Days passed as Jake entertained Reika, primarily through discussions on alchemy and just seeing the city. He had even given her a tour of his new alchemy laboratory, which she was quite impressed with, especially the room with the water basin in it, as well as the laboratory itself. She said that the craftsmanship was above anything anyone in the Noboru Clan could do, making Jake wonder how Arnold and Hank had pulled it off.
The best part of it all had no doubt been when they went to see the dungeon entrance and the under-construction garden, which had netted them both a big surprise.
“Why is there level 149 troll just below the city?” Reika had asked as she looked at the large troll digging through some soil with its hands. “And why is it wearing overalls?”
Jake didn’t have an answer for that as he looked at the troll wearing oversized blue dirty overalls covering its lower half as it worked. When the troll saw Jake and Reika, it waved happily at them, and soon enough, two small trolls ran over.
Reika looked a bit taken aback, but Jake calmed her down as one of the trolls ran up to him and handed him a shiny stone. It wasn’t an item or anything, just a bit shiny.
“Thanks,” Jake said, reaching up to the little guy. Yes, he had to reach up as the troll was slightly taller than himself.
The troll happily clapped and ran back to its parent while the second troll stayed and looked at Reika. It tried to poke her, but Reika backed away a bit from the dirt-stained hands of the troll. It looked sad, so Jake threw Reika a look, making her give in as he held out her hand and touched the little one’s hand.
It smiled and danced a bit in place as he held out its other hand to give her a small flower. Reika accepted that one, too, making the troll run back in excitement.
“Why did you get a flower when I got a rock?” Jake commented.
“That’s your takeaway? I’m wondering why you have a family of trolls living right beneath the city… isn’t this a hazard? And this close to the dungeon?” Reika said.
“Do they look dangerous?” Jake answered, smiling a bit. “They originally came from within the dungeon, and I chose to bring them out as I like them. The big one is also damn good at gardening; it is the one behind all this.”
The entire biodome once inhabited by the mushroom was already beginning to look a lot better, especially with the troll and its children now around to help manage things. The Cave Troll liked to dig up weeds, plant flowers, till the ground, and just generally tend to plants and just relax. It was a peaceful creature that had only been forced into conflict by the Deepdwellers in the dungeon. Now that it was outside, it could just dedicate itself to its true calling:
To be a troll gardener.
Ah, but not to misunderstand. The troll was still one of the strongest creatures in the city, and even after all Jake’s levels, he still didn’t want to take a direct clubbing.
“This is… quite novel,” Reika commented. “I also noticed Sylphie, and you mentioned her parents were also around. Are you planning on opening up the city to beasts and monsters to also live here?”
Jake looked at her, a bit confused. “It was never closed to them? If a bunch of beasts or whatever come and wanna live here, they are free to. They just have to follow the same rules as everyone else, and I can’t see the issue.”
“It may make others feel uncomfortable and unsafe,” Reika commented. “I am not saying it can’t be done, but it will take a lot of convincing, political maneuvering and campaigning as well as cultural restructuring to make it feasible.”
“I don’t see the issue,” Jake just shrugged. “That sounds like a them-problem and not a me-problem. If anyone has a problem with others living here – be they human, beast, monsters, or whatever – they can fuck right off and leave. This is my city and my rules. If any creature is intelligent enough to act properly, they can stay. I don’t see why not.”
“That is just putting people in a difficult spot… they have nowhere else to go if they find themselves forc-“
“No one is forcing them to do anything besides not being bigoted assholes. If that is too much to ask, we are back to them fucking right off, and if they make problems or try to start shit, I will gladly make them fuck off.”
Jake was quite clear on this point. He didn’t know why, but hearing everyone talk about humans as if they were on some goddamn pedestal, making them better than everything else, just annoyed him on a fundamental level. Sylphie, Hawkie, Mystie, the trolls in front of him, Villy, the King of the Forest… were as much people as Miranda and Arnold. Shit, Casper was not a human anymore either, and his girlfriend Lyra was a spirit, which was classified as a monster, making her pretty damn far from human herself.
He didn’t see race as making someone better than everyone else… except if it was a race giving better stats or something, in which case it was just better... okay, he didn’t see species making someone better. It didn’t even make much sense to talk about who or what was superior.
No one was superior to Jake anyway. That didn’t mean no one was equal, mind you, but Jake didn’t care how strong someone was or how influential or whatever. He would get as strong as they were or stronger one day anyway.
“Alright…” Reika relented after a little while, but Jake knew she disagreed. He didn’t want to argue about it because he knew most thought like that. Jake understood, partly, and believed in due time, people would come to learn the world had changed. Like, how could one hate the cute trolls just minding their own business and being nice to visitors?
He didn’t recognize humans tended to have more societal structures than beasts, and those structures did make Jake less willing to hunt them. In fact, anyone not showing hostility wasn’t someone he actively wanted to hunt down. As an example, if Jake had entered the monkey territory back right after he was evolved and all that had happened was them handing him a banana and allowing him to chill, he wouldn’t have waged war against them. It was their choice to fling literal shit at him. Did he then overreact? Maybe, but hey, he had to hunt something for levels.
This did mean Jake also held that mentality towards humans. If he entered a settlement and was attacked, he would gladly level the place. He was an equal opportunity hunter.
He and Reika had changed the subject after that and kept discussing the city, the garden, his alchemy lab, and a slew of other things. When Miranda finally came out of the dungeon, she was met with an avalanche of work as all of the folk from the Noboru clan needed proper housing in the actual city of Haven. Hank had luckily been cognisant of this happening and had already made plans for a large complex for the visiting alchemists that he reckoned he could have up and running within a week.
