It had been around 3 hours since the theocracy had set out from there presumably final rest stop before they came into contact with the enemy camp, based on Schoen's predictions.

It took around 45 minutes for us to realize Aran had disappeared. Presuming he did not let up his chase and continued at full speed, he would have had to have died between the 30 and 45 minute mark. Otherwise we would have found them by now. So the base is likely within an hour from our current location.

While it would be best to share his conjecture with the rest of his contingent, it was becoming far more dangerous to talk this deep in, even under the influence of [Silence]. When one was this deep into enemy territory, the slightest utterance could cause them to lose the element of surprise. Besides, they were more worried about a monster being able to hear them then an elf.

That means we need to start putting up our guards more then ever. For the time being, they could afford to be a little bit lax, but now that they were within range of their enemy, they needed to anticipate a counter attack

After walking some distance, he turned his head towards one of the towering trees in the forest, carefully inspected it, then took out a map from his breast pocket.

After hiding his body from view, he set it on the ground, and began to scribble something down.

Since the [Invisibility] spell cloaked the users weapons, armor, and anything the person was carrying, things like memo's and maps needed to be dropped before they could be used. Of course, a truly exceptional thief may be able to write with the visual stimuli, but they were outliers to the norm.

After only a second or two, he was finished with his task, and after quickly scanning the area, returned the map to its place.

The amount of elf trees in the area is increasing. Which means we're heading in the right direction. Its good there are so many of them, since the theocracy needs them more then ever for the final offensive wall.

Elf trees were differentiated from the norm by the amount of magic flowing through them. Appearance wise, they were mostly the same as any other tree, but a trained eye could detect the differences though close study. the only difference in the trees were the color of their bark, as instead of the usual deep browns of the forest, these ancient topiary's have a subtle blue coloration to them. More over, left undisturbed, they never cease to grow, leading to truly massive wooden spires that pierce through the forest canopy like swords.

Theory's on how they come to be are numerous, and there origin isn't fully understood by the theocracy, nor the elves who utilize them, but the generally agreed upon hypothesis is when large congregations of magic is created though natural phenomenon, they are absorbed into the surrounding foliage, where they then condense and reinforce the existing plant with its power.

Due to this, they were more magically resistant than a normal tree. Not to any significant degree, but it was noticeable enough that it was preferable to use them in fortifications and barricades then not, since it may stop a blow in the right moment, in the same vein as chain mail.

To put it in a simple manner, if a tree was a 1 and steel was a 10, an elf tree would be a 3.

However, isolated test have not been able to produce results, so the anomaly is still largely unexplained, much like the spawning of the undead.

And so the group carried on, making sure not to leave even the slightest trace if their presence known, avoiding rustling the nearby shrubs and the like.

That was what it meant to be in the holocaust scripture, second only in stealth to the windflower scripture.

"Ah-AHHHH!"

A shrill cry resounded out, enough to hear, even under the veil of the [Silence] Spell. It still managed to reach Schoen's ears.

Looking ahead, his magic allowed him to see the foremost member's silhouette backing away a few paces from his current position.

He Squinted at the man, wondering if he'd been to lax with them. Even when faced with ambushes, all members of the holocaust scripture wouldn't even flinch. But now he would make such a farce in such critical moments. Just as he was about to scold him, the other members started acting similarly, albeit without the noise. After a moment, one turned to him and signaled him to come over.

He signed the Message "what is it?" with a secret language taught to the scriptures for undercover missions, – supposedly it originated through the god of water – to which his subordinate replied "Problem".

Unsatisfied with the vagueness of the message, he simply sighed and made his way over. By this point, all of the other members had circled around the course of the outburst, and when he finally made it, he very nearly made the same noise.

It was their missing member, Aran.

Never mind a corpse, barely any of his armor was even recognizable, having been reduced to naught but shrapnel. The only reason they could tell the man's identity was the theocracies symbol on part of the chest plates remains. Not only that, but his body was not concentrated in one place, but instead was splattered all over the surroundings, as if he had merely spontaneously exploded.

"What... could have done this?" Normally he would censor speaking aloud, but he nearly did it himself upon seeing the corpse. Plus they were still under [Silence], so he was willing to let it go.

The elves were certainly savages from the theocracies point of view, but it certainly didn't extend this far. This was far too unlike their behavior up to this point.

Did we stray to far from the path...

A thrill of cold ran through him, and without making any excessive movements, he once again removed the map from his pocket, quickly parsing through the path the had taken. Only when he had confirmed that they did not wander into The lords domain did he release the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

Using the opportunity to inspect the body, he took a close look at the crime scene.

Despite the fact that he had been ripped apart, none of the body seemed to have been eaten. Massive chunks of meat had still been left over, and there were no beast footprints to indicate a culprit. The only animals in these woods capable of such a feat would definitely be carnivorous.

While he was still looking for some sort of identifying clue, it appeared his subordinates had already found one.

"Schoen-Kakka, We found some footprints near these bushes. They look elf made.

Humans technically had the same footprints as elves, but there would be no humans other then them this deep in the forest.

He nodded in approval, and after a few seconds delay, made to follow them

After following them for around a minute, they suddenly stopped. Likely jumping into the trees above. Perhaps leaving a blood trail as well. Looking up however, he was met with a mind boggling sight.

It looked as if they had stumbled into a building of some kind with how perfectly the trees around them had formed. It was a near perfect circle shape, giving a natural form of defense to any who would rest here. A jungle oasis, if you will.

