The ruins immersed in darkness took on a peculiar blue-gray color under the light emanating from the gems, a color unique to basalt. Of the many peoples of Vaunte, only the Miirnas preferred this particular igneous rock for their majestic structures. The ruins stood still in the woodlands, guard knights passing through the forest of basalt pillars and dragging the carcasses of huge pine bears with ropes pierced through its ribs to the center of the camp located right in the middle of the ruins.
A pile of carcasses piled up like a hill.
The team had encountered these uninvited guests half an hour before. Pine bears belonged to a class of dinosaurs, which the Kirrlutzians called violent animals. They belonged to the category of creatures between demons and animals, unlike demons whose magic power would vanish after death, leaving only crystals, they became the best food reserves for Brendel's party.
They had pretty good luck, and after entering the Eternal Night Forest, there were hardly any live animals to be seen, except for occasionally lost critters. This group of pine bears should be from the northern part of Lantonilan. They had wandered into the forest and attacked Brendel and his group because of the dark magic.
Brendel knew that the pine bears were gentle carnivorous beasts, and usually, they only hunted large herbivorous animals. Usually, they would only hunt large herbivores, such as the deer on the north shore of Crystal Lake, or a hippo-sized herbivore called a slave cow. But they rarely attacked humans.
The pine bear's fur is rolled up and tossed aside, and Peya took it upon herself to do the work, a task the young hunter girl knew all too well. Peya made a slit in the spine with the skinning knife and turned it over, the hunter's skinning knife that had been handed down from generation to generation had a curved edge and a long, thin blade like a silver ruler. She made the incision up to the tailbone and then spread it out to the sides, and in ten minutes she had a complete skin off.
Brendel looked back after a while, and in his hand, he held a clear, bright yellow amber-like crystal, which was the magic crystal left behind by the Dusk Hound. It was larger than the black wolves’ and contained more magical power, but there was no satisfaction on Brendel's face as he stared at a messy lair not far in front of him where several sharp white rocks were intertwined.
This was supposed to be the Dusk Hound's lair, but now all that was left were the ruins after it had been destroyed.
Someone had gotten to it first, not sure if it was Arreck or the KIrrlutzians. In the distance, Maynild came over with Freya stepping on scattered rocks one foot at a time, and the female knight shook her head at him as she approached, "I didn't find any valuable clues, they didn't camp here but have left to the north after destroying this lair. There are signs of a battle nearby, but not on a large scale......There is perhaps another possibility that the Dusk Hounds were destroyed by the other party before they had a chance to react."
"The Dusk Hounds are wary-"
"...... But it looks like they came from the other direction?"
"It's very possible, there's no way I didn't notice any traces before, these people aren't likely to be on the same path as us," Maynild said thoughtfully.
"I trust your judgment. But do you think it's the Arreck or the Kirrlutzians?"
Brendel's 'I trust your judgment' made Maynild look up at him slightly, somewhat unexpectedly, "It's likely to be Arreck, the Kirrlutzians should not have deviated into the forest from Vallendaren’s side to come in this direction. But don't rule out other possibilities, Count, could there be adventurers in this forest?"
Maynild looked up in the direction of the forest, with thoughts in her mind. Next to her, Freya whispered, "Brendel, do you want to keep going?"
"There's no need for that, Arreck is only a week's travel ahead of us in the Anserra Forest. He won't know the forest any better than we do, and if they didn't take the same route as us, then we're already made up to a day." Brendel did not want to meet up with Arreck too early, as by now Arreck would have yet to know that they were behind, and it would be good to give them an unexpected surprise.
Besides, Maynild’s earlier words had reminded him that if the forest did not show signs of a large-scale battle, he suspected that the leader of the Dusk Hounds might still be wandering through the forest.
"Let’s camp." He said, "The vastness of the Black Forest is hard for normal people to comprehend. Let everyone get some rest, as this time I'm afraid it won't be for a day or two."
Freya looked at him and nodded obediently.
The dinner was a sumptuous pine bear feast, and the cooks who did the work were Ciel and Peya. By Ciel's own account, he had been a gourmet in his past life, traveling through many regions simply to learn and record the local food culture; While Peya had all the qualities expected of a poor child, hardworking, tough, soulful, and handled her prey with aplomb.
Bear broth, roasted bear meat, and a warm campfire brought a touch of warmth to the still, cold night, and Brendel had Hipamila set up a boundary to keep out the sounds and smells to prevent attracting more demons to the forest.
