Time is running out, and Harris’s panic reflected that.
“Only 10” I asked, I looked at the 10 crystalline objects.
“It’s a lot harder to obtain spell crystals at the necessary quality and purity.
These 10 spell-matrices are able to store one skill or ability, which can be reused up to 3 times each.”
“That’s only 30 uses.”
“It’s a lot better than nothing.” Harris nodded.
“If I manage to get more, I certainly will bring them over, but rather than wait, I thought of just testing these 10 out now.”
Never know if they might fail.”
Harris was alone in the valley, his army of entourage was not allowed in, and so they made themselves comfortable in the new city of Freshka.
I looked at the 10 items, and asked.
“So, you’ll give me some of them”
He paused, and he rubbed his head.
“I know I agreed to give it to you, but, uh...
it’ll affect my survival chances.
Can I just give you one, first And if I live, I’ll give you 5 of these spell matrices.”
“Will they break after they are used” I sort of think they wouldn’t because they look incredibly well made, and the material’s gorgeous.
I’d imagine these things to fetch an incredibly high price if one were to even try doing it.
“Uh, they shouldn’t.
They need to have the skills re-inserted again.
They just become empty.
You can try it out, though, uh...
there’s a recharge time before they can start receiving skills again.”
It wasn’t hard to input a skill into the crystal.
All I had to do was think of the skill I wanted to use, and then sort of ‘will’ it into the gem.
I got it after like, twenty tries.
So, all 10 gems now have [Steelwood Barrier], and he kept 9 of it.
They had a faint greenish glow.
“Partly why it took me so long, is because, I wanted a gem that essentially replicates all the effects of a skill, not just store the skill.
There are plenty of spell-matrices out there that stores just the skill, but those lose the passive effects and other caster-specific qualities that make the spell or skill strong.
After all, I’m quite certain your strength comes from a lot more than just the skill alone.”
I didn’t have to reply.
Harris probably noticed my reluctance as he quickly changed the topic to something else.
“Oh, I didn’t tell you, but we found the red crystal that was mentioned.
It was indeed hidden under a massive pile of sludge.
And we broke it.” Oh.
I haven’t checked on the two heroes in a while.
Indeed, I couldn’t access that area anymore.
“Gerrard and Mirei found some time out of their busy schedule to visit.
They should be on their way here.”
Two more heroes I wasn’t prepared for that.
“Why are they coming here”
“Nothing much, just to meet up and discuss some things in your presence.
Gerrard seemed to have something that he says will be valuable to you, and us.”
“Me” What could a hero say that could be of use to me
Harris took some time to stay in the new buildings in Freshka, as the rest of the heroes arrived a few days later.
They look different and in Mirei’s case, she’s grown a lot taller.
Gerrard was lean, tanned and had shoulder-length hair.
They both have aged, and now look like actual adults.
“So, this is where the tree is” Gerrard asked.
We got lucky when we started out around here, and we got our basic combat training here.
At least, well, when it was here.”
“I see.” They soon approached Freshka, and regrouped with Harris.
After a bit of chitchat and catchup, they came to see me.
Gerrard seemed quite interested.
“It’s really, really big.”
“I had the impression that all tree spirits are large.” Mirei said.
“Or is this one of your half-drunk statements”
“Not at all.
I might be half-drunk most of the time, but tree spirits do go through regular growth periods! I’ve met small tree spirits before.” Gerrard looked quite relaxed around me.
Harris took out the spell-matrices and showed it to the other 2.
“I’m still working on spell-matrices that are able to absorb and temporarily recreate the anti-demon aura.
It’s a lot harder than I thought.”
“I could upgrade your familiars to special familiars, it comes with the demonic aura after a few levels.” I spoke, as I recall Lausanne did have a lesser version of the aura.
“It’s not as strong as mine.”
They agreed, and so I upgraded it.
For Mirei and Harris, it seemed the levels that the existing familiars carried over to the new star-mana powered familiars, and they unlocked the lesser demonic suppression aura instantly.
For Gerrard, this was the first time he received the familiar but he didn’t seem entirely surprised by it.
“Fascinating, isn’t it” Harris said.
“Not bad.” Gerrard said.
you said there’s something you wanted to share”
Gerrard nodded and opened his bag.
He took out a strange item, it resembled a really, really dried piece of wood.
I also have a gift for Aeon, actually.” He placed the dried piece of wood on the table, and the moment I touched it, I felt a notification in my head.
[You’ve received a fragment of the ancient tree that was destroyed thousands of years ago.] That very moment, I felt happy.
It was a joy that came from the entirety of my network, like, all my trees felt happy to be touched by that...
I couldn’t respond for a while, as I had to manage a rush of emotions that went through my head.
There are objects that can do this to me in the world! Is it because my [Grand mind Tree] still needed repairs The three heroes waited for a while for my response, and they just talked among themselves.
“Aeon” Harris asked.
