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I gasped for air the moment I felt someone touching my forehead. Like a flash, I opened my eyes, looking at Alice in front of me. And a moment later, my whole body felt weak like, just like before the darkness.

“Hey, hey, hey! Relax. Take a deep breath. It’s alright!” Alice said, hugging me and pulling me against her as well.

“What’s going on. How long was I out?” I mumbled, lazily.

“Five minutes tops. Others are right now over at Alwine,” she whispered, hands slowly caressing my hair. “You lost consciousness out of shock. Nothing serious. We already treated your wound. I hope you don’t mind scars.”

"I have too few of them, actually," I said, grinning. The vision finally got more clear, as I looked at her, breathing slowing down. “I’m an idiot,” I mumbled, closing my eyes once more, resting my head against her shoulder. “She had fingers all around me, didn’t she? And I failed to see that.”

“She’s a dragon,” Alice murmured.

“So?” I whispered.

Alice sighed. “She knows a trick or two, so you could make a stupid mistake like that, while for others it could seem so obvious. And somehow you managed to keep us away from her, as well. Or it might be her work too. So, yeah, it was as much my failure than it was yours. I spent too much time bickering on pointless stuff, instead of noticing things that truly mattered.”

I sighed. “That’s not an excuse. This huge mistake might’ve cost us more than you know. We lost Qildor. Do you realize how bad it is? She made me suspicious of Qildor, thinking that he was making Alwine as an assassin. Making me finally doubt the king of elves. Someone who has kept the country safe for centuries. Just because she seemed nice. And how he’s dead. I don’t even know who to trust anymore. They’re all supposed to be the top of the society, trusted people. Yet I have a hard time believing many of them. I find myself doubting them while sharing critical information.”

“Then don’t trust any of them. Or trust, but verify,” Alice whispered, looking at me, trying to keep up her smile. “Trust yourself, your instincts and maybe your companions. Live your own story. Trust only those who you have confirmed to be trustworthy. You have still a long way to go, Hiro. You have still much to learn. And you should do those mistakes now, not later.”

Aldrynte sighed as she had appeared out of nowhere mid-conversation. “Alice is right. Just because you're a good person, doesn’t mean that the other five are. They might be at the very top, following the ancient contract. But they all do have their objectives, purposes, goals. And some might not really align with you.”

I frowned once more, looking at the sky. “I feel I've grown stronger. Yet I’m still weak. So weak.

"Not that weak. Who says that you can't make mistakes? You're hero, but not even heroes are know-it-all supreme beings who knows an answer to every question," Alice said, leaning her own head against mine. And I didn't even worry that Aldrynte would be jealous.

Aldrynte chuckled. “What was that light, anyway?”

“My new power. I’ll tell you another time. If I want to tell you, that is,” I said, trying to finally stand up. I met an immediate failure, as my body refused to listen.

“Not yet. Rest. Let the healing potion do the work,” Alice mumbled, slowly stroking my hair.

“We need to find Qildor’s body,” I said, looking at Aldrynte. “And any news about Alwine?”

Aldrynte looked over her shoulder at Aurora. “Aurora is looking into it. But she's not looking very confident.”

I sighed. “Get her here, and let me talk to her. Alone.”

It didn’t take long before I was resting against a tree, Aurora standing in front of me, hands behind her back.

“Hey. I’m sorry for dragging you here,” I said, raising my hand as an apology.

“I wish I could say it’s fine... But what the hell, Hiro? This is a dragon we are talking about!”

I nodded. “And this is why we need you. If this dragon keeps being influenced by some very bad people’s, we're screwed. So I need you to lock the evil within.”

“Lock the evil within?” she hissed. But no words came out from her mouth.

I nodded once more. “There’s someone else’s energy within her. It was controlling her. Right now it’s its weakest. I need you to use your power to lock her power away, keeping it in check, and not letting it grow. It needs to be separated from Alwine's main power, so it wouldn't feed on her magical essence.”

I feel this is a moment to mention as a side note, that this was a pure theory that I told Aurora, trying to inspire her. I had no idea if it would work. It was a pure fiction I had read, and I just mimicked the speech.

“Hiro. I learned about my power like a month ago. I don’t even have a conduit,” she murmured, pulling out her wand. “And this is terrible!”

