Year 80 Month 12
The news of demons from the distant lands trickled in. More rifts have been spotted, but the military remains fully in control and have been suppressing the demons from the rifts, though, perhaps the military is greatly downplaying the threat of the demons. So, for now, our part of the world remained safe.
The reason we’re all generally suspicious of the good news, is because the kingdoms are stockpiling resources, whether this is due to habit as a precaution from all prior demonic wars, or a sign of true distress, we still do not know. In past instances, trade lines get disrupted, and sources of food become unreliable, so it could be that there’s really nothing, and some of these kingdoms are just being prudent, preparing for the worst.
Still, it’s infectious, so New Freeka’s also in a mood for preparations, the council hired more soldiers, conducted extensive training for their militia and also stockpiled food. They also tried to run a campaign to smear the Order’s name, especially on the way we spend money, and to some extent, it did convince the regular citizens.
But, we didn’t part with the Order’s money. Instead, we decided to spend the money on new walls and defensive towers.
This is partly because I have a good range of defensive skills, and I wanted to make use of them. We build an outer wall a short distance away from New Freeka, and it’s filled with trees on both sides of the wall. The skill [Reinforce Defensive Structure] created a vine-based structural reinforcement with sharp thorns on the outside of the wall, and [carnivorous plants] and [cactus defense system] as traps.
The walls are separated into segments by defensive watchtowers. Next to that, I would have [subsidiary trees] filled with beetles, and they function as ‘watchposts’ and the beetles patrolled the walls. In front of that, we placed some subsidiary trees with [shield generators], to block large projectiles.
This whole thing was Trevor and Ivy’s suggestion. Ivy listened in on military defensive strategies from other nations, and collated the information and put forth this suggestion.
Which I think works for the large hordes. If it’s going to be a large army of hounds, the wall will work swimmingly well.
Still, the core issue with demons are their demonic champions. Like the massive golems, or the large centipedes, with opponents like that, these reinforced walls are not going to last very long.
On that front, the plan will be anti-demon weapons. It’s been something I’ve been hatching since the previous battle with the champion.
Magical wooden spears, filled with all the anti-demon abilities I have, also made with damage boosting essences, and all the holy-enchantments I can get from the priests and mages in New Freeka. And I will use to cap my [super anti-demon root strike]. I even managed to weave a bit of [star mana] into it, and hopefully that’ll make the difference. It worked before, so, I think it’ll work again.
This time, I’m going to stockpile a whole load of these anti-demon weapons, and store them. If the heroes are going to come around, they’ll probably do crazy tricks like that again.
“You could make a sword like that?”
“The anti-demon weapons you are making. Could I get one? You did take my sword... you know.”
“Oh.” Ah yes. I need to make a weapon for Jura. “But these are wooden... spears?” I show him one of the spears, and well, it’s massive, after all, it’s made for me. They are bigger than a lance, and so it’s really heavy. It works for me, because their wooden nature means my roots merge with their other end, and this is the largest size my roots can handle. The size helps, because you could fit more spells into bigger things, without having to increase the complexity of the spell or use more magically-compatible materials, which may not work with my roots.
He touches them, and he looks quite impressed. “So this is what Madeus and the group of priests been doing for the past week... enchanting this?”
“Yeah. I can make a wooden sword, but I doubt it can carry the same quantity of enchantments as these large multi-layered wooden uh.. Bolts.”
“I’ll take it. I would like it to have anti-demon effects too. I might need it.”
Well true. Maybe I should outfit Horns, Lausanne and the rest with anti-demon weapons as well.
So, I went and made wooden weapons for them.
“Ooooooo this is new, you didn’t show me this before.” Meela pokes her head when I was growing wooden weapons using [woodcrafting].
“You didn’t use it much, or if you did, I wasn’t there.”
“I used it to make toys and furniture. I made Lausanne’s toys with this, and the playpen is made using this.”
“Oh. True, come to think of it, that explains where a lot of your tools come from.” Meela stares a bit too closely at the little growing sword, and she pokes it. Now that she’s got a physical body, she’s frequently walking around New Freeka.
So, I made more wooden weapons, swords, spears and stuff. The process of making wood-weapons is actually quite time consuming, because for them to have a comparable strength to a regular metal weapon, I actually cheat, meaning, I use irons and other metals harvested via my roots, and infuse them into the wood itself, the wood using them to form a kind of metallic ‘frame’ in their structure.
But that’s not enough, so I would then infuse [essences]. I have elemental essences, strength essences, life essences, and adding essences strengthens the overall weapon. The best part of essences is that they can coexist with magical enchantments, for small weapons like a sword or a spear (relatively speaking), they can take one or two enchantments, more if I embed jewels in them.
