"So this is a World Tree, huh?" Lone marvelled at the sight before him.
A trunk so large you couldn't even see the edge of it. It was like looking at a never-ending wall of bark. If Lone craned his neck, he could see that the tree went up limitlessly as well. It truly was a sight to behold. Perhaps more importantly though, Lone could feel a wealth of energy in the air.
"Impressed?" Al'ka asked from his side.
"Yeah...it's really something." Lone wasn't the only one impressed. All of his companions, Rachel included, we're awed by such a magnificent structure of nature.
They had sailed back to Everlast with Captain Sabrina and they stayed there for a few days. Lone bid farewell to Malt and his group of Wolfkin Adventurers and Eolande had a surprisingly warm goodbye with the Half-Orcs. Unbeknownst to Lone, the Tylwyth Teg had a fairly close relationship with the Half-Orcs and they frequently met to gamble the night away during their journey.
Rachel was stood a good distance away from Sophie for good reason. Not a single day didn't go by without Sophie finding Rachel to 'play' with her tails. Most of the time, Swind had needed to borrow Rachel to assist him with his knitting or chores since everyone else was busy, this meant that Sophie couldn't molest young girl's fluffy limbs as much as she'd like to, which had resulted in Rachel developing a certain fondness for Swind.
"Where's the entrance?" Lone asked curiously. The World Tree seemed so unfathomably large, that it was hard for Lone to picture where they go inside of it.
"Patience, Lone. We'll be received by someone shortly. I told you before how we High Elves are the Keepers of the top of the world tree, yes? We first need to pass through the gateway," Al'ka replied mysteriously.
"...Gateway?" Lone mumbled in response.
He and his group followed Al'ka and the female High Elf. Even if the tree was very visible, it took them two hours to reach it even when walking at a very brisk pace. As usual, Eolande had gotten bored so she'd decided to ride on Kyuubi's back. The small Fox had grown in size once again and Lone and Sophie were eagerly awaiting the day that she would speak to them and explain what her story was.
Sophie was floating on her barrier saucer as usual with Swind walking next to her and Rachel hiding behind him. Speaking of Swind, he had a greatsword strapped to his back. He wasn't particularly skilled in using it, but the greatsword was the weapon that he was most apt in handling, at least that was the case until Lone could figure out how to incorporate strings into the Lemurian's arm and tail that he was still busy creating.
Roughly two-hundred meters away from the base of the World Tree's trunk, the group stopped moving. Lone was once again awed by what he could see. Besides the impossibly large tree, there was an incredibly thick and powerful barrier of some sort covering the entire area, making it impossible to approach the World Tree.
"A barrier?" Sophie curiously asked as she floated towards the clear film-like substance and reached her hand out to touch it.
"Don't touch it! It will instantly kill anyone not linked to i-" Al'ka's words were cut short and his face paled.
Sophie's hand smoothly passed through the barrier, and after a short second of hesitation, she floated right through it. She turned around and looked at Al'ka and Lone with a bit of confusion on her face.
The Her Highness had a very fascinated look on her face, but she otherwise remained silent. Al'ka, on the other hand, was bewildered. How had this Human girl passed through the World Tree's defensive barrier unharmed? It had to be known that this barrier was the main reason that not a single attempt at stealing the World Tree's energy had succeeded thus far.
"Al'ka, what exactly is this barrier?" Lone asked while he kept his eyes on Sophie. 'Judging by his reaction, I'm guessing Soph shouldn't have been able to pass through... Is it because of her unique barrier magic that she can?'
"This barrier," a voice belonging to no one Lone was familiar with said, "was created with the joint efforts of the Wood Elf and High Elf elders of the past generations. It is nigh impenetrable and only those accepted by the World Tree or those with World Tree sigils may pass through. This Human is not accepted and does not own such a sigil. Might I ask, how is it that she is able to pass through?" the owner of the voice added.
