Yoo-rah looked down at the coffin. Inside was Orlando’s body, repaired as delicately as it could have been, but there was no way to recover the patch of mangled flesh.
Yoo-rah placed her hand on Orlando’s cold head and sighed. She looked around to see other coffins around her. The plague had spared neither the adults nor the children that were supposed to carry the torch forward. Now, the werewolves were truly close to extinction.
“I’m sorry. I should have warned you all sooner. I guess there really is no help with humans. But don’t worry. I will protect your kind.”
Yoo-rah caressed the heads of Orlando and the children one last time before leaving.
“What do you mean we must prepare for war?”
“I hope you didn’t think everything was over just because you managed to repel them once?”
“I am aware of their transgressions. In fact, wouldn’t our knowledge of them drive them to the negotiation tables and give us the upper hand?”
“You are vastly underestimating humans.”
“You are a human yourself.”
Yoo-rah smiled brightly at that response.
“That’s why I know just how cruel humans can be in the name of profit.”
“Then why is an individual of such a race attending a council of non-humans?”
“I don’t understand. What gives you the right to command us under the guise of an advisor?”
“I’m sure there are plenty of references that vouch for my right to do so.”
“And that’s even more baffling! Why does the Old One vouch for you?!”
“That’s not all. The Three-eyeds, Golden Manes, White Wings, Werewolves and the Druids. All of our revered elder races support you, but I have yet to hear of any of your accomplishments that make you so deserving.”
“So, are you going to ignore their will?”
“What do you want?”
“We must prepare an army to stop them.”
“Do we need an army to fight them?”
“Do not underestimate the humans of the other world. The Werewolves fought them as they did any other enemy—with nothing but their bodies—and they suffered massive casualties. Against humans, whose physiques are no match to them in any way, shape or form. Not to mention those humans weren’t even a proper army but security personnel protecting the Expedition.”
“Is this threat so great that all the races need to join forces to fight them?”
“That’s right. The times for petty conflicts are over now. All races must join forces as one. Remember what happened during the plague. We could have controlled the plague much more effectively if all the races were united under a single banner. We must create an organisation that can effectively command and direct all the races.”
“Unacceptable! The dwarves of the Golden Hammer clan stole our ancient home, the Minolen Mountains, and you’re telling us to forget that? Those bastards would never return our home!”
“Ha! Why are you bringing up something so ancient now? You stubborn old coots!”
They reignited their old smouldering grudges, glaring at each other. Despite the frighteningly threatening situation, Yoo-rah leisurely sipped her tea and spoke.
“We’ll call the organisation… Central.”
“Abandon our identities, our ways of life?! Preposterous! That is the foundation of our race!”
A man with a tiger’s head bellowed, yet Yoo-rah continued to sip her tea.
“All of the warriors deployed by the North Bears have died. All of them. And how many of the Wood Tigers remain? Oh, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t refer to them as such. They are all warriors that will die in the next few days anyway.”
“You dare mock us?!”
“I’m telling you to see the reality. How many warriors do the Wood Tigers have left now? By the time your young warriors come of age, the Gate will open again. And your warriors will die in droves once more. You can raise a new generation of warriors, you say? And you’re going to sacrifice them again? How many battles for the Gate will it take before the mortality rate catches up to or even eclipses your birth rate?”
“The same applies to other races too. The Empire sacrificed ten thousand soldiers in this battle. Those were many lives. But was it significant enough to shake the foundation of the Empire? Do not be mistaken. The situation is stacked against us. Countless warriors of other races had been defending the Gate by using the soldiers of the Empire as meat shields. Even so, they are suffering disastrous casualties. Imagine what will happen after all of the races have grown weak from the continued war. You will have to rely on the power of the Empire. I wonder what will be faster? The Empire enslaving the non-humans entirely, or joining hands with the humans of the other world and betraying the non-humans?”
“This is entirely based on the assumption that humans will betray us.”
One of the races argued, to which Yoo-rah grinned.
“I can make this claim because I am human. I am certain that the Empire will betray the non-humans the moment you grow weak. It is guaranteed.”
High Elf Elicia quietly raised her hand to speak.
“Is it possible to abandon our identities in such a way?”
“That’s right. All creatures have a desire to reproduce. That is a given. But for non-humans’ with their longevity and lasting youth, the desire to reproduce is almost nothing compared to humans. That is why we must stimulate the desire to reproduce, increasing the birth rate.”
“How does that have anything to do with our identities?”
