Slept longer than I should’ve have.
Do your thing Deskie. On it, guv.
Chapter XXII – Harvest Moon (2/2)
A little while before in time.
The Witte village chief, who was doing his daily meditation in one of the rooms of his residence, raised his face as he abruptly realised something.
There were deep smile lines among his clear-cut, characteristically Elven features, and wrinkles were etched around his eyes. For a long-living race whose times of youth remain for a thousand year, he was dyed that deep in the colour of the aged. One could only guess how many months and years he had gone through.
“You there, Old Gran?”
A deep, calm voice, tinged with a vague hint of nervousness resounded in that room.
There was no one there but himself. And the moment he thought that he was only speaking to himself,
“— I have told thee to cease with that ‘Old Gran’ thing, haven’t I, boy.”
Just before his eyes, the figure of an Elven woman teleported into the vicinity of the reach of his hands.
In contrast of the chief, this woman appeared to be youthful in appearance. If she were to be a human woman, she would probably in her later twenties. Elves do keep their early-twenty appearance for a long time, so she must’ve been older than most Elves, but here the chief called her ‘Old Gran’, and she called him ‘boy’.
“But, Old Gran is, well, an old granny, right? Anyhow, you’ve maintained that appearance ever since I was a kid. And besides, if we were to go with reason, shouldn’t you stop calling me a ‘boy’ already?”
“Humph, and since thou still can’t understand how a woman heart’s works like that, thou shalt always remain a boy……… more importantly, since thou hast summoned me, I assume thou hast also realised it, too?”
After the customary exchange of impressions between the two was over, the Old Gran said so with grim look.
The chief nodded.
“There has been an upsurge of hostile mana force within the village. Judging from the distortion of space-time that I felt on my skin————-”
“A large-scale summoning, huh?”
“Indeed. We must have been under the invasion of a certain someone. I don’t know how they passed through the forest’s barrier, but the fact that someone has brought down an army to suppress this village is for certain.”
The circumstances were grave. Judging from their magnitude from his perception spell, the enemy had prepared a force strong enough to possibly take down a human fortress town. From the time when the Witte clan decided to take residence in this white birch forest, there was no crisis more serious in their history than what was happening right then.
“Is it humans? I’ve heard that those proficient explorers – the ones they call ‘adventurers’, would sometimes intrude through the barriers when they enter the forest…….. no, this magnitude, it couldn’t be humans….”
“Beats me. It could be the act of a spellcaster that stood out even among the humans, an evil deed of a fallen Elf from somewhere, or probably a revival of some sort of an ancient demon….. Either way, there’s no answer to that question in this place. I don’t think a discussion about it is necessary.”
Old Gran nodded at the chief’s words. It wasn’t necessary to pinpoint the perpetrator right now. Rather, it was essential for them to cut down the enemy heading for the village posthaste, and rescue their clansmen.
“Well then, time to teach the foolish outsider a thing or two. About who’s who in this village, of course.”
“I’m counting on you, Old Gran. Ah, no… Teach.”
“Hohohoh! Been a while since thou called me that. Long hast thou surpassed me, and being called that way maketh me proud. Well then——”
‘Shalt we?’, so she’d like to continue, but at that time.
“Good evening, I said as my greeting.”
The curiously monotone voice interrupted her.
“…! Who are you!?”
At the chief’s sharp-toned question, the door of the room quietly opened.
What stood there was a small girl, her head lowered for a bit.
The elaborately well-ordered elements was made in the shape of a young lady’s face, who was keeping her calm. Her graceful look would draw the admiration of anyone who glanced upon it, as if her beauty was shaped by the golden ratio itself. Rather than that of a composure, it was perhaps more correct to say that her expression represented absolutely nothing at all, and yet despite this there was something, a hint in that expression of hers that suited her adolescent appearance. Protecting her body was a silver breastplate, and a similarly silver-coloured, boorish-looking gauntlet. Other than that, her stomach was boldly exposed, and there was a wide slit on her skirt, but there was no mistaking that she was there ready for war. And upon a closer look, she was fully armed to her knees. The most curious thing that she wore was the stretched ear decorations that seemed to push their way through from her extravagant platinum blonde hair. Viewed from a distance, they might be mistaken for horns, or the long ears of the Elves, but upon a closer inspection they were covered by something metallic. It would appear that she would have a hard time hearing because of them, but the girl didn’t seem to find them to be such an inconvenience.