They had apparently happened upon a rare portion of forest that had become a cluster of elf trees. They were hard to come by, mostly because existing one were made into villages before the theocracy could utilize them.

I'll have to keep special note of this area. Not only is there a ton of resources for us, but it could become an elven settlement if we leave it be.

He went to reach for his map for the third time, but then an odd feeling washed over him, however it was not the chill of death, but rather a cloak of unease that didn't seem to go away.

We're being watched.

He extended his hand, And once more, the soldiers fell in line. stopping at there immediate positions to await further instruction.

[Silent Magic – Hawks eye]

He felt his range of vision expand greatly, and the most minute of details in his surroundings became crystal clear to him. But now that he was on alert, he would have been able to tell something was amiss even without that ability.

Despite the area around them being seemingly devoid of the touch of mankind, looking closer, Schoen could tell that not all was as it seemed.

Firstly, the area they stood upon was a small clearing which was approximately 10x10 meters. But despite the large surface area, it was almost completely clear of foliage, where before they had been hard pressed to even find a clearing to place there magic items previously. More then that, with the aid of his spell, he could see parts of the grass were not properly aligned with the others, as if they had been grown at completely separate times.

His eyes narrowed, and he cast another spell.

[Silent Magic - Elephant Ear]

He perked his ears in the silence of the forest, trying to pinpoint a singular sound, slowly drowning out the sounds of the forest to find the sonance he was looking for.

A trees leaves rustling...

A branch falling...

The Breeze fluttering through the trees...

Until...

He could her the distinct sound of a vine or rope taking on tremendous strain, a light creaking noise, the source of which seemed to be applying the pressure at a very slow rate, trying to minimize the sound that came from the contraption. It sounded relatively distant, at least 100 meters away, but he was certain he was not mistaken.

So that's it.

Completely uncharacteristically of a espionage trained soldier, he lightly brushed one of the shrubs around him with his hand, but did so in a unorthodox way, so his body was nowhere near the point of impact.

Thwang

Without warning, the area he had just disturbed now had a foot long shaft sticking out from the ground,

He clicked his tongue, which was reciprocated with the sound of another loosed arrow.

Immediately throwing himself in the direction of the noise, he guarded his face with the armguards on his wrist, and when a sudden burst of sparks came forth in the next moment, it was obvious why he had.

The drudic arrow that had made contact with the mythril shell fell to the ground, its purpose now complete.

Having deemed this action as an attack, the [Invisibility] spell wore off, and a torrent of wood and steal rained down.

A counter attack this early?

While he had counted the possibility, it was still an unexpected turn of events.

"[Wall Of Protection From Arrows!]"

Since they knew their location, wasting mana on the silent meta-magic was worthless now.

As the words left his mouth, a jade dome surrounded the group, and just as its name suggested, the fleet of projectiles turned itself away from the group, falling haplessly to the ground and blending in with the twigs that surrounded them.

The difference in strength between the caster and shooter effected the chance projectiles would be turned away, as well as the weapon and ammo type itself.

Since he had made half of there attack obsolete in one move, he turned his attention to the group of warriors that were now rushing them down from beyond the brush.

He could tell by the fact that they possessed more gear then the others above that they were the strongest of the hand to hand fighters, being equipped with theocracy broadswords, and patchwork leather with metal armor within.

Trash, in other words.

Nonetheless, the contingent through themselves at them, each member dealing with around 3 elves each. A paltry number for people at there level. But sson enough it would be his turn. A large and well built elf appeared to be sprinting directly towards him, and after reaching a suitable distance, jumped into the air.

[Slash!]"

What a basic attack...

Even they, who had focused almost entirely on their magic skills, knew martial arts at that level. It could just barely be considered above the beginners level.

A martial art like that told him all he needed about his opponents skill level, and he let a smirk crawl onto his face.

The sword crashed into his, and the Shing of metal against metal reverberated into his ear. Preparing to enjoy the look of fear that would soon wash over the elves face as he should him how utterly superior he was to him.

With that being said however...

Was it my imagination, or was a pushed back a little?

Strangely enough, he felt his arms being strained slightly from the impact.

No no, I must've just not being using much strength because I was subconsciously holding back too much. Muscles aren't for show after all. Yes, I just made a small miscalculation.

Perhaps in an attempt to prove that to himself, he used an excessive amount of force to knock the blade to the side, wrenching it from his hands. And with that, he raised his sword up high. Had the canopy of leaves not been in the way, the gleam of the sun in the cold steal would have been a beautiful sight to behold.

"[Slash!]" He could have finished him off normally, but he did wish to mock the elf a tad, using his own move – probably considered a finishing move by him – as a simple attack to use when it was clearly not needed. As if to say "Your all so weak I can waste resources on you, and still win".

The strong had that privilege.

Just as he was about to lob his head clean off, he felt a strike at his left shoulder, and the distinct sound of wood clattering reached his ear. He paid the fleeing elf no mind, as his eyes focused in on the projectile that had apparently struck him.

An arrow, had hit him.

He looked up to see his barrier was still in place, which meant that somehow one of the arrows had made it through. That alone wasn't enough to worry him, since the spell only had a chance to turn them away. One slipping through the cracks wasn't something to cause worry.

But looking around he saw the sight being increasingly common. While not that many in the grand scheme, a suspicious amount of arrows were piercing through the

How! Even if he did not know the exact statistics, the chance that all of these arrows had merely gotten lucky was absurd. It was considered to be 50% against equal opponents, so unless divine luck had descended upon the elves, something else was at work.

While not a lot were hitting there mark, and they would not do any real damage, it could cause a momentary distraction, which can mean quite a bit in a life or death battle.

