Chapter 207

“Is it an ‘ego sword’ with its own consciousness?”

“I think that’s probably the case. No, I’m sure of it.”

Like it had guided them at Violuwin or how it told Zich that he could open the door this time, Windur seemed to definitely possess a mind of its own.

‘It also changes its appearance only when it wants to.’ When Zich thought about that, his sword also seemed to possess a stubborn personality.

Of course, Windur didn’t seem to have a self-awareness strong enough to initiate a conversation with him; even this time, it simply informed Zich of the door by giving him a strong ‘feeling’ about it.

“This guy was also the one who protected me from the flames when they were about to engulf us.”

Even while the other elves burned to death from the fire, Zich and his companions were fine. All the elves stared closely at Windur.

Hoping that he might be able to get a clue about his sword, Zich asked, “Do you have any idea what this guy might be?”

However, Romanne shook her head. “No, I haven’t heard anything about such a sword before.”

“Is that so?” Although he didn’t get the response he wanted, Zich wasn’t very disappointed, and he continued, “I get the ancient empire, Clowon, the Iron Tribe, and their relationship with the other elves now. Could you tell me more about the ‘power’ underneath the castle?”

“We also don’t know either,” Romanne said. “Like we don't know what that power is or why Clowon stored it in Mentis. However, their actions seem to indicate that they invaded Mentis to store that power there.”

“I don’t know if what I saw was that power, but I saw a large tree behind the open door. It was different from other trees, especially since fire—the natural enemy of trees— wrapped all around it.”

“A tree wrapped in fire.”

“Yes, and the leaf-like things attached to its branches were actually flames too.” Zich’s description clearly described a special tree.

Romanne muttered after hesitating a bit, “Flames that poured out of the door burned down the castle. If I think about that, that seems to be the power.”

“N-Now that I think about it…” Leona hesitated. Since it was mostly Zich and the shaman talking, everyone else seemed like bystanders, and Leona stuttered like she had a hard time joining the conversation.

“W-We also saw a tree at the tomb in Violuwin. Do you think there’s a connection between that one and this one?”

“It’s possible.” Zich also thought about that and nodded. When he felt Romanne’s gaze that seemed to demand further explanation, Zich spoke up. 

“She’s talking about the ruin where I found Windur. There was also a door that I could open with Windur there.”

“What was that place like?”

“It was a gigantic tomb. Considering all the information I’ve gathered so far, I think that place was Clowon’s royal tomb.”

“You made an amazing find. But was there a tree there too?”

“Yes, there was a tree that spread its roots into the air and its top grew underground. I heard from Leona that there was a similar tree in the stories you told her.”

“Ah, you meant that.” Romanne recalled a past memory. “It’s probably a story from a long time ago. There were five trees with special abilities. Among them, there was a tree that grew upside down. Huh? Is this one also?”

A tree wrapped in flames—it clearly was a tree with special powers.

“So, I suppose the story of the trees is not simply an old tale. How did you learn about this story? Could I also hear more about it in detail?”

“It’s not as if I know the full story. The story of the trees was passed down to me like a legend, and I just heard it from my grandmother before too.”

‘I guess I won’t be able to get that much information.’ Still, Zich was now informed about the five trees that possessed special powers. Now, he needed to find out if there was any connection between the information he now knew.

“…We have trailed off quite a bit. Why don’t we continue talking about measures to take against the Iron Tribe?” Zich asked.

“Even if the tree with flames isn’t Clowon’s power, it wouldn’t change anything. The door is now open, and the power is within their grasp.”

“…It doesn’t sound like the situation has improved very much,” Retree said seriously. 

Zich agreed. “Yes, although we saved the captives, the Iron Tribe fulfilled their ultimate goal of opening the door to a power strong enough to convince them to betray all the other tribes. If you think about it, you could say the situation worsened.”

“The Iron Tribe won’t be able to use that power immediately,” Romanne intervened. “While I was captured and Renu screamed to his soldiers to release the seal, I found out that he wouldn’t be able to use the power immediately after its release. I also heard that they need a specific ritual to control the power too.” While Romanne spat out all kinds of insults against Renu, she was still gathering information.

Romanne continued, “But he won’t be completely defenseless since he mentioned a method that could buy them time.”

“In short, we have to gather our armed forces as fast as we can and attack the Iron Tribe before they can complete the ritual to control the power,” Zich said.

“Yes, while dealing with the method that Renu said could buy them time.”

Everyone turned serious. They thought they could relax now that all the captives were safe, but as they dived deeper, they realized that they were in a terrible situation.

*      *      *

A few days later, all the elves in the Great Adrowon Forest except the Iron Tribe created a coalition and gathered in front of Mentis. They had mobilized their military exceedingly fast; not only did the Lake Tribe request other tribes for their speedy collaboration, but the fact that the tribes began to prepare for war when their kings and queens were kidnapped played a big factor in their quick mobilization.

However, they could not rush into attacking Mentis. The Iron Tribe had the overwhelming geographic advantage of existing on an island connected by a single bridge. Furthermore, even that single bridge was now burned and broken down.

“Those damn bastards! How dare they break Mentis’s bridge!”

