As Foretold by Ancestors
In the northern reaches of the Lugarut Kingdom, the day after elves and evil beings clandestinely made contact.
Strange developments were unfolding in the Lugarut Kingdom.
Skipping the details and getting straight to the conclusion, the internal situation was rapidly becoming secure.
In countries embroiled in conflict, generally, public order is disrupted, and monsters roam freely.
During peacetime, the military is responsible for maintaining ‘external city security’ and, in some cases, even dealing with monster extermination as an extension of that. However, if the military is mobilized for war, internal turmoil is inevitable.
During such times, the presence of adventurers who exterminate monsters and rogues becomes crucial for maintaining law and safety. However, adventurers may not always be helpful in critical moments because they are not bound to specific lands and often flee to safer countries in times of war.
Especially when the looming threat of the formidable Khenis Empire invasion was approaching, this tendency became even more pronounced.
Walking outside the city became a life-threatening endeavor, and villages without protective walls lived in constant fear of monster attacks or bandits burning down their homes.
Enter a peculiar group of undead.
Knights and mages with only bones for bodies. A samurai with pale skin. A woman clad entirely in black like mourning attire. A silver-haired girl being carried in a palanquin…
Armed undead appeared simultaneously in various parts of the country, initiating monster extermination.
Some monsters were mowed down as a group, piled up as corpses, and transported away on wagons.
Some monsters, known for their uncontrollable ferocity, obediently followed the undead like well-trained dogs.
Some monsters, like criminals paraded before execution, were shackled and collared, being led away.
The prominent activities of the monsters were completely eradicated, leaving behind a peaceful aftermath.
In regions where monster activities dwindled, bandits and thieves would usually emerge, but this did not happen. Thieves, too, became prey for the undead.
The most symbolic news was the destruction of the Mendael Bandit Group.
Known throughout the country for its numbers, skill, and organization, the Mendael Bandit Group was annihilated in just a few hours of battle. Only those involved knew what happened during the fight, but people learned of the outcome by seeing the corpses of bandits marching along the road, led by the undead knights.
The undead openly displayed their existence, yet they refrained from interfering with Lugarut’s citizens, solely eliminating threats to the people.
How reassuring the fluttering blood rose flag must have appeared to the people.
What exactly was this? Public interest was inevitably piqued.
The “Ciel-Terra Disturbance”, known only to some observant individuals, those well-versed in international affairs, and adventurers, and the name of the “Rose Princess of Hellrage” quickly became known throughout the country.
News of the retreat of the Khenis Empire Blue Army in the battle north of the Gaisenfall Great Forest also reached the public. Around the same time undead activity began in the Lugarut Kingdom, the undead forces helped the elves of the Gaisenfall Great Forest drive away the imperial army.
While the Lugarut Kingdom had not directly suffered territorial invasion by the Khenis Empire, everyone had heard about the terrifying Blue Army approaching. Even under the Tripartite Alliance, they had engaged the Blue Army in combat, resulting in a considerable number of casualties.
However, the formidable Blue Army suffered a temporary defeat.
Some felt relief, while others found hope for the future.
Amidst this, rumors of unknown origin began to circulate.
“The Rose Princess of Hellrage desires an alliance with the elves of the Gaisenfall Great Forest.”
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Elves excel in shaping the forest with natural magic.
Their dwellings primarily consist of living tree trunks and branches woven together to form room-like structures.
They rarely use harvested wood, which they refer to as “dead wood”, for their homes. Although they possess the skill to craft beautiful furniture from dead trees, it was limited.
In the settlement of the “White Serpent Crawling on the Rock Wall” tribe in the Gaisenfall Great Forest, the central giant spirit tree stood about 50 meters tall, visible even from outside the forest.
It was said to be “thicker than any pillar of any human-made castle”. Numerous vines and thin trees entwined to give it a swollen appearance, and several rooms were scattered on lower levels. Additionally, living vine bridges, woven like spider webs, hang in the air, connecting to the surrounding trees.
In a room created to adhere to the Giant Spirit Tree, the highest location is the “Elder Council Chamber”.
The room at the end of the spiral staircase-like vines was the place where the leaders of the tribe held meetings.
Elves who have contributed to the tribe’s achievements gain the title of “Elder” as they aged.
The number of elders varies depending on the tribe’s size, and the “White Serpent Crawling on the Rock Wall” tribe currently had 14 elders, who, along with the chieftain, decided the tribe’s policies through consensus.
The atmosphere in the council chamber was as heavy as muddy water.
Although it had been this way since the war began, today there was an additional issue that deepened the wrinkles on the elders’ foreheads.
“It seems rumors of the proposed ‘alliance’ with them are spreading throughout the village.”
One elder muttered bitterly.
Shortly after the “Rose Princess of Hellrage” extended the invitation for an alliance, rumors about the alliance spread among the forest elves. The Elder Council had not publicly disclosed the meeting with the group claiming to be the Dead Land of Ciel-Terra; they were still in the stage of considering it internally.
Over 400 years ago, the human race was almost driven out of the continent due to the invasion of the Demon King’s army.
