The heroes were strangely relieved that they didn’t need to go to another world. I suppose the idea of fighting the demon king in the core of the planet really felt like a scene right from a Japanese RPG game.
It’s ironic that this world really takes so much from the games that we loved so much. It really makes me wonder whether I’m just in a coma somewhere and this is me lucid dreaming.
Or maybe it’s the reverse, that all our creativity are residual memories, creations from what we’ve seen in some reincarnated past life? That’s also a rather strange turn of events.
Anyway, we briefed the heroes on the expected nature of the upcoming demon king, and everyone quickly started making preparations. If it was an anti-magic demon king, both Colette and Prabu had to prepare for it.
Everyone expected a counter of some kind. They just didn’t think it was going to be a massive anti-magic lizard, essentially a strong counter to both Colette and Prabu, and the whole host of star mana weapons.
They decided to forge new weapons, of course. Imbued with heroic abilities and skills, instead of magic or spells. Items with some level of protection from the effects of mana drain, again, tested against the sand that we collected.
It was hard to make it work, and it took them months of testing. The hero forges were literally creations of star mana, though they could use actual materials to give more substance and permanence to the output. Yet, real materials meant the products were not as strong as those made of star mana. After all, how could mundane items hope to rival the power of the stars?
But as they tinkered more and more, they soon gained a deeper understanding of the hero forges, and soon, came with a request.
“We need more of those anti-mana sands.” Colette said as she showed us a small glassy weapon made of the sand. “We managed to use the [hero forge] to make a weapon out of their anti-mana sand, and it’s significantly more resistant to the effects of mana drain, since, well, the sand itself is so good at ‘draining’ mana, it was also good at stopping mana from leaking out. “We could make weapons out of these anti-mana sands, and this would hold up.”
The pathway through the stars was still there, though we noticed the pathway itself seemed... wobbly and uncertain.
We didn’t bring that much sand back, but it certainly was possible to make glass out of that sand, if there were sufficient quantities of it. We didn’t know how much sand we needed, but the idea of mining this sandy planet for the anti-mana sands was really appealing. There could be a lot of uses for such a weapon, and if sufficiently widespread, it could equalise the inherent advantages of magic.
Actually, with sufficient quantities of this sand, it may even be possible to somewhat mimic earth-like, magicless situations.
In fact, once this demon king was over, I would probably lose access to all this anti-mana sand, unless I placed my clone on this world.
Lumoof, of course, had to be sent back to the Sandworld. For sand. I wondered whether this was the first actual instance of dimensional mining operations.
“Well, at least it still looks the same.” Lumoof went alone, as Stella attempted to keep the riftgates open. It didn’t work that well with the battering of the Sandworld’s harsh anti-magic rays.
Lumoof activated a few storage bags, and then... they exploded. They couldn’t store the anti-magic sand which interfered with the storage bags itself.
“Ooops.” Lumoof laughed. “Looks like we’ll have to send it back the teleportation way.”
Which meant Lumoof actually took large bags made of hemp and cloth, and filled them with sand. In avatar mode, Lumoof functioned as the conduit for teleportation to my main tree, through my [tree of life]. Essentially, he was another ‘clone’ in avatar mode.
Sand. It drained more mana than usual to send the anti-mana sand back, but we needed more. We took advantage of the day to eventually send back a small hill of anti-mana sand, piled up in one corner of the Valley.
As I noticed the presence of this anti-mana sand, I also wondered whether it had potential anti-demon uses, since it was also effective against demonic mana.
Could we use the anti-mana sand to clear ‘corrupted’ places, and remove the demonic energies from Rottedlands-type terrain?
If so, these anti-mana sand could be immensely valuable to ‘restore’ terrain and clean the land from demonic corruption.
Ken, my resident armchair critic, was quick to point out that I’ve had the Space-Grand-Strategy equivalent of a unique resource that gave the faction access to unique units or research. That, of course, tickled my funny-branch. That made sense.
Who would’ve thought anti-mana sand was a strategic resource, anyway?
“Lumoof, you’ll be doing mining. A whole lot of them.”
“I’m a priest, Aeon. Not a sand-collector.” Lumoof protested, mostly as a joke. “I have sand in every part of my body!’
“Then you’re doing it right! You’ll have to be my sand-collecting priest for this month.”
The anti-mana sand, strangely enough, did not cause any unusual reactions with my [secret hideout]. My spatial skill, which didn’t use mana, or at least, didn’t use it directly, could store this anti-mana sand without much risk, and after all my levels, my [secret hideout] could be expanded quite a bit.
The heroes took their share, a small truckload, to begin experimenting with larger weapons. At the same time, I also gave a small batch to my blacksmiths, jewellers and crafters to attempt their own experiments.