“All living things follow a cycle in this world. This is an intricate system created by evolution over millions of years. And I’m going to destroy it. There will be consequences. And I’m calling that consequence “change.” Shall I use the elves as an example? The elves are all quiet and calm, tending the forests you live in. But will the elves remain the same after forcefully stimulating their birth rate? I find that difficult.”
“Are there other drawbacks?”
“Hm… Since there will be more personalities coming in the mix, what was a single race may branch out into different factions.”
“I see… Then I hope our future generation will be much more energetic and inquisitive than our current selves.”
“Elicia, you are going to agree with her?!”
“Yes. Don’t forget. It has been only moments since the end of the 7 Days of Calamity that we are facing a new threat. How do you plan to look at the faces of the elder races who have sacrificed everything for us if we were to fall powerlessly now? We, the elves, will sacrifice our identities if that’s what it takes to survive.”
“… Is it a success?”
Yoo-rah muttered to herself. looking at the Gate the size of a palm. Thankfully, the teleportation research she partook in the old world was very similar to that of the Gate’s mechanism, making it easy to transition her knowledge to.
And with near infinite resources and facilities at her disposal, everything was made too easy. She looked at the Gate for a moment before throwing in a walkie-talkie they had looted from one of the battles for the Gate.
Yoo-rah waited as she made herself some tea. Soon enough, static crackled from the radio, telling her that a connection was established.
“Hello. Nice to speak with you. I assume I don’t need to introduce myself? Can you bring your commanding officer? I would like to make an offer of mutual benefit.”
“What is it?”
Yoo-rah received Elicia warmly, who gave her no prior notice. Elicia looked at Yoo-rah heavily.
Elicia remained standing despite Yoo-rah’s gesture to sit. Yoo-rah cocked her head, when Elicia opened her mouth grievously.
“Do you plan to enact your revenge on this world, Yoo-rah nim?”
“Hm? What do you mean by that?”
“If it is vengeance you wish to inflict, Yoo-rah nim, then we will accept it gladly. But can you be satisfied with only those who were involved? I beg for mercy—that you leave behind the children who know nothing of it.”
Elicia was on her knees as she begged. Yoo-rah was troubled.
“I don’t know what you’re on about? You must be mistaken.”
“I am aware that you contacted the humans of the other world.”
Yoo-rah’s expression shattered only for a moment.
“Dear me. I thought I hid it well. How did you figure it out?”
“It’s the same way we found you in the forest, Yoo-rah nim. The Calamity hasn’t ended, merely held back at bay. The Old One and the other elder races have joined forces to drive the Calamity into the Forbidden Lands and maintain a seal over it. The elder races had to become one with this world to do so. The Old One is the last, living record of the elder races that once existed in this world. And as its representative, I can feel fragments of the Old One’s memories stir within me.”
“… Now that’s a strange phenomenon. So the Old One knows everything that’s happening in this world? In real time?”
“Then it would be easier to kill me now, wouldn’t it?”
“How could we possibly do that to the subject of our atonement?All we can do is beg for mercy.”
Yoo-rah sighed deeply.
“Seriously… you are so different from humans.”
“Leave. My vengeance hasn’t ended yet. But this world isn’t my target. As despicable and hateful as it is, I should have died without knowing any of it in the first place.”
“Thank you. I thank you again.”
Elicia repeated her words of gratitude as she got back on her feet. Yoo-rah asked her a question.
“Ah. By the way, how many people know about my identity?”
“What do you mean…?”
“I’m talking about how I’m the subject of atonement and a survivor of the original sin.”
“It’s just me. The survivors of the elder races are still too young, so I plan to tell them once they become the representatives of their race. And the werewolves who knew of this fact other than me were…”
“Everyone in the know would have died by now. Fine. Promise me that you won’t tell anyone about me.”
“What? Then other races will disrespect you. Even now, their uncouth…”
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be treated like fragile treasure that needs protection at all times.”
“I’m sorry. I swear that I will never share your secrets to anyone else.”
“The members of our race suffered from the war between humans! They sacrificed our children for a dastardly ritual! We must have our revenge!”
“A ritual?! Does that mean a demon has appeared?”
“That’s right! The demon and its pawns, the warlocks, are revelling in the chaos they are creating! Corpses roam the land freely!”
“Their force is too great. The Empire isn’t strong enough to fight them alone.”
“It’s not just the demon. Angels are here too. A civil war has started in the southern province of the Empire.”
“Are you sure it is the angel’s doing?”
“A man is being revered as the reincarnation of a god. There are tens of thousands following him zealously.”
“Hah! We are struggling to keep the Expeditionary Forces at bay as it is. Why have angels and demons resurfaced into this world, when they disappeared with the end of the 7 Days of Calamity?!”