Chapter 21:

An Elph and a Cup

The Melancholy of a Whimsical Half-Elph

Sweat ran down Raquel’s brow under the morning sun. Her golden eyes focused ahead on her towering sparring partner. Her breathing was measured, and her stance tensed with a blade in hand. She awaited Mikail’s first move while hearing the small crowd beside the cave entrance. He smirked, though he didn’t underestimate her. Her speed and precision made up for her more petite frame.

“Don’t go easy on me,” Raquel winked. Mikail slammed his fists together.

“You know how we do it,” Mikail replied.

“Spoken like a true sadist,” Enne yawned.

Her eyes were drawn to the action while underneath the warm covers with Alejandro. The wanderer jerked to the side, pressing against her. She saw his slumbering vulnerability before observing the sparring partners. Raquel dashed toward him, faking out as she slung to the side with an incredible reflex. Mikail couldn’t have possibly caught up with the nimble wanderer when he tried to grab her.

“This again?” Mikail asked.

“You need to learn to deal with faster people,” Raquel said before being met with his heavy backhand.

The impact knocked her air out as she skidded along the parking lot’s thick vegetation. Raquel lost her weapons in the process. She flipped back on her feet and moved against the wind in a fit of rage. She jumped in for an overhead kick. The force created a small crater underneath the leader when he caught her.

“Gotcha,” Mikail sighed.

“No, got you,” Raquel grinned. She twisted her body onto his arms like a boa constrictor.

Her grip tightened onto Mikail’s large arm and wrestled him to the ground. He wasn’t prepared for her death grip as she pulled. He tried to get over the hurdle of the initial pain. Raquel grimaced as she tightened her toned, sweaty body. All the while, Enne sipped her reheated hot chocolate from last night.

“This is kinda hot,” Enne whispered.

“What are you talking about now?” Alejandro mumbled, putting the blanket over his head to block the sunlight.

Mikail couldn’t handle the pressure when he tried to sit up. He slammed Raquel into the concrete, forcing her to lose her hold. Mikail clenched his reddened arm as he created distance between them. She ran at him and flipped to deliver a kick, only to be met with a heavy ram. The sudden blowback knocked her to the ground but was followed by an aggressive onslaught that picked up speed with each of his strikes.

“On the offensive now?” Enne raised an eyebrow. She admired the choreography.

The quick-witted wanderer blocked his strike with a small mana barrier. His strike bounced away, catching him by surprise. Raquel struck from under him, delivering a wind-infused uppercut that knocked him back.

“You’re too predictable,” Raquel postured herself for another attack.

Raquel drop-kicked onto him and struck him with ferocious force. Enne’s ears perked up from the battle. It reminded her of her spar with Alejandro as it brought them to become closer.

“I could never forget,” Enne sighed with a nostalgic smile.

“Wha—what are you muttering about?” Alejandro’s tiredness drew the elven vixen’s attention.

Enne reached under the blanket, trying to reach down his stomach.

“H—hey,” Alejandro sprung from under the blanket, meeting her playful glee. Silesta jumped awake from the other end of the truck. “Ah, I—What is it so important that you’d need to wake me up?”

“I thought we could learn from their fighting style. Morning Silesta, come join us!”

The drowsy wanderer looked along with Enne as Silesta sat next to them. The petite woman and the hulking man as they countered each other at each turn. Alejandro recalled the spar between himself and Enne, remembering how grueling the experience was. He recalled how bloodthirsty she was when receiving and dishing damage.

“Remind you of something?” Enne asked.

“Yeah, oh yeah, are they flooding in,” Alejandro looked over with an empty expression.

“Our first dance.”

“Wouldn’t the necrobear have been the first dance?”

Enne thought about it.

“No, because we only learned of our form.”

“Our form?”

“When you inserted your mana—”

“I won’t let you finish that.”

Enne pouted. Silesta’s face turned red. They observed the wanderer-leader duo take their fight to new heights. Mikail managed to fling Raquel into the air and catapulted himself against a broken-down vehicle. He caught up to her and delivered an overhead strike to her abdomen, sending her back into the concrete.