Even if the possibility of losing was zero, they may lose a member in the worst case scenario.

I need to interrupt their formation.

Easier said then done of course. The tactic they were using was not something he'd ever seen, and the amount of them in the air meant dealing with them singlehandedly was almost impossible. He needed something with a lot of range to deal with them.

Luckily, he had just that.

As a general rule of thumb, all theocracy soldiers carried a number of potions on them at all times. 3 was the amount carried, as any more would be both expensive, and potentially useless.

Of course, since potions were valuable, only the top brass got to enjoy that luxury. The common foot soldier was occasional given a healing potion for emergencies, but that too was not always the case.

The type of potion was typically left to the soldiers own choice. Some carried only healing-type potions, some went for more practical buffs, while most tended to mix and match.

Then what did Schoen have for his ace in the hole?

A healing potion.

A buff-type potion.

And lastly–

.

.

.

"Take this you bastards!" one of the theocracy soldiers had roared, before tossing some unknown object in Eris's direction. As a member of one of the theocracies elite units, throwing an object such a distance was child's play.

So far the battle had been going somewhat favorably. While she didn't know how many had perished, the fact was that the plan that had been made by that monster was proving to be a rather excellent example of scheming, though she didn't want to admit it.

Despite the protection spell they had cast, a surprising number of arrows were making it through. Even if they were outmatched in skill, it seemed luck was on their side at least.

Just as she was contemplating getting closer, the enemies shout had grabbed her attention, and she saw him tossing out an attack of some sort.

Since it was being thrown, it was likely a dagger or some other small projectile. Though it may hit someone suspended in the air, the likelihood was low. So she was about to turn her attention elsewhere, but the glint from the suns rays caught her eye.

Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be a vial filled with some sort of liquid, but what type was unknown.

Poison?

If that was the case, then the mans strategy was idiotic. Phials of poison were used for coating weapons, and the substance itself was rarely used as an attack itself.

The vial sailed through the air, missing the mark by quite a substantial distance. She was just about to toss a remark his way, when her body began to tense up. These instincts which had yet to fail her were screaming to her brain something was wrong, and she made to turn at the bottle once more. Up close like this, it was clear to see what filled the container.

The phial was filled to the brim with an almost clear liquid, but it had a muted gray as an underlying color as well. Yet it also seemed to gleam with every color of the rainbow in the light, as if it was unable to decide its hue.

Wait that's...

"[Fireball!]"

the argent ball sailed through the air, heedless to her wishes, and soon enough–

"No!"

–Collision.

It had taken a second, but she knew that vial was been filled with a special type of alchemical solution. Though she did not know the exact name she had seen it in action , its main purpose was for burning down swafts of land and buildings, since the compound was extremely flammable.

She had only a few seconds to act – No, a few fractions of a second – before she was completely immolated from the surging ball of heat

Pouring over every option, her overheating brain was trying its very best to retaliate the deathly scenario with a counter.

She could attempt to twist her body to have the brunt of the blow be taken by a less important area, but there was no telling how large the blast would be. Even then, the flames would surely leave her incapacitated.

She could try to block it with the small steel buckler attached to her waist, but there was not enough time to grab it at present, especially when suspended in midair.

She could use one of the elves around her as a platform to jump away, but her morals would not allow it.

There was simply not enough time.

"[Dull Pain!]" Having just barely enough time to shout out those words before the raging gale burned her lungs away, she threw her arms in front of herself to shield her face from harm and taking the brunt of the flames.

Just as soon as she did so, a wave of heat and force crashed into her, searing the appendages, as well as the few unlucky elves who were also in the blast zone. She could feel strands of her hair burning away from the magically induced calefaction.

Gritting her teeth to bear the pain of her flesh being seared, she merely attempted to keep her mind The resulting force from the spells explosion was too much for her body to bear, roughly tossing her into one of the trees many openings, as she crashed to the floor. With the structures lacking amount of width, she was certain to tumble off, a fall that would undoubtedly be her last.

Rather then collapsing like a puppet however, she used the momentum of the fall to roll herself into a somersault, and when she reached the end of the opening, gripped the very edge of the tree and jumped to the next with the strength from her arm alone, landing squarely on her feet.

That was not possible.

The movement was perfect. Too perfect. In fact she nearly threw herself off balance by how unexpectedly well she was able to preform that technique.

It felt like pure muscle memory, as if she had practiced the fluid movement time and time again to be able to preform it without issue, until it had become second nature. That was what she had just felt.

"H-How did I just..." staring at the same limbs that had just accomplished that incredible display of acrobatics, shocked that they were her own. Furthermore, despite her arms being engulfed in the outward flames of the [Fireball], they were not nearly as badly burned as the should be. What should have been pitch black and barely functioning ligaments were only red and raw. An annoyance to be sure, but not to the level of being unable to fight.

Clasping and unclasping her hands, she merely looked at the floor with wide eyes, as if in refusal that the limbs she was using were hers.

"Folia-Sama! Snap out of it! We need to keep up the pressure on them while we had the chance! We lost some of the archers, but we can keep going!"

"R-Right!"

Despite her injuries and confusion, she couldn't simply stay out of sight forever. She was the commander of the unit after all.

Since her bow was badly burnt up in that last attack, she was left with little choice but to engage directly. It would only be good for one more shot. Strapping her buckler to her arm and steeling her resolve, she leaped out of her hovel.

With suspended in the air, she had a clear view of the battle. They had been attacking in waves to ensure no one person was stuck facing a superior opponent, but that did not mean there were no casualties.

