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Year 79 Month 11

A group of druids recently applied to New Freeka, they would like to open a Druid's House in the town. From what I understand, they were invited by the councillors, perhaps in an attempt to use the druids to counter my presence.

Indeed, using the druids' power over nature is a good strategy. If I were faced with a Tree Monster, I would find ways to weaken the opponent  or find a hard weakness. 

But it's been a long time since I faced a druid, and my levels are much higher now. So, I really look forward to my future interaction with druids, I too want to know where I stand.

The elves once spoke of a reincarnated hero, Roana, who controlled tree spirits and nature like the back of her hands. I wonder whether I would bend to her will, if a hero like that comes around. These druids, they would be a fascinating entry level test case. 

"Wouldn't that mean druids are using some kind of mind control on trees?" Alexis wonders aloud. "I didn't think of it before, but it is a kind of mind control, isn't it? The taming of beasts by a beastmaster is similarly a kind of mind control if beasts are sentient, intelligent creatures."

"Well, I wouldn't know, but they can try using it on you, since your physical body is that of biolab, which is a tree. Then you can be a test subject, and we can find out exactly how it works."

"Eek. You are right, they might! They totally could." Alexis gasps, her hands to her spiritual face. “I need to gain more levels!”

I suspect I would have some resistance to such mind control or tree control, perhaps as a function of my levels. I would think mind control has a level modifier.

Ah well, still, I let the druids settle in, order both Ivy and Trevor to keep watch, and watch each other. My fear is that they may notice Ivy or Trevor's presence, and then attempt to control them instead. These 2 are of a lower level than me, so I would think the chances of druid skills working would be higher.

Other than that, Meela's hotel seems to be doing okay. She's gotten customers and she's spending money on decorations and materials. A few of her hired treefolks act as her runners, they do all the buying and collecting for her. I think she mentioned she plans to add an extra wing to her lodge. 

Then, the Salah issue.

Salah Kingdom responded with a 'holding' letter, saying they will look into the matter, and provide an update when they have more info. Essentially, the diplomatic equivalent of 'I have no idea what you are talking about so I need time to find out.'

Which is fine, I doubt people remember things like that, especially so far away, so I focus on gathering more intelligence on the Salah Kingdom. I too need to know a bit more about Salah, its people, its structure and its defenses, should I choose to attack them.

[Inspection], as a skill, doesn't seem to reveal much of the enchanted tiles and roads, other than they have been enchanted. It seems its more tailored to monsters, so perhaps I would need either higher tier of inspection, or a more specialised inspection skill to discern the true nature of these roads. 

Stumped, I turn to experimentation, I found one of these enchanted roads in a quiet, less travelled part of the capitol, far from the city itself, where I could place a few subsidiary trees near the road.

And I did my experiments on the road. No matter how I tried to make something grow on these tiles or rocks, the plants just wouldn’t grow. 

I then attacked it with my roots, and, it’s much, much tougher than any regular rock. It took a few hits, then it starts to crack and break. 

So, conclusion one, its resistant to most kinds of attack, but not indestructible. Either that or these roads have some kind of plant-source damage reduction.

I would like to meet the person who build all these roads and structures.

“Perhaps we could talk to the locals in New Freeka. I believe one of Yvon’s confidantes is a builder, of the magical kind.” Ah yes, the group that uses magic to build houses, perhaps they might know a bit more about these kind of enchanted roads. Maybe all these builders know one another, like some kind of builder’s guild? Or perhaps, contractor’s association? 

“Must be my luck, Counsel Jura.” One of Yvon’s followers, now also one of the councillors of New Freeka. “So, what do I owe the honor of being before the few true natives of the valley?” 

Jura grins and taps on the chair, “Ah, nothing too serious, I asked for you to borrow some of your... knowledge. I’ve got some questions, tell me about... construction-related skills and abilities.”

The room’s empty save for the 2 of them, both seated on a chair. Jura has a pot of tea, made from my younger, tender leaves. It’s still steaming, there’s a small firestone under it, used to keep food warm. The councillor moves, adjusts his body slightly. He’s a man of average height, but his build is bulky, stoic, but since his election to the council, he changed a builder’s attire for something more formal.

