"So I have to find a target by myself?" Garen nodded thoughtfully. "Are there any basic conditions or requirements?"
"It’s good as long as it’s not too complicated. Since you just began, you just have to learn the basic frame, the rest you can explore at your own pace in the future," Emin advised him. "Alright, go. You still have all morning, find me the totem you want to make. Remember, it has to be something you need, and something you can use. Every creature has their own unique power, don’t choose carelessly."
Garen nodded respectfully.
"Then I’ll go wash up now. Once you return after catching what you want, we’ll officially begin the construction demonstration." Emin yawned, turned around, and walked out of the room.
Garen found a large glass bottle and a pair of boarskin gloves. Then he went downstairs and immediately left the house.
There were a lot more young men in town in the morning. They were mostly carrying bows and arrows, hunting knives, and wore clothes made of fur and leather, as they came and left in small groups. Some were even carrying their freshly acquired prey on their backs.
Garen followed the main road until he left the town. The long grey robes he wore slightly piqued the curiosity of the townsfolk. Several children who were chasing each other about instantly hid behind a wall when they saw him approaching, and watched him guardedly.
Upon exiting the town, he saw a large, wide field of hills and grass spread out in front of him. Small clumps of forests dotted the landscape, mostly shorter shrubs that didn’t grow too well. The lush green forests and dark green grassy plains practically merged into one. Some small white butterflies danced circles around the little flowers on the grass, and groups of unnamed birds occasionally flew across the sky, making soft shrill cries.
Not far away from the town, there was a little stream about three or four meters wide. This was the source of the famous Red River, and was exceptionally clean because it consisted of melted snow water from the snowy peaks of the mountains towering into the clouds in the distance.
Garen walked up to the side of the Red River, crouched down, and began scouring through the grasses and moist mud.
"What kind of a totem do I need?"
That was how he asked himself.
"What kind of a totem would be of use to me?"
He uprooted the grass, and saw a troop of black ants slowly crawling across the black soil. He looked at them but didn’t move. Then he turned his gaze away, to another clump of dark green grass.
There was a big fat green caterpillar resting quietly on the thin and narrow grass leaves. It was covered in spikes, its four lazy eyes looking completely listless.
On a little yellow flower next to it, there was a wild bee with a thin black thorax. It was crawling back on forth on the fingernail-sized flower stamen, its legs covered with yellow pollen. It was obviously out collecting pollen.
"Ants, caterpillar, wild bee…"
Garen shook his head slightly.
"They’re too weak. Although they have simple make-ups, it wouldn’t be much help to me even if I succeeded."
He stood up, and continued walking towards the hills and plains in the distance.
"If it has to be useful to me, then it better have some strength so it can support me in daily life. If it can fly, it can be used to obtain information, for reconnaissance, and as a lookout. If it has a certain offensive ability, it can also be used to defend. In that case… the best option is a type of bird."
He glanced at a few patches of forest not far away. There was the light trilling of birds there.
After crossing a few hills, he quickly chose the largest patch of forest and walked right in.
The forest was lush and green, with clean air. A few children were wandering about inside, gathering something. These children were dres
sed in rags, looked sickly and pale, and their bodies were also pitifully thin. They each carried a large basket on their backs. Some were filled with plants and wild fruits, while others barely had anything.
These children only took one look at Garen when he came in, but they soon started ignoring him, looking back at the ground instead as they dug.
There were many types of birds resting here, raising a continuous chatter.
Garen looked up and identified them carefully. There were many types of birds on those trees, almost five or six in all. They came in different sizes, and most were black. Only a few were blue or green.
"It has to be slightly bigger, with offensive power, and decent flying speed…" Garen realized he didn’t recognize any of the birds. Looking around, his gaze fell on a dirty boy in the distance.
Like the others, this boy wore grey sackcloth clothes and carried a large basket on his back. His hair was matted and messy, but there was a green parrot perched on his shoulder, which let him stand out from the rest.
Garen walked over to him, and stood beside the boy. "Are these birds yours?" He tried to soften his tone as much as possible.
"Yes, sir. Do you require anything?" The boy straightened his bent back, looking at Garen in confusion. This strange lord came into the forest and starting looking left and right, but no one knew what he was doing.
"I want to ask about what species of birds you have here, do you know?" Garen pulled out a small copper piece and flicked it towards the boy.
The little boy quickly caught it in a flurry. A copper piece may not be able to buy much elsewhere, but it could still buy some snacks here. He instantly broke into a grin.
"Birds? I know about them."
"Know your bird! Know your bird!"1 The green parrot on his shoulder started squawking.
"Shut up, Hans!" The boy grew flustered and angry. "If you go on like this I won’t give you dinner!"
"Just explain it to me properly, if you do it well I’ll give you another." Garen looked at the green parrot smilingly.
"No problem. My little sister loved keeping birds. After she left, I started liking it too, so I’m really good at this!" The boy thumped his chest.
"Know your sis! Know your sis!"2
"Shut up!!" The boy’s face flushed bright red, and he flicked the green parrot’s head angrily.
Garen couldn’t help but laugh as he watched the boy and bird combo. They seemed to get along very well.
