the air in the elf forest was indeed fresh and comfortable to breathe.
if the air in the human world could be compared to a brook with a vague scent of fish, the air in the elf forest would be the clear and sweet water from a spring.
standing next to the lake, roland watched the white-tailed fish swimming casually in the water.
it was really a pleasant environment, but roland was not in a mood to appreciate it.
next to him was schuck and margret.
margret was upset, as ans had bluntly unveiled a fact that she had been intentionally ignoring: though powerful, dragons were not the dominators of the world.
as a result, she felt that the world seemed to be collapsing, because she had been so proud of her identity for decades.
looking at the fish for a while, roland asked, "what do you think of ans?"
"a lunatic, but also a politician," schuck said gloomily. "to carry out his political aspirations, he asks for outsiders help to kill his teacher and his compatriots. hes a self-contradictory person to me, but its not my place to criticize him. after all, hes an elf, and im a human."
roland nodded. "were just outsiders. besides, its hard to say whats right and whats wrong in politics. most of the time, its just a matter of perspective."
heaving a soft sigh, schuck asked, "do you want to take this quest or not?"
"of course i do." remembering the little body in the bucket, roland said, "whatever anss purpose is, its a fact that natures wrath slaughtered the villages and the town. i dont want to think now. i only want to choose the side of humanity and avenge them."
the forest was even quieter than before, leaves rustling in the wind.
looking at margret gently, schuck said, "im definitely on the side of humanity too, but i think that we need to consider the opinions of other species now and then and try to reach a balance. after all, agree to disagree is the mainstream."
roland glanced between schuck and margret and realized something. he nodded slightly.
even best friends would inevitably have subtly different opinions on the same matter.
after another length of silence, roland asked, "wheres betta? i havent seen him in a while."
"hes out, probably looking for wild fruits, ingredients, or seasonings." remembering how his cousin ran out enthusiastically, schuck smiled. "hes liked making his own food since childhood. hes certainly going to explore the elf forest."
roland smiled too.
after all, betta was only slightly over eighteen and not as sophisticated as they were. he could easily be caught by grief, but he could get rid of it easily too.
as schuck expected, betta returned to the stone house from the depths of the forest two hours later with a lot of fallen leaves as well as spiky little fruits.
schuck patted off the dirt and grass and asked his cousin, "what have you found?"
"a lot." betta took out his findings from his system backpack. "look at these fat spiders. this grass is spicy and can be used as pepper. this grass can be used as spices. this is a horned rabbit. i dont know how it tastes."
looking at the things that betta took out, everybody was lost for words. did he personally try all the grasses he picked?
looking at the fat white spiders, margret subconsciously swallowed.
roasted locusts were already delicious enough; roasted spiders would definitely be more palatable.
for most humans, the elf forest was dangerous. apart from the large predators in the outskirts, there were also patrolling elves who could hunt trespassers regardless of their identity or race.
but for betta, this was a treasury full of ingredients and spices that he had never seen before. if possible, he would be willing to stay a couple of years here.
then, betta made barbecue on the roof.
delicious food was indeed one of the best solutions to depression. when everybody chit-chatted over fruit wine and strange barbecue, they felt a lot better. of course, it did not mean that they completely forgot what they saw. they simply buried it in their hearts.
in the following days, they rested in the stone house. at first, they feared that the patrolling elves would spot them and cause unnecessary trouble.
but during these days, they encountered no elves in the forest except ans.
also, betta pressed further into the forest every day when he looked for ingredients, but he did not run into any patrolling elves either.
that became a question for everybody on the team.
five days passed in the blink of an eye. ans was finally here. he was rather solemn, his hair slightly messy. "tomorrow night, my teacher and the leadership of natures wrath will have a bonfire at a certain place. they will discuss the plan for natures wrath in the next two decades."
the elves had a long life, so all their plans were made according to decade.
a massive map was unfolded on the table, and ans began to observe the stone house.
the magic power in the stone house was gone, but with his extraordinary magic talent, he realized that the stone house was a magic product.
mud to stone?
even he did not have such a high precision. this human being was capable of doing that?
ans glanced between the priest and roland before he eventually focused on roland.
most priests would not waste their skill slots on spells that could not be practical in battle. only the mages, who were not restricted by skill slots, would learn this special spell.
was this human adept at magic control?
but that was not obvious.
roland was looking at the map when he noticed anss gaze. he raised his head, but ans had moved his eyes away.
roland was slightly puzzled.
the party from natures wrath would meet not far away from here. according to the scale of the map, it was only twenty kilometers away.
after studying the map, betta nodded and said, "got it. we will go at least six hours in advance to set up an ambush."
"i hope that you can succeed." ans glanced at them and said solemnly, "its our only shot. im told that the golden sons can be resurrected in temples of life. ive set up a simplified temple for the life goddess outside of the location. i hope that it can be of some use."
roland was quite surprised to hear that.
betta asked, "dont the elves worship the goddess of forests?"
"the goddess of forests does not reject other believers or force us to worship her. on the other hand, im actually a believer of the life goddess." ans smiled. "thats why i know of the golden sons."
that explained why ans requested the players to help him accomplish the quest.
ans slightly bent and said sincerely, "thank you for your trouble in advance. i need to go back to prepare now."
after ans left, rolands team began to make preparations.
they examined their weapons. the priest and the warlock checked if the spells in their slots were suitable for the upcoming battle.
the warlock, on his part, summoned a maggot.
the maggot showed up with an unusual stink.
everybody couldnt help but cover their nose.
hawk shouted, "get it back! get it back now! do you want to stink us to death?"
the warlock shrugged but had no choice except to recall the maggot. he said pitifully, "i fear that the magic waves would alarm the elves if i summon it right before the ambush."
"then you shouldve at least waited until were out of the house," link said in disgust. "besides, why did you choose a maggot as your magic pet? thats gross."
the warlock said matter-of-factly, "the maggot is strong. strength is the only thing that matters. can you feed on prettiness?"
after he said that, everybody looked at schuck and the dragon girl next to her.
"fine. its true that you can feed on prettiness." the warlock was bummed and walked away.
hawk took a long breath and said, "since everybody is ready, id like to speak about our plan.
"i, link, dorfer, and solomon will be the vanguard." hawk pointed to the east of the mark on the map and continued, "according to the map, theres a hill here. its a perfect spot for an ambush."
dorfer was a hunter and solomon was a warlock. both of them could attack remotely, and the whole party would be within their range of attack from that hill.
"rommel, betta, suel, and rommel will be the supporters responsible for the buff spells. suel, remember that your duty is not to fight but to protect roland from the elven archers. betta and rommel are both complex classes. you can look for opportunities of attack on your own when it starts."
eventually, hawk looked at schuck.
"because of the dragon princesss intense dragon aura, you will be perceived by the elves if youre too close to the party. so, schuck, please stand by with the dragon princess at the periphery. three minutes before we strike, we will give you a signal. you and the dragon princess are the strongest fighters on our side. we need you to deal with the druid who can turn into a dragon."
schuck nodded. "not a problem."
"this is the first time weve ever fought elves. i dont really have a detailed plan. everybody will have to improvise after the battle begins."
everybody chuckled in excitement.