The forests around Moria were famous for their abundance of herbs. The sunlight that seeped through the canopy of trees that grew in the forests filtered in the right amount of sunlight that allowed the plants below to grow freely and beautifully. All sorts of plants, mostly with herbal properties, grew here, hence the area was abundant with herbs. Anyone with a strong knowledge of herbs would know this place. And yet at the same time, this place was populated by powerful monsters. Thus, not a lot of people visited this place. Occasionally, mercenaries would come here to gather herbs to sell to shops, providing them with another means of livelihood.
Today, four people were seen walking through one of the forests of Moria. The shortest one among them was a blonde-haired child of only about fifteen years old. He had shoulder length hair and had his fringe curved towards his left. He wore a white garb with green-colored pants and white boots. On his wrists were two pairs of purple-colored bracelets, a pair on each wrist. And strapped on his back was a plain sword. Walking beside him was someone very much older than him, an adult to be exact. He had long blue hair that was tied in a low ponytail and a long fringe fell over the right side of his face. He wore a purple-colored cape with armor, gloves and boots that were in a mix of red and black with a pair of white pants. And some distance in-front of them was a female with long, light green hair, and she wore a robe that was in several different shades of green and white, and carried a white-colored staff with a green ring and small green wings that spread out from it. She was twirling and looking around the forest in awe as she observed every single plant and tree she came across. Both of her blonde and blue-haired companions eyed her with great interest, following her every single movement.
Last but not least, the fourth person was walking a great distance in-front of the rest of them, looking around the forest floor, the branches and bases of trees for plants. He would occasionally stop and kneeled down to pick a little of the plants he came across and stuffed it into his pouch which he held in his hand. He had a mess of short auburn-colored hair and a long fringe which covered his left eye. He wore purple-colored clothes with a swallow-tailed cloak with two other shoulder pads in the same purple color which covered his shoulders. He wore a pair of violet-colored gloves, the type where your fingers went through them, two violet-colored belts where his sword, with the hilt in orange color, like that of a flame, was strapped. To complete his outfit, he wore white and black-colored boots with violet-colored straps to hold the openings of his boots in place.
"This forest is awesome!" Commented the green-haired female. "This place is quite similar to Torent Forest!"
"Torent Forest," The blonde-haired child spat with a tint of hate in his voice. "I do not want to be reminded that we were kicked out of the village that resided near that forest!"
"Mithos!" Hissed the blue-haired male. "No matter what happened, that place is still our home!"
"So what?" Mithos replied sharply. "It doesn't change the fact that we were kicked out just because we were half-elves!"
That was right. The period which they lived in was that of war and discrimination against half-elves. No matter where they went, half-elves like themselves were hated just because they weren't of pure-blood. But it wasn't just discrimination that marked this period of time as an era of chaos. There was the war, started due to the development of magitechnology and the infinite mana which the Giant Kharlan Tree provided. Most people were ignorant to the damage it was causing to the Giant Tree. The truth was, the Kharlan Tree only provided infinite mana if it was used properly and in balanced amounts, and if the world provided adequate love for the life that lived on it. But the creation of magitechnology, which used huge amounts of mana to power, and the discrimination by the humans and elves against half-elves, and the elves' hatred for the humans, were all causing the Kharlan Tree to slowly die. And that was the sole reason these four people were travelling. In order to stop the Kharlan War, which the war had came to be called, end all discrimination and save the Giant Kharlan Tree.
The auburn-haired man suddenly stopped, spying something he was looking for at one of the branches on one of the trees. Deciding that it was way too high for him to climb, and it would be a waste of time to do it anyway, he gathered wind mana in his hands and prepared a spell.
"Air Thrust!" The man declared as blades of air formed around the branch he was aiming for. The wind magic cleanly cut the branch from the tree and the magic swordsman caught it as it fell. Several other smaller branches also fell to the forest floor from the remains of the man's wind spell, and he knelt down to look at them. After observing the tinier branches for a while and deciding that they might come in handy later, he proceeded to stuff them into his bag. Then he pulled out a dagger from one of his boots and slowly cut loose the plant that grew on the larger branch he was holding. After doing so, he placed the plant he had cut loose into his pouch which he had left on the ground, stood up with his pouch in hand, and continued to look at his surroundings for more plants that he might need.
"That flower is so pretty!" The female said suddenly after spying a beautiful flower growing on one of the shorter trees.
"I'll get it for you, Martel!" Both Mithos and Yuan exclaimed at the same time. Then they turned to eye each other, glaring at each other to death with eyes that practically said 'I'm going to be the one to get it!' and dashed towards the tree. Martel, looking at them and sighing, shook her head silently.
Both Mithos and Yuan were always vying for Martel's attention. They would always try to get whatever Martel wanted and were always fighting and quarrelling with each other. Mithos was Martel's younger brother and Yuan liked Martel, thus the both of them were always fighting for the female half-elf's attention.
The auburn-haired man frowned to himself and had just decided to ignore the antics of his companions, but when he noticed the flower that the two half-elves were going after, he immediately took the dagger that was still in his hand, which he seemed to have forgotten to sheath back onto his boot, and threw it in the direction where the flower was. The small weapon sailed through the air with breakneck speed and stuck itself onto the trunk of the tree, just below where the flower was.
"Hey, what was that for, human?" Yuan snapped, immediately turning around to face the auburn-haired swordsman. "That could have hurt someone!"
"For your information, I've tossed daggers around long enough and am very confident with my aim," The human replied, arms crossed and frowning at the same time. "And I just saved both you and Mithos some agony. That flower is poisonous."
"Wow...really?" Mithos replied, staring at the flower in awe. "Something that beautiful can also be deadly..."
"Never judge something by its looks. It may look harmless on the outside, but on the inside, its dangerous."
"He probably lied about the plant being poisonous," Yuan scoffed, crossing his arms and looking away.
"Yuan, stop being so rude to Kratos!" Martel finally snapped. "Why are you being such a jerk to him?"
