After roughly five minutes of waiting, the trunk of the tree began to distort. A passageway opened within the knotted wood, and a figure stepped out. This figure was clearly the same species as those surrounding the two demons, with one stark difference. Unlike the green skin of the others, this one had a yellow, almost golden skin tone.
What was more shocking was that it soon opened its mouth, speaking in a tongue familiar to the demons, the elven language of Earth. “You… come from the otherworld.” The figure spoke with some difficulty, as if it had to strain itself to speak. Thankfully, there were some languages that were taught in every school, those most likely to be encountered in the different worlds. This elven language was one of those.
“T-that’s right.” Alice nodded her head. “How is it you can speak like that? I don’t believe that we have ever met before.”
“I am Cicily of Learning.” The figure said, stepping forward again. With every word, her speech seemed to become more natural and flowing, soon sounding as if she was a true, native speaker. “I learned the voice of the tree’s mother, and use it to speak with you.”
As she said that, she lightly waved her hands, releasing a gentle flow of green light. Vines began to rise up from the ground, wrapping around the roots of the great tree. These vines then thickened, and small green fruits began growing from them like grapes.
In some form of quiet understanding, the nearby plant people all walked over to the vines, each plucking a fruit and eating it. Afterwards, they began to gasp, making simple noises with brand new voices.
“These fruits will bestow the youth with a voice of their own.” Cicily explained. “It will take time for them to speak as we do, but that is fine. For now, you wish to speak with me?”
Alice watched the events unfolding, having to snap her attention back to what was clearly the leader of this grove. “That’s right. We come from the ‘otherworld’ that you spoke of, a planet known as Desbar. Our objective here is to create a sustainable colony on this planet. During our last mission, your people were not present. Now that they are… we find ourselves needing to negotiate to ensure peaceful relations.”
Cicily nodded her head slowly, listening to the words. She fell silent after Alice finished, needing to take time to find the meaning for many of the words that she had used. “You wish your people to live on this world, and in doing so seek the aid of the forest.”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.” Alice confirmed simply.
“There is a concept within the memories of the tree’s mother, one which weighed heavily within her heart.” Cicily spoke in a pleasant tone. “Trade. Equivalence. Cooperation through mutual benefit. If you are able to offer something of value to the forest, the forest shall be your ally.”
If there was any doubt before, Alice was now certain that the tree had been born from an elf in some way. One who firmly believed in the teachings of Ryone. Alice took a deep breath, thinking over her options. Clearly, there was no point in offering up resources or advanced technology. For the former, these people had plenty, and they wouldn’t know what to do with the latter.
However, as she was thinking about that, Alice’s eyes went wide. She recalled the title that Cicily had given herself. “Knowledge. What if we can supply you with knowledge beyond what you possess?”
Cicily closed her eyes in thought. “While I myself hold a deep interest in the wonders of knowledge, this is not a direct benefit to the forest as a whole. However, if I obtain suitable information, I can then pass it to others. Through this sharing of information, the forest will grow.”
Speaking up to that point, Cicily nodded her head. “Very well, I accept your proposal. You shall share your knowledge, and the forest shall be your ally. May the tree bear witness to our agreement.”
“Ashlin, did you get all of that?” Alice spoke up into her radio, earning a confused glance from Cicily.
“We read you, Phoenix One. Trade Agreement has been approved. We’re compiling all of the information we have on the Druid, Shaman, Herbalist, and Alchemist classes. Ask if they’d prefer it in written or verbal form.”
“Verbal, if you would.” Cicily responded, showing that she could clearly hear the faint voice in Alice’s ear. “The memories of the tree’s mother did not include enough information for me to read her language.”
My eyes were focused on the scene below, on the interaction between Cicily and Alice. However, it was undoubtedly Cicily that captured the vast majority of my focus. That was because of some information I received when I first saw her.
Cicily – Level 273 Sylvan Demigoddess of Learning
That was why she called herself ‘Cicily of Learning’, because the system itself had assigned that trait to her. Or maybe it was something that the tree subconsciously decided. Her level was rapidly increasing, primarily as a druid and scholar, allowing her to reach her current level after a meager few days.
Entering in a few mental commands, I counted the number of fruits within the branches of the tree. At the lowest level, the green fruits were just starting to grow back in, and there were a total of seventy-five thousand of them. This roughly matched the number of currently living Sylvans.
The next layer had the blue fruits, which were almost ready to fall. Of those, there were forty thousand. Following that was twenty thousand red fruits that seemed to be at varying stages in their growth, and… nine gold. For the nine gold, they were barely noticeable, with one extra that had been lifted up by the tree itself and placed nearer the trunk. That extra fruit had already ripened and ‘hatched’, which no doubt resulted in Cicily.