“How strange, may I know why?” The councillor leans forward, he didn’t touch the tea. 

“I’m thinking of building a new building, so I thought I ask an expert on what kind of crazy skills would a builder have. It would help me in assessing what I can build, and how long it takes. So, tell me about the great builders of our world."

The councillor pauses, smiles a little to himself then shakes his head. “Surely there's more to it, Counsel. Well, there were no builder-heroes.”

Jura sips on his tea. “Oh, that's something I didn't realise, I thought there were heroes from almost all the classes. But then that's another conversation, I want to know about builder type job classes today."

“Firstly, there are all kinds of builder-related job classes. There are the entry level versions of the job such as the draftspersons, the regular workman, and there are the stronger variants, the architects, the foreman, the master-builders. Their passives run the gamut from weak, to incredible. A true master-builder could turn build a house out of hay that can withstand a typhoon, a house out of wood that would never rot or spoil, a wall that can withstand a dragon’s flame, and roads that could speed up the domains trade.”

“Am I right to assume the materials are the same, or do these master-builders use their skills to change the materials?”

“Yes, and no. A builder, a farmer, a blacksmith, they all have skills, and these skills influences the materials they work with, and it persists until the materials are unmade. A plank of wood processed by a master-builder, can be many times stronger than one made by a regular builder, just like a blacksmith can work with metal to make a sword multiple times stronger than the work of a regular apprentice.”

“But then what happens when the maker dies? Do these skills disappear?”

“You really are a warrior, Counsel Jura. It is basic knowledge that non-combat skills have longevity. The effect of a non-combat skill persists longer, than the burst-one off nature of active, combat skills. The great castles of yore, made by the master artisans, the effects of their skills on the shine of their walls, the foundations and strength of their ramparts, they remain till this day, with little decay, even after the death of their makers.”

Jura rubs his chin and hair, looking a little embarrassed that the councillor called him out on his cluelessness on such things. “True, else they wouldn’t be handing down enchanted artifacts and heirlooms. Ah, but let's say I want to know about roads and walls. What kind of skills you’ve seen that work on walls and roads?”

“Thinking about building walls around the Order, Counsel Jura? Where do I start? Think about it, there are Kings with powers to create temporarily nigh-impervious, indestructible fortresses and walls. Kings who amplify the effect of roads on travel in their domain. Or mages who can enchant walls with defensive buffs. Highway markers that speed up travel on those who travel along them...”

“Ah fine, I’m asking about builders?”

“We would have many kinds, most builders worthy of building anything more than a wooden house would gain some variant of the skills [Enduring construct] or [Low-maintenance structures], so that they last longer, and need less upkeep and repairs. I would think walls and roads would gain the effects of such skills.”

“Are there dedicated road-builders in the world? What kind of skills would they have?”

“Yes, of course there are, the world's skills are as vast as the stars in the sky, but... I  don’t know their skills? I’m a magic-augmented builder, I construct things using earth magic, and sadly I have not met a true road-builder."

And well, that was all the councillor was willing to share and Alexis had a post mortem.

“A metaphor I would use, is that these passive skills are like... paint. They stay on the object until they are removed.” Well, Alexis is willing to share her views on such things. “Usually, the benefits of such skills is that they are close to perpetual, they usually can interact and stack with other such ‘passive’ skills, and the drawbacks is that, they’re not that strong.”

“So, what’s your take on what’s happening. Why the roads resist me?"

“You’re a pest, I suppose. I doubt the road knows how to differentiate between a tree and a weed, so it just repels all of them. Have you seen roads destroyed by roots that grow underneath them? Roots destroy buildings and roads, so, I would expect any good builder would want to prevent his things from getting destroyed..”

“Fine, let’s say what you’re saying is true, then how about New Freeka? Why don’t the roads that are built now, in this area, ‘reject me’, if such passives are so common?”

“Maybe because you're part of the native ecology, so the buildings built here are used to your overarching influence and do not regard you as an invader. Or maybe your main body is so overwhelmingly powerful in this area that such skills don’t work in close vicinity to you. Or maybe you have some kind of ability invalidating all these skills. Frankly, could be a million things."

