Book 4, Chapter 35

Separation

The next item on the list was to negotiate with the grand elder. However, the Tree of Life interrupted him before he could head in that direction, “Please wait a moment. I sense a familiar aura upon you, a special weapon that is deep in slumber. Its powers are greatly weakened, but I can replenish some of its energy should you so wish.”

“Special weapon?” Richard paused for a moment before turning around to look at his nameless elven sword. This weapon had been passed to him by his father, but even Gaton didn’t know of its origin. It didn’t have any special properties, its only saving grace coming from the fact that it was built strong enough to avoid any damage. In truth, the weapon was a little too long for Richard’s liking; he only brought it along because it was the only gift Gaton had ever given him.

Of course, the young Archeron would never admit that.

Richard gave the sword up to the Tree of Life, who wrapped a branch around it and pulled it into its trunk. A gentle flash of green light later, the weapon had disappeared. “I will need a day to replenish its energy.”

“I’m in no hurry, there are several things that require my attention right now.”

A few moments later, Richard met with the elven grand elder in the treehouse atop the Tree of Life. The old elf still seemed to be weak, his severe wounds not yet healed, but with Richard, Nyris, and Agamemnon surrounding him there would have been no point even if he was at peak strength.

“You already know the tree’s decision, do you still need to hesitate?” Richard went straight to the point.

A pained expression flashed across the elder’s face, locked in a struggle with himself. Nyris moved forward to negotiate, promising the safety of the remaining elves and that the deserters would not be harmed if they returned. This finally showed a princely side of the fiery youth; his tone was gentle but firm, capable of rousing others to follow along with his thoughts. The grand elder eventually agreed to surrender.

The few hundred elves lucky enough to still be alive were clustered together, clearly lost and helpless. The biggest blow had come when the Tree of Life decided to negotiate with Richard for survival, destroying the one thing they would willingly sacrifice themselves for. Any past significance was wiped out, replaced by a single train of thought. Was there a need to fight the invaders anymore, to avenge the dead tribesmen? If even the Tree of Life had reached an agreement with the devils, would an attack on them not be an attack on what was once the centre of their world?

When the weary grand elder emerged from his treehouse to announce his decision to surrender, what he got was not angry insults but lost and helpless stares. Even the radical druid was deafeningly silent.

Sharp cries rang out from the prison beneath the Tree of Life, the wails of the bloodsucking vines. Richard and Lina were constantly burning the wretched things down, the latter’s draconic flames unaffected by this plane’s atmosphere. The vines were quickly destroyed, the captives thus cremated. Richard joined his warriors in picking out some of the bones that had managed to survive the conflagration, digging a few graves beside the Tree to bury them in.

Secretly watching him, the elven grand elder felt that their fate might not be too bad. From the moment he had surrendered, his tribe’s fate was now tied to Richard’s mood.

Richard returned to Emerald City over the next few days, having the unicorn escort a platoon of warriors across the thirty-kilometre danger zone to safeguard the Tree of Life. About a hundred warriors commanded by an elite humanoid knight were put in charge of watching over the locals, ordered not to engage any new foes actively.

Those elves who were unable to fight were permitted to remain, while those that could were separated into two groups. One was to defend the Tree of Life alongside the grand elder, while the other was brought back to Emerald City. This was the most effective method to ensure that the elves honoured their side of the agreement. Had it not been for the fact that the young elves needed the breath of life to grow, he would have brought them along as well.

The forest elves were much different from those of Norland, who once rivalled the human empires. They were not overly refined, nor did they care much for the arts. They remained in a state of primality, more warlike and barbaric. Richard did not trust them. Without harsh restrictions, they were guaranteed to rebel.

The same went for the Tree of Life. Flowsand had forced it to make an oath before the Book of Time, locking the vow with divine power. The Tree of Life would face grave punishment if it reneged, but considering its size, will, and the territorial advantage, she couldn’t guarantee that the binding was absolute.

The city remained a target of sporadic attacks coming from the other two tribes. There was no telling how far the other two trees were, but it was certain that the distance was at least a hundred kilometres.

By the time Nyris made another trip to the Tree of Life to get the new batch of eternal springwater, the situation had stabilised. Richard sent out several detachments of woodcutters to open a path towards the tribe they now had under control; there were no more walking trees in this direction. The other tribes had continued with the walking woods, but now armed with the experience necessary to deal with them Richard had taught them a grave lesson. Once three druids had been killed across two attacks, the tribes didn’t dare to casually use their druids again.

Time flew by, and soon they had been on the Forest Plane for two months. Richard had used an entire month after the situation was under control to craft another Guide of Secrets and Savage Strike set, before discussing things with Nyris and Agamemnon to return to Norland once more.

Massive amounts of resources were carried along on the trip back, consisting mainly of different types of exotic woods of which Uranor’s trunk was the most precious. While Agamemnon had destroyed the treant’s heart in the battle, there was still plenty of life force concentrated in the core that was mostly intact. This wood alone was worth 300,000 gold, and when the rest was added up it far surpassed that amount.

This showed the value of the Forest Plane. Just the logging alone could produce more than 1.2 million gold coins in a year, the net profit reaching 800,000 gold after costs were subtracted. However, that wasn’t even the most valuable resource from the plane.

The fruit of life was priceless to those nearing the end of their lives. It was similar to the Torrent of Life blessing, but that blessing was extremely rare and could only be guaranteed through a titled priestess who would need three to four times the normal amount of divine grace. Besides, gold and offerings often weren’t enough to win a titled priestess’ assistance.

Considered in isolation, the fruit of life that could extend one’s lifespan by ten years for sure would be worth about 30-40 years of divine grace. However, because any blessing obtained from the Eternal Dragon had at least some worth, it was roughly equivalent to 15 years overall. This was the same as what Richard had gained from the skull of the greater devil, and according to their agreement two-thirds of it belonged to Richard.

Nyris eventually traded for the entire fruit using offerings from his personal warehouse, planning to present it to his father in exchange for points. The fruit of life would definitely give him more than any equally-priced offering, although the prince had no idea why that was so.

Richard wasted no time to hold the sacrifice, but things like new bloodline abilities, increased levels, or legendary equipment did not appear at all. The only thing he acquired was ten more years of life, something that left both him and Nyris confused whether to rage or laugh. This was no different from just eating the fruit of life himself.

Richard used the 400,000 gold’s worth of income from the Forest Plane to buy enchanted equipment to send to Faelor. Having tarried in Norland for two days, he quickly realised three months had passed in his primary base. Accompanied by Flowsand, he returned to Faelor once more.

……

The moment he stepped out of the teleportation gate, Richard received a message from the broodmother, “Master, I have new information that requires your attention.”

His mind was suddenly flooded, and it took some time to sift through the dreary data. However, in the middle of reading through it, he suddenly gasped, “A new seed?”

“It is not an entirely new entity,” the broodmother explained, “but a soul shared with mine. You can view it as an extension of myself in another plane, only requiring a small price to create…”

Almost done analysing Zuka’s blood, the broodmother had gained a new ability: it could now incubate a new seed of destruction!

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: JH

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA