect the forest, the home of the elves.
He had upheld his oath for over 20 years and was confident he was doing a rather good job. But the two humans that showed up in the forest that day made him incredibly angry and ashamed.
He didn’t really bother with them when they first showed up since there was a chance they had wandered there by chance. It wasn’t uncommon for humans to show up in Nightsong Forest, after all, so it wasn’t impossible.
Not long after, however, the two began to call out loudly as if they were seeking the elves. While Jelanoe was rather annoyed by the calls, he ignored them. No matter what it was about, the elves didn’t want to have any dealings with the self-centered, cunning, and sly humans. However, when the thin male youth attempted to set the forest on fire, Jelanoe was furious. Destroying a part of nature was the biggest sin one could commit. Jelanoe wasn’t prepared to ignore them anymore.
The moment Leguna set some fuel alight, a number of elves armed with bows showed up behind him. Vera, some distance away, was surrounded by more elves. Leguna looked at the long and elegant faces that bore the same expression and calmed down. He smiled at them and attempted to convey that he didn’t have any hostile intentions. His clean teeth and sparkling eyes looked brighter than ever when contrasted with his soot-stained face. But, the elves didn’t understand what he meant by the gesture and tightened their grips on their bows.
All of a sudden, he saw only darkness. He finally gave in to the fatigue he had endured for the past two days. The last thing he saw before he fainted was Vera slumping to the ground weakly.
“Did you guys shoot them with tranquilizers?” asked Jelanoe curiously when he noticed the two fainted humans.
“No,” answered the elven youths who still had their arrows trailed nervously against the two humans on the ground.
Jelanoe was even more confused now. He had lived his whole life in the settlement; he had never left Nightsong Forest. Even though he had met humans before, he was sure it was his first time meeting these two. The problem was that the humans wore an expression of ‘we finally found you!’ before they fainted, smiles on their faces, even though it should be their first time meeting.
What’s going on? Do I know them from somewhere? Why did they faint? Were they too shocked by seeing elves?
Even after the questions faded from his mind, he still didn’t know what to do with the two humans.
“Captain, we discovered a heavily injured man near the woman over there,” reported one of the elven youths.
After a few moments of hesitation, Jelanoe chose to bring the three back to the settlement. His decision was in part thanks to the gentle nature of elves.
Since he was well aware of the strength and threat humans could pose, he wasn’t too concerned about the consequences of his actions. All three only knew how to use impetus. The youth was at the sixth stratum, the young woman at the seventh, and the man only at the ninth.
While they were far from weak, if they actually dared to cause any trouble, Jelanoe was confident he alone was enough to deal with them.