[Get those arms moving!] Arkand’s voice contested the numerous clinks the picks emitted.
At each strike of the picks’ head, fragments of ice broke off from the frozen stream. Gradually, a depression on the stream became apparent.
Meanwhile, while the Dwarfs were carving their way through the ice, Amelia quietly sat on a makeshift platform. She was huddling on her own to fend off the cold. Needless to say, she was asked to sit out the current task—to which she obliged.
After Amelia received the information regarding the tunnels from Talya, she returned to the second relay camp and explained the situation. However, she kept quiet about Talya’s situation and told the dwarfs that she confirmed the information from Amalthea.
The dwarfs, who were present during Amelia’s instatement, knew Amelia had passed Amalthea’s trial. Thus, them believing her words without further questions.
[You seem bored.] Dresbon sat beside Amelia and gazed at the dwarfs at work.
Amelia, with closed eyes, replied, “Not really.”
[You know, you try too much.] Dresbon sighed. [You put yourself to work all the time. You should know the meaning of rest.]
“It’s not that I don’t know how to enjoy my free time or spend it luxuriously.” Amelia tightened her grasp on her cloak. “But working on something makes me feel at ease. After all, I would end up spending my entire time thinking about my problems if I took a rest. And that won’t do. It’s a waste of time. So it’s better for me to focus on one thing after another, or else I’ll go insane.”
Dresbon scratched his head. [Spend your time with the people important to you. That way, your mind would be distracted from those problems of yours.]
Amelia kept her silence in response.
No. You don’t understand. None of you would. What good would it be for me to spend my time with them if it would be the last? It would be better to change the current situation into something that would not involve ‘last occasions’. It doesn’t have to be a bitter end.
No matter how much she wanted to share her burden, she could not bear to involve unrelated people to her problems.
[Think about it,] Dresbon continued. [You and the people important to you would have a time to remember. At the same time, a time you enjoyed. Nothing beats the time spent with them.]
“… Right,” Amelia responded, trying to end the conversation.
After a few seconds of silence, Dresbon continued, [You know, Kanna’s parents, they we—]
“Stop.” Amelia glanced at Dresbon, knitting her brows in irritation. “Please don’t say anything about Kanna. It’s unappealing.”
Dresbon waved his hand in dismissal. [Sorry. My bad.]
“No, to be honest, please don’t say anything about anyone’s past here. It’s a bad taste.”
Dresbon scratched his head. [You’re right. Guess I need a better topic for conversation.]
“You absolutely do.” Amelia moved her sight towards the working dwarfs. “It’s about halfway through.”
[… Have you heard anything about us dwarf’s history?] Unmindful of the operation, Dresbon spoke.
“What of it?” Amelia questioned.
[Heard of the Gifts of the Gods?]
Amelia, curious about the topic, stared at Dresbon. “Yes. Us humans received Hero Summoning. About the others, I have no idea. But a race from the beastmen received the same, it’s just I don’t know which specific species from their collective group.”
[Neither do I. However, us dwarfs received something different. We received a tool. A shape-shifting tool. It doesn’t discriminate the type of craft we are pursuing. However, it only manifests to the dwarf who has reached the peak of his craft.]
“… Which is why Garfin, Arkand, and you focus on different crafts?”
[Precisely.] Dresbon chuckled. [And which is why, as much as possible, we need to get our hands on any material we could use. Just to reach the summit of our craft.]
[And that’s why Arkand wanted to try out that material.]
“… So you’ve heard?”
[No, but knowing Arkand, and seeing the armor he made, it was obvious. I’m pretty sure Garfin too knew about it.]
Amelia kept quiet for a moment. “Are you… going to ask for some too?”
Dresbon laughed. [No, I won’t. I don’t have anything to compensate the trade. And I don’t like debts either. It gets in the way of preparations for crafting. Anyway, let me tell you a story. A story about a person who once sought diversity like you. And to be honest, he was a dwarf. A dwarf who once wield the Tool of the Dwarf God.]
[They sure are persistent.] The fairy frowned at the sight of wyverns in the sky. [It’s like they are some sort of pest.]
[Truly,] Greith answered from within the cavern.
[How are those moles coming about? Are they still approaching through the tunnel?]
[Yes, and they’ve selected the tunnel straight to this cavern. It won’t be long till they start climbing.]
The fairy crossed her arms. [Make the goblins form a rank at the mouth of the tunnel. Then when the moles are about to reach the end of the tunnel close off their path and pit them against the goblins. After that, we’ll hunt some prey in the sky.]
[Finally.] Greith’s tail repeatedly slapped the ground from within the cavern in excitement. [I can show those birds who’s the king of the sky.]
Kanna crossed her arms. “Aren’t they taking too long?” She sat on a tree branch beside Ran. “It’s been three days since they entered the caves. This would be the fourth.”
[What do you expect?] Ran plucked a leaf nearby. [They’re entering an unexplored area. It might even take another day or two.]
“True.” Kanna swung her feet. “But we can’t stay that long. Really, I wonder why Lia took up this task with that in mind.”
Did she think that it’s her fault as to why that fairy was here? But I guess that’s normal. She was, after all, the aim of those fairies.
[I don’t think I have an idea.] Ran pressed the leaf to her lips and started whistling.
In return, Kanna listened. It did not take long before Ran’s simple performance ended.
[What do you think?]
