The depths of the crystal mountain were magical.
They had a magic lift, and the walls, the crystalline walls glowed in many colors.
It was beautiful, and the ambience truly seemed magical.
“This is quite beautiful.” Lumoof said to the mages, who all seemed a lot more afraid of him than the other way round.
Something about the shackles crumbling seemed to remind them that Lumoof was not just any old man, even though he had kept his domain in check for the entire period he was here.
The high-mage tried his best to play along.
Everyone who stepped into these lifts for the first time remarked how beautiful it is.
Even the heroes.”
“Ah yes, the heroes.
They came from another world, right”
The high-mage gave Lumoof a suspicious look.
“You seem familiar with them.”
“I have met a few.” Lumoof nodded.
“Are you from the nation of the Sandpeople, then”
“No.” Lumoof smiled, and the High-mage just gave him a stare.
But Lumoof was used to such things.
The lift eventually stopped gently, like it slowed down on a very measured drift.
They hardly felt it.
The door opened, and they were led into a chamber made of crystals.
The entire chamber was shaped by the crystal growth, and for me, looking through Lumoof, this chamber reminded me of ice-palaces and chambers carved out of ice.
Only crystals, and it wasn’t cold.
In fact, it was quite warm.
The chamber led to smaller hallways, similarly carved out of ice.
There were crystalline lights, embedded into the crystal walls.
Lumoof nodded, and he was led to another chamber with a chair.
This seemed to be an interrogation room, but the high mage looked at the shackles, and hesitated.
The mages stared at each other.
“Should we use the shackles”
The high-mage shook his head.
“No, we’ve wasted two already.
Just call the Interrogators.”
The mage scurried out of the magical door.
They used wooden doors, embedded with crystals.
We could see that it was some kind of mixed item, part wood, part crystals.
I wondered whether I could grow Crystal Trees, like how Kei is a crystal golem in the shape of a lady.
Maybe I could experiment with that dryad body I had stored all these time.
The Interrogators, despite their fearsome name, were three skinny looking humans with long crystal spears, and many smaller pins and needles, all similarly made of crystal.
They had different colors, and from a casual glance, I sensed that each of them was imbued with a different type of spell.
A torture set.
A far more elaborately dressed woman came immediately after, and I sensed that she was higher level than the rest.
At least level 80.
“Let’s make this simple, Sir Lumoof.” The lady started.
“I have my interrogators with me, and I want to know, who are you, and who do you work for, and what do you want You’ve been buying magical spells, collecting various locational information for the past few years.
Who are you sending it to The sandpeople Or the centaurs”
Lumoof merely smiled.
“Can I get your name”
The lady shrugged and laughed.
“I’m the Fourth Archpriest of Maelas, Yaddah.” There was an air of magic around her, strong, but nothing particularly impressive.
Not when she was compared to my near-domain level mages.
“Well, since you asked so nicely, I’m Lumoof.
I serve the temple of Aeon, and I came from a faraway place.”
“We’ve checked, there’s no such thing as the Temple of Aeon.”
“Oh, there is.” Lumoof smiled.
“Now, if you want the juicy details with all the fruits, I would like to meet the true ruler of Maelga.
I would happily explain then.”
“You wanted us to come to you.”
“Well, it’s hard to get the bureaucracy to pass a message, isn’t it What better way to get direct access to the top, by making you come to me”
“I could kill you here.”
“I think you know well enough that you can’t.
In fact, maybe only the true ruler of this living mountain can hope to even hurt me.”
Yaddah’s fists glowed with magic, and she punched.
A wooden barrier emerged and blocked it.
Vines instantly absorbed the magic in her fists, and those vines quickly wrapped around her arms, and she stared.
She flinched as she felt magic drain away from her arms.
“...who are you”
“Were you listening My name is Lumoof, and I serve the temple of Aeon.” The vines let her arms go, and Yaddah staggered backwards.
The Interrogators stared dumbly.
They were not used to their subjects being able to use their skills.
Lumoof didn’t move and just stretched his legs.
“It really does annoy me when young ones don’t listen to what us old folk have to say.”
Yaddah stood, but she realised the power gap.
“So, now that I am here, deep within the mountain, I want to talk to the true ruler of this mountain.
Can you get me an audience I certainly hope we can have a friendly meeting, rather than one where I’m forced to go on a warpath.”
Yaddah dusted her robes.
“I see we have invited the snake into the house.”
“Eh, I’m not a snake.
I’m just a priest of Aeon.
I don’t bite.”
Yaddah looked at her team.
I’ll go call the Crystal Holders.”
The interrogators looked afraid.
Lumoof immediately interjected.
“There really is nothing to worry about.
Can I have some tea while you sort out the details”
Yaddah looked at the Interrogators.
“Well Go get some.” She pointed a finger at Lumoof.
“And you don’t get too smug.
You don’t know who you’re dealing with.”
My priest just stretched and yawned.
“But-” The Interrogators looked at Lumoof again, and decided it was better to just get him some tea.
The tea was not bad, and Yaddah came back about three hours later.