"Because he's a human!" Yuan snapped back.
"So what? He hasn't done anything to you! He even saved our lives from the elves that were pursuing us!"
"That doesn't mean he won't stab us in the dark!"
"Yuan Crestfield! You stupid jerk!" Martel shouted. Then she stormed off further into the forest.
"Martel!" Yuan screamed after the retreating female half-elf. Realising that his distrust for Kratos had made her angry, he quickly ran after her to apologise.
"Is he always like this?" Kratos asked as he walked over to the tree and retrieved his dagger. Due to the discrimination between humans and half-elves that were ever present no matter where they went, the swordsman could imagine that his presence might have created a lot of tension among them. When he had first met them about a month ago, which certainly wasn't during the best of situations, he had rescued them from a group of elves that were chasing them. Martel was quick to trust him, it was her nature, and Mithos, who had saw his display of swordsmanship, almost immediately begged the human to teach him how to wield a sword properly, because he wasn't very proficient with magic and had decided to try and learn how to use a sword instead. Yuan was the only one that didn't trust the swordsman. Although he didn't say it, the blue-haired half-elf definitely showed it. The only reason Kratos had decided to join them was firstly, they knew nothing about how to survive out in the world, and second, their goals were the same. Thus, being the only human among the band of half-elves, became a motherly figure, teaching them how to survive out in the open, and a teacher to Mithos.
"Yeah," Mithos replied softly, but loud enough for Kratos to hear. "Ever since that day about two years ago, where we were betrayed by a human whom we had trusted, he became like this, hating every single human, thinking that they were all the same."
"What about you and Martel? Don't the both of you hate humans too?"
"Martel can't...she's too kind and pure. You know, the type that can never bring herself to hurt or hate anything," Mithos laughed. "As for me, I don't really trust humans myself after that incident," The blonde added as he started running ahead to chase after Yuan and Martel. After running a few metres, Mithos turned to look at Kratos once more. "But I trust you, Kratos!" After saying that, the young half-elf continued running in the direction where his sister and friend went.
"Hmm...so, that's it, huh?" With that said, he too chased after the three half-elves in case they ran into anymore dangerous plants which they knew nothing of.
"Martel! I'm sorry!" Yuan yelled after the female half-elf. "Please slow down!"
Martel Yggdrasill finally stopped walking and Yuan caught up to her. After catching his breath, the blue-haired half-elf turned to look at the soft emerald eyes belonging to the female. "Will you forgive me?"
Martel just stood there, with her arms crossed, staring at the sapphire eyes which belong to Yuan. "Are you sure I'm the one you should be apologising to?" Martel said, still angry with the half-elf male in-front of her.
"What? You want me to apologise to that human?"
Without saying a word, Martel stormed off again.
"Martel!" Yuan yelled. Muttering some curse words in elven, Yuan proceeded to chase after her again. But he was angry at the same time. How is it that Martel can trust people so easily? Especially a human, when one of their kind had betrayed them before? She's too kind and trusting for her own good! Just as Yuan continued to swear, he heard a scream pierce the air and immediately recognised the voice as that of Martel. Without giving it a second thought, he ran in the direction of the scream.
Just as Yuan reached a small clearing where there weren't as many trees, he found Martel. She was being wrapped by a vine and was hanging in the air. Then Yuan noticed the source of the vine. It was a plant type monster at least triple the height of his own. It looked like a leafless tree with legs that was covered with vines it could extend at will.
"Let Martel go, you monster!" Yuan screamed, gritting his teeth. Then he gathered fire mana in his hands and summoned three fireballs which smashed into the monster's face. Roaring, it started going after the half-elf. Throwing out a vine, it attempted to catch Yuan with it, but the half-elf, physically enhanced by the power of the exsphere which he wore, dodged the attack. Just then, several more vines came after him. Yuan tried to dodge them all, but was unsuccessful and got hit by one of them. The monster took this opportunity and swung out a vine after the blue-haired half-elf, thus capturing him also.
Yuan had never felt more helpless. He had sworn to himself to always protect Martel, but it wasn't an easy feat due to the fact that he doesn't use a weapon, but magic to fight instead. Unlike Mithos, Yuan was a very proficient magic user. But, in-order to pull off any of his powerful magic, he needed support. Being a mage, he wasn't able to fight alone. That was solely the reason that he was never able to protect the one which he cares for deeply. Just like the situation right now.
Both half-elves turned to face the source of the voice. It was Mithos. The monster, who also noticed the blonde-haired half-elf, proceeded to swing a vine out at him. Mithos, who also wore an exsphere, easily dodged out of the way. "What monster is that?"
"That's a Dryad," Kratos replied as he came up beside Mithos. "We should take it out as quickly as possible." After saying that, the swordsman quickly reached into one of his bag pockets and took out a ring. It had a round red-colored gem fixed on it. Then he handed it over to the half-elf that was standing beside him. "Put this on, it will enchant your sword with fire mana."
Mithos nodded, took the ring from Kratos and slipped it on the third finger of his right hand. "What ring is this?" He asked as he unsheathed his sword.
"It's a garnet," Kratos replied, unsheathing his sword also. The hilt of his sword that was of an orange hue, with a red color top, a golden lining with intricate designs on it. The blade was shaped like a flame, and it was also orange in color, making the sword seem like as it was on fire. "The proof of the pact with Efreet."
Efreet was the Summon Spirit of Fire. Kratos was not just an ordinary swordsman. He was also a summoner, a pure-blooded summoner of the Summoner Clan. It was also for this reason that he, despite being a human, was able to manipulate mana and use magic. Someone had attacked Polaris twelve years ago. Some of them survived and decided to go into hiding. But Kratos had decided to venture out into the world, find the Summon Spirits and formed pacts with them, in-order to stop the Kharlan War and save the Kharlan Tree. He was only fifteen then. It was during his twelve years of journeying where the swordsman had learned to survive out in the open and honed his swordsmanship.
"Mithos, distract the Dryad!"
Mithos obeyed and charged. Kratos, on the other hand, raised his Flamberge and started gathering mana. An ice blue-colored ring of mana appeared around the summoner and rose towards the air. Just as that was going on, Mithos was dodging and slashing the Dryad's vines left and right, trying to get to where it was holding Yuan and Martel. But even with the strength of his exsphere, because Mithos still wasn't very experienced as a swordsman, he was unable to even get close. The best he could manage was to dodge the Dryad's attacks. At least the half-elf wasn't getting caught. Mithos leapt into the air during the Dryad's next attack, spun in the air and came down slashing at its vine, cutting it into two. The Dryad, being a plant type creature, was susceptible to fire attacks and magic. Due to the fact that Mithos was wearing the garnet which enchanted his sword with fire mana, the creature roared out in pain from the attack. But it still made no move to let Yuan nor Martel down.
"Mithos! Be careful!" Martel shouted to her younger brother, worried.
"Don't worry, sis!" Mithos shouted back. "Nothing I can't handle! I promise that I will save both you and Yuan!"
Another vine came towards Mithos. Unable to react quickly enough to dodge, Mithos raised his sword in defense and the Dryad wrapped its vine around Mithos' wrists, effectively sealing the half-elf's attacks. "Damn!" Mithos cursed.
"I call upon the Disciple of Everlasting Ice! I summon thee, Celsius!" Kratos called as he finally completed his summon. The blue summoning crest appeared below his feet and Celsius, the Summon Spirit of Ice, appeared beside the Dryad and slammed her right hand onto the ground. Sharp icicles rose all around the monster, every single one piercing the plant creature. But that wasn't the main reason Kratos had summoned Celsius, especially since he knew that the monster was weak against fire. He could have summoned Efreet instead, but he wanted to freeze the enemy first, in-order to rescue both Yuan and Martel from the Dryad's clutches. And it did the trick. The Dryad's body was temporarily frozen just as Celsius finished her attack and disappeared in a swirl of ice blue-colored mana.
After unleashing his summon, Kratos immediately dashed towards where Mithos was and cut the vine that was holding the blonde. The both of them then proceeded to help the other two half-elves. Mithos went for Martel while Kratos went for Yuan. Both swordsman reached their targets quickly and freed them. Just in time too, as the Dryad was starting to thaw out.
"Move!" Kratos barked to his half-elf companions. All of them immediately scrambled just as the monster thawed out. Then almost immediately, the Dryad lashed out with all its vines at once. Martel immediately cast a protection spell on herself to block the vines that came after her. As for Mithos, he slammed his sword on the ground hard, calling forth an energy from his sword, performed Fierce Demon Fang and blasted the vines back. Kratos, being the fastest among the three of them, simply ducked under one vine, jumped over another, and slashed at the third one, effectively dodging all of them that came after him.
But Yuan was not that lucky however. Being a mage, even with an exsphere, the blue-haired half-elf's reflexes wasn't as good as that compared either Mithos or Kratos. And Martel, being used to supporting, can cast protection spells rather quickly as a defensive measure. The Dryad somehow took advantage of this and managed to wrap a vine on Yuan. Then another vine came and stabbed the half-elf on his right arm. Yuan yelled out in pain from that. And as if it wasn't done torturing him, the monster decided to toss the half-elf off a cliff nearby.
"Yuan!" Martel cried.
Muttering something in summon spirit language under his breath, Kratos leapt onto the next vine the Dryad swung at him. Then just as the monster thrashed its vine into the air, the summoner used the momentum from it and flung himself towards the cliff where Yuan was thrown. Kratos sailed through the air and somersaulted as he reached the area where the cliff ended, effectively leaping down after the blue-haired half-elf, feet first.
"Kratos!" Martel shouted after the falling human. "We have to go after them!"
"But Martel! The Dryad!" Mithos protested as he dodged yet another vine. There was no way on Symphonia for the still inexperienced half-elven swordsman to defeat a strong monster on his own. Just then, the garnet on Mithos' finger started glowing and balls of fire shot out from it, smashing into the Dryad, temporarily stunning it. "What the?"
"Mithos!" Martel called, noticing that the Dryad's movements temporarily halted. "Let's take this opportunity and get away!"
The younger half-elf agreed with that. Together, the two Yggdrasill siblings escaped from the Dryad in hopes of quickly reuniting with their other two companions.
The distance between the cliff and the forest below was pretty high. The wind rushed his face as he went down the cliff, feet first. And gravity was just making the fall faster. He was going to have to act quickly if he were to save both himself and the half-elf that was tossed off the cliff by the monster which they were fighting just moments ago. Raising his left hand in the air as he fell, Kratos gathered a good amount of wind mana in it. Then the summoner concentrated and called upon the power from the exsphere that was on his left hand, which was actually a Spirit Sphere, the symbol which represents his status as a High Summoner, and scattered the green-colored mana which he had gathered.
"I call upon the Heavenly Messengers! I summon thee, Sylph!"
Three winged creatures appeared out of nowhere in an instant. One of them, who had green-colored hair, three pairs of bird like, dark yellow wings, wore green-colored clothes and blue-colored gloves and boots, immediately caught hold of Kratos, effectively slowing down his descend. Then the other two, one with purple-colored hair, purple and blue-colored butterfly wings and wore emerald colored clothes and purple-colored gloves and boots, and the other, wearing an orange-colored hat with pinkish peach-colored hair with violet-colored petal-shaped wings, wore light green clothes and orange-colored gloves and boots, shot down and the fastest speed they could manage after the other falling being.
"So, this is how I'm going to die, huh?" Yuan muttered to himself, gritting his teeth against the pain that was present from his right arm. "In the end, I couldn't do anything...I can't even protect Martel..." The half-elf decided to close his eyes before he reached the end of this fall. But just a few seconds after he shut his eyes, Yuan felt a sudden thug on both of his arms. Thereafter, he stopped falling altogether. Wondering what just happened, the half-elf decided to open his eyes and saw that he was being held afloat by two winged beings.
