Chapter 83: Forest of The Elves (1)
Upon entering the dungeon, a shade of lush green burst into sight. From light green to green to dark green, towering ancient trees of more than a hundred meters in height covered the entire forest.
The light rays of the setting sun rippled through the gaps in the canopy, wading through the hills and the springs, but they didn’t carry with them the rosy colour of Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight. They were wrapped in a thick mist, looking like fine silk that gave out an air of majesty, mystery yet icy coldness at the same time.
In the double shadows of the mist and the trees, Tang Cuo vaguely saw some tree houses and palace spires in the distance. The hanging bridges made of vines linked the trees and the structures together. Some vines were blooming with flowers; there were shades of white and shades of pink, all of them blending together and exuding delicate ethereality.
Forest of The Elves.
Tang Cuo read the name silently in his heart and looked around, but he didn’t find Jin Cheng. Obviously, they were separated again.
He opened the Mission panel.
[Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight]
The third round: Forest of The Elves.
Main mission: Pay a visit to the Secret Lake.
Tang Cuo didn’t know where the Secret Lake was. Since a mist was engulfing the whole place, it was risky to walk around, so he decided to head to a place where there would be people for him to ask questions.
He walked with a steady pace that was neither too slow nor too fast while keeping a close eye on the surroundings. It didn’t take long before he discovered that the tree houses and palace spires seemed rather close in his eyes, but they were actually quite a distance away.
This forest felt strange. Perhaps it was arranged to look like a maze, or perhaps it was the mist that caused his vision to go haywire.
Suddenly, Tang Cuo heard a faint voice from the right side. He came to a halt, pondered for a moment then decisively looked for the source of that voice.
Pulling aside the bushes, he saw a young man and young woman standing face to face under a tree. The huge ancient tree withs its giant canopy looked as though it had shattered the setting sun and sprinkled the fragments on their shoulders. The abundant branches hung upside down like wind chimes, swaying gently in the evening breeze and enveloped by the white mist that felt like a net of exquisite, brilliant wool.
One of them was a female elf with silver hair and pointed ears. She was tall and incredibly beautiful. Her temperament seemed a little cold, but her flushed cheeks thinned out the sense of dispassion, which perfectly added to her aura of nobility and femininity. On the other hand, her turquoise irises looked like they could talk, revealing such a charm that would easily make anyone kneel at the hem of her dress.
The other one was facing his back towards Tang Cuo, but Tang Cuo knew who he was without the need to see his face, even if he was carrying someone else’s appearance at the moment.
It turned out he was here after all.
So was this a scene of Jin Cheng being caught red-handed while cheating?
Tang Cuo’s expression remained blank but he wasn’t angry at all, and he even automatically switched on his drama-watching mode. Not making a sound, he quietly leaned on the tree, watching the pair of young man and woman in the distance.
The elf gave an item to Jin Cheng and said something, but it was too far away for Tang Cuo to hear clearly.
Jin Cheng responded, but the elf suddenly became lost for words, as if she had heard something she didn’t want to hear. A short while later, she turned the other way, lifted her dress and ran away very fast. The moment she turned around, there even seemed to be tears in her eyes.
Tang Cuo thought that if Jin Cheng was a 100% straight man, he would seriously end up forever alone.
“Come out.” Jin Cheng interrupted his thoughts.
Tang Cuo raised his eyebrows, unsure whether Jin Cheng knew he was here or if Jin Cheng simply heard someone approaching. While thinking about it, Jin Cheng turned his head and his eyes fell precisely on Tang Cuo, then the corners of his mouth tugged up into a smile.
Tang Cuo shrugged, casually walked over and asked: “How do you know it’s me?”
Jin Cheng: “Your footsteps sound different from others.”
Tang Cuo accepted this explanation for the time being. After being trained by Yong Ye City, Jin Cheng’s hearing had reached a monstrous level, so it was unsurprising that he was able to detect such a sound.
“What is your mission?” Tang Cuo cut directly to the topic.
“Pay a visit to the Secret Lake.” Jin Cheng said, putting his hand on the tree trunk and blocking Tang Cuo’s path: “Don’t you want to ask what happened just now?”
“Oh, who was that NPC just now?”
“What equipment did she give you?”
“Did you trigger the mission plot?”
“It’s still incorrect.”
Saying so, Jin Cheng leaned slightly forward, infinitely closing the distance between the two of them, to the point that each man could hear the other’s breathing. He even deliberately lowered his voice to make it sound both enchanting and provocative at the same time, as though he was trying to bewitch Tang Cuo: “Let’s think about it more carefully?”
If the scar on his face had added a grown man’s charm to him, his behaviour at the moment felt like a childish act of a teenager in love. He’ll make me eat vinegar and bare my heart, otherwise, he’ll keep causing trouble and blatantly expose his intention under broad daylight, as though he’s afraid that I won’t be able to see it.
