Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The morning sun rises around Redwood City, situated at the edge of the Lake of Eternity by the Distant South.
A party of travel-worn adventurers entered the prosperous city to the northern coasts of the Lake, a trade center famous in the far southern forests.
The party leader was a human dressed in thin robes who appeared rather skinny and weak on first glance, carrying a bulging rucksack while all sorts of bottles hung by his hip. He appeared to be just an alchemist, his blond hair appearing messy after days of labor, while a team of escorting adventurers followed him, flanking him and holding his rear.
Amongst the entourage were dwarves, humans, elves, halflings, and barbarians, which was rather unusual in those parts. And yet, the pedestrians around them—local elven inhabitants paid them no attention. Even the tavern maid who stood by the door to her premises, smiling and inviting them for a drink inside, carefreely throwing a flirtatious gaze at the halfling that was not half as tall as she was.
For this was Redwood City, the capital for adventurers in the distant South. On its north were ancient rainforests that bordered against the Distant Southern Dark Forest, on its south the Lake of Eternity, to its west the Bondar Mountains, while the frontiers of the Far Southern Kingdom lay to its east… As a strategic location bordering four important regions, the Redwood City was therefore always the place where any variety of people and carriages traveled, be it adventurers in the Dark Forests, human merchants who came to trade with elves or elven scholars who were venturing to study in human nations. Every day, countless peoples depart or enter the city, with the locals here used to all manner of visitor and adventurer—accepting and assimilating, which gradually molded Redwood City’s culture.
On the streets, extraordinary races and extraordinarily dressed people treaded on both sides of the road as magically driven steel carriages or carts pulled by magical beasts weaved in and out of the center of the road. Elves bought fruits and pastry for breakfast, while dwarves head for taverns, ordering beers or fruit wines and wolfed everything down drunkenly. Amidst the blossoming plants on both sides of the streets, little animated plants resembling treants were being exported, creatures inscribed with special runes that were symbols of a new culture. Anyone could enjoy anything in Redwood City without venturing outdoors as long as they had money, and no one would dare cross those merchants who were backed by local elven mages and druids.
Furthermore, there was another new form of entertainment that was spreading in the city as well. The magical equipment known as Fairy Card Table had now replaced the old game tables in taverns and was now the favored entertainment of the citizens. Drunken tavern brawls were hence history, with the primary reason for playing being the winners snarking ‘Apologies’ thrice at losers, the secondary perhaps to show off the Legendary cards they got.
“Hahaha, I got one!”
A loud and clear whoop echoed in delight within a tavern. Anyone looking in through the window could certainly see a rich person who was dressed elegantly with gemstone jewelries, holding a crystal card that represented his account and showing off happily to everyone around him.
[Nature’s Magister Galanoud]
[Mana Cost: 9, Attack:4, Health:4, Taunt, Charge]
[Battlecry: Heal 5 points for the Hero, place the protective rune ‘Nature’s Domain’ on the field]
[Deathrattle: reverse effect of ‘Nature’s Domain’]
[3 Mana Cost, protective rune, Immune]
[Recover 3 health of the owner after every round]
[The owner draws one card after every round]
[Protective Rune Reversal: Nature’s Rage]
[Minus three health during at the start of every turn for your opponent, discard one card from your hand when each of your turn begins]
[—Planting kindness begets kindness, planting malevolence begets malevolence. That’s all there is to Nature’s Way.]
The energy cycle spreading from the forest formed the face of a female druid, her gaze kindly leveled at the city and forest that was her own ‘body’.
“The dwarven taverns and forges, human grocer shops, halflings jewelry stalls, evaluation houses of mages and heavens know how many guilds… Redwood City is as diverse as always.”
The alchemist appeared to have frolicked around jungles for over half a month, and was now entirely filthy as he plucked off his glasses that were filled with dust and rubbed it with a cloth he drew out from his chest. He looked at the streets around him when he put them on again, and asked a little curiously, “Weird. Why does it feel a little noisier than before?”
Surrounded by jungles and mountains, sunlight comes late for Redwood City and leaves early. Therefore, the city was usually illuminated by enchanted lighting which were temporarily doused after the sun rises. Today, however, was different—it was now first dawn, and yet the enchanted lights were as bright as always, the mild green-white lights brightening the entire city, causing the alchemist who frequented the city to find it distinctly unusual.
Apart from that, the doors to every shop on the streets were wide open. There were crowds of people everywhere at the morning markets where usually there were not many, and elven patrols were maintaining order of the queues. With an oncoming crowd right before them, the adventurer party was even at a loss of how to proceed.
