The question to the poll is at the bottom of the chapter... otherwise there will be a spoiler.
So for those who wonder why the chapters have been shorter recently... it's partially due to the car problems which reduced my almost nonexistent free time and partially because I wasn't 100% sure how I wanted the story to develop in the forest, which made it darn hard to write. For the next few chapters I have a more well defined route that'll be followed so they'll be far easier to write and the chapters should get longer again from here on out.
The griffon unleashed a deafening roar as the aura surrounding it became horrifying beyond belief. What was left over from flora in the vicinity immediately withered away and turned to dust. At the same time the griffon's hit points had plummeted to a mere 100. As a last resort it had cut its own life short while receiving a horrifying amount of strength in return. Its lost feathers quickly recovered now, restoring the original defense of its body. The aura rapidly expanded, life quickly withering away wherever it spread. Once the aura reached Zaran, his hp bar too started to deplete rapidly. Meanwhile the raven was almost completely covered in the ominous black aura.
"Not good! Quickly finish it!" Zaran exclaimed. If the aura went a little further it would start affecting the wounded raven, which in its current state would quickly die from the damage. However after covering Zaran the aura stopped expanding.
The griffon roared once more and the aura quickly retracted, pulling along the dust of the withered life with it. The dust started to swirl around the griffon before entering the griffon's pores. A moment later its hp started to restore rapidly and only stopped once it had reached 25% of its max health. While it still had lost health in the process, Zaran noticed that the griffon in its current state was far more dangerous than before.
Finally the black aura had fully covered the raven and the raven rapidly descended to attack the griffon. The griffon growled as it prepared to dodge the raven's attack and then counterattack it. Right before the raven hit the griffon it dodged but the raven had already expected that and turned to the way that the griffon had dodged to and hit the griffon with one of it's wings, instantly slicing deep into the griffon's flesh with it. The raven quickly flew up again and circled around the griffon before attacking in the same way again. The griffon roared and released the vile aura again, quickly depleting the raven's health in the process. The raven quickly left the aura and stared angrily at the griffon.
Kirin leisurely walked into the aura on her own before turning around to Zaran with an inquisitive expression on her face. She was completely unaffected by the aura and instead of hurting her it seemed to nourish the little hellhound.
Instantly realizing why Kirin was looking at him strangely, Zaran nodded to her. Black flames sprouted from Kirin's body as she rushed towards the griffon. Kirin launched a few dark flame balls at the griffon, instantly pushing it back. The griffon growled in pain but before it could retaliate Kirin had already arrived at it and fiercely bit its ankles. Although it looked funny, the damage dealt was absolutely no joke. With just a few moves the remaining 500 hp had dropped down to 100. Compared to other sources of damage that the griffon would slowly heal from, the griffon showed no sign of healing from Kirin's damage.
The griffon swatted at Kirin with one of it's paws but Kirin nimbly dodged by running under the griffon's body. Kirin released one more final dark flame ball at the griffon before it collapsed with a loud roar. A golden light descended on Zaran, Kirin, Cindarrah and the two ravens indicating that all of them had leveled up. The light descended another time on Zaran.
Zaran's mouth had fallen open from the scene as he hadn't imagined Kirin being so strong. While her earlier job in the battle had been to obstruct the griffon, now he was thinking that she could've dealt with it all by herself. The griffon's oppressing aura started to dissipate and Zaran ran over to Kirin and started praising her endlessly.
However when the vile aura was completely gone Kirin suddenly lost her consciousness and fell to the ground.
"Kirin?" Zaran exclaimed worriedly.
A croaking voice entered Zaran's mind. "Don't worry human. She has borrowed the power of the aura to battle the griffon and now her body must pay the price. She will be fine with a lot of rest." The raven paused for a bit before continueuing. "I wish to thank you for stepping in. If not for you I fear both me and my spouse would have been devoured by the griffon."
"No need to thank me, I was merely acting according to what I thought was the best decision for the balance of the forest."
"And that is exactly why we must thank you. If not for your aid in the battle we would have lost and the natural order of this forest would most certainly have gone out of control. Wait here... I'll give you a token of appreciation for helping us in our time of need."
The raven quickly flew up in the air and disappeared into the guardian tree. Moments later it reappeared carrying in its beak a large orange colored flower with six petals, each petal as large as a hand and a small brown pendant that looked like a miniature flute. The raven put both of the items in front of Zaran and started explaining their uses.
"If you blow this flute I, Aruan, will instantly come over to your aid as long as you are within a hundred kilometers of the guardian tree. But beware, at the furthest range it will take me an hour to get to you. So keep that in mind. As for the flower... It's a very rare treasure. It is a flower from a parasitic plant that grows on the guardian tree and only blooms for a single hour each year. If one does not grab the flower within this hour, you'll have to wait another year to get one. As for it's effects, there are two things that are noteworthy."
"For one the petals of this flower immediately grants one a large increase in power. Both me and my spouse are only a few years old, but our power is far stronger than the majority of the same generation. It is all due to our discovery of this flower. We both eat half of the petals so our power somewhat stays the same. If not for this flower we would've been swatted like flies by the griffon."
"The stem and leaves have a small chance to give one the ability to communicate telepathically! For me it worked at the first time but for my spouse it took five tries!"
"But beware! Do not eat the seeds of this plants as they have negate all the positive effects the petals give you!"
A shocked expression appeared on Zaran's face the more Aruan explained about the flower. Especially the part about communicating telepathically was interesting. At the moment Kirin could understand him but he didn't always know what Kirin wanted. If Kirin could communicate telepathically it would be quite convenient for him. However Zaran felt that he couldn't possibly accept such a great offer. It was obvious that the ravens relied heavily on this flower to acquire their current strength.
"I can't possibly accept this flower." Zaran politely said after thinking it through for a while.
"Then... in return for the flower... could you hand over the griffon's corpse?" Aruan asked.
"The corpse?" Zaran could get loot from it if he kept it but... would it be as good as the flower? Zaran pondered for a while and eventually nodded saying. "I can agree to that exchange."
A happy expression surfaced on the raven's face. "Then let's do it like that."
Zaran equipped the pendant and stowed away the flower.
"Would you like me to give you a ride back to the city?" Aruan asked.
"If I could bother you with that, then yes please." Zaran respectfully replied.
"Hop on then!"
Zaran picked up Kirin and mounted Aruan. Cindarrah had long before taken her favorite spot on Zaran's head so he didn't need to pick her up.
Aruan ascended to the skies and quickly they arrived at the city. A plethora of users cried out in amazement as they saw the raven arrive and drop Zaran off. Even more so when they noticed the user's name was Zaran. Instantly Zaran was swarmed with user upon user.
"Kirin, aura! now!" Zaran yelled quickly. As soon as Kirin's aura befell the nearby users many of them took a few steps back. However a not insignificant amount of users were unaffected by the aura. Currently Kirin was too weak to affect the stronger users so Zaran was still swarmed by the stronger ones. A dark expression surfaced on Zaran's face.
One of the nearby guards had noticed the commotion and had called over a large regiment of guards to scatter the users. When the guards approached Zaran a surprised look appeared on his face before his expression turned serious.
"Come with me. The major has been searching for you the past few weeks."
Zaran nodded and followed the guards.
Poll question: Let Kirin gain sentience or not? Originally I planned to let it fail but after thinking it through for a while I decided to let you guys have a say in this one!