Book 6, Chapter 138

Advancement

The root of Nyris’ resentment was difference in power. He and Agamemnon had been about equal when they were below the saint realm, but Agamemnon had broken through first. The Fourth Prince didn’t mind— it was precisely his intention to delay his own growth as much as possible to focus on technique— but the problem was that Agamemnon had grown too fast. By the time he had broken through himself, there was a wide gulf between them.

As for Richard… Both Nyris and Agamemnon knew that there was no way for them to beat Richard at this point. His transformation had been almost freakish, strength no longer measurable by pure level. Although they hadn’t fought yet, the outcome was predefined.

The prince had still been somewhat unresigned to the fact, wanting to duke it out with Richard for the sake of closure if nothing else, but Richard had rushed into battle the moment they met in the Forest Plane. Agamemnon had even mentioned that Richard in the Land of Dusk had been stronger than he himself was now. The meaning was clear: you can’t even beat me, why bother trying against Richard?

If not for Richard’s blinding light, people would be discussing Nyris’ own advancements. He had gotten another private plane from the royal family, opening up a joint venture with Agamemnon. They had already secured their forward base and were firmly rooted, en route to total domination. Of the ten thousand men in the army Richard had assembled, a thousand each came from their own private forces. Another thousand each came from the royal family and the Orleans Family, while the rest were Richard’s troops.

The night was dark, but the camp was brightly lit by bonfires all around. There were flames to heat up the soldiers’ meals, but every tent also had a small personal fire for warmth. The stonewood had been hacked down from the forest right around them, while every soldier carried enough fuel to last a month. Richard knew that the best way to maintain army morale was by keeping them warm and well-fed, so he spared no expense in doing just that.

The round of inspection proved Richard’s conjecture to a degree he hadn’t even hoped for; every soldier was laughing happily while talking to comrades, and there wasn’t the slightest of annoyance from having marched such a long way only to turn back. He decided that he would immediately order the Deepblue to increase production the moment he returned. However, it was but a pipe dream; the Deepblue didn’t have the resources right now to scale up.

Nyris and Agamemnon quickly realised the utility of the fuel as well, but Richard could only spare a few tonnes for each. He had no qualms with selling more, but most of his reserves had already been shipped to the Forest Plane and used on this expedition.

The army finally returned to Emerald City a few days later, immediately turning right around and starting to widen the road that they had opened up. The golden world tree had grown a second leaf in this time, an event that sent a ripple of energy through the entire plane once more. The first leaf of the sapling represented birth, while the second represented control; the tree now had its own region of influence where even a tree of life could not challenge its authority.

The core territory of the golden world tree was now a kilometre in radius, wherein it had absolute control. On the other hand, it could still exert a modicum of control all the way up to a hundred kilometres away; Richard couldn’t help but sigh at its power when he learnt it; this tree certainly qualified to be the base of an empire.

The will of the forest was extremely weak now within a hundred kilometres of Emerald City; in fact, the will had been warped into the control of the golden world tree. Now it was the forest elves and their treants who would be suppressed upon entry, turning the tables on the power dynamic completely. When the tree matured, it would even be able to suppress the original world tree of the plane.

Richard currently had tens of thousands of bird-eating spiders, while the cloned broodmother had 2,500 worker drones. Thinking it over, he decided it was time for his tree of life to advance. This time he wouldn’t be caught off-guard: mobilising three hundred rune knights and two thousand elite warriors, he even transferred Senma and Olar from his other planes just in case. The bard still wasn’t a saint, but he still had great influence on battles of this scale.

Once everything was ready, Richard finally allowed the tree of life to begin. His soldiers had built simple yet solid fortification around the tree of life, and a trench right outside these fortifications was filled with gunpowder. The rune knights were on the tree itself, responsible for handling the most important situations. The original tribe that guarded this tree had been transferred out almost entirely, leaving behind only its most elite hunters and druids. The surviving elites of the Evernight Tribe had been brought over as well, placed on the canopy to guard it.

Three days ago, the workers had rushed over and entered hibernation here, conserving strength for the battle. Only a hundred of them had been left behind to feed the broodmother, while the rest were all present here.

The tree quickly proceeded with its advancement, growing at a rate visible to the naked eye. It would be extremely fragile over the next few days, but if it survived the onslaught of its enemies its own might would grow significantly. At this point, it was a battle of life and death; loss would mean this section of the forest wouldn’t see a tree of life for a long time.

Tens of thousands of bird-eating spiders crawled up the tree of life, nestling themselves in the trunk and on the branches. Many of the local elves had seen them before, but the sheer number still caused one to shudder. There was barely any space left on the enormous tree, and even the nimble elves inevitably stepped on them while getting around.

The spiders were surprisingly docile, not responding even if full pressure was exerted on them, but even so the elves that made this mistake froze up and cringed; this was especially true of the evernight elves who had never seen these things before. The spiders looked rather like puppies at their size, but intuition told everyone just how powerful they were.

It took half a day into the advancement for the first enemy to appear in the distant sky. Woodpecking crows were a creature Richard was familiar with, but when they drew close he was surprised by their low numbers. Ten thousand crows had attacked during the tree’s previous growth, but now there were only six.

Six thousand woodpecking crows still wasn’t a small number, but Richard had tens of thousands of bird-eating spiders on hand; even two to three times this number wouldn’t be a problem at all. Before the birds could even get close they were bombarded by arrows from the canopy and the ground below, nearly a thousand of them going down over half a dozen volleys. When the surviving crows broke through the rain of arrows and rushed to the tree of life, they found grey webbing bursting out to capture them.

The webbing was sticky and tough, grabbing multiple crows at a time. The spiders skittered over the branches to rush to the crows that were captured, tearing them apart in only a few moments. The entire offensive was broken apart almost instantly, and it didn’t take much longer for all of the crows to be wiped out.

It was at this point that Richard heard a faint rustling in the forest. It was very soft, but still managed to send a chill down one’s bones.

Huge ants that were half a metre long rushed out into the meadow, leaping ten metres into the air at a time. Their mandibles were clicking together in a disconcerting call, antennae waving as they flooded towards the tree of life.

The myrmekes were here!

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo