Chapter 157:

Plans for the Future

Mad God

Arriving back to Thunder Valley, the residents watched with awe and curiosity as Ren brought back three demons in chains. Not to mention the multiple dozen beast corpses dragged by the others on carts. Those that remained mostly intact could be used for many things, from making medicine to creating tools or feeding the growing city.

"I see that it went smoothly!" Niji walked up to Ren with a smile.

"Of course! It was only a beast tide from one part of the land, not from the whole region!" Ren nodded calmly. "Call Sappy for me!"

"Mm?" Niji tilted his head, watching the captured trio with interest as he sent the message out. The leader of the prairie dogs came rushing all the way from the underground city, panting heavily. He was especially afraid and nervous now because Ren asked for him by name.

"Founder Thunder!" He bowed, looking at her and the collar-wearing prisoners of war.

"Enough of the formalities! Just call me Ren. Here!" She gave him the end of the chain connected to the trio's handcuffs. It almost made Sappy faint right then and there. "Take them to the Undercity and place them in a cell! I'll come and talk with them later."

“M-m-me?” He stuttered, shaking as he was barely tall enough to reach up to Tylvana's waist and was nothing sort of a combatant type of demon.

"Yes. You are one of the leaders living underground, and I asked for you, no? I still have things to do, but I'll come and visit them soon!" Ren said calmly before nodding towards Niji as they left, leaving Sappy with other nervous guards, watching the three captured demons.

"Let's go." Tylvana looked down at Sappy calmly while Letty just directed her gaze forward. She was afraid if she looked into anyone's eyes right now, her temper would flare up and cause a scene.

"O-okay, t-t-this way!" Sappy stuttered before he somehow recollected himself and started walking. By the time they reached the giant, steep stairway that led to the underground city, he had gained a good amount of pride and courage. His mood did a 180 pretty quickly. It was no wonder, as everyone was watching him, leading the captured enemy by chains. As they were descending downwards, Zazuba couldn't help but speak up from the back.

"The way he wiggles his buttocks makes me pretty hungry." He whispered, but Sappy could feel his eyes on his back and hear his voice. It was quickly destroying his proud posture, reverting back to the feelings of defenseless prey.

"I'm not that tasty…" Sappy murmured, holding the chain more firmly, searching for anything that could give him false support.

"True, but for an appetizer, you would suffice," Letty added, making Sappy shiver once again, almost tumbling down the steps.

Reaching the Undercity, whatever they wanted to say became irrelevant. Watching the huge second city below the earth, with buildings carved out and into the rocks and hundreds of smokeless torches lighting up the darkness, it was a scene that none of them had expected to see. There were hundreds of demons going on with their lives, living just like any human would in a big city. When they stepped off the last step, curious gazes landed on them all. Standing below the stairs, four chimps waited for them, standing at attention, wearing military attires. They were holding spears, and one of them was none other than Olup. He was leaning on crutches and had braces around his legs. He could never fully recover from his injuries, yet nobody dared to look down on him. Because of what he did, he was recognized as one of the heroes of Thunder Valley.

"Leader Sappy." Olup smiled, greeting him while the little prairie dog bowed, presenting the end of the chain to him.

"Director Olup! Thank you for coming!" He said with relief in his voice when Olup finally took it out of his hands.

"Please... I'll take it from here. It is my job anyway." Olup said while Sappy let out a loud breath, calming down as soon as the end of the chain changed owners. "My name is Olup, but others usually call me Director." He smiled, looking at Tylvana.

"Director of what?" Letty asked, clearly looking down on Olup because of his visible injuries. Weaknesses like his were not permitted in the Tiger's territory.

"The Undercity, of course. Please. This way! Your cell has been already prepared in the prison building." He turned around, leading them forward, not bothering with her tone or their status. He was leading the trio into a huge, rectangular building that was completely carved into the side of the rocks, part of the earth itself.

