Life and death, ever cycling --
--- Observations Across Centuries, Shallow Seas, Volume One
There was a wide field of wilderness in its long memory. All that it remembered of its youth was wandering and traveling. When it traveled across the borders of the ‘Shallow Seas’, the sight of the storm falling silent and the green hills in the background remained carved into its memories to this day. At the border between water and wind, the two worlds overlapped in a bizarre fashion in its view.
That was the deepest memory it had of its childhood.
But all those distant sights were gone. After long periods of traveling, traveling, and then traveling some more, it finally arrived at this world --
This was a strange new beginning. Clanspeople passed memories down from generation to generation, as if by blood, and nurtured magic. They formed the holy forest. In the distant years of darkness, the gentle magic attracted creatures from the darkness such as Frost Demons, Weeping Demons, and the Undead. In order to protect the forest, it fought a constant battle against them.
Many years seemed to pass while it constantly battled like this.
Until one day, it saw that ball of light fly to him.
“Hello, I’m Luoluo. It’s so pretty here. May I make my home here?”
“You cannot.” It answered seriously.
“Why?” The little ball of light stared wide-eyed, its blue eyes opened wide and filled with curiosity as if not allowing her to stay in the forest was a very strange thing.
“Because you’re like them and want to possess the holy magic.”
“No, no, no. I just think it’s cooler here.”
“Mmhmm. Besides, you can’t always be fighting against them by yourself. You need comrades, right? Let me help you.”
After that, it seemed like it had a companion. The word companion, spoke in the language of the elementals, was much longer than in the human tongue but also more meaningful.
“Malourcha, let’s build a lake. Then they wouldn’t be able to come over here.”
“Mmhmm, lake. You haven’t seen one, right? It’s a scene like the shallow seas -- of course, not as magnificent as my homeland, but still very beautiful.”
Thinking of its homeland, it nodded.
“Malourcha, is the lake very beautiful?”
“Not like the shallow seas.” It answered seriously after a long while of contemplation.
“Then let’s make it bigger. So big that it has no end.” She said excitedly. “Oh right, after I die, please bury me under the biggest Tree of Fog. Then I can go back home.”
It squinted its eyes slightly. In some distant part of its brain, there was some information hidden about this. It was about elemental creatures. A sentence that seemed burned into its soul flashed across its memory “Life and death, elementals ever cycling --”
“Mmhmm,” the little fairy answered with its eyes squinted. “Life and death, elementals ever cycling. Without death, there will not be new life.”
It stared at the black night sky. A shooting star streaked across the sky and disappeared. In the vibrant starry sky, this meant the civilized world outside, rife with conflict, just lost another of its heroes. The war between mortals started 137 years ago and would last a total of 300 years, ending 12 years after that according to the prophecy.
Lulu was buried in the ground in the middle of the forest. The next year it grew sprouts that lit up, and then it slowly bore fruit. From the fruit, two new lives arrived.
They were the continuation of Lulu’s life. Their names were Miya and Tisha.
Fairies were born with names, which was strange.
Then there were more and more fairies and the forest became more and more lively and prosperous. But every night thereafter, it would look at the vibrant night sky and think of that sentence:
“Malourcha, let’s build a lake. Then they wouldn't be able to cross.”
On the shores of the silvery lake, the frost demons hidden in the dark really didn’t dare cross the lake --
The war in the human world finally ended 130 years ago. Malourcha looked up at the night sky as another falling star streaked across. Sanorso, the last hero of the civilized world, has just finished the last leg of her journey in the world.
The world suddenly became foreign.
Magical core was the life source of a demonized creature. But for creatures like Crystal Stag, which lived in harmony with magic, this was just a core of energy. After losing the magical core, a demonized creature should immediately turn to ashes but for Marloucha, it would probably just revert back to its youth.
Very quickly, Brendel saw the crystal prism. It was embedded along Malourcha’s spine and as soon as Brendel saw it, he couldn’t help but squint his eyes.
The healthy magical core of a Crystal Stag should be blue of an ocean, just like the Shallow Seas of their homeland. That was the most beautiful place in the world of water elementals. But what he saw was an ink-black crystal.
The magic had been tainted this badly.
Brendel held his breath involuntarily.
Warndt’s world was built upon the Sea of Magic, but what mortals could touch were mostly magic from the darkness. But Marsha had set down the rule of Tiamat and used the power of order to constrain the wild forces of darkness -- so that they turned calm and docile.
This was the boon from a mother.
But there were those who didn’t accept such a boon.
Astrologers chased after the footsteps of the Divine Folk and could be said to be the mages that cut a path through thorns in the dark. Like the deity they worshipped, Elaine of the Abyss Lake, they turned the dark magic into a mirror and found the sacrifice of their sight a price worth paying for the ability to see through the fog into the future. Darkness ate away at their body and soul but they remained steady.
Female mages took things one step further than astrologers. The original twelve female mages swore that they would conquer the powers of darkness - though their descendants followed the oath, obsession, coldness, perverseness, and moodiness accompanied them through their lives -- because of this and their identity as followers of the Darkness Dragon, they were cast aside by everyone.
