Year 80 Month 9
“The fact that I’m here, means it’s not good news for the four of you.” A lady arrived in New Freeka, and quickly found the 4 druids. There’s many other ladies looking like her, and she didn’t emit any visible presence or magical energy, so her arrival didn’t even trigger any of my sensors.
A mature looking lady, in human terms, she’d look like she’s in her 50s, though I suspect she’s probably older. Despite her diminutive size, she’s petite, her very presence sends the 4 druids into a tense combat stance.
“The enforcer...” The four fumble over their staff and call out their familiars. They are right in the middle of town, and the citizens clear a space. It’s common for brawls and fights to break out in town, and citizens generally know to just give way. When there are fights among adventurers or people of that level, everyone would just let them fight.
“I’ve been busy, and I wish I could’ve come sooner. But you know how it is, investigations take time... A crime would be committed months ago, and only now the sentence is meted out. Such is the speed of justice, always lacking." The lady shrugs, she’s dressed in a loose fitting shirt and pants, but it’s clearly woven with high quality materials. When she takes out a scythe from nowhere, all my alarm bells start to ring.
She’s not exactly tall, she’s petite and well, probably on the older side, but the way the massive scythe swings around her, I knew she’s trouble.
An intense aura spreads around her. It even makes the subsidiary trees around New Freeka feel heavy. It’s some kind of suppression aura.
“On what crimes?” The druids put on a brave face, they attempt to feign ignorance in the face of the lady.
“Oh, this trick has been done many times. But fair, the one carrying out the punishment must repeat it, just so that the offender may drill it into their souls, for their next life.”
The lady, steps forward, one small step. Her legs are small, after all.
“For lying to the council, jail time. For forcing a high-tier spirit tree to a spiritual contract, the four of you have contravened one of the core tenets of the Hutan Council. And for that offense, the Hutan council has empowered me to bestow your punishment. Death.”
The four men summon their wolves, armor and whatnot, and whatever they have, all the familiars charges at the lady.
But the battle is awfully short.
The lady swings her scythe, and it glows in a dark-greenish color. "[Druidhunter]."
A dark wave spreads out, and the familiars of the druids all just turn into dust. Then, from the earth, four black roots emerge and stab them each in the heart, killing them instantly.
She then walks up to the four impaled bodies of the druids.
“Children, everyone, please don’t watch.” It is in the middle of town, and the announcement of the execution sends a lot of younger children and their parents running away.
And her scythe beheads all four of them, their heads fall easily, like it’s harvesting hay. She chucks their head into a gunny sack, and then into her magical pocketspace.
“Should we do something?” I wonder, and ask my tree-minds.
“She’s scary, I suggest not.” Ivy said. “She’s got the ability to sneak in and find the druids, and then kill them. She might use it on us."
Well, the lady quickly went and meet Jura.
“Supreme Counsel Jura, I apologise for my sudden, unannounced presence. My name is Leithia, a conducts enforcer of the Hutan Council. I’ve been informed that I may be able to seek a meeting with the Tree Spirit through you?”
No? I don’t feel like I should meet her, because she's dangerous! Jura seems unfazed though, he even manages to sit comfortably in his chair, and takes a sip from his tea. He’s really into tea these days.
“I understand that the Spirit is probably apprehensive to meeting another druid, and that is fine. I would like, on behalf of the Hutan Council, to apologise for the acts of our rogue druids. It is a great disappointment to us as well, that our druids act in such manner in the face of a chance to get power.”
Jura nods, and offers her tea. “Well, glad to know that laws are being enforced after all.”
“Indeed, I would like to assure the Spirit that we will still fulfill it’s wishes to commune with the other great tree spirits, and we are in the process of arranging that. It’s not easy to convince other tree spirits to participate, and we will need specialised items to allow the tree spirit’s thoughts to be transmitted. In the meantime, the council will send someone over as compensation.”
Eh? Wait. Is there really a need for such things? Can’t I just erm... chain my subsidiary trees all the way to wherever the other spirits are? Or this ‘subsidiary tree’ skill is more rare than I think?
“So please assist us, and manage the spirit’s expectations.”
Jura nods, “I think the Tree Spirit will... give some concessions on this. Though, I’m not sure for how long, I will try my best to convince him.”
Leithia smiles back at Jura and nods a little. “That’s the most we can ask, for the offense the council’s poorly trained druids have caused.”