Tang Cuo, as a sensible and indulging boyfriend, had to cooperate with him: “What was it that you were secretly discussing with that elf? Why did you take her item?”
Jin Cheng smiled: “Are you jealous?”
Tang Cuo was expressionless: “Yes.”
Jin Cheng lowered his head and kissed Tang Cuo. That smiley and unabashed look of his almost made Tang Cuo think that Jin Cheng was a flirty man who just wanted to play around with everyone’s heart.
Fortunately, Jin Cheng didn’t ask for more and their discussion topic returned to the main business.
The elf just now was named Sophia, a princess of the elves’ royal family and one with an extremely respectable position. She seemed to have a crush on the bard Lancelot and had specially invited him to meet here to give him a pendant. Jin Cheng also learnt from her the reason why Theodore and Lancelot appeared in this forest.
The Forest of The Elves was located in the middle of the continent of Sicilit. If someone travelled from the Principality of Flange in the north to the Kingdom of Hundred Flowers in the south, there was a good chance that he would need to pass through here.
But the forest was within the elves’ territory. The elves were noble creatures; if they hadn’t approved of the person as their friend, he wouldn’t be allowed to set foot in this sacred place. The Forest of The Elves also held a wealth of nature-based magic elements, which often made it misty. If ordinary travellers accidentally entered the place, it was easy to get lost.
So although many travellers passed by here, very few could actually enter the forest. In the hearts of all people on the Sicilit continent, this place was the representation of mysticism itself.
But not long ago, the Forest of The Elves ran into some trouble and issued a reward mission through the Greenvines Alliance. So Theodore, a young knight with a hidden identity who was under training with the Greenvines Alliance, came here to attend to the mission.
As for Lancelot, he might have come with Theodore.
“You said the trouble of the Forest of The Elves took place at the Secret Lake?” Tang Cuo seemed to think of something.
“Yes, the Secret Lake is deep in the forest and seems to be the holy land of the Elves. But three months ago, the mist there suddenly intensified, so the elves’ royal court lost contact with the Secret Lake. Until now, they still couldn’t find a solution to the problem. That’s why they had to ask for help from outside. Tomorrow morning, our group will leave for the Secret Lake.” Jin Cheng said.
“What impact will the problem at the Secret Lake have on the Forest of The Elves?”
“She didn’t say that in detail, but only repeatedly emphasised that tomorrow’s itinerary would be very dangerous and advised me not to go. My main mission is to pay a visit to the Secret Lake, so of course I can only refuse. She gave me a pendant, saying that it has the blessings from the Elf King and hoping that it can protect me. I’ve taken a look, this pendant can’t be stored in the Inventory Bar for now, and I don’t know its specific effect either. It may be an item that triggers the mission.”
Blessings from the Elf King? Tang Cuo suddenly remembered that there was something similar in the description of the Sword of Judgment — ‘The sword of Theodore, Duke of the Kingdom of Hundred Flowers, with the blessing of the 13th King of Elves Aimee. An enchanted weapon (damaged)’.
“Who is the current Elf King?”
“She didn’t mention.”
The clues were rather disconnected. After discussing with Jin Cheng, Tang Cuo continued to walk to the tree house. This time the two stayed close together. Although they had to walk for a long time and likely even went slightly off-track because of the mist, they arrived at the destination without facing any trouble.
As the mist gradually dissipated, their vision became clear again and a full picture of the elf race slowly unfolded before their eyes.
Regardless which stories they appeared in, the elves were always a race of nobleness and beauty. They lived in seclusion in this mysterious misty forest and rarely showed their true face to the world.
And when all this enchantment appeared in its realest self right in front of Tang Cuo, he had to admit that it was indeed enthralling. It was the sort of beauty that made people not want to even harbour a thought of joking around, as if it was the moon that only belonged to the sky, always hung up high and never contaminated by the impurity of this mundane world.
But that was when it started to feel unreal.
Along the rocky path, elves with pointed ears came in groups of two or three, each dressed in a linen garment with a belt at their waist, walking barefoot and carrying a bamboo basket holding fruits or a pot of water. Most of them had golden or silver hair, blue irises, extremely fair skin and captivating faces.
There were also many elves dressed as guards, wearing boots and exquisite rattan armours. Their wrists and chests were carefully protected, while they carried bows and arrows on their backs, walking around in a brazen manner.
The tree houses were scattered in all directions, without any traces of ever being chiselled with axes. They seemed to naturally grow from branches and vines, but their walls and windows were engraved with many intricate, elegant patterns.
The distribution of the vine ladders, the flowers hanging from the door and even the patterns on the clay bowls all emanated the elves’ unique aesthetics.
Suddenly someone in front called them by their names. Tang Cuo followed the voice to find that it was an old friend — Celtic, the knight from the Greenvines Alliance office in the Principality of Flange.
Celtic stood in the corridor of a tree house and waved at them, then Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng directly walked up to the tree house using the spiral staircase winding around the trunk and met with Celtic.