“Boss, the tavern’s actually giving complimentary beers to all passersby!”
Even as the alchemist was left puzzled, a dwarf who wore a priest hat and heavy armor appeared behind him, drinking delighted from a disposable goblet. The flail on his hip clanged, and the dwarven priest exhaled in satisfaction after downing the beverage in one go. “I’m almost dying after a month without alcohol. Here’s to salvation.”
“Giving out alcohol? Since when have Redwood City owners become so generous? Aren’t the elven festivals in June?”
The alchemist looked around, at a loss for words even as the city was soaked in an atypically festive mood. The taverns were lavishly giving out free fruit wines to all passing visitors, the halfling jewelry stalls were decorated with pots of fresh and lively flowers, with a sign below that wrote ‘take one’. The city streets were decorated with ever-present banners of all colors, emblazoned with the crest of ‘Tidesong’, the most influential local elven tribe.
“It seems that the leader of ‘Tidesong’ will be succeeded and the incumbent is going to wed, with the Nature’s Magister and Her Imperial Majesty presiding over the ceremony.”
As the alchemist was left bewildered, a human ranger slipped out from the crowd, having sneaked in and gathered the details discreetly before returning to the party and allay their doubts. “From today until next month’s end, all shops would be tax exempted for all purchase and sales—the ‘Tidesongs’ are quite powerful locally, which is why the Redwood City natives are willing to cooperate and spread the cheer.”
“Boss, it’s good news: Our herbal tax had been the highest, but it’s exempted now—a huge gain!”
“Is that so, that really is good news.” Nodding lightly and speaking calmly, the alchemist named Chris 1 narrowed his eyes, his green pupils flickering behind his metallic glasses. “I could indeed give you lot a little more reward if that’s the case… But why is the atmosphere here so bizarre?”
Ignoring the party of adventurers who were beginning to cheer loudly, Chris frowned and pointed toward the elven guards who were patrolling the paths and maintaining order. “Look at them,” he said softly, “suppressing their expressions of anxiety and discomfort… it really sticks out like a sore thumb in their environment.”
By the road, those elven guards who were wearing plain wooden armor certainly appeared rather silent, their brows tightly furrowed, existing on a completely different wavelength with the cheerful crowd around them.
“Hmmm, isn’t that the World Tree’s fault?”
A half-elf archer who was in the party as well stroked the dagger by his hip, his mouth twitching as he spoke with disdain. “It’s all because the ‘World Tree’ appeared that the elves are in civil conflict. It’s even said that in the last council the Court held, it ended with the Nine Tribes all unhappy.”
The half-elf archer’s explanation elucidated the conflict between the elven tribes for the party: everything began with that ‘World Tree Seed’ the Nature’s Magister brought back from Moldavia. From the moment that World Tree that was alleged to originate from ‘Father Nature’, creator of the elves, sprouted within the Lake of Eternity, all order amongst the elven tribes were thrown into disarray.
All of them knew what great power the World Tree held. It was a legacy from gods, the most perfect expression of Nature’s Way. Therefore, any person who acquired it would become Legend, and any tribe that could attain it would elevate themselves above other tribes.
The elves had always been a race with strong solidarity. They did not mind sharing with other tribes, which in turn was precisely the reason they were enraged—the Elven Court and the Nature’s Magister had kept the World Tree Seed firmly within their own grasp, never sharing it with other tribes or publicizing it, abruptly angering the tribes who were usually indifferent.
—We are all Children of Father Nature. What right do you have to monopolize meditating upon His Legacy at all times?! It’s a treasure belonging to all elves, not one family or tribe!
“The wedding ceremony of the ‘Tidesong’ tribe includes invitations extended to all elven tribal leaders, with the Nature’s Magister and Her Imperial Majesty intending to solve the issue through formal negotiation… Still, I don’t get it—it’s just making a Legacy available for public, what is there to be sneaky about?”
Himself an elf and hence uninvolved, the archer shook his head in complaint. “Selfishness is the greatest creator of conflict… But boss, you’re always so generous—that’s where you’re different from the Nature’s Magister and her lot!”
“Moldavia, huh… Hahaha. You little bastard and your rigid flattery.”
Chris could not help ponder when he heard about the familiar place, although he could not help smiling and shaking his head at the attempt of puffery. “I know your sister needs money since she plans to study soon, right? I could privately loan you some, but don’t give me such deadpan flattery next time—and don’t mention the Magister, I don’t want to get detained by the local elven guards and get caned half to death.”
