Year 81 Month 6 (continued)
"We lived." Yvon sat. "I thought that was... not the hardest battle I’ve been in."
Jura tapped her shoulder. "We still got work to do." He pointed to the many, many injured soldiers, and the dead. The energy blasts from the Demon Walker still killed many, and there was a portion of New Freeka that's blasted wide open. A whole load of repairs to be done.
"But... but... the demon walker was defeated... we deserve a celebration!" The captains said.
Jura smiled, "Perhaps. Though I would give credit to TreeTree's exceptional anti-demon weapons. The demon general would have lasted a lot longer without his demon-draining weapons."
"But you would still win." Jura just smiled and looked at a young girl running over, her short hair fluttering.
Lausanne ran, she's covered in dirt, blood, and a whole load of demonic shards. Mostly unhurt.
"Uncle!" She landed right in front of him. "I destroyed 87 demons!"
"Good job." Jura smiled and just rubbed her head. "Hope you gain a level!"
"I hope I gain many levels!"
Jura smiled. "How is it, your first true battlefield experience?"
"Oh it is a lot less bloody and messy than my dreams. I think TreeTree exaggerated how gory and brutal it is..."
"TreeTree been giving you gory war-dreams, eh?" Jura frowned a little. Using the essences, and my own memories of wars, I could somewhat mold the general direction and types of dreams Lausanne gets. I honestly don't know what exactly happens in the dreams, [dream tutor] is kinda like a random map generator where I put in the parameters, ingredients, and things just happen.
"Yeah. I told him I wanted to feel like-" Lausanne then paused. "Oops."
Yvon frowned too. "I better check what dreams the other kids are getting, it's not good to have visions of death and destruction at that age."
What, I need to start parental guidances for dreams now?
Lausanne shook her head. "TreeTree is just helping, so that I know what to do when it's the real thing."
Jura sighed, "Anyway, not a good time to argue aboit it. Let's get the wounded to the healers, those seriously wounded to the biopods, and the dead back to the morgue."
There's a lot of wounded and dead soldiers, despite my interference. About 800 soldiers, and close to 7,000 beetles still died in the fight against the demons, the soldier deaths mostly from the demon knights. But then, my new [healing aura] kicked in, and for the injured, their wounds begin to heal, even before the healers get to them. And my new aura even improves the effect of healing.
“New skill?” Jura asked, noticing the unusually quick recover of his own cuts and wounds, and those injured suddenly finding their strength returning to them.
The mood all round is mixed, but getting better. Some groups are upset and mourn the death of their comrades. Some are just incredibly amazed that they survived a battle against a towering giant, and of those that survived, a lot of the soldiers would gain levels from this battle.
The citizens also got the signal to leave their respective bunkers and hideouts, and there is a big blast that wrecked a portion of the city. I also had to get the mages to help put out the fires, since I don't have my own water magic.
Beetles closed in on what remains of the demon walker. I had a quarantine zone established, and Madeus, our resident wizard, tasked to investigate the remains. There's a massive rubble where the main body of the walker collapsed, and most of the demon walker's body disintegrated into nothingness, there are still some remains.
The rotting thing that is the hex. Like a sludge, it now pooled on the ground.
"Aeon, can you see this?" Madeus poked it with his wooden stick. It kinda latched on, like a slimy thing. Madeus likes to refer to me as Aeon, since he feels it’s inappropriate to refer to me as TreeTree. He poked it. It’s not exactly... a slime, but it sure radiated a kind of energy. “I don’t feel too good being so close.”
“Hmm, then stay away.”
A hex, made from the sacrifice of souls.
Uh. Doesn’t tell much,
“Can you do anything about it?”
“Uh...” Madeus tried to use some spells, the hex kind of just... stayed there. It didn’t react to it.
“Can you blast it to smithereens or something?”
“Nope.” Madeus did a fireball. Hex remained. It’s not exactly... destroy-able. It kinda just gets splattered.
“So... we just leave it there?” I ask, this is new to me.
Madeus looked at his staff, the hex damaged the wood somewhat, a section that came in contact with the hex rots. “Yeah. I think it’s best we just seal off this area, and let the hex dissipate naturally.”
“Uh.” Hmm... I’m not sure whether I should get near the hex, though. Alexis’s nuclear description somehow made me suspicious that this hex might be ‘radioactive residue’. But, I have to know for sure. “Can you take a very small sample? Just one cup?”
“Oh. Okay.” I had one of the beetles carry the small wooden container. The almost-black hex-slime seemed to have a purple glow, and really, Alexis took a glance at it, shook her head.
As a precaution, I created a biolab some distance away, such that, if anything happened, such as... rotting, I could cut off the biolab and I don’t suffer the consequences.
“This hex thing... it’s created from sacrifices, eh?” I asked.
“Yeah. Blood magic’s quite special in the sense that it powers itself, and lasts really long. But of course, the cost of it is... usually someone’s life. It’s common in the countries with extensive slavery some time ago, but it’s practice and use has dwindled as the constant use of slaves is... unsustainable, and there’s often a great deal of backlash from blood magic, such as the spellcasters suffering nightmares or perpetual hauntings.” Alexis went into full nerdy magic mode. Even Madeus didn’t know that much, but it seems Alexis was a mage, and she did somehow manage to read such things.
“It’s just bad.” Meela frowned her wooden eyebrows. I think they look like little stems from a flower. She's got an actual flower on her head now, she says it helps in the whole hospitality business thing.
“According to our modern sensibilities.” Alexis frowned. “But blood magic is primordial, I recall meeting a shaman on one of the islands we visited, and they used to sacrifice goats and cows to the gods, and they say they’ve been doing for ages. Kind of like our ancient civilisations, Meela.”
“Most of the mesoamerican ones, even now there’s some ritual sacrifices that happen in many cultures. I would think there must be some parallels with how blood magic is in this world. Perhaps, they sacrifice and trade for some godly powers?”
I take a look at the blackish hex-liquid. Godly? Certainly doesn’t feel that way, but well, what do I know?
“How do you plan to investigate it? Biolab? Pour it into your pod and figure it out?” Alexis asked.
“Yeah. It certainly looks a bit... organic.” Well. Yeah. Black, hex like thing. Maybe it’s like sludge, from like... a petrol spill? But there’s a purple glow, so there’s clearly some magic to it happening.
I decided I needed more time to think about what I’m going to do, so I let the specimen sit on a little storage container in that lone biolab in a corner of the valley.
Year 81 Month 7
After a brief status check, New Freeka emerged mostly... unharmed. The site of where the ‘hex-sludge’ left behind by the massive demon walker, by order of the Council and Order, is to be quarantined. So it is now surrounded by walls and guarded by beetles. If reports are true, they will spawn monsters, though so far, I’ve not seen any.
The ‘sludge’ kind of just pooled together into a large blackish pool, and it seems they are somewhat magically ‘intertwined’, like magnets, that they will naturally merge into one interconnected body. Not that anyone wants to get near it. It seems Madeus said he felt sick for a few days, and I had to check on him.
It’s not a ‘bodily’ sickness, or maybe if it is, it’s not something that [healing aura] or my powers do offset. It really does give credence to the whole radiation theory that Alexis has, but the idea of doing nuclear fusion or fission with souls just... boggles my mind.
“I think the [tree of prayer] does relieve the symptoms a bit. I think its all the ‘negative’ energy from the blood sacrifice.” Madeus theorised. Again, something worth investigating. Or maybe it could just be additional placebo from the calming effects of the [Tree of Prayer].
On the political front, the defeat of the demon walker was significant, and greatly boosted the Order's standing. Jura, is now viewed as a hero, and the soldiers, even those from the Council, now view Jura as a respectful, good man, because he fought on the front lines, unlike the Council who hid, or fled. That meant the council had to shut up on their anti-Order rhetoric, though I suspect this silence is only a temporary one.
The euphoria and memories of this battle will fade, and with it, these power-hungry folks will rear their head again, someday.
And the news of the victory spread quickly, drawing the attention of the guilds. “The Merchant guild has determined that we are a high-priority safezone in the region, and they will send a fair bit of resources and manpower here.” The Order's treasurer read out the notice. “The guild plans to explore the possibility of establishing a regional trade coordination and cartography center, and also a collection of high-security storage warehouse.”
Jura clapped his hand. “I must confess I don’t exactly understand what some of those words are, but sounds like a good thing.”
The merchants’ guilds are essentially like the world’s shipping companies, they are the blood vessels that connect the world. So much produce and money changes hands through the guilds, that they often are able to sway kingdoms into fighting wars for them. But I wonder whether this world has protests against banks and corporations. After all, capitalism can be pretty nasty.
The treasurer nodded. “It is. They will be having a proper office here, and an actual [merchant prince] or [guild trader], rather than just appointed representatives. This is usually followed with the opening of a guild’s marketplace and exchange, and the regional contracts department. The council will be approached to discuss the regulations on the markets, once they arrive to survey the location.”
Jura nodded. Honestly trade is not his strongest suit, though he has improved. Laufen just smiled. “Don’t worry, most of us will attend the meetings, and will let you have the summary.”