"I want to find a type of bird that can fly fast, has some strength, and some attack power. Do you know any types?" he listed out his conditions.
"Then you’ve found the right man, sir!" The little boy wiped the snot that was about to leak out of his nose. "According to your requirements, the most suitable candidate is definitely a hawk."3
"A hawk, is it? What’s the fastest hawk here?" Garen nodded and asked.
"All our hawks here are pretty fast… and most of them are the cunning blue hawks. It’s not too big, and it’s really fast. It can scratch open someone’s skin in the blink of an eye! Its claws are the sharpest, and it really likes to steal everyone’s chicks," the little boy replied in details.
"Are there any other types of birds? Or maybe it doesn’t have to be a bird," Garen asked, frowning. Although the blue hawk fit his requirements, he still doesn’t like this sort of eagle that only knows how to steal chickens.
"If it doesn’t have to be a bird…" The little boy scratched his hair. "Oh! There is a type, but it’s not a bird, it’s a bug."
"Oh? What is it?" Garen looked interested.
"Neon butterflies!"4 The boy looked uncomfortable. "The bigger ones are as big a a washbasin. They’re strong, very beautiful, and really strange too. Most butterflies aren’t fast, but these are super fast, even faster than normal birds. Only eagles can compare to them. And even more annoyingly, they’re extremely poisonous. If a person accidentally breathes in their powder, their whole body will get poisoned and grow numb. If it’s just a little more serious, it could kill you! It’s terrifying!"
"Oh? There are butterflies like that? Where, show me?" Garen was instantly sold.
"I’m not going. You just have to walk in that direction, just walk all the way straight, and you’ll see those annoying butterflies in no time. Their whole body is poisonous, and they took over the whole patch of forest. If you see any huge butterflies, without any speck of impurity in their blue, that’s them." The boy pointed in a direction as he explained.
"Thanks." Garen flicked his second copper piece, and took large strides in the direction the boy pointed.
Leaving the little forest, Garen followed the direction the boy led him to. His steps were quick, and more condensed little forests soon appeared around him. Signs of human activity gradually decreased, while the tire tracks and footsteps on the ground rapidly vanished as well.
In the distance, he could begin to see the white snowy peaks reaching into the clouds.
Very soon, he saw the neon butterflies the boy was talking about.
Under some dark shady trees, a group of blue butterflies glowed with fluorescence, dancing in the shadows. It was as though they had fluorescent powder scattered all over them.
These butterflies danced about soundlessly. The smallest were palm-sized, the largest had nearly a meter in wingspan. The long furry bodies were fully exposed, and creeped out anyone who looked at them.
Garen picked up a stone from the ground, narrowed his eyes, and tossed it at them.
Like a sharp arrow, the stone tore through the air and accurately hit the largest neon butterfly.
In that instant, it was like poking a beehive. A large swarm of neon butterflies rushed out of the forest, flooding the air as they came for Garen, as though the blue lights had instantly merged into an ocean.
Garen kicked the ground, and a big piece of black soil scattered through the air, carrying specks of grass with it. They rained down everywhere, beating on the large swathe of neon butterflies around him.
In the midst of many dull plopping sounds, the blue lights began to fall and dim, while the piercing smell of poisonous powder spread through the air.
Garen held his breath. With a flash of his steps, he appeared in front of the largest neon butterfly. Picking it up with a gloved hand, he stuffed it into the glass bottle and turned heel immediately.
He hadn’t gone far when suddenly a huge swarm of neon butterflies surged out behind. They were extremely fast, and could almost catch up to a running Garen even without flying in a straight line.
Garen took one look back, and applied more force under his feet. This gave him a boost of speed, and he left the neon butterflies in the dust.
He gave his body a jolt, instantly and quietly throwing off countless fine particles of blue powder from his body. They were blown away by the wind, and he only started breathing again after all the poison powder had vanished.
Holding up the bottle to see, he noticed that the neon butterfly wasn’t completely dead yet, moving ever so slightly in the bottle.
He was considered satisfied with this sort of butterfly. It wasn’t slow, it was highly poisonous, and rather strong as well. Compared to normal bugs that died with a stomp, there was a layer of thick keratin on the surface of these butterflies, so it seemed to be as strong as a mouse. That would mean it had no problem delivering messages.
"The only weakness is that it’s not very good at camouflage, but even so, it will do." Garen thought back to the blue-scaled snake encountered before. Compared to those totem creatures, the neon butterfly was a flying animal, and it wasn’t part of the hawk’s menu. Even if it was rather flashy, the other advantages were enough to mask those little flaws.
In the experiment lab
Emin carefully wiped his mouth with a white napkin, holding up the neon butterfly’s bottle to observe it.
"It’s my first time making this type of neon butterfly, but I have researched butterflies before. Even though I didn’t go into detail, I do know some." He put down the bottle. "So you’re sure you want the neon butterfly?"
"Of course." Garen was standing beside him, and nodded when he was asked.
"Alright then. A Luminarist will have a core totem and a normal totem for support purposes. As your teacher, I can make you your first totem for free. Consider it my present to you. But if you want to change to another a totem next time, you’ll have to study and create it yourself. Do you understand?"
"I understand." Garen nodded."
"Alright then, let us begin."