"I learnt nothing from that conversation."

Alexis chuckles, "I am glad to have wasted your time."

Ah well, I turn my attention to the herbal varieties found in Salah, there’s little spots of greenery throughout the city, the issue is clearly, getting there, because of all the roads and buildings that impede my progress. 

The Royal Grove’s actually rather boring, other than being ‘enchanted’. The herb varieties are mostly common, but they are more ‘effective’. There’s some herbalists and druids that regularly tend to the grove, mostly just healing sick trees and stuff like that. 

So, back to New Freeka. 

Year 79 Month 12

New Freeka’s population is close to 60,000. A wave of new migrants, apparently coming from the north. 

There’s another conflict emerging there, between two countries, and it’s a plain old war, apparently over a lady. Turns out, princes from both countries fell in love with the same lady, and now they’re fighting some kind of war over her. I mean, seriously. Can’t they just have a duel or something?

And it’s winter! Why’d they pick winter to fight a war anyway?

“It’s warmer in their part of the world, a strong warm current and breeze keeps their two shore countries warm, so their winters are... pretty much feels like fall. So they can still fight.”

“Ngeh.” Well, food supplies are doing well. The Order’s ‘rituals’ for births and deaths are becoming something of a ‘tradition’, which makes me happy, because more deaths means more essence for me to feed the 6 young girls that are now in my training regine. According to data provided by Laufen, about 2 in every 5 deaths are now taking the Order’s ‘melt-in-a-pod’ method of disposing the corpse. Of course, the actual name that goes out to public is more... pleasant.  Euphemisms, euphemisms.

The population boom comes with it’s own challenges.

Clean water. Sewage. Public health. 

Previously, the Council’s workers dug wells, and with some magical help and blacksmith tools, made pulleys and pumps that brings out water from the ground. At 60,000, even with close to 100 wells throughout the entire city, there are still long lines, and the water levels in the wells are running low, so newer wells have to be deeper.

And that exposes one huge flaw in choosing this valley as a spot for a town. Water. Unlike a place with a large river, or a large lake, there are a few small streams through the valley, and unless the council is willing to dig really deep, providing clean water to 60,000 is going to be a challenge.

The local builders constructed deeper and deeper wells, and also larger, deeper latrine pits. Apparently, one of the ways poop and sewage is processed in this world is via magic, and strangely, the temples of the world usually play a big part in water and sewage. 

One of the abilities the priesthoods and nuns learn, is an ability called [Purify] and [Cleanse], which works on people, and also works on sewage and water. So, the city actually pays priests and nuns, or those with the relevant [cleanse] skills to regularly “process” the latrine pits.

The poop gets converted, via magic, into regular dirt. Magic is amazing. 

The process of cleansing the latrine needs to be done quite regularly, else the poop will start to contaminate the groundwater. Again, the priests then use [cleanse] on the wells to ‘sanitise’ the water. 

So, there really is a thing like [purified] and [cleansed] ‘holy water’. I wonder whether they feel like a quack when they sell such things to regular citizens. 

In larger city, there are high level [cleaners] or [mages] who can do similar functions, or in some cases, meaning the wealthy, powerful cities, use artifacts that process or decompose sewers. In certain elven cities, their poop is usually processed by a kind of poop-eating worm, which, apparently, enjoys poop and pee as it’s main food source. Centaurs and lizardmen tribes tend to spray a kind of ‘yeast’ or ‘powder’, that converts these poop and pee into fertiliser, which leads to an odd behavior of them having multiple outhouses in their farms, but strangely, these centaurs here don't have such habits. 

Treefolk don’t have the issue of poop or peeing, it seems their bodily wastes just... evaporates from their body, or gets discharged via their legs into the earth. 

The fact that magic and magical monsters exists gives a wide range of options on how to process such issues. I wonder how do large dragons deal with their poop? And do they poop midair like birds do?

Anyway, enough of my constant off tangent ponderings. Population consumes resources, and also produces waste, both needs to be managed. Assimilating this growth, and managing it as part of the valley's overall population while balancing and caring for the health of the valley's florae is my personal duty as the Tree Guardian of the valley.

With Trevor's constant replenishment of the valley's resources, and my powers of growth, the valley's treecount is growing steadily. Lately, though, the growth rate is slowing again, partly because of consumption, from a larger population.

I have [Timber farms], which, the Valtrian Order sells to the local businesses, who then make furniture, build houses, and other products. Increasingly, demand is starting to catch up to supply. The speed in which these timber grows is easily 10x, maybe more than that of a regular tree, as a regular seedling reaches maturity within two months, yet, there is a size limit to the farm. 

The idea of stone beds, or stone furniture is unappealing to the citizens, even centaurs prefer wooden furniture to stone. Perhaps there is something unappealing about purely-stone homes. Centaurs, for example, cultivate small patches of a certain grass, which, when dried, are woven into rugs and paddings, for them to lie on, and these woven rugs and carpets are a must have for any centaur dwelling. 

At first, I was unaware of this, but it seems as New Freeka's "economy" and "safety" stabilised, the centaurs started yearning for little luxuries, and mixed cotton rugs and carpets start to proliferate. Which meant, a market for the [Cotton]. Sadly, Laufen says its a breakeven business, as the selling price barely covers the cost of processing and paying workers to work on the cotton, and then making the carpets. I think this cotton business needs industrialisation. 

There's probably a better way to process the cotton, and I vaguely recall studies and visits to the textile museum. So, even though a machine like that must exist, and should exist, I'm no master of mechanical objects.

So, I can't recreate it. Maybe there's some magical solution someday.

Oh yes, where was I? 

Poop. And water. 

The reason I am also rambling about poop, is some of the ordinary, normal trees 'feel' sick. My main tree, roots, and subsidiary trees are almost-immune, due to the effects of my skill, [rhizofiltration], so it doesn't absorb all the other shit, literally, that gets dumped into the ground that contamonated the groundwater. 

But, my fellow normal trees, normal as they may be, are sick! And, sick trees grow slower. And some may eventually die. That is bad. 

Dead trees, is a big no no. I feel for my fellow trees. 

Year 80 Month 1

With data from the root sensors on subsidiary trees spread out throughout the valley, and also the city area, Trevor helped to map out an overlay indicating the pollution problem.

I firstly need to know how bad is the poop situation.

The source, is of course the city. 

There are multiple latrine pits, which the frequency of sanitisation by those responsible has been a bit lacking. The priests and workers are supposed to cleanse the pits once every three days, but it is an incredibly unpleasant task, so they only do it once every two weeks. 

That meant some of these sewage accumulated, and the extra period for it to stew in the pit meant quite a bit managed to contaminate the ground. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the [cleanse] spell is range-limited, so it didn't cure the sewage accumulated deeper in those pits. 

The first issue is like I said, the priests are not doing their jobs. They generally view this duty as demeaning for these self-proclaimed servants of god, to literally [cleanse] the filth of others. Even the priests, those in the Order's employ, abhor the task.

"I hate that part of the job." A priest would routinely say. 

So, usually the most junior of priests, those who possess the skill, would be sent on the toilet duty. 

That meant the strength of the [cleanse] skills are poor, because skills scale with le els, and because of how deep and massive the latrines are, to accommodate 60,000 citizens, the skills of these low level [cleanse] just won't do. At most, it just creates a superficial clean and dry layer on top of the rest of the sewage, deluding the priests that the job is done. 

But I have no cleaning skills myself, even if I do have the ability to filter such toxins and other unfavorables out. 

"Huh, the most senior priests on toilet duty? No, no amount of money will make that happen. We are servants of god, not the city's sewage cleaners. The fact that we send our most junior priests to do it is good enough!"

The task is seen as dirty, disgusting, and demeaning. Money won't fix it.

"Can we import the worms? Or the cleaning artifacts?"

"Artifacts are ridiculously expensive. As for the worms, I will reach out to the Elven kingdoms whether they are for sale. Transporting those worms will need special arrangements, as they rarely survive outside their sewage-environment." Jura's rather amused by the sanitation issue, he didn't really feel it. In fact, most of the citizens are not even aware of the contamination of the groundwater, since these things reach deep, not float up above. 