The recent battle also made the elves think about the future of their combat forces.
“We need more combat experience.” Lausanne looked at Yvon. “The demons are coming, you know it, we know it, everyone knows it. All of us, need to have experience.” Lausanne referred to the rest of the Valthorn, especially the 4 girls from the first batch.
Yvon shook her head. “I spoke with TreeTree and Jura, and we’re only letting those level 20 to actually join the battle. Until then, the rest of them are staying back.” Only one of the girls hit level 20, so she will join the next battle, if there is one.
“But Lady Yvon! It doesn’t make sense! We gain levels when we participate in battles, holding us back is just taking away our levels! And TreeTree needs high leveled fighters to fight the high leveled enemies."
“I know, but they are too young, and they are not ready. They are not you, Lausanne.”
“If they don’t get chances, they will never be.” Lausanne’s now... 12, so she's got more opinions. “I gained seven levels in that battle. Seven! I’m almost level 40 now.” By most accounts, she’d be classified as a genius. “Wasn’t it you that told us that during great battles, explosive levelling happens? Then why are they not given the chance?”
Yvon sighed. “I... I get your point. Let me discuss with the rest, perhaps an arrangement depending on what kind of battles. If it’s a smaller scale battle, we can consider putting you and the girls on support.”
For me, I do need to expand the Valthorns. It is true that I can't multi-task as well as I like, and when I end up focused on the demon walker my ability to coordinate all the other fights on ground had to be delegated to my tree-minds, and yet, I needed my skills on hand against the walker.
So, I need more high level fighters. Multiple Jura and Yvons, to win such a fight consistently, with minimal casualties. Speaking of casualties...
There was a funeral procession for those who fell in battle. It was something one of the officers suggested, something they had from where they came from. A practice of one of the world’s southern continental religions, the Urgama, to honor the dead, and the benefits of it is that the dead’s spirit apparently enchants the surviving soldiers to carry on the fight. The mechanics of how such a ‘magic’ work is interesting, and as a Soul Tree that helps the reincarnation and passing on of the fallen spirits, it’s... educational.
“Surely they don’t have time to do such processions when a demon army is on their doorstep?” Alexis wondered, the Southern Continent is embroiled in massive wars with the demon hordes. According to the merchants, there are 4 demon-walkers in that continent alone, and inland trade prices are sky-high.
“I wouldn’t know.”
Well, for us, the procession went on, and... we didn’t get any blessings. Or at least, nothing I can see for now. It’s all business-as-usual in my soul realm too, people are dying all over the continent to the demon hordes, but thanks to the fall of the demon walker, it seemed the rate of death throughout the entire continent also somewhat dropped.
I wonder whether it’s a coincidence, or the walker has some kind of continental-boost ability. If it does, would the King have some kind of worldwide ability?
But anyway, it’s still not the end. Now that the demon-walker battle is over, I go back to making more demon-weapons, and research. The whole schtick with restoring Jura’s hand is still ongoing, so... more brutal animal explosion followed, but... I’m getting there. I think.
I had to get some help in cleaning the room though, since... there’s a lot of blood splattered everywhere. So I made a quarantine area where the specimen animals remain.
And blow up. Or lately, it’s more like leaking pipes. Like the tail would regrow and then somehow a hole would appear, and blood just keeps dripping out of it. And no amount of healing would fix it because it’s a flaw in the ‘soul’.
In a way, it’s like... 3D printing. I have to set up the ‘template’ in the soul, and then the body would heal in accordance to that template. At the same time, I need to make the ‘soul-part’, using my new tools, in a 3D printing fashion, putting the bits and pieces in, piece by piece. All of this is from a sudden epiphany, when I saw a key-duplication contraption one of the New Freeka’s smiths had.
Essentially, I needed a tool that worked simultaneously, that reads whatever scan results I have, and reproducing it in the soul forge.
Also, I needed to also build a ‘library’ of organs that I can use in the future. Kind of like playing Spores, the game. Honestly, I didn’t know why it took me so long to figure shit out. Maybe there’s mold in my wooden brain somewhere.
Oh and on research... where was I?
- Beetle - anti-magma armors stage 4 - completed
- Metal hyperaccumulator trees - Stage 1 - completed
- Phytoremediation process - basic - 10 months
Ah yes. I have new accumulator trees. These Hyperaccumulators function primarily to absorb high levels of metallic content from the contaminated poop-ground, which continues to be something of a problem, even if a contained one.
But I suppose it’s a good time to force the council.
“We’re having the upper hand after the recent victory. The population sees us as the protectors of the valley, and TreeTree’s position is close to unassailable. And we want to use that goodwill on... sewers?” One of the treasurers tried to debate with Jura in the meeting room.
“Yes. Sewers. We need sewers.”
“Why not more seats? Have our own candidates on the council against the other group? Some of the independent leaning councillors now feel they should lean towards us, given the Order’s secure position as the defenders of the valley. No political power can change that.”
Jura frowned. Sometimes, the Order’s own officers get sucked into politics.
“Perhaps we need more resources for the Order’s military?” Jura frowned too. Between me and Jura, both of us generally feel that quantity is unnecessary. I’ll need about three to four months to replenish the beetles, but my beetle army is tough, and for what it’s worth, unlimited and expendable. The only drawback is that they can’t gain levels, but who cares when I have so many of them. If anything, it’s the Valthorns that need to be expanded. There’s really no point throwing more fodder at a monster like the demon-general or the demon walker.
The merchants delivered the gems that provided light and other stuff meant for the hideouts, and it came with an alchemist' contraption thing, so I requested for one of each for research, which led to an upgrade for my labs.
[Biolab upgraded : Centrifuge]
[Material lab upgraded : Centrifuge]
These gems are essentially concentrated ‘light’, ‘mana-sensitive rock’ and ‘mana’, that, via some fluke of natural magical forces, formed into a gem. There are apparently ‘artificial’ variants as well, but these don’t last as long as the naturally mined gems.
This new centrifuge essentially acts as a concentrator, creating for higher concentrations and enriched versions of... Ginseng. Okay, it works for more than just ginseng. I meant things, but when I was thinking about the possible uses of this item..
If I need to concentrate ginseng, and concentrating them eventually makes them into gems, that means I should be able to use gems as [soul forge] components? But I tried that previously. When I acquired gemstones.
Running the ginseng through the centrifuge I got...
[Concentrated ginseng - medium quality] that takes the appearance of a brownish paste, kinda like those kind of funky paste used in exotic oriental massages.
Is this it? Maybe I need to soak it in mana or something? Like how there’s a layer of mana on the body? It’s really not going anywhere, is it.
“Again?” Jura asked. Well, he's busy. There’s still a lot of demonic movements to keep track off. It’s been a year since the rifts opened, so the demon king should appear soon.
“No, I just wanted to test something out...”
Infusing ginseng into Jura’s soul using the soul forge took about an hour, strangely easy
[Ginseng infusion successful.]
“How do you feel?”
“Uh... nothing? Did you do anything?” Jura woke up from the quick nap. "Or maybe not yet?"
"Maybe it takes a while."
Year 81 Month 8
"Will the Council grant us rights to grant us refuge, rights to purchase land and build a mansion?" A royal envoy from a nearby nation of Rajahskan came, with 'gifts', and money. They were not the only one.
Well, what's happening was quite simple.
The royalties of the nearby nation, now that they realised I could fend off a Demon Walker, want to set up a refuge. Essentially, they will buy land, build a small palace where their family can hide. Although the Kings usually do not leave, there are some weird rules about King's powers being related to being 'present' in their Kingdoms, these Kings want to protect their offspring and successors by sending them away to a safehouse. Kind of like what Madeus' allies did. But they want exemptions, special treatment, and the ability to ‘rule’ over their own properties. Which, is absolutely ridiculous.
"It's politically advantageous for us to accept. But if we do, we must be prepared to accept most of them, except those who have crossed us." A councillor said.
A delegation from the Council, and the envoys came to present the case. The Council, being the usual politicians, would like to agree. But Jura said. "This is a decision for Aeon. It is his protection to give, not us"
"I do not fancy the creation of a royal district where our laws do not apply." The idea that all these runaway princes come to my place and set up little outposts just frankly annoys me. When I imagine all these stuck up royals treating this little valley of mine as their summer palace, I just feel disgusted. “No. They may come as regular guests, but they will be treated in the same manner as any other refugee in this valley. If the Council wishes to extend any privileged treatment to them, let them know that I will not recognise that privilege, and if I so desire, I will not hesitate to crush them. In this valley, they are ordinary souls, like anyone else.”
The Councillors froze. “But... but... Counsel Jura, surely Aeon can recognise the value these royals can bring?”
Jura shrugged. “I’m afraid the Tree Spirit is very firm about not giving royals any privileged treatment. And if I may add, accepting royals and granting them special treatment contradicts why New Freeka exists. Do you guys really want to put up with the whims of royalty all over again? Do you not forget that it is royal conflicts that brought all of you here? They can still come, should the demons ever threaten their lands, but they will be like any other refugee.”
