The Masquerade in the Forest
Huh? When did I fall asleep? I was… on my way back to the empire… What happened then? Did I lose consciousness? Did I die?
Well I won’t figure anything out like this. So I better get up.
As I started to open my eyes, light immediately seeped in. Blinding me momentarily as my eyes start to adjust to it.
“Shirley! Thank god!”
“Thank god, Shirley! We thought you would never wake up again!”
Who’s that? And Why are they crying? Who’s Shirley?
More importantly, does this mean I’m back in Andania? I must go report our findings!
I stand up so suddenly I could sense the surprise of the people around me, but there’s no time to feel embarrassed. I start walking before I could even see clearly, but there’s no time to waste.
“Shirley! Where are you going? What’s wrong?!”
“Shirley, you shouldn’t be walking right now!”
“Haha everyone, he must be confused from his long slumber, it’s ok. I’ll go after him.”
“Ah, I guess that’s fine. We’ll leave it to you then Kirk.”
As I start to see clearly, I start seeing trees on both sides. Am in the countryside? Have I not made it to the capital yet?
“Wait up, Shirley!”
Someone suddenly puts his hand on my shoulder and gently pulls me. I was reminded of the Lieutenant, who had done the same to me not too long ago, except it had more power. Chills run down my spine as I remember. But now is not the time for reminiscence.
“Listen buddy, I don’t know who that Shirley guy is, but I don’t have time for your nonsense.” I say to the person whose hand I brush of my shoulder.
I continue walking, hoping to not be interrupted once again.
“I know you’re confused, but you need to calm down.”
“It’s none of your business, now leave me alone.”
“Just listen to me, Shirley.”
“I SAID I AM NOT SHIRLEY!” I lose control and shout.
“Then don’t waste my time!”
He really is starting to get on my nerves.
“If you don’t even want to listen, then at the very least look at me, maybe then you’ll understand.”
I let out a heavy sigh, “If that’s all it’ll take for you to leave me alone.”
I turned around and looked. I didn’t know what I could possibly understand by looking at him, nor did I understand what I needed to ‘understand’ in the first place.
“H-Huh? An... Elf?”
What is happening?
“Correct. My name is Kirk.” He introduced himself, and put his hand forward, waiting for me to shake it.
“…Grout Aullius…” I hesitantly shook his hand.
I always thought elves were arrogant and looked down on humans, but I guess they aren’t that arrogant.
“That’s who you were. But from now on you’ll be Shirley.”
“Why don’t you follow me?”
“Where are we in the first place? What is an elf doing in the countryside?”
“Countryside? You’re in the Elves’ Forest.”
“What?! Then I must leave. I am indeed curious about how I ended up in the Elves’ Forest, but I have no time.”
“You seem to be in a hurry. Ever since you woke up. But whatever you wanted to do, It’s probably too late. It has been a week since we found you outside the forest.”
“Now follow me.”
He started walking in front of me, leading me somewhere. I was now full of questions. Was it truly too late? Could I make it if I go right now? My head hurt from thinking. He said they found me a week ago, and I only woke up now. Was I injured? I started looking at my arms, my legs and touched my face. But nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
“Look.” He pointed to the water near his feet.
I stood next to him and looked into the lake. I saw a reflection of him, and next to him, a face I didn’t recognize. Blond hair… green eyes… Huh?
I got down on my knees to take a closer look, the face in the lake got closer in turn.
There’s no way… I started washing my face with the water, the reflection became distorted, and after a few seconds, settled down again, revealing the same face.
“There’s… no mistake..”
Ah.. Elf ears…
I brought my hand to my ears and started touching them, the reflection that was now unmistakably mine also did the same.
“What the hell did you do to me?!”
“That’s what I have been trying to explain.”
“Well, it better make sense!”
“We found you outside our forest, barely alive. You were missing an arm and a leg, and the limbs that were still there were badly injured.”
“I can prove it to you later if you don’t believe me. But let me continue.”
“Four weeks ago, our leader lost consciousness, and didn’t wake up again. And one week ago, a day before we found you, he passed away in his sleep.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“We suspect he has been poisoned.”
“Poison? So you elves also have conflict between each other, huh?”
“No. If he really was poisoned, it would have been by a human.”
“S-Still, what does that have to do with me? Are you implying that I poisoned him?”
“No, that wouldn’t be possible.”
“For a human to kill an elf… Humans really are evil. They misuse their power and use it for all the wrong things. But if those same humans find out that they succeeded in killing an elf, they would not hesitate to attempt to exterminate us all. Shirley was important to everyone, he was not only a leader to every elf here, but was a big brother for the little ones, and a son for the older elves. If news that he had died at the hands of humans spread around right now, it would depress every single one in the forest. And I have no doubt that they would prepare to wage war against humanity itself.”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait. That’s too much for me. That’s horrible. But did you say… Shirley?”
“Y-Yes. We needed Shirley to stay alive, even after his death. For the benefit of elves, and the safety of humanity. You were on the verge of death… Listen, I’m not going to pretend that we’re perfect, in normal circumstances, you would have been left to die and rot where you were. But because of the situation, you were given a second chance at life. Your soul now resides in Shirley’s body.”
“I… So what do you want me to do…?”
“Pretend that you are Shirley. A few other elves know the truth, you’ll get to meet them.”
“And what if I don’t want to?”
“What are you going to do, then? Go back to wherever you’re from? As an elf? You belong here now. You will not be welcomed anywhere else. Besides, is this how you repay us? We gave you an elf body, what you humans call immortality.”
“So you want me to deceive your people, while knowing that MY people are probably being decimated right now?!”
“We’re not so kind to ignore one of us being poisoned to death. I said I’d prevent a future where humankind goes extinct. But I don’t mind the people who poisoned Shirley going extinct. We want revenge… And after that, we will no longer be considered neutral nor will we be able to stay neutral. If you agree to help us, I promise we will side with your people.”
This… could be good, if I manage to get the elves to help Andania, we could fight against Delin’s black mage! No! We’d destroy them!
I’m very confused right now, but it seems like I can get something out of this.
“So please, help us crush Andania.” Kirk smiled and titled his head slightly.