They both sip on the tea. It’s an awkward silence, but Jura looks more comfortable than the lady. "Would there be anything else?"
“That’s all we wish to say, Counsel. I’ll take my leave, and will leave your town in a few days.”
“Enjoy your stay.”
[Druidic Aspects failed to collect the chosen skills as the period of the contract is too short]
[Received 24 x Essences of Druid]
[Received 4 x druid class seeds
[Received 1 x experience seeds]
Aiks. Oh well, I will have to use the essences to teach the girls then, but 24 essences might not even lead to a single skill. Sighs.
Anyway, I’m happy that the druid enforcer didn’t push to see me, and so I turn my attention elsewhere. Ivy’s still keeping tabs on her though, and as she said, she spent her time in town. Thankfully, she left after two days of eating and meeting.
I’ve decided to reward one of the girls, the one who reached level 15, by giving her a choice of the class seeds to take, and one skill seed for [archery].
The choice is actually just between [Druid] and [Ranger], since I’d like to keep [Dark Knight] for later. I also have some random jobs, from the deceased, like [farmer], [merchant], [scribe] and stuff like that, but since the Valthorn Initiates is meant to be a combat unit, it’ll be combat skills and jobs. They also already have [soldier], which I found quite strange, but I suppose that’s the result of being trained by soldiers?
The problem about the [druid] class seeds, is that, the trainers are now dead.
“Can’t we learn from you?” The girls ask. Good question. If I was playing a game, I would think going to the 'source' is a good way to truly learn a skill.
But no. Druids and tree spirits understand the same kind of abilities differently.
The way I sense and command trees, is different, because I am a Tree, and I have access to certain kind of senses that elves or centaurs, like these girls, do not have. So, even if our powers look and feel similar, the mechanics of how our powers work, at its core, is different. The way I command and use [Root Strike], is different from how a druid would. I can move my roots as if they were... a button I can press.
For the druids, they have an incantation to call on the earth and trees to obey they commands. It's like I am the wheels itself, whereas the druids move the wheels through a steering, that goes through the transmission.
"I am afraid it would be very challenging for me to directly teach you druid magic, though I can use the [essences] I have to give you lessons, through [dream tutor]."
And, the druids magic actually cover a wider scope, their field extends into earth magic, water magic, some air magic, and also some animal-mastery. Whereas mine so far is rather wood-focused, and a mix of tree abilities. In a way, they are generalists.
“But you are a tree, are you not superior to druids?”
“Superior’s not a fair way to say things... our nature is different.”
“Why?” The young girls ask, perhaps to them, everyone can be placed on a spectrum from weak to strong, and that may be true from a strictly combat perspective. But there is a nuance to abilities that extend beyond pure direct combat. “But why, you’re a giant tree with strange powers, shouldn’t you be better than them?”
These young girls can be strangely naive.
“Well, there’s some things you can do when you have hands, and there’s some things you can do when you have roots.”
They have job classes. I don't.
Year 80 Month 10
The Hutan Council sent a strange person to serve me. "Compensation", they said. Accompanied by a beautifully written letter.
An [Arborist], by the name of Zhiga.
"Uh... why did the council send you?" Jura looks, a bit puzzled.
"I am here to make the Tree Spirit feel better, of course!" Zhiga smiles, he's an old man, but there's plenty of spring in his step. He comes with a bag of tools, like little scissors, small shovels and multiple bottles of dirt.
"Uh... after the recent incident, I am afraid that the Tree Spirit is a bit reluctant to meet new people."
"Nonono, totally understand. I shall remain in the city and care of the trees here." The [arborist] remains in the city, with Ivy watching his every move. The city is open to visitors, it is peacetime after all, so long as he obeys the rules, he can stay in the city.
Jura had a lot of time to think. When I offered to remove some of his skills, especially those from his earlier days that he may no longer need, he... he needed some time to think about it.
His levels and skills, experience as a villager, and also a fighter. Some of those, held certain memories to him, and may have saved his life, back in the day. Some skills made the difference between victory, or death, and although they seem weak now, they have special meaning.
“I’m not sure whether I want to remove my [villager] skills... I have like.. 15 levels in them.” Well, Jura’s overall level is 80, and it comprised of 60 levels in warlord, being a combination of 40 levels in fighting and 20 levels in diplomacy and administration. “What if there’s a way for it to merge with Warlord? Maybe I will be Village Warlord?"