And those that walked in the shadows; the believers of evil, the worshippers of devils, the insane and the murderers. They worshipped dark magic and didn’t bat an eye at pleasing those dark and evil beings through sacrifice. They walked the crooked path in the shadow of civilization, but nobody denied their existence.
Dark magic was like a shot of extreme poison. Its damage to anyone was irreversible. Bredel thought he knew the answer to the puzzle and, with that feeling in mind, he gently reached toward the magical core.
His entire body tingled, as if being electrocuted.
“Human, stop --”
A calm voice, completely different from the frustrated and angry one from before, sounded in Brendel’s mind.
“Guardian of the Holy Seal Forest, do you know what I’m doing?” Brendel stilled the movement of his hand and then asked quietly, “Can you see what has become of the forest?”
“It won’t solve anything by chasing the dark magic out.” The voice didn’t answer him directly but instead said this, “Actually, you’ll come to regret your actions.”
“I need to know the reason.” Brendel asked. “If you don’t give up this magical core, you’ll be turned into a monster by the dark magic. This forest has already started to wilt. Dark magic will consume everything, including your fairy comrades --”
The voice fell silent.
After a while, it said again, “No, the forest will not stay wilted. What you said will not come to pass. Human, you have not seen the Shallow Seas so you won’t understand how great nature is --”
Malourcha paused. It was gravely wounded and its body was dying. The blood-red eyes showed a trace of weariness, but the flames within them still burned brightly.
“Human, I know what you desire. You may take the crystallized blood, but please leave this forest. This forest does not belong to anyone. It only belongs to history, to the fairies that have borne witness to all of this --”
Brendel didn’t understand what it said but it looked at the crystallized blood dotting the ground and then at Maynild standing not so far from him. The female knight was looking at the little fairy in her hands, who was sobbing uncontrollably.
“Thank you for your generosity, guardian.” Brendel answered. “But I am curious about your choice.”
A breeze seemed to pass through the forest. Amidst the sound of rustling, the brittle branches broke and fell off.
The forest was almost dead.
Black flames lit up around Malourcha’s body. The Crystal Stag lay quietly there as if remembering something. Brendel saw its gaze move past his shoulder and look at the glorious and stunning Vaunte night sky.
There were many constellations there, recording many of humankind’s epic poems.
“Why did you actively take away the forest’s magic? Is it because the Holy Seal Valley was being taken over by dark magic?”
“It’s more or less as you guessed, human.” The gradually weakened voice answered, “The forest was becoming unsettled. Not only so, but dark magic was pushing out from underneath the entire world. The magic moon is already brighter than it was before, human --”
Brendel didn’t say anything. He knew Malourcha was referring to the Great Demonic Wave.
“So you took it upon yourself to guide the dark magic into your body so that it wouldn’t taint the entire forest.”
“But isn’t this a meaningless action? In the end, you’ll become a puppet to the dark magic. And as the last guardian of this forest dies, it too will wilt and wither, just like what you see before you now.” Brendel answered slowly, his mind combing through all the clues to this mission.
But he was interrupted.
“That’s because you have not seen the Shallow Seas, human.” Malourcha answered peacefully. “In that borderland between wind and water is a beautiful and stunning sea. The waves rise and fall upon that sea in an endless cycle, just like our lives --”
“Life and death, ever cycling --”
“Such is the fate of an elemental.”
Realization suddenly struck Brendel --
He looked stunned at the Crystal Stag on the ground. The old elemental life will die and the new elemental creature will be born from its body. Generation after generation, that is how ancient knowledge was passed down.
This was like a poem passed down from ancient times. It would always resound in the bloodline that counted as heritage. Quiet but also majestic.
“When the old order leaves, it’ll take with it a lot of memories. New life will be born from the dying ashes. The dark magic will be burnt away alongside me. In that instant, pure magic will fill this land again and nurture the root of every Tree of Fog so that life springs forth again.”
Brendel stood there, unmoving. For a while, he felt that his concern for the mission faded. He asked, “This is your choice?”
Malourcha didn’t answer.
The voice just kept on muttering. “I should have left a long time ago. When I saw that shooting star fall across the sky, I knew this was no longer my time.”
“It’s been so long.”
“But the lake is still nothing like the shallow seas.”
“It’s just so beautiful --”
Brendel lowered his gaze slightly.
He was a bit touched, but more than that, he was confused. Why did the system design such a scenario? Was there a hidden mission in this? Or was he here just to bear witness?
No, there must be something that he could change.
He saw the Crystal Stag, lying on the ground, gradually close its eyes. The dark magic tried to struggle free from it, but was kept tightly locked up within the magical core.
In that instant, Brendel seemed to sense the last scene this guardian of the Holy Seal Forest transmitted:
A wide sea, so broad that you couldn’t see the end. Cliffs that crisscrossed each other. The waves crashing upon the rocks. In the distance, the Holy Mountain, where no storms raged, stood as still as an ink painting.
The clouds gently floated in the sky.
He saw that young stag. It crossed the sea, the shores, and the wilderness along with its kin. It was an endless journey and nobody seemed to know where their destination was.
That long time flashed across Brendel’s mind in just an instant. As if a thousand years vanished in the blink of an eye. He saw so many things, including the fairy called Luoluo.
“I see my homeland.”
“So beautiful, just like when I left it. It hasn’t changed and is waiting for me to go back.”