Gerrard looked at Harris and Mirei, and then just sat down.
“It’ll take a while.
I gave this same thing to a few other spirits and they all froze.
Or, didn’t respond to me for at least a day.
Maybe we can go have a drink, first.” The heroes chatted among themselves again, and then they left.
[You’ve analysed the ancient tree’s fragment.
You gained a level.
You are now level 154.]
[Skill : Subsidiary tree upgraded.
[Skill : Woodshaping significantly upgraded]
Then, I started to see...
It felt like I was watching television, as scene after scene flickered before me.
Memories of the ancient tree, engraved it it’s body.
Like how a tree recorded what it suffered through in the rings of it’s trunk, the fragment contained its ancient memories.
A vision. Vast expanse of forests, jungles.
Small towns and some cities.
Then a falling red star.
Then it was an...
Not a scene, but a feeling of instability, of falling.
Like I was pulled out by something, and then started falling.
I see visions of...
Then it ended, so very quickly.
More I tried to access it again, but it felt like a teaser trailer that was too short.
I accessed the shard again, but all it did was play the same scenes in repeat.
“I need more.” I spoke to the three heroes, who are relaxing in Freshka.
That feeling, like, I was robbed of knowledge, of knowing some but not enough.
I needed more.
“I’m afraid that’s the last one I have.
I’ve given out every shard I have to other tree spirits.
You’ll have to get it from them.” Gerrard shook his head.
“I didn’t even know there was a tree spirit here, so I only kept one.”
“How many did you have How many have you given out” I asked, my entire being trying to hold back a sense of need and desperation that comes from the rest of me.
Like, is this a kind of mind control I need that [grand mind tree] repaired as soon as possible!
I had 3.
One to you, one to Lilies, and another one to the Frozen Tree in the Northern Isles.”
Lilies had one.
Maybe I can negotiate directly with Lilies for a loan.
I don’t really need to keep the fragment, just analyse it to get a more coherent picture of the past.
Why am I going down this train of thought again
Harris ribbed Gerrard.
“So, uh, wait.
What were you trying to do”
You know I’ve been going around making all sorts of herbal liqueur I found that collecting those from ancient tree spirits, or powerful tree spirits can produce a high quality herbal liqueur with strong suppression qualities.
So, I set out creating uh...
a blended herbal liqueur.
I’ve collected about 7 tree spirit herbs, leaves and barks.”
Mirei just smacked her palm to her face.
So all this just to fulfill your alcohol desires”
Don’t judge me and my hobbies.
Harris has his harem, you have your ballroom and fancy otome-game politics, leave me as the hermit eccentric brewer of strange drinks.” Gerrard got quite defensive.
“I even gained levels with it.”
“What!” They both paused.
“I haven’t gained a level since we fought the demon king!”
“The system’s busted, we all know that.
But it turned out you can actually gain levels from doing non-fighting things.”
“That doesn’t match my experience.” Harris frowned.
“I’ve been clearing up large areas of land and all, not a single level.”
Mirei nodded too.
“Which class did you gain a level in Your [hero] class, or something else”
“No, not [hero].
My [Master Brewer] class.
Collecting unusual and rare items, and brewing with them did gain me levels.
ANYWAY!” Gerrard shouted.
“Aeon, right Uh...
I want your herbs, leaves and a bit of your bark.”
“Fine.” He gave me a level, that’s fair, I suppose.
I’ve made herbal drinks and tea all the time anyway.
Herbal alcoholic drinks, well, I sort of mentally smacked myself there.
Why didn’t I think of that Or wait, maybe the wineries did create herbal versions of the wine.
“But I want the other piece, the one with that Frozen Tree.
Tell them it’s a loan, you can return it to them after I’m done analysing them.”
“Uh...” Gerrard seemed even more defensive.
“A gift given to a tree spirit is never asked back.
I won’t do that, I’ll lose my supply of magical frozen herbal leaves!
How do I negotiate this Maybe I should do so directly.
“Then bring a small sapling of mine to it.
Place it near to it.” A small [tree of prayer], a messenger from me.
I would have to find a way to communicate with my other trees that are outside the network.
Could I have roots that cross the ocean But the chance to communicate with another tree spirit!
that I can do.” Gerrard promised, and he looked at the small bag of leaves, bark and roots with great interest.
He took a small piece of root out and smelled it.
He licked a bit.
The other two heroes looked at him and their faces were just plain disgusted.
“You lick your materials”
“I got to know how they taste.
My tongue has a special skill, [Brewer’s Taste Buds], which lets me know how well it’ll go together with the rest of my brew! Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up.”
“You guys don’t know how hard it is to get an audience with tree spirits.
So far, this tree fragment has been my most successful method to get new herbal materials!”
“Where did you even get such a thing I don’t imagine you would end up checking every single fragment of wood you encounter.” Harris asked.
“It was in a random abandoned temple on the Shaffar coast of the western continent, I was led there by a druid who spoke of a dead religion of some kind, in my quest to find rare herbal ingredients for my herbal alcohol!”
