"I think I'll name it Lapis Chrysanthemum. What do you think?"
"Don't you think it's a bit pretentious?"
"Hmm? Really? I think it fits perfectly fine."
"It's not even blue."
"I don't care. I like the name 'Lapis'. And I'm going to use it."
Night came, and the wind started to pick up as more and more snow fell down from the dark sky.
Another blizzard this night, it seems.
I was now inside a makeshift cave made by the high elf. Just like I had suspected, she really never bothered going back at night. She would just make something like this and slept there, not caring whether there was a roaring blizzard outside or not.
A true nature survivalist.
She sat across me with her legs raised, reading some book with an amused look on her face. Between us was the small bonfire she had erected.
Wonder what kind of book she's reading. No cover so I can't really tell.
"Hey, if you don't mind me asking, what book are you reading?"
I decided to ask, just to break the awkward silence between us. She was clearly the introvert type. She never spoke unless it was necessary.
"A book of elven jokes," she answered without looking up. "You won't get it."
...Seriously? Do elves even have that? I'm always under the impression (from all the fantasy stories I've read) that elves are this super serious race. Well, that, or victims of orcs, goblins, and all sorts of monsters in those kinds of doujins.
Should I push it further? If she's anything like me, she's probably irked off by me doing this. No one likes their reading sessions interrupted after all.
"Try me," I replied with a smile. "I'm not a master of jokes myself but I do know one or two human jokes, if you're interested."
She finally decided to spare a glance towards my direction.
"A human enters an elven forest. An axe he held in his left hand and a sword on the right. He caught an elven maiden as she bathed in the river. He decided to peek, but he stepped on a branch that alerted her to his presence. Now, what would he do?"
"He dies. Because her lover shoots his arrow through his heart."
"...Yeah. I don't think I get it." I scratched my head.
She broke out a smile. "The joke is only understandable in our tongue. That's why you won't get it."
Ah, that explains it. It's like those English word jokes a Japanese person won't get.
"Hey, uh," I decided to continue before she could return to her book. "Why do you want that flower so badly anyways?"
Silence. She looked back to her book, opting to ignore my question entirely.
I sighed. Well, she's the least friendly companion I've ever got.
A week had passed since we began our search. And yet, we had made no progress whatsoever. Even after we split up, I didn't find a single flower matching her description. I brought her a bunch of other white flowers, but she said no to all of them. Apparently, they weren't the right one. For the flower to be the correct one, it had to have the right amount of petals. And none of them filled that criteria.
I was starting to have the idea of just stealing the orb from her (leaving a pouch of gold afterwards of course). Unfortunately, she stored it inside her dimensional storage spell. The only chance I got to see it was when she brought it out once when I said I wanted to see it, just to confirm if she really had it.
Well, I didn't know how the orb was supposed to look though. The one she brought out looked like your usual crystal ball, only there was some misty, cloudy stuff floating inside. I could sense magic coming out of it so at the very least, it must be a magic item of some sort.
When we met up once more, after my batch of white flowers were denied yet again, I immediately spoke up.
"Look, maybe Flameu was mistaken. That flower can't be growing anywhere in this region. She could even be lying, just so she could gain your favor. You allowed her to examine your body, right?"
Sorry Flameu, but you certainly are quite good at lying.
"Examine my body?" She raised her eyebrows. "All she did was taking some of my blood. That's all."
Damn it! I thought they had some girl-on-girl action back then! I could see Flameu being the type to like girls as well, especially cute ones like her.
Yeah, I said it. This high elf in front of me is pretty cute, the more you look at her.
"Anyway, I got some good news." She continued. "It seems I might have located a passage to the underground. According to my preliminary search, it seemed to be quite the spacious network of caves. Perhaps we would have more luck if we search down there."
"Wait, an underground cave? You mean like a dungeon?"
Dungeons are the term people use to refer to enclosed spaces that are filled with demonic mana. Some dungeons were specifically built by the demons when they invaded the human continents all those years ago, but others sprung up naturally, with no clear reason why. Every dungeon has a core and a boss monster that guards it. For a dungeon to be conquered, the core must be taken out from the dungeon, and once it does, the demonic mana will slowly dissipate, and the dungeon would revert back to its original, natural form.
The most common type of dungeons are exactly like the cave she just described, just a hole you can take from the surface that leads you to a cave, filled with monsters and traps. And at the heart of the cave, you would find the core and the boss that would be there guarding it.
So, not far from your typical RPG dungeons, all things considered.
"A dungeon?" She tilted her head. "No. I didn't sense any demonic mana from it. It's just a natural cave network. Still, I did meet some monsters down there. Mostly just bats and the like."
So, natural cave monsters. Dungeon monsters are usually more varied. And stronger as well.
"Still, I don't get the point of moving our search there. Is our flower the type that can grow underground like that, with no light from the sun?" It's a place more fitting for a mushroom, if you ask me.
"It can. The kind of flower she made, she would want them to bloom even without sunlight."
"She made? Wait, what are you talking about? Are you saying that the flower—"
"It's a long story," she replied sharply. "I won't bother you with it."
The look she gave me—she really didn't want to talk about it, huh?
"I think I get it." I spoke up with a smile. "Your elf friend grew those flowers, didn't you? You're a high elf so you could be around when your kind was still living here. Is my guess correct by any chance?" I added with a smirk.
She didn't answer.
We made our way to the cave entrance the next day, after we retired for the night.
"Here we are." The elf stopped in her tracks. Turning towards me, she said with a smile, "See if you can find the entrance."
"Huh? Well, alright."
I scanned the area. It looked to be just another clearing like any other—a snow-covered ground with a bunch of trees surrounding it. To the north, one could see a cliff face, heading upwards to the small hill even further north.
Then, I noticed it—a pile of rocks stacked on top of one another, right at the position where they could cover an entrance to a cave.
I smiled. Drawing my wand, I chanted, "Boom Grenade!"
A wind sphere similar to Boom Cannon flew from the tip of my wand. However, once it hit the pile of rocks, it exploded, creating a shockwave that blasted the rocks to the four winds, revealing that there was indeed an opening behind it.
"There. That's your cave, isn't it?" I turned to face the high elf.
"Fascinating. I never see a human cast magic like that before."
"Yeah, it's a spell I invented myself." I grinned proudly.
"You? At your age? Impressive," she replied in disbelief. "I trust that's a Wind Magic?"
"Yep, you got that right!"
Well, she's pretty sharp, isn't she? Not that surprising though. She must be a skilled mage in her own right. High elves are supposedly really great at magic after all.
"Oh, were you the one who put those rocks there by the way?" I asked her.
"I just restored it the way I found it, though there were more rocks burying the entrance then."
"A landslide from the cliff, most likely," I theorized.
We then promptly entered the opening, with her leading the way.
The cave was indeed spacious, with many stalagmites and stalagtites decorating the floor and ceiling. You could hear the sound of water dripping from a distance, though you could never really ascertain where it came from. It was eerily quiet, with the loudest sound being our footsteps and the screech of bats we needed to fight off.
As I expected, the elven girl was a competent fighter. She didn't flinch as she burned all the bats mid-air with her fire magic. She did it chantlessly, and with such swiftness that it told me she was highly skilled as a mage. Not somebody you'd want to mess with.
In retrospect, it should already be obvious. She needed to be strong if she was about to survive camping in the wilderness for months.
"So, I take it that you specialize in wind?" she asked after I dispatched a group of bats with razor-sharp wind blades.
"Yep!" I replied, a bit surprised that she would ask such a thing. "I do know a bit of the other elements though. What about you though? What element do you specialize in?"
She gave me that piercing look once again. "None. I do not specialize in anything."
Well, that's new. I think every mage I met so far has at least one element they're most good at. Maybe she's lying?
I decided not to push the matter further. From her expression, she didn't seem to want to talk more on the subject.
Haah, what a weird elf.
"Huh, an intersection."
After a few minutes inside the cave, we were now faced with a branching path. One went to the left and one went to the right.
"What should we do?" I looked at my companion. "Should we split up? Quite risky though. We might get lost." Push come to shove, I can just use my Earth Sprite to tunnel upwards.
"We won't," she answered with absolute confidence. "I have placed mana markers on the route we had walked."
"Mana… markers?" I raised my eyebrows.
"It's a spell I made," she replied. "Just like yours. But you can replicate the same thing with Earth magic."
She pointed her staff to the ground and a pillar popped up. On top of the pillar was an arrow, showing the direction of where we had come from. All made out of earth.
"You can do this much, can't you?" Her eyes gave me a glance.
I drew my wand and produced a similar sized pillar. Only it had no arrow on the top. After all, it was just an Earth Pillar spell. And there's no Earth Arrow spell.
"Sorry, I never learned a spell that could make an arrow like that. Though I could tell my Earth Sprite summon to make one," I added, just to feel better about myself.
She gave me a disappointed look. "If I had to guess, you're the type who only learns fighting magic, aren't you? That's why you could already create such a powerful spell in your age. How unfortunate. Magic isn't as narrow as you think."
"Look, I'm an adventurer, not a stonemason. I know you can do all sorts of mundane stuff with magic. But since I'm going to fight monsters, of course I'm going to focus on battle magic. That's why I could defeat that dragon. And that treant. And it took me a long time of training just to master all those fighting spells."
