Book 4, Chapter 34

Wisdom And Survival

Richard responded to the floating elf’s question with one of his own, “You’re the Tree of Life?”

“Yes. I am speaking to you through one of my guardians.”

He cast a detection spell on the elven warrior in mid-air, noticing that his life force was being drained rapidly. It was quite evident that bearing the tremendous consciousness of the Tree of Life far exceeded the limits of this one warrior.

To communicate with a lifeform as tremendous as the Tree of Life, one needed either the power to sustain its consciousness or the talent to harmonise with it. This elf possessed neither, so he had to substitute power with life force.

“It seems like you don’t treasure the lives of these guardians,” Richard commented.

“Their duty is to protect me, their destiny is to sacrifice themselves for my sake.” The remaining elves seemed to have no objections to this statement.

Richard laughed, “Then you shouldn’t talk about death and destruction. Our principles and standpoints are different, I’m not here to reason with you. Still, here’s a chance. You seem to possess wisdom other trees of life can only strive for, so persuade me not to cut you down and take your core. Your body is of great value to us.”

The Tree of Life went silent for a moment before asking, “What do you suggest?”

“Depends. What can you do for us? We can obtain many things with your core; strength, powerful divine weapons, extended lives…” Richard relaxed as he said this, and Nyris grew excited as well. The more intelligent this tree of life was, the more precious it became. The core of the tree was indeed a rare offering that could power a greater sacrifice, but a live tree was even more valuable than that.

By this point, the floating elf had been drained of life. The Tree of Life tossed him aside without hesitation, picking up another warrior that had been taken captive and taking over his mind. The entire process took a few minutes, enough time for the Tree to think up the pros and cons.

“May I know your intent in coming here?” the Tree of Life asked slowly.

“We are here for conquest and resources, not endless plundering and destruction.” Seeing the tree grow quiet at this statement, Richard reminded it, “Those elves aren’t your protectors any more. They belong to me, so if you want to use up their lives without end I’ll just take your core.”

This forced the Tree to abandon its silence, speaking in a low, drawn-out voice, “If you live on my body, you can absorb the natural breath of life that I release to strengthen yourself more quickly. I also gather all the life force in the forest and condense it into eternal springwater, something that can heal lives and ensure lifeforms with low fertility give birth to their offspring. My springwater can allow for ten elves to get pregnant every year, but a more powerful being will need more of it.”

Many of those present were surprised, prompting Nyris to ask some key questions, “What range of beings can the eternal springwater be used on, can it be fed to sacred beasts? Also, how strong does one need to become before it loses effect?”

“Within my knowledge, there is no limit to the usage of the eternal springwater. It can be used on sacred beasts as well, but a true-blooded beast will likely require a great amount. Even several decades of springwater might not be enough.”

Richard was rather confused by the question, asking softly at Nyris’ ear, “What do you want it for?”

“To get a dragon to lay an egg.”

Richard was extremely excited upon hearing this, but didn’t so much as bat an eyelid before the Tree of Life, “That isn’t enough, what else?”

Having heard that Richard’s motive was to take over the plane and not destroy it, the Tree of Life had already resolved itself to compromise. Its tone grew even gentler, “Every decade, I grow a fruit full of life force. If consumed, it will increase one’s natural lifespan by about a decade.”

Everyone immediately grew excited at the prospect. Fruits of life were a legendary treasure in Norland, extremely rare to find. With most of the elven tribes now fading away from the main continent, they were gradually forgotten by the people. Even Richard had forgotten the fruit of life in front of the exact creature that could make it.

The ordinary trees of life that supported small elven tribes in Norland could not produce fruits of life. It seemed like the unique environment of the Forest Plain allowed the Tree to produce fruits. The eternal springwater and fruit of life definitely had more value than a one-time sacrifice using the tree’s core, mainly because there was a constant source of them. This was partly due to the fact that the tree’s core would have to be cut out and processed before it could be sent back to Norland through the portal. Flowsand’s Book of Time could act as an interim altar, but it needed many more upgrades before the loss in divine grace grew acceptable.

“What else?” Richard continued asking.

“My young branches are one of the best materials to make nature staffs with, but not too many should be taken lest I be harmed. Only two of these special branches can be picked out.”

This could be considered an extra gain as well. It was then that Richard remembered something else, asking, “Could you rid us of the pressure from the forest’s will?”

“Yes. As long as you eat one of my leaves, the forest will acknowledge you and allow you to move around the parts under my jurisdiction without problems. My range is about a hundred kilometres; I will need to grow further to expand it.”

Richard rapidly outlined the range in his mind. This tree was about 230 kilometres away from the planar gates, and the gates themselves made everything in a hundred-kilometre radius safe. However, this still left a thirty-kilometre danger zone between them; unless the unicorn was brought around, even a saint like Scherr wouldn’t be able to cover the entire distance safely. “That’s a little small. Are there any other ways of weakening the forest’s will?”

The Tree of Life went silent for quite some time, but the suggestion it returned with was surprising, “… Cut the trees. Every tree cut weakens the forest’s will, and a kilometre-wide path will allow for absolute safety within its centre. On top of that, those who have eaten my leaves will be able to resist the will even outside my control much more easily.”

Richard nodded; thirty square kilometres of woodcutting wasn’t unfeasible. He then asked his last question, “How many trees of life exist in this forest, and are there any world trees?”

“I am one of 36. The mighty World Tree exists in a distant region that I do not know of.”

“Can you mark out the locations of the trees of life?”

The Tree of Life went silent for a while, eventually rejecting him, “My apologies, this oversteps my instinctual commands. If I state their locations, I will immediately decay. All trees of life have invisible connections with each other, and I can only function within our rules. The best I can do is to reveal that there are three trees of life surrounding your city, of which I am one.”

“Alright, that will be enough,” Richard did not force it any further, “Do you have any fruits right now?”

The tree’s trunk trembled slightly, as though it was suffering from excruciating pain. A branch slowly stretched out from deep within the crown, hanging down in front of Richard with a green fruit at its tip. The peel was nearly transparent, allowing one to see that it was filled with a jadelike liquid. It emitted a light fragrance; just smelling it would leave one refreshed.

This was an additional ten years of life!

Richard was the first to regain his senses, looking around to see many still staring at the fruit in a trance while some were deep in thought. Scherr looked eager to give it a try, while Pamir looked defeated and shook his head helplessly. Lina looked towards Richard; the Dragon Mage could still summon Kaloh, their greatest trump card right now.

It didn’t take long for Nyris and Agamemnon to recover as well. They turned towards Richard, and the former shrugged, “Let’s leave this thing with you first, we’ll discuss distribution later.”

With Nyris already expressing his stance, the subordinates naturally gave up all their desires as well. Richard did not decline, taking out his image diamond case and placing the fruit inside. The tree trembled once more when the fruit was plucked.

The branch was not retracted after the fruit was picked, the tree’s voice sounding once more, “This can be used as a material for a nature staff, and the leaves can control the forest’s will.”

Richard picked the leaves and gave everyone present one, taking a few hundred more and placing them inside a box. His elites would receive them when he returned.

This expedition was full of gains. Richard looked up at the Tree of Life, “If the other elves figure out your situation, will they try to snatch you back or destroy you?”

“They will not destroy me, it is against the law. However, they will do their utmost to exterminate you and allow me to return to them naturally. I promise you that until all of the soldiers you leave behind defending me have fled or fallen, I will remain by their side in battle.”

Richard smiled, patting the branch in front of him, “Great! I’m glad we could come to an understanding.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA