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Year 83 Month 1

 

At the end of the first month, the heroes, long awaited, finally arrived.

 

I had a brief vision, like I always did. Twelve streaks of light, split into four groups of three, and then each landed at a different part of the world. This is important, because that meant the heroes are in smaller groups of three, and are scattered.

 

A vague reddish hand appeared in that same vision, it tried to swipe at the streaks of light. But another hand stopped it.

 

That was when I woke from the vision.

 

[Twelve reincarnators have arrived].

 

"I wonder where they are." Alexis wondered. “I hope they don’t make the same mistakes we did.” She got the same ping as I did. “And TreeTree, why do you get... the notification?”

 

“I have no idea. I do see a vision.” Hmm, is she wondering why I know about the heroes? Well, I suspect it’s because I came from their world, too.

 

“Maybe TreeTree’s like some kind of super-entity that’s why the gods send the ping to him too.” Meela came to the rescue, she got the notice as well, that’s why she came over. Her hotel/inn can run itself quite well, she hired quite a few treefolk to work for her.

 

I wonder how many will survive this time. The world’s in a shittier state than it was.

 

"TreeTree, I have a request." Meela said. "I know you didn't have a good impression of us heroes, so, let me deal with the next generation of heroes. If they ever swing our way."

 

"Hmm?"

 

"I assure you that I won't bring you any harm. The heroes need to be educated in the ways of the world, and both myself and Alexis have seen more of the world, without the distorted lenses as a hero. We should be the best placed to advise the next generation, so they do not walk the mistakes we did." Meela sounded like she's begging.

 

"Fine. But keep me updated."

 

"Sure."

 

"You know where they are?"

 

"No. But I will tell you if I do."

 

Other than the return of the reincarnators, another month of mostly defensive battles. Quiet. The southern parts, where it is warm, are battling demons daily. Up where we are, where the winter is relatively mild, we focused efforts on research and making more anti-demon weapons.

 

I am also gradually extending my trees to where the legless walker is. But I am taking it slow, as the terrain is unfamiliar, and there’s demons walking all over the place, so I have to clear out the area before expanding.

Year 83 Month 2

“They’re with me.” Meela said, a week or so after that announcement.

 

“Huh?” Honestly it felt like just yesterday that I had that conversation with Meela.

 

“Three heroes. Reincarnators. They arrived somewhere near our borders. They’ve just been summoned and are still getting used to their new powers. One of your patrols picked them up.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“I’ll take care of them, don’t worry about it.” Meela assured. “It’s only been a week since they arrived. They’re still a bit confused and lost, but they’ve managed to survive thanks to their special powers. ”

 

At this point, I remember my titan souls, and I think, well, since they are so vulnerable, they could ‘die’ around me easily, isn’t it?

 

[Divine : Moratorium on Hero Killing. In Force until Demon King’s death. Those who murder a hero before the demon king’s death will receive a divine curse, and be marked as a ‘hero-killer’, inviting the wrath of other heroes.]

 

The fuck?!

 

Hmm. Looks like the gods already thought about it.

 

“So, what did you talk to them about?”

 

“I gave them an overview of the world, what they are facing, and... what the previous heroes did, without telling them I was a hero. I think they bought it, they are just... 13-year olds after all. Unlike me or Alexis.”

 

Thinking about it, if they arrived at age 13, and it’s been close to 13 to 14 years, does that make them pretty much 26 year olds? “Well, that’s good. Hope they don’t put New Freeka in danger again. Do you feel old talking to them, since you are their... senior?”

 

“Honestly, yes. I feel a bit afraid. Of course, we can’t be older than you, TreeTree. You must be centuries old now, or millennia?”

 

I’m not answering that.

 

Meela continued anyway. “But yeah. They’re still in a state of panic, and they are just relieved that we are here to give them some... cover. The two girls are just sleeping in for days, and just exploring New Freeka’s markets and shops.”

 

“It’s not a holiday, though.” Alexis popped in. “They need to start levelling soon. The demon king won’t wait for them, and TreeTree, you need to make preparations. The demon king can sense us, and they will send men after the three heroes.”

