After I double check everything and then cast [Gate] we all step through, and everyone begins looking around. We have arrived in a small meadow with a sizeable human town just off in the distance, I can’t help to feel pain looking at it…
Belinda: “Where are we?”
“Livinston. It’s the place Listel and I… Where we claimed our last dungeon together… It’s the closest place to Exeter that I know.
Belinda: “I’m sorry… Is there somewhere you would like to stop by while we are here?”
“No, the only places we really spent time was at the inn and the dungeon. I think it’s just best to get started.”
After the group nods I then prepare to start running but as soon as I take off I realize I am by myself and the others are where I left them with confusion on their faces… I quickly halt and return.
“Sorry… I guess it’s a force of habit, Listel and I ran everywhere.”
Belinda: “Well you kind of just took off there… I don’t know if we can keep that kind of speed, but if you want to pick up the pace I guess we can try.”
“Well I think Zoey right now has the least amount of stamina, so if she wants to set the pace we can just keep up with her, although with your heavy armor that might slow you down.”
When we finally get moving it feels little more than a brisk walk to me… At this speed it will take us a week maybe even two to reach Exeter… But once we stop around noon Zoey and Belinda both seem to be at their limit.
“I’m sorry I pushed you to hard…”
Belinda: “I should have just stored my armor with [Shadow-pocket] and we could have made it further.”
“That’s alright, I would rather you stay in your armor just in case we get attacked on the road. We are not making as near the progress as I thought we would. If I used [Gate] without visiting the location before maybe we should see about trying that again.”
Belinda: “Well what would happen if it doesn’t work?”
“Well for [Gate] the worse that could happen is you end up in the wrong location, and then you would have to just [Gate] back, but I heard it is possible for other types of teleportation to go really wrong…”
Belinda: “Do we know enough about Exeter to actually teleport there though?”
Azami: “I have been to a forest that happens to be in Exeter before.”
“Why didn’t you say so sooner? We could of teleported there first thing this morning?”
Azami: “You didn’t ask.”
“Well [Gate] was still a bit too expensive to teach you at the moment, but you should be able to describe the location enough, and then looking at it on a map we should be able to teleport there.”
Azami: “It looked like a forest…”
We wait but Azami doesn’t say anything else.
“Well ok a forest, but we need a bit more than that or we could wind up in any forest. Just choose a specific area and describe it as best as you can.”
Azami: “The forest is the forest… Tall trees, green leaves, brown branches.”
“Well it might be useless then… Is there any part of the forest that isn’t just trees?”
Azami starts walking around drawing circles on the ground and then starts drawing a large line across the ground.
“What are you doing now?”
Azami: “The lake side, it had trees here, here, here, here, here, and all over there, but once the lake starts the trees are gone. There is a large vine rope hanging across from this tree to this one and several large flat rocks here, here, here, and here.”
“That’s actually much better, what about the types of trees? The color of the rocks, how clear or murky is the lake?”
Azami: “The trees are Elvish Pine, they are very tall and thick with a deep green pines, and at this time of year they will be budding out with the start of large elongated pine cones. I don’t know much about rocks but they are dull grey. The Lake is crystal clear with little plant and animal life in it.”
“Alright.” –I then take out a map stretching it out.- “Now can you point to about where it would be on the map?”
Azami looks at it for a few seconds, tilts her head to one side, and then points at the map. I look at the map but she is pointing nowhere near Exeter…
“You did say the forest was in Exeter right?”
Azami: “Of course. Either that or Exeter surrounds the forest.”
“The point you are pointing at is in Sarnova… That’s on the complete opposite side of the map from Exeter.”
Azami then tilts her head the opposite way then takes the map from me flipping it upside down and pointing at it again… This time is at least in Exeter, but is that really the place…?
“Are you sure this is it?”
Azami: “It is not a place I can forget.”
Well I guess the worse that can happen is that I wind up in the wrong forest somewhere and I then should be able to return.
“Alright, let me go first and make sure we arrive at the right location. Once I confirm even if I have to cast another [Gate].”
Belinda: “Are you sure this is safe?”
“Worst case scenario is we waste a lot of magic [Gate]ing around.”
I then focus on the description Azami described looking at the area on the map and then cast [Gate]. The portal opens up so it at least leads somewhere.
“Alright here goes.”
I step though the portal, and with the pull on the back of my chest I am propelled the great distance through the portal. When I arrive though the portal I am met with a feeling of weightlessness, but before I can get my bearings I crash into water with what sounds like several screams.
With my strength swimming in my armor isn’t hard, but it is still awkward. Once I discern which way is up I quickly break the surface. As I swim towards shore I look around and it does appear I have made it to the right location. What I wasn’t expecting however was what appears to be quite a few pairs of scattered clothing among the vine rope that Azami described and on the flat rocks.
As I make it to shore I can see several pairs of eyes peeking at me from behind a few of the trees each belonging to short women with pointed ears and varies degrees of green hair. With my [Dungeon Expert] skill I can sense the presence of quite a few more people closing in around me in the trees.
I call out. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to startle anyone. I seemed to make a miscalculation with a teleport spell.”
A thin man appears from behind one of the trees with a sword, and shield both made from what appears to be the same type of metal like wood. The man is only tall enough to come up to my chest, but he has quite the mature face. He has short wavy green hair and points his sword at me and speaks in a whimsical voice.
He seems to be barking orders, but I can’t understand his language, so I slowly raise my hands a bit and say. “I don’t understand.”
A young girl with wet and disheveled clothing, long green hair, and a familiar looking face appears from behind the tree. The man and her have a brief exchange in which the man appears to not be happy with.
The woman then turns to me with a voice like a bird song and speaks in my language.
Elf: “Who are you, and how did you find our village?”
“I’m sorry, I was using a teleport spell trying to get to Exeter, and this was where I arrived.”
Elf: “There are quite a few protections in place around our village and teleporting in should not be possible.”
“One of my party members Azami, picked the location. She too is an elf, so maybe that is the reason.”
The woman seems surprised to hear Azami’s name and even though the elf man appears confused he too has a reaction to it.
Elf: “You know Azami? Are you the man that took her from us!?”
“I’m sorry I don’t understand, Azami joined us on her own, but if you allow me to cast my teleport spell again I can bring though the rest of my group Azami included.”
Elf: “Hold on! How do I know you are telling the truth!?”
“I have only just met her recently so I don’t know much about her, but if you just allow me to bring her here we can straighten this all up.”
The elf woman then speaks again with the elf man, he seems to get angry, but she then turns to me and says.
Elf: “Fine, but be warned if there is any funny business we will bring the entire force of Garamontia down on you.”
I message Belinda and tell her I am about to open another [Gate], and to send Azami though first. I then cast [Gate] which causes the elves to get nervous, but they don’t take any action. Once the portal is formed Azami exits from the portal, and the elf woman I was talking to seems to light up running up to Azami wrapping her arms around her.
Elf: “Sister! You’re finally home!”
Azami looks less then pleased as the elf woman is wrapped around her. Belinda, Roxy, and Zoey then arrive though the portal with confused looks on their faces while seeing the events taking place.
“Sister? You mean you’re a normal elf?”
Azami: “That is correct I was born in this village, or I was born in this village so I am a normal elf.”
Elf woman: “I am sorry for earlier, I am Azura. I can’t thank you enough for returning my sister to me!” –She says as she finally releases Azami and addresses me again.-
Azami: “We are only passing through as this was a location I had been to before it was a location we could teleport to. Either that or we could teleport here so this was the location selected to pass through.”
Azura: “But what about your husband?”
All of us: “Husband?!”
Azami: “That is correct, after claiming the dungeon that threatened the village I was to wed the village chief’s son. Either that or the village chief’s son was to marry me because I claimed the dungeon that threatened the village.”
Azura: “After the mean human with the slick black hair took you away I was sure to act as your surrogate during the wedding right proper. Now that you have returned your husband will be happy to hear he can finally produce the heir in which will become the next village chief.”
Azami: “As my surrogate you are to take my place in the event I am unable to return to the village, so you must bear the next chief yourself. Either that your you must bear the next chief as I can no longer remain, and you are my surrogate.”
Azura: “But Miliano couldn’t do that to you! You have always been by his side, and you are home now.”
Azami: “After my new master’s mutual friend and I left the village I became my new master property so it is only natural that I can’t remain and you must now take my place. Either that or it is natural for you to take my place now that I am the property of my new master and can’t remain here.”
Azura’s gaze falls on me and if looks could kill…
“Hold on a minute here…”
Azami: “Worry not master. Even if I wasn’t bound to you I have learned much with our mutual friend, and could no longer remain oblivious here in the forest.”
Azura: “But what about how Miliano feels!”
Azami: “His feelings on the matter are irrelevant, and he must learn to understand he is insignificant. Either that or he is insignificant in the greater scale of the world which is past the forest.”
Azura: “I can’t believe you would say that sister! You of all people… It must be this man! He did this to you!”
“Wait a second…”
Azami: “My new master is not relevant to the matter. We do however have a mutual friend that showed me that even something like claiming a single dungeon crystal would not be enough to be called strong. Either that or one can’t be considered strong just because they claimed a single dungeon crystal.”
“I said hold on…!”
Azami & Azura: “…?”
“I admit we are in quite a hurry, but the trip on foot was expected to take at least a few days, so if there are matters we need to address concerning Azami, we can spare some time if needed.”
Belinda: “He is right we know very little about Azami, I would like to learn more about before the time she joined up.”
Azami: “If that is what Master wants…”
Azura: “Good, I will then lead you to my sister’s house and we can then discuss her release.”
I sigh and cast [Clean] on myself to dry myself off and then Azura leads us through the trees until the trees start to twist and turn. There are not anything you would call a building in the village but there are several shaped trees that are twisted and turned in a way creating supports for large cloth like drapes hanging from them. The tops of the trees even are twisted together to create the roof.
There are not very many but one thing they all have in common is they are huge, some using dozens if not hundreds of trees to make up each one. When we pass one with what I would assume be the door is draped open you can see they are just massive single room dwellings with tiers of stacked barracks like beds some as much as ten beds high.
Many of the elves that are in the village stop to stare at us as we walk through, and we can hear their murmurs to one another as we pass by.
Belinda and Roxy look around quite amazed, and Zoey seems indifferent about our surroundings but seems to find Roxy’s reaction to be much more important. We continue past the large dwellings until we come to the smallest one in the village.
Using only about 5 trees that turn and twist together it makes up a dwelling about the size of any one room in the house in Tobes. Azura moves up to the opening flap of the dwelling and calls out.
Azura: “Miliano! Sister has returned!”
The flap quickly flies open reviling a young handsome elf with perfect wavy green hair, shaped face, and chiseled body. His clothing is quite simple but is made far better then what the other elves we have seen are wearing.
He too quickly hugs Azami when he sees her, but her reaction remains unchanged.
Azami: “I assure you I have not returned. My new master instructed we take care of this matter, and so I am here. Either that or my new master instructed us to take care of this matter, and that is the only reason we still remain.”
Miliano: “Master? You have become some human’s slave?”
Azami: “That is incorrect on both parts. I am merely serving as a monster in my new master’s dungeon. Either that…”
Belinda reacts quicker than I do, but Azura and Miliano seem less shocked at the revelation then they were about Azami being a human’s slave.
Miliano: “A dungeon core… Why after everything we went through…”
Azami: “My new master’s mutual friend told me I would receive great benefits from becoming bound to my new master, and as such I have.”
Azura: “It must be an ultimate command then, for no other reason would you choose to leave Miliano behind!”
“Wait… Let’s start over… How exactly do you know so much about dungeons?”
Azami: “That is easy, our entire village is descendants from monsters that dungeon in which I destroyed spawned from. Either that or I destroyed the dungeon in which gave our ancestors their life.”
“Then surely on destroying the dungeon you must have killed many of your own people?”
Miliano: “Including my father, but it was a small price to pay to finally be free… How could you turn around a join another dungeon Azami…?”
Azami: “The mutual friend I share with my new master showed me quite a number of dungeons, and although there were quite a few like the one that held us, there were just as many that were different. Either that or it is just simply said no two dungeons are alike.”
Azura: “Even so to join another dungeon willingly…”
Miliano: “Well, let us go inside and then we can talk about this further…”
We are led into the small dwelling and even though it is much smaller than the rest, it appears to be the only one in the village that is for a single family. We all then gather around sitting at what I could only assume is the dining area of the dwelling.
Miliano is the first to speak after we sit, and directs it to me. “So I assume then you are the primary boss monster of the dungeon Azami has joined?”
“No, I am dungeon core #212.”
Azura: “The dungeon core himself!?”
Miliano: “I see you are indeed quite different then the dungeon core that created our ancestors…” –He then turns his attention to Azami.- “But even still how could you do this to your people Azami… How could you do this to me?”
Azami: “Every human kingdom has those who are equal to my strength, and that isn’t even including the adventurer’s guild heroes. I learned my strength wasn’t enough and after the mutual friend my master and I share told me of the possible gain I could get from joining my new master the result is obvious.”
Azura: “But without the dungeon looming over us you could of easily lived in peace.”
Azami: “Peace is only granted to those whose strength is great enough that nobody dares challenges you, and even the strongest creature on the content has those that wish him harm. In other words peace is merely an illusion of those who don’t know the truth are just dreamers wishing for something they can never have.”
Miliano: “What about us… After everything you just leave?”
Azami: “Azura was here in my stead and she even said she served as my surrogate, so no problems should have arisen.”
Miliano: “But after everything we promised… You even destroyed the dungeon just to prove you were the most powerful woman in the village so no one could contest to our marriage.”
Roxy and Belinda seem to be following the conversation with bated breath, and when I start to say something Belinda shushes me…
Azami: “And after I left you took Azura as my surrogate, so our promise is fulfilled.”
Miliano: “But that’s not the same thing… It is you that I loved!”
Azami: “And I you, but you could not save your people let alone me if need be so how could I remain with someone such as that?”
Azura: “Azami! How can you say that…?”
Azami: “I am sure you only acted as my surrogate because you love him as well, so shouldn’t this arrangement benefit you?”
Azura turns a deep shade of red as she begins to blush. Meanwhile Belinda and Roxy are still enthralled.
Azura: “It wasn’t like that, but the law stated that the chief had to marry the strongest women in the village, and in her absence a surrogate had to be chosen. When you killed the dungeon and Miliano’s father died that meant Miliano had to marry. Then you left immediately after, and as your sister I was the obvious choice!”
Azami: “Rules set by the dungeon in which you would only have to follow now if it was something you wanted to do. Regardless the situation is unchanged. I am now bound to a new master and we will soon leave the village again at his order.”
Miliano: “Then please mister dungeon core, bind me to your dungeon as well so I can at least be with the woman I love!”
“Wait… There are things that have to be considered. Besides aren’t you the village chief? You can’t just take off can you?”
Azami: “Master needs strong warriors to complete his task, and you would only be a hindrance. In other words you are not good enough to be by my side.”
Miliano hangs his head while Azura tries to comfort him.
“That’s a bit harsh isn’t it? I mean you don’t feel anything for him?”
Azami: “As I said of course I love him, but matters like that are like peace. They are an illusion.”
“You can’t really mean that.”
Azami: “Then answer me this master who is it you love?”
“I love Listel!” –I quickly said it, but after the words leave my mouth regret washes over me as I see the pain in Belinda’s face.-
Azami: “Then what of Belinda?”
“Two-Twelve loved Belinda, but I am not that person anymore…”
Azami: “So the object of your love changed with your situation. Does that mean the old you loved Belinda less, or just that the situation changed the object of your love?”
Belinda: “That is a different matter entirely!”
“I have to agree with Belinda. The love I had for Listel was real. It doesn’t matter if it was orchestrated by her and her mistress, because it doesn’t make the fact that I loved her an illusion. Besides it was that love, that at the risk of me hating her and costing her life, that she wanted me to return to be Two-Twelve again.
“And that doesn’t make what Two-Twelve and Belinda had was an illusion either. If he is still rooting around up there in my head then I am sure he is still just in love with her then he was before all this happened.”
Azami: “Then fine I still love Miliano, but the fact remains like you and Listel we cannot be together any longer, so he should focus on the one that is next to him that loves him just as much.”
I know that was directed about Miliano, but I can’t help feel it was directed to me as well, and before I can say anything Miliano speaks first as he takes Azami’s hands.
Miliano: “Very well… If that is really how you feel then I will try, but just know this. Even if Azura and I can be happy together it doesn’t mean I will ever stop loving you or regret what we had.”
Azami then quickly stands and says. “Alright master it appears our matters are now finished, so we can now continue on with our task.”
I instruct Azami to sit back down, and we continue to talk with Miliano and Azura for the next few hours. They tell us about the situation they had with their dungeon and the events leading up to Azami’s departure.
Apparently the dungeon core made the elven village in the dungeon and then unbound half of the elves over the years as they continued to live they were still forced to obey the dungeon’s rules laid out as the elves that still belonged to the dungeon would be forced to punish their friends and family otherwise.
The dungeon core would always keep the village chief and the highest level elves as dungeon monsters to keep them all in line, but with the help of the village chief’s son Miliano, Azami who was born with a talent with magic, was able to train in secret until she became strong enough to take out the dungeon core.