The girl slowly raised her head. And her eyes that were once concealed – a pair of supernaturally golden eyes, were exposed to the two of them.
“Greetings, I said to begin my introduction. I am, Fem. Also known as, Opus-05.”
“…. How did you get in here? Rather, what happened to those who should’ve stopped you from getting in here?”
The girl who named herself as Fem awkwardly tilted her neck at the chief’s stacked question.
“Syntax error. Please ask your questions one at a time.”
“Eeergh, boy! Is it the time to ask questions!? A stranger appeareth in thy house at times like this, of course she is with the enemy!”
It finally struck the chief when Old Gran agitatedly interrupted. She didn’t come through intermediaries at that kind of present state and appeared just like that in his place. He didn’t know to whom that girl belonged, but it was highly probable that she was an enemy.
And indeed, Fem answered,
“Correct, I have said to mark the aforementioned statement. We are presently in a military operation. Our target is a certain Elf living in this area.”
“As I thought! You——— no, you people, on whose orders are you acting!?”
“I refuse to answer, I say as a reply. That information is still restricted at this time.”
Then she pulled her right fist and produced her left hand as she took a stance.
It was a barehanded battle stance. A female martial artist was an uncommon sight, but she did had made her way there alone. From that, the chief inferred that her strength must’ve been extraordinary as well. She seemed to be a considerably formidable enemy.
“—– It is clear that thine aim is to keep us here, then I will just make sure that thee don’t! ‘Greater Teleportation’!”
Just before hostilities broke among them, a teleportation magic circle was drawn on the ground. Chantless teleportation had its risks, but their destination point was somewhere within the village that they knew well about. Even in one out of a million chance, it was improbable for them to have the coordinates wrong.
The light of the teleportation spell’s formation dissipated without its intended effect before it disappeared completely.
……. It was jammed. The teleportation was averted.
With this, it was for certain that the two were in a predicament, as they couldn’t head to the village to provide their aid. Anxiety appeared on both of their faces.
“I jammed the circle’s development upon contact with me….. combat assessment trial, will now commence!”
Not wanting to miss the chance while the two were still shaken, with a howling sound, Fem sent her fist flying.
Her aim was the chief.
Just before her fist made a direct hit, somehow the ‘Defender’ spell was cast as a bulwark, in order to contain the impact.
While it was a chantless attempt, it was still casted by the spellcaster of the highest order among the Elves. The fist wouldn’t be able to pierce through it so easily – or, it shouldn’t have been. What hit the defensive barrier was an incredibly heavy impact that sent the chief flying to the back, without killing him.
His back was caught by the firm walls of the house. At that instant, along with an intense pain on his part, the sound of something cracking resounded in the room,
While he still heard the fading voice of Old Gran, the chief was expelled to the outsides.
His body was bent backwards, his field of vision switched upwards. All the stars in the sky were falling. No, the only one swept away here was himself. As he was blown away by such a terrific impact, what he saw kept passing in high speed. At that point, the chief comprehended his circumstances, and despite the pain and the gasping due to the lack of oxygen, the chief managed to cast a spell.
What he invoked was not a instantaneous superhard barrier that he casted a while back, but a spell that successively interfered with the laws of physics. As soon as his surroundings were wrapped with a thin film of mana, he crashed into a grove of trees, broke through them, crashed into another grove of trees, broke through them again – this cycle repeated several times until the chief’s body finally hit the ground.
Leafmould was rolled up before it fell incessantly around him.
As his mudcaked, graceful, middle-aged face warped in pain, the chief somehow could still stand up. He applied recovery magic to his shoulders, which had smashed through several trees earlier, and inhaled deeply to fill in his wrung-out, empty lungs.
“Cough, cough…… ugh….”
‘There’s probably a lot of blood in my windpipe’, he thought as he violently coughed.
……… It was a narrow escape. Had ‘protection’ been delayed in its progression, he would end up in small pieces and scattered all over to become fertiliser for this Mother Forest by now.
And, while it might either be good or bad luck, now he had successfully left his residence. It was possible that they couldn’t jam teleportation from here. It was hard that he had to leave Old Gran who had reared him and protected him ever since he was a child behind, but as the chief the presides over this forest, protecting the village was his absolute priority.
The moment he heartbrokenly prepared a teleportation spell,
“—— It’s futile.”
It was a shock that felt like an impact of a catapulted projectile.
The forest’s soil was overturned once again, its sediment blown away by the tempest.
There was nothing that needed to be said, it was Fem. Perhaps she had leapt here in one go through the hole that he had made. Putting aside the fact that she could dish out an incredible amount of power with her fist earlier, just what kind of body did she possess to allow her to do something like this?
“We have jammed the entirety of the area, I have proclaimed. You will not be able to teleport within the area of the operation.”
As soon as the rain of blown earth and sand settled down, Fem readied her fist once again.
To that, the chief fearlessly smiled.
“So, your target was me.”
“From the measurement of magic potency et cetera, it was deemed that you have a higher threat level, I say to conclude.”
“Is that so. Well, you’ve made my sorrow go away with that.”
The chief also readied his fist as he took a stance to prepare for a battle of spells.
The enemy priority was himself. Then, Old Gran – his teacher – could remain there.
She was also one among the village Elders, in fact, she held the second highest seat among them. If it was her, then she could calmly assess the situation and evacuate from there to aid the village. Even if his life was on the line———– no, even if his life was to become forfeit here, it was fine as long as he could hold this enemy off them.
And then the village would be saved. That was the great trust he placed upon his teacher.
“—— Just as I thought, you’ll go with that? I asked away.”
“Excuse my rudeness, I apologise. That was an unnecessary remark.”
He could feel anxiety spreading over his back at the doll-like girl’s words.
‘Somewhere. Did I make a huge oversight somewhere?’
Without filling herself with that kind of doubt, Opus-05, Fem, declared the following,
“Continuing combat assessment trial. I expect a lot of valuable data out of you.
“……… Don’t die, boy!”
After she watched as Fem left her to pursue the chief, the Elven woman, who was known as Old Gran, jumped outside the room. Her chest tightened in regret, as she had to abandon her favourite pupil that she had spent so many years with, her fellow companion who, together with her, had nurtured the village. But if she were to come running to his aid here, it would be an insult to how things were.
Her favourite student was the village Chief. Even in exchange of his own life, he would protect the order of the forest and the livelihood of his people. That man had been living his life with that pride in his heart for a long time. And thus when the time came that he couldn’t come to save his village, that duty would fall upon his teacher.
It was supposedly impossible for the Old Gran, the witch who was known as the the great sage of the forest, but her eyes were tearing up.
The chance that the chief would die then was an eight or nine out of ten. Mages weren’t even vanguards, and he was up against someone with that kind of superhuman strength. He wouldn’t be able find the gap to dish out his trump spell, and at best he would undergo a cruel torment leading to his death. The cruel providence of combat had already deemed him defeated and killed.
No, if it was a mage his calibre, it was possible for him to survive against the barrage by utilising his chantless spells. His opponent was a boxer that would use all of her limbs as a weapon, if he could deliver a critical strike against her feet, he could dull her movements and dampen her battle potential—-
There was a bit of a wishful thinking. But if she couldn’t rely on such thoughts, she would find even standing difficult. He was her cute disciple, and now he still was her superior, her comrade, and her——- nah, let us stop there.
Even though someone her age should’ve known better, now there was no spare time for her to indulge in her deep emotions that should’ve had its limits. What she needed now was a cool-headed clear judgement. Based on the circumstances of the past, and the possible future, the most optimal choice for her was to preserve the survival of the village. Now she had to cast away her thoughts of his pupil, and become the ‘Old Gran’ that would show the village the way through.
‘Calm down’, she silently prayed to herself.
And when she indeed became calm….. she realised it.
There was an uncanny silence in the village chief’s residence. Usually, she would find this peacefulness as something desirable, just like most Elves, who would enjoy the small things in life, but now it was different. Now it meant that the enemy even had the chief’s living room in their grasp.
So did all the people stationed in the mansion get completely annihilated? If that was true, then there was a single contradiction in there.
It was the intruder’s – the one who named herself as Fem – fighting method. While she indeed had incredible physical power, her movements were unrefined. If she were to go on about killing everyone in the mansion, the chief and her would’ve been bound to notice her.
That meant that at least there were two intruders in the residence. There was another one besides Fem.
Then, could it be the mage who did the mass-summoning in the village? If they indeed were the same person, then they must’ve been extremely busy. They had to bring Fem while they attacked everyone in the residence while simultaneously attacking the village – that would be a poor plan. In the unlikely event that the intruder in the residence got caught by them, then the raid on the village would be called of as well.