Trevor's map of subterranean water flow indicates the groundwater flows toward the valley, so as the latrine pits tend to be close to the forests edge, the New Freekans are lucky that their own drinking water is clean.

Perhaps if somehow it stinks up the entirety of the town, then it would make them realise the gravity of the situation. Or maybe I should somehow reverse the flow of groundwater such that their wells get contaminated with poopwater?

Ah, maybe I shoudn't be so nasty. 

Solutions, solutions. Relying on the priests to constantly use [cleanse] on poop and sewage is not exactly what I consider a scalable and reliable solution. These priests are going to hold the skill as some kind of "ransom", eventually, if they discover what it means to the regular trees. And the idea of having an army of priests going around town sanitising all the latrine pits in a big city just feels...lame.

So, I need some kind of natural solution, something I can manage. Something that I can 'create'.

"Jura, are you familiar with plants that survive in sewers or other such wastelands?"

"Uhmmm... no. But let me get the herbalist?"

"We do not have any plants that are capable of surviving in sewers." The herbalist responds to Jura's question. "Most plants have a natural state, and while these differs slightly, I am not aware of any plants that survive in entirely sewers. We do have plants that can somewhat tolerate sewer waters, though."

Hmmm. How about algae? Fungi? There must be something that lives in sewers. I recall trees destroying sewer pipes back home because the roots are drawn to them, so the trees must have some tolerance for wastewater.

I find it strange that the normal trees here are unable to process the sewage. They are native, they should be adapted to native waste from the native population. Is it because the type of toxins or minerals in the sewage?

"What do large cities with their waste?"

"Other than what I told you, no clue. Honestly, sewers are not something I pay attention to, and our village is so small a few pits is sufficient." Jura shrugs. He's really quite amused by my recent fascination and questions around waste and he doesn't really get my frustration with dying trees. Trees die all the time, they say, can never heal all of them.

Which is true. 

But I am a tree, and it offends me that I let a fellow tree, to die from something as stupid as sewage intolerance. 

"Are you even sure its sewage?" Alexis shrugs. "Not a bug? Or sickness?"

And that is how I ordered the beetles to gather multiple wastewater samples from all the different latrine pits.

[New beetle species unlocked. Dungbeetle]

"No, fuck you, TreeTree. I am not analysing poop." Alexis absolutely resist letting the poop anywhere near her. "I am. Not. Touching. Poop."

"TreeTree, why are the beetles carrying poop?" The elves ask.

Analysis, duh. 

"Can the poop not drip everywhere in the hideout?"

Uh. 

Despite much resistance, I eventually got the poop into the biolabs, for analysis. I do feel disgusted, but only mildly. I think saving the rest of the trees to be a far larger and more important goal. 

I doubt my feelers and vines feel a thing when they prod and dig into the poop. Well, they do feel kinda moist and sticky.

But it's just poop. I'm pretty sure the dirt all around me was poop some point in their long, ever changing lives.

[Testing in progress]

I suppose faeces and poop are considered biological matter, as the biolabs run through a range of tests. It took some time to actually know what's happening since there are so many tests to run, for so many different samples.

I need a 'control' group.

"You want our poop now?" Jura, Laufen and the elves are all appalled by my request. 

"Yes. Fresh samples. Just to measure change in fecal composition versus that of the latrine. All of you are healthy, clearly, so your fecal matter should be, too."

"Uh... how do we give it to you? Poop inside those pods?"

Hmm. The pods aren't meant for pooping.

[Biolab upgraded. Biolab now has multiple extra rooms, functioning as a 'toilet', 'bathroom' and others for collection and harvesting of biological wastes]

"Well, you poop in this place, that looks kind of like an outhouse, and the biolab will do the rest."

"Ewww." The elves are generally quite disgusted, but still, they eventually did proceed to do their business in the special poophouse, designed for collection of their poop.

"Why are you so disgusted? Don't some societies use cow manure as fertiliser?"

"Uh... its still poop."

