Though they had intended to stay in the City for several days, the delegation from the Elven Kingdom, including its Envoy, quickly left on their return trip to the forest. Each member had a solemn expression on their face filled with a mixture of fear and, in some instances, reverence. The Freya Familia had been the one to subjugate their entire troupe and they had done so back ‘liberating’ every member of their weapons. When some people tried to fight back with magic, the only thing they received for their troubles were broken limbs and puncture wounds. They had been completely toyed with by people they considered beneath them before Freya, who had won over the hearts of many with a single glance, forced them to kneel as they waited for Alosrin’s return.
After reaching the borders of the Western Forest, the slat from the side of the carriage opened up and Keelan approached it to hear Alosrin’s words. Nodding his head, he sent a signal to the small convoy and said, “The Envoy wishes to speak!” in a firm tone. However, there was a small trembling undertone that had been noted by several people as the carriage was brought to a halt and everyone waited for Alosrin’s words. After a few minutes, the door to the carriage opened and Alosrin appeared with a ghastly expression on his face. He looked around at everyone that was gathered and lamented that is father had sent him an escort full of men…
For nearly a minute, Alosrin looked around at everyone’s expressions before saying in a solemn tone, “Everyone here will take a vow to keep what has happened here a secret…Keelan and I will explain the situation to my father and turn the parchment over to him. If you refuse to take the vow, you will forfeit your life here…” No matter what, Alosrin couldn’t allow the truth to spread around before he could put his own spin on things. Though the men gathered here were all trustworthy soldiers, there was no way to guarantee they would keep their mouths quiet after getting drunk. After suffering such humiliation, they would obviously have some resentments they needed to release on other people and Alosrin didn’t want rumors spreading amongst prostitutes and servants.
Several guards hesitated but none of them refused to take the vow as they all valued their lives more than they valued the information. They also didn’t want their shame to be known so it was better that everyone keep the matter a closely guarded secret. Thus, before they continued their journey, everyone had to queue up and make their vow right in front of Alosrin and Keelan before they stood off to the side and waited. When they were finished, Alosrin nodded his head before looking back towards Orario with a grim expression on his face. The only two he had no control over right now were the servants he had lost in the wager. He could try to claim they were traitors that had been swayed by the comforts of the City, but that would only hold up so long as Vahn never came to the Elven Kingdom…
Thinking of Sierra, the girl he had painstakingly ‘trained’ over the last three years, and Pram, the woman he had forced to become his advisor, Alosrin felt incredibly frustrated. They weren’t his only two servants, but Vahn’s cautionary words before their parting now weighed heavily on Alosrin’s heart. He didn’t know what Vahn had done to his body but, considering the apologetic look of pity he had shown beforehand, Alosrin couldn’t help but feel like the ‘curse’ was something that would make his life hell. There was a real chance, given the influence of Vahn and the strength of the Alliance, he would become a scapegoat in the future if he didn’t change his ways. For nearly eighty years, Alosrin had valued his own life over everything else and he didn’t want to relinquish it so easily. He could need to have his body inspected when they reached the Kingdom to find out what Vahn’s ‘curse’ had done to him. If possible, he would get it removed entirely but, if it turned out to be something that couldn’t be remedied by their ancient medicines, Alosrin would have to seriously consider changing the way he lived…
Once he thought till this point, Alosrin struck against the side of his carriage in a rage and felt a powerful urge to cry as a result of his anger and frustration. He didn’t even have a woman’s body to seek comfort in so the only thing he could do was sit in silence. The return trip would take nearly a month, if not longer, so it was going to be a hellish journey. If not for the lingering threat of Vahn’s words, he would have even redirected the convoy to a nearby village and poached a female to keep him company. He had a feeling if he did this, however, the curse within his body would take effect and he would suffer for it. Given the way Vahn acted, Alosrin could tell he was the type that thought ahead on things and there was no way the curse was a small matter. Thus, unable to vent his frustrations the ‘normal’ way, Alosrin opened up the secure lockbox in his cabin and pulled out a grimoire that had an ancient aura and began reading it seriously for the first time in his life.
After sending off Alosrin with a bit of flare, Vahn had invited the leaders of the Alliance into the Guest Residence to hold a small gathering while the members of their Familia either returned to their own Manors or waited in the area for their god’s return. Loki was in very high spirits and was running around with a bottle of sparkling wine, without alcohol, as she made a bit of a scene. The way everything had played out was very entertaining to her and she thought the ‘plot’ of Riveria and Vahn had been quite ingenious. They had managed to make a fool out of the Envoy from the Elven Forest, secure his title as ‘Sage’, and send the entire delegation fleeing from the City. The best part of it all was that they were able to get away with it without any real repercussions since Alosrin was surely the type to keep such matters under wraps.
Vahn found himself acting as Loki’s chair while she wriggled about, obviously trying to tease him, as she narrated the events to everyone present. Hephaestus sat next to him while Hestia had returned to take the seat to his left. As for the others there were present, there was Freya, Anubis, Eirene, Takemikazuchi, and Miach. Demeter’s Familia didn’t really have much combat potential, even though they had the greatest amount of members, so she hadn’t shown up for the event. As for the others that were in attendance, they were the ‘stars’ of the show, which included Riveria, Emiru, Maemi, Terra, and the two Elven girls that were discussing matters with Riveria at the side.
While he listened to Loki babble on, Vahn watched Take’ and Miach very casually try and ‘flirt’ with the twins as they had awkward expressions on their faces and tried to maintain their polite demeanors. It wasn’t that the two gods were trying to woo the girls, they were just natural playboys that paid heavily compliments to girls and often said things that were very pleasing to the ears. However, though this made a good impression on most girls, Maemi and Emiru had made great strides in their ‘devotion’ towards Vahn and they were even somewhat offended that a man other than Vahn, even if it was a god, was trying to speak with them.
When the two girls looked in his direction, Vahn smiled to them and their expressions immediately brightened up as a response. Seeing this, Take’ and Miach felt somewhat awkward because they were the only two girls that were easy to talk to since everyone else present was a goddess that had an interest in Vahn. Noticing the awkwardness in the air, Vahn held Loki’s stomach to stop her from wiggling around and asked, “What was in that parchment you handed to Alosrin?” while doing his best to avoid making eye contact with Freya. She had been watching him intently from the beginning and Vahn wasn’t that good at dealing with her. He had thanked her for her cooperation earlier, but the looks he had gotten from the rest of her Familia, with the exception of Ottar, had been quite harsh.
Loki leaned against Vahn’s chest, as he had returned to his normal state at this point, and said, “It was a message for their King, or perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a threat? Even if you have no intention of causing trouble at the Elven Kingdom, they need to understand the situation and what is at stake if they try pulling something like this again. The City already makes a lot of concessions to allow them to exercise some autonomy within the walls, but they pushed things too far this time around. Instead of following the normal protocols, they walked into the heart of the Alliance itself and tried to stir up trouble? Ridiculous…if they do something like this in the future, we decided that it would be better to declare War on the Elven Kingdom and revoke the privileges of Elven Merchant Caravans…”
Though the High Elves purported themselves as the most superior of all species, the truth of the matter was that they were highly reliant on external resources and technological advancements to progress. Their only allies were the Dwarves, but the actual number of exchanges between the two powerful nations were few and far between. The Dwarves treated every race, including Elves and other Dwarves, as nothing more than business partners that could be ‘used’ for further gains. They were a highly industrious and militaristic people, so they actually didn’t get along that well with the Elven Kingdom at all. If not for the benefits offered, such as lumber, rare minerals, agricultural goods, and slaves, the Dwarves wouldn’t have any ties with the Elves at all.
Because it wasn’t uncommon for Elves to live around two-hundred years old, with some High Elves living nearly three times as long, their cultural development was very slow. There were periods of several centuries where they didn’t even allow their members to leave the forest at all and it was only after some ‘exiles’, that still cared about their home forests, returned with outside technology and knowledge that this policy was changed. However, for long-lived species like the Elves, change came about very slowly and their policies were still incredibly backward as a result of the Elder’s of their race propagating their beliefs and imposing them on the younger generations. This was the reason why people like Riveria were genuinely concerned for the future of the Elves, because they were advancing far slower than the other races and would eventually face extinction if they didn’t change.
In the past, many other races feared the Elves because of the mystical nature, powerful magic, and the secrecy they had maintained for centuries. In recent decades, however, this ‘fear’ had started to fade greatly as the average strength of people around the continent slowly increased and the number of Elves that could be found also rose. Instead of fear, or even reverence, people began to hold the Elves in contempt for their arrogance and behavior, earning an ever-increasing number of enemies for themselves. There was even the incident in recent years when the Rakia Kingdom had tried to cut a line through the Western Forest, without any consideration for the Elven Kingdom at all, and even managed to destroy the Forest of Spirits, killing millions.
The Elven Kingdom had fought off the invaders with their powerful magic, effectively halting the invasion of Rakia’s forces into the continent, but that was the end of the matter. Because of their small population, at least compared to the other races, the Elves couldn’t really maintain a ground army to retaliate against the Rakia Kingdom, or any other nation for that matter. They were forced into a defensive posture to protect their forests while talking down to every other race as if they were the most superior species on the continent. Thus, even if they wanted to fight against the Alliance, the best they could do would be to talk a big game while sitting ‘snugly’ in their little tree houses thousands of kilometers away.