 

“I know I know, Alexis, but I think taking care of their mental state is important too. We made that mistake of rushing from battle to battle, and that made us fight each other, remember?”

 

Alexis sulked. “They need experience, and they need it soon. We do not need to nanny them. They need to level up and gain full access to their star mana and heroic tier skills as soon as possible. And find some items of the right tier.”

 

“Oh, yeah! Items! TreeTree, erm... can I get some of your anti-demon weapons? The one that Lausanne has? And a wooden anti-demon shield too.”

 

“Only the normal ones. And they’ll need to buy it like anyone else.” There are the regular-series wooden weapons that are distributed to the patrol force, so I think that’s fine.

 

“I’ll pay for it then.”

 

I soon learned, thanks to Ivy’s updates, that the three heroes in New Freeka are, Harris, the [Shield Guardian], Becky the [Horde Summoner] and Mirei the [Lightning Guardmage]. Of course, I took some time to watch them, as they walked around New Freeka.

 

“Well, today I’m taking you to some of the bars and restaurants, and have some local food. You may be on a mission, but if you feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to demand a break. You only live once, even in a magical world like this. Revival magic only works if one of you is a hero-grade specialist-healer, and it must be used within the same day. So if you feel your team is moving too fast, say it. Honesty matters.”

 

“How do you know all this, Mistress Mika?” Mirei seemed impressed.

 

“I worked with the heroes. The last generation of heroes at least. All of them died in their final battle, but they told me to help where I can.” Meela pulled off the act swimmingly. It’s part of her skill, as the proprietress of the hotel, she’s got superb acting skills. In many ways, working as a hotelier really made her more... mature.

 

It’s something I don’t realise, of course, because to me, the months just flip by so quickly, but Meela’s hotel has been open for the past 4 years, since year 79. So she’s had a lot of experience dealing with people, and customers. I suppose it’s strange for them to change, when I’m the one still being the same. 4 years is long for them, but not for me.

 

They stopped at a restaurant with an alfresco frontage. Meela’s restaurants was one of the first to feature al-fresco dining, but soon, many other restaurants caught on.

 

The waiter bowed and quickly let Meela and the three humans in. “Right this way, Lady Mika.” Meela, as the owner of the best hotel in town, is pretty much a local ‘tycoon’, a respected member of the hospitality industry. She’s apparently even the chairwoman of the local innkeeper’s guild. Things I forget, of course, since I’m focused on my own things.

 

Maybe if Alexis wasn’t so... rebellious, maybe... Ah. Never mind.

 

They sat and had a cup of local tea with milk. And some snacks. “So, I’ve arranged for some anti-demon weapons, that should be your starting equipment. You will outgrow them quite quickly, with experience multipliers from your blessings.”

 

Harris sighed. “Honestly, I’m a bit... uh... how do I say this... intimidated by what we went through. Why can’t people like Lausanne fight the demon king, we saw her crush the demon knights like nothing.”

 

Meela shook her head. “Lausanne’s impressive, but she doesn’t have the special gifts. Heroes are needed, because of the cheat-skills. It’s also important that you think about the cheat skills that you have, and figure out how to maximise it. The last demon king was a giant castle that had a few forms, lastly, an exploding demon-crystal.”

 

“We’re here. And you’re talking about something like that. I don’t see how we can face something like that.”

 

Meela smiled and sipped her tea. “Baby steps. You must first be able to take on demon knights, like Lausanne.”

 

“Can she accompany us? I mean... I’d feel much safer if she’s with us.” Becky said.

 

“Even if she does, she can only stay with you for a short while. With the blessings, you will gain levels very, very quickly. When the last generation fought the demon king, all of them were at least level 100. Lady Lausanne, if I’m not mistaken, is only around level 40 to 50.”

 

“We’re level 10 or so. We need a babysitter.” Harris said, and he ate a cookie. Meela asked for some local potato slices, with olives.

 

Meela nodded. “I can have a skill that can give you a [Bodyguard], but I feel that will hobble your growth. You must realise that leveling and experience is scaled to difficulty.”