Regardless of what the elves’ past history was, Mentis was currently being used as an important site to do the Puola. It was natural that the elves would be upset.

D’niel said, “The Iron Tribe really planned this out.” 

D’niel, who had been scanning for any human intruders in the boundary, was also participating in this battle. He was burning with passion as he planned to do well in this war and go back to being a royal guard. However, even to him, it was shocking that the bridge to Mentis was cut off, so he kept murmuring to himself and insulting the Iron Tribe.

Zich looked around his surroundings. The coalition of elf armies was all gathered together in front of Mentis. However, as expected, elves were different from humans. If it were humans, the soldiers would have cleared out all the surrounding trees, and after making wooden fences and campgrounds, they would have prepared for battle. However, the elves were blending themselves into the forest. For that reason, Zich and his companions stuck out like splattered ink.

Fweet! FweeetFweeeet!

The sharp sound of a flute rang across the forest. The allied troops that were looking at Mentis began moving.

“The battle is going to start soon.”

“You said that the commander for this army is the Plain Tribe King, right?” Zich asked D’niel.

“Yes. The Plain Tribe King has a lot of experience in battle. It’s because the Plain Tribe lives closest to where humans live, and the humans coveted the place where the tribe lives.”

It seemed as if the Plain Tribe gained a lot of battle experience by fighting wars with humans.

“We’re in a bit of trouble. The only bridge to Mentis is gone, so we have no choice but to swim or use a raft.”

“If we had a lot of time, we could have let them starve to death.”

In a lot of wars, a great number of soldiers died from lack of resources and not direct combat; this could not be helped no matter how experienced and skilled the soldiers were. However, the side that was in trouble right now was not the Iron Tribe, but the allied forces.

“Then we should get ready.” Zich took out Windur.

Zich smirked. Even though it was his first time being involved in a war between elves, he didn’t think it would be fundamentally different from other wars. Soon, Zich would be able to witness a familiar sight—in the midst of strong tension, clear splatters of blood bursting forth and ear-splitting screams would ring throughout the whole area. Then, the smell of death would waft in. Zich would finally be able to participate in a “real” war.

‘Ah, I really look forward to it.’

Lyla stared at his back with an anxious expression.

*   *   *

“Start!”

As soon as the Plain Tribe King issued an order, the elves began moving forward. The elves rode boats to cross the lake. The first ones sent out were the elves from the Lake and Ocean Tribe. Since they lived next to a lake and an ocean, they were much more familiar with bodies of water than the other tribes. The lake surrounding Mentis was wide and there was a significant distance between the opposite sides of the lake, so they weren’t attacked right away. As soon as the first unit was sent off, the second unit climbed onto the boat. 

The Iron Tribe in Mentis also discovered the allied forces. They nocked the arrows on their bows and began moving towards the boats. However, the allied forces didn’t rush towards Mentis. While the first unit hovered near Mentis while keeping a good distance, boats continued to be released into the lake. All the boats were made by cutting down nearby trees and intertwining them together, but they didn’t need high quality boats to get to Mentis. On the other hand, the quantity was much more important. The number of boats in Mentis kept on increasing, and the tension began to rise.

Thud!

A large sound was heard in the lake. It was a signal. The boats hovering near the lake changed course and headed straight for Mentis. The tension increased exponentially as both sides readied their bows, and more and more boats continued to head towards Mentis. Soon, they came within range of each other. 

“Shoot!”

Both sides shot arrows at the same time.

Slam!

Pierce!

“Agh!”

“Ughh!”

The arrows caused casualties on both sides. The elves’ arrows were tough and strong, and they easily passed through soft flesh.

Splash!

Splash!

Elves heading towards Mentis began falling off the boat. Elf blood began to spread across the lake.

“Aghh!”

“Ugh!”

On the other hand, the allied forces were not the only ones taking damage. The Iron Tribe also took damage—the elves hit by arrows all over their bodies collapsed onto the ground. However, since the elves in Mentis had things to protect themselves with, the elves on the boat with no cover received more injuries. Even if there were more casualties in the allied forces, boats continued to head straight towards Mentis. The boats at the front began closing in on Mentis.

WhishWhish!

The Iron Tribe began casting spells.

Crash!

“Aghh!”

“Ughh!”

One fireball landed on a boat, and the boat completely shattered. The elves that were on the boat flipped into the water. However, the spells didn’t only fall on the boats. Spells also began to rain down on and damage the Iron Tribe. As if they were competing on which side could kill more soldiers, the two sides battled ferociously without stopping.

This was war. However, objectively, the war seemed to be more favorable towards the Iron Tribe as they had the defensive advantage. Even though the allied forces had more soldiers, if they continued to fight like this, there was a high chance that the Iron Tribe would end up victorious. But the allied forces weren’t going to lose like this. 

Explode! 

In an area that was a distance away from the main battle zone, the central ground of Mentis soared up as if it was exploding. Then, a hole appeared. One of the hard-working Iron Tribe soldiers discovered the hole while battling. In order to check it out, he approached the hole and at that moment—

Slice!

A sword that suddenly came out of the hole cut through the elf’s neck. While grabbing and removing the lifeless elf soldier’s body, Zich climbed out of the hole.

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