"W-Who are you?" Yuan sputtered, clearly surprised.
"I'm Yutis!" The one with purple-colored wings replied.
"And I'm Fairess!" The one with violet wings replied.
"Am I in heaven?" Yuan mouthed, still wondering what they were.
"No! of course not!" Fairess replied harshly.
"That means you're not winged elves or angels or something...?" Yuan muttered, deciding to look below him and realised that he was still high above the trees. The only difference was that he was no longer falling.
"We're Summon Spirits! Not flying elves or angels!" Yutis huffed, clearly offended.
"Huh? Summon Spirits?" Yuan muttered, blinking at them.
"Yes, they're Summon Spirits," A voice said from above them.
Yuan turned to look up and saw Kratos, who was also floating in mid-air, being held by something similar to Yutis and Fairess.
"If you're down here...Hey! Where's Mithos and Martel?" Yuan demanded.
"Back up there," Kratos replied, pointing in the direction the half-elf had fallen from.
"What? They can't defeat such a strong monster!" Yuan growled. Just thinking that his precious Martel might be hurt makes his blood boil. "You should have stayed up there with them!"
"You don't need to concern yourself with that," Kratos replied, unmoving and looking unconcerned. Which just made Yuan madder. "Mithos was wearing the garnet. I've called upon Efreet's power to attack the Dryad. I'm sure they are smart enough to take the opportunity to run away from the battle."
Yuan turned away from the human and silently pouted to himself. He didn't want to admit that he was just saved by a human. Even though the half-elf was glad that he was still alive, but being rescued by a human, that was one thing Yuan didn't want. He'd rather die than be saved by one.
"Sylph, please bring us down to the forest below," Kratos finally said after a few seconds of silence. The Sylph sisters nodded at his command and brought both human and half-elf to the forest below.
The forest below wasn't much different from the one above them. The only difference was probably the plants that grew there. The canopy of trees wasn't as thick either, and more sunlight went through. Sylph set both Kratos and Yuan on the forest floor. The expression on the half-elf's face was still quite sour, but when he remembered about the wound on his right arm, Yuan winced and clutched the wound.
"You're wounded!" Kratos exclaimed as noticed the act.
"It's none of your business!" Yuan snapped back. Just then, a wave of dizziness hit the blue-haired half-elf and he immediately staggered, sitting down on the ground hastily.
Kratos ignored what the half-elf said and immediately knelt down beside Yuan. "Let me see the wound!"
"I already told you, it's none of your business!"
"You can't protect Martel if you're dead!" Kratos snapped back.
That seemed to have struck a nerve on Yuan. He gritted his teeth as he looked away, as if thinking of something. Then he felt another wave of dizziness, wobbled a bit and felt woozy. Reluctantly, the half-elf removed his left hand from his right arm. Yuan realised that his left hand was soaked in his own blood as he looked at it weakly. Just then, a piece of white cloth appeared within the range of his sight.
"Use this to clean away the blood on on your hand."
Nodding, Yuan took the cloth with his left hand and stared at it. Satisfied that the half-elf would be quiet as he looked at his wound, Kratos took Yuan's right arm, held it with both his hands, pulled up the sleeve of his clothes and examined the wound.
"You were stabbed by the Dryad's vine, right?"
Yuan nodded in reply.
"Do you feel dizzy?"
Again, the half-elf nodded in reply.
"Dryad's poison..." Kratos murmured as he let go of Yuan's arm. "This is going to take a while." The swordsman then looked up at the Summon Spirit of Wind. The sisters had been hovering there for quite a while as Kratos had not asked them to return yet. "Sylph, please see if you can find Mithos and Martel. We'll be waiting here."
"As you wish," Sephie replied, bowed and took her leave with Yutis and Fairess in tow.
It took a while for Yuan to register what Kratos had just said. As he wiped the blood off his left hand, the half-elf realised that he had been poisoned. That was why he was feeling dizzy. Then he decided to turn and face the human to see what he was doing. Kratos was rummaging through his bag as if looking for something. Finally finding what he was looking for, the summoner pulled out what looked like a box. After placing that on the ground, Kratos took out another item, a pouch this time, followed by a bottle liquid from his bag and laid it on the ground. Then he proceeded to open the box. As Yuan peered inside, he saw lots of bottles. Bottles filled with different stuff. Some of them were filled with liquid inside whereas others contained tablets. Eyes darting around the contents of the box, Kratos took out one of the bottles which contained tablets from it, opened the bottle and poured a tablet out from it.
"Here, take this," Kratos said as he passed the tablet and his water canteen to Yuan. "I'll stop the dizziness that you're feeling."
Once again, very reluctantly, Yuan took the stuff from Kratos' hands. The half-elf didn't trust the human, for all he knew, the tablet might kill him. And yet at the same time, Yuan felt no malice in the words which Kratos had said. Thus, very slowly, Yuan took the tablet, popped it into his mouth and gulped down a mouthful of water, swallowing water and tablet all at once. Almost immediately, the half-elf felt a bit better and the dizziness that was plaguing him disappeared.
"It actually works!" Yuan exclaimed and decided to gulp another mouthful of water. "What kind of medicine is this?"
"It's my own concoction," Kratos muttered his reply as he replaced the bottle of tablets back into the box, closed it and took the bottle of liquid that was on the ground with his left hand.
"Wait a minute...you made this?" Yuan asked, turning to look at Kratos, clearly surprised.
Kratos nodded in reply as he once again reached into his bag and pulled out a clean piece of cloth. Then he opened the cap of the bottle that was in his left hand, placed the cap on top of his box of medicine, and poured a bit of the contents that was in the bottle onto the cloth. When he was done, Kratos put the bottle on top of the box beside the cap and turned to Yuan once more.
"I'm going to clean your wound," Kratos said as he moved the cloth closer to Yuan's arm. "It's going to sting a little, but I need to do this to ensure that the wound doesn't get infected."