But since I don’t have many magical enchantments, I use the only one I have, [lesser holy enchantment].
“Cool weapon.” Meela nods, looking at my completed wooden sword. It’s almost black in color because of the essences used, in terms of sharpness and strength it’s above a regular steel sword. It’s no super-sword, but eh.
Jura tries to swing it around, and nods. “Hmmm... the weight distribution feels a little weird. Probably need a bit of getting used to. But I suppose it’s good enough.”
He still likes his own steel sword.
Meela’s also examining Jura’s new dark-wood sword, now that it’s done.
“Mika, you like swords?” Jura asks, Mika is Meela’s name in New Freeka, and Jura thinks Meela’s one of my artificial souls, like Horns. Meela didn’t want to be known as a former hero. There’s just too much baggage, so a new name. Alexis’s new name is Alix, but for now, nobody can see her except myself and Meela.
“A bit. I think they’re quite cool. I generally like things made of wood.”
Jura nods, “I see. It makes sense, treefolks like wood stuff too. But don’t you find it weird, in a way. It’s like an elf admiring a weapon made of elf-bones. I would be somewhat creeped out.”
“Eh, I don’t see it like that. If your entire life you were brought up that this is what your species does, you wouldn’t think it’s strange.”
Jura pauses, nods. “I see.”
The two chatted for a while, mostly talking about swords.
“TreeTree, you should fuse an artificial soul into a sword. You could make a talking-sword!” Meela casually said, she also takes a swing out of the new sword. It’s a little too heavy for her, so after a swing or two, she gave it back to Jura.
I feel like I’ve had a stump rammed into me.
That’s... that’s.... actually quite a good idea. But then the poor artificial soul is stuck in a sword, and what if he doesn’t want to be in there? What if the sword breaks?
But those are minor challenges. It’s an idea worth exploring. It’s been 2 years since I made Ivy, so I already have enough fragments for more artificial souls, just need to check whether I have enough potatopower...
[59,400 normal trees. 5,630 subsidiary trees. One leyline. Currently have enough power to support a total of 11 artificial souls]
Oh. There’s really a lot of trees now, since... well.. It’s peaceful.
Now let me think...
Back to Jura’s arm. Well, I had Jura sit down and go for a full scan in the biolab again, this time, specifically the one inside my body. And then, when he did, I pulled the power from the soul forge and used it to get a scan.
Now that I have some idea what I need, based on my experience with the hamster-monster, I’m trying to recreate that sort of data.
And well, it works. But it’s a far longer scan that the usual biolab, which takes about 2 hours. I had to sedate Jura and put him in sleep, since the mana from the soulforge had to ‘scan’ the arm.
To use my earlier analogy, the biolab is an X-ray, and the soul-forge is an MRI, and now, the mana from the soul forge is ‘entering’ the hand to collect ‘data’ on how Jura’s existing body looks like. And because it goes section by section, it took Jura the whole day.
When he woke up, he was not too pleased.
“I was asleep for a day!”
“Sorry, didn’t expect it to last so long...”
“I mean... you should tell me first, I had work back in the Order!”
Laufen, who came to check on Jura, smiled. “No worries I postponed all your meetings and briefings to tomorrow. I figured they understand that you’ve got a personal life, and that involves seeing your healers. Honestly, some of those issues, I told them to deal with it themselves...”
“It’s just a day.” I thought to myself, I sleep for weeks sometimes. and I have my 3 lovely artificial minds running things on my behalf. Looks like the Order needs to delegate more.
Jura nodded, “Fine, fine.”
“Let me look through the results, I’ll let you know.”
The scan is a lot more detailed than the ones from the biolab pods, but it’s missing something.
Maybe this too is incomplete.
So I tried putting my two scans together, the one from the biolab pods and from this soul-forge powered scan. I needed some additional processing power from the root-brain complexes, so I had to temporarily tap on their root-brains for a bit more mental juice.
Suddenly, a string of notifications appeared in my head. It seems there’s a whole load of upgrades available for the internal soulforge chamber, but will require me to build or grow certain things.
[Secret hideout : Internal Soulforge Chamber upgrades]
[Upgrade - Dedicated root-brain complex - to support higher resolution data-analysis of souls & storage of scan output]
Wait. This reminds me of something I didn’t finish...
“A ton of gold and a ton of quartz? And all these crystals and stuff?” The men looked amazed at the order.
“That’ll cost us quite a bit of our revenue.” One of the treasurers said. “We’ll need to dig into our reserves, then...”
The Master of Ceremonies opened his arms wide, “Our reserves are meant for moments like this, when Aeon calls on us to meet his demands, do you not answer?”
The men gulped. The treasurer shook her head, and nodded. “Certainly.”
“Go, before Aeon finds us lacking.”