Alka too, used the anti mana sand for his own experiments, mainly to figure out how to make the bombs react exactly the way he wanted. Within weeks he made some very good discoveries. With the anti-magic qualities, the sand essentially functioned as ‘negative’ gates, and in small quantities, it could be used to create more compact runic patterns, and prevent unnecessary magical interference between unrelated but nearby formations. In short, the sand could be molded into magical ‘walls’ between spells.
“Given the value of these sands, I’m thinking Aeon should totally deploy a clone tree on this world.” Alka stated. “This sand could herald a new era of super compact magical weaponry! We may even attempt the computers that the heroes speak of!”
Valid, but I had my reservations.
“The parasite world’s useless. We should abandon it for this.” Alka stated.
Again, I also had reservations. Surely there are resources there, just like the sand, that we have only not discovered.
If I had to, I would probably abandon either the Cometworld, or the Moon. Most probably the moon because of how easy it is to get to it, again.
Still, this was something I had to think about, so for now, we mined sand. A lot of them.
The heroes made anti-magic staff and weapons, and Chung made arrows out of them. Chung and Hafiz both had a balance of spells and skills, as archer and knight-type heroes respectively, so transitioning from glass weaponry wasn’t too much of a challenge. The weapons were strong, after all they were made through [hero forge], and so were just naturally overpowered weapons.
They made a set for me, and a few extra sets for the future heroes. Just in case.
On this front, I thought of Ken’s League of heroes idea, and perhaps we could start with trade. Trade of hero items between heroes of different worlds.
I gave some to Lilies, just mainly to share the anti-magic sand. They were fascinated with it, and immediately wondered whether it could be used with that anti-divine material we had.
Blackstar Gems. The coal-like material that exploded when exposed to star mana, in a way, quite like void mana. When we placed the two types of materials together, nothing happened. From what I recall, the blackstar gems itself didn’t do much other than resist the effects of the gods, which remains untested even till today.
Our attempts to work with the two together didn’t get anywhere, but perhaps it’s just a matter of discovering the right process.
They were not so amused when I shared what we saw on the sandworld. In fact, Lilies responded with a revulsion. Something about a world filled with so much sand, that was so lifeless throughout that seemed to really disgust them.
Or maybe these lake-plants just don’t like waterless deserts.
Reefy’s search for the deepest trenches were filled with fights, and Reefy didn’t say much. All he said was he needed more time, since the trenches were filled with monsters. He seemed fairly amused by the anti-magic sand, but didn’t think much into it.
The images Reefy shared were quite brutal, mostly of heavy fighting and slaughter. The depths were home to violent eels and weird fish-creatures and they fought Reefy’s attempts to explore them. He didn’t seem disturbed by it, instead, Reefy merely remarked that he just needed more time.
Reefy also showed me some special coral weapons that he made, inspired by what I’ve made on the surface.
He had control and ability to directly breed fishes and fish-creatures, quite similar to how I created my beetles, and these fishes could travel long distances.
I was really curious how he maintained control and vision of them even at such distances, but Reefy didn’t have an explanation. It was just what it is, and Reefy didn’t think much of it.
“We should probably warn the Mountainworld heroes about the Sabnoc-type demon king. It might blow up and flood the world with demonic corruption again.” Lumoof pointed out one day during one of the monthly council meetings. It didn’t feel very good that I was pointing out the problems and also giving the solutions. I felt like one of those business consultants that pointed out a future issue and told their prospective customers to pay up.
“You do know we look like swindlers when we tell them stuff like that, and we offer the solution too?” I mean, we do have a pile of anti-mana sand, and conveniently, there’s a future demonic corruption crisis to solve. It really looked like I’m hacking, or even masterminding this shit. “It would be even worse if the explosion didn’t happen.”
Stella, of course, sat and then mused. “Maybe they’ve already fought the demon king and the explosion already happened.”
“Oh shit. Then they’ll need our help.” Lumoof said. “I mean, Aeon’s help.”
“It’s a good chance to test out the anti-magic sand, whether it worked as hypothesized.” Alka responded.
“But what could they do, if a Sabnoc-style explosion created another Rottedlands? There’s practically no defense against such a weapon. Not on a continental scale anyway, unless they somehow managed to ‘lock’ the bomb or ‘confine’ the bomb in a limited area.”
I thought back to the earlier fight against the demon king, and recalled that it’s possible to ‘defuse’ or ‘weaken’ the demonic corruption bomb by draining its mana. But that’s something I’d have to do.
“We have an invasion on our hands?” Roon diverted the topic. “I think we’re all still busy making weapons.”
Lumoof looked at Stella. “I think we can manage a short visit?”
Also, we began to have some data from the first generation of the ‘augmented’ supersoldiers. The first generational child of the Treefolks and Lizardfolk were reaching the age that they began to have some shape to their souls, and the results were mixed.
