AFTERSTORY 04 – TOWARD EARTH
I called for the heart of the world, asking Saplings all over the world to inform me of anything useful... and useful only.
The World Tree managed the software side of the world while I dealt with the hardware. I was loathe to interrupt its work, but if dark pixies were returning, then there were more important things to prioritize.
The moment I called, the World Tree sent me multiple carefully curated leads. It sure worked fast... actually, was it just me or did the World Tree sound happy when it responded to my request?
According to what it showed me, dark pixies were appearing in several locations around the world and attacking both people and animals. Looking at the places, I realized they were all on the path that I had once taken when playing tag with Fiorfata back then.
Were the dark pixies being spawned from the magic, or maybe the miasma that still remained from my fight with the Unseelie Lord?
...no, I didn’t think so. It was true that quite a lot of the dark pixies were at locations where our fight had been the fiercest, but it that case, the Central Continent should have been the worst victim of the current dark pixies assault by dint of being the location of my final confrontation with Fiorfata. It wasn’t.
The worst affected was instead the southern hemisphere. To be precise, it was the region to the south of where Quarancinq, the city where Fiorfata had manifested, used to be. I knew Fiorfata had done a number on the place, so it wasn’t surprising that dark pixies were now being attracted there... but I still felt like I was missing something.
“...let’s just do what I can first.”
Most other locations had monsters, demihumans... and that Hero to deal with the dark pixies, so I could leave them alone. Instead, I headed for the locations that had been hit the hardest first.
“First off, the sea.”
My teleportation was still limited at the moment. If my destination wasn’t connected to the Sapling network, or if it wasn’t in my field of view, then I couldn’t be accurate. I focused my mind on where I wanted to go and a phantom appeared in front of me, taking the shape of the member of my family that had been reborn as the Sapling closest to my destination.
I took their outstretched hand, and the scenery in front of my eyes shifted.
I departed from the easternmost edge of the Central Continent, crossing the ocean at several times the speed of sound. My flight sent me toward a group of sea dragons fighting a massive horde of dark pixies that had spawned right in the middle of the ocean.
“Get out of the way if you don’t want to die!” I shouted.
The sea dragons hurriedly dove toward the ocean floor. A white ball of pure magic formed between my hands, and I fired it at the mass of tens of thousands of dark pixies.
In an instant, all the ocean that I could see snapped into ice. The horde of dark pixies all froze and crumbled into diamond dust.
Now that I was here, I finally understood. There were mana and miasma here, but more importantly, I also discovered that space here was warped.
Had the dark pixies come from this spatial distortion? But if so, then where from?
“World Tree! Tell me of all the spatial distortions on this planet!”
The reply I got was a list of locations. Where was this? The ocean? This was... an archipelago without a Sapling?
Nowhere else was space as distorted as in that whole region. The area was far away from the Sapling network, and there were a lot of dark pixies.
I couldn’t teleport directly there. There wasn’t any Sapling nearby, and if the spatial warp was truly the cause of the dark pixies, then it wouldn’t be the best idea to expose the Sapling network to tampering by using it.
After I fixed up the space here with my ability, I departed, flying by my own power to the archipelago. Not very far away, luckily. Only about a fourth of the way across the planet.
I flew straight east, switching between flying and short-range teleportation to reach a continent. I aimed my left hand at the dark pixies that were fighting with the monsters there.
The merciful mist descended to heal the monsters, while at the same time turning the dark pixies and the miasma into purifying petals of flame.
I repaired space with Dimensional Manipulation and headed further west. Just about when I exited the continent and re-entered the sea, I caught sight of the archipelago I was looking for.
I found myself frowning right after.
I understood now.
While the World Tree’s blessing reached even the ocean floor, the Tree and the Saplings themselves were on land. These fishpeople had never directly experienced the World Tree’s blessing, and so they thought it insignificant. They wanted more. They wanted to gain another blessing even from outside this world.
Their money-making through the slave trade, their attempt to prevent the other races from working together, it was all because they wanted this to succeed.
In front of me was a settlement of fishpeople large enough to have housed several tens of thousands. Now, all of it was swallowed by a muddy grey mass.
Some of the inhabitants were still alive. Most of them, however, had already had the grey infesting them throughout their whole bodies. One after another, their strength failed them and they sank into the mud, turning into nurseries to give birth to more dark pixies.
These fishpeople had used the money they’d gained to buy up everything that the Earth people had left behind. They had torn open space and time in order to summon the Blessed Corpus of the Unseelie Lord, Fiorfata.
...God, save me!
Voices of agony, voices of things about to cross the threshold of life and unlife, prayed to God for salvation.
I understood their desperation. However...
“Don’t pray to God only when it suits you.”
The air trembled as I Spoke words laden with divine authority. The wailing stopped as though frightened, and the ever-spawning swarm of dark pixies crumbled into dust and disintegrated.
No good and kind god is here on this world, not anymore. This is the only kind of mercy I can grant you. The only kind I know.
The Demon’s Oblivion. The blizzard from my right hand shot forward to lay waste to the malevolent energy and souls, transforming them into fluttering petals of ice. The grey-colored Blessed Corpus disintegrated, taking the whole settlement of fishpeople with it.
The threat was gone. I just needed to fix up the spatial topography here, and things should come to a close by themselves.
...the Earth-made equipment had been destroyed, yet the dimensional distortion here still remained. Where had the Blessed Corpus that had passed through that distortion come from?
“...Earth, is it.”
There were greedy people making another mistake again, it seemed...
I sighed in resignation. I raised my hand toward the dimensional distortion that still connected the two worlds, but just before I could embark on another dimensional crossing, my hand was knocked away with a sparking jolt.
It felt like... the World Tree stopping me from going to Earth?
I would ask why... but I already knew. The World Tree was kind. I had suffered during my time on Earth, and so it was worrying for me, fearing I would once again be hurt if I went there again.
“...it’s fine. I got a lot stronger now. I had nothing but bad memories of Earth, but it’s still one of my homes. Please, World Tree... let me protect my two homes.”
I implored. Then, I felt my restraints melt away.
“Thank you... I promise I’ll be back. You’re here, after all. You and everyone.”
I activated Dimensional Manipulation on the distortion, and I made the transition toward Earth.
This was the first time I came to Earth by myself without using the MMO game’s equipment. I didn’t know where on Earth I would arrive at. I only knew it would be where the cause of all this lay.
I appeared in the sky. The chilly wind of a snow storm blasted at me.
“...what... is that?”
I saw a vast forest coated in white snow. It was half-submerged in squirming, writhing Blessed Corpus, the grey mud stretching out as far as I could see.
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