The Unicorn Legion - Volume 2 - Chapter 20
It was done.
Julian double-checked the bowstring. There could be no doubt that this weapon was perfect. Although he had no way to test it, it was expertly weighted and the bowstring was strong, to provide unerring accuracy. In all honesty, it had turned out better than he'd anticipated.
The body of the crossbow was metal, and the prod was made of high-quality yew wood, which gave it a vibrant feeling.(1)(2)
I'll call it ’’Rosanna,’’ Julian decided. Of course, it wasn't as spectacular as ’’Morning Star,’’ but it had its own charm.
In the past, he'd always felt joyful when he'd successfully completed a project, but now his feelings were very complicated.
Tomorrow, the Unicorn Legion was leaving for the forest in the Sunset Highlands, the 'Miracle Forest.'
If he used Rosanna, it would mean giving up on becoming a mage, instead joining the ranks of the Unicorn Legion as an arbalist.(3) However, in exchange for giving up on his dream, he could become an official member of the Unicorn Legion. The two couldn't even be compared.
The dwarf looked at the light armor to his side and nodded to himself.
’’Come on, Rosanna,’’ he said. ’’Show me what you can do.’’
That night, the students and guests of the Mage Academy slept soundly, kept safe inside ancient stone walls. However, tonight there were two members of the adventuring party suffering from insomnia- one out of expectation, and the other out of tension.
At dawn, a heavy mist had settled in, accompanied by drizzling rain. Rain in early spring was good news for forests and fields, but it was a burden on travelers. To walk from the Mage Academy to the Sunset Highlands would take a little more than an hour. They could easily travel there and back again in less than a day, so the party would be able to take their time traveling.
After three full days of rest, the Unicorn Legion was in top condition. The only exceptions were Julian and Rowenna.
Julian was too wound up to eat much of his breakfast, and Rowenna seemed to be in low spirits as well. Earlier, Cain had politely pulled her chair out for her, but she'd only murmured a soft thanks before sipping her tea and gazing at the wall.
Shelly was bursting with excitement, but he remembered Rowenna's warning and carefully avoided the topic of magic. Out of respect for Rowenna, he also avoided saying anything to embarrass Cain.(4) Unfortunately, he didn't know much outside of these subjects, and soon ran out of things to say. Most of breakfast was spent in tense silence.
After saying their goodbyes to the Grand Mage and his wife, the Unicorn Legion set off. Rowenna was acting as their guide, and led the pack with quick and light footsteps. The atmosphere was too intense for conversation, and thus they traveled in silence as well.
An hour later they arrived at the base camp of the Miracle Forest. This was where mages undergoing their trials came to rest, so it was kept well-maintained. They took shelter in a cabin to build a fire and dry off before settling in to check their equipment and supplies.
Rowenna finally broke the silence.
’’My teacher probably already told you this, but this forest is divided into three areas from the edge to the center. The apprentice-level and mid-level constructs have been shut down, and the high-level constructs have been completely destroyed, so we only have to deal with the magical creatures.(5) There's no mention of creatures like these in any textbook, so we'll have to be careful.
’’Also, the magical constructs were designed to imitate magical creatures from the Legendary Age. In other words, to have defeated the most powerful constructs in the forest, these unknown magical creatures must be very strong. I suggest that Shelly and Julian stay on either side of the group, to act as lookouts.’’
’’No problem!’’ Shelly answered proudly, his head hidden under a towel. Julian nodded quietly.
’’However, as we head deeper into the forest, the situation will become more dangerous, so it's important that you listen to Captain's orders.’’
’’Mm,’’ The elf hummed. He wasn't sure how he'd ended up as the leader, or why Rowenna deferred to him so respectfully. Honestly, he didn't think he was suited to lead. A nervous expression appeared on his face. Cain glanced at him and smiled before clapping a hand onto his shoulder.
’’Don't worry. Remember how well you handled the rebel army? You'll do fine.’’
Hearing Cain mention the rebellion, Rowenna looked at Ellen in shock.
’’The Unicorn Legion is a neutral party. Why did you participate in the civil war?’’
’’Back then, I was only a mercenary. The legion had to be rebuilt.’’
’’He wiped out 50 enemy soldiers without breaking a sweat,’’ Cain interrupted. ’’He-’’
’’Cain!’’ Ellen shushed him, embarrassed. ’’You think that's worth showing off to someone who ended a war single-handedly?’’
’’No matter,’’ Rowenna looked at Ellen, her tense expression somewhat eased. ’’I've heard of your deeds. If you hadn't helped, I'm afraid even my master's recovery efforts would have been in vain.’’
’’Well, getting back to the task at hand,’’ Ellen coughed, ’’I'd like for Cain to look after Shelly, while Miss Silva and I back up Julian. Is this alright?’’
’’I don't mind either way,’’ the half-elf said, ’’and please, call me Rowenna.’’
’’Sounds good,’’ Cain smiled. ’’Shelly, if things get dangerous, just hide behind me.’’
’’Okay,’’ Shelly said. ’’Cain, are you sure it's not you who'll hide behind me?’’
’’... I'm too lazy to argue with you.’’ Cain turned away.
’’I ...’’ seeing both Ellen and Rowenna looking at him, the dwarf's face grew red. ’’I ... I'll try not to cause trouble, so ... you won't have to take care of me ...’’
’’We're not taking care of you,’’ Rowenna said. ’’In this regard, we aren't quite that skilled. We'll be relying on you as well.’’
’’I ... I'll do my best,’’ Julian whispered.
’’Then it's settled.’’ Ellen stood up. ’’We'll double-check our gear and head out.’’
The Miracle Forest was an ancient one, filled with lush trees that had been steadily growing for hundreds of years. Fortunately, there were plenty of gaps between branches, and the atmosphere of the forest wasn't too dark.
The rain had finally stopped. The leaves were coated in small droplets which occasionally dripped down to the forest floor. Except for their footsteps, there was no sound;even the birds were silent. For about ten minutes, all they saw were a few small slugs. There was no sign of any magical creatures.
’’When all this is over, we should have a picnic here!’’ Shelly said.
’’Usually, the constructs are active here,’’ Rowenna said. ’’You don't want to fight giant rats and living thorns while you eat, right?’’
’’Woah!’’ Shelly exclaimed. ’’Hey, what are living tho- wah!’’
’’Shut up,’’ Cain flicked his forehead.
’’Rowenna, are you sure the constructs have been shut down?’’ Ellen suddenly spoke.
’’Well,’’ the elf pointed ahead of them, ’’One of them's woken up.’’
Before any of them had the chance to ask what he meant, the others realized what he'd seen.
Coming down the path from deeper inside the forest, dozens of snake-like vines were writhing towards them.
’’Shelly, Julian,’’ Ellen nocked an arrow, ’’The first round of attack goes to you.’’
With a whisper from Cain, a white light blazed out of the dwarf and the siren.
- The ’’prod’’ is the bow part of the crossbow.
- The term used for ’’yew wood’’ is ’’紫衫木’’ which is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
- An arbalist is someone who wields a crossbow.
- Shelly's such a gentleman! I guess Rowenna's made a really good impression on him!
- The magical creatures Rowenna is referring to were mentioned in Chapter 15;the Grand Mage suspects that the constructs were destroyed by them, and asked the Unicorn Legion to investigate.