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Epiphany

A thick scent of blood filled the air, only worsened by the rancid odour of the spiders and crows. Even Richard felt his stomach roll at the sight, but he managed to hold it in.

Even worse was the fact that the venom within the spiders was slowly permeating into the air. Although it was specially designed for the woodpecking crows and wouldn’t affect the humans in the long term, many found it difficult to stay in this place. The mages had exhausted all their mana, unable to cast even a simple wind blade, so Richard had no choice but to have the warriors leave and rest in the forest as the poison cleared from the battlefield. A few hours later, Flowsand and a few other priests that had recovered started healing the warriors. The mages regained their power as well, dispersing the odour with gusts of wind.

Kaloh was a mass of injuries, lacking even the strength to open the portal back to his home. He was splayed out across the ground, gasping rapidly as the blood flowed out from his torn and mutilated body. His wings had it even worse; one could see the underlying bones within.

Lina was stood beside the red dragon, caressing his giant head while hot tears rolled down her cheeks. A handful of priests eventually came over to treat him, but their spells just didn’t have the coverage to heal him properly.

Nyra eventually walked over, her black and white eyes spinning into grey as she started casting dozens of healing spells in a split second. A seemingly inexhaustible rain of gold fell on Kaloh, healing over half of his wounds in a few moments. The rest stopped bleeding as well, giving him enough power to summon a shimmering gate in the sky and fly through to his nest.

“Thank you, Nyra!” Lina was about to hug Nyra with joy, but the priestess’ cold expression stopped her in her tracks.

“Thank Miss Flowsand instead. She is the one who brought me into this world.” Nyra turned around and left, walking back to Flowsand and sitting down. She looked a little tired, but her right hand slipped a handful of egg-sized crystals to Flowsand behind her back.

Flowsand took a quick glance and realised that the shells of black and white hid fresh, viscous blood. Knowing immediately that this was Kaloh’s blood, she quietly pocketed the crystals without anyone catching on to it.

……

A few days later, the soldiers were still cleaning up the battlefield as the ground started to vibrate slightly. The quaking left them all feeling a strange tickle in their hearts, as though they had been touched by pure joy. Motes of white light started to float around the forest, bobbing up and down in the air as they flew around the Tree of Life. Everyone held their breath, attention grabbed by this dreamlike sight.

The trees nearby bent slightly towards the Tree of Life, as though bowing to a noble ruler. The motes of white continued to gather endlessly as the branches and trunk grew, the thorny bark splintering off to reveal fresh wood even as green leaves blossomed anew. The motes closest to the tree turned into ribbons of brilliant light as they twined around it, wrapping it from head to toe.

The chains holding it back broken, the Tree of Life shook with joy once more as its giant crown grew lush once more and stretched towards the sky. The trunk grew wider at a visible pace as the Tree expanded, only stopping when it had grown more than a hundred metres taller. 

Richard caught a mote of light in his hand. It jumped around impatiently to try and continue to its destination, but he set up a small net of mana that stopped it from escaping. After numerous failed attempts, it simply drilled into his palm and melted into his bloodstream. He felt a breeze blowing through his body as his spirits were lifted by the feeling of absorbing the purest form of life energy.

Everyone else soon figured things out as well, realising that both internal energy and mana could trap these spots of light. If one’s internal composition was conducive to it, these motes would even dive into their body. This pure life energy quickly healed most injuries, even growing the powers of those who were in good shape. Those that could not do this just stood and watched in silence, taking in the magnificent sight.

Trees of Life were noble beings that were akin to a condensed form of the plane’s internal laws. This was a great opportunity for one to make contact with and perhaps even understand some of the laws of the Forest Plane’s working.

Richard, Flowsand, Lina, Nyris, and even Agamemnon were immersed in observing the working of the laws of the plane. Although the laws of the Forest Plane were different from those of Norland, one could still use their understandings here to help ease their process back home. This was one of the most important reasons for legendary beings to travel the myriad planes; the more one could comprehend of other, lesser planes, the more their ability to comprehend the laws of Norland would grow.

Each plane was special in its own way. The Forest Plane’s laws of nature, life, and water didn’t benefit everyone equally. An elf like Olar as well as Nyris whose personality was one of compassion had more of an epiphany than the rest.

Of course, Richard was far beyond both. He had already entered a strange state where he could sense the essence of the laws of this plane. All he could see was a vast ocean made up of the emerald waters of life, every drop containing an unbelievable amount of life energy. His consciousness had already entered the source of the plane, and these waters were the secret to unlocking its inner workings.

His attention fell on a random drop of water and it seemed to be magnified in his vision. Before he knew it, he was looking at a strange and complex world that seemed to be a condensed form of the entire Forest Plane. There were endless secrets hidden within, but even with his blessings used to their fullest, he couldn’t easily comprehend them all.

The first thing he did was to find out just how many laws governed this plane’s working. Even that simple calculation took him almost an hour, but he eventually confirmed that there were 65,536 laws in total. He wasn’t sure whether he would be able to crack even the simplest of them all.

He moved on to trying to rearrange these myriad laws, to organise them based on their relationship with each other and find the most fundamental of them all. Once he identified these core rules, he could search outwards to find the most derivative laws, the ones that should be the easiest to understand.

It was a gruelling process. By the time he identified about 120 laws or so, he could already feel a dull headache starting to come on. However, he resisted the weariness and started examining them one by one. The results were promising even if rather exhausting; over the first night, he cracked a total of three laws one after the other.

Every time he decoded a law, it felt like a tiny hole was stabbed into an intangible barrier around his soul; waves of strange yet refreshing energy flowed through, making it stronger. His body was changing as well, now basically an enormous whirlpool that absorbed the life energy flooding in towards the Tree of Life.

The life vortices rushed past the two barriers of the Archeron bloodline web and the astral world tree, burying themselves into his restoration affinity trunk. It was quite evident that this life energy operated on a higher law than his current bloodlines.

His restoration affinity trunk grew rapidly and grew out its first branch with leaves, greatly boosting his recovery speed, but that wasn’t the end of it. It continued to absorb an enormous amount of life energy, starting to evolve once more.

However, as Richard started to try and analyse the fourth rule, he met his first setback. Failing to wrap his head around it even after multiple tries, he had no choice but to give up on it and move on.

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