The complex was guarded by a mix of chimps, gorillas and owls. They were on constant guard rotation, and the role was usually filled by the young and less experienced tribe members. There were few real criminals in the city, both up and underground. If anyone got admitted into the prison, they mostly spent only a few days here, maybe a week. Their offense was usually about disputes and brawls between tribes or merchants, and nothing truly major. It was the first time for them to house real, powerful demons, more importantly, prisoners of war. No wonder that every guard they came across was nervous. Yet they wanted to give their best to impress the higher-ups and not bring shame to their own tribes.

Leading them further in, they were placed in a pretty spacious cell equipped with multiple bunk beds, a mini bathroom with a shower, and a long, half-transparent curtain to gain some privacy if using the provided faculties. Even through all this, their silhouettes would still be visible to guards who came checking up on them every fifteen minutes. Stepping inside, Olup took off the chains and then closed the door behind them, which was built out of thick metal bars.

"For now, please stay here. Lady Ren will come and speak with you soon." He explained calmly before leaving.

"Thank you." Tylvana nodded, not angered by it. She was pretty surprised that she was not stripped of her armor, still permitted to wear it.

"I'd say that I'm disappointed, but what should've we expected from a human?" Letty snorted, sitting down on one of the beds and fixing the collar on her neck. No matter how hard she tried to grip it, her body did not listen and refused to obey such thoughts.

"I think this is perfectly normal," Zazuba said, also sitting down. "We are strangers. No, we are worse. We are enemies. Both of our sides are gambling here!"

"Still… These degrading collars are not necessary! Hmf! Especially because we already had proof of our intentions by killing that idiot!"

"Try to calm down, Letty." Tylvana sat down next to her, gently hugging her body. "I agree with Zazuba on this. If they would accept us with open arms, without questions, I'd be more shocked! I would even start to think they are already pawns of others! Or it's a trap, and we are going to be killed as soon as we go with them."

"Exactly!" Zazuba nodded. "This was the most logical conclusion, and so far, they have been more civil to us than we could wish for! You, too, know how our side handled prisoners and surrendered warriors… Or do I need to explain?"

"No…" Letty sighed, remembering the mutilated corpses and how others were transported to the mountains in chains. "I just… hate the feeling of being at the mercy of someone else!" She said, fixing her collar once again.


"What are your plans with them?" Niji asked when they were back in his office.

"I honestly don't know yet." Ren chuckled, sitting down. "I did not expect defectors."

"Do you believe them?"

"Yes. Ariana confirmed it! She could feel as if they were lying, and what Tylvana said was the truth. None of them lied. I'm a bit frustrated about it! That general of theirs looks strong. I could have used her… tsk. Anyway, I'll get as much info as I can about the tigers."

"I'll start occupying the east side of the forest and set up outposts. With the tribes originating from there, we can quickly set up a system of small towns and hidden camps. So we will know if the tigers are coming down to us."

"Good idea. I'm going to craft you some voice transmission artifacts so the outposts can communicate immediately with each other. I want capable and trustworthy people stationed there!"

"I just hope we can resist what is coming to us," Niji said, but his voice was calm.

"We can. Relax, he is engaging in two fronts, and he needs to split his attention and forces now! I'll make sure that he wakes up every morning with a headache! After consulting with the prisoners, I'll evaluate their trustworthiness and visit the foxes."

"The foxes?" Niji raised his eyebrows.

"Yup. Through them, I'll call for a meeting between us, them, and the wolves. I want to establish a coalition. An alliance. We in the south, the wolves in the north, and the foxes in the west."

"And if we can push back on them tigers together, we could even conquer them!" Niji's eyes shone in a strong glint, hearing her words.

"I don't want to conquer them. Look at the Empire that Aerthus established or look at the Old Kingdom. They ruled this place but never occupied the lower regions in the old days. Have you ever asked yourself why?"

"Not really…" He said, waiting for Ren's explanation.

