Chapter 93: Forest of The Elves (11)
At the Secret Lake, just like before, the thick mist was still lingering.
The Griffin kept hovering above the forest but didn’t land.
Celtic hugged McCaw: “The Secret Lake now blocks the elves from entering. What should we do about the Prince?”
Jin Cheng was now skeptical of every single word that came out of any elf’s mouth, but there was no need to pull McCaw into this risky situation, so he said: “You stay here, and I’ll jump off. When I give you a signal, you can come down.”
By now, Celtic had come to follow whatever Jin Cheng had to say: “Okay! “
Jin Cheng immediately jumped.
As the whirring wind blew in his ears, his figure passed through the thick mist and gradually, his eyes caught a clear sight of the lake and the dense forest below. After slightly adjusting his position, he landed accurately on a big tree by the lake, successively stepped on several branches that were thicker than his thigh and finally came to a stop.
There was no one at the lakeshore.
As Jin Cheng fell on the last tree branch, he dusted off the leaves that had stuck onto him and opened the Character panel to take a look. A single jump consumed more than 70% of his HP.
After taking out a potion and gulping it down, he looked around to suddenly hear something coming from the forest in the distance, and he immediately charged towards that direction.
After running for about ten minutes, two huge beasts with big fangs and blue hair rushed out of the forest. They fled in a furry with fresh-looking wounds on their bodies, and they continued to bleed as they ran.
The moment they saw Jin Cheng, their eyes gleamed brightly, and to Jin Cheng’s surprise, they uttered human words: “Help! Please help us, there’s a madman behind!!!”
Jin Cheng raised his eyebrows and quickly realised that these were probably two druids who had shapeshifted into trolls. Were they the druids from the team?
Thinking so, Jin Cheng didn’t immediately make a move. Instead, he stood aside and looked over their heads to see what was behind them. As the shadow of the tree shook, a ghostly figure jumped out of it, chasing closely after them with a few ups and downs, his posture as fierce and speedy as an electric flash.
“Slit!” He moved so fast that the moment he pierced his sword into the troll’s back then neatly pulled it out, only an afterimage could be seen.
As hot blood splashed onto the side of his face and slowly dripped down, the man raised his head. Although there was blood on his cheek, that handsome, righteous face still fully exuded his ever-upright air, his remarkably bright eyes filled with resolve.
It seemed as though the moment this man said that this person deserved to die, this person truly would deserve to die, and that there would be absolutely nothing wrong with killing him.
At this point, knowing that his teammate had been killed, the other troll was so scared that he hopelessly ran to Jin Cheng. He recognised Jin Cheng and even called out the name ‘Lancelot’, reaching out to him like grabbing the last straw.
“Help me!” He yelled in distraught and desperately rushed forward.
Seeing Jin Cheng stretch out his hand, the troll was overjoyed, but a second later, in his eyes was a dagger that magically appeared out of thin air and pierced his heart.
His eyes widened in disbelief. As his body slowly slumped down, he still didn’t understand what was going on.
“What are you doing? You’ve scared them out of their wits.” Jin Cheng walked around the corpse and approached Tang Cuo.
“The Rose Sect.” Tang Cuo didn’t explain much, but Jin Cheng understood it anyway. He only felt that the drowsiness had eventually taken effect. Mixed with both his physical and mental fatigue, it made him almost unable to stand.
Perhaps it was also because of the man before his eyes. His appearance instantly allowed Tang Cuo’s tense nerves to relax, and the sleepiness finally won the battle.
“What’s wrong?” Jin Cheng felt that Tang Cuo was a bit strange today. Tang Cuo just quietly stood there looking at him, seemingly a little dazed. Jin Cheng couldn’t help but stretch out his hand to wipe the blood off Tang Cuo’s face, but as soon as he reached out, Tang Cuo fell forward and rested his head on Jin Cheng’s shoulders.
“Tang Cuo?” Jin Cheng hurriedly grabbed his arm, thinking that he was wounded.
“Don’t make any noise, I want to sleep.” Tang Cuo’s voice came from his shoulders, tinged with a bit of sadness. His voice still seemed as cold as always, but the drowsiness had strung it a tad higher, making it sound as though Tang Cuo was somehow looking to be pampered yet also wanting to lament.
Jin Cheng’s hand that was grabbing his arm couldn’t help but let go. Just like that, he let Tang Cuo lean on his shoulders: “Tired?”
Tang Cuo: “Drunk.”
Jin Cheng raised his eyebrows: “Who did you drink with?”
Is this even important?
Tang Cuo endured his sleepiness and briefly talked about the main events so far, but he really was too sleepy and his head and eyelids were out of control, both getting heavier and heavier, to the point that almost his whole body was leaning on Jin Cheng.
Jin Cheng directly carried Tang Cuo on his back, and while continuing to whisper softly to Tang Cuo, he went to find other people.
“So everything turns out to be an illusion. I knew I should’ve exchanged for a [Dream Gem] at the Infinite Market of Dreams. Maybe things could have been easier.”
Very soon, Tang Cuo fell asleep completely.
By the lake, Hawk, Heimen and Hammo were guarding the other sleeping members and against any possible ambush from the Rose Sect. Hearing footsteps coming from the forest, the three thought that Tang Cuo had returned and looked back together. Surprisingly, it was Jin Cheng.
“Stop!” Heimen immediately drew his sword. Although he saw Tang Cuo resting on Jin Cheng’s back, he couldn’t let his guard down and asked vigilantly: “What’s the code?”
Before leaving, in order to help confirm each other’s identity, Tang Cuo gave them a code. It was a modern-day code that would never be seen through by the enemy.
As Jin Cheng was about to open his mouth, the fake Celtic that was sitting by the lake in a daze turned around and said: “He’s real.”
Hearing this, Hawk couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. The tension eased out and everyone let go of their weapons. The dwarf Hammo was very happy since Jin Cheng was his drinking buddy. Isn’t it a beautiful thing to meet again here? But sadly, there’s no more wine.
Thinking of wine, he couldn’t help but glare at Tang Cuo. He marched over and circled him, saying: “He’s really no good drinker. He got drunk with just one bottle of wine!”
Jin Cheng smiled — I’ve been wondering whose wine it is. Turns out it’s yours.
At this time, Heimen finally brought their attention to the main business. He quickly trotted to the fake Celtic and asked: “Theodore is already sleeping, but where’s the Mirror of Truth? The plan won’t fail, right?”
It stood to reason that after someone fell asleep, the illusion would go through some changes, but they still hadn’t found anything new.
The fake Celtic shook his head and pointed at the bridge hidden in the thick mist: “The Mirror of Truth is there.”
At the end of the bridge in the distance, the Goddess of Nature was sitting, her body half leaning against the railing and her snow-white bare feet brushing the water, causing small waves to ripple. The white unicorn still snuggled beside her with its eyes closed, as if it was sleeping peacefully.
Before everyone even knew it, a mirror appeared in her hand, then she looked down at the mirror as the wind gently blew her wavy hair. Everything looked like a painting.
“I’m going to walk over.” The fake Celtic said and directly walked to the bridge.
Seeing him leaving, Hawk hurriedly took a step forward with a trace of unwillingness in his eyes, but because of Heimen and Jin Cheng being here, he pressed down his urge and didn’t do anything.
Heimen and Hammo stood side by side watching the scene. At this moment, even the easily irritated dwarf was no longer grumpy, rather, he appeared to be at ease.
The fake Celtic walked along the bridge with a speed that was neither too fast nor too slow, carrying with him an inexplicable sense of ritual. Gradually, his figure was engulfed by the thick mist, leaving only a vague shadow that was heading towards the honourable, elegant Goddess.
He put his hand on his chest and saluted the Goddess with respect.
The Goddess gave him the mirror.
He lowered his head and saw himself in the mirror. As his real face gradually magnified in his irises, the first wave appeared on the lake surface, then other waves slowly spread out from the soles of his feet to the entire lake.
The lake began to boil.
The animals that were drinking the lake water quickly dispersed, the black ghost ship began to sink and the bridge broke apart before being completely swallowed by the boiling water.
Seeing that the situation wasn’t good, Jin Cheng immediately played his harp.
The huge Griffin descended upon hearing the sound and a strong wind blew from his flapping wings. Poking his head out from the Griffin’s back, Celtic was shocked to see the strange happenings around the lake: “Lancelot, bring Theodore up here! “
“Wait, take the great Hammo with you!” The dwarf climbed up with his short legs.
Jin Cheng felt that there was no difference between carrying one man and carrying one man plus every other member, so he quietly allowed all of them to climb up. Heimen gratefully nodded at him, then he brought Hayes, Don and the others to the Griffin’s back.
Hawk also wanted to climb up, but he was stopped by Jin Cheng as soon as he came close: “Your teammates hadn’t come yet.”
Hawk gritted his teeth and immediately turned back to pick up his teammates, because of which he became the last one to board the beast.
The next instant, the ground and the mountains shook vigorously, then the lakeside began to collapse.
“It’s too late!” Celtic yelled and Hawk quickly pushed his last teammate up, then he grabbed the Griffin’s claws and was taken into the air at the last moment.
“Crack!” The ground completely split open. Hearing the loud sound of water crashing, Hawk broke into a cold sweat. He couldn’t help but lower his head and look down to find that there wasn’t any actual crack below. Standing before his eyes was just a vast lake with the mist still lingering on its surface.
The lake was pitch black, its size so large that its shore couldn’t be seen with one glance. The mist on the lake wasn’t so thick, simply adding a sense of mysticism to the place.
The Secret Lake. This was the real Secret Lake.
Such an enormous lake meant that when they entered the so-called Secret Lake zone, they were already inside this very lake. If they hadn’t flown up in time, perhaps all of them would’ve been engulfed by now.
“Squeak!” McCaw poked his head out of Celtic’s pocket. Looking at the scene below, he burst into tears with joy. Jin Cheng kept covering Tang Cuo, raising both hands to shield the wind from him until he slowly woke up.
In turn, Hayes, Don and all the people who fell asleep also woke up.
Not long after, the Griffin landed on the real lake. In the distance, about ten minutes of walking along the lakeshore, there lay a small wooden cabin with a wind chime hanging in front of its door.
The wind gently blew the bell, creating a crisp, smooth sound. The crisper the sound, the quieter the lake seemed to be, as though the ringing of this wind chime was the only sound left in this world.
A pure white unicorn came out from the mist in the center of the lake, effortlessly stepping through the water.
“Is it the Heart of The Lake?” Hawk couldn’t help asking.
The dwarf Hammo scratched his head and thought it was nothing to be surprised about. It was just a unicorn, not the Black Iron Furnace which was much more useful. Heimen, Don and the others remained in awe. After all, this was the Secret Lake, one of the three holy places of the continent of Sicilit and the origin of all elves.
The unicorn walked to the shore and easily jumped out of the lake. It didn’t say a word, only walking straight towards Celtic and lowering its head.
Celtic was taken aback. It took a few seconds for him to realise that the unicorn wasn’t looking for him, then he quickly took McCaw out of his pocket and placed him in front of the unicorn.
The unicorn’s eyes became much softer, and it lowered his head again, as if signaling something to McCaw.
McCaw’s tiny eyes peeked at Jin Cheng nervously, and he received a shrug as a response. This made him bold enough to reach out and touch the unicorn’s horn.
A brilliant light bloomed from the unicorn.
Before their eyes was a stunning shade of white. Entirely enveloping McCaw, the light glowed bigger as it struck everyone’s vision, and slowly, the whole thing turned into the outline of an adolescent.
He had long golden hair, green irises that looked like crystals and a face as beautiful as a gift bestowed by the gods. His two small ears didn’t seem to be as pointed as those of the elves. They were a little rounder, even adding a tinge of loveliness to him.
“Mc, McCaw!” Celtic had been mentally prepared, but he never could expect that seeing a mouse turning into such a gorgeous person would impact him so much.
How could a black rat become so handsome and lovely?!
“Celtic! Lancelot!” The voice of such a handsome and lovely adolescent sounded like spring water, clear and sweet at the same time. He almost jumped up with delight, but aware that he was a prince, he held back the urge.
