Translator: Silver Editor: Kaio
「Forest Capital Maple」
The next day, the elder of Raratoia and Ariane’s father went to a small shrine situated at the large tree in the center of the village.
As the sun was rising, the wind blowing through the village still carried with it an unpleasant chill.
The morning mist covered the distant scenery in a haze, leaving only a dim view of the scenery through the branches and leaves extending from the large tree; there seemed to be a slightly mysterious atmosphere drifting through the air.
Behind the small shrine, a small stream flowed from the east to the west through the heart of the village, with the sounds of the murmuring streamlet and the chirping of birds searching for fish resounding in the vicinity.
Surrounding the small shrine was a simple wooden enclosure, though it didn’t seem to function as a barrier in particular. It reached no higher than the waist, acting simply as a boundary line for the shrine.
Two warriors stood guard in front of the door that was the entrance to the shrine. They were clad in sturdy leather armor, with one of the elf warriors carrying a sword on his hips. When they saw Elder Dylan approaching, they bowed their heads slightly and offered a greeting.
“Elder Dylan-sama, we’ve been waiting for you. The preparations for the transfer to Maple are complete.”
Dylan offered words of gratitude, and after a few words of idle talk, the two soldiers simultaneously moved to the side. In order to not delay, Ariane also entered the shrine afterwards.
Behind Ariane, carrying the large sacks of gold coins that Arc had contributed yesterday, several men passed through the entrance together.
Although the shrine wasn’t spacious to the extent of a mansion, the ceiling was higher in order to accommodate the atrium surrounding the tree in the center. The atrium was supported by thick pillars surrounding the tree.
In the center of the room was a slightly elevated circular stage where the magical tool was installed, lit up by the illumination from crystal-type lamps.
Inscribed into the surface of the circular stage was a complicated and mysterious magic formation; from it, a faint luminescence can be seen.
This small shrine here was the elf village Raratoia’s transfer position.
The first generation chieftain of the Great Canada Forest was the one who set up the transfer formations in Maple and the main villages. Installed 800 years ago, it was maintained for generations by village elders, and now it’s an essential facility for connecting each village to the capital city, Maple.
While Dylan walked forward until he was before the transfer formation, from the room to the side where the shrine’s manager lived, a petite elven man made an appearance.
Though the man looked to be in his forties, elves had a life span of nearly 400 years, and unlike humans, they didn’t physical age beyond this point.
“Elder Dylan, the preparations for the transfer formation are already complete. However, since this transfer wasn’t scheduled, this means that the magic stone fuel we need to operate it is insufficient, so…”
The petite man who managed the formation spoke with a slightly painful expression, while Dylan gave a liberal nod that gave off an atmosphere of knowing exactly what the man was trying to say before he took out the magic stone he received from Arc yesterday and handed it over to the manager.
“Use this magic stone as the power source. Sorry to trouble you.”
Upon receiving the magic stone, the manager gave a small bow and withdrew.
Making sure, Dylan stepped forward onto the central magic formation and called for Ariane.
The men following behind with the luggage lowered the bags of gold onto the formation and waited off to the side of the small shrine.
At a quick pace, Ariane stood next to her father Dylan in response to his call, while the formation at their feet began to shine brilliantly. As a dazzling light engulfed the shrine, they felt a floating sensation for a moment; when the light settled, they were standing in a place that didn’t change much from the room where they were at before.
However, the transfer magic formation at their feet was larger than it was before, and the shrine itself was considerably larger. There were many ornaments scattered throughout the shrine, and guards who previously weren’t present stood here and there.
They had transferred from the small shrine and arrived at the forest capital, Maple.
After a simple greeting to the manager in charge of Maple’s shrine and requesting for someone to transport the sacks of gold coins to central government office, Dylan and Ariane left the shrine.
What awaited them outside the shrine was an enormous city.
Not only were there similar sparse large tree buildings to those in Raratoia, even larger trees also stood in lines here and there. Weaving their way through the roads running in every direction, an overflowing number of elves could be seen.
The early morning blue sky with its chilly atmosphere was concealed by the tops of the large tree-like buildings; the light of the sun, which was still low in the sky, wasn’t sufficient enough to reach the valley.
However, the streets lined with shops, with people touting full of energy, and shoppers gazing at goods in a commotion, weren’t any less lively than that which was displayed on streets filled with humans.
While barter was still the dominant form of trade for the elves, it was common to use gold coins here in Maple.
Ariane, after such a long time away from the capital, took a deep breath so as to ascertain the air, and stretched.
The forest capital was a metropolis where more than 100,000 people lived. The appearance of such a large city in the Great Canada Forest where a monster supposedly rampaged in its interior was something that the humans would never be able to believe.
After all, in the 800 years since its founding, there was never a time when capital Maple had invited a human inside. Not even people from the Rinburuto Arch Dukedom who were trading partners have been graced with a view of this city.
The reason was because various things would cause inconveniences if the humans were to become aware of this place. One of those reasons just so happened to pass before Ariane’s eyes.
He had a short stature of around 130 centimetres, but that doesn’t mean he’s a small child. Large burly arms thicker than those of dark elves along with an overall firmly-built body, short pointed ears, and a lengthy beard extending to his waist.
The person who just passed by was a man of the dwarf race.
Formerly the leaders in metallurgy and consequently being targeted, they were a race officially known by the human society as having perished. If you strained your eye and looked properly, you can catch sight of them here and there throughout the town, blended with the abundant crowds of elves.
The metropolis of Maple was a magical city formed through the combination of elves’ spirit magic and the dwarves’ metallurgy technology, while it was the founding patriarch who created the opportunity to build this city.
The founding chieftain also strictly prohibited inviting any humans to Maple.
However, the other villages in the outer circumference were left to the discretion of the elders. Villages on the outskirts of the forest traded with humans as their towns had the advantage of being relatively close to the villages. However, most of the villages further within the forest’s depths and away from human habitats rarely encountered them. Hence, it was rare for a human to enter the other villages as well.
Arc’s invitation to Raratoia was a case where Ariane, unexpectedly the elder’s daughter, acted as the mediator ─ a considerable exception.
After Ariane thoroughly enjoyed Maple’s invariant scenery, with her father’s beckoning ahead, she ran toward Dylan’s direction.
Dylan advanced through the intervening roads in the valley of large tree buildings, weaving through the crowd without hesitation.
A short time later, they emerged in a place where the view that was previously blocked by the large tree buildings suddenly opened up. In the center of the vast clearing stood the largest structure they’d seen so far: made from a giant tree, it was like a tower as it soared before their eyes.
It was at such a towering height that your neck would become sore looking at it as you approached.
Many guards stood in front of the spacious entrance, constantly keeping a watchful eye on the people entering and exiting the building. After passing through the front entrance to the front counter and conveying that they had business, they were met with a female elf receptionist immediately.
Led by the receptionist, they were guided down a corridor to one of the cylindrical rooms among the great number lined up within the building.
In the center of the cylindrical room, something similar to a crystal ball was placed on a pedestal, with half of it embedded inside. When the female guide touched the crystal ball, it slowly began to emit a faint light.
Without much warning, the floor of the cylindrical room rose, moving without any sound as it ascended higher and higher.
Before long, the rising floor came to a stop, reaching its intended level, with the connecting passageway leading to the tower’s outer part. With a window running along the entire outer circumference, it offered an unbroken view of the entire city.
Just facing the west, all of the Maple would appear at one’s feet, with an enormous lake spread out on the horizon. Even looking at the north, or at the south, the lake’s edges can’t be seen.
Called the Great Slave by the founding chieftain, the huge lake was the city’s precious source of water, providing furthermore an abundance of fish to catch ─ a prevail treasure trove.
While looking at the glittering scenery with the morning sun reflecting off the Great Slave lake, sparkling, they advanced through the corridor and finally arrived at their destination.
Before long, they arrived before a set of large double doors. After the female clerk opened one side of the doors and informed the person within of the arrival of visitors, she stepped aside, prompting the two to enter.
Ariane and Dylan nodded at each other and passed through the doors.
There were no splendorous decorations or the like inside; rather, the atmosphere within the large room was quite subdued. There was a large round table placed in the center of the room, with eleven men and women seated around it.
The seated people were almost all elves, but the figures of a dark elf and a dwarf can also be seen. This was the central governing council of Maple’s ten grand elders, with the third generation chieftain, Brian Boyd Evangeline Maple, assembled with them.
The current chieftain had genealogy that can be traced back to the founding chieftain, Evangeline, though it was unusual for an elf to inherit and call themselves with the first generation’s name.
“Elder Dylan of Raratoia, is it already time to report the results of the recent rescue mission? Why are you here to report it in person?”
A person sitting in the back of the room calmly asked Dylan those questions.
The man with the calm atmosphere looked to be in his forties and had long green-tinged blonde hair that was tied together with a braid colored with complex patterns. He was chieftain Brian, the third generation head.
In response to the question, her father spoke with a rarely shown expression of nervousness, leading Ariane to occasionally glance at Dylan’s state with curious eyes. When the conversation reached the part about the feudal lord, his expression darkened slightly and his eyes were lowered.
When Dylan finished his report, the noises in the room disappeared, filling it with a quiet atmosphere, making the slight movement of someone standing up seem extremely loud.
“Well, for the time being, the prisoners were rescued, and the two other unidentified people’s safety were secured as well.”
When one of the great elders said this to start up the conversation, it was like a dam had broken as opinions began to be exchanged, thrown in rapid succession.
“The problem is the fact that the two rescued were held by the feudal lord. Isn’t this matter a little troubling?”
“However, they personally violated the binding treaty from 400 years ago. Considering this, then there’s no grounds on which the other side can protest in this matter…”
“Wait wait, the feudal lord participating in the kidnapping this time is a legitimate reason to start a war! Have they already forgotten that, 600 years ago, they made war on us and split their country in the process!?”
“The tale of the war 600 years ago that we heard about from our parents is enough for us, but it’s nothing but a story written in history books for the humans… It truly seems impossible to build a lasting friendly relationship with them.”
“Humph, the opposition may not be able to say anything if we talk about supplying them with a bounty of magic stones…”
The grand elders each shouted with a loud voice proclaiming their opinions, and the hall fell into pandemonium.
Dylan who looked at the state of affairs and chieftain Brian sitting at the back simultaneously let out a loud sigh.
Eventually, with lunch interposed, the back and forth dispute was brought to a tentative conclusion, but it was hard to say that the settled conclusion was very significant.
“For now, we’ll just wait and see…”
While the circular floor soundlessly slid down the cylindrical room, Dylan stood next to Ariane, muttering the conclusion reached a while ago.
The Rhoden Kingdom had began a war 600 hundred years ago; however, the number of engagements were nearly nonexistent. At that time, the Tishiento dukes kept an opposing stance on war with the elves and broke off from the Rhoden kingdom, forming the Rinburuto Arch Dukedom.
Since then, interactions with the humans such as trade were only limited to those of Rinburuto.
At the time of the war, the majority of the troops of the Rhoden Kingdom’s king and feudal lords were lost; it fell into the brink of destruction. Fortunately, the country still remained to this day thanks to the fact that the Reburan Empire, in a dispute for succession of the throne, had split into East and West, unfolding with it a fierce war that was the only saving grace allowing the kingdom to recover.
Afterwards, the king of Rhoden 400 years ago formally apologized for the war, and in a display of goodwill, signed a treaty that prohibited the capture of elves.
Certainly, the feudal lord’s assassination this time might have been excessive, but the fault lay with the kingdom ─ an opinion that would be hard to appeal.
In anticipation of the arrival of an official messenger, by saying that preparation had to be done, things had finally settled down.
“I’m sorry, Elder Dylan.”
His daughter, who pulled the trigger this time, had a gloomy expression with downcast eyes. Gently caressing the head of beautiful white hair she inherited from her mother, Dylan gave a wry smile.
“Ariane, you’re still young; besides, the matter still hasn’t been settled yet, right?”
Saying so, he took out the aforementioned contract relating to the trafficking of elves from his breast pocket. It was said that the investigation of the people mentioned in the contract would again be entrusted to Dylan.
“It seems like you’ll have a chance to repent since they asked you to remain a part of the investigation. We can officially request assistance from Arc-kun this time. Nevertheless, that took longer than expected; there’s no longer a chance to meet with Ivin after specially coming to Maple.”
Dylan had a slightly worn-out expression as he shrugged his shoulders. Ivin was another daughter of his ─ Ariane’s older sister.
“Did you have some business with Onee-san?”
Ariane had a look of curiosity as she recalled the unyielding face of the sister she hadn’t seen in a while.
“Eh, have you not spoken to her yet, Ariane? I heard that she’s getting married next year. Though actual feelings about it haven’t set in as I’ve yet to see her fiancé’s face…”
Ariane was so surprised at the her father’s brief comment that it looked like her jaw would dislocate.
“What?! You’re lying!? That battle maniac of a sister who said she would never get married in her life?! Is the fiancé some warrior whom I know?”
“No, according to what I’ve heard, she’s engaged to a farmer.”
Ariane could only express a look of disbelief.
An unparalleled battle enthusiast, possessing abilities that surpassed even Ariane’s, she was a powerful warrior prided by Maple, boasting of outstanding strength above all else. Her sister was one who showed only interest in strong opponents, so Ariane could only be dumbfounded by the story that seemed to be about an entirely different person.
When they left the giant tree tower that served as the central building while listening to such talk, the sky’s early-morning blue color had already changed into that of dusk.
The magical tools’ light from the windows of the large tree buildings in addition to the street lights underfoot repelled the approaching darkness.
The sister she thought would never change had changed in a way unknown to herself, causing some feelings of bewilderment and loneliness to be born in her heart.
As she was lost in thought over these newly formed emotions, with every passing moment, the sky darkened.
With few words between them, Ariane and Dylan walked side-by-side down the well-lit street as they quickly returned to the shrine leading back to Raratoia.