I didn't know why I suddenly rushed to defend myself like this. With those sharp eyes of hers giving me that look, it felt I was being judged by her, which I didn't like.
"...I see. You're an adventurer. Not a magician. You're simply someone who uses magic as a tool. I should've realized that sooner, since you have that sword on your belt as well. A hybrid magic swordsman. Good at both, but you don't excel in either."
...Wow, are all high elves this... bold?
She's not exactly wrong though. I'm not some magic expert who dedicated his life to study magic. I'm just inventing magic using my knowledge from my old life as a way to protect myself and the people I care about. I'm using it like a sword, which might offend her who is really a scholar of magic.
A pair of conches suddenly popped out of thin air. One fell to her hand while another fell to my feet.
"Take that. We can communicate with them."
I bent over to pick it up. It looked like a normal conch, only that I could sense a flow of Mana going through it.
"Hold it near your ear and speak to it. Your voice would come out from my conch."
Seriously? This is basically a phone, isn't it? A cellphone even.
"What's the range limit on this thing? Oh, and where can you get one? This is really useful!" I smiled.
"I don't know for sure," she replied. "Maybe around the size of the forest above. So it should be enough for our purposes."
Well, that's a bummer. It's more like a walkie-talkie then.
"As for where I got them…" She smirked. "Where could you get conches from, I wonder…"
"From the sea? Is that where you got them?"
She didn't answer. Instead, her smirk only grew wider.
...Gah! This elf can really be smug when she wants to.
"Well, enough chat. We'll split up here and explore as much of the cave as we could. If any of us found anything, we would inform the other using the conches."
"And how long are we supposed to search? What if this cave went on forever?" I folded my arms and narrowed my eyes.
"Just leave if you don't like it. You're not getting my orb though." She smirked again.
I sighed. Haah, this girl really is a handful...
With that settled, we promptly took our own tunnels. I chose the right one while she took the left.
Let's just hope that flower really is in this dump...
Hours passed, and not a single flower entered my sight. Only more bats and earth moles and lizards—D and C rank monsters not even worth my time.
There aren't any treasure chests either. This really is just an ordinary cave network.
The size of the tunnels made me think otherwise though. It was too large to be natural. If I weren't mistaken, natural caves weren't supposed to be this spacious, right? The tunnels were big enough to fit an elephant and more.
Maybe a giant mole built it a long time ago? I think there's a monster like that…
Hmm? What's that on the distance?
I rushed forward into what seemed to be an opening into a large clearing.
And what I saw there took my breath away.
Underneath me, over the cliff I was standing on, was a village.
Rows and rows of little wooden huts were displayed along the circling path downwards, ending on what seemed to be a small underground lake.
Is this… is this a dwarf village or something? Only dwarves would live underground like this, right?
Quickly, I brought the conch to my ear and contacted Ilymhyrra to inform her of the matter.
"A-a village! I found a village here!" I immediately shouted.
"...I see. Go look around that village. See if you can find the flower there."
What is up with that unenthusiastic response?
"Wait, do you even know how to get here?"
"Don't you worry. I'll find a way."
And just like that, our conversation was over.
I let out a sigh. I should just give up trying to figure her out and her mysterious elven ways.
Starting to see why high elves get that kind of a reputation now.
"Well, time to explore this place!" I declared with a smile. After all the boring cave I had to go through, this was certainly a nice change of pace.
As I descended downwards, following the circling path towards the bottom, I noticed for a fact that the village was built in a strange way. Every hut was attached to a tree, or rather, it was as if the huts itself were grown out of the trees.
Now that I thought about it, I didn't believe that dwarves would live in wooden buildings. They would much prefer stone houses, no?
Could this actually be an elven village? But underground?
As expected, it was completely abandoned. I saw not a single soul or presence there. However, the condition of the huts was surprisingly still good enough that you could just imagine a person still living in them. The work of elven craftsmanship, perhaps?
My feet eventually carried me at the very bottom, where the freshwater lake greeted me. I was suddenly tempted with the urge to undress and take a swim (I haven't got a proper bath in days after all), but I stopped myself. That would be stupid.
Still, no flowers in sight. Though the cavern still went on, following the lake who transformed into a river. Guess this must be an underground spring then.
I decided not to follow the route however, opting to examine the village more closely instead. I still needed to wait until she came here after all. If I had to guess, she probably could somehow pinpoint my location. Maybe this conch thing also broadcasted my coordinates to her. You could do that with a walkie talkie after all, using the frequency and all that.
As you might have guessed, my update rate has slowed down considerably lately. I just can't find the excitement to write unfortunately. The words don't really flow into my brain anymore.
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