Proofreaders: Dreen, Rooker
Aera’jos is irritated. He doesn’t like humans, but that’s normal if you consider the long history of the alfar with them. For someone like Ara’ainn, who is foreign to this world, it’s hard to imagine what it means to have a hereditary enemy. Or at least something close to it.
In the distant past, humans and alfar tried to get along in a time when the gods have spurred the races to go to war with each other. But Elmli, the alfr goddess of knowledge and Vynnwor, the alfr god of war, decided it would be best to make an alliance with one of the less brutal races.
Little did they know about the hidden nature of humans.
They’re driven by their desires, which are so strong that they’ll devour everything in the end. The alliance held a mere two hundred years, before the humans raided the alfar in a swift motion, shattering the realm of the alfar into many pieces. Most of the survivors fled, so now the alfar are in the hidden places of the world.
Since then, many alfar did their best to avoid humans or members of the other races, choosing locations far away from them for their settlements. For a while, the Feuerberg-kingdom tried to convince Aroahenn to help them in the war against the demons, but even though the treason is in distant the past, the mistrust is still in the hearts of the alfar.
At least in some of them.
And for some reason, the humans began to call them elves, which is an outright insult. They are proud to be the Ljos, part of the alfr-race. Especially since the Dökk are legendary nowadays, they have to carry that name with pride for both tribes.
So seeing Ara’ainn getting along with these humans is grinding on Aera’jos’ nerves. Even though he has deep feelings for her, it isn’t him who has done so much for her, but them. Complete strangers, who were able to get close to her.
Twenty years of courtship and he never could do so much as flirt. And in less than a week, the humans have gotten all cozy with her. Even though they brought those other humans to Aroahenn!
“Aera’jos, keep your focus.” Oro’hekk reminds Aera’jos what he is supposed to do. Watching the wannabe-intruders. Seriously, they’re still trying it. Camping around like they don’t care, shouting into the forest, like some sort of savages, they get on Aera’jos’ nerves.
Oro’hekk is a veteran, he’s almost as old as the elder, the next in line. An alfr as old as him is like a beacon of wisdom. He doesn’t call any of the guards informally so he expects that others call him by his full name. “What do you think, Aera’jos? Are both of them a thing?”
“Most likely.” Human’s desire is endless, especially their sex-drive. They’re supposed to mate with the same gender, which let any sane alfr ask: What’s the point if you can’t bear children?
Oro’hekk calls out to the rest of the group. “They’re stubborn, so instead of scaring them off again, I think harassment would be the next step. Any suggestions, everyone?”
“We could throw itching powder at them.”
“Or maybe we can call them dumans for hours behind our wards.”
“Should we put some shit in their backpacks, while they’re not looking?”
“If we do that, we should set it ablaze.”
“Or we may put it in a bag, set it on fire, and throw it at them. When they try to douse the flames, then ‘splash’!”
“How about we let them stay until one of them sleep? We knock the one on watch unconscious and then we scribble on the face of the one who’s sleeping.”
“Why don’t we take a piss on him instead?”
“Or we may sting him with a needle in the back, right into a point he can’t reach. And leave the needle in.”
“Itching powder in the underwear!”
“We could also steal their gear.”
“And throw it in a pile of shit.”
“Then we have to make a map so that they can get it back. Then they have to dig in the shit for it.”
“All of them are very good suggestions.” Oro’hekk interferes. “But I’d like to make something big, like digging up a big hole, fill it with shit. Then we pretend to lead them to the village, make them fall into the pit, then throw itching powder from above, taking a piss and call them repeatedly ‘stupid dumans’. And if anyone has any idea, how we can including the scribbling and the stealing, then everyone will be happy. Except for these humans.”
“You forget the fire.”
“And the fire! This is how the noble, alfr race does things!” Oro’hekk is really a wise leader, to able to combine so many ideas into a grand plan. “These dumans will learn, that the alfar won’t back down!”
After some brainstorming, the alfar decided to use flammable itching powder, the powdered pololpo is much stronger when burned once, but it’s such a short burst, that you can’t be hurt by it, even if you stand right in the middle of the flame explosion. Additionally, the alfar will take the equipment from the humans, before they lead the humans to the ‘village’ and scribble their faces, so that ‘everyone can see, that they’re friends’.
The plan is perfect.
Since it will take time and planning to dig the pit and find enough animals to ask to shit into it, this will take a while. But tonight, tonight they will be able to pull it off!
Later that same night.
“At least they didn’t attack today.” Yoshimura and Hoshibashi returned every single day and were chased off again.
“Why don’t we just smack these guys the next time we see them?” Hoshibashi, as a former delinquent, was the one who suggested showing the elves their determination, but also the first to get sick of getting hurt every day.
“We know too little. Even if we beat them, there might be no way to get into the village. Elves are supposed to be very secretive, so stay patient.”
“And humans are supposed to be dumb.” A familiar voice, it’s the leader of the elves. He steps out of the shadows of the campfire, his voice is clearly irritated. “So, what do you want to do today?”
Hoshibashi stands up and clenches his fists, but Yoshimura tries to calm him down with a hand motion. “No. This is a chance.” Hoshibashi sits down with his arms akimbo while staring at the elf. “Sorry about my companion, but he’s a bit angry after your treatment in the last few days.”
“You deserved it! Trespassing our territory.”
“Again, sorry. But there are reasons for this.”
“Erm… Who am I talking with?”
“Aera’jos. I’m adjutant of the guards of Aroahenn.”
“Aera’jos-san, my name is FortuneVillage. That’s my partner, StarBridge-san.” These are their surnames’ kanji in English. Both of them wanted to use aliases, just in case. “We want to talk to your people since we have much information to offer to you. And goods. We’re originally mercenaries, so we come around a lot and we heard, that you collect relics. And we have some.”
“So you have relics? In those backpacks of yours?”
“Yes. And we want to trade with you.”
“I see, I see. Even though I’m curious, from where you heard about that information. It’s a tad old, currently, we’re not that much into buying things.” He smiles slightly, so it must be good. Yoshimura is trying to get something out of Aera’jos face, but it barely moves. Only the ears twitch from time to time, but Yoshimura can’t tell what that means.
“Could you make an exception?” Yoshimura was in his [Trader]-class, which has high [Persuasion] plus the [Conversation]-ability, so he was sure, the moment they’d talk, is the moment he needs to get into the village.
“Seems like I have no choice. Let me call for some more people. And of course, you have to give us your gear, keep your underwear. It’s just for security.”
“I won’t hand you my weapons!” Hoshibashi’s weapon of choice is a greatsword he can barely lift in his [Student]-class. As secondary weapons, he uses a club and a shortsword. His hands wander to his waist, ready to use both weapons at any time, even though he lacks the [Dual Wield]-ability, which limits the effectiveness.
“StarBridge – you humans really have strange names – let me tell you this. There are five of us still in hiding and pointing their arrows at you. So you can either agree with us and come into the village, or we make sure that you won’t be able to come back. An arrow in the knees tends to end any career as a mercenary.” Aera’jos voice is laughing, it’s something which can only be described as malicious glee.
“Please, StarBridge-san, stay calm. And Aera’jos-san, would it be possible to keep at least one weapon? What about clothes? And how can armor be of any harm to you?” Yoshimura tries his best, hoping in the effect of [Persuasion].
Aera’jos looks at both humans. Then he says with a shrug: “Fine. Clothes, armor, and one weapon, but a big one. Hand over all your knives.” It worked! It actually worked!
Three of the five elves in hiding reveal themselves and take the backpacks and the weapons. Yoshimura keeps his longsword as a weapon and Hoshibashi his greatsword. Even though it packs some power, the elves don’t seem to mind.
Both of them were searched for hidden weapons, but there were none.
“Next comes the signs. Without those, you will be treated as intruders. Turn around, we’ll paint them on your faces.”
This is somewhat strange but still seems logical. Even though Yoshimura can’t help but think that Hoshibashi’s face looks kinda dumb with all these symbols. Some of them seem strangely familiar.
But looking like that, they can finally follow the four elves.
Aera’jos explains: “This is the wrong side. The entrance is about an hour walk away, so we can’t even open the wards for you on this side.”
“Ah, I see.”
The elves around Yoshimura and Hoshibashi are strangely tense. But Yoshimura couldn’t tell, if they’re smirking or if this is a stern expression. He guesses it’s the latter, bringing strangers into their village is a big risk.
So the two heroes walk mostly in silence. “We’re here.” After an hour of walking, Aera’jos explains. “See that path? It’s the entrance.”
For Yoshimura there was no path to see, but elves are supposed to be nature-bound, so they may see something as a path, a human wouldn’t even notice.
“Go on. So that we can see you clearly. Just follow the path.”
Yoshimura and Hoshibashi exchange looks, then Hoshibashi murmurs: “Just need to do it.” And walks ahead.
“Next to each other, please. And a bit more to the right.”
The heroes do like Aera’jos told them. Then they step on something, both are looking to the ground. Nothing.
“You’ve just passed the first ward. Keep going. The next few steps may be strange, but afterward, it’ll be fine.”
If Aera’jos says so, Yoshimura has no other choice but to trust him.
Both of them take the next step together, just a step before they got between the first trees. And then the ground caves in.
They fell maybe 5 meters (around 16 feet) and landed in something muddy. Just that… “*Bluargh*” Hoshibashi utters a cry of pure disgust. “Got it into my mou- SHIT!”
Yes, it’s shit. Literally. The stench, the texture, it was too dark to see clearly, but Yoshimura was sure, that it’d look like shit as well and most likely taste like it. Well, Hoshibashi got a taste.
And something comes from above. A strange powder. It got into the hair and the skin. And it itches like crazy. “And the finishing touch.” Something like a match is falling into the pit and the powder in flames.