Different types of inherited skills caused the first generation’s children to display some odd qualities. Like enhanced strength meant they spent less time in their spawning pods because their strengths caused them to tear through the pods.
I suppose even with generational skills, the host or breeding facility must be able to endure the super-kids. The kids generally inherited the skills, but they were in a ‘weakened’ form, which I suspect was due to their age. Once they matured the skill would become its full form.
There were a bunch of treefolks and lizards that inherited one of the harvested [void mage] skills to naturally have [void mana], and those didn’t work well. It caused the baby lizards and treefolks to look weak and fragile, and they had to be on life support.
So, it’s not as if every skill can be injected, skills needed to be compatible with the child, or it would cause problems.
The researchers and caretakers also squabbled frequently over the conditions they faced. The caretakers were selected from those who used to support the Valthorns and their children. The unusual abilities these children had all needed special care and attention, but the researchers also wanted data, so the two frequently bickered. Right now, there were already 3rd and even 4th generation Valthorns, since it’s been almost one hundred years since I re-emerged from the Rottedlands.
The Mountainworld was still the same, and when Lumoof returned, we were not greeted with fighting. That was a good sign. The first village we met looked relatively normal, still quite militarised, but everyone looked relaxed.
A bit of casual, alcohol fueled conversation later, the heroes have been busy fighting demon champions. After they were captured by the demon king, the rumors seemed to say they were afraid of the demon king, so didn’t dare to make the final assault. Not something they said out loud, but it wasn’t difficult to coax it out of drunkards.
It was quite obvious in hindsight that being possessed and captured for so long would be a traumatic thing for the heroes, but, I would’ve thought the gods’ mind control would circumvent those fears and drive them towards the demon king.
Or maybe, as long as the heroes were still ‘fighting’ demons, and not actively avoiding demons altogether...
“I remember Kei saying that they hear voices in their head.” Lumoof said. Then again, I’m not sure whether these gods apply the same kind of mind control or mental suggestions as those of our world. It’s not exactly the same set of gods, even if there could be some overlap.
Still, the presence of the heroes significantly tipped the scales, as the heroes could take on demon champions easily as they leveled.
It didn’t take particularly long for us to eventually return to the seat of the council of kings, and find them in a significantly better mood. There was a return of the arts and entertainment, and the shops looked like they’ve had a renaissance of sorts.
“Welcome back, your excellency.” Lumoof’s presence was initially undetected, but eventually someone saw him and ratted him out. One of the lizardpeople councillors came to greet him. “On behalf of the council of kings, we once again welcome the savior of our heroes.”
It was almost public knowledge that there was some otherworldly help, by now. Our presence in this world was not a secret, and since the kings knew about it, almost everyone else soon learned of the other worlds.
Some formalities later, a meeting was arranged with the kings, the heroes and a large group of advisors, where Lumoof then shared our experience with Sabnoc, and the post-Sabnoc destruction.
There were only a few differences so far, so it’s likely that this demon king was a similar variant as Sabnoc.
The two heroes, now in better shape, even if they were still affected by their trauma, quickly asked whether we would be able to send heroes here. We rejected it, using the void mana as an excuse.
Still, there were some things that could be done with the knowledge.
One. There may be heroes where their souls have been captured by the demons
Two. They started evacuation of the area near to the demon king, based on an estimate of how much area was lost to the demonic corruption. They, of course, didn’t say the knowledge came from another world, but from the gods themselves. The temples didn’t like it, but thanks to the decade-long war, the Kings were more powerful than the temples, and so used their powers to make those who lived too near move away. There wasn’t much to evacuate, either, since thanks to the long war, vast areas were already a mini-Rottedlands
Thirdly, the heroes also made preparations, equipped with the knowledge of the tricks Sabnoc used. It’s like playing with a walkthrough, and after discussing how someone else had already cleared the game.
As it is, they’ve reached a somewhat comfortable status quo, where they are just hunting the champions for level.
We didn’t say it out loud. I didn’t want to trigger the gods’ mental controls.
There was something we wanted to know. What triggered the demon king’s win condition? When did they go for the core? Why was the demon king still stationery when the heroes were already free?
“We can hear it. It’s calling us to it.” The two heroes said. “We’re pretty sure it even sees us.”
“But I’m afraid.” The two heroes were visibly shaking as the boy started to share his fears. “After that first time, I’m not sure if I could face it again. I know I have to. But...”
I thought I felt divine energies in the air as the heroes let out their worries in a meeting room.
“We have to.” Darn. Triggered it anyway. “Can you help us?”
We have a demon king of our own to fight. We have four years left, and the next demon king, now that I’ve seen it, worries me immensely.
After the meeting, Lumoof suggested that perhaps we could help. The levels would help us against the demon king, since we could get new skills.
It was something worth thinking about.