However, any sensible person would realize how detrimental it was to have a closed-borders policy with a slowly expanding population and stagnant cultural development. If they continued offending other nations, especially Orario, which was ironically their life-line for various products, they would eventually stagnate completely until they started to slowly decay. Their average strength would slowly decline while every other country around them got progressively stronger. When they inevitably expand and try to take resources from the Western Forests, the Elves would have no choice but to fight back and, more than likely, face destruction as a result of their own hubris. If not for the efforts of people like Riveria, who were proactively trying to change this self-destructive path, they likely wouldn’t exist in the same manner for another hundred years…
While the lively conversation between Vahn and the gods of the Alliance was going on, Riveria was at the side speaking with Sierra and Pram. Both Elves had heard stories of Riveria and they were surprised to have the opportunity, not just to meet her, but essentially be saved by her and Vahn’s actions. Pram was very worried about her sister, but Riveria had several allies back at the Elven Forest that would take care of them. For the time being, as Vahn had ‘refused’ to allow them to actually become servants, both girls would apprentice at the Guild Branch to assist Eina, Rose, Misha, and Mona.
Though they hadn’t expressed any interest in him right now, Riveria also explained Vahn’s situation and told both girls not to try and get close to him as it would unnecessarily complicate matters. Pram was able to understand this easily, as she was a relatively intelligent girl, while Sierra had no interest in men at all right now. She was still young, so she would likely recover with time, but she had suffered the cruelty of Alosrin for more than three years. Unlike how it was outside the forest, where ‘sensible’ Elves tried to follow the cultures and traditions of the race they were trying to learn from, an Elf wasn’t considered an adult until they were twenty. Sierra had been ‘recruited’ by Alosrin when she was 19 so she had been more than a little traumatized by the experience. Unlike Pram, she didn’t have a family she was trying to protect but had instead been ‘exchanged’ by her parents to gain benefits…
As the conversation continued to progress, Pram eventually asked, “Riveria-sama, what exactly is Vahn? This is my first time away from the forest, so I don’t have a proper grasp of things just yet. What is the purpose of the Alliance, and what are you trying to accomplish here?” Riveria had a plain expression on her face before looking over at the smiling Vahn for several long seconds as she thought about her answer. After ruminating for a bit, Riveria turned back to Pram and Sierra, saying, “Vahn is a demigod that has a much higher blood-purity than any other demigod within history. I can’t give you the specifics, but know that his capabilities far outstrip almost any other entity within the world. You’ll notice it yourselves over the next few months, but Vahn defied common sense and is trying to change the world for the better…I have decided to devote myself to assist and learn from him, so please avoid doing anything to complicate matters.”
Pram squinted her eyes slightly before asking, “Riveria-sama, did you fall in love with a human boy? Even if he is a demi-god, you surely can’t be planning to become his wife, right? Look at how many women he has around him…even if they’re goddesses, you’re a High Elf…” As the spoke, Pram’s words become progressively quieter because she could see the deep melancholy and fatigue in Riveria’s expression. After taking a deep breath and exhaling, Riveria said, “See, that is one of the misconceptions that will lead our people to destruction. Being a High Elf, while it does provide some benefits, it isn’t anything that special. The more important thing is to develop your individual capabilities to the furthest extent possible and work together to overcome difficulties…besides, Vahn is much more than a simple human. You’re a smart woman, Pram, so watch closely before you say such things…or else you’ll end up sounding like that fool, Alosrin…”
Even though she wasn’t nearly as far gone as people like Alosrin and Keelan, Pram was still a pure-blooded Elf that had grown up within the forest. To her, most High Elves were deserving of her respect and there were only a few bad seeds like Alosrin that made the lives of other people miserable. It wasn’t nearly as developed as many, but Pram also considered Elves as a superior species compared to other races. If they wanted to, they could be nearly as strong and fast as every other race, but they also had the benefit of powerful magic and a developed intellect. Though there were exceptions, such as Vahn, most of the people from other races were grossly unqualified to be compared to Elves. However, Pram believed that Riveria’s words were true and she couldn’t stomach being compared to a fool like Alosrin. Believing that the truth would come out in time, just as she had heard Vahn say, Pram nodded and said, “I will do my best, Riveria-sama…please take care of the matter regarding my sister, Plum…”
Riveria nodded her head and said, “Within the next few years, we will likely go to the Elven Kingdom to reach a compromise with the Elven King. When that time comes, you can retrieve your sister or return to the forest and try to rebuild your lives. Know that Orario will provide you with great opportunities to grow stronger and live a happy life, however. If you aren’t satisfied working at the Guild, you can leave whenever you’d like and try joining a Familia of your choosing. I would suggest picking one within the Alliance, but the decision is up to the two of you. Vahn will not keep you here, and the only person that can be responsible for your happiness from here onwards is the two of you…”
Even Pram was only in her thirties, so there was plenty of time for the two girls to experience the ‘outside’ world before making a decision whether or not to return to the forest. Sierra could easily spend the next seventy years wandering around and it would only be a short part of her life. They already had the benefit of being capable Level 3 Mages, so they wouldn’t have any trouble finding a Familia that would be willing to take them in. Riveria had even considered having them join the Mage squad in the Loki Familia, but she knew how understaffed the Guild branch near the Manor was. Eina was Aina’s important daughter and Riveria wanted to make her life easier so she could spend more time with Vahn…