"Sect Head did not wage war against the Kingdom of Ten in the end. No matter how hard Zelig campaigned on his own side, that he would… The Sect Head was not an idiot. He knew it would be pointless. He knew when to stop. If he would continue conquering, he would endanger the stability of his newly created empire. The people fought enough; the land was enduring years of conquest, and he may conquer parts of the Kingdom… maybe even establish a strong foothold. But! The pushback would be immense, and sooner or later, he would lose that territory. Then it would bring different kinds of problems back at home, and honestly…? I could give you a lecture about it for hours." Ren chuckled. "This is why I respect Sect Head. He knows when to stop and not get lost in the 'I want more' mindset that so many fall into."

"What about the Old Kingdom?"

"Same. They stretched only to their natural borders and not further. They prospered, and with that, they had a firm influence on the southern lands. The old countries, kingdoms, and city-states before the Empire and the Kingdom were all looking at them as their overlords. They could conquer them, yes, but they did not. Why? Because it was best to let them manage themselves and just cooperate when they wanted something. It was much more beneficial! Why wage decades of war and overcomplicate everything? There is a limit in how many things a human can hold in its two hands." She explained it to him calmly.

Niji fell silent while going through Ren's words before closing his eyes, mulling over it. Ren patiently waited, watching the minute changes in his expression, before finally reopening his eyes.

"So we push back the tigers to the east, and we… cooperate with them from there?"

"Kinda." Ren nodded. "First, we are going to kill the Tiger King. Eliminate his most hardcore supporters. Otherwise, we would fail to placate the wolves. By now, I'm sure that they want blood and exterminate every cat-like demon from the surface of the realm. We also can't let that happen! After we deal with the problem of the wolves' predicted temper tantrums, we can put someone in the cats' territory to take over the reins. Someone that we can work with."


"Maybe. But it is yet to be set in stone! Maybe after their king's death, the tribes would want to go back to their original, independent lives. I don't really care until they don't want to conquer the rest of the forest again. The main focus should be that the forest is going to have a coalition of demons. Everyone is going to have their regions that they control." She stood up, walked to the window, and explained it to Niji. "North, east, south, and west. Similar to how we are set up right now. A council of the region leaders to interact with the outside. That way, even if one of the sides wants to cause trouble, the others can band together and keep the peace and stability."

"What about the ents?" Niji asked after a minute of silence.

"That is a question for after we unify the rest," Ren whispered. "If they stay silent… That is good. I'd prefer that. But if not… then there is one more reason to band together."

"Maybe that is why the Tiger King wants to conquer all, huh?"

"Maybe, but he goes about it wrong. You can't unify the land by force. Let me rephrase that. You can't unify the land for long by force. After you die, it is going to revert back to chaos. Conquerors never leave behind long-lasting inheritances to those who come after them. They can only leave their own legends behind." Ren shook her head. "This is the difference between conquerors and founders. The latter knows when to stop and work on the foundation they laid down. They aim to build something they can pass on to the next in line. The former only takes away other's achievements and parades them as their own."

"Well… they are already calling you Founder Thunder." Niji chuckled. "If you unify the forest, you are going to be worthy of that title."

"Don't make me into a leader figure. Please!" Ren whispered, looking back at him seriously. "Or I'll drag you into bloodshed."

"What do you mean?" He asked as he scrunched his eyebrows together.

"Because not once have I had the idea since coming here to lead the unified demons right down into the land of the Kingdom of Ten… Wreaking havoc amongst their lines." She explained truthfully, not looking away from Niji's eyes. "Do not tempt me to use you for my revenge. Please."

"I think a lot of demons would be willing to help you with that." He said honestly, as he was one of those demons.

"Please. Drop it." Ren said with a pained voice. "He was with me when this all started here… And I want to see it succeed as we intended it from the start. Not as a tool for my revenge. But as a land of peace where I can… relax." She sighed, feeling a hand on her shoulders that she so desperately wanted to be real, but deep inside, she knew nobody was standing behind her at that moment.