Then that meant….. At the very least, there should’ve been another one. People that would go along with someone as conspicuous as Fem – someonewho was raiding the village at that moment, and then another intruder who silently killed all of the people in the residence.
At that moment.
There was a sound from the corner of the passageway ahead.
It was the sound of something heavy hitting the floor.
She cautiously kept her murmurs inside her mouth and attentively watched the direction from where the sound originated.
Surely it wasn’t a piece of furniture falling down by chance. Someone was moving, hence the sound. What lay there on the other side…?
It wasn’t the time for her to go staring at things, but she would go with the flow for now. It was careless for whatever they were to run into the Old Gran here.
Honestly, whatever stood there didn’t have to earnestly leave from the entrance. It would be good if they left from the hole that Fem made in the wall as well. That would tell Fem’s senses that someone had escaped from the residence.
At any rate, now she had to prepare to ambush whatever was coming from the corner of the passageway. If she were to show her tail here, they might take that advantage and swoop down on her instead.
The silence that pained her ears. The thing that came crawling from the corners broke it as it appeared.
As the Old Gran fired a spell towards it,
Her eyes inadvertently went round.
Along with dry moans, what appeared there was something that fragmentarily looked like an Elf. Its ears were long, and its hair was blonde.
At the same time, however, it was decidedly not an Elf.
Its skin was chapped and completely dried up, its hair had lost its lustre, and its body was like a withered tree.
Its state was completely weakened, to the point that it couldn’t be alive, and indeed for that reason it should’ve been among the dead. But while it was dead, it was nonetheless still moving.
It was an undead.
“A lesser vampire…….?”
She unconsciously leaked out a dazed tone.
A lesser vampire. A failure that couldn’t be a vampire. When the vampire poured its blood, that was what someone who didn’t have the aptitude to be a vampire or a resurrected corpse would end up as. A pathetic botchery of a dead one.
And as something like that was present, it meant that————
“Aha, YOUUUU’VE GUESSED RIIIIIGHT~~~!”
As if to confirm her belief, another figure of someone appeared there.
Judging from its appearances, it was a young man of a noble stature. His looks could be deemed as refined. His dress was fine, his tops and bottoms were thoroughly decorated with magic equipments, and a cloak with bat wings attached to it enveloped his body. That was how a vampire would look like in the tales of the common public, almost to a comical degree, even.
That’s right, a vampire. The parent of that lesser vampire – an intelligent, high-ranking vampire.
“A vampire… a lord class at that!?”
Perhaps taking the surprised tone as a compliment, the vampire smiled widely. At that instance, from his lips a pair of long cuspid peeked through.
“AAAAAAAND THAT’S ANOTHER CORRRRRRRRECT GUEESSS~! Well, well, you sure know your stuff! Maybe it’s the aura of the noble of the night, which I have emitted all over my body? Or so I say! Ah, how joyful, to think that I can meet with someone with eyes as keen as yours! Maybe it’s the result after I haven’t been outside for awhile too, eh, Lady Elf?”
He stretched his cloak to let it flutter, and he began to spin round and around, dancing. His act was that of a clown, but Old Gran couldn’t afford to laugh at him.
A vampire, moreover, a lord-class. No matter how skilled she was as a mage, this was still too much trouble to ask for her alone. After all, her opponent was a monster who could easily put on airs with the chief and herself, as he killed all the people in the residence. No matter how ridiculous he was acting then, this monster was really not a laughing matter at all.
As she cautiously observed him, the monster suddenly stopped his movements.
“But hey, guess I’m a bit disappointed….. They say that there won’t be any witnesses deep in the forest, so I wanted to draw some blood….. The village, which I actually favoured, was assigned to my senior, so I had to make do with this sordidly men-filled, boring place of a house. Wasn’t this supposed to be the chief’s place? In that case then shouldn’t he have some healthy Elven virgin ladies lying somewhere around here? Well well, this won’t do at all, you Elves have poor fertility – that chief guy should’ve screwed some and made children of his own. And yet every single one I’ve encountered in this house were all males, and non-virgins on top of that…. Well I sucked them only after I killed them, so guess it couldn’t be helped that they all ended up as lesser vampires… dunno if some pure kid were mixed in there too… anyway for some dead corpses, their blood sure tasted good——- right!”
After he grumbled and made his idle complaint, for some unknown reason he kicked his own subordinate’s – the lesser vampire’s, neck.
