Crule and Johan advanced further into the dungeon at unheard of speeds. Crule being as impatient as he is when Ming is in trouble, pushed their speed to the limits. Johan could barely kept up and they had to take several breaks for him to catch his breath. The rests barely was able to allow him to be vigil enough to not be taken by surprise and eaten by the carnivorous plants.
Johan’s fingers were bleeding from the constantly strumming. His calluses had opened up and fresh blood poured out. But he did not complain. Crule could see the determination in his eyes. He was like him. He had a mission, a mission of love.
They kept talking to a minimum. Any sort of sound vibrations could alert the plants of their location. Although Crule can easily break through if an army of plants attacked, Johan would not be as so lucky.
Upon reaching what seemed to be the end of the last floor, Crule and Johan took one last break to mentally prepare themselves for the fight before them. Crule took this chance to ask Johan some questions.
[Crule]: So what would bring a musician such as yourself to delve into a dungeon in the first place?
Johan looked embarrassed. He stayed silent for a while before sighing.
[Johan]: There is this girl I grew up with. Her name is Erika. Back when we were kids, we use to play together all the time. She sparked the interest of music in me.
Crule nodded. So it was a girl after all.
[Johan]: We rarely separated, even after we both graduated and moved onto having jobs. It was all very blissful looking back at it.
Johan nearly shed a tear the memory.
[Johan]: But recently she got into an “accident”. It caused some sort of head trauma and she seemed to have lost some of her memories…
Johan’s expression became very serious suddenly.
[Johan]: Then that demon with the gilded tongue showed up in our lives…The man fooled the injured Erika to believe he was her childhood friend. I was pushed out and left on the side like a stranger.
Johan balled his hands into a fist. The blood from his fingertips dripped slowly onto the floor next to the small smoldering fire where they were cooking several snakes Crule caught earlier.
Crule sympathizes with Johan. He had his fair share of villainous lechers when he was courting Ming. It was a good thing it eventually worked out in his favor.
[Johan]: I tried to get close to her but the man had a power backer…he was the son of a major trade conglomerate that operates in the Wild. His hired goons would constantly harass me and my band outside the eyes of Erika. The snake is lying to her through his teeth…
An awkward silence followed. Johan took a deep breath and sighed. He regained his composure.
[Johan]: That is when I heard of an item. A powerful string made from the fibers of an immortal Haoma tree. I researched about it as much as I could before hearing about sightings of the tree in this very dungeon. It is said when a fiber of the immortal Haoma tree is plucked, one’s happiest inner memories will resurface. It is also said to cure diseases but I doubt that part.
Crule’s interesting suddenly perked up upon hearing what Johan said. He saw the detailed in the flies that Johan posted. The Immortal Haoma tree. He had seen its’ fiber in action once in the previous world. It captivated the masses and soothed their rage. It had allowed Crule to make a quick escape from zealots whilst they were lost in memories.
[Crule]: I see…I assume the Haoma tree should be at the very center of this dungeon. Its powerful life force is feeding the carnivorous plants and bugs here, creating an ecosystem to protect it.
[Johan]: I-I see. What do you think our chances of succeeding are?
Johan finally asked with a little self-doubt. Although he had seen Crule’s prowess along the way, he still didn’t have any faith that they can defeat a monster that had the word Immortal in its name. At best he hopes they can snatch a piece of it to be used as strings.
Crule smirked. Johan smiled too. Seeing Crule not even flinch a bit at the mention of such a monster gave Johan a feeling of confidence.
Crule thought a while before reaching into his spatial pocket. He took out a black marble.
[Crule]: Take this.
He tossed it casually to Johan. He caught it with one hand and stared at it.
[Johan]: What is it?
[Crule]: A sort of protective treasure. In case I can’t fully protect you. I want to bring you back in one piece to Erika.
[Johan]: Thanks man.
The two then proceeded to eat the snake which was well roasted at this point.
Crule and Johan entered the final room. An extremely large tree lie at the center of a dome shaped room. The roof was the canopy of the tree and the ground was an extensive web of its roots.
Crule and Johan stared at the tree. On its bark were runic symbols embedded into it. It glowed with a sort of mystic luminance.
When they took a step closer, the runes franticly flashed. Something that resembled a face slowly emerged on the bark of the tree.
In a soft yet majestic voice, it boomed.
[Tree]: Mortals! Do not tread on the holy grounds of the Haoma tree!
The very sound of the tree made Crule and Johan remanence about happier times. Crule quickly snapped back to reality as he had built up a resistance to mental attacks over the years. He quickly carried Johan back away from the attack zone of the tree.
He turned back to look at the tree. A smirk on his face, he took out his dagger and dashed toward the tree.
Countless roots lifted off the ground and slammed downwards, trying to crush Crule. But evading quickly to the left or right, Crule continued on his advances. The dagger now dripping with his aura slashed into the roots that missed.
The Haoma tree shrieked as its roots were damaged. It started to visibly deteriorate as if the moisture was consumed from within. The roots became nothing but dust as it fluttered away in the wind created by other roots.
The endless numbers of roots continue their onslaught on Crule.
Like a ninja, Crule’s quick movement looked like teleportation as he weaved and dodged, inching ever closer to the face on the giant tree.
Suddenly, the Haoma tree stopped attacking with its roots as it realized that roots that got too close to Crule were immediately destroyed by that dagger of his.
It created a giant wall of hardened wood, trying to block Crule from reaching its center.
Crule just smiled.
Johan woke up from his trance and saw the scene before him. Realizing they were still in middle of combat, he put his hands back on his guitar and started playing riffs.
The melody seem to counter the mental attacks on him by the voice of the Haoma tree.
Crule also felt a boost in his physical abilities.
Crule could have ended the fight with just a ball of his aura shot forth like a bullet, but his goal at the moment was not killing the tree, but rather gaining its vocal fibers.
For that, he had to get close. The fibers from a living Haoma tree would definitely work. Not only that, hearing the prefix ‘immortal’ kind of made Crule believed he couldn’t kill the tree without wiping its existence off the face of the planet.
Crule hacked away at the wall, his aura eating through the wood like it was breakfast.
He made a small hole just big enough for him to dash through. The Haoma tree didn’t believe that a small weak looking human would be able to cause it so much grief.
Crule finally reached the giant face on the tree.
With a smirk he talked to it.
[Crule]: I’ll be taking this.
He slashed his dagger to where the throat area of the tree face. It penetrated deeply and the tree let out a sharp screech. Normally, the mental attacks caused by the scream would have sent Crule in a daze, but Johan’s frantic strumming allowed him to keep a cool head.
He quickly worked his dagger deeper and cutting out several golden fibers from the tree’s throat.
The tree was bleeding sap from the gaping hole. Crule got what he needed and quickly backed off. The tree’s wounds healed nearly instantly as wood covered over the exposed inner flesh.
[Crule]: Such strong regenerative properties…
The Haoma tree was now extremely enraged but at the same time vary of Crule. It shifted its target to Johan who was paying attention to his music.
Crule realized that the tree’s focus has shifted. He quickly ran back, hoping he could save Johan in time.