The Interrogators kept watch, but they felt so uncomfortable around Lumoof that they decided to wait outside the door.
“The Crystal Holders will meet you now.” Yaddah said with a commanding tone.
“Then you’ll know better than to offend us.”
They led Lumoof through more narrow crystalline pathways, and down more crystalline stairs, and then, another lift.
A lift that went even deeper.
Then deep underground, we walked out of the lift into a massive cavern, with glistening crystals on the roof.
The crystals had many colors, and around us, we saw giant crystal golems.
These were massive things, and they looked like these golems could open up to be even larger.
There were a few more pathways that led to this cavern, clearly the way we took was not the only way in.
“Feeling scared yet” Yaddah smirked.
Lumoof shrugged and she couldn’t believe her eyes.
We’ve fought demon champions.
Golems are just creatures in the same class, and then we arrived at a platform.
There were eight large crystals, and eight individuals seated right before them.
“Archpriest Yaddah, this is the individual that wants to meet us”
Lumoof looked around, and here, I felt the conflicting presence of something.
It was that something that hid underneath the mountains, it was here, but it darted everywhere.
Hopping from crystal to crystal.
These eight men were just spokesperson.
The equivalent of my Valthorn councils, but not...
“Where are you looking, spy” One of the individuals said.
The voice was feminine, but here in the dim cavern, where the lighting came from the glow of crystals, it was hard to make out her features, unless we activated our skills.
My spiritual sight identified her as human.
Lumoof looked around, and we tried to follow the ‘presence’.
“Looking at the real power behind all of you.”
One of them slammed the crystal table.
“We are the real powers here.”
“All of you are just like me.
The hands and legs.
The executors of divine will.” Lumoof paused briefly, and then said.
Three of them glowed, as I sensed them gather their magical power.
Still, our eyes focused on that presence, and at that moment, a ninth crystal, one larger than the eight others, rose up, out of the crystal floor.
The ninth crystal was shaped like a throne, and a golem sat on it.
We felt that presence gathered in the golem.
The golem was just a puppet of the spirit of this crystal mountain.
Yet, the golem looked incredibly life-like.
No, at a casual glance, the golem seemed every bit human.
The eight immediately bowed.
“We greet the Immortal Crystal King.”
Yaddah knelt, and she gave Lumoof a smug look.
“You **ed now, old man.”
Lumoof smiled, and respectfully clasped his hands together.
We didn’t kneel. “Greetings.”
The presence was similar to Lilies and Aria.
Maybe just a bit stronger.
The golem radiated his [domain], and the aura of the crystal king’s domain closed in, and attempted to smother us.
All of them cowered in its presence.
This was nostalgic.
I did the same thing to my Valthorns.
The Crystal King stopped, and stared with its purple eyes.
The eight cowering minions immediately attempted to explain.
“Your majesty, this is a spy.
He claims to be a priest of Aeon, but we’ve checked and it does not exist.”
“No.” The King answered, and he sounded human.
This was some really good puppetry.
“Who are you”
His domain did not pierce through Lumoof’s skin.
Instead, it was pushed back.
Lumoof gave a nod.
“Greetings, Immortal Crystal King.
I am Lumoof, a priest of Aeon.
Finally, we have been hoping to speak to the true master of the mountain.”
“We” The King narrowed its eyes.
Lumoof nodded, and I descended.
My domain pushed against the Crystal King, and everyone, including the other minions of the Crystal King cowered.
“Greetings, Crystal King.
I am Aeon, and Lumoof is my avatar.” I spoke as Lumoof’s eyes glowed green, and my presence was clear for all to see.
A greenish glow of light, shaped into a tree appeared around Lumoof.
The golem narrowed its eyes, as our two domains met.
The usually quiet and motionless air of the cavern was twisted by our energies, and it whipped it up into a small, twisting gale.
Yaddah, the archpriest and the eight Crystal Holders were all horrified.
“I have been meaning to speak to you, though, it is hard to get you through all of your institutional red tape.” I bet those who want to talk to me feel the same way.
The Crystal King’s face was serious.
“Speak, you have my attention.”
“I come from another world, just next to yours.
I come in search of allies, in my bid to defeat the demons that plague my world.”
“Is that not an affair of the gods” At this point, all nine other humans dared not speak.
They were all quiet.
This was not their stage.
“The Gods will abandon us, in a century or two.” I said.
The Crystal King looked.
“I do not care of the cause.
What do you want exactly”
“Knowledge and skills.
The King glared, and stated bluntly.
I have no reason to cooperate and share my knowledge with those of another world.
Every creature or beast of other worlds eventually attempts to invade us.
Even the summoned heroes are not much better.
We are an insular world, and we will remain so.
No trade with outworlders.
Friendship with another existence from another world Impossible.”
“...And what of trade” I asked, inward I was shaken by the immediate refusal.
But Lumoof kept a stoic face.
I refuse.” The Crystal King said firmly, and I felt my spirit sink.
What was this straight-out stonewalling
“Any guarantees I can offer What can I do to change your mind, and work together” I certainly come in peace, but it seemed they didn’t believe me.