That is to say… the golden fruits would likely all give birth to demigods. There may even be an actual divinity among them. As for the others… the green fruits seemed to be the most simple sylvans, those who were not even born with vocal cords.
The only reason that the ‘green sylvans’ were able to speak was because of those fruits that Cicily had grown. I don’t know how she managed to do it, but those fruits modified the throats of the sylvans that ate them, giving them a working set of vocal cords. The only thing that I could come up with was that her demi-domain gave her the ability to quickly understand concepts, and she was able to understand the difference between herself and her ‘sisters’.
If she was able to physically modify the other sylvans through fruits like that, then it was entirely possible that more drastic modifications could be made in the future. And they were giving her all of the information that she would need to do just that with the records of those four classes…
Following the information provided by the demons, there was a rapid shift in the forest. The trees grown from the roots of the ‘parent tree’ began shifting under Cicily’s guidance, turning into various facilities. Some trees sold knowledge, others sold potions or tools.
For the tools, these were plant-based replicas of things such as swords, armor, or farming equipment. Blades were replaced by serrated barbs attached to iron-like bark, a similar material used as the foundation for armor.
The currency that the shop accepted turned out to be ‘contribution’ to the forest. Clearing away the ‘food-beings’, what they called the monsters, and helping to spread the forest allowed the sylvans to earn points. These points were tallied and kept by Cicily herself, who served as the leader of the sylvans. Whenever someone wished to acquire something from the shops, they need only possess proper contribution.
This became the basis of the ‘merchant’ society of the sylvans, and also fueled their growth. The demons had barely finished setting up their habitat for Phoenix One when the forest had reached their location.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing was when the trees themselves became capable of talking. Not directly, but Cicily had discovered a way to transmit her voice through the trees, as if connected to a speaker system. This was first discovered when a tree with a pattern reminiscent of a face grew outside of their habitat.
As Alice went to investigate the tree, it had directly spoken to her in Cicily’s voice. “Don’t mind me.” It said. “I thought that this would make for easier communication between our people.”
Alice simply shook her head with a sigh. “I don’t even know what to expect anymore…”
“One thought becomes ten laws. Ten laws become a thousand truths. A thousand truths confirm the heart… confirm the heart.” Jana muttered, focusing on her internal sea of stars.
Every star represented a ‘truth’. The only question on Jana’s mind became… how can these truths confirm the heart. There were multiple possible answers, but Jana did not have the luxury of trial and error. One misstep on the path of cultivation could lead to the destruction of her body.
After a while, Jana began looking at it a different way. Instead of the laws, truths, and the heart, she thought about the other side of the hint. “One becomes ten, ten becomes a thousand, and a thousand become one. Return to the origin to confirm the heart.”
When that thought struck her, it was as if she had experienced enlightenment. Focusing on her internal sea of stars, she began picking those with ‘similar’ truths and drawing them towards one another. As she did so, these stars began to exude an attractive force, merging together to form a single star.
This began to occur throughout her inner sky, more and more stars joining together, until the countless specks had become a hundred perfect spheres. The moment the last one fell into place, a pulse of energy shot out from Jana’s body, shattering the mountain peak that she sat on. Heavenly radiance poured from above, silver lights glistening off her skin.
Monk has leveled up!
Cultivation advancement detected! You are the first to reach your current realm! Do you wish to name your current realm?
Finally, Jana had broken through the bottleneck, and reached level six hundred as a monk. As she read the system’s announcement, she focused, looking over her current self. With a small sigh, she shook her head. “This shouldn’t be the immortal realm recorded in the murals… Let’s call this the Lord realm.”
The sixth realm of cultivation, the Lord realm, has been registered!
Jana nodded her head as she read that. That’s right, this was the sixth realm… she didn’t know how many more realms were left on the path of cultivation. However, she was determined to see it through to the end. That was what she felt she owed to those who sacrificed themselves for her to make it this far.
“Looks like they’re making good progress on that end.” I nodded my head after checking up on Jana. The Lord realm, or what I knew as Binary Union, was a rather important step in the Profound Star Laws. It represented the change from ‘expansion’ to ‘compression’.
One more rank, and she would arrive at Nova Merge. Given the path that she was pursuing, that would likely be the limit of her cultivation, unless she chose to cultivate additional laws. Otherwise, I couldn’t see her advancing again after that.
Perhaps thankfully, the water path that she chose cultivated both ki and natural energy. While I wasn’t sure what type of energy body would be created through that union, the very fact that there were multiple energies should enable her to step into that realm. And, unless I am mistaken, that should be the realm which she knows as ‘immortal’.