27 dead... 20 or so probably perished in that explosion, so 47... that's definitely within acceptable range. Accessing that the battle was still falling within expected perimeters, she felt her spirit get a substantial boost, as things had not yet taken a turn for the worse.

Catching an arrow on the newly created flames from the previous attack, she proceeded to kick herself off the elf tree to gain some more momentum.

Aiming for the soldier who was closest in proximity, she bent her body into a diving kick position to more easily slide forward on the ground, and in turn positioning herself in an awkward angle that would be hard to dodge. While the protection spell was still active, it meant nothing if the projectile came from within the barrier.

48...

Just as the soldier had slit the neck of his current opponent, he turned just in time to see the flaming arrow being launched from out underneath him. Had he been even a fraction of a second slower, it may have hit an unprotected section of armor. However it only traced a line across his helmet, trailing with sparks as it went.

He extended a hand out to cast a spell, but as her sword was about to reach him, he merely clicked his tongue and drew his own to meet hers.

Another hidden reason a battle like this was advantages to the elves was due to the close quarters fighting, the theocracy could not rely on there main method of attack; magic.

They were trained to be magic casters first and foremost, however, it was true that many of there most destructive spells were dangerous in close quarters. Which meant they needed to rely on there second rate sword skills.

"Cheh!" the soldier grunted as they exchanged blades, sparks flying from the clashing of steel as she used her own sub optimal skills to block and parry. She wasn't too worried however. Over time, things would get easier, she would become accustom to his moves and blows overtime, so an opportunity to strike back would definitely come.

[Ability boost!]" as if reading her thoughts, he activated a martial art once she had finally gotten used to the weight of his swings, and the enhanced blow knocked her off her guard. Her arm was sent reeling, and a sword came at her throat in the same instance.

"[Fortress!]" She activated her martial art, and the force behind the blow was negated. The sharp edge still managed to nick her, but luckily it had not reached her jugular.

She could hear his teeth clicking at his failed execution, but that was simply a moral boost to her. Getting under the nerves of there opponent couldn't be called anything but a boon.

And so the battle continued, parrying and dodging as much as she was able, with a single failure meaning death. But she was undeterred. Sooner or later, and opening to swap with someone would present itself. She just needed to stall for time until then.

"[Ability Boost!]" making use of the mans own technique, she slammed his sword to the side, and aimed for his defenseless neck in the same fashion he had done.

She thrust it forward, already planning the next move for the inevitable riposte–

"Graaugh..!

–Then the steel of her blade met flesh.

Finding its way through the gap in the mans armor, it pierced though the thin chainmail, and her sword found itself in the mans clavicle.

While not the fatal strike she would have liked, and the cut was not especially deep, the blow did land.

For a moment, she couldn't believe her eyes, but she snapped herself out of it as quickly as the thought came, and ripped the weapon free from its human sheathe.

Once the sword was relinquished, both parties backed away, and started at the other with disbelief in there eyes.

""That's not... possible...""

It seemed both of them had the same thought. Even if she was unable to see his face due to his helmet, she was sure that his expression was one of absolute shock.

"[Dull Pain!]"

As the name suggested, it was a defensive marital art that lowered the amount of pain felt. Despite being a lower tier martial art, it was still used due to its utility. It must have been because the location of the cut was problematic, and his sword arm would exacerbate the wound.

Snapping out of his trance, he leaped at her at breakneck speed, – Perhaps under the influence of another martial art – His sword was thrown down, aiming for a slash across the torso. The blade shone with a teal light, a clear sign of the [Slash] martial art. Even if they weren't melee focused, there magic items and overall strength still made that a deadly blow.

A deflection from her buckler stopped that plan right in its tracks. Making such a powerful swing was quite literally a double edged sword, since as a mage, he did not have enough muscle to swing it again in time for a parry or block.

Despite that–

"[Lightning!]" A bolt of blue shot from his free hand, aimed at her sword arm, an unexpected angle for him to take. But soon she learned the reason, as the crackling energy filled her muscles, the direction of her sword was sent in a completely random direction, giving the man an ample opportunity to

She didn't have time to check on the state of her arm from a 3rd-tier attack spell, but as long as it was still functional, she could still fight.

Thus, their back and forth continued once more.

As a person who had lived a good chunk of her life in battle, she thoroughly knew what she could and could not do. She was herself, after all, and thus new herself best. And nearly everything that had transpired in this battle firmly placed itself in the latter category.

She tried her best to think of explanations, but nothing made even an inkling of sense. Even being generous and claiming it was adrenaline was right out.

Somehow the invisible gap between her and her opponents had been closed in such a short amount of time, and she was now on equal grounds with a top-class opponent.

However it seemed her opponent was growing restless. His attacks were growing increasingly frantic and risky, trying to land a deciding blow. Choosing to take advantage of this, she carefully timed

Just as she thought, a sword thrust forth. With speed that once seemed blinding to her, she crouched her body low, just barely avoiding the blade as it chipped on her armor. With the opportunity available, she pressed her attack.

Yet another slash raked its way across flesh, this time it had cut deep into his unprotected underarm, effectively rendering It useless. Even under the influence of [Dull Pain], too many important muscle groups were damaged to properly use it in any meaningful capacity.

And what that meant–

using all her strength, she threw her blade against the man's throat, nearly severing it in the process, and his body collapsed neatly to the ground.

A Few battles taking place around her stopped momentarily to gawk at what had just been done, as neither side could not comprehend the reality of the situation.

"""[Magic Arrow!]"""

Without hesitation, the soldiers who were not occupied fired their magics at the elf, now identified as the main threat to them, and the spears of magic flew forth.

Did something happen that could have... dammit, don't think! "Act!" Still caught in her ruminations, she quickly jumped upwards to avoid the fletchets of light that sailed past. She chastised herself for getting so caught up in her thoughts once more. The midst of life or death was not the time for contemplation.

The three who had targeted her had another volley of opponents drop in front of them, so they were unable to give chase.

Searching for her next target, she went after one of the casters who had aimed at her previously. It was also the man who had tossed the solution from earlier. His focus seemed to be elsewhere, but that meant it could be a good chance to kill him.

He's strong. Her ever reliable instincts told her that he was a cut above the rest. Things would not go as lucky as the had with the previous opponent.

Yet just as she was about to make her move, he had vanished into the underbrush.

"Dammit..." cursing under her breath, she could only lament her luck. losing sight of powerful opponents like that was almost synonymous with death. He was undoubtedly planning some nefarious scheme to win like he had done Previously.

But with plenty of fighting around them and more on they way, she didn't have time to wait and see what that agent was planning. She they would simply need to deal with whatever schemes he had planned when the time came. Standing in place looking for the enemy wasn't going to get her anything except killed.

Changing targets, she set her sights on a soldier who was currently struggling with another one of her contemporaries, aiming for his defenseless back, in an attempt to tag-team the man.

.

.

.

How in the hell are we losing to these damn tree huggers!? He screamed this in his mind as he dispatched the elf in front of him, heaving his chest with each breath, a tell tale sign of exhaustion.

As this battle continued onward, he had begun to understand that these elves they were facing somehow exceeded the norm. they were strong. The fact that he'd used his two other potions were proof of that. Luckily, none of them reached the level of hero's, which could be considered a boon, but the fact he had to even think that was ridiculous.

He had realized this quite some time ago, but the theocracy was quickly losing ground in this battle. What should have been a clean sweep had turned into a painful back and forth that was eating away at their valuable forces. Quite frankly, the fact that they had even lost a single soldier in this scuffle was egregious.

Even if they still had 80% of there original forces still in the fight, That could easily change now that things had progressed the way they had.

Could they be the progeny of the elf king?

Indeed, if some of these elves were spawned from that monster, there was a chance that they could evolve to this level. In fact they had dealt with that same problem a few times already.

That theory also had flaws however. In the first place, those had been isolated incidents, with only a single powerful elf that turned the tide, with a variety of skills and the like. Saying the hundreds of elves before them were the same was too far a stretch to make. The strength between individuals varied as well.

Those elves had also been equipped with powerful magic items, while the rabble before them was outfitted rather shabbily.

Something was clearly awry.

Should I flee and report to the theocracy on this?

Losing his fighting strength would definitely make this fights odds lean towards the elves, which was highly was a problem, but it was also true this would continue to repeat itself if the theocracy wasn't made aware.

While he could abandon them and use the opportunity to flee, he did not won't to lose so many of there valuable personnel. Even if the loss wasn't fatal, since they could always train more, training took time, and finding the talent able to go through with it took even more. it was still a very damaging hit regardless.

There was also his personal value, which was quite high as well. Even if it could be perceived as arrogance by other, the fact was that he was strong, and people like him were valuable to his nation.

On the flip side, running away from a battle did not look good in his position. It would not be wrong to claim that his actions reflected the theocracy, as he was one of the heads of their scriptures. Demotion was a possibility as well, however unlikely, but if he could warn his compatriots of an encroaching threat, they would likely turn the other way.

Besides, losing was still not the guaranteed outcome for them.

Just as he was decided how he should proceed next, a foul scent hit his nostrils, causing his entire body to freeze in place. It was a stench that any who had spent a decent amount of time in the field would recognize.

The stench of death.

But this was not the simple stench of mere decomposition. This scent came from one source and one source only.

Under normal circumstances, such an odor would have been odd, but nothing extraordinary. They had a battle to win after all. However, his country was in a special set of circumstances, which changed the emotion he would have felt from cautious, to abject terror, as such a scent could only be attributed to one source.

The sorcerer king!?

Indeed. Though it may have been just a random undead that had wandered its way into this neck of the woods, the likelihood of that was extremely low.

Not only did undead rarely spawn in the forest, – practically none – but in the rare events where it did occur, they were swiftly dispatched by either the local wildlife, or the natives of the area. Though the chance it had spawned from a corpse from their prior raids was possible, they had been quite thorough in expunging the bodies, and even if one slipped through the cracks, a single carcass would not be enough to naturally transform.

Attempting to stay natural, his eyes slowly shifted to the source of the scent, and sure enough, he had found it.

Around maybe 30 meters away, he could spot a pitch black thing attempting to hides

Did he plan all of this would happen and is using the war as a method of weakling the theocracy before destroying us all in one fell swoop? From when? The beginning?

He looked back in the direction of the undead creature, not enough to cause suspicion in it, but just enough to take in the situation from afar. It didn't seem to be doing anything as of yet, but time would only tell if that would remain true for long.

Should he take it down before it learns anymore?

Gazing back at the battlefield, the holocaust scripture was being forced on the back foot bit by bit. Though the battle could still be called somewhat even, it would not remain that way for long, especially with one less person on their side to balance the scales.

The other option was his original plan, to flee, with the added addendum of slaying this spy and alerting the theocracy to it's presence.

