The group stepped back subconsciously as they stared at the mighty Pegasus. It was no wonder that they had such a reaction because the Pegasus was a rare, holy beast. Rumor had it that they only lived in the Elf Forest and only the Elves had the rights to be their riders. The relationship between them was unlike Humans training and raising a warhorse. Instead, there was a sense of equality between them. There were Humans who spent a lot of effort and used various means to get their hands on a group of Pegasi from the Elf Forest. However, the group of Pegasi opposed strongly and they ended up escaping or committing suicide instead of surrendering to the Humans. In the end, the Humans failed to domesticate the group of Pegasi and they suffered a double loss instead, provoking the Elves and Church. Thereafter, no Humans tried to domesticate the holy beasts anymore and the rare Pegasi only lived in the Elf Forest.
Anne and Lize laid their eyes on the white holy beast, but Rhode focused his attention on the slender figure leaping off the Pegasus's back. The Elves were mostly lithe and beautiful beings, but this Elf was a cut above the rest. Most importantly, Rhode knew who she was...
"Long time no see, Mr. Rhode."
Corina's mind was clouded with complex feelings. On one hand, the battle that they had experienced against the Duke Fiend together wasn't that easily forgotten. On the other hand, the bad rumors that she had heard about Rhode made her feel conflicted about her views on him. Along the way, she was hoping that this was nothing more than just a coincidence. But it was a pity that her prayers didn't come true.
"Hi there, Miss Corina."
Rhode didn't think as much as Corina did. He didn't commit any crime that offended the Elves and had no grudges with the Country of Law. Moreover, he had a close relationship with the Church, so the Elves wouldn't make things difficult for him. The only thing that surprised him was that Corina actually received them personally. Or perhaps it is because we have met in Soraka Mountain back then, so she specially made the trip here?
Corina let out an inward sigh as she gazed at Rhode's expressionless face. She realized that she wasn't ready and didn't know what to say to him. Should I be asking for an explanation regarding the rumors about him? Corina surely wouldn't do that, but she felt as though something was clogging her mind.
But as a presence in the Legendary Stage, Corina naturally wouldn't allow the negative emotions to affect herself. Her expression didn't change the slightest and she walked slowly to Rhode's group with a gentle smile like the spring wind.
"Honestly speaking, I thought I heard wrongly when I was told about this matter... Mr. Rhode. Welcome to the Elf Forest. If it is possible, I would like to know if you have any urgent matters to attend to in the Elf Forest?"
Corina looked at Rhode with her emerald green eyes and revealed some vague signs of anticipations. On the other hand, Rhode simple nodded slightly in response.
"That's right, Miss Corina. There's indeed something important..." Rhode paused. He hesitated whether he should tell her the truth. Although he didn't know what the relationship between his twin daggers and the sacred land of the Elves was, he had to give it a shot since it was just a simple path ahead. With Rhode's abilities, it wasn't difficult for him to make up a lie and sneak into the sacred land after entering the Elf Forest. However, he denied this thought. If the other party was from the Country of Light, he wouldn't feel pressured at all and he might even slaughter her. However, the Country of Law had a decent reputation among the players and the sacred land of the Elves wasn't as important as the sacred grounds of the Humans. The sacred land of the Elves was more of a place with high spiritual status. It shouldn't pose a problem if he told her the truth.
"... Miss Corina, although this might sound offensive, I hope to enter Ivory Valley in the Elf Forest to investigate something important."
Corina widened her eyes in surprise. At the same time, she let out a long inward sigh, but she didn't know if she was relieved or disappointed. But her thoughts weren't crucial at this point in time.
"Mr. Rhode, what you meant was... You're heading into our sacred land?"
"Yes, Miss Corina."
Rhode lifted his head without a change of expression and welcomed her examining gaze firmly. On the other hand, Corina was highly suspicious of his intentions. Ivory Valley was the sacred land of the Elves for a reason. The heroes of the Elves who had contributed to the prosperity of the Elves were buried in Ivory Valley after they died. That place was blessed by the Creator Dragon Souls and the heroes' souls would be blessed forever in the embrace of nature peacefully. It was due to this reason that Ivory Valley was termed as the sacred land of the Elves. In order to not disturb the resting souls, the Elves wouldn't head there without permission. They would only enter Ivory Valley when there were specific festivals to offer sacrifices to the heroes who had given up everything for their former generations.
It was also due to this that Ivory Valley had a special place in the hearts of the Elves, but not in the Humans'. Besides, Corina didn't believe that Rhode had anything to do with the former generations of Elves, so why did he request to enter Ivory Valley?
This request could be said to be simple and difficult at the same time. Ivory Valley wasn't as heavily guarded as the Humans' so-called sacred land where only the Humans with unique identities could enter. As long as Rhode promised that he wouldn't blaspheme against the heroes spirits, there would be no harm letting him in. However, on the other hand, a Human entering Ivory Valley might cause unhappiness among the Elves. Although the Elves didn't hate the Humans, they were wary of Humans due to their differences in cultures and lifestyles. If Rhode entered the sacred land of the Elves, Corina couldn't guarantee that the Elves would react badly and take actions against Rhode. Moreover, according to the intelligence gathered about Rhode, Corina knew that this Human definitely wasn't any kind hearted person...
"About this matter..."
Corina frowned. After returning to the Elf Forest, she didn't become the leader of the Pegasus Knights as Rhode had predicted. Instead, she became the Commander of the Queen's Royal Elf Guards. She had the authority to approve if a Human was qualified enough to enter the Elf Forest. She would surely agree if Rhode was here for a tour or for reminisce sake. However, this matter was overly sensitive and she couldn't make the decision on her own accord.
"Mr. Rhode, if you don't mind, may I ask what important matter do you have exactly that requires you to enter Ivory Valley? I'm sure you're aware of its status in the Elves' hearts. Although it isn't as grand as the human temple, it is still an irreplaceable presence for us. As a Human who tries to enter Ivory Valley..."
Corina didn't finish her sentence, but Rhode knew what she meant. However, Rhode had no intentions of turning back because greeting Corina now was only a peaceful measure before using force. If Corina allowed him to enter Ivory Valley, everything would be fine. But if Corina disapproved, Rhode would simply find another chance to sneak in. Even though this was of rude him, their relationship hadn't reached the stage where he had to be sensitive of her feelings yet.
Rhode didn't respond and he unsheathed his daggers swiftly. Corina's fingers twitched to their reflexes, but she relaxed shortly after, because Rhode didn't draw his weapons to attack. Instead, he turned his wrist and showed her the daggers.
"This is what happened, Miss Corina. I received these two daggers and according to my investigation, they seemed to be deeply related to Ivory Valley, which is of utmost importance to me. As for how important it is, I can't answer you for now. But I can promise you that it is crucial enough for me to boldly request entry from you."
Corina's curiosity piqued and she took over the daggers from Rhode.
Corina instantly felt a connection with the daggers. These two weapons reflected an elaborate and delicate design that was unique to the Elves, whether it was the hilt carved with patterns of nature or the magical powers contained in the blade. Corina grew increasingly curious because Elves disliked using weapons such as daggers or long swords. They felt that these weapons were too lethal and capable of shedding too much blood, which was why their general weapons were thin-bladed, blunt swords. Both the Rangers or Mages among the Elves preferred to carry them for close combat purposes.
Among the Elves, only the Queen's Elf Guards welded the long swords. However, their long swords were forged from crystal glass and not from steel.
Corina empathized with Rhode's feelings because she also felt curious over which Elf these two daggers belonged to. After all, she couldn't remember which popular Elf used daggers as their main weapon and if Rhode's investigation results were accurate, there might be some place they had neglected or forgotten in Ivory Valley.
Corina pondered for a moment and nodded.
"I have sensed Mr. Rhode's sincerity, but this matter is especially important and I can't call the shots. Please follow me, Mr. Rhode and..." Corina swept a glance to the little mermaid in the floating water ball and scanned her curiously. Got to say, this little mermaid's strange appearance would attract attention everywhere she went. "...the three ladies. I will guide all of you into the Elf Forest, but please comply with the Elves' rules as we enter. As for the matter regarding Ivory Valley, I will report this to the Queen and if the Queen approves of your request, you can then enter Ivory Valley, Mr. Rhode."
Rhode nodded in agreement. He didn't seem to be dissatisfied, which Corina heaved a sigh of relief and presented a smile. She returned the daggers to Rhode and stroked the Pegasus beside her. The Pegasus moved its neck comfortably before heading into the depth of the forest. Then, Corina beckoned.
"Welcome to the Elf Forest, everyone."
On the surface, the Elf Forest didn't appear any different from other forests. There were dense shrubs and thick, long vines all around. Warm sunlight spilled between the thriving green leaves and they heard the cheerful birds singing their merry little tunes. As they proceeded further, they discovered the biggest difference. They felt a gentle breeze and the fatigue and soreness drifted away from their body like filthy dust. Not only that, but there was also an indescribable tranquility and harmonious atmosphere. Time had as though frozen in the moment. The tunes of the chirping birds and their footsteps were as though shrouded in a layer of gauze, turning their vision fuzzy. The group observed the surrounding and listened to the calm breathing of nature. However, Anne was an exception. She widened her mouth and let out a long, satisfying yawn as though she hadn't slept for days. But even so, she slowly followed the group and rubbed her eyes. Judging from her sleepy look, Rhode suspected if she would just fall asleep immediately.
Lize and the little mermaid admired the picturesque sceneries of the Elf Forest. Perhaps due to the influence of the Elves, the forest emanated a graceful atmosphere.
It seems that Rhode isn't angry.
Corina stole a glance at Rhode. In fact, after Rhode revealed his true colors during the battle in the Soraka Mountain, Corina felt apprehensive for a while. Rhode had always been expressionless and she suspected if he had any objections. Later on, she unintentionally heard from the other mercenaries from the Fortress that it was normal for the young man to be expressionless. On the contrary, it would be a sign of danger if he ever smiled.
Corina didn't know if these remarks were trustworthy. However, she believed that the situation should be fine judging from the three young ladies following him casually.
Corina felt that the Queen wouldn't approve Rhode's request. But no matter what, this man was her 'comrade' who had faced the Duke Fiend alongside her and it wouldn't be nice of her to reject him directly. So she might as well invite him into the Elf Forest to satisfy his little curious heart.
If Corina knew that Rhode didn't care about her approval and he would surely enter the sacred land of the Elves no matter what, perhaps she wouldn't harbor such thoughts.
The Elves' gathering place didn't blend in with nature as much as Blackberry Town did. Instead, if it weren't for Corina who informed them of it, perhaps Lize and Anne would have misunderstood that it was just an ordinary open field. There were no traces of man-made buildings and only densely packed vines and shrubs existed all around. The shade-giving foliage and the calm, flowing river were so natural that it seemed as though no one stayed here...
"Please wait here for a moment. I will report to the Queen now."
Corina turned around and suddenly, hundreds of birds fluttered and sang in harmony, symbolizing a grand welcome. Corina puckered her brows and pondered in silence before turning around solemnly.
"Mr. Rhode, the Queen wishes to see you."