Chapter 151:

Gathering

Mad God


It was not long after the sun rose up from the east when Ariana, Ren, Ednai, and Keely were on their way, heading towards the tribe nearest to them.


"What kind of demons are they?" Ariana asked curiously.


"Rabbits," Keely answered. "I hope they are fine… They were always the weakest of the demons around here. They used to be pushed around by everyone else." She sighed with a soft voice. "I had a good friend in their tribe, Ushi. She is a very compassionate girl, and she always had something nice to say when I felt troubled. I'm just afraid that they… didn't make it."


"They should fare way better than the others," Ednai added. "They probably resisted the least, so we can hope they were not punished too severely."


It didn't take long for them to arrive at a clearing, with small hills dotting the landscape. The grassy hillsides had small holes all around them, and as soon as they stepped on the green grass, little, long-eared heads popped out from them. They were trembling like leaves in a storm as they raised their small heads. They had a human-like appearance with long and fluffy bunny ears. Some of those ears were standing tall, turning left and right, scanning for every noise coming their way, while others were floppy, and they wore them like scarves. Soon, two dozen pairs of eyes were watching them before a weak but happy shout resonated through the clearing.


"Keely!" A short, gray-eared bunny girl hopped out of her hole, rushing towards them, jumping into her arms and hugging her strongly with teary eyes.


Seeing one of them rushing forward, the rest also slowly emerged, and whether male or female, all of them were short, not reaching higher than a meter in height. But only if you did not count their giant ears into their heights. Most of their bodies resembled that of a human; only their legs remained completely demonic. It was covered in fur, and they were able to run faster and hop higher than even a cultivator in the 5th or 6th stage of the body refinement realm.

"Ushi! Thank the heavens you are okay!" Keely hugged her soft, plump little body as Ushi's little bunny tail was trembling and wiggling pretty fast.


"You too, you too! But you need to be careful! An evil leopard is hunting here; come, come, we need to hide quickly!" She tried to grab her arms, dragging her towards their hidey holes, making Ren chuckle. Ariana just smiled, holding herself back from grabbing one of the bunnies and starting to play with their fluffy ears.


"Relax, Ushi, relax! We came to tell you that we are saved! They are gone for now, but we need to move!"


"Huh?" She quickly froze in place, looking at her with disbelief as the rest of the bunnies also started to whisper and hop closer, wanting to hear more about it.


"It's true!" Ednai spoke up with shining eyes, introducing Ariana and Ren with two hands. "Look! She is Founder Thunder and her disciple Princess Ariana!"


"Princess?!" Ariana faltered, almost choking on her own words, while Ren just laughed out, grinning at her disciple, slapping her back.


"Wah?! The God of Thunder?!" Ushi exclaimed, and soon, every rabbit demon was surrounding Ren and Ariana. They were not even bothering with Ariana's darker aura.


"No, no, no, I'm not a God! Please! Stop with that!" Ren protested immediately. "My name is Ren; just call me by my name."


"We got to know God's name!" Ushi exclaimed, and soon, most of the rabbits were almost worshiping them, climbing on each other to get a better look at Ren's face.


"Damn it…" She whispered, feeling a headache was incoming if this continued. "I need to do something about this, or in the future, this is going to be irreversible!"


"Why is that? Is it that big of a problem?" Ariana looked at her, returning the previous grin she received.


"I would never become a God. That road is a cul-de-sac." Ren answered, shaking her head.


"Oh…"


"Anyway!" Ren clapped, which sounded like a distant thunder. Some rabbits held down their sensitive ears, yet all of them were more convinced by her 'demonstration.' They were looking at her with twinkles in their eyes. "We came from Thunder Valley because your friends here asked for our help! The cats have been taken care of, but there are more on the way; it is not safe here! So, all of you should head to the lemur's place for now! We are going to gather the rest and leave for Thunder Valley at the end of the day."


Hearing her, all of the rabbits were hopping around excitedly. They didn't even consider it once that this could be a trap. They were fully trusting Ren's words just because of the presence of Keely and Ednai.