Yuan stared carefully as Kratos pressed the cloth onto his wound on his right arm. Just as the human had warned, it was going to sting. And it did. Yuan gritted his teeth against the pain that was searing through his right arm. If he didn't know better, he would think that Kratos was trying to kill him. Perhaps he was wrong about humans afterall. But that wasn't right either. All the humans which he had encountered, very single one had discriminated against half-elves. There wasn't a single town where they could stay for long without getting kicked out. But at least that wasn't so bad. The worst ones were the humans that actually captures half-elves to either sell them into slavery or make them work with little food and water. Some were even forced to do research that humans found 'dirty' and would not do it themselves.
From what seemed like eternity to Yuan, Kratos finally removed the cloth from the half-elf's arm. The pain died down slowly after that, and Yuan's arm was still ringing from the pain. After putting the cloth away to be washed when he gets the chance to, Kratos covered the wound on Yuan's arm carefully with both his hands and muttered a few words softly.
"First Aid!" A soft green glow came from the human's hands. It washed over the wound on Yuan's arm, effectively sealing it.
Yuan was dumbfolded. He was rapidly blinking his eyes at Kratos in shock. However, the summoner paid no attention to that, or he simply did not notice the half-elf doing that. He merely removed his hands from Yuan's arm and proceeded to prance around his pouch for something.
"You can manipulate healing mana?" Yuan asked, mouth agape, still looking intently at the summoner.
"Yes. Is it that big of a deal?" Kratos replied as he pulled out some leaves from his pouch.
"You do know that not many elves nor half-elves can manipulate healing mana? Only very few do! And moreover, you're a human!"
"Not really. I only know that I was the only one in Polaris that could use healing magic."
Yuan silently grumbled to himself. He couldn't believe this at all. Not many half-elves and elves he knew were able to use healing magic. To date, Martel and another elf from Heimdall were the only people he knew that could do that. Mithos said that maybe only those with talent could use them. Martel said that if a person was kind and caring, he or she would be able to use healing magic. But seeing Kratos use it made him think a bit. Kratos had seemed uncaring and cold at times, but underneath all that was someone who would go through any lengths to protect the people he knows and cares for. Yuan couldn't count how many times the human had protected them. He was not only a fierce warrior but also a very powerful summoner. They would have been dead if Kratos hadn't rescued them that day. Just now, Kratos had risked his life to save the half-elf and yet created an opportunity for Mithos and Martel to escape from the Dryad at the same time. He was someone who would go through any lengths to protect someone he cared for.
Perhaps hidden under that tough exterior was kindness. A kindness that rivaled that of Martel's. The only difference was that Martel was pure and innocent. And Kratos wasn't. But it was enough, wasn't it? And yet Yuan didn't trust the human. No. That wasn't right. Maybe he did trust Kratos a little, after all that has happened between the four of them. Perhaps it was time for the half-elf to trust humans once again. No. That was wrong again. Yuan still refused to trust humans. But he would at least trust the one that's in-front of him.
"You know...umm...Kr-Kratos..." Yuan started. He found it a bit uncomfortable to say his name outright, but calling Kratos by his name was a sign that the half-elf trusted the human. Or at least started to trust him. Yuan just simply needed to start getting used to calling the swordsman by his name. It shouldn't be difficult, especially since Kratos had always called all of them by their names, he even called Yuan by his name, despite the fact that the half-elf was being difficult and rude to the human, never calling him by his name and always addressed him as 'human'.
"Hmm?" Kratos replied, looking up from what he was doing. Quite frankly speaking, the summoner was quite surprised that Yuan called him by his name. Ever since he got himself into their little group, Yuan had never called him by his name. Only the word, human.
"Uhh...I...I'm sorry!" Yuan said in a hurry. "You know, for being so mean and such a jerk to you!"
Kratos couldn't help but give the half-elf a smile. It was then and there Yuan realised that there really was a tint of kindness underneath the toughness that was Kratos.
"Apology accepted," Kratos replied. "Besides, I know it's been hard for you to trust me, especially since my kind had betrayed you before."
"Wa-Wait! How did you know about that?"
"Mithos told me," Kratos replied with a smirk.
"Ohh! That little brat! I'm going to get back at him later when we meet up again!" Yuan growled as he shook his left fist in the air.
"Can you pass me my water canteen?" Kratos said, interrupting the half-elf's cursing. "I need some water to prepare the antidote."
Yuan nodded, picked up the canteen and passed it back to Kratos. The summoner took the canteen, put it to his ear and shook it. "This should be enough." He then proceeded to pour a small amount water into the bowl which the swordsman seemed to had taken out from nowhere. After doing that, he put the canteen beside his medicine box. Throwing in the leaves which he had taken out of his pouch into the water, the summoner proceeded to mash it together with the water in the bowl with some sort of thick stick.
"Wait a minute...prepare the antidote?" Yuan repeated just as he realised what the human beside him had said. "You mean that tablet wasn't the cure?"
"No," Kratos replied, not taking his eyes off what he was doing. "It only stops dizziness. The antidote to Dryad's poison is a totally different thing altogether."
"Oh," Yuan replied as he peered at what Kratos was doing. Just then, a strange thought came over the half-elf. "Are those leaves you put in...herbs?"
"Yes. The plants that I was picking earlier were also herbs."
"Hmm, you're an expert on herbs?"
"Plants actually. I've studied them since I was young, researching and learning the healing qualities which they possess, and the harm they can do."
"Wow..." Yuan replied blankly, staring up at the trees of the forest. "I myself studied on something too since young. And till now, I still do."
"What did you study on?"
"Magitechnology," Yuan replied. "I dunno why, I'm interested in machines. So I just study it. Even though magitechnology is one of the reasons the Kharlan Tree is dying, I continue to study it."
"You shouldn't worry about it too much. As long as you don't misuse that knowledge, there's nothing wrong with studying something, even though that something you're interested in is harming the world. Especially when you're not the one that's responsible for it."
"You talk like some sort of wise man, you know?" Yuan commented.
Kratos chuckled. "That's me for you. I've always been like this, even my father wonders if I'm a reincarnation of a wise man or something."
"Maybe you are!" And Yuan started laughing.
"Now don't you start that with me," Kratos retorted as he finally finished mixing the herbs into the water. "It's ready," Kratos said as he held the bowl out for the half-elf.
"Thanks, Kratos," Yuan replied as he took the bowl from the swordsman. After talking to him for a bit, Yuan no longer had any trouble calling Kratos by his name. The half-elf actually found it quite enjoyable to talk with the summoner, even he couldn't believe it himself. Yuan was glad that he at least gave Kratos a chance, and just maybe, they would end up being close friends. Yuan actually had a good feeling about this. Maybe not all humans were bad afterall.
Yuan took the bowl and started drinking the medicine slowly. He nearly spit it out when he tasted it. But somehow, he managed to prevent himself from actually doing it.
"It's very bitter..." Yuan muttered. Then he gulped down the rest of the medicine in one mouth, made a pained face has the half-elf swallowed the rest of it.
"I didn't have the flower which I use to mask the bitter taste of certain herbs," Kratos replied apologetically. "Baserane is very bitter. Well, just have some water and it will go away in about a minute or so," The swordsman added as he handed Yuan his water canteen once again.
Yuan gulped down the rest of the water in the canteen and waited. The bitter taste had lingered for quite sometime, but just as Kratos had said, it would go away in a minute, and it did. Yuan then returned the canteen to the human.
"Looks like refilling the canteen is my number one priority right now," Kratos commented as he took it back and started packing his stuff back into his bag.
"Sorry for drinking all your water," Yuan murmured.
"Don't worry about it. If I remember right, there is a river somewhere nearby," Kratos replied. The summoner clipped his bag shut as soon as he was done. "Anyways, we should rest here for a bit and wait for the after effects of the poison to go off."
Yuan nodded. "I wonder how are Mithos and Martel doing right now."
"I'm sure they're fine and are looking for us at this very moment," Kratos replied, trying to reassure the half-elf. "Sylph is looking for them right now. I'm sure that they would find them soon."
Yuan turned away from Kratos and started poking the grass around him. "By the way, how did you know that I've always been trying to protect Martel?" Yuan asked softly.
"It's obvious. Your eyes and actions say it all."
"My eyes and actions...huh?" Yuan muttered, turning up to look at the canopy of the forest again.
"You like her, don't you?" Kratos sneered.
"I...uhh! It's not like that!" Yuan replied hastily, flustered.
"Don't deny it. There is nothing wrong with liking someone," Kratos countered all too easily. "Have you told her?"
Yuan turned to stare at the grass once again, shaking his head. "I don't think she feels the same way...She fusses over Mithos more than me, looks after him more than me and---"
"That's because Mithos is still a kid and needs guidance. You're an adult, Martel would think that you would be more sensible. How would you know she doesn't feel the same way unless you ask her?"
"I don't deserve her," Yuan murmured. "I can't even protect her! I'm a mage! Even Mithos can protect her better than I can!" Yuan roared. He had no idea why he was being so open with the human beside him, but he didn't care right now. He was always in pain, seeing Mithos shield her from attacks, always defending the female half-elf, whereas he always stood atthe back like a coward, doing nothing but using magic. Thinking about it always made him frustrated. And that was what he's feeling right now. Closing his right hand into a fist, Yuan slammed it on the floor of the forest repeatedly.
"Yuan Crestfield!" Kratos snapped and quickly grabbed the half-elf's hand by his wrist, stopping him from banging the ground. Seeing Yuan like this reminded him of what happened at Polaris twelve years ago. The current King of Tethe'alla had attacked them, because his father had refused to let the summoners be involved in the war. The King was afraid that they would side Sylvarant, thus decided to attack them and wipe them out before such a thing happened, which never would, cause they were neutral in the war and want nothing to do with it. Then they killed his father, but not before asking Aska to lend the young high summoner his power, whose power Kratos used to protect the rest of the summoners that were still alive. But at that time, his situation was probably the same. He wasn't strong enough to do anything. Thereafter, the remaining summoners went into hiding, and Kratos went to seek the power of the rest of the Summon Spirits, hoping to be able to stop the Kharlan War, and most importantly, get stronger.
Yuan turned to look at Kratos after the human had grabbed his wrist. It was then the half-elf noticed something. There was a look of pain and sadness in the brown-colored eyes of Kratos. Yuan lowered his head and whispered sorry to the swordsman. Kratos then let go of the half-elf's hand and looked away.
"Being a mage doesn't mean you can't protect someone. Even if it's a weak spell, it can be used to protect someone. The opportunity created by doing it can be used by the others that are with you."
Kratos sighed. He realised that Yuan simply lacked the confidence to actually do it. The summoner knew the ability for the half-elf to do it was there, he simply did not possess the confidence to match up with it. Wondering if he could do something about it, Kratos thought of something that just might work.
"Yuan, do you trust me?"
"Huh?" Yuan replied, turning and staring at the swordsman in surprise. "Why?"
"Just answer the question."
"Well...after everything that has happened...I guess so..."
"Then," Kratos said as he offered his hand to the half-elf. "If you would let me, I shall be the sword that protects you. Then you will be able to be the shield that protects Martel."
"Kratos..." Yuan murmured as he stared at the swordsman's hand. "You're...even though I've been so mean to you..."
"You had a reason to. But right now, all that matters is that do you accept? Or do you decline?"
Yuan gulped and slowly reached out to hold the swordsman's hand. Then he turned to look at Kratos again only to find the human smiling at him again. "This isn't some evil ploy, is it?"
"Yuan..." Kratos muttered, giving out a huge sigh.
"Just kidding!" Yuan replied with glee.
Kratos returned that reply with a glare.
"Eep! Sorry! And thank you!" Yuan gulped. For some strange reason, the half-elf was afraid of that glare. It was somehow creeping him out.
"Heh," Kratos replied. The summoner turned towards the trees when he suddenly sensed a familiar mana signature closing in on them. Kratos noticed that Yuan had looked up too. The half-elf must have sensed it as well. Just as he thought, it was someone he knew. The green-colored clothes and the yellow wings that belonged to one of the Sylph sisters came into view as she descended to where the duo were.
"Sephie? How come you're alone? Where's Yutis and Fairess?" Kratos asked, surprised at seeing just the oldest of the Sylphs.
"We found your other two half-elf companions. They are being attacked by the same Dryad as the one which all of you faced just now. Yutis and Fairess are back there helping them fend it off. I came to get you."
"That Dryad is going down this time!" Yuan growled as he stood up. Kratos nodded in agreement and stood up also. Sephie quickly turned and flew forward, leading both human and half-elf to where her sisters and their companions were.
The Dryad swung a vine out at the young half-elf. Martel rose Barrier in-front of Mithos, effective blocking out the vine. But it was only useful for a one time hit. More vines came at the blonde after the shield went down. Just as it looked like the vines were going to hit Mithos, Fairess dived down in-front of the half-elf, rose her shield and blocked the vines. The youngest of the Sylphs then turned and grabbed Mithos, and flew out of range from the subsequent vines that came after them.
"Holy Lance!" Martel called as she brought out one of her best spells. Spears of light came from the air and pierced the Dryad. Yutis, seizing this chance, fired a volley of arrows at the monster. Screaming in annoyance, it stretched out its vines at Yutis and smashed her with it. The Summon Spirit quickly righted herself and fired more arrows at the Dryad.
Fairess finally let Mithos down beside Martel. Both siblings turned to look at her, wondering who she was.
"Who are you?" Mithos asked out of curiosity.
"I'm Fairess, one of the Sylphs, Summon Spirit of Wind!" Fairess replied, hovering over the two half-elves.
"The both of you are Summon Spirits?" Martel asked. "Does that mean Kratos is nearby?"
"Our pact-maker sent us to find the two of you!"
"Then can you bring us to him?" Martel asked, bowing politely to the Summon Spirit.
"That isn't necessary," Fairess replied. "Sephie has already went to get him."
"Oh? That's great..." Mithos murmured, raising his sword. "Then, this Dryad is going down this time...for what it did to Martel and Yuan!"
After being separated from their other two companions, they managed to get away from the Dryad, in hopes of finding both Kratos and Yuan before they killed each other or something. Both siblings knew that the both of them weren't on very good terms with each other because of their race. Well, actually, it was just Yuan who showed displeasure to the only human among them. No matter how much Yuan despised him, Kratos had never retorted or even insulted the blue-haired half-elf. But somehow, the Dryad had caught up to the Yggdrasills and started assaulting them again. It was then Sylph found the siblings.
After yelling something in elven, Mithos charged the Dryad. Martel quickly gave all the support spells she could cast to Mithos. Powered by the magic of his sister, Mithos skillfully dodged and slashed the vines. Since he still had the garnet, the half-elf's sword was still enchanted with fire mana. If he could get close to the Dryad, the swordsman could deal serious damage to it. As if to answer his prayers, Martel's Holy Lance spell came at the monster once more, and more arrows from Yutis came flying at it. Mithos quickly rushed in and got a good stab at the Dryad.
The Dryad roared out in pain. In it's rage, it flung it's vines out at everyone. Since Fairess was very near Martel, the Summon Spirit was able to shield the female half-elf. But Yutis got tangled in its vines and Mithos got smashed by one of the vines, and was sent flying to the ground quite a few meters away.
"Mithos!" Martel yelled and was beside her brother in an instant.
"I'm sorry, Martel," Mithos said, gritting his teeth in pain. "I guess I wasn't strong enough..."
"Shush, Mithos! I'll heal you and fix you up right away!" Martel reprimanded.
Fairess started charging towards the Dryad. Skillfully dodging the vines in flight, Fairess smashed her shield on the Dryad's face, if it had one that is. The shock to the monster was so great that it staggered backwards. Yutis managed an Air Thrust spell which sliced the vines of the Dryad up, thus getting herself free. But the Dryad recovered all too quickly. Noticing that the Yggdrasill siblings were defenseless, it quickly lashed out at them. Yutis and Fairess noticed this and tried to get to them, but they were quite tired at the moment as they had been out for too long and were weakening.
Just before the vines reached them however, a sword made out of pure fire mana came crashing down on the Dryad. The monster shrieked out in pain as it withdrew its' vines, trying to get out of the remaining flames. When it did, it decided to lash out at Yutis and Fairess. However, a charging figure flew in-between them so fast that the Dryad could not react to it. Sephie appeared before her younger sisters and slashed the vines of the monster back.
Just then, Yuan leapt out in-front of the siblings just in case the Dryad tried anything. Martel, relieved to see that Yuan was fine, called out to him.
"Yuan, you're okay! Are you hurt anywhere?"
"Don't worry, Martel, Kratos fixed me up good," Yuan replied, eyes never moving from the Dryad. Martel was very surprised that he had called Kratos by his name instead of human. But before she could ask or ponder on it further, the Dryad attacked them.
But this time, Yuan was quicker than the Dryad. Releasing the fire mana which he had prepared beforehand, the mage threw it all out back at the Dryad. "One more time! Flame Lance!"
The sword of fire mana once again fell from the sky and smashed into the Dryad. Still not giving up, it tried to attack the half-elf again. But this time, Kratos was the one who leapt out in-front of Yuan. Swinging his Flamberge skyward, he conjured up strong waves of wind which sliced through its' vines. Nodding to the Summon Spirit of Wind, Sylph disappeared in a swirl of green-colored mana. After that, he turned to Yuan, gave him a nod and charged the Dryad. And Yuan just stood there, calling upon a large amount of fire mana. A ring of red-colored mana surrounded the half-elf as he did that, concentrating as hard as he could on his spell, without worrying about anything else.