“They’re rough with each other,” Enne noted. The disheveled wanderer gawked.

“They—Sure are,” he said.

“Did you ever feel like doing that to me during our spar?”


“Not once?”

“Why would I?”

Enne couldn’t think of why he would. He held a deep respect for her even then. Raquel’s display of mana was juvenile compared to the grizzled sorcerer. Alejandro leaned next to her body, comforting her. Enne nudged back.

“You know,” she said. “I think most women would find your answers infuriating?”

“Good thing I have you,” he replied. “You get me.”

“Oh? That answer right there….”

“You know you liked it.”

“Indeed, I did.”

A loud explosion rocked in front of them.

“DAMN!” Enne and Alejandro responded simultaneously. Silesta jumped between them, trembling with fear.

When the dust settled, Raquel and Mikail stood firmly without fatigue. Enne hopped out of the flatbed, walking over with her cup. Alejandro didn’t bother to talk her out of it. A crowd emerged from the cavern’s entrance. Raquel and Mikail turned to her as her steps came to a stop. Her lips pursed with curiosity as she assessed them. She narrowed her eyes when Enne looked at her.

“So,” Enne said. “How about we add me into the mix?”

“You?” Raquel scoffed. “You can fight? Without blowing something up, that is?”

The half-elf shrugged.

“I’ll give myself a handicap. Not only will I hold back, but I’ll keep my cup with me. If it breaks at any point, consider yourselves the victors!”

“Seriously?” Mikail asked. Alejandro knew the farce all too well, sensing the mana course through the small object. “Deal!”

Raquel didn’t waste time as she closed the distance between them. She drew her knife, slashing away while Enne gracefully parried. Her eyes never left her opponents as she sensed Mikail’s oncoming strike. She’d gently nudge away Raquel’s blade work and sidestepped his weighty tackle. Raquel flew onto the concrete while her partner tumbled over. Enne’s legs kept the momentum with her cup in hand as she awaited them to get up. She remained silent, smiling as Raquel scowled. The crowd cheered from the sideline, picking sides in the mock battle.

The wanderer had thrown her blades at her opponent’s abdomen, but Enne caught them with her fingertips and flung them back. Mikail slough several punches, but the half-elf evaded while keeping a neutral form. She swung around him before he could grab her and tapped his back with the cup. The seamless touch knocked him onto the ground. Raquel tried to strike her down when she looked away. However, Enne was aware. She caught her arm as she swung around and sent her grinding through the concrete. Again, Enne’s body remained in motion as she awaited their recovery.

Enne ignored the emboldened leader as he came in with a hefty left hook. She spun away dramatically before slinging the cup at him. Its impact knocked him out. Enne caught it before it flipped over and slung it at Raquel when she tried to attack. Again, the cup’s impact swatted her, but the velocity kept the contents within. Enne caught it and took the last sip as she walked back to the flatbed. The crowd’s enthusiasm for the spectacle grew.

“En,” Alejandro sighed. “Can we… Keep the fight over there?”

“You’re infusing that with mana, you cheap bastard!” Raquel growled. Enne reveled in amusement. “You never intended for it to break!”

“Come on, Raquel,” she replied. “Let’s give them a good show!”

“She’s right,” Mikail staggered to his feet. Raquel and Alejandro grimaced. “We gotta keep their morale up.”

“That’s the spirit!” Enne raised her cup. “The show must go on!”

“Fuck this!” Raquel yelled.

Raquel tried to kick at her ankles but found Enne’s footwork was much faster. Enne maintained her balance with each step, one more effortless than the other. Mikail awaited the right opportunity. He took his chance with a straight punch aimed at the side of her face. She gently swept against his feet when she moved her head away. His face expressed regret as she caught his arm with one hand. She’d use her center mass to pick him up and throw him into Raquel. But the wanderer ducked under and tried to deliver a palm strike.

Enne spun out, barely evading her attack. Raquel grew wary of conventionally taking out the half-elf. Enne showed no signs of exhaustion. It seemed to be the opposite, as she discovered the excitement in her eyes. Enne sensed mana emitting from her sparring partner. Her amber eyes glowed while pacing toward her. She’d summon a fiery sword.

Well, that’s not fair, Enne smirked.

The half-elf anticipated the blade when Raquel swung in motion. The scorching heat warmed her arm as she swerved away. Enne didn’t need a weapon. The wanderer slashed away; Frustration arose with each missed strike. Enne grabbed Raquel’s wrist, pulled her forward, and spun her around. She skid against the broken concrete and lost her weapon. With her only bare fists, Raquel ran at her. Again, she swung away in vain as Enne moved to her frantic rhythm. Mana coursed through the cup, creating a comically-sized mallet. The wanderer’s anger blinded her from its transformation. Enne pivoted, and Raquel stumbled forward. Using all the weight behind it, the half-elf mashed the mallet into her back, sending her sparring partner to the ground.


“S—shit,” Raquel growled. She turned over to see the mallet regress to its original form.

“Anger… Really gets the best of you,” Enne smiled.

“Fuck off.”

“Come on,” Mikail spoke beside Alejandro. “Don’t be a spoiled sport. She outwitted us.”

“As expected of a Bouvire,” McCreary said as he emerged from the crowd. “All right, enough with the gawkin’! Time to get to work! Big operations are underway soon!”

Everyone went inside promptly while the others watched. Enne felt the mood change as they turned to Alejandro.

“That’s right,” Mikail was quickly reminded before turning to Alejandro. The wanderer noticed the leader couldn’t look him in the eyes. “Are you feeling better?”

“Yeah,” Alejandro replied. Mikail nodded.

“Then you and Enne will be setting out before dusk. I’ll fill you in on details, then.”

* * *

By dusk, Alejandro and Enne were ready to set out. While McCreary and Mikail met with them, Raquel wasn’t present. Enne looked to the purple hues past the trees while Alejandro double-checked the backpack for supplies. Mikail gave anything he could to ensure their safe passage, knowing the trek to the outpost was treacherous, especially since they would have to go on foot. The dwarf approached the half-elf in her state of pondering.

“Miss Bouvire,” McCreary spoke. She saw a peculiar look as though he looked at an exalted person. But she was only ever a half-elf to the eyes of many. “We haven’t really spoken much about your lineage.”

Enne’s ears perked. Alejandro glanced to find her piqued curiosity.

“You’re the first who’s ever mentioned it since my travels,” she said.

“There’s a reason for that,” he replied. “Nuri Bouvire was the one who helped lead the revolt against the Ethoxians in T’Rach centuries ago. Her influence and strategies brought them to their knees. The fallen Elphynian woman represents the power that helps those who cannot… Just like how you appeared to our cause. We are forever indebted and inspired by their efforts. They called her Snow White, and the founding council members of T’Rach’s reestablishment were called The Seven.”

“Wait,” Alejandro cackled. “Seriously? Snow White and the Seven Dwarves? That’s a children’s book.”

The dwarf shot a glare, sending the wanderer’s eyes back into sifting through their supplies in silence.

“What’s the difference between an elf and an Elph?” Enne asked.

“Do you really not know where you’ve come from, dear?” McCreary replied. The blank expression on her face said everything. “Then, who—”

“Ulysses Bouvire. He was my father. He fled the Republic during the Collapse.”

McCreary’s eyes widened slightly before turning away. Enne awaited a response, though he kept stroking his beard. When he finally returned his attention to her, he found her cold eyes gazing into his. He shivered but quickly regained his composure.

“Not much was known about him, unfortunately,” he finally said. Enne found his response unconvincing. “I grew up on the tales of Nuri’s exploits. She was a genius and threw her life on the line—”

“Is that really the whole story?” Enne interrupted. Her voice lost its signature warmth.


“Hm. It doesn’t quite feel like it, but what I gather is… I’m definitely not like the rest of them.”

“You have the ancestral dragons coursing through your veins. As an Elphynian, you’re amongst the mightiest—”

Her laughter interrupted him, but he didn’t react when he paused.

“Just a few years ago, I thought I was just a simple half-elf. But now, I’m a half-Elph.”

“Is there something the matter with what I’ve told you?”

Enne shook her head and brandished a warm smile.

“Even knowing this, I still feel like a regular woman from the south. But I suppose even the truth gets muddled through time.”

McCreary didn’t know how to reply. By then, Mikail had walked over to Alejandro and handed him a pair of earbuds. The wanderer recognized them immediately.

“One of her contraptions?” Alejandro asked. “I—I’m assuming it has some mana to make communicating easier?”

“Goddess forbid we use mana as frequency,” McCreary chimed. “We’d give out our hideout in seconds.”

“Radio frequencies?” the wanderer asked.

“I’ve never heard you sound so surprised,” Enne commented with an ounce of sarcasm.

“Cram it,” The wanderer muttered. “You never used radios where you were from, anyway.”

“We have portable radio beacons throughout the entire region,” Mikail said. “Raquel made sure the frequencies were unique to these devices.”

“That’s really impressive,” Enne said.

“Yup! Just tune into the frequency. It’s 3-0-3-3-0…, and Joe is the password.”

“Why, Joe?” Alejandro winced.

“Doesn’t matter,” Mikail shrugged. “Just… Take care out there. I know Raquel might still be a little prickly, but she cares.”

“Oh?” Enne said. She didn’t realize the deadpan expression she held.“Well, with Alejandro by my side, I should be in good hands.”

“Uh, I feel that line should apply to me,” Alejandro said.

McCreary looked at both of them. Something obvious came to him suddenly.

“Do you two have a thing going on?” McCreary bluntly asked.

“Hey, that’s not—” Mikail was cut off.

“We, uh, you can say that,” Enne answered on their behalf.

Why is she so flustered about answering? Alejandro thought as her eyes glanced over occasionally.

“Then you two will do fine,” McCreary smiled. “Trust is important.”

“That’s true,” Alejandro nodded.

“We won’t hold you up anymore,” Mikail shook their hands. “You should be able to make it before dawn. Wait for us, though. And Enne, elf or not, you’re one of us.”

Such inspiring words, Alejandro thought.

“This is a big step,” Alejandro said under his breath as they reached the center lot. “Hey—How are we getting there?”

He felt a warm hand on him, comforting him from the unknown. Silesta emerged from the cavern entrance with a backpack. Everyone watched as she held a brave face.

“And where do you think you’re going?” McCreary asked.

“With them,” she said meekly. “I want to be helpful.”

McCreary looked at Enne and found a motherly warmth. Mikail couldn’t help but express his concerns.

“You—You aren’t going to let her go with you, are you?” he asked. Enne nodded.

“The more, the merrier?” she replied.

“It can be quite dangerous out there, especially at night,” McCreary added. “But if it’s what the young lady wants, then we can’t say no. Until then, this is where we part ways. May Ethos guide you all.”

They nodded before turning to see the darkened sky above the mountains. The sea of trees spanned the distance. The trio enjoyed each other’s company while absorbing nature. Enne traded jokes with Silesta to help her open up more. Enne turned to Alejandro, finding a smile on his grizzled face. Perhaps it was the beautiful backdrop that evoked strong emotions within. Alejandro wasn’t enjoying the view alone; he was captivated by her beauty. Enne began talking about cryptid-related stories to the young girl. Silesta seemed uneasy but receptive about what she spoke of.

“I mean, imagine if we came across a dogma!” Enne thought aloud.

“I…I don’t think that would be very exciting,” Silesta admitted nervously.

I don’t think I’ll get bored, Alejandro thought as Enne looked over her shoulder.

This was an exceptionally long chapter, a pretty fun one at that! Enne, Alejandro, and Silesta finally set off. I hope you enjoyed it! Leave a like; Feel free to comment or address your grievances.