After receiving the seed from Julia, Udona took Sinclair away and led him towards a great valley far away in a distant portion of Sanctum. Within the valley rested a number of wooden, towering structures. However, that was not what one would immediately focus on when they entered the valley.
The region seemed to be overflowing with life, vibrant flowers decorating the ground. Furthermore, this was the only place in the world that one could currently find animal life, creatures ranging from small insects to larger fauna roaming the valley in peace. “Welcome to the Valley of Life, the domain I’ve taken as my own.” Udona spoke up next to Sinclair as he took in the scenery.
He had wandered through Sanctum for quite a while prior, yet he had never intruded on a claimed land. Thus, this was his first time truly seeing the abode of any of the Greater Pantheon… not counting the more simple wooden home that he had just left.
“Huh? Oh, Julia’s place? That’s not actually Aurivy’s domain.” Udona said as if reading his mind. “Though, she does live there. Aurivy’s domain is the Crossroads, a small section of road she made in the middle of… well, it’s moving all the time, so I don’t really know where it is now. If someone finds the Crossroads and walks down one of its paths, she said that they’ll end up in a special trial she created.”
Sinclair nodded his head, keeping that in mind. In fact, he had once seen a strange set of crossroads during his random travels. It was rather memorable as the roads were in the middle of the forest, each path tucking behind a tree and vanishing just out of sight.
At the time, Sinclair simply thought that the road was a leftover of some planned construction, or a failed domain of some god. The last thing that he expected was for it to be the wandering domain of one of the Greater Pantheon. Though, if he had known, he still would have avoided stepping on the roads. He had spent so much time being lost in the world that it had become his domain, and he did not want to tempt fate even further.
Udona led him deeper into the valley, towards the series of wooden palaces that had been erected. “This is where my knights all construct their palaces, as I want everyone to have a sense of unity. Most of them spend their time within the world of mortals to perform their duties, but this is really more of a symbolic gesture than anything else. After all, what will happen when this world is occupied by more and more gods, each wanting to make their mark?”
Sinclair wanted to say that that wouldn’t happen. That there wouldn’t come a time when the ‘Divine Realm’ had a population crisis. But, given how many people had been ascending in recent years, especially those of ‘divine conglomerates’, he could not confidently say that it was true. “What… will happen?” He asked, genuinely curious. They created this world with their divine power, would they really watch it fall to ruin from overcrowding?
Catching his intention, Udona simply chuckled. “They’re working it out. Sanctum is just the first of its kind. As the need grows, we’ll make more and more divine planets, making sure that each one is integrated in the same system of divinity. Of course, that could take ages to reach the point where we’d need another Sanctum. For now… ah, here should do.”
After she said that, Udona stopped walking and looked around the area. The satellite towers surrounding the primary palace appeared to be evenly spaced upon closer inspection, taking up positions like the numbers on a clock. However, several of those positions were still empty, including the position where they were currently standing.
“Plant it in divine soil, and move back…” Udona nodded her head, reaching down to scoop out some of the soil in the ground with her bare hands. Sinclair watched the goddess literally getting her hands dirty with an incredulous expression until she had dug a small hole, just barely as big as her fists.
Once the hole was dug, she dropped the acorn inside and covered it back up. However… perhaps Julia should have been more specific about what counted as ‘planting’ the seed. Clearly, Udona took it to mean that the seed would be planted once she had filled in the hole, so she made sure to diligently fill it back in. A feat which took far more than ten seconds.
The ground cracked as Udona’s eyes briefly went wide. “I’ve made a huge mistake.” She muttered, just in time to get punched in the gut by a rapidly rising column of wood, carrying her into the skies as it rose. Sinclair, having been a small distance away, was able to jump back the moment the wooden column formed.
He watched as the Goddess of Life had the breath knocked out of her, her body anchored on one of the parapets atop the central tower. It grew to a height of over a hundred meters, expanding outwards as it did so, before finally stopping. When the rapid construction had finished, Udona wordlessly grabbed the parapet and lifted herself off.
Descending back to the ground as the picture of grace, her dress was in tatters from the sudden ‘attack’ of the tower. Her crown was crooked, her silken cloak torn from her shoulders and floating away on the wind. Sinclair was even sure he saw a twig sticking out of her hair.
Despite all of this, she landed easily in front of him, evening out parts of her dress as if that would fix the problem. “We never speak of this. Agreed? Agreed.” She muttered, leaving him with no room to comment on the subject.
Back in Julia’s home, the Goddess of Wood was worrying over whether her new ability would truly perform as she hoped. She had even stopped asking about the new game hardware that Aurivy had brought over, much to the surprise of the halfling goddess. “It’ll be fine.” Aurivy promised with a smile. “You gave them the instructions, right?”
Julia nodded her head. “Right. Plant in divine soil, and quickly back away. Ten seconds after planting, it will quickly grow.” Aurivy smiled wider as Julia repeated the instructions, as if it would soothe her concerns.
However, before she could say anything else, Aurivy suddenly hugged her stomach, bursting out in laughter that had her falling back on the floor. “Oh… oh Me. Oh, I am so saving this!” She called out, confusing Julia.
“Saving… what?” Julia asked, leaning down and poking the hysterical goddess on the cheek. “Are you going to share what’s funny with the class?”
Aurivy eventually calmed down from her laughter, looking with watery eyes towards Julia. “When you said ‘plant in divine soil’, what exactly did you mean?”
Julia blinked in confusion. “Place the acorn within the soil, preferably within one and a half inches of soil. Why, did something go wrong?” Julia suddenly became nervous again as the topic was brought up.
“Oh, in the best of ways.” Aurivy chuckled. “Udona took her time covering the seed back up after burying it manually.” Julia’s eyes went wide in fright, and she bolted to her feet.
“O-Oh no, is she okay? I didn’t mean for anything like that to happen… Why would she do it like that?” Dozens of questions flashed through her mind at once, trying to squeeze them all out before they fluttered away, but Aurivy only grinned playfully.
“You see, much like myself, Udona is a sucker for ceremony. Part of the whole ‘culture goddess’ thing, I guess. And giving her subordinate his own tower is quite the ceremony, so naturally she had to do it by hand. But don’t worry, she’s fine. We’re made of tougher stuff than that, you know. Her clothes got torn to hell, but they weren’t made of divinity anyways. Lesson learned, right?”
Julia blinked at that, looking strangely at Aurivy. “Why wouldn’t she make her clothing out of divinity? Isn’t it more customizable and durable?”
Aurivy, meanwhile, sent Julia a playful grin. “You realize that your divinity is just part of your own body, right? Thus, even if you’re wearing clothes made out of it, you’re still essentially naked? Well, that’s how Udona takes it, anyways.”
Julia could feel her cheeks heating up as she was confronted with that opinion. There was certainly some merit to it, though it was not something that she personally wanted to consider. After all, almost every deity wore armor or clothing made of their divinity. Those that didn’t typically had custom-made divine armor created by expert smiths.
Thankfully, Julia had some of those clothes herself, and had ordered several sets for both herself and her familiar. “She’s not… mad, is she?” Julia asked, gulping as she stared at the still-grinning Aurivy.
“Oh, she’s furious.” Aurivy chuckled. “But not at you. She’s mad that I recorded the scene and sent it to the others. She is never going to live this one down, just watch.”
Seeing that the situation wasn’t too dire for Aurivy to crack a joke, Julia let out a faint sigh of relief. “You had me worried there.” She said, collapsing back on their couch.
“It’s fine. We all know you wouldn’t intentionally harm any of us like that. Though, honestly I’m impressed with the house you made for him. If you could grow seeds like that anywhere, construction workers would have nowhere to go.”
Julia shook her head, bringing a hand up to cover her face. “It needs soil that has enough divinity to kickstart the process. I basically just recorded all of the steps to make the palace as instructions within the seed, and it activates as soon as it has the divinity to follow those steps. In normal soil, it’d just be a dud.”
Aurivy nodded, pulling herself up from the floor. “I figured. Still, his house won’t be growing any seeds of its own like a real tree, will it?”
“Probably not…?” Julia spoke up in an entirely uncertain tone. “I didn’t give it any instructions like that, at least. If she comes back saying that an entire city sprouted up around her palace, we’ll know they make their own seeds.”
“Well, guess we’ll find out.” The halfling said in a playful tone. “So, any ideas for this new headset? Like I said, it comes with a training simulator.”
Julia thought about it briefly. “Does divine energy spent inside actually get used?” Aurivy blinked at her question, not sure as to the answer herself. “I guess that’s another thing we’ll find out the hard way. Honestly, I don’t see it being all that great a sale for the manufacturing cost. The top consumer would be those aiming to train themselves, but those people would already be training themselves without it.”
“The people who do buy it would be those that want to get stronger but don’t have the guts to go out and risk their lives. If they get stronger through a device like this, they’ll still have that cowardly nature, assuming that they don’t just let the power go entirely to their heads.” Aurivy nodded as she listened to Julia’s concerns.
“Both entirely valid! Now, my counterpoint… Fyor. This world is so filled with monsters that five of the top seven floors have not even been fully explored yet. One of them has, but not by us! On the other hand, the lower floors are considerably smaller, with the nineteenth having far less room than Earth. Go down two more floors, and they’re even smaller than Desbar!”
“Fyor is facing a problem right now that this device offers a perfect answer to. They lack the live combat capabilities to improve a new generation of elites through anything other than standardized training. And that training is all well and good for intellectual fields, but it doesn’t let you hone your battle instincts like a real fight would. Without that chance for a real fight, Fyor is on the fast path to stagnation, and maybe even decline if something doesn’t turn it around.”
“You mean, this headset…” Julia looked at the item once again as Aurivy nodded.
“The first game released by Darkflame Technologies for the Gen-Eighteen Neuro-Gear, Ascent of Fyor. It’s a singleplayer game that lets someone train themselves against the monsters of Fyor across all explored floors. Once the player has dominated one floor, that floor will have basic shops to supply their adventure to the next.”
Julia blinked, nodding her head as she could see how that would be a big hit with Fyor. Though, she didn’t quite understand Aurivy’s next comment. “Not that Dana’s going to like the competition, of course…”