"This is absurd!" exclaimed a voice in shock.
"Yet this is our best chance," replied a calm voice.
"I do not think so! This plan poses too much danger to our forces. Morale is at its lowest due to the overwhelming resistance from the opposing side! We need to..."
"I think that..."
"Gentlemen, please!" A high and mighty voice had spread through the debates and arguments that the men prior were having. Without any exceptions, the men all gulped their saliva and turned their head towards the source of this voice.
The tent opened and revealed a knight that held a long spear in the left hand and a kite shield in the right. Looking at the figure alone sent a chill down the spines of everyone present. Was it due to the posture of the man? Was it due to his armor shoulder pads that had a resemblance of a lion? The answer was all of it. From the way the knight stood proud and unshaken, as if staring at a lion itself, to the condition that the armor was in, showing off numerous scratches and metal dents as well as dirt and blood, it was clear that the man had been through a lot of battles recently and had survived.
"Ah, great timing lady Amelia," said the man who shook off his silent stare and gestured towards the knight to join them.
The knight lightly bowed and planted her spear into the ground, while simultaneously hanging her shield on her back. She then moved her hands towards her helmet, revealing her face. A woman with pitch black hair that extended no longer than her neck, brown eyes, and thin red lips. Despite her face being slightly wrinkled and having a mature complexion, she still looked like a woman who would capture hearts of many. Everyone present knew that she was a knight of the 33rd squadron, a squad belonging to the special forces of Kingdom of Vaalmer, which was currently at war with the kingdom of Damas.
"How did the operation go?" asked the man who seemed to be the head of the meeting. "I assume that the stage has been set?"
Amelia grinned and bowed one more time. "Oh yes," she replied. "it is all taken care of, commander."
The commander licked his lips and looked towards the five men in front of him.
"You heard Amelia. We have opened a gateway towards our decisive victory. The opposition is no longer able to receive provisions for at least a few months. We can easily achieve our goals."
"But sir! The intelligence network of Damas has sent Solomon himself to reinforce the fortress. He is the strongest Elementalist in the ranks and perhaps is Damas's best sorcerer. We can't just attack the capital head on! We cannot bypass him either. Our troops are too numerous," snorted one of the party members. He firmly believed that the plan devised by their strategists was flawed and as such boasted a strong resentment towards the commander.
"That is precisely why lady Amelia and her unit have been dispatched for our aid," said the captain while looking up at all the men present before continuing.
"As you may or may not know, the city of Na'ul is the biggest supplier of fish to the settlements not just in the vicinity, but to the entire kingdom." The commander pointed down at the map of Damas and quickly moved his finger towards the city. "This here is the only port city that the country has and as such it is very well reinforced and protected by the Kingdom of Damas. As we all know, the capital is located in the South; therefore it takes several weeks to fully reinforce the port if it is to fall. Lady Amelia had ensured that something would happen within next few days, that will force Solomon to be sent for an investigation to that city first and then..." the commander smiled and clenched his fist "...the trap will close."
*Tock, Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, Tick*
Having collapsed after exhaustion from playing with Piu, Alviona had been asleep for almost one full day. Every time she slept, she would grow albeit very slightly, as such Anita seemed to have been correct about her speculation. The next morning, Alviona was the first to open her eyes and wake up, curiosity flowing through her mind.
Ah! I am, at last, awake! I want to find Piu and play with him. I promise that I will find a way to bite his tail today... It looks too fluffy, thought Alviona who opened her eyes and looked around. She saw her mother who was deep asleep.
The child slowly slid out of her bed and thought what to do. Not even before she could take a step further, her stomach growled. I am hungry. As if sensing this, Sofia suddenly woke up and instinctively looked at her child. Seeing that she was all right and up to her usual adventures, she let out a deep sigh.
"Come here my darling. Are you hungry?" she asked as if expecting an answer to come.
Yes, I am. Dear mommy. How did she know? Mom is the best! said Alviona, even though nothing but giggles was heard from her. Understanding what her daughter wanted, Sofia grinned and took the child into her embrace. "Well then, let's go eat."
The two of them went down to the 2nd floor, where the dining area was located. After preparing breakfast, Sofia fed her child. Not far after, Anita joined the two of them, and the three of them ate their meals.
"Mrs. Sofia, would you be willing to accompany me to the lake today?" asked Anita as she was finishing up her meal.
"Why, of course!" replied Sofia with a smile. "I will just leave Alviona in Piu's care then."
"Piu will be coming with us today, and you should take Alviona with you as well."
Sofia was surprised, as up to this point Alviona was left in Piu's care since the tasks that the two of them had to do were not easy to achieve. Sofia was overly protective of her child, and while wanting her daughter to be by her side, did not want to endanger her. "Would it be all right?" she asked carefully.