“Alright! Thanks, boss!”
Having chased off the half-elven archer, the human ranger appeared to have thought of something. “Come to think of it, your hometown is the North, right, boss?” he asked. “Do you know that Count Radcliffe?”
“What? You’re actually a Northerner, boss?” The dwarven priest asked as well, fascinated. “The Dragon-Slaying Count is actually my idol—to think that you’re a compatriot of his, how envious!”
“You priest, admiring some Legendary warrior instead of the pope… go home and meditate on the power of holy light!”
Sighing indiscernibly to conceal the emotions inside, Chris Radcliffe closed his eyes. The owner of rather reputable alchemical works who came to the distant south anonymously could not help remembering the days of childhood where he played with his brother in the snowy lands. Naturally, he also remembered that winter day six years ago, the alley where everything began, his father’s death and those crimson pupils burning with flames.
The image of the lone warrior with black hair and crimson pupils as he walked toward the liege’s residence that was crawling with ambushers. Unwittingly, that ordinary warrior from the old days became a Legendary champion whose name echoed across the world, his reputation known even in an elven city at the very edge of the world.
His heart whelmed with extreme emotion, the alchemist opened his eyes again and avoided that conversation. “What nonsense,” he said calmly. “Hurry and squeeze a vein for me. If the herbs are not processed by today, nobody gets paid.”
“Fine, fine.” The dwarven priest raised both his hands in surrender, but his chattering mouth could not stop from picking another topic. “That aside, boss, you mention that the Lord of Redwood City is getting married—when are you marrying your lady, then? We’ve been waiting on that feast for some time!”
“They’re already married, although he is yet to hold a grand wedding for her… The quality of medicine we gathered this time is very fine, it would be enough after it is sold with the recent tax exemption.”
As he calmly broke the news that astonished his adventurer employees who actually resembled a family of his more, Chris could not help showing a happy smile. “When the time comes, we’ll head to the most expensive tavern in Redwood city and have a feast that will be remembered for a lifetime! Don’t miss it!”
“Yeah!” Every member of the party cheered simultaneously, while Chris righted his spectacles, his lips curling, although he soon sighed.
‘Let all glory be claimed by heroes that allows everything to calm and return to the mundane. I never thirsted for exciting adventurers or to rise above ten thousand others, only desiring an ordinary life like a plant. I’ve got what I wished now: the mortal path that belongs to me.
‘What about you?’
Meanwhile, in a castle made of sturdy wood animated through divine nature spells, located on top of the tree crown of a colossal redwood at the heart of Redwood City, there was a huge hall decorated with many complex dimensional runes. Pale blue ripples flashed at the center, with a party of druids along with an elegantly dressed elf standing right before it with solemn expressions, as if waiting for someone’s arrival.
In seconds, as dimensional ripples abruptly fluctuated, the faces of every elf present sobered as a man wearing casual black led a young boy and a girl as they strode through the unstable portal.
And in the very instant he stepped out, the entire Redwood City appeared as if it had been swept through by a stroke of lightning. Be it mortals with no supernatural powers, Gold-pinnacle or up to Supreme-champions, all of them sensed something profound descending upon the heart of the city. Its existence alone was the distribution of an electromagnetic field that shrouded a region many times larger than a city.
“Welcome to Redwood City, Count Radcliffe. The Magister is having a stroll around the Lake of Eternity at the moment—she will come to you at once when she learned of your arrival.”
The elf in the lead stepped forward, welcoming Joshua’s arrival. He could sense that frightening presence that was vast and without equal, engulfing ten million individuals in its domain, shocking him inwardly while he felt his legs soften. What was more was the domain that contained the powerful presence had been seriously restrained by the wielder—no creature within hundreds of miles would be standing if it was unleashed at will.
‘Could it be that all Northerners lived under such pressure, and the rumors amongst the adventurers were not false?’
On the other hand, the man who shifted the entire environment around Redwood City by just showing his face frowned, staring toward a certain corner of the city.
“What a coincidence,” Joshua said softly, and turned the elegantly-dressed elf whose face had become rather rigid, waving him off nonchalantly. “I understand, and the lot of you don’t have to be so nervous. I’m not that prideful or a cannibal, nor do I enjoy slaughtering cities. The rumors are all false.
“And the Nature’s Magister don’t have to look for me. Tell me where she is, and I’ll meet her.”