He weighed the two options out in his head. Should he prioritize his mission and rejoin his unit, or should he attempt to take down the undead and report its existence and by extension, the underlying machinations of the sorcerer king,

Something was causing the elves to put up much more resistance then normal. Their tactics had drastically changed form the norm, and had thrown them completely off their game, not to mention the sudden power boost they had received in seemingly no time at all. It was almost as if–

All of a sudden, the pieces in his head fell into place at once. The unnatural strength, odd tactics, all of it. Now it all made sense. the The undead wasn't here because the sorcerer king was watching the war–

It was backing it.

If that really was the case, then the undead may actual be intended as reinforcements, rather then to watch over the proceedings. Or maybe it was both.

His decision was made in that moment.

Using both [Silent magic – Invisibility] and [Silent magic – Silence], he practically through himself though the underbrush, utilizing every single skill he had learned over the years to remain undetected, until his target was within reach.

Now that he was within range, he could clearly see just what type of monster he was up against.

It was dreadfully thin, with arms that seemed to resemble withered branches rather then ligaments, with mattered armor and clothing that hung loosely to its form, almost making it appear as a cloud of smog, however a thick cloud of it already hung of it, and that combined with its tattered equipment told him all he needed.

Without a doubt, it was an undead.

"That bastard, he really is backing the elves isn't he?"

A glance told him that this wasn't the garden variety of undead. It was clearly a cut above the rest. And undead like that didn't simply spawn out of thin air. Well, not usually anyway.

Luckily, the undead hadn't seemed to have noticed him just yet, which gave him a prime opportunity to take it down in one fell swoop.

He took a few steady breaths to calm his nerves, before engaging in an act that could quite possibly change the fate of his entire nation.

He extended a hand, and prepared to relinquish the meager amount of mana left in his body to finish of the creature. Even activating his special skill to utilize the [Triplet] meta-magic.

"[Maximize magic – Fireb–!]"

A tightening sensation, followed by a sudden weightlessness. That was all his mind could process before his body smashed into the ground with tremendous force. A mixture of spittle and blood flew from his mouth before that orifice was soon close off by some unknown object.

The human brain can not recover from states of shock so quickly, nor did he posses any skills or classes to aid in that process, so for the moment, his world was spinning, left in absolute confusion, unable to do a thing other then attempt to re-adjust.

Just as he got his barring's however, a sharp pain hit his chest, immediately followed by an immense feeling of lightheadedness and blurry vision. He felt like the inside of his brain was being flooded with the greatest of feelings, turning everything the man ever knew into mush, and replacing it all with one singular desire.

Everything was–

He needed to–

It–

.

.

.

"Let's see here, what type of questions do I wanna ask you?" Punitto was ready to jump for joy now that he had a perfect specimen right before his eyes. A practical font of knowledge on his enemy. What more could he possibly ask for?

Once he had successfully lured this specimen into his capture range, he used his vine appendage to throw him into the ground and inject him with one of the many poisons his plant body could produce. The one he had used was more of a powerful drug, that would make the victim experience a pleasure unlike any other, turning many of the brains other functions into serotonin receptors, enhances the persons feelings of gratification tenfold. Once taken, withdraws could start as soon as a few minutes after ingestion.

At least, that was the description in YGGDRASIL. In game it just translated to a hypnosis inducing poison.

"More! I-I need–!"

"Yes, yes, I'll give you some if you answer every one of my questions. Without exception. Make it as exact as possible as well." The drug didn't destroy brain functions, it just lowered they're priority in the body. So it wasn't as if he was unable to give info. Otherwise, the skill would be useless.

Like a dog, his head shook up and down vigorously, a clear declaration of submission and

"Who were you referring to when you said 'That Bastard' after looking at my undead?"

After seeing the way the soldier panicked upon sensing the undead, along with the unusual fervor he had in chasing it down in his attempt to destroy it, he felt something may have been off.

Hearing that line just sealed that conclusion for him.

"Yes! I was referring to the sorcerer king! A mighty undead that has taken the world by storm and founded a nation nearby known as the sorcerer kingdom! Its a nation filled to the brim with undead, and is shrouded in secrecy! Currently we are planning on destroying it as soon as possible for the good of all mankind, and erasing that scourge from history! I had assumed the undead belonged to the sorcerer king, and was attempting to expunge it before it could interfere with our battle, or report back to him!"

He was a single question in, and the amount of useful info he had managed to obtain made him ecstatic.

Looks like that rumor about a newly formed nation was true after all... And filled with undead to boot...

Just learning that nation existed was vital to his future plans. Knowing his surroundings and what was out in the world was something that didn't just apply to YGGDRASIL, but life in general. Knowing a powerful nation had formed was definitely something he needed to watch out for.

Still, the undead huh?

Undead were never a particularly powerful race in the grand scheme of things, but they were one of the most annoying. There frequency in dungeons, combined with there annoying sets of resistances made them an enemy that stuck around far longer then one would like.

Hm, there immunities to poisons and the like are a bit of a pain for me, and I don't have any holy or fire magic, so I can only take advantage of their bludgeoning weakness with my sub-par physical attack. Well, I do have access to that if it ever came down to a confrontation between us, assuming it isn't too powerful...

Head on fights were never his forte, as he was a summoning and buffing specialist, but it was always a good idea to prepare ahead for what could be.

If he were to use his guild leader of old as an example, he would probably have a 50/50 chance of victory. They had similar play styles, along with some build overlap, and neither of them possessed many options for exploiting the weakness of the other. Therefore they could be considered roughly on par with each other.