One of the Councillors stared at Jura. “The Tree Spirit has no concept of royalty, isn’t it?”
Jura nodded. “He is aware of it, but he does not intend to recognise their power in this valley.”
Three of the envoys, from three kingdoms were present. “Surely there is something that our Kingdoms may provide, to sway the Tree Spirit’s view?”
It is one of the Order’s head priests who responded. “Aeon’s Protection is a blessing, and one cannot haggle or bargain one’s blessing, even if you are royalty. Accept, or do not. When you stand before a local deity, what is a royal?”
I mentally cheered for the priest, good comeback. I’m a bit embarrassed that they think I’m some kind of deity, but I’m too far into that whole religious schtick to bother correcting it now. And if I gain even more levels, I guess a deity isn’t too far off anyway.
The envoys frowned. One of the envoys, the one from Rajahskan then said. “It’s a shame that the Tree Spirit of this valley rejects our King’s offer. I will relay the message and I fear he will not be pleased.”
I told Jura then. “Is that a threat? I don’t like receiving threats.” Of course, the envoys couldn’t hear this.
Jura smiled at the envoy. “I am afraid your King must get used to it. Aeon’s under no obligation to obey a King’s demands. What more one of another nation.”
“And Aeon doesn’t not even heed the views of his Council?” The envoy retorted.
“Aeon was here before the Council was born, and he may remove the Council should he so pleases.” Jura smiled, but it was the creepy kind of smile, and the room’s air suddenly felt heavy. A [Warlord]’s Skill, [Heavyweight Presence]. He looked at the Councillors, and the Councillors somehow all took two steps back.
The envoy too, took a step back. Then, he took a deep breath, and sighed. “I see. But surely... we can still purchase property in New Freeka?”
“You may, but your property will be subject to all of New Freeka’s rules and regulations. There will be no exemptions. In short, you will be like any other wealthy merchant who invests in a property in New Freeka. And know this, you will be watched.”
The envoys traded glances. They discussed with each other a bit, but then they all decided to leave. But I could still eavesdrop on them as they walk back to their inns.
“Who does this Tree Spirit think it is?” One envoy said. “Our King’s adventurers can chop down a tree.”
“But your adventurers cannot slay a demon walker.” The envoy for another country said. “Or you wouldn’t be here.”
The Rajahskan envoy said, “A powerful druid or monster tamer should be able to sway this Tree Spirit’s mind.”
“I wouldn’t count on that. Any monster able to slay a demon walker has to be at least Level 100, and you won’t find many druids or monster tamers willing to do even try taming a creature of that level. It’s a life-or-death battle.”
The Rajahskan envoy nodded. “Perhaps. Maybe a heroic artifact could.”
The two other envoys eyes lit up. “Ah... that certainly changes things. Is there such an artifact?”
The Rajahskan envoy, “The Elven Kingdom’s may still possess Roana’s Staff. I reckon a level 80 druid wielding that can bend this Tree’s will.”
The two envoys laughed. “And I thought you have such an item! That staff was destroyed long ago!”
“Is it? I had the impression it’s what they used to keep the Guardian Tree of the Elven Capital under control...”
“Hah. Don’t tell me you believe some of that kind of silly propaganda. It’s a myth to maintain the royal family's legitimacy.”
The envoy frowned. “Well... the King won’t be pleased with this. I... I don’t know how to go back.”
“Well, we’re in the same boat. I bet the King’s gonna have my head. He tends to do that when he loses his temper.”
“I’m just going to fake my death. Demons killed me on the journey back. That’s going to be my story.”
The three envoys sulked together. Are there seriously no good Kings around? Or do they just die because they are too nice?
Year 81 Month 9
Another demon walker has been spotted on our continent this month, and strength returned to the demonoid forces throughout the continent. Thankfully, it appeared so far south, nearer to Gila. I guess they can use their newfound sacrificial blood-magic powers, and test it out. For us, we still see small packs of roaming demonoids close to our territories, but they are easily crushed by the patrolling beetles.
It’s a bit annoying that we only free from demon walkers for 3 months, but then again, I’m expecting the demon king within the next 6 months. Can’t be helped that the ‘escorts’ will increase before the main character comes along. Let’s just hope it appears on the Southern Continent, where there are now 6 demon walkers. The nations in the South managed to kill 1 using the blood magic, but it takes more than one shot to slay the demon walkers.
So, it’s really quite a miserable battlefield, the Southern Continent. I heard from Jura that they’ve sent all sorts of requests for assistance.
Ah, too bad for them, that’s their problem. For now, I focus on rebuilding my stockpile of anti-demon bolts.