At that time, 14 of the few tens of thousands who took refuge on the floating island were the elders present in this room. The chief, Galsufeld, who was bedridden and absent from this meeting, was also one of them.
Elves were believed to live for about 500 to 600 years. They were just children or young adults during the time of the “Great War”.
Therefore, even now, when most of their short-lived friends from outside the forest had long died, they maintained a sense of belonging to the “human races” and could consider matters from the perspective of being “elves within the human race.”
However, such consciousness was less prevalent among the younger generation within the village.
Most of them had never ventured outside the forest, perceiving the world as simply “elves and everything else”. The elders, including those from the council, did not particularly regard this mentality as a problem.
There was a saying: “Even if you bury iron in the forest, it will not return”.
The problem casted aside resurfaced at the worst possible timing.
For those willing to join forces with the undead to counter the Khenis Empire, there were quite a few.
The elders were now grappling with this dilemma.
It was difficult to secretly reach a conclusion among themselves. They were considering finding a peaceful compromise or, in some cases, rejecting the proposal outright. However, this approach could lead to opposition from those below, and it could also cause the “Rose Princess of Hellrage” to look down upon them.
“First of all, where did the rumor originate? Maybe someone accidentally let it slip?”
“…It seems someone involved in trade outside the forest heard it from humans. In the Lugarut Kingdom… every city near the forest is buzzing with this rumor.”
The elders growled.
Presumably, the “Rose Princess of Hellrage” leaked the information. They used Lugarut individuals who could irresponsibly talk about the alliance, spreading rumors from the bottom up within the elven village. Furthermore, by spreading rumors outside the forest, it could be seen as a devilish tactic to preemptively tarnish the elves’ dignity and reputation, making it seem like they had nothing to lose with a silent alliance.
The elven society follows a seniority-based hierarchy and a world of superiors and subordinates.
However, trust in the Elder Council wavered, especially since they had been losing in the war, no matter how naturally expected the power difference was.
Additionally, it was impossible to predict or control which way the terrified people would go in such extreme circumstances.
No one knew what was best to protect this forest. The chieftain, the Elder Council, everyone fell into deep thought, silent and contemplative.
Just then, a security warrior called from outside the room.
“Elders. The Vice High Priest… no, the new High Priest is here.”
“Oh! Is the ceremony over?”
As the Elder Council abruptly stood up, a female elf entered the council chamber.
She was an elf with vivid green hair reminiscent of midsummer trees.
Her face exuded seriousness, and she was a woman with straight, earnest eyes. She tied her long hair with a bone hairpin, wearing a pure white priestess robe and inherited gemstone and gold accessories passed down through generations.
“Yes. I have come to report to the esteemed ancestors that I have succeeded the late Salesaya-sama, who lost her life in the battle.”
“I see, I see. Originally, we should have all prayed as well, but we were occupied.”
“No, it couldn’t be helped.”
Kneeling, her name was Kurususarina.
Just a few days ago, she had competed for the position of high priestess with the late Salesaya, who had died. Afterward, she had often assisted Salesaya as the vice high priestess.
The death of High Priestess Salesaya was a severe blow to the Elder Council.
Losing her, the tribe’s most powerful mage, was a significant setback in the war. Furthermore, the news of the beloved religious leader being slain by the enemy had a profound impact on the entire tribe.
Given the circumstances, the smooth transition to a new high priestess was fortunately one less worry. Kurususarina had secluded herself in a cave at the base of the Great Spirit Tree just days ago and had been praying continuously. In the knot-filled cave where everything in the forest converged, she prayed and awaited the recognition of the ancestors who returned to the forest. Without their acknowledgment, she couldn’t become the high priestess.
This prayer could take as little as three days or as long as a month. During this time, the entire tribe would gather to offer prayers to the ancestors. However, with the ongoing war, such a tradition was no longer feasible. Therefore, only the chieftain, the Elder Council, and the priestesses performed a simple ritual, substituting for the prayers during Kurususarina’s “seclusion”.
“I, Kurususarina, respectfully greet the elders. Everyone, I may be like a child to you, but I will do my best as the High Priestess to guide the people of the village.”
Kurususarina placed one hand over her chest and lightly spread the other, demonstrating the same gesture as the Elder Council.
It was a sign of goodwill among the elves, indicating that there was no hostility. Since she didn’t carry a bow or arrows and her hands were not clasped together, she couldn’t form the magical gestures either.
“At times… have you received any divine messages during the ceremony from our ancestors?”
As soon as Kurususarina finished her greeting with a somewhat nervous demeanor, Jibalmagza, one of the elders and also a tutor, inquired what everyone in the room wanted to know.
Everyone held their breath.
When making decisions that affected the entire tribe, the Elder Council often sought the opinion of the ancestors through the priestess, similar to how humans receive divine messages from the gods.
The ancestors, who had died and returned to the forest, stored vast knowledge within it and could even teach things unimaginable to the living.
At least, that’s what the elves generally believed.
Despite the tension and fatigue evident in Kurususarina, she conveyed her words with clarity, as if she believed that every word had to be perfect.
“It was no different from what Salesaya-sama last heard. It did not touch upon the war with the Khenis Empire… only, ‘Defeat the Blood-stained Silver Calamity’.”
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