Year 81 Month 1
“How’s the preparations?”
“Shouldn’t you not care about this anymore?” Jura asked, he parried a vertical slash from Lausanne and then ducked, to dodge another Initiate’s horizontal slash.
“I can’t. You know I care.” Yvon answered, she’s sitting on a bench, watching Jura spar with Lausanne and the Initiates.
“Didn’t see the walls?” Jura jumped, and he elbowed the young initiate on the chest. The initiate wore a wooden breastplate, all of them did. It makes them look a bit like a wooden knight. It cracked. The initiate is out.
“I did, but you know walls alone do nothing.”
“Haven’t visited them?” Jura ducked, Lausanne momentarily vanished and emerged behind him.
But Jura blocked it anyway.
“Good move, [Shadow stab]. But you tend to appear right behind me, it’s predictable.”
Lausanne’s sword bent, and it curved towards Jura’s head. He grabbed it with a reinforced wooden hand, and with a strong yank, pulled the sword out of Lausanne’s hand. Lausanne protested. “It’s a spar!”
“You used two skills, so I retaliated.”
“It’s a handicapped spar!”
“Rest. We can continue later.” Lausanne’s still a bit upset, but she did as she was told. She’s close to the initiates now.
Jura walked to Yvon, and grabbed a drink from a wooden flask.
“Where were we? Oh yes, the walls. I thought you would have visited them. Didn’t you?”
“I did.” Yvon looked at the girls. All of them are young, Lausanne’s the oldest at 11. The rest is between 6 to 9.
“Yeah. My own sources tell me nasty things. About massive armies in the southern continent popping out of the hills, ravaging cities and setting up camps. I fear for us, whether we can survive that.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much. The Order’s making preparations, and so is TreeTree. He’s making a whole load of preparations. Even the council’s busy preparing for the demons. As a whole, we’re doing fine.”
Yvon paused, breathed a long sigh. “Is there something underground?”
“Oh? Is there?”
“You don’t know about it?” Yvon looks puzzled. “Then... is TreeTree... doing something? All these tremors and shaking. Is it not him?”
“Doesn’t sound like it’s related to what I know, though.” Jura shrugged. He motioned to the initiates. “Anyway, times up! Three initiates this time. Lausanne, you sit out and watch!”
Lausanne raised a fist.
More spars. The girls and Jura would spar a few times that day. The initiates benefited the most, since they lack combat experience. Lausanne, on the other hand, is starting to plateau. I’m not sure how it works, but it sure seems like there is a limit how much one can gain experience from fighting the same person over and over, even if the gap is huge.
Yvon asked during one of the other breaks. “Do you think we can beat a demon champion?”
“You, and me.” Yvon pointed to herself.
“Hmm... No.” Jura shook his head.
“Have you ever faced one in battle, Yvon?”
“I have. We’re quite good. Both of us. But a demon champion... I don’t think we are there yet. Not without TreeTree’s powers.”
“How is it that TreeTree is able to defeat demons anyway? I’ve never heard of a Tree Spirit that’s able to defeat demons. It’s... unlike their nature.”
Jura paused. “That’s a question I do not ask.”
“You should. There’s something, isn’t it? Maybe he’s some kind of unique anti-demon variant sent down by the gods?”
“This is a conversation that I don’t want to have, Yvon.”
Yvon hmphed. “Fine. But you are his spokesperson, you should know.”
"I am fine with other people having secrets, Yvon. I am not a young teenage elf who's obsessed with everything anymore."
"It's not the same. You could lose your life."
"Lives have been lost for far pettier things, Yvon. Let's’s leave it at that.”
Beetle - anti-magma armors stage 4 - 4 months
Metal hyperaccumulator trees - Stage 1 - 6 months
Phytoremediation process - basic - 16 months
Dedicated Filtering Blackwater-Plant - stage 1 - completed
WIth the blackwater filtering plant research complete, I now have a specialised tree type, derived from the trees near the sewers of Ransalah.
New Freeka’s sewer project is still under construction, so this tree is a bit early. Thanks to the budget reallocation to the military, the New Freeka Sewer Project is now crawling, with less than half the original workforce and artisans.
Meh. But I didn’t want the Order to fund the project, so I deployed some of these new [Filtering Trees] near the present latrines. These trees help segregate the contaminated water, such that only filtered water passes through.
Poop is generated daily. Daily. It grows. And it must have some way of being recycled or processed. Reluctant to use the Order's funds, I decided to get the newly obtained [Dungbeetles] to dig a subterranean tunnel, to act as a 'wastetunnel' for a designated spot, where the poop is aired and sun-dried. My hope is, the sun and air could kill or allow natural microbes to partially process the poop, and my future poop-processor trees will be able to do the rest.