If such merging is possible it would improve the organisation and presentation of his soulspring, but I’m not sure whether that frees up lifeforce to support new skills and levels.
Is there a way to assign a ‘lifeforce consumption/drain’ value to skills and levels, because perhaps there’s some skills that use up more lifeforce than others? I would imagine these skills have a ‘slot-value’?
“What if some day, I’ll need those villager's skills again? When I grow older, and I can no longer fight?" Isn't that a long way to go?
“You said, I won’t be able to relearn the skills?”
“No, I mean, I can’t use the skillseeds on you, but I suppose you could learn it on your own again?”
Jura paused, and sipped his ginger-tinged tea. “Hmm. I think I’m fine. TreeTree... I appreciate you trying to push me past level 80, but... I think I value my existing skills, they have meaning to me, and I’m not willing to let go of them."
Inwardly, I feel like sighing. I guess skills are like scars, they punctuate certain moments in a person’s life. Jura knows what it means to be higher level. It means he can fight stronger monsters, do more, but he’s somewhat decided there are certain things he won't do, to get there.
“I can respect that, but if you ever change your mind...”
Jura nodded, "I think rather than that, maybe let's get back to basics, and erm.. figure out how to restore my hand?"
He flexes his wooden hand, its made using his mental link with Bamboo, his 'eidolon'/familiar. It's been wonderful since Bamboo obtained the skill, [Extended Self], which sort of functions like a power armor, and because how frequently Jura uses it, it's really like having a hand again.
The challenge about lost limbs is that, well, the soul itself loses the blueprint and memory of the limb. Essentially, when healing magic attempts to heal a person's body, it accesses the soul's, for a blueprint. That blueprint is then used as the basis for 'restoring' the body.
When a limb is cut off, there is a crucial period, during which the limb must be healed. After that, the soul loses the 'blueprint' relating to that limb, and then, healing the limb becomes impossible, and what's left is a stump.
In my earlier days, I didn't have the soul forge, when I saw Jura, he had already lost his hand. I didn't have any ability to heal the lost arm.
But, I've changed, and altering his soul to recreate the 'blueprint', that's certainly something I am now willing to try.
At least, I will first need to do some... experiments.
If all souls are reincarnated, sometimes as animals, I probably should not be doing this. These poor animals could be me, in my next life.
Alexis and Meela clearly felt disturbed by what I was doing, even if they understood the rationale of what I was planning to do.
I had the Order gather stray animals in New Freeka, and those further out. Dogs, cats, deer, wolves, cows. Any of these stray animals that are injured, amputated, limbless.
If I am to alter and recreate the limb, I need some practice.
And then, I went to do my testing on these animals, using the soul forge to 'repair' their souls.
The first animal died from the magic overload instantly. A gruesome death, best not to be described.
"What you are trying to do, seems to require precise tools, beyond just what the soul forge normally does." Alexis is curious, of course. I think she's attracted to such gory things, even if she is disturbed.
"I healed the princess many years ago, her soul spring wrecked. Why do you think is this different?"
"The fact that you are doing experiments, tells me you know it is different. The princess's spring is wrecked but the body is still there. It's like her house collapsed, but the components are just a mess. I think Jura's case, the component is lost, and you are trying to rebuild it. You need to do something in the soul, so that the left arm can regrow."
"...okay." To rebuild that 'soul blueprint', I will have to alter the form of the outer shell of the soul.
"Maybe something like a massive mold? Like those casts people make?"
A mold, eh? But let's see.
For the second animal, I plan to put the animal inside the mana soaking facility, wait for a day, and then start up the soul forge. I put two subsidiary trees with biolabs right next to the [Forge tree], and attempt to use the vine-tools from the [Biolab] to make the changes.
The [Soul Forge] does have some default tools, but unlike the biolab pods, the array and precision of the tools are lacking. At least for the augmentation I am thinking of.
During the test run, the vines from the [biolab] burns once they enter the forge tree. It's more like... they start to darken and turn to ash. Details are a little lacking, when it comes to the [Forge Tree].
I think it looks like I have to get something with more mana resistance. Something that does not burn from mana, or allows the mana to flow around it.
I have some ideas there. But I will need to buy some jewels.
At the same time, I asked Jura for his oldest belongings, ideally something before he lost his hand.
Like the Princess, maybe his belongings have a remnant, a shard of his soul that I can somewhat work with
"I think they all burnt down during the burning... except my sword."
