046 Exploring the Demon Woods 3 p.4

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And then he laughed mockingly. A derisive twisted smile revealing his contempt.

He was definitely not a harmless forest elf. It was something more horrific.

“Those guys from the other day?”

“Hmm? Does that bother you? Was it a month or two ago? Alliance, was it? A large group of adventurers made up by several parties lumped together. They were scattered by the monster attack, so we had the chance to round them up. Those that we didn’t catch survived, right? What a shame. It would have been a perfect score if we got them all.”

It appears that this elf had a part to play in the incident which led to the recognition of the Trees of Darkness as a dungeon.

“Why would you do that!?”

"Of course it's to protect the forest, right? The prospectors came here to find the veins of ore and clear a path to the mountain. The adventurers came in search of them. But if we let them return safely to their homes, then they would build mining sites, eventually bringing trouble to the forest.”

Despite being surrounded by this group of adventurers, the elf had no difficulties in presenting his account of the incident.

His tone was strangely devoid of warmth. For example, when he spoke of retaliation against humans to protect the forest. If he wanted to safeguard the forest, he should have had a sense of duty and mission to protect the forest, and thus, show passionate emotions and spite towards humans. But there was nothing like that. There was nothing but cold contempt and mockery.

The elf continued on, smiling hideously.

“As a matter of fact, you adventurers can be paid by aristocrats and merchants to attack us elves. All to shack up our women and children and sell them off. How awful, really. That's just like being a pimp. Hahahaha.”

“That’s enough...shut it.”

Joel coldly cut him off.

If he had to go along and listen to his impudent speech any further, Joel could not help but feel like chopping off his head. It would be better both for the world and for people if he actually did so but that wouldn’t go well. There was still something that this guy had to do for them.

“Just shake your head in silence and answer the question. Are you going to lead us out of the forest?”

They need to find the exit of the forest. While they had escaped from the manticore, they could not return the same way they came from. Firstly, they were brought to the place they were currently at by this crazy elf. The only way to find the escape route was from this guy, no matter how annoying he was.

The elf only had a condescending laugh as reply.

“Hahahahaha! I hate them both! Both staying quiet and leading the way out!”

Joel moved into action as he answered.

“Is that so!”

It went against his principle of hurting an unarmed opponent, but the opponent was a madman with malicious intent. If he didn’t understand the position he was in, he would have to force an appropriate reply from him, though it would require some pain. Fortunately, they also had a priest, Mariano, here. Even if he lost a limb or two, Mariano would be able to heal.

“―Protect me.”

The flash of Joel’s sword was stuck by something that came from the side.

“What the?”

“Joel! ...Ugh!?”

Rosalie ran towards Joel who had been blown off by the hit. But she cowered in front of the enemy that had blown him away.




Tentacle-like roots from living ancient trees crawled forward, brushing past branches and leaves. The hollows in their trunks, or the softer parts of their trunks, resembled huge human faces. The faces were distorted with loathe and hatred.

“Treants! That's five of them!”

“Bingo. Didn’t I tell you? About how I brought the others to round them up? Did you think this place would simply be a resting spot?”

The elf claimed proudly, glancing at the one of the Treant.

“Oh, my, what a terrible thing you guys have done. Wounding the body of a forest spirit.”


Upon a closer look, there were scratches on the trunk of one of the treants.

It was the marking that Sheeran carved to leave as a landmark.

“I can't believe it was really Treant then.”

"Watch out, i~idiot! This is the mystical body of a protector of the forest! You should have realised earlier. ...Or maybe it’s too much to ask from a vulgar half-breed?”

He was no longer hiding his disdain and discrimination against half-elves.

Sheeran glared back in retaliation.


Sheeran’s vision became blurry and her head wobbled.

The tips of her fingers and toes went numb and strength left her body.

Sheeran wasn’t the only one who suffered this strange physical sensation. Mariano, too, had difficulties breathing and thrusted a knee to the ground. Rosalie leaned back on her staff, panting in pain.

“This is some…… paralysing poison!”

Joel said while trying to stand up. Even if they were under a surprise attack, he was a vanguard who was almost about to be promoted from C-rank. It was unnatural that it took him this long to recover from the previous fight. Hence, his conclusion that there was some poison involved.

But when were they administered?

“It's finally working? Maybe it’s normal for blood circulation to be slow for slow-witted people? ...Well, it’s all too late for you all now to only realise how weird this situation is after being lured here.”

“D-Don’t tell me...it was when we were chasing after you?”

Joel muttered in astonishment.

Come to think of it, the elf always chose to run upwind when guiding them. That should have been the first thing they should have noticed that was strange. Monsters should have a good sense of smell. If they were trying to run away from the manticore, the preferred route should not have been upwind since their smell could be carried by the wind. If they were intentionally choosing to do so, then the purpose must have been to make use of the wind to disperse some kind of poison.

“Good deduction. By the way, whatever antidote you have in your possession is probably not going to work. This paralyzing poison is specially concocted by an incredibly skilled person. Hehehehe, ‘Even venomous monsters are susceptible to other kinds of poison’... was it? It’s as you say, hahaha!”

“That was when we were―”

The situation was different, but that was what Mariano said when he paralyzed the manticore. From that moment on, this elf was already watching them?

“Hmm, it would be a problem if the priest could heal the paralysis though. Restrain them, Treants. Just need to make sure they are unconscious”


The treants obeyed and started to coil around Joel and the party. With the snaking branches, their limbs were restrained and they were strangled too. They felt the sensation of losing consciousness.



“God. Please...”

Sheeran, Rosalie, and Mariano passed out one by one.

Even the last remaining Joel could only stare at the perpetrator and with all his strength,

“Who the heck...are you...”

Tricking adventurers, poisoning them and using the ancient treants as if they were property was unbelievable for an elf. To think that such an evil person was an elf. In response, the elf sneered.

“Didn’t I tell you? I am an elf that fights against outsiders to protect the forest.”

Tormented by the evil voice, the young swordsman's consciousness descended into darkness.

※ ※ ※

Even after confirming that the adventurers were all unconscious, the elf gave them a sniff of a new bottle of sleeping potion to be extra safe, and then finally let out a breath of relief.

Then, he picked up a magical tool shaped like a talisman and put it near his mouth. It was an equipment imbued with communication magic.

“E-08 to E-01. I repeat, E-08 to E-01. Please respond.”

“From E-01 to E-08. I hear you loud and clear. No communication problems. ...Somehow I can't get used to this way of speaking...”
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