“It’s for Tribe’s children, right?” Kanna smiled. “I’m sure they’ll be jealous and try it on their own. But despair is waiting for them if they wanted to be as good as you.”
Ran chuckled. [Then it’s appealing enough.]
“You sure like to appeal to children. But I guess that gives you a place where you could act childish.”
Ran expressed a wry smile. [It’s just that children in the Tribe is quite few, you know? And besides, what’s wrong with acting like a child? Playing the adult role is quite tiring at times. Better have an outlet now and then.]
“Hmm… I wonder. Say, Ran, why not have a child of your own?” Kanna nudged Ran on the side.
A dry laugh escaped Ran’s lips. [I actually have a preference, you know?]
Kanna tilted her head from side to side. “Someone who has a similar taste as you?”
Ran simply laughed in response. On the other hand, Kanna’s eyes widened.
“Wait, don’t tell me, you already have someone in mind?!” Kanna recalled every single person she knew in the Tribe until she arrived at one specific person. “Wait, don’t tell me, him? I mean Lia’s?”
In response, Ran moved her sight opposite of Kanna. “I-It’s a long story. But I heard he used to manage an orphanage. He’s quite popular with the children of the Tribe too. B-but nothing’s set in stone yet. I mean, we haven’t even confirmed each other’s feelings yet.”
Kanna blinked her eyes repeatedly. It was a huge development that she failed to witness since she was away from the Tribe.
“Err… Ran, this might be obvious, but humans don’t live long like every one of us. So… If by chance, prepare yourself, okay?”
Kanna could not believe it. She thought it would take years for the possibility of a part human part elf to be born within the Tribe.
Ran chuckled, still facing the other way. [It’s quite a dilemma, but I have to decide soon huh?]
“Well, Ark is about three times older than Lia. So he’s about to enter a critical age.” Kanna tapped Ran’s shoulder. “If you need information about Ark, you can ask me. I’m sure Lia will tell me something about Ark if I ask.”
Ran shook her head. [No. It’s fine. I should get to know him on my own. Relying on someone for that… doesn’t feel right.]
“Understandable. But if ever you need some help, tell me. I’m sure Lia will lend a hand.”
Ran giggled. [Thanks, Kanna.]
On the next day, at an hour before sunrise, an Elf ran towards the council. Inside were Sylvar, Kanna, Kan, and Ran discussing their current situation.
[We’ve received word from Garfin!]
[Proceed,] Sylvar ordered.
[According to the message passed through Spirit Relay, they have reached the last stretch in order to enter the dragon’s lair. They wanted to know how much time you would need to prepare the attack on our side.]
[So it was successful? The Spirit Relay?] Kan smiled with his hands on his waist.
[We have been conducting tests ever since the dwarfs entered the tunnels. So far, it’s a great success for long distance communication.]
[Alright!] Kan raised his fist into the air.
What Kan suggested from the previous council meeting was an innovation of the communication used by Laurel. A communication through the use of a horse, a messenger, and Wind Whisper. However, even though it was an effective approach compared to passing letters, the time it needed to deliver a message is proportionate to the distance.
Spirit Relay was similar in nature, but several times faster due to the spirit’s ability to communicate with other spirits. In place of a horse and a messenger, what was needed was an elf and a spirit. It was also the reason why Elves joined the Dwarfs underground—to pass the message and coordinate a simultaneous attack.
Kanna looked through the window, checking the current position of the sun. “Six hours from now.”
Sylvar nodded. [Six hours it is then. Please inform them to take a handful of rest and prepare any second plans they have. We need to use all the resources we have at our disposal. Also, tell them that we’ll pass a message when there’s thirty, twenty, and ten minutes left.]
[Understood.] The elf bowed. [Is there anything else?]
“There is.” Kanna raised her hand. “Please tell Lia to wait for me.”
[Finally,] the Goblin Queen muttered. [The chance to escape is coming.]
A mischievous smile was plastered on her face. [You’ll see who’s pitiful, oh naïve fairy of mine.]
The tunnel rumbled, startling everyone who was resting for the upcoming battle.
[Quick! Move forward! Elves at the back! Inform them that we’ll start sooner than expected!] Garfin shouted at the top his lungs. Arkand and Dresbon were doing the same. [Grab anything you can and don’t die!]
Soon, earthen spikes started to burst from the tunnel’s walls. It did not take long before the tunnel was completely blocked, separating the forward and middle group from the rear.
[Get those arms moving!] Garfin shouted.
They did not have much of a choice. Although they were mitigating the frequency of the gigantic spikes from bursting, they still had to climb the slope towards the dragon’s lair.
“What’s happening?!” Amelia questioned, wearing the armor Arkand gave her. She was similarly climbing the slope with a frown on her face.
[We’ve been found!] Garfin replied while gritting his teeth. At his utmost, he was avoiding to glance behind and count the unexpected injuries they received. [We have to leave this tunnel as soon as possible! Else we’re skewered meat! Bah! Should’ve figured we were too close!]
Amelia clicked her tongue. Similarly, she was avoiding glancing behind in order to reduce the guilt she was feeling. We have to end this quick!
However, pouring cold water over their heads, numerous figures of goblins emerged at the end of the tunnel. Round boulders were also present.
This is too soon, but!
Amelia jumped and stood on a barrier. She readied her bow and took an arrow from her quiver.
Please! Don’t miss!
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