Both of them cried out in panic, but the flames disperse as quickly as they came. But somehow… the itch got even worse! They scratched themselves like crazy, but it won’t stop.
“You need some water to wash it off, right?” Several elves are at the top of the hole, dropping their pants and showing their… things… what is that? It’s strange and weird and something, which should be put in mosaic.
Yoshimura doesn’t know, how much genitals of mammals can differ. But what he does know now is the smell of elven urine.
And one single question is torturing him: “Why!? How can you be so cruel!?” He was about to cry, feeling like a frog in the bottom of a shit-well. But in fact, they were far worse off. They’re chest-deep in the brown mass, their upper bodies itch like hell, they were tricked, humiliated and insulted.
“Tell me, human, what are we.”
“We’re the alfar. Never forget it. We don’t deal with you, dumans.”
“““““Dumans! Dumans! Nananana-dumans!”””””
“By the way, I’ll take your stuff. Don’t worry, we’ll pick you up tomorrow. Take this as a lesson and never come back again!” Then suddenly roots are growing at the top of the hole, covering it entirely. Yoshimura and Hoshibashi were left behind, robbed of their equipment and dignity.
Yoshimura can’t hold it in: “WE’RE HEROES, YOU MONSTERS!”
‘What did he say?’ Aera’jos has a good hearing, even for an alfr. ‘Heroes…’
“Good work, everyone.” Oro’hekk and the rest of the alfar, who lost the drawing, had to be the back-up, so they could just laugh and congratulate the lucky ones, who were allowed to directly interact with the humans. “Aera’jos, as expected from you. Now we need to hide their equipment far away from here and make a map, then we’re good.”
“…could I do that?” Aera’jos wants to confirm some things.
“If you like working overnight, be my guest.”
“I personally want to make this the perfect prank.” Calling this a prank is a great understatement from a human’s standpoint. But for the alfar, it was just a bit of fun time.
After talking with some of his peers about this big success, Aera’jos is running to the west. He confirms that nobody followed him, then he checks out the backpacks. Empty. Just like a hero’s. A magical backpack which can only be used by its owner. A special kind of relic.
So are they heroes? He won’t know unless he gets some proof and to do that, he will have to visit them again. It’d be better to just let it go.
But if they are heroes, then why are they chasing the other human heroes? And why didn’t they tell the alfar about the true nature of these intruders… The heroes at Ara’ainn’s side might be not what they proclaim to be.
Aera’jos knows too little and he is reminded of that. Better he hears those two out, especially since they’re in quite a predicament and that way of no harm.
Because every hero will raise Ara’ainn’s interest and everything that would proof that these three in her house are dangerous, would end up in killing them. Which would align with Aera’jos’ wishes.
He returns. Back to the root-covered hole. But the moment he saw it, the root-cover bursts open and a single, human figure jumped out it. It’s StarBridge, who’s full of shit, from head to toe, but his hair protrudes in strange ways, his eyes are glaring so much that they’re practically burning, and his teeth seem to be twice as big as before.
That’s no human, it’s a savage beast.
Aera’jos draws his bow and tries to meld with the shadows, but StarBridge is suddenly right before him, catching him by the throat and lifting him up. “UUUUURHRHRHRGHHGHG!” An inhuman sound roars from his mouth.
The alfr could practically feel, how his neck is about to break, but then another person climbed up the hole, FortuneVillage. “Hoshibashi, change!”
Suddenly, the fierceness of StarBridge vanishes and he looks only angry. Then Aera’jos is released, coughing on the ground. “Let us kill this worm.”, StarBridge demands.
“No.” FortuneVillage is also angry, but his anger is as cold as winter. “Aera’jos? Are you that?” Aera’jos only nods. “I see. There seems to be a misunderstanding and even though it took us time and we had to overcome our disgust to dive into the muck long enough to get the itchiness away, we’re still willing to talk. At least I am, I won’t be sure about Hoshibashi, I mean, StarBridge. So say me, elf, are you ready to talk?”
The air around the two of them is totally different from before. Aera’jos feels a bit of fear, but he still can deal with that much. “Was that a [Class-Change] right now?” How the wildness of StarBridge suddenly changed, after FortuneVillage gave an order, seems a lot like a [Class-Change], a hero would do.
“So you know? Yes, it was.”
“And you’re a hero as well?”
“… Here.” FortuneVillage let some kind of sheet of light appear with strange symbols on it. A hero’s status-screen. “Satisfied?”
“Do you know, if you told so from the beginning, we wouldn’t have used the pit.” Aera’jos laughs about the absurdity of this situation. “First, let me guide you to a place where you can wash you off, then we talk. You stink.”
Aera’jos might have been in a tight spot before, but he keeps his calm, despite this tad of fear. He’s a proud alfr, so he won’t be afraid of humans!
But maybe it’s time to talk to them on eye level.
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