Chapter 153:

Council Meeting

Mad God


Inside Thunder Valley's city hall, it was rare to see both the regular council and the high council present at the same time. Everybody knew that something must have happened to summon every tribe's leader at the same time. The newly joined ones' leaders sat nervously on their seats as most of them were still only adjusting to their new lives. They knew they had almost zero real say on what was going to happen inside Thunder Valley. Yet they were still invited to this meeting, showing them that they were expected to step up to the position one day.

"What do you think? Why has everybody been called here?" The raccoon's leader, sitting next to the chief of the prairie dogs, asked.

The former looked like a chubby teen with short, spiky, black hair, wearing a 'bandit's mask' pattern of fur on his face. He nervously played with his long fingers, looking around with weary eyes. The similarly short-statured, brown-skinned prairie dog demon was also darting his black eyes from left to right, trying to think about what was really happening.

"I don't really know Gatto… We rarely come up from the Under City… But it must be something important…. Did your kind finally do something irreversible?"

"No! At least, I hope not! You heard nothing about something like that, no?" Gatto squirmed, thinking about his own little troublemakers. "You would tell me first anyway, yes? Sappy?" He asked nervously, as his children used to get into trouble more than any other tribe's offspring.

"I don't think it's about us, Gatto." The squirrel demon named Hyuu whispered, sitting on the other side of the raccoon. The trio of them looked like teenage children who were caught while doing some mischief… and now they were waiting for the parents to give them the scolding of their lives. "Every High Council member is here! We are only waiting for Lord Niji to come… If it were about one of us, I think we would be lectured by either Lord Kang or Lord Uhure… especially the latter!" He said as quietly as he could, yet Uhure still turned her head towards them. Just her unblinking eyes were scaring the trio into silence. Hyuu even grabbed onto his own fluffy and orange squirrel tail, hugging it strongly to himself. He was almost turning back into his demonic form from the scare he got.

When her eyes finally blinked, and she turned away, they collectively let out a long breath. Hyuu was gasping for air while every other leader was watching them with scolding eyes. Yet deep inside, they were asking the same questions as them.

"Hey…" Hyuu nudged them after a little silence. "Why is there a second seat next to Lord Niji's?"

"Huh?" The rest of the two and around two dozen additional pairs of eyes were scanning the room, hearing his question. It was then that they also noticed the extra chair. "True… there is an additional one…" Gatto whispered.

Before their imagination could start creating scenarios in their heads, the door opened, and Niji walked inside with a smile. Ren was following him with a yawn, like someone who just woke up a few minutes ago. Most of the leaders scratched their heads, searching for memories of who that may be, but could not come up with an answer. At least not everyone. What was even more shocking was watching the High Council members stand up with respect, the same with the newest additions to the council. They even bowed deeply towards her, yet she just waved with another yaw, mumbling with a tired voice.

"Just sit! You don't need to stand at the ceremony!"

"You tired? We can hold later." Kang added.

"Nah, I can manage! I just slept unwell. It is a recurring thing, but I am getting used to it by now." Ren explained calmly while she just sat down next to Niji.

"Maybe we should start growing those coffee beans you mentioned, yeeeah? Yeaaah." Pongo chuckled, who still had red eyes. Listening to her voice, it was clear she was pretty high right at that moment, too.

"Good idea." Ren flashed a thumbs up at her. "It has almost become my source of energy by now!" She joked, but if Ariana were here, she would know it was not so funny. Her Master has suffered from nightmares constantly since Leinor's death. She heard Ren mumbling and talking in her sleep as if she were conversing with him. It was clear from Ren's eyes every time when she woke up that she barely had any rest, no matter how much she slept.

"If you have seeds, we can grow them!" Kiriya said with enthusiasm. She was the current leader of the forest fairies in Thunder Valley.

"Thanks!" Ren smiled at her, which made the little pink fairy really happy as she was only a little butterfly when their tribe was saved. When she finally evolved, gaining her true intelligence, she had some vague memories of Ren and her group saving them and worshiping her ever since.

"So, is this meeting about your sleep patterns, or?" Uhure cut in, but Ren just chuckled.

"No, it is about the fact that we are at war," Niji explained, silencing everyone as a dozen tribe leaders froze in place at her words. They were even forgetting to take a breath or gulp down their saliva. Hyuu and Sappy almost fell out from their chairs, not expecting news like this, while Gatto, with a loud 'bang,' had just turned into a chubby raccoon. "I already compiled a list as to what we are expecting from the tribes to do in this situation," Niji said as he placed his hands on the table. He was looking around at the gathered leaders, resting his eyes on every one of them at least once before continuing. "Every one of you is going to receive your own directives after this meeting. I'll only mention the basics here that, from now on, apply to everybody. First, Everybody who ventures out of the city needs permission from the High Council. You have to state why you are leaving, where you are going, and how long your trip will last. Also, starting today, there is a strict curfew! After eight, the gates to the city are going to be closed! Members of your tribe, if they are late coming back, they are going to be locked out and must wait until seven in the morning before we reopen the gates! No exception for nocturnal species."