The [Dungbeetles] rolled the poop into balls, and over the month, they pushed massive balls of rolled-up poop to a field outside town, where they remain. It kinda resembles a futuristic art installation, a field of round balls of poop.
Thankfully the rain didn't break it up. Seems like the poopballs have some water-resistance.
Or maybe I could use them as a weapon. Roll these balls of poop into the enemy, like a bowling ball.
Oh well, this is a temporary measure, while research continues.
"Okay, we decided on helping the heroes... but what are we going to do? I am already eavesdropping on my guests, and it seems like the heroes are not here yet." Meela frowned, she sat on the bar in her hotel-tree, Alexis appeared as a ghost on the other seat. There's no one else in the bar.
"I’ve got magic sensors, so that’s going to help a bit when they do appear. I’ve used what I remember of our own magic to calibrate the sensors, but they keep having false alarm, so I’m still trying to tweak it...”
“But seriously, even if we do locate the next batch of heroes, then what? I’m a hotel, and you are a tree-lab. What can we do? Without TreeTree, at least. He’s got subsidiary trees!”
“Can’t you get subsidiary trees like TreeTree? Like.. Hotel Chains?”
“Yes I can, but it’s like a level 80 upgrade. I’m only level 41! And even then I’m limited to 2 branches initially.”
“That’s pretty fast, considering you just started... but yeah. It is a bit risky... if the demon king pops out in another year or so, and the heroes 3 to 6 months after that... We’ve only got like... 2 years to gain that 39 levels.” Alexis twirls a drink. It seems Meela’s bar is ghost-friendly.
“I can make drinks and foods that makes my guests stronger. And as part of a hotel’s hospitality services, I do have some healing abilities. I have a [VIP escort] unlock at level 50, but I’m not sure whether that’s any help to the heroes.” Meela looks at her upgrades. It seems she has visibility of what skills she will gain, up till level 100. Something which I have yet to figure out why, but I’m guessing its part of the hero-blessings.
“Hmmm... fine. Let’s do a recap, maybe we can figure something out. In terms of potentially useful abilities, I have [probe beetles], [magical sensors], [decipher runes], [copy biological ability], [life-scan], multiple versions of [heal].” Alexis said. “We have a lot of healing.”
“Our physical forms are both derived from TreeTree, and TreeTree’s got incredible healing powers.”
“Ngeh... You should’ve taken the beetle. Or the wooden body.” Alexis frowned.
“But that [copy biological ability]... what does that do?”
“Pretty much transplant an ability native to a living thing, to another entity. But, copying is one thing, after copying I get a [ability seed]. Then I need to create a [fruit] with the [ability seed].”
“So... what can you copy?”
“Native racial abilities. Like the beetles, that would be [armored body], elves, [nature-affinity], centaurs, [centaurion endurance].”
“Cool! You can give that to the heroes!”
“You could be right, but then I just realised, the heroes don’t lack overpowered abilities. They lack...”
“Experience. Knowledge. Other people to take the heat off them. True friends, not scheming nobles and greedy adventurers. People... that won’t backstab them.” Meela sipped from her wooden cup.
Alexis paused, and she looked up at the chandelier. It’s weird having a magical chandelier on top of the bar, but it’s one of the aesthetic options Meela has to decorate her hotel. The chandelier comprises of almost 20 little glowing lights, and multiple merchants have inquired about it, to buy it from her.
Meela waited. There’s no one else in the bar, but a few autonomous Tree-servants, cleaning the rest of the tables and adjusting the chairs. It’s quiet, the bar’s quite soundproof.
“You’re right. They don’t need more power or abilities. They need friends.”
“Doesn’t have to be us, though. And they won’t trust us just because we come from Earth, and frankly, I don’t think I want to tell them that we are from Earth. Maybe... we need to narrow our scope, as it is, helping the heroes is probably out of our league.”
Alexis tapped on the bar countertop. It’s ghost-friendly. “True. But we do need to find them. They will be most vulnerable at the start. It’ll be horrible if...”
“Don’t say it.” Meela glared.
Alexis nodded, ”I know.”
“Your probes, can they communicate?”
“I’ll find a way.”
“But if they don’t spawn in this continent...”
“Then it’s out of our control. They won’t be the last batch of heroes, this plan can be used for all subsequent generations, if it works.”
Meela nodded. “Ah, true. I would have more branches by then. If I have branches on different continents, they could be like assassin safe houses, like you know, that John Wick film. I'd be a brand name, like the Continental..."
"That, wasn't something I would expect you to reference, Meela."
"But heroes do need a safe house of some kind. A place to keep their stuff. I've got a niche I can fill!"
Alexis frowned. "How... how about me?"
"You... you could make weapons? Or be like those skill-editing NPCs in the safe areas?"