At this point, I intervened.
Are there more”
I took everything.
Unless I missed it, which I could have because honestly I didn’t pay those fragments much attention.
They look like half-rotten wood, not exactly something my eyes are drawn to.”
“Let’s change the topic.” Mirei shrugged.
“Harris said Aeon has some rather interesting...
It was then that Harris brought out some of the wooden spears and swords.
These are the anti-demon weapons, and I’m wondering if we, the 3 of us, together with Aeon’s wooden weapons as the chassis.
I’d like to explore that possibility, together.”
Harris didn’t mention this the last time we met, but heroic grade anti-demon weapons, but the thought of it makes sense.
The weapons they create using the rare materials from this world are strong, but not specifically anti-demons.
So, the three heroes spent days with me.
I used wood forming magic to form wooden weapons infused with my anti-demon powers, and the three heroes added their enchantments.
Later on, they formed the wooden weapons together with me, as I shaped the wood into it’s weapon shape, their star-mana joined in and helped.
It was a long process, but the heroes clearly fear for their lives.
I could sense all 3 of them have lingering, deep-seated memories of their many battles with different demon kings, and it reflected the sudden focus they have.
After two weeks, they all had wooden weapons they were satisfied with, but yet they still fear whether it is enough.
As Mirei put it, they are summoner-heroes, and yet the world forces them to still play the role of a combat-focused hero, so they had to resort to such preparations.
“We can’t do this forever.” Gerrard looked at his curved wooden blade, infused with a mix of wood and heroic energy.
He sounded a bit dejected.
They left all the rejected ones behind for me, which are all incredibly powerful items in their own way, but just not to the level they need.
I intend to later spend some time to further analyse them, and see whether I can use my own star mana to similar effects.
“No we can’t.
But we must try.”
“Age catches up to us, even if magic keeps us young for now.
Killing the demon king is just...
If there’s some way we can just seal the demon king, I wonder whether that would stop the demon king from repeating.” He said, and then he had a headache immediately.
He quickly opened a gourd next to him, and drank from it.
“We can’t even seal a demon walker.” Mirei laughed.
They left a few days after.
Seal the demon king.
Would that actually stop the cycle
My prior year’s effort to market myself as fresh land for refugees, unhappy nobles and all that brought a huge amount of people.
There were fights, naturally, among refugees squabbling over the best spots, but the space was large enough that they dispersed over the 10 sectors.
Even then, fighting was going to happen, and this time, I’m staying out of it.
I will work with whoever their chosen ruler and, and so long as they operate under my framework, I will leave them be.
That’s what a vassal is, right
This promise of unclaimed lands attracted all sorts of people.
People who are unhappy with their existing ruler’s tax regimes, or with insecure borders, or people on the run.
Some just wanted to try out something else, and eventually, a few smaller settlements formed.
Over time, many of these smaller villages and settlements will agglomerate and form into towns and cities proper, but that’ll be over a few more years.
Freshka too, located in what is considered the ‘core-region’ of the new land, experienced some influx of settlers.
The promise of fertile lands, bountiful harvests blessed by a watchful tree spirit was attractive to some farmers.
In each sector, after the migrants started coming in, I placed a [Tree of Prayer], and a few [Giant Attendant Trees], which acted as their segment’s focal points.
Jura, and some of the followers, set up a new Valtrian Order.
And the Valtrian Order’s task, this time, is to recruit promising young children from all the ten segments, to form my new reformed Valthorn Initiates.
Of course, for now, no recruitment has actually started.
It’s only the first year they are coming in.
I’ll start next year.
But the plan and infrastructure is ready.
By the end of the year, 5 of the 10 sectors have been settled, and on average, home to about 10,000 each, for a total of 50,000! There’s a bit of gang wars and internal fighting, but nothing overt, yet.
I probably should get someone to watch them, like Ivy.
To keep watch of any high-risk individuals, and so, I created a new artificial soul.
Not the princess, of course.
During this year, I’ve also stretched my trees to reconnect with the Verdant Volcano and the Southwest Forests.
I was relieved to discover they both survived, even if the area they covered had shrunk significantly.
It seemed that the energy from the Volcano and the leyline was strong enough to push back at the sludge, and it helped that they were quite far from the epicenter of the sludge than I was, so, lucky for them, the pressure from the sludge was weaker.
Dimitree, which I lost connected to, was still alive, if not a bit...
It went off in gibberish for a good three months, as I spent time ‘repairing’ it’s internal structure.
So, I was just glad to not have to start from scratch.
Dimitree eventually recovered from his insanity, being disconnected from me for so long.
I didn’t allow him to speak for a long time, because he was just incoherent.
The volcano crater and the Forest Rod survived, thankfully, but the sludge got as far as half-way up the volcano.
So, with this, my soul forge’s other abilities are restored, and my soul collectors are back in business.