Year 82 Month 10
After the demon base over the ruined city was destroyed, the 'captured' souls were gradually released. The city, a field of death of many, had many wandering souls, spirits, and the rod caught on to them and leeched off their energies. I could tell, because now that my trees are nearer to this location, some of these lost souls entered my soul realm, and their condition looked pretty bad.
It seemed the demonic interference also meddled with the navigational abilities of souls. Would it be like Warp Immaterium? Now corrupted by the presence of the demon king?
[Class seeds - Knight x 6 received]
[Class seeds - Paladin x 2 received]
[Class seeds - Ranger x 4 received]
[Class seeds - Mage x 4 received...]
[Skill seeds - various classes...]
The souls, as they return to the [soul realm], gave me various class and skill seeds. Many of those perished in combat, many more in the chaos after the demonic army breached the walls. These are the fragments, as they die the things that held their soul spring together starts to break apart. So, I might as well pick it up.
After all, once they enter the soul realm, only the inner soul is needed for reincarnation.
"It's a horrible thing, for these souls, that even in death they have to serve the demons for a while."
"Different demons, or are we talking about the same demons?" I asked Alexis. If these 'demons' are extraplanar in nature, isn't the term 'aliens' more appropriate?
"Yeah... but I mean, the native demons of the world are more of... djinns. Or like... dark-faeries who make unfair deals. Any resemblances on the physical appearance is coincidental, because what powers them underneath it all, is very different. These demons... are invaders.”
“That’s because you’ve seen it. To the most of the mortals fiddling with demons, I’m not sure if they know. But heh... too bad there aren’t any demon-hunter classes.”
“There are. I guess you’re just unlucky. But then, paladins can gain skills that boost damage against demons.”
But if they are aliens, why do they benefit from the same 'boosts'? The skill system clearly acknowledges that they are demons. Even my own skills consider them demons. Or is this some kind of godly classification?
“Hmmm...” I wonder whether I can just plant these class and skill seeds and let them grow, so that I have more such seeds. Each of these class seeds gives one level in that class to the person that consumes the fruit made from these seeds. But second helpings do nothing. Skill seeds on the other hand, there are specific types, and generic types. Specific types will grant a skill in the type, if the person has a compatible class. Generic ones, will grant a skill from that class’s pool of skills. In a way, generic ones are stronger, since it’s theoretically possible to give someone one class seed, and multiple generic skill seeds to let him have multiple skills.
They are seeds, right?
[You can compress 10 class seeds or 10 skill seeds of the same type into a ‘class tree’ or ‘skill tree’. These class or skill trees produce 1-3 seeds every year.]
Oh. It’s theoretically possible to create an orchard of these class trees and skill trees?
I mean, if I have a 100 paladin seeds, I can create a 100 paladins, right? Level 1, for sure, but still, a 100 paladins! What if I have crazy powerful classes like [kings] or [heroes] or [emperors]?
What happens if I give a 100 people all [king] classes? Do they fight each other for a chance to be king? What if I have a 100 knight seeds, and have them fight each other to level up? That’s possible, right? A survival of the fittest gauntlet to produce a strong fighter? Sounds like something out of those mobages where one fuses units together to level up.
Why can’t I just fuse those class seeds together? Wouldn’t fusing class seeds create hybrid classes? Or this world’s classes don’t work like that?
[Class fusion and creation requires a compatible class or creature type and the divine gift - Taskmaster, or the divine gift - Evolutionist]
What. It’s possible! And divine gifts?? What is that?
“So... are you doing anything with those class seeds?”
Well, I’m sitting on a lot of class seeds, skill seeds and experience seeds. I think I have enough experience seeds for about 20 levels now. Too bad only class and skill seeds can be multiplied, else, imagine a fruit that gives levels? That’s really overpowered isn’t it?
But skill seeds are pretty good too, since they give new skills. If I could create a skill seed-tree that produces a strong skill every year, I could have a team of very highly-skilled fighters.
“Uh... nothing.” For the experience seeds, I’d like to use it on Lausanne or Jura, or Laufen, but Lausanne continued to gain levels from all the demon fights she participated in. So there’s really no need to use it now. The rest of the Valthorn Initiates too are on the lower side of the levels, so they are still able to gain levels.
