"What on earth is going on?"
Staring closely at the center of the mountain range, the middle-aged guard pinched his own thigh. The intense pain made him realized that it wasn't an illusion, which unsettled him even more.
The summit is splitting apart?
Elves watched in amazement as the Mountains of Origins quivered incessantly. The pinnacle, which had been blanketed with creepers, thickets, and moss was splitting in twoas if being cut apart by the axe of a giant deity.
The walls of the mountains collapsed and huge gray-brown boulders fell. As the dust and debris spread, millions of hazel-toned tree roots squirmed out, as if alive, and formed up into a colossal hand.
Its appearance was akin to an indestructible wood carving, with green streaks of light encircling it. Gently, it inched downwards at the volcanic dragonwhich was only as big as its thumb. Startled at the sight too, Black had to be prodded by the people on its back to recover before climbing onto the palm of the hand.
Nobody could say a word on the airship. Everyone gaped as their minds blanked out, not quite able to process what in the world they were looking at.
A long time passed as the hand retracted and brought the half-dragon and their squad back into the cave.
It was then that the elves, seemingly waking from dreamland, filled the aircraft with a rowdy discussion. Some suggested quickly leaving while others recommended going up close to investigate.
Though a wave from the horrific existence was capable of wiping them out in an instant, many of elves felt an unknown familiarity towards the hand.
Standing in a corner, the middle-aged elf had a mixed expression. "What was that Such grandeur, yet such kindness"
Atop Black, everybody except Joshua was speechless and as amazed as the elves were.
Stunned, Ying and Ling took it all in. As Divine Armaments the pair had seen majestic buildings such as Winter Fort Academy and the walls of the Imperial City at night, but those were of such far lesser scale compared to the hand. Even the snowy mountains of Nissia would dim in comparison.
Naturally, Black was at a loss of where he should be going. A half-dragon hybrid from a dragon horse, it did not inherit the genetic memory from its species. The hand was the largest thing it had seen in its life.
The holy knight was staring blankly too. He had knowledge and experience that set him apart from the Divine Armaments and Black, but there was a limit to that too. This power that comfortably adjusts the landscape of a mountaintop was obviously mythicalor perhaps even something more. Indeed, its very existence rendered the knowledge he gathered throughout the years insignificant.
Roland wanted to ask Joshua what in the world was going on as the limb movedbut before he could compose himself to do so, the wooden hand stopped. It was disassembling and turning back into an infinite number of roots while the holy knight was suddenly stunned by the other behemoth in front of him. He shut his mouth once more.
In the gigantic karst wide enough to hold several towns, a tree that seemed to hold the sky aloft stood. It had a gray-white textureand appeared as if it had turned into stone. Some of the millions of its tree branches supported the roof of the cavern while others grew out of it into the world out there to form hills and pinnacles. The roots tunneled into the ground of the karst. An infinite number of green lights surrounded it, dyeing the entire environment an emerald shade.
As the trio and one dragon stood and gaped at the scenery around them, a bunch of green lights floated in front of Joshua. Faces surfaced in them as the Soul of the Forests swept its gaze across the group and told the warrior, "Here, come closer."
It then turned afloat in the direction of the gigantic tree.
"You've made us wait." Joshua nodded. He was unfazed by the force that tore apart mountains or the gigantic hand that was larger than the mountaintop, as well as the gigantic tree that seemed to grow into the sky.
"Stop staring. It's time to go." He turned and told his companions, before stepping forward to follow the Soul of the Forests closely.
His group chased after him.
The air quality and the magical elements were far denser within the cave than the world out there. Not only was the refreshing air brimming with life energies, the concentrated magic would have a repelling effect on ordinary individuals. The dragon merely took a deep breath and it accidentally released a bunch of flames, while Ling and Ying watched helplessly as their bodies gleamed in magical fluorescence.
Nobody said anything as they walked on; despite the many questions the holy knight and the rest were itching to ask they trotted forward in silence. It was up until the tree grew to the size of a wall that the floating green light stopped moving.
They had arrived at the base of the tree.
Looking around, Joshua noticed something rather conspicuous not far off. Curious, he frowned and asked, "What is that?"
Just ahead of them at them, a wooden frame of a person was planted at the feet of the tree. His left hand touched the tree's stony skin while his right pressed on his chest, as if making a vow. The elf's hair had yet to change to wood; the red mane moved like flames in the wind.
"Who is he?" Joshua inquired after the Soul of the Forests again, appearing to be very interested. "Why here? And turned into wood too."
Moments passed before a graceful voice rang out from the light; echoing heavily and devoid of emotion.
"He's the current king of the elves. It was he who came recently and awakened me. He was a true kingsacrificing all he had for his brethrenwilling to offer his life and spirit in death to save every elven soul."
At those words, Roland looked up at the roof of the cave reflexively. Millions of soul lights were floating in from the unseen horizon, seeping into the concrete and fusing into the tree.
Those were the souls of elves who died horribly under the 'Calamity'.
"Is that so." Joshua looked thoughtful and nodded slowly before shaking his head and pointed out doubtfully, "Still, it's no use. However powerful one soul would be, it could not ferry others that amount up to millions."
Salvation is even more out of the question.
"No. It wouldn't work if it was any other." The Soul of the Forest replied, its voice seemed to contain thousands of different of person's. "But it would if it were this one."
Millions of elven faces flashed through the emerald light. There were wise elders, noble queens, self-appointed tyrants as well as sages who held mysteries, and every one of them were looking closely at the wooden statue of the elf, whose eyes were shut tight.
The faces, voices and perhaps souls overlapped.
" He created this nation, building a new era. "
" Every individual in this nation is his people. "
" His strength may be insufficient, but we are able. As long as we follow his soul we could assimilate every elven soul in this civilization. These children who have yet to resign themselves to their fate now have the hope of rebirth ."
" This is our responsibility. "
The immense force resounded across the cavern. A revitalizing breeze blew, flapping the corners of everyone's clothing.
It was then that a gigantic pressure flashedit was as crushing as being dropped under the ocean. Black quickly took one step back and wailed alarmedly. Even the holy knight couldn't help summoning his soul armaments and glared at the green light vigilantly. Meanwhile, Ling and Ying hid together behind Joshuausing his body as a shield.
The Soul of the Forests was such a tremendous force. Just a bit of careless outflow and everyone was on their toes.
Joshua held his hair down with one hand against the wind. He thought quietly for a while and smiled. "Such monumental strength as expected It's my first time witnessing this mythical existence."
The warrior appeared moved.He stared into the gaze of the Soul of the Forest as if looking at an ancient legend, and said calmly as he remembered his preexistence. "Soul of the Forest, that's what you call yourselfbut in ancient times you had a different name. The creator of the elves, lord of the forests and the hills, the sage of a thousand faces The god of the elves and the forests, Your Majesty, Father Nature."
Grinning, the warrior lightly bowed at the towering tree and the green bunch of lights. "I'm honored to meet the true form of a god," he said.