Anyway, poop or not, the tests must go on. 

And speaking of fertiliser, would minotaur poop be fertiliser too? Since they are like part cow? Or do I need some kind of bacteria to degrade the poop first? Have I seen a minotaur?

Tests. We need more tests. The culprits are still unclear, of what exactly in poop that causes the trees to feel sick. Could it be some kind of disease transmitted via poop? Is it some kind of metal? Some kind of mineral, or some kind of bug?

I need to get to the root of the problem. 

So, more tests. One of the other things I started Alexis on, since she refuses to look at poop, is to look at the filtering nature of roots instead.

My body, due to [rhizofiltration] that I learned long ago, is able to filter out all these bad things, whatever they are. 

There should be some membrane like structure to the roots, either that, or the skill creates some kind of filtering/extracting effect.

If I can do it, maybe there is some way to filter the poop, and ring-fence the latrine pits such that their contamination is contained, and perhaps in the future I would find some ways to convert these waste into something more usable, like fertiliser. 

As of now, the contamination is spreading, ongoing, as people continue to poop and pee every day, so the first step is of course, containment. The source of these pollutants need to be restricted. 

Research status : 

  • Roots - Volcanic mineral processing - stage 1 - completed

  • Tree-lab varieties - stage 1 -  completed

  • Magically attuned materials Stage 1 - completed

  • Beetle - anti-magma armors stage 4 - 17 months

  • Material labs - stage 1 - 6 months

  • Magical sensors - 6 months

  • Normal Tree - Root filters stage 1 - 6 months

Year 80 Month 2

“Did somebody plant all these trees around all the outhouses? It makes it feel like I’m doing my business out in the jungle or something.”

“Must be the druids.”

“I think it’s the tree spirit. He’s a bit fond of meddling after all.”

“It’s kinda creepy if you say it that way, is the tree spirit watching us take a shit?”

“Uh... I doubt tree spirits are interested in us taking our shits, though. I mean, only perverts like that kind of stuff, and we aren’t exactly the most attractive old men around.”

“It’s a fetish for some people? A fetish for trees?”

“Ewww.”

“Ewww.”

Anyway, I had to implement a stopgap measure. I couldn’t get the priests to do their jobs, and I’m not inclined to threaten them, because it reveals a weakness about me. 

So, I decide to surround the most of the larger latrine pits and outhouses in New Freeka with [subsidiary trees], and use my roots to then form a subterranean wall, to block the fecal matter from leaking into the wider valley’s groundwater. 

I can’t process the shit, but I have to deal with the shit. So, blocking the shit is my temporary measure. The findings from my first round of analysis of the collected samples reveal that there’s no particular culprit.

The problem is, well, there’s just a whole damn load of shit. There’s a lot of minerals that are generally not-well accepted by trees, there’s also a whole mix of fungi, bacteria, and other stuff, all of which the normal trees normally can tolerate in small quantities. 

Small quantities. Normally.

It’s not a result I wanted. 

“Well, I suppose you could have some kind of waste-treatment plant, before it’s discharged? Like, you know, split the sewage into components and treat them separately? I can’t seem to recall the water treatment process though...” Alexis rubs her head. 

“Never mind, focus on researching the roots. That’s probably going to help minimise the damage.”

I’m guessing it’s going to be something like filtering, sedimentation, adding chemicals to kill bacteria or take out certain types of metals. I also can’t remember the details, its been so many years since school, and honestly, I wish I could google ‘wastewater treatment’, and find the answer. But then, even if I did, I’d have to find ways to develop actual skills or tools, suitable for the growing city. 

For now, the poop is contained by the roots of my subsidiary trees, and because there is just a whole load of poop, even my subsidiary tree's root filters occasionally fail and it absorbs some of the poop, and it makes the subsidiary tree weak and sickly, which Trevor or myself have to step in and use some of our tree-healing powers.

Important lesson. Skills can fail. 

And because the roots kind of stop the poop from escaping the pits, the pits get filled up faster, so the city has to build more of these pits. 

Ugh.

Not. Sustainable. They can't constantly be digging new pits all the time. 

I need to figure out a way to decompose the poop.