As they ascended the staircase, Jin Cheng looked back in a certain direction and frowned slightly.
“Where have you been? I’ve been so worried.” Celtic led them into the house.
“It’s nothing. This is the first time we’re here, so we just took a walk around.” Tang Cuo said.
“Indeed, it’s not like we can enter the Forest of The Elves at any time.” Celtic looked around with his small eyes, then closed the door and lowered his voice: “But I’ve found a problem.”
Tang Cuo: “What is it?”
Celtic: “Just now, I went to find you two but couldn’t at all, so I wanted to ask the elf guards if they’ve seen you walk out. I found the atmosphere between them particularly tense and serious, as if they’re staying alert against something. Their worries seem heavy.”
Jin Cheng: “Isn’t it normal that they’re worried about the problem that took place at the Secret Lake?”
Celtic: “I thought it was normal at first, so I didn’t think much about this mission and just came along with Theodore to this place. But I just found this under the bed.”
Spreading out his palm, Celtic showed them a small feathered brooch.
He immediately explained: “This is a new product that the Pinwheel Harbour has been selling only in recent months. Do you see the feathers on it? It’s said that they’re feathers pulled off from the chest of the Dulie bird, which is very expensive.”
Tang Cuo understood at once: “Our room is the guest room. If a brooch that has only been sold recently appears here, you may suspect that someone has been to the Forest of The Elves before us.”
“Yes.” Celtic frowned: “But we didn’t hear anything about it.”
Jin Cheng swept his eyes around the room and asked: “What about the others?”
Because there mustn’t only be three of them that came for the mission reward, so asking Celtic definitely would be faster. Celtic didn’t have any doubts and replied: “Do you mean those who come from the Pinwheel Harbour office and the Black Mountain office? Although we all belong to the Greenvines Alliance, they belong to different offices, so I’m not sure about how much they know. “
It seems that there weren’t just a few men who came to the Forest of The Elves this time to render help. Only from the Greenvines Alliance alone, there were already three groups. Jin Cheng suddenly thought of something: “I remember that the Pinwheel Harbour is far away from here?”
Celtic once again replied without any doubts: “Yes. Who would expect that they happened to pass by and came along with us? Look at their golden equipment, as though they’re afraid that other people won’t know how filthy rich they’re at the Pinwheel Harbour.”
Happened to pass by?
Tang Cuo exchanged glances with Jin Cheng, then looked at the brooch in Celtic’s hand. From Celtic’s tone, the relationship between the different offices of the Greenvines Alliance seemed rather unharmonious.
After thinking a little, Tang Cuo decided to test the waters: “But no matter what, we all belong to the same alliance. “
“You’re right.” Celtic sat down in a disheartened manner, picked up the teapot and poured himself a cup, then he drank it all in one gulp. “Why are we all from the Greenvines Alliance? We’re just like hermits from the mountains, while they’re sea eagles always ready to take flight. In the eyes of the druids, dwarves and lone adventurers, we’re one group. If something goes wrong here, the funding for our office in the Principality of Flange will be cut next year. “
Seeing Celtic being so distressed, it indeed seemed that he really disliked those men from the Pinwheel Harbour office.
Tang Cuo wasn’t worried, but he wasn’t very optimistic about the current situation either. First, the number of participants in the trip to the Secret Lake was large and it would be difficult to keep things in control; secondly, the elves themselves seemed to want to hide the situation at the Secret Lake. Coupled with the emergence of the brooch and the princess, the danger of this trip would be no less than three stars.
Thirdly, which was also the most important point: This time, the main mission was too simple.
It wasn’t about the difficulty of the mission, but the way the mission was given. In the first two dungeons, the mission prompts given to Tang Cuo were detailed step-by-step instructions, such as taking the tunnel after protecting the Grand Duke, then heading to the church after leaving the tunnel. His entire route was planned out.
But this time? Only a single line: ‘Pay a visit to the Secret Lake’. The degree of freedom was too high it made him feel uneasy.
Tang Cuo stepped back and whispered to Jin Cheng, avoiding Celtic’s hearing range: “What do you think?”
Jin Cheng folded his arms: “When I walked up the staircase just now, it seemed that someone was watching me. There are about twelve hours left before the start of our trip tomorrow morning, I think we have to do something. Once we enter the territory of the Secret Lake, we may not be able to return.”
Tang Cuo basically agreed.
Both their eyes fell on Celtic. As Tang Cuo raised his eyebrows at Jin Cheng, Jin Cheng shrugged, acting totally innocent. After blinking back and forth for a while, Jin Cheng finally took out a Pokeball.
Dizzy Egg — powered by 10086.
Translator and reviewer at Strictly Bromance blog. In essence, she lives to indulge in plot-driven stories sprinkled with camaraderie and slow-burn drama-free romance, especially more so if they belong to adventure, mystery or supernatural genre. A trope that she always thirsts after: “Comrades who go through life and death together”.