Lone turned his eyes to the voice's origin and he could see a small Fairy, roughly half the size of Eolande, hovering in the air on the other side of the barrier.
"Great Elder Lipsilk, it's a pleasure to be graced by your presence," Ak'la said as he got on one knee and bowed to the creature.
Her Highness bowed her head respectfully. This male fairy, 'Lipsilk', arched an eyebrow and stared at Sophie for several seconds before he looked at Lone. "Well, no matter. You'll have plenty of time to explain later. Here, all of you, take this."
After saying that, Lipsilk waved his hand and seven small rings with a green stone embedded onto them appeared. These rings then floated towards Sophie, Lone, Eolande, Swind, Rachel, Kyuubi and Lone's shadow.
'He can even detect Breena? Interesting... I wonder how strong he is?' Lone thought before he inspected the Fairy's status sheet.
"Hmm?" Lipsilk raised an eyebrow and started to giggle. "Interesting."
He slowly hovered in front of Lone. He flew around his head peacefully and he didn't seem to have anything on his mind besides curiosity. Lone was sweating. 'So like I thought... This power of Clicker's... It's not undetectable. Well fuck. I'd better be more frugal in my use of it in the future then, huh? I can beat this guy If I use my lord of possibility title, but I'd best not push things.'
"Hehehe. Very interesting... Well, everyone, even you in the shadows, put that ring I gave you on. It's the World Tree sigil that I mentioned before. It's been a long time since we accepted so many outsider World Keepers at once," Lipsilk said before he waved his hand and suddenly, Eolande disappeared from Kyuubi's back and reappeared next to Lone. Lipsilk then floated onto Kyuubi and a sigh escaped his lips.
"Very comfortable. Well, you're an odd lot, but I can see you all have your talents. Let's go, shall we? Hehehe," Lipsilk chuckled. He then lightly kicked Kyuubi's side like one would to a horse, making her walk forwards.
Eolande stared in amazement. 'Such a powerful creature... How was I unaware of such a being three-thousand years ago? True, I never approached a World Tree... But surely rumours would have spread? To be able to forcefully teleport a Cosmos-Ranked Being... Well, suddenly, this whole 'World Tree Keeper' business got a lot more interesting.'
Everyone did as told and wore their rings. They then followed Kyuubi and Lipsilk through the barrier. It was an odd sensation, to say the least. Swind was probably the most affected by crossing the barrier.
"I feel ss-stronger?" Swind was the weakest person present not including Kyuubi, so it was very easy for him to tell that he had gained strength simply by walking through the barrier, and it befuddled him.
"Hehehe, that's the World Tree energy. It's scarce these days, but just being near the tree will slowly increase your power. Stay here for a few weeks, and I wouldn't be surprised if you made a breakthrough or two, Lemurian. Hehehe," Lipsilk answered as he reclined on Kyuubi's back.
Swind was a little bit startled. 'He knows-ss of my race? Amazing!'
Sophie frowned at how this Fairy was treating her and Lone's daughter, but she had seen the look on Lone's face earlier so she knew better than to provoke the Fairy.
"The energy is scarce?" Lone asked, having noticed this particular fact. From his senses, all he could feel was power. It was a boundless sensation and the notion that it was 'scarce' sounded ludicrous to him.
Lipsilk, Al'ka and Her Highness all looked a bit saddened. Before Lipsilk could reply, Her Highness spoke. "All things come to an end. This is the law of nature. Even World Trees aren't excluded from this law, Lone."
"I see...so the tree is dying?" Lone replied in High Elvish. He had no knowledge of such things, so the idea of such a majestic and marvellous tree dying somehow made him upset.
"What Her Highness said is correct, however, the tree's time wasn't supposed to come for at least another aeon." There was anger and bitterness in Lipsilk's voice.
Lone didn't understand what the Fairy meant, so he asked, "Then what's making the tree die?"
Lipsilk had a furious expression on his face and his eyes remained focused on the World Tree. "The Darkness Dragon, Ythmagobla."
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