“And yet, this is everything we have. You don’t need to make a permanent solution. We need a temporary resolution, so we can figure it out and fix it later. If you don’t… we’re in a very bad spot,” I said, looking at her. “And I’m sorry. I truly am. But let me tell you something. This is what it is to be an adventurer. When things are hard, and you feel there is no hope — there’s always hope. Until you take the last breath. And until that moment, you just have to do it. You have to struggle. Even if it means doing impossible.”

Aurora sighed, crouching down, drawing something on the dirt with her wand. “I don’t know if it’s even doable,” she stammered.

“Then explore. Try it out. And if you fail… we’ll figure something else out. We always will!” But to be fair, I was terrified of the possibility that it didn’t work. Especially since the original research about the Harem King was a failure. Or well, at least the first research before they started coming.

“Alright!” Aurora said, standing up. “I guess I have to make an even bigger legacy than Bill ever could. Gotta beat my brother.”

I chuckled. “You’re damn right.”

And I looked at her rise, walk to the unconscious and lying Alwine, sitting next to her, and finally pushing her hand — together with the wand — against her chest, eyes closed.

“I wonder, why are you so damn inspiring?” a quiet sound reached me from behind, as Loid took a few steps towards me from the nearby tree.

“Haven’t you heard that eavesdropping is really bad? I should say that to Aldrynte as well,” I mumbled.

“I can’t leave her alone. And I’m not sorry for it.” Loid walked next to me, crouching. “I heard that you needed a search party for Qildor?”

I nodded.

Loid pushed his hand against the ground. But not the palm, but the back of his hand. Small mini-Loids began to appear on top of his hand, walking off and creating a line. My eyes widened slightly. It was a hilarious view. “I’m… when did you...?”

“I’ve been secretly training a lot. I even found my catalyst,” he said.

“Really? Did you now?” I whispered.

Loid smirked, leaning towards me. “But I won’t tell you what it is. Even if you’re the hero.”

I snorted. “You’ve learned. Good job.”

As Loid raised his hand again, we looked at around twenty mini-Loids in front of us. “Alright, me-s. It’s time to make yourself useful!” Loid said.

“You want us to search Qildor, right?” a truly high-pitched sound reached us.

“Making us do all your work, huh?” another same pitched sound said.

“Hey. I’m the alpha here!”

“Way to show your dominance... You’re only alpha to us, and that's it!” one of them said, unhappy. “But fine. Let’s go boys. Let’s check out every corpse!” They all began to talk with each other, reaching an agreement, and spreading out into different directions.

“That’s… stupidly useful,” I whispered, grinning.

“Sadly they also get my personality,” Loid said, sighing. "I never knew I had such a bad personality."

We both snorted and laughed.

"Sadly, besides copying myself, I can't make a copy of any other living or organic thing. All the other things have to be physical. And everything stays only temporarily.”

“Depending on how much essence you use?” I asked.

Loid nodded.

“I did it!” a shout echoed, as Aurora stood up and jumped up. “I did it!” She then turned to me, ran and hugged me the moment she reached me. It hurt, a lot. But I didn't whine. “I did it. I locked the other magical essence within,” she whispered, pulling herself away afterward, smiling. Others finally followed her, looking at me.

“What’s going on?” Aldrynte asked.

“Can’t tell you,” I said, sighing. “But Alwine should be fine now,” I said.

“Really?” Aldrynte said, turning to look at Aurora.

“Yes!” Aurora said, still grinning widely. “But temporarily. For a year the best. Unless you defeat the source beforehand.”

I nodded. “I knew I could count on you!” I took hold of the nearby tree and got myself up. But I felt immediate pain on my back. Aldrynte and Loid both caught me, helping me to stay up. “It’s time to wake her up!”

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About the author

Elven

  • Matthew E. Damson

Bio: I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.

You can read my stuff and shorts at reddit.com/r/Elven

If you like my stuff, I'd really appreciate if you'd become patreon or perhaps show your supports with any other means ^^. Or show it via comments, discussing the story and sharing your thoughts.

I'm not the best at grammar, but I try to fight against it with a better story-writing.

Cheers, and thank you each and one of you who support me and my writing in any way! You have no idea how much it matters to me!

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