There is no negotiation to be had with otherworlders.
I reject your presence in my lands.
Leave and return to where you came from.
The human-lands of this world will not receive you.”
I felt angry.
Why What was the cause of this...
selfishness What’s the word for it...
The Immortal Crystal King was blunt.
“I shall apply the full force of my powers should I ever see you again after today.
I do not accept foreigners from another world.
The crystal king flexed his domain, and his energies strengthened.
“Why You accept the heroes!”
“They are part of a bargain we struck with Maelas.”
I felt there was an undercurrent of fear.
“Must it be this way”
“Yes.” The Crystal King said.
We are not friends.
Friends do not exist for existences like...
There are those stronger, and those weaker.
The strong take, the weak obey.”
Is that a challenge Should I just take it, then Darn.
There seems to be something at the back of all of this.
Some history from long ago No.
Conflict should not be the first thought, especially when we have no reason to be enemies.
Lumoof’s attempted capture was a small matter, really.
Nothing was really at risk.
“Let’s talk this through.
It is not my intention to come and occupy your world.”
“You will learn, and eventually, you will occupy.
That is how it is, that is how it will be, and I reject your attempts to plant a seed here.
I shall entertain you no further.
Leave peacefully, and that is the end of it.”
“And if I don’t”
“Then it will be war.
Our eventual outcome is war.
It is the same with the others, as with the demons, and as with those before us.
War is inevitable.”
If it’s inevitable, why shouldn’t I just raise war right now
I calmed myself and focused.
What is my goal
My goal is to end the cycle of heroes and demon kings, not for all worlds, but at least, for my homeworld.
War with other spirits and forces are unnecessary, unless it leads to the end of the cycle.
This group of people seem to have knowledge of crystals, which I can use in the future, but do I want to go to war with them just to have this knowledge, which may or may not lead to breakthroughs
Would a war here, with this mountain, be a worthwhile investment of resources
I stared, and for a moment, the entire cavern shook as our domains clashed.
My power radiated outwards like a wave, and met the opposing force of the Immortal Crystal King.
My greenish energies lit the dark cave with my mana.
The human minions stared, with their jaws wide, and two of them had fainted.
I knew for certain I was stronger overall, but even then a battle would be hard to predict, since this is their home base, and this crystal king most likely have more combat abilities.
The strangely human Immortal Crystal King squinted his eyes, and took a step back.
Fucking **ing **ing **.
Why the ** is this damned crystal so irritatingly...
Aloof What was the word I was looking for-
Lumoof mentally responded to me.
“Let’s go, milord.
There really is no need to wage this pointless war.
We can have other means.
Or find somewhere else.
They are not the only masters of crystals.”
We will leave.”
The Crystal King looked to its cowering minions.
“Escort this otherworlder out of my mountain.
Don’t let him in ever again.
Notify me if he ever dares to appear at my doorstep.”
Such arrogance, but I had no real beef with this guy.
I wanted knowledge, and there really wasn’t any need to destroy this mountain just because he refused to cooperate.
In the end, my end goal was the demons and this cycle.
Focus on the end goal, I told myself, using that to calm myself down.
I did not have to destroy other functional civilizations to get there.
I tried to relax, and reminded myself that not everyone saw things my way, and that is alright.
It’s normal that some people are just not cooperative.
Perfect, perfectly normal.
I tried to convince myself, really, because I felt mad.
Maybe mainly because I got rejected.
I’m a salesman, and I don’t have to make every single sale.
Not everyone is like Lilies or Aria.
The minions stared at Yaddah, and Yaddah gulped.
She had been commanded, and so she did.
She escorted Lumoof, respectfully and quietly.
Not a peep.
Back home, it was a game of whack-a-mole, as demons kept popping up despite the efforts of the heroes, temples and us to clamp down on the demonic parasites.
We were generally gaining ground, as we discovered more and more ways to detect them, and counter them.
The food-makers and coffee brewers around the world made condensed ‘caffeine-sweets’ and ‘caffeine-pills’.
The coffee makers and sweet makers even gained unique skills.
[Anti-Demon Coffee] and [Demon-Preventing Coffee Sweets].
It was really cute that those who made food actually contributed to the war effort.
I suppose this was a feature of the system, that the system does respond to changes, but it took a while for it to hit the necessary threshold to ‘award’ a skill.
Anyway, with foods and consumables that deterred the demons from infesting, the tide was somewhat shifting, and it was slowly returning to good old conventional demon warfare.
Normalcy! How I missed it so.
At the same time, I also granted one of my Valthorns a class Lovis once had.
I suspected that it’ll help to sense demons, and it did, but it’s effectiveness was linked to the person’s level.
It wasn’t very useful on a large scale, since, like the heroes, it was tied to a particular individual, and so was largely ‘local’.
But it was good for interrogation and detection of demons among areas previously cleared.
Despite our progress, we knew it meant nothing if the demon king wasn’t killed.
As the ten years deadline slowly passed by, we waited for the demon king.
I really, really wanted to know the kind of demon king we would face.