Something he managed to do as an entire area off to the side of Haven was prepared, and a section of the forest turned into a compound occupied by the Noboru clan. Jake had come to learn that they planned on not just staying for a brief visit but would make it a long-term occupancy. At least until a teleportation circle had been established between Haven and Saya, which would no doubt be a while due to the distance and the lack of cooperation to get it done beforehand.
Reika had brought an item from their own space mages and given it to Neil, so at least that should speed up the process. The distance to the territory of the Noboru clan was further than to Skyggen, but it wasn’t that much, only about twice as far. The only reason Haven and Skyggen had one established was that both sides worked together from the beginning and were willing to offer resources to make it happen as a priority. Many other places, including the Noboru clan, were still a bit hesitant to have near-instant transportation right into the midst of their own territories, and for quite obvious reasons.
It could be used to invade other territories easily. There were safety measures such as the ability to instantly destroy the circle, but what if the other side only needed one person? If someone like Jake or the Sword Saint decided to go through a circle, they could cause disastrous damage, potentially killing everyone in power before a proper response could be formed.
Either way, it was something for other people than Jake to deal with. Something else he would also outsource was another thing Reika had brought up when she asked a very obvious question: what was the name of the troll?
Jake had considered just making up one quickly, but “Trollie” probably wasn’t the best name when he didn’t even know the sex of the troll. Also, the look Reika gave him when he proposed it wasn’t an approving one. Well, he did find out later it was a male troll due to a member of the Noboru clan who specialized in alchemy to assist the growth of beasts and monsters of varying sorts.
The skill used to figure out the sex was one to find out what kind of virility medicine was required. Jake got the explanation that a big part of the job of alchemists like him was to make sure the beasts reproduced. Needless to say, Jake didn’t like the guy from the get-go as he clearly still viewed beasts as lesser lifeforms to be exploited and used for the good of mankind. Something he more or less confessed. Jake considered just having Sylphie teach the guy who was actually in charge. He would learn soon enough that denying treats to her wasn’t a wise decision, and her screeches were law.
Anyway, back to a troll name… Jake decided to put that off and ask people with hopefully a better naming sense. He would talk to some people or maybe have Miranda handle it, and he would just be the one to approve one. Well, the troll would be the one to ultimately approve if he liked the name or not. The small trolls could get named later, hopefully by their caretaker.
Because Jake also learned trolls such as the Undergrowth Cave Troll could learn how to talk in primitive ways, and even if not, he could at least learn to write a bit or communicate in more complex ways with time.
Days slowly passed like this as everything in Haven was calm. Jake mainly studied alchemy and sparred with those from the Noboru clan, enjoying finally having others to talk to who knew a bit about it. It still ended up mainly being himself and Reika, as quite honestly, the others were not quite at their level.
What was funny was that Jake got a level in his profession while teaching some alchemists how to make Necrotic Poison. He also learned that they gained a lot from the experience, including levels. Jake’s Legacy Teachings of the Heretic-Chosen Alchemist coupled with Legacy of Man, the unique racial skill of humans, truly made a powerful combo as just Jake showing off some basic stuff apparently had quite the impact.
Throughout this time, he had also finally fixed his Cauldron of Supreme Simplicity and could now do some alchemy himself too. Overall this time was relaxed as soon three weeks had passed, and even if Jake only gained that single level, he would say his time was well-spent.
But then… then the fateful day came.
“Jake,” a voice echoed in his head. “It is complete.”
He felt a shiver run down his spine as Jake feared the worst. “Do you seriously want me to head to some academy right now?”
“What? No, of course not, not yet. You will be outed as either a heretic or a Chosen just based on your aura alone within the first day and either be hunted down or be treated like the second coming of me, which would both make this entire academy thing a waste of time. No, before you head off, you’re gonna need another training montage. Just me and you,” Villy said.
“Train what?” Jake wondered.
“You will know once you go through the gateway and travel between worlds,” Villy answered mysteriously. “The sooner, the better! So do not dally! Onwards!”
Jake heard the call of the Viper and did as he usually did: spontaneously made a decision. He got up from where he sat and went over to the compound where Reika was to inform her he was heading out. When she asked where to and if she could follow, he just answered he was traveling to the first universe to do some stuff with the Malefic Viper, which was enough for her to not ask again.
Then he went and informed Miranda, who was busy planning with her party how to kill the dungeon’s final boss – Jake had not told them of the Altmar Census Golem part. That was a surprise. She was surprised and asked if he expected her to come with him, but he said it was secret hidden training. He naturally also informed Sylphie through their bond, but she was already out of the city herself.
After all of that, he went straight for the Fort where he found Chris already waiting at the monument, incredibly excited. He stood in front of it and stared, not even noticing Jake’s arrival before he stood right next to him.
“Lord Thayne!” Chris reacted surprised as he bowed. “It’s ready! Fully charged, and the connection is established! With the assistance of the Malefic One, using it now should be simplicity itself, simply stand in the center, and I am certain the Malefic One will do the rest!”
“What the builder said,” Villy confirmed. “This entire monument more or less creates an anchor on your world for me to latch onto long enough to establish a connection within it without tearing everything apart between here and your universe. This would be far fucking simpler without the system still babying your universe, but here we are, having to come up with contrived workarounds.”
“Hey, if it works, it works,” Jake answered as he turned to address Chris.
“Thanks for the hard work. I am off then.”
Chris just looked on with excitement and a bit of nervousness as Jake went into the middle of the messed-up monument and stood on a semi-circular slab of stone. Once he stood there, he suddenly felt his connection with Villy get more powerful than before. Space began warping around him ever-so-subtly as he instinctively knew it was Villy doing it.
Jake saw space crack as pure blackness surrounded him. He felt his own body be protected by Villy as he was consumed by the shattered space. With a final glance towards Haven, he entered the void between worlds as he left the ninety-third Universe.