"You could maybe erm... separate their components? Then store them separately? I think some plants can consume or extract certain kinds of elements in the wastewater sludge."

Thus, I ordered some beetles to bring back some of the trees near the sewers of on the outskirts o Salah. Salah's got a vast network of underground sewers, some of which pipes their waste for disposal somewhere further, far from the city. 

There, the beetles bring back different types of plant samples, collected from near the sewer outlets, and the sewers itself. 

For my biolab's analysis. 

I wonder whether I can make a plant able to eat poop. 

-

Meanwhile...

"I... I want to drop out." One of the girls say, she's tired and frustrated, even if she is making progress. "It's too hard. So much fighting and some much studying. I... I can't. I can't do this."

"But what will you do, then?" Another of the girls ask. "We don't get chances like this, we're just orphans..."

"Er..." The young girl doesn't know. She only knows she didn't actually want it as much as she did. 

Lausanne nods, "It's intense. If you really want to drop out, please let Tree Spirit know. It's fairer for everyone, so that someone else who wants it can try it out. Let's not force yourself, I think now you know what you truly want."

The young girl cries and covers her face with her palms. She doesn't know what to do, actually. Yvon sits next to her. "I spoke with the Tree Spirit, if you drop out, you will return to being a regular orphan, so you can still stay. But you will lose the benefits you have, like the stipends you get."

The girls, get some pocket money for their participation. I thought its fairer that way, since this is like an apprenticeship or internship. I thought of it as being a reward for their hard work, since their routine is literally a whole lot of combat and studies, some eat, sleep, poop and repeat. Rest days are few and far between, perhaps a day in a month.

Honestly, my expectations were not very high, but I wanted dedication, and a display of effort from the girls. They need to at least, try.

"Are you sure?" Yvon's sort of their counselor. I think she's probably suspicious of my activities, and doesn't trust my intentions, but because of that, she's taken a personal interest in the girls and is now quite close to the girls, acting like their mother. 

Or maybe Yvon's just bored.

"I... I don't know. This is so hard. My body hurts everywhere, and I feel overwhelmed. I'm tired. I thought being a warrior, a fighter would be nice, and I'll be those super cool adventurers who defeat monsters and all. I just didn't expect the work to be so... so... much. I don't even have much time to play anymore."

Yvon taps her on her shoulder. "I understand, this programme is rough. I told Tree Spirit as well, that its extremely intense, but he insists on it being this way."

The young girl sobs. Her friends give her a hug. 

"If you are sure you want to drop out, we'll go and see the Tree Spirit."

She nods.

The next day, I cancel her familiar contract, and she loses her status as one of the Valthorn Initiates.  I am down to 4 girls.

Though she cries, I think she'll be happier just as a regular person. 

Ah well. Not everyone makes the cut. 

This is a good thing, the future batches, the girls will now do some self-selection and only those who truly want it will participate.

Year 80 Month 3

Salah has yet to provide an update on our request, though from the intel sources Jura has, it seems they are discussing it in great detail. 

According to the grapevine, it seems that they want to find a scapegoat for the incident, someone related but junior they can throw under the bus. If that really happens, I would be very disappointed, but for now, more intel gathering. 

After that string of conversations with the elves, I feel a bit magnanimous. I wonder whether I should look past this incident, and maybe, what I do next should not be out of vengeance.

But I should still send a message that such actions have consequences. Even if the consequence is 10 years later. 

“Please. Take care of my children and my wife. Protect them from the demons… and these monsters too.”

I recall feeling angry, these humans, killing the elves, when there are demons out there. Something as scary and overwhelmingly powerful like a demon king, and yet the Freeka villagers all, slaughtered and burnt alive. 

If I descend into a war with the Salah again, would I be doing what they did to me? Fighting amongst ourselves while a demon threat awaits?

It's not going to be long. This month, I begin to feel strange fluctuations in the star manas, and they make my leaves tingle. It's a familiar feeling, like that strange dream I had before the previous demon king. I feel it, the looming presence of the demons. 

The first of the many demonic rifts will soon open. 

its chapter 50, so lets have a chapter full of shit.

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