“Commander." A part of me feels happy every time I get called that. Really felt like the days when I am playing RTSs as a kid, only, well, I am fully immersed in it. Stratreegy has been really busy with all the demonic movements. He deployed another 3,000 beetles, and [subsidiary trees] to go with it, to hunt for more rods.
He wants to get his first rod. He's thirsty.
“Glory to the Countree. We will expand our reach." He even has a catchphrase, like what usually happens when a player selected a unit in an RTS.
Uh. Did he just invent a new name for the state? Countree of Freeka? Does that make me the primogenitree? Count-Tree Aeon?
Anyway, focus, focus. Stop getting distracted. Grand Mind Tree, if you can, help me stay on track.
Demon rods, well, the issue really is intercepting the rods before they are fully deployed. Maybe someday I can get the necessary powers to make my own rods, rather than robbing the demons for their rods.
"Operation Rob the Rod status update. We are pursuing a small demonic base that's just been spotted. The beetles will attack the rod as soon as we spot it to disrupt its channelling."
Well. The attack failed to secure the rod. The demons were able to protect the base until it was fully channeled, and because it was located in an open space, there was nothing slowing down the channel.
The demon rod's channel time is correlated with the ambient magic energy in the area, so using the rod in a regular plains doesn't take very long.
Ugh. Next target.
"Please bestow your punishment on me for my failure, Commander." Stratreegy wasn't happy.
"Do a post mortem and tell me what you think, can improve your chances for success."
"Maybe... maybe you should flip it around. Look for magical places, and lure the demon rods to them." Alexis suggested.
"Genius!" I mean, why didn't I think of it? All these minds and I can't get a good idea?
News from the southern states of the continent. A demonic walker has been spotted swimming across the ocean. The southern naval states are forming an armada to intercept the walker before it hits land.
"This means the southern continent is done for." Jura looked at the parchment. "Else, why would the walker make the journey across the ocean."
"Intercepting the walker before it hits land is a good idea. The regular demonoids are unable to fight on water."
"Could the demonoids be... I don't know... walking beneath the oceans? Like that... pirate movie where the undead marched underwater?" Alexis asked. "I mean, they aren't exactly living things, right, so... they may be able to function in water just as well as on land."
That's a good point, Alexis. So I asked Jura and the leadership team.
"Uh... there have been documented records that some generations of demons were able to function underwater, or fly... But walking underwater is not something that has been observed." Madeus explained, he rummaged through a few massive tomes. "But... Aeon is right, nothing rules out that possibility that the demons could simply walk underwater."
"Perhaps it is a trap? I mean, what would the naval forces be able to do? Shoot cannons and fire spells at the walker until it somehow sinks? But if it doesn't breathe, that doesn't change a thing, does it?" Jura thought out loud.
"Whatever the outcome, I feel it doesn’t change that we’re going to have more demons from the south, so we need to increase our southern-sector defenses." This does mean I need to widen my net of [subsidiary trees], but I’ve already deployed most of my subsidiary trees. I need my next level up.
15,000 trees is pathetic, compared to the kind of numbers the demons can put out. I’d like to be a tree supercluster with billions, no, trillions of trees. I mean, if I could somehow become a massive forest that covered the entire continent, I could take on the demon king myself. I mean, I could just keep throwing beetles and trees at it until I win by attrition.
That's what ants do. That's what invasive plants do. Outnumber and overpower.
I would like to see a world where trees ruled the entire world. Where there are all kinds of trees, from the north pole to the south. Maybe trees on the moon, and other planets. Earth was once like that.
If I’m back home, I could solve global warming by just spawning trees everywhere. I recall reading some articles while working that a few billion trees would help fix the whole carbon dioxide emissions thing.
Anyway, I wanted to gather my thoughts.
So much had happened, so many places to watch, a whole load of news from all over the world. I have had so many new skills, and faced new foes.
Since the end of the year is coming, it’s time for me to do a bit of a checkup. Maybe I should do such things once a decade, or maybe once every few years, since a year’s really short to me.
Introspection, or I suppose, intreespection is very much overdue.
Wait! Didn't I assign one of the artificial souls to keep track of things for me? “TREVOR!”
"Apologies master. I had minimised the task manager when the demon king spawned." Trevor noted. "Pulling it out now and updating. Volcano... completed. Airship... pending. Research and Upgrades.... suspended due to demon king. Mineral hunting... suspended due to poor visibility and reduced beetle range. Rune deciphering.... no progress."
"Is that all?"
"The task list remained what was given 5 years ago."
"You didn't add new things to it?"
"..." Trevor didn't reply, but then I think he either needs explicit instructions, or he isn't sure what needs to be included.
The artificial souls have quite a bit of ability, and they are able to make judgements in their fields of expertise. But I suppose being artificial, their ability to make judgements and self-organising doesn't apply to all fields and all kinds of tasks. Then again, even a regular folk has different parameters for tasks. Some people are better able to judge cooking ingredient sizes than others. Trevor's really good at forest management and he can decide on the direction of growth of plants, decide when to cull and replace normal trees that have gotten sick, or damaged due to animals or monsters. So, perhaps this issue of judgement is a matter of.... unfamiliarity?
"Never mind." I wouldn't have been able to handle that much anyway. "Where are we on the sewage issue?"
"The newer hyperaccumulators trees are performing well, and we are introducing layered trees to the area. However, utilising 1,000 subsidiary trees to contain and process sewage and high magical toxin fecal matter is honestly not the best application of the subsidiary trees. I would recommend further research into the hyperaccumulator trees, as the single metal/magic type restriction on trees mean we have to utilise multiple trees adapted to different materials to remove all the toxins."
"Ah. Upgrades...” The demon king’s interference meant most of the merchant networks are down, and inter-continental traffic slowed down significantly. What this then means for me, is that I am unable to purchase the materials needed to upgrade my 3 artificial souls, without incurring significant spending, and without the usual delivery guarantee.
“No progress, master.”
Of course, rare gems are rare. Even if I could mine some of the gems, it remains that there are other materials that would be located far away.
“Ivy, Dimitree, what else is being worked on? Anything of note?”
“Observation of the citizens in ongoing. Nothing to report.”
Dimitree’s turn. “Defense is strong. Preparations and traps for the southern demonic incursions are ready.”
Winter is coming.
Year 82 Month 11
A fairly quiet month for the valley. Maybe it’s the cold.
During this month, Lausanne and the Valthorns spent a lot of time fighting smaller demonic incursions. It’s good for their experience, and they do need it. The second strongest girl in that Valthorns is now level 18, and that’s pretty decent at the age of 9. I recall Lausanne only reached level 16 at age 9. It’s partly due to a mix of starting early, and being exposed to the effects of all the leveling skills. It’s still a long way for them.
Stratreegy’s also busy extending trees to places where the demons might want to establish a base. We want to lure them there, just as the volcano did. I do hope to mount an offense against the snake dungeon and retake that location, but I’m waiting for more information to come in. Not easy when the cold reduces the operating range of beetles.
According to recent courier reports, another demon walker has been spotted in the south, on top of the one that’s immobile. That makes 2 demon walkers on our continent. And if we add in the demon walker that’s somehow swimming across the ocean like some kind of massive island-turtle, that’s gonna be 3 demon walkers in the southern parts of our continent.
“I don’t recall having that many demon-champion equivalents during the last demon king?” I asked Alexis.
“You have a point. It’s likely that the demon king delegated more powers to it’s walkers, rather than holding most of the power. Even the demon champions are just a wee-bit stronger than the walkers. But then again, this demon king is also harvesting energies and mana from the world itself, and it may be using that energy to create more demon walkers. If so, the demon king may be just as insane as my time.”
“I mean, it did blow up a massive crater, did it not? A crater that still remains today, and left all that stray daemolite embedded throughout, creating weird monsters.”
“I wonder whether the demon rods work on daemolite.” It’s a thought, right? If these demon rods work on mana sources, would it work on the demon king’s remains?
“I wonder what happens when your captured rods is in the demon king’s crater.” Alexis retorted.
Has the demons taken control of where the previous demon king perished? From what I understood, after the ‘defenders’ of the valley are cleared, the nearby nations usually attempt mine all the daemolite for sale, given how valuable it is. Maybe it’s cleared out by now. Apparently most demon king’s corpses have been cleared out due to how valuable daemolite is as a store-of-mana. Maybe it’s like this world’s equivalent of a super-lithium-ion battery.