 

“Can’t we like... uh... have some practice first?” Mirei asked. “I mean, if you see those RPG games, we usually have ‘tutorial’ or ‘practice’ stages so that we get a good hang of how things work. I mean...”

 

Meela sipped her tea, and thought for a moment. At this point, I had a hunch Meela’s going to ask me for something. And she did. She telepathically pinged me.

 

“TreeTree, can we borrow the Order’s Training Rooms? I’ll have the Captains and Yvon spar with them. Madeus too, if he is willing.”

 

“Hmmm... When are they leaving New Freeka?”

 

“When they are ready. The faster we can get them up to speed, the faster they will leave.” Meela insisted, and well, she has a good point.

 

“Fine. Only the one in the Order Quarters.”

 

Meela then turned to the three heroes. “Well, I’ve arranged for the three of you to use the Valtrian Order’s Training Rooms. That will be a suitable practice session, for you to know your limits. Unfortunately, you can only use them for a few days, and after that, it’s out to the field as an adventurer, or join the patrols.”

 

“Huh, so short...” The three looked reluctant, but soon accepted that it was better than nothing, and then they walked back to the hotel.

 

“So, do you want to watch some practice today?”

 

“Oh, can we?”

 

“Magic or swordfighting?”

 

“Uh... magic?” The two girls said together.

 

Meela brought them to one of New Freeka’s magic academies. The Council runs one academy, as part of the mage’s guild, and the Order runs another one, led by Madeus. There’s also a third independent academy, but it’s mainly for merchants, smiths and others, as it’s more of a craft-focused magic academy.

 

They watched some children practice some basic magic.

 

Both of them though, instantly learned a spell. “Oh. That’s... that’s easy.”

 

Meela shrugged. “That’s your advantage. You won’t learn much from the children if it comes to you so easily.”

 

Meela led them to the back area of the guild, and there’s multiple sparring areas, for mage-adventurers to practice.

 

“Go, participate. You might gain some levels.”

 

And they did. “How many levels can we gain like this?”

 

“I don’t know. Depends on the system.”

 

“I was wondering, why doesn’t the gods just give us all our levels from the start. Then we don’t have to struggle like this.” Harris watched, and asked Meela.

 

“I don’t know that too, you can ask them the next time you see them. I guess it’s some restriction on the gods, that anyone new starts from level 1.”

 

The heroes practiced a few times, the two girls were visibly outclassed, even with their overpowered abilities, but with each battle, they improved, very quickly.

 

According to Alexis, it’s a gift. Heroes, when they start out, have a special blessing, on top of their overpowered ability. I don’t recall seeing these blessings in their soul spring, but then again, maybe I’m not able to see divine items. The blessings do a whole lot of things, like improve their rate of experience gain, the ability to choose the ‘direction’ of the skill growth, meaning heroes can actually select what kind of skills they want to learn, a natural affinity to combat, enhanced recovery rates.

 

And, there’s usually a few ‘gates’, which unlocks star mana at different amounts. At level 100, that’s when their entire mana pool is converted into star mana, which means, they have way more star mana than I have. Like.... easily 10 to 50 times more.

 

Meela then brought the three heroes to one of the Order’s militia practice yards. And where the soldiers practice. SImilarly, they also had a few spars.

 

“Why are you bringing them to all these places?” I mentally asked Meela.

 

“Yeah. They can gain levels from practice, and it’s a safe way to gain these early levels. I’ll ask Jura for permission to include them in a few patrol missions, so they can fight some demons. I’ll send my [bodyguard] with them, just to be safe.”

 

Well, more spars. Meela then led them back to the hotel to rest, and the next day, they were at the [Training Rooms].

 

“We’re fighting Lausanne?” The three looked surprised.

 

“Yeah. I asked whether she’s willing to spar, and she said sure.”

 

“Does she know?”

 

“Nope. It’s my first time watching Lausanne in action too.” Meela smiled.

 

“Uh... I don’t think we can take her alone. Unless she’s fighting handicapped.” Becky said, and Lausanne obviously heard it.

