Chapter 28:

Speculation

Mad God


“How are they?” Anya placed a cup of hot tea before Xendar, sitting in his study, reading different reports from the scouting parties.


“The kids or the reports?”


“Both.” she smiled as she sat down on his lap, leaning against his chest.


“The kids are fine. That little imp we made has too much energy. After a bath and hot food, she was up and running again as if nothing happened.”


“Ahaha, she reminds me of somebody~.”


“Yeah, yeah! We don’t need to worry too much. They became strong. The only question is what will happen with their tribulation.”


“Hopefully, it will be fine.”


“Knowing Ren, it will be.” Xendar chuckled, putting down the papers, holding his wife closer


“And the reports?”


“Bad. I called back everyone immediately, but we still lost two scouting parties deep in the forest. No contact with them for days now. Probably they are dead, and whatever killed them is coming this way.”


“Is it the horde that we are expecting?”


“No. I don’t think so. If it were, we would’ve lost all scouts without having a chance to establish contact with them. This is probably a reaction to me squashing that bug. I expected that much! The question is, which tribe is it, and what countermeasure we should take.”


“We can defend this position pretty well. We just need to hold out.” Anya thought out loudly.


“That is the easy route. I’m thinking more along the lines of 'How could I turn this into our advantage?'”


“You want to exterminate them?” She asked her husband.


“That would be ideal. This is probably one of the more hot-headed tribes' reactions. We could set up a perfect trap, luring them to where we want, then striking them down.”


“But it will be a bloodbath. The tribes further up the north are strong. Their evolved species easily put up a fight with you or could outnumber you!”


“I wouldn’t worry about that. Those are experienced demons. They won’t act like this. They learned a lot from us and acted more or less as we did. Feynor is right. With those kinds of people, we can reason. The others… are a hindrance to both of them and us.”


“What are you trying to say?” Anya asked, mulling over his words a little.


“Not just me. Feynor and Dermitos have the same thoughts, and I completely agree with them. More than two millennia ago, they started to grow and evolve. They reached a point in civilization where they are ready to take those steps we did four or five thousand years ago.”


“Are you saying they are on the verge of forming their own civilization?”


“Probably already did that hundreds of years ago! Now they are trying to see who comes out on top. For one part, it’s pure speculation, but still, it has logic behind it. It would explain a lot of behavioral changes… and it’s my gut feeling too.” he said as he laid out a map, showing the Swordscar Pass with red circles drawn on it at different points. “We destroyed seven bridges. All of them were guarded by the same scorpion-like demon folk that Ren’s team encountered. One of the bridges was already built from stone and guarded by three, presumably their best warriors! It was only successfully taken down when Ultar personally intervened. Still, two of the three escaped. The whole operation was planned and organized by these scorpions! Or it seemed at first. Was it their idea, or did they follow orders? We don’t know yet, but the materials used were determined to be from the Wall of the World. It’s too far away, so probably, it was mined and processed by other kinds of demon folk, transported by another tribe here, then built by the scorpions. Or were they only responsible for guarding it? We won’t know.”


“So they have some kind of civilized structure,” Anya whispered.


“I would bet my life on it! I guess there are stronger tribes who took control, going by the animalistic nature. They should not have an empire-like structure yet as we do… but probably the more evolved tribes have some kind of cooperation instead of killing one another while pressuring smaller ones into servitude. It’s just unknown if there was a decision already on which tribe will come out on top, unifying the whole area, or if they are still fighting for total control. We don’t even know how many tribes there are.”


“Going by your logic Dear,” she said after a long silence, thinking it through while Xendar took small sips from his cup, “the previous raids by lower-level demons were some kind of special culling? Isn’t that what they always do? Numbers swell; they trim it by sending them in droves against us, humans.”


“I would call it 'removal of the enemies.' The lesser tribes are big in numbers but have not evolved, like the bugs from before. They have big numbers, yes, but small, relatively weak and stupid evolved leaders. Or like those seemingly coming for us, the aggressive kind that acts before thinking… Aren’t these kinds of species standing in the way of progress?”


“So they are using us to weed out their internal opposition? Is that what you are saying?”


“Probably. They are using those tribes as cannon fodder which could hinder their goal of unification. They can preserve their forces while weakening their opposition; meanwhile, they exhaust us! No matter how you look at it, it's a perfect outcome.”


“Aren’t you giving them too much credit?” Anya chuckled softly.


“Don’t look down at them. Never do that! They are strong and intelligent. They are not inferior to us in any way! What we encounter here at the edge are the lowlifes. It would be like if you form an opinion about the capital by only visiting the Cheese District’s brothels.”


“Idiot…” she giggled, pecking his lips. “So that you know, your daughter unified that district.”


“She did? Why didn’t you mention it before?” Xendar asked, but not too surprised.


“Because she only made it possible, not doing it herself. Anyway, that girl who follows her around is the adopted daughter of Boursat, and now he rules the district with an iron fist. The crime rate has fallen so low. People are moving in voluntarily, bringing some business to the inhabitants.”