"For now, the forest is safe," Keely said, letting go of Ushi. "Gather up everyone from the tribe and head towards our home!" She instructed the bunnies, who listened carefully.


After she finished, they all transformed back to their original, demonic form, and a horde of bunnies were rushing towards the treeline, disappearing between the shrubs in a flash.


"They are really fast. I don't think I could keep up with them." Ariana murmured, watching them go.


"It wouldn't even be a close race, as you are not built for speed." Ren nodded. "They could be great sentinels!" She thought out loudly before moving on to the next tribe, letting Ednai lead the way.


"The next tribe are… the pangolins. They are a little bit tricky." Ednai explained. "We did not have much contact with them because they were always a bit… odd."


"What do you mean by odd?" Ariana asked.


"To put it simply, They really dislike outsiders. They always avoided every other tribe, and as they were mostly active at night, they did not need to interact with us. I don't know how they are now, but they are also not so easy to take down. Their scales are extremely hard!" Ednai continued. "They are not good at attacking, but they are really strong when it comes to defense."


"Not a problem. We are not here to fight anyway." Ariana replied.


"If they don't come with us, we won't force them," Ren added. "It's their choice, but if the arriving demons exterminate them, it is going to be their own doing."


"We should explain it to them!" Keely said, clearly wanting to save the rest of the tribes.


"Keely…" Ednai placed his hand on her shoulder. "You know their temper. Even God can't save those who don't want to be saved."


"Stop with the God talk! It is starting to get on my nerves…" Ren groaned loudly, pinching the ridge of her nose.


"Sorry, Founder Thunder!" They bowed at the same time, making Ariana chuckle, seeing her Master's twitching mouth.


In the end, Ednai was right because as soon as they arrived at their homes, they came across trouble. A part of the forest was filled with fallen, hollow trees that were made into ramshackle homes where they dwelled. Sensing their arrival, a 1,5 meter-tall pangolin demon walked out, taking up a human form that was at the same height, now standing on two legs. His body was completely covered in brown scales, like wearing natural armor, yet he missed one eye. He had multiple deep scars all over his body that looked to be very recent. Looking around, I saw very few pangolins left. Those that remained were mostly females or younglings.


"Leave. Didn't you have enough fighting? All these years? We have already agreed to every demand of yours…" The male pangolin said, looking at them with visible anger in his remaining eye.


"Listen, we are here to tell you that Founder Thunder has come and killed them." Ednai stepped forward but was shot down by the pangolin's words.


"Lies! We already heard such lies, just so you could break and kill our people! I won't listen to this anymore! You just want us to be exterminated, don't you… you… you evil demons!"


"No, no, no! We came to tell you we need to leave and move away before they come back! Listen to me!" Ednai tried to explain, but the pangolin had none of it.


"Enough," Ren interjected, pulling back Ednai before he would be struck down. After that, she turned towards Ariana with her head. "Go, hit him in the head so it clears out a little."


"Yes, Master." Ariana nodded, walking forward, making the rest of the pangolins cry out in fear. Judging from their voices, they were barely numbering a dozen, losing who knows how many of their family and friends.


"I'd rather die in battle than lay down like a coward!" He roared as he saw Ariana walking forward. He quickly turned back into his demonic form, rolling himself into a ball, heading towards Ariana like a madly spinning wheel of doom, kicking up dirt everywhere.


"Calm down a little," Ariana said as she raised her arm, and from the ground, black tentacles sprung upwards, grabbing onto him. She was holding the pangolin in place as he was spinning faster and faster, trying to break free. "We are not here to fight with you, we-"


"Lies!" He shouted, 'opening up,' forcing Ariana's tentacles off of himself. The next moment, he was spitting at her, but what came out was not saliva but his long tongue, snapping like a whip, trying to wrap it around Ariana's neck.


"Haah…" She shook her head before ink-like liquid spread out from her legs, and a three-fingered, ominous hand reached up, grabbing the tongue, pulling on it with a strong force.