 

“I won’t be using my familiar. Don’t worry. And we’re just using wooden swords.”

 

“But you whooped the demons with those wooden swords!” Harris seemed visibly panicked.

 

Meela clapped. “Oh come on. Just fight. If you can’t face Lausanne, you’ll have trouble facing demon walkers and the demon generals.” Meela’s pep talk worked, and they started to spar.

 

Indeed, they’ve seemed to have gained levels from yesterday’s spar, and their performance was much better than before. But, the heroes aren’t good at ‘sparring’, in the sense that they can’t seem to control their powers. It’s 100% on all the time, so, Mirei accidentally loosed a lightning blast and it hit the Training Room walls. Thankfully, no damage. The training room is exceptionally sturdy.

 

Still, as one who watched their fights yesterday and today, their progress is unnatural. It’s like there’s a genius that guided their growth, they instinctively knew what to do to improve. For now, Lausanne’s still better, but I would think within a month they would be able to stand toe-to-toe with her, without her familiar powers.

 

All of them took turns to spar over the course of the next week, and for Lausanne, who’s usual sparring partners are Yvon and Jura, this was a welcome change. In fact, Lausanne had her first loss on their last day. Their exceptional growth was very humbling for Lausanne, even if it was just a sparring match without Lausanne’s full skillset.

 

After the week was over, and their ‘time’ was up, Lausanne came back to me. “TreeTree, who are those people? They... they make me feel like I’m stupid.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I mean... I took so many years of practice to get to this point, but they just got from newbies to be able to do that in a week.”

 

Well, it’s all relative, isn’t it? To the other Valthorns, Lausanne’s an exceptional fighter. But as with all things, there is always a higher mountain out there.

 

“They’re the gifted ones, blessed by the gods themselves. Don’t hold onto your defeat too hard.”

 

“Are they heroes?”

 

“I think so.” I know the truth, but I’m not sure whether I should tell her.

 

Lausanne paused. She’s in my [secret hideout], her home. She sat in bed, and looked at the wooden spear next to her bed. “Is this what heroes need to be able to do? I suddenly feel like... I’m not good enough.”

 

Hmm. She’s 14, and feeling demotivated and discouraged? Should I inject her with some [psychedelic dreams]? Is this puberty? Or teen angst? Should I give her a pep talk? Or should I ask Laufen to do it? Maybe I should ask her mom to talk to her first.

 

And indeed, Laufen came into her room and sat next to her bed.

 

“Hi darling.” Laufen smiled, and patted her leg. “I heard you lost.”

 

“Losing’s fine. But it’s just that... I don’t know... erm... facing genius.”

 

Laufen moved herself a little closer. “Every now and then the gods create people who are so exceptionally good, that they blow the rest of us out of the water. There are those born with a [unique ability] or [unique skill] since birth. These are champions.”

 

“I want to be a hero, mom. I just feel like... suddenly... that dream feels very very far away.”

 

“It’s okay.” Laufen gave her daughter a hug. I felt a bit guilty spying, but then again, I do want to check on Lausanne’s mental state. “It’s a privilege, that you could even attempt to dream such a dream. I wouldn’t have dreamed of what we have today, my dear.”

 

“Mom. That’s not helping.” Lausanne still sulked.

 

Laufen just hugged. “Think of it as a challenge, then. No great things are achieved without great obstacles.”

 

“But then why the heroes get such great powers?”

 

“They have the burden of defeating the demon king. Would you want that burden?”

 

Lausanne sulked.

Year 83 Month 3

The heroes, annoyingly, made Meela’s Oakwood Hotel their base of operations. At least, they are now participating in the Order’s patrols, and are helping to defeat demons that they encounter, and within a month, they have gained about 30 levels, so they are now about level 35 to 40 and seemed to have unlocked their first quarter of [star mana].

 

This means they can now stand toe-to-toe with multiple demon knights, just like Lausanne. What seemed crazy to them a month ago, is now something they can do.