“Hah! Good!” Xendar laughed with a proud voice. “It is best if the home base is clear and safe while a storm is gathering in the north! It should still take years, decades, or even centuries, but the forest will unify one day… and when it does, we will have a powerful neighbor. As what it will bring to us… is still not clear. I just hope Feynor will succeed because if we can’t establish a good connection in time… and speak with words instead of fists, we could propagate who knows how many generations of conflicts.”


“Then why did you retake this fortress?” Anya blinked her eyes mischievously.


“We need good cards in our hands if we want to sit at the same table… also, doesn't this ensure that my name is in the history books later on? That's pretty good, no?”


“Bad boy…” she sighed as she kissed his lips, slowly climbing over him.


“Who is the bad one here, I wonder…” he murmured while enjoying the soft lips, slowly pressing his hands under her blouse…


….

…..


“Wrong. Again!” came the commanding voice after a loud “whacking” sound.


“Uugh.. okay…” Ren murmured, who now sprouted a second bump on her head as she was wearing a training outfit, up on the top of the wall, practicing with a heavy spear that glittered in a metallic luster under the sun.


“You became sloppy with your movements. The thrusting motion is all wrong! Do it again!” he landed the thick rod on her body again, correcting her stance and making Ren repeat it repeatedly.


“Ahaha, it’s good to see the roles being reversed!” Isha giggled, sitting next to Zern, who was still bandaged but with a healthy expression.


“Now I know where Master got her training methods from.” Poli nodded.


“You got it easy.” Leinor sighed, remembering their kinds of sparring sessions which sometimes left him with broken limbs.


“It looks painful… Why does sister Ren’s father hit her so much?” Rem murmured, who was with them, gently floating around, looking at Xendar with fear in her eyes.


“Nah, don’t worry about it. This is how we train most of the time.” Poli laughed. “The body remembers the pain more easily, and if you wish to avoid being hit, just do it correctly!”


“Hauh… human training is so scary!”


“How do you train?” Isha asked with a curious expression.


“Um, we don’t. When we are young, we fly from flower to flower and dance with our parents while playing! And… it just happens!”


“Naturally? Like, you don’t even cultivate?”


“The training… um… no, we are not… When we grow up, we just dance with the young and each other while playing! Having fun and friends are the best. Why would we try to hurt others?”


Leinor only sighed while Isha gently pulled the tiny red fairy into her lap, stroking her head which she enjoyed, happily squirming around, pushing her face against Isha’s palm.


“Stop!” Xendar commanded, letting Ren rest a little.


“Haaah!” she let go of the spear that, with a loud thump, landed on the ground and shook the tiles a little, proving its heaviness. “That felt good!”


“How far are you?” Xendar came up, gently stroking the bumps on her head.


“Ouch, careful!” Ren giggled while putting on a thinking expression, “If I want to try it, I could do it… it’s… I still have difficulties calling forth water; my mastery over my secondary affinity is not perfect yet. I want to be able to call forth rain and thunder, later on, not just the latter….”


“Then don’t do it yet. I also waited a few decades before attempting.”


“That's my plan; it's… just….”


“Just?”


“The fights we had. We are strong, way stronger than others at the same level. Those who ascended at a low level also do not pose that big of a threat… yet still. Those wasps almost killed us.” she said, playing with her hair.


“They were outnumbering you. By the hundreds!” he crouched down, smilingly, wiping away the sweat from his daughter’s face. “You were exhausted. Of course, you couldn’t put up a good fight, don’t stress about it that much! What you can do is not something that anyone can replicate. Usually, at most, someone in the Body Refinement Realm can fight to a tie with someone at a higher realm… and they are genius-level warriors. Your group already killed a demon folk who evolved! Survived the combined attack of others! What else do you want? Don’t be greedy, Ren.”


“You so easily destroyed them...”


“The chasm between realms doesn’t only apply to strength. That's why those in the ninth stage need to endure nine lightning strikes to ascend, and if they do… their refinement is perfect. I am more attuned to the world than those who ascended only, enduring four, five, or six strikes. I can feel the energy around us, manipulate it smoothly, and I tell you now, you and your friends are brimming with the same wild and untapped energies as the tribulation itself! When you all ascend, it will be the start of a new era! I won’t stand a chance against any of you, and I can’t wait to see you grow stronger than your father!”


“Dad…”


“Just don’t rush it! Wring out every drop of potential, until the last one, before ascending because if you do, you will step onto a new level, and there is no turning back, correcting mistakes.”


“I’ll do that! You will be proud of me!” Ren replied proudly.


“Ahaha, that's what I like to hear! Now come, do another set!”


“Sure!” she nodded with renewed vigor, grabbing the spear while Poli stood up suddenly.


“I need to get my sword and get some practice in.”


“Wait, I’m coming too.” Leinor followed him while Rem blinked her eyes surprisedly, where everybody was hurrying.


“I-”


“Forget it, Zern. You sit right back! Your wound is still not healed. We enjoy some fresh air, and I will take you back in, wash you off, then you must rest!” Isha commanded him, as Zern, after a bit of hesitation, just let out a small sigh.


“Um, Mr. Zern, you should listen to your wife!” Rem nodded, saying with a concerned, innocent voice, making both of them blush, and Isha didn’t have the will to correct her.


They did not know that the calm days only continued for the weekend before the storm clouds started to gather on the horizon.