No matter how fiercely he tried to pull back his tongue, it was not possible as it was stuck into the black hand, which acted like tar, trapping it. By the next moment, Ariana yanked on it with all of her strength. His legs left the ground, flying forward as a second black fist emerged, punching him in the chest. The resounding blast rang out deeply, yet the pangolin was still fine, struggling to get free, shrugging off Ariana's attack with ease.


"Their physical body IS strong," Ariana murmured to herself, standing with crossed arms, watching the struggling demon. "Then… Sorry about this." She sighed as more and more tendrils appeared, sneaking over his body. Soon, he was shouting and screaming as his deep fear and trauma of the previous years overwrote his anger. Everything that he used to fuel his mind, to keep resisting the leopards' oppression, now turned against him. It was flooding his thoughts and immobilizing him, stopping any chance of resistance.


After only a few minutes, he was crying, completely defenseless, giving up on fighting back at all. Ariana slowly put him down, drawing back her powers, leaving only one tentacle on him that was attached to his nape. She was slowly draining his darkest thoughts, easing his mind. Ednai and Keely watched on with their furs ruffled and standing on edge. Their gaze was filled with one part of awe and one part of deep terror.


"Good job." Ren patted her disciple's head. "Your control over it grows day by day. How's he doing?"


"Starting to calm down. I'm sorting out his feelings now. In a few minutes, he should be able to clear his head. Maybe then, he will listen to us." She said as she concentrated. The remaining tentacle released him after a few minutes, disappearing back into Ariana's shadow.


Nobody said anything, plunging the area into a long silence. In the end, the pangolin took up a human as he was looking at Ariana. His eyes were unblinking, a thousand kinds of thoughts racing through his head.


"So you are not them." He spoke up finally, moving his eye from Ariana onto Ren. "My name is Itto, the last fighter of my tribe. The rest were already killed. We are only left with widows and orphans. If what you said is true, then we are willing to follow you."


"That was quick." Ren raised her eyebrows with clear surprise.


"I was defeated. Yet I have no new scar for my punishment." He said with a calm voice, yet his body still shook a little. "They never did something like this. They would've already left me injured, decorated with a new scar. Or punished me by watching one of my own be killed before my eyes."


"They are dead," Ren added, never breaking eye contact.


"Good! I hope they suffered and begged for their lives yet found no mercy!" Itto said, forming a small smile, the first in many years.


“They were harvested… like cattle…” Ednai murmured, thinking back at the scene. He was already feeling nauseous, placing his hand before his mouth.


"Even better." Itto chuckled as his eye lit up. "I wish I could have seen it!"


"You can see their bodies… if my daughter did not eat them already." Ren smiled at him with a nod. "Do you know where the lemur's village is? We are gathering the surviving tribes to bring everybody back to Thunder Valley. We have already spoken with the rabbits."


"I know the general location." He nodded but showed a little uncertainty.


"Keely can bring you there… my name is Ren; the one you fought with is Ariana, my disciple." She explained while Itto just nodded, committing their names to his mind.


Ednai just blinked his own eyes, a bit confused as to why Itto switched his flip so easily, going from fighting to following every word of theirs. But he was not stupid to voice his concerns and remained glad that they became docile so easily. Keely also quickly agreed and led the pangolins toward their home. The last to leave was Itto, who was still watching Ariana and Ren before finally following his people.


"Did you show him something?" Ren asked in the end, nudging her disciple.


"No… but I brought his memories of his family and friends to the surface. He buried them too deep and only let the moments of their deaths haunt him. He used it to gain strength to protect the others. I switched it up for him." She smiled softly, making her Master also show a gentle and approving smile. "Now he can gain strength from the good parts of his memories.


"Let's go." Ren looked at Ednai. "We still need to visit the rest and leave for Thunder Valley!"


"Yes! Follow me!" He nodded, filled with energy and hope. He was leading the two around the forest all day, visiting six more tribes before they finally headed back and led them toward Thunder Valley. When they arrived with almost a hundred demons in tow, Niji felt he might have a few sleepless nights before him.