Kratos, feeling the mana shift, knew that Yuan was casting his spell right now. All he had to do was to distract the Dryad and prevent it from attacking the half-elf. But it wasn't just Yuan he had to shield. Martel was trying to heal Mithos right now. Even with Yuan standing in-front of the siblings, if he lets a hit get through, it will make things worse. Slamming his sword on the ground, the swordsman created a quick shockwave that blasted the Dryad's vines back. Then taking the opportunity, Kratos pulled out a ring from his bag. It had green-colored oval-shaped gem fixed on it. It was the opal, the proof of the pact with Sylph. The summoner quickly slipped it on and chanted a few words in the language of the Summon Spirits. Winds surrounded him after he was done with the chant. Blessed with the speed of wind, Kratos was now able to move faster than normal. With that speed, he dodged all the vines quickly and with ease, either by slashing at them with his sword of fire, leaping into the air, ducking or sidestepping to the left and right.
"Raging flames, reduce everything to ashes! Explosion!" Yuan declared when his spell was finally ready. A stream of fire fell from the sky and landed on the Dryad, causing a huge explosion which spread outward around the Dryad.
Seizing the opportunity, Kratos charged all the way in to where the Dryad was. Just as he was within attacking range, Kratos yelled the words, Hell Pyre, spun towards the air, sword striking the monster. When he was a certain distance in the air, the swordsman threw a huge fireball back down at the Dryad. Kratos then dropped back down from the sky, landing back on his feet.
Just then, something sparked within the exspheres belonging to Kratos and Yuan. As if responding to their one, unified mind and their battle technique, something was triggered between the both of them. Yuan sent another blast of fire mana to Kratos, which his Flamberge absorbed. The swordsman then slammed his sword to the ground.
"Pyre Explosion!" Both human and half-elf yelled in unison.
The fire mana in Kratos' sword exploded on the Dryad. Subsequently, fireballs started raining on the monster, never giving it a chance to attack. Just as the attack cleared, the monster was seen staggering, but still not defeated. It threw out a vine weakly, which Kratos easily dodged.
"Persistent bastard!" Yuan yelled. His exsphere responded to the half-elf's anger which allowed him to gather more fire mana in an instant and he used it to fire off another one of his spells. "Fear Flare!"
Fireballs started raining on the Dryad, every single one striking it, not letting it move or attack at all. Kratos knew that spell would take a while to dissipate, thus he decided to gather fire mana himself. Raising Flamberge in-front of him, a red-colored ring of mana appeared, surrounding the summoner.
"I call upon the Red Giant, Ruler of Hellfire! I summon thee, Efreet!" Kratos declared just as the effects of Yuan's spell disappeared. It was just in time too. In its last efforts, the Dryad had tried to attack Kratos just as he finished his summon. But right at that moment, Efreet had appeared in-front of the summoner and blocked the vines, burning them away as they touched his body. Then raising his fist, the Summon Spirit charged the Dryad, slamming the ground as Efreet reached the monster. An explosion occurred, engulfing the Dryad in his flames. With one last cry of agony, it finally fell, its mana dissipating back into the ground. Efreet then disappeared in a swirl of red-colored mana, his deed done.
Just as the Dryad was defeated, Martel finished healing Mithos. Groaning, younger half-elf slowly sat up.
"Is the Dryad dead?"
"Yeah, we cooked it good!" Yuan said, his face beaming.
"We?" Martel asked, surprised. She had half-expected Yuan to say 'I' and not 'we', which served to surprise the female half-elf further.
"Yep, we," Yuan replied just as Kratos walked up to the three half-elves. Yuan then decided to grab the summoner's shoulders and pushed him in-front, with himself behind him, seemingly to peer out from behind the human's shoulder.
Martel blinked at both human and half-elf. Yuan was smiling very widely and Kratos seemed to be wearing an expression of irritation. But the strangest thing was, Yuan didn't snap at the human. Martel had expected him to do that, typical Yuan, but he didn't. And that was what surprised the female half-elf the most.
"Kratos..." Yuan hissed as he let go of the human's shoulders. "What was that attack just now? What was it called? Pyre Explosion?"
"That was," Kratos coughed. "What you would call, a 'Unison Attack'."
"Huh?" Yuan replied, clearly confused.
"Isn't that an attack created when two people each use compatible moves, and after they're done with their initial attack, they will combine their moves together, creating a compound attack?" Mithos asked as he stood up, sheathing his sword and dusted himself off.
"Yes. Also, in-order to execute a unison attack, the two attacking people must also be in sync and of one mind. If not, it won't happen, even if the moves are compatible," Kratos added as he crossed his arms.
"Hey, wait...that means..." Martel started, still clearly surprised. The unison attack was certainly proof of it.
"Means what?" Yuan asked.
"Stupid half-elf," Kratos muttered under his breath.
"Hey! I heard that!"
"So? It doesn't mean anything," Kratos smirked and turned to walk away. "I'm going to the river. I still need to refill my water canteen."
"Kratos...!" Yuan growled, shaking his fist in the air at the retreating human, mumbled something in elven and yelled after him.
Martel heaved a sigh of relief. Although she didn't know what had happened between the two of them during her absence, but it certainly turned out for the better. Yuan was no longer hostile towards their human companion, which would make things much easier for them from now on. It seemed that the both of them somehow understood each other, and the unison attack which they performed just now was certainly proof of that.
I'm glad that I actually gave this a chance. You were different from all those other humans that I've met. Even though I was hostile to you, you did not return me the same hostility. You were kind and understanding. Because of you, I finally found the confidence and courage to protect Martel, despite my own weakness. If only all humans were just like you, then this world would have been a much better place to live in. You were the first human who I had called "friend". I have no idea why, but I have this feeling that one day, we would become the best of friends, a friendship that would be stronger than any other.