Year 82 Month 12
Winter’s fury mixed with demonic attacks. With winter in full swing, my beetles are forced into a retreat, even with their upgrades. It’s harder for the beetles to move in such cold, but at least around my trees, the effect of [heat transmission roots] meant I could keep the surroundings of New Freeka relatively warm, and the beetles can still perform optimally in the ‘warmed’ areas.
Yet, this also meant I can’t attack the snake-dungeon. The cold affects my beetles more than the demons.
So we waited for this winter to pass. We fought mostly defensive battles where my roots provided warmth, and worked on research.
Winter also meant traffic and news from the south came... really slowly.
On some days during the cold winter, the sky turns really really clear. And we could see about multiple astral objects. The moons, the stars, and things that just seemed to drift in space. On days like this, my star-mana production is slightly, very very slightly, better.
For the New Freekans, it is a month of preparation, hiding, and retreat. The subterranean hideouts are now popular, thanks to the presence of heated water from the volcanoes, a great way to warm up.
News also slows to a crawl, thanks to the thick snow and occasional blizzards. With news being carried by physically, so almost all the towns would be in a similar state. It’s only thanks to my network of roots that I can still see what’s going on in my surroundings.
Midway through the cold, we detected the presence of blood magic being used again. Somewhere, somebody out there is desperate enough to use blood magic, perhaps the demon king?
“Triangulating... Southern Continent.”
“That far?” The readings of the amount of sacrifice is insane. Trevor and Alexis ran through some calculations and calculated perhaps 3,000 to 5,000 was sacrificed for a spell this large.
With little else to do, we spent our time theorising about the nature of blood magic.
How does Blood Magic even work, really?
What really is blood magic, and why is it so powerful?
I mean, I can see the effects of the hex created from blood magic, even at the few locations near to me, it's just corrupted by the hex, though it is slowly decaying.
Alexis's theory is that it really like is a nuclear weapon. The hex is a magical version of radiation. I mean, looking at the indicators high power, fallout. It feels like it.
She wondered would the origins of blood magic be similar. That it's the magical equivalent of weaponizing the... soul? Perhaps the numbers make the spell stronger, by the same principles of nuclear fusion or fission, that blood magic fuses or breaks apart the components of a soul into some kind of unstable form, and in doing so releasing all these magical energy, and the unstable soul-remnant form is what creates the 'fallout'?
Given how difficult it is to access the soul, I thought it’s quite unlikely that the blood magic works at that level. So, I thought maybe its really the 'blood' that's like some kind of superfuel, and blood magic binds the superfuel and concentrated it into a bomb. The hex is just the leftover, unexploded bomb. Essentially, what I thought happened during a blood ritual is, life-energy or mana of the ‘sacrificed’ is converted into an energy form, and that’s the bomb.
Kinda like when you pack a big bunch of low-quality fireworks together, and then when you blow it up, sometimes there are some of these fireworks that doesn’t ignite, or old world war 2 bombs that for whatever reason, failed to detonate.
When I think about it, I realise our theories are similar. Just at different levels. I just presume the blood ritual converts the energy of the living into that of a weapon. Essentially whatever that is happening at the ‘mana pool’ and ‘body’ into another form.
I like Alexis's theory, since there is an elegance to it. It's like the blood magic version of 'breaking the atom', and has far more consequences. Like, the realisation that there is a kind of magic or energy that fundamentally hold the souls together. A peek into the true natural 'forces' of the world.
I suppose it can be tested. If Alexis’s theory is true, I should be able to witness some kind of soul-change during a blood ritual. Or perhaps detect whether there are soul-residue in the hex, which I so far did not. Perhaps it’s a size thing, if Alexis’s analogy of nuclear bombs is true, perhaps the soul-fission creates even smaller particles that require specialised equipment to be detected.
Like... soul-quarks? Squarks?
I'm starting advance chapters. $3 for one chapter ahead per week
I'm moving to a different city, and where the cost of raising a family is less (hopefully), but I'm also taking a paycut. As a result of this move, I'm jobless for a month (December), and now have some time to write ahead. Since my salary's lower, I'd like to supplement my income with patrons.
So yeah. There's 2 chapters up this month (a side story, and a regular chapter), and after this, one regular chapter per week. Chapter sizes will remain unchanged, circa 2,500-5,000, wherever I feel it's a good place to 'end' it.
Thanks to all my dear readers for your support!