Ciel called it the 'Dinner in the Forest', and it was said that Mglin, the King of the Faries of the Eleranta’s Chinoise Peninsula, would often entertain guests in the forest, and it was the Night Faries who would light up all kinds of magical lamps in the forest to resemble an open-air palace, hence the name of the feast in the forest. The analogy of the young mage squire was agreed upon by everyone, and even though they could not drink freely, everyone still praised the 'sumptuous' food.
The dinner in the forest drew to a close after about eight or nine o'clock, and the relics quickly faded into silence. The knights from the Royal Cavalry were Aouine's most distinguished soldiers, so naturally, they could not be as undisciplined as the ordinary noble privateers. The only thing left in the camp was the red fire and the beating shadows and the knights on night duty.
Brendel especially liked campfires in the dark.
The bright light of the fire seemed to dispel the darkness and coldness from one's heart, and whenever he sat by the campfire, watching the ground outlined by the flickering flames, he could not help but think of his days in the game. Compared to the adventurers, the players always had no taboos, and his senior would sometimes suggest small events. These interludes were always accompanied by laughter, and Brendel could not help but smile every time he thought back to a few interesting experiences.
Medissa placed her hand on the title page of a red-covered book and quietly watched her lord, sometimes she could often see a look of reminiscence on Brendel's face. But she never asked too many questions, and could only think to herself that it must be a rather warm memory.
Medissa had some warm memories as well, and since her soul had returned to this world, she often remembered the past. But remembering was a painful process for the Undead. She remembered her sister, her mother, her father, and her soul as if it had been stripped away. The dark magic always tempted her to think about that which she had never wanted to face.
It was as if a voice in the darkness was murmuring in her ear: “Why was it you who was sacrificed? You were supposed to have better memories, do you remember everything that happened after the Battle of the Holy Saints? No, you can't remember, because you never had a memory after that.”
“How can you understand the happiness of mortals when you were live and die for war, and when you have never experienced peace in your life?”
But the little Silver Elf Princess simply buried those negative feelings in her mind, then looked up and faced her future with a smile. She looked at Brendel, her eyes shining with both yearning and admiration. It was as if she could find her ordinariness in this lord.
Brendel seemed to have finally noticed the princess's gaze, and he was startled slightly. Then he saw the book in Medissa's hand, which was folklore and geography of the area around Kirrlutz and Silent Bay. Since her reintegration into human society, Medissa had always shown interest in the present-day culture, but Brendel knew that she was learning how to fit in with others.
She always prioritized thinking about things from the other's perspective.
"Is there anything you can't understand?" Brendel asked softly. Even if it was a thousand years ago or now, the Silver Elves thought quite differently than humans. Sometimes Medissa could not even understand some of the human vocabularies, so she had to ask him for advice.
Medissa suddenly thought her lord was a little cute, and she then said softly, "I'm a little confused as to why the people there at Silent Bay send lilies to their sweethearts on the day of the Summer Festival. Is there any symbolism to that?"
Brendel was stunned, not expecting the question. Medissa, despite being a princess and an important Silver Elf general, still had a feminine side, and he thought for a moment before answering, "Because, in the lore of the mountain folk, the midsummer is a symbol of blazing exuberance, just as love is in full bloom. It has been thought since the long dark ages that the Summer Festival belonged to the Trade Winds, and the seafarers believe that the Trade Winds represent the passing of thoughts, so I think there may be some connection to that."
"Elves are different from that," Medissa replied in a small voice, "The Elves think it is a mutual watchfulness that can't be penetrated by letting time stretch on. It's like a long, distant song in a dark forest, lingering delicately in the heart."
"That's because human life is so short that they cannot comprehend the meaning of the word time. For mortals to shine with glory for a short period of time, even if it was just for a blink of an eye, is enough to draw respect. Elves understand the meaning of waiting because of their long lives, but mortals also clumsily go back and forth through the cycles of history, and time runs parallel in two ways, and as a summertime bug cannot understand winter, how can eternity understand the beauty of the impermanent?"
Medissa closed the book and she inclined her head, "My lord, may I lean on you for a moment?"
Brendel hesitated, he saw a bit of a calm look from Medissa and finally nodded. The tone of the little Silver Elf princess was like a feather, so soft that it was impossible to refuse her request. Besides, she never asked for much, leaving only her best impressions to others.
Then he felt a soft body next to his own. Medissa smiled as if remembering the time when she was next to her mother.
"Back then my mother would tell me stories of heroes, and my greatest wish was to become like them."
"But I just want to be a normal person now. Thank you, my lord."
Medissa said in a faintly inaudible voice.