Not knowing his identity, the others were astounded to see a mouse suddenly turning into a young man. After Celtic explained, they all came to the realisation.
Tang Cuo pondered over the words ‘His Royal Highness’. He folded his arms and looked at Jin Cheng with a blank expression, almost as if he was looking at a dead person —
Before there was a princess, now there’s a prince. Someone truly lives up to his reputation of ‘the most popular bard in the continent of Sicilit’.
Jin Cheng stroked his nose, his instinct telling him that the situation right now didn’t seem so good. But just when he was about to explain, from the corner of his eye, a figure flashed by the small wooden cabin in the distance.
“Someone’s there!” He immediately gave chase.
Tang Cuo didn’t hesitate at all. One after another, the two reached the cabin just as Aesop opened the door and walked out. As the two sides stood face to face, Aesop smiled and waved his hand that was holding onto a book: “It’s been a while.”
“It’s been a while.” Very casually, Jin Cheng stood in front of Tang Cuo and looked directly into Aesop’s eyes: “If I may ask, Sir Aesop, how has my friend Bazz been doing lately?”
Aesop tilted his head and smiled, the tassel earring on his right ear dangling with his movement: “Don’t worry, he’s all good. Compared to you, Bazz is really a good kid that doesn’t make people worry. He never troubles me. Thanks to you, Evans is dead and Sophia is exposed. My elaborate plan for the Forest of The Elves has been completely destroyed.”
Jin Cheng: “You started it first, Sir.”
“But do you really think that a half-blooded child is qualified to become the Elf King?”
“At least the Heart of The Lake acknowledges him.”
“Heh.” Aesop chuckled and opened his umbrella. Seeing that Jin Cheng and Tang Cuo didn’t retreat and weren’t scared at all, he couldn’t help but express his admiration: “I gave the pendant just to send you some greetings. I’m not interested in killing two wannabe gallants beneath me. If you don’t appreciate my goodwill, then forget it.”
Jin Cheng believed none of his nonsense. And at this point, Tang Cuo finally noticed a change in the Mission panel.
[Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight]
The third round: Forest of The Elves.
Main mission: Cabin by the lake.
Since Aesop had already planned to leave the cabin, Jin Cheng and Tang Cuo obviously couldn’t stop him, let alone having a mind to look for death. The two sides thus amicably went their separate ways and even said goodbye to each other.
As the two watched Aesop leave, Jin Cheng asked: “Did you see the book in his hand?”
Tang Cuo: “[Secrets of The Lake], a book written by Louis XIV.”
Was this book kept in the cabin then later taken by Aesop? They didn’t know the answer for now, but since Aesop held it in his hands, it must be some sort of hint.
It was a pity that when it still lay inside the Magic School of the Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight, Tang Cuo didn’t take it away.
The furnishings of the cabin were simple, no different from any ordinary cabin in the woods. Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng walked one round and rummaged through the entire cabin, but they didn’t find anything strange.
When they checked the Mission panel, the main mission still said ‘Cabin by the lake.’
At this moment, McCaw ran in from outside, pushed open the small stove in front of them and pried open the floor. From below the floor, he pulled out a simple wooden box.
He opened the box and handed it to Jin Cheng as if offering a treasure: “Thank you! Ammo told me earlier than it also wants to thank you.”
Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng looked out of the door together to see the unicorn that was standing by the lake turn back and nod at them. It seemed that it had really got back its own name. Thinking about this, the two couldn’t help but look at the floor — they clearly found nothing just now. How did the wooden box hide itself? Were they both blind?
No, if they were blind, it would mean Aesop was also blind.
After all, he didn’t find it either.
The wooden box randomly given to them by McCaw contained a red gem, a pen, a painting and a small glass bottle with water inside.
“Congratulations to the players for successfully completing the third round of the serial mission [Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight], Forest of The Elves. Difficulty: Hard. No. of completed side missions: 96. Rating: A. Character points to be earned: 45.”
“For personal rewards, please check the system panel by yourselves.”
“Welcome back to Yong Ye City!”
“[Drake’s Gem] has been detected. According to the law issued by the 5th Movement, this item will come into possession of civil player D11119.”
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”.