6 months after the death of the demon king (around Year 85 Month 7 or 8)
The terrain was wrecked.
Almost everywhere the demon king’s corruption touched turned into this twisted terrain, where firestorms were a regular affair, and the earth itself constantly shifted.
Strange monsters also appeared, not quite like the usual demons, but not quite like monsters either.
As if it’s an odd mix of the two.
The terrain’s unstable energies also meant all communication spells were still jammed, despite the rest of the world no longer requiring the towers.
It was an odd thing about this location, but not uncommon.
There are other spots in the world where gravity and magic is inconsistent, volatile.
The only difference was the size of the instability was...
Half a continent.
Still, it was not a total loss.
Some cities had ancient heroic defenses that never triggered until that very day, and it is those cities that survived.
But it would be a reasonable thing to say that 90% of all living beings died within the demon king’s corruption, and of the surviving 10%, another 8% died within six months due to lack of food, monsters, and supplies.
Harris, Becky and Mirei stood at the edge of one such surviving city.
The heroes didn't stay together after the demon king had fallen.
Gerrard, relieved of the task to slay the demon king, wanted to just find a few barrels of booze and drown himself in it.
Maybe find a lady or two to accompany him as well.
Astra, well, he seemed like he had other things to do, so he left for another continent.
This part of the terrain used to be more...
demonic, but the three of them worked with some surviving druids and mages, they were able to channel and amplify a mix of the earth’s energy, and also their own star mana to push the corruption back.
It would have been easier if they were druids themselves, but their skills were for war, not healing.
“Too bad none of us are druids, maybe we could’ve fixed this easily.”
“It’s kinda like an infection, the body must fight it.
All we’re doing is augmenting it, making it stronger with our star mana.
Kind of like an IV injection.”
“Do you even know what an IV injection means”
“I don’t know, but its what all the medical shows like to talk about.” Becky shrugged.
All they knew about medicine was what they learned in their years of schooling, and then all the sitcoms and dramas they followed.
But they could see for themselves that their star mana wasn’t ideal either.
There was always something that seemed to push back against the star mana.
Maybe it was just the demon’s energies, since the star mana was super effective, naturally the demonic resists something that is effective from them.
It was slow, hard, tiring work.
It took a lot of their massive star mana to ‘undo’ the demon king’s corruption.
It’s so massive, the extent of the devastation.
Still, it made the three of them feel a bit better.
Unlike Astra and Gerrard, they came to this continent, and most of what was destroyed, they’ve seen and visited them.
Becky even had attachments for certain places she visited, and it made her sad to watch them destroyed, or turned into this corrupted...
The druid that aided them was a middle aged man, who truly enjoyed restoring the terrain back to some semblance of normalcy.
The journey was hard on the druids, the heroes were young and they had skills that made them strong.
“Let’s rest.” He said, exhausted from using his druidic powers.
“I’ve used up my [mend earth], [land restoration], and I don’t think I can take more of that...
The heroes nodded.
Using star mana on the druids strained their bodies, star mana was strong, kind of like an extremely powerful chemical, and the body suffers from it.
Overdose knocks them out.
But it was way more effective that using mend earth and land restoration, and so the druids did it.
There were a few other druids too, but they were far younger and less skilled than the middle aged man.
It was hard, and the odd monsters were tough for the druids.
“This corruption is unreal.” One young druid said, but then, he had said it so many times.
The other druids just shrugged.
“When are we going to reach the border...”
“A few more days, I hope.” The druids talked.
The heroes could just sigh.
Harris wondered whether they would’ve been able to stop the demonic rod if they were faster.
Still, the corruption was so thick, trade and communications with the outside world was almost totally cutoff.
The druids hoped to cut a ‘road’ through the corrupted lands, as that could restore some of that trade and communication.
There were some cities that survived, though they are all in a perilous state when the heroes found them.
The three heroes looked at each other and sighed.
All was not well.
One of the main things they discovered was their blessings changed.
Their blessings were weaker, now just regular blessings of gods, not whatever it initially was, and their star mana pool was no longer growing, and it took far longer to regenerate.
And their skills, especially those classified as [divine] changed.
Instead, all of them were replaced as a [heroic] skill.
So, that meant Astra’s Global Chat ability changed into limited uses.
What’s the point of such a change They sometimes wondered.
Harris recalled the conversation on the day all their skills changed.
Exactly 3 months after the demon king died.
“The gods never truly intended to give us this power forever.” Mirei sighed.
“Maybe it costs them something to summon us and maintain this power.
Now that we’ve done what we needed, they tossed us out, like trash.”
Becky had a sip of tea, and just mused.
“What was given freely, can be freely taken away.
We’ve always been...
Mirei looked at Becky.
“I feel cheated.”
“All of us do.”
“The gods never intended for us to survive till the next demon king Or will they return the divine power to us when the next demon king comes”
That was a few months ago, and in 3 months since then, they’ve managed to purify quite a large area.
There’s a whole lot more to go.
Two year after the demon king has fallen, around Year 87
Harris was alone.
Becky and Mirei got tired, and they all wanted to do something else.
Both of them had left for another continent.
Mirei said she wanted a holiday, and she said she would be back, but until now, she’s still away.
Harris didn’t feel it was necessary to call her back.
The process of detoxifying the terrain was hard, laborious work.
He had to constantly infuse his star mana into the druids, such that the druid’s could then mix that star mana into their ‘natural healing’ abilities.
Hard work, and he could see why they weren’t keen on constantly doing it, what more when the gods just took away their divine powers.
They felt cheated, and both the girls wanted to just enjoy themselves.
All of them did.
So, the progress of detoxifying slowed.
Only Harris was working on it.
Even he slowed down significantly, only the prospect of claiming additional territory spurring him on.
Last time, he would’ve been worried if they separated, but now, after the levels they gained slaying the demon king, some twenty odd levels, he wasn’t worried.
They kept their levels, and they are still leagues above any regular human.
He didn’t even know if there are other people in the high 100s of levels.
And he had the shards of the fallen.
7 of them.
Blessings of the Fallen Heroes].
“Archduke Harris, the new group of druids have arrived.”
A druid knelt on the grass.
Harris frowned, and wished he had some tea.
A King saw it fit to award Harris with the ‘Archduke’ title, and concurrently granted him dominion over the territory he reclaimed from the demonic corruption.
“Rise.” There were about a hundred druids behind the first druid, they were on their knees before high nobility too.
Many of them came from far away, from the other continents to do the laborious task of healing the world.
“All of you are here for the quest”
This was a game of some kind.
After the heroes were done, the druids had their quest.
I’ll grant all of you a bit of my hero mana, maybe in the next few days.
My attendants will call for you.”
The gods gave druids the quest to heal the world.
Druids, shamans and spiritualists of all sorts, many had received a ‘quest’ from their own systems, to aid in the fixing of the world.
All of them had rewards.
Fix the world, and gain a blessing of some kind.
Or a special skill.
If heroes were the white-blood cells, the super T-cells of the world, these druids were the platelets.
The corrupted terrain, vast and unforgiving, still remains incredibly hostile, comparable to a hex-wasteland.
The demonic hybrids still roamed the vast expanse, some larger and more fearsome.
It seemed that when enough of them spawned, they agglomerated into a larger beast, and it kept on, until the corrupted wasteland even had ‘walker’ tier creatures.
So, it was his personal reputation as a hero that the druids came here instead.
He could guarantee their safety.
‘Serve Archduke Harris the First, Reclaimer of the Accursed Lands.’
Yet, at the same time, he had to admit it made him happy.
He felt like he was someone, after all the demon king fighting and all.
He was finally a person that people respected and feared.
Women came for him, many gorgeous ladies that Harris could only fantasize about as a young teenager back home.
Money, good food, all seemed to just flow in, and many of the surviving kingdoms now wanted his protection.
The things they were willing to do, the harem that he now personally had, he tried at first, to not let it go to his head.
But how could he His heart wasn’t as strong as he thought it was.
When women were willing to throw themselves at him, he discovered he was human after all.
Now that his friends had left, no one was around to check on his own personal moral compass.
And to some extent, he got lazy and exhausted, just like his friends.
Harris noticed he had given himself excuses.
He would still go and reclaim the lands, but he was increasingly less keen on it, and he took breaks, every now and then.
To spend time with his growing harem, and to enjoy the luxuries from reclaiming a land.
He even had a new class, on top of his original class, the [Defender Hero].
And, if he wanted, the system allowed him to exchange some levels in [hero], for [ruler].
One level for five levels, at least, for the first thirty [Noble] levels.
So he did.
He gave up 10 levels of hero, and instead he got 50 levels of [Noble].
This was fine, Harris told himself.
The gods had abandoned him.
So did his friends.
What’s wrong with him indulging a bit This is the reward after the victory, no This was what the gods promised.
Gerrard had always been drinking.
Somehow, his [heroic body] meant he could enjoy the benefits of being drunk, without ever suffering from the medical and health issues that over consuming alcohol usually brings.
In fact, if he ever felt too tipsy, all he needed to do was activate [rejuvenate], and he would be as good as new again.
But he enjoyed the state of being ‘drunk’.
It gave him, if anything, a clarity similar to what he used to have before.
When he was still just a normal person.
Which is insane, because here is a debaucherous man who’s favourite hangout is sleazy brothels where the scent of aphrodisiacs, alcohol and drugs is the only thing one can smell.
In between rounds of drinking he would often laugh at how insane it was, that here, he, once a good student, a law-abiding young teenager who loved playing with toy trains even when he was already in his early teens, turned into this.
He cursed the gods.
It was when he had a damned good wine that was imported from far away that he realised this whole thing was **ed up.
Or maybe he was granted a blessing by the gods of wine and alcohol, if there was such a thing as a Bacchus of Dionysus equivalent in the world.
Today, he found that wine again.
That special ginger-mixed herbal liqueur.
The merchant was grinning, and he tossed a small pouch of gold and gems over.
The merchant gladly passed it to one of the two ladies next to him.
“Should I open it” A voluptuous lady next to him asked, she was half undressed anyway.
She held the bottle up, she wondered what’s so great about the herbal liqueur.
“Or should I order something more expensive”
This is mine.
You two drink something else.”
He inspected it.
It was a very old liqueur, made around three hundred years ago, mixed with the leaves and fruits of an ancient grove.
That grove was destroyed during one of the demon king’s battles a hundred or so years ago, so the legend goes.
He opened it gently, and poured himself a small sip.
And when he drank it, he felt it again.
That annoying haze suddenly pushed aside.
And he could hear the voice in the drink again.
A gentle one.
As if his grandmother was talking to him.
He was quite sure it was the Earth Mother itself that was talking to him.