"Our tribe is going to be responsible for the nightly patrols," Uhure added. "If we spot anybody acting suspiciously, expect this. We are going to quarantine your whole tribe until we investigate everything about you and your activities! Until you are cleared from suspicion, your status on the council is going to be suspended. Since the mole incident, we are not taking chances! So warn your descendants, these rules are going to be forced…. Very strongly." She looked at the others, lingering a bit longer on the raccoon tribe leader.

"Those tribes living outside," Niji continued, "are going to be warned and visited by the frequent patrols that we are going to establish. It is going to be made out of different species grouped together and led by a member from the High Council's races. This is mandatory! Those who refuse to participate in it are going to be evicted from the city. Immediately."

"Time to act! Be members family you are! Thunder Valley is home, you must protect." Kang said, his voice echoing inside the room, curbing any rising dissatisfaction from those, who were enjoying being part of the city but now, that it was time to do something for it, wanted to find some excuse to shirk their responsibility.

"What we are against are the tigers," Ren said, explaining it with a faint smile. "Nobody can escape it because I already exterminated their scouting party. They are here to take their revenge."

Her words immediately lit a small fire, prompting the leaders to discuss it among themselves until finally, one of them gathered the courage. He was feeling powerful as he felt that the others stood behind him.

"Excuse me!" A middle-aged man with a big, bushy beard stood up. Even though he was stocky and had a big belly, his arms were muscular and thick. Short tusks were growing from his lower jaw, which was also protruding a little bit forward because of this. His name was Borbuk, the tribe leader of the warthogs. "But isn't this a problem you brought onto us? We were fine until… sorry, but I don't even know your name appeared here!"

"Sure, you don't know her name…" Ednai murmured, completely annoyed as it was hard to believe. The tribes living outside know about her, yet the ones in the city don't? His words immediately turned the rest of the demons' ears towards him. They were already feeling frustrated as the newcomers had a seat in the council without consulting with the rest about it.

"Yes, that is true." Ren nodded, unbothered by his words and tone. "I brought this trouble here because if not, it would fester unattended and cause bigger problems later. I won't let it infest my Thunder Valley."

"YOUR Thunder Valley?" Borbuk asked, clearly taking strength from the rest of the council members who were egging him on. They were happy that someone other than themselves was standing in the spotlight, asking their questions.

"You going far." Kang looked at him, and the scariest part was that he did not assault him with his aura. Borbuk was mentally ready to receive it since he stood up, yet it did not come.

"I am sorry if I offended you, Lord Kang. But I don't think a human has the right to call Thunder Valley hers. This is our home! The demons' home! Not the humans!"

"I agree." Another voice agreed. He was the leader of the deers, Faranghar.

"Me too." The matriarch of the bees, Qiblia, also agreed. She was an even smaller demon than the forest fairies, barely 30 centimeters tall, but a beautiful blonde woman with barely any clothing on her.

"As you can see, Lords of the High Council, most of us have the same thought!" Borbuk continued. "Humans are welcomed here, but they should not act as if they are the rulers of OUR forest. This is the demons' territory. Always was and always will be."

"Ahaha~" Ren laughed, now drawing even more anger onto Borbuk's face. He felt gravely offended by her voice. "That's funny! You all were food for humans 2,000 years ago! It was a sport to go hunt your kind and feast on your meat afterward!" Ren said, with squinted eyes, smiling widely.

"How dare you!" Borbuk slapped on the table as more and more tribe leaders stood up in anger.

"You can't change the past. Nobody can." Niji added. "What she is saying is the truth. We were animals, and most of us, as I see, still live like one!" He looked over them, raising his voice. "Before you were accepted into this city, none of you had access to what you have now! Running water, human-like clothing, agriculture, manufacturing tools, medicine, education, SAFETY! DO I NEED TO CONTINUE?!" Now, he was the one who slammed on the table. His palm was making it shake, and it was the first time everyone had ever seen Niji this angry. His chest was heaving up and down with pure rage, blowing steam out of his nose. He was here when the first dirt was moved for Thunder Valley while Borbuk was still rolling in the mud somewhere else.

"Please calm down, Lord Niji! We meant no disrespect towards you; we are just-"

"You disrespect the Founder, yet you say you mean no disrespect towards us?" Uhure answered instead of Niji, looking at the standing council members with a glint in her large eyes. "Funny. Truly… Yet we are not laughing."

"F-founder?" Borbuk murmured, and soon everything clicked, not just in his but in the others' minds, too. The mysterious Founder Thunder was said to be a human but only seen by the High Council members. She was not someone who lived inside the forest… But she was the one who laid down its foundations.

"It's her…?" The leader of the deers murmured as he was turning deathly white.

"Of course, why do you think a human has the right to sit next to the leader of the High Council?" Ednai whispered, rolling his eyes at the rest. He was finding it unbelievable that someone could not put 1+1 together.

"Maybe they work with tigers. Their cores help?" Kang asked quietly, yet everyone heard him. His voice was making those who were now standing shake like dried leaves, giving out rattling noises as they quickly collapsed back to their chairs.

"No, I don't think so. Plus, they are weak!" Ren scoffed. "If they think this is inappropriate, they can always leave and go back to the forest, living in the mud! I heard that pigs like thrashing and bathing in it, especially when it's hot." Her words were making some chuckle, some gulp with fear.