In the end, the Elf who had gotten his blood sucked after he got killed and turned into a moving corpse was now a genuine dead corpse…… or not, it didn’t stay that way, as the corpse later turned into ashes and disappeared, just like that.
“Ahahahahahahahahhaha! But, I guess I’M LUUUUCKYYYYYY!! The very last one among them turns out to be a pretty Elven lady! Well then, milady, are you perchance a virgin? Well then, I won’t kill you, but I’ll have your blood, okay? Right now, I’ll even throw in a bonus – I’ll love you a lot after that, alright! What a great deal!”
He had a peculiar way of speaking, filled with violent mood swings in between the speeches. ‘This man is disturbed’, Old Gran engraved deep in her heart. If she were to be swept away here, she would helplessly have her blood sucked without fail, since there was such a difference of performance between a Vampire Lord and the other kinds within its kin.
“Unfortunately my body hath outlived both my husband and my children. Apologies that I have betrayed thine expectations.”
“Whaaaat, that’s unfortunate…… eh, you’re a widow by death? And not only your husband, you outlived your children too? Hum—–”
Said the vampire whose name she didn’t know before he began to sniff around.
“—- Lady, your spirit does have quite the ancient smell to it, huh? I guess you’re at least two thousand years old? Thaaaat’s straaange. Elves do live long, but I didn’t think they’re supposed to live that long.”
“Thou hast been saying only rude things to this woman from some time now.”
As she spoke, she felt that she couldn’t stop her cold sweat from flowing. It wasn’t like she could wipe it off now. Once he saw an opening, at that same moment he would strike. However, perhaps she could find an opening in him before that instead.
Perhaps, in exchange of the power that it had obtained, vampires would have a lot of weak points. She could exploit that and prevail here.
“Enough of this impertinent talk, thou dressed-up corpse. Thou hadst me aged at two thousand… then I shalt let thee thoroughly chew those years’ worth of experience!”
“… A, aha. Ahahahah! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!”
The vampire replied to Old Gran’s sharp remarks with insane, loud laughter.
His eyes were now a pair of blazing, radiant red eyes.
“Wow, wow, wow, WOW! I guess I really am lucky! In a like this place, IN A PLACE LIKE THIS! I might have found a lead to my master’s goal?! This is good, this is good, THIS IS GOOD! THIS IS REALLY GOOD! Also, you’re lucky too, lady! Maybe I won’t get to suck your blood or kill you, you know!? Well, granted, it’s highly probable that there might be crueler things in store for you but hey! Aaah, guess you’re unlucky instead huh, lady?”
Then, madly, he bared both of his fangs.
‘’Tis fine’, Old Gran smiled. That smile was partially a mere bold front.
In a battle against a vampire, it was necessary for her to keep her composure. The strong point of a vampire was that they had the strength of a beast and yet the intelligence of a human. If she could anger him, starve him, and have him writhing, it was possible that he would abandon his human nature, his nature falling to that of a beast’s, and then she could hunt him down and kill him. That would be the best policy. After all, to hunt was an Elven duty.
‘—- Well then, let the monster hunt commence.’
She said as she let out a rough fighting spirit that did not suit her young face.
The Elves were being hunted.
Here and there, their village was overflowing with demons.
The profane being with a human head, bat wings and tiger body———- the Manticore.
The wriggling, countlessly many-headed snake——– the Hydra.
The scaled, giant rooster with poisonous breath——– the Cockatrice.
And then there were ogres, trolls, werewolves on top of weretigers, direwolves……
Those that were dyed with evil, and those that were born from the darkness itself. Those monsters were descending upon them.
Elves, they kill. Humans, they kill. Beasts, they kill. All living beings, these creatures oppose.
A huge flock of monsters.
As they faced those dreadful threats, those who found themselves petrified in horror heard the sound of footsteps from their back.
—– Rumble, rumble.
It was none other but the cyclops, who remained invincible against all manners of spell that the mages fired at it.
That noise was like an occasional reminder that it was drawing near from their backs.
As if the one-eyed giant was a beater. It drove its prey in packs to be slaughtered, as much as its herd wanted.
As long as the summoned monsters could kill whatever driven being it happened upon, then that was fine for them.
What was happening in this village was exactly that.
Let it be said once again.
The Elves were being hunted.
“—– Hmph, contrary to my expectations, this is disappointing.”
The woman, ignoring the pain and anguish that was occuring in the tragedy below her, curtly snorted.
Her callous scorn melted in the night sky, without anyone noticing.