But even then, he had no skills to negate his trump card, barring magic items, so in the end, Momonga would likely be victorious if they were to go all out. And while his own could be effective in the right situation, it was not guaranteed, not to mention [The Goal Of All Life Is Death] could completely negate it, so he would need to wait for it to be expended in some form.

However, if he could do that, then victory shouldn't be an issue.

That, however, was not the problem.

A coin flip fight was never something he would engage in willingly.

But if I think about it clearly, the untiring undead would make a perfect army, since they don't need sleep or what have you to function. When you think of it that way, its no wonder human nations like the theocracy would try to take it down as soon as possible. He turned his head to the drooling mess before him. Also explains this ones fervor. I guess thinking the enemy was right at your doorstep would panic anyo–!

The implication of his words slammed into him like a truck. And ever so slowly, a invisible smile began to creep its way upon his face.

"The undead might be more useful then I thought...

If the theocracy was under the assumption that an enemy nation was encroaching on their territory, while nothing of the sort was happening, it could lead to all manner of mistakes and wrong plays. They may panic and retaliate with much greater force then necessary. If that happened, he would happily watch from the side as he gained the info and their fighting force.

Or he could spread false rumors of the sorcerer kings presence by spawning undead in the forest, then selling the information to the theocracy under a proxy summon to receive all manner of items and goods in exchange. Or even better, more information.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend after all~

It could cause the elves future relations with that king to deteriorate down the line if the falsehoods were ever discovered, but that was of little concern to him. He was practically a third party as far as he was concerned.

Sorry mister undead, but I'm gonna be borrowing your reputation for a little while.

Before any of that however, he needed the answer for a specific question. It changed his previous queries a little, but everything chances in accordance with circumstance.

"Where Is the sorcerer kingdom located? How did it come to be?"

Now that he knew just what sort of kingdom was out there, it rose several notches in his priority list of things to watch out for. He wanted to know how such a thing was able to occur, unless national takeovers were common in this world.

Besides, even seemingly useless information could tell quite the tale for those with a discerning eye.

"Of course! The Sorcerer kingdom originally only comprised of the fortress city E-Rantel, as well as the surroundings Katze plains. He obtained it after colluding with the Empire's emperor, Jircniv Rune Farlord El Nix and singlehandedly winning the war between the kingdom and empire with a single spell. No one other then those on the battlefield know the specifics though! After that, the sorcerer kingdom was formed by rights, and eventually it grew to span the entire kingdom, after the sorcerer king declared war as retribution for attacking their carriages! Erasing the kingdom and turning it into nothing but rubble!"

"Hm, no surprises there I suppose."

Undead typically had evil dispositions in YGGDRASIL, and many quest involving them made them out to be evil masterminds, either seeking domination, power, knowledge, or a combination of the three.

"Then next... Actually, I should check if this guy has any magic items on him. That was a bit foolish for me to forget that." Anyone with a lick of sense would bring a magic item or two the the field of battle to increase there odds of survival. While the elves did not have the luxury, as they could only re-purpose the enemies weaponry for the most part, a well equipped army should have access to them right?

To his disappointment however, most of his items must have been used in the battle, since every pocket and space for potions and the like was either empty, or just had nothing of worth inside other then a actually detailed map, which he greatly appreciated. Just as he was about to give up however, he found something strange hidden within the mans breast pocket.

"Hm? What's this?"

The item was a small potted plant with various runes and sigils around the rim of the pottery. It was exceedingly small, and due to his large frame, the pot seemed almost comical when he held it within his left claw.

Before he could jog his memory, his personal drug mule jumped to answer his idle musings

"It's a magic item that was given to me by the cardinal of earth for the purposes of clearing or mission as quickly as possible! known as [Green Secret House.] it is able to create a large housing that can hold up to 20 people at a time, and is equipped with various household appliances . The outside appearance takes the shape of a large tree, and the entrance is concealed with magic, so unless the other party knows of its existence, it is impossible to find its location. In addition..."

Though the soldier continued to drone on about the wondrous utilities and uses of the item, Punitto had mostly tuned him out for now. He knew this item's capabilities very well. Likely more then this soldier did by quite a large margin.

"Well how about that! Looks like this little stunt was worth far more then I thought!

The item was considered mid to high tier in game, only being outclassed by spells designed with stealth in mind. But that didn't mean it was perfect, just time and place needed to be accounted for. For example, While it did change its appearance slightly to match the surroundings, A single dead tree in the desert would be extremely out of place.

But then a though – How did someone from this world obtain an YGGDRASIL item? Luckily an easy way to learn was right before him.

"Alright then, lets move away from the sorcerer kingdom to ask this. How did your nation obtain this item?" He turned back to the man, expecting to find the same slack jawed druggie from before, but instant he simply saw the sprawled out body of a soldier.

The light held within his eyes had been extinguished, and what remained was little for then a human shaped sack of flesh and bone.

He had died.

"How could he have died!? I made sure to test that skill on the local wildlife!" He had used it on a variety of creatures before he attempted this, and none of them had expired from exposure, nor overexposure, and all acted within their expected behavior.

He had tested the poison on various kinds of creatures while he was waiting, trying to find any sort of flaw with the method, however, no matter how much he injected, nothing seemed to go awry with the victims bodily functions. Presumably due to the fluid being magic in nature, it most likely prevented the body from going into shock or the like to keep them docile for as long as possible?

"Was there... some kind of fail safe? Did he activate some kind of magic item to silence himself, or maybe he used the old trick of hiding a cyanide pill in his mouth?" While they were both solid guesses, his strip search earlier proved he had no magic items that could do so. The poison theory was still up in the air, but his body showed no signs of dying in that manner.