 

“The first 50 levels are easy.” Alexis explained. “We got it within a month too. It’s the grind up to level 100 that took a whole lot longer, and past level 80, we only seemed to gain levels when we fought champion-level monsters.”

 

“Good thing is, I think they will leave New Freeka soon.” Meela, their de-facto ‘nanny’, said. “Thanks TreeTree. I’m happy to have helped them get on their feet. After this, they must find other places to go, other monsters to fight. I told them about the demon walkers, and that they need to start attempting to fight them.”

 

“Can they? I would recommend level 50 before trying the walker. At least they get their 2nd quarter of the [star mana].”

 

It’s mostly a conversation between Alexis and Meela, both of whom have differing views of what’s the ‘optimal’ strategy for heroes.

 

“At the rate they are going, they will encounter demons and level up along the way. And all of them has summoned units. I think the gods gave them all a mini-army like ability.”

 

I didn’t watch their battles, especially those that happened with the patrols. So this really piqued my attention. “Explain.”

 

“Yeah. Harris has a defense aura, and can summon ‘living armors, with massive shields’. Mirei has lightning elementals, and thunderstorm rods. Becky has like... an squadron of magical knights.”

 

This means something. Did the gods intentionally delay the summoning of the heroes, so that they know what they are facing? And then, they ‘tailor’ the gifts to the heroes based on what they see the demons are doing?

 

What if the demons know this too? I didn’t see how the previous heroes’ abilities were tailored to the demon king at all. Or it’s just a coincidence, that this roster of abilities lean towards the heroes being a ‘one-man-army’?

 

In any case, after a week or more of fighting, the 3 heroes eventually decided to make a move for the next town. As advised by Meela, they are going to head south, towards the ‘stationary’ walker.

 

-

 

The heroes took one of the beetles to head south.

 

A magical ball appeared in front of them.

 

“Hi guys. Everyone alive?” A voice came out of the ball.

 

The 3 heroes jumped, but then nodded. “Astra, is that you?”

 

“Yeah it’s me alright. Sorry it took so long. I had to reach my Level 30 perk to unlock the [Hero-Chat] communication ability. Everyone here?”

 

“Yup.” It seemed that they could see each other’s faces in the magical ball, but my ‘spirit vision’ is able to only see the presence of a pure-white magical orb, and not what’s on it. Kinda like an overexposed camera facing a television. It’s all white to me. But at least I could still ‘hear’ the message.

 

“Good. How’s everyone? I’ll start. We had a rough first month, we got ambushed by multiple demon groups, but luckily a group of knights helped us out. We’re based in one of the kingdom’s in the far south.”

 

“South?” Harris asked. “Isn’t the South in very bad shape?”

 

“Not gonna lie, it totally is, it is. The Southern Continents’ entire northern half was, and still is, lost to the demons, and the far-southern kingdoms, thankfully, through luck and some good strategies, managed to keep the demons away, however barely. The Kings are super relieved to see us. We’re trying to gain levels as fast as we can, and thankfully we met some locals who are very willing to help us.” This ‘Astra’ person explained.

 

“Your story sounds similar. We got saved by the locals too.” Another voice. “Totally not what I expected. If I see the gods again, I’m gonna give them a piece of my mind for dropping us in the middle of nowhere.”

 

Harris and Mirei nodded. “Yeah. We also got saved by the locals.”

 

“Hmm... we’re in the east, and we’re quite lucky. We didn’t see many demons, and we fought whatever we could. We’re now based in one of the towns. There are some helpful locals as well.”

 

“Ah shit. This skill drains my star mana faster than pokemon go does. My star mana is running out. Alright, we’ll catch up again once my star-mana recovers. Sorry!” Astra complained.

 

“It’s fine. Good to know everyone’s alive.” Someone said.

 

“Yeah.”

 

And the magical orb vanished. And the three of them shared glances, while still riding the beetle.

 

“That’s like... a skype group-video conference call.”

 

“Who uses skype these days?” Becky looked puzzled.

 

“My dad does.” Mirei shrugged. “For work.”

 

For me, this meant the hero's star mana is able to overcome the demon king’s magical interference.

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