"Your sword it is then. Give it to me."
"Uh..." It's precious.
"I'll make you a new one."
The sword went into the [forge tree], and there is some 'shards' of his being, but because he's been using it even after the incident, the shards and fragments in there are all without his hands.
"Sorry, I really have nothing else."
Perhaps these items are like loose memory cards, and contact refreshes their memory to the latest version? Or do they merge?
"So... my sword is gone?" Well, the sword's still there, but in order to analyse the shard I had to break it down, and unlike people or souls, the soul forge isn't designed to put them back together. It's quite strange how the soul forge knows what to keep, and what to break. I mean, why is it that a person inside can survive, but a steel sword gets broken?
"Uh... kind of." It's not that great a sword anyway. It's really just a basic steel sword, despite the fancy design.
"Ah..." Jura sighs. But he understood why I did it. Even now, I have an inkling of how to do it, but I still need to test it out on animals.
Year 80 Month 11
The merchants delivered a bunch of ores, containing various unprocessed jewels and metals.
The idea is simple, really.
Some of these metals should be able to strengthen the biolabs and their tools, via [mineral augmentation], and together with [woodshaping], I can make the tools necessary to perform more precise adjustments in the soul forge.
Or maybe... can I use [star mana]?
Anyway, that's also worth testing. First, the ore and jewels test.
Before the second animal test, I fire up the soul forge, put the ores in, and measure how long each of the ores last before the melt into a puddle. Some will last longer, and if so... some of them should last?
All of them melt, some a little bit slower than others, but all melt into a puddle. Its as if they were stripped apart, bit by bit. Or maybe I just don't have the right kind of ore.
Maybe I should use my main body? Wouldn't that work? My main body should be more resilient than using it via subsidiary trees.
But I would have to move things around.
"Can I have a forge tree inside my main body?" I ask the Wisp. The [forge tree] is created to minimise the pain of using the soul forge, thats why its... outside.
"You certainly could, but you will feel quite an intense pain when you use it." The forge tree receives lightning and vibrates like mad when the mana spins. "It will feel a bit like when you were evolving. And you will feel like mana-poisoned, but then again you are an evolved tree... maybe you can."
"Let's try it anyway."
So, in my body, within the secret hideout I set aside a space and made it into a forge tree. It comes easily, after all, I already have the tree, and this is just internalising it. [Secret hideout modified : Internal Soulforge Chamber]
And I fired the internal soul forge up.
It's kinda like a really bad stomach ache, the mana spinning in my metaphorical tummy. But not as bad as I thought.
"Uh... you okay in there?" Alexis asks. She can't see this part, inside here, deep inside the secret hideout.
Using [woodcrafting], I created layers of wooden walls around the chamber, which forms a barrier, to protect myself from the swirling mana. The space here is flexible sized after all.
And I fire up the soul forge, again.
These protective walls, they are in a state of constant regeneration. The gathered mana, swirling, and it speeds up. As it does so, it expands and burns the protective wooden walls.
At higher speeds, and at full power, it feels like I am surrounded by fire. Like I am in a sauna.
But my initial theory is correct, my main body, vines and feelers are more resistant to the mana-burn, and they do last longer. Not only that, thanks to [Self-awareness], I am far more aware of what is happening.
A lightning bolt strikes my main tree. Followed by a loud thunder.
Ugh. I feel it travel down from the branch to the trunk, leaving a streak. It burns a little while, my fire resistance and healing power quickly kicks in and puts it out.
The mana in the forge spins, and it speeds up. As it speeds up, it quickly takes the shape of a spinning ball. Time for another test, so I put an ore in with a feeler. The ore, starts to disintegrate into a puddle, levitating in the middle. My soft green viney feeler starts to disintegrate as well, as the swirling mana bombards it.
Hmm. There must be something. Maybe just starting up the soul forge isn't the complete process.
I need to see how the [Soul Forge] does it, normally.
I decide... to test it out on an animal.
The animal is one of the many stray ones, a small hamster like animal. It lost its tail. This time, I observe it intently, instead of letting the 'skill' do what it needs to do. And partly, being inside me also allows me to truly 'see' it, perhaps through my skill [Self-awareness], since my vision of the separate [Forge Tree] isn't as 'holistic'.
And I saw it. The mana-dispensing feeler in the soul forge.