"Could another party have killed him to keep him quiet when they noticed me? Even if that was the case, I have summons warning me of anything approaching my location for hundreds of meters! So unless he was killed with some long distance spell, then how could–!"

A flash of inspiration struck as he spoke those words. Long distant instant deaths spells were not common, and had clear cut rules on how they functioned. But none of them worked in the way he was imagining. Which left him with a horrifying conclusion.

Spells existed in this world that did not exist in the game.

"Rules" were merely a construct of the game world to keep things from being unbalanced. But now that he had entered a new world, that was no longer the case.

Who is to say a spell that causes instant death from worlds away could not exist?

It was far too soon to conclude that was the case, since a sample size of one wasn't exactly full proof, but he felt like his instincts were on the mark this time.

"Maybe I could grab another one from the battle? No... its too late for that." with how fast the battle had swayed to one side, it was evident it would not be lasting much longer. In fact, it may very well be completed already. Even if it hadn't, it would be nearly impossible to nab another guinea pig without being seen with how thinned out their ranks had become.

But putting aside the matter of test subjects, a new fear bloomed in him now that he was aware of just how naïve he had been about this world.

He immediately considered the fact that there could be beings on par with him, but he had not considered for a moment that level 100 may not necessarily be a limit in this world. The restrictions of a game had vanished, and what was left was the cruel world of reality.

That thought immediately made him rethink his current strategy. If that was true, and he ran into something completely above him in power, he would simply perish. Something he was highly against.

But then again, even if that was the case, how common could they possibly be? Everything so far was quite weak by his standards, but there was no telling how far that extended.

He was conflicted.

While he did get a nice reward in the form of his brand new base of operations, the information he managed to seize was not nearly to the level he was hoping to get, since his has perspired much quicker than anticipated, but it also proved that his opponents were in positions that were privy to a lot of information.

The way he saw it, he had two options. The first was simple acceptance. Cutting his losses and moving on to greener pastures. Since he had a decent-good grade magic item now, he could possibly appear in other locations, and watch the proceedings from the shadows to learn more information until he felt confident enough to act.

But on the flip side, where could he go that would possess such info rich people just ripe for the taking? This maneuver was risky yes, but from a single attempt, he already learned a great deal of information, and even a powerful magic item

Which left the second option, that being...

"Hahhhhh... shit."

.

.

.

Two members. That was how many people were left to fight off the horde of elves that threatened to take there lives just like the rest.

None of this made any sense. They had being doing the same thing for the past month, and it had never failed them. Squadron after squadron had fallen beneath their boots, without even the slightest bit of effort from them.

So how was it that despite that fact, this group had managed to wipe out one of the most skilled members of their nation?

As the two were musing over such things, the green light of the magical barrier above them was beginning to fade.

"Tch! [Wall o–!]" The hilt of a sword slammed into his helm, smashing his teeth against his tongue. Before he could even register that pain however, an even greater one began to fill his neck, and a spire of steel came into his peripheral at the base of his neck.

He could feel his lungs fill up with blood, and a burning sensation, filling him with more pain then he'd ever felt in his life. But it was soon replaced with a bitter cold, and his vision went dark.

Then there was one.

"How... How the hell did you manage to win you, you, you damn vermin!" The froth from his mouth dripped through the bottom of his helmet, and the malice he was emanating on each individual present was . However, what might have induced terror a few hours ago, strangely did not seem to affect them. But the reason for that was obvious.

Seeing that none of the elves intended to answer his question only made his anger grow. The way they're faces were filled with confusion must have been to mock him as well.

He wanted so badly to cleave them in twain and make them regret ever injuring him, but loathe he was to admit it, he couldn't win.

He, one of the theocracies proud members of the Holocaust scripture, couldn't win against common rabble, foot soldiers.

His body had already been quite injured, but even if it hadn't, it wouldn't have made much of a difference against their numbers.

Even still, there was one thing he could do in order to exact her vengeance.

"You Bastards! You won't get away with this!" He turned on a dime, preparing to sprint his way to freedom. He was confidant that under the influence of [Greater Ability Boost], even these elves wouldn't be able to catch him.

He would make it out of this forest, explain the situation to the theocracy, and return with an army to smash these Vermin, and watch as they were all burned to the ground, and then they would regret making light of him, then they would understand why humans were the ultimate race, then–

The barrier fell.

"Ah..."

Like a swarm of insects, the Arrows descended upon the man, not a single one missing its mark.

A few beats later, the sword in his grasp slipped out and fell to the ground, soon followed by his legs giving out and the light within his eyes leaving him. leaving only the victors of this war left standing.

The clearing was now littered with nothing but corpses and splinters of wood and steel. The smell of blood was thick in the air, and if nothing was done, monsters would swarm this place within the hour. This was the very picture of a battlefield, and faced with this sight, the victors could only manage to mutter a single phrase.

"Did We just... win?"

A/N The next chapter is actually almost done, and I'll release it in the coming days, so you'll be getting two chapters for the price of one this time!

That aged well.

Anyways I've started college, so that combined with my inherent distraction prone self is why this one took so long. I'll make sure the next one gets out faster.(you can trust me :) ) I have a charted course for the story now, and I don't wanna make this thing end at 2036 from the pace I'm going. As for now I've started taking Japanese classes, for my future endeavors so that's fun.

"But wait!" I here you saying, "Isn't learning a completely new language when you apparently can't even spell your mother language properly a bad idea?" and to that I say...

あなたはその通りです! すごくその通りです! 僕は何をやってるつもりだったんだろう?