Chapter 283 Defense
The dark, static filled veil surrounding the Velis Temple faded away. As the veil broke apart, the white glow of the temple crept forward, finally freed. All the possessed elves nearby scattered away, disappearing back into the depths of their fire and destruction torn town.
The light of the temple was holy in nature, creating a purified area from which no average demon could wander in. Not even demon influenced beings like the possessed could breach the holy boundary. In other words, it was a small safe zone.
Such an area would have damaged Aldrich, too, but as a designated 'champion' - the term given to the player for those blessed by the goddess to be heroes - he could access such areas with no issue.
Aldrich stepped through the light with Chrysa on his skeletal extra arm and entered the cavern of intertwined branches and greenery. Inside, vibrant shades of red, blue, gold, and white from glowing boughs of flowers growing on the walls and ceiling painted the temple innards with warm and inviting colors.
A stark contrast to the dozens of dead elves scattered about.
"Why are they all dead?" said Chrysa. "They don't look hurt at all. Can father bring them back?"
"Their souls are long gone," said Aldrich. "And they're hurt because of suffocation. The demons couldn't get to them physically, but smoking out all the oxygen still got to them in the end."
Chrysa nodded. "I feel bad for them. For all of them outside. Will we save them, eventually?"
"There's nothing left to save. All the living elves are too deep in possession that they've been carved out near hollow spiritually. They're like empty shells now. The moment the demonic influence ends, they'll keel over and die, their minds so deteriorated they can't even get themselves to breathe," said Aldrich.
At first, Aldrich had not cared much because he had considered all the elves and trial quests as just game events to clear. But after resurrecting Fler'Gan and talking to Barbos, he began to suspect strongly that they were not artificially constructed.
All of the Elden World beings that Aldrich encountered were alive and fully sentient. Sometimes, in the trial quests, their free will was stripped away due to 'programming', but as with Fler'Gan, once they were freed from it, they were fully conscious beings.
Barbos proved this even more.
The Death Lord, Valera, the Deathguard - they were all very, very real.
The most interesting thing that Aldrich noted was that the Elden World beings he saw could have been in 'early game' bodies, lower leveled with less gear, but still have their 'endgame' memories.
Valera, for example, showed up to Aldrich with none of her endgame stats or gear. But she retained all her memories with him. Same with the Death Lord - she was supposed to be dead, but she was still around with all her memories up to her death intact.
"That's sad," said Chrysa. "They looked like nice people."
Chrysa snapped Aldrich out of his contemplation. "It's okay, Chrysa. Sometimes, you can save them, sometimes, you can't. Not letting it crush you is how you stay on your feet, and the longer you stay on your feet, the more good you do."
Aldrich reached the end of the temple, in the deepest part of the cavern, and there, he looked up to behold a glowing white, seed-shaped construct of pure energy wrapped about in a tangle of roots. The roots attached to the walls and ceiling, acting like veins that pumped glowing white energy from the seed to the rest of the temple.
This was an Arselis seed that had the capacity to grow into a towering Arsillow tree. It was a small seed, just the size of an average human, and unblessed, meaning it could not sprout into a full tree. It could, however, still be used to create a smaller construct like this temple.
Strong life giving magics emanated from the seed. The ground around the seed grew particularly wildly, the grasses reaching as high as Aldrich's waist. Elves would prostrate themselves in this grass in worship of their goddess from, feeling the seed's life giving energy as their goddess's presence.
"It's shiny and warm. I like it." Chrysa hopped off of Aldrich's shoulder and floated towards the seed, touching it.
"Wait, that's dangerous-," began Aldrich, knowing life energy could harm undead. In the case of the seed, even the goddess's champion protection did not work.
But Chrysa touched the seed with no issue, smiling as she basked in its life giving energies. Perhaps this meant that certain undead from the real world were not affected by positive energy like this.
"I'm glad you like it, because once we're done with it, we're taking it home with us," said Aldrich.
"Really!?" said Chrysa. "I want to put it in the house!"
"Yeah, it would be a solid addition to our Boundary. But it'll be a lot smaller and weaker than it is now, so don't get your hopes up too much."
"That's not fair!"
"Tell me about it. Games always give you horrible downgraded versions of their boss or important plot items." Aldrich reached his hand towards the seed but did not touch it. A screen popped up in front of him.
[You have reached the Arselis Seed. With its holy light, you may choose two options.
1. Bless you and all allied units with holy light for the remainder of this quest.
2. Cause the seed to bloom. This will cause the seed to begin channeling and building up its stored energy. Upon the end of the channel, it will split apart and unleash a powerful wave of holy energy, purifying any demonic influence in its range.
If the seed channels enough to fully purify the town, then the quest will be considered complete.
However, you must defend the seed until the purification process is complete. If the seed is damaged too much, the channeling will end and the seed will be rendered permanently inactive, destroying all available safe zones throughout the town.
In addition, the boss of this area will notice the channeling and travel towards it.]
Aldrich pressed the second option with no hesitation.
The seed started to flux with energy. Instead of sending waves of white outwards, it now drained the energy back into itself. The grasses wilted and died. The cavern branches crumbled into dust, revealing once more the bright red and ash filled sky of the Flame Arc.
The seed floated in the air on its own, drawing a single ring around it to indicate it had begun its channeling process. Over time, it would grow two more rings, each representing 10 minutes, to signify channeling progress.
With three rings, the seed would crack open and shunt out its built up energy in a nova of positive force that would wipe out all weak demons. It would not kill Deimos, the main boss, but it would massively weaken him, and from there, it was a much easier job to get rid of Deimos and then the Flame Arc.
In essence, this turned the quest into a defense based strategy game.
But Aldrich had no intention of playing it. To defend this seed, he needed an entire army to ward off attacks from all sides. In Elden World, he enjoyed placing ranged units on rooftops, abusing chokeholds to minimize demonic swarms, and the like.
Here, though, Aldrich had no army. With literally every single demon in the area now coming to this exact spot, he had no way to survive by himself, let alone defending the seed.
But Barbos had confirmed to Aldrich one thing: you could think out of the box. You could play the game outside of its programming.
This seed was just a distraction. Aldrich had no intention of protecting it.
"Fatherâ€¦I don't like this," said Chrysa, her ears pointing up.
"It is scary, isn't it?" Aldrich felt the ground shake. He heard the rumbling pitter and patter of countless demonic footsteps all converging madly towards the seed like a storm of infernal might.
In the distance, at the top of the towering Arsillow tree where Deimos channeled the Flame Arc, he saw a flash of bright orange, fiery light. That was Deimos stopping the channel to move towards the seed as well.
A bright orb of orange light started to move down the tree, showing Deimos's progress to the seed. If the game was still the same, then it would take Deimos ten minutes.
"Alright, Chrysa," said Aldrich. For the first time, he manifested his [Frosthallowed War Scythe]. In sparks of pale blue, the scythe materialized, and Aldrich felt its weight sit comfortably in his hands.
From a metal staff base glowing with pale blue tint, scythe heads of pure ice on either end, allowing Aldrich to cleave from both sides of the scythe. Spikes of ice also protruded from the ends of the metal base, letting Aldrich pierce like a spear if needed as well.
Aldrich heard the rumbling of demons approach closer and closer now. These footsteps were lighter, comprised mostly of hellhounds and imps. It was only after a few minutes that heavier hitters like Grinners would show up.
"Yes, father?" Chrysa looked around nervously, though her bared fangs and claws made it clear that she was ready to fight as well.
"We're going to hold our position for, let's see, around five minutes. Cover me if something dangerous looks like it's going to hit me. But other than that, you save your mana," said Aldrich. He pointed his scythe end to the top of the Arsillow tree, where the Flame Arc was. "Because I'll need you to warp us both all the way over there."