A Gentle Lie

A faint light shot out of Richard’s eyes as he looked over Lina’s body. Her robes were made of ordinary material that was as good as transparent to his examination, so he could see the blast lines of the scar running down what was once exquisite skin in many places. Thankfully, he was growing more and more confident that a level 18 priest could heal this completely. At the very least he could convince Noelene to do it.

As his gaze shifted down in the midst of thought, he suddenly saw something he shouldn’t have. It had to be said that Lina’s breasts were breathtakingly beautiful, firm and perky despite their enormous size. Furthermore, they hadn’t been harmed by the draconic flames, although it was unclear whether this was her subconsciously protecting them or her robes having some sort of enchantment for it. If none of those, the contract rune could have aided in the defence as well.

Although Richard could control his outward reactions to the sight, his heart started beating faster no matter how hard he tried to calm himself. He cursed silently, unsure whether Lina had discovered something was amiss. Her face was tilted a little, the side with the scar turned away, so at least it didn’t seem like she had noticed.

He worked up the courage to survey her entire body once more, realising that a bulk of her scars and internal injuries could be completely healed by Noelene. The only thing that wouldn’t get a full recovery right away was her face, but it would only be left with tiny scars that could be covered up with a half-mask just like Phaser. Almost everyone within Emerald City had already seen the assassin, and there was widespread agreement that the half-mask only added to her attractiveness.

However, he would only tell her these things once Noelene agreed to help. Besides, he couldn’t exactly tell her how he could deduce the severity of her injuries. He passed her an envelope, “Right, I prepared a little something for you. Use it however you like.”

Lina opened it up and a silent gasp immediately escaped her mouth, “100,000?!”

Richard nodded, “It isn’t much, but use it as you want. Take the cheque to the steward and he’ll give you the crystals. I’m approving a holiday in Norland for you, go get some rest and shop for a bit. It can’t be too long, but four days should be enough no?”

Lina stuck out her tongue like a little girl and laughed heartily, a rare sight ever since she was injured, “How did you know I like shopping?”

“All women do,” he said with a smile before taking out a small jewellery box, “Here, a small gift.”

“A gift?” Lina’s eyes lit up as she snatched the box from his grasp, opening it immediately. She was immediately stunned into silence, looking at it a few more times before raising her head in disbelief, “Did you make this?”

“Yes,” he said with a smile and nod, his heart pounding.

“I… I love it!” Lina looked down once more, but this time it was unclear whether she was admiring the intricate design or avoiding his gaze. However, for just a moment, she seemed to forget the mask.

Richard stood up, “I have to go now. Remember to tell me when you’re taking that holiday!”

Lina sent him off, closing the door before turning around and leaning against it. This time, deep breaths didn’t help fix up the mess in her heart.

As for Richard himself, he was walking down the spiral staircase while wondering whether the day would come when he spat out such lies so eloquently anyone would believe them to be real. Lina’s reaction had made him feel strange, as though he had been conned by Rosie.


Over the following days, Richard, Nyris, and Agamemnon worked together to formulate the next phases of their development. They decided to start with consolidating their current position, carving out a safe path to the Tree of Life and thus assimilate it into the base. The woodcutting in all other directions would only be as much as was required to keep the city safe.

Ten of the ballistae were placed to defend the Tree of Life, the five-kilometre-range enchanted bolts giving it a defence even against children of the forest. Having confirmed that there weren’t any other trees of life within a 200-kilometre range, they couldn’t continue to expand until they took care of the trees. The laboratories left behind by the Schumpeters were coming of use in that as well, but it would take time.

The last battle with the child of the forest had shown them the true might of the Forest Plane’s powerhouses. Individually it was nothing much, but coupled with the powerful boosts from the world trees and their attunement to the jungle these natives could possess incomprehensible strength. If not for the heavy sacrifices made by everyone that day, it was entirely possible that the entire party would have been annihilated.

However, the will of the forest and the environment itself could be taken away. The children of the forest were nothing in the face of the magic towers without the protection of the forest will. Even Nyris and Agamemnon alone would be enough to destroy one at that point.

The appearance of the children had ultimately led Richard to stop radical attacks, but now he had switched to a slow, steady erosion of the enemy’s power. Nyris and Agamemnon were prepared to go back to Norland, leaving their personal soldiers behind under the control of dependable officers while the rest followed them in the return to Norland. The two were going to collect a large number of magic items that could resist the pressure of a will, and would only return to the Forest Plane once there was a new way to solve the problem. As for now, it was just a bank of gold. Unhurriedness truly was a double-edged sword. With the situation in the plane at an impasse, for true powerhouses to remain was equivalent to burning away their lives. Richard was preparing to bring his own followers back to his actual base which was Faelor.

Before they left, he paid another visit to the Tree of Life to harvest some eternal springwater. This time he only brought along Flowsand, Waterflower, and Tiramisu. Although this seemed strange, they were the strongest of his followers and would be in no danger outside of an ambush from a child of the forest.

It took a day’s journey before they stood in front of what now looked like a large construction site. The newly-built camp with 300 guards was mostly Norlandish in style, with fences, trenches, and tents everywhere. A few mages were busy having soldiers haul ballistae up to the platform near the crown. All the treehouses hear had been cleared, and the Tree of Life itself had bent its branches to give the soldiers a clear view all around.

Five of the ballistae were placed here while the others were lower down and on different sides. This way, there were at least three protecting a general direction at any given time. The collective power behind that would be a nightmare for even the stronger opponents.

Looking at the elaborate defences being built, Richard felt slightly reassured. He called over the mages responsible and gave them his next instructions, placing great emphasis on looking out for the elves. Anyone level 15 or above was to be shot on sight, no heroics or melee combat to be considered.The number of bolts expended would not be an issue.

The grand elder quickly rushed over upon hearing about their arrival. He was naturally now aware that Richard was the highest authority amongst the invaders, and the surprisingly young mage had an absurdly powerful soul that could resist the forest’s will on its own. The grand elder secretly noticed that neither Richard nor Flowsand showed any signs of having eaten the Tree’s leaves.

“Are there any instructions for me, Lord Richard?” the aged elf had quickly adapted to his role.

“The girl who was violated last time— Dior, wasn’t it— has she returned?”

“No my Lord, not yet.”

“Hmmm, alright then. I came here to talk to the Tree a bit, would it be you or Jubu?”

“Jubu should do it, communicating with the Tree of Life will be good for his development. I’m too old, attempting it will only shrink the few years I have left.”

Richard nodded and was taken to a specially designed treehouse. Jubu arrived a short while later, and after some quick preparations their surroundings were bathed in a green glow and he started floating upwards. Both of his eyes had blanked.

“Esteemed visitor from another plane, what can I do for you on this visit?” The Tree of Life’s demeanour was gentle as always, ready to comply.

“First I need some eternal springwater, how much do you have?”

“It hasn’t been much time since the last time the springwater was extracted, I can only produce ten shares now.” The shares the Tree mentioned were enough to last a single elf for two generations. The figure shocked Richard, “Ten? Didn’t you produce up to four a year before, and one at a time?”

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