As soon as the dungeon was destroyed though a human with pitch black armor and slicked back black hair arrived and after speaking with Azami they both disappeared. From there it went on to Azami’s account in which she talked about the things she experienced in the 10 plus years she followed Dyson around, but she never refers to him as more than “our mutual friend”.
Belinda said Azami wasn’t bound to Dyson and she couldn’t be tracked back to him when he sent her to help us, so I can’t be for sure if she was ever taken to be one of his monsters, but it is clear she has quite a bit of respect for him.
“I have to say I am glad we came to be able to learn a bit more about Azami, but we do need to get back on the road.”
Belinda takes out a rolls piece of parchment and hands it to Miliano and says.
Belinda: “With this if either of you want to hear from Azami, just write what you want to say to her on here. With the matching copy she will be able to keep in contact with you.”
She then demonstrated with the matching parchment as Miliano and Azura stare quite amazed. With a final bit of farewells we then depart making our way out of the forest. According to Miliano the nearest human settle meant is about 2 days past the forest.
Once the sun starts to go down however we still have yet to make it out of the forest.
Belinda: “Should we set up camp, or use [Gate] and then return to this spot in the morning and progress from there?”
“We might as well head back if it really is at least 2 more days of travel we won’t be in need of the magic, and we can prevent getting attacked that way. We might consider marking one of the trees though just so I have something to focus on for our return.”
Belinda pulls the ribbon from her hair wrapping it around one of the trees. I then cast [Gate] transferring us all to the edge of the dungeon were we picked up Azami this morning. After bidding her a good evening the rest of us transfer back down to Tobes.
Roxy and Zoey make their way home and that leaves just me and Belinda left.
“Well I guess I will see you in the morning.”
Belinda: “Actually if you have a minute I would like to talk.”
“Well the sooner we get to bed the sooner we can get back to it, but we already spent most of the day dealing with the situation with Azami, so why not a little while more…”
Belinda then leads me into the dining room and before she takes her seat. “Can I get you something?”
“No I’m fine… What is it you wanted to talk about?”
Belinda: “It’s what you said to Azami about love earlier.”
“Well what about it?”
Belinda: “I guess I just never thought about it like you had, I felt after what Listel did it just wasn’t fair, but after hearing what you said it just got to me is all.”
“Well after everything it’s not like I didn’t know what was going on, but at that point it just didn’t matter anymore. I’m sorry it hurt you in the process, but without Two-Twelve’s memories I can’t say I am sorry about it either.”
Belinda: “I can understand that, but I just want to know where we go from here if Two-Twelve’s memories never do return?”
“Honestly I can’t answer that. What Azami said about Listel no longer being here made a lot of since, but I feel like I would dishonor Two-Twelve by trying to take his place, and I just don’t think I am quite ready to put Listel behind me either.”
Belinda: “I can respect that, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Just know no matter what even if it’s not on a romantic level I will be here for you as long as you will have me.”
She then gets up moving over to kiss me on the forehead. After tying her hair ribbon around the tree her hair now hangs loose so it brushes against my face as she kisses my forehead and I am filled with that same scent that is all over the bed that fills me with comfort.
Belinda: “I guess I will see you in the morning then.”
Even after Belinda leaves the room I am remain sitting in the chair a few minutes. I know Two-Twelve must have loved Belinda very much. Even without any of his memories I can still feel it tugging on me every time I catch a whiff of her scent or see her smile.
It hasn’t even been a week and I am already having trouble trying to recall Listel’s scent. I know she freed me and sacrificed herself for Two-Twelve to be able to return to his own life, but I can’t help feel that if I embrace Two-Twelve’s life I would lose what I had with Listel.
I was so lost in thought I didn’t even see him enter so when Doug spoke it startled me a bit.
Doug: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just seen you sitting there in the dark and wanted to make sure you were ok.”
“Yea, it’s just the situation with Two-Twelve’s… My missing memory is all.”
Doug: “Well I don’t know if I can help, but if you just need someone to talk to, I would be glad to just sit and listen if you want.”
“I appreciate it, but I probably should get to bed. We got another long day of traveling again tomorrow.”
Doug: “Oh… Alright then.”
I then get up from the chair and head upstairs. I quickly store my equipment with [Menu] then just collapse on the bed. Even though Belinda’s scent seems to bring my body comfort it also causes me just as much pain as I think of Listel.
In the end I decide to cast [Clean] on the bed till the scent no longer remains and then I am finally able to drift off to sleep.