The moment the animal steps into the soul forge, a small layer of mana is applied to the creature by a tiny feeler, and as the soul forge starts to spin, the body is protected by the mana, funneled by two vertical magical connections, and then... the soul is pulled out of the body.
Even the tiny hamster has a soul.
Were you possibly human in some previous reincarnation?
Sorry I have to do this, its for... science. May your soul move to a better place, reincarnated into some other form.
The soul, is in the shape of a hamster, too, it.... it doesn't have a tail. I could see the soul, it has multiple layers, and the soul forge starts to split those up. One layer representing the spirit-body, and one multi-sub layered spirit representing the skills and outer soul.
Seems like all these details are omitted when looking at the [forge tree]. With the Princess or the artificial souls.
The body, is moved aside, and the two spirit layers move to the center of the soul forge.
What do I do at this point? How do I recreate the 'tail'? I try to look back at all the other animals that the Order gathered, and yes, there were a few samples of this animal. Some of those animals had tails.
I pull up the data, stored in my biolab, and cross-checked to the body.
Ugh. Firstly, the data from my biolab is in a different format, presented in the form of the soul spring, and its extensions.
This means my biolab isn't collecting data suitable for the [soul forge]. The way things are presented and the information is different. It's like one is an X-Ray photo, and another is a 3D MRI scan. The information is different, even if the body is the same.
Still, the creature is in. No point stopping. I tried to use the data I have to 'recreate' a tail. Using soul fragments which I have plenty of, I form it into a rudimentary shape of a tail. Ugh. My difficulty in the shaping the soul fragment into the tail is partly because my feelers only last a short while before the swirling mana burns their tip up.
The soul forge spins, and another lightning falls. It feels like when I touched a light switch after a shower, only stronger, more intense, and it travels to my belly, where the soul forge is.
The tail, slowly, clunkily, merges with the spirit-body, my burning feeler clumsily trying to adjust its position, and then it merges with the layered spirit. The real body, now comes back and rejoins the spirit, and then the hamster-creature is whole again.
The forging complete, I put the hamster-creature back into a healing pod.
And I use a healing ability.
The creature's bottom starts to heal, indeed, there is a small dot that is regenerating, and it resembles the shape of what I made. It's somewhat mispositioned, like... the root of the tail starts a little too low.
A rough tail shape appears, like an engorged balloon stuck on the creature’s bottom.
Then the tail expands... and explode in a massive splatter of blood. The hamster-creature died instantly.
I’m sorry, hamster-creature.
Looking at the remains of the splattered body, the cause was simple, the tail lacked all the details of the blood vessels, muscles, bones that was needed in a real tail. All it had was a layer of skin in the shape of a tail, as a result of my poor drawing of a tail.
So the healing accelerated the blood flow into that tail and so when the skin could no longer take the pressure from the blood inflow, it exploded, and the creature died of blood loss.
Looks like it’s not going to be easy to ‘rebuild’ a limb, when the soul has forgotten what the limb is like. And I wouldn’t want Jura to go through that sort of miserable death.
The first challenge will be to get a good soul forge level imagery of what a hand should be. I would think I can fix this by taking a good scan of Jura, again, this time in a biolab pod inside my body, using the soul forge's power. Something of a similar resolution and detail as what I have now seen, preferably more. Maybe, create some kind of soul-forge-biopod hybrid. Maybe, if I could somehow flip the image of his existing hand, then I wouldn’t have to start from scratch.
Next barrier, a way to recreate that image in the soul forge, using soul forge. My expectation is that a full ‘soul-copy’ of the limb will be extremely detailed, and would need a lot of work to recreate such a thing with soul fragments. Even if I have a lot of soul fragments, my concern here is whether I have the correct tools and means to recreate it, and how long will it take?
And lastly, even if I could recreate the hand in a ‘soul form’ using the soul fragments, I would need to figure out a way of accurately joining it all together, and then heal it in such a way that he would have a functional arm. I still don’t know even if I created the hand correctly, whether healing would somehow ‘regenerate’ a hand with all the necessary bones, muscles, blood vessels and stuff. I have taken the assumption that magic will handle it, but I do want to minimise that risk.
Lastly, what if there are things I don't know, maybe there are other details that I can't see because I am not using the right equipment.
[Skill upgraded : Biolab healing pod]
Jura thinks healing his hand is going to be easier than breaking level 80, but I think both of these challenges are equally difficult.