"Yes, it would be. I assure you that we are not doing any trivial tasks such as wolf population control or taking care of goblins. We are going to the grand lake because I need to collect some herbs that only grow there. I also need to conduct a light ritual to help out our earth golem." As Anita said "golem," Sofia's senses of alert went up quite a notch.
"Gggggolem? W-would that be fine? Is it not dangerous?" she asked shocked, while her face twisted a little.
"Of course not! The mighty golem protects this forest and shall never harm its inhabitants. I always maintain it once every three months, since I can never tell when will the wolves go on a rampage, going out of their hunting territories; or when will the goblins finally decide to go outside of the forest to chomp on some prey. No, it is all too dangerous to leave them be without any control. They are very quick to anger and can pose a huge threat to humans that are alive outside. Yes, they can not pose a threat to armed adventurers, guilds or well-protected cities; however, they can easily decimate a village just by themselves. To ensure this does not happen the commander golem has to be maintained..."
"You are getting carried away again child" snorted Piu, interrupting Anita.
"Yooouu!!!" said Anita while throwing an electric glare at Piu. Just by the looks of it, one would say she was ready to fry the wolf and then deal with the spirit all by itself.
"Anyways!" continued Anita in order not to scare Sofia and more importantly, her child. "I think it should be a good experience for you as well. Don't you want to go outside for a while with your daughter? Don't you think that it would be interesting for Alviona to have a little bit of fun?"
"That... I... Yes," replied Sofia while blushing. She quickly glanced at Alviona and seeing that nothing but warmth and giggles were returned, she resolved herself and nodded. "Yes! In that case, we are in your care, lady Anita."
Hearing Sofia's words, Anita blushed and randomly waved her hands around "Oh, it is nothing! I... I... Let's go! Today will be rather fun! All of this is for my future disciple!"
"Anita, I sense some degree of sadism coming from these words of yours," said Piu while opening one of his eyes and glancing at his master.
"SHUT UP YOU ANCIENT LUGGAGE!!!!!" she snorted at Piu, her face taking on color as if she was about to boil. "Hmph" and a light kick followed after, which he nimbly dodged and laughed at.
"Waste no time," he said.
"Yes, yes," replied Anita. And so the four of them went outside, their destination being the grand lake.
*Tock, Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock*
Well, this is undoubtedly exciting. Mommy is carrying me. I am overly curious! I will not fall asleep this time. I want to see more! More! More! Mooooooore! It is too much fun. The aroma of the forest is truly magnificent. Wait what does this word mean? Ah! This promenade is rather pleasant. Oh! There is a cute brown animal with white dots and two horns on its head. It looks cute. I want to sit on it. Mommy, may I sit on it? Oh, it ran away. I hope to see you again dear friend. Huh? I sense massive power coming from that direction... Is it a danger? Danger?! Mommy!!
Alviona started crying; however, there was absolutely nothing in front of the party. It was very unnatural for this doll-like child to cry, so what would cause this phenomenon, wondered Anita. She glanced at Piu and asked in a low voice so that Sofia would not hear her: "Why do you think is she crying? Perhaps... No, don't tell me she can sense the mana of the golem at such an infant age? Perhaps she thinks it is a danger?"
"it is quite possible... I have had my guess, but there is very little evidence to prove this. However, if she truly can sense the mana at such an early age... Anita, you don't think...." asked Piu with curiosity and at the same time, a hint of fear "...that the child is..."
"Like my mother," finished Anita. Piu gave a slight nod.
Anita brushed her chin with her index finger and fell into deep thought. "While it is rather interesting, her potential of becoming an advanced druid is rather high. If so, when should I start training her? She is only one year and a few months old, and yet if at such age she looks like a 3-year-old and simultaneously can sense mana, perhaps in three... No, it is going to be sooner. Yes, perhaps I can start teaching her as soon as next year?!" she mumbled to herself. Piu could still hear her and shook his head.
"No, despite her looking like a 3-year-old, she is still only an infant. She is one year old, and so she cannot even speak. Right now, she is unable to even say "mother," so I do not think that she can possess enough power or thought to yield mana, read incantations or manipulate any elements properly. Besides, harming others is easier than healing them. You know that better than most Anita. You know how difficult it is to become a proper druid."
"Indeed," said Anita while biting her lips. No matter how much she longed to train and raise a disciple, it was difficult to teach the druidic arts of her mother - Mira. It was not enough to learn how to control Mana. One also had to learn how to treat injuries before healing. Those could be taught through books, but what could Anita expect from a one-year-old child? She knew her ambitions were too big, so she just decided to throw it back into her head for now and focus on the present. Yes, maintaining golem right now was a priority. Not doing so could become very dangerous. Finally looking up and putting a smile on her face, she stretched her arms and addressed her party. "We are here."