"I see." Kang nodded as if he had come to a realization.

"Calm down, Niji." Ren patted his shoulder before addressing everyone in the room. "I don't need you to accept me. Also, you don't need to worry; I'm not here to play Princess of the Forest."

"Th-then w-why?" Borbuk gulped, asking with a dry throat.

"Easy. I'm here to conquer the south and place it under Thunder Valley's rule! Then, I'm going to fight the tigers and exterminate those who stand in my way, harvesting their demonic cores. Everyone who becomes my enemy gambles with their life." She said, throwing the killed panther and leopard's cores onto the table. Some weaker, more peaceful demons already felt like fainting just seeing them. Just sensing the residue of aura in them made their bodies shiver. "I'm here to unify the Forest. That is all you should know. Like it or not, there are two places you can stand! Behind me or before me. But if you are not strong enough to stand in my way, I'll walk over your corpse." Ren said with a completely flat tone before standing up and recollecting the cores. "I saw what I wanted." She sighed, looking around them with an uninterested expression. She slowly fixed her clothing, saying to Niji. "I'll leave everything to you."

"Just as always…" He shook his head with a smile as the leader of Thunder Valley.

"Ahaha~ True! I'm here to provide emotional support and kill Thunder Valley's enemies. That is all." Ren laughed, but she was already nowhere to be seen, leaving with a thundering noise. Only flashing, purple electricity was left where she stood previously.

"Huh? What… happeeeeeened?" Pongo suddenly woke up to the noise of Ren leaving. She was sleeping through the whole ordeal after she lost interest at the start.

"It was so cool… you really missed the best parts!" Kiriya whispered, looking up at Pongo with glistening eyes. Some shared her opinion, but some would describe it as the worst day of their lives.


….
…..

Arriving home, Ariana was just coming down from the top floor. She was a bit dazed, looking at her own hands.

"Master." She blinked her eyes, realizing Ren was back. "This is… weird."

"Mmm? What is?" Ren asked, tilting her head, sitting down on her couch, looking at her disciple.

"While cultivating up there, I tend to have strange… visions."

"About?" She smiled softly, but she already guessed what it was.

"The outside world. It's hazy and vague! I can't really put it into words after waking up. Master… This is such a strange state to be in… But while meditating and drawing in energy, it fills me with a weird sensation! With the idea that I should seek out what is on the other side of the Sky."

"I completely understand what you are talking about." Ren laughed, placing her hand on Ariana's head after she sat down next to her. She was suppressing her recent efforts in cultivation, helping her condense it down. By now, she was nearing the 8th level, advancing way too fast, even for her Master's liking. "Those who once saw behind the Sky can't help but seek it out once again. People only do something when there is a strong drive inside them. For us cultivators, it can be many different things. Some want power, some want to keep their youth, live for long years, and the list could go on. But those who saw the origin of power are always drawn to it."

"And you, Master? You are the same?" Ariana asked curiously, drawing a smile onto Ren's face.

"Yes. For me… it is a feeling I was born with. I want to reopen the Sky and let everyone travel to the outside world to explore it."

"Reopen the Sky…." Ariana murmured, thinking through her words with a nagging feeling inside her mind. "But what is outside? I still can't make it out, even though I see those beautiful images."

"I don't know. That is why I want to explore it!" Ren laughed. "Of course, it won't be easy. There are multiple obstacles in the way. For one, before reaching the Immortal Realm, you can forget about being able to leave! Then there is the problem of the opening! It was stitched together by the power of four Gods. That also needs to be destroyed first!"

"The four Gods… They won't let that happen, yes?"

"You can be sure of that! So, before everything, they need to be eliminated. Then there is the last thing."

"What is it?" She asked, looking into Ren's eyes, trying to see what her Master's thoughts were at that moment.

"Even if the Gods are not in the way and the Tear has been reopened… It is an unstable wound. It needs to be properly managed and rebuilt into a stable passageway that leads to the outside world. As to how to do that, even I don't know yet! But I am sure that the Immortals that Sect Head spoke of must have a rough idea already." She chuckled, leaning back on the couch. "We have time. I try not to think about it too much yet! Not until I reach the Immortal Realm. You should also not dwell too deeply on this, Ariana. Focus on what is close and reachable. You need to learn how to walk before you start running."

"Understood, Master!" She cupped her hands with a small smile. "I'll make coffee for you." She said, standing up and fixing her dress. "You barely slept… you should try to rest through the day at least."

"I can't promise you that! It is hard for me to sleep alone." Ren shook her head with a smile that caused Ariana's heart to ache.

"I can sleep with you, Master!" She blurted out subconsciously, raising Ren's eyebrows. It was only then that she realized what she just said, turning completely red like a ripe tomato. "I… I mean… haaauuuh…”

"Ahaha, it's okay! I appreciate the sentiment. It sounds nice; we can try it out~" Ren whispered. She was once again closing her eyes, tilting her head backward on the sofa while